Friday, April 2, 2004

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A small blog sabbatical

For the next ten days, I will be away from a computer. I'll be at an undosclosed sandy beach with my family for the first week, and then after that I'll be at a conference for several days [What's the difference between a vacation and a conference?--ed. At conferences, there's like, homework and stuff.] There will be limited to no blogging for the next ten days.

Discussion topic -- Andrew C. McCarthy's essay "The Intelligence Mess: How It Happened, What to Do About It." in the April issue of Commentary. McCarthy led the 1995 prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman in connection with the first World Trade Center bombing. He's skeptical that the mantra of "greater interagency coordination" will work:

For one thing, intelligence professionals are correct (if occasionally disingenuous) when they complain that the public has a skewed perception of their operations: while catastrophic lapses are always notorious, intelligence successes are more numerous. These, however, must typically be kept secret in order to preserve sources of information and methods of gathering it. The unfortunate result is a portrait of ceaseless "failure" that, aside from giving intelligence-gathering an undeserved bad name, also obscures other verities.

First, day-to-day cooperation among agencies, and particularly between the FBI and CIA, is actually far better than people have been led to believe. In terrorism cases, in the decade after the 1993 WTC bombing, teamwork improved in leaps and bounds. To be sure, there are occasional breakdowns, usually due to personality conflicts. But this is an unavoidable function of the human condition—which no legislation on earth can repeal—and it is just as frequently a factor in intra-agency disputes as in those between agencies. Today, agents who fail to compare notes are generally acting in violation of information-sharing protocols; it is hard to imagine additional directives improving the situation.

Second, intelligence-gathering is not monolithic. Domestic intelligence is radically different from the foreign variety, and both differ critically from the needs of the military. So polysemous an imperative requires a variety of skills to meet widely divergent situations and assumptions. As both a practical and a political matter, it is inconceivable that the task could be accomplished by a single agency, and proposals that suggest otherwise are certain only to reshuffle, rather than eradicate, natural rivalries while damaging the quality and quantity of information collection.

Third, and most misunderstood, rivalry—overall—is a virtue. In the government’s vast monopoly, it is essential. Naturally, the seamy side of competition being a perennial best-seller, the public record is replete with hair-raising anecdotes of sharp-elbowed investigators pursuing the same quarry to the benefit of criminals, enemies, and traitors. On a macro level, however, the throat-cutting is statistically insignificant. As a rule, competition impels agents to test their premises and press for better information; it results in the generation of more leads and the collection and refinement of more intelligence. In a world where the Supreme Court cannot decide a case without amicus briefs from innumerable interested observers, where Congress declines to pass legislation without the input of scores of experts, do we really want the President, in matters of national security, reduced to a single stream of intelligence-collection and analysis?

If turf-battling is not an enormous obstacle, does that mean there are no obstacles? Hardly. The real problems, though, are not bureaucratic but structural and philosophical. They have taken over 40 years to metastasize, and they would take a lot more than cosmetic surgery to reverse, even assuming the national will to do it.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM


It sounds to me like McCarthy is saying that greater interagency coordination is already happening and has been for some time, though it has limits.

In principle this is unexceptionable. But the failures in intelligence-sharing prior to 9/11 were not insignificant, and failure to resolve interagency disagreements over security has played its part in the government's paralysis in other areas of policy, for example immigration reform.

There is also the issue raised by the Madrid bombings of cooperation not only between American government agencies but between our intelligence services and those of other countries. We often hear it said that despite disagreements over Iraq intelligence cooperation against Islamist terrorism is strong between Western nations, but there is reason to wonder how true this really is.

I'm not blaming anyone here; this is a new international environment and a relatively new threat that will naturally take some time to adjust to. For that very reason it would be foolish to overlook the problems that inadequate international intelligence coordination can lead to.

As an aside, I'd like to throw out the following: does anyone know what McCarthy means when he says ",,,The real problems, though, are not bureaucratic but structural..."? The statement seems to me akin to observing that Yao Ming's great advantage as a basketball player is not his height but how tall he is.

posted by: Zathras on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

As an aside, I'd like to throw out the following: does anyone know what McCarthy means when he says ",,,The real problems, though, are not bureaucratic but structural..."?

I think he means that the “real problem” is not interagency rivalry per se, but a structure that has the wrong bureaucrats making the final decisions.

McCarthy’s suggestions amount to:

1.Let the CIA spy domestically with two safeguards (a) Notice and updates to FBI and (b) 72 hour authorization before spying. He suggests that this 72 hour authorization comes from a “responsible executive branch official” and not a court;

2. Continue current CIA/FBI cooperation BUT (a) put the CIA in the lead and the FBI in support and (b) eliminate constitutional protections for “enemy combatants”.

In sum, he is asking us to place all our trust in a “responsible executive branch official” with respect to domestic spying unencumbered with constitutional niceties like due process. One question: Can any of us agree on who this “responsible executive branch official” should be?

posted by: TexasToast on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Can't you get Andrew Sullivan to sub for you? He might feel a bit restrained by the academic setting, all to the good in my opinion.

posted by: rilkefan on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

The lessons of 9/11 all point to the need to reform all the crazy policy handcuffs which focused on terror as a criminal matter.

We believe that it is better for many guilty criminals to go free rather than one innocent to be imprisoned. But the elaborate safeguards regarding evidence at a criminal trial, have no similar purpose in prosecuting a war.

The worst thing we can do is go back to the Clintonian policy of treating terror as a matter of criminal law enforcement.

posted by: stan on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

The problem here seems to be that people have a vastly unrealistic expectation of what intelligence can do. Partly, this may stem from TV and movies where the good guys always prevail. It is simply not humanly possible to stop every plot and Americans are going to have to accept this. While there probably were intelligence "failures" behind 9/11, it is almost certain that if it hadn't been 9/11, it would have happened some other time. You have committed groups of fanatics out to kill large numbers of people and, unfortuantely, in an open society, it is virtually impossible to stop them every time. No matter how well or poorly the intelligence agencies function, things are going to happen. And a lot of the complaints about the intelligence agencies pre-9/11 seem to be what you would expect in any complex bureaucracy. Certainly, it makes sense to look for ways to improve intelligence gathering but it makes no sense to set unrealistic expectations and engage in pointless (and often partisan) scapegoating (e.g., Wesley Clark saying that 9/11 would not have happened on his watch).

posted by: MWS on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Hi, i have just read ur blog, after searching something with google... perhaps u can help me... There were news about a boy in tv (i´m from germany) who was yawning on bush´s speech and it was so funny. now i am looking for news about the boy in the internet. Have u ever heard about that? it would be very nice if u could help me...
thank alot

posted by: alexandra on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

"But the elaborate safeguards regarding evidence at a criminal trial, have no similar purpose in prosecuting a war.
The worst thing we can do is go back to the Clintonian policy of treating terror as a matter of criminal law enforcement."

I agree in terms of foreign policy. But you seem to be saying that we need to forget about due process standards entirely in the US. If your argument is that any person arrested in the US in connection with terrorism should be treated as a POW and, therefore, no due process rights, I can't agree. Calling it a "war" doesn't make it a war under constitutional standards; i.e., it's never been declared by Congress. I see no basis for the Government to assume the kinds of powers that you seem to want it to assume IN THE UNITED STATES. That is not to say that, given the magnitude of the threat, it may not be appropriate to loosen some of the safeguards. However, you seem to be calling for a blanket dropping of evidentiary rules and procedural safeguards in the US. In my opinion, that is going way too far; in fact, farther than even the Bush Administration wants to go.

posted by: MWS on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Have a good time, Daniel.
Meanwhile this is no time for partisan politics. Guys if you are just as sick as I am about Daily Kos remark about the 4 dead American contractors, He welcomed their death and said "screw them" visit this site

Michael Friedman is organizing an e-mail campaign to demand that the Democratic candidates pull their ads from the Daily Kos site. It seems to work. I got an e-mail from one of the candidates telling me they are pulling their ad. We should not allow this infamy to stand.

posted by: Ricky Vandal on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Hello all,

Way off topic but I just read something that I thought this esteemed body should know about. Seems certain sides in Congress are pushing for FEC rule changes regarding non profit groups and if they endorse candidates or make any political statement. From how I read it, it seems to say that if they spend more than a certain amount of money or make a lot of political commentary they should be regarded as PACs and therefore be taxed. Not only do they want to change these rules but they want to look back over the last four years of these groups existence to see if they made political statements. For instance if the American Cancer Society endorsed a candidate or spoke regarding a candidates record they would be deemed a PAC. I have the full text of what I read on my blog. It was sent to me from a friend and it is too long to post here.

My blog is
Has anyone heard anything regarding this? I think it is a horrible idea because as a society we need these non profits, they do a lot of good and if they were taxed I am sure a lot would shut down.

posted by: Kat on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Oh one other thing. According to these new rules they are trying to pass, any group that was judged a political group would lose it's ability to receive grants and such to keep it funded.

This is really unnerving stuff folks.

posted by: Kat on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

OT - Ricky Vandal

I don't think anyone who posts to this board would defend what KOS said. There is no excuse. Period. The non-denial defense made it worse, which had seemed impossible.

That said, I dont see how joining the lynch mob going after KOS makes things better. I am disappointed in Glenn Reynolds for abetting it.

posted by: TexasToast on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]


Hey, Texas - I think I could live out the rest of my life and never have reason to go to that site again.

You've been a reliable reasonable liberal yourself, here - and it seems that KOS was also, at some point. Can you shed some light on the KOSification of the Dems and their Blogs? I can't imagine you hang your hat over there very much. It's very like that horrible Buzzflash thingy.

posted by: Art Wellesley on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

In not many years most jobs will be automated or do it yourself like pumping gas is now. Computers are being used as reasoning assistants for super tedious projects like IC design. With cheap outsourcing and automation the future of the American worker is bleak. I wonder how long before human brain genes are put in a dog?
To say 80k for a programmer is to much, four other programmers and myself set up the Ohio Lottery and it brings in a billion or so a year. I think I made about $50k infl. adj back then.

posted by: ralph g on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

ralph q:

There was a time when over 90% of people were employed in agriculture, and the future looked bleak when labor-saving mechanical devices began to invade the family farm.
However, it seems to have turned out OK.

The future of the American worker is in service positions, where humans are needed or prefere, complex assembly tasks, such as construction, and brain work, such as advertising.

A rather bright future.

posted by: Michael Herdegen on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

I want people to know that the gutless and self-pitying Nathan Newman, friend of Ramsey Clark, has been deleting posts that refer to the obits of the 4 men murdered in Iraq (you know: the men that the definitionally challenged Mr Newman calls "mercenaries"). I think that the sensitive Mr Newman gets more exercised about people who take down "Vote Union" fliers in the break room at Wal-Mart than he does about the gruesome murder of 4 innocent individuals.

posted by: smith on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Stan: "The lessons of 9/11 all point to the need to reform all the crazy policy handcuffs which focused on terror as a criminal matter.

"We believe that it is better for many guilty criminals to go free rather than one innocent to be imprisoned. But the elaborate safeguards regarding evidence at a criminal trial, have no similar purpose in prosecuting a war.

"The worst thing we can do is go back to the Clintonian policy of treating terror as a matter of criminal law enforcement."

Except that the "war" against terrorism is a war which will -- of course -- never, ever end. Every Moslem could disappear in a puff of smoke tonight, and it would still be a problem which the human race will have to cope with from now on, thanks to the wonders of modern technology. So: if we have to set new legal mechanisms in place to deal with this fact, should we go to McCarthy's proposed extreme of keeping the courts out of it altogether and letting some "responsible executive branch official" decide by himself what rights any American citizen accused of being a possible "enemy combatant" should have?

posted by: Bruce Moomaw on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

“You've been a reliable reasonable liberal yourself, here - and it seems that KOS was also, at some point. Can you shed some light on the KOSification of the Dems and their Blogs? I can't imagine you hang your hat over there very much. It's very like that horrible Buzzflash thingy.”

Well, Art, since you asked ….. ;-)

I’ll see your Buzzflash and raise you Little Green Footballs….

KOS is actually quite a reasonable blog. He said something stupid, and the right wing took advantage of it. Your question reminds me of the new right-wing criticism of things like Al Gore’s speech attacking the President for planning an attack of Iraq form the get-go and taking advantage of 9/11 to justify the attack. That idea was dismissed as “grassy knoll” conspiracy theory, but it appears that the initial reaction of administration officials from the President on down was an attempt to find an Iraqi connection. But what we heard was that Al Gore’s speech was “outrageous.” I guess because it was getting too close to the truth for comfort and it was said with the hyperbole of a political speech.

Tell me, where is/was the outrage for these remarks?

---- Bill Kristol accusing the 9/11 widows of “moral blackmail”

---- Ann Coulter’s intemperate remark of the week (such as accusing Clarke of being a racist for questioning Condi Rice)

---- Sean Hannity’s book title – He wants to save America from me.

---- The various right-leaning blogs and commentators demanding we “make an example” of Falluja.

---- Any Rush Limbaugh show (I’ll let you pick it)

Blogs are a true voice of the unwashed non-professional non-political establishment folks like you and me. What KOS hopefully learned is that a bigger megaphone draws bigger attacks, and that the marriage between blogs and political campaigns is, at most, a marriage of convenience. The right wing went after KOS’s advertisers – I suspect the big right wing bloggers realize that there is probably going to be a whole host of people looking for similar intemperate remarks by them to send to their advertisers. The big losers in the widening of the left/right divide are the bloggers who have advertising. They will now have to watch their mouths and their backs.

posted by: TexasToast on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Mr. Toast,

RE: Mr. Albert Gore; You Can't mean that horrible "He betrayed this country" speech? Come on.

As to my friend William Kristol, I've never known his tenor to be anywhere near that of Zuniga's. And certainly an argument can be made regarding the Tower Widows - didn't your own Mr. Rahl have remarks worth citing here? I find his absence telling considering your trying to bring Mr. Kristol to the fore.

On the other hand,

I would agree that Sean Hannity is bit too much, and - unlike Mr. Limbaugh - neither witty or deep

In fact, I find it hard to beleive you really dislike him. Certainly I find dear old Al Franklin, of Minneapolis, extremely deep and witty - despite his most recent occupation.

SO - I don't know - I was looking for a little more honesty, and a little less pop-psychology. But - if that's all you have to offer, so be it.

posted by: Art Wellesley on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

“SO - I don't know - I was looking for a little more honesty, and a little less pop-psychology. But - if that's all you have to offer, so be it.”

Were you? – Or were you instead looking for a slam at KOS confirming your apparent view that moderates/reasonable people could be persuaded by his intemperate outburst that everything he says is beyond the pale?

When you don’t get that slam, you dismiss my post as dishonest and shallow. I have my faults, but dishonesty is not one of them, and the implication that my views can only be the result of dishonesty does tend to get under my skin. Compare Gore’s speech to Bill Frist’s on the floor of the Senate that essentially accused Mr. Clarke of perjury, despite the fact that Dr. Frist said that very day that he had no knowledge of any discrepancies between Mr. Clarke’s book and his testimony. It seems to me that unjustly accusing someone of a crime on the floor of the Senate qualifies as “horrible”. My point in adding Kristol to the examples of right-wing bomb throwing was to show that even normally temperate folks sometimes make intemperate remarks – and don’t get called on it. The other folks were examples of regular contributors to the cheapening of partisan discourse that regularly get a pass from the critics of KOS.

The right tactically won this little skirmish as KOS’s unfortunate remark separated candidates from bloggers who were creating new sources of political contributions. This is an entirely new way to raise political money, and I find the method the right employed to damage it interesting, if risky for right wing bloggers. I apologize for boring you with the “pop psychology”, since you apparently have already analyzed the political blog phenomenon in depth using real science.

posted by: TexasToast on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

I take it, then, that that's a 'no' on the (outrage)ous comments of Rahl.
Oh, well. My fault - I'm sure. Probably had you confused with someone else.

Try one of these Jamaican cigars, ambassador, they're pretty good.

Thank you, no. I do not support the work of imperialist stooges.

Oh, only commie stooges, huh?"]

Well put, Mr Kubrick.

posted by: Art Wellesley on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

“The right tactically won this little skirmish as KOS’s unfortunate remark separated candidates from bloggers who were creating new sources of political contributions.”

Unfortunate remark? KOS’s views are evil---and not merely “unfortunate.” It is one thing to argue that the United States did not have sufficient self interested reasons to invade Iraq. I strongly disagree with this view, but it is legitimate. But one is clearly off the reservation when they declare our invasion to be immoral. We have offered freedom to the Iraqi people and greatly improved their lives. This is beyond dispute. Our soldiers and civilian contractors are heroes. You do agree, don’t you?

Your point concerning the political contributions is bizarre to say the least. I would think that any half way balanced Democrat would wish to distance themselves from KOS. Republicans should not be the only ones out to punish this childishly immature individual. Lastly, I have personally pointed out the double standard of the liberal media and establishment towards Condi Rice. They do not consider her authentically black. The crap would have hit the fan if she were a liberal and Richard Clarke a perceived conservative. Can anyone doubt this for even a moment?

posted by: David Thomson on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]


I apologize for losing my temper, but the idea that stupid, intemperate remarks are somehow more prevalent in the left side of the political spectrum implicit in you question bothers me a great deal. As I tried to illustrate, and as you illustrated by your example, inflammatory remarks are present on all sides and generate an emotional response or a pass dependant largely on whose ox is being gored. Gore parallels Frist, KOS parallels Kristol, and so on.

PS – I’m not aware of an intemperate remark by Rahl.


I haven’t seen KOS declare the invasion of Iraq immoral. Do you have a post where he has said this?

I will not declare our invasion of Iraq “immoral”. (What a loaded strawman THAT is.) I will say that it seems to have been terribly counterproductive and the investment of the lives of our troops and our other resources has been a grave miscalculation. That said, I think we have an obligation at this point to see it through.

Lastly, I don’t know what “authentically black” means. On can be both black and wrong, and I think that Dr Rice fits this description. One can also be liberal and wrong, as KOS was about his disdain for these “contractors”. Are you saying that the “crap” has not hit the fan as a result of what KOS said? Go read the comments on LGF and describe for me the substance flying through he air.

posted by: TexasToast on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

I wrote this aqs a rant but I think it has goes along with a lot of the debating goin on here. Ruminations.
Ramblings and perhaps some rhetoric
What would George, Ben, Thomas, James do? This thought has crossed my mind a great deal lately. In all these turbulent, trying times how would the Founders think? Could they even relate to how our current politicians act?

Politics seems to have become more and more about grandstanding, trying to keep the job and looking good to the right people than taking care of the country. I cannot imagine Thomas Jefferson trying to converse with Bush, Bush would just have a blank look on his face as Jefferson delved into a topic. Can you see the media trying to condense some of the great writings of those times into a soundbite? One can only imagine how hideously they would destroy the content, the ideals and the truth of what those great men had to say.

We have lost one of the things that made this country great, we have been losing it for a long time. Public discourse, the media no longer reports the full story of a situation ( regardless of any bias the modus operandi has little to do with true journalism), editors and writers have forgotten how to disengage themselves from the topic at hand and to do their job; gather facts. What's even worse is that when they do gather a few facts they skim the surface of the implications of them and just repeat the fact every 30 minutes without delving deeper.

It is not fair to blame the media entirely, look at what they are covering. Soundbite decision making, people whose motivations have either never been altrustic or who are bordering on fanaticism. Moderation and actual penetrating thoughts are no longer admired but are ridiculed. Moderates need to be lumped into a side, I encounter it often. One cannot just put an idea, an opinion or a thought out there without being condemned as something; liberal, conservative, idiot, moron, socialist. What happened to the idea of the Junto? That wonderful group started by Franklin where books, policies etc. were discussed intelligently, without malice, to see and try to understand all sides. I am not so naiive as to think many of these discussions were not heated, I am aware of the emnity between some of the men I speak but they, in general, would treat each other with respect.

One of the things Franklin worked diligently at in his life was to rid his vocabulary of words that would convey a feeling of dogamiticsm. Words such as belief, condemn etc., he would approach situations that were in need of resolution by introducing his ideas in easy going ways.
" Perhaps we should look at this from another perspective..."
" In this situation perhaps.."
" I see how you are correct, but perhaps in looking at it from.."
Using phrases such as these allowed him to save the other person's diginity if they were wrong or his if he proved incorrect. It also allowed for civil useful debates, not this name calling and smearing we see today.

How did we get here from there? Why did it fall apart? How is it honest, hard working men such as John McCain get fiercely slandered in an election and not given the respect due to him? How is it the American public cannot see through the lies, the distortions and the character assassinations? How did we end up with a President, who was a former drug addict, an alcoholic, with a history of either failing or mediocore performances in all his endeavors over McCain, career military man who served his country, in both war and peace with excellent results? Why do we accept the situation the way it is?

I have no answers, only theories. Is it the increased pace of life that people cannot take the time to understand the myriad of topics out there? After all, many of the highly intelligent people in the past where either well to do or had disavowed materialism and merely traveled to place to place. Is it the increasing apathy of a society that needs to be shocked to achieve any response whatsoever? Is it simply what so many say, the government has been paid for by corporations many years ago so now it is they who are in charge? Seeing as how the current adminstration hires marketing consultants to tell them how to package policies, is that so far fetched? Is there a conspiracy to make life for Americans so tough that we lose sight of the big picture in the daily grind of life? Is it the schools? Lincoln, Franklin and many other leaders were self educated, so perhaps education will only take in those who want it. Is it a combination of all of these? Is it something as simple as being lazy and taking all of it for granted for so long? The 60s and 70s spurred many radical changes when people became fed up with the status quo. They finally noticed the hypocrisy, cruelty and injustice of how things were and did something about it to the benefit of many and the country. Is it time again for the slumbering hydra of society to act as one, to wake up?

Perhaps the solution would be as simple as turning politics into a temporary job, not a life long career. Many of the early members of Congress did not see politics as their life, but as a duty that must be done to secure the freedoms that we so hard won. Would term limits make our representatives realize once again that they are public servants, not the masters of the public? If nothing else having to buy off new politicians every 8 or 12 years may make companies stop investing so much money, perhaps a few may even go broke. Therein lies the rub though, how do you get Congress to vote themselves out of a career?

Perhaps we have to lose everything we have, everything that makes America great to once again fight for the ideals we cherish? Is it the way we embrace capitalism and the "me" concept? Take care of me and my goals first and the rest can wait until I get what I want? Is it the materialism that is prevalent in the media? Taking a look at so many of our shows; Extreme Makeover, Who wants to be a millionaire? Joe Millionaire etc. one can see that shallow goals such as beauty and wealth seem more important then other noble ideals. Could we have defeated the British by throwing fashion models and Gucci bags at them?

The answers seem as elusive as the solution but somehow we must find out why we allow these things to go on. If not, I am sure that our history, our ideals and our country will lose what luster we have left. Politicians are in office to serve the people, not the other way around. It is time to make them do their real jobs, to be accountable to those who pay their salaries and to the memory of those who went before and were willing to sacrifice their lives so that people like John McCain had a country for which to fight.

posted by: Kat on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]


A fair rant,touching on just about everything. Wish I had a unified theory of everything,too, but I can't seem to find one. I don't think the basic problem of Democracy is that the politicians serve too long.It is that they have rigged the system to such an extent that it is become nearly impossible to vote them out. I do wonder whether basic redistricting reform (requiring that congressional and state legislative districts be drawn on a nonpartisan basis) wouldn't go a long way to solving the problems you identify.

And,what would the founding fathers do?

Well, first, they'd disagree.

Jefferson believed that the most honorable thing a legislator could do is vote against his personal convictions,if the majority of the folks in the district felt the other way. He'd love poll-driven politicians. He'd probably be pushing for national referendums on important issues of the day. And he'd be for more Democracy everywhere, including Iraq. As a deist, he would probably be profoundly uncomfortable with the religious thrust of our current prez.

Madison would probably have a fairly sane take on the situation. The man who wrote Federalist X would probably not be overly uncomfortable with our increasingly multicultural society,though he might be surprised by it. He might support Iraq, too. After all, he was the first President to emesh the country in a stupid,unecessary war. (War of 1812.)

Washington was a pragmatist. My guess is that he would not have gone in for any grand schemes, but run a rather Eisenhower like administration. No Iraq for him. He would have captured Osama, (maybe leading the troops himself) and then retired from the field. Can't see him understanding our liberated, multicultural society, though.

Franklin -- hmm. Think he would have run a think tank, funded by his patents on the internet. By quiet persuasion, he would have either one or the other of the parties in his thrall,and been a great facilitator of debate.

One final note. Politics is arough business, because you are held accountable for the opinions you have had, the personality you have, and the beliefs you are thought to have. An attractive biography -- like McCain's -- entitles you to respect, but not coronation. I think McCain is an honorable man, but not someone I'm anxious to see as anything other than Sen from Az (or maybe as Kerry's VP). Why? he's imperious, domineering, and does not play well with his fellow Senators. As a President, he'd be much like Bush (though hopefully not quite as willfully ignorant). McCain got slandered a bit in South Carolina in 2000, agreed. if he had been a more impressive candidate, this would not have mattered. The martyrdom of JMcC has been a bit overdone.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

It's Rall, Art

And BS on you that you never heard of it, Texas.

Oh, that's right - you just recently became aware of blogging and the internet.

posted by: Burt on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Our gracious host is out for the time being so he obviously hasn't had a chance to weigh in on the Kos-kerfuffle (or whatever you want to call it).

I see that the Daily Kos is still linked in the blogroll. Think Dan'll take it down? Or will this little dust-up be so last week by the time he gets back as to not be worth the effort?

My bet's on the latter.

posted by: uh_clem on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]


You are probably somewhat right about McCain but I thought he was a good example of a lot of the extreme low tricks politicians use to destroy candidates and if I had used a Democrat I probably would have been villified for it.
Thanks for the compliments. IT seems to me that maybe if we try to emulate those people in a small way, maybe our level of discourse as a nation would improve. I love the idea of Washington capturing Osama himself, that would be outstanding, especially on his (I believe it was white) horse.

posted by: Kat on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]


Sorry, just reread your post and had a question for you and anyone else who wishes to respond. In your opinion what are good qualities for a President?

In rereading your post I had to laugh about your sentence on Franklin and the internet. Do you think he would have given Bill Gates a run for it too? hehehehe

posted by: Kat on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Ha! I thought he must have meant John Rawls, as in the Rawlsian theory of international law, not Ted Rall, the cartoonist. No wonder it didn't make any sense.

I had heard that Ted Rall had been "let go" by the Times, but the examples they gave were different ones. Mark Kleiman also made the point that the 9/11 widows shouldn't make policy, and I agree with that, but there is no need to demonize them with a blackmail charge - and those cartoons are over the line. How about just saying, "Respectfully, you are wrong."

posted by: TexasToast on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]


After sleeping on it, I think I see what you were getting at, and I think you are on to something. The difference is the tone of discourse – and not necessarily the content. Limbaugh and Frankin (usually) use a folksy humorous tone to make their points, and they don’t often have the same angry quality of some of the other writers/commentators. Your point about the Rall cartoons is well taken – he makes the same point about the 9/11 widows that Kristol makes, but doesn’t use the word “blackmail”. Rall was humorous and Kristol was ugly and accusatory. KOS let his anger show through, and that anger was ugly, and people who felt attacked quite understandably reacted to it.

posted by: TexasToast on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Kat --

Ideal president? often depends on the times. Generally, though, you want

* Good communicator
* Decisive
* Has principles, but is willing to deal away short-term promises or goals to stay on course to long-term objectives.
* Smart, but not necessarily intellectual. Intellectuals tend to question, doubt, ponder. Unfortunately, sometime you just need to decide and hope for the best.

I tend to think FDR, Truman, Roosevelt and Reagan are the great presidents of the 20th century. Wilson is very underrated as is Eisenhower. Kennedy is vastly overrated. I'm not sure what to think on Clinton. I like the idea of him, but his list of lasting accomplishments seems very small. W? I don't know right now. Ask me in two years. But, in pension law, there is a famous saying about fiduciaries: "A good heart and an empty head is not enough". And, with respect to our various wars, I think that's what we got. On other matters, we don't even have the good heart.

Clem -- I'm with you on KOS. But I think the Kerry delinking was proper and sincere. Our host, though, is not a politician, and is not responsible for dopey comments on the blogs to which he links. (Otherwise,we could take him to task for all the noxious stuff written by John Derbyshire over at NRO's the Corner...)

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

“W? I don't know right now. Ask me in two years. But, in pension law, there is a famous saying about fiduciaries: ‘A good heart and an empty head is not enough’. “

George W. Bush does not come across as a well read man. This is a weakness and there’s no way to avoid the obvious. He also seems to lack the native intelligence of Bill Clinton---and the latter’s natural charm. So what does the current president have going for him? He possesses a basic honesty ---and the right instincts. On a gut level, Bush realizes that the true believing nihilists must be destroyed. The at least metaphorical reality of Original Sin is alive and well on planet Earth. The monsters cannot be converted over to the side of the angels. No, they must be either killed or jailed. There is no in between. These individuals will never again desire to rejoin the the world of the petit-bourgeoisie (and I use this term in a positive manner). The Old European and liberal Harvard mindset exaggerates the importance of dialoguing. An Al Gore or John Kerry would Hamlet everything to the point of absurdity. They would neverendingly find excuses for inaction. It would be one damn thing after another. These two guys are similar to the silly generals that Abraham Lincoln had to endure before finding U. S. Grant and Sherman.

I’m sure that everyone is well aware of the violence occurring at this very moment in Iraq. Thank God, that we are finally destroying the enemy. Should we worry about inadvertently encouraging more nutballs to join the radicals? Hell no, we are making it easier for the moderates to dominate the Iraqi landscape. The good greatly far outweighs the bad.

posted by: David Thomson on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

dt --

I think the general thrust on the War of Terror has been the proper one and one that comes from the President's gut. But, gawd, the mechanics have been awful, the communications maladroit. The instinct to cover-up mistakes, changes, intelligence failures and just about everything call into question that basic honesty to which you refer.

One does start to come to the conclusion that the President is too inattentive to have an intelligent opinion on important issues. The danger here is not so much that it will cause him to make a bad decision -- everyone makes those. It's that it will cause him to be inconsistent, or not follow up, and that way, foul up his good decisions. That kind of ignorance can cause you to stubbornly persist in his bad decisions. A lot of the Clarke revelations, as with the O'Neill revelations, suggest that that kind of presidency is going on. And even if you think O'Neil is a flake, and Clarke is a bureaucrat trying to protect his rep, their stories dovetail in their description of the President's management style.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

“That kind of ignorance can cause you to stubbornly persist in his bad decisions.”

The bottom line is this: only George W. Bush and John Kerry are viable candidates. You must choose the lesser of evils.

posted by: David Thomson on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Fair enough - this, most recent, post sounds more like you.

posted by: Art Wellesley on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

I heard as I am sure you did that Bush, on yet another vacation, made the comment that he did not want to be held "hostage" on the day to day details and changes in IRaq. No offense, but I would think that would be the most important thing to him right now.

Sometimes I get the feeling that he is very distanced from the conflict, like he views it as just pushing buttons and watching things happen. He frightens me mainly because of the fact that he seems not to understand the whole religious zealotry of that nation and that the more firepower etc. we put to trying to calm the situation the more ammunition we give the extremists. When the news first hit about us going to IRaq this is what I feared and it seems to be coming true.

What I want in a President:
Intelligence, common sense, an interest in the country not the special interests, a willingness to be as honest as possible with the nation and humility. Bush does not strike me as humble, he and his cohorts strike me as the closest I have seen to megolamanics in office. To me it seems as if they are there to not rule the country, but to use the strength of this country to change the world. In my opinion, I wouldn't want someone telling me what to do so I am quite sure a lot of these soveriegn nations are not too happy about it either.

posted by: Kat on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

Clem -- I'm with you on KOS. But I think the Kerry delinking was proper and sincere. Our host, though, is not a politician, and is not responsible for dopey comments on the blogs to which he links.

Not only that, he's also not responsible for the dopey comments in his own comments section. Nor should he be.

posted by: uh_clem on 04.02.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

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