Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » August 2004 » If God meant for us to vote, he'd give us candidates....

[« Thought for the Day:] [And speaking of Juan Cole.... »]

08/13/2004: If God meant for us to vote, he'd give us candidates....

A couple items caught my attention regarding George Bush's latest smirking, sneering attempts to brand his opponent as a "flip flopper" on the Iraq war issue. Unfortunately, Senator Kerry isn't exactly countering them well.

William Saletan in Slate has a good analysis of the situation: Would Kerry Vote Today for the Iraq War? - No The short version: in order to paint Kerry as a flip flopper, the RNC and the Bush campaign have to do some substantial editing (read "doctoring") of the evidence, however, Senator Kerry isn't exactly rushing to explain himself on the score, either:

Last Thursday, Kerry gave the RNC more comic material. He told a conference of minority journalists,
I voted to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, because had I been president, I would have wanted that authority, because that was the way to enforce the U.N. resolutions and be tough with the prospect of his development of weapons of mass destruction.... Now, might we have wound up going to war with Saddam Hussein? You bet we might have--after we exhausted those remedies and found that he wasn't complying, and so on and so forth. But not in a way that provides, you know, 90 percent of the casualties are American, and almost all of the cost.
This is the kind of endless, backside-covering nuance that earned Kerry two months of "Kerryisms" in Slate. But it doesn't change his position: United Nations, WMD, compliance, process. And it includes a very important phrase: "[B]ecause had I been president, I would have wanted that authority."

Only when you remember that phrase does the meaning of Kerry's statement on Monday become clear. When Kerry says he would have voted for war authority because "it was the right authority for a president to have," the president he's thinking of--"a president," as he puts it--isn't Bush. It's himself.

So the question that now needs to be put to Kerry is this one: "Knowing what you know now--not only about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, but also about the way President Bush would use the authority given to him by that resolution--would you still have voted to give him that authority?" Good luck getting him to answer it.
Personally, I think that Kerry should be getting some advice from University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole. In an excellent analysis yesterday, Cole provided the answer that Kerry should be giving us:
Bush's real question was of the form, "Have you stopped beating your spouse, yes or no?" If you say yes, you admit to the abuse, and if you say no you admit it is ongoing. The question is posed in such a way that it is impossible to negate the premise. Bush got Kerry to say "yes, but . . ." and in a world of media soundbites, it is easy to lop off the "but . . ." Here's how I [Cole] would have handled it:

"Mr. President, the question of whether we should have gone to war is water under the bridge. We are in Iraq now, and are on the way to spending $500 billion on it at a time when many of our own people don't have insurance or cannot afford the drugs they need, or cannot build a needed new school. You have posed a counterfactual question, an imaginary question. There is no way to answer a question about an imaginary situation. Why don't you keep your feet on the ground and your head out of the clouds, and look what is happening to our troops in Iraq? What I can tell you is that the way you fought the war in Iraq has made Americans less safe, not more safe. You have diverted resources from fighting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and the Pakistani border regions to bombarding Muslim holy sites in Iraq. You have allowed the poppy trade to come back, to the tune of over $2 billion a year, in Afghanistan, creating a powerful threat of narco-terrorism. Do we really want the remanants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to get hold of that kind of drug money? You have thrown Iraq into political and military chaos, creating an unstable situation that could well breed terrorism against the United States. Your supporters are fond of calling you the "commander in chief" even with reference to your civilian role. But you are the commander in chief of the US armed forces, and you have not served them well by sending in a force too small to provide security to post-war Iraq."
Cole continues:
How long does Mr. Bush plan on keeping 138,000 US troops in Iraq? What is this project going to cost the American taxpayer? What does Mr. Bush plan to do if the situation remains so unstable that elections are not feasible in January? What are Mr. Bush's real plans for Iraq, such that his "mission" there cannot be completed within one year? What exactly is the mission? Because if it is forcing Western democracy on Iraq and then holding up Iraq as a model to other Middle Easterners, that is not working out very well. Iraq under the Bush administration is the worst advertisement for democracy in the history of the world.
Unfortunately, either the public doesn't want to hear real analysis about the situation, or the candidates don't want to give it to us.

Somehow, I think there's enough blame for all of us to share it.

Len on 08.13.04 @ 08:09 AM CST

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August 2004

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