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saturday, january 10, 2004

Hot Links 12:37 pm | link

Harkin Endorses Dean
Senator Tom Harkin's endorsement of Howard Dean should tilt the Iowa Caucus in Dean's favor. Even before the endorsement Dean was slightly ahead of his closest rival, Dick Gephardt, according to a Los Angeles Times poll.
Congressman Gephardt has been very good in the debates; I'm sure we all remember his "miserable failure" line with great fondness. And he's an old-style Democrat who sincerely wants to do right by workers and the economically disadvantaged of America.
But as a "don't let the door hit your butt on the way out" salute to the Congressman, I want to remind everyone why we can't trust Dick Gephardt as far as we can throw him.
Go back to September 19, 2002, when President Bush presented his Gulf of Tonkin Iraq War Resolution to Congress. Most Democrats and many Republicans thought the language -- "The president is authorized to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force" -- too broad, and the White House agreed to negotiate.
The notion that Bush should be bound by the language of the Resolution to obtain international support had bipartisan support in Congress. For example, a bill sponsored by Senators Joe Biden (D) and Richard Lugar (R) co-sponsored an alternate resolution that
...  was crafted to win over moderates of both parties and, perhaps more importantly, to placate U.S. allies. Biden-Lugar defined the grounds for war more narrowly than the White House's resolution, stating that a war's purpose would be only to disarm Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and not to enforce "all relevant" U.N. resolutions--such as the return of Kuwaiti property seized in 1991, a provision some U.S. allies found absurd. Biden-Lugar also required Bush to report back to Congress on his U.N. diplomacy before launching a war and granted him authority to attack in the face of U.N. opposition only if he made the case that Iraq's WMD presented a "grave threat" to the United States. And it mandated that Bush send Congress a report within 30 days of the commencement of war, further detailing "the degree to which other nations will assist the U.S. in using force against Iraq," and his planning for postwar reconstruction--complete with cost estimates. [Michael Crowley, "Memory Loss," The New Republic, October 6, 2003]
Bush complained that the bill would "tie my hands." But Lugar and Biden and several others in Congress felt the alternate resolution had a good shot at passage, until ...
On October 2 Dick Gephardt announced he had found "common ground" with the White House and would support the White House version of the bill. And within hours CNN was showing Gephardt and Joe Lieberman standing next to Bush in the Rose Garden while the President boasted of "bipartisan support." The Biden-Lugar Resolution was kneecapped. Bush got the resolution he wanted. And the rest is disaster.
Gephardt says today that while negotiations were going on he met privately with Bush and urged him to seek international support for a military action in Iraq. But the question remains -- what the hell was Dick up to? There must have been a quid pro quo in there somewhere, although I can't imagine what it was.
Gephardt correctly said in the debates that Bush's foreign policy is a "miserable failure," and that's being kind. But if Gephardt could have been so easily duped and/or corrupted by the Bushies in 2002, what could Vladimir Putin do to him?
I sincerely hope Dick Gephardt has many years of public service ahead of him, either in Congress or as part of President Dean's or President Clark's cabinet. Secretary of Labor, maybe? But I don't trust him in the Oval Office.

8:58 am | link

friday, january 9, 2004

Preview of Coming Attractions
Speaking of Treasury Secretaries ... Leslie Stahl interviews Paul O'Neill on this Sunday's "60 Minutes." The interview promises to be good in spite of Ms. Stahl. From a press release:

President Bush was so disengaged in cabinet meetings that he "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people," says former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in his first interview about his time as a White House insider. O'Neill speaks to Lesley Stahl for a report to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, Jan. 11 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

O'Neill, fired by the White House for his disagreement on tax cuts, is the main source for an upcoming book, The Price of Loyalty, authored by Ron Suskind. In it, Suskind builds an insider's picture of the White House drawn on interviews with O'Neill, dozens of other Bush administration insiders and 19,000 documents provided by O'Neill.

A lack of dialogue, according to O'Neill, was the norm in cabinet meetings he attended. The president "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people," O'Neill is quoted saying in the book. It was similar in one-on-one meetings, says O'Neill. Of his first such meeting with the president, O'Neill says "I went in with a long list of things to talk about and, I thought, to engage [him] on...I was surprised it turned out me talking and the president just listening...It was mostly a monologue," he tells Stahl.

In the interview with Stahl, O'Neill also reveals new information about key economic and foreign policy discussions within the Bush administration that took place during his two years there, including decisions on what to do about Saddam Hussein and how far to go with tax cuts.

As you may remember, O'Neill "resigned" his position as Secretary of the Treasury in December 2002. If one reads between the lines of this BBC news story, one might conclude that O'Neill was not content with being a yes man. 

2:40 pm | link

We're Doomed
This week the International Monetary Fund warned that Bush's budget deficit is putting the world's economy at risk. Very simply -- we're covering our deficit with borrowed money, and we're borrowing so much of the world's money that global interest rates might go up. This in turn would slow global economic growth.
There's a great deal more to it, of course. The deficit is bad enough now, but it will balloon as the Baby Boomers get older. And because our trade deficit is pushing down the value of the dollar, foreign investors are already bailing out of the dollar and liquidating U.S. assets to do so.  It's a terrible mess, and it's getting messier every day George W. Bush is in the White House.

In the American economy and its financial markets, the Bush administration has inherited one of the most flexible and forgiving systems in economic history. But like a 16-year-old driving her mother's Ferrari, it seems determined to see just how irresponsible it can be before the machine goes off the road. It should not ignore the grown-ups who shake their heads as it speeds along the highway. ["The I.M.F.'s Warning," The Financial Times, January 9, 2004]

What might happen if the world stop covering our financial butts? We'll be ruined, that's what. We will become a poor nation full of poor people.
Now, there is much debate around the web whether the world really would ever cut us loose and let us fall. The U.S. economy is so huge, if we fall we'll be taking a lot of the world with us. But others argue that at some point the world will decide the U.S. economy is never going to recover, and what's the use of throwing good money after bad? So, down the toilet we go.
Naturally, the Bush Administration rejects these warnings. Treasury Secretary John Snow reacted to the I.M.F. report by saying that economic growth will cut the deficit in five years.
Of course, in October 2003 John Snow said that economic growth would add 167,000 jobs per month. Didn't happen. The New York Times reported today that there was little change in unemployment figures in December. The manufacturing and retail sectors are still shedding jobs, and those people who had jobs worked fewer hours.
Back at the White House ... President Bush seems to be taking what might be called a counterintuitive stance. In the face of predictions of economic doom and the failure of his economic policies to create jobs, he pops out of the Oval Office and announces what amounts to a guest worker program, dressed up as immigration reform. Such a program might make some sense if there was a labor shortage, but that is hardly the case.
And in another moment of brilliance, Bush announced plans to build a space station on the Moon and eventually send astronauts to Mars. Does he plan to pay for this with bake sales?
More to the point, has Bush completely slipped his tether?
10:28 am | link

Hot Links 6:02 am | link

thursday, january 8, 2004

Hot Links Plus
Dear Readers: It's 5:58 a.m. and I haven't had coffee and I just discovered that The New Republic has endorsed Joe Lieberman for the Democratic presidential nomination. This means I've got to give some serious thought to what the hell is wrong with The New Republic. But coffee first.
By now you've heard about the "Hitler" ads and For the record, Moveon. invited people to submit 30-second television spots to its Bush in 30 Second contest. There were hundreds of entries, at least, and all that weren't libelous were available for viewing on the web.
Two of the ads compared George W. Bush to Hitler. This was over the top, certainly. Bush, for example, has a better haircut. But these ads were not among the finalists, and when people complained removed them from its site.
But Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie went bonkers, going public with charges that had "sponsored" the ads, which it did not. Gillespie made a Big Deal of the ads, putting them on the RNC web site, and then because they were News they were aired on cable television.
 John Nichols of The Nation points out that if it weren't for Gillespie, hardly anyone would have ever seen the ads. Thanks, Ed! I guess the Dems aren't the only ones with party chairmen who are idiots.
The winner of the Bush in 30 Seconds contest will be announced at a gala awards presentation in New York next Monday, and I have tickets. Should be great fun!
More news: If anyone wonders why Bush took it in his head to be "compassionate" to illegal aliens and offer them amnesty, the Los Angeles Times has the answer.
President Bush's plan to vastly expand the ranks of legal immigrant workers in the United States is a bold initiative that delivers a double political punch, pleasing his longtime business supporters while reaching out to Latino voters, whose political loyalties are up for grabs in 2004 and beyond. [Janet Hook, "Plan Packs Political Bonuses for President," The Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2004]
Another reason why a vote for Republicans is a vote for cheap labor. And maybe the able-bodied men among them will wind up in the Army. But there are political risks for Bush as well. How many Bush supporters will be chagrined to find out the housekeeper is no long off the books? And it may not win the Shrub points with Latino citizens and voters, either -- see "The Phantom Latino Block," also in the LA Times.
And now for your regular Hot Links.
6:25 am | link

wednesday, january 7, 2004

Please, Make It Stop ...
The Democratic presidential nomination race is quickly turning into a two-person race, between Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. Clark has moved into second place in New Hampshire, and has closed the gap with Dean nationwide.
The remaining seven candidates are still clawing for attention. Joe Lieberman is, as usual, the most outrageous.

"We cannot replace one set of extremes with an extreme anger of our own," he told a campaign event in New Hampshire.

"I am not George Bush or Howard Dean," said Lieberman, who has built a record of working across the political aisle. "Both would take the country down the wrong path on many of the most important issues of our day." [Reuters]

What is up with Lieberman? Does he really think he has a prayer at the nomination? He can't possible be hoping for a veep spot.

Dennis Kucnich wins this week's Genius Award -- he took a pie chart to a radio debate. Like Lieberman, Kucinich was in Attack Dean mode.

KUCINICH: It's interesting to hear Governor Dean's assertion about how he won't balance the budget -- or how he will try to balance the budget when he refuses to admit that there needs to be cuts in the bloated Pentagon budget.

I don't see how in the world, when you have something that at this point takes up about 50 percent of the discretionary budget...

CONAN: Congressman Kucinich is holding up a pie chart, which is not truly effective on the radio.

KUCINICH: Well, it's effective if Howard can see it. [Link]

For the record, Dennis K. is the only Democratic presidential candidate calling for a cut to the Pentagon budget. As stupid as the pie chart stunt was, to be calling for cuts to the Pentagon budget at a time when the military is seriously overstressed, and at a time when national security is a critical issue, suggests an insensitivity to objective reality.

But, you know, Dennis is the only real progressive in the race. Ask any of his culties.

The news from the Dean camp today is that he may be reconsidering his proposal to roll back all of the Bush tax cuts. Possibly in response to Wesley Clark's "families first" tax plan, the Deanies are making noises about fairness to middle class taxpayers.

Clark's tax plan would reduce taxes for working families with children. According to his web site, "Under Wes Clark's Families First Tax Reform, a family of four making up to $50,000 would pay no federal income taxes, and all taxpaying families with children making up to $100,000 would get a tax cut." This will be paid for with a 5 percentage point increase in the tax rate only on income over $1 million per year and closing corporate tax loopholes.

According to ABC's The Link, the Wall Street Journal editorial board calls Clark's tax plan "reverse tax reform," i.e., a huge tax increase, and says the campaign should've delivered it to Karl Rove's desk with a big red bow.


Mark your calendars:

  • January 19 -- Iowa Caucuses
  • January 20 -- State of the Union address
  • January 27 -- New Hampshire Primary
  • February 1 -- Super Bowl
  • February 3 -- Primaries in Delaware, South Carolina, Missouri, Arizona, and Oklahoma; caucuses in New Mexico, Virginia,  North Dakota, Michigan, Washington state, and Maine.
  • February 10 -- Virginia and Tennessee primaries
  • February 14 -- Nevada caucuses
  • February 17 -- Wisconsin primary
  • February 24 -- Michigan primary; caucuses in Hawaii and Utah

And then there's Super Tuesday, March 2. -- ten state primaries. I'll be very surprised if we don't have a nominee by March 3.

See also:

Jonathan Cohn, The Case for Howard Dean, The New Republic

9:23 pm | link

Hot Links 5:39 am | link

tuesday, january 6, 2004

Faith, Hope, and Politics
I was struck this morning by how much of today's political news is about faith. 
For example, consider the words of Pat Robertson, who said, "I mean, [George Bush] could make terrible mistakes and comes [sic] out of it. It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him. ... I really believe I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like a blowout election in 2004." Matt Bivens writes,

It doesn't make any difference whether he does good or evil -- the Lord will still anoint him? What is this, Iran? Perhaps Robertson should skip making predictions, and stick to praying for God to kill Supreme Court justices; at least that was creepy-scary, as opposed to creepy-silly.

Theologically, Robertson may have a little bit of a leg to stand on. I was raised Lutheran and dimly remember Luther's contention that "man is justified by faith" rather than good works. As I recall, Luther taught that people cannot win God's favor by doing good works, but only through the grace of Jesus. This caused me to wonder what's in this deal for Jesus, but never mind.
Speaking of creepy-scary, Max Blumenthal writes in today's Salon about millionaire Howard Ahmanson, who is on a mission from God to stop gay marriage and the teaching of evolution in school. And Gov. Jeb Bush recently opened the nation's first faith-based prison.

"I can't think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our Lord Jesus than ... here at Lawtey Correctional. God bless you," said the Guv in a Christmas Eve address to inmates. Words fail.

We use the word faith to be a synonym for religion, but seems to me there's faith, and then there's, well, other faith. According to the American Heritage dictionary, the word "faith" means

1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. 2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See synonyms at belief. , trust. 3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters. 4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will. 5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith. 6. A set of principles or beliefs.

Items 5 and 6 represent the lowest level of faith, which of course would be Pat Robertson's level. This is the faith that reduces religion to a rigid belief system, rather than a path of practice. Believe the right doctrines, and don't question them, and you will be saved; pick the wrong ones, and you are doomed.

Howard Dean has been dumped on lately for being too secular, but several editorial writers today advised Dean to keep his religion to himself. "The only candidates who seem to benefit from open expression of their religious beliefs are Christians, specifically conservative Christians who are members of the Republican Party" wrote Marie Cocco. In recent years the Religious Right has crucified religious candidates who were not subscribers to their particular dogmatisms. Cocco mentions Al Gore, a one-time divinity student; the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and practicing Catholic Geraldine Ferraro.

Ferraro was vilified during her 1984 vice presidential run for supporting abortion rights.

Ferraro's nomination was no celebration of America's religious pluralism. It spawned, instead, a mean season for Catholic politicians who dared keep their religion out of their politics on the single issue conservatives decided was a moral litmus test, abortion. (No such test is ever applied to politicians with respect to Catholic teaching against the death penalty or, for that matter, the Vatican's admonitions against war.) [Marie Cocco, "A Goal for Dean: Push a Multi-Faith Theme," New York Newsday, January 6, 2004]

Recent polls have declared that "religious" people are more likely to vote Republican, while "non-religious" people are more likely to vote Democratic. But as noted in the December 1 Mahablog (The Mahaknowsitall Sutra) the standards used by pollsters to determine who is and is not religious -- church attendance or belief in Judgment Day, for example -- are measures of only one religious tradition, conservative monotheism. People who are religious but not conservative monotheists (for example, Buddhist monks) don't register as being religious.

In other words, the United States is turning into a kind of popular theocracy in which the only legitimate religion is right-wing Christianity.

But let's get back to faith. What's remarkable about right-wing faith is that it is not faith in God, but in dogma. The Godhead is just a sycophant, summoned from time to time to affirm the dogma du jour. I can't imagine God saying anything to Pat Robertson that Pat Robertson doesn't want to hear.

Compare/contrast Robertson's dogma-bound faith to a purely mystical religion, such as Zen Buddhism. Zen, which is non-theistic, encourages the cultivation of "don't know mind." This means to avoid letting ideas and opinions get between us and things as-they-are. Adherence to rigid dogmas is discouraged, because it is understood that no belief can contain the Absolute.

Faith in Zen practice is more like trust -- trust yourself, trust your life. Life is never the way you think it's going to be, but that's OK. Trust it anyway. Trust it when it's brutal, when it's dangerous, when it's breaking your heart. Instead of dictating to life what you want it to be, be open to what it is teaching you. This appeals to me as a truer faith, because it's a faith that is unconditional, and not dependent on a desired reward.

From this perspective, an atheist who lives a full, honest, courageous life has plenty of faith. I doubt the inmates of the faith-based prison are getting much exposure to a faith like that.

In 1930, Albert Einstein wrote an article on religion and science for the New York Times magazine. "Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain," he wrote. 

One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development. Feeling and longing are the motive force behind all human endeavor and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present themselves to us.

Einstein postulated three levels of religion. "With primitive man it is above all fear that evokes religious notions - fear of hunger, wild beasts, sickness, death," he wrote. Next is a "social" religion --

The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence, who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes; the God who, according to the limits of the believer's outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even or life itself; the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing; he who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.

Most religions are a mix of the primitive and the social, Einstein wrote, and common to both types is an anthropomorphic God. But there is another type that is quite different --

The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole....The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events.

People who are determined to believe in a Supreme Being who supports tax cuts the death penalty are not going to be talked out of it. But people of greater faith need to be on guard, lest the Pat Robertsons among us gain enough power to re-start the Inquisition.

7:28 pm | link

Brooking No Brooks
David Brooks strikes again in his latest column, in which he attributes criticism of the neocons to anti-semitism. 
What makes this especially funny is that today Brooks shares space on the New York Times op ed page with anti-Bush liberals named Krugman, Stiglitz, and Schumer.
Josh Marshall does a splendid job of taking Brooks apart.

11:07 am | link

Hot Links, Faith and Glory Edition 6:08 am | link

monday, january 5, 2004

Hot Links 5:34 am | link

sunday, january 4, 2004

The Fog of War
Yesterday I mentioned "The Things They Carry" by James Traub, in this weekend's New York Times magazine. I finally got a chance to read it carefully. I think it's a fascinating piece of work, and not because I agree with it. Traub is, to a considerable extent, full of shit. But he reveals a great deal about what's wrong with the political powers in Washington in spite of himself.
Traub's essential flaw is that he mistakes conventional political wisdom for reality. And he buys into the Big Lie that to be against the Iraq War is to be "soft on terrorism." Indeed, he conflates anti-Iraq War into antiwar into peacenik, which is a serious distortion.
He was dead on when he described the flaws in the Bush policy.
The underlying critique offered by Democratic policy experts is that the Bush administration, for all its bluster about how 9/11 ''changed everything,'' has in fact not adapted to the transformed world into which it has been catapulted and is still chasing after the bad guys of an earlier era. The administration understands war, but not the new kind of multifaceted, globalized war that must be fought against a stateless entity.
But, strangely, Traub's premise is that the Democrats have to support an old-style war in Iraq in order to win the 2004 election. He noted that Howard Dean's candidacy took wing after the October 2002 vote on the Iraq War Resolution. But Traub sees this as a problem for the Democrats because he is stuck in Washington conventional wisdom that an anti-Iraq War candidate will be dismissed by voters as being "soft on terrorism." Ignoring the November 2002 elections, which proved that Dems can't win as the "me, too" party, Traub writes,
The litmus test for nomination, it seemed, was incompatible with the litmus test for election -- a predicament the Democrats knew all too well. And the candidates who tried to split the difference only confirmed the impression that the party was willing to play politics with national security. Democratic strategists began to use the expression ''heading over a cliff.''
When Wesley Clark boldly came out against the war, Traub says the Washington politicos were baffled.
And yet here was the former Supreme Allied Commander positioning himself slightly to Howard Dean's left. Indeed, the central paradox of Clark's campaign, which in recent months has neither gained nor lost much altitude, and remains fixed in a flight path well below Dean's, is that a candidate whose chief virtue was his credibility on national security issues has proved to be such a peacenik.
Mr. Traub: It's because Clark understands national security issues that he is opposed to the Iraq War. Duh.
What's fascinating about this article is that, in spite of Traub's cluelessness, a great deal of wisdom shines through. When Traub shuts up and lets his subjects speak for themselves, the result can be thrilling.
''It's not where you bomb and what building you blow up that determines the outcome of the war,'' Clark said to me. ''That's what we teach majors in the Air Force to do -- make sure you hit the target. It's the overarching diplomacy, the leverage you bring to bear, what happens afterward on the ground, that gives you your success. And for that you need nations working together.''
Amen, general. But note Traub's dismissive comment, tacked onto the end ot the paragraph: "That, in a nutshell, is the Wesley Clark alternative paradigm of national security."

The Democrats are not really a peace party, Traub writes, nor are they against use of military power to maintain national security. Instead, they have accepted a doctrine that might be called "nationalist liberalism."  

a ''generous and compelling vision of global society,'' which would include ''humanitarian intervention against genocidal violence; family planning; effective cooperation against global warming and other environmental scourges''; foreign aid; free trade; and large investments to combat AIDS.

Since all of the Democratic candidates could be considered "nationalist liberals," Traub can't see why a candidates' record on Iraq is such a Big Deal.

With the very important exception of Iraq, the major candidates hold essentially the same views. Hawkishness or dovishness on Iraq thus does not correlate with some larger difference in worldview, as, for example, the left and right views on Vietnam once did.

O.K., then, it doesn't. And yet it sure feels as if it does.

Oh, but it does, Mr. Traub. It does because of a little thing called "trust." Iraq was an unnecessary war that is costing lives, treasure, and global prestige. You don't ask soldiers to die for their country, to kill for their country, if in fact their country really doesn't need them to do so. There was no pressing need for us to invade Iraq. And how can we trust a person to change Bush's policies when his record shows agreement with those policies?  

Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has a nightmare in which Dean wins the nomination, conditions in Iraq improve modestly and in the course of a debate, President Bush says: ''Go to Iraq and see the mass graves. Have you been, Governor Dean?'' In this nightmare, Bush has been, and Dean hasn't. ''Saddam killed 300,000 people. He gassed many of these people. You mean I should have thought there were no chemical weapons in the hands of a guy who impeded our inspectors for 12 years and gassed his own people and the Iranians?'' O'Hanlon glumly says that he has resigned himself to the thought that ''the Democratic base is probably going to lose the Democrats the election in 2004.''

And Dean could remind him that UN inspectors were hard at work in Iraq, had found no WMDs, and were begging Bush to delay starting his war. And Dean could whip out the long and growing list of American soldiers who have died needlessly in Iraq. (And, frankly, I think in the same scenario Wesley Clark would clean Bush's clock. I'd love to see it.) 
In November 2002, the Democrats in Congress were tied up in knots over the Iraq War Resolution. In spite of the fact that we, their constituents, were sending them truckloads of mail demanding a rejection of the resolution, the majority of them caved in and voted for it. Some of them -- Joe Lieberman, I suspect -- genuinely wanted the Iraq War. Most of them probably didn't, but were afraid to oppose it because they didn't want to look "soft on terrorism."
And if John Kerry had voted against that resolution, I believe he'd be cruising to the nomination now, and no one would have heard of Howard Dean. I wonder if he even suspects?
Washington insiders have their heads full of ideas about what's politically smart. They've forgotten how to think about what's right.

The challenge to the Democratic Party is not to find the candidate who supports Bush's wrong-headed war, but to find the candidate who can clearly and forcefully tell the American people why the Iraq War was a terrible mistake.

My web buddy Stirling Newberry has another analysis of the Traub article that's worth reading. Between the two of us I think we've got it covered.
Unrelated -- check out Barney's First Dog Blog. It's a hoot.

5:39 pm | link

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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

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It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Numchuku of Reasoned Discussion.

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Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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