Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Don't Worry, Sharon -- They Do This to George Bush, Too 

On the campus front, one lucky journalist has found that the best alternative to looking things up is making things up:

The University of Illinois newspaper, the Daily Illini, is making a dubious name for itself as one of America’s more recklessly anti-Israel student publications. Flouting journalistic norms that mandate accuracy, ethics and responsible sourcing it has repeatedly run false, anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic commentaries.

“Stop turning a blind eye” (Dec 11, 2003) is on this unfortunate list. Written by Mariam Sobh, a journalism student and regular Illini columnist, the op-ed contained a grotesque, invented quote attributed to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as well as a spurious reference to another non-existent quote by another Israeli official supposedly from the New York Times. This is a pattern with the Illini columnist. In her zeal to vilify Israel, Sobh consistently turns to unreliable sources to prove her point.
I won't even bother posting the rest of this here; the sport of libelling Israel has gotten entirely too predictable. I would expect people to be more careful when they claim to quote a world leader (in all fairness to Ms. Sobh, she appears to have gotten this from a disreputable source, rather than making it up out of whole cloth), but I long ago gave up on expecting liberals to talk sense when the subject is Israel. The standard rationale for this sort of thing normally runs: "Well, this is the sort of thing he would say, anyhow."

The University of Illinois is reputed to have been taken over by radical leftists many years ago, and it employs babble-brigade senior member Stanley Fish, so it is probably a lost cause, unfortunately. Still, when the public learns about things like this, hope is never lost. Most professors might think their paychecks come from nowhere, but chancellors are paid to know better.


"Guitar Groups Are On the Way Out" 

The Contra Costa Times, after paragraphs of detailed information on the success of Mel Gibson's Passion film, includes the following amazing passage:

Mandalay Entertainment chairman Peter Guber doesn't discount Gibson's initiative.

"Hollywood operates by the Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rule," said Guber, who interviewed Gibson twice on AMC's "Sunday Morning Shootout." "You'll see plenty of imitators and hangers-on -- success makes strange bedfellows.

"I give Gibson credit for using his resources to present his vision, which he has every right to express. But what dogs will be fed by Gibson's Last Supper? The movie is a two-hour primer on how to do a crucifixion, lacking layers and context, that caught the Zeitgeist of the time. It was an egregious mistake for a person living in a multicultural society to present that effort to the world community."
And the article concludes with this:

Gibson will have no trouble getting a mainstream picture off the ground, predicts Guber, a former chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment. But whether he -- or anyone else -- will be able to sell the industry another faith-based movie is open to question.
Just in case you thought the skulls of Hollywood executives were getting a little less thick.


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Odd How "The People" Never Elect Leftists 

Howard Zinn's History Lessons
Michael Kazin
(Spring 2004)

Every work of history, according to Howard Zinn, is a political document. He titled his thick survey "A People's History" (A People's History of the United States, 1492-Present [NY: Perennial Classics, 2003]) so that no potential reader would wonder about his own point of view: "With all its limitations, it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance."

That judgment, Zinn proudly announces, sets his book apart from nearly every other account of their past that most Americans are likely to read. "The mountain of history books under which we all stand leans so heavily in the other direction-so tremblingly respectful of states and statesmen and so disrespectful, by inattention, to people's movements-that we need some counterforce to avoid being crushed into submission."

His message has certainly been heard. A People's History may well be the most popular work of history an American leftist has ever written. First published in 1980, it has gone through five editions and multiple printings, been assigned in thousands of college courses, sold more than a million copies, and made the author something of a celebrity-although one who appears to lack the egomaniacal trappings of the breed. [...]

But Zinn's big book is quite unworthy of such fame and influence. A People's History is bad history, albeit gilded with virtuous intentions. Zinn reduces the past to a Manichean fable and makes no serious attempt to address the biggest question a leftist can ask about U.S. history: why have most Americans accepted the legitimacy of the capitalist republic in which they live? [...]

Zinn's conception of American elites is akin to the medieval church's image of the Devil. For him, a governing class is motivated solely by its appetite for riches and power-and by its fear of losing them. Numerous historians may regard George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton as astute, if seriously flawed, men who erected a structure for the new nation that has endured for over two centuries. But Zinn curtly dismisses them as "leaders of the new aristocracy" and regards the nation-state itself as a cunning device to lull ordinary folks with "the fanfare of patriotism and unity." [...]

The ironic effect of such portraits of rulers is to rob "the people" of cultural richness and variety, characteristics that might gain the respect and not just the sympathy of contemporary readers. For Zinn, ordinary Americans seem to live only to fight the rich and haughty and, inevitably, to be fooled by them. They are like bobble-head dolls in work-shirts and overalls-ever sanguine about fighting the powers-that-be, always about to fall on their earnest faces. [...]

From the 1960s onward, scholars, most of whom lean leftward, have patiently and empathetically illuminated such topics-and explained how progressive movements succeeded as well as why they fell short of their goals. But Zinn cares only about winners and losers in a class conflict most Americans didn't even know they were fighting. Like most propagandists, he measures individuals according to his own rigid standard of how they should have thought and acted. Thus, he depicts John Brown as an unblemished martyr but sees Lincoln as nothing more than a cautious politician who left slavery alone as long as possible. To explain why the latter's election in 1860 convinced most slaveowners to back secession, Zinn falls back on the old saw, beloved by economic determinists, that the Civil War was "not a clash of peoples…but of elites," Southern planters vs. Northern industrialists. Pity the slaves and their abolitionist allies; in their ignorance, they viewed it as a war of liberation and wept when Lincoln was murdered. [...]

The latest edition of the book includes a few paragraphs about the attacks of September 11, and they demonstrate how poorly Zinn's view of the past equips him to analyze the present. "It was an unprecedented assault against enormous symbols of American wealth and power," he writes. The nineteen hijackers "were willing to die in order to deliver a deadly blow against what they clearly saw as their enemy, a superpower that had thought itself invulnerable." Zinn then quickly moves on to condemn the United States for killing innocent people in Afghanistan.

Is this an example of how to express the "commonality" of the great majority of U.S. citizens, who believed that the gruesome strike against America's evil empire was aimed at them? Zinn's flat, dualistic view of how U.S. power has been used throughout history omits what is obvious to the most casual observer: al-Qaeda's religious fanaticism and the potential danger it poses to anyone that Osama bin Laden and his disciples deem an enemy of Islam. Surely one can hate imperialism without ignoring the odiousness of killers who mouth the same sentiment. [...]

"The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history," writes Zinn. It uses wealth to "turn those in the 99 percent against one another" and employs war, patriotism, and the National Guard to "absorb and divert" the occasional rebellion. So "the people" can never really win, unless and until they make a revolution. But they can comprehend the evil of this four-hundred-year-old order, and that knowledge will, to an extent, set them free.

Thus, a narrative about demonic elites becomes an apology for political failure. By Zinn's account, the modern left made no errors of judgment, rhetoric, or strategy. He never mentions the Communist Party's lockstep praise of Stalin or the New Left's fantasy of guerilla warfare. Radical activists simply failed to muster enough clear-eyed troops to pierce through the enemy's mighty, sophisticated defenses. [...]

No work of history can substitute for a social movement. [...] Howard Zinn is an evangelist of little imagination for whom history is one long chain of stark moral dualities. His fatalistic vision can only keep the left just where it is: on the margins of American political life.
According to an adoring biography of Zinn written by a fellow professor, Howard Zinn came about his radicalism when he was beaten up by cops at a left-wing rally as a youngster (or he watched other people get beat up -- I forget). Since then, he has been of the opinion that something is fundamentally rotten with American society -- yes, a society that just sent sales of his book over the one-million mark last year. He also recently opined that George W. Bush is as much of a terrorist as Osama bin Laden, which makes him sound like...well, like a regular college professor, actually.

Let's see if you can spot the statement in the following passage from Zinn's book that sent my jaw crashing through the floor at warp speed when I first read it:

[A]lmost all Americans were now in agreement -- capitalists, Communists, Democrats, Republicans, poor, rich, and middle class -- that [World War II] was indeed a people's war.

Was it?

By certain evidence, it was the most popular war the United States had ever fought. Never had a greater proportion of the country participated in a war: 18 million served in the armed forces, 10 million overseas; 25 million workers gave of their pay envelope regularly for war bonds. But could this be considered a manufactured support, since all the power of the nation -- not only of the government, but the press, the church, and even the chief radical organizations -- was behind the calls for all-out war? Was there an undercurrent of reluctance; were there unpublicized signs of resistance?

It was a war against an enemy of unspeakable evil. Hitler's Germany was extending totalitarianism, racism, militarism, and overt aggressive warfare beyond what an already cynical world had experienced. And yet, did the governments conducting this war -- England, the United States, the Soviet Union -- represent something significantly different, so that their victory would be a blow to imperialism, racism, totalitarianism, militarism, in the world?

Would the behavior of the United States during the war -- in military action abroad, in treatment of minorities at home -- be in keeping with a "people's war"? Would the country's wartime policies respect the rights of ordinary people everywhere to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? And would postwar America, in its policies at home and overseas, exemplify the values for which the war was supposed to have been fought?

These questions deserve thought. At the time of World War II, the atmosphere was too dense with war fervor to permit them to be aired.
You have to harbor an almost pathological hatred for America to postulate that the United States did not represent something "significantly different" from the Nazis.


Only In America Can People This Stupid Earn Assloads of Money 

Hoo boy, here he goes again:

Billionaire market player George Soros has claimed that the US Government is currently in the hands of extremists.

In lecture delivered in Dublin last night, he claimed that they were now pursuing a policy of American supremacy.

Soros told the Institute for International Integration Studies that he was himself spending millions of dollars of his own money to persuade voters not to re-elect George W. Bush as president.
So what's it gonna be, America? You can live in the hands of "extremists" or die under the feet of terrorists.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Not In Her Name 

Saddam, women's rights
Nat Hentoff
Washington Times

At the Brookings Institution in Washington on Feb. 25, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton charged that, with Saddam Hussein gone, there have been "pullbacks" in the rights Iraqi women enjoyed under his rule. Not even such bellicose critics of the war as Sen. Ted Kennedy have claimed that the regimechangehascost women in Iraq the leading defender of their rights.

Mrs. Clinton did try to qualify her softening of the dictator's horrific image by noting that these women's rights were "on paper." However, she went on to give substance to the rights on paper: "They went to school; they participated in the professions. They participated in government and in business; as long as they stayed out of his way, they had considerable freedom of movement."

John Burns -- who reported for the New York Times from Iraq before, during the war and since -- wrote of a paramilitary group once led by Saddam's oldest (since forcibly deceased) son, Uday: "Masked and clad in black, (the men) make the women kneel in busy city squares, along crowded sidewalks, or in neighborhood plots, then behead them with swords." The women's crime, said their families, was having criticized Uday's benevolent father.

When the dictator's prisons were briefly opened before the war, Mr. Burns reported on the "raping of women in front of their husbands, from whom the torturers wanted to extract information."

This year, in the March 9 New York Sun, Tamara Chalabi -- currently working on civil society projects in Iraq -- noted that some of the Arab press had gleefully mentioned Mrs. Clinton's roseate version of women's rights under Saddam. And the BBC quoted a headline of the Baghdad edition of Al-Sharq al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned newspaper: "Hillary Clinton: 'Iraqi women were better off under Saddam's reign.' "

Responding to Mrs. Clinton's exculpatory view of Saddam, Miss Chalabi -- a writer on Middle East issues -- described "the many raped women whose children are from three different soldiers; how is it for them to live every day raising these children that are an eternal reminder of their violent rape? What is being done for these women today?"

Mrs. Clinton, in being introduced for her speech at Brookings, was described as "one of the most powerful analysts, advocates and speakers on a broad range of issues that face our country."
She's certainly one of the most powerful analysts, advocates, and speakers for her own electoral prospects.


Asking Questions, Telling Lies 

The brilliant Mansoor Ijaz has a list of questions for Richard Clarke -- except that they're not really questions so much as a litany of "gouge-out-your-eyes-and-eat-your-heart-right-in-front-of-you-like-that-badass-from-Last-of-the-Mohicans"-style allegations. Not that I have a problem with that, since Clarke has just replaced Paul O'Neill as the world's foremost whopper-telling former Bush bureaucrat with a Kleenex in one hand and a stiletto in the other, but the reader ought to know what he's getting into before going forward.

Ijaz is particularly good at this sort of thing; he has an encyclopedic knowledge of national security issues and he's still righteously steamed that the Clinton administration rejected his carefully-brokered deal with the Sudanese that would have brought Osama bin-Laden under our thumb. I'm not going to excerpt Ijaz's comments, since they really ought to be read in their entirety, but this item from CNN tells you absolutely everything you need to know:

During the Clinton administration, [former White House counter-terrorism expert Richard Clarke] said, al Qaeda was responsible for the deaths of "fewer than 50 Americans," and Clinton responded with military action, covert CIA action and by supporting United Nations sanctions.

"They stopped al Qaeda in Bosnia," Clarke said, "They stopped al Qaeda from blowing up embassies around the world."

"Contrast that with Ronald Reagan, where 300 [U.S. soldiers] were killed in [a bombing attack in Beirut,] Lebanon, and there was no retaliation," Clarke said. "Contrast that with the first Bush administration where 260 Americans were killed [in the bombing of] Pan Am [Flight] 103, and there was no retaliation."

"I would argue that for what had actually happened prior to 9/11, the Clinton administration was doing a great deal," Clarke said.
Orrin Judd says he posted this article on his website "[j]ust in case there was any doubt that this is merely partisan bitching."

There's not.


"Ugly Canadians" 

Appalling treatment
Toronto Star

Is it fair to boo a U.S.-born Grade 9 girl for carrying an American flag across a stage during a school multiculturalism parade?

Is it fair to insult and use obscene gestures against 11-year-old peewee hockey players from the Boston area because you don't like the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq?

Is there no limit to some Canadians' anti-American anger?

Those questions are being asked again on the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq after a teenager was in tears after being loudly booed as she carried the American flag in a parade of 39 flags representing every nationality in the school. [ . . . ]

Canadians upset with the U.S. role in Iraq should target their protests at the Bush administration.

But targeting young children, or any individual American, is just plain wrong and insulting — and shows a level of disrespect that should be appalling to all Canadians.
When I was in Washington, D.C., last October, a tiny pro-war contingent tried to set up shop at the humongous antiwar rally held near the Washington Monument. They never had a chance -- the protestors physically harassed them and they were forced to retreat behind a police cordon. I joined the rally after all of this had occurred, and stood with about 35 other people as hysterical left-wing banshees hurled epithets in our direction, calling us Klansmen, corporate lackeys, and so forth. There was quite a bit of obscene language used. I reflected on the irony of being so appallingly treated by the kind of people who post "Think Peace" bumper stickers on their cars.

And now these junior high kids are being treated in the same way, although they did even less to invite an attack than I did; I was intentionally displaying a provocative sign in a hostile environment, after all -- they were just playing hockey or holding flags.

There are some people who become acquainted with leftist ideas early in life and develop -- either immediately or with time -- a dislike of them. Some folks do this through reading (that is what happened to me), some are born into a left-wing environment and rebel (NRO's Jay Nordlinger is one), and some have a bad experience that sours them (David Horowitz, with the murder of Betty van Patten). Andrew Sullivan has described his youthful confusion at seeing "caring" liberals try to shut down the excellent school where poor kids like himself were trying to get an education -- it was too "elitist," they said (Sullivan was thus exposed early on to the left-wing tendency to drag everybody down to a low level rather than allow some people to rise above others).

If there is anything positive to come from a story like this, it is that these kids -- and hopefully some other people as well -- may understand the difference between action and talk, and the occasionally awful consequences that flow from seemingly humane ideas.

And that a lot of pacifist rhetoric is simply garbage.


Thursday, March 18, 2004

The Humiliating Litany of Truth 

'Why do they hate us?'
Thomas Sowell

The idea that what goes around comes around applies not only to individuals but to nations and whole civilizations. It was just a few centuries ago -- not long, as history is measured -- that China had the highest standard of living in the world and the Dutch were the world's largest exporters, while North Africans were enslaving a million Europeans.

Nowhere have whole peoples seen their situation reversed more visibly or more painfully than the peoples of the Islamic world. In medieval times, Europe lagged far behind the Islamic world in science, mathematics, scholarship, and military power.

Even such ancient European thinkers as Plato and Aristotle became known to Europeans of the Middle Ages only after their writings, which had been translated into Arabic, were translated back into European languages.

Today that is all reversed. The number of books per person in Europe is more than ten times that in Africa and the Middle East. The number of books translated into Arabic over the past thousand years is about the same as the number translated into Spanish in one year.

There are only 18 computers per thousand persons in the Arab world, compared to 78 per thousand persons worldwide. Fewer than 400 industrial patents were issued to people in the Arab countries during the last two decades of the 20th century, while 15,000 industrial patents were issued to South Koreans alone.

Human beings do not always take reversals of fortune gracefully. Still less can those who were once on top quietly accept seeing others leaving them far behind economically, intellectually, and militarily.

Those in the Islamic world have for centuries been taught to regard themselves as far superior to the "infidels" of the West, while everything they see with their own eyes now tells them otherwise. Worse yet, what the whole world sees with their own eyes tells them that the Middle East has made few contributions to human advancement in our times. [ . . . ]

What will happen in the meantime? Are millions of proud human beings supposed to quietly accept inferiority for themselves and their children, and perhaps their children's children?

Or are they more likely to listen to demagogues, whether political or religious, who tell them that their lowly place in the world is due to the evils of others -- the West, the Americans, the Jews?

If the peoples of the Islamic world disregarded such demagogues, they would be the exceptions, rather than the rule, among people who lag painfully far behind others. [ . . . ]

Against this background, we may want to consider the question asked by hand-wringers in the West: Why do they hate us? Maybe it is because the alternative to hating us is to hate themselves.
This is arguably Sowell's best column since last year's insightful piece on why liberals are so unpopular.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

It's Quittin' Time! 

The incomparable Orrin Judd writes a column for Enter Stage Right that certainly leaves John Kerry grasping for breath in the gravitas sweepstakes:

In the varied analyses of John Kerry's prospects this Fall, there has been much comment about the fact that no sitting Senator has been elected president since John F. Kennedy, forty-plus years ago. Less frequently mentioned is that Senator Kerry's most recent predecessor in this unusual role, Bob Dole, thought it necessary to resign his Senate seat in order to wage a serious campaign.
Mr. Judd goes on to quote the beautiful words spoken by Sen. Dole upon announcing his resignation (actually penned for him by novelist Mark Helprin, who I hadn't known had written this speech, but should have guessed after reading the stirring language) before quoting a tepid editorial of support for John Kerry penned by the editors of the New York Times. More Judd:

If that's the most passion his amen corner can muster, he's in trouble already.

Just imagine what will be left of his public persona once the Bush campaign begins running a series of ads that shows him voting for things like the Iraq war resolution, the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, NAFTA, etc., and then criticizing them in the Democratic primaries, as Howard Dean dragged the race to the Left. The new campaign finance laws, which require that annoying little break for the candidate whose campaign is running the ad to accept responsibility for it, held down the amount of negative campaigning in the primaries, but with Senator Kerry you can just pit his own record against his subsequent rhetoric. Is it really a negative ad when you show the other candidate denouncing himself? At the very least, President Bush certainly shouldn't have to worry about taking credit for just showing footage of Senator Kerry essentially criticizing himself. In his first campaign speech he even showed a willingness to talk full ownership of this line of attack, doing so with sufficient humor that it's not likely to work against him, when he referred to the Democratic field as : ."..an interesting group, with diverse opinions: They're for tax cuts and against them. They're for NAFTA and against NAFTA. They're for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act. They're in favor of liberating Iraq, and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts."
Ouch. But Mr. Judd is just beginning: he proceeds to run through the myriad reasons why we can expect Sen. Kerry to resign his post in Congress, which includes the expectation that he will have to show up to vote on contentious issues like a gay marriage amendment that will be the last things he wants voters connecting him with right now (While he's trying to present himself as a "normal guy" fighting the "corporate interests," he'll meanwhile be photographed in his pinstripe suit casting votes on divisive issues -- thus reinforcing his reputation as an "insider"!).

Kerry could avoid this by doing one of two things. Option number one: He could refuse to show up for votes, which is a tactic he has pursued so far but will begin to get hammered for as time wears on; even his allies may be critical if he misses a key vote and the favored Democratic position is defeated in a close tally. His second option is simply to resign his position in the Senate.

That may very well be what he does. But, in a delicious bit of happenstance perfectly suited to make the infamously back-and-forth Kerry look like an even more ideal spokesman for Waffle House, the governor of Massachusetts is a Republican. Since Governor Mitt Romney gets to choose Kerry's successor, the current ideological imbalance in the Senate will likely swing to 52 Republicans versus 47 Democrats (and one Jim Jeffords, currently holding office on the Weasel ticket). Orrin Judd goes on to highlight the obvious: Since Romney will probably choose William Weld or Paul Cellucci for the office (both of them popular former governors), the GOP may hold this seat for a while. Meanwhile, the impending retirements of certain Senate Democrats may well push the imbalance further in the direction of the GOP.

Heh, heh, heh.

PS In a separate matter, Orrin Judd links to this article on his blog, which is a report from the New York Times analyzing polling data (link requires registration). Check out how many paragraphs you have to wade into this thing before the Times gets around to noting that, in a three-way, Bush-Kerry-Nader race, Bush beats Kerry like a drum.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Spanish Elections and the Evil Men Who Want to Kill Us 

In the interests of saving space, I will avoid "blockquoting" in the following articles. Thanks are due to Real Clear Politics for the links. -- Cato

The Spanish dishonoured their dead
Mark Steyn
Daily Telegraph (U.K.)

"When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, naturally they will like the strong horse." So said Osama bin Laden in his final video appearance two-and-a-half years ago. But even the late Osama might have been surprised to see the Spanish people, invited to choose between a strong horse and a weak horse, opt to make their general election an exercise in mass self-gelding.

To be sure, there are all kinds of John Kerry-esque footnoted nuances to Sunday's stark numbers. One sympathises with those electors reported to be angry at the government's pathetic insistence, in the face of the emerging evidence, that Thursday's attack was the work of Eta, when it was obviously the jihad boys. One's sympathy, however, disappears with their decision to vote for a party committed to disengaging from the war against the jihadi. As Margaret Thatcher would have said: "This is no time to go wobbly, Manuel." But they did. And no one will remember the footnotes, the qualifications, the background - just the final score: terrorists toppled a European government. [ . . . ]

At the end of last week, American friends kept saying to me: "3/11 is Europe's 9/11. They get it now." I expressed scepticism. And I very much doubt whether March 11 will be a day that will live in infamy. Rather, March 14 seems likely to be the date bequeathed to posterity, in the way we remember those grim markers on the road to conflagration through the 1930s, the tactical surrenders that made disaster inevitable. All those umbrellas in the rain at Friday's marches proved to be pretty pictures for the cameras, nothing more. The rain in Spain falls mainly on the slain. In the three days between the slaughter and the vote, it was widely reported that the atrocity had been designed to influence the election. In allowing it to do so, the Spanish knowingly made Sunday a victory for appeasement and dishonoured their own dead.

And, if it works in Spain, why not in Australia, Britain, Italy, Poland? In his 1996 "Declaration of War Against the Americans", Bin Laden cited Washington's feebleness in the face of the 1992 Aden hotel bombings and the Black Hawk Down business in Somalia in 1993: "You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew," he wrote. "The extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear." To the jihadis' way of thinking, on Thursday, the Spaniards were disgraced by Allah; on Sunday, they withdrew. The extent of their impotence and weaknesses is very clear. [ . . . ]

Last Friday, for a brief moment, it looked as if a few brave editorialists on the Continent finally grasped that global terrorism is a real threat to Europe, and not just a Bush racket. But even then they weren't proposing that the Continent should rise up and prosecute the war, only that they be less snippy in their carping from the sidelines as America gets on with it. Spain was Washington's principal Continental ally, and what does that boil down to in practice? 1,300 troops. That's fewer than what the New Hampshire National Guard is contributing.

The other day, the editor of Le Monde, writing in the Wall Street Journal, dismissed as utterly false the widespread belief among all Americans except John Kerry's campaign staff that France is a worthless ally: "Let us remember here," he wrote, "the involvement of French and German soldiers, among other European nationalities, in the operations launched in Afghanistan to pursue the Taliban, track down bin Laden and attempt to free the Afghans."

Oh, put a baguette in it, will you? The Continentals didn't "launch" anything in Afghanistan. They showed up when the war was over - after the Taliban had been toppled and the Afghans liberated. And a few hundred Nato troops in post-combat mopping-up operations barely registers in the scale against the gazillions of Americans defending the Continent so that EU governments can blow their defence budgets on welfare programmes that make the citizens ever more enervated and dependent.

The only fighting that there is going to be in Europe in the foreseeable future is civil war, and when that happens American infantrymen will want to be somewhere safer. Like Iraq. There are strong horses and weak horses, but right now western Europe is looking like a dead horse.

Time to Save an Alliance
Robert Kagan
Washington Post

The unhappy reality is that a significant number of Spanish voters seem to have responded to the attacks in Madrid exactly as al Qaeda hoped they would. They believed their government's close cooperation with the United States, and specifically with the Bush administration in Iraq, had brought the wrath of the terrorist organization on them, and that the way to avoid future attacks was to choose a government that would withdraw from Iraq and distance itself from the United States. Other European peoples and governments have quietly flirted with this kind of thinking in the past, and not just recently but throughout the 1990s. But Spaniards have now made this calculus public. If other European publics decide that the Spaniards are right, and conclude that the safer course in world affairs is to dissociate themselves from the United States, then the transatlantic partnership is no more. [ . . . ]

The Bush administration needs to recognize it has a crisis on its hands and start making up for lost time in mending transatlantic ties, and not just with chosen favorites. [ . . . ] The American task now is to address both governments and publics, in Old and New Europe, to move past disagreements over the Iraq war, and to seek transatlantic solidarity against al Qaeda. [ . . . ]

[T]he problem is not all on the American side, and neither is the solution. Responsible heads in Europe must understand that anything that smacks of retreat in the aftermath of this latest attack could raise the likelihood of further attacks. Al Qaeda's list of demands doesn't end with Iraq. The attack in Madrid was not just punishment for Spain's involvement in Iraq but for involvement with the United States in the war on terrorism. Al Qaeda's statement taking credit for the bombings in Madrid condemned Spain's role in Afghanistan, too. Al Qaeda seeks to divide Europe and the United States not just in Iraq but in the overall struggle. It seeks to convince Europeans not only that the use of force in Iraq was mistaken but that the use of force against terrorism in general is mistaken and futile -- just as Prodi is arguing. Are Europeans prepared to grant all of al Qaeda's conditions in exchange for a promise of security? Thoughts of Munich and 1938 come to mind.

The incoming Spanish government has declared its intention to move away from the United States and back to the "core of Europe," meaning France and Germany. Presumably Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder will welcome their new ally in Old Europe. But presumably they also know that dissociation from the United States in the wake of the Madrid bombings will be a disaster for Europe. If the United States cannot fight al Qaeda without Europe's help, it is equally true that Europe can't fight al Qaeda without the United States. If Europe's leaders understand this, then they and Bush should recognize the urgency of making common cause now, before the already damaged edifice of the transatlantic community collapses.

Spain's vote against mendacity
Thomas Oliphant
Boston Globe

In an atmosphere of horror and anger, Spanish voters managed to sort through their emotions over the weekend to deliver a surprisingly clear message to their government. Perhaps we should listen in the United States.

Governments that lie and cover up on matters not only central to national security but also to the commitment of armed forces abroad are inviting rejection.

Governments that seek to use events as unspeakable as mass murder for political purposes are doing the same. It was clear something was wrong within hours of last Thursday's bombings in Madrid. Virtually all of the sketchy information being gathered by US officials here and abroad pointed in the direction of Al Qaeda and away from the Basque terrorist group known as ETA.

But all the Spanish government's statements pointed in ETA's direction, and the Bush administration decided to suppress its own knowledge and evidence-based suspicions to the contrary in order to support one of its few unquestioning allies in the occupation of Iraq virtually on the eve of the national elections the bombings were obviously timed to influence.

From the outset, however, clues that led away from ETA and toward Al Qaeda registered with increasing force on Spanish public opinion. The result was revulsion and anger on a scale sufficient to sweep away the preelection polls and predictions. The government fell, and the Bush administration will have difficulty deflecting suspicion that it was complicit in a coverup.

The initial near-insistence by officials of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's government that this was Basque and not fanatical Islamist terrorism now appears based less on evidence and more on the fact that such a theory of the crime best fit Aznar's Popular Party election chances.

However, the evidence was flimsy. Not only did the coordinated commuter train bombings not fit ETA's profile; there was a steady stream of information pointing in Al Qaeda's direction. There were repeated denials of complicity by ETA and its above-ground supporters, clashing with the group's consistent pattern in the past of claiming responsibility when it was involved, and there were repeated statements of complicity in domestic and international channels linked to Al Qaeda. As doubts and evidence accumulated, public opinion took an astonishingly rapid turn toward the Socialist candidacy of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero -- not only an opponent a year ago of the US invasion of Iraq but an advocate of the withdrawal of Spain's token 1,300-member force from the US-led coalition. [ . . . ]

The most important lesson, however, is that in a time of national shock only truth is acceptable. Bush might want to remember that before he makes his next use of 9/11 imagery in his campaign commercials or digs his hole deeper with more manufactured descriptions of the "threat" Iraq posed a year ago that required a near-unilateral invasion and occupation in haste.

Spanish Flu
Doug Bandow

When the U.S. assembled its international coalition, ranging from Great Britain to Micronesia, to topple Iraq's Saddam Hussein, it relied on governments willing to override their people's wishes. America's war received popular support in no countries other than Kuwait and Israel.

Now Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party may have paid the ultimate political price for backing the Bush administration, losing an election that it long was expected to win. Other American allies, most notably John Howard in Australia, Tony Blair in Great Britain, and Junichiro Koizumi in Japan, might eventually meet the same end.

Only Britain and Australia offered serious military aid in the war; Poland provided 300 soldiers but begged Washington not to mention its contribution publicly. Most nations—Slovakia, Norway, and scores of others—simply wrote letters of support. [ . . . ]

The failure to find any weapons of mass destruction buried the claim that Iraq threatened world peace and stability. The failure to establish an alliance with al-Qaeda voided the promise that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would weaken Islamic terrorism. [ . . . ]

The reaction of Spanish voters was hardly surprising. Many complained that the government had manipulated the investigation, attempting to blame the Spanish separatist group ETA, against which the Aznar government had run a sustained campaign. Officials in Washington played along, in a desperate attempt to aid a friendly government in need.

With evidence suggesting an al-Qaeda connection, however, Spaniards blamed the government for turning them into a target. It is bad enough to take a nation into war based on a mistake or lie. It is horrific to do so when the result is to bring war back to the homefront. [ . . . ]

Already American hawks are decrying alleged allied weakness. Not only did Prime Minister Aznar's party lose, but incoming Socialist Party Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced that he plans to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq when their tour ends in July.

It was bad enough that the French and Germans opposed the U.S. Now, America' paper warriors complain, Washington's few friends are fleeing.

For instance, Rod Dreher, columnist for the Dallas Morning News, calls the Spanish election result, "terrible news. It shows that the Europeans are willing to be cowed by terror into voting for appeasers. Message to terrorists: commit terrorism on the eve of elections, say you're doing it to punish the government for standing by the United States, and you can drive a wedge between Western allies."

However, the real wedge is Washington's demand that allied states act contrary to allied interests. Spain—along with Australia, Britain, Japan, Poland, South Korea, and the rest of the civilized world, in fact—often have cause to work with America. [ . . . ]

[F]oreign peoples obviously do not feel blind loyalty to every administration that holds power in Washington. Especially when that administration sacrifices facts for ideology and presses their governments to act against their own wishes.

Al Qaeda's Wish List
David Brooks
New York Times
(link requires registration)

I am trying not to think harshly of the Spanish. They have suffered a grievous blow, and it was crazy to go ahead with an election a mere three days after the Madrid massacre. Nonetheless, here is what seems to have happened:

The Spanish government was conducting policies in Afghanistan and Iraq that Al Qaeda found objectionable. A group linked to Al Qaeda murdered 200 Spaniards, claiming that the bombing was punishment for those policies. Some significant percentage of the Spanish electorate was mobilized after the massacre to shift the course of the campaign, throw out the old government and replace it with one whose policies are more to Al Qaeda's liking.

What is the Spanish word for appeasement? [ . . . ]

Many Americans and many Europeans will stare at each other in the weeks ahead with disbelieving eyes. For today more than any other, it really does appear that Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus.

If a terrorist group attacked the U.S. three days before an election, does anyone doubt that the American electorate would rally behind the president or at least the most aggressively antiterror party? Does anyone doubt that Americans and Europeans have different moral and political cultures? Yesterday the chief of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, told Italy's La Stampa, "It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists." Does he really think capitulation or negotiation works better? Can you imagine John Kerry or George Bush saying that?

Nor is America itself without blame. Where was our State Department? Why hasn't Colin Powell spent the past few years crisscrossing Europe so that voters there would at least know the arguments for the liberation of Iraq, would at least have some accurate picture of Americans, rather than the crude cowboy stereotype propagated by the European media? Why does the Bush administration make it so hard for its friends? Why is it so unable to reach out?

This is a watershed event. It will change how Al Qaeda thinks about the world. It will change how Europeans see the world. It will constrain American policy for years to come.

Rotten Europe
David Warren
Ottawa Citizen via David Warren Online

Three days after the worst terror attack in continental Europe since World War II, Spain voted to capitulate. In compliance with the demands made in an Al Qaeda videotape, the Socialist prime minister elect, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, announced yesterday that Spain would withdraw its 1,300 troops from Iraq -- unless, of course, the U.S. turns over the whole operation to the incompetent United Nations. We have seen the spectacle of nine million Spaniards, demonstrating their grief in the streets, their hands raised and painted white in a poignant gesture of mass surrender.

This quotation, to a New York Times correspondent in Madrid by "David", a 26-year-old window frame maker who would not give his surname, tells the whole story. He explained why, at the last minute, he had changed his vote from Popular to Socialist: "Maybe the Socialists will get our troops out of Iraq, and Al Qaeda will forget about Spain, so we will be less frightened."

It should be juxtaposed with this quotation from Mark Steyn, in Britain's Daily Telegraph: "So the choice for pluralist democracies is simple: You can join Bush in taking the war to the terrorists, to their redoubts and sponsoring regimes. ... Or you can stick your head in the sand and paint a burqa on your butt. But they'll blow it up anyway."

For Al Qaeda, it is a huge victory after 30 months of continuous setbacks. They have tried a new tactic, and it works. They have shown that by massacring large numbers of innocents on the eve of a Western election, they may persuade the survivors to vote as they wish. Count on it: they will not now abandon this tactic. And they are likely to try it in the United States as well, to defeat President Bush in November, thanks to that Spanish capitulation. [ . . . ]

The Spanish Socialists exploited the shock and grief of last Thursday's murderous attacks on Madrid's transit rail system, with demonstrations on the eve of the election. The outgoing government of Prime Minister José María Aznar was accused of "lying to the Spanish people" by suggesting that the attack might have been mounted by the Basque ETA, and thus have nothing to do with Iraq. In defiance of Spanish electoral law, and disregarding the period of mourning that had been agreed by all parties, the Socialist partisans shouted that the blood of Spain was on Aznar's hands.

Let what it did stand to the eternal credit of Mr. Aznar's government. In the early morning of Sunday before the polls had yet opened, and in the full knowledge of what the consequences might be to its electoral prospects, it released information about the capture of Moroccan and Indian Jihadists, and the receipt of the videotape, that left no doubt about the authorship of the carnage.

To Die in Madrid
Christopher Hitchens

[ . . . ] [I]t seems that some Spaniards, and some non-Spanish commentators, would change on a dime if last week's mass murder in Madrid could be attributed to the Bin-Ladenists. In that case not only would there be a root cause—the deployment of 1,300 Spanish soldiers in the reconstruction of Iraq—but there would also be a culpable person, namely Spain's retiring prime minister. By this logic, terrorism would also have a cure—the withdrawal of those Spanish soldiers from a country where al-Qaida emphatically does not desire them to be.

Try not to laugh or cry, but some spokesmen of the Spanish left have publicly proposed exactly this syllogism. I wonder if I am insulting the readers of Slate if I point out its logical and moral deficiencies:

Many Spaniards were among those killed recently in Morocco, where a jihadist bomb attack on an ancient Moorish synagogue took place in broad daylight. The attack was on Morocco itself, which was neutral in the recent Iraq war. It seems a bit late to demand that the Moroccan government change sides and support Saddam Hussein in that conflict, and I suspect that the Spanish Communist and socialist leadership would feel a little sheepish in making this suggestion. Nor is it obvious to me that the local Moroccan jihadists would stop bombing if this concession were made. Still, such a concession would be consistent with the above syllogism, as presumably would be a demand that Morocco cease to tempt fate by allowing synagogues on its soil in the first place.

Democracy and terrorism
Tod Lindberg
Washington Times

A terror attack in Spain on the eve of national elections was the primary reason for the defeat of the party of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Polls before the attack favored the ruling party. In its wake, some Spaniards apparently chose to blame Mr. Aznar's support for the United States in Iraq for bringing on the attack — enough to tip the balance to the opposition Socialists, whohave promised the withdrawal of Spain's 1,300 troops in Iraq at the end of their tour in July.

There are a few complexities here, naturally. First among them is responsibility for the attack itself. Although evidence of an al Qaeda connection has been mounting, in the initial hours, the government laid the blame at the door of the ETA, the home-grown Basque separatist terror organization. The haste with which Mr. Aznar's government pointed a finger at the ETA, rather than waiting for more complete information, was likely a factor in voters' revising their views. The Iraq war was no more popular in Spain than it was throughout Europe. One can understand why the Aznar government would prefer to think that the Madrid attack was something other than reprisal for support for the United States. But it was unwise to act on its preference by blaming the ETA before the facts were in.

One shouldn't get lost in the nuances, however. If it's al Qaeda, then clearly, Spaniards are hardly crazy to wonder if a different position on Iraq might have spared them the carnage. And that, in turn, is going to make no end of trouble going forward. Meanwhile, al Qaeda has just bagged its first Western government. That's not good, either.

My friend Lee Harris wrote a prescient piece on the Web site Tech Central Station in the aftermath of the attack last week. He notes, "We may be on the verge of a frightening new development — the emergence of catastrophic terror as a deliberate tool for manipulating, or even subverting, the democratic process in European nations, and potentially in our own as well."

Writing prospectively, he continued, "If the Spanish people vote against Aznar's party, then it will appear to the terrorists that they have succeeded in manipulating the domestic policy of an independent nation." Since nothing succeeds like success, we can accordingly expect more such attempts. It matters not that Mr. Aznar might have handled matters better; the conclusion al Qaeda and its friends will draw is that enough bodies can make a decisive difference. [ . . . ]

Of course the more nations that try to opt out, the more heavily the burden falls on the United States. The spirit of appeasement is loose. Whether it will spread and how quickly and with what encouragement from al Qaeda, in the form of how many more bombs going off, we don't know. But we are likely to find out.

The answer to terror is plain
James Pinkerton

Are the Spanish cowardly for tossing out their pro-Iraq intervention government? Or are they wise?

Hawks in America were quick to embrace Spain in the wake of the terror bombings in Madrid last week. "We Are All Spaniards Now," proclaimed the lead editorial in The New York Sun. The goal of such punditry, of course, was to keep Spaniards - and Americans - from grasping the full downside of the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive strikes on other countries, notably Iraq.

But now that the pro-intervention Popular Party (PP) has been defeated, to be replaced by the anti-intervention Socialists, American hawks are reversing course, accusing Spain of "appeasing" terror. Peter Robinson, writing in Nationalreview.com, lamented, "Terrorists have now succeeded in producing a change in government in a major Western European nation."

Not exactly. What happened was that Spaniards went to the polls and rejected the PP's pro-Bush policy. Intervention in Iraq was a "disaster," declared newly elected Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

To be sure, the PP said it went to Iraq to help promote peace, but Spain's intervention had "war of civilizations" written all over it. Many Spanish troops serving in Iraq, for example, wore an arm patch depicting the Cross of St. James of Compostela. That insignia commemorates the Battle of Clavijo in 844. According to legend, the Apostle St. James the Elder came down from the sky and killed every Moor - as Muslims were then called - in his path. Ever since, St. James has been called "Santiago Matamoros," St. James the Moor Killer.

In July, the Madrid newspaper El Mundo warned: "To put the Cross of St. James of Compostela on the uniforms of Spanish soldiers demonstrates an absolute ignorance of the psychology of the society in which they will have to carry out their mission." [ . . . ]

The lesson of Madrid was clear enough. Those Spanish troops currently hunkering down in Iraq, dodging snipers, could have been used instead to secure "soft targets" on the homefront, guarding Spain's borders and transport system.

So what will the incoming Zapatero government do in regard to security policy? Here's a prediction: Even as he honors his campaign promise to withdraw his country's troops from Iraq, Zapatero will take obvious and commonsensical measures to improve Spain's homeland security. That is, he will tighten up on border enforcement, scrutinize aliens more closely and improve security around public places. And he will even work closely with allies in "Old Europe." [ . . . ]

Finally, Americans might ask themselves the most basic question of all: Has the invasion of Iraq really made the United States safer?

A Rush to Judgment
George Will
New York Post

Measured by the immediacy and importance of their political effect, the train bombs in Madrid were the most efficient explosions in the history of terrorism. Detonated 74 hours before polls opened in a national election, the reverberations toppled a U.S. ally.

Seven decades ago Spain became a cockpit for the 20th century's contending totalitarianisms - fascism and communism. Its 1936-39 civil war, a witches' brew of political and religious passions, was exceptionally savage, even for a civil war. Last Thursday this century's passions exploded in Spain.

Perhaps Sunday's election, which removed the leadership that took Spain into the war against Islamic terrorism, means that after the home-grown terrors of the 20th century, Spain, like much of the rest of Europe, wants only peace, and at any price. But Americans should be tentative about extracting lessons from all this. Spain can be confusing. [ . . . ]

The terrorists may draw an erroneous conclusion. They may conclude that that the reaction of the Spanish electorate - cashiering the government that supported regime change in Iraq - would be replicated in the United States in response to a terrorist attack on the eve of the presidential election.

It is likely that an attack would trigger a reflex to rally 'round the government. Public support even soared for President Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of the Bay of Pigs debacle, perhaps the most feckless use of power in American history. [ . . . ]

On Sunday, when the Spanish election was going badly for U.S. interests, so, too, was Russia's presidential election - if it can be dignified as such. Vladimir Putin used bribery and intimidation to pull people to the polls after a campaign in which the state apparatus propagandized for him and marginalized his competitors. In the process, Putin managed to further delegitimize himself with a 71 percent landslide.

This was a large milestone on Russia's rapid slide back into authoritarianism. [ . . . ]

Also on Sunday, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the deposed president of Haiti, accompanied by one of the shrillest members of Congress, California Democrat Maxine Waters, flew, against the wishes of the Bush administration, from his brief exile in the Central African Republic to Jamaica. Although it is uncertain what Aristide's return to the Caribbean portends, it cannot be counted as helpful to U.S. "nation-building" in Haiti. But, then, what could be?

Monday morning's headlines suggested a loss of U.S mastery of events. But, then, belief that events can be mastered is the root of most political misfortunes.

Rewarding Terror in Spain
Edward N. Luttwak
New York Times

It must be said: Spanish voters have allowed a small band of terrorists to dictate the outcome of their national elections. This is not how democracies are supposed to react when they are attacked by fanatics. Americans were visibly united and hardened by Sept. 11; the Italians overcame deep political differences to unify in their determination to crush the Red Brigades; Israeli cohesion has only been increased by decades of terrorism. When threatened by a violent few, democratic political communities will normally react by enforcing the will of the many.

For many years, this has been the Spanish answer to the Basque separatist movement. But it was not the response to last week's bombings.

Before the attacks, the polls forecast a victory for Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party, for the very good reason that he was the chosen successor of Prime Minister José María Aznar, who has led Spain on the path of modernization and prosperity with almost universally acknowledged success. Three days before the elections, Mr. Rajoy seemed to be headed for victory over José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, who campaigned on a pledge to withdraw the 1,300 Spanish troops stationed in Iraq if the United Nations did not assume control of the occupation. Mr. Zapatero's call was not merely to avoid more casualties, but to affirm that the Iraq war was an act of imperialist aggression that Spain should never have supported.

Even those who view the Iraq war as a strategic error for the United States — and I'm one of them — cannot take seriously the Zapateros of Europe, who seem bent on validating the crudest caricatures of "old European" cowardly decadence. It was an act of colossal irresponsibility for the Socialists and the Spanish news media to excoriate the Aznar government for asserting that ETA, the Basque separatist movement, was probably behind the attacks. [ . . . ]

Whatever their motivation, the Socialists' argument was fundamentally flawed. Osama bin Laden and other Islamists had identified Spain as a priority target years before the Iraq war. Under Muslim law, no land conquered by Islam may legitimately come under non-Muslim rule. For the fanatics, Spain is still Al Andalus of the Middle Ages, which must be re-claimed for Islam by immigration and intimidation. Even if the bombs were placed by Islamists, the idea that Spain was attacked solely because of Mr. Aznar's support for the Iraq war is simply wrong.

And even if ETA is found to be responsible — something that seems increasingly unlikely given the direction of the investigation — the damage has been done. The Spanish political community has failed the test of terrorism — it has bowed to the violence of the few. Weakness tends to invite further attack. In this regard, Spain is vulnerable. It still rules the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African coast, which Islamists view as Christian colonies on Muslim soil. Having seen what bombs can do, they might be tempted to see if a few more explosions can induce the Spanish to withdraw. Similarly, ETA may well decide that another massacre or two will persuade the Spanish government to accept its demands.

Paradoxically, Mr. Zapatero can redeem Spanish democracy only if he repudiates the popular mandate he received and announces that there will be no withdrawal from Iraq because of any act of terrorism, Muslim or Basque.

What will the rest of Europe do? For politicians in countries like Italy, with both strong anti-American movements and troops in Iraq, the risks are obvious. Any politician who invokes Madrid to demand a withdrawal from Iraq will be inviting terrorist attacks to prove his point. What's more, it's unlikely that this strategy will work politically. The Spanish literally had no time to reflect between the Madrid bombings and the election. With more time, other nations are more likely to react as democracies usually do: by rejecting terrorists and their deluded causes.

Spaniards ignore logic in caving to al-Qaida
John O'Sullivan
Chicago Sun-Times

[ . . . ] The People's Party lost for one reason only: The police investigation increasingly suggested that the Madrid bombs were the work of al-Qaida. Hence they were seen as retaliation for the Aznar government's support of the U.S. war in Iraq. And a majority of Spaniards decided by their votes to blame not al-Qaida but Aznar's party for the 201 deaths.

By any test this result is a catastrophe. In the short term the new socialist government in Madrid is likely to withdraw the 1,700 Spanish troops in Iraq. That will slightly weaken the multinational force, make other governments reluctant to commit their troops, and encourage anti-U.S. parties throughout Europe to press for the withdrawal of national contingents already there. All of this will make it much harder to establish and protect a genuine democratic government in Iraq.

But that scarcely begins to exhaust the dangerous and damaging consequences of this election result.

In the first place Osama bin Laden will conclude, not unreasonably, that Zapatero won in coalition with himself. Al-Qaida as a whole will reckon that its bombs were the main factor in handing the election to an unworthy Zapatero. And that victory will instill the forces of Islamo-fascism worldwide with the belief that the people of Spain, Europe and the West are decadent -- just as the 1930s Oxford Union refusing "to die for King and Country" convinced Hitler that the democracies then were decadent. Like Hitler they will then be emboldened by this belief to strike further -- both against Spain and against other nations where resistance to Islamo-fascist terrorism is weak and uncertain. And the terrorist war on civilization will last longer and kill more people.

Second, Zapatero's arrival in power will strengthen the anti-U.S. coalition in European politics. [ . . . ]

Third, this anti-American victory was a wake-up call to the State Department and foreign policy establishment. They have paid too little attention to the rise of an anti-American Europe. So they have carried on automatically doing what they had done for the previous 50 years -- consistently encouraging the construction of "Europe" while occasionally bitching about its ingratitude. [ . . . ]

In the meantime, of course, al-Qaida will be preparing to determine the results of other elections -- notably those of the powers most active in Iraq, namely, the United States, Britain, and Poland. It is very unlikely that a terrorist bomb, however murderous, would help Sen. John Kerry. Quite the contrary.

If it seemed designed to help Kerry, it would re-elect Bush. Al-Qaida will find both Britain and Poland similarly difficult nuts to crack. In both countries the main opposition party is even more pro-American than the government. Not until the Italian elections come along will Osama find another Zapatero in the person of Romano Prodi, who is currently president of the European Commission but who seems likely to lead another anti-American leftist coalition against pro-American Prime Minister Berlusconi. And that is not until 2006.

Until then, however, Spain's election will hang over Europe like a mist of fear and forgetfulness. Spaniards in particular should have recognized the family resemblance between the Islamo-fascist boast, "You love Pepsi Cola, we love death" and the Falangist slogan, "Down with Intelligence, Long live Death." They in particular should have remembered that fascism under any cultural guise can be neither appeased nor bargained with. If Spain's participation in Iraq had not been available as an excuse, the Reconquista would have served as equal justification -- indeed Osama himself cited Islam's loss of Andalusia as reason for his terror campaign.

Nations that did refuse to help America in Iraq, such as Turkey, have nonetheless suffered bombings as heartless as those in Madrid. Unless Zapatero is prepared to convert himself and Spain to Islam, Spanish cities will continue to be targets for bombs at the whim of our enemies.

A moment's intelligent reflection would have told the Spanish people these truths. But they discarded intelligence and gave death its first election victory.

Cato the elder: It seems to me that a simple question can help cut through all the rhetoric. We should ask ourselves whether or not the terrorists were happy with the results of the Spanish election. Were they happy that one of the nations ranged against them no longer will be? (A question like this is similar to the one that Americans should ask themselves before the November elections: Do the terrorists want John Kerry or George Bush to win this contest?) If the answer is "yes," then the election results in Spain were almost certainly a regrettable outcome.


The Sweet, Sweet Smell of Failure 

Paul Starr of The American Prospect liberally fantasizes about the new left-wing talk-radio network. Let's humor him for a minute:

This spring, if all goes according to plan, a new radio network with programs modeled after Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will make its debut. The viewpoint of the venture is the big news. Air America Radio, as it's now being called, promises to be the first commercial network with a liberal political outlook in a medium that for years has been dominated by conservatives.

Of all the media, radio has undergone the most decisive shift to the right during the past two decades. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other conservative talk-show hosts do not merely outdraw and outnumber liberals; they have hardly any progressive competition at the national level. [ . . . ]

Two aspects of radio make it difficult today to redress the political balance. People generally listen to stations for their format -- Top 40, country, rock, news, talk -- rather than a specific program. Radio stations are "mood buttons," as Martin Kaplan, associate dean at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications, calls them. Once Limbaugh and others established the conservative talk format, other shows along similar lines fit readily into that model and mood. But liberal talk shows on the same buttons haven't succeeded -- the audience wasn't theirs. [ . . . ]

But getting this new lineup on the air is also harder today than it was even a decade ago because of the changed structure of the industry. Since Congress eliminated limits on station ownership in 1996, large chains with centralized decision making have taken over a growing share of commercial stations, including many of the strongest and most desirable ones in top markets. "You can't rely on a syndication strategy because of central decisions about programming," argues Kaplan, who has been involved in Air America's development. National distribution, in this view, requires full control of a network's major-market stations by leasing them or buying them outright. That means a liberal network has to jump over an even higher investment hurdle.
And so on. This article is comical in the degree to which it avoids confronting the major problem of liberal talk radio: nobody wants to listen to liberals. Actually, that's not quite true: there's precisely one paragraph on the matter:

Conservative domination of talk radio seems so well entrenched that many take it as an unalterable part of the political landscape. To conservatives themselves, it's proof of popular support, as if the country weren't split nearly down the middle in elections and opinion surveys. And even some liberals wonder whether there isn't something about radio as a medium that lends itself to the right.
Later on, Starr unknowingly enunciates precisely what that factor is: most talk radio listeners are males, and they naturally have no desire to listen to hours of liberal whining on the way home from work. And while the country may be "split down the middle" politically, this should be no consolation to liberals: a huge portion of their support comes from scaring people (old folks, minorities, gays, etc.) into voting for them, which is why the GOP has been successful in keeping black voters away from the polls when it runs ads in black neighborhoods: every second a liberal spends debating issues is one less second he has available to paint the GOP as a party of well-dressed Klansmen. While this sort of thing may work for elections, it will not work for talk radio, which thrives on actual ideas rather than scare tactics. In addition, as Thomas Sowell has pointed out, liberal talk show hosts aren't going to have free goodies to pass out.

The very unpopularity of liberal ideas is testified to by any number of factors, not the least of which is that liberal politicians are scared to death of being called liberals; even liberal writers have taken to calling themselves "progressives." There is no word in the American political vocabulary more akin to "wimp" than "liberal," and there's a reason for it: liberals are widely known to be soft on groups of people Americans dislike (criminals, trial lawyers), and tough on those Americans admire (religious people, the military). Consider this: When a rival Republican politician accuses his opponent of being a "liberal," the Democrat in question usually spouts off about "negativity" entering the race!

Liberal politicians are even afraid to vote their consciences once they've gained elective office: they rely instead on judges to enact their agenda for them. American liberalism -- the real kind rather than the cheap imitation -- is almost a dictionary definition of an unpopular political movement. Any radio network that identifies with it will likewise find itself epitomizing the concept of the station that nobody listens to.


The Plot Thickens... 

There's no way I can adequately summarize the information in this Wall Street Journal column, except to note that if these allegations are true, somebody -- and I'm looking here in David Bonior's direction -- ought to be in prison.


Haven't They Been Listening to the Democrats? 

Majority of Iraqis See Life Better Without Saddam

LONDON (Reuters) - A majority of Iraqis believe life is better now than it was under Saddam Hussein [ . . . ] according to a poll released on Tuesday.

A total of 2,500 Iraqis were quizzed for a group of international broadcasting organizations including the BBC in a poll to mark the first anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion.

Almost half (49 percent) of those questioned believed the invasion of their country by U.S. and British troops was right, compared with 39 percent who said it was wrong, the poll commissioned by the BBC and other broadcasters found.

Some 57 percent said that life was better now than under Saddam, against 19 percent who said it was worse and 23 percent who said it was about the same.

Iraqi people appeared optimistic about the future, with 71 percent saying they expected things to be better in a years time, six percent predicting it will be worse and nine percent the same.

Overall, 70 percent said that life was good now, compared with 29 percent who said it was bad.
I am simply astonished that Roto-Reuters chose to cover this poll, even though they have made sure to include the bad news along with the good in this article -- which is, I suppose, exactly what they should be doing. The article mentions that a significant portion of Iraqis feel humiliated by the U.S. presence in Iraq -- a sentiment that any reader of David Pryce-Jones's excellent book on the Arabs will find familiar.

The most difficult thing about this occupation, I think, is simply getting the local Iraqis to trust us. There is already a certain native distrust of foreigners rooted in Arab culture, and readers of this blog who have studied totalitarian dictatorships may recognize the inherent difficulties of getting a local populace to trust democratic newcomers when they have known nothing but oppression their entire lives.

A similar attitude manifested itself in certain Eastern European countries during the American defense of Kosovo: although the people of those countries had many positive impulses towards the United States, they largely opposed American interference because they could not imagine the U.S. attacking a Slavic nation out of anything other than self-interested motives; a humanitarian mission was quite outside their normal frame of reference. When your own government has treated you like garbage for so long, it is only natural that you will ascribe cynical motives to nearly any endeavor. Predictably, a number of conspiracy theories arose to "explain" the "real" reasons (always bad) for American action.

Nobody said this was going to be easy. And it hasn't been.


Don't Touch That Dial! 

Hooray! Spike TV, the network for men that specializes in testosterone-laced fare like Monday Night Raw, has just debuted a new animated comedy that appears to represent the significant majority of men who have voted Republican during almost every election since World War II ended. The American Spectator's Kelly Jane Torrance lets us know what's up:

You might not expect the cable network that broadcasts Stripperella, featuring a crime-fighting peeler voiced by Pamela Anderson, and Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, a program for those who "enjoy broken bones, splattering spleens, high impact hematomas, and watching people get them," to be a place where old-school conservatives might feel at home. But This Just In, which debuted Sunday night on Spike TV, is a surprisingly fun cartoon about an unabashedly conservative syndicated columnist from San Diego.

"If it's in his head, it's out of his mouth," reads Spike's description of lead character Brian Newport. From that, you might expect more conservative bashing from the Left Coast. But you'd be disappointed. "Most of the time you see a conservative on a TV show, he's played as a zealot or a boob," comedian and This Just In co-creator Steve Marmel told the Houston Chronicle. "I wanted to do a show where the conservative wasn't the idiot."

The show is made using the digital Flash animation system. This bare-bones technique, widely used on the Internet to create everything from punk rock kittens to fake political ads, allows the creators to write and produce each episode the very week it airs, thus giving the show a just-torn-from-yesterday's-headlines feel.

I realized this isn't your typical political satire just a few minutes into the premiere episode when Brian's best friend Jimmy Townhouse, a black schoolteacher and moderate Democrat, laughs, along with everyone else in the bar, at the current crop of black leaders. "Al Sharpton doesn't scare just white people," Jimmy says. "He scares everybody." [ . . . ]

The cartoon [ . . . ] allows for wonderful "guest stars." The first episode of This Just In features Ted Kennedy. It re-creates the scandal that sank Ted's presidential aspirations -- with a happy ending this time. Kennedy helps Brian escape from a sunken car using the bottle-opener he carries with him everywhere. Imagine making fun of Chappaquiddick! Sacrilege!

But there's more to This Just In than satire. It has something like a core, and deals with real issues, albeit in a slightly off-kilter fashion. The column Brian writes in the first episode is on voter apathy and ignorance. "Everybody's vote shouldn't be equal," Brian argues. "Idiots making decisions for the rest of us is why Bruce Almighty won a People's Choice Award, why there are 100 episodes of Becker, and why guys keep marrying Liza Minnelli." [ . . . ]

[T]he creators have so far have resisted most of the easy right-wing sink holes. "I don't care how hot she is," Brian says of Sami, the attractive, left-wing Latina waitress at his favorite watering hole. "She's a Nader supporter. I'd rather sleep with a six I agree with than a ten I don't." It comes off as a sweet and unexpected thought. [ . . . ]

This Just In doesn't raise sacred cows, on the Left or the Right. A newscast from CNN ends with the anchor deadpanning, "We're just like Fox News, but without the hot female anchors." [ . . . ]

This Just In isn't perfect. A subplot in the first episode, in which Jimmy and Craig get the black former talk show host Wayne Brady to run for president, is far too inside baseball, and inside the Beltway. However, a wickedly funny show about politics that doesn't hate the Red States of America? Spike TV just won itself this female viewer.
I suspect that Brian Anderson, the writer for City Journal who says that conservatives aren't losing the culture wars anymore, is doing handstands over this new comedy (as he must have been when "Doonesbury" alternative Day by Day premiered). The good news isn't even confined to just the show itself: "Brian Newport" operates a "Republicans for Ralph" website (that would be "Nader," for those of you unaware that Ralphie is an apparent RNC plant), and recently began writing a blog, so you don't even have to wait until the next episode to find out what he's thinking. Here's one example of his writing style:

Exiled leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide stated in a press conference that he still rules the country of Haiti. Look, it’s Haiti. Everyone gets a turn to be president. You had yours, now move over and give the next man, woman, witch doctor or goat the chance to have indoor plumbing for six months while they live in the presidential hut.

Besides, you should be focusing on your more immediate problem which is trying to get a job at Outback Steakhouse with the words “President of Haiti” on your resume.
Mr. Newport, like any good conservative, also thinks Hillary Clinton is a first cousin of the Prince of Darkness, and a condescending fool into the bargain:

Hillary Clinton wants to set up a system so that anyone using an electronic voting machine will get a receipt so they know who they voted for. This is yet another attempt by her to treat voters like children. Why don’t you have my mom stand behind me in the booth so she can check my ballot?

And everybody can have their grandparents go to the polling place with them. That way, when people vote for Nader, they can take their vote and use it to wipe!

Jesus Christ woman, get over it. You lost in 2000. Walk it off and run a decent campaign for President, you’re making Rosie O’Donnell seem chipper and accessable.

Who you vote for is supposed to be confidential and nobody is supposed to know including the machine. You think Howard Dean’s supporters want people going to back to New Hampshire and Iowa and outing them for voting for that idiot?

Here’s how democracy works: you get one vote. You screw it up. Too bad. If you are too stupid to figure out how to vote then your vote shouldn’t count. If you punched the wrong chad then you will just have to live with whatever candidate you voted for. You made a mistake, now you have to learn from it.

Speaking of learning from your mistakes, how’s your marriage working out, Hillary?
I would be remiss if I didn't list some of the "Do's and Don'ts" from the "Republicans for Ralph" homepage:

DO go to Nader's website and stroke his ego with e-mails of encouragement. Every day somebody supports him, they aren't supporting Kerry. [ . . . ]

DO put a "Nader for President" bumper sticker on your car, but DON'T put it on a part with paint, because you're peeling it off on November 2. Also, since you're a Republican, people will be impressed that someone with a nice car supports Ralph.

DON'T attend Nader rallies in the clothes you wear every day. Dress down or his supporters might suspect. [ . . . ]

DO inform Nader supporters that you went to a green party rally and they were talking smack about Ralph. If you find yourself around Green party members, tell them you were with a bunch of Nader people the other day, and they were making fun of their body odor. Divide and Conquer! [ . . . ]

DON'T actually vote for Nader on election day! Remember, it's all about bait and switch. We bait, then switch! We're supporting Nader all the way up to November 1, 2004. And then, cast your vote for President Bush.
Sundays at 10:30 PM EST, 9:30 Central. Be there.


Thursday, March 11, 2004

Compassionate Rich People Who Think You Have Too Much Money 

Professor Don Hickey, a former history professor of mine at Wayne State College and the author of the first full treatment of the War of 1812 (covering both military affairs and domestic issues) since Henry Adams penned his famous work, Emailed me asking for a copy of an article I once mentioned to him. Dr. Hickey -- who will henceforth be known as "The Professor" on this blog -- found himself on the receiving end of some laughter when he claimed to a close acquaintance that the Democratic party receives more money from millionaires than do the Republicans. He is looking for the article that can back this up.

Man, did he come to the right place:

A Campaign Reformers Should Love — But Don’t
Byron York
National Review Online

[ . . . ] A new study by the Center for Responsive Politics found that in the last election cycle, people who gave less than $200 to politicians or parties gave 64 percent of their money to Republicans. Just 35 percent went to Democrats. On the other hand, the Center found that people who gave $1 million or more gave 92 percent to Democrats — and a whopping eight percent to Republicans. [ . . . ]

Big-Time Donors Small in Number
Center for Responsive Politics
Press release

Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the U.S. population gave 83 percent of all itemized campaign contributions for the 2002 elections, an analysis of campaign giving by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics has found. [ . . . ]

The study also found that Republicans raised more than Democrats from individuals who contributed small and medium amounts of money during the 2002 election cycle, but Democrats far outpaced Republicans among deep-pocketed givers.

Republican candidates and parties topped their Democratic counterparts, $68 million to $44 million, in fundraising from individuals who contributed under $1,000 in itemized contributions for the 2002 elections. Among donors giving $1,000 or more, Republicans again beat out Democrats, $317 million to $307 million.

But the trend was reversed among individuals at higher giving levels, from whom Democrats raised far more money than Republicans. Among donors of $10,000 or more, Democrats out-raised Republicans, $140 million to $111 million. Among donors of $100,000 or more, Democrats raised $72 million to the Republicans' $34 million. And among the most generous givers - those contributing $1 million or more - Democrats far outdistanced Republicans, $36 million to just over $3 million.
Granted, a few caveats are in order here, not the least of which is that the Center for Responsive Politics meant for this study to highlight the absence of political donors relative to the size of the population at large -- indeed, it makes much of the fact that only "one-tenth of one percent" of the American population gave enough money ($200 or more) to a political campaign or political party for it to be itemized on their taxes. Broadly speaking, not enough people contribute to political campaigns to entirely dispel the silly notion that a group of fat capitalist overlords are sitting in a room somewhere pulling strings.

In addition, there aren't that many millionaires who gave to political campaigns in the first place, so the numbers at the really high end of the scale should perhaps be treated with some skepticism. Still, as we can see, the amount of money given by well-off individuals (many of whom are doubtlessly trial lawyers) to the Democratic party ought to make the "usual suspects" do a double-take.

It is rather shocking to see this finding emanate from the Center for Responsive Politics, an organization that has sometimes been accused of being biased against conservatives -- and not entirely without cause. This research strongly jibes with my "hunch" on these matters, which is that the Left talks a good game on class warfare but is largely composed of wealthy individuals -- indeed, people like Paul Sweezy and Corliss Lamont (born rich, talk left) are not that different from past bourgeois revolutionaries like Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx.

I happen to think that people gifted in articulation naturally go into occupations that suit their interests, and then seek to expand the influence of those occupations. Areas such as law, academia, and journalism are more impervious to common sense than the average profession, since their denizens never face a bottom line they can't talk their way out of. Not only do they propose schemes in which their kind of skills can be utilized -- more rules requiring more bureaucrats, more regulations requiring detailed explanation, a more-regulated society they can oversee, etc. -- but they seem to make quite a bit of money doing it. Ka-ching!


Surely, If We Can Put a Man On The Moon, We Can Make Snotty Leftism Popular Again! 

Liberal Talk Radio Network to Start Up in Three Cities
Jacques Steinberg
New York Times
(link requires registration)

The creators of a fledgling liberal talk radio network who hope to challenge the dominance of conservative voices on the nation's airwaves said yesterday that its programming would make its debut on March 31 on low-rated stations in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The network, known as Air America Radio, said its hosts would include Al Franken, the comedian and political satirist, whose program will be broadcast from noon to 3 p.m.; Janeane Garofalo, an actress whose program will be on from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Chuck D, a hip-hop artist, who will be a co-anchor of a morning program; and Martin Kaplan, a media analyst who has previously appeared on National Public Radio.

Mr. Franken's program will be called "The O'Franken Factor,'' in a barb aimed at Bill O'Reilly, the host of "The O'Reilly Factor'' on the Fox News Channel. [ . . . ]

For all Air America's relative star power and connections - Mark Walsh, the network's chief executive, has donated more than $100,000 to the Democratic Party and has served as an adviser to the presidential candidate John Kerry on Internet issues - the network faces enormous hurdles. They include making money for its investors and unseating the biggest conservative voices in talk radio, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, whose programs appear on hundreds of stations.
While we all wait to see the results of this exercise in flushing money down a toilet, it may be worthwhile to place bets on just how long this radio "nutwork" will be around. I'll be generous and say six months. Readers of my blog who remember other talk-radio "stars" who were going to bedazzle us with their "quick-witted" leftism (Donahue, Hightower, Mario Cuomo, Mario Cuomo, Mario Cuomo) may choose to bet the under. The winner gets a candy bar. Since you won't be here to accept it, I will eat it on your behalf.


The Joys of Intestinal Fortitude 

'Memogate': GOP amoebas
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Republicans either get a spine today or continue their Academy Award-winning performance as amoebas in a continuing role.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are scheduled to meet behind closed doors to decide their next step in the "Memogate" scandal. At least two GOP committee staffers accessed Democrat committee memos through a shared filed server. And that's where the investigation has concentrated. Was the "accessing" -- a click of the mouse that was not "hacking" -- criminal?

But lost in the incident is the content of the memos. Fourteen of what now turns out to be nearly 5,000 memos have been made public. They suggest Democrats and liberal special interest groups conspired to obstruct justice and/or violate civil rights in delaying several of President Bush's federal court nominees.
According to a recent blurb in National Review, one of the memos says quite explicitly that the Democrats did not wish to confirm Miguel Estrada to a judicial seat because of his Hispanic origin -- i.e., "If we don't stop him now, there'll be no way we can oppose him for a Supreme Court seat."

I'll give you three guesses as to why the media is not covering this story. The first two don't count.


Just a Reminder... 

Purported Qaeda Letter Claims Spain Bombings-Paper

DUBAI (Reuters) - A letter purporting to come from Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network claimed responsibility for the train bombings in Spain on Thursday, calling them strikes against "crusaders," a London-based Arabic newspaper said.

"We have succeeded in infiltrating the heart of crusader Europe and struck one of the bases of the crusader alliance," said the letter which called the attacks "Operation Death Trains." There was no way of authenticating the letter, a copy of which was faxed to Reuters' office in Dubai by the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.
There's still a war on.


Monday, March 08, 2004

Too Bad the U.S.A. Wants Bush to Win 

Kerry claims world leaders want him to beat Bush
Rupert Cornwell
The Independent (U.K.)

John Kerry dropped an early bombshell into the US election campaign yesterday by claiming some foreign leaders have already told him they want him to beat President George Bush in November.

His remark, at a fundraiser, drew a mocking response from the White House, where officials pointed out that "US voters, not foreign leaders, decide who becomes President." But it shows how foreign policy - usually a low ranking election issue here - may be front and centre of the battle this time around.

Mr Kerry named no names when he addressed a fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But said: "I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly but, boy, they look at you and say, 'you've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy.'"
Foreign leaders haven't come out and said this publicly? Have I missed something?


Sunday, March 07, 2004

Jimmy "Gin In My Cornflakes" Breslin Speaks! 

Congratulations, dear reader -- you are about to read the very first "fisking" I have ever posted on my blog! This post has been brought to you by Jimmy Breslin -- a famously obnoxious, old, crotchety wreck of a man who writes for New York Newsday and gets up every morning at 4 a.m. to down a half-bottle of Jack Daniels before barfing his daily column into the morning paper. Breslin's mind retreated into a booze-soaked grave long ago, but his ravings present a suitable target for a new blogger wishing to start off with something easy. So sit down, stretch your feet, and try to follow the tortuous nonlogic. And at least consider grabbing an alcoholic drink of your own. You're going to need one:

In his first campaign commercial. George Bush reached down and molested the dead.
Nice opening there, Grampycramps. You don't ever wanna lose that gift for composing the appropriate allusion, I see. This is reminiscent of an old P.J. O'Rourke line: "If meat is murder, does that mean eggs are rape?"

But this only in keeping with both Bushes. George Bush Sr., had the badge of Officer Eddie Byrne, who was gunned down in South Jamaica, and he stood up at Christ the King High School in Middle Village and held it up and said he would have this badge on him forever. Some chance. Bush then led high school girls into insane cheers for the death penalty.
We should all be so lucky as to have a relative expert enough in mental deficiencies to point out insanity when it occurs, but I suppose we'll have to settle for Breslin in the meantime.

Now, right off, this second George Bush came up with the badge of a Port Authority cop, George Howard, who died. He was from Hicksville. His mother gave Bush the son's badge. When Bush came back to the trade center a year later, he reached into his pocket and whipped out that badge and he had a tear in his eye. What makes it worse is that this George W. Bush acts like he's entitled to treat the remains of a dead man like a souvenir.
Uh, the mother gave it to Bush as a "souvenir" -- that is, as a way of helping to remember and honor the awful events of September 11th. Bush, in his State of the Union speech shortly thereafter, vowed to carry the badge with him everywhere he went. So far, he has been as good as his word. Jimmy Breslin, by contrast, would have quickly bartered the item on Ebay for a twelve-pack of Pabst.

Now he shows a commercial with dead bodies, or body parts, covered with an American flag being taken through the smoke and flames of the World Trade Center attack. It caused people who had lost family members in the attack to complain about using the dead or parts thereof being used for a politician's gain.
Watch the Democrat Liberal-O-Matic™ at work: Bush criticized Democratic legislators? "Unpatriotic!" Bush sheds light on Kerry's voting record? "Doesn't he know Kerry served in Vietnam?" Bush uses campaign commercials to highlight his impressive response to global terror? "Scandalous!"

Granted, liberals like Breslin don't have a choice here: they are rightly afraid that the GOP will point out that they attach more value to France's opinion than that of their own countrymen, and that their idea for fighting terrorists is to increase funding to the United Nations. So they are reduced to quoting a few family members of 9/11 victims, most of whom belong to an openly-pacifist group called Peaceful Tomorrows, and whose members are consistently portrayed by the media as representing a significant chunk of opinion among those touched by this tragedy -- even though they almost surely don't. I'll bet if a poll were commissioned among "9/11 families" asking them what to do with the Taliban, more than three-quarters would be in favor of nuking them off the face of the earth, preferably in the most painful way possible.

"Bush is afraid to let us see the dead being brought back from Iraq," one firefighter said Friday.
Notice that this is, indeed, the opinion of one firefighter. There are a number of other firefighters, and their families, who feel differently.

The ad is nothing more than another George W. Bush fraud. First, arriving at the trade center, he was led by a flunky to a retired firefighter, Bob Beckwith, who had come down three days after the attack to take a look. Bush's flacks had Beckwith stand on a destroyed fire engine and Bush came up next to him and Bush put an arm around him and, two heroes, Bush called out "we're tough" to the television cameras.
He is tough, Breslin. He has spent two years using the world's most powerful military to liberate 50 million people and institute self-government among any number of warring ethnic groups -- all without having a nervous breakdown or becoming so overcome by stress that he felt a compulsive need to boink an intern. When was the last time you liberated anything, Breslin -- other than a Metamucil-laced vodka bottle from your refrigerator?

He had all he wanted out of the place. A picture.
Having seen the snapshot of you accompanying this article, Breslin, I can understand your animosity towards photographs.

You all saw Bush play dress-up and land on the aircraft carrier and stand there, the helmet under his arm just like an Ace from the top of a bloody sky. The aircraft carrier had to be turned around so the skyline of San Diego wouldn't be seen.
It's called imagery, Jimmy -- you need it in order to be a successful leader. You need the right look. Just ask Churchill.

Now he has his World Trade Center commercial out there and a lot of decent people regard it as an insult.
Let's switch from questioning Breslin to questioning you, dear reader. Are you a decent person? Do you consider this ad insulting? Has Breslin ever asked you for your opinion? Do you think Breslin even cares to hear your opinion, since you're probably not a member of the New York hoi polloi?

Right away, Rudolph Giuliani came out to defend him to the death. He said the commercial was true and right to put on because it was "appropriate." He was a nobody as a mayor and in one day he became a hero.
A "nobody" -- that's how Breslin describes the man who cleaned up New York City after the city's crime rate had reached levels unseen since Ted Kennedy last paid a visit. I know for a fact that lots of New Yorkers considered Giuliani a hero way before the term "9/11" became as instantly recognizable as "Pearl Harbor." But, again, Breslin doesn't get out among the masses -- he's surely much more comfortable in his safe liberal neighborhood where everybody cares about "the people."

This sudden career, this door opening to a room of gold, all started for Rudolph Giuliani when his indestructible bunker in a World Trade Center building blew up. He had personally selected it, high in the sky, and with tons of diesel fuel to give emergency power.
Giuliani "personally selected" this site to be blown up? Have you been toking up with Oliver Stone, Breslin? Or do you just need an editor that badly?

And Guiliani walks on. He walks from his bunker, up Barclay Street and went on television. Went on and announced his heroism and then came back every hour or so until he became a star, a great figure, a national hero, the mayor who saved New York.
That would be what a leader does, Breslin -- he leads. He makes himself look good, but it's not just himself he represents: it's an entire community, or a nation, or a people. But I know you don't much care for that sort of thing. Turn that aircraft carrier back towards the San Diego skyline, and so on.

Nice job spelling "Giuliani," by the way. I know, I know -- it's your cataracts. That and the way an overdose of Tylenol blurs your vision.

Most of this comes from these dazed Pekinese of the Press. Giuliani was a hero with these news people. He did not pick up a piece of steel or help carry one of the injured off.
Maybe not, but there were plenty of other people to do that -- people who were trained in disaster cleanup operations. Giuliani did, however, attend over 100 funerals and wakes for people who died that day. Hillary Clinton attended one.

He made the trade center his private cathedral. Police commanders were terrified of letting you in. There was only Rudy, who flew his stars, Oprah and the like, down to see it. Now he says a Bush ad is "appropriate."
Ah, so we get to the root of the matter: Breslin is mad because "police commanders" wouldn't let him (and, presumably, his fellow journalists) into the scene of the greatest American massacre since Antietam. Awwwwwww.

That's Giuliani's word. As the mayor, he had a detective driving one of his girlfriends out of the Gracie Mansion driveway while another detective was arriving with another girlfriend and was waved off to prevent a domestic riot.

All the while upstairs there were his wife and children.

Giuliani then showed appropriate behavior by walking in a parade on Fifth Avenue with his girlfriend and all the while his children could sit and watch him on television.
Okay, so Giuliani is a cad in his private life, but it's pretty funny to hear Breslin intoning about "the children." Breslin is infamously hostile to children: he's written columns about his dislike for them -- about how, for example, he is always yelling and cursing at his grandkids. I guess "the children" are beyond reproach only when a Republican politician is not.

How marvelous! It was appropriate to humiliate his children, and now it is appropriate to molest the dead.
Geez, you think this guy could learn a new allusion to express his hatred? Why the unhealthy focus on molestation? Other possible words include "annoy," "bother," "abrade," "bug," "chafe," "exercise," "fret," "irk," "provoke," "ruffle," and "vex" -- to borrow a couple of examples from Merriam-Webster.

Giuliani also had a flunky, Bernard Kerik, rush on television and say, so earnestly, that the Bush commercial was appropriate. Kerik was a Giuliani campaign chauffeur who became police commissioner. How marvelous! At the World Trade Center, Kerik was in the back of his car dictating the last part of a book that was going to appear under his name. It had him writhing with delicious excitement. It was about his mother being a prostitute.
"How marvelous," again. Once more: Does this guy pick and choose from a word bank of roughly three expressions? He's a writer! And what does this story have to do with anything?

That's what you expect from the lackeys. Already we know that George Bush has miles to go in his campaigning, has plenty of money and unlimited cheapness.
Actually, we know that Jimmy Breslin has eight excruciating months left to go before November, with a daily column on his hands and an endless supply of unsupported, anti-Bush invective. Why must he "molest" us so?


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