Friday, October 29, 2004

A Few Good Men

The story of the Ohio GOP's attempt to disenfranchise legal voters with virtually no proof that there was anything wrong with their registration has been kicked around the blogosphere for awhile now. I wouldn't post simply to add my voice to the chorus of responsible bloggers expressing their disgust at the Republican's hideous tactics (though I do agree they are hideous). I'd just like to note the actions of a few good Republican men who resisted their party's eviler impulses and stood up for democracy.
When Catherine Herold received mail from the Ohio Republican Party earlier this year, she refused it.

The longtime Barberton Democrat wanted no part of the mailing and figured that by refusing it, the GOP would have to pay the return postage.

What she didn't count on was the returned mail being used to challenge the validity of her voter registration.

Herold,who is assistant to the senior vice president and provost at the University of Akron,was one of 976 Summit County voters whose registrations were challenged last week by local Republicans on behalf of the state party.

She went to the Board of Elections on Thursday morning to defend her right to vote and found herself among an angry mob -- people who had to take time off work to defend their right to vote.

After hearing some of the protests, the board voted unanimously to dismiss all 976 challenges.

The move, ironically, came from Republican board member Joseph Hutchinson and was seconded by Republican Alex Arshinkoff after they determined that the four local Republicans who made the challenges had no evidence to back up their claims.
Arshinkoff, chairman of the Summit County GOP, pointed to the state party and said Chairman Robert Bennett should be held accountable.
Pry and elections board member Wayne Jones said after the hearing that they intend to contact the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the challenges.

"You don't mess with somebody's right to vote," Jones said. He believes the effort to challenge legitimate voters is proof that Republicans are running scared in Ohio.

Arshinkoff and Hutchinson were obviously angry with the state party.

Arshinkoff compared the proceedings to a "train wreck" and said representatives from the Ohio Republican Party should have been at the hearing to defend the lists of challenges that it prepared.

Kudos to these brave board members, especially Mr. Arshinkoff, who, as the chairman of the county GOP, probably will face an enormous backlash from party bigwigs for his courage and commitment to justice.

Just when you think nobody cares about fairness and democracy anymore, something like this shows up. My profound thanks to all the members of the board who stood up for America, and the voters who refused to stand idly by and watch their voices be suppressed.

And for the record, I do hope the Republican hacks who brought the challanges are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Syrians using Chemical Weapons in Darfur?

The Channel News reports that Syria might have tested chemical weapons on Darfur refugees in agreement with the Sudanese government (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan).
"According to [The German Newspaper] Die Welt, the Syrians had suggested close cooperation on developing chemical weapons, and it was proposed that the arms be tested on the rebel SPLA, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, in the south.

But given that the rebels were involved in peace talks, the newspaper continued, the Sudanese government proposed testing the arms on people in Darfur."

The article claims that "injuries apparently caused by chemical arms were found on the bodies of the victims." So far, the mainstream media hasn't picked this up, and I have no idea how much credibility the story has. But if it's true, it provides a deadly accent to the need for immediate US and global intervention in Darfur.

Economist Goes for Kerry

The Economist magazine, which endorsed Bush in 2000 and Dole in 1996, has announced "with a heavy heart" that it is endorsing John Kerry for the United States Presidency. On President Bush, they write:
"Invading Iraq was not a mistake. Although the intelligence about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction has been shown to have been flimsy and, with hindsight, wrong, Saddam's record of deception in the 12 years since the first Gulf war meant that it was right not to give him the benefit of the doubt. The containment scheme deployed around him was unsustainable and politically damaging: military bases in holy Saudi Arabia, sanctions that impoverished and even killed Iraqis and would have collapsed. But changing the regime so incompetently was a huge mistake. By having far too few soldiers to provide security and by failing to pay Saddam's remnant army, a task that was always going to be long and hard has been made much, much harder. Such incompetence is no mere detail: thousands of Iraqis have died as a result and hundreds of American soldiers. The eventual success of the mission, while still possible, has been put in unnecessary jeopardy. So has America's reputation in the Islamic world, both for effectiveness and for moral probity.

If Mr Bush had meanwhile been making progress elsewhere in the Middle East, such mistakes might have been neutralised. But he hasn't. Israel and Palestine remain in their bitter conflict, with America readily accusable of bias. In Iran the conservatives have become stronger and the country has moved closer to making nuclear weapons. Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia have not turned hostile, but neither have they been terribly supportive nor reform-minded. Libya's renunciation of WMD is the sole clear piece of progress.

This only makes the longer-term project more important, not less. To succeed, however, America needs a president capable of admitting to mistakes and of learning from them. Mr Bush has steadfastly refused to admit to anything: even after Abu Ghraib, when he had a perfect opportunity to dismiss Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, and declare a new start, he chose not to. Instead, he treated the abuses as if they were a low-level, disciplinary issue. Can he learn from mistakes? The current approach in Iraq, of training Iraqi security forces and preparing for elections to establish an Iraqi government with popular support, certainly represents an improvement, although America still has too few troops. And no one knows, for example, whether Mr Rumsfeld will stay in his job, or go. In the end, one can do no more than guess about whether in a second term Mr Bush would prove more competent."

They aren't particularly enamored of Senator Kerry though, especially on Foreign Policy issues. They note:
"If the test is a domestic one, especially an economic crisis, Mr Kerry looks acceptable, however. His record and instincts are as a fiscal conservative, suggesting that he would rightly see future federal budget deficits as a threat. His circle of advisers includes the admirable Robert Rubin, formerly Mr Clinton's treasury secretary. His only big spending plan, on health care, would probably be killed by a Republican Congress. On trade, his position is more debatable: while an avowed free trader with a voting record in the Senate to confirm it, he has flirted with attacks on outsourcing this year and chosen a rank protectionist as his running-mate. He has not yet shown Mr Clinton's talent for advocacy on this issue, or any willingness to confront his rather protectionist party. Still, on social policy, Mr Kerry has a clear advantage: unlike Mr Bush he is not in hock to the Christian right. That will make him a more tolerant, less divisive figure on issues such as abortion, gay marriage and stem-cell research.

The biggest questions, though, must be about foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. That is where his oscillations are most unsettling. A war that he voted to authorise, and earlier this year claimed to support, he now describes as “a mistake”. On some occasions he claims to have been profoundly changed by September 11th and to be determined to seek out and destroy terrorists wherever they are hiding, and on others he has seemed to hark back to the old Clintonian view of terrorism as chiefly a question of law and order. He has failed to offer any set of overall objectives for American foreign policy, though perhaps he could hardly oppose Mr Bush's targets of democracy, human rights and liberty. But instead he has merely offered a different process: deeper thought, more consultation with allies."

In the end, though, the Economist concludes that "[A]s Mr Bush has often said, there is a need in life for accountability. He has refused to impose it himself, and so voters should, in our view, impose it on him, given a viable alternative. John Kerry, for all the doubts about him, would be in a better position to carry on with America's great tasks." Couldn't have put it better myself.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

DeLay gets Desperate

Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay is suddenly realizing he's in trouble in his race for re-election in Texas' 22nd District. The Houston Chronicle has endorsed his opponent, Richard Morrison, as has the Brazoria Facts, another district paper.

Meanwhile, Delay's ethical problems continue to haunt him. The Austin American-Statesman reports:
"A Travis County grand jury on Tuesday indicted three top lieutenants of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in connection with corporate money raised during the 2002 elections.

Indicted on one count of money laundering were John Colyandro, the executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, and Jim Ellis, a former DeLay staff member now head of Americans for a Republican Majority, DeLay's national fund-raising political action committee.

Colyandro also was indicted on 14 counts of unlawful acceptance of a corporate political contribution.

Warren Robold, DeLay's corporate fund-raiser, based in Washington, D.C., was indicted on 18 counts; nine of unlawful political contribution by a corporation and nine of accepting those contributions.

The money-laundering counts are first-degree felonies, punishable by up to life in prison; the rest are third-degree felonies, with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Seven corporate donors and an alliance of nursing-home companies also were indicted."
DeLay's defense attorney reacted strongly, saying, "All these people felt comfortable they were not violating the laws," he said. "We don't believe anyone intentionally violated the law." Wait, that's not strong. That's pretty weak actually.

In the face of all this, DeLay is getting desperate. In a move bordering on libel, he lashed out at some of the groups opposing his re-election:
Morrison also has taken money and is working with the Daily Kos, which is an organization that raises money for fighters against the U.S. in Iraq.

The Daily Kos may be a partisan democratic group, but I have no idea where DeLay gets the idea that it is raising money for the insurgency. Unless, of course, raising money for Democrats is the same thing as supporting our enemies, which is allegation that the ethically bankrupt DeLay has made in the past.

Those of you who know me, or read this blog, know I dislike George W. Bush. But that dislike compares to the absolute antipathy I feel towards Rep. DeLay. The man is a cancer on Washington, a physical manifestation of all that is evil and wrong in American politics. He knows no principles, only power. He has no ethics, only limits. He can and must be taken out of office, if only so that his shameful presence does not embarrass the House of Representatives any longer. If he went to prison too, well, that would just be an added bonus.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Andrew Sullivan Climbs Aboard

Last week I claimed that while Daniel Drezner's Kerry endorsement should spell the end of the election, in all practical effect it would push Andrew Sullivan toward our side. And lo and behold, he has now announced his (very unhappy) endorsement of John Kerry. Unlike Drezner's endorsement, which was somewhat reserved, Sullivan seems to be phenomonally distressed by both candidates. He writes on Kerry:
I know few people enthused about John Kerry. His record is undistinguished, and where it stands out, mainly regrettable. He intuitively believes that if a problem exists, it is the government's job to fix it. He has far too much faith in international institutions, like the corrupt and feckless United Nations, in the tasks of global management. He got the Cold War wrong. He got the first Gulf War wrong. His campaign's constant and excruciating repositioning on the war against Saddam have been disconcerting, to say the least. I completely understand those who look at this man's record and deduce that he is simply unfit to fight a war for our survival. They have an important point--about what we know historically of his character and his judgment when this country has faced dire enemies. His scars from the Vietnam War lasted too long and have gone too deep to believe that he has clearly overcome the syndrome that fears American power rather than understands how to wield it for good.

Sullivan also sings praises of Bush, at least early in his term. So why is voting for Kerry? The title says it all: Risk Management. The risks of a Kerry presidency (inaction, indecisiveness) are far less dangerous in the world we're facing than Bush's (hubris, arrogance). He argues:
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush administration has shown itself impatient with and untalented at nation-building. Moreover, the toll of the war has left the United States with minimal international support, one important ingredient for the successful rebuilding of nations. If Bush is reelected, even Britain will likely shift toward withdrawal in Iraq, compounding American isolation there and making it even harder for a new Iraqi government to gain legitimacy. In the essential tasks of building support for greater international help in Iraq--financially, militarily, diplomatically--Kerry is the better choice. No, other countries cannot bail us out or even contribute much in the way of an effective military presence. But within Iraq, the impact of a more international stamp on the occupation and on the elections could help us win the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis. That battle--as much as the one on the battlefield itself--is crucial for success. I fear Bush is too polarizing, too controversial, too loathed a figure even within his own country, to pull this off.

The president says that he alone can act militarily when the danger is there; and Kerry is too weak for our current crisis. I disagree. The chance of a third forced regime change somewhere in the world in the next four years is extremely low. We don't even have the troops. Bush's comparative advantage--the ability to pull the trigger when others might balk--will be largely irrelevant. That doesn't mean it hasn't come in handy. Without Bush, Saddam would still be in power. But just because the president was suited to fight the war for the last four years doesn't mean he is suited to succeed at the more complicated and nuanced tasks of the next four. In fact, some of the very virtues that made him suited to our past needs now make him all the more unsuited to our future ones. I am still glad he was president when we were attacked. But that doesn't mean he's the right leader for the years ahead. And one of the great benefits of being a democracy at war is that we can change leaders and tactics to advance the same goals. Dictatorships are stuck with the same guy--with all his weaknesses and all the hubris that comes from running successful wars, hubris that almost always leads to fatal errors, hubris that isn't restricted to tyrants.

Does Kerry believe in this war? Skeptics say he doesn't. They don't believe he has understood the significance of September 11. They rightly point to the antiwar and anti-Western attitudes of some in his base--the Michael Moores and Noam Chomskys who will celebrate a Kerry victory. I understand their worries. But they should listen to what Kerry has said. The convention was a remarkable event in that it pivoted the Democratic Party toward an uncomplicated embrace of the war on terror. Kerry has said again and again that he will not hesitate to defend this country and go on the offensive against Al Qaeda. I see no reason whatsoever why he shouldn't. What is there to gain from failure in this task? He knows that if he lets his guard down and if terrorists strike or succeed anywhere, he runs the risk of discrediting the Democrats as a party of national security for a generation. He has said quite clearly that he will not "cut and run" in Iraq. And the truth is: He cannot. There is no alternative to seeing the war through in Iraq. And Kerry's new mandate and fresh administration will increase the options available to us for winning. He has every incentive to be tough enough but far more leeway to be flexible than the incumbent.

Not a rousing endorsement, to be sure. But perhaps one that is very relevant to those swing voters who liked the Bush who was president on 9/12/01 but aren't comfortable with him now.

Meanwhile, Editor and Publisher conducts an informal analysis of its ongoing Newspaper Endorsement tally. Kerry has a big advantage, and they dispel the myth that most papers go to Democrats, E&P notes that the 72 largest papers split virtually evenly for Bush vs. Gore in 2000 (they're 3 to 2 for Kerry this year), and an analysis of ALL papers shows that normally they go Republican, making Kerry's immense endorsement edge even more telling. E&P does a state-by-state analysis which reflects this advantage, but what's most interesting is Florida, which many people think is tipping ever-so-slightly to Bush. They note that Kerry has gained the endorsement of the states eight largest papers (not counting the traditionally Republican Tampa Tribune, which refused to endorse anyone). When Bush's top (indeed only) supporters in the state is The Lakeland Ledger and Ocala Star-Banner, there are problems. But E&P goes further, making perhaps the ballsiest call of the election so far:
So let's give this state to Kerry. In fact, if Bush pulls this one out, E&P promises never to give any weight to editorial endorsements in the future.

Never give ANY weight to editorial endorsements? That's putting alot on the line for a state that appears to lean (albeit very slightly) Republican.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Death to Castro

Too funny. From a press conference by Richard Boucher, Spokesperson for the US State Department:
QUESTION: Did you hear that Castro fell?

MR. BOUCHER: We heard that Castro fell. There are, I think, various reports that he broke a leg, an arm, a foot, and other things, and I'd guess you'd have to check with the Cubans to find out what's broken about Mr. Castro. We, obviously, have expressed our views about what's broken in Cuba.

QUESTION: Do you wish him a speedy recovery?


I don't know why I find this fall off the chair funny, but I do. Probably because I can imagine Boucher saying "no" in a total deadpan. In any event, it's rare to see the State Department specifically wish ill (passively in this case, but still) to a head of state, even a hostile one. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tipoff.

Run! It's a Liberal!

Andrew Sullivan tips me off to a great quote in the Des Moines Register's endorsement of John Kerry.
"Yes, Kerry is liberal. But what's to fear from a liberal president? That he would run big deficits? That he would increase federal spending? That he would expand the power of the federal government over individuals' lives? Nothing Kerry could do could top what President Bush has already done in those realms."

Conservatives all aghast at John Kerry's horrible liberalism should take a look at who they have in office right now.

Of course, Senator Kerry has never been as liberal as his opponents have tried to label him. The Register continues:
"Kerry is not the stereotypical liberal in any case. According to the "Almanac of American Politics," Kerry is "more respectful of economic free markets" and more inclined to an expansionist foreign policy than other liberal Democrats. He has been a champion of small business. He was an early supporter of the conservative Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction act.

An overview of Kerry's 20 years in the Senate shows a conscientious lawmaker, popular with the home-state voters. Kerry's legislative interests have run to investigating government wrongdoing, strengthening law enforcement, securing health care for children and preventing nuclear proliferation. He has a strong record on the environment."

Horrors upon horrors. Preventing Nuclear Proliferation? That's pinko commie talk, that is! And being "The most Liberal Senator"? Utter falsehood. Overall, Kerry was ranked at most the 11th most liberal senator over his time in congress (By the way, big shoutout to Vice President Cheney for telling me about this site. I'm so glad he has a commitment to truth that extends beyond partisan interests. Or perhaps he just screwed up, badly. That would be more fitting to type.).

Kerry keeps getting momentum in the mainstream press. I'm optimistic that eventually the torrent of endorsements Kerry is receiving will have an impact on the race. Unless, of course, we're devoured by wolves first.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Washington Post Endorses Kerry

The Washington Post delivers a surprisingly timid endorsement to John Kerry. The Post is one of the few major newspapers which I still have a great deal of respect for, and I was surprised that they seemed very cautious in endorsing Kerry. Still, at the end of the day, the message is upbeat, and I think this presents a reasonably strong case for the election of Sen. Kerry.
"In Iraq, we do not fault Mr. Bush for believing, as President Clinton before him believed, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. We supported the war and believed that the Iraqi dictator posed a challenge that had to be faced; we continue to believe that the U.S. mission to promote a representative government in Iraq has a chance to leave the United States safer and the Iraqis far better off than they were under their murderous dictator.

We do, however, fault Mr. Bush for exaggerating to the public the intelligence given him privately and for alienating allies unnecessarily. Above all, we fault him for ignoring advice to better prepare for postwar reconstruction. The damage caused by that willful indifference is incalculable. There is no guarantee that Iraq would be more peaceful today if U.S. forces had prevented postwar looting, secured arms depots, welcomed international involvement and transferred authority to Iraqis more quickly. But the chances of success would have been higher. Yet the administration repeatedly rebuffed advice to commit sufficient troops. Its disregard for the Geneva Conventions led to a prison-torture scandal in both Iraq and Afghanistan that has diminished for years, if not decades, the United States' image and influence abroad. In much of the world, in fact, U.S. prestige is at a historic low, partly because of the president's high-handed approach to allies on issues ranging far beyond Iraq.

These failings have a common source in Mr. Bush's cocksureness, his failure to seek advice from anyone outside a narrow circle and his unwillingness to expect the unexpected or adapt to new facts. These are dangerous traits in any president but especially in a wartime leader. They are matched by his failure to admit his errors or to hold senior officials accountable for theirs.
We have been dismayed most of all by Mr. Kerry's zigzags on Iraq, such as his swervings on whether Saddam Hussein presented a threat. As Mr. Bush charges, Mr. Kerry's description of the war as a "diversion" does not inspire confidence in his determination to see it through. But Mr. Kerry has repeatedly pledged not to cut and run from Iraq, and we believe a Kerry administration would be better able to tackle the formidable nation-building tasks that remain there. Mr. Kerry echoes the Bush goals of an elected Iraqi government and a well-trained Iraqi force to defend it but argues that he could implement the strategy more effectively.

Mr. Kerry understands that the biggest threat to U.S. security comes from terrorists wielding nuclear or biological weapons. He pledges to add two divisions to the U.S. Army; try harder to secure nuclear weapons and materials around the world, and improve U.S. preparations for a bioterrorism attack. There is no way to know whether he would be more successful than Mr. Bush in slowing North Korea's and Iran's march toward becoming nuclear-armed states, but he attaches the right priority to both problems. He is correct that those challenges, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, call for the kind of sustained diplomacy that has been missing for four years. We hope he would be firmer than Mr. Bush in standing up to the genocide unfolding in Sudan.

We do not view a vote for Mr. Kerry as a vote without risks. But the risks on the other side are well known, and the strengths Mr. Kerry brings are considerable. He pledges both to fight in Iraq and to reach out to allies; to hunt down terrorists, and to engage without arrogance the Islamic world. These are the right goals, and we think Mr. Kerry is the better bet to achieve them."

The Post's endorsement capped off a great newspaper day for Sen. Kerry, picking up 17 new papers that supported Bush in 2000 today alone. Three more Bush-2000 supporters, The New Orleanes Times-Picayune, The Harrisburg Patriot-News, and The Detriot News (which has never supported a Demcratic Presidential Candidate) all refused to deliver an endorsement at all. To top it all off, Kerry flipped the Orlando Sentinel from Bush, capping a sweep of every major Florida newspaper. Kerry now leads Bush 113-71 in endorsements by Editor & Publisher's count, and by about 14.4 million to 8.6 million in the circulation of backing papers

But the day wasn't all lost for Bush. He recieved the hotly contested Columbus Dispatch endorsement (though they're even more subdued about it than the Post was), which will be a big boon in razor's edge Ohio. And speaking of Ohio, its been reported that the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the other major Ohio paper up for grabs, has delayed its endorsement decision. Apparently, the editorial board voted to endorse Kerry, but the publisher, who has the final say, backs Bush. The endorsement was put off to allow heads to cool and attempt to work out a compromise, possibly in the form of a dissenting pro-Kerry editorial.

I want to return to Dispatch editorial, because it raised an interesting argument that I think need to be addressed. The Dispatch notes that it opposed the Iraq war originally but
"The most crucial challenge facing the next president is winning the peace in Iraq. Although the rationale for the Iraq war has been proved wrong, no one should underestimate the stakes now. The United States must see the job through to the end.

For far too long, dictators and terrorists have believed that Americans lack staying power. Friends and enemies of the United States are watching closely to see if the casualties and expense of the war will sap the nation’s will to plant democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. For America, there is no other choice but to succeed. Failure will sow more terrorism and tyranny.

Like it or not, America must stand firm."

I'm in entire agreement (except that I supported the war), and furthermore I think this a point KERRY should have made earlier, because I think it dovetails nicely with his criticism of how the war was conducted. By making this argument, he could dodge accusations that he is weak on terror while still scoring all the points he's getting now by hammering Bush on Iraq. I wonder if had made this argument, would he have swung the Dispatch? The election?

Love Jonathan Chait, Hate the LA Times

I love Jonathan Chait. Of all the authors I've read (including my beloved Daniel Drezner, who, despite his brilliance, is a little too libertarian for my tastes), he's the one I've found myself agreeing with most often. The man writes beautifully, and his article "The 9/10 President" (subscription only) should be required reading for anyone voting in this election. I hate the LA Times because all of their articles require registration, and it annoys me. I finally gave in and registered, because I wanted to read this article on US democratization policies, helpfully linked to by Matthew Yglesias. And just to be even more aggrevating, the best part of the article was the paragraph Matthew summerized, so I didn't even really NEED to register at all. Grrr.

Well, here's the money quote.
Bush and his supporters act as if anti-Americanism is simply the necessary and worthwhile price we pay for our principled advocacy of freedom everywhere. The truth is that anti-Americanism has prevented us from consistently advocating democracy throughout the world. And the inconstancy of our belief in democracy — which the citizens of pro-American dictatorships everywhere have noticed and exploited — makes anti-Americanism all the worse. There may be a way out of this dilemma, but preaching the universality of democracy and practicing otherwise is surely not it.

The problem with this is that even when the US does make bona fide efforts to promote democracy, we are viewed with mistrust because of our miserable track record on the subject. Do we really care if Iraq becomes a Democracy, or do we just want whatever government will give us oil access? I'm not such a partisan as to think that Bush doesn't care whether or not Iraq is a democracy or not. But his actions around the world have delegitimized the US' credibilty when we say we "support democracy." Do we support it in Russia? How about Uzbekistan? China? Pakistan? Saudi Arabia? And when we stumble upon a democracy that we dislike, do we support it or undermine it? Why don't you ask a Venezualan and see how they answer that question.

I've argued on numerous occassions that democratization represents our best, perhaps only hope to winning the war in Iraq and, more broadly, the war on terror. The fact is that currently, western political values don't present a viable political alternative muslim extremism (or illiberal nationalism in general) because the rest of the world only sees the side of the US that is willing to bargain with dictators, shortchange the interests of the global periphery, and sanction the oppression of millions of people around the world. Can they blamed when they naturally assume the worst about the US even when we really do have the best of intentions? It's a vicious cycle that we need to break out of.