November 02, 2004

Bush: "if you have political capital, you should spend it"

Update, November 4: Bush says: "I earned capital in the campaign - political capital - and now I intend to spend it," he said at a news conference 24 hours after securing his second term.


The Wall Street Journal had an editorial yesterday,"The Bush Record: How much leadership do the voters want?" (R) . It made me think about use of political capital, and about whether we really do want principled leaders. Here is an excerpt:


Of our handful of meetings with George W. Bush, the one that lingers as a harbinger of his Presidency is lunch in Austin, Texas, in late 1999. One of us asked the then-Governor what lesson he had learned from his father's White House experience. Without missing a beat, Mr. Bush replied that he'd learned that if you have political capital, you should spend it ....

We also recognize that Mr. Bush has shown he is capable of some crass political retreats, notwithstanding his campaign theme as a leader who never bends a principle. Steel tariffs, McCain-Feingold, the farm bill, Medicare prescription drugs, and most recently his surrender on intelligence reform--these have not been profiles in political courage.

Yet in the larger arc of the Bush Presidency, all of these are also of secondary importance. A leader's first priorities are peace and prosperity, which in our time mean keeping the U.S. economy competitive amid the emerging challenge from India and China, and of course the battle against terrorism.

A frequent lament among journalists, and often voters, is that politicians always take the easy way out; they never risk their personal popularity or re-election chances for the sake of longer run gains in the national interest. In Iraq and the Middle East, Mr. Bush has done precisely that.

Has he gauged it successfully or not? Actually, in his case, I don't think it was a case for close calculation. His big risks were in going into Afghanistan and into Iraq, and I think he would have taken those gambles out of responsibility even if political calculations were against them.

Nonetheless, that initial quote is very good: "if you have political capital, you should spend it". In my 4 P's Theory of Motivation the motivations are Place, Pride, Policy, and Power. Bush is willing to give up Power, and maybe Place, for Policy.

Of course, my hope if Kerry is elected President is that he will be completely interested in Place and Power, and will not use any of his political capital to achieve any of the things one might expect from the most left-wing member of the U.S. Senate. Clinton was a relief that way, though he started from pretending to be a centrist.

It's interesting that in practice Americans seem to like their politicians to be unprincipled. Clinton did not lose much by his immorality; many, perhaps most people thought that it wasn't too important that the President had committed perjury and adultery or that he lied constantly. A man without principles is more dependable, in a sense-- he can be counted upon to do what other people want him to do.

Posted by erasmuse at 07:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2004

Cramer on Vote Fraud

Clayton Cramer has a good post on a simple form of vote fraud: just pretend to be someone else and vote before they do. Absentee and early voting make this kind of fraud particularly easy. He recounts one such incident that just happened. One part of his story that struck me in particular was that the authorities were completely uninterested in pursuing whoever perpetrated the fraud. When there's no enforcement, we can expect a lot of fraud. This is a major advantage of the electoral college. If we simply elected whoever had a majority of the popular vote, that would give a big incentive to pile up fraudulent vote in the states in which you had complete control of the government. We still have a problem with this within states: a corrupt part of a state can exercise undue influence via fraud.

Cramer also writes about an easy step towards reducing the problem:

Question: Is there any good reason why a voter should not have to present valid identification at the polling place?

The answer, by the way, is No.

I consider one of the most important actions of the next Congress to be passing a law requiring anyone voting in a federal election to show an official picture ID.

The other easy step is to reduce the amount of absentee voting, or to eliminate it altogether.

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October 25, 2004

Kerry's Incitement of Racial Hatred

From the Weekly Standard, we have more evidence of Kerry's shamelessness. It is in the interest of many politicians to incite racial strife. The Democrats have merely moved from cynically inciting whites to cynically inciting blacks over the past 50 years.


John Kerry has revived his most shameless and dishonest talking point: that Republicans disenfranchised black voters in Florida in the 2000 election and are planning to do so again. He made this argument to the NAACP in
July. Addressing the National Baptist Convention on September 9, Kerry did it again.

"The other side says that a million African-American votes not counted, continuing acts of voter suppression, and the most tainted election in American history is the best that we can do," Kerry said. "That's W. That's wrong. And we're not going to let it happen again. This time, we will fight to make sure every vote is counted and every vote counts. And we are already on the ground in Florida and elsewhere to make sure that nothing stands in the way."

THere is, of course, no evidence of any blacks being disenfranchised, much less a million of them, and there are special laws in place to protect black voters that aren't even available to white voters.

The Standard noted the hyperbole of saying that the 2000 election was notable for being tainted. The taint there was the attempt by the Democrats to overthrow the standard rules and make up new ones that would let them win with the aid of allies in the judiciary. Even then, they couldn't come up with rules in time that would have let them win. Look out for heavy vote fraud this time. The main use of Kerry's race tactic may be to discourage enforcement of laws against vote fraud in mainly black precincts. Look for heavy use of "walking-around money" this year, and lots of absentee ballots in the same handwriting.

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October 23, 2004

90% of Swiftboat Vets Signed the Anti–Kerry Letter

I was just looking through some clippings. Someone was recently saying that there were witnesses on both sides, and that he thought the Swiftvets had been discredited. Of course, they have not. Kerry has never even addressed their points, just hoping for what indeed has happened: that people would assume, after time passed, that there was nothing to it. I've blogged on this at length before, pointing out that most of the problems with Kerry's medals don't even need any Swiftvet testimony to be apparent-- you just need to look at the records released by Kerry, and at his campaign bio by Brinkley, and read carefully. But it remains significant that 90% (literally) of the men who served with Kerry signed a statement saying he was unfit to be President. From World magazine in May 2004:


" In an open letter to Sen. Kerry, the Swift Boat Veterans complained that the Democrat had "grossly and knowingly distorted the conduct" of American servicemen upon returning home, making him unfit to serve as commander in chief at a time when the armed forces are once again embroiled in a controversial war overseas. The Swifties also called on Sen. Kerry to authorize the independent Navy release of his military records, putting to rest questions about his service and the recognition he received.

Some 200 Swift Boat veterans have signed the letter, according to organizers. Only 19 have refused. Most damaging of all, they said that 12 of the 18 servicemen pictured in Mr. Kerry's celebrated "band of brothers" photo had signed onto their cause."

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October 22, 2004

IQ's of Bush, Kerry, Gore: Hard Evidence

Steve Sailer has a very good article on the IQ of presidential candidates, "This Just In--Kerry's IQ Likely Lower than Bush's!" (via Drudge). The bottom line: from available hard evidence, IQ's are: Bush 123, Kerry 120, Gore 134. That makes Gore smarter than I would have thought, but, more importantly, it confirms what we should know already from knowing Bush's SAT scores and Kerry's lesser academic record, that Bush and Kerry are both much smarter than the average American, but not as smart, as, say, someone with a PhD in economics. (So are you going to vote for me? I'd lose to the average physicist or mathematician, I'm afraid, if that's your criterion.) The Sailer article is long and very educational, but here are some excerpts:

Most significantly, at the age of 22, both men took the IQ-type tests required of candidate military officers.

...

Kerry's grades and academic test scores remain wholly unavailable. But we do know that he did not graduate from Yale with honors.

...

After fighting and losing the most expensive Congressional race in the country in 1972, Kerry wound up the next year at a surprisingly non-glittering law school, Boston College.

...

...although no one in the press had noticed it, the Kerry campaign had posted on the Web the Senator's score on the IQ-like test he took when he applied to join the Navy as an officer on February 18, 1966.

...

Can we convert the average Navy officer's SAT score of 1103 into a rough IQ? There's a reasonable correlation between SAT and IQ.

The standard deviation of the SAT was around 230 back then, so if the typical Navy officer scored 1100, or 300 points above the estimated national average of 800, then his IQ was about 1.3 standard deviations above the national average IQ of 100 -- roughly 120 , or maybe a little higher, which is in the low 90s on a percentile scale.

Of course, Kerry's OQT score was average for applicants for Officer Candidate School, not for officers, who presumably score better than those who flunk the test. This suggests he might have scored under 1100 on his SAT.

...

This suggests that the 50th percentile among the norm group of Air Force Academy applicants had an IQ of about 123 , thus putting Bush in the 125-130 range-- a little better than his SAT score would imply.

By way of comparison, Bush's 2000 opponent Al Gore scored 134 and 133 the two times he took an IQ test in high school, putting him just under the top 1 percent of the public.

Not surprisingly, the former vice president's' SAT scores were also strong but not stratospheric: Verbal 625, Math 730, for a total of 1355, which would equate to the upper 130s in IQ.

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October 20, 2004

Three Key Divides on Bush v. Kerry

We were discussing the election at lunch yesterday, and someone said that this election was engendering more bitterness than most. That's right, and it's not surprising why. The reason is not, I think, that Kerry is a left-wing extremist (at the far left of the U.S. Senate in standard rankings) and Bush is a conservative, though this is indeed the biggest ideological divide since at least Mondale vs. Reagan, or perhaps even Goldwater vs. Johnson. Rather, I think it comes down to disagreement about whether a few key features of each candidate are good or are bad.

1. Bush is truly religious. This pleases some people, and horrifies others. There is a great fear of religion in America, despite its being a religious country. Ironically, what many people fear is a politician with principles, because they are afraid he will do crazy things on their behalf. A Clinton will stick safely to what is popular. It is interesting to note that Kerry being irreligious (or, perhaps, Cheney-- who knows his religion?) does not similarly horrify anyone. We are used to politicians who pay lip service to God. Even conservatives are tolerant of atheism. Liberals, however, despite their occasional claims that character doesn't matter (remember Clinton?) do think it matters-- and that religiosity is a very bad character trait.

2. Bush overthrew the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq. It's pretty clear that Kerry supporters think it would have been better if Saddam was still in power, even if they won't admit it, and pretty much the same principles apply to Afghanistan-- we overthrew a government that was a threat to us. After all, what alternative policy would they have suggested? What is usually suggested is to wait for the U.N., the French, and the Germans to come on board, which is the same as saying to do nothing.

Bush supporters think the overthrow of the two governments is a triumph for Bush; Kerry supporters think it is a big negative.

3. Kerry told lies about U.S. atrocities in Vietnam and gave encouragement to our enemies. Bush supporters think this is appalling. Kerry supporters either don't care, or think that it is to Kerry's credit that he fought U.S. policy in Vietnam with such tactics.

These differences don't apply to all Bush and Kerry supporters, but they apply to many of those who feel strongly about the election. Other supporters care only about domestic policy, or are indifferent to the character of a politician.

For comments, continue reading...

...COMMENT 1:

1. "Bush is truly religious. This pleases some people, and horrifies others." I don't think so. To characterize Bush as truly religious begs the question, and it is that characterization -not the idea of the president being religious - that many find horrifying. I myself am favorably inclined toward religious belief, though not to the illiberal variety associated with the Christian right, but even so that is not the aspect of Bush's attitude toward and use of religion that I find objectionable. You called it "religiosity"; that might be about right, since one of the two standard meanings of that word is "exaggerated or affected piety and religious zeal." Being truly religious, on my belief system and that of many other religious people I know, requires humility and some temperance of the belief that one enjoys a direct line to God's will. This is not Bush's strong point, asyou must admit. Compare Pope John Paul II, who although theologically and socially conservative and determined about his faith [and also subject to exaggerated criticism by anti-clericalists of the left] presents a very different mien, one devoid of swagger.

2. "Bush overthrew the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq. It's pretty clear that Kerry supporters think it would have been better if Saddam was still in power." This is a canard, and a smear on the level of saying that those who opposed expansion of the federal civil rights laws in the 60's [and those who oppose affirmative action now] are in favor of segregation and racial apartheid. The goal may be laudable; the means for achieving it can be questioned in good faith. Unless you think the end always justifies the means, which I don't think you do.

3. "Kerry told lies about U.S. atrocities in Vietnam and gave encouragement to our enemies." Not sure what you mean here, unless you are taking the Swift Boat claims at face value, which most reports I've read indicate to me is not reasonable. All in all I think what Kerry said about the Vietnam war was justified, but if you think that lying is not appropriate even in the service of a good cause, it's unclear how you can defend the way in which the Bush administration worked up public support for the war.

Point 3 may be arguable on the facts, but your willingness to smear the views of your opponents in points 1 and 2 [and to equate criticizing our government with giving comfort to our enemies] is itself evidence of the bitterness engendered by current political divisions.

COMMENT 2:

Although I agree with these points, I think there is more to it.

1. The left loathes Bush, and have attempted to smear him from day 1. (All the world's ills now stem from Bush.) Some of this may be backlash from Clinton days, when the roles were reversed. I think a lot stems from resentment that Bush won a narrow election, which the left attempted to steal via the courts. (This didn't work, and even the newspaper recounts demonstrated that Gore would have lost had he gotten the recount he wanted, but you still see misinformed bumper stickers indicating that the person thinks the election was stolen. Gore, and others who know better, egg this on (rather than acting like adults.)) And let's not forget the phony "intimidation" charges, etc., which some believe to this day - again, egged on by the likes of Jesse Jackson. That kind of climate is guaranteed to make hostile feelings surface - especially when Bush did not roll over and play dead to appease the left.

2. The left has engaged in an obstructionist campaign, which certainly flies in the face of the spirit of our government. That has irritated the right.

3. The left's smug condescension is irritating.

4. Bush embodies the evil enemy in the left's many religions: environmentalism, communism, humanism, transnational progressivism. Rational thought is just as easily shut off by these religious beliefs as it is by other religious beliefs. It leads to ridiculous accusations and tinfoil-hat theories, but evidently a sizable proportion believe them (e.g., MoveOn.org)

5. Biased reporting leaves many with the impression that Kerry actually has a leg to stand on, when in fact the percentage of true charges against Bush is quite small. This bias irritates the right, as does the left's denial of it.

Thus, the right feels irritated, and justified in hostile attacks as well. Add to this a deep loathing for the most liberal senator in the Senate (and his own smug condescension), and the mix is even more volatile.

So you get polarization.

That's my 0.02 for now. Probably tonight, I'll re-think it all and come to a different conclusion. (Or come up with some other reason for the polarization.)

COMMENT 3 (Eric Rasmusen): I didn't mean to say that Kerry supporters wouldn't have been happy if Saddam Hussein and the Taliban had disappeared by themselves. Rather, they don't think those ends are worth the means--that getting rid of the tyranny was worth the war. Thus, I think it is fair to say overall that they do *not* regard Bush's overthrow of those regimes as a good thing. Indeed, I would go further, and say that if it is a matter of justice, not prudence that we should not have done so, then we ought to restore Saddam to power. If we unjustly overthrew him, do we not have a duty to remedy the wrong we committed?

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October 19, 2004

Poll: Troops Support Bush

Via Bainbridge I found this October 15 AP article:

When asked whom they would trust as commander in chief, people in military service and their families chose President Bush (news - web sites) over Sen. John Kerry (news - web sites), a decorated Vietnam veteran, by almost a 3-to-1 margin.... The Annenberg poll, which does not report head-to-head preferences, did not ask the military respondents whom they support for president. The report cited a 1948 law that prohibits polling members of the military about their voting intent.

I'd wondered about this. The Democrats keep acting as if Bush is mistreating the troops. So why do the troops back Bush by a huge margin?

Again: remember the 1864 election.

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October 16, 2004

Freedom, Minimum Wage, Affirmative Action, and Political Posturing

I'm coming to be more sympathetic to the view that we economists have had a bad influence on political thought with our emphasis on prosperity and efficiency as opposed to freedom and virtue. The end is happiness, I will grant, but material prosperity is only a part of that. In fact, it is a shrinking part: as we get more prosperous, efficiency considerations become less important relative to other things. We are such a rich country now that we can afford to lose some material efficiency if we can thereby gain freedom and virtue. ...

...Two topics in the third presidential debate made me think of this: the minimum wage, and affirmative action. Bush was very soft in his responses on both. Neither he nor Kerry confronted the truth about these issues. The minimum wage is government intrusion into the right of people to make private arrangements with other people-- specifically, it makes it illegal to hire somebody who isn't worth more than the minimum wage. Affirmative action is the practice of giving special treatment to blacks at the expense of more qualified whites-- of saying that someone is more deserving simply by virtue of his skin color.

Both are outrageous injustices, and complications to our lives-- requiring us to think about violating the government wage regulation, and inserting race into decisionmaking.

It is interesting, of course, that some people try to use justice to defend these policies too, and feel strongly that for other people to pay low wages or not engage in racial discrimination is unjust. I do wonder whether such people really follow those principles in practice-- when they hire a babysitter, do they pay minimum wage and hire blacks who seem likely to take significantly less good care of their children?

The main motivation for the beliefs might be the common one in politics: that Smith's political beliefs will not affect national policy (Smith is too unimportant), but they do play a role in the impression Smith leaves on himself and other people. Smith would like to be generous and compassionate. That is expensive if it requires actually giving out money, but it is very cheap if it just means expressing support for the minimum wage and for affirmative action. Support for those positions does not seem so compassionate if Smith thinks things through-- there are the employers, consumers, and whites to think about too-- so Smith avoids thinking them through. And, in fact, Smith will get quite angry if someone tries to remind him of those unpleasant effects-- they ruin the whole purpose of his political position, which is to make him feel good. If Smith were made dictator, he might well start thinking and change his positions, but till then, the main purpose of his politics is to posture.

Are conservatives any different? On some positions, they are not. A conservative might support war just to show he is tough. On most issues, though, the conservative position is not the one you'd take to show you had a good heart or a romantic disposition-- it is, rather, the kind of position a cold and calculating person would take, or a moralistic one. It is not an unrelated fact that the conservative position is the minority one among people who talk politics. This means that expression of the conservative view also is deviant, another reason not to express it insincerely. Thus, conservatives are more likely to have thought through their positions and to not adopt them simply to impress other people.

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October 14, 2004

Kerry's Divorce

There's been some comment about how in the third Presidential debate last night, then John Kerry was asked about his wife he talked about his mother instead (and her worry that he might lose his integrity if he ran for President). Another response from him could have been, "Which wife? I've had two." I find it interesting that nobody comments on Kerry's first wife, Julia Thorne Kerry, the mother of his two daughters, except to note that she, like Theresa Heinz, was immensely wealthy. The first Mrs. Kerry is quite bitter about his annulment of their marriage, as I've
posted on before. If the honesty and fidelity of a President is important, and his willingness to stick to a task when the going gets tough, and his responsibility to children even when it inconveniences him, the circumstances of that divorce are relevant. Maybe knowing more facts would exonerate Kerry. Reagan, after all, was divorced, but it seems he was the wronged party. But as with the military records that Kerry won't sign a Form 180 to release, when we get no information, it's reasonable to deduce that the information would not reflect well on Kerry.

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October 02, 2004

The Attrition Strategy in Vietnam: Intended as WW III Prep?

All the fuss about Kerry's Vietnam service has made me read about the Vietnam War. One of the striking feature of the war is the incompetence of American strategy under President Johnson and General Westmoreland. The "big units" war, with its "attrition strategy" seems to have involved sending over huge numbers of American draftees for short terms in Vietnam, led by officers who were also rotated rapidly in and out. While there, the troops were sent on patrols, often in jungles of no strategic value, so as to attract enemy fire and allow the Americans to respond with superior ground and air firepower. The stated reason for this was that we would end up killing more Communists than they would kill of our troops. ...

... Then, after 1969, the number of American troops dropped drastically and the strategy changed to using South Vietnamese troops, to killing off Viet Cong village leadership (the Phoenix program), to hitting the enemy in Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam, and, generally, to fighting sensibly. Results were far better, with far fewer U.S. troops, and by 1972 the South Vietnamese could resist a major North Vietnamese offensive with hardly any involvement of US ground troops, though with heavy US aid and air support.

So why did we have such a dumb strategy before 1969?

(Incidentally: the period of dumb strategy largely corresponds to the period of popularity for the war too-- partly because it was the Democrats who were responsible for it, partly because its folly and ailure took a while to sink in.)

I have a novel possibility. Was it that the generals thought the Vietnam War was a stupid idea, and were trying to get at least some good out of it as practice for World War III? Remember, the military focus in the Cold War was on tank warfare in Germany. That mattered a lot more than some little country in Asia. When ordered to Vietnam, the generals may have thought to themselves that this was a foolish mission-- that there wasn't much they could do, and it wasn't worthy trying. What use, then, might be made of the situation? Well, it was a chance to give the junior officers some practice under real fire. If they were rotated in and out quickly (necessary since this would probably be a short war), they could all get a chance at some practice. Moreover, we could train our reserves that way too. These draftees would get some practice under fire, and could be returned to service if another World War broke out. The best tactics for this purpose would be to send the troops out on meaningless patrols, so they would get shot at and learn how to keep their heads down. Something like invading North Vietnam, on the other hand, was to be avoided at all costs, because that would result in a genuine war, like the Korean War, that would be a distraction from Europe and might end the careers of the generals in charge if things turned out badly.


Far-fetched? Maybe. I could probably be disproven by someone who knew the historical record. But this theory makes some sense out of our strategy in the first half of the Vietnam War.

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September 21, 2004

The Muller-Malkin Debate on Japanese Internment: Where's the Economic Theory?

I come very late to the Muller-Malkin debates over Japanese internment in World War II, but maybe that's not a bad idea, since they've written summary posts by now. I've only skimmed, but they don't seem to address what interests me most: whether internment can be explained simply as a special interest economic grab.
...

...Muller's wrap-up has a lot of weak, peripheral objections to Malkin's book--- things like the complaint that since she wrote the book in 16 months, it can't be good. That's a dumb criticism. Her claim is not that through years of research she has found some subtle problem in the conventional wisdom; it is that the conventional wisdom is massively wrong and misguided. If she is right on that, her advantage is in a fresh point of view analyzing existing secondary literature, and her points won't depend on archival research.

But Muller has some points that are good, if correct, hidden in his less cogent complaints. His killer complaint is this one:

Michelle is undoubtedly aware that the two most prominently voiced criticisms of the government's program are these:

1. The government evicted all American citizens of Japanese ancestry from their West Coast homes and placed them into camps, but took no action affecting American citizens of German or Italian ancestry. (In other words, if your name was, say Joe Kaminaka or Lou Matsumoto, you were evicted and confined; if your name was, say, Joe DiMaggio or Lou Gehrig, well, uh, you know.)

2. The actions taken against Japanese Americans were absurdly disproportionate to the scope of any security risks of which the government was even arguably aware.

If you're going to defend the program, this is what you've really got to defend, because this is what scholars most commonly and cogently criticize.

How does Michelle's book handle these two tasks?

The quick answer (a longer answer follows): As to (1), the 165-page text includes a single paragraph (on page 64). As to (2), the book says nothing at all.

(He doesn't mention what I would add as 3. The Japanese-Americans in Hawaii weren't interned, even though the security risk was vastly greater there, with more Japanese-Americans and military facilities closer to the front line. Other critics mentioned (3) though)

Michelle Malkin's reply is unconvincing on (1). She says California had lots of strategically important sites. Well, so did a lot of East Coast states-- and, in fact, we had a lot more trouble with the enemy off the East Coast (from German submarine attacks) than off the West Coast, as Malkin mentions further down in her post. And while Japan did have a stronger surface navy than Germany, they never came close to sending aircraft carriers beyond Hawaii, which would have been utterly insane.

Muller himself seems to frame the debate as being between two theories of internment:

A. It was to protect U.S. national security against saboteurs and spies.

B. It was racism against Orientals.

Both of those seem wildly implausible to me. Muller does a good job of attacking (A). The non-internment of the Japanese in Hawaii is unexplained by either theory. Reason (B), racism, implies a degree of foolishness I find implausible, plus the U.S. was notably friendly to China and the Philippines during the war, and to Chinese and Philipinos. In any case, what I find most plausible, but would like to see more evidence on, is a third reason:

C. It was to get cheap land from Japanese immigrants, a politically weak group, and eliminate competition from them.

Theory (C) explains features (1), (2), and (3). On (1): there were too many Italian and German-Americans, and it would have been politically dangerous to go after them. Roosevelt would have lost the 1944 Presidential election if he had. On (2): security risks were merely an excuse, necessary only to fool the average uninformed voter into thinking that internment was for a noble motive. On (3): there were too many Japanese immigrants in Hawaii, and it would have disrupted the economy too much to intern them, plus, perhaps, fewer owned land and so interning them would not have resulted in a sudden need to sell land at cheap prices.

It could be that I'm misinformed and nobody made any money off the internment. But I will repeat the quote from Murphy's dissent in the Korematsu case that upheld the constitutionality of internment, something I quoted on February 4, 2004

Special interest groups were extremely active in applying pressure for mass evacuation. See House Report No. 2124 (77th Cong., 2d Sess.) 154-6; McWilliams, Prejudice, 126-8 (1944). Mr. Austin E. Anson, managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, has frankly admitted that "We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. . . . We do. It's a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over. . . . They undersell the white man in the markets. . . . They work their women and children while the white farmer has to pay wages for his help. If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we'd never miss them in two weeks, because the white farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we don't want them back when the war ends, either." Quoted by Taylor in his article "The People Nobody Wants," 214 Sat. Eve. Post 24, 66 (May 9, 1942).

I'd like to see Muller and Malkin address the economic theory. Muller doesn't do a good job of defending the racism theory in his posts (he concentrated on knocking out the security theory), and Malkin doesn't do a good job of defending the security theory (mainly because of problems (2)and (3) above, the excessiveness of internment as a solution to potential spying). Muller seems to think that if he knocks out Security, Racism is the only theory left standing; Malkin seems to think that if Racism can't explain it, then even a weak Security theory is the best we can do to explain an otherwise loony internment policy. But if there were indeed special interests that benefited economically from internment, then we don't need to resort to sudden anti-Japanese-but-not-anti-Chinese racism or to overkill against a few potential saboteurs.

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July 12, 2004

The Plame-Wilson Affair: Wilson Lied

Clifford May at NRO has the best coverage of the unsurprising vindication of the conservative (or just non-alarmist?) view of the Plame-Wilson affair. (See my posts on Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson, and French trickery. ) Mr. May's article should be read in its entirety, but here is what I found new:
But now Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV — he of the Hermes ties and Jaguar convertibles — has been thoroughly discredited. Last week's bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report concluded that it is he who has been telling lies.

For starters, he has insisted that his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, was not the one who came up with the brilliant idea that the agency send him to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein had been attempting to acquire uranium. "Valerie had nothing to do with the matter," Wilson says in his book. "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip." In fact, the Senate panel found, she was the one who got him that assignment. The panel even found a memo by her. (She should have thought to use disappearing ink.)

Wilson spent a total of eight days in Niger "drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people," as he put it. On the basis of this "investigation" he confidently concluded that there was no way Saddam sought uranium from Africa. Oddly, Wilson didn't bother to write a report saying this. Instead he gave an oral briefing to a CIA official.

Oddly, too, as an investigator on assignment for the CIA he was not required to keep his mission and its conclusions confidential. And for the New York Times , he was happy to put pen to paper, to write an op-ed charging the Bush administration with "twisting," "manipulating" and "exaggerating" intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs "to justify an invasion."

In particular he said that President Bush was lying when, in his 2003 State of the Union address, he pronounced these words: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

We now know for certain that Wilson was wrong and that Bush's statement was entirely accurate.

...

Yes, there were fake documents relating to Niger-Iraq sales. But no, those forgeries were not the evidence that convinced British intelligence that Saddam may have been shopping for "yellowcake" uranium. On the contrary, according to some intelligence sources, the forgery was planted in order to be discovered — as a ruse to discredit the story of a Niger-Iraq link, to persuade people there were no grounds for the charge.

But that's not all. The Butler report, yet another British government inquiry, also is expected to conclude this week that British intelligence was correct to say that Saddam sought uranium from Niger.

And in recent days, the Financial Times has reported that illicit sales of uranium from Niger were indeed being negotiated with Iraq, as well as with four other states.

According to the FT: "European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq."

There's still more: As Susan Schmidt reported — back on page A9 of Saturday's Washington Post: "Contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence."

The Senate report says fairly bluntly that Wilson lied to the media. Schmidt notes that the panel found that, "Wilson provided misleading information to the Washington Post last June. He said then that he concluded the Niger intelligence was based on a document that had clearly been forged because 'the dates were wrong and the names were wrong.'"

The problem is Wilson "had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports," the Senate panel discovered. Schmidt notes: "The documents — purported sales agreements between Niger and Iraq — were not in U.S. hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger."

...

Schmidt adds that the Senate panel was alarmed to find that the CIA never "fully investigated possible efforts by Iraq to buy uranium from Niger destined for Iraq and stored in a warehouse in Benin."

...

... Now that we know that Mrs. Wilson did recommend Mr. Wilson for the Niger assignment, can we not infer that she was working at CIA headquarters in Langley rather than as an undercover operative in some front business or organization somewhere?

As I suggested in another NRO piece (Spy Games), if that is the case — if she was not working undercover and if the CIA was not taking measures to protect her cover — no law was broken by columnist Bob Novak in naming her, or by whoever told Novak that she worked for the CIA.

...

In 1991, Wilson's book jacket boasts, President George H.W. Bush praised Wilson as "a true American hero," and he was made an ambassador. But for some reason, he was assigned not to Cairo, Paris, or Moscow, places where you put the best and the brightest, nor was he sent to Bermuda or Luxembourg, places you send people you want to reward. Instead, he was sent to Gabon, a diplomatic backwater of the first rank.

After that, he says in his memoir, "I had risen about as high as I could in the Foreign Service and decided it was time to retire." Well, that's not exactly accurate either. He could have been given a more important posting, such as Kenya or South Africa, or he could have been promoted higher in the senior Foreign Service (he made only the first of four grades). Instead, he was evidently (according to my sources) forced into involuntary retirement at 48. (The minimum age for voluntary retirement in the Foreign Service is 50.) After that, he seems to have made quite a bit of money — doing what for whom is unclear and I wish the Senate committee had attempted to find out.

It would be interesting to see which of Wilson's many defenders in the blogosphere have commented on the discovery that he was lying-- something they vehemently denied earlier.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 08, 2004

The CIA versus Vice-President Cheney

I've found another example of the curious battle between the Administration and the intelligence bureaucracy-- see, e.g, the Plame story and the King op-ed. In this case, the vice- president cited a Weekly Standard article based on a famous leaked memo from the Defense Department to Congress, and "senior intelligence officials", probably from the CIA or State Department, claim to know nothing about it. Brad DeLong writes
How Delusional Is Richard Cheney?

Robert Waldmann points us to a Dana Milbank story that says that Richard Cheney is highly delusional:

washingtonpost.com: Cheney, Bush Tout Gains in Terror War: Countering the staff of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, which found no "collaborative relationship" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda, Cheney renewed his accusation that they had "long-established ties." He listed several examples and stated: "In the early 1990s, Saddam had sent a brigadier general in the Iraqi intelligence service to Sudan to train al Qaeda in bombmaking and document forgery."

Senior intelligence officials said yesterday that they had no knowledge of this.

Professor DeLong notes that "senior intelligence officials" work for the Administration, and wonders if the Vice-President is delusional. My immediate reaction was, "Well, this isn't the first terrorist action that senior intelligence officials know nothing about. They usually seem to be three steps behind the press, Moreover, they hate Cheney, and Cheney despises the CIA." From the comment section of Professor DeLong's post, we find:
10. The Director of Iraqi Intelligence, Mani abd-al-Rashid al-Tikriti, met privately with bin Laden at his farm in Sudan in July 1996. Tikriti used an Iraqi delegation traveling to Khartoum to discuss bilateral cooperation as his "cover" for his own entry into Sudan to meet with bin Laden and Hassan al- Turabi. The Iraqi intelligence chief and two other IIS officers met at bin Laden's farm and discussed bin Laden's request for IIS technical assistance in: a) making letter and parcel bombs; b) making bombs which could be placed on aircraft and detonated by changes in barometric pressure; and c) making false passport [sic]. Bin Laden specifically requested that [Brigadier Salim al- Ahmed], Iraqi intelligence's premier explosives maker--especially skilled in making car bombs-- remain with him in Sudan. The Iraqi intelligence chief instructed Salim to remain in Sudan with bin Laden as long as required.
That's from the Feith summary.

And before you say it, no, the DOD never questioned the accuracy of Hayes's report - they in fact confirmed its accurary and sources. The DOD only questioned the conclusions which Hayes drew from that raw intelligence.

So. Now who is delusional?
Posted by am at July 3, 2004 11:19 PM


"So. Now who is delusional?"

Feith
Posted by Brian Boru at July 4, 2004 12:08 AM


No, that report was a summary of many intelligence reports from CIA, DIA, foreign and other agencies. All Feith did was to pull it together and present it to a congressional committee. The accuracy and fairness with which it chose and represented those reports has never been challenged.

Try again.
Posted by am at July 4, 2004 03:07 AM
The Feith memo was leaked to the Weekly Standard and reported on in November 2003 :
OSAMA BIN LADEN and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, al Qaeda training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for al Qaeda--perhaps even for Mohamed Atta--according to a top secret U.S. government memorandum obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

The memo, dated October 27, 2003, was sent from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

...

According to the memo--which lays out the intelligence in 50 numbered points-- Iraq-al Qaeda contacts began in 1990 and continued through mid-March 2003, days before the Iraq War began. Most of the numbered passages contain straight, fact- based intelligence reporting, which some cases includes an evaluation of the credibility of the source.

At the top of the Weekly Standard article it says,
Editor's Note, 1/27/04: In today's Washington Post, Dana Milbank reported that "Vice President Cheney . . . in an interview this month with the Rocky Mountain News, recommended as the 'best source of information' an article in The Weekly Standard magazine detailing a relationship between Hussein and al Qaeda based on leaked classified information."
The "senior intelligence officials" surely knew of the Feith memo and the Weekly Standard article. But they said "they had no knowledge of this," presumably as a way to try to embarass Cheney. The Administration is playing a dangerous game. It is trying to conduct a strong foreign policy in delicate foreign circumstances against heavy partisan domestic opposition while at the same time hoping-- if perhaps not yet trying-- to reform the two dysfunctional agencies-- the Defence Department and the CIA-- which are most important to the strong policies. The policies moreover are opposed by the third agency most involved-- the State Department-- though I don't recall any signs that the Administration is out to threaten the comfort of any career bureaucrats there. Rumsfeld and Cheney are perhaps the two major reformers, so we should expect to see lots of attacks on them from inside the bureaucracy.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack