« Interesting Pair of articles that touch on the First Lady | Main | Bad Primary Analyses »

February 03, 2004

Comments

I too will miss the Ninja.

Oh well...

I'm not ready to endorse anyone yet, but the Dems do have some convincing to do in regards to foreign policy for me.

So what exactly are your standards on national security? I can guess at them, but I don't recall you ever coming out and specifically explaining them.

"So what exactly are your standards on national security?"

Treat terrorism as an act of war instead of a crime; be ready to clean up the messes left by previous administrations (my ire about that is directed mostly towards GHWB); remember that allies are good, but doing the right thing is better; be willing to revamp the definition of 'acceptable risk' into something a bit more acceptable; and - this is what permanently cost Kerry and Edwards my vote - don't try to extort money out of the people that you're liberating.

As I said, Lieberman was the only guy I was willing to even theoretically consider changing my vote for.

Moe

Obviously, all uses of the word 'you', both implicit and explicit are not intended to refer to Josh, but instead the current candidates for President. Or something like that; it's late.

I didn't think you were pointing at me.

The thing I notice about your list is that about half of it doesn't concern what I think of when I think of national security. Treating terrorism as an act of war and revamping the definition of "acceptable risk" (although I'm not sure precisely what you mean by that), sure, but I don't make the same association between the other parts and national security you do.

Moe

Treat terrorism as an act of war instead of a crime
Kerry and Edwards wholehartedly support the war in Afganistan, thus they don't favor the Michael Moore approach ie law enforcement only.
be ready to clean up the messes left by previous administrations
Edwards did support regieme change but has issues with the way the president persued the policy. Personally I think Bush should have followed an apporoach as layed out by James Wolsey in Mondays WSJ.
remember that allies are good, but doing the right thing is better; be willing to revamp the definition of 'acceptable risk' into something a bit more acceptable
These two items are vauge and would take a five paragraph essay to address and I don't feel like writing that much.
don't try to extort money out of the people that you're liberating.
I agree with you here Moe, but in the overall scheme of the war on terror this is such a small item that it hasn't affected my views on Edwards.

I do think Edwards could repair some alliances we have in the world there by improving our national security. Edwards is, in my opinion, stronger on national security issues that is Bush. Edwards gets my support over the other Democrats for this reason.

The domestic front has been a disater these past 3 years. Would all agree that bush gets a very low grade on domestic policy? He sold us a MORE expensive and less effective medicare bill than the Democrats wanted. He's run the deficit through the roof, I could go on forever! I guess I liked it when he increased the standard deduction for a married couple filing joint income taxes, but that is the ONLY domestic policy I have liked from Bush.

ps. I liked Joe a lot too. :(

"Treat terrorism as an act of war instead of a crime"

You are swallowing a false dichotomy. It is a mistake. Is it an act of war or a crime? Neither, says the Bush administration when it comes to Guantanamo. Both, says me--it's a floor wax and a dessert topping, or to be less cute about it, it's a war crime.

The question is, what is the best course of action for defeating the terrorists, saving American lives, taking as few innocent lives as possible, and remaining a free society? That's the question. Sometimes the answer will be going to war with our army against a nation state, with allies if possible but without them if necessary--but it will not always be so. Sometimes the answer will be to use the domestic or international criminal justice system--but it will not always be so.

As for "acceptable risk": I would argue that what should change is not the principle that you do not invade alone except in the face of an imminent threat, but the threshold of "imminent." (Once we could count on deterrence, now we can't, so as soon as a terrorist acquires WMD there's an imminent threat that he'll use them.) But let's leave that aside. No matter what threshold you use, Iraq wasn't an imminent threat to us. But more importantly is the fact that it wasn't the greatest threat to us. I was pretty sure of this in March. Today it is no longer even arguable--Kay says there were about 50 countries with a similar level of "weapons mass destruction related program activities".

What is so irresponsible about saying, "He's a brutal thug, but we have these 8 greater threats to worry about and we need to deal with them first or deal with Saddam in a way that doesn't threaten to make them worse"?

I could be wrong, it could all work out ok and the humanitarian case is pretty compelling all by itself. But so many of the hawks I encounter are so certain it was the right thing to do, and this certainty seems completely unaffected by everything that's happened between March of 2003 and the present. It's the certainty that I find inexplicable.

Ah well, not much point in this discussion, really. But I really genuinely don't understand it, I'm not using that as a debating tactic.

One more thing: sometimes the answer is neither invading a country nor using the criminal justice system. Sometimes it's getting rid of or adding security to loose nuclear weapons, and diluting highly enriched uranium--this will do more to protect us from mushroom clouds than invading Iraq ever did, and this was perfectly clear last October. Sometimes it's sending special ops teams after Al Qaeda--I assume we are doing that and it sounds like we're planning on more of it. Very often it's better intelligence. Sometimes it's inspecting cargo containers. Sometimes it's making the INS competent. Sometimes it's more competent acts of diplomacy in the Muslim world than those silly TV commercials we've been using. Etc. etc.

One piggybacking comment off Katherine's remarks: in what way have any of the Democratic candidates not treated terrorism as an act of war? As far as I have seen, much of the argument here has been along the lines of Dems blaming the administration for losing its focus in the War on Terror in its terrible swift hurry to put one over on Saddam Hussein. You can disagree with that argument, but it's hardly of the form "terrorism is a law enforcement problem."

I have usually understood this line to be code for didn't support the war in Iraq, but since this is demonstrably not true of several of them -- and since we still have no evidence that Iraq was involved in any kind of terror plotting or activity against the U.S. -- is this meant to mean something else?

I'm with Katherine in saying I really don't understand what this is supposed to mean.

Just to pile on for a sec here...The difference that comes to mind for me between war and law enforcement is no longer making attempts to arrest/try/convict terrorists when we find them (wherever that may be), but instead simply killing them. Given that a) these terrorists are mostly going to be found in the territory of other nations, b) we're going to need the cooperation of said other nations to _find_ such people, and c) we won't be able to coerce said nations into giving us a free hand every time, or even most times (I don't think everybody's like Yemen, IOW), is that a sustainable policy?

Also, doesn't the miserable hash that Bush is making of domestic policy, and of _honesty_ in domestic policymaking have some sort of influence on your assessment of his foreign policy? That is, if Bush has (IMNSHO, and you may disagree with me) shown himself to be deceptive and incompetent on many areas of domestic policy, why would you then necessarily assume that he would be honest, trustworthy, and excellent on foreign policy?

Look at the man's budget...he's not even willing to put the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan in the one that people are going to see and vote on; why should you trust him to make the tough, honest choices in the war on terrorism in the face of popular sentiment and pressure, if he can't admit that going to war costs lots of money and that we're going to have to pay for it?

this is what permanently cost Kerry and Edwards my vote - don't try to extort money out of the people that you're liberating.

But Bush & Co's actions in screwing the Iraqis over are okay with you? (I'm specifically thinking of the forced sell-off of all Iraqi industries to the highest bidder cite).

I mean, we're never going to agree on Bush: I think he's been an utter disaster of a President, you think he's the bee's knees and the cat's pyjamas - but I'm frankly astonished that while you find it unacceptable for Democrats to commit extortion, you're absolutely fine with Republicans doing it. (Or so I conclude, since the Republican plan clearly didn't permanently cost Bush your vote.)

Andrew wrote:

Would all agree that bush gets a very low grade on domestic policy? He sold us a MORE expensive and less effective medicare bill than the Democrats wanted.

That is simply a lie. The House and Senate Democrats offered two alternative bills which were scored to cost us $900 and $600 Billion over ten years respectively. Either bill would have been more expensive than the one passed, even if we do not make the (logical) assumption that their scoring was also off just like the compromise bill that was passed.

He's run the deficit through the roof,

Yes, President Bush has proposed or agreed to too much federal spending. However since both Kerry and Edwards have each proposed even greater levels of spending than Bush, voted for the current level of federal spending (or more expensive Democratic alternatives such as the prescription drug benefit), and have both come out four-squared against entitlement program reform (which has far greater budgetary implications than non-defense discretionary spending); this is simply not an issue than any Democrat will be able to credibly challenge President Bush on because any one of their candidates is inarguably worse.

I'd run, myself, but having been born off-planet disqualifies me for some odd reason. More enlightened cultures have done away with such restrictions.

Mark wrote:

Look at the man's budget...he's not even willing to put the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan in the one that people are going to see and vote on; why should you trust him to make the tough, honest choices in the war on terrorism in the face of popular sentiment and pressure, if he can't admit that going to war costs lots of money and that we're going to have to pay for it?

The costs of reconstruction and military support during a time of military conflict have usually done through supplemental appropriations bills (just like with Kosovo under the previous administration and Operation: Desert Storm) because these typically qualify as a form of emergency spending or some cases we wait until we have a better idea of what the total costs would be (given the precarious nature of war).

One can honestly disagree about the abuse of SABs for things like agricultural relief or the tendency to put non-germane riders on these bills, but it is simply dishonest to claim that these bills are not going to be seen and voted on by Congress just like any other form of spending.

Slarti, I'd vote for you over Bush.

Of course, I'd vote for a peanut butter sandwich over Bush... and at least you wouldn't go stale!

Thorley -- I wasn't talking about whether _Congress_ was going to vote on those bills (of course they will), but whether the _public_ will be voting on those (along with the rest of the Bush Administration) in November. That is to say, one of the campaign issues this year will be the deficit and the irresponsible fiscal policy of the Bush Administration. The Bush Admin has given us a budget and deficit picture that, by omitting the cost of those supplemental appropriations, is simply false, and false in a way that protects Bush's political skin. Even if it doesn't go in the budget as a matter of procedure, you would think they would the guts and honesty to be upfront about the cost. That they don't doesn't speak well of their willingness to make the hard, necessary choices domestically or in the war on terrorism.

Yes, President Bush has proposed or agreed to too much federal spending. However since both Kerry and Edwards have each proposed even greater levels of spending than Bush,

What if, Thorley, your concern is not that spending levels go up by some margin, but that the bugdet is balanced? It's true that the article you cite states, without citation or analysis, that proposed increases in spending would not be offset by an increase in tax revenues. Perhaps for good reason: It's false for several of the Democratic candidates (including, it appears, Joey from the CT and Edwards).

Also, the article assumes that the Democratic candidates would cut or freeze no programs, and bases this assumption solely on the fact that they have proposed no cuts or freezes thus far in the campaign. This is self-evidently unfair, given the stage of the campaign. Indeed, the unfairness of the charge should be evident to everyone with a working familiarity with what we like to call "reality." Take this test: How many cuts did Bush present at the same stage of his campaign in 2000? How 'bout spending increases?

In other words, the NTU piece doesn't provide much of an argument against the Democrats. It does provide, however, quite an argument against relying on the NTU for careful or balanced analysis.

Katherine says: "Neither, says the Bush administration when it comes to Guantanamo. Both, says me--it's a floor wax and a dessert topping, or to be less cute about it, it's a war crime."

I'm confused by this. There is, indeed, much to legitimately debate over the use of Guantanamo, and the legal/constitutional issues of how to treat verious folks.

But those issues arise in several distinct areas: 1) what the law should be regarding US citizens (how the Patriot Act should be modified or accepted); 2) what the law should be regarding "unlawful combatants" and who should be eligible for that status; 3) what the law should be regarding prisoners of war (and who should be eligible for that status -- though this one is largely settled law; 4) can American citizens be placed in either of the two latter categories?

By declaring the use of Guantanamo a "war crime," Katherine seems to be establishing the principle, and stipulating, that it is being used solely as an instrument of war, thus wiping away the above questions. Perhaps not -- I doubt that's what she intends -- but I'd appreciate her untangling what she means more precisely.

Whoa, back up. Yes, you totally misunderstand me though it must be partly my fault. The antecedent in the second sentence is "terrorism" not "Guantanamo." Terrorism is both an act of war, and a crime; it is also quite accurate to say it is a war crime.

In Guantanamo, Bush is saying that terrorism suspects deserve neither the legal protections of soldiers or those of normal civilians. It's not treating them as enemy soldiers in a conventional war. That was the point about Gitmo. As to what should be done, I am very uneasy with it, but I don't know exactly what the solution is. It might well be illegal, but I lack the expertise to talk intelligently about that. I do not throw around terms like war crime unless I know what I'm talking about and I'm quite sure of it, so I would never apply it to Gitmo.

I've always wondered why some see Bush so differently than me.
He seems so obviously dim and dishonest. He can barely put a sentence together. His policies toward the rest of the world have very nearly destroyed any respect the US has gained.

Can you really look and listen to this guy and not wonder how he got to be president?

Sigh. Four hours obsessively tracking primary totals and getting the record wrong on delegate results, coupled with forty minutes work on the spreadsheet and post. Result: no comments.

One minute making reply to a comment about a secondary-focus statement of mine in the post. Result: seventeen comments, including one fairly brazen attempt to piss me off. Clearly I need to readjust my methodology, here. :)

Anyhoo... Thorley seems to be having fun answering the economic questions, so I'll leave him to it (as long as he plays nice, that is); this Weekly Standard article may be of interest to those interested in why I have an issue with Terrorism as crime (which is not to say that there aren't times when it may be applicable); and that in any rate the fact that while I will not vote for either Kerry or Edwards, based on their votes on the aid bill (breathe), neither would the specter of their becoming President fill me with an impending sense of doom and a profound desire to emigrate - indeed, the only three that would really so worry me would be Kuchinich, Sharpton and perhaps Clark.

Moe

C'mon, Moe, what do you expect? This one gives us something to argue about, and allows us liberals the (probably illusory) hope of persuading you over to the side of truth, justice, etc. Or something like that, at any rate. :)

My political views are closer to Katherine's than to yours, so I recognize that we have very different worldviews. Nonetheless, I honestly can't understand why conservatives still support Bush. There are lots of things that he's done that I disagree with, but there are also many things that I would expect conservatives to disagree with.

Two quick examples: there have been two major intelligence failures under Bush. The first was 9/11 and the second was WMDs in Iraq. Now intelligence failures are going to happen, but Bush has fought investigating them and has held no one responsible for them. I'd feel much more confident that we won't have another 9/11 if I believed that the government had learned from it and had taken steps to improve our intelligence to prevent future terrorist attacks.

The second issue is the budget. Bush is now running a massive deficit which seems to be getting continually larger. I understand that conservatives think taxes are bad and may therefore support the Bush tax cuts, but surely you realize that the future tax burden of a deficit now is greater than the current tax burden of a balanced budget now. Even if you support the tax cuts, I would expect you to be furious about the deficit.

I see two ways a conservative could still support George W. Bush. Either you don't think these problems are as severe as I do or you think that any Democrat would bring even worse problems to the government. I would really like to understand more of what you think about Bush and the Democratic candidates. Is Bush not as bad as he seems or are the Democrats worse?

Von wrote:

What if, Thorley, your concern is not that spending levels go up by some margin, but that the bugdet is balanced? It's true that the article you cite states, without citation or analysis, that proposed increases in spending would not be offset by an increase in tax revenues.

Untrue, the NTU study cites the (overly generous) numbers from the left-wing Center for Budget and Policy Priorities to estimate the annual tax revenue gained from repealing the entire tax cut. The point still stands though that each Democratic candidate has promised to spend even more on top of the current level of spending than the “savings” even if they repealed the entire tax cut (which most candidates have not agreed to do).

Perhaps for good reason: It's false for several of the Democratic candidates (including, it appears, Joey from the CT and Edwards).

Again, this is simply untrue. John Edwards and Joseph Lieberman have each pledged to increase annual spending by $199.48 and $169.55 Billion respectively and neither candidate has pledged to repeal the entire tax cut.

Also, the article assumes that the Democratic candidates would cut or freeze no programs, and bases this assumption solely on the fact that they have proposed no cuts or freezes thus far in the campaign. This is self-evidently unfair, given the stage of the campaign. Indeed, the unfairness of the charge should be evident to everyone with a working familiarity with what we like to call "reality."

I see, so Von considers it “self-evidently unfair” to suggest that we judge the candidates based on their actual records and policy proposals (reality) as opposed to what exactly? Their “secret plans” to cut and freeze spending (fantasy)? ;)

Seriously though, the NTU method is the fairest because it judges the respective candidates on what they are actually proposing not what Von would like to imagine his favorite candidates should do. I could just as easily say that given the respective records of each of the Democratic nominees, they would probably try to increase spending even more that what they are proposing in the primary (no doubt the numbers will actually increase as they try to outbid each other for the most generous social welfare programs).

Take this test: How many cuts did Bush present at the same stage of his campaign in 2000?

I do not believe that then Candidate Bush actually proposed any spending cuts during either the primary or general campaign. Unless one counts the partial privatization of Social Security as a cut in that it reduces the program’s unfunded liability.

How 'bout spending increases?

Quite a bit with education, energy infrastructure, new military spending, and a new prescription drug benefit. The agricultural bill was pretty much Tom Harkin’s baby when the Democrats controlled the Senate (so much for the “divided government” theory) and much of the rest of the major discretionary spending increases were for homeland security, extending unemployment benefits, post 9/11 aid (including the airlines bailout which I question) and the war were pretty much unforeseeable to anyone in the general election. If Von’s point is that the candidates will probably propose even greater spending than what they are campaigning on now (it is certainly more plausible than believing that Kerry or Edwards are more likely to try and reign in spending given that both think Bush is not spending enough), I quite agree. However I think the NTU method which actually judges the candidates on what they are actually proposing is more fair than simply inventing numbers out of thin air and attributing them to candidates without the sort of citation as was provided in the NTU study.

In other words, the NTU piece doesn't provide much of an argument against the Democrats. It does provide, however, quite an argument against relying on the NTU for careful or balanced analysis.

So far Von has yet to substantiate any of his claims since (a) the NTU did in fact provide a citation for the effect of a tax increase, (b) both Edwards and Lieberman proposed greater spending, and (c) unlike preferred fantasy method, actually gauges the candidates on what they are proposing rather than what some would like to imagine they should or will propose in the future.

Matthew Morse wrote:

I see two ways a conservative could still support George W. Bush. Either you don't think these problems are as severe as I do or you think that any Democrat would bring even worse problems to the government. I would really like to understand more of what you think about Bush and the Democratic candidates. Is Bush not as bad as he seems or are the Democrats worse?

The answer is both.

Obviously any of the Democrats would be worse. We already know that each of the Democratic candidates has pledged to spend more than Bush and each is on the record as opposing entitlement reform (which is a greater fiduciary concern than the size of the deficits or non-defense discretionary spending). In which case it would be patently silly for anyone upset about the spending and deficits enacted by President Bush and Congress (including three of the remaining Democratic contenders who have each voted for the spending or higher levels of spending) to then vote for a Democratic candidate who wants to spend even more and do nothing to fix the entitlement mess.

Yes I know we keep hearing about the supposed virtues of “divided government” as a means of enacting gridlock and supposedly thinking that would restrain spending. This of course is an equally silly idea because (a) without massive reforms, federal entitlement programs are on autopilot to bankrupt the federal government and gridlock only makes the problem that much more difficult and expensive to fix, (b) we had “divided government” during the first half of Bush 43’s first term and it gave us a more expensive education and agricultural bill as a result, and (c) the Medicare prescription drug benefit and other subsidies were made more expensive as a means of placating Democratic Congressmen who had the votes to filibuster cheaper alternatives in the Senate. In which case it seems silly to think that making our (nearly equally divided in each House) government more divided is going to result in someone being able to get less spending enacted.

Bush is not as bad as he seems because the real economic issue is not about the size of the federal deficit or even the size of the federal budget. The real issue is the size of the total cost of the federal government as a percentage of GDP/GNP. Bush has been good in pushing for pro-growth policies in several areas (for which he deserves credit – even from those of us who criticize the spending) such as repealing the awful Kyoto treaty (which would have cost us about $150-350 billion a year to the economy and which should forever lay to rest the lie that Clinton was ever “fiscally conservative”), he has pushed for expanding the nation’s energy supply including modernizing our infrastructure and challenging the ridiculous State-created reformulation requirements which are one reason why gasoline prices are so volatile, he refused to bail out Enron despite pleadings from Robert Rubin (D-Citibank) and let the stock market divest itself of bad market practices, has focused on long term growth with tax cuts and Social Security reform, has just about gotten tort reform through the Senate, despite the awful steel tariffs has moved to generally liberalize trade with North America and Africa, and has proposed a number of market-oriented health care reform policies (including some competition in Medicare).

In so far as the aggregate of Bush’s policies is towards greater economic growth in the long term (thereby shrinking the cost of government as a percentage of GDP which is about how we balanced it the last time) and he is the candidate most likely to deal with the entitlement problem (which is greater than the deficit problem or the non-defense discretionary spending), then Bush is not only better than the Democrats because they are so awful, but better because he is the more pro-economic growth candidate.

Thorley, I'll get to your other points shortly, but would you please tell me where "the NTU study cites the (overly generous) numbers from the left-wing Center for Budget and Policy Priorities"? I really can't find them in the article (perhaps I'm just blind). And I don't want to claim that X says nothing about Y, if in fact X has said everything about Y.

It was found in footnote 7 and cited in the beginning of the text of the study.

It was found in footnote 7 and cited in the beginning of the text of the study.

Thanks. I completely missed footnote 7. You're conceding that the $135 million for 2004 figure only reflects the revenue reduction generated by Bush's third round of tax cuts, right? In other words, the NTU piece is accurate as to Lieberman and Edwards (and possibly others) only if you ignore the effect of Tax Cuts 1 and 2.

(At least, that's how I read footnote 7.)

Von wrote:

Thanks. I completely missed footnote 7. You're conceding that the $135 million for 2004 figure only reflects the revenue reduction generated by Bush's third round of tax cuts, right? In other words, the NTU piece is accurate as to Lieberman and Edwards (and possibly others) only if you ignore the effect of Tax Cuts 1 and 2.

(At least, that's how I read footnote 7.)

That appears to be an incorrect reading. Reading the second CPBB article cited in the footnotes of the first:

One also can examine the extent to which various types of federal legislation have contributed to the budget deterioration. The CBO data show that over the last two years, Congress enacted legislation that cost an average of $260 billion a year in 2003 and 2004. The CBO data also show that $150 billion — or 58 percent — of this $260 billion annual cost resulted from the tax cuts.

In other words, the $135 Billion (or $150 Billion) figure is for the (alleged) cumulative effect of the tax cuts on reducing federal revenue (neglecting any economic benefits). Either figure of which is less than the $199.48 and $169.55 Billion that messirs Edwards and Lieberman had promised to increase annual federal spending so far.


Yuck

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad