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Last Word On Election Blogging Before Tuesday: This Blog Endorses Bush

Right: I wasn't going to do this, because the idea of a blog endorsement seems pretty silly. Likewise, me endorsing Bush is about as exciting as the New York Times endorsing Kerry. I mean, it's not like you're shocked. But because my friend Martin asked for my defense of George Bush and because Lawrence Lessig and his pal Dan Winer have found a way to tie this all into Google, I can't resist. After this, law blogging, I promise.

So here we go. This blog endorses George W. Bush for President. Why?

Don't Call Me Stupid: Contrary to what you might hear elsewhere, I don't believe Bush is stupid. Look, I don't believe stupid people get to be president: the process is too tough. I think he's a fantastically bad public speaker, but then anyone sad enough to have been subjected to my moot court presentation last year should see why I'm not too judgmental about that. Nor do I think he's a liar (that is to say, more than anyone else in politics), Hitler, a war criminal, or what have you.

I'm A Republican: I somehow doubt that a Kerry administration is going to be better for the Republican issues that I care about. Four years of Kerry means more Ginsburgs and Gasparinis, while four years of Bush means that Scalia and Thomas might get a playmate. Go figure which I'm hoping for. (Enlightened self-interest: Scalia opinions are more interesting than Ginsberg ones, and I may have to read more of them.)

"Here lies a man who became wealthy by surrounding himself with people smarter than himself": Not only don't I think Bush is stupid, I admire the man's management style. (Largely, as you might suspect, because it's similar to what I'd like my own to be.) Look, I'm not that bright, though I know enough to know I'm not that bright. And I've also been around the block enough to know that raw intelligence isn't the only--or even most important--feature in a leader.

Rather, Bush has done what I've tried to do in leadership positions: surround himself with people who are very smart, particularly those who have differing opinions. Rice, Cheney, Powell: these guys are not idiots. And once he has them there, he leads in such a way that he has their loyalty, such that even when they disagree with him they stay. And my impression is that even if he decides against them, he listens. Certainly he fits the profile and pattern of similar bosses and leaders that I've met and worked with.

That's why I've been suspicious of things like Suskind's "reality-based community" article, or anything Paul O'Neill's written. The bitterness of those ejected from such a community is often quite intense, and Suskind's article relies heavily on "unnamed sources," the grinding of whose axes can be read between the lines. I'd expect that with Bush's style of leadership--it's a natural outgrowth of it--and thus that kind of sniping just doesn't bug me.

Can I prove this beyond doubt? Well, no. It's more how he strikes me, the gut-level opinion. But none of the evidence I've been presented with has shifted it.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen: And of course, the evidence presented, or rather its presenters, is one more reason for voting Bush. To put it simply, I'd endorse Bush simply because there exists a contingent of mouth-frothing Mooreites who will, just fractionally, be pissed off by it.

Look, despite what anyone might say, this is not the most important election of my lifetime. Reagan/Carter was a true choice of visions, an election that culminated in a political shift the Democrats are still rueing to this day. Clinton/Bush I: now there was a pivotal election, the triumph of centrists over partisans. And of course, the 1994 elections. But this one? Bush--despite the howling of the left--is a fairly liberal Republican, just as Clinton--despite the howling of the right--was a fairly centrist Democrat. I mean, remember when Republicans talked about eliminating the Department of Education?

I've said for a while my plan for election night is this: get a glass of cognac and thick cigar. If Bush loses, I'll drink the cognac, and by the time the glass is finished, I'll be over it. But if he wins, I'm going to the nearest window to revel in the howls of pain, the cries of frustration, the gnashing of teeth among the fevered left of New York City, especially around Columbia. Three Years of Hell to become the Devil? In a mere year and a half I will be listening to the wailing of the damned the likes of which the Furies have not heard for ages. After enduring the campaign in this city, nearly a year of continual low-level nastiness, I can't imagine anything going better with cognac and a good cigar.

So that's my final reason for voting for Bush: almost every reason for not voting for him has been presented to me not by someone dispassionately trying to convince me, but by those calling him "a semi-retarded war criminal," or part of the "Texas Taliban." The data generally doesn't match the charge. Back in 1996 and 2000, the raving was on my side of the political divide, and it was enough to drive me towards voting Libertarian. Now it's afflicting the Democrats. I don't want my vote to support such hysteria. Given how little I think the results matter, merely that reason is reason enough.


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» Enblogment from Letters of Marque
Far be it from me to contradict Anthony Rickey. Okay, close be it to me to contradict him. It should come as no surprise that this blog blog supports John Kerry.... [Read More]

» Enblogment from Letters of Marque
Far be it from me to contradict Anthony Rickey. Okay, close be it to me to contradict him. It should come as no surprise that this blog supports John Kerry.... [Read More]

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Don't forget what a great job he's done in Iraq and catching Osama!!!
Tony, I think they no longer talk about eliminating the Department of Education because it sounds like they want to eliminate education, not just that Department. In fact, if I remember correctly, that was an idea that Democrats used as a hammer on Republicans.
So, your support comes down to (1) the fact that Bush isn't a *complete* slobbering idiot, (2) you prefer to line up on party lines, (3) Dubya puts people in his Cabinet that hijack his policy and do his job for him, and (4) pettiness. Forgive me if I don't find this the most convincing argument ever. :)
Adam: Thank you for illustrating point four, particularly with the "complete slobbering idiot" comment, and a mischaracterization of point three that borders upon the ridiculous. And Will Baude thinks there's no use for comment features.
Of course you know I'm voting for Kerry, and while I know your post wasn't intended to convince anyone to vote for Bush, I am curious: What issues *do* you care about that you think Bush is doing such a great job with? I'm obviously unable at this point to look at the issues w/anything approaching objectivity, but what, really, has Bush done well? Or what do you hope he'll do well w/in the future? You hope the S.Ct. gets two or three more Scalia/Thomas proteges, and admittedly, that alone could reshape many aspects of American life as we know it, but beyond that? Again, I'm not asking to be convinced, and I won't argue w/you about whether Bush really has done/will do a better job on the issues you name; I'm just curious.
Ah, but there's a fallacy in your second point -- Scalia's dissents are almost always more blistering and entertaining than his majority opinions. So really, a marginalized Scalia consistently writing 7-2 dissents is in all of our best interests :)
Ambimb: The thing is, I'm not that upset with what has come out of the Bush presidency with respect to issues. Look, we live in a 50/50 nation, and I'm willing to understand that: Bush isn't going to be able to do big conservative things because it only takes a few defections to turn the House or Senate against him. (This is, incidentally, why I'm relatively relaxed about the increasing budget deficit: it's mostly a reflection of a highly-divided populace demanding things. The game theory virtually insists upon a higher deficit, so it's not shocked me.) What's he done well? I think he's done a tolerable job in Iraq. Unlike Heidi, I'm not that concerned about Guantanamo. (Comparisons to Dachau are, after all, not only overraught in degree, but in kind: we are not rounding up everyone of a certain ethnicity or sexuality and shipping them to Cuba.) Not great, but not horribly bad, either. And of course, the fact that most of the "negative" data turns out, upon closer inspection, to be overemphasized by anti-Bush partisans doesn't make me any more likely to criticize Bush. (One notes that you've requoted the "100,000 extra civilian casualties" number without looking at the evidence either.) But really, the question isn't "what has he done right." After all, I'm not chosing between George Bush and my ideal Republican candidate (who would be far different). I'm choosing between George Bush and John Kerry. And for the most part, I don't see anything that Bush is doing that I expect to be done far better by a Kerry administration. I'm unimpressed that the Kerry camp keeps talking about how well the inspection regime was going prior to the war: the inspections were going to collapse through either invasion or the weight of their own ineffectiveness, but a Hussein under tight inspections was not going to last another four years. I'm unimpressed by the promise of greater alliance participation under Kerry, because no further nation in Europe is going to back him and send troops. And I'm deeply, deeply unimpressed by the scaremongering on the draft that the Democrats have engaged in. But most of all, I'm unimpressed by the above. Look at the comments I've gotten from this post. Look at Heidi's entry I've linked to above. Is there any attempt to convince me that I should vote for Kerry? That he's a man of courage, or principle, of distinction? That perhaps his Supreme Court picks won't be so bad--he supposedly backs the idea of leaving marriage to the states--or that his policies might be better for me? Nope. Heidi "endorses" Kerry while speaking nary a word about him, although at least lucidly and with some emotional force. But look at Adam and Sidney above: no attempt to talk about Kerry, or why I should vote for him. Nope. It's simply that I must think Bush is not a "complete slobbering idiot". I'm not interested in voting against anyone, not for any reason. Throughout the Clinton years, I wasn't interested in voting against Clinton or Gore: indeed, when the Republicans were their most rabid was when we least deserved to be in power. I wanted to vote for the Republican, but I was not just selecting anyone but the man from Arkansas. I'm not interested in voting against Bush now. If someone wanted me to vote Kerry, they'd have to show my why he's better. But arguments for that--short of just saying what an evil, wicked, stupid man Bush must be--are short on the ground at the moment.
I feel I need to answer that last post, Tony. You ask for reasons to believe that Kerry is a man of "principle, distinction and courage". Well, the only reason you're bothering to ask this is because of the "flip-flops" propaganda that has assailed Kerry from day one. This is a bullshitty charge, as you should well know. Kerry has shown an appreciation for the issues, backing Bush where the "intelligence" appeared to back Bush, but reversing that when it became clear that America had been misled. That is not what I would call flip-flopping. Now, accepting that as a bad reason for wanting to be convinced of his qualities, I'll offer the same argument you gave for your man. Nobody gets into the presidential race without being a man of distinction, whatever you meant by that. Nobody gets the recognition that Kerry got in Vietnam without courage, and nobody visits Vietnam in the face of massive public opinion without courage. As for principle? I'm not sure what you're asking for there. I think its pretty clear that Kerry stands for different principles from Bush. That he doesn't offer an oversimplified view of reality in the same way has been used against him as "nuance", but some would see nuance as a virtue, frankly. Will his policies be better for you? I doubt it. You're the sort of highly-educated, likely-to-earn-high character who won't benefit from a swing in favour of the democrats. You're unlikely to get sent to guantanamo, or to have your rights trampled upon. I don't know whether you would specifically benefit from Bush either. My support for Kerry comes partly from an opposition to Bush, I'll admit. But it partly comes from this: That Republicanism represents the opposite of what I want in a political ideology, seemingly uncaring of the rights of the least-favoured members of society. The Democrats don't exactly offer what I would like, to whit, better rights, welfare and so on for the poor and underprivileged, by taxing wealthy folks if necessary. They do swing more in this direction that the Republicans. I would like to see a Kerry government for mutilateralism, because I think multilateralism is a good thing. Unilateralism does damage to America's reputation in the world, and to the integrity of the international community generally. For those who doubt the dangers inherent in this, look to WWII. I'd like to see Bush booted over Iraq, because I perceive that he was the driving force behind the invasion, which I sincerely doubt has had any positive benefits for anyone, and which was only supported because he despicably made use of the hysteria after 9/11 to push his agenda. That he has done a tolerable job is scarcely the point - he shouldn't have gone there in the first place. Incidentally, I am completely, jaw-droppingly, astounded at your indifference to Guantanamo. Such a flagrant breach of nationally and internationally agreed human rights in a style reminiscent of history's worst states, pretty much paraded in front of the world, by a nation that likes to hold itself up as an example of good values - well, I don't mind saying that it bothers me a lot. Of course, you can say what you like about what Kerry would do in office. You cast the insinuation that he won't actually support individual states' right to choose on marriage. That's a pretty weak attack on a policy you would agree with. I won't say I like everything e says he'll do, but I'll at least take him at face value when he says he'll do it. Anyway, that's a kind of poorly worded summary of some of the reasons I would vote Kerry given the choice. I accept that as a Republican, you may not want to.
In response to the original post (and echoing Adam somewhat): 1/ He isn't stupid. Fair enough - neither is Kerry. 3/ He surrounds himself with smart people - ok, but that seems a *very* weak reason to vote for him. 4/ You like pissing off Moorites - fine, but not really an argument in his favour. which leaves 2/ You are a republican. TBH Tony, I'm not sure what the point of this post was. You started by saying you wanted to give a Defence of Dubyah. Well, you failed. To anyone who isn't already going to vote Bush, the above post constitutes a rant similar to the ones you deplore from Moorites. None of the reasons you present would be latched onto by anyone but a convinced republican, except, possibly, 3/ "that he has an admirable management style". I can just see the campaign banners now.
Thanks for posting that Tony. Although I'd have to agree with Mr Sin that it's not the kind of thing I was expecting. If I were an American, and possessed of a vote here's why I'd be voting for John Kerry. John Kerry spent twenty years in the senate, and while he was there he did his damndest to make each vote count. This has got him attacked for flip flopping, but I'm telling you that those votes were about trying to do the right thing, each time even when it didn't matter. He wasn't voting against weapon systems, he was voting against pork. He wasn't voting against $87 billion for the troops, he was voting against $87 billion without a budget or a plan attatched. Things in retrospect that seem like a good idea. Those votes are hard to explain on the campaign trail, but I don't care. This was a guy who tried to do the right thing. I like that John Kerry had the guts to volunteer to go to Vietnam, I'd have dissented - he stepped up for something he believed in. Then he changed his mind because he didn't like what he saw and at the age of 30 - that's your age Tony - managed to get himself mentioned in Doonesbury for trying to change the world. That's pretty damn special. The winter soldier thing is one of the few admirable bits of American conduct in Vietnam. For any nation to accept something like that and try to deal with it is admirable, and one of the best features of democracy. I don't believe John Kerry would continue to ignore the Geneva Convention. You might not worry about these things, but I do. I don't believe John Kerry would start another war of choice. I believe John Kerry understands and accepts the science behind climate change, which along with nuclear proliferation is one of the most important issues facing the world today. I belive John Kerry would replace trickle down economics and defecit giveaways with the kind of fiscal maturity and neo-Keynsian approach that has worked so well in the UK since Labour came to power. He may even be able to pay the baby-boomers their pension, on time and in full, Something that doesn't look likely at the moment. I am not happy with everything John Kerry does or says. I'd like to hold his feet to the fire over protectionism. I'd say he needs to be tougher on guns, you don't need an automatic to kill a deer, deer don't wear bullet proof vests either. I'd like him to come out against the death penalty. The thing is, I'm sure that were I to sit down with the Senator to talk over any of these issues he'd listen. And if I knew my stuff, and could win the argument on the evidence he'd change his mind. To pull a line from the debates he'd rather be right than certain. So that's why I'd be lining up for John Kerry. If you're an undecided voter and you're reading this I'd ask you to do it for me. It's not just a vote for admitting you're in a hole and deciding to stop digging. It's a vote for returning consideration, debate and moral courage to the heart of American government.
Yo, what I said was that the comparison to Dachau was that we don't know what's going on and are trying not to. That's the problem. The problem is with us not wanting to know, and not paying attention, despite the fact that every indication says its bad shit we should not condone. I did not say anything about the extent of the torture, or the kind. We don't now know what it is like. Nor did the Germans know then. I don't think that the extent or kind is the same. When Dachau first opened in 1933, it only contained minor dissidents and political opponents. It wasn't until late in 1941 that they opened the first death camps. So yeah, we aren't at the "rounding up all Jews" part yet. But when do we start asking? When do we admit we have a problem? When do we start resisting? When do we transition from "it can't happen here" to "it can"? The problem is with our planned ignorance in the face of atrocity, not in the extent or kind of behavior shielded by the ignorance. What is going on right now is horribly bad. It's not as bad as it could be -- we could be doing worse things to more people. But it's pretty damned horrible. This isn't designed to convince you, because you're not willing to be convinced. Neither was my endorsement designed to convince others. But if Bush gets reelected, and we find out in Bush's next four years that flagrant, sickening human rights abuses happen, you must take responsibility. You will say "I voted for Mr. Bush, and I knew that he was responsible for human rights abuse. I knew that, and I voted for him anyways." And that's what my endorsement was designed to do. It was designed to make us take responsibility. If Bush is reelected, and truly supremely bad stuff happens on his watch in Gitmo and other places, and it comes out, I do not want you to make lame excuses like "I didn't know" or "There was nothing I could do." You know there are human rights abuses. And you could have voted against George Bush. If the time ever comes, promise me you will take responsibility.
I'd say he needs to be tougher on guns, you don't need an automatic to kill a deer, deer don't wear bullet proof vests either. I'd like him to come out against the death penalty. Kerry is opposed to the death penalty, with an exception for foreign terrorists. As we presumably would have to go to the trouble of actually trying and convicting the terrorists before executing them, this strikes me as an improvement on the current situation. Fully automatic weapons have been banned in the U.S. for a long time anyway. Semi-automatic rifles are useful for people who aren't very good hunters, as the ability to fire a second shot quickly permits them to kill the deer quickly instead of having the animal limp around with one shot in its hide while the hunter reloads. Bullet proof vests are penetrated depending on the bullet's velocity and size, so I'm not sure that automatic vs. semi-automatic vs. non-automatic would be a relevant factor, except insofar as being able to fire several times without reloading is always helpful in killing.
Right, to address these all in turn: Cardinal Sin: Your post is a tissue of distortions, personal assumptions about your counterpart of the kind I don't make, and, frankly, offensive. To take these in turn:
You ask for reasons to believe that Kerry is a man of "principle, distinction and courage". Well, the only reason you're bothering to ask this is because of the "flip-flops" propaganda that has assailed Kerry from day one.
I don't think I've ever made a flip-flop joke, much less an argument. I doubt that any Senator gets through three terms in the Senate without having an inconsistent voting record. Not because, as Martin says, he "did his damdest to make every vote count," but because the Senate is inherently a place of compromise. You're right, it's a lousy charge, and one I can't remember making. You're welcome to prove me wrong on this, but I've searched my archives. I think you're confusing me with some other Republican. I do think that Kerry is a man of principle, distinction, and courage. And when pushed on it, you mention many fine ones--simply not enough to convince me. But one does note that the instinctive reaction of most "Kerry supporters" is not in fact to support Kerry--it's to bash Bush. I do not find that attractive. But don't tell me why I hold a position, especially if I'm "only" holding it because of an argument I've never made. You cast the insinuation that he won't actually support individual states' right to choose on marriage. Of course, here we merely disagree on a prediction of the future. His stance on homosexual marriage is carefully tailored to avoid annoying two very distinct voting blocks: I don't think it's a principled position, or actually his. But the solution to differing predictions of future events is generally a wager. Assuming a Kerry presidency, would you like to wager on the existence or non of a Supreme Court opinion overturning the federal DCMA and instituting recognition of homosexual marriage under FFC? Sin, this is, of the above, the silliest of your positions. Kerry has many principles and fine qualities, which I will grant you. His stance on this, however, is transparent politics, and I don't know anyone who's buying it. 3/ He surrounds himself with smart people - ok, but that seems a *very* weak reason to vote for him. But of course, this is not the whole of the argument above. It's less vitriolic than Adam Wolfson's but it's still a distortion. It's not just surrounding yourself with smart people--it's knowing how to listen to them, balance opinions, choose between different options based upon them, and yet keep your team together. I'll admit that the above isn't a very full characterization of Bush's style--it would go on for pages, and I can't imagine anyone wanting to read it--but even what I wrote is more than "surrounding oneself with smart people." You don't think leadership style is important? Fine, but I do. Further, I don't think the President has as much control over policy as people like to believe, especially with a highly-divided Congress. Given the relatively weaker policy influence I expect Bush to continue having, and the fact that I do judge leaders by their leadership style, I don't think it's as trivial as you'd suggest. Managing very smart people is not easy. Finally: You started by saying you wanted to give a Defence of Dubyah. No. I said that I was writing this partially because Martin asked for one. And in Martin's favor, he asked for one expressly without me saying anything negative about Kerry, which I've tried very hard to do. But for the most part, I want to see what this does to Lessig's experiment. Martin: Actually, that's a good piece for Kerry. Seriously, mate, send it on to someone in the campaign, because while their writers are better than Bush, they're still pretty dire. Heidi: First, I owe you nothing. Not a promise, oath, or contract. And I'm a bit befuddled as to what "taking responsibility" would mean, in any event. Payment into a fund for the families of abused prisoners? Wearing sackcloth and ashes for a few days? Seppuku? And of course, one would wonder if you would make a reciprocal promise: if the deep, dark, doors of Gitmo were to open to reveal an unpleasant but relatively-within-the-rules regime, are you going to "take responsibility"? (Though I'm similarly befuddled as to what that would entail. Perhaps voting Republican the next election.) Your endorsement, though, pretty much goes to my fourth point, and why I'm happy enough supporting Bush. If I look at the two pieces of evidence you presented for the horrible things going on in Gitmo (which you don't know what they are, but they must be bad), one's a histrionic LA Times piece that, when you boil it down, says that the administration is appealing Al Odal v. United States, which is not entirely surprising. (Administrations appeal district court rulings, and don't say "Yes,your honor", all the time.) The other is a host of accusations made by former prisoners who do have axes to grind, and did before they arrived in Cuba. Neither is it particularly dispositive evidence. My view on Gitmo basically boils down to this: there's something going on there that I don't know about. Looking at the details around it, how much of what has come out contradicts what I'd expect? Not much. An administration paranoid about terrorism is trying to keep too many things secret. Former prisoners are making serious but unsubstantiatable accusations, many of which I expect will prove false. Prison camps aren't much fun, but for the most part this one is filled with fighters captured in the midst of an odd war. I figure that when we learn what went on in Guantanamo, it'll be slightly worse than I'm comfortable with, and much less horrible than most predictions. Why? Because it's the standard trend with information I'm receiving, especially in this election. (We have memos that "prove" something... oh, no, wait, they don't, but people have been hyping them. We have 100,000 dead (big headline) plus or minus 90K (clarification afterwards), but it's reported uncritically by those who loathe Bush.) Now, combine that with my larger-picture view of international human rights law. After all, many of the detainees were fighters out of uniform: I'm not sure how much I want the Geneva Conventions applying to them, because ununiformed combat ranks as one of those things I'd like discouraged. And while I see why Heidi's using Dachau as an analogy, her explanation still doesn't ring true. We're not rounding up political dissidents and opponents. Some of the problem is indeed novel: what to do with large numbers of dangerous and organized individuals not actually affiliated with a state. Now, these are quick overviews of a much larger discussion about the role of combatants out of uniform, changes to international law that might need to be made in light of terrorism, etc. And they're serious concerns, and I'm willing to do a lot of serious reading about them. And as evidence comes out, I'm happy to evaluate it. But Heidi, I do not "know there are human rights abuses." I suspect there are some--they do happen with any large military action--but probably not outside bounds of acceptable error. Indeed, the fact that most of the information about what I must "know" comes from the flippant or the "resigned", or those who have yet to meet an anti-Bush fact they didn't devour simply means that my concerns are not yet sufficient to change my vote. As I've mentioned before, it's about credibility. Finally, PG, thank you for setting Martin straight about automatic and semi-automatic weapons, particularly with regards to what I suspect he was talking about, the Assault Weapons Ban. I was going to put that in an email, but you've saved me the trouble.
It's not just surrounding yourself with smart people--it's knowing how to listen to them, balance opinions, choose between different options based upon them, and yet keep your team together. Would you mind expanding on this a little? I certainly agree that these are elements of a strong leadership style, but I've not seen much evidence to convince me that they actually apply to Bush. I've seen plenty indicating the contrary position -- DiIulio, O'Neill, Clarke, the other NSC terrorism advisors, rather a deluge of reportage on the divisions between e.g. OVP and State, and within the Pentagon between the uniforms and the suits, for example. Admittedly, some of this comes from those who have left the administration and should therefore be taken with a grain of salt (although I think one should be aware of the chicken-and-egg question), but as I've said, I'm honestly unaware of much convincing evidence in the "the Bush administration's decision making process involves the judicious weighing of contrary opinions and then building consensus around the eventual result" column. What am I missing?
Mike: I'm sorry to give you such a blatant cop-out, but I'm really running short of time this weekend, so I can't give you a list full of sources. One example that springs immediately to mind is an Economist article. I can't give you a link (their archive is pay-only), but you can look at in on Lexis: Taming the Octopus, September 27, 2003. One relevant bit of the article:
Looked at from this perspective, the inter-agency process looks less chaotic. "There's a lot of chatter," says one insider, "but it's really not worth the time." If the principals argue a lot, the underlying reason is not because Ms Rice is overawed, but because the president likes it that way. Although famously intolerant of any sign of disloyalty, Mr Bush has no problem with his Titans clubbing each other until he makes up his mind and steps in. When he makes his move--for instance, over the recent decision to go back to the UN--the Titans are expected to fall into line, as Mr Rumsfeld has. The dangers of withdrawal
This manner of decision-making is confusing, but it has virtues, too. Ms Rice's withdrawn role allows Mr Bush to call on advice from internationalists such as Mr Powell as well as conservatives like Mr Cheney. It also means that policies can be readjusted. The new move on Iraq may not work, but the White House has managed to avoid two even more dangerous alternatives: being locked into one unchanging position, or having rival opinions cancel each other out so nothing gets done.
There's a lot of this kind of thing out there, if you want to look for it: it's a typical summary of Bush's management style. And while there have been some bitter defectors, I've not heard stories of "whipping boys" like George Stephanopolous under Clinton. Contrary to Martin's description above, there does seem to be a substantial amount of debate in the White House. The big difference I can see between Clinton and Bush, really, is how the debate was managed. Clinton was always very much a part of the debate: he was legendary for having a keen grasp of (and memory for) figures, statistics, etc. But his teams changed constantly, and not all of his past associates thought kindly of him. Bush, on the other hand, builds loyalty, listens to the debate, and then decides. Admittedly, some may like one style instead of the other. I know which one I prefer, though, and that's why I mentioned it.
[D]on't tell me why I hold a position, especially if I'm "only" holding it because of an argument I've never made. Let me apologise, then - I do think that the question of the "principle, distinction and courage" of the candidates is important. I do think that any plausibility of your argument there rests heavily on the flip-flop rubbish. But I am prepared to accept that you have not relied on it, and therefore apologise. I am prepared to wager that Kerry will stick by his views on marriage. I must say that I never said that view was particularly principled, I just think your insinuation that he won't stick by it was a pretty weak attack. I am prepared to accept that the majority of Kerry's support rests on a dislike of Bush. But so what? I'd say the majority of support for Bush rests on blind patriotism, but that's hardly an argument for or against Bush.
Tony, That Guitanamo exists in the way it does (along with other detention centres around the world) is a blatant violation of human rights. It doesn't matter what goes on in there, they could be dishing out cream tea and scones for all I care. Detention without trial, without the right to a lawyer and without the right to know what you've been charged with is an abuse. Period. Its partly this kind of thing that means the UK labour party can kiss my vote goodbye until they fix this in good old blighty. I opposed some of the provisions of the anti-terrorism act even when the IRA were active in my home town, and I sure as hell oppose some of what's going on in Guitanamo now. Even if it's nothing more than a prison with some odd rules.
Let's run this by you again, since you're missing the point. It's not about the extent of what's going on; it's about the secrecy and the collective planned ignorance of the American people. Secrecy is bad. It's much harder to accomplish bad shit in the open. This is not being done in the open. And bad shit has happened on this administration's watch. Note that while you sidestep my comment about human rights by saying "gee, I don't know anything about Gitmo" we do, in fact, know that my statement was correct. Human rights abuses have occured on this administration's watch -- we saw them at Abu Ghraib. The question is, are they occurring at Gitmo? Note that I remained agnostic on that point. Now, despite my silly wording, this is not about what you owe me, and that should have been obvious from the context. It's not about contract. Or debt. It's about decency. And it's about admitting fault, when it exists. If you choose to ignore Gitmo, knowing that there are secrets and knowing that bad shit has happened -- if not there, elsewhere -- because you think that it's just not going to be that bad, and if Gitmo gets seriously bad, because you and others like you think it's okay to ignore it, you will be culpable. What you do with that is up to you. But basically, if you decide to ignore Gitmo, and then if Gitmo subsequently goes seriously bad, and then you pretend that it wasn't your fault, you are a rotten person. You were warned. You knew there was a likelihood. You knew that we were dealing with a prior offender. And you decided that it wasn't worth your time. Now, I do not think you are actually a rotten person. In the hypothetical world where you try and wash your hands of bad shit that happens when you turned a blind eye, you're a rotten person. If you can't take responsibility for horrors that happen that you could have done something about, you are rotten. But you are not rotten right now. And you don't owe it to me not to be rotten; I don't care if you're rotten or not. But I'm going to guess that you'll like yourself better if you are not rotten than if you are. So maybe you owe it to yourself. And not "owe" in the sense of debt or contract; like in the sense of everyone owing it to themselves to not be a dumbass. Now, you're not really a happy person anyways, so maybe the thought of being rotten is no big loss to you. In which case, whatever.
Tony, Tone, Toni, I was just ribbing you a bit. Your endorsement of Dubya is about as surprising as the Pope supporting God. I'm positive you and I don't see eye to eye on this, but my characterizations of your points just show the alternate spin to what you said. Anyway, have fun voting tomorrow. I'll be doing my part to make this swing state I live in go Blue.
I think your "plan for election night" assumes too much. It depends on the election actually being resolved *ON* election night. I think the election will be too close to call before most people go to bed (except perhaps those on the West coast, Alaska, and Hawaii)... and maybe before most people go to bed on Nov. 5th.
Unreasonable man: You make it sound like four or five nights of standing by with cigars and cognac is a bad thing. ;)
[And, in a final sign of how things are going in this election, someone has decided to post a comment purporting to be me. It's been deleted. --Anthony]
I'll try again, less deceptively: Heidi: I can't answer your points, so I'll ignore them and call you 'ungentlemanly' in a separate post. [Of course, I can see why you might not want the content of this comment public. ;) -- Someone Pretending to Be Anthony For Comic Effect]
I'll try again, less deceptively: Heidi: I can't answer your points, so I'll ignore them and call you 'ungentlemanly' in a separate post. [Of course, I can see why you might not want the content of this comment public. ;) -- Someone Pretending to Be Anthony For Comic Effect]
(rolls eyes) So clever, you are. Of course I don't want the comment to be public. Because someone posting anonymously and making stupid comments really threatens me. (That's why I took such steps as, oh, say, banning your IP address. Wait, I didn't.) Look, the answers to Heidi's posts aren't that difficult, the main one being that I instinctively distrust someone who is going to say that about half of America (less anyone who doesn't "know" abuses are happening--from context unclear as to whether she means at Gitmo or not) is morally suspect. And, of course, that there are issues to balance here: security, process, liberty, etc. But when Heidi starts turning towards personal attack--into Leiterland, so to speak--it's pretty much time to hang up the argument. It's not going anywhere. In the meantime, have the courage of your convictions and if you've got something to say, post under your own name. Nobody's impressed, mate, certainly not me, and especially not by someone too cowardly to put their own reputation on the line. The original post said that one reason I was voting Republican was the poor behavior of many Kerry supporters this go-around. Granted, I don't know who you support--there's that name thing again--but assuming you're not a Bushie, well, you're just a very good illustration of the point.
Tony, you have a talent for framing an issue. It's sort of like Scalia. And, like that other Tony, you have a penchant for making snide remarks in proving your point. Heidi has a good counterargumet here and, frankly, your answer about the Gitmo situation *is* troubling. Similarly, that so many people in the U.S. aren't troubled by it is likewise troubling. But why don't they think it's so bad? Because we simply don't know what went on there. One of our fundamental tenets is that everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a speedy, public trial. To hold prisoners in such a way and then extol the virtues of the American way while forcing it on the rest of the world is hypocritical to say the least. I dislike Bush because I am turned off by his smugness and the arrogant self-assurance that prevents him from ever admitting he could be wrong. Then again, I don't like that quality in anyone, let alone the Leader of the Free World. In this comments section, I think you've proven that you can't lighten up. Those first couple of posts (mine included) were pretty lighthearted and just pointed out that your endorsement wasn't up to your usual standard. You basically said "I'm a Republican and I think Bush will do an adequate job because he's smarter than people say and surrounds himself with smart people." Fine. But people have problems with him for other reasons than the jabs at his intelligence or ability. Heidi brought up one such point and you attempted to marginalize it and then ignore it. I agree that the arguments you and Heidi have aren't very productive. But, really, do you think it's as one-sided as you say here? She is, as you say, flippant, but flippancy often disguises wisdom in its humor. Bush has a level of disregard for the rest of the international community that is troubling to say the least. Why can't you admit that Democrats may be rightfully pissed at Dubya? Just because half of the U.S. supports him doesn't mean his policies are right. Not to make a point through hyperbole, but Hitler's support numbers were astronomical compared to Bush. The propaganda utilized by the Nazis was utterly amazing. Europeans in other countries even thought Adolf was the best defense against the Communists and Bolsheviks. (I'm obviously not comparing Bush to Hitler. I'm just showing that your argument doesn't necessarily hold water logically.) Anyway, I've got to get back to studying. But, seriously dude, crack a smile once in a while, even if it's not in a liberal-bashing situation (as the Tom Wolfe article above seems to suggest). "Rigorous bipartisanship" can still allow one to admit holes or deficiencies in one's candidate or arguments.
Adam: A) I've never said Bush was a perfect candidate. But lacking any good reasons to vote for Kerry, there's no reason for me not to vote for him because he's a Republican. Casting that idea as "trivial" ignores the fact that parties do have ideological positions that are based upon ideas. Certainly he's not my ideal Republican, but he's not bad enough for me to ditch. B) On the other hand, any comparison to Scalia is awefully flattering, for which I should thank you, as hyperbolic as it is. C) "One of our fundamental tenets is that everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a speedy, public trial." First of all, that's a tenet that is "fundamental" only to our own citizens. (Nor have all of those it Gitmo been accused of crimes: some are merely ununiformed--I suppose one might say "unlawful"--combatants.) But this is rather my point: there's a broad-brush assertion that is then coupled with a sense of moral condemnation, when you've not actually made your case. If Bush's smugness is turning you off, this is the smugness that kept me from voting Democrat. D) Much like Heidi, you're particularly fond of saying that one should admit deficiencies in one's candidate or arguments. Fine. Please admit some in your own. Until then, I really see no reason to consider that a particularly meaningful statement. E) As for having "proven I can't lighten up": perhaps it hasn't sunk in here, but this was not a lighthearted post. Further, certain types of "humour," particularly ones of which you and Heidi seem to be fond, I consider to be beneath the standards I apply to myself and seek in others. These include grossly mistating an opponent's argument (as with your first comment) or making personal cracks about someone that they have no idea of. (Unless, of course, you wish to believe that Heidi is qualified to make armchair psychiatric claims about someone she's never met from hundreds of miles away.) And you'll note that you're now joined by someone who doesn't mind using someone else's name. Please see here for my view on that kind of humor. To quote the original Screwtape, and as should be obvious here, "it excites no affection between those who practice it." E) Heidi's argument, to the extent that she's saying she doesn't know what's going on at Gitmo, basically extends to "I don't know what's going on, and I don't trust Bush, and that makes me uncomfortable. If it turns out something horrible is happening, then you should 'take responsibility' for it." You expand that by propounding a "fundamental tenet" that is--by any measures--overblown. (Besides the suggestion that it might apply less generally to non-citizens, there's also the issue that Gitmo detainees are being detained as combatants, who are not necessarily criminals.) Now, if one wanted to make an argument that too much secrecy is a bad thing, well, it's been made well before by one of my Democratic heroes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And yes, bad things can happen in dark places. On the other hand, the administration set up Gitmo during a period in which a large number of things were uncertain, to contain people who--for a large part--also didn't follow a "fundamental" tenet of war: that soldiers should be identifiable through the wearing of uniforms. Because some or all of those captured may have belonged to units not belonging to a state (or entity attempting to become a state), and yet formed a considerable threat to national security, an almost novel situation developed. Now, a sensible argument could be had about that. Probably not in a post about an endorsement, but it could be done. It would not, however, contain comments on how "rotten" a person might be, or other moral judgments about one's counterpart. It would not contain comments about how "happy" or otherwise he might be. And it would probably attempt to characterize the other's commentary in a fashion both fair and reasonable. For that reason I ignored her further conversation--there is no profit in it, even if it were substantively brilliant. You see, Adam, one of the "fundamental tenets" of humour (not to mention good manners) is that it should be funny both to the comedian and his listener. But then, I suppose my wish to be treated by such standards--and my treatment of others by them--leads to me being unable to "lighten up."
I'm too lazy to use Lexis for anything except my memo, but while we're citing the hawks at the Economist, they've had several pieces harshly criticizing the Bush Administration's policies regarding detainees (whether they are suspected terrorists, combatants or random people caught in the dragnet). The one I remember most clearly was at the time of SCOTUS's decisions, and said that if the Bush Administration didn't want to treat the people as criminals nor as POWs, fine, but they had to come up with a category that included some protections. They didn't have to be full due process that would be accorded a criminal, nor Geneva Convention rights accorded a uniformed combatant, but the Calvinball rules of "We'll do whatever we want until SCOTUS forces our hand" are unbecoming in a nation with rule of law. There's no balancing of principles going on here.

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