Archive for June, 2004

New Bush Ad

Sunday, June 27th, 2004

“When I hear Bush say, `You’re either with us or against us,’ it reminds me of the Germans. It conjures up memories of Nazi slogans on the walls, Der Feind Hort mit (The enemy is listening).’ My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me.” — Wealthy supporter of Left-wing causes George Soros.

“The administration works closely with a network of rapid-response digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for undermining support for our troops…” — former Vice President Al Gore.

Americans are typically a congenitally open, friendly, and hopeful people, and they find mean-spiritedness distasteful and off-putting. Americans prefer happy endings over smug, sophisticated cynicism. Former President Ronald Reagan played to these virtues and easily defeated an incumbent pessimistic president, who looked to future and only saw decline. When President Bill Clinton was mired in the muck surrounding his prevarications under oath, Clinton managed to shoulder the mantle of victim-hood and make his accusers appear vindictive. Vindictiveness appeared to many as even tinier than Clinton’s smallness. This comparison worked to Clinton’s benefit and made it politically impossible to convict Clinton in the Senate.

The Republicans have recently carefully crafted a campaign commercial that plays on the American aversion to excessive partisanship by splicing together vitriolic anti-Bush ads and speeches by Democratic and Left-wing leaders. The commercial can be found at

The campaign ad begins with a title scene: “The Faces of John Kerry’s Democratic Party. The Coalition of the Wild Eyed.” The title scene is followed by the wildest eyed partisan of all, the person with a soul of a vice-president, Al Gore. To a background of hearty cheers, Gore shouts: “How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam’s Hussein’s torture prison.”

The MoveOn organization is a limitless reservoir of anti-Bush hatred and exaggeration. The Bush ad inserts a clip submitted to a MoveOn campaign ad contest. It shows a red stylized image of Adolf Hitler over the words “What were war crimes in 1945…” followed by a similarly stylized image of George Bush, with his hand up vaguely reminiscent of a Nazi salute, and the words, “…is Foreign policy in 2003.” All the time in the background, there is the drum beat of voices shouting “Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!”

Next the Bush ad sequences through facial close-ups of speakers addressing anti-Bush crowds worked up to a fever pitch:

  • Former Democratic presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean barking, “I want my country back.”
  • Film maker Michael Moore and chief propagandist for the Left asserting, “We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.”
  • Normally, well-mannered Representative Dick Gephardt screaming, “The president is a miserable failure.”

Dipping once again into the infinite well of MoveOn’s anti-Bush venom, the Bush ad splices in another clip submitted to MoveOn. It shows a photographs of Adolf Hitler and George Bush, with the words “God told me to strike at Al Qaeda and I struck at them … and then he instructed me to tike at Saddam, which I did.”

The Bush ad picks up pace as it switches once again to Gore shouting to a frenzied crowd, “He betrayed this country. He played on our fear.”

Finally, we see John Kerry, angrily telling us that “Today George Bush will lay off your camel, tax your shovel, kick your ass, and tell you there is no promised land.”

The ad suddenly switches to soothing piano music and we see a flattering image of George Bush. The ad ends by seizing the moral high ground with the words, “This is not a time for pessimism and rage. It is a time for optimism, steady leadership, and progress.”

This commercial will be studied for some time because it cleverly turns the anti-Bush ads on their heads. The MoveOn ads and the Democratic rhetoric try to portray Bush as an evil and even Hitlerian character. By exhibiting this extreme position to a moderate general audience rather than to true-believers on the Left, the Bush ad makes Kerry supporters appear radical and pushes Kerry’s perceived position further to the Left. Even many who disagree with Bush do not find him evil or malicious. The Bush ad reveals some Kerry supporters to be mean-spirited, angry partisans, characters distinctively offensive to most Americans. That message is obvious.

The incredibly ingenious part of the Bush ad is that the Democratic and Left wing denunciations of Bush have the same cadence and pace as the MoveOn clips of Hitler. The Bush ads reverse the association of Nazis with Bush, making Kerry supporters appear with the same heated oratory, the same wild crowds moved by angry rhetoric, and the same bitter resentment of the Nazis. In a campaign ad jujitsu reverse move, this Bush ad succeeds in using MoveOn ads and the angry rhetoric of the Left against them.

The Bush camp must now be careful. The point has been made. Playing that ad too long could eventually backfire. Republicans do not need to be bringing images of Hitler into people’s living rooms. Now that the stage has been set, all the Bush team needs to do is follow Al Gore around with a film crew.

Getting It Wrong Again

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

“The history of our race, and each individual’s experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.” — Mark Twain.

The logical fallacy argumentum ad misercordiam asks us to accept the truth of a proposition out of pity for the sorry state of those making an argument. It is only by evoking such sympathy that mainstream news organizations can hope that we accept conspicuous and persistent inaccuracies in their coverage of the War on Terrorism. Not only have there been minor inconsistencies in coverage, but there have been unrelenting errors that betray a fundamental misunderstanding of President Bush’s case for the War on Terror. It is not just that major new organizations display disagreement with Bush’s position, but they display a depth of misunderstanding so deep that it is doubtfuk that some news organizations can ever emerge. Consider the following fantasies of the Left (oops, of the National Media): The Bush Administration was wrong in arguing that that (1) the threat for Iraq was imminent and (2) that Saddam’s Iraq materially conspired with Al Qaeda to execute the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Well. The Bush Administration did not make those argument and assertions that they did are either incredibly misinformed or are aimed at scorching the Administration in the flames of burning strawmen.

Consider first the issue of whether the Bush Administration argued that Iraqi threat to the United States was “imminent.”

In September 2002, the White House published the National Security Strategy of the United States. The report explicitly recognized that threats facing the US came largely from stateless (though perhaps state-supported) institutions. During the Cold War, no matter how distasteful, we depended upon nuclear deterrence to prevent attacks. The new threat from stateless terrorist can not be dealt with similarly. In the words of the report:

“Traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents; whose so-called soldiers seek martyrdom in death and whose most potent protection is statelessness.”In a world where it might be possible for terrorist to acquire weapons that might kill thousands of innocents, waiting until a threat is “imminent” or “immediate” might to be grievously too late. More “anticipatory” action might be required. While some suggest that the preemption doctrine is a new one, it rests on at least a forty-year heritage. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John Kennedy’s Administration argued that the blockade of Cuba — an act of war by any conventional definition — to prevent deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba was justified even if the threat from such missiles was not immediate or imminent. By the time such a threat would become imminent, any action would be too late. The Kennedy Administration argued that self-defense might require military action before hostilities were imminent and exercised the prerogative.

By extension, the National Security Strategy of the United States. report argued that:

“The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction — and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.”

Now it is reasonable to either agree or disagree with this doctrine. However, it can not be reasonably asserted that the doctrine suggests need for imminent threats to justify preemptive action. The doctrine was clearly lays out the opposite.

However, that has not stopped presumably responsible media outlets from repeatedly suggesting that the Bush Administration was calling Saddam’s threat imminent. One might expect Liberal PBS commentator Bill Moyers to mistakenly suggest “We were at the mercy of the official view that he was an ‘imminent threat’ without any reliable information to back it up.” Moyers’s has, in recent years, cultivated a fondness for convenient fictions. However, it was a grave error for the New York Times, the self-appointed newspaper of record, to assert that “Nothing found so far backs up administration claims that Mr. Hussein posed an imminent threat to the world.” It is only slightly less egregious to for the Los Angeles Times to suggest that Bush’s State of the Union address “[promised] new evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime poses an imminent danger to the world.”

What the president actually said in was, “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.” No imminence was a suggested or required. [1]

The second issue centers around the claim that the Bush Administration suggested the attacks on September were jointly conducted by Hussein’s regime and Al Qaeda.

A preliminary report by the staff of the September 11 Commission finds no evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda worked jointly to execute the 9/11 attacks. USAToday began their coverage of the report with peculiar assertion, “There is `no credible evidence’ that Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaeda plan and train for attacks against the United States, the commission investigating the September 11 terrorist attacks said Wednesday. That finding disputes a rationale the Bush administration gave for invading Iraq.” But that clearly was not was not the rationale. The argument was that given the links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, their joint motivation to attack the US, and Saddam’s refusal to compile with UN resolutions to rid Iraq of WMD, we need to act before any threat became imminent.

The Associated Press covered the Commission Report by with the lead: “Rebuffing Bush administration claims, the independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks said Wednesday no evidence exists that al-Qaeda had strong ties to Saddam Hussein.” Other news reports suggested that the Commission’s report had dismissed the Bush Administration’s assertion that Al Qaeda and Iraq cooperated in the 9/11 attack.

Unfortunately, the differences any subtle difference between the Commission’s Report and Administration statements were exaggerated beyond all reasonable recognition.

Within a couple of days, the Co-Chairmen of the Commission, Democrat Lee Hamilton, grew frustrated with all the miss coverage. Hamilton explained, “…I have trouble understanding all the flak over this…Sharp differences that the press has drawn, that the media have drawn, are not that apparent to me.” Indeed, everyone concedes that there were high-level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the extent and nature of the relationship is difficult to assess. The Clinton Administration was at least as insistent on the operational links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. In their 1998 formal legal indictment against bin Laden, the Clinton Administration cited ties between bin Laden and Iraq. It also used such links as justification for attack on the pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan.

For the record, the Administration never claimed that Iraq directly participated in the 9/11 attacks. On September 16, 2001 days after the attack, Vice-President Dick Cheney was asked on by Tim Russert on Meet the Press “Do we have any evidence linking Saddam or Iraqis to this operation.” Cheney’s direction answer was simply, “No.” Bush himself stated last September, “…we’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September 11th.” Perhaps the statements were too nuanced and equivocal for major media outlets to parse.

Chirac’s Lack of Class

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

“[A gentleman] is never mean or little in his disputes…. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend.” — Victorian Station.

It is not clear whether having class or being a gentleman is an inherited trait or a learned behavior ingrained through years of instruction and practice. However, it is clear that some people have class and some do not and politics is not a place gentleman with class tend to aggregate. Yet, the former Senator Paul Wellstone from Minnesota was a gentleman who could argue passionately without malice. As his son said at Wellstone’s public memorial after his untimely death just before his potential re-election in October 2002, “it was never about Paul Wellstone. It was about the ideal, it was about the dream that he had.”

Unfortunately, Wellstone was unable to pass along the class and integrity with which he conducted his own life to some of his supporters. His public memorial degenerated from the celebration of a life well-lived to ugly and inappropriate partisanship marked with the jeering of political opponents who had come to pay their respects. The distasteful transformation of the service to a political rally offended many who watched the event on television. It was probably the reason that former Senator Walter Mondale, who assumed the Democratic nomination for Wellstone’s Senate seat, lost several days later to Republican Norm Coleman.

The recent public state funeral and remembrance of former President Ronald Reagan, another politician and gentleman, fortunately passed with little public rancor. Sure there are always small people with small attitudes like Ted Rall who said of Ronald Reagan, “I’m sure he’s turning crispy brown right about now.” Some Reagan haters populate the, griping about the coverage of the Reagan funeral. But these voices were few and largely ignored. The public wanted to come together to honor the former president. Shrill voices echoed unnoticed, serving only to illustrate the anger and hatred of those who cannot wait until a person is buried before launching into vicious criticism.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans generally refrained from taking overt political advantage of sympathy for Reagan. Save for some remarks that bordered on the political by Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, Republicans conducted themselves properly. The eulogies at the funeral struck just the right tone: remembrance without excessive effusiveness.

All this generally splendid behavior by responsible people made the small and sour actions of French President Jacques Chirac that much more conspicuous. Many foreign leaders were in Georgia for the G8 summit this last week. Thus, for many leaders, attending Ronald Reagan’s funeral in Washington only required extending the US trip by one day and adding couple hours in the air. Many leaders did attend, including German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Other leaders came from as far away as Uganda and the Czech Republic. Even though French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing did attend, Chirac quick get away can only be interpreted as a deliberate insult.

Despite being hobbled by minor strokes, the Iron Lady, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, not only took the long flight across the Atlantic against the orders of her doctors, she took the trouble to tape a eulogy she knew she would not be able to deliver. She then accompanied the President’s casket and family on a flight back to the burial in Simi Valley, California.

Now Thatcher was an exceptional case. She was both a contemporary and friend of Reagan. Nonetheless, her actions make Chirac’s refusal to attend the funeral appear so much more mean spirited. To borrow words from playwright Harold Pinter, Chirac “you’re no bloody gentleman.”

Reagan Slips the Surly Bonds

Sunday, June 6th, 2004

“These were golden years — when the American Revolution was reborn, when freedom gained new life, when America reached for her best.” — Ronald Reagan’s hope for his presidency from his Second Inaugural Address.

Ronald Reagan, an American hero, has just died. The reason he was an American hero is that Ronald Reagan believed that the phrase “American hero” is redundant. Ronald Reagan believed in America and the American people even when they were less than sure of themselves and American elites were despondent.

While others saw a sunset of American leadership and power, Ronald Reagan saw an eternal American dawn. Even when he realized his Alzheimer’s Disease would mark the “sunset of ..[his] life.” He knew “that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.”

While others saw an America in economic decline, mired with low employment, double-digit inflation, and historically high interest rates; Reagan saw an enormous, latent American economic strength that just needed to be released.

While others saw a mean spirited America suffering from a malaise of self-doubt, Reagan saw “a shining city on a hill” as a beacon to others in the world.

While others believed that America had lost the ideological argument and even welcomed the inexorable spread of Communism especially in South and Central America, Reagan saw the potential for democratic countries free from domination.

While others believed that we would have to accommodate ourselves to a world half-slave half-free and needed to employ deceitful euphemisms lest the Communists should “bury us,” Ronald Reagan was unafraid to call the “evil empire” by name.

While some saw a permanent wall separating East and West, Reagan stood boldly beneath Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and demanded, “Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Many people have forgotten precisely how much Democrats, the Left, and some in the Hollywood viciously vilified Reagan. He was portrayed, in the words of Clark Clifford, as an “amiable dunce,” whose determined opposition to the Soviet Union increased the risk of nuclear war. Indeed, the movie, The Day After (1983) suggested that Reagan’s policies might lead to nuclear destruction, much like the present day The Day After Tomorrow portrays environmental Armageddon.

When Reagan came into office he was ridiculed as a “cowboy” in the European press. When Reagan asked to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe to counter similar deployments by the Soviets, there were large angry protests, especially in Europe to stop the deployment. We know now that Europeans, especially the Germans ultimately, decided to allow the missile deployment, the Soviets balked, and ultimately all intermediate missiles were removed from Europe. Allied resolve ultimately reduced the nuclear threat in Europe. The Left and the European streets were wrong.

History has borne out that Reagan was largely right and the Left was largely wrong about the Soviet Union. Reagan was largely right and the Left was largely wrong about how to jump start a moribund economy. The current president can take great heart in the fact that many who were so wrong then are the same who are so critical of President George Bush now.

Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were the two most consequential presidents of the last century. Some have even suggested that Reagan was an FDR conservative imbued at an early age with an abiding faith in American exceptionalism. Both leaders led countries out of economic hard times, both led the world to victory against implacable global enemies, and both lifted a demoralized country with the sheer buoyancy of ebullient personality and perpetual optimism.

It is difficult to explain to those who did not live through the 1970s just how deeply pessimistic Americans were about the future. At the end of the 1980s, Americans once again believed that America’ss best days were still ahead. As Reagan explained in 1992:

“A fellow named James Allen once wrote in his diary, `many thinking people believe America has seen its best days.’ He wrote that July 26, 1775. There are still those who believe America is weakening; that our glory was the brief flash of time called the 20th Century; that ours was a burst of greatness too bright and brilliant to sustain; that America’s purpose is past.”“My friends, I utterly reject those views. That’s not the America we know. We were meant to be masters of destiny, not victims of fate. Who among us would trade America’s future for that of any other country in the world? And who could possibly have so little faith in our America that they would trade our tomorrows for our yesterdays?”

Reagan spoke many eloquent words, some that were meant to console others at losses. None of those words were more moving and powerful than those he comforted us with at the lost of the astronauts on the shuttle Challenger. We can perhaps be forgiven for being presumptuous enough to paraphrase those sentiments here and console ourselves at our present loss.

Mr. Reagan, we will never forget you or the time you spent with us. We salute you and wave good-bye as you “slip the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”