Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
Recently I saw an amazing piece of political video. It was ten-year-old footage of George W. Bush, and it changed my mind about an important aspect of the upcoming campaign. Because the President so rarely exposes himself to live, unscripted questioning, and because he has expressed himself so poorly the few times he has risked such exposure this year, the political establishment assumes that John Kerry has a big advantage in this fall's debates.
I'm not so sure. Bush has been far more skillful in his debating career than is generally appreciated, and his successes in that realm put his widely noted lack of eloquence in a different light. During his career George Bush's speaking style has changed significantly, which is why the tape from 1994 was so intriguing. But his underlying approach to political communication has been constant—and extremely effective.
In 1994 Bush was an underdog candidate for the governorship of Texas. The incumbent, Ann Richards, was a phenomenon renowned above all for her biting wit. She had attended Baylor University in the 1950s on a debate scholarship. She had become the star of the 1988 Democratic convention with a keynote speech that mocked the elder George Bush: "Poor George. He can't help it! He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." When she first ran for governor, in 1990, Richards made a fool of her Republican opponent, Clayton Williams, with barbs and repartee that provoked him into intemperate outbursts.
As Richards prepared to run for re-election, she faced several obstacles. Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" was about to help the Republicans take control of Congress. The growth of the suburbs was accelerating Texas's shift from a solidly Democratic to a solidly Republican state. And Richards seemed visibly to have lost passion for her job. Her relatively young and inexperienced opponent, whose lackluster business career was his main credential, seemed to be the least of her problems—especially when it came to speaking skills. So great was Richards's perceived rhetorical advantage that the Bush campaign stonewalled in debate negotiations and finally agreed to one debate only, to be held on a Friday night in October two weeks before the election.
This spring I watched dozens of hours' worth of old videos of John Kerry and George W. Bush in action. But it was the hour in which Bush faced Ann Richards that I had to watch several times. The Bush on this tape was almost unrecognizable—and not just because he looked different from the figure we are accustomed to in the White House. He was younger, thinner, with much darker hair and a more eager yet less swaggering carriage than he has now. But the real difference was the way he sounded.
This Bush was eloquent. He spoke quickly and easily. He rattled off complicated sentences and brought them to the right grammatical conclusions. He mishandled a word or two ("million" when he clearly meant "billion"; "stole" when he meant "sold"), but fewer than most people would in an hour's debate. More striking, he did not pause before forcing out big words, as he so often does now, or invent mangled new ones. "To lay out my juvenile-justice plan in a minute and a half is a hard task, but I will try to do so," he said fluidly and with a smile midway through the debate, before beginning to list his principles.
Richards's main line of attack—in fact, her only one—was that Bush had done so poorly in a series of businesses that he would be over his head as governor. Each time she tried this, Bush calmly said, "I think this is a diversion away from talking about the issues that face Texas"—which led him right back to the items on his stump speech ("I want to discuss welfare, education. I want to discuss the juvenile-justice system ..."). When talking about schools he said, "I think the mission in education ought to be excellence in literature, math, science, and social science"—an ordinary enough thought, but one delivered with an offhand fluency I do not remember his ever showing at a presidential press conference. When Richards was asked about permitting casino gambling, she replied with a convoluted, minutes-long answer with details about Indian tribal rights. Bush, when asked the same question, had simply said, "I'm against casino gambling"—and when asked, after Richards's discourse, if he wanted to elaborate, said, "Not really." For years I had been told by people who knew Bush from business school or from Texas politics that he was keenly smart—though perhaps in a way that didn't come across in his public statements. Perhaps! The man on the debate platform looked and sounded smart and in control. If you had to guess which of the two candidates had won the debate scholarship to college and was about to win the governorship, you would choose Bush.
I bored my friends by forcing them to watch the tape—but I could tell that I had not bored George Lakoff, a linguist from the University of California at Berkeley, who has written often of the importance of metaphor and emotional message in political communications. When I invited him to watch the Bush-Richards tape, Lakoff confirmed that everything about Bush's surface style was different. His choice of words, the pace of his speech, the length and completeness of his sentences, all made him sound like another person. Even his body language was surprising. When he was younger, Bush leaned toward the camera and did not fidget or shift his weight. He arched his eyebrows and positioned his mouth in a way that, according to Lakoff, signifies in all languages an intense, engaged form of speech.
Lakoff also emphasized that what had changed in Bush's style was less important than what had remained the same. Bush's ways of appealing to his electoral base, of demonstrating resolve and strength, of deflecting rather than rebutting criticism, had all worked against Ann Richards. These have been constants in his rhetorical presentation of himself over the years, despite the striking decline in his sentence-by-sentence speaking skills, and they have been consistently and devastatingly effective. The upcoming debates between Bush and Kerry will in an odd way be a contest of unbeaten champions.
Neither George Bush nor John Kerry has suffered more than an occasional lapse or setback in a debate. Neither has "lost" a contest in the only way that matters: a serious post-debate decline in the polls or an electoral defeat. Bush's achievement is the more surprising, because he has entered every debate at a presumed disadvantage and has had to be a giant-slayer. Ann Richards was the most celebrated orator in Texas, having succeeded U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan in that role. Garry Mauro, whom Bush trounced in his re-election campaign in 1998, was an experienced and knowledgeable Texas official. In 2000 Bush's main opponent in the presidential primaries, John McCain, was beloved by the press for his mordant "straight talk." And in the general election Bush had to face Al Gore, who until then had manhandled a long series of debate opponents. Bush beat every one of them—in the election and, to judge by post-debate poll results, in the debates as well. The contests between Bush and Kerry this year will be a political version of what the Pentagon calls "asymmetric warfare," or combat between opponents with dissimilar strengths and vulnerabilities. The approach each side takes to asymmetric combat reveals basic traits relating to values and internal organization. This year's onstage asymmetric political combat will reveal basic traits in the character and leadership styles of the two candidates....
[Barbara Garson is a playwright and the author of"Money Makes the World Go Round" (Penguin, 2002).]
During a lull in the war between Athens and Sparta, the Athenians decided to invade and occupy Sicily. Thucydides tells us in"The Peloponnesian War" that"they were, for the most part, ignorant of the size of the island and the numbers of its inhabitants … and they did not realize that they were taking on a war of almost the same magnitude as their war against the Peloponnesians."
According to Thucydides, the digression into Sicily in 416 BC — a sideshow that involved lying exiles, hopeful contractors, politicized intelligence, a doctrine of preemption — ultimately cost Athens everything, including its democracy.
Nicias, the most experienced Athenian general, had not wanted to be chosen for the command."His view was that the city was making a mistake and, on a slight pretext which looked reasonable, was in fact aiming at conquering the whole of Sicily — a considerable undertaking indeed," wrote Thucydides.
Nicias warned that it was the wrong war against the wrong enemy and that the Athenians were ignoring their real enemies — the Spartans — while creating new enemies elsewhere."It is senseless to go against people who, even if conquered, could not be controlled," he argued.
Occupying Sicily would require many soldiers, Nicias insisted, because it meant establishing a new government among enemies."Those who do this [must] either become masters of the country on the very first day they land in it, or be prepared to recognize that, if they fail to do so, they will find hostility on every side."
The case for war, meanwhile, was made by the young general Alcibiades, who was hoping for a quick victory in Sicily so he could move on to conquer Carthage. Alcibiades, who'd led a dissolute youth (and who happened to own a horse ranch, raising Olympic racers) was a battle-tested soldier, a brilliant diplomat and a good speaker. (So much for superficial similarities.)
Alcibiades intended to rely on dazzling technology — the Athenian armada — instead of traditional foot soldiers. He told the Assembly he wasn't worried about Sicilian resistance because the island's cities were filled with people of so many different groups."Such a crowd as this is scarcely likely either to pay attention to one consistent policy or to join together in concerted action…. The chances are that they will make separate agreements with us as soon as we come forward with attractive suggestions."
Another argument for the war was that it would pay for itself. A committee of Sicilian exiles and Athenian experts told the Assembly that there was enough wealth in Sicily to pay the costs of the war and occupation."The report was encouraging but untrue," wrote Thucydides....
[James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, was special envoy for the Clinton and Bush administrations on reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo and Somalia.]
Last week, the Bush administration announced plans to change how it will spend nearly 20 percent of the $18.4 billion in approved aid for Iraq. The money will be shifted from rebuilding infrastructure to security, from capital improvements to employment generation, and from physical construction to social engineering projects. If these priorities had been adopted sooner, the situation in Iraq would probably be better than it is today.
Administration officials have explained that deteriorating security requires increased efforts to train and equip Iraqi police and military forces, and makes the protection of large construction projects difficult. They have also expressed the need for programs to get young Iraqi men off the streets and employed.
And indeed, America's plans to focus aid on modernizing Iraq's electric grid, sewage systems and communications infrastructure at American taxpayers' expense have been an aberration - out of keeping with recent American nation-building experience in places like Bosnia, Haiti, and Kosovo and with post-World War II strategies for democratizing Germany and Japan.
The object of nation-building is to return power to a competent, responsible and representative local government as soon as possible.
In a country like Iraq where the governmental structure has collapsed, the first priority is to establish public security. Second is to begin rebuilding the local structures for governance. Third is to create an environment in which basic commerce can occur - where people can buy and sell goods and services and get paid in a stable currency. Fourth is to promote political reforms, stimulate the growth of civil society, build political parties and a free press, prepare for elections and organize representative government. Fifth, and last, is improving roads, bridges, electricity, water, telephones and the rest.
This last category of spending normally comes last because such projects take a long time to complete and the payoff on investment is very slow. These projects are also very expensive, far more than other objectives. And unlike investments in other sectors, reconstruction projects are ultimately profitable and can normally pay for themselves. That is why money for large-scale construction projects routinely comes from loans financed through the World Bank or regional development banks, not from grants by donor governments....
What I found most dispiriting over the last month of politicking was the sight of two senior statesmen in the Republican Party - yes, I mean you, George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole - climbing on the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth bandwagon in its campaign to turn Mr. Kerry from war hero to craven braggart.
Then in the 1988 campaign, a tail-gunner on another plane on the same bombing mission accused Mr. Bush of having been a coward and causing Mr. White's and Mr. Delaney's deaths. A couple of others on the mission backed this accusation, claiming that Mr. Bush could have tried a water landing rather than consigning the others to their deaths.
The accusations were rebutted by other witnesses, however, and journalists mostly shied away from them. Michael Dukakis dismissed the story, and few voters knew about the smear.
These days, though, accusations that have even less evidence behind them - that Mr. Kerry connived his way into getting medals he did not deserve - are widely aired and believed. A Times/CBS poll found that more than 60 percent of the respondents said Mr. Kerry is hiding something or mostly lying about Vietnam.
That's not a problem just for Mr. Kerry, but for the integrity of our political process. As I wrote in my last column, a careful look at Mr. Kerry's war record suggests that he stretched the truth here and there, but he served with immense courage - and he deserved all his medals.
Every single enlisted man who served with Mr. Kerry on his boats at the time he earned his Purple Hearts and Silver and Bronze Stars say the medals were all deserved, and they are all supporting his candidacy.
True, Democrats have also engaged in below-the-belt attacks. Some of"Fahrenheit 9/11," the Michael Moore film, was the liberal equivalent of the anti-Kerry smears. Its innuendos implying that Mr. Bush arranged the war in Afghanistan so backers could profit from an oil pipeline were appalling.
But I, along with some others, immediately complained about"Fahrenheit 9/11." Aside from John McCain, where are the sensible conservatives? Why don't they denounce the Swift Boat Veterans' attacks? And why doesn't President Bush condemn those attacks, showing the kind of integrity that Mr. Dukakis showed?
The news media also need to think through this issue, for we're being manipulated. I remember rumors about Mr. Bush in the 2000 campaign that were well known among journalists, but they never saw the light of print because we could not substantiate them. Every major candidate draws scurrilous charges, but responsible journalists - quite rightly - refuse to report unsubstantiated accusations of things like love children, drug dealing or mistresses. As CBS has found, to its chagrin, extraordinary charges require extraordinary proof.
Even though the Swift Boat Veterans' accusations are unsubstantiated, wealthy Bush supporters have turned them into campaign ads - and the press has often covered the result like a sporting event, rather than trying to find the truth. For voters who question both sides' rhetorical barbs, I recommend www.factcheck.org....
... Claiming that they killed for sport and cut the ears off Viet Cong, the Winter Soldier vets gave testimony that is difficult to prove. "There was this feeling that you had to shock the country into paying attention," says David Thorne, who attended Winter Soldier with Kerry."You wondered whether some [of the vets] were who they said they were." But in Home to War , Kerry told historian Gerald Nicosia that the vets' testimonials were "shattering . . . you could cut through what was bull and what wasn't." O'Neill says most of those who testified were frauds, noting that they declined to cooperate with the Naval Investigative Service and that one, Al Hubbard, was later found to be lying about his Vietnam service.
Kerry appeared on Meet the Press less than three months after Winter Soldier and testified before the Foreign Relations Committee later that same week. (He debated O'Neill, who'd been handpicked to defend Vietnam by the Nixon administration, on the Dick Cavett Show that June.) Some of Kerry's testimony summarized what he'd heard in Detroit, but many Vietnam experts say that even Kerry's more egregious charges before the committee--for example, that soldiers had taped "wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power" --are backed by accounts of other vets and by military documents. "The wiring of guys to field telephones was routine" in the course of interrogations, says Karnow, who covered Vietnam for the Washington Post . A Pulitzer Prize-winning series in the Toledo Blade last year found that one elite Army unit slaughtered more than 100 civilians in 1967, taking scalps and ears as souvenirs. An Army investigation in the 1970s found 18 of the so-called Tiger Force soldiers had committed war crimes, but the probe was terminated before anyone was charged.
While the Army court-martialed at least 200 soldiers for serious offenses against the Vietnamese, a Columbia University Ph.D. candidate who is cataloging atrocities committed in Vietnam says hundreds of other Army investigations produced few courts-martial. "Other than issuing and reissuing regulations," says Nick Turse, who plans to defend his dissertation next spring, "there was no initiative to stop atrocities occurring on a regular basis."
Almost all of Kerry's public statements in 1971 attempted to show that U.S. policies in Vietnam were atrocities in themselves. Many Vietnam scholars agree. "There was a policy directive that said, 'Don't burn down villages,' but it was a pious law," says Edwin Moise, author of Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War . "The real policy endorsed burning down villages. The shelling of some villages was so commonplace that people no longer lived there." Kerry especially loathed Vietnam's free-fire zones, where any humans could be considered an enemy threat and where soldiers were exempted from getting command clearance to fire. "[T]he men who designed the free-fire zone . . . are war criminals," Kerry said on Meet the Press shortly before his Senate appearance.
While there is wide agreement that free-fire zones and the use of napalm unleashed frequent atrocities on civilians--estimates of civilian deaths in Vietnam begin at 500,000--there is debate over whether those policies constituted war crimes. Kerry backed away from the phrase earlier this year, calling it "excessive." But he stood by the substance of his 1971 allegations: "There were policies in place that were not acceptable according to the laws of warfare . . . I'm not going to walk away from that." Because international law deals largely with civilians--who, in Vietnam, were interspersed with and often indistinguishable from guerrilla VC troops--the war crimes issue is murky. "People think it's only a war crime if it's on the level of the Bataan Death March," says the University of Michigan Law School's Steven Ratner. But in combat, a simple "failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants is a violation of the laws of war."
Sakakibara Eisuke interviewed by Hara Manabu,as republished by Japan Focus (Sept. 17, 2004):
[Sakakibara Eisuke was vice finance minister for international affairs in the years 1997-99. He is now a professor at the Global Security Research Center of Keio University. Hara Manabu is Senior Staff Writer of the Asahi Shimbun.]
As the region's economy grows, a common Asian currency will gain favor, says Mr. Yen. 'The current calm Japan-U.S. economic relationship basically means Tokyo is no longer seen as an economic threat to Washington.'
Sakakibara Eisuke, the man known internationally as Mr. Yen from his time as head of international monetary affairs at the Ministry of Finance, believes that Washington's unilateral action in Iraq has triggered the beginning of the decline of the 'Pax Americana.' He foresees that in the mid- to long term, creation of an Asian version of NATO and a common Asian Monetary Unit could become a reality.
Q: What's happening in the world economy?
A: After World War II, there emerged the Pax Americana, an era in which the United States enjoyed overwhelming economic power, not unlike that experienced during the Pax Britannica that dominated the world scene up to the end of World War I. If you look at the world economy in the light of such history, I think that the center of gravity for the world's economy will clearly shift to Asia in this century.
Long before the emergence of the British empire, in fact, the economic balance favored Asia. The region's gross domestic product, including that of China and India, was much greater than the West's total. The current shift in the economic gravity indicates in a sense that the world's economy is returning to where it was before the Pax Britannica.
Q: What is your assessment of Washington's foreign policy in the context of a waning Pax Americana?
A: Ignoring the shift of the economic center of gravity to Asia, Washington intensified its unilateral actions and made pre-emptive strikes on Afghanistan and Iraq, actions that seemed meant to show off its military hegemony. I can understand the tragedy of Sept. 11, but nonetheless, the U.S. military actions have undermined American leadership around the globe. Its allies France and Germany openly defied the United States' unilateral actions in Iraq-they even sided with Russia to oppose Washington policy.
As some U.S. Democrats have pointed out, it is highly likely that these actions could trigger the start of the decline and fall of the United States' empire.
While the country still holds formidable military and economic might, its unilateralism adversely affects its power.
Q: It appears that the Bush administration is becoming bogged down in Iraqi. But the government led by Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro faithfully follows the Washington lead. Do you think such a policy is in Japan's national interest?
A: I think that an alliance with Washington should and will be the axis of Japan's foreign policy. But the current situation is no alliance-it's a dependency under which Tokyo just follows Washington. I think that as long as the two countries are allies, Japan should argue and at times oppose, if necessary, U.S. actions. In Iraq, for instance, Japan should not have gone along with the Bush administration. Japan should have taken concerted action with France and Germany to prevent Washington from going on a rampage. It should still try to do that. Sending the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq was politically a bad move, but more importantly, it was against the Constitution.
Although I favor revision of the Constitution's Article 9, which prohibits possession of military power, the existing Constitution clearly bans Japan from dispatching Self-Defense Forces to Iraq where combat between the U.S.-led allied forces and terrorist groups continues. The Koizumi administration insists that it has sent troops to a noncombat zone. But that is pure fiction.
Q: At present, the economic relationship between the two countries seems to be very stable. What is the reason for this windless calm?
A: I think the current calm Japan-U.S. economic relationship basically means Tokyo is no longer seen as an economic threat to Washington. The Bush administration regards China and India as more formidable competition. China poses a menace to American unemployment, while India presents an outsourcing challenge to U.S. workers.
The Japan-U.S. economic relationship has changed substantially and will not fall into serious bilateral confrontation again. Now, both Tokyo and Washington are puzzling out how to manage their triangular economic relationship with China. Tokyo and Washington may have to cooperate together with Beijing. They will have to confront each other within the framework of this three-way relationship. I am certain China will be a member of the G-7 group within two or three years. So, the overall economic picture in Asia is now completely different.
Q: In a recent symposium, you mentioned the importance of Japan standing on its own feet rather than relying on the United States. What goal should Japan pursue in its diplomacy? What imminent task should the two countries address?
A: Standing on its own feet while maintaining an alliance is not incompatible. Without undermining its alliance with Washington, Japan should try to develop much closer ties with Asia. It won't be easy because it's a delicate issue for Washington. But Japan should set this as its diplomatic target.
The key countries are China and South Korea. Japan has to make its best efforts to improve relationships with them. Koizumi has ruined the relationship with Beijing by visiting Yasukuni Shrine, which Beijing regards as the symbol of Japan's past militarism. Only a handful of people in Japan visit the shrine on Aug. 15, the anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. Koizumi should stop going there, and the government also should scrap its system of screening history textbooks-frequently a contentious issue with the Chinese government.
Meanwhile, what Tokyo and Washington have to do soon is cooperate to bring Beijing more into the international framework.
Q: What economic and political challenges do Japan and the United States face in the mid- to long term?
A: In 10 to 20 years, a movement will emerge to create in Asia a multilateral security arrangement that includes the United States, China and Russia-sort of an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. I am certain this question will become very important. The Bush administration may oppose the idea, but a Democrat administration, if elected, may accept it.
In the economy, the currency cooperation issue will gain importance. Now regional economic integration in Asia has been rapidly progressing and trade and investment increasing. In the international economic environment, the stability of currencies in the region will be in the forefront. Like the European Monetary Unit, creating an Asian Monetary Unit is in sight.
As the first step toward such a goal, Asian nations with huge foreign reserves, especially Japan and China, should set up a kind of Asian Monetary Fund to stabilize the currency market. At present, their total reserves amounted to $2 trillion (220 trillion yen). I think they should earmark 10 percent, roughly $200 billion, for such a fund.
An overlooked truth about the war on terrorism, and the war in Iraq in particular, is that they both arrived too soon for the American military: before it had adequately transformed itself from a dinosauric, Industrial Age beast to a light and lethal instrument skilled in guerrilla warfare, attuned to the local environment in the way of the 19th-century Apaches. My mention of the Apaches is deliberate. For in a world where mass infantry invasions are becoming politically and diplomatically prohibitive -- even as dirty little struggles proliferate, featuring small clusters of combatants hiding out in Third World slums, deserts and jungles -- the American military is back to the days of fighting the Indians.
The red Indian metaphor is one with which a liberal policy nomenklatura may be uncomfortable, but Army and Marine field officers have embraced it because it captures perfectly the combat challenge of the early 21st century. But they don't mean it as a slight against the Native North Americans. The fact that radio call signs so often employ Indian names is an indication of the troops' reverence for them. The range of Indian groups, numbering in their hundreds, that the U.S. Cavalry and Dragoons had to confront was no less varied than that of the warring ethnic and religious militias spread throughout Eurasia, Africa and South America in the early 21st century. When the Cavalry invested Indian encampments, they periodically encountered warrior braves beside women and children, much like Fallujah. Though most Cavalry officers tried to spare the lives of noncombatants, inevitable civilian casualties raised howls of protest among humanitarians back East, who, because of the dissolution of the conscript army at the end of the Civil War, no longer empathized with a volunteer force beyond the Mississippi that was drawn from the working classes.
Indian Country has been expanding in recent years because of the security vacuum created by the collapse of traditional dictatorships and the emergence of new democracies -- whose short-term institutional weaknesses provide whole new oxygen systems for terrorists. Iraq is but a microcosm of the earth in this regard. To wit, the upsurge of terrorism in the vast archipelago of Indonesia, the southern Philippines and parts of Malaysia is a direct result of the anarchy unleashed by the passing of military regimes. Likewise, though many do not realize it, a more liberalized Middle East will initially see greater rather than lesser opportunities for terrorists. As the British diplomatist Harold Nicolson understood, public opinion is not necessarily enlightened merely because it has been suppressed.
I am not suggesting that we should not work for free societies. I am suggesting that our military-security establishment be under no illusions regarding the immediate consequences....
Remember the poll a few years back that found more Americans could name the Three Stooges than the three branches of government? Or the survey, also conducted by the Philadelphia-based National Constitution Center, in which one in four adults couldn't name a single right guaranteed by the 1st Amendment?
OK, it's easy to snicker about the dismal state of history and civics knowledge among ordinary Americans. But let's put a question to some of our elected representatives — like Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and his 59 colleagues who co-authored the Reaffirming American Independence Resolution: What is the foundation for United States law?
Feeney, the resolution's chief sponsor, would probably snap,"The Constitution, of course." But he'd get only partial credit. We'll explain in a minute.
Feeney's HR 568 would direct federal judges not to cite or rely on"judgments, laws or pronouncements" of any other nation in reaching their decisions. This silly declaration, now before the House Judiciary Committee, would have no force of law even if it passed, and it surely would violate the Constitution's separation of powers. Federal judges will dismiss the measure for what it is: more sputtering from the right wing over Supreme Court decisions supporting gay rights and affirmative action that note the legal tolerance other nations display on these issues.
Mostly what HR 568 does is unmask Feeney as a bonehead when it comes to history."Americans should not have to look for guidance on how to live their lives from … foreign organizations," his overblown resolution thunders.
Well then, we'd best forget about the fundamental rights of man. That linchpin of our democracy is a Swiss import from Enlightenment-era philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose writings influenced the Constitution's framers....
THE WAR IN IRAQ goes from worse to catastrophic. Hundreds of Iraqis were killed last week, as were two dozen US soldiers. Planned elections in January point less to democracy than civil war. Kidnapping has become a weapon of terror on the ground, matching the terror of US air attacks. An American"take-back" offensive threatens to escalate the violence immeasurably. The secretary general of the United Nations pronounced the American war illegal.
In the United States, an uneasy electorate keeps its distance from all of this. Polls show that most Americans maintain faith in the Bush administration's handling of the war, while others greet reports of the disasters more with resignation than passionate opposition. To the mounting horror of the world, the United States of America is relentlessly bringing about the systematic destruction of a small, unthreatening nation for no good reason. Why has this not gripped the conscience of this country?
The answer goes beyond Bush to the 60-year history of an accidental readiness to destroy the earth, a legacy with which we Americans have yet to reckon. The punitive terror bombing that marked the end of World War II hardly registered with us. Then we passively accepted our government's mad embrace of thermonuclear weapons. While we demonized our Soviet enemy, we hardly noticed that almost every major escalation of the arms race was initiated by our side -- a race that would still be running if Mikhail Gorbachev had not dropped out of it.
In 1968, we elected Richard Nixon to end the war in Vietnam, then blithely acquiesced when he kept it going for years more. When Ronald Reagan made a joke of wiping out Moscow, we gathered a million strong to demand a nuclear"freeze," but then accepted the promise of"reduction," and took no offense when the promise was broken.
We did not think it odd that America's immediate response to the nonviolent fall of the Berlin Wall was an invasion of Panama. We celebrated the first Gulf War uncritically, even though that display of unchecked American power made Iran and North Korea redouble efforts to build a nuclear weapon, while prompting Osama bin Laden's jihad. The Clinton administration affirmed the permanence of American nukes as a"hedge" against unnamed fears, and we accepted it. We shrugged when the US Senate refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, with predictable results in India and Pakistan. We bought the expansion of NATO, the abrogation of the ABM Treaty, the embrace of National Missile Defense -- all measures that inevitably pushed other nations toward defensive escalation.
The war policy of George W. Bush --"preventive war," unilateralism, contempt for Geneva -- breaks with tradition, but there is nothing new about the American population's refusal to face what is being done in our name. This is a sad, old story. It leaves us ill-equipped to deal with a pointless, illegal war. The Bush war in Iraq, in fact, is only the latest in a chain of irresponsible acts of a warrior government, going back to the firebombing of Tokyo. In comparison to that, the fire from our helicopter gunships above the cities of Iraq this week is benign. Is that why we take no offense?
Something deeply shameful has us in its grip. We carefully nurture a spirit of detachment toward the wars we pay for. But that means we cloak ourselves in cold indifference to the unnecessary suffering of others -- even when we cause it. We don't look at any of this directly because the consequent guilt would violate our sense of ourselves as nice people. Meaning no harm, how could we inflict such harm?...
James Bennet, in the NYT (Sept. 19, 2004):
...On Wednesday, in a rare development, one candidate was pressed for specifics. The radio host Don Imus asked Mr. Kerry how he would meet his stated goal of leaving Iraq in a first term. Mr. Kerry said, "The plan gets more complicated every single day" because of the mayhem there.
He said he would "immediately call a summit meeting of the European community," seek more help from allies and speed training of Iraqi troops. Questioned further, Mr. Kerry said: "What everybody in America ought to be doing today is not asking me. They ought to be asking the president, 'What is your plan?' "
Mr. Imus said, "We're asking you because you want to be president."
Mr. Kerry replied, "I can't tell you what I'm going to find on the ground on Jan. 20."
During presidential races in two previous wars in 1952, during the Korean war, and in 1968, during the Vietnam War the debate also stayed blurry. "That's a straight line from '52 through '68 to today," said Douglas. C. Foyle, a political scientist at Wesleyan University who is writing a book about the effect of campaigns on foreign policy. "Nobody has an answer and nobody's being very specific."
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower won in 1952 after offering only the fuzziest of alternatives. Just before the election, he promised that, if elected, he would "concentrate on the job of ending the Korean war" and added, "I shall go to Korea." He left wide open the question of what he might do there.
In 1968, Richard Nixon promised "to end the war and win the peace." He offered few specifics beyond one that has an echo in Mr. Kerry's campaign today - a pledge to speed the training of the local American allies, South Vietnamese troops.
"He was very cagey about it," said Kenneth L. Khachigian, a longtime Republican strategist who, at 23, was a researcher for Nixon in 1968. "He didn't want to restrict his options." Mr. Khachigian noted that Nixon had a significant advantage over Mr. Kerry - he could sit back and let Democratic opponents of the war attack it and his rival, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.
Mr. Kerry's advisers say that he plans to present soon a more detailed proposal for ending the conflict. To be credible, he must address voters' worries about the war, they say, though they believe domestic issues like health care are more politically effective for him.
Mr. Kerry's critics say his caution fuels a perception that he is being evasive. But he has real "incentives to obfuscate," said Peter Feaver, a political scientist at Duke University, including concerns that a new attack in the United States or a sudden change in Iraq could make committing to a specific proposal now seem misguided later.
The bulk of Mr. Bush's supporters on the Iraq conflict have similar reasons for backing it, while his critics differ on fundamental questions like whether it is a good war fought poorly or a mistaken venture from the start. "His statements on Iraq, if he's precise, end up offending one or the other wing," Professor Feaver said of Mr. Kerry....
Stanley Kober, at he website of the Cato Institute (Sept. 18, 2004):
[Stanley Kober is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. ]
The decision to go to war is the most fateful one political leaders ever make. At what point does one decide non-military measures for resolving a dispute are exhausted, and that further delay in initiating hostilities is too dangerous? Winston Churchill, who led Britain in its finest hour, understood this tension."Those who are prone...to fight whenever some challenge comes from a foreign Power, have not always been right," he warned in his history of the Second World War."These are the tormenting dilemmas upon which mankind has throughout its history been so frequently impaled."
The dilemma is illustrated by the different approach to preventive war adopted by Napoleon and Bismarck. By 1811, Napoleon had decided to initiate war with Russia, having been convinced by reports that Tsar Alexander I was preparing to attack France. His former ambassador to Russia, General Armand de Caulaincourt, was dismayed."The Emperor repeated all the fantastic stories which, to please him, were fabricated in Danzig, in the Duchy of Warsaw, and even in the north of Germany -- stories the accuracy of which had been disproved time and again," he recounted in his memoirs. But Napoleon, convinced of easy victory, could not be dissuaded.
Initially, the war justified Napoleon's confidence. He crushed the Russian army in the battle of Borodino, and his army proceeded to occupy Moscow. The tsar, however, did not surrender. Worse, the Russian people did not respond to Napoleon's promise of liberation but instead resisted the foreign occupation; the people of Moscow even burned their own city. With the specter of disaster looming over him, Napoleon ordered a retreat. As his army disintegrated, his allies deserted him, and ultimately he was forced to surrender and submit to exile.
Bismarck's approach to preventive war was far different. In his memoirs Bismarck addresses"the question whether it was desirable, as regards a war which we should probably have to face sooner or later, to bring it on anticipado before the adversary could improve his preparations," and concludes that"even victorious wars cannot be justified unless they are forced upon one." Perhaps most important, he stressed the uncertain outcome of the processes wars set in motion, writing that"one cannot see the cards of Providence far enough ahead to anticipate historical developments according to one's own calculations."
Unlike Napoleon, Bismarck did not lose a war, and he left Germany far stronger than how he found it. But Providence had a destiny that confounded Bismarck's legacy.
[Mr. Ponte hosts a national radio talk show Saturdays 6-9 PM Eastern Time (3-6 PM Pacific Time) and Sundays 9 PM-Midnight Eastern Time (6-9 PM Pacific Time) on the Liberty Broadcasting network (formerly TalkAmerica). Internet Audio worldwide is at LibertyBroadcasting .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-866-GO LOWELL (1-866-465-6935). A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.]
DAN RATHER HAS ALWAYS BEEN STRANGE. But as the veteran CBS Evening News anchor approaches his 73rd birthday this Halloween and the sunset of his career, the lengthening shadows cast by his latest controversy have begun to expose how eccentric, megalomaniacal and devoid of ethics and judgment he for decades has been.
Daniel Irvin Rather was born October 31, 1931, near Houston in Wharton, Texas. Less than two years later his grandfather John Daniel Dan Rather, namesake of both baby Dan and his pipeline supervisor father, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In 1953, Rather graduated with a degree in journalism from Sam Houston State Teachers College. He had already been working for Associated Press and then United Press International and a few radio stations as a stringer reporting stories that happened in Huntsville north of Houston. But being in college gave Rather a semester-by-semester student deferment from being drafted into the Korean War.
After Rather graduated, the way he got around being eligible for the draft was he joined a reserve unit Army reserve, wrote B.G. Burkett, co-author of the book Stolen Valor. Rather dropped out of the reserves as soon as the Korean War ended in armistice. Whether Rather used journalist or related politician connections to get into the Army reserves, as he would later accuse President George W. Bush of doing in the Texas Air National Guard, is unknown.
Former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg in his 2002 best-seller Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News described a confrontation with the anchorman: Rathers voice started quivering, and he told me how in his young days, he had signed up with the Marines not once, but twice!
This was inaccurate. Rather signed up once with the Army reserves and once with the U.S. Marines. Rather, wrote Burkett after studying his military record, was discharged less than four months later on May 11, 1954 for being medically unfit He couldnt do the physical activity. As a boy, Rather had suffered from rheumatic fever, reported veteran UPI journalist Wes Vernon.
Ever since Dan Rather has described himself as a former U.S. Marine, after spending roughly the same amount of time in Marine Corps training before being rejected that now-Senator John F. Kerry spent in Vietnam. This, wrote Burkett, is like a guy who flunks out of Harvard running around saying he went to Harvard.
Returning to journalism, Rather worked at the Houston Chronicle 1954-55. In 1959 he became a television reporter for KTRK-TV in Houston, then moved to rival KHOU-TV, where by 1962 he had worked his way up to station news director. CBS network executives saw Rathers dynamic work as a reporter covering Hurricane Carla from Galveston in 1961, and in 1962 he was hired as a correspondent for CBS News. He would, quite by accident as his autobiography described, be the first journalist to report that President John F. Kennedy had died. In 1964 Rather was promoted to cover the White House for CBS.
The loose journalistic ethics that have characterized Rathers entire career were soon evident. Rather would go with an item even if he didnt have it completely nailed down with verifiable facts, wrote Timothy Crouse in his best-seller about presidential campaign coverage in the Nixon era The Boys on the Bus. If a rumor sounded solid to him, if he believed in his gut or had gotten it from a man who struck him as honest, he would let it rip. The other White House reporters hated Rather for this. They knew exactly why he got away with it: being handsome as a cowboy, Rather was a star at CBS News, and that gave him the clout he needed. They could quote all his lapses from fact .
During a 1974 press conference with President Richard Nixon, the president indicated that the next question belonged to an ABC reporter, but Rather butted in: Thank you, Mr. President. Dan Rather of CBS News. Mr. President By now other reporters were jeering Rathers brazen, unethical behavior, prompting President Nixon to joke: Are you running for something? No, sir, Mr. President, Rather replied arrogantly, Are you?
CBS executives debated whether to fire Rather over the White House incident. But veteran anchorman Walter Cronkite was nearing retirement, and CBSs attempt to hire NBCs Tom Brokaw was scrapped after it became public. Rather was the brightest star the Tiffany network had to succeed the avuncular Cronkite.
Dan Rathers first broadcast as the new Anchorman and Managing Editor of the CBS Evening News took place March 9, 1981, weeks after Ronald Reagan had been sworn in as President. The anti-Republican bias in Rathers own reporting was already widely recognized, but the Texan as Managing Editor of the news now imposed his slant on all newscast reporting, not just his own. Every bad economic story mentioned Reaganomics, a label Rather ceased using after economic news turned good. In one surreal report by correspondent Ray Brady, Reagans success in ending predecessor President Jimmy Carters double-digit inflation was reported as bad news bad, said Brady and Rather, because with no rise in the cost of living, welfare recipients would get no cost of living increases in their welfare checks.
During the 1988 presidential race Rather, after making much of the alleged Iran-Contra affair, confronted then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. Bush hit back, asking Rather if he wanted viewers to judge his entire journalistic career by a 1987 incident in which, in a fit of pique that a tennis broadcast had delayed his newscast, Rather walked off the set, leaving affiliate stations with six minutes of dead air. I would have fired him, said Walter Cronkite of Rathers petulant, hotheaded, egotistical and unprofessional behavior. Theres no excuse for it. Rather has evidenced a personal animus for President Bush and Bushs son George W. Bush since that confrontation.
As CBS News ratings slid downward, CBS has frantically tried to improve Rathers image with everything from putting him in sweaters, to teaming him 1993-95 with co-anchor Connie Chung. CBSs handlers have had the Texan use folksy sayings that have come to be known as Ratherisms, e.g., This race is shakier than cafeteria Jello, or Governor Bush would probably be as mad as a rained-on rooster. For a time they had Rather end each broadcast with the word Courage. None of these gimmicks have halted the Rather ratings slide, which continues.
Rather is now viewed by many not as a serious journalist but as an American eccentric and pop-culture icon. Since trekking into Afghanistan to report live on the Soviet invasion dressed as a Mujahadeen, Rather has been widely referred to as Gunga Dan. After he was assaulted on the street by a man who kept saying Kenneth, what is the frequency? this phrase inspired a hit song by the pop group R.E.M. Rather has become a figure for satire and ridicule on Saturday Night Live and elsewhere.
Rathers leftward bias, as Bernard Goldberg warned, is one reason for the rising average age and declining number of CBS viewers. If it returned to fair and even-handed reporting CBS might win back the trust of viewers, but Rather is apparently unwilling to employ non-liberal producers or reporters.
Dan Rather has almost always deflected questions about his bias and lapses in journalistic ethics by dismissing all who question him as partisans. Sigmund Freud coined a term for this psychological condition projection the innate tendency to project ones own traits onto others, e.g., of a thief to assume that everybody else is a thief. Those who call me a partisan, says Rather, are obviously partisans.
"You have to understand that Dan Rather is Richard Nixon," Goldberg in Bias recounted a colleague telling him. "If he sees you as an enemy even for a second, you're an enemy for life. And like Nixon, Rather must destroy his enemies [and] has become what he detested."
Who among us have not lied about somebody? said Rather to Fox News Channel host Bill OReilly regarding the veracity of President Bill Clinton. I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.
Rather apparently believes that his longstanding pattern described by Crouse of presenting rumors as fact, or apparently even outright lying and rule-breaking, are entirely acceptable so long as they advance a liberal agenda. One example of this, dubbed The First Rathergate by National Review reporter Anne Morse, was a 1988 documentary in which Dan Rather purported to interview Vietnam veterans about atrocities they had committed. It resembled an hour of John Kerrys 1971 testimony before Congress describing U.S. soldiers as war criminals that instantly became anti-American propaganda for the Soviet Union. But as Morse documented, everything in Dan Rathers documentary was a lie.
If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been in the White House, said Rather during an interview with President Clinton, wed take it right now and walk away winners. Such are Dan Rathers morals and ideals, but note that as a monarch of media he speaks in the royal we.
But while he has done nearly-sycophantic interviews with Hillary Clinton, Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein, Rather over the years has demonstrated almost-unrelenting hostility and negative statements regarding Republicans and conservatives. His outright confrontations with Presidents Nixon and George H.W. Bush are examples of this.
Goldberg in his 2003 book Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite quotes a typical Dan Rather news story: The new Republican majority in Congress took a big step today on its legislative agenda to demolish or damage government aid programs, many of them designed to help children and the poor.
I think Dan is transparently liberal, Rathers CBS colleague Andy Rooney told CNNs Larry King during a 2002 interview. I always agree with him, too. But I think he should be more careful.
The current controversy over forged memos and Rathers attack on the son of his longtime nemesis President George H.W. Bush continues several old Dan Rather patterns of behavior. To understand its context, we should examine some key details.
In 2001 Dan Rather helped the Travis County Democratic Party raise $20,000. Please join us for an evening with DAN RATHER read the invitations that, as Brent Bozell of Media Research Center reported at the time, arrived with an RSVP envelope asking for $1,000 for the Democratic Party. Rather later claimed he did not know the event, created by and for his activist, politically-ambitious daughter, was a fundraiser. When asked about it by Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, Rather said he wouldnt be surprised if critics used the incident to call him a closet Democrat. Im going to get that criticism, said Rather, whether I deserve it or not.
Rather, according to columnist Liz Smith, also took part in a 1988 fundraiser for Democrat Ann Richards in New York City that gathered up money in buckets used in 1990 to elect Richards Governor of Texas. Rathers comrade Governor Richards lost her bid for re-election to George W. Bush.
Travis County, Texas includes the liberal capital city Austin. The county party for which Rather appeared at that 2001 fundraiser is heavily connected with local Democratic money man and lobbyist Ben Barnes, the third biggest fundraiser for Democrats in the United States. Barnes appeared on the same 60 Minutes II feature in which Rather first displayed his apparently-forged documents. Barnes claimed in that interview to have used political influence to get a young George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, a claim Barnes own daughter has said her father told her was a lie. Rather, in introducing Barnes, told the CBS audience nothing about the shipwreck of Barnes political career amid a bribery and stock fraud scandal, nor that Barnes stood to become very wealthy as a toll-collecting gatekeeper for White House favors if John F. Kerry were elected President. This column on September 8 did, documenting Barnes sordid and sticky-fingered past. Barnes has raised at least $500,000 in campaign contributions for Kerry.
These apparently-forged memos were sent to CBS, according to the Washington Post, from Abilene, Texas. The suspected faxer Bill Burkett is represented by lawyer David Van Os, former chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party. Burkett has been a Democratic Party activist in Travis County, and has said that he gave his information to John Kerrys presidential campaign via Kerry spokesman former Georgia Senator Max Cleland.
It seems likely that Barnes and Van Os both attended the Dan Rather fundraiser for this county party in which both remain major players and spoke with Rather there.
Dan Rathers story, based on apparently-forged documents, could have caused the defeat of President George W. Bush in Novembers election. Because Mr. Rather seems always to have regarded himself as having the moral right to topple elected presidents and thereby put others more to his liberal liking in power, he as an un-elected ruler of the national media ought to face the same kind of scrutiny he applies to others.
What if a document from Dan Rathers past revealed information that suggests he engaged in criminal behavior, violated the ethical standards of journalism, and engaged in activities so reckless, irresponsible and self-destructive that they could be impairing his judgment today? Is Dan Rather man enough to answer the hard questions about this genuine document that he has demanded President Bush answer about Rathers fake documents?
This Rather-incriminating document, in fact, exists. My column here at FrontPage Magazine laid it out in detail five years ago, and also framed a set of precise questions for Dan Rather to answer. The irony, of course, is that if Dan Rather were interviewing a Republican President named Dan Rather, these are exactly the kinds of questions to which a reporter with his skill and determination would demand answers.
Twenty-four years ago Dan Rather gave a remarkable interview to journalist Cliff Jahr. It appeared in, of all places, the July 1980 issue of that news-breaking national magazine Ladies' Home Journal under the title "Soft Side of a Tough Anchorman." You can find it at any large public library. In it, asked about his children in a era of widespread drug use, Rather is quoted by Jahr: "I told them if you're hell-bent to try pot, and I suspect you will be, then try it at home around people who care about you."
When Jahr asked if the anchorman himself had smoked marijuana, Dan Rather in part replied: "As a reporterand I don't want to say that that's the only contextI've tried everything. I can say to you with confidence, I know a fair amount about LSD. I've never been a social user of any of these things, but my curiosity has carried me into a lot of interesting areas."
Jahr quotes Dan Rather as continuing: "As an example, in 1955 or '56, I had someone at the Houston police station shoot me with heroin so I could do a story about it. The experience was a special kind of hell. I came out understanding full well how one could be addicted to 'smack,' and quickly. When the children were fairly young, and there was so much emphasis everywhere on drugs, it was not possible for them to tell me I didn't know what I was talking about."
As the CBS Evening News managing editor, Dan Rather would undoubtedly dispatch investigative reporters to Houston to interview every person who knew, or had heard rumors about, Republican candidate Dan Rather's drug experimentation. And he would report every shred of solid (negative) information or perhaps even rumor that could be found.
This confession raises some interesting questions that might be posed Sixty Minutes style thus:
Mr. Rather, were you aware that if you had no proper prescription from a licensed doctor authorizing such heroin use that you were committing a felony punishable by long-term imprisonment in Texasand that whoever helped you would be an accomplice in this felony?
Mr. Rather, when you reportedly told Cliff Jahr 'I know a fair amount about LSD,' how many times have you taken this mind-altering substance? Where? Have you experienced 'flashbacks,' one of the reported long-term aftereffects of using this drug, while preparing or doing a newscast or driving a car? What exactly happened in your mind on that strange day you disappeared from a newscast for six minutes during a tennis match? What other 'interesting areas' involving drugs has your curiosity carried you into? What was the most recent date or year you used illegal drugs?
Mr. Rather, did you tell CBS of your prior drug experimentation when they offered to hire you? If so, please name the CBS officials you informed of your drug use. If not, do you believe CBS should be entitled to fire you in light of learning that you engaged in such reckless felonious lawbreaking behavior?
Mr. Rather, modern research is finding that even a single use of certain powerful mind-altering drugs such as heroin, LSD or amphetamine can create new circuits, permanent new pathways in the brain, and that this is one of the reasons these drugs can quickly become addictive. Have you had any craving to repeat your heroin experiment? Were your perceptions or feelings about life and the world permanently changed in any way by your drug experiences? How has it affected your political view of the world?
Mr. Rather, do you believe that those who turn to CBS News and rely on you to give them and their children clear-headed, reliable information and a role model of responsible professional behavior should be informed of your experimentation with mind-altering illicit drugs?
A top-notch reporter like Dan Rather would not rest until he'd gotten answers to these questions and dozens more from any Republican Presidential candidate who had apparently boasted in a nationally published interview of using marijuana, LSD and heroin.
But the press rarely scrutinizes itself, and as one of the Olympian gods of
news Dan Rather will almost certainly remain above press questions that he would
face were he a mere mortal or U.S. president.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, in the WSJ (subscribers only) (Sept. 20, 2004):
Thou art so pitiful,
Poor, and so sorrowful,
Yet of great treasure full,
Russia, my Mother!
Citing these stirring words of the poet Nekrasov, Vladimir I. Lenin, the new dictator of Russia, published on March 12, 1918, his reasons for moving Russia's seat of government from St. Petersburg (Petrograd) to Moscow. Amid the chaos, confusion, and violence of those revolutionary days, Lenin, having just five days earlier entrenched himself in the Kremlin, proclaimed:
"Russia will become mighty and abundant if she abandons all dejection and all phrase-making, if, with clenched teeth, she musters all her forces and strains every nerve and muscle. . . . work with might and main to establish discipline and self-discipline, consolidate everywhere organization, order, efficiency, and the harmonious co-operation of all the forces of the people, introduce comprehensive accounting of and control over production and distribution -- such is the way to build up military might and socialist might."
Moscow -- which centuries earlier had been the capital of Ivan the Terrible but was demoted to the status of a provincial town when Peter the Great opened a window to Europe by constructing St. Petersburg as his new capital -- thus once again became Russia's epicenter. And so it remains to this day, with Lenin's slogans eerily anticipating Vladimir Putin's recent justification for centralized power.
It is important to recognize that to the Russians the Kremlin is more than just the seat of government. It epitomizes the centralizing tradition of the Russian autocracy. It is a tradition that is fearful of any regional autonomy, of any genuine decentralization, a tradition that fosters the chauvinist paranoia that political pluralism will almost inevitably precipitate the breakup of Russia itself. That mentality fitted well into the Stalinist notions of central planning, and it fit well into the bureaucratic mentality of the KGB with its ethic of suspicion and hierarchic discipline. For products of the KGB, such as Mr. Putin, it is axiomatic that if Russia is to be "mighty, all-powerful," it must be ruled from the top down.
[Irwin M. Stelzer is a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard.]
Economist friends who have served in government like to joke that after a newly arrived president has finished admiring the Oval Office, he starts hunting for the secret room containing the knobs that control the economy. It's always a fruitless search. Still, presidents are not completely powerless to affect the economy.
Since World War II, the economy seems to have performed better under Democratic presidents than under more overtly pro-business Republican chief executives. Republicans from Dwight D. Eisenhower through George W. Bush presided over economies that grew, on average, at an annual rate of about 2.6%. By contrast, the gross domestic product under presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton rose, on average, at about a 4% rate. Only three presidents left office with the unemployment rate higher than when they were sworn in: Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.
Shareholders also have done better when Democrats resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Between 1953 and the end of the Clinton administration, share prices averaged about a 10% annual increase when Republicans controlled the White House, well below the 15% during Democratic administrations. If the more-than-10% decline in the Standard & Poor's average during the current Bush administration is included, Republicans have been even worse, relatively speaking, for shareholders. But the healthy-profits picture makes it premature to include President Bush in this tally, as share prices might recover by year-end.
Interest rates tell a different story. During the administrations of Kennedy, Johnson and Carter, interest rates rose. Clinton is the only Democrat in modern times to leave office with interest rates lower than when he was sworn in. Republican presidents, on the other hand, typically depart with interest rates lower than when they moved into the White House. Only Nixon, he of wage-and-price controls, left Washington with rates up; Ford, Reagan and both Bushes presided over falling rates.
A president's economic performance is affected by many factors. For one thing, every president inherits an economy shaped by his predecessor. Nixon inherited the inflation caused by Johnson's unwillingness to choose between guns and butter during the Vietnam War. And George W. Bush took over a weakening economy. Clinton was luckier: He was handed a recovery that began in the last months of George H.W. Bush's single term, and a banking system newly restored to health.
Some presidents squander their inheritance; others build on it. Former President Bush frittered away the tax and regulatory reforms bequeathed to him by Reagan; Clinton capitalized on the peace dividend left by Reagan by putting the fiscal house in order.
Then there are what former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said he feared most:"Events, dear boy, events." Johnson had Vietnam; Carter, the emergence of the OPEC cartel; George W. Bush, Sept. 11....
So is John Kerry a war hero or a medal-grabbing phony?
Each time that I've written about President Bush's dalliance with the National Guard, conservative readers have urged me to scrutinize the accusations against Mr. Kerry. After doing so over the last week, here's where I come out:
Did Mr. Kerry volunteer for dangerous duty? Not as much as his campaign would like you to believe. The Kerry Web site declares, "As he was graduating from Yale, John Kerry volunteered to serve in Vietnam - because, as he later said, 'It was the right thing to do.' "
In fact, as Mr. Kerry was about to graduate from Yale, he was inquiring about getting an educational deferment to study in Europe. When that got nowhere, he volunteered for the Navy, which was much less likely to involve danger in Vietnam than other services. After a year on a ship in the ocean, Mr. Kerry volunteered for Swift boats, but at that time they were used only in Vietnam's coastal waters. A short time later, the Swift boats were assigned exceptionally dangerous duties up Vietnamese rivers. "When I signed up for the Swift boats, they had very little to do with the war,'' Mr. Kerry wrote in 1986, adding, "I didn't really want to get involved in the war."
Did Mr. Kerry get his first Purple Heart for a self-inflicted wound? That's the accusation of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who say that the injury came (unintentionally) from a grenade that Mr. Kerry himself fired at Viet Cong. In fact, nobody knows where the shrapnel came from, and it's possible that the critics are right. It's not certain that the Viet Cong were returning fire. But the only other American on the boat in a position to see anything, Bill Zaldonis (who says he voted for Mr. Bush in 2000) told me, "He was hurt, and I don't think it was self-inflicted."
Did Mr. Kerry deserve his second and third Purple Hearts? There's not much dispute that the second was merited. As for the third one, the Swift Boat Veterans' claim that he received it for a minor injury he got while blowing up food supplies to keep them from the enemy. But documents and witness accounts show that he received a shrapnel wound when South Vietnamese troops blew up rice stores, and an injured arm in a mine explosion later that day.
Did Mr. Kerry deserve his Bronze Star? Yes. The Swift Boat Veterans claim that he was not facing enemy fire when he rescued a Green Beret, Jim Rassmann, but that is contradicted by those were there, like William Rood and Mr. Rassmann (a Republican). In fact, Mr. Rassmann recommended Mr. Kerry for a Silver Star.
Did Mr. Kerry deserve his Silver Star? Absolutely. He earned it for responding to two separate ambushes in a courageous and unorthodox way, by heading straight into the gunfire. Then he pursued one armed fighter into the jungle and shot him dead. According to Fred Short, a machine gunner who saw the event, the fighter was an adult (not the half-naked teenager cited by the Swift Boat Veterans) who was preparing to launch a grenade at the boat. "Kerry went into harm's way to save the lives of the guys on the boat," Mr. Short told me. "If he hadn't done that, I am absolutely positive I would not be here today." Mr. Kerry's commander said he had wanted to give him an even higher honor, the Navy Cross, but thought it would take too long to process.
Did Mr. Kerry exaggerate his exploits? Yes. For example, he has often said over the years that he spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia as part of the secret war there. Others who served with him confirm that on Christmas Eve 1968 (not Christmas Day) he got very close to the border, and possibly even strayed across it. But it doesn't seem to have been, as Mr. Kerry has suggested, a deliberate incursion into Cambodia.
What do those who served with him say? Some who served on other boats have called Mr. Kerry a hypochondriac self-promoter. But every enlisted man who was with Mr. Kerry on various boats when he won Purple Hearts and Silver and Bronze Stars says he deserved them. All praise his courage and back his candidacy. "I was there for two of the Purple Hearts and the Bronze and Silver Stars, and he earned every one of them," said Delbert Sandusky, in a typical comment. "He saved our lives."
The bottom line? Mr. Kerry has stretched the truth here and there, but earned his decorations. And the Swift Boat Veterans, contradicted by official records and virtually everyone who witnessed the incidents, are engaging in one of the ugliest smears in modern U.S. politics.
Noam Chomsky, at TomDispatch.com (Sept. 16, 2004):
[Noam Chomsky is a Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. In addition to Hegemony or Survival, America's Quest for Global Dominance (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books), he is the author of numerous books on linguistics and on U.S. foreign policy.]
As Colin Powell explained the National Security Strategy (NSS) of September 2002 to a hostile audience at the World Economic Forum, Washington has a"sovereign right to use force to defend ourselves'' from nations that possess WMD and cooperate with terrorists, the official pretexts for invading Iraq. The collapse of the pretexts is well known, but there has been insufficient attention to its most important consequence: the NSS was effectively revised to lower the bars to aggression. The need to establish ties to terror was quietly dropped. More significant, Bush and colleagues declared the right to resort to force even if a country does not have WMD or even programs to develop them. It is sufficient that it have the"intent and ability'' to do so. Just about every country has the ability, and intent is in the eye of the beholder. The official doctrine, then, is that anyone is subject to overwhelming attack. Colin Powell carried the revision even a step further. The president was right to attack Iraq because Saddam not only had"intent and capability'' but had"actually used such horrible weapons against his enemies in Iran and against his own people''-- with continuing support from Powell and his associates, he failed to add, following the usual convention. Condoleezza Rice gave a similar version. With such reasoning as this, who is exempt from attack? Small wonder that, as one Reuters report put it,"if Iraqis ever see Saddam Hussein in the dock, they want his former American allies shackled beside him.''
In the desperate flailing to contrive justifications as one pretext after another collapsed, the obvious reason for the invasion was conspicuously evaded by the administration and commentators: to establish the first secure military bases in a client state right at the heart of the world's major energy resources, understood since World War II to be a"stupendous source of strategic power'' and expected to become even more important in the future. There should have been little surprise at revelations that the administration intended to attack Iraq before 9-11, and downgraded the"war on terror'' in favor of this objective. In internal discussion, evasion is unnecessary. Long before they took office, the private club of reactionary statists had recognized that"the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.'' With all the vacillations of policy since the current incumbents first took office in 1981, one guiding principle remains stable: the Iraqi people must not rule Iraq.
The 2002 National Security Strategy, and its implementation in Iraq, are widely regarded as a watershed in international affairs."The new approach is revolutionary,'' Henry Kissinger wrote, approving of the doctrine but with tactical reservations and a crucial qualification: it cannot be"a universal principle available to every nation.'' The right of aggression is to be reserved for the US and perhaps its chosen clients. We must reject the most elementary of moral truisms, the principle of universality -- a stand usually concealed in professions of virtuous intent and tortured legalisms.
Arthur Schlesinger agreed that the doctrine and implementation were"revolutionary,'' but from a quite different standpoint. As the first bombs fell on Baghdad, he recalled FDR's words following the bombing of Pearl Harbor,"a date which will live in infamy.'' Now it is Americans who live in infamy, he wrote, as their government adopts the policies of imperial Japan. He added that George Bush had converted a"global wave of sympathy'' for the US into a"global wave of hatred of American arrogance and militarism.'' A year later,"discontent with America and its policies had intensified rather than diminished.'' Even in Britain support for the war had declined by a third.
As predicted, the war increased the threat of terror. Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges found it"simply unbelievable how the war has revived the appeal of a global jihadi Islam that was in real decline after 9-11.'' Recruitment for the Al Qaeda networks increased, while Iraq itself became a"terrorist haven'' for the first time. Suicide attacks for the year 2003 reached the highest level in modern times; Iraq suffered its first since the thirteenth century. Substantial specialist opinion concluded that the war also led to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
As the anniversary of the invasion approached, New York's Grand Central Station was patrolled by police with submachine guns, a reaction to the March 11 Madrid train bombings that killed 200 people in Europe's worst terrorist crime. A few days later, the Spanish electorate voted out the government that had gone to war despite overwhelming popular opposition. Spaniards were condemned for appeasing terrorism by voting for withdrawing troops from Iraq in the absence of UN authorization -- that is, for taking a stand rather like that of 70 percent of Americans, who called for the UN to take the leading role in Iraq.
Bush assured Americans that"The world is safer today because, in Iraq, our coalition ended a regime that cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction.'' The president's handlers know that every word is false, but they also know that lies can become Truth, if repeated insistently enough.
There is broad agreement among specialists on how to reduce the threat of terror --keeping here to the subcategory that is doctrinally acceptable, their terror against us -- and also on how to incite terrorist atrocities, which may become truly horrendous. The consensus is well articulated by Jason Burke in his study of the Al Qaeda phenomenon, the most detailed and informed investigation of this loose array of radical Islamists for whom bin Laden is hardly more than a symbol (a more dangerous one after he is killed, perhaps, becoming a martyr who inspires others to join his cause). The role of Washington's current incumbents, in their Reaganite phase, in creating the radical Islamist networks is well known. Less familiar is their tolerance of Pakistan's slide toward radical Islamist extremism and its development of nuclear weapons.
As Burke reviews, Clinton's 1998 bombings of Sudan and Afghanistan created bin Laden as a symbol, forged close relations between him and the Taliban, and led to a sharp increase in support, recruitment, and financing for Al Qaeda, which until then was virtually unknown. The next major contribution to the growth of Al Qaeda and the prominence of bin Laden was Bush's bombing of Afghanistan following September 11, undertaken without credible pretext as later quietly conceded. As a result, bin Laden's message"spread among tens of millions of people, particularly the young and angry, around the world,'' Burke writes, reviewing the increase in global terror and the creation of"a whole new cadre of terrorists'' enlisted in what they see as a" cosmic struggle between good and evil,'' a vision shared by bin Laden and Bush. As noted, the invasion of Iraq had the same effect.
Citing many examples, Burke concludes that"Every use of force is another small victory for bin Laden,'' who"is winning,'' whether he lives or dies. Burke's assessment is widely shared by many analysts, including former heads of Israeli military intelligence and the General Security Services.
There is also a broad consensus on what the proper reaction to terrorism should be. It is two-pronged: directed at the terrorists themselves and at the reservoir of potential support. The appropriate response to terrorist crimes is police work, which has been successful worldwide. More important is the broad constituency the terrorists -- who see themselves as a vanguard -- seek to mobilize, including many who hate and fear them but nevertheless see them as fighting for a just cause. We can help the vanguard mobilize this reservoir of support by violence, or can address the"myriad grievances,'' many legitimate, that are"the root causes of modern Islamic militancy.'' That can significantly reduce the threat of terror, and should be undertaken independently of this goal.
Violence can succeed, as Americans know well from the conquest of the national territory. But at terrible cost. It can also provoke violence in response, and often does. Inciting terror is not the only illustration. Others are even more hazardous.
In February 2004, Russia carried out its largest military exercises in two decades, prominently exhibiting advanced WMD. Russian generals and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that they were responding to Washington's plans"to make nuclear weapons an instrument of solving military tasks,'' including its development of new low-yield nuclear weapons,"an extremely dangerous tendency that is undermining global and regional stability,... lowering the threshold for actual use.'' Strategic analyst Bruce Blair writes that Russia is well aware that the new"bunker busters'' are designed to target the"high-level nuclear command bunkers'' that control its nuclear arsenal. Ivanov and Russian generals report that in response to US escalation they are deploying"the most advanced state-of-the-art missile in the world,'' perhaps next to impossible to destroy, something that"would be very alarming to the Pentagon,'' says former Assistant Defense Secretary Phil Coyle. US analysts suspect that Russia may also be duplicating US development of a hypersonic cruise vehicle that can re-enter the atmosphere from space and launch devastating attacks without warning, part of US plans to reduce reliance on overseas bases or negotiated access to air routes.
US analysts estimate that Russian military expenditures have tripled during the Bush-Putin years, in large measure a predicted reaction to the Bush administration's militancy and aggressiveness. Putin and Ivanov cited the Bush doctrine of"preemptive strike''-- the"revolutionary'' new doctrine of the National Security Strategy -- but also"added a key detail, saying that military force can be used if there is an attempt to limit Russia's access to regions that are essential to its survival,'' thus adapting for Russia the Clinton doctrine that the US is entitled to resort to"unilateral use of military power'' to ensure"uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.'' The world"is a much more insecure place'' now that Russia has decided to follow the US lead, said Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution, adding that other countries presumably"will follow suit.''
In the past, Russian automated response systems have come within a few minutes of launching a nuclear strike, barely aborted by human intervention. By now the systems have deteriorated. US systems, which are much more reliable, are nevertheless extremely hazardous. They allow three minutes for human judgment after computers warn of a missile attack, as they frequently do. The Pentagon has also found serious flaws in its computer security systems that might allow terrorist hackers to seize control and simulate a launch--"an accident waiting to happen,'' Bruce Blair writes. The dangers are being consciously escalated by the threat and use of violence.
Concern is not eased by the recent discovery that US presidents have been"systematically misinformed'' about the effects of nuclear war. The level of destruction has been"severely underestimated'' because of lack of systematic oversight of the"insulated bureaucracies'' that provide analyses of"limited and `winnable' nuclear war''; the resulting"institutional myopia can be catastrophic,'' far more so than the manipulation of intelligence on Iraq.
The Bush administration slated the initial deployment of a missile defense system for summer 2004, a move criticized as" completely political,'' employing untested technology at great expense. A more appropriate criticism is that the system might seem workable; in the logic of nuclear war, what counts is perception. Both US planners and potential targets regard missile defense as a first-strike weapon, intended to provide more freedom for aggression, including nuclear attack. And they know how the US responded to Russia's deployment of a very limited ABM system in 1968: by targeting the system with nuclear weapons to ensure that it would be instantly overwhelmed. Analysts warn that current US plans will also provoke a Chinese reaction. History and the logic of deterrence"remind us that missile defense systems are potent drivers of offensive nuclear planning,'' and the Bush initiative will again raise the threat to Americans and to the world.
China's reaction may set off a ripple effect through India, Pakistan, and beyond. In West Asia, Washington is increasing the threat posed by Israel's nuclear weapons and other WMD by providing Israel with more than one hundred of its most advanced jet bombers, accompanied by prominent announcements that the bombers can reach Iran and return and are an advanced version of the US planes Israel used to destroy an Iraqi reactor in 1981. The Israeli press adds that the US is providing the Israeli air force with"`special' weaponry.'' There can be little doubt that Iranian and other intelligence services are watching closely and perhaps giving a worst-case analysis: that these may be nuclear weapons. The leaks and dispatch of the aircraft may be intended to rattle the Iranian leadership, perhaps to provoke some action that can be used as a pretext for an attack.
Immediately after the National Security Strategy was announced in September 2002, the US moved to terminate negotiations on an enforceable bioweapons treaty and to block international efforts to ban biowarfare and the militarization of space. A year later, at the UN General Assembly, the US voted alone against implementation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and alone with its new ally India against steps toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. The US voted alone against"observance of environmental norms'' in disarmament and arms control agreements and alone with Israel and Micronesia against steps to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East--the pretext for invading Iraq. A resolution to prevent militarization of space passed 174 to 0, with four abstentions: US, Israel, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands. As discussed earlier, a negative US vote or abstention amounts to a double veto: the resolution is blocked and is eliminated from reporting and history.
Bush planners know as well as others that the resort to force increases the threat of terror, and that their militaristic and aggressive posture and actions provoke reactions that increase the risk of catastrophe. They do not desire these outcomes, but assign them low priority in comparison to the international and domestic agendas they make little attempt to conceal.
Copyright C2004 Aviva Chomsky, Diane Chomsky and Harry Chomsky
[Reader's Note: The footnotes to the well-sourced"Afterword" to the paperback edition of Hegemony or Survival have been removed from this version. An expanded version of the afterword is also available as part of an expanded e-book version of Hegemony or Survival.]
Reprinted by arrangement with Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Stephen Hayes, in the Weekly Standard (Sept. 20, 2004):
LAST WEDNESDAY, CBS News's 60 Minutes II aired a report that strongly challenged George W. Bush's service in the National Guard. It's a story that has been explored dozens of times in the past five years. Two things in the 60 Minutes II story made it fresh--or, in newsroom parlance, gave it a peg. Ben Barnes, who served as attorney general in Texas at the time of Bush's service, claimed that he had been pressured to help Bush avoid going to Vietnam. But there were problems with Barnes's story, not least that he had previously, and rather specifically, denied the account he gave on 60 MinutesII. (Republicans questioned Barnes's motive, too, pointing out that he is a lifelong Democrat who has raised significant money for John Kerry's presidential campaign.)
The second news peg was more important. 60 Minutes II had obtained"new documents" from the"personal files" of the late Jerry Killian, Bush's commanding officer. That the documents were unearthed some 32 years after the activities they describe must have greatly excited the CBS producers who worked on the story.
According to an Associated Press story, the Killian memos"say Mr. Bush ignored a direct order from a superior officer and lost his status as a Guard pilot because he failed to meet military performance standards and undergo a required physical exam."
If accurate, then, the memos would provide documentary evidence to support the long-circling rumors that Bush received preferential treatment to get out of serving in Vietnam.
But almost immediately, the authenticity of the typed memos was questioned. Although CBS claimed to have had them reviewed by document experts, numerous forensic document examiners interviewed last Thursday by THE WEEKLY STANDARD and several other media outlets concluded that the documents were likely forgeries.
"These sure look like forgeries," said William Flynn, a forensic document expert widely considered the nation's top analyst of computer-generated documents. Flynn looked at copies of the documents posted on the CBS News website."I would say it looks very likely that these documents could not have existed" in the early 1970s, he says, when they were allegedly written.
Several other experts agreed."They look mighty suspicious," said a veteran forensic document expert who asked not to be quoted by name. Richard Polt, a Xavier University philosophy professor who operates a website dedicated to the history of typewriters, said that while he is not an expert on typesetting, the documents"look like typical word-processed documents." He adds:"I'm a Kerry supporter myself, but I won't let that cloud my objective judgment: I'm 99 percent sure that these documents were not produced in the early 1970s."
Philip Bouffard, another document expert who plans to vote for Kerry, reviewed the documents at the request of Bill Ardolino, a weblogger who runs INDC Journal. Says Bouffard:"It is remotely possible there is some typewriter that has the capability to do all this . . . but it is more likely these documents were generated in the common Times New Roman font and printed out on a computer printer that did not exist at the time they were supposedly created."
Sandra Ramsey Lines, a document expert from Arizona, told the Associated Press:"I'm virtually certain these were computer-generated."
The experts pointed to numerous irregularities in the Killian memos that aroused their suspicions. First, the typographic spacing is proportional, as is routine with professional typesetting and computer typography, not monospace, as was common in typewriters in the 1970s. (In proportional type, thin letters like"i" and"l" are closer together than thick letters like"W" and"M". In monospace, all the letters are allotted the same space.)
Second, the font appears to be identical to the Times New Roman font that is the default typeface in Microsoft Word and other modern word-processing programs. According to Flynn, the font is not listed in the Haas Atlas--the definitive encyclopedia of typewriter type fonts.
Third, the apostrophes are curlicues of the sort produced by word processors on personal computers, not the straight vertical hashmarks typical of typewriters. Finally, in some references to Bush's unit--the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron--the"th" is a superscript in a smaller size than the other type. Again, this is typical (and often automatic) in modern word-processing programs.
There are also problems with the substance of the memos Killian allegedly authored. One of the memos, dated May 19, 1972, recounts a telephone conversation Killian is to have had with Bush."I advised him of our investment in him and his commitment. I also told him I had to have written acceptance before he would be transferred, but think he's also talking to someone upstairs."
But as Byron York of National Review points out, Killian signed off on a"glowing report" about Bush on May 26, 1972, just one week later. Lt. Col. William D. Harris authored the memo praising Bush."Lt. Bush is an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot and officer," it read."He eagerly participates in scheduled unit activities." Killian signed below a statement indicating he agreed with Harris."I concur with the comments and ratings of the reporting official."
Killian's son and widow also claim that Bush's commanding officer liked Bush and would have been unlikely to have authored the memos."It just wouldn't happen," Gary Killian told the AP....
Malcolm Dean, in the Guardian (Sept. 15, 2004):
It was easier 25 years ago to predict the future. As the first extract in this 25th anniversary edition of Society demonstrates (see page 2), we got our first projection right. For the first time since the welfare state was established after the second world war, it was no longer possible in 1979 to forecast that society was going to continue getting better following the election of Margaret Thatcher.
For millions of poor people this proved true. No other developed state except New Zealand suffered such a brutal reversal of rising prosperity for all. In the space of two decades, the numbers of children living below the poverty line almost trebled with one in three (a staggering 4.5 million all told) stuck there when Labour returned in 1997.
Thatcher ducked and weaved throughout the 1979 election avoiding revealing what was already apparent, that she was going to take an axe to social policy spending particularly social security. The first sentence of her first white paper summed it up: "Public expenditure is at the heart of Britain's present economic difficulties." Ironically, public expenditure increased as a proportion of GDP with the huge increase in unemployment in the 1980s, but drastic squeezes were applied to social security and social services.
By the time New Labour saw the light - two years in from its 1997 victory - all public services were financially impoverished and deeply demoralised. Throughout Thatcher's reign public services were derided for the way they spent money rather than made it. Even the people's priorities - health and education - were denied the resources needed.
The extent of the squeeze was dramatically documented in December 2001, in the devastating interim report from Derek Wanless, former head of the NatWest bank, who, in his independent review of spending on health for the Treasury, concluded that the cumulative underspend on health services in Britain, compared with the European average over the previous 30 years, had reached an unbelievable £267bn.
The public turning point came earlier when in November 2000, at a special Downing Street press conference in pre-election mood, Tony Blair declared: "Who can seriously doubt that Britain has been chronically underinvested in for over 20 years? We have the fourth biggest economy in the world. Yet we do not have the fourth best public services. I lay the blame for that firmly at the door of underinvestment."
Confirmation of how Labour has changed the public spending agenda came in June this year when the first of its five five-year plans was published, continuing a record investment in health. The NHS budget is already twice what it was in 1997 in cash terms (£67bn as against £33bn) and is due to rise to £90bn by 2008. Not to be outdone - and to the fury of the Daily Telegraph, which wanted to know what had happened to Tory tax cuts - Michael Howard promised to spend even more.
Future predictions in 2004 are more difficult. Social historians will undoubtedly
pay handsome tributes to Labour's social policy goals. Its boldest remains its
bid to abolish child poverty within 20 years, which now has a second vaguer
aspiration, ending pensioner poverty, attached. Most independent experts believe
it will meet its first target - lifting a million children above the poverty
line by next year. The subsequent three million are going to be more difficult,
with many of the first million having been "low hanging fruit" just
below the poverty line. Current plans to end pensioner poverty face similar
challenges. About a third of the two million pensioners below the poverty line
are failing to take up the means-tested benefits that would lift them out of
WASHINGTON - It is President Bush's most reliable applause line as he campaigns for re-election.
"I had a choice," he says of the decision to invade Iraq and force Saddam Hussein from power.
"Do I take the word of a madman, forget the lessons of September the 11th, or take action to defend America?" Bush asks his audience."Given that choice, I will defend America every time."
The bloody postwar insurgency in Iraq, which the president recently acknowledged he had failed to anticipate fully, has long been regarded as one of the biggest potential obstacles to another Bush term. But with less than two months to go until Election Day, the situation in Iraq is posing a sharply reduced threat to the president's re-election chances.
Today, more voters say they trust Bush, rather than Sen. John Kerry, to manage the conflict in Iraq, reviving a Bush advantage that his Democratic challenger had neutralized earlier this summer. That shift reflects several factors, including the way Republicans have effectively put Kerry on the defensive over Iraq, a difficult issue for the senator because of his shifting statements and positions over the past two years.
But the heart of Bush's success in blunting the risks that the Iraq violence poses to his re-election chances has been a relentless effort to tie the war directly to the Sept. 11 attacks. 'Morphing' the issues
"That's what Bush has been doing. He doesn't separate them," said Ed Sarpolus, a Michigan pollster."His uptick in the polls, it's all a result of morphing those two issues together."
Recent public opinion surveys show the country roughly split over Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq. But among independents, the key swing-voter group, 50 percent disapprove of his handling of the war and only 40 percent approve, according to a recent CBS News poll.
"To say that the war at this point hasn't hurt Bush probably oversimplifies matters. It's hurt him, but not as much as it might have," said Adam Clymer, political director of the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey."And that's because he has fairly successfully connected it up to terrorism, al-Qaida and Sept. 11, and because Kerry has not managed to establish himself as a real alternative."
Last week's Republican convention, which helped lift Bush to a clear lead in the presidential contest for the first time, was devoted in large measure to reviving memories of Sept. 11 in advance of today's third anniversary. Bush plans to mark the occasion by attending a religious service of remembrance in Washington, by observing a moment of silence at the White House and focusing his weekly radio address on the anniversary. Kerry will attend a commemorative event in Boston.
Today, throughout American public life, the memoir -- and its attendant cash advance -- are regarded simply as another retirement benefit, like lifetime health care. Presidents, cabinet secretaries, generals and senior bureaucrats hardly have time to cash their first pension checks before their editors start demanding manuscript pages. Everyone has a story to tell and every story is for sale. Marshall's example may have seemed extreme to his contemporaries, but it was intelligible. Today, it seems not simply quaint and charming -- perhaps a little priggish -- but also odd, even alien.
If the contemporary American psyche has a concrete analog, it is EBay -- always open for business, a vast and invisible auction in which anything can be bought and sold and everything has a price. A life is just another commodity, and if it includes public service, that's an extra -- sort of like leather seats -- and worth whatever the market will bear.
If Ken Lay and the Enron crooks had not come a cropper, sooner or later, they'd almost certainly have started trading reputation futures. After all, what publisher wouldn't want to hedge a little of the risk that comes with today's seven-figure advances?
All of this brings us to the delicate question of an author with a good and well-deserved reputation, Gen. Tommy Franks, whose memoir,"American Soldier" (Regan Books, 590 pages, $27.95), is currently near the top of the bestseller lists.
It's easy to see why. Franks and his collaborator, Malcolm McConnell, have produced an energetic, engaging and genuinely informative book of considerable interest. So-called collaborative biographies -- books by celebrities who hire a professional to do the actual writing -- now constitute a recognized genre in American publishing. While wholly within the conventions of the form,"American Soldier" deserves to be ranked near the top of its class. Teamwork was a hallmark of Franks' military career and he clearly did not stint, as many celebrity"authors" do, when it came to working with his collaborator.
The requisite recitation of epiphanic childhood anecdotes is deftly and economically accomplished. Some, such as Franks' inadvertent discovery that he was adopted, are genuinely moving and recalled with an authentic delicacy of emotion. Similarly, his recollections of how he failed to appreciate adequately his hardscrabble parent's effort to provide him with a comfortable childhood, his academic failure at the University of Texas and his subsequent neglect of his family while on active service are given without excuse or maudlin guilt. Franks is the worthy son of the solid parents he obviously holds in such affection.
The Army, through whose enlisted ranks he rose, clearly is his other great love. But what makes Franks' book of obvious value is his account of his tenure as commander in chief of United States Central Command, and his conduct -- first of the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and, subsequently, against Iraq. Franks' accounts of his dealings with President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- with whom he developed a particularly close relationship -- form a useful complement to Bob Woodward's bestselling"Plan of Attack," which reconstructed the run-up to the second Gulf war.
There's no mystery as to why Rumsfeld, the military reformer, was drawn to Franks and the general to the technophilic secretary. Drawing on the lessons he learned as a field commander in Operation Desert Storm, Franks believes he devised a new, highly mobile war-fighting strategy that advances Carl von Clausewitz's famous dictum that concentrated forces are the key to victory."To achieve victory, Clausewitz advised, a military power must mass its forces at the enemy's 'center of gravity.' But the victory in Desert Storm proved that speed has a mass all its own."