Tuesday, September 24, 2002

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PR-wise, the Bush administration has had a so-so week when it comes to Iraq. There was a pretty favorable NYT Magazine article on Paul Wolfowitz, and at least some skepticism of Saddam Hussein's tactic of permitting inspectors in. But, there was also the Times article on Israel stating it would retaliate against an Iraqi attack regardless of U.S. wishes and Schroeder's victory on the backs of the anti-Iraq crowd. Clearly, the political momentum had slowed.

Then along comes Al Gore.

Full disclosure: I had a very, very peripheral role on the Bush foreign policy team during the 2000 campaign [You were one of the Vulcans?--ed. Hardly. I helped out on some preliminary debate prep for one of my former Stanford profs who now happens to be National Security Advisor. We were called the Young Turks.] The point is, during the campaign, I pored over a lot of what Gore was saying about foreign policy during the campaign. I obviously disagreed with some of it, but certainly not all of it. I thought it was competent.

Gore's speech on Iraq, however, is not competent. Or coherent. Or consistent with Gore's previous musings on the topic. It's a grab-bag of objections, none of which has a great deal of substance (it also looks like it was drafted three weeks ago and no one bothered to update it in light of recent developments]. My personal favorite, for example, is the claim that, "Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another. We should remain focused on the war against terrorism." Gee, I thought great powers were capable of doing more than one thing at a time. That's why they're called great powers. As for the facts, funny how in the same week that Bush promoted dealing with Iraq, significant progress was made on breaking Al-Qaida's back. Great powers can walk and chew gum at the same time.

This speech perfectly captures David Brooks' point that many of those opposed to Iraq are not making serious arguments. I disagreed with Gore before, but I did think he was serious. Not now.

Gore's inchoate speech makes me wonder if the paranoids who believe in the vast, right-wing conspiracy are actually correct. Maybe Gore is actually a Republican stooge, designed to thwart The Emerging Democratic Majority by tying Democrats up in knots every time they seem to acquire political momentum [Weren't they already in knots before Gore's speech--ed. David Broder does think that, yes.]

P.S.: For a serious anti-war argument, here's Michael Walzer's take.

P.P.S.: Slate's Tim Noah argues that Gore is not flip-flopping.

posted by Dan on 09.24.02 at 10:25 AM