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Sunday October 10, 2004

Unfortunately, I missed most of the debate on Friday. I did, however, read the transcript. From the brief portions that I did see, I could tell that President Bush was much more eloquent (heck, I even heard him say facile). Also, after perusing the transcript, it was clear that Bush was much more direct and responsive than Kerry. In several instances, Kerry made absolutely no attempt to answer the question--all the while claiming that he was responding. Read, for example, his rebuttal to this question:

Question: Mr. President, yesterday in a statement you admitted that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, but justified the invasion by stating, I quote, "He retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction and could have passed this knowledge to our terrorist enemies." Do you sincerely believe this to be a reasonable justification for invasion when this statement applies to so many other countries, including North Korea?

Kerry: Robin, I'm going to answer your question. I'm also going to talk respond to what you asked, Cheryl, at the same time. The world is more dangerous today. The world is more dangerous today because the president didn't make the right judgments. Now, the president wishes that I had changed my mind. He wants you to believe that because he can't come here and tell you that he's created new jobs for America. He's lost jobs. He can't come here and tell you that he's created health care for Americans because, what, we've got 5 million Americans who have lost their health care, 96,000 of them right here in Missouri. He can't come here and tell you that he's left no child behind because he didn't fund no child left behind. So what does he do? He's trying to attack me. He wants you to believe that I can't be president. And he's trying to make you believe it because he wants you to think I change my mind.

So, Kerry's answer to whether the Iraqi invasion was justified is to talk about jobs, health care and education. Other times, he stays on the subject, but makes absolutely no sense. Perhaps he's used to droning on in the Senate without anyone paying attention. Check out this interchange and make a determined effort to decipher the meaning of the second paragraph of Kerry's Answer:

Question: Senator Kerry, suppose you are speaking with a voter who believed abortion is murder and the voter asked for reassurance that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion, what would you say to that person?

Kerry: I would say to that person exactly what I will say to you right now. First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I'm a Catholic, raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life. It helped lead me through a war, leads me today. But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can't do that. But I can counsel people. I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility. I can talk to people, as my wife Teresa does, about making other choices, and about abstinence, and about all these other things that we ought to do as a responsible society. But as a president, I have to represent all the people in the nation. And I have to make that judgment.

Now, I believe that you can take that position and not be pro- abortion, but you have to afford people their constitutional rights. And that means being smart about allowing people to be fully educated, to know what their options are in life, and making certain that you don't deny a poor person the right to be able to have whatever the constitution affords them if they can't afford it otherwise. That's why I think it's important. That's why I think it's important for the United States, for instance, not to have this rigid ideological restriction on helping families around the world to be able to make a smart decision about family planning. You'll help prevent AIDS. You'll help prevent unwanted children, unwanted pregnancies. You'll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question. And I truly respect it.

Talk about nuance. Here's the deciphered answer: There is a constitutional right to abortion. The government should provide abortions to those who cannot afford them. The government should also provide abortions to those in other countries who cannot afford them because it will help prevent AIDS (huh?), prevent unwanted children and unwanted pregnancies. That is the morally responsible position.

I suspect even Senator Kerry didn't feel comfortable expressing these ideas so clearly which is why he tried to wrap them in obfuscation. I sincerely doubt these comments would sufficiently reassure a voter who didn't want their taxes going to support abortions

For more debate distortions on both sides, check out FactCheck.org.


The New York Times finally has found the time to review Unfit for Command. Guess what. They're unimpressed. Beldar is unimpressed with the lame review.


Why have we seen vaccine development fall into such disfavor? The short answer is low return on investment and exposure to legal liability. And the reason for those factors is a flawed public policy. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the largest domestic purchaser of vaccines, uses its buying clout to extract deep discounts for purchases. If interference with market forces were warranted, arguably the government should be offering subsidies to enhance profitability and encourage more R&D rather than imposing what amounts to a punitive tax on vaccine manufacturers.

Think about that when the government starts to go after big pharma.


Con Coughlin, at The Scotsman, points to some relevant ramifications from the failed UN sanctions on Iraq that devolved into the Oil-for-Food scandal:

The sanctions regime against Saddam may have been a failure, but the threat of sanctions nevertheless remains an important first step in trying to persuade rogue states to reform. If Iran, for example, continues to defy the International Atomic Energy Agency over its nuclear programme, the logical response would be for the UN to impose sanctions against Teheran. But after the UN's Iraq debacle, it is highly unlikely that anyone - least of all Iran - could take such a threat seriously.


The Duelfer Report made a big splash. Above-the-fold headlines in all the papers: Iraq Had No WMD's. That was the story. That's it. No context. No digging. But the Duelfer Report actually supports the premise by which we deposed Saddam--he was a threat to the security interests of the United States. . David Brooks at The New York Times has actually read the Key Findings from the report and has been allowed to post an op-ed which is not negative toward the Bush position:

With sanctions weakening and money flowing, he rebuilt his strength. He contacted W.M.D. scientists in Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria and elsewhere to enhance his technical knowledge base. He increased the funds for his nuclear scientists. He increased his military-industrial-complex's budget 40-fold between 1996 and 2002. He increased the number of technical research projects to 3,200 from 40. As Duelfer reports, "Prohibited goods and weapons were being shipped into Iraq with virtually no problem." And that is where Duelfer's story ends. Duelfer makes clear on the very first page of his report that it is a story. It is a mistake and a distortion, he writes, to pick out a single frame of the movie and isolate it from the rest of the tale.

But that is exactly what has happened. I have never in my life seen a government report so distorted by partisan passions. The fact that Saddam had no W.M.D. in 2001 has been amply reported, but it's been isolated from the more important and complicated fact of Saddam's nature and intent. But we know where things were headed. Sanctions would have been lifted. Saddam, rich, triumphant and unbalanced, would have reconstituted his W.M.D. Perhaps he would have joined a nuclear arms race with Iran. Perhaps he would have left it all to his pathological heir Qusay.

We can argue about what would have been the best way to depose Saddam, but this report makes it crystal clear that this insatiable tyrant needed to be deposed. He was the menace, and, as the world dithered, he was winning his struggle. He was on the verge of greatness. We would all now be living in his nightmare.


Wednesday October 6, 2004

On of the first things I noticed in last nights VP debate was how much better both candidates were stylistically than their compatriots at the top of the ticket. Edwards was smooth and personable and articulate. I do profoundly disagree with his worldview, but found him to be competent and amiable. In contrast to Cheney, Edwards was expressive and used emphasis effectively--perhaps that's his trial lawyer training. Cheney was also articulate (much more so than Bush) and seemed well at ease, however, he did portray a rather dour demeanor and rarely showed much passion. I do sense that these different styles emanated from the intrinsic personalities of these two men. Which one is better in a debate? Certainly, Edwards is more fun to watch and so I'd give him the edge in style points. For some, style trumps substance. It's better to look good than to be good. I've never ascribed to that particluar philosophy.

But let us get to the meat of the matter--the substance. You can follow along in the transcript. One of the first things that perked my ears up is the reiteration from Edwards that Cheney has said there is a connection between Saddam and 9/11. This is a constant theme from the Democrats. Here's what Edwards said in the debate:

Mr. Vice President, there is no connection between the attacks of September 11th and Saddam Hussein. The 9/11 Commission has said it. Your own secretary of state has said it. And you've gone around the country suggesting that there is some connection. There is not. (emphasis added)

Cheney rebutted this point admirably. There has never, to my knowledge, been any assertion that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and we, therefore, need to go after him. The Dems have transformed the administration's assertions that there were connections between Saddam and Al Qaida and between Saddam and terrorists into a Saddam-9/11 connection. No such connection has been established nor has it been alleged by the administration. But 9/11 necessitated a change in the way we deal with terrorists and terrorist states, such as Saddam's Iraq. Here's what President Bush said in June of this year:

"This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two."

Here's what the vaunted bi-partisan 9/11 commission report said (via the The Washington Times):

Pulling from more than 2 million classified files and from interrogations of several detained terrorists, the report portrays a relationship spanning several years with contacts initiated at some points by Iraq and at others by al Qaeda.

The best that the Democrats can do when asked to provide a specific citation where Cheney claims that Saddam has ties to 9/11 is with this quote (via The Washington Post):

"If we're successful in Iraq . . . then we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

But if you believe this quote proves Cheney had claimed Saddam had ties to 9/11, then Cheney is also claiming Saddam had ties to the USS Cole bombing, the Khobar Towers bombing, the embassy bombings and Kenya and Tanzania and essentially all other attacks by middle eastern terrorists who have had us under assault for many years. Clearly, Cheney, in this remark, is not talking about individual terrorists or groups of terrorists but about their territory. Middle eastern terrorists are geographically tied to the middle east and a democracy in the heart of their geographic base--where they find safe haven, support and funding--will be a detriment to their success. You can read more about Cheney's views in an October 10, 2003 speech he made to the Heritage Foundation. The Democrats have been quite successful in setting up this "straw man" argument of an alleged tie between Saddam and September 11th and thus knocking it down. I suspect that the "facts" will do little to dissuade them from continuing this strategy.

This was perhaps the most animated exchange of the evening. This is where Cheney displayed some passion:

EDWARDS: Thank you. The vice president suggests that we have the same number of countries involved now that we had in the first Gulf War. The first Gulf War cost the American people $5 billion. And regardless of what the vice president says, we're at $200 billion and counting. Not only that, 90 percent of the coalition casualties, Mr. Vice President, the coalition casualties, are American casualties. Ninety percent of the cost of this effort are being borne by American taxpayers. It is the direct result of the failures of this administration.

CHENEY: Classic example. He won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of Iraqi allies. It's their country. They're in the fight. They're increasingly the ones out there putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left. They're doing a superb job. And for you to demean their sacrifices strikes me as... [EDWARDS interrupts]...somehow they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future. We'll win when they take on responsibility for governance, which they're doing, and when the take on responsibility for their own security, which they increasingly are doing.

This was very effective on Cheney's part. Kedwards don't want to consider any contributions that our allies have made in this effort all the while complaining that we don't have more allies. It's not an internally consistent argument, regardless of their continuing cry that they're being consistent.

One of the more humorous moments came after Cheney criticized Edwards' record (or lack of a record) in the Senate--referring to him as "Senator Gone". Cheney's a man who has been around for years and has a long public record, which should prove rife with potential ammunition. This, however, is the best rebuttal Edwards could come up with:

When he was one of 435 members of the United States House, he was one of 10 to vote against Head Start, one of four to vote against banning plastic weapons that can pass through metal detectors. He voted against the Department of Education. He voted against funding for Meals on Wheels for seniors. He voted against a holiday for Martin Luther King. He voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. It's amazing to hear him criticize either my record or John Kerry's.

At the risk of being called racist, homophobic, ageist and soft on terror, I would say these are fairly trifling matters. But heck, at least Cheney voted.

Overall, I'd say the debate lasted about 30 minutes too long. Time seemed to grind to a halt. Questions on gay marriage, health care, AIDS, malpractice....blah, blah, blah. I did like Cheney's response to Gwen Ifill when asked to comment on Edwards' qualifications to be VP. I understood his position immediately. Why would both candidates answer a question focused solely on one man's qualifications. It was inherently unfair. Cheney's answer was brilliant. He ignored the premise of the question, pointed out his own advantages and jabbed Edwards a bit:

When George Bush asked me to sign on, it obviously wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. We got 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming, although those three electoral votes turned out to be pretty important last time around. What he said he wanted me to do was to sign on because of my experience to be a member of the team, to help him govern, and that's exactly the way he's used me. And I think from the perspective of the nation, it's worked in our relationship, in this administration. I think it's worked in part because I made it clear that I don't have any further political aspirations myself. And I think that's been an advantage. I think it allows the president to know that my only agenda is his agenda. I'm not worried about what some precinct committeemen in Iowa were thinking of me with respect to the next round of caucuses of 2008. It's a very significant responsibility when you consider that at a moment's notice you may have to take over as president of the United States and make all of those decisions. It's happened several times in our history. And I think that probably is the most important consideration in picking a vice president, somebody who could take over.

If you've finally suffered through all of that, you heard what was, to me, one of the most illustrative comments by Edwards in his closing statements. He outlined growing up in the "bright light of America" and stated "that light is flickering today" (actually, when I read the transcript, I was surprised it was such a short statement because it made such a large impact). In my mind, I immediately contrasted that with Ronald Reagan's "shining city on a hill" remark and I wish Cheney would have highlighted that. It vividly displayed Edward's worldview, one not too dissimilar to our foes. As Cheney said in his Heritage Foundation speech from nearly a year ago, "One member of Al Qaida said 9/11 was the beginning of the end of America."


Meanwhile, Kerry's "Global Test" may become reality:

Members of an international panel studying United Nations' operations say the group hopes to lay down clear rules declaring when it is legal for a nation to use pre-emptive military force in its own defense.

The issue grows out of the international controversy over the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq without a final U.N. Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing the war, said panel member Gareth Evans, a former foreign minister of Australia.

"I expect the panel to be giving close consideration to what those rules are and how they should be applied and whether an effort should be made to identify generally agreed criteria for the legitimate use of force, whatever the context," Mr. Evans said during a recent appearance at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.


I've heard numerous mentions (usually by Democrats) of voter suppression, disenfranchisement and the like, but relatively few stories about vote fraud. Bill Wood writes of this problem and links to many cases of fraud throughout the country:

What we are seeing this year is unprecedented. The voter fraud is rampant, and almost exclusively for democrats or liberal constituency groups. The voter fraud is making waves in local and state press all across the country, but the National Media has been eerily silent on this. Silent that is, in spite of the fact that across the country, numerous criminal cases are now going to trial, or are in full trial from criminal vote fraud claims in the 2002 elections. And the 2002 election vote fraud appears almost exclusively centered around democrats or their special interest constituent groups.

Investor's Business Daily has more here.


Horray for the Republicans for finally putting the death knell to the bill to reintroduce the draft:

House Republicans called the Democrats' bluff Tuesday by rushing a nearly forgotten, 21-month-old bill to reinstate the draft to the front of the agenda and watching it fail in a 402-2 vote. "We've gotten a lot of calls that there is a secret Republican plot to reinstate the draft," said Rep. Todd Akin, R-Town and Country. "And those of us getting those calls are sick of it. This was us saying, 'Put up or shut up.'"

Perhaps that will put an end to this sham issue. 402-2. That's quite a sizeable margin. Say what you want of this bill, but it was surely not nearly forgotten. The Democrats have sent out mass email to the MTV generation warning of a possible draft. Kerry has mentioned it on the stump. Just last week, CBS news did a story on it. The only things that were nearly forgotten were 1) it was sponsored by a Democrat and 2) it had absolutely no chance of passing. Rangel introduced this bill solely to sow seeds of discontent and to help Kedwards. It was never meant as a serious, legitimate piece of legislation and even Rangel has acknowledged as such. Thus, the chutzpah of Rangel is evidenced by the following quote:

"Bringing up this bill today, without hearings, without any formal discussion, is a political maneuver meant to avoid a substantial discussion of the dire needs of our military," Rangel said.

In the end, even Rangel voted against his own bill.


Tuesday October 5, 2004

I haven't had time to write on last weeks debate until now, so you're probably already heard my opinions elsewhere. Bottom line: President Bush clearly lost on style points (which, unfortunately is how many judge these things). On substance, however, it was a much closer call--and I'd give the edge to Bush. Kerry said some truly disturbing things: 1) nuclear fuel for Iran 2) Global Test for preemption 3) bilateral talks with DPRK. Beldar dissects the utter buffoonery of this Kerry quote:

If the president had shown the patience to go through another round of [United Nations] resolution [sic], to sit down with those leaders, say, "What do you need, what do you need now, how much more will it take to get you to join us?" we'd be in a stronger place today.

Bush didn't say anything that was substantively dumb. But many of the things he did say were delivered quite poorly. In fact my soon-to-be 16 year old son (BoyHead) said that he could have answered some questions better than Bush. I do understand that there are limits to what the President can say in open debate, but here are a few things that I wish President Bush had brought up (thanks Mom). The first is the whole Oil-for-Food scandal and the implications that had for getting any of our "traditional allies" on board:

The oil-for-food program lasted from 1996 to 2003, a period during which some $64 billion in oil was sold. The money was supposed to be put to humanitarian uses, such as food and medicine, for the people of Iraq.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein abused the program from the start, pulling in roughly $10 billion in illegal profits by busting sanctions on oil sales and what it could use the money for. To make sure he got away with it, Saddam bribed people.

Benon Sevan, director of the U.N. oil-for-food program and a protege of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Sevan allegedly made a profit of nearly $1 million by selling 9.3 million barrels of oil "allotted" to him by Saddam.

A French oil company with ties to Jacques Chirac, France's president. It allegedly bribed U.N. officials in order to falsify Iraqi oil export documents.

A former top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The aide allegedly netted $500,000 or so from illegal sales of Iraqi oil.

Get the pattern here? Not surprisingly, France and Russia, along with China, are members of the U.N.'s Security Council. Also not surprisingly, they clumsily tried to block any inquiry into the oil-for-food program. And objected to the U.S. war to oust Saddam.

...It's crucial to understand that all this puts the lie to claims that somehow the U.S. could have built a broader coalition if it had only exercised more artful diplomacy, as Sen. John Kerry suggests. Sorry, but the Security Council votes of France, Russia and China were already bought and paid for by Saddam.

Granted, we haven't exactly found stockpiles of WMD's in Iraq, but we have found evidence that Saddam had the desire and the potential to reconstitute his programs:

And even after 1997 - when Saddam's nuke program went dormant - Obeidi says he continued to keep his centrifuge plans in safe storage - in a cardboard box buried beneath a lotus plant in his front yard. "I had to maintain the program to the bitter end," Obeidi explained, saying his only other choice was death. All the while the Iraqi physicist was aware that he held the key to Saddam's continuing nuclear ambitions.

"The centrifuge is the single most dangerous piece of nuclear technology," he writes. "With advances in centrifuge technology, it is now possible to conceal a uranium enrichment program inside a single warehouse." The nuke plans he buried included "the full set of blueprints, designs - everything to restart the centrifuge program - along with some critical components of the centrifuge."

"Would Saddam have tried to build nuclear weapons again? One can only imagine he would have. For the time being, however, the core knowledge for rebuilding the centrifuge program lay buried in my garden, waiting for the order from Qusay Hussein or his father."

Or, he could have referenced the Interim Iraq Survey Group Report which outlined what they had found in Iraq:

The President could have also mentioned that Saddam had funded and harbored terrorists. I could go on, but time is short.

Meanwhile, Senator Kerry elucidates on his "Global Test" phrase which he uttered during the debate (emphasis added):

"The test I was talking about is a test of legitimacy not just in the globe, but elsewhere," he said. "If you do things that are illegitimate in the eyes of other people, it's very hard to get them to share the burden and risk with you.


Monday October 4, 2004

Exclusive: Saddam Possessed WMD, Had Extensive Terror Ties:

Iraqi intelligence documents, confiscated by U.S. forces and obtained by CNSNews.com, show numerous efforts by Saddam Hussein's regime to work with some of the world's most notorious terror organizations, including al Qaeda, to target Americans. They demonstrate that Saddam's government possessed mustard gas and anthrax, both considered weapons of mass destruction, in the summer of 2000, during the period in which United Nations weapons inspectors were not present in Iraq. And the papers show that Iraq trained dozens of terrorists inside its borders.

One of the Iraqi memos contains an order from Saddam for his intelligence service to support terrorist attacks against Americans in Somalia. The memo was written nine months before U.S. Army Rangers were ambushed in Mogadishu by forces loyal to a warlord with alleged ties to al Qaeda.

Other memos provide a list of terrorist groups with whom Iraq had relationships and considered available for terror operations against the United States.

Among the organizations mentioned are those affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri, two of the world's most wanted terrorists. Zarqawi is believed responsible for the kidnapping and beheading of several American civilians in Iraq and claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombings in Iraq Sept. 30. Al-Zawahiri is the top lieutenant of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, allegedly helped plan the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist strikes on the U.S., and is believed to be the voice on an audio tape broadcast by Al-Jazeera television Oct. 1, calling for attacks on U.S. and British interests everywhere.