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"Chuck Norris doesn't read books; he stares them down until he gets the information he wants out of them."
- ChuckNorrisFactsdotcom

Tuesday, March 09, 2004
good. I'd rather they hadn't done it in the first place. It seems like we're in some strange state of flux as a country, wildly oscillating in terms of our public values. Both extremes seem to be on the aggressive lately. I think a lot's hanging on this election and as we get closer people just get more and more nuts. Gay marriages on one coast and a judge posting the 10 commandments on the other. Meanwhile, abortion is under attack and the assault weapons ban is up for renewal. All this in an election year. This is going to get really nasty.

posted by Rachel 3/09/2004
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Good grief!
"South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds said today that he will sign a bill banning most abortions in the state providing that legislators clarify language to ensure that current restrictions remain in force while the new law is under consideration in the courts.

Lawmakers will be asked to approve changes in the bill when they return to the Capitol on Monday for the final day of this year's legislative session. If signed by Rounds, a Republican who has favored abortion restrictions, South Dakota's new law would allow abortion only to save the life or health of the mother. An exception for cases involving rape or incest was rejected in both the House and Senate."
I disapprove of this strategy of crafting such extreme legislation in an attempt to block its passage. One of these days it's going to get them and the voters burned badly.

posted by Rachel 3/09/2004
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trouble with Kerry.
"I think we are approaching another plausible Unified Kerry Theory here, one that could solve a key mystery about the man. Many Kerry profilers, after all, have wondered how the daring Navy skipper who defied normal doctrine and unexpectedly turned his boat to chase down the VC could seem so cautious in his political life. William Bradley talks about the "two John Kerrys," the one who will "nuance things to death as with his position on the Iraq War," and the other who "will beach the boat and dash ashore as he did in the Mekong."

But let's think about that Mekong decision again. According to Blumenfeld's account, it was a previously-discussed-but-sudden decision --Outdoor John taking over, "Boom! and go"--that Kerry's crew credits with saving his life and theirs. Isn't it plausible that Kerry sees his seemingly sudden decisions to flip-flop and pander to this or that constituency as quite similar to his Swift Boat surprise? They're both unexpected reversals of field that save Kerry's hide. When Kerry suddenly abandons the heretical affirmative action initiative on which he's been working for months, for example, maybe he doesn't think he's failing to "beach his boat and dash ashore." Maybe he thinks he is beaching his boat and dashing ashore! Indoor John has thought and anticipated and nuanced and studied and planned. Then Outdoor John takes over says--Boom!--time to reverse course and pander, fast! Before those interest groups can launch their rockets!

Outdoor John, as Williams notes, may not always be making the best decision in the long run--for either Kerry or the country--which is why the "flip flop" issue is a more legitimate line of Bush attack than it might seem to be at first. It's true that accusations of "flip-flopping" are routinely lodged against any politician who changes his mind--think of the "flip-flop" attacks on Richard Gephardt in 1988 for switching positions on abortion, for example. But with Kerry the charge isn't that he's inconstant. It's that in his inconstancy he flips wrong--the far more serious charge of bad judgment.

Had Kerry been a consistent, committed opponent of American military intervention abroad and voted against the first Gulf War, for example, it would be one thing--even if he later changed his outlook. But that's not the argument. The argument is that Kerry was a torn, nuanced, ambivalent and indecisive positioner on the war who in the end--Boom!-- jumped the wrong way, from a long-run standpoint. He flopped when he should have flipped! Impulsive panderflipping led him to make the wrong decision in 1991--and arguably again, on another question of war, in 2003."
Or as Lileks puts it:
"Man: classy people, eh? Classy people!

So Teresa Heinz-Kerry passes out buttons that say Asses of Evil, with pictures of Bush, Cheney, Rummy and Ashcroft on them. There you have it: the President of the United States is an Evil Ass. Id love for someone to put this question to Kerry in the debate: Senator Kerry, your wife handed out buttons that called the President an Evil Ass. Do you believe he is Evil, an Ass, or both? And if I may follow up, Id like to ask if you can possibly imagine Laura Bush doing that. Thank you.
This is the level of propriety that out presidential election has sunk to. Foreign powers want me to be president and my opponent is an evil ass. Ladies and Gentlemen: the Democratic Presidential Platform 2004!

posted by Rachel 3/09/2004
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Win One for the Flipper
By Marjorie Williams
Sunday, March 7, 2004; Page B07

I've been trying, really I have. As a charter member of the ABB Society -- Anybody But Bush -- I've tried not to fret over the alarmingly tautological nature of John Kerry's victory. He was inevitable because voters picked him to win because he had won over earlier voters and therefore must be a winner. I've tried not to worry over the fact that he has all the social bonhomie of one of Edith Wharton's ambivalent society stiffs. We know that some crucial part of the presidential electorate votes on impressions of likability, but I've assured myself that between now and November Kerry will warm up.

And I've labored to turn my eyes from his career-long opportunism, the knowledge that Bay State political junkies trade their favorite Kerry flip-flops like baseball cards. Bush is already having fun with Kerry's zigzags of the past three years alone: Kerry voted for so many of Bush's major initiatives that in order to disown them now he can only argue that they were wrongly or dishonestly "implemented." This amounts to a confession that his opponent made a chump of him for the past three years. In fact, one might argue that Kerry is a poster boy for all the ways in which congressional Democrats have allowed themselves to be rolled by the Bush administration. But this is something I am trying hard not to notice about him.

It's been especially difficult, but I work to achieve a kind of amnesia about Kerry's incoherent and changing explanation of his position -- no, his positions -- concerning the crucial issue of Bush's war in Iraq.

Okay, so he's kicked away both a grand political opportunity and -- much more importantly -- any sense of confidence that he would lead the war on terrorism more wisely than Bush. But surely it's a coincidence that all of his war-related votes, going back to his vote against Bush pere's 1991 resolution for the Persian Gulf War, found him on the side of short-term political expedience?

I finally lost my grip, though, when I opened my newspaper a few days ago to read of Kerry's latest lunge in the direction of some politically feasible position on gay marriage. In general, Kerry, like most Democrats, has taken shelter in the mantra that (a) it's a matter that should be decided in the states, and (b) civil unions are the acceptable way to go about conferring equal rights on gays; marriage itself is off the table. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman," Democrats say, as if that took care of the matter. Outside of a religious context, of course, that statement is a prejudice rather than a policy -- a prejudice that, in many cases, the speaker does not actually hold.

But Kerry was managing this footwork just fine until Feb. 4, when the Supreme Court of Massachusetts interpreted the state's constitution to require the option of gay marriage. Kerry responded by endorsing an amendment to the state's constitution that would forbid gay marriage but allow civil union. He was the only member of his congressional delegation to take this stance, for good reason: Endorsing a constitutional amendment at the state level seriously undermines the arguments for fighting an amendment at the federal level. One of the best arguments against forbidding gay marriage in the Constitution is that the spirit of the document is to confer rights, not confiscate them.

This more-than-theoretical move against gay marriage was at odds with Kerry's brave 1996 vote against the reprehensible Defense of Marriage Act, which is easily one of the most principled votes he ever cast. He was one of only 14 senators to oppose it, while Bill Clinton, ever triangulating, cynically signed it into law.

But never mind. On Feb. 27, Kerry quietly told a group of unhappy gay donors that he would work to confer full federal benefits, including Social Security survivor benefits, the right to file taxes jointly, and more than a thousand others, on gay couples joined by any state-sanctioned union -- which would of course include marriage. So while wishing to forbid gay marriage in his own state, he is promising to reward it in others.

To watch Kerry floundering in the impossible contradictions of this issue is to see starkly how little he is guided by core principle -- or even by a consistently wise sense of where his political interests lie. To respond to every unpleasant political stimulus that presents itself is to throw away the chance to make even an expedient long-term commitment to something.

There's no doubt that John Kerry has his good points. His heroism in Vietnam, though not the perfect magic amulet of Democratic fantasies, does give him one kind of alpha-dog dominance over President Bush. It sure feels refreshing, as a Democrat, to have a candidate whose claim to toughness doesn't seem slightly ridiculous.

But in eight out of nine Super Tuesday primaries -- even in his home state! -- Kerry voters who were acting on the belief that he offered the best chance of beating Bush outnumbered those who thought Kerry agreed with them on major issues. The one exception was Ohio, where the Issues camp outstripped the Beat Bush camp by four points.

Eight months is a long time for Bush to pile up a home-field advantage while Kerry's campaign decides how to fill in, complete and polish the invention that won the primaries. It's going to be hard to sustain, for so many months, the party's fond illusion that there is such a beast as "electability."

But I'm trying, I really am. Cover your eyes, and clap if you believe in Tinkerbell."

posted by Rachel 3/09/2004
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Posse comitatus. This is a bad idea.
"In an interview earlier this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection chief Robert C. Bonner said he shares data only after getting Navy assurances that the information won't be abused. Navy spokesman Jon Spiers says the Office of Naval Intelligence first approached customs about sharing inbound foreign cargo information in December 2002, and he denies there is anything improper about the request. The agency "has not overstepped any authority or crossed the line dividing law enforcement from military operations," he says."
Do we really want to rely on government assurances that they won't misuse their power? That's not how we've historically done business.

posted by Rachel 3/09/2004
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