Thursday, July 28, 2005
There is a reason that there is no Liberal Rove and its not the one that the right thinks. Its not because Liberals are too wussy to behave like Rove. The real reason is that Rove is not an effective politician.
For liberals looking at the GOP trifecta of Whitehouse, House and Senate this might seem an odd point of view. Rove's masterful exploitation of wedge issue politics is generally seen as a masterstroke, which of course it is from the point of view of winning elections. But from the point of view of political achievements the balance sheet is essentially empty.
The signature issues of the Bush Presidency to date have been the Tax cut bill, the No Child Left Behind Act and the PATRIOT act. That is not much of a legacy for a two term President whose party controls both houses of Congress. And when you look deeper the bills really don't amount to very much at all. The PATRIOT act is the result of 9/11 rather than political skill. The No Child Left Behind act was passed but not funded.
The only thing close to a solid achievement is the Tax cut bill which was only passed through the use of a procedural manipulation requiring the provisions to expire. Unless the President's approval ratings rise soon this is most unlikely.
Not only is the President's record of achievement meagre he is already generally regarded as being something of a lame duck President barely six months into his second term. Social security 'reform', the centerpiece of his second term agenda is dead and there are no other big ideas to replace it.
It need not have been this way. Bush could easily have established himself as a popular centrist President in the wake of 9/11. He could have established a dominant center-right power block that would dominate the political landscape for decades. Instead the post-9/11 spirit of unity was quickly abandonded in favor of hyper-partisan attack-dog politics and the invasion of Iraq.
Rove's style of politics work only for the politician who only cares about holding the office. If you want to actually do anything during your term you are stuck. Bush's Social Security agenda is dead as a dodo because he never campaigned for if when he was seeking re-election, instead of making the case for his policies Bush tried his best to avoid talkiing about them at all.
Friday, July 08, 2005
A sure fire way to get attention as a US jorno-scribbler is to squeak 'anti-americanism' whenever something happens in the world that is not understood.
The IOC just voted to cut baseball and softball from the 2012 Olympics. These sports are mostly played in the US. There are legues in some other countries but these are distant cousins to the NBA. Anti-Americanism? Well not really, in fact rather the opposite in some ways.
The first problem is that the whole point of the olympics is that the sports should be global and not national. Baseball has an international following but nowhere near as big a following as cricket which is the national sport of the UK, India, Pakistan, Australia, the Caribean and is played in significant parts of Africa as well.
The second problem is that the US clearly has most of the best players in the world but did not qualify for the Athens baseball tournament. No baseball player would rank playing in that olympic tournament to be the equal of making the league playoffs in the NBA, let alone the world series. When the olympic qualifying tournament was held the US sent a team of second string players who got beaten. The IOC does not want to hold a second rate tournament in a sport where the best players don't take part.
The final nail was that there are several sports that would like to be added to the Olympic program that can only be added if an existing sport is dropped. These include golf, rugby and squash. It is pretty clear that the number of people who are going to be willing to pay to see Tiger Woods and co play an olympic match is going to be much bigger than the number of people who want to see a baseball final between Canada and Japan.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Enough talk about protecting the first ammendment and the public's right to know. That is not what Judith Miller did, in fact she did quite the opposite, she conspired with the government to punish the real whistleblower in this case by smearing him and illegally outing his wife as a CIA agent.
Miller's recent 'journalism' has not been exactly distinguished. After serving as chief administration shill for its WMD fictions she has been assiduously peddling the administration's new pet story the oil for food 'scandal' based on 'evidence' from the exact same sources.
Allowing administration officials to go off the record does not serve the public good. If the press did not play ball the public would find out the same information but they would receive it from a named source that could be held accountable for their statements after the fact.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
My strong belief is that what Bush has achieved in Iraq is to make it inevitable that a nuclear armed Iran run by the mullahs will become the regional superpower.
There are only three realistic options for the US in Iraq: admit defeat: bring in a draft to provide the troops needed to stay indefinitely in the hope the situation improves, withdraw and let the country slide into civil war or declare victory and withdraw.
I do not think that Bush has the necessary political capital to call for a draft. The biggest lie used to justify the war was that it would be painless and costless. Support for the occupation of Iraq is already dwindling. Even the 101st Fighting Keyboarders are unlikely to continue supporting the war if they are required to put their own lives at risk.
More importantly neither the Democrats in Congress or most the country at large has any confidence in the ability of Bush to win the war with or without a draft. I can't see them supporting a draft that would merely cost more American lives without any hope of success.
Calling for a draft would force Bush to admit a mistake. It would also make it almost certain that the GOP would loose the House in the midsessional. If the press starts covering Congressional investigations into the handling of the war, the corruption at Haliburton etc. the whole edifice wil fall.
If we ignore the unlikely event of the Iraqis suddenly remembering the neocon script and putting on the long delayed flower reception that leaves the various withdrawal options. The Iraqi government is nowhere near strong enough to maintain order on its own, its only option would be to call on foreign assistance. The only power in the region strong enough to do this is Iran.
The US will attempt to keep Iran out of Iraq of course but it is difficult to see how this can be achieved if this means prolonging a bloody civil war. The US acquiesed in the Syrian occupation of Lebanon as a means of ending the civil war there, they will in the end be forced to accept similar Iranian involvement in Iraq, particularly if as seems likely the Iraqi government invites them in.
Iran's military is much smaller and less well equiped than the US of course but they have many advantages. Their supply lines are much shorter: any material they need can simply be brought in by truck. Their troops speak the local language and have considerable support from the S'hia community. Most of all they are not infidels suspected of invading Iraq to loot the oil and protect Israel.
Iranian soldiers do not desecrate the Koran by flushing it down the toilet. At this point it is irrelevant whether this actually happened enough Iraqis believe it happened. The desecration of the Koran is in any case merely a metaphor for the considerably more serious allegations of torture.
The neo-cons appear to have realised that if the US withdraws Iran wins. I think this is what is behind their rhetorical attacks on Iran. Their idea seems to be that the way to get out of Iraq is to invade Iran first, take out the mullahs and install a democracy there. It is the doubling up strategy of the compulsive gambler.
Needless to say the idea of attacking Iran is even stupider than the original Iraqi invasion. Any attack on Iran, wheher by the US or Israel, whether a limited missile attack or a full invasion would quickly spin out of control. It is important to note here that Iran has the capability to strike at Israel and cause real damage. There is a significant risk of escalation to nuclear war.
Iran has had three years to prepare for a US invasion following Bush's 'axis of evil' speech which effectively pre-announced the intention to invade. I suspect that this may be one of the reasons why the hardliners decided to install one of their own as President rather than allowing an outlet for reformist pressure as they had under Khatami. Ensuring that both the top offices of state are held by hardliners reduces the risk of a decaptiation strike by the US.
The other important factor is that Sistani can force the US to quit Iraq at any time he choses. If the US or a proxy were to attack Iran he would have no choice. The US is having significant difficulty controlling the minority Sunni population. There is no way that the US can maintain control if the Sh'ia join the resistance.
In short, the New American Century hawks have achieved the precise opposite of their aims. They have enabled Iran to become the regional superpower and broken the US military in the process. The whole point of the New American Century project was to tell the rest of the world that the US that they have to accept perpetual US hegemony, that any country that fails to follow the US line will be bullied into submission.
It is now clear that the US is not going to use its military capability for a decade at least.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
Predictable. Kilroy-Silk is the only experienced politician in the party. He is an experienced communicator, a well known figure. It won't take him long to replace whatever non-entity started the UKIP.
This puts Howard in a real bind. A UKIP led by Kilroy-Silk is unlikely to replace them but it means that he is being squeezed on the left and right by the Liberals and UKIP.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
People know that Blair lied about the WMD. But there is no point in raising the issue unless you are also prepared to call Bush the liar in chief. Howard clearly cannot do this for the same reason that Blair could not be honest. So the whole issue falls flat.
There is little point to cultivating Bush at this point, Bush has already put Howard down on his enemies list for criticizing Blair. When is the UK right going to finally realize that the only way to preserve the special relationship is to eject Bush?
If Bush is elected in November the chances are that the Labour party will eject Blair rather than go to the polls with a leader linked to him. It is one thing to stay in Iraq with a competent President with a chance of turning the situation round. His party does not and will not believe that Bush is anything other than a dangerous idiot. The idea of another four years tied to Bush will cause a revolt. If you don't think that the Labour party is two faced enough to go to war on a platform of ending an unpopular war they started or that the UK people would fall for it...
At that point they will go all out against Bush and we might as well be France as far as the Bush admin is concerned. Don't place too much faith in Howard being able to patch things up either. If you look at the Senate polls the GOP looks set to lose which means a protracted Clinton impeachment style examination of Halibuton, the WMD intel and all the rest.
Look at the budget deficit and tell me that Bush is a conservative. Look at the spending increases, look at the protectionist farm bill and steel duties. Look at what the patriot act is doing to civil liberties.
The only thing this gang wants to conserve is power.
Friday, October 01, 2004
This is good news. It is somewhat strange the way that Clinton and Blair both suddenly had this problem in such a short period of time.
Blair is saying he will serve a full third term but not a fourth. I don't see how he can. Realistically he has to had over power at least a year before the election so that his successor can run as an incumbent. And that means that Blair will become a lame duck somewhat earlier than that.
If the current trend for four year terms continues that means an effective switch of power very early in a third Blair term. Cabinet ministers will be looking to please Brown, not Blair. I think that we will see an actual transfer of power much earlier, probably two years in, so that the new leader is installed before the summer recess.
This does not necessarily mean the end of Blair. Usually PMs retire to the back benches or quit parliament altogether. But this is because most PMs leave office involuntarily. The only PM that may have gone voluntarily since WWII is Harold Wilson and there is a good chance that he might have gone because he suspected he was getting Altzheimers.
Back in the 19th century when PMs did sometimes relinquish their grasp on power without having it pried from their hands the tradition was for the PM to become Foreign Secretary.
Does Bush realize that Blair is in fact the leader of a left wing socialist party whose members earnestly hope to see him defeated?
Blair himself would have no problem working with Kerry. It would make his domestic political problems much easier in every way.
Bush has been snubbing Howard yet the US based Tories seem to all be earnestly hoping he is re-elected. Clearly Britain's public schools are still doing a stirling job of turning out masochists. Howard seems to be responding to Bush like one of his frat pledges 'thank you sir may I have another'.
Perhaps it does not change, perhaps it has merely reached a stalemate. Thatcher enjoied almost twelve years of relative electoral security due to the third party effect. The liberals could not replace old labour but they could keep them out of office. Now the pendulum has swung to the other side the third party effect has rewarded Blair. There are very few commentators who think that the next election will be any more of a contest than the last two.
It might just be time to start thinking about whether it would be better to go the PR route. That will be Kennedy's price if he ever does get to hold the balance of power.
The Conservatives also need to stop talking about what obsesses them and start talking about what interests the people. Most people do not like the EU. But they see the EU as a big beureacratic mess that the UK has to deal with whether its in or out. It does not help the Tories much when their rhetoric does appear to differentiate between the EU and Bin Laden. The arrival of the UKIP makes things even worse. They are to the Tory party what CND was to Labour in the 80s. If the Tories reject them they lose a chunk of their base, if they embrace them they come off as crackpots.
There is clearly no imminent threat of the UK joining the single currency or of the UK agreeing to the EU constitution. The best guarantee of UK independence is for the EU to expand to include Turkey. There is no way that France can pretend that the EU is the reborn Napoleonic Empire once that happens.
The logic for including Turkey is very strong. First there is the Greek/Turkey issue which is in many ways older and deeper than the France/Germany issue. The Greeks realize that getting Turkey into the EU is the way to set asside that rivalry and also to prevent Turkey from sliding back into a military dictatorship. There is also the security issue. Turkey is at the epicenter of all the major international security issues that any EU combined army would have to address. To the West there is the former Yugoslavia, to the North and East the Global Balkans of the former USSR, to the South Israel, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan. The other logic for including Turkey in the EU is that it then incorporates all the former great Imperial powers, Britain, Rome, Ottoman and the European colonial powers.
The reason the French will fight including Turkey is that it means accepting an end to the idea of cultural integration. Play the same damn game on the French people that their politicians have been playing on us, tell them that the expansion of the EU to include Turkey is inevitable and there is no way they will ever vote for the constitution.