Friday, January 23, 2004
The need for intelligence reform
David Kay, the chief U.S. arms hunter in Iraq, has resigned, saying in a Reuters interview (link via Calpundit) that, "I think we have found probably 85 percent of what we're going to find." As to the question of large-scale WMD stockpiles, Kay said:
In the battles over intelligence about Iraq's WMD capabilities, it seems clear that the professionals were closer to the truth on Iraq's actual capabilities than the Bush team. However, it's also worth noting that even the professionals overestimated Iraq's WMD capabilities -- which is one reason why the Clinton foreign policy team has been relatively muted in its criticisms of the Bush team on this issue.
The blogging over this Washington Post article from early this week on not finding WMD has been about whether the story stacked the deck against the Bush team. However, since the intelligence community was also off the mark, the key point is that the U.S. was going to be wrong about Iraq no matter what. The important point in the Post story is the bipartisan consensus that intelligence errors -- regardless of the cause -- can damage America's reputation:
Some might conclude that this is merely a case of the Bush team distorting reliable intel. However, other revelations this week suggest that the intelligence community can be wrong about important matters without any help whatsoever from the Bush team.
Consider Jack Pritchard's New York Times op-ed on how what's happening in North Korea is at variance with intelligence estimates:
Let me be clear -- I haven't the faintest idea how these problems can be fixed. I trust my loyal readers can come up with a few thoughts of their own.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum voices a similar concern from the opposite side of the political fence:
The Plame Game goes to the grand jury
I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, the convening of a grand jury suggests that demands for a Congressional investigation are probably premature and overblown. On the other hand -- and I might be reading too much into one anonymous quote -- the White House is worried about something.
Further thoughts on soft power
My last post on "soft power" generated quite a debate, in part over terminology, so it's worth following up a bit. Three points:
1) Here's a link to one definition. Unfortunately, it's a bit vague, and as a result people tend to define soft power the same way that Potter Stewart defined pornography -- "I know it when I see it." Here's my quick and dirty distinction between hard and soft power:
2) For states,* hard power is a crucial component of soft power over the long term. The Soviet Union had soft power when their economy seemed to be growing at a fantastic rate and their military technology seemed on par with the United States. The debate over "Asian values" occurred at the peak of East Asia's economic growth, and has since subsided. It's tough to make an argument about the strangth of values without pointing to the material rewards produced by adhering to such values.
3) As long as the American economy and culture remain vibrant, U.S. soft power will exert a powerful pull regardless of the foreign policies of the moment. Consider this Chicago Tribune story on Vietnam's attitudes towards the United States:
* Intriguingly, for non-violent, non-state actors, the reverse can be true -- the soft power of persuasion can be converted into the hard power of bigger budgets.
Open debate thread
Feel free to debate the debate here -- click here for the full transcript. Useful blogging on the subject from Kevin Drum and Robert Tagorda. I was watching intermittently while giving Sam a bath, so I can't claim my focus was 100%. With that caveat, my impressions:
1) I agree with James Joyner -- the best line of the night came from Al Sharpton:
2) Wesley Clark's response on Michael Moore seemed particularly lame:
Clark is correct about Moore being able to say what he wants. However, for Clark not to have a comment on Moore's comment seems like a complete cop-out. [Mark Kleiman disagrees, but I'm not sure if his two posts on this can be reconciled. Last week he admitted that Clark's non-response to Moore's accusation concerned him:
Post-debate, he backtracks on Clark's response:
3) More generally, I found Clark pretty weak and defensive -- I suspect his support is going to start dropping. The big question about New Hampshire should be, where are Dean and Clark supporters going to go? Are they all going to go to Kerry, or do they propel Edwards as well?
4) John Edwards' articulation of his "no" vote on the $89 billion appropriation for Iraq was coherent and compelling. His response to the Islam question was a bit wobbly. His response to the Defense of Marriage Act question was sound on substance but really wobbly on process -- by which I mean that he got his facts wrong.
4) John Kerry looked like he had lost ten pounds since his Iowa victory.
Go and discuss!!
UPDATE: Matthew Stinson has a great description of Dennis Kucinich's performance:
Thursday, January 22, 2004
New Hampshire update
My prediction that John Edwards would get the biggest media bump because reporters like him better than the other candidates hasn't been completely borne out. A quick Google search reveals that Kerry got more play out of Iowa than Edwards. John Ellis thinks that the Rule of Two means New Hampshire is getting played in the media as Dean vs. Kerry, leaving Edwards out of the media spotlight.
As for the content of the spin, Franklin Foer admits to a "growing male crush" on Edwards, but Josh Marshall compares him to Chinese food -- great when you consume it, but then you're hungry an hour later. The Boston Globe might not love Kerry, but at this point he's the bigger story than Edwards.
But what about the polls? The ARG tracking poll shows Kerry getting a much bigger boost than Edwards in New Hampshire. Same with Zogby. However, two other polls suggest Edwards is gaining more steam. The Boston Herald poll does show Edwards reaching double-digits -- and only five points behind Wesley Clark. Rasmussen has Edwards with 15%, and in the past two days passing both Clark AND Dean for second place.
For Kerry, a resounding victory in New Hampshire unquestionably builds momentum for February 3rd. At this point, he's the only candidate who could have the race locked up by that date. Winning New Hampshire and South Carolina (the latter is a huge if and dependent only on a wave of momentum coming from a New Hampshire victory) would deal a mortal blow to both Dean and Edwards.
However, if Edwards manages to beat Clark in New Hampshire, he kills Wesley Clark's campaign. How could Clark possible argue that he's electable if he finished behind Edwards despite the fact that he ignored Iowa? A stronger-than-expected showing for Edwards in New Hampshire -- over 20% and better than Clark or Dean -- means Kerry can't win South Carolina -- and the race moves onto more Edwards-friendly terrain.
One other fact suggests that Edwards is still a potent threat -- Matt Drudge is going after him.
ANOTHER UPDATE: As for Dean, David Tell has this killer anecdote from an Edwards speech:
Jack Shafer scares me
All right, which one of you gave Shafer my URL? [Not me! I know you don't smoke--ed.]
Seriously, Shafer's real adversary is the New America Foundation:
Shafer's on the mark about New America [You're just annoyed because they, like so many other foundations, are not giving you a grant--ed.]
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
The persistence of U.S. soft power
One concern voiced about the style of the Bush administration's foreign policy was that it would erode America's "soft power" -- the attraction of American goods, services, and culture to the rest of the world.
The Financial Times reports on a study to test this hypothesis. The results are mixed. The good news:
The bad news is that these results might speak more to the adaptability of U.S. corporations than indications of U.S. soft power:
However it's worth noting that one source of American soft power is the adaptability/openness of our cutlure and our actors. So, in the long run, this is still good news.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Here's the text of the speech.
I can't match James Joyner, Glenn Reynolds, Patrick Belton, or Stephen Green on real-time State of the Union blogging. Plus, I've been historically bad at reading these speeches. I used to be bored silly by Clinton's SOTUs, but he always got a public opinion bump from them.
My quick assessment was similar to Joyner: "a fairly boring speech." Compared to Bush's last two SOTU speeches, however -- the 2001 Axis of Evil speech and the 2002 "sixteen little words" speech -- a little boring might be good. And after seeing the Democratic response, it's easy to see why neither Nancy Pelosi nor Tom Daschle threw their hat into the ring to run for president. Hell, Howard "YEEEEEEEEEAAAAH" Dean looked better.
I thought the one effective line was about the Patriot Act:
Beyond that, there was a brazenness to when Bush said:
As Andrew Sullivan pointed out in an interview:
Oh, and one last thing -- what the hell are steroids in professional sports doing in the friggin' State of the Union?
Vote early, vote often
[Why can't she speak for herself?--ed. She's afraid of the expectations game. One post, one Bloggie nomination -- that's a tough ratio to maintain.]
Go vote for her -- you have until 10:00 PM EST on Saturday, January 31!
For those who would disparage the U.N., part II...
Beyond helping Carmen Electra, the United Nations does have one commodity that is valuable to the United States right now -- legitimacy. Like it or not, the rest of the world confers a status to the United Nations such that their imprimatur on a course of action resonates with publics and governments.
Fareed Zakaria argues today that exercising power without legitimacy is costly and difficult:
Zakaria's thesis finds support from the Financial Times:
Monday, January 19, 2004
The Des Moines Register has actual numbers on the caucus (link via Atrios) -- and as I'm writing this, Kerry and Edwards are having big nights; Dean and Gephardt, not so much. The fact that Kerry and Edwards are doing so well in Des Moines -- the most liberal part of the state -- suggests that these results are going to hold.
A few quick thoughts:
1) Hey, I was right!! [About as often as a stopped watch!--ed. That's pretty much my read, too.] At least about the finish. We'll see if I'm right about the press reaction.
2) The nets seem puzzled by the fact that -- according to the entrance polls -- roughly 75% opposed the war in Iraq but are not supporting Dean, the clearest anti-war candidate.
This doesn't puzzle me as much. I suspect most Democrats don't want to refight the fight over the war -- it's happened. The question for them -- for all of us -- is where to go from here, given that we're in Iraq.
3) Howard Dean is not going away anytime soon -- he's still got the money and the national organization. I'm sure the press is thrilled by this fact.
4) I never thought I would say this -- but I feel sorry for Richard Gephardt.
UPDATE: A few more thoughts given that the initial results held:
5) To paraphrase an old Jewish aphorism, is this good for the blogs? Regardless of one's political stripe, the blogosphere embraced Dean's Internet campaign as a kindred spirit, emblematic of the same phenomenon that propelled blogs into prominence. I'm asking in a half-serious way what Scrappleface is asking in a completely humorous way.
[You could spin this the other way -- what killed Dean/Gephardt was the chase for establishment endorsements and union endorsements--ed. Well, I certainly like that interpretation better -- whether it's true or not I'll leave to the commenters.]
6) Having just seen Kerry, Edwards, and Dean's speeches, my respect for Edwards' political skills is growing. In many ways all three of them touched on the same themes -- the economy, health care, people vs. the powerful, etc. However, Edwards' emphasis was on lifting people up without tearing anyone down -- in this way, Edwards is the anti-Krugman candidate. Meanwhile, Dean and Kerry still sounded negative (Dean -- who seemed to have taken too many uppers -- was bashing other Democrats; Kerry -- far more sober -- was bashing Bush).
LAST UPDATE: Will Saletan has more worth thinking about.
Laugh with or at Janeane Garofalo?
Janeane Garofalo is hilarious. I'm just not sure she's being hilarious on purpose.
Link via Hugh Hewitt.
UPDATE: OK, some of the commenters -- perchance they are Deaniacs and it's not a great night for them? -- are taking this in the wrong spirit. What I thought was so funny was how many pins/hats/symbols she was wearing. [Flair. The word you're looking for is flair!!--ed.]
Nothing against Janeane -- I still like her from The Larry Sanders Show.
While I've been focused on the campaign...
This is pure genius
Despite my prediction of Kerry and Edwards going one/two in Iowa, I confess to being in absolute awe of this Dean campaign tactic, as reported in the Chicago Tribune:
Genius. Pure genius.
It almost makes me wish that I lived in Iowa... and that I was a Democrat.
[Maybe parents like you will simply take the free babysitting and then vote for Kerry or Edwards!--ed. Most parents I know are pretty loath to annoy their babysitter. But these are out-of-town babysitters. There's no shadow of the future!--ed. Hmmm... there would still be parental guilt -- a force far more powerful than the blogosphere.]
Sunday, January 18, 2004
A milestone contest
Today this blog received its one millionth unique visit. Thanks to all for coming!! And thanks to Moveable Type -- if you look at this traffic graph, it's clear that the switch to danieldrezner.com has paid off in more hits.
In celebration, I am having a naming contest. I've noticed that whenever I do a media interview on blogging, they find it awkward to say that the name of this site is "Daniel W. Drezner." They'll say something like, "Daniel Drezner blogs at.... er.... the web site of his own name." I think it's time for the blog to get its own name
So what should I call it? The Daily Drezner? Drezner's Daily Dose? Drezfiles? Chez Drez? [How about something that doesn't involve your name?--ed. That's good too! How about "The Loony Hack"?] Suggest away!!
UPDATE: I might just have to name it, "Sissy Willis makes me laugh"
My final thoughts on Iowa
The latest Des Moines Register poll has the following results: Kerry, 26%; Edwards, 23%; Dean, 20%; Gephardt, 18%.
The latest Zogby tracking poll: Kerry, 24%; Dean, 23%; Gephardt, 19%; Edwards, 18%.
The short prediction: Kerry wins in Iowa, but Edwards gets the biggest boost.
The long prediction: The media story is that polls don't matter because of the way the caucus structure is organized. What really matters is turnout and organization. This hurts Edwards, who is presumed to have the weakest infrastructure, and helps Dean, who's decentralized organization awed everyone a few months ago.
What's striking to me is that Kerry and Edwards are surging, and that they also have the lowest unfavorable ratings. In part this is because Dean and Gephardt are still bashing each other (As I'm typing this, I'm watching Gephardt on Meet the Press, and he's still bashing Dean).
The polls both show Kerry ahead and trending in the right direction -- though Tom Schaller makes some excellent arguments at DailyKos for why the poll numbers might be underestimating Dean's strength. As for ground strength, Michael Crowley makes the case that Kerry's operation on the ground is pretty strong.
The media seem to feel that Edwards will suffer because his organization on the ground is weaker than the other three candidates, so he'll get fewer delegates and lose the perceptions contest.
However, because the race is so close, interest and turnout should be extremely high. This brings in people who are outside of any campaign's organizational apparatus, who are likely to be more moderate, and who will react to the candidate that seems to be the most likeable -- which I'm thinking will help Edwards.
The Boston Globe thinks this will matter a great deal in second rounds of the caucus:
Now, what's actually pretty interesting about that article is that beyond the expert quote, there's no evidence to support the article's thesis. Indeed, this is really the key section:
Why run a story on such weak foundations? It's one example of why I think Edwards will be the big winner coming out of Iowa -- he fits in best with the media's professional and personal proclivities.
Professionally, the media wants close races and new faces. An Edwards surge provides both.
Personally, reporters don't appear to really like Dean or Kerry all that much. In contrast, they do seem to like Edwards (see this Time dispatch for an example). I heard Brit Hume say on Fox News Sunday that "John Edwards is engaging, likeable, appealing." Brit Hume doesn't like anything, for God's sake. If any of the Democrats has the Clintonian charisma, it's Edwards.
If Kerry wins, he's going to get a bump, no doubt -- and New Hampshire becomes an interesting question. But if Edwards performs better than either Gephardt or Dean at the caucus, reporters are going to lock in on him as the story of the week. Whether he can sustain it is an entirely different question.
My apologies to Kerry and Edwards for sealing their doom.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmmm... the New York Times has actual evidence that Edwards might pick up second-round caucus votes:
This ain't a misquote -- Kucinich posted this quote on his blog. Tactically, I understand this. Strategically, I'm not sure how much any viable Democrat would want to be associated with Kucinich.