Archive for November 21st, 2008

November 21, 2008

Blaming Bush

Daniel Larison, who doesn’t much like me, is nevertheless correct in saying that the Bush administration deserves the blame for its failures, including the “calamitous” decision to invade Iraq. It is not “Bush Derangment Syndrome” to say that the Iraq invasion was a very bad idea, or to say that, if it was a good idea, the execution was blundered. And if you don’t blame the Commander in Chief for a disastrous military adventure . . . well, whatever happened to, “The Buck Stops Here?”

In the run-up to the war, my opinion was like that of Nicias toward the Sicilian expedition, feeling that the Alcibiades-like arguments offered for the invasion were false and that the policy was unwise. But, like Nicias, I felt that if the U.S. did invade (and by Labor Day 2002, that decision had clearly already been made) victory was the only acceptable outcome. In other words, “Let’s win this ill-advised blunder of a war!”

No nation has ever benefitted from military defeat, and I draw a bright line between (a) the I-told-you-so recriminations of those who wisely opposed the invasion before it began, and (b) the dishonorable glee of those who don’t even bother to disguise their desire for American defeat.

America is too big, too rich and too powerful to safely disarm. We cannot assume the sort of inert, cowardly pacifism that dominated England in the 1920s and ’30s without inviting aggression. The alternative to American strength is not “world peace,” but rather the removal of any meaningful constraint on the imperial appetites of America’s enemies.

That the Bush administration misused American strength is, I think, inarguable. But let us not obscure the distinction between criticizing bad policy and wishing ill to one’s own nation. Hatred of neoconservatism, I fear, has blinded some of my friends to the importance of this distinction. Yes, the disaster in Iraq has discredited neoconservative foreign policy, but the discrediting of bad philosophy is not a sufficient cause to celebrate American military defeat.

I think it unlikely that any U.S. administration will ever again undertake a foreign adventure with as little caution as the Bush administration undertook the invasion of Iraq. But I still want our troops to achieve victory in Iraq.

(Cue outraged demands that I define “victory.”)

November 21, 2008

The Best and the Brightest, redux

Tyranny of the grinds:

The next administration will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduated first in their high school classes. If an enemy attacks the United States during a Harvard-Yale game, we’re in trouble.

A couple of days ago, someone asked me why I so disdain Harvard alumni. There are many, many reasons, mostly having to do with the belief that an aptitude for apple-polishing — i.e., eager participation in the whole “gifted”/honors/NMS/valedictorian rigamarole — does not represent genuine merit. Being a teacher’s pet and being smart are not the same thing.

Perhaps there should be a bumper sticker: “My Angry Populism Beat Up Your Arrogant Meritocracy And Stole Its Lunch Money.”

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin detests David Brooks and his “Ivy League ejaculations” over the Obama administration:

Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).
The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law)…

First, I wish to express my appreciation that Malkin (a graduate of selective Oberlin) would take sides with us Jacksonville State slobs against this “meritocratic” snobbery. Second, why do I suspect that Brooks is the father of a teenager whom he hopes to see admitted to Harvard? Excuse my populist cynicism.

UPDATE II: A commenter at TNR:

Not only are such credentials no guarantee of competence or insurance against disaster, they may actually increase the risk. The Harvard and Yale grads and faculty members, from McGeorge Bundy to Donald Rumsfeld, who drove the country into the ditch in Viet Nam and Iraq thought they were so smart that they never considered the possibility that they could be wrong, even after disaster was apparent to everyone else.

Brainiacs tend to disregard common-sense objections on the grounds that common sense is so . . . common. If anyone with a high-school diploma can get the point, your argument will inevitably suffer from a lack of intellectual prestige. A thing can be both simple and true, but simple objections tend to annoy intellectuals who delight in the belief that they possess a degree of enlightenment that no ordinary mortal could ever obtain. When David Brooks sneers at “populists,” what he’s really saying is, “How dare you refuse to genuflect before your superiors?”

UPDATE III: Linked by Michelle — thanks!

November 21, 2008

Palin lied, turkeys died?

This MSNBC video is being dubbed “Turkeygate” by outraged progressives:

(Via Hot Air.) Why do I suspect a conspiracy involving the TV crew and the turkey-farm employee who can be seen mugging for the camera as he gleefully slaughters the bird behind the governor?

November 21, 2008

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Nate Silver:

There are a certain segment of conservatives who literally cannot believe that anybody would see the world differently than the way they do. They have not just forgotten how to persuade; they have forgotten about the necessity of persuasion.
John Ziegler is a shining example of such a conservative. During my interview with him, Ziegler made absolutely no effort to persuade me about the veracity of any of his viewpoints. He simply asserted them — and then became frustrated, paranoid, or vulgar when I rebutted them.

What got Silver on this hobby horse was Ziegler’s assertion that Barack Obama “launched his career” at the home of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. But the factual record is unambiguous:

In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, to a few of the district’s influential liberals at the home of two well known figures on the local left: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. . . .
“I can remember being one of a small group of people who came to Bill Ayers’ house to learn that Alice Palmer was stepping down from the senate and running for Congress,” said Dr. Quentin Young, a prominent Chicago physician and advocate for single-payer health care, of the informal gathering at the home of Ayers and his wife, Dohrn. “[Palmer] identified [Obama] as her successor.” Obama and Palmer “were both there,” he said.

Neither Ayers nor Palmer has denied this, and there are multiple other connections — including Ayers’ choice of Obama to lead the Chicago Annenberg Challenge — that identify Ayers as an early and influential supporter of Obama. These are not “viewpoints,” but facts.

Silver seems to expect Ziegler to engage in a “what ‘is’ is” type of parsing, or else to cite sources as in a bibliography, about the phrase “launched his career” in describing the Obama-Ayers connection. This is a clever method of obfuscation — interrogating the premises of the syllogism so as to prevent a discussion of the conclusion — and when Ziegler quite naturally objects, his objection is cited by Silver as evidence of Ziegler’s unreasonableness.

Silver does not wish to discuss the potential significance of the Obama-Ayers relationship, and therefore engages in semantics over the meaning of the phrase “launched his career” in order to prevent that discussion. Of course, the actual subject in dispute was whether a Zogby poll about the beliefs of Obama supporters was legitimate opinion research or a “push poll,” as Silver asserted. But the term “push poll” — a campaign tactic of disseminating negative information through a bogus telephone survey — can hardly be applied to a survey conducted after the election.

Zogby was asked to determine what percentage of Obama supporters were familiar with certain memes of the campaign, to get an idea of how well-informed these voters were. Silver is angered that the results lent support to Ziegler’s hilarious video:

Silver’s anger over the portrayal of Obama supporters as ignorant informs his rage against Ziegler, and Silver’s attack on talk radio as a medium is nothing but scapegoating. What fuels Silver’s rage is his guilty knowledge that Obama ran a campaign brilliantly calculated to appeal to “low-information voters,” and that this success would not have been possible without the willing cooperation of the mainstream media. Silver fears that, at some point in the future, the media will be compelled to start telling the truth about Obama, and that Obama’s subsequent political failure will endanger the “progressive” project.

In a free society, any political effort founded in deception is ultimately doomed to failure. If progressives like Silver have learned nothing else from the Bush administration, they ought to have learned that.

November 21, 2008

Obama will wait on gays in the military


President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military’s decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.
Repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise. However, Mr. Obama first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress, the advisers said.
“I think 2009 is about foundation building and reaching consensus,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The group supports military personnel targeted under the ban.
Mr. Sarvis told The Washington Times that he has held “informal discussions” with the Obama transition team on how the new president should proceed on the potentially explosive issue.
Lawrence Korb, an analyst at the Center for American Progress and an adviser to the Obama campaign, said the new administration should set up a Pentagon committee to make recommendations to Congress on a host of manpower issues, including the gay ban.
“If it’s part of a larger package, it has a better chance of getting passed,” he said.

So it will be 2011, at the earliest, before we would see colonels and admirals marching in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. And I’m sure that double-entendre about “a larger package” was unintentional.

November 21, 2008

‘Rachel Getting Married’

James Bowman calls the film a portrait “of what so much of blue-state America likes to imagine itself as being: a land of rich, cool, intellectual people who are relentlessly and joyously multicultural and morally and politically progressive. Above all, they are filled to the brim with compassion for the world’s many, many victims — among whom they contrive to number themselves.”

The film is most noteworthy for a cast featuring Anne Hathaway. And her cleavage.

November 21, 2008

Attorney general collapses

UPDATE 8:15 A.M. FRIDAY: The Associated Press reports good news:

Attorney General Michael Mukasey was conscious and alert early Friday — and took a get-well call from President Bush — just hours after he collapsed during a speech to a black-tie dinner.
White House press secretary Dana Perino sent out word to reporters that Bush telephoned his attorney general just before 7 a.m. EST Friday and said that Mukasey “sounded well and is getting excellent care.” . . .
Justice spokesman Peter Carr said Mukasey did not transfer his power to Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip.
“The attorney general is conscious, conversant and alert,” Carr said after Mukasey was hospitalized. “His vital statistics are strong and he is in good spirits.” . . .
Mukasey’s wife, Susan, was with him at the hospital.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey collapsed while giving a speech to the Federalist Society and was rushed to a hospital, Philip Klein reports. Just from a brief description of the symptoms — slurred words then a sudden collapse — it sounds like a stroke.

Mukasey is 67, and was described as “trembling” before he collapsed.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has a round-up, including the text of Mukasey’s prepared remarks.

UPDATE II: Described the symptoms to my wife, who used to work in health care, and she says, “Yeah, sounds like a stroke.” Witnesses reportedly shared the same apprehension.

UPDATE III: Reuters:

Spokesman Peter Carr said Mukasey, 67, was rushed to George Washington University Medical Center in Washington. He had no details on Mukasey’s condition.

GWU is one of the finest hospitals in the country. Reagan was rushed to GWU after he was shot in 1981.

UPDATE IV: Latest AP confirms Phil’s source:

Mukasey was delivering a speech to the Federalist Society at a Washington hotel when “he just started shaking and he collapsed,” said Associate Attorney General Kevin O’Connor. “They’re very concerned.”
Mukasey was 15 to 20 minutes into his speech about the Bush administration’s successes in combatting terrorism when he began slurring his words. He collapsed and lost consciousness, said O’Conner, the department’s No. 3 official.

FBI agents on the scene apparently rendered first aid, and one source tells AP Mukasey appeared to be speaking as he was carried out. ABC News seems to have corroborated this:

A lawyer in the room said Mukasey “started struggling with [his] speech, slurring” just before he collapsed. A high-level source who was near Mukasey at the scene told ABC News he appeared “responsive” when he left the hotel on a stretcher.

This encourages hope of recovery.

UPDATE V: More detail from Bloomberg:

Members of the audience at his speech, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, formed a human wall so people could not view Mukasey as he was taken away. A member of the audience offered a prayer for Mukasey from the lectern and told everyone to go home.

Will continue updating as the story develops. Pretty soon, we should get a statement from the hospital, or from Mukasey’s staff, about his condition.

UPDATE VI: K-Lo was there:

Midway through [his speech] he seemed rattled by a heckler who called him a “tyrant.”

Freaking disruptive scum. But K-Lo also says quick response by those on the scene may have helped save Mukasey.

UPDATE VII: More encouraging news:

Mr. Mukasey appeared to be somewhat alert as he was carried on a stretcher by District of Columbia fire department medics. He was heard to say he thought he had fainted. A medic could be heard to tell the attorney general “just relax.”

Conscious + talking = good

November 21, 2008

Der Fuehrer und Der Housing Bubble

(Via Laura W. at AOSHQ.)

November 21, 2008

Slap on the wrist for Jones-Kelley

The Ohio Democrat bureaucrat who violated Joe the Plumber’s privacy gets a one-month suspension:

Helen Jones-Kelley of the Job and Family Services Department said Thursday, Nov. 20, she should not have allowed the searches of state databases for information on Samuel Joseph — “Joe the Plumber” — Wurzelbacher, who emerged as a key figure in the Ohio presidential campaign.
Gov. Ted Strickland suspended Director Helen Jones-Kelley of the Job and Family Services Department for one month without pay after a state Inspector General’s report found Jones-Kelley improperly authorized the searches of state databases and used her state e-mail account for political fundraising.

Ace is shocked, shocked.