Monday, October 31, 2005

Seriously, are pants that hard to keep on?

Quick summary points:
1) I think President Bush has more moral character than Clinton, yes.
2) I agree with you re: the rule of law. If someone lied about the leak, or what they knew, or whom told who what, then they belong in jail. It's against the law to lie to a grand jury. Period. Doesn't matter why, or where, or the underlying crime. Clinton lied? Bad. Libby lied? Bad.
3) Sidenote: Your line on criminalizing "being Bill Clinton" reminds me of a Chris Rock piece: "They was charging him with stuff I didn't even know was crimes. 'Oh, he gave her some gifts'. So what? That's his friend. You can't give your friend gifts..." Classic.
4) If I'm invited to become a philosopher-king (since I'm much taller) I'll make sure you get an invite. Otherwise, with whom shall I enjoy bacchnalian revelery?

Okay, on to the main point: I'll look forward to responses to my question regarding what qualities we should care about in choosing our nation's leaders. But I think how a man (or woman) chooses to conduct his personal life is appropriate to consider, given my previous post on the changing nature of politics.
I'm reminded of the old adage that "A man's character is what he does when he thinks no one is looking." A man who will cheat on his wife is a man who will cheat me. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but it shows his willingness to cross that line. Now, I've never been married, but it seems like not having sex with other women wouldn't be as hard to observe as, I don't know, not speeding. You just don't have sex with other women. I could be wrong, it could be much harder than that, but I kind of doubt it.
Does this mean we should take adulterers outside and shoot them? No, of course not, but I think it's a fair point of discussion when choosing elected officials. As was President Bush's arrest for DUI. They are instances of bad judgment.

Sidenote #2: I like the appointment of Judge Alito, though I was holding out hope for Judges McConnell or Luttig.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fool me once...we got fooled...again.

Sometimes I get frustrated with the whole process and find myself favoring the philosopher king route over democracy. Of course I always base this on the assumption that I'd be invited to join their ranks. But then I wonder what would happen if I wound up on the outside because of some superficial and ultimately meaningless trait, like height (fucking sperm banks). So democracy it is.

Your question about leadership qualities segways nicely into a couple of points I'd like to make. Namely, that any public official who howled about the "rule of law" during the Clinton impeachment, and is now crying that perjury and obstruction of justice are mere technicalities is a rank hypocrite. Outing Valerie Plame was treacherous, if not technically treasonous, and immoral, if not technically illegal. The whole "Clinton only lied about a blow job" line is perfectly valid here. You are a clever sophist my friend, but there is simply no squaring this circle. And really, what's with this insane Republican/fundamentalist notion that morality is to be judged primarily, exclusively even, by two metrics: one's sexual behavior and acceptance of ancient myths?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but what you're saying is that Bush is a better person, and a better president, simply because he hasn't cheated on his wife. It's irrelevant. Let's be clear here: NOTHING the right went after Clinton for was legitimate. You don't like how he handled Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, Colombia, welfare reform, etc...that's fair. But the 8 years of constant garbage attacks were not. The GOP went miles beyond criminalizing politics; in fact, they more or less criminalized being Bill Clinton. Yet somehow outing an undercover CIA agent who worked on the black market for weapons of mass destruction--an act that any reasonable person can agree ran contrary to the nation's interest--is now just politics, and persecuted politics at that?

Have you any opinion on the slew of recent reports that George W Bush is prone to berating anyone in earshot, that he's perpetually snapping because he can't tolerate being questioned? Granted, these are rumors, but they strike me as accurate for a number of reasons I'll delineate in a later post. Needless to say, such choleric temperment doesn't wear well on a man so long bejeweled in the status of magnanimous heavyweight. Now we're finally privy to his true character--a petulant, sheltered, and spoiled pile of mediocrity.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Who chooses?

One thought on your quite provocative list: Some of those are legitimate political flip-flops (i.e. steel tariffs). However, most of them are the result of actually becoming president.
For instance, on nation-building: As President, Bush learned that you can't just ignore what happens in other countries and expect everything to turn out fine (Sept. 11 was a rather drastic lesson in that piece of wisdom for all of us). This isolationist tendency of non-governmental conservatives is quite normal, but it doesn't hold up when one is actually in government. Israel-Palestine is another example of this.

But I think it brings up a more important point. (Two, actually, the the second is merely provocative) Let's assume that "promises" and stances of politicians before they get elected are merely pre-dispositions; subject to change when confronted with the actual realities of the situation. For example, in 1935 a focus on domestic policy to deal with the Great Depression was a wise course of action, and would have been an excellent campaign theme in the presidential elections of 1936, and maybe even 1940. However, by 1942 it would have sounded stupid. However, such a statement might indicate a predisposition to focus on domestic issues where possible, and not get involved in European affairs even as things devolved and the Nazi Party rose to power.

So, this means presidential campaign themes and policy statements are really just candidates telling us their predispositions. How then are we to judge candidates? There must be some set of criteria outside policy goals we can rely on. Credentials? of what kind? Experience? doing what? Is 2 terms of executive experience more relevant than 4 in the legislature? Do we prefer military experience? Does it matter how long ago?

I actually ask this as an open-ended question, because I have no idea what the correct answer is. Do we care about morality? How about intelligence? Education? are those the same things? What if the candidate is a genius, with a law degree and political science PhD, but he beats his kids? Or a moron who is universally loved?

Obviously, those are extreme examples. But they are symbolic of an ongoing debate in this country. Say I vote against Clinton because I think the man has no moral character (i.e. cheats on his wife, is a liar, etc.) or was a crappy lawyer, even though he is brilliant. Is that a bad vote? Or I vote for Clinton in '92 because even though Bush 41 has more experience, excellent educational credentials and military experience, I think Clinton has a sunnier disposition and he reminds me a bit of Kennedy? Or because he makes policy promises I know he can't keep? Or I vote for Bush in 2000 instead of Gore because Gore is boring?

The larger question is: How should we judge our candidates, if no politician ever keeps his promises?

The second question is, if we can't agree on some set of standards, and some people vote for whoever looks better in person (a la Nixon-Kennedy in '60) or they've seen them in a movie (Reagen '80), should we have stricter voting requirements? Or move towards a Platonic system of Philosopher-Kings?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Resolute, shmesolute

While I'm certainly in no position to mock a recovering alcoholic (or "quitter", depending on your perspective), I felt my journalistic integrity would suffer if I didn't give a shout out to The National Enquirer's recent bombshell.

On a more serious note, you certainly know that what passes for "conventional wisdom" in DC is usually more than just a little suspect outside the Beltway. Nuggets like "Gore should distance himself from Clinton if he wants to win", "The American people will never tolerate the legalization of marijuana", "The Family Guy is too offensive and must be cancelled", or "The Nationals will finish ahead of the Phillies" are regularly uttered with confidence at DC cocktail parties--yet each and every one of them has been (or will be) exposed as nonsense. So I'm a little shocked your BS detector has failed you on another piece of quasi-dogmatic Beltway wisdom: That George W Bush is a strong and resolute leader.

About four seconds of googling yielded the following:

· Bush is against campaign finance reform; then he's for it.

· Bush is against a Homeland Security Department; then he's for it.

· Bush is against a 9/11 commission; then he's for it.

· Bush is against an Iraq WMD investigation; then he's for it.

· Bush is against nation building; then he's for it.

· Bush is against deficits; then he's for them.

· Bush is for free trade; then he's for tariffs on steel; then he's against them again.

· Bush is against the U.S. taking a role in the Israeli Palestinian conflict; then he pushes for a "road map" and a Palestinian State.

· Bush is for states right to decide on gay marriage, then he is for changing the constitution.

· Bush first says he'll provide money for first responders (fire, police, emergency), then he doesn't.

· Bush first says that 'help is on the way' to the military ... then he cuts benefits

· Bush-"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. Bush-"I don't know where he is. I have no idea and I really don't care.

· Bush first says the U.S. won't negotiate with North Korea. Now he will

· Bush goes to Bob Jones University. Then say's he shouldn't have.

· Bush said he would demand a U.N. Security Council vote on whether to sanction military action against Iraq. Later Bush announced he would not call for a vote

· Bush said the "mission accomplished" banner was put up by the sailors. Bush later admits it was his advance team.

· Bush was for fingerprinting and photographing Mexicans who enter the US. After meeting with Pres. Fox, he's against it.

I would also add that he renegged on his promise to fire anyone involved in the Plame leak and on his pledge of $20 billion for NYC post 9/11. The fact of the matter is that Bush changes his mind about big issues at least as much as any other President did. One could even accuse the Bush team of "paying attention to the polls", given his I-don't-know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry Habitat for Humanity PR stunt this morning.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Golden Rule - He who has the gold...

I'm happy to talk about the perils of being the party in power, especially when the opposition is so scattered as to provide no opposition at all, which inevitably leads to infighting and excess.
However, let me first comment on your GWB/Wu-Tang comparison. First, I enjoy the irony of either you or I (or any former rugger) mocking anothers functional alcoholism. But more importantly, I find it strange that of all the things you could choose to attack President Bush on, you have chosen to allege that he is a man who does not keep his word. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
After all, the thing most seem to despise about Pres. Bush is that once he has made up his mind, and made a statement on / given his word about a topic, there is no going back. He said we were going to go to war with Iraq, and no amount of criticism or political damage has led him to pull back. He said we would stay until the end, and so far it looks like we will. Contrast this with Pres. Clinton's pseudo-military responses in Bosnia and Rwanda. Or take his stance on tax cuts, Social Security, stem cell research. The list goes on and on. If you want to attack his credentials as a small government Republican, that is fair game. Though since I don't think he ever claimed to be one as such, I'm not sure it is a fair criticism.

Having gotten that off my chest, let's turn to the "cesspool of corruption" you accuse the Republican party of being. Tom DeLay got indicted by a Democrat Prosecutor whose charges were so weak that he couldn't get an indictment on one of his three charges. As a former prosecutor who has participated in grand jury indictments, let me say that the old adage that a good prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich is, if anything, an understatement. Failing to get an indictment is the equivalent of striking out in tee-ball. It happens, but when it does it is just pathetic.
What else? Oh, Bill Frist selling family stock in preparation for a presidential run in 2008 that everyone knew was coming, then having it look like insider trading when the stock took a dip a week later. Let's see what the SEC investigation reveals, but given the amount of money Frist made compared with his already substantial networth, I can't imagine anyone who made it through med school is that stupid. (Though given that Joon will soon be an MD, I could be wrong. Seriously, Joon a doctor? Does that scare anyone else?)
However, my dismissal of these two charges should not be read to discount the very real possibility that Gabe raises. As with the Democrats in the late 80's and early 90's, continued dominance by one party can lead to some very real governmental excess. Fortunately for the American People, when such excess becomes... well, excessive... the other party can highlight it and regain control (see The Contract With America).

Monday, October 03, 2005

George W. Duvalier

Thank you, it's nice to be back. I was hoping you'd pick up on my currency concerns, and a little worried you'd bring up sanctions. In fact, I knew that would come back to bite me in the ass the second I wrote it.

Truthfully I never gave sanctions a second thought until college, where we both had our appetites ruined by life-sized photos of malnourished Iraqi children being brandished by guilt-ridden, trust-fund laden malcontents in front of the dining hall. Although perhaps I shouldn't question their tactics, since I now share their views. Sanctions have proven themselves to be both morally indefensible and completely counter-productive. But it added some padding to the paragraph, so I wrote it anyway. And it doesn't really matter, since the argument remains intact with or without sanctions.

My point about ruining the prestige of the dollar was not based on any technical economic analysis. I'm cognizant of the Euro's rise and the gains that accrue to US exporters when the dollar declines. Currencies rise and fall over time and the dollar's current value is not outside the boundaries of reason or history.

But do you remember when Marge and Homer went to marriage counseling, when all the couples were doing a "trust exercise", falling backwards into their partner's arms? Of course you do. So you know that Homer was out chasing the General Sherman, and Reverend Lovejoy told Marge he wouldn't recommend the exercise, even if Homer was there.

Since WWII we've been the world's trusted partner; time and time again countries have averted financial meltdown by falling into our arms. There was a point in time where the US Treasury and the Wu-Tang Clan could both say "word is bond" and mean it.

Well ODB is dead, and GWB is President. The dirt-dog's absence hasn't stopped the Wu from staying near the top of rap, but a promise from Bush isn't worth the whiskey soaked paper it's written on. George W Bush is the greatest 70's era Latin American dictator that ever lived: he appoints incompetent friends to powerful positions, he has a hard on for the military to mask his fairly obvious insecurities, he plays to peoples' basest instincts, and most relevantly, he seems to think he can just print or borrow money indefinitely.

World markets will eventually lose faith in our government as long as this behavior continues. It's not a question of if, but when; and by some indications it's already started. And when that happens--when the world has no more faith in the American dollar than it did the Argentine dollar peg--our affluent way of life is over. Caput, perhaps for decades. Hence, "ruined the prestige of the dollar".

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In the near future I'd like to discuss the issues surrounding Constitutional interpretation in more detail. But for now, would you care to comment on the cesspool of corruption your party has become? It seems that government is exceptionally responsive to the people that pay for it.