The Hedgehog Blog
Political and social observations from two aspiring hedgehogs who love the Isaiah Berlin essay.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
I'm sure I have never said this before, but I must say that I agree with almost everything (almost) in this editorial by Nichlas Kristof of the New York Times. Back when conservatives were all over Bill Clinton like the proverbial cheap suit, I remember wincing from time to time as allegations and innuendoes went well beyond what I considered to be the real and demonstrable failings of Clinton's administration.
Now it seems that the liberals are even more out of control regarding President Bush than the conservatives were about Clinton. (No one was making wildly irresponsible movies about Slick Willie and becoming, as a result, the toast of the elite news media and the Cannes Film Festival.) Political discourse has truly taken a tumble down the road to coarseness and groundless attack. I happened to see some old footage on the History Channel from the 1960 presidential election, including the primary and convention stage, and I was struck by the high level of decorum and civility both sides showed. It's a shame we have lost that.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Here's an article about talk radio in Iraq. Sounds a little odd, doesn't it? The reports of what the callers have been saying add some perspective to the situation and the views of the Iraqi people.
Here's what one caller said:
"I send my congratulations to all Iraqis and every Iraqi home," a woman who identified herself as Um Yassin gushed, her voice choked with emotion. "I want to tell Dr. Allawi to be bold, to be strong. We need him to build up the army because we need them at a time like this."
Here's another caller's comment:
"I send all the Iraqi people my blessings," said Ali, a caller from Baghdad. "But I warn these terrorists, all the Iraqis will rise up and strike them with steel."
Maybe the Iraqis will surprise the world in re-creating their country.
Monday, June 28, 2004
"We Stand Alone Together:" A Story About Easy Company. Watch This If You Can!
I am out of town on business and wound up alone in the hotel fitness center, on the treadmill, late at night. The fitness center is quite a high-tech workout room, with small television sets attached to every exercise machine. I switched my set on and happened to find a History Channel documentary on Easy Company, the men of the Parachute Infantry Regiment, E Company, 101st Airborne Division. These are the men of the HBO series "Band of Brothers." This was not a dramatized episode; it was a set of brilliantly-edited interviews with the survivors of that group, now old men.
Here's how the History Channel Web Site describes the show:
"This documentary, executive-produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, tells the remarkable story of 'Easy Company' (the men in 'Band of Brothers') in their own words. Featuring recent interviews with the real-life company members, whose deeds are dramatized in the miniseries, combined with rare and archival photographs and film footage. TV PG"
The men are pretty old now, bless them; but their memories are sharp; they still know the names of the men they served with, even (perhaps especially) the names of those who lost their lives in the war and exactly how those men were killed.
If you get a chance, watch this documentary. If you are like me, you'll be riveted to it. (Hey, I had planned a 45-minute workout, and stayed on that stupid treadmill for an entire hour because I didn't want to turn off the show!) The show lasts ninety minutes, and I saw about an hour of it. Watch it with your families, children and grandchildren (and granparents, if you are lucky enough still to have them).
The men are just "ordinary Joes" who ended up in the Army at around age 20. Throughout the documentary they reminisce through D-Day, Holland, the Battle of the Bulge, the "liberation" of Hitler's mountaintop retreat (Brechtesgaden?) in the Alps, the end of the war and the German surrender. They speak matter-of-factly of the almost unbelieveable sacrifices they made and the extreme difficulty of their service. (Imagine, for example, living out doors for 70 days in the dead of the Northern Europoean winter.) Again, it is gripping.
Then, at the end, one after another, each man very emotionally insists that he is not heroes; that the true heroes are those men who did not come back from the war and whose bodies still lie there in Europe.
I'm not so sure about that. These elderly but magnificent men look like heroes to me.
I saw the following on Hugh Hewitt's excellent blog, and am posting this in hopes it will eventually be seen by the eyes for which it is intended. It is an e-mail Hugh received from a friend who is a retired Marine:
"This letter is for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, 'Islamic Response,' and the rest of the so-called 'insurgents' in Iraq. I obviously do not have an e-mail address for these vermin, so I am forwarding this letter to my entire address book in the hope you good people will forward it to as many people as possible, and that eventually through the miracle of the internet it somehow ends up in the hands of the intended recipients. Thank you all for your assistance.
"This is from my good friend and fellow 3/4 vet. It sums up my feelings as well.
'To the terrorists currently operating in Iraq,
'I see that you have captured a U. S. Marine, and that you plan to cut off his head if your demands are not met. Big mistake. Before you carry out your threat I suggest you read up on Marine Corps history. The Japanese tried the same thing on Makin Island and in a few other places during World War Two, and came to regret it. Go ahead and read about what then happened to the mighty Imperial Army on Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. They paid full price for what they did, and you will too.
'You look at America and you see a soft target, and to a large extent you are right. Our country is filled with a lot of spoiled people who drive BMWs, sip decaf lattes and watch ridiculous reality TV shows. They are for the most part decent, hard working citizens, but they are soft. When you cut off Nick Berg's head those people gasped, and you got the media coverage you sought, and then those people went back to their lives. This time it is different. We also have a warrior culture in this country, and they are called Marines. It is a brotherhood forged in the fire of many wars, and the bond between us is stronger than blood. While it is true that this country has produced nitwits like Michael Moore, Howard Dean and Jane Fonda who can be easily manipulated by your gruesome tactics, we have also produced men like Jason Dunham, Brian Chontosh and Joseph Perez. If you don't recognize those names you should. They are all Marines who distinguished themselves fighting to liberate Iraq, and there will be many more just like them coming for you.
'Before the current politically correct climate enveloped our culture one of the recruiting slogans of our band of brothers was "The Marine Corps Builds Men." You will soon find out just how true that is. You, on the other hand, are nothing but a bunch of women. If you were men you would show your faces, and take us on in a fair fight. Instead, you are cowards who hide behind masks and decapitate helpless victims. If you truly represented the interest of the Iraqi people you would not be ambushing those who come to your country to repair your power plants, or sabotage the oil pipelines which fuel the Iraqi economy. Your agenda is hate, plain and simple.
'When you raise that sword over your head I want you to remember one thing. Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun is not alone as he kneels before you. Every Marine who has ever worn the uniform is there with him, and when you strike him you are striking all of us. If you think the Marines were tough on you when they were cleaning out Fallujah a few weeks ago you haven't seen anything yet. If you want to know what it feels like to have the Wrath of God called down upon you then go ahead and do it. We are not Turkish truck drivers, or Pakistani laborers, or independent contractors hoping to find work in your country. We are the United States Marines, and we will be coming for you.'"
Sunday, June 27, 2004
A Must-Read: "The War Against the Infidels"
What Is The War Worth?
The Michael Moore movie, juxtaposed with the e-mail posted immediately below from Captain Dave of the Marines, has me thinking. So I've got some questions here, along with a few answers from my point of view.
Young men and women are sacrificing greatly for the war effort. This is the hard question we all have to answer for ourselves: What is the meaning of the soldiers’ sacrifices? Or, expressed differently:
*What is the meaning of a soldier’s death or injury in Iraq? Did he or she die or become maimed in vain?
*Why are families of National Guard and reservists having to be without their father or mother for months at a time—while birthdays and soccer games are missed, children grow up, and marriages are strained?
*Why are these people giving up some of the best years of their lives in national service?
My own answers to these questions are complex. Frankly, as the father of an 18 year-old son who has expressed more than passing interest in military service, these are the thoughts that keep me up at night. I struggle with them and think they should be at the forefront of the national debate on the reasons for the war. I also admit to a fair amount of soul-searching on my own part about my support for the war. Here’s what it comes down to for me.
During the run-up to the Iraq war, I thought the reasons for invading were these:
1. Saddam was a supporter of terrorism and no one doubted he had WMDs somewhere and was not cooperating in getting rid of them. People like Abu Nidal lived there in Iraq. Saddam did things like give money to the families of suicide bombers in Israel. We all knew Al-Quaeda would use WMDs against the USA in a heartbeat if they could get their hands on them. We knew Al Quaeda and Saddam’s government were in contact, although we still don’t know the extent to which they cooperated, if at all. (And I do not want to give those people the benefit of the doubt.) All in all, the situation was very scary and seemed to implicate our vital national interests (i.e., our lives and our way of life).
Well, we all know how the WMD story has played out. But now we are there in Iraq, with Saddam toppled and in custody. We can’t leave without creating chaos and leaving a worse problem for the world and for the Iraqis. So we fall back on other reasons for being there:
2. We are fighting Islamofascism in Iraq, rather than here. As Andrew McCarthy wrote in National Review Online:
"We need to be more precise in our language. We are not at war with terror. We are at war with militant Islam. Militant Islam is our enemy. It seeks to destroy us; we cannot co-exist with it. We need to defeat it utterly."
I happen to believe that.
I would not have supported the war for this reason alone, but having gotten into the war for a justificable reason (the WMD/terror support question), which now seems ambiguous, reason no. 2 at least makes the sacrifice of life (and other sacrifices) justifiable and also noble to me.
3. We have removed a ruthless tyrant from his seat and saves thousands of Iraqis from death and horror in the future.
This is a wonderful byproduct of what we have done, but by itself does not justify the war because it does not, again, by itself, implicate our vital national interests.
4. We might just establish a democratic government in the heart of the Middle East.
This adds something to no. 3, but is still the weakest justification for the war. I have a lot of doubts about the success of this pro-democracy enterprise and do NOT think that all by itself no. 4 was a good “casus belli.” But if to coalition pulls this off, I would put the success in the category of an important and possibly history-changing accomplishment that could be as significant for the world’s future as the fall of worldwide communism. Again, I’m skeptical about our chances to succeed with no. 4.
As far as 3 and 4 are concerned, it may well be that we won't know whether the war is worth it until we see how it plays out. (That last statement seems a little obvious.)
So that’s what I think. But enough about me; I am curious about the views of those who don’t think Michael Moore’s movie is so bad, the ones who love to bash Bush and his administration unceasingly, and who think he is stupid and evil. A standard liberal Democrat believes the following about the Iraq war:
A. Bush exaggerated or lied (or both) about WMDs to get us into the war. There are no WMDs in Iraq, or at least there are not enough to worry about. Bush and his cohorts either knew this or should have known it.
B. Bush is unduly influenced by “neocons” (code for conservative and scholarly Jews with a certain foreign policy orientation) whose real goal for the war was to remake Iraq as a democracy.
C. There was and is no meaningful connection whatsoever between Al-Quaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. (See Al Gore’s latest speech/rant at Georgetown Law Center,linked here.)
D. The war in Iraq is a distraction from the “real” war on terror, and we ought to be focusing more attention on Afghanistan and other problem areas. (I am a little vague on what those other priorities ought to be, but I assume John Kerry agrees with this view; he says the war on terror is primarily a law enforcement matter.)
So—if you believe items A-D above, or something close to those views, what is the meaning of the soldiers’ sacrifices? It seems to me that for adherents to those view, the sacrifices are reduced to tragic, avoidable losses resulting from the soldiers’ devotion to duty and willingness to follow orders in the wrong war at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. In other words, they are a waste, at least to some extent. If you are right, then those sacrifices necessarily mean less than they would if the war were legitimate and necessary to protect us all. I don’t know how you can get around this.
To me, reasons 1-3 I listed above, taking into account the WMD puzzle, still justify the war and make heroes of those men and women who are putting their lives on the line. But if I held the above standard liberal Democrat views on the war, I would find the troops’ sacrifices simply tragic and would be demanding that we get out of Iraq ASAP. Is that what liberals really think?
Saturday, June 26, 2004
If you've been reading me for awhile you know I like to read The Greenside, a blog posting e-mails from a Marine Captain named Dave who is serving in Iraq. Here's his latest. In all honesty, reading this after reading about Michael Moore's movie makes me want to weep. Dave's e-mail makes one thing so very clear: There is more honor, bravery, and integrity among our armed forces serving in the war than Michael Moore will ever even be able to imagine in his entire life.
MIchael Moore Reviewed
Well, the reviews are rolling in. Here's what David Brooks has to say; apparently Michael Moore likes to trash the USA in interviews with the foreign press. Gutsy, huh?
On the other side of the discussion, Eleanor Clift is always good for raising a conservative's blood pressure. Here's her approving review of Moore and his film.
Finally, here's a piece by Matt Labash, a Weekly Standard senior writer who thinks the war is wrong, but has no use for Michael Moore.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Whoops! New York Times Has To Publish Evidence of Iraq-Osama Ties; and-- Is Sen. Kerry Willing to Address The Moral Imperatives in the War?
Of course the writers put the "no collaboration" spin on the story, but here it is. Apparently a captured document (which the Times has had for several weeks) describes detailed and serious communication between Saddam Hussein's government (with Saddam's approval) and Osama bin Laden. Here's one tidbit:
"The document, which asserts that Mr. bin Laden 'was approached by our side,' states that Mr. bin Laden previously 'had some reservations about being labeled an Iraqi operative,' but was now willing to meet in Sudan, and that 'presidential approval' was granted to the Iraqi security service to proceed.
"At the meeting, Mr. bin Laden requested that sermons of an anti-Saudi cleric be rebroadcast in Iraq. That request, the document states, was approved by Baghdad."
So far, no comment from Al Gore, who said in his rant earlier this week:
"But now the extensive independent investigation by the bipartisan commission formed to study the 9/11 attacks has just reported that there was no meaningful relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda of any kind."
Well, that's not what the Commission said anyway, but Al is starting to become more and more like Michael Moore, the guy with "a flexible relationship with the truth." All Gore needs to do is gain about 50 more pounds, go unshaven for a few days, and wear a goofy baseball cap. Then he and Moore would be indistinguishable.
Read the rest of the Times article, then decide for yourself whether or not there was any "meaningful relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda of any kind."
AND on another closely-related matter, I recommend this piece by Daniel Henninger in today's Opinion Journal. I think, as Hugh Hewitt has said, the Democrats have not shown that they are serious about the threat posed by islamofascism. Henninger's piece asks all the right questions. Here's an excerpt:
"[A]fter absorbing these beheadings, voters may start to ask themselves which man's ideology has, if one may use this term, sufficient moral fiber to stand up to what they are seeing with their own eyes. They have seen armed, masked men grandiosely displaying utterly helpless individuals before the world. And they know that the men then grab the victim's head and saw through his neck, while a colleague calmly videotapes the beheading. This is an act of moral depravity. John Kerry should find a church that would allow him to deliver a sermon denouncing it. Bill Clinton would.
"But as with abortion, it is in Mr. Kerry's interest to suppress explicit moral references in politics. Polls show the Democrats and Republicans have divided along secular and religious lines. His base is greatly discomfited by Mr. Bush's traditional brand of moral fervor. Mr. Kerry knows that his base repudiated the party's most religiously grounded candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman. But now the broader electorate lives not only with the memory of September 11, but with fresher images of these recent, undeniably evil beheadings of Americans. These images may be overwhelming the theological debate over whether Iraq was or wasn't party to global terror.
"After sitting in their homes the past month and watching videos of Nicholas Berg, Paul Johnson and Kim Sun Il alive in the moments before their slow and gruesome deaths, voters may now be asking: Does John Kerry have the fortitude to fight an opponent whose actions now appear largely apolitical and amoral, whose goal increasingly appears to be not much more than massacring a world they abhor?"
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Here's a link to another blog with a Pauline Kael review from 1989 of Michael Moore's first "mockumentary," called "Roger and Me." The review pretty much speaks for itself. As the blogger here notes, it look like Mr. Moore has, for a long time, had "a flexible relationship with the truth."
Now for the comic relief: A blog called "Scrappleface" has this satirical account of President Bush's remarks at the Clinton presidential portrait unveiling. It'll bring some smiles to your face.
This is a link to an interview by NBC News' Andrea Mitchell of an anonymous CIA officer. Not everything here seems to have the "gospel truth" ring to it, but many of this analyst's statements are sobering.
This is the teaser:
"A career CIA officer claims in a new book that America is losing the war on terror, in part because of the invasion of Iraq, which, he says, distracted the United States from the war against terrorism and further fueled al-Qaida's struggle against the United States. The author, who writes as 'Anonymous,' is a 22-year veteran of the CIA and still works for the intelligence agency, which allowed him to publish the book after reviewing it for classified information."
Of course the news media loves the angle on the war being a mistake and plays that up, but the real meat of this interview is the reality of the Islamofascist threat. In fact, the author's thesis is that because the threat from al-Quaeda is so real, the Iraq war, noble though it may be, is a dangerous distraction. We still support the war in Iraq, but to us that argument is the only good one against the war. And lest you think this CIA analyst is pushing the John Kerry line, he could not be farther from Kerry on what to do about al-Quaeda et al. Remember, Kerry thinks terrorism is essentially a law enforcement matter. This anonymous writer thinks Islamofascism needs a "total war" response. Like we said, sobering stuff.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Here's a link to a blog called "Iraq the Model," which contains some more moderate and forward-thinking views about the situation generally and about the kidnapping-murders of foreigners.
Here's a typical post:
“Thanks to this site for providing this opportunity, especially for us-the Saudis-who are the most concerned about this issue. We are innocent from what those ignorant criminals did. I’ve studied the Quran and the Hadith of the Prophet and I find nothing that supports the doings of those criminals who are in great need to understand Islam; the religion of forgiveness and kindness before sword and violence”
We hope there are many more who feel the way Hakeem does.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
David Brooks offers a penetrating analysis here to which Democrat strategists seem impervious. Only 7% of Americans see Kerry as a religious person. He should be worried about that. Watch for him to start hanging around churches more. We don't think he has it in him to affect a more religious persona, no matter how hard he tries.
On another note, Christopher Hitchens, no conservative he, skewers Michael Moores movie, "Farenheit 9/11," in this article in Slate. Of course, discrediting Moore's work is like shooting fish (in Moore's case, whales) in a barrel; but Hitchens does an exceptionally good job of it.
Monday, June 21, 2004
William Safire sorts out the travesty of the much discussed staff report in this New York Times piece.
"The basis for the hoo-ha," Safire writes, "was not a judgment of the panel of commissioners appointed to investigate the 9/11 attacks. As reporters noted below the headlines, it was an interim report of the commission's runaway staff, headed by the ex-N.S.C. aide Philip Zelikow. After Vice President Dick Cheney's outraged objection, the staff's sweeping conclusion was soon disavowed by both commission chairman Tom Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton."
There were two major and egregious mistakes here:
1. The Commission has never said there was no connection or relationship between al-Quaeda and the former "government" of Iraq. In fact, the Commission's leaders freely acknowledge that there was such a connection. There's just no doubt about it.
2. The conclusion that there was no evidence of cooperation in 9/11 was not the brainchild of the Commission itself, but was contained in an interim staff report.
We ask: Did the press reports you read about this ever give you the slightest impression that an interim staff report was involved here at all? Didn't you think that the Commission itself had issued the report that news media everywhere were reporting (and misinterpreting)?
The press laziness on this issue is astounding.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
We think everyone's puzzled about who knew whom and who made what deals with whom, and when, and under what circumstances, and whether Mohamed al-Iraqi had serious meetings with Tarik Abdullah al-Whatshisname about WMD. And so forth. What impresses us the most is how eager the news media are to find and report a "bottom line" in a complex matter. Did Iraq collaborate with al-Quaeda or not? We think the media are primarily lazy and looking for a hot, simple story. Add to that their bias against the Bush Administration, and you get "news" reports like the ones all of us have seen in the last few days, summarizing the 9/11 Commission's report either falsely, out of context, or in a downright blockheaded manner (and sometimes all three).
Still and all, there are so many important and unanswered questions out there. Here, Melanie Phillips sorts some of them out for us.
Here's another editorial that views the issue "down the middle," and tries to describe the general ambiguity and conflict surrounding the Commission's report.
As for us, we honestly don't know what to think, except to say that we disagree with anyone who says the world now knows enough to conclude that this issue is closed.
And about that 9/11 Commission: It has generated much more heat than light and seems to have become a political tool. We wish the President had never appointed it.
Finally, a thought from the Arizona Republic with which we fully agree:
"The killings of Johnson and Berg and Pearl have steeled Americans for the fight ahead. We face years of miserable, bloody work, of making mistakes and doubting ourselves, of infuriating allies who fear our muscular resolve. But we will make the long, hard slog because we know the enemy."
Saturday, June 19, 2004
The Abu Ghraib abuses are fading somewhat but remain a favorite subject of the news media. We have always thought the biggest issue surrounding Abu Ghraib is context. It is folly to argue that what occurred there was anything but a betrayal of American values; but it is intelligent, we think, to argue that Abu Ghraib must be seen in context. So here is a very thoughtful article by Nick Schulz expressing ideas we will not see in the more mainstream press. 60 Minutes could devote an entire show to this subject, and as long as they presented the full context, it would be a great service to the country.
This is not easy stuff to read, but it's much better than watching the video. We believe every adult in the USA should be aware of the information in Schulz's piece.
Friday, June 18, 2004
We think this is good news for Bush and could not come at a better time. Of course, the mainstream media seem to agree. The difference is, they're so anti-Bush they're unhappy about the news and thus can't report the story straightforwardly. Here's the headline from the MSNBC story:
"McCain gives Bush a strong endorsement
For at least a day, two set aside bitter rivalry at joint appearance"
Golly, do you get the impression that MSNBC doesn't think the endorsement is sincere? Or at least hopes it is not?
The story itself continues in the same vein, even though that's hard to do with news like this, which is undeniably good for GWB.
It is depressingly predictable that the mainstream media have picked out a single message from the Commission's report-- a message they wanted to find-- and have now reduced the report to that message. What is wrong with these people?
The New York Times pretty much sums up this simplistic view in its lead editorial yesterday:
"It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.
"Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different."
If you have 5 minutes, we recommend you read this summary in the superb political blog, RealClearPolitics (which every conservative should have bookmarked).
Vice President Cheney sums up the matter, and the administration's position, very well in an interview on CNBC that we'll wager you will not see quoted on the Today Show:
"But it's very important that people understand these two differences. What The New York Times did today was outrageous. They do a lot of outrageous things but the headline, 'Panel Find No Qaida-Iraq Tie'. The press wants to run out and say there's a fundamental split here now between what the president said and what the commission said. Jim Thompson is a member of the commission who's since been on the air. I saw him with my own eyes. And there's no conflict. What they were addressing was whether or not they were involved in 9/11. And there they found no evidence to support that proposition. They did not address the broader question of a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida in other areas, in other ways."
The single-mindedness of the news media is overwhelming. We hope that people like us, who read blogs like this and the ones cited at RealClearPolitics, will do our best to spread a truthful version of the facts.
Thursday, June 17, 2004
Many of us thought President Bush would get a "Reagan bounce," and it looks like he has. Here is the Pew Research poll, just out this evening, that may get some news media attention tomorrow. (I suspect this will get more attention on Fox News than on CNN or NPR, but let's wait and see.)
The summary of the poll's findings states:
"Americans are paying markedly less attention to Iraq than in the last two months. At the same time, their opinions about the war have become more positive. The number of Americans who think the U.S. military effort is going well has jumped from 46% in May to 57%, despite ongoing violence in Iraq and the widening prison abuse scandal. And the percentage of the public who believes it was right to go to war inched up to 55%, from 51% in May."
We're no expert ad reading polls, but these numbers suggest that people are "settling in for the long haul" on the war in Iraq. Rather than focus on each detail or bit of good and bad news, more Americans seem to be paying attention to trends and to the White House's explanations of what the USA is trying to accomplish in Iraq, long-term. At least we hope we're right about that. The Pew report thinks this does suggest that people are "possibly more hardened to events there." This is probably a good thing. Coalition forces need the staying power that comes from steady support and patience on the home front.
One possible contributing factor to all this, in our opinion: Maybe the reminders of Ronald Reagan's steadfastness in opposing communism, the last great evil the West faced, has helped voters to see that we need the same kind of long view now when we are facing down Islamofascism.
Not that all the news in the poll is rosy, however. The summary includes this finding:
"Regarding one important consequence of the war, however, the public has become considerably more negative. Just 43% of Americans say the Iraq war has helped the war on terrorism while about as many (44%) believe it has hurt the war on terrorism. About a year ago, 65% felt the war had helped the war on terrorism and as recently as March, 50% expressed that view. Women, especially white women, have become particularly skeptical that the war is helping the war on terrorism. In March, a solid majority of white women (54%) said the war in Iraq helped the war on terrorism; that number has dropped to 43%."
The Administration has to do a better job of telling its story about this. We think there is a good story to tell: All the unparalleled military success in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in breaking up Al-Quaeda and capturing its leaders, the capture of Al-Quaeda cell leaders in the USA, and the nascent free government in Iraq. for example. All of this is evidence of tremendous progress. Now if Bush and Co. can just get that message through the news media filter to the people . . . .
John Kerry on overcrowded prisons
From the Washington Times today:
"Talking about education yesterday, Mr. Kerry also told the largely black crowd at the day care center that there are more blacks in prison than in college.
"'That's unacceptable,' he said. 'But it's not their fault.'
"Rather than the inmates, the former Boston prosecutor blamed poverty, poor schools, a dearth of after-school programs and 'all of us as adults not doing what we need to do.'"
This is a man who may well be president. I hope people pay close attention to his views on such matters.
In case you're wondering about the blog phenomenon . . . .
Some Interesting Critiques of The 9/11 Commission Report on Iraq-Al Quaeda Cooperation
I do not have the time to read the 9/11 Commission comments on the Iraq-Al Quaeda connection, but the guys who write Powerline do. I recommend their breakdown highly. The problem is, most of the public will not read this or take the time to understand it.
See how the L.A. Times reports this, here. Predictably, they are reporting that there were no ties between Iraq and Al-Quaeda.
The Powerline guys include in their analysis an article by Andrew McCarthy in National Review Online, which causes them to conclude:
"McCarthy's column powerfully exposes the 9/11 Commission report that is in the news today as the tendentious brief of an advocate manipulating evidence to make a point rather than the considered judgment of an investigative body vested with profound national responsibility to discover the truth. It is far past time that someone ask the inevitable question: Why?"
As Hugh Hewitt correctly notes:
"The staff's effort to go out of its way to report on an issue it was not charged with investigating beyond any 9/11 connection to Saddam underscores its complete politicization. It has become a campaign, not a Commission."
I'm swamped at work and can't take the time to read all this stuff, but it sure looks good. Maybe I'll get to it later.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
It's a little depressing sometimes to reflect on the disproportionate weight the major news media give to bad news out of Iraq (by "bad" news I mean anything that puts the Bush Administration in a bad light). Here is a piece by Debra Orin in the New York Post that provides even more evidence of this. She reports that a public screening in Washington of torture videos from Iraq drew almost no press interest.
As Ms. Orin notes:
"Terrorism is sometimes called asymmetric warfare — America had to adjust to new tactics to deal with small bands of terrorists who were able to turn our airplanes into weapons against us. Now it turns out that we also face asymmetric propaganda — where the terrorists gain a p.r. advantage precisely because what they do is so horrific that our media aren't able to deal with it.
"The U.S. military hasn't figured out a strategic way to deal with this problem.
"But neither has the press. . . . Reporters have to face up to the fact that right now, if we highlight the wrongs that Americans commit but not — out of squeamishness — the far worse horrors committed by others, we become propaganda tools for the other side."
"This isn't to argue in any way against reporting the Abu Ghraib scandal. But reporters have to face up to the problems — and find ways to achieve a more balanced account.
"Saddam's torture videos may be too awful to show, but it's hard to explain the low media interest in the story of seven Iraqi men who had their right hands chopped off by Saddam's thugs — and then got new prosthetic arms and new hope in America.
"They're eloquent, they're available, they're grateful for the U.S. liberation of Iraq. No one can better talk about Saddam's tortures — and no one is more eager to do so. Yet, as of yesterday, the New York Times had written 177 stories on Abu Ghraib — with over 40 on the front page. The self-proclaimed 'paper of record' hadn't written a single story about those seven Iraqi men."
Meanwhile, such trash as Michael Moore's movie, "Farenheit 911" is adoringly reviewed by the news media. We saw a brief interview between Moore and Matt Lauer of the Today Show this morning. It was hard to believe how seriously such media forces take Mr. Moore. Here's a review of his movie that tells you all you need to know about whether it's worth seeing.
Like we said, it's a little depressing that the coalition is righting such enormous wrongs but getting so little credit for it, while such charlatans as Moore receive adoring treatment.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
A Story from Iraq That We Fervently Hope Is True; Kerry's Election Prospects; and An Interesting Thought Piece
Who knows if this story from the New York Post is true, but I sure hope so. A tip of the hat to Hugh Hewitt for finding it.
Speaking of Mr. Hewitt, here's a link to his blog for today. He has some interesting observations about Sen. Kerry's prospects. Hugh Hewitt is very partisan and sometimes, I think, sees the news in a little rosier light for the GOP than is warranted. But I do think the race is still Bush's to lose.
Finally, here is a David Brooks piece from the New York Times (he is one of the Times' two conservative columnists) about the current state of division in the USA. It's a pretty interesting and thoughtful analysis of why we are so divided.
I'll be doing only limited posting today, but should be back to my more obsessive typing by tomorrow. (I only spend about 15-20 minutes a day on this thing. Honest!)
By the way, you can comment on the posts in this blog. Just click on the "comments" link below. It requires you to put in an e-mail address because anonymous comments are not allowed. Your e-mail address will not be published; it's kept internally. I'd love to know what readers think.
Monday, June 14, 2004
The inspiring Reagan remembrances of last week already seem a little distant. As a pleasant reminder, here is an interesting account by Hugh Sidey of the Reagan family's trip back to Simi Valley on Air Force One.
This is a piece from Newsweek about Nancy Reagan's devotion to her husband as his Alzheimer's disease progressed. One of the authors is Eleanor Clift, so you'll see a nod or two in the direction of accepted liberal dogma, but this is still a good read.
Fred Barnes has a Weekly Standard piece out that summarizes the reasons why the 1980 presidential election was so important. For those who lived through that time, it's a good reminder; for those too young to remember, it's a good education.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
What do we mean by "hedgehog," anyway?
We refer in our blog title to Isaiah Berlin, a 20th Century English philosopher who is famous for an essay he wrote called "The Hedgehog and The Fox." Berlin based the essay on the writings of the Greek poet Archilochus, who said: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."
Here's how Books and Writers summarizes the Berlin essay:
So our interest in hedgehogs has nothing to do with their status as adorable furry small creatures. We'd just as soon be wolverines. We're talking about a state of mind here. Ronald Reagan was a hedgehog. He focused on a few big things: Win the Cold War, reduce the size of government, reduce taxes. Of course he had many other goals as well, but he kept his eye on the proverbial ball. Jimmy Carter, by contrast, was more of a fox; so was Michael Dukakis. Both were detail-oriented to a fault.
In one of his most famous essays, "The Hedgehog and The Fox" (1953), Berlin focused on the tension between monist and pluralist visions of the world and
history, and drew the line between different authors and philosophers. As the Greek poet Archilochus said: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." The Hedgehog needs only one principle, that directs its life. . . . The Fox, pluralist, travels many roads, according to the idea that there can be different, equally valid but mutually incompatible concepts of how to live. . . .
Turning to our most recent election, John Kerry was clearly a fox and George W. Bush is the living, breathing definition of a hedgehog. But this is not an ideological definition. Marx was a hedgehog; so were Darwin, Einstein, and Adam Smith.
If you want to read the entire Berlin essay (which is a classic in political philsophy) you can find it here. (Warning: This is a subscription service, so you won't get far before they hit you up for money.)
After we started our blog we learned of the book "Good to Great," by Jim Collins. He gives a terrific summary of what he calls "The Hedgehog Concept" here.
Also, if you want to know a few biological facts about hedgehogs, there is a nice summary here. Again, they are interesting little mammals but that's not why we named this blog after them.
So now you know why we call ourselves "aspiring hedgehogs."
But this is what the Hedgehog of this blog looks like:
We saw this exchange posted on Powerline (one of the best political blogs we've seen):
SHAW: Can I say something that touches on a very sensitive issue?
BLITZER: Of course.
SHAW: The news media and how we failed to thoroughly cover and communicate the very essences we're talking about possessed by Ronald Reagan.
What I've been reading and what I've been hearing I did not get during his two terms in office, or did I miss something?
BLITZER: I think you're on to something, Bernie.
SHAW: I think we failed our viewers, listeners, and readers to an appreciable extent. I can't quantify it, but I'll put it there. Because I certainly missed a lot.
BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right, Bernie. We've learned a lot more about this presidency in the years that have followed Ronald Reagan's two terms in office.
And I suspect, as more of his diaries, more of his papers, more of his speeches, more information is released by the presidential library in Simi Valley, we'll learn even a great deal more.
I want to bring Judy back into this conversation, Bernie, because I know that she has some questions she wants -- she has some thoughts she wants to share with our viewers, as well.
Well, as Powerline says, better late than never.
The top story in today's L.A. Times is (surprise) more bad "news" for the Bush administration. You can find the story here.
A few quick comments:
1. The story is by Ronald Brownstein, who Bill Clinton described as his favorite journalist. We're still looking for a story by Brownstein that is somewhat favorable to the Bush administration. Heck, we'd even accept a story that's pretty fair to Bush.
2. Is this really news, or simply manipulation of an all-too-willing news organization (the Times) by left-of-center foreign policy types who know very well how to use the Times to get such a message out?
3. Apparently 26 "ex-diplomats and military leaders" signed a joint statement "arguing that President George W. Bush has damaged America's national security and should be defeated in November." A few of them seem to have held posts during the Bush I administration.
4. It is certainly no surprise that the tired old diplomats from the State Department, most of whom worked on the Middle East desk or in that part of the world, are horrified that Bush is abandoning so many of the articles of faith in which those people placed such fervent belief for so many years. As for the ex-military people in the group, all of us should bear in mind the "ex" part of their current status. There's a reason why they are no longer in the military, and it may have lots to do with their attitude now.
5. Speaking of the "ex" status of all these folks, we'd wager that many of them are hoping to change that status in a new Democrat administration. Most of the signers are probably, shall we say, "available" to serve a Kerry White House. Just look at that list of people involved, their backgrounds, and their current status.
6. All that said, there can be no doubt at this point that G.W. Bush has bet his presidency on Iraq. We are worried, but fervently hope he wins that bet.
Saturday, June 12, 2004
My inaugural post: Ronald Reagan, RIP
I just started this blog tonight. To signal my entry into the blogosphere, here is a short e-mail I sent this week to my political e-mail list:
I love this quote from Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in May 1988:
"A few years from now, I believe, Reaganism will seem a weird and improbable memory, a strange interlude of national hallucination, rather as the McCarthyism of the early 1950s and the youth rebellion of the late 1960s appear to us today."
I did not start out my adult life in politics as a Reaganite, but I did become a believer. In 1976 I supported Gerald Ford against Reagan. I was 21 years old and a loyal Republican; it seemed to me that I ought to support a sitting GOP president. I had not yet formed much of a political philosophy. On top of that, in my home state of Utah the Reaganites were not an easy bunch to like, at least in my youthful view.
I also supported a 1976 Senate candidate in Utah named Jack Carlson, who ran against Orrin Hatch in the Republican primary that year. Carlson remained neutral in the Ford-Reagan fight, but Hatch enthusiastically attached himself to Reagan. Oops. In the closing days of the election the polls showed we were losing anyway by 5-7 points, but two days before the election Reagan endorsed Hatch (in a primary, no less!). Hatch creamed Carlson by 30 percentage points or more. In other words, Ronald Reagan ran over us.
I did not learn much from this experience. In 1980, for personal reasons, and a seeming glutton for punishment, I supported George H.W. Bush in the early going-- again, versus Reagan. Bush got absolutely run over too.
I started to realize there must be something to this Ronald Reagan. I cheerfully voted for him in 1980 and became converted to Reaganism after I saw what he did as president. I enthusiastically voted for him again in 1984. (As a side note, I became a friend of Orrin Hatch too.)
So during the past week, as I have read the more liberal commentators describe Reagan as just a "sunny optimist," a big warm likeable teddy bear, I have to smile and say that the Reagan who ran over me and so many others surely was all of that, but he was not only that. It seems to me that the teddy bear description is a tactic to discredit Reagan's memory, used by those who dislike him or are unwilling to recognize his genius.
The fact is, Ronald Reagan was a hard-hitting and formidable political adversary. He was the train coming right down the tracks at you. You took him on at your own peril. I personally experienced how that feels.
What drove that train? Reagan believed in sound principles and he was commited to them. There was no space between him and what he believed. As Margaret Thatcher said at his funeral, he knew his own mind; and his mind was set on the right ideas!
So all the commentary about "The Great Communicator" and his presidency amounting to a victory of form over substance is just bunk. During the past week of mourning and remembrance, liberals have been in denial about the power of ideas the The Gipper took on and communicated. Even today those ideas dominate the political landscape. (For example, President Clinton's signal achievement as a Democrat president was welfare reform, of all things. Think about that.)
As Charles Krauthammer noted Friday in the Washington Post:
"The liberal establishment that alternately ridiculed and demonized Ronald Reagan throughout his presidency is in a quandary. How to remember a man they anathematized for eight years but who enjoys both the overwhelming affection of the American people and decisive vindication by history? They found their way to do it. They dwell endlessly on the man's smile, his sunny personality, his good manners. Above all, his optimism.... Optimism is nice, but it gets you nowhere unless you also possess ideological vision, policy and prescriptions to make it real, and, finally, the political courage to act on your convictions."
You can find Krauthammer's entire piece here.
And thanks to Hugh Hewitt I found a link to a nice collection of Reagan's ideas here.
Final thought: Almost 20 years ago Reagan made his famous "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech in Berlin. Who would have thought then that in 2004 those two old Cold Warriors, Baroness Thatcher and Mr. Gorbachev, would be sitting next to each other at Reagan's funeral, with Mr. G. representing Russia, not the now-defunct Soviet Union? I think Reagan would have gotten a kick out of that.
Rest in peace, Ronald Reagan.