October 01, 2004

Nevermind, They Do Both Suck

I've revised my opinion of the debates.

On style and delivery, John Kerry buffed the floor with George W. Bush's ass. He just did. I know a lot of you out there really like George W., but come on. I can argue with Kerry better than he can, and I'm just a guy in his jammies. You think this only matters to intellectuals? Wrong. Most of the world doesn't think Bush is a cowboy, they think he's an oil-rustler. Who's the enemy in the Terror War? Islamofascists. What percentage of the world do you think understands this? One percent? Two?

George W. Bush gets an F-, that's an F minus, on clarity. When we're three and a half years into World War IV and the president of the most powerful country on earth, the 900 pound gorilla on the good guy side, has never been able, not once, to explain who the enemy is and what on earth we're doing, well, let me just quote Joe Katzman.

It's an important part of the war, a critical part. You can't outsource this to the damn blogosphere.
Amen, my Canadian brother. I am not the president's spokesman. Nor is Joe or Glenn Reynolds or Charles Johnson or Roger L. Simon. It is not our job to do his job - especially since none of the people I just listed, including myself, even voted for George W. Bush in 2000.

But. But.

That doesn't mean John Kerry has it together. Oh my, no. He may have been more articulate than usual at Thursday's debate (thank you, Allah) but that can only take him so far. Now I want you to click this link. It will take you over to James Lileks' latest Bleat. (And, boy, is this one a bleat.) He'll tell you exactly, precisely, why when I think about voting for Kerry (and I have been trying to talk myself into it) I flinch.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2004 12:05 PM

Comments

Wow, Michael, I knew Lileks was out of his mind, but that one was clinical.

Oh, wait, you found it persuasive.

Posted by: Mithras at October 1, 2004 12:27 PM

Wow, that totally failed to convience me of anything except for Lileks ability to spout.

I still think they're both a couple of frauds, but that screed (I like that word) was just pathetic.

Posted by: D Clyde at October 1, 2004 12:30 PM

No counterarguments, guys? Just an out-of-hand rejection?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2004 12:30 PM

I think you really missed it. Bush was strong and on point. Kerry was a gasbag who has just served up another banquet of contradictions and policy miscues. Summits? Global tests? Cutting China, Russia and Japan out of the negotiations with the Norks? Try the same failed UN policy with Iran?

And, quickly now, what is Kerry's policy regarding Iraq?

Posted by: russell at October 1, 2004 12:37 PM

mjt,

response to what? I mean if there were arguments there instead of rant, I might be able to formulate something... but rants are rants... not arguments.

I could write a rant in response :)

In fact, I might...

Posted by: D Clyde at October 1, 2004 12:42 PM

I tend to agree with Lileks, but then we both grew up in the same part of the country. I understand where he's coming from.

Screedy as it was, and even JL admits it, he's still accurate.

Does anybody listening to Kerry really think that he could get France or Germany or the UN could do anything?

I didn't think so.

Posted by: Eric Blair at October 1, 2004 01:17 PM

I didn't think Lilek's post was anything special.
What I think you are going to see in the next few days, however, is the reporting of all the major mistakes kerry made substance wise.

1."global test" Bush is already nailing Kerry on this today.
2. No it wasn't wrong, but it was a horrible mistake.
3.We should have not used allies in Afghanistan(a place the russians were bogged down in for 14 years), but we should have used more unamed mythical allies against Iraq.

There are many moore. Kerry may have won by speaking well, but that won't counter the post debate fisking of all the things he said.

Posted by: Dave at October 1, 2004 01:17 PM

'George W. Bush gets an F-, that's an F minus, on clarity. When we're three and a half years into World War IV and the president of the most powerful country on earth, the 900 pound gorilla on the good guy side, has never been able, not once, to explain who the enemy is and what on earth we're doing'----MJT

I understand what is happening;you understand what is happening;the people who come to this site understand what is happening.
The OVERWHELMING majority of people who follow events understand what is happening.As for the others---- they don't CARE enough to learn or they don't believe we are in fact in a war.YOU try to explain the situation to them.I wish you luck.GWB could be clear as crystal and the results we have now would be virtually the same as the results we would have then.This line of attack is perhaps correct'intellectually',but is irrelevant in the real world.It is not lack of information that causes the problems;it is obtuseness,lazyness,apathy, and/or sheer unwillingness to observe or care.
We don't need GWB to give us a master's level dissertation on the causes and symptoms of the current world problem.We need GWB to tell us that he is a simple HONEST man who will fight the terror(we all see)to the best of his ability, until it is defeated, or he is out of office.He does that just fine,thank you so much.
It comes as no surprise that you are still trying to rationalise a vote for Kerry.For as much as you say that you have left the loons behind,it is clear that you have not,and are just desperate for the slightest reason to return to the fold.That it is now October and you are STILL un-decided speaks very loudly.It REALLY is not that complicated a decision.Just DECIDE.As Billy Joel once said---'it's all just a matter of trust'.Who do you trust?

Posted by: dougf at October 1, 2004 01:18 PM

dougf,

Yep, if someone doesn't like/trust Bush... they are obviously a Left Wing Nutter.

Good analysis.

Posted by: D Clyde at October 1, 2004 01:25 PM

As I have said elsewhere, Kerry did come out on top in terms of style, but then, thats like outrunning a one legged man...well done... Bush isn't the greatest speaker, especially in formal situations.

While you may have given him an F-, in todays PC society, we do need to compensate for Bush's handicaps, which would take him up to a C.

Agreed, substance was still lacking on Kerry's part. Not much on Bush's part either, but then he didn't really have to as he has held the same course for the last few years. Plus Bush wasn't exactly on the ball last night and was disappointing for many in that he didn't make some of the points he should have even when they were screamingly wide open.

However, Bush didn't give anything away, while Kerry gave the GOP audio visual guys plenty to work with. The best the DNC could come up with was a minute of Bush's expressions.
Perhaps this was the reason for Bush's laid back responses, he wanted Kerry to get comfortable, overstretch and then start talking about giving Nuclear fuel to Iran to see if they really would Nuke the US, and requiring a global test for the US to defend itself.

BTW Michael, I like the site, I agree with many of your stances (those I don't I can at least comprehend), and your comments section is often interesting in a debateful kind of way.

Posted by: DelphiGuy at October 1, 2004 01:38 PM

Oh, and regarding Lileks bleat, the casual dismissal is indicative of the fact that many still don't get why people are voting for Bush, even if they have to hold their nose.

Posted by: DelphiGuy at October 1, 2004 01:40 PM

'Yep, if someone doesn't like/trust Bush... they are obviously a Left Wing Nutter.

Good analysis'---D.Clyde

Thanks for the compliment.Appreciated.I did not say that you had to trust Bush or vote for him.I said that you had to trust your choice of candidate to do what he promised he would do on at least the GWOT,which is the issue of the day.I happen to find Kerry to lack that particular feature,but that is just me.If MJT wants to vote for Kerry,I could not care less really,but the INDECISION is,I feel,unwarranted.As for left-wing nutters and their place in the world,I bow to your clearly greater knowledge of the subject.

Posted by: dougf at October 1, 2004 01:47 PM

MJT,

I feel your pain with respect to our fearless leader's unwillingness to state the obvious (what we're doing about our islamofascist enemies). It sucks, but I think you're venting at the wrong people here. It's not Bush or Kerry's fault. It's OUR fault. We as a people are so plagued by the evil that is political correctness, that we've effectively made it taboo to state the truth. We ALL know that we are in the midst of cleaning out the Muslim world's trash. We're washing away the crap that spun off of the world's largest and fastest growing religion. We're giving women rights. We're empowering common people and convincing them that perhaps people like Sadr and bin Laden really DON'T have divine powers. We're slowly but surely getting it through their thick skulls that martyrdom really ISN'T all that cool. We did the same thing to the Japanese culture with their Samurai Code and their kamikazes and hari kari and all that garbage, but that was a long time ago so we can talk about it now.

If someone were to actually come out and SAY that we're meddling with someone's religion and/or culture, it's political suicide. It's "insensitive" to the Muslim community. Therefore, politicians have to stick to carefully crafted drivel like the nonsense you heard last night. Say things like "we're being sensitive to their culture" and "this is NOT a war against Islam" and not dare say anything beyond that. It's the same lunacy that allows our airport security to search everyone EXCEPT mideastern males!!!!

So people like you, Reynolds, LGF, and other pajama-wearers are then unfairly tasked to put out what they REALLY mean, because the networks have to be PC as well. Of course it's not your job, and you won't get paid for it. But you can find comfort in the fact that you're rejecting the politically correct chains that bind us. Isn't that why you do what you do anyway? You can blame Bush or Kerry if you want, but I'm betting they hate it as much as we do...

I thought both of them did a great job of avoiding moronic sound bites, which was the only goal for both of them. I do think that Kerry screwed up a bit with his "global test." As long as Bush doesn't screw up real bad in the next two, he wins easily...

Posted by: $lick at October 1, 2004 01:47 PM

Whew.

I'm very pro-Bush, but I read those blog entries last night wondering who was out of my mind-- me or you guys (Roger L Simon, et al).

Bush was thoroughly beaten, to my eyes. It was embarrassing and uncomfortable to watch. You can imagine my surprise when the pro-war bloggers marked it "close" or whatever.

Not that debate performance will change my mind. My mind is long since made up. If I had to rank the qualities that I want in a president, "Looks Good In Debates" would be like 10th-- important but not as critical as other things.

With that said, the President needs to get his act together. For ordinary swing voters, who havne't really tuned into anything, this was a crystal-clear signal of just who the real presidential material is. Sure, Kerry was wrong-- critically wrong-- on Korea and Iran and, obviously, Iraq. They don't know that-- that's why they're still at this late date undecided.

Now they're decided. The election just became much much harder to turn around for the President. I've been pessimistic for a while, but this cements it further.

Posted by: Rob at October 1, 2004 02:11 PM

The New Republic trashes Kerry (via Instapundit):

http://instapundit.com/archives/018170.php

Posted by: HA at October 1, 2004 02:17 PM

Michael, one thing people ignore is the President's reputation as a shrewd poker player. Now, while I'm not much of a player myself, I do know that suckering-in your opponent is key to winning so I don't put much into this first debate. In fact this is the time for Bush to put a card or two down on the table. And what might one be? Well, I have some old friends in the spook community who have hinted that some very interesting information regarding wmd's, Iraqi nuke programs and terror groups may be coming to light soon via Qhadahfi or some other player in the region. But who knows, it may be just wishful thinking on their part.

Posted by: John at October 1, 2004 02:19 PM

Gallup poll results - Kerry wins on style, Bush wins on substance. Read it and weep Kerry backers:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/content/?ci=13237

Look for these numbers to swing further towards Bush as people's focus changes from Bush's body language to Kerry's Jimmy Carter foreign policy.

Posted by: HA at October 1, 2004 02:31 PM

dougf,

IF I made a snap decision today, I would vote for Kerry, because I don't think that Bush has done a good job as President.

However, I'm not finalizing that until Nov 2. I am uncomfortable with Kerry, just not quite as uncomfortable as I am with Bush. They both have a few weeks to either make me feel better about the past four years, or give me some inkling about their plans for the next four years.

You can call it Indecision, I prefer to call it... weighing ALL the evidence.

Finally, if, after all my posts, you still consider me a left wing nutter, I recommend taking a few classes in PolSci.

Posted by: tosk at October 1, 2004 02:35 PM

Tosk,

You're not a left-wing nutter. You're a full-spectrum nutter. It must be all the squirrel talk. ;-)

Posted by: HA at October 1, 2004 02:52 PM

About the only thing that caught me last night was the contrast on North Korea vs. the Bi-Lateral vs Multi-lateral talks, and Kerry's Prememptive Action -- pending a "global test" which is probably another one of those "nuance" things.

On the latter it was a classic example of his bagage as a senator being able to have it both ways and not having to be decisive when the rest of the membership can rule the day (something that won't be so as president which is where I have some of my bigger "issues" with him).

On the former, it just floors, me. We should not be so unilateral, always seeking a global test but in a east-asia theatre, we must go into the negotiations WITHOUT North Korea's immediate neighbors. The reason: To save the face of yet another tyrant. (And slather on the jelly even thicker -- one who kidnaps Japanese film stars and directors to make magnum opus monster movies that are dwarfed by Roger Corman!?!) Thus, a headcase-of-a-tyrant's face is more important than insulting our allies and adversaries in this very strategic region, when it is they who must face the fallout, literally and figuratively if nuance and accomodation fails like it did the last time (and once again we were treated to the tale that KJI wasn't cheatin' all along, but whatever...)...

It was little surprise how W seemed to be having a WTF moment through it all.

Posted by: Bill at October 1, 2004 02:56 PM

I didn't see the debate, but I've read the transcript and a LOT of dissection. It strikes me that Bush was playing to not-lose.

If that’s true, the fact that the best the DNC seems to have come up with is a video of Bush’s funny faces makes it look like Bush succeeded.

On the other hand, "global test" is going to be around right up to November 2. Summit jokes are going to be really popular for a while. (Pretty soon the tinfoil hat crowd will start wondering if Team Bush had anything to do with Mt. Saint Helen’s blowing it’s cool...) The "Nuclear fuel to Iran" talking point will be held up against the results of the Clinton/Carter agreement with North Korea.

Karl Rove must be in hog heaven today.

(Please note that the debate agreement supposedly placed reaction shots out-of-bounds. I don’t fault the networks for saying screw that – I like the First Amendment – but it does indicate Bush knows his strengths and weaknesses. Not bad things to know. I don’t really know whether the openings Kerry just presented were prepared statements or more examples of Kerry’s famous spout-it-if-it-feels-good moments. That’s why I should have watched, Iguess.)

Granted, Bush could – and should – be a much better salesman. But I’m not voting for a salesman.

Posted by: Mark Poling at October 1, 2004 02:58 PM

Ha,
According to the Gallup poll I looked at Kerry beat Bush (even when they included more Republicans than Dems in their sample).
http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/polls/2004-09-30-debate-poll.htm

Posted by: Mara at October 1, 2004 03:12 PM

Does anyone really think that, after our experience in Iraq, we will have another war based on, as the President puts it, "the transformative power of liberty?" Of course not, which is too bad. The best way to validate the neoconservative/liberal-hawk world view, at this point, is to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan. After last night, can anyone say the Bush seems up to the job? Kerry, on the other hand, was clear on his desire to stay in Iraq until we succeed, and he even criticized Bush for pulling out of Falluja in April. He beat the president from the right! I don't share Kerry's opinion on the nexus of the War on Terror, but at this point that doesn't mean a thing. If you want to see more nation building sometime in the future, then we need to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that means voting for Kerry.

Posted by: CBJ at October 1, 2004 03:24 PM
Does anyone really think that, after our experience in Iraq, we will have another war based on, as the President puts it, "the transformative power of liberty?"

Hypothetically (as you point out), it would be interesting to see the beautiful people taking off their "Free Tibet" bumperstickers as soon as they were confronted with people who mean it...

Posted by: Bill at October 1, 2004 03:27 PM

Ah, but CBJ, future wars of liberation would require that the situation pass a Global Test which, apparently, the genocide in the Sudan right now doesn't do.

I'll vote for Kerry if he pushes for the conquest and UN administration of the Sudan. Hell, all he has to do is promise that the US will provide airpower and logistics support if France et. al. supplies the troops on the ground.

Not going to hold my breath waiting, though....

Posted by: Mark Poling at October 1, 2004 03:34 PM

I'm in the minority, but I thought Bush beat Kerry in the debate. Bush was relentlessly on message.

Bush said we're "making progess" on Iraq. What a complete load of bull. In every single metric, we are losing ground -- more deaths, more attacks on our troops, less construction, less stability, etc.

Can Kerry fix the mess in Iraq? Probably not. But that's better than Bush, where the answer is definitely not. At least Kerry can see there's a problem.

Yes, Kerry's plan for bringing in more allies is a slim hope (and he's not just saying France, he's talking about the U.N. and Arab countries, anything to lend us some legitimacy). But anybody got a better plan?

Posted by: Oberon at October 1, 2004 03:38 PM

Ah, MJT, I thought you'd wait at least 24 hours before resuming your internal campaign to get yourself to vote for Kerry.

Posted by: Priscilla at October 1, 2004 03:38 PM

Having read the Gallup Polling data, the headline should read -

Kerry Wins Debate - Loses Election

When asked to describe which of these attributes better describes each candidate Kerry wins in one category ONLY - Kerry expressed himself more clearly. Hell, I'd agree with that.

But Bush wins on issues (49-46), believability (50-45), likeability (48-41), and TOUGH enough for the job (54-37).

In a war, voters elect Commanders in Chief, not Debaters in Chief.

Posted by: Terry Sutton at October 1, 2004 04:10 PM

Kerry clearly won on style, Bush was also weak. but IMHO he did it with lies:

Do you really believe that a man with John Kerry's voting record and having a base of liberal democrats would really push to double our special forces and add two Army divisions?

Does anyone think Kerry believes that some kind of internation summit would accomplish anything good for Iraq? Key leaders in Europe have already stated they would not support our efforts in Iraq. While I am sure they would attend such a summit, do you think their purpose would be to help Iraq, or embarass the US?

Do you really think Kerry has a credible plan to get us out of Iraq while still winning the peace? He claims that if all goes well (does it ever?) we could be out in 6 months. Does't this set up a unrealistic expectation? Do you really think Kerry believes his plan would work or does he even have a realistic plan?

Do you believe he really wants the US to reenter bilateral talks with NK? Does he believe NK would negotiate with him in good faith like they have NEVER done before? Does he really believe that we can have bilateral talks with NK and still keep China, the only country with any leverage on NK, in the talks?

Posted by: tallan at October 1, 2004 06:09 PM

Tallan,

I can beleive so very little of what Kerry said last night. So the answer to your rhetoricals - NO.

Posted by: Terry Sutton at October 1, 2004 08:06 PM

Read Jarvis's screed also. Unlike Lileks, Jarvis has been planning to vote for Kerry all along, and now he's 20% less sure.

Posted by: Yehudit at October 1, 2004 09:34 PM

PS I thought Bush missed a lot of opportunities, and Kerry sounded like a pompous ass, and I know Kerry lied or misspoke about a lot of things he said.

I wish Bush were Tony Blair, but he isn't. I have been complaining bitterly for over a year that the blogosphere has been having to carry Bush's water for him.

Posted by: Yehudit at October 1, 2004 09:36 PM

Mark Poling- The point is that the best way liberals like me-- if you want more about my personal beliefs, go to www.mayflowerhill.blogspot.com-- to have their ideology validated and to make an intervention in a conflict like the Sudan possible is to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Based on what we saw last night, Kerry is clearly more up to it than Bush.

Posted by: CBJ at October 1, 2004 09:48 PM

You can debate all you want, but the sad fact is the swing voters are like my sister. She's voting for Bush. Why? She like elephants. Seriously. No kidding.

Posted by: Scott Janssens at October 1, 2004 11:30 PM

Kallan rhetoricked, "Do you really believe that a man with John Kerry's voting record and having a base of liberal democrats would really push to double our special forces and add two Army divisions?"

Why not? How does it hurt him?

The trouble with doubling the special forces is they're an elite and we might not have enough guys available who're up to it. But even if we wound up with a bunch of special forces who aren't as good as the rest, they'd still be useful.

"Does anyone think Kerry believes that some kind of internation summit would accomplish anything good for Iraq? Key leaders in Europe have already stated they would not support our efforts in Iraq. While I am sure they would attend such a summit, do you think their purpose would be to help Iraq, or embarass the US?"

Iraq has changed.

When we first went in, the neocon claim was that iraqi oil production would pay for reconstruction and a lot more. The USA was mostly doing the war by ourselves and we (and our principle allies) would get the spoils of war. American companies would get the reconstruction contracts, paid for by iraqi oil. We'd get the oil-expansion contracts. We'd get the oil-pumping contracts and the oil-selling contracts. We'd get military bases we'd then use to invade iran and control their oil too.

But it didn't work out that way. Iraq can't pump enough oil to pay for their reconstruction, it will take them a long time to pump enough oil to even pay to rebuild and expand their oil production. There are no spoils of war. The occupation isn't nearly paying for itself, and we're so bogged down with occupation that we can't do a proper invasion of iran. We're pouring a lot of money down that rathole and it will never pay off in money for us.

Now we have no reason to keep out foreign contracts. There's no profit there except for US feathermerchants. We are going to disclaim responsibility whoever gets elected. A summit is one way for us to tell the world that we aren't willing to stay in charge in iraq. Where it goes from there would depend. Since we officially handed over sovereignty to the iraqi government, in theory we are now acting under their direction. When we drop bombs on iraqi cities it's because the iraqi government agreed that iraq is best off with the US air force dropping bombs on their cities. "You break it, you own it." But we have given away the pieces to the iraqi interim government. They own it now.

The question for the rest of the world won't be whether to help out the USA. The question will be how to turn iraq into something that can reliably pump oil. Last year the US stand was that iraq was our baby and everybody else had to keep hands off. Bush gave that up at the end of June. Now the US embassy is only an embassy, the US occupation is only US troops assisting the iraqi government, iraq can make contracts with whoever they want and invite in whatever foreign armies they want. We don't even get to decide how long to stay, we can't stay any longer than they let us. (Though we could leave sooner; Kerry has promised he won't leave sooner.)

"Do you really think Kerry has a credible plan to get us out of Iraq while still winning the peace?"

Does Bush? Bush lost the peace by May at the latest. Kerry's only hope to win a peace is to somehow persuade iraqis that under his leadership everything has changed. It will be hard to do that with the US army still following the same ROE, though, and I hardly see how we can change the ROE.

"He claims that if all goes well (does it ever?) we could be out in 6 months. Does't this set up a unrealistic expectation? Do you really think Kerry believes his plan would work or does he even have a realistic plan?"

Say the election is in January. The new Assembly will meet by late February. Their first order of business is to vote whether or not to accept the president's choice of prime minister. Assuming that works out, their second order of business will probably be to vote to tell us to get our troops out of their country. Call that March 15. Could we get out by July?

The timetable is the same whoever is president.

"Do you believe he really wants the US to reenter bilateral talks with NK? Does he believe NK would negotiate with him in good faith like they have NEVER done before? Does he really believe that we can have bilateral talks with NK and still keep China, the only country with any leverage on NK, in the talks?"

Yes. If we have talks with 6 nations the NKs are going to do everything they can to play us off against each other. Get short pointed bilateral talks and we can get it clear what NK wants and make it real clear to them what we want. If there's no deal from it we trust, easy to say no deal and move on to multilateral talks. At that point if the chinese agree with us, we can do a complete economic blockade. Nothing in or out of NK by sea, nothing in or out of NK through china. Use their nukes and they get creamed. Their nukes make it hard for us to invade them but not as hard to blockade them -- if china agrees. If china doesn't agree, multilateral talks won't get very far.

I don't expect bilateral talks to work, but they're the only chance at an actual agreement. It doesn't cost much to give them a quick try, provided they don't drag out.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 1, 2004 11:45 PM

Here's the bottom line on the debate. The purpose of the debate is to get votes. By that measure, Kerry went down in flames because he solidified for Bush supporters all the reasons they support Bush.

He said America needs to pass a "global test" before we can take military action. This confirms yet again that Kerry is an internationalist who would subordinate American sovereignty to the UN, and put our national security in the hands of France.

He said that the war was a mistake. He said that the war was not a mistake. This confirms yet again that Kerry can't choose a position and defend it. He can't even avoid flip-flopping in the span of a 90 minute debate. He's says whatever he thinks someone wants to hear in any given sitution. There is no core conviction guiding him.

He said he would unilaterally cancel the bunker buster nuke. This confirms yet again that Kerry is weak on defense. It also confirms his blame America first moral equivalence mindset.

So on the measure that matters, Bush won the debate. Kerry failed to meet his objective.

Kerry's supporters are all hyped up on facial expressions. But on November 2, that will be forgotten. What will be remembered is Kerry's huge gaffe about passing a global test. It will cost him the election.

Posted by: HA at October 2, 2004 04:36 AM

Kerry has mastered the art of appearing confident while running around in confusing circles, his confusion is confusing me. And, if he feels so confident as a leader why does he need a 'global test'?

I agree with Lileks, I am frustrated by Kerry's constant run-around. Face it, Kerry has no foreign policy plan.

IMO, I do not believe Kerry debated against Bush, I believe Kerry debated against America's right to defend herself, the only platform constant in Kerry's twenty years as a Senator.

Posted by: susan at October 2, 2004 05:29 AM

Look, I'm a staunch Bush supporter, and I avoided watching the spin shows or reading my usual list of sites until the experience of watching the debate had a chance to sink in. I have learned, for myself, that it’s a bad idea to make judgments early on something that has emotional impact. Besides lots of other reasons, I really want John Kerry to lose because I am a Vietnam era vet that takes personally what he did in 1971. No way should this man be trusted to be commander in chief.

That said, I definitely believe Kerry won the debate on

1. Got more 'factual' points in, more words, more ideas
2. Less nervous demeanor, stayed cooler - Bush seemed to fidgit
3. Bush (in the middle) seemed to run out of material, became repetitive
4. Bush (more often) should have taken at least one item from each of Kerry's barrages and responded to it before falling back on his predetermined talking points. Too many times he let a volley of shots go unanswered when answering one would have taken the sting off the set.

Everyone else has covered substance to the nines, so I won't go there. As to the impact of the debate, we'll have to wait a few days, but there is this Gallup poll where two key internals suggest that Bush has an unassailable lead:

Next, regardless of which presidential candidate you support, please tell me if you think John Kerry or George W. Bush would better handle the situation in Iraq.

Bush 54 before, 54 after
Kerry 40 before, 43 after

Who do you trust more to handle the responsibilities of commander in chief of the military -- [ROTATED: John Kerry, (or) George W. Bush]?

Bush 55 before, 54 after
Kerry 42 before, 44 after

Didn't move the needle that much, which may mean something or not. My final observation is that while we political junkies or 911 muggees are steeped in a lot of detail and can fact check some statements made by the candidates in our head, we are probably not representative of the 'swing voter'. We will probably over think the issue. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the people in the middle. Who are they? As Gene Wilder said in Blazing Saddles, "the salt of the earth, you know ... morons".

My point is that we can pick apart the debate substance all we want, but the swing voters will probably choose on personal impressions, I know I did in 2000. Before 911 I was one of those morons.

Off Topic:

J Thomas: I hope you had a chance to see my last reply to you on our previous conversation

There is a stunning essay that I found on our friend $lick's excellent new milblog. I won't clip any bits as it needs to be read en toto. Its an Israeli POV and it's hitting on all cylinders.

Posted by: jdwill at October 2, 2004 06:10 AM

I think you're going too negative here, Michael.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had someone much smarter and more articulate running the war? What if Jesus returned and took over the White House? Hell, I'd be for amending the US Constitution to let Tony Blair run for President and Jesus for Vice President.

But Bush is doing an OK job, and sniping at him for his stylistic and other faults doesn't help him do a better job. At least he's not a preening ninnie like that Wiltless Wonder John Kerry.

The media will try to make a big deal of George's facial expressions, a la Al Gore's grimaces a few years ago. The difference is that Al was playing to the camera and wanted his ostentatious petulance to be seen. George was too naive to hide his annoyance and keep a poker face.

Yeah, George often looks a little like a chimp. It's an unfortunate resemblance, and the Democrats who hoot about it and think they are so clever are just begging to get a smackdown. The DNC already has a video online of all of George's expressions. Big backfire coming their way about that.

How ironic, that the Democratic Party is now the party of greedy trial lawyers and gigolos and people still in high school making fun of the way other people look.

Here's what really happened in that debate: Kerry didn't lose the race. Which is a victory for him, I will admit. George didn't do near as good as those of us Holding Out For A Hero might have wished.

So what?

Posted by: Mike Lee at October 2, 2004 07:23 AM

No they don't both suck. Kerry sucks. Bush sucks at public speaking.

Bush lives in a world that we'd all like to forget is on the verge of disaster and is behaving like a leader whose every decision could either prevent, delay or hasten that disaster. He's just not very good at articulating that for the cameras - nor apparently for the self-important bloggers who believe that they're "carrying his water". Please.

Posted by: Priscilla at October 2, 2004 08:05 AM

I've been lurking here for some time, and while I don't agree with all of your opinions, this one is just too over the top for me not to comment.

Gven all that has happened and all that's been said in the last three plus years, how in the hell can you not already know "who the enemy is and what on earth we're doing"? What do you expect to learn from Bush sitting you down, holding your hand, and slowly explaining it to you?

Is your complaint that he isn't laying out the sequence of events to come? Well if, say, regime change in Tehran is on the agenda for 2005, don't you think it's a good idea to keep that under his hat for a while yet?

Seriously. What is it you think you have to know that isn't already available to you by the many public statements or by some judicious reading between lines?

Like him or not, this President is the first to take on terrorism in a serious way. And look what it buys him.

And I cannot let the commentary from your "Canadian brother" pass without making the observation that it's easy to comment from the spectator araa.

I'm sorry, but this post came of as whining for the sake of it.

Posted by: BobT at October 2, 2004 09:35 AM

It seems the newest right-wing talking point is "global test"--as in, "oh no! Kerry's going to suborn the safety of the United States to the French! To arms!"

Not one of the people dutifully repeating this canard seems capable of comprehending the English language beyond a third-grade level--either that, or they are being willfully dishonest. Because those two words do sound awfully supine towards the UN--if, that is, you don't bother to read the entire sentence:

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

I missed the part where the world gets a veto on acting legitimately to defend the United States of America. You know, the part that Kerry didn't say or imply.

Since the only people that seem concerned about Kerry's "global test" are the people predisposed to vote against him anyway and inclined to dishonestly take his words out of context to use against him, you'll excuse me if I don't take it seriously.

Posted by: Catsy at October 2, 2004 09:39 AM

Re Global Test:

What's so funny? If 'most everybody else in the world thinks what you're about to do is really crazy, isn't this pretty good evidence that what you're about to do is in fact really crazy?

There's an old Punch cartoon in which a small boy is perched on the edge of a steep rooftop with several laughing friends stretching a blanket between themselves far below. The boy says:

"Shouldn't someone stop us before somebody gets hurt?"

Likewise, there's little to recommend Lileks' simplistic isolationist view of geopolitics: The US vs. Everyone Else.

It's a view Dubya appears to share, incidentally, and while it's merely sort of quaintly anachronistic in a midwestern blogger nostalgic for the America of his childhood, it's deeply horrifying in a world leader in 2004, and watching Bush elucidate it-- with all the smoke 'em out, round 'em up rhetoric-- continues to bring to mind Raymond Chandler's assessment of actor Alan Ladd: a small boy's idea of a tough guy.

Lastly, I laughed out loud when I read in Lileks' column that the debate had sent him in search of strong drink with his fingers stuffed firmly into his ears after only thirty minutes.

I thought: I bet that's exactly how Dubya felt right about then.

Posted by:
Chris Vosburg at October 2, 2004 09:41 AM

Gotta disagree here:

If we have talks with 6 nations the NKs are going to do everything they can to play us off against each other.

What does China want from NK? Stability in the region so that it can continue to build its hegemony (baring Taiwan, that's what the region wants too). What does South Korea want? A unified peninsula under democratic rule -- not KJI but for now it will settle for stability and a northern neighbor that isn't threatening SK to inherit a wasteland to the north (And so do the other countries involved, at least the lattermost item). What does Japan want? NK to stop firing misiles over its territory and kidnapping its citizens to act in and direct their 'movies' (and I don't think her neighbors or the US can argue much against that). What does the US want? No Nukes in NK (which, baring some strange jiggles from SK, so does everyone else) and those monkeyshines with exploding trains and the Syrians may want to stop too.

So what is there to play against under the current circumstances? Not much within its own problem domain (Tawain rests outside of it). What does NK have that is making the region a potentially unstable mess? Nukes, and to a lesser extent, Missiles. All are in agreement (except for some wierd stuff form Seoul implying that they may inherit NK's nukes when NK finally falls on its own), and all recognize this as a major issue that blocks a stable coexistance in the region.

Saying that NK will be playing everyone off against each other is like saying that a bratty teenager with a drumset will play members of the family off on one another when he's pretty much alienated everyone already enough to forget their other agendas. They have one unified agenda. To get rid of the kid's drumsticks. Leaving the toilet seat up, drinking from the milk carton, fairness in curfew allowances & chores, and the rest of the Realpolitik Domestik will wait -- they are trivial in light of the current "crisis." So goes it with North Korea.

I don't expect bilateral talks to work, but they're the only chance at an actual agreement.

How? You indicated what we all know just before saying this: the only leverage for them to comply rests with Mainland China and the rest of the region. We know he won't comply if we give him treats. (He never intended to comply the first time around despite Kerry's lame spin on Thursday. He was breaking it all along - me thinks Kerry has never worked retail where we knew that security cameras could never cover the whole store.) And treats is the ONLY think the US can offer unilaterally. Start with the multilateral talks and show him that the gig is up, and put this blockade of which you yourself speak (or any alternative containment strategy), on fast track.

Posted by: Bill at October 2, 2004 10:07 AM

Catsy quoting Kerry on "the Global Test"

"But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

You and Kerry may be presuming honesty & integrity over "business" when it comes to the UN and world community. That is certianly not the case in the real world. The US -- and especially Blair in his address to the House of Commons leading up to the invasion -- provided an excellent case on the public record for "The Global Test" citing Saddam's duplicity and balking at previous resolutions, the WMD issues to me was not as important as his constant balking and the talk before 9-11 of the UN "lifting" sanctions.

The UN and 'those other countries' chose their own oil-for-food and commerical intrests with the Baathists regime over their own resolutions. It was not the US and UK who failed the global test - they stood by the UN's on-paper resolutions. It was the UN, France and the rest who failed it - they chose contracts over principle.

I will conceed that the Global Test is a general peer review that need not be a veto that can happen before or after an action. But it swings both ways. And what is being passed off as the "Global Community" (which seems only to mean the UN bureacracy and select countries like France, China and Russia) should be held as accountable as the Coalition.

Posted by: Bill at October 2, 2004 10:36 AM

Chris Vosburg asks whether, if most of the world thinks something you're doing is crazy, isn't that probably the case? I submit the answer is "no." The vast majority of the world's countries--in fact, I would submit, ALL of the world's countries--make decisions governed by their own self-interest.

In the case of most Arab countries, for example, that self-interest includes keeping their own anti-Semitic and despotic administrations intact, and brainwashing their people into thinking the US is the epitome of evil (France pretty much does the same thing, come to think of it). All around the world, governments use propaganda to further their own interests, and those interests do not necessarily coincide with what is in the US interests, or even with what is sane.

Have you heard of the Durban conference, for example, or of the five hundred million resolutions the UN has passed condemning Israel for attempting to defend itself? Attempting to defend oneself, especially if one is a great and democratic power such as we are (or a Jewish country such as Israel is) is a no-no around the world. Yassir Arafat is (or at least used to be) the darling of most of the world. And that position, I respectfully submit, is crazy.

In the Thirties, Churchill was widely considered to be crazy throughout England. Funny thing, he turned out to be right and they were wrong, but if they'd listened to him earlier, the world would have been spared a lot of death and destruction.

Yep, twenty million Frenchmen can be wrong, wrong, wrong.

Posted by: blogaddict at October 2, 2004 10:52 AM

I'm interested in seeing President Kerry's first summit with international leaders, with signs posted that say Quiet! Global Testing in Progress!

Posted by: Zacek at October 2, 2004 10:55 AM

I agree completely with Yehudit above. I too have been making the same point that MJT is making here for a long time. Bush's personal failure to properly articulate the grand strategy for the Terror War, and most especially the relationship of the war in Iraq to the Terror War is a significant failing. At a certain point, style is substance. It's a President's job to make arguments for his policies. Bush at times doesn't even seem to want to try. He seems annoyed by the fact that he even has to. Yes. I realize he's faced feckless opposition from the likes of Michael Moore and that he faces a mostly hostile MSM, but part of the reason his foreign policy is so controversial is that he hasn't properly explained it in a way that would appeal to people who aren't naturally already part of his base. It's funny that you mentioned Charles, Glenn, and Roger, because I think when I said this in Roger's comments I said something like, "It's Bush's job [to explain] not the job of Steven den Beste, "Wretchard", or the guys from IraqtheModel". Same idea, but I think it's those three who have done the best job if explaining the big picture of the Bush doctrine (along with Tony Blair).

Still, I made up my mind to vote for Bush on Sept. 14, 2001 and the only time I really wavered was when he explicitly came out in support of the FMA. He's not an inspirational, great orator, and so won't be remembered as a truly great leader like Lincoln, FDR, Churchill, or Reagan. He's a classic "hedgehog" type, and in my uneducated guess will be seen on a par with Truman; a "plain-spoken fella" who stayed the course and got things done, and was constantly underestimated by his critics.

Also, keep in mind that even if Bush articulated his strategy better it might not make a lick of a difference in persuading the urban elites here or the euroweenies of anything. Blair's government is barely holding on, for all of Blair's skill and eloquence. (I still wish he would though.)

Also, it's probably largely a classic "grass is always greener" phenomenon. People look at say Giuliani or McCain as "dream candidates", but I'm sure if we really had them there would be just as many things to complain about.

So, yeah there is a lot of suckiness to go around. Neither candidate has any concept of how they're going to stop Iran from getting the bomb. The difference is that Kerry's idea is so outright suicidal that I don't see how any sane person could think of voting for him. That's pretty much a microcosm of everything else about the two of them right there.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 2, 2004 11:24 AM

Eric Deamer -

I'm perfectly happy with the objectives laid out for the GWOT. I listened to the speeches, have read the resolutions, and am thankful that we finally have an administration that is dealing with this lethal, global, threat.

If the clarion of the press and the carping of Democrat naysayers has filled the void you feel existed on the articulation of the policy, I can't give you any help there.

Before we put the first boot on the ground in Afghanistan, there has been a sizable minority in this country that has declared defeat in this war. As time has gone on, their impact seems to rise and fall with each day's events. Just lately we haven't freed any nations (no quagmires, no mass casualties, no humanitarian crisis, no Stalingrads, elections on the way) in a matter of weeks. We've been dealing with the pedestrian duty of dealing with holdouts and their foreign allies who know full well what a second Bush administration will mean to them.

I'll take Bush. He fights. I'm sure Kerry can give a better speech. I'm just as certain he and his party are unlikely to shed a generation's worth of ineffective foreign and defense policy precedent just because they happen to win an election.

Conflict doesn't equal failure. It's the necessary precursor to victory, and the conflict will only resolve our way if we continue to fight. That takes leadership that embraces the duty of an office, not just the perks and power.

BTW, I liked that "the new talking point" mentioned up above. It wouldn't be if Kerry knew anything about poker, would it?

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 2, 2004 12:04 PM

Bush is a fraternity boy who somehow has found himself the President of the United States. He is about as deep a thinker as your average fraternity jock.

Posted by: miriam at October 2, 2004 12:15 PM

I totally agree with you, Michael. What a choice. I seem to find myself thinking that Kerry is the most intelligent and cultivated of the two. But I still agree with Bush on principle (when it comes to Iraq and foreing policy issues).

I've written a piece on it at www.thoughtatthemeridian.blogspot.com

Take care,

Frederick

Posted by: Frederick at October 2, 2004 12:30 PM

Bush has presided over the biggest foreign policy fiasco of this generation, at least as big, but probably much bigger than Vietnam. Why do you guys still support him? And no, I am not a left-wing nut.

Posted by: miriam at October 2, 2004 12:33 PM

If the clarion of the press and the carping of Democrat naysayers has filled the void you feel existed on the articulation of the policy, I can't give you any help there.

I don't wanna start arguing when I agree with you about just about everything, but, just to clarify: I'm not saying that they filled the void for me personally, but that they could reasonably fill the void for other people, and that's a problem.

Bush and his team needed to work harder to fill that void is all I'm saying. To use Michael's examples, I just find it a bit troubling that a usually Democratic-leaning Law Professor in Tennesse, a life-long Democrat techie guy in California, and a life-long lefty Mystery Novelist/Screenwriter in California, all for free, have made better arguments for Bush's strategy than Bush has himself.

But ultimately, Bush is more than good enough for me too. And, Kerry would be an unmitigated disaster. I'm becoming more and more convinced that he comes from the McGovern/Carter peacenik wing of his party, and that is, to say the least, not what we need now.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 2, 2004 12:33 PM

Don't lose heart- Reagan stumbled in the first debate in '84 and we all know what happened afterward- even those of us who were only 11 years old at the time. I just read the soon-to-break NY Times article (linked to Drudge's site) about the nuclear tube controversy. I want the last 40 minutes of my life back. It was just like the debates. Someone said this but someone else said that. The UN is relevant the UN is worthless. It's all ridiculous. I think jdwill is right- we overthink and overanalyze something fierce. The "swingers in middle" will decide this thing based on the simple things like "wrong" and "right."

Off topic:

Thanks for the endorsement, jdwill. Glad you took the time to read that Harari essay- it was a real eye-opener for me, too. Didn't know you were a vet- hat's off to ya!! No wonder you have such an unfiltered view of Kerry. If every American were a vet, Kerry wouldn't crack 2% of the popular vote...

Posted by: $lick at October 2, 2004 12:57 PM

"Bush has presided over the biggest foreign policy fiasco of this generation, at least as big, but probably much bigger than Vietnam. Why do you guys still support him? And no, I am not a left-wing nut."

So, miriam, what was your take on Florida? Afghanistan? Patriot I and II? Appointment of Ashcroft as AG? The authorization of TSA as a non-union agency?

"Bush is a fraternity boy who somehow has found himself the President of the United States. He is about as deep a thinker as your average fraternity jock."

Ah...never mind. Fighter pilot, Yale, then Harvard MBA - back when the curriculum actually meant something. Twice governor of the largest state in the lower 48, and remembered for bringing progress and bipartisan solutions to a state government that had been paralyzed for over a decade. Won reelection by the largest margin in state history, too.

But...none of that ever matters. That's just silver-spoon privelige and dirty tricks, right?

Refusing to recognise your enemy is the first step to defeat. On a related note, this dumb jock seems to have successfully resisted his natural tendencies as a snake-dancing, tongue speaking, fundie fanatic Christian zealot WASP conservative and has elected to segregate 'muslim' from from the target identifier set we are applying to our enemy.

He doesn't care who they pray to. He doesn't care what color they are or where they live. He doesn't think they are lesser or better people than we are. He just wants them to stop killing our citizens, and we are prosecuting this war in such a way as to minimize the cost to the non-combatants our enemy exploits for cover and bases.

He wants the people of that part of the world to have an option for freedom so that maybe when the last gun has been fired they have a future that may not revolve around despair, paranoia, and fanaticism. I'm all for that. If it works, then most definitely the killing will stop because democracies tend to not generate terror movements or prosecute wars of aggression.

The Bush Doctrine is a statement of faith and confidence in the power of LIBERAL western democracy on an unprecedented scale. The fact remains that before it can work, the people who would see us dead must be dealt with. Negotiation is not the tool for that job, and neither is temporizing. You hunt down and destroy people who use kidnappings, beheadings, and the murder of children as tools. Then you rebuild.

Sometimes...sometimes there's actually a little grace in Christian ethics. I mean, AFTER you get past the the white sheets and bigotry, of course.

Sarcasm OFF.

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 2, 2004 01:25 PM

Eric Deamer -

I respect your opinion that it would be nice to get better PR...but realistically, if the administration attempted to stroke the electorate beyond what they have done already, it would just be fodder for media and the antiBush minority to exploit.

"Arewethereyet arewethereyet arewethereyet?" has been the marching song of the riders in the back of the bus since Florida. No reason to humor them if it detracts from the mission at hand.

2005 is going to be a big year.

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 2, 2004 01:29 PM

To TMJ Utah,

You cannot tell me that someone with Bush's obvious lack of brains could get into either Yale or Harvard if it wasn't for his connections.

Posted by: miriam at October 2, 2004 02:51 PM

Well...I could, but you've decided it's impossible. I guess passing grades don't matter - unless, of course, that being a legacy means you get issued a degree and transcript, too?

You don't have any idea how many 'legacy' admissions have occurred at Ivy League schools since the 1700's, do you? But because that's a part of G.W. Bush's bio, legacies are damned. Or is Bush a special case?

I've always thought that a private college/university should have let to admit anyone they wanted on any criteria they chose. Any criteria that doesn't violate civil rights, of course. If an institution sees value in building a continuity of alumni support or connection, good for them. Bush walked out with a diploma; if he'd been dutch uncled to the point they just printed it and sent it to his house for years later I'm sure that that information would be public by now.

Maybe CBS is waiting to verify the documents they were emailed before they run the story - you think?

Bush still got a degree. Then he became an officer and pilot, and eventually was accepted to HBS and honorably discharged from the ANG. Then he got an MBA and got on with his life.

I guess we are going to agree to disagree here.

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 2, 2004 03:16 PM

Catsy,
Good points regarding the "global test". But it is not the case that Bush and Cheney cant comprehend the English language - it is just that they are lying, plain and simple.

Posted by: Tano at October 2, 2004 03:29 PM

For a little empirical evidence regarding the debates and reaction to them:

http://www.drudgereport.com/flash1nw.htm

Posted by: Tano at October 2, 2004 03:29 PM

To TMJ Utah,
I wince whenever I listen to Bush. I used to also wince when listening to Clinton. Both Clinton and Bush have this smirk on their faces when speaking. That does not inspire me with a lot of confidence in them, my sense is that neither is being honest or sincere.

But the real issue is Iraq, not Bush's brains or character. Before the invasion of Iraq, I thought there was at least a 50/50 chance of success. Personally those odds were not good enough for me to have taken the risk. But I was willing to go along with this gamble. Well, this gamble has not turned out, and I am not willing to hand a second turn to a man who now faces this country with the following situation. We have two choices, both of them extremely risky and dangerous(if we had not invaded we would not have to choose between these two dangerous situations, we would actually be much safer). And these two situations are: continue on, kill lots of Iraqis, have a lot of our people killed, pacify Iraq like the strongmen of the Middle East, Saddam and Assad, in which case are we any better than Saddam and Assad. Or pull the heck out and betray all those Iraqis who have worked for us, and watch Iraq descend into civil war. These are two lousy alternatives, and I hold Bush responsible for this. Frankly, I think we should get out.

Posted by: miriam at October 2, 2004 04:02 PM

Tano:

Yeah, and if we had a national election instead of using the electoral college that poll might actually mean something.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 2, 2004 04:16 PM

Bill, you may be right. I want to repeat that running a quick bilateral talk does no harm unless we give concessions we shouldn't. My natural thought for it would be, "Before we get into what you want, how would you prove to me that you're not cheating and you're giving me what I want?" It might be a very quick talk.

Remember, our BATNA would be to continue multilateral talks. If NK doesn't give us what we want in bilateral talks we can punt and use the other approach. We don't have to give in. I'm willing to believe that Clinton was negotiating in good faith and he believed NK was too -- that isn't true this time around.

There's a good chance multilateral talks would have difficulties, but no reason not to try them. You believe that all the nations involved consider NK nukes the main issue and other issues are relatively unimportant. I want to suggest that this is not the case for china. As you point out china has most of the leverage with NK. China could reroute imports that come to NK by sea if we tried a blockade and china didn't cooperate. China could do tremendous damage to NK by blocking trade even if we encouraged sea trade. So NK is china's client state right now, china's junkyard dog. If china hasn't already settled the matter of NK's nukes it's because they don't really want to.

South korea naturally wants their country reunited. Why would china go along with that? If NK collapses for any reason, what better country to take over than china? Why should they let NK pass out of their sphere of influence, when it has a direct border with china?

So if it comes to threats that are less than actual war, we can't manage unless china goes along, and there's no particular reason to think china will go along -- but they might, particularly if they're bribed appropriately. That sucks.

Maybe china will offer to trade NK for taiwan. How would you answer that? But maybe they will go along for free, I can't say for sure they won't. That gives us a second approach to try out.

Without china, we can still somewhat counter a NK nuclear threat with a strategy of YAD (Your Assured Destruction). Or if NK nukes anybody, maybe we just hurt them worse than they hurt whoever. That doesn't work as well as we'd want it to though, because south korea is still open for blackmail. NK can destroy Seoul whenever they want, with just poison gas. We can threaten to hurt NK worse but that's no help to SK. "We're going to kill you unless you do what we want. Never mind that the crazy USA will kill us for it, we don't care about that, we're crazy. Remember that, we're crazy. Are you going to give in or get killed?" If they ask for too much the south koreans will turn them down and hope they're bluffing. There's a skill to guessing just how much you can get away with, doing that kind of thing.

And I think that's what NK wants here. They're like albania, without enough trade they can't prosper. So apart from selling nukes their best chance at getting by is to collect danegeld. They have to be a threat or no one will give them enough.

So without china, we can threaten NK and blockade their ports and monitor their air cargo, and we can mostly keep them from exporting nukes -- unless they go through china. And if china wants to let them through there's nothing we can do, china could just export its own. We have to hope that china doesn't want to let them through. No good choices for us, unless NK or china happen to turn out reasonable.

Ah, there is another possibility. We could offer the top guys a lot of money to sell us their country. They could run off and live lives of luxury. Sample the most decadent pleasures of france. No political worries for the rest of their lives. Presumably they wouldn't accept, but you don't know until you ask. That's a topic for bilateral negotiation. ;)

So to sum up -- if Kerry is Clinton then NK gets some goodies and tries to get our attention again later to get more goodies. If Kerry is not Clinton then we get to run down our choices, trying out our next BATNA at each failure, and NK probably survives in bad shape.

If Bush does it we don't get as many BATNAs and possibly Bush will agree to some harebrained scheme to knock out NK's nukes which will have who-knows-what result. Would NK actually destroy SK cities? It's never made sense to me that they would but they have to convince us they would and I'd hate to assume they wouldn't. Would they destroy japanese cities? Why not? Could they destroy US aircraft carriers? I doubt it. A few thousand US troops in SK? Sure, if they attacked at an hour we didn't expect. It would probably be bloody and there might be significant fallout. I don't really think Bush would try it, but a lot of people seem to think he would and they seem to approve.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 2, 2004 05:53 PM

What this whole thing will turn on is the "its so hard" whine, perhaps Lileks knows this at some level. That phrase is what most of us have heard (or uttered) when the work is over our heads and we don't really like the job.

Posted by: alan aronson at October 2, 2004 05:54 PM

Miriam wrote, You cannot tell me that someone with Bush's obvious lack of brains could get into either Yale or Harvard if it wasn't for his connections.

He might have been smarter then. Too many years of alcohol poisoning and cocaine could take us from somebody who could skim by a Harvard MBS down to somebody who pretty much fails at whatever he does.

You shouldn't judge how he was then by what you see now.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 2, 2004 05:56 PM

Eric,
Do I sense you grasping for comfort?

Of course it is an electoral college election. But a national poll reflects a background level of support - like a tide that rises or fall. Give Bush a national bump of five or so points, as the last few weeks did, and the tide lifts several swing states over to the barely red side. Run that tide out, as, I hope, we are seeing now, and those swing states settle back down to a tie, or to the barely blue.
IOW, a few points nationally can swing a fair number of close states to one side of the line or the other.
The disparity between popular and electoral votes happened in 00 because the popular vote difference was half a point. Which is essentially a tie. If it is tied again this time - sure, anything could happen in the EC. But I seriously doubt that anyone who wins the popular by more than one point would actually lose the EC. Theoretically possible, but not likely.

Posted by: Tano at October 2, 2004 07:18 PM

Thomas Friedman in today's column in the NYT says it best:

" Mr. Bush is president, charged with protecting the national interest, and yet from the beginning he has run Iraq policy as an extension of his political campaign."

In other words, instead of being the great defender of America as he would have you believe, Bush has put his own, small interests ahead of the common good. He does not get my vote.

Posted by: miriam at October 2, 2004 08:52 PM

"Bush has put his own, small interests ahead of the common good."

Sounds more like Clinton, who never saw a problem he couldn't ignore if the polls told him it wasn't high in the voters' minds. A lot of the problems we're facing today - Iraq, al-Qaeda, NK, etc. - can be traced back to the 8 years of neglect of foreign policy that preceded GWB. And considering most of the people advising Kerry are cut from the same cloth as Clinton's team, in a lot of cases being exactly the same people, the outcome will likely be equally regrettable.

I'm afraid that, as Peggy Noonan has correctly pointed out, Kerry may win because he's promising a return to something like "normalcy" after what has been a crisis-filled post 9/11 period. I think believing we ever can go back to the way things were in the '90s is a fools hope, but its a seductive one.

Posted by: tagryn at October 2, 2004 09:45 PM

"... down to somebody who pretty much fails at whatever he does."

Doesn't say much for Ann Richards, does it, since she lost to a guy who "fails at whatever he does"? Or Gore, for that matter.

A silly meme.

Posted by: tagryn at October 2, 2004 09:49 PM

You and Kerry may be presuming honesty & integrity over "business" when it comes to the UN and world community. That is certianly not the case in the real world. The US -- and especially Blair in his address to the House of Commons leading up to the invasion -- provided an excellent case on the public record for "The Global Test" citing Saddam's duplicity and balking at previous resolutions, the WMD issues to me was not as important as his constant balking and the talk before 9-11 of the UN "lifting" sanctions.

First and foremost: The presumption of "honesty and integrity" is the basis of not only every religion I can think of, but of civilzation I can think of as well. Think of it as the lubrication that society runs on-- if it is found wanting, as happens from time to time, then we need to perform maintenance.

Re the case against Iraq: No such case was ever presented. If you want to take it piece by piece of evidence, fine. Show me the best evidence you've got, and be be specific. Where and when and by who was the evidence presented with source, and I promise you a shiny new orifice each and every time.

To take what you've written in a larger sense:

As you've discovered, shock horror, the world is full of rascals, scamps, footpads, and sneakthieves; and as Ronald Reagan advised us, in matters of foreign relations, "trust, but verify."

In accordance with this, the country of Iraq was compelled by the remainder of the world, as represented by the UN, to divest itself of of an impressive array of weapons that the rest of world felt it should not have. Having done so, as verified repeatedly by those who led various armies of inspectors into that country-- and been promised that in return it would not be invaded by the US--

It was summarily invaded by the United States of America, which invasion violated law it was itself signatory to.

Several thousand Iraqi civilians were killed, which again violated law the US was signatory to, and several more thousand of its civilians were injured, which again violated law the US was signatory to.

But you may believe differently. To get you started, I believe your argument starts with the words "we had no other choice."

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at October 3, 2004 12:19 AM

Posted by: Bill at October 2, 2004 10:36 AM
Chris Vosburg asks whether, if most of the world thinks something you're doing is crazy, isn't that probably the case? I submit the answer is "no."

I am so willing to let that stand as he last word.

You have only to ask them...

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at October 3, 2004 12:27 AM

A while back, I mentioned that I believed that superficial cynicism was defined by statements like "both parties suck."

Michael, is the title of this post and the contents of it intended to be a response to that?

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at October 3, 2004 12:35 AM

Or merely a confirmation?

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at October 3, 2004 01:51 AM

Eric Deamer,

Bush's personal failure to properly articulate the grand strategy for the Terror War, and most especially the relationship of the war in Iraq to the Terror War is a significant failing.

Bush has clearly, although not artfully, articulated the grand strategy. The failure isn't Bush. The failure is the Democrats who don't want to hear WHAT he has to say no matter HOW he says it. The failure is the Democrats morally and intellectually corrupt leadership who are promising easy answers and false hope for existential problems and exploiting people's desire to avoid doing hard things.

There is no more an articulate spokesman for the cause than Tony Blair. He articulates the cause both substantatively and artfully. Has he been able to convince the Brits? No. There are plenty of Democrats who have heard Blair articulate the cause. Are any of them persuaded? No. Why not?

This is because 150 years of creeping Marxist belief has fostered a deep and profound crisis in Western Civilization. We as Westerners no longer believe in our own civilization. Europe has sipped the post modern Marxist Kool-Aid longer than America. That is why Blair can't convince the Brits of the necessity of the cause. And here in America, a substantial portion of the Democratic party has swallowed the same poison.

I'm sure I'll get flamed for this comment, but the numbers don't lie:

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Bush voters also believe the world would be better if other nations were more like the United States. This view is shared by just 48% of Kerry voters.

From an ideological perspective, 74% of conservatives say the world would be better if other nations were more like ours. Just 15% of conservatives believe it would be worse.

However, among self-identified liberals, the numbers are 49% better and 37% worse. A plurality of those who say they are very liberal believe the world would be in worse shape if other nations were more like ours.

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/USA%20Role%20Model.htm

The structural problem of the Democratic party is that roughly half no longer believe in American exceptionalism. Even worse, more than a third of "liberals" believe the world would be worse off it was more like us. And in order to maintain power, the Democrats have to appeal to these people. They have to maintain a coalition between one wing of the party that has lost its faith in America, and the other wing which still keeps its faith. And they have nominated a man who embodies this conflict like no other.

The Democratic party is a house divided against itself. It cannot stand. At some point, the wing of the party that still keeps the faith will come to realize that the other half of the Democratic coalition has lost the faith. And when that happens, the Democratic house will collapse. The only thing awaiting is the storm.

When Tony Blair addressed Congress last year, he issued the following call:

http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/07/17/blair.transcript/

And I know it's hard on America, and in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I've never been to, but always wanted to go...

I know out there there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, "Why me? And why us? And why America?"

And the only answer is, "Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do."

The Democrats don't believe that America is the only answer. Many of them think America is the problem, not the solution. And they wouldn't listen to Bush even if he was William Shakespeare.

I think John Kerry will win this election. He will win it because the 37% of "liberals" who think the world will be worse off it was more like us dominate our opinion forming institutions. They dominate the universities and they dominate the media. And for the next month, they will mercilessly attack Bush and give Kerry a pass. Kerry's national security policies will be unchallenged and an ignorant electorate will go to the polls on November 2.

And then the perfect storm will crash into the structurally flawed Democratic house. By 2008, the Democratic party will be finished as a governing party.

Posted by: HA at October 3, 2004 04:16 AM

Chris Vosburg,

It was summarily invaded by the United States of America, which invasion violated law it was itself signatory to.

You are Exhibit A for my argument. Like many Kerry supporters, you believe the problem is not Saddam, not the UN, not France. The problem is America. Blame America first. That is what Kerry does. That is what his supporters want.

Posted by: HA at October 3, 2004 04:20 AM

Chris Vosburg,

I have a question. I hope you would agree that the greatest threat in the world right now is a nuclear armed Iran. If a hypothetical President Kerry were to determine that the only way to prevent this was to overthrow the regime in Iran, and then he sought and received authorization from Congress to use force against the Iranian regime but sought and was denied authorization by the UN, would you support Kerry taking unilateral action even though world opinion would most certainly be against us?

Posted by: HA at October 3, 2004 04:31 AM
Some thoughts on substance in the debates and my take on why bilateral talks with the DPRK are a bad idea, and why banning bunker busting nukes are a bad idea:

1. Kerry will say anything - this primarily comes down to personal trust

2. The world is dangerous, the bunker busting nukes have this argument going for them - If you can't bust rogue WMD programs in buried, hardened sites, then your other options are more grim. Kerry wants to kill this system (which is actually already developed somewhat) - this is a familiar pattern for him.

3. "Global Test" means the UN and the security council, which Bush/Powell tried. The UN is inherently unsound because the very countries that were trafficking with Saddam were on that council. There will be times when the US must act in its interests against the US [why didn't Clinton even go to the UN over Kosovo?]. Who does France ask when they meddle in Africa?

4. Kerry pushing for bilaterals with North Korea is simply contrarian. And it is a bad idea, it was tried by Clinton/Albright. You can't make rational two-way deals with a regime that puts up posters of you like this. We need the leverage that China can provide.

5. In 2002 we see

North Korea recently surprised the Bush administration by admitting that it has been working covertly for at least five years to develop the capability for enriching key components of nuclear weapons, using technology obtained from different nations.

6.We could Sanction Iran? WTF? We have been for a long time.

Just to name a few. Posted by: jdwill at October 3, 2004 04:36 AM

Correction:

There will be times when the US must act in its interests against the US

should be

There will be times when the US must act in its interests against the UN consensus

Although, in a wry way this often happens ;-\

Posted by: jdwill at October 3, 2004 04:39 AM

This war against Islamic Jihadism is way over Kerry's head.

Posted by: susan at October 3, 2004 05:10 AM

Chris Vosburg opined: "Re the case against Iraq: No such case was ever presented."

There will never ever be an intelligence 'case' that is good enough to present at court. Intelligence always has caveats to it.

So then the case for taking down Saddam has to be based on risk assessment which includes not only the intelligence estimates, but past behavior of Saddam, and the UN resolutions he sneered at, his ties with terrorists, his open antipathy to America.

Bush had to weigh the danger of inaction vs the danger of action. He made his choice.

Hindsight means nothing at all.

Posted by: Syl at October 3, 2004 05:13 AM

Syl: So then the case for taking down Saddam has to be based on risk assessment which includes not only the intelligence estimates, but past behavior of Saddam, and the UN resolutions he sneered at, his ties with terrorists, his open antipathy to America.

Bingo! The arguments against always try to nitpick one detail or another, and avoid the big picture.

Hindsight or history will bear out Bush's choice out IMO.

Posted by: jdwill at October 3, 2004 06:22 AM

HA

To the debate question, "what is the greatest threat", Kerry said "nuclear proliferation", the Bush said "WMD in the hands of terrorists"

A very slight distinction as Kerry went on to mention terrorists, but slight shift in emphasis can be crucial here.

So is Iran the biggest threat, or might Pakistan which has been caught selling technology be a bigger threat?

Posted by: jdwill at October 3, 2004 06:30 AM

"There will never ever be an intelligence 'case' that is good enough to present at court. Intelligence always has caveats to it."

I thought the cuban missile crisis was pretty well-presented. We had photos of the missiles and all.

And the russians did a pretty good job with the U2s. Eisenhower said "No, we haven't been spying on russia.". Then the russians had a press conference with Gary Powers. I suppose we could have argued that he was some random american they kidnapped and tortured and brainwashed to say he was our U2 pilot, but we didn't try.

We had iraqi nuclear technicians who confessed, who gave detailed directions to iraqi secret nuclear installations. The trouble was, when we passed their info on to the inspectors it never showed up anything. It was like, "Go to this building, go to the 2nd subbasement, through corridor D..." and they'd get there and there wouldn't be any corridor D, there'd be just a blank wall where the door corridor was supposed to be.

We had a bunch of iraqi nuclear technicians who said they didn't know about any nuke progrand we had some who said they knew all about it but they were lying. If they'd told us about a real nuke program we would have had evidence that was good enough. But they didn't.

It isn't true that intelligence evidence is never good enough. But our evidence that time was no good. Reasonably enough, since it was dead wrong.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 3, 2004 06:41 AM

The biggest threat?

In the long run, global warming might be the biggest threat. If it happens too fast. If it's slow enough we'll adapt, the USA might become a major food-importing nation, things would change around in various ways, but we could adapt to slow changes.

Over the next 20 years or so the biggest threat is probably the oil shortage. Until we find good alternatives, oil is going to shake economies and start wars.

In the short run I'm afraid the end of nuclear proliferation might be the biggest threat. Traditionally nukes were white elephants. Very very expensive, and they weren't good for much except deterring other nuclear powers from nuking you. But they gave nations status. A nation could accept that it didn't have nukes and it was inferior to nations that did, or it could try for nukes and be very poor. But nukes are getting somewhat cheaper, and as more nations get them they'll be more obviously irrelevant.

That will focus attention on other weapons that are more dangerous and cheaper too. Big danger.

This year? Hard to say what the biggest danger is. Stupidity. Will some terrorists do something really really stupid? Will Bush do something even stupider? Something along those lines.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 3, 2004 07:18 AM

J Thomas,

Some links, some backup?

How about this?

In the book, published tomorrow, Dr Obeidi details his research through nearly a quarter of a century under Saddam, including the designs for key components and prototypes for nuclear production, buried in a plastic drum next to his rose garden.

or this? Syria brokers secret deal to send atomic weapons scientists to Iran

A group of about 12 middle-ranking Iraqi nuclear technicians and their families were transported to Syria before the collapse of Saddam's regime.
The Iraqis, who brought with them CDs crammed with research data on Saddam's nuclear programme, were given new identities, including Syrian citizenship papers and falsified birth, education and health certificates.

You can find many countermanding articles on this subject. The level of vehemence and the spokespersons involved tell me that this is a hot topic with a lot of disinformation being pushed. What to believe? Certainly not the "no evidence" bleat. Given that there is hard evidence from the early 90's, and the obvious attractiveness for the Middle East despots to have a nuclear umbrella, it is more reasonable/sane to bet on an ongoing shell game between Iraq, Syria, and Iran.

Posted by: jdwill at October 3, 2004 07:18 AM

Over the next 20 years or so the biggest threat is probably the oil shortage. Until we find good alternatives, oil is going to shake economies and start wars.

Agreed. So having the Middle East go to hell because we didn't have the will to get dirty fighting is bad, non?

But nukes are getting somewhat cheaper, and as more nations get them they'll be more obviously irrelevant.

Irrelevant to the next sentient species on the planet, perhaps.

Which makes your next point, actually.

Posted by: jdwill at October 3, 2004 07:29 AM

Jdwill, you provide a link which shows that Saddam had a nuclear plan which was buried under a rose bush for ten years. This is not a smoking gun for an immediate attack.

Your second link is a brand new claim that some iraqi nuclear techs got exiled in syria before the war. No mention whether they had actually had a chance to work on nukes in the last 10 years in iraq. The report claims to reveal secrets, it has no backup whatsoever except the claim that it comes from "western intelligence officials". You mentioned disinformation.... It could be true. It provides absolutely no evidence that Saddam had a nuclear program in 2003. It's clear that he did have at least the debris from a nuclear program. He had techs, and he had some parts buried under residential gardens, etc.

I can imagine they were trying to start up a real nuke program. There's no evidence, but I can imagine it. I find it hard to imagine iraq was cooperating with iran on it. Do you think they'd really buried the hatchet after their war? "Yeah, I know we were gassing each other's troops a few years ago, but let's be buddies and build nukes together. We'd surely never use them on each other, now would we?" No, it's just too stupid. Syria might cooperate with either. But what would syria bring to the table? They're poor, they have no uranium, they have a border with israel. If israel thinks they have a nuke program israel doesn't even have to overfly anybody to bomb it.

It might have been reasonable to believe in an ongoing iraqi nuke program in 2003, in the absence of evidence. But from all the evidence we have, there was no such thing. The iraqi nuclear guys have not admitted a working nuke program after over a year of torture. All they've come up with is a bunch of stories that don't fit together, that we can interpret as them making independent lies to Saddam to fool him into thinking they had a nuke program. They tried desperately to tell us what we wanted to hear, but we didn't let them coordinate their stories so they didn't make one that worked.

If there was a real nuke program in 2003 then all the records are gone, and we didn't capture more than one of the people in it, and none of the higher-up government people knew about it. It had to be something we had no evidence of whatsoever in 2003, and we still have no evidence of it.

You could claim there's a green elephant living somewhere in iraq and I couldn't prove you wrong. But at this point there's more reason to believe in the green elephant than the functional nuke program. An elephant could live in the desert without the iraqi government noticing.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 3, 2004 08:25 AM

How the hell is Kerry going to convince France and Germany to send about 13 troops each when he goes around saying it's the wrong war?

More illogic.

Posted by: David at October 3, 2004 08:36 AM

JT

from your post earlier

South korea naturally wants their country reunited. Why would china go along with that? If NK collapses for any reason, what better country to take over than china? Why should they let NK pass out of their sphere of influence, when it has a direct border with china

Methinks China wants stability first so that they can focus on Taiwan -- which would mean a non-radioactive NK. SK wants that too. There are long term goals and there are short term necessities and prerequisites.

Maybe china will offer to trade NK for taiwan. How would you answer that? But maybe they will go along for free, I can't say for sure they won't. That gives us a second approach to try out.

The trouble with that is that NK can't offer that. And the PRC knows we would never do that in these talks (or any others). Taiwan will be determined between Beijing and Taipei in talks or over a direct confrontation. Arguably the PRC could do this over a NK donnybrook (coventional or otherwise), but this would be open conflict and would be more of an issue for a very Scrappy Taiwan and our Pacific Navy (which has 6-7 formidable battlegroups - not all of which need to be supporting what is effectively two ME ground conflicts). Plus PRC themselves say they aren't ready to take Taiwan - yet.

But back to my point overall, however, is that the BiLateral talks have nothing to offer NK that they haven't gotten already - appeasment in exchange for deceit. Common sense says that won't happen again. If they go into BiLateral talks and don't get their lollipop - which I would hope they won't (but then again Kerry seems to want to do a redux of NK in Iran) - there will likely be a multilateral talk minus one power -- NK: Because the rest of the neighborhood will have since had it and they will be talking about the more severe actions that you yourself mention. And NK will dig in its heels. So I say just do the multi-party now (as these powers may have something marginally tangible with which to leverage NK) and let the next phase, whatever it may be.

As Lileks says, the "S----T" word is bad enough. Two, IMHO evern worse.

Posted by: Bill at October 3, 2004 08:39 AM

absolutely no evidence - a familiar refrain

You are missing my point. I'm saying there was absolutely proven quiesced programs in 2003. There were absolutely proven active programs in the early 90's. Saddam Hussein had every reason (regional domination for one) to pursue these programs. So when I say there was a high probably that the programs would have been reconstituted when the sanctions (fraying) and inspections (DOA) wore off, you respond with green elephants on parade. Before the invasion, there was plenty of reason to expect an active program. That there wasn't is a blessing not a damnation.

As to the shell game, you are attempting misdirection. The state of affairs between Iraq, Syria, and Iran in the 90's is not the state of affairs in 2003 with Saddam's overturn imminent. That is essentially the same stupid argument as Saddam was secularist, so he would deal with religious fanatics. It doesn't pass the laugh test. You really expect any thinking person to believe that any one of these parties wouldn't make a deal with the other for such a prize as nuclear secrets?

As to Iraqi scientists having been tortured for a year. No evidence?!

Feh!

Posted by: jdwill at October 3, 2004 08:50 AM
So when I say there was a high probably that the programs would have been reconstituted when the sanctions (fraying) and inspections (DOA) wore off, you respond with green elephants on parade.

JD... "high probability"?!?!? I'd say spot on, dead on, bloody well would have given the the central thesis of the Kay report and everything else. It was a sure thing, not a mere high probability. What was also a sure thing, as you indicate, is that the sanctions were failing and talk abounded about abandoning them completely before 9/11. Heck they wanted to lift them even afterwards since there was "absolutely no connection" between Baathist Iraq and "terrorism in general," and rather just an ideal place to raise your children and fly kites with them that had gotten very bad PR until Michael Moore fixed the record. And that's something that the WMD deniers seem never ever to want to get.

Posted by: Bill at October 3, 2004 09:26 AM

I might be wrong. VDH seems to think there is a is a logic behind what I consider Kerry's illogic:

"There is a logic to Senator Kerry's flip-flopping that transcends his political opportunism: He is simply a captive of the pulse of the battlefield, without any steady vision or historical sense that might put the carnage of the day into some larger tactical, strategic, or political framework. As was true over a decade ago during Gulf War I, he contradicts himself when good news from the front makes his prior antiwar stance look either timid or foolhardy. But when the casualty rate rises or CNN is particularly vivid in airing the latest beheading or car bomb he returns to his shrill pessimism and denounces the war.


In 1991, when in-the-know pundits warned of horrific losses, Kerry spoke against going into Kuwait. When 100 hours brought unforeseen victory, he retroactively supported Desert Storm. Finally, he returned to his previous opposition when Kurds and Shiites were left hanging in the victory's aftermath. The larger issue was never whether Saddam should rest atop a stolen, oil-rich country, but rather what exactly 51 percent of the voters seemed to favor on any given day.

Now we see a repeat performance, driven by the same opportunism: Kerry publicized his previous sanctioning of the war as Saddam's statue fell and Iraqis rejoiced. Then, as the looting spread, he reiterated his longstanding worries. He solved the dilemma of sorting out the chaos by talking about voting for and then against appropriations — after all, it remains unclear whether the evening news will bring forth the last gasp or the new wave of Iraqi terror, and Americans meanwhile seem equally divided on the wisdom of the entire campaign."

http://nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson200410010715.asp

Posted by: David at October 3, 2004 09:39 AM

David:

You've hit on what I see as Kerry's most unattractive trait in the presidential race, not his flipflops, but his preference to leverage (and more importantly, be leveraged by) the pack.

And that, unfortunately, reaffirms my prejudice against Legislators in favor of Governors and Veeps. Legislators, have the option of using their colleagues to hide behind or to travel in their wake. And when I hear Kerry willing to be "unilateralist, but" I see that very same thing. In the Senate, he had the House and his fellow senators to buffer his stances with common sense (or hide his Nay's in a forest of Yea's, or vice versa). To be sure, this isn't Kerry's unique problem and some senators may be able to break with it. But Kerry, seems very much at home in that environment given his long time in the Senate.

I sometimes look at him when he slides into this mode and wonder... Has he grasped that he's not gonna be 1 of 99 Presidents of the US, and that the Global Community isn't, nor should be, a planetary Senate?

It’s not my show-stopping criteria for selecting a president, but I still prefer an Eagle or Bear in the job over a Lion or Wolf. Because sometimes when things are at their worst, you’re going to have to go it alone, and you have to be your own Alpha.

Posted by: Bill at October 3, 2004 11:11 AM

This is petty of me, but I can't help but think it would serve the Bush supporters right if your man got re-"elected." For the next four years, as the situation in Iraq worsens and the "world drifts towards tragedy," to borrow a phrase from Bush, I can laugh at your hysterical reiterations that the rest of us "just don't get it."

But I'm still not gonna vote for Bush.

Posted by: kc at October 3, 2004 12:51 PM

Kc,

if Kerry wins, AQ will still come after. If Bush dissapears off the face of the earth, AQ will still come after us.

If you want to sit down at the peace table with Zarqawi, then vote for Kerry.

Posted by: David at October 3, 2004 01:01 PM

Interesting analysis of John Kerry from the unfortunately named student newspaper, Chicago Maroon.

A concise well painted portrait of Kerry as a chameleon.

The summ up:
Kerry has subverted his ethnic identity, religious faith, attitudes towards war and peace, even his married life, all for his obsession with becoming president.
Posted by: jdwill at October 3, 2004 01:48 PM

And now, for something completely different ... Right Stuff / Wrong Stuff

Posted by: jdwill at October 3, 2004 02:33 PM

Check out footage of Kerry using a cheatsheet during the debate:

http://www.drudgereport.com/dnc57.htm

The Left has no honor, nor morals.

Posted by: David at October 3, 2004 02:42 PM

No counterarguments, guys? Just an out-of-hand rejection?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2004 12:30 PM

Yeah, I got one.

KERRY: I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are.

Kevin Drum summed Bush up best.

If you were listening you could tell that Bush felt frustrated beyond endurance at the foolishness of bilateral talks. "I can't tell you how big a mistake I think that is," he fumed. But why? Of all things, why did he get so worked up about the possibility of one-on-one talks with North Korea?

It's hard to say, but it probably has something to do with the very next sentence: "It's precisely what Kim Jong Il wants." In other words, Bush just doesn't believe in negotiation at all. If the other guy wants something, that's reason enough to deny it to him, even if it's something that would benefit us too.

More importantly, though, this exchange sheds a light on Bush's almost supernatural ability to judge diplomatic situations incorrectly, consistently following precisely the opposite of whichever strategy would be most effective. Iraq and Iran, for example, cried out for multilateral action because the issues at hand fundamentally affect lots of countries — but in both cases Bush has largely spurned genuine multilateral cooperation. (Although, in fairness, the Europeans haven't exactly gone out of their way to make multilateral action an attractive option.) North Korea is exactly the opposite.

The case for multilateral action with Korea is simple: if we make a deal of our own with North Korea, nobody else has a stake in it. If the North Koreans renege, the rest of the world will shrug and wait for us to fix it.

That's a good argument for getting other countries involved, but it's not a good argument for refusing to also deal with North Korea directly. The reason is simple: although the rest of the world has a stake in a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, North Korea's demands are aimed almost solely at the United States. What they want (and what they've always wanted) is a nonagression treaty with the United States and diplomatic recognition from the United States. Other countries can help with things like economic assistance and monitoring, but we're the only ones who can deal with the primary negotiating points. That's best done in bilateral talks.

Thus, John Kerry has by far the better of the argument here: we should have both multilateral and bilateral talks. What's more, all the other countries involved in the talks agree, because they understand the reality of the situation. But George Bush refuses. After all, that would be giving Kim Jong Il something he wants.

In the meantime, the multilateral talks have ground to a halt, North Korea is busily building nuclear weapons, and we've lost two years in which it's just possible we could have put a stop to it. Sure, maybe bilateral negotiations wouldn't have worked, but we'll never know because Bush stubbornly declined to try based on little more than personal pique.

Michael, no snark intended. Who are you and why do people link to you? Are you a college professor or journalist? What makes you opinion valued in the blogosphere?

P.S. Michael, I couldn't give a rat's ass who you supported, but Lileks lost me when he attacked the Jersey Girls for voicing their disapporoval of the body being shown at ground zero in a Bush commercial. Argument right back at you. Do you really in your heart believe that Lileks would never attack Kerry if he showed dead soldiers in a commercial. Hell, I dissed Dennis Kucinich for doing exactly that and I'm a Democrat.

Here's the million dollar questions? Do you feel America is safer that we pulled troops out of Afghanistan and invaded Iraq? Do you believe that Iraq will become a democracy in 4 to five years? Do you feel the United States military can handle a another war in North Korea or other Al Qaeda staging areas right now and maintain troops in Iraq. If you do then vote for George W. Bush.

Posted by: Michael Hussey at October 3, 2004 04:52 PM

Michael,

Like you, I spent most of the Coral Gables debate alternately cringing at George W.'s verbal mangling of the truth and rolling my eyes at John Kerry's apparent disdain for it. If we weren't engaged in an extremely serious war against extremely vicious terrorists (and terrorist-manufacturing regimes), I'd be thumbing my nose at this entire election cycle.

But...

As I've pointed out (at probably too much length) in a post on Sound and Fury, that first debate between Kerry and Bush was at least good for one thing: we all now know that a vote for John Kerry is a vote for limiting the War on Terror to Osama and his subordinates--and discarding everything else this war is about.

Which is important to know. Scary. But important.

Oh, and thanks so much for pointing out that Robert Moses post of mine. I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one who found it interesting.

Posted by: Dan at October 3, 2004 06:05 PM

Michael Hussey,

Michael, no snark intended. Who are you and why do people link to you? Are you a college professor or journalist? What makes you opinion valued in the blogosphere?

College professor or journalist? Who cares what these modern day priests think? What a useless lot! In the blogosphere, merit counts more than academic or journalistic Bubble Boy credentials. Any IDIOT can be a college professor or journalist. All you have to do is kiss the right ass and regurgitate the right bullshit.

All snark intended.

Posted by: HA at October 3, 2004 06:28 PM

Iran preemptively mocks John Kerry's Iran policy:

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/nm/20041003/pl_nm/nuclear_iran_kerry_dc

How stupid do you have to be to take John Kerry seriously? The Iranians will chew him up and spit him out like the French Poodle he is.

Posted by: HA at October 3, 2004 06:35 PM

A member of the Coalition of the Bribed and Coerced isn't happy with John Kerry:

http://chrenkoff.blogspot.com/2004/10/polish-president-disses-democrat.html

Posted by: HA at October 3, 2004 07:08 PM

Michael Hussey: Michael, no snark intended. Who are you and why do people link to you? Are you a college professor or journalist? What makes you opinion valued in the blogosphere?

I think your question is strange. I'm just a guy in his jammies with an opinion. People read and link to my blog because they like it or because they enjoy arguing with me. That's all.

I am not a professor or a reporter. I am a professional writer, although I seriously doubt anyone who links to this blog cares about such "credentials." I don't have any "professional writer" license or certificate that I can redeem anywhere for blogosphere links. People link to this blog if they like it.

As for my non-blog writing, I get paid to write because I proved to editors that my work if worth paying for. I proved it by writing well on the blog. Everyone I work for is a regular reader.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2004 07:11 PM

Ha,

agreed. Hussey's reference to "college professors" and "journalists" speaks volumes, and is laughable. Dems own a monopoly on both those professions, so it's no big surprise that these Libs would want us to consider "journalists" and "college professors" the ultimate authority on any and all subjects. Just like Dan Rather is the ultimate authority on forged documents for instance.

Posted by: David at October 3, 2004 07:22 PM

So, Kevin Drum thinks Bush's refusal to hold bilateral talks with North Korea is because "Bush just doesn't believe in negotiation at all"?

I don't suppose it has anything to do with NK lying and cheating on the bilateral agreements negotiated by the Clinton administration? Or that the Bush administration has decided that it's a bad idea in principle to pay off blackmailers? Nah, couldn't be that.....

Bush's response to Kerry's support of bilateral talks was the most honest moment of the debate. When he said "I just can't tell you how bad an idea I think that is", you could tell how horrified he was that the pompous fool standing across from him could actually become president.

Posted by: Priscilla at October 3, 2004 07:34 PM
When he said "I just can't tell you how bad an idea I think that is", you could tell how horrified he was that the pompous fool standing across from him could actually become president.

Like I said earlier. That wasn't annoyance on his face all night from what I could tell. It's the same look that every stuffy father has when his daughter tells him that those three kids on the Hanson album that she adores are three guys... "Really, Daddy, they are, it's not a KD Lang thing... Uh Daddy? Earth to Daddy? Please? MOOOOOOMMM!!!!"

But, unlike the bewildered data who's BS detector is falsely sent to 11... Kerry really DID think that a NK Redux was a good thing. I know, because I had that very same look on my face. Heck, the numbered Mudd's Planet Android Collar™, around my neck practically lit up the living room on its own during the debate.

Posted by: Bill at October 3, 2004 08:23 PM

They both suck WRT Iraq (via Belmont Club):

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/716cmfoq.asp?pg=1

Kerry should have moved to Bush's right. Fallujah was a terrible failure on Bush's part. But Kerry can't do it because his supporters want to leave Iraq, not fight for it. Kerry will move back to the left if he wins.

So we are stuck with a choice between Bush's current policy which will LIKELY fail, and Kerry's policy which will CERTAINLY fail.

Posted by: HA at October 4, 2004 04:26 AM

Bill, "Methinks China wants stability first so that they can focus on Taiwan -- which would mean a non-radioactive NK. SK wants that too. There are long term goals and there are short term necessities and prerequisites."

Good point. Neither china nor SK wants a radioactive NK next door.

Both would strongly object to US pre-emptive action, then. China could object strongly.

I heard stories that back when china was first becoming a nuclear power, the USSR wanted to do a re-emptive strike to stop them. And the USA stopped the USSR from doing that. China is likely to return the favor in reverse....

We can probably get away with nuking NK after they nuke somebody. I doubt we can do it before.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 4, 2004 06:53 AM

Bill said, "But back to my point overall, however, is that the BiLateral talks have nothing to offer NK that they haven't gotten already - appeasment in exchange for deceit."

So, the problem is that the USA simply doesn't have a decent threat against NK. So we can offer them a bribe and they can accept, and then they don't do what we want and we don't do what they want. It's just like a stalled talk except we stop talking.

The obvious solution is bilateral talks between NK and china. But china doesn't care.

Nobody has a clue to get NK to disarm. Not Kerry, not Bush. Nobody in the state department or the army. (Short of starting a nuclear war to keep them from starting a nuclear war.)

Nonproliferation is dead, it just hasn't stopped twitching yet.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 4, 2004 07:00 AM

Jdwill said, "I say there was a high probably that the programs would have been reconstituted when the sanctions (fraying) and inspections (DOA) wore off"

Could be. But we invaded then on Bush's claim he had absolute proof that iraqi nukes were on the way. It turned out iraq had nothing active at all. Would the inspections stop? The inspections were working perfectly, we now find, though Bush thought they weren't working. It would have been time enough to invade after Saddam threw out the inspectors.

Was it that Bush was lied to and he believed them? Or was he trying to mislead us?

"The state of affairs between Iraq, Syria, and Iran in the 90's is not the state of affairs in 2003 with Saddam's overturn imminent. You really expect any thinking person to believe that any one of these parties wouldn't make a deal with the other for such a prize as nuclear secrets?"

What did Saddam have to offer? He had some uranium under seal. He had some technicians whose knowledge was getting rustier every week. He had sanctions and inspections. So if he was going to help anybody get nukes he could give them his technicians, as the recent disinformation claimed.

What did syria have to offer? Only a place to work that didn't have inspections.

Why would iran want to work with either of them? That doesn't make sense either. Sure, pretty much anybody who didn't know how to make nukes would cooperate with anybody else who had the same problems. We thought that israel, south africa and taiwan were cooperating. But for them it made sense.

"Saddam Hussein had every reason (regional domination for one) to pursue these programs."

Of course he'd want to dominate kuwait and saudi arabia. And his other immediate neighbors included syria and iran.... It made sense for the USA to cooperate with canada to make nukes. We hadn't had a canadian war in well over a hundred years and the USA dominates canada in every way. Canadian nukes would be no threat to us. But for iran to cooperate with iraq? Maybe accept iraqi technicians (no better than iranian technicians) in return for giving iraq nukes? Hardly.

But that said, it could be true. Nations have acted in their own worst interest before. US policy toward israel makes no sense in terms of US interests, for example. Maybe iran and iraq did cooperate out of utter and complete mutual stupidity.

I agree that there are limits to the argument for competence. So for example we could have argued that the USA would not cooperate in the 1980's with iran, which had overthrown the Shah and detained our ambassadors etc. But Reagan did. Iran/Contra was stupid beyond belief, and Reagan would have lost tremendously by it if he hadn't been a republican.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 4, 2004 08:18 AM

Jdwill wrote, "As to Iraqi scientists having been tortured for a year. No evidence?!"

Did I put too much nuance in that?

Some of the iraqi nuclear guys were captured during or after the war. Others were found during the next few months. They got sent to Gitmo, right?

Who was more important to send to Gitmo and interrogate? We had no issue more important than finding the hidden WMDs and the nuke facilities.

It's been well over a year. We've gotten nothing useful from them except stories that didn't fit together, that we spun into them fooling Saddam they had a program going when they didn't.

Would you accept it better if I replaced "tortured" with "interrogated"?

With that substitution is there anything here you'd disagree with?

Posted by: J Thomas at October 4, 2004 08:34 AM

HA wisely stated:

Tosk,

You're not a left-wing nutter. You're a full-spectrum nutter. It must be all the squirrel talk. ;-)

------------

Thank you, my friend! Tis a great compliment indeed!

Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord
Chatterer of the Words of Eris
Muncher of The ChaoAcorn
Full-Spectrum Nutter

POEE of The Great Googlie Mooglie Cabal

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-- Dave Barry, On Presidential Politics

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