Saturday, September 27, 2003
Governor Gray Davis of California has, quite suddenly, discovered that he wants to debate Arnold Schwarzenegger. Having been convinced by Bill Clinton, among others, that he should remain above the fray while Arnold implodes, he now finds himself in the position of having to jump into the recall race that he studiously avoided prior to last Wednesday's debate in Sacramento. I guess they didn't count on Arnold acting as a candidate, performing quite well, and not coming off as a dumb bodybuilder.
So it turns out that Arnold's internals as well as Davis' private numbers show Arnold starting to pull into a lead over Bustamante beyond the margin of error. Question 1, the Recall of Davis itself, is showing a ten point lead. This is what I expected from the results of the debate at Cal Sacramento Wednesday night. The actual winner of the debate, State Senator Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) is stuck at 15 percent. McClintock remained McClintock, High Priest of the Cargo Cult, and did not reach out beyond his base. He also refused to attack Arnold, something I suspect the two of them worked out beforehand. In addition, he showed himself to be a master of public policy, something that will stand him in good stead if he runs against Barbara Boxer for the Senate next year.
I have maintained that a deal is in the works, whereby Tom will have a big say in budgetary matters and get Arnold's support for a run for higher office. In return, Tom will remain in the race, but release his supporters from having to vote for him. That way, he can speak to his issues without having to break his promise by pulling out. At least, that's my hunch.
Meanwhile, for some excellent Recall insight, I always recommend the Sacramento Bee's Dan Weintraub. His blog, California Insider, has a good take on Davis' troubles and the internal polling, as well as Arnold's slow rise in the polls.
On another issue, as an aside, I'd like to recommend the historian Paul Johnson's take on what ails Europe in this week's online edition of Forbes Magazine. Johnson, author of several great histories including the seminal conservative history of the Twentieth Century, Modern Times, gives his opinion here.
Johnson's piece on Europe is my way of taking a sedgeway into why we went to war in Iraq. With some assistance from my cousin the editor, I distilled my reasoning in a letter I've been hammering back and forth between myself and a liberal Democrat. It is reproduced with some edits below:
We went to war for three reasons, the latter two of which were outlined by my cousin to me.
They were threefold:
1. Of first priority, in my humble opinion, was to insure that Saddam could not apply his wealth to Al Qaeda's benefit. AQ is made up of fanatics (most of them, anyway). Their fanaticism, when mated with the talents and the wealth of a state, could have wreaked untold havoc on the American homeland. There were connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam; that is a fact that Democrats simply can't get around. Just because Saddam wasn't involved in 9-11 does not mean that he didn't want to help Al Qaeda succeed.
By the summer of 2001, the sanctions program was falling apart. It had been allowed to atrophy during the Clinton years, and the rest of the world had no stomach to keep depriving the Iraqi people of normal trade. In addition, there was money to be made. The Europeans were the first to try to get sanctions lifted, but they couldn't get around the American veto on the Security Council. The entire sanctions program would have collapsed were it not for 9-11. As it is, it had degenerated into something joked about as the "oil for palaces" program. Powell was finding that the only way he could continue sanctions while maintaining support was something called "smart sanctions". These were selective sanctions that allowed the European Union and the Russians to go in and make money while maintaining the fiction that the UN was serious about keeping nasty stuff out of Saddam's hands. The attacks on the United States turned the whole thing around. It wasn't what Saddam had done. It was what he could do.
That was the most important factor: no American administration (no Republican administration, anyway), could risk Saddam's wealth and resources being placed at the disposal of Al Qaeda. Saddam had the money and the scientists. Al Qaeda had the fanatical vision. When those towers fell in New York, Saddam's death warrant was sealed.
2. We had to show the Arabs just what happens to people who choose to attack us.
Probably the most revealing thing about Arab opinion of the American character was provided by none other than Uday Hussein as the Rock of the Marne (Third Infantry) Division entered the suburbs of Baghdad from the southwest, while the Guadalcanal (1st Marine) Division entered through the environs of Saddam City. He was in conversation with the head of Iraqi state television:
"No, I think this is the end. George Bush is not Bill Clinton. This time the Americans are serious".
Throughout the 1990's, the intelligentsia and the scribbling classes of the Arab world came to the conclusion that America was large, wealthy, and mighty, but innately cowardly. Bin Laden's contention had been broadcast to the Arab world that the Americans could be bled, and they would run. They did not strike out after the first World Trade Center bombing, and several months later they had run from Somalia. Three years later, they did not retaliate for the Khobar Towers bombings. In 1998, the Administration failed to take massive reprisals for the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Our counterattack was considered laughable by bin Laden and other Arabs. It consisted of bombing empty buildings in Afghanistan and destroying a wholly innocent pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan. Finally, in the last test, bin Laden's people staged another attack on a symbol of American power, an Arliegh Burke class destroyer, the U.S.S. Cole. In each case, the American response was to insist that the killers would be brought to justice. Bin Laden treated this vow with the contempt, and slight regard.
Throughout the 1990's, the U.S. government was content to believe that economic power had brought into eclipse the necessity to apply force in defense of American interest. Part of the problem was that the ease of our victory in 1991 had made us fat and happy, and had convinced us that no one would take us on. Al Qaeda did not have that problem. They had studied Chinese monographs about asymmetrical warfare. They would not grant us the convenience of attacking us head-on. One reason for the relaxed American sentiment was the monied spirit of the age, characterized by Greenspan's famous remark about "irrational exuberance". Meanwhile, our response was to continue to believe that the Oslo Peace Process would solve our problems for us. In fact, Oslo was designed to get Arafat into the Territories in the hope that he would see reason. Naturally, he didn't, but he's not the subject of this letter.
And so, the Arab press and the intellectual classes had found themselves in agreement with bin Laden's insight. America was perceived to be a paper tiger. I recall reading a collection of Arab opinions that speculated that if an Arab terrorist organization detonated a nuclear device in an American city, the Americans would be pressured by the rest of the world not to respond in kind. As a result, Israel would fall into Arab hands like ripe fruit from a tree after an American withdrawl from the Arab world. They literally had no experience with the latent power of the United States when aroused. And why should they? They had no national memory of the U.S. invading their homeland and bombing their cities to the ground as the Germans did. They had no understanding, as the Japanese did, of what it is to have the center of two major cities vaporized and the rest incinerated by incendiary bombing. And so, they went about their mental fantasyland in the belief that they could attack America itself with impunity.
And so they did.
Defeating the mad hatter regime in Afghanistan wasn't enough. It was too remote from the Arab heartland to count. The Afghans were Muslims, but not Arabs, and the Arabs had no idea of what the American army could do to them. Bush and his people understood that the Arab body politic had to have two things happen to it: they had to lose a major Arab regime to American arms and, over the long term, had to have change forced on them. The images of the 2nd Brigade of the Third Infantry Division rolling through Baghdad, an Arab capitol, made an impression on Arabs for the first time in their history. Indeed, what is happening in Iraq now is reinforcing that impression: trained American infantry are defeating the Ba'athists and their Jihadi allies in detail every week. American morale remains high (an opinion buttressed by GI email and snail mail that gets home), as the Americans have clearly established themselves as the Big Dogs of the battlefield. There is a reason Arabs have resorted to suicide and remote bombings. And there has been no Iraqi uprising. Most Iraqis are going about their business building something new.
3. Which leads us to number 3: establish a very large version of the State of Israel in Iraq.
Were the state of Israel a squalid, fascist regime run by Orthodox religious fanatics, no one would want to live there. Rather, it is a Garrison democracy, based on shared sacrifice, ersatz "socialism", and free enterprise. Israel's GNP dwarfs that of her surrounding Arab states. Israel literally out-produces 100 million Arabs (I don't include oil-I speak of manufactured goods, agricultural goods, high technology products, software and services). Democracies tend to outperform fascist regimes because they don't waste so many resources in social control. Israel is living proof that when people are left to their own devices, they prosper.
Anyway, this leads to enormous resentment and bitterness among Arabs. It leads to conspiracy theories and goofy films about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Yet no one in the Arab world wants to look in the mirror or change what is wrong with the Arab body politic: a devotion to fascism. Fascism worked as long as Arab rulers were able to distract their populations by putting the boot into the Jew. As long as they swore destruction upon the hated Zionist entity, the Arab masses would eagerly lick the boot of a Nasser or a Hussein. When "Arab Socialism" and Marxism fell by the wayside, the idea of jihad took its place. No one gave a second thought to trying real, constitutional rule.
And so we arrive at the Grand Design of the Neocons: place the bacillus of democracy in the body of the Arab world, complete with constitutional rule, free elections, a wildly free press, low taxation
(another lesson: the Iraqi economy is beginning to recover as taxes remain ridiculously low.). Once a constitutional order is set out in the Arab world, the other fascist regimes of the region will lose their allure. Al Qaeda knows this. The American project in middle east is elegant in its simplicity: kill off the idea of jihad by providing a better way. Al Qaeda theorists understand the dangers of intellectual freedom and materialism. The bombings notwithstanding, jihad is beginning to lose its magnetic attractiveness.
So there you have it: why we went to war and why we will win.
Finally, no blog would be complete without another well-crafted piece from National Review's Victor Davis Hanson. For his own unique take on the war on terror, go here
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Well, wasn't that debate just ducky?
The California Broadcasters' Association held the First and Only Candidates Debate With Arnold In It tonight from the campus of Cal State Sacramento. Present were the usual suspects: Arnold, State Senator Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), Green Party candidate Peter Camejo, "Progressive Independent" Arianna Huffington (I-Ambition), and Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante (D-Tribal Gaming). Weintraub should have some of the first good after action reports on his Sacramento Bee blog.
Here's my unofficial take on the night's event in Kalley Fohr Neee Yah.
Arnold had the most to lose. He had to get past the bar of respectability. He did so by not trying to be a wonk, but by being Arnold: Angry Citizen and Change Agent. While he did allow himself to get in a couple of hair pulls with Arianna Huffington, all in all he achieved what he wanted to achieve: he framed his issues and his personality across to the electorate.
However, while many observers indicated that the crosstalk with Arianna might have hurt him, I don't see it that way. Huffington was being an insufferable bore several times during the debate. Arnold got the line of the night after Huffington hit him with a personal attack when he indicated that Arianna would definitely have a part in Terminator 4. He got off the best soundbites, and his closing statement connected with the viewing audience. Arnold was the big winner.
The other big winner was Tom McClintock. At this point, Tom is head of his own Cargo Cult. The California conservatives love him. He's considered to be the Young Reagan out there and has national potential, at least in my opinion. But his main problem is that he has not won a statewide election as of yet. Tonight, he avoided direct attacks on Arnold and concentrated fire on Bustamante. He was considered to be the winner on both points, substance, and specificity tonight. Right now, he won't reach out much past his base vote in this truncated election. However, there is talk among Republicans that, having given himself nationwide recognition, his next logical step would be to try to bypass the House and go directly after Barbara Boxer's seat in the Senate.
Peter Camejo and Arianna Huffington had relatively little to offer. As I commented on FreeRepublic, Arianna was irritating enough to be classified by me as a hemmerhoid on the rectum of life (a remark that got pulled by the Admin Moderator; everyone has to cross the line once in a while).
The guy who was really hammered was Cruz Bustamante. He has been taking it on the chin for taking campaign money from the Indian Gaming industry. He just got hit by a court order to return the cash, and there is a wild rumor running around that he's just a stalking horse for Governor Gray Davis and that he'll pull out to make this a Davis vs. Arnold affair. Some folk indicated that Davis' prospect for beating the recall improve if Cruz leaves. I'm not so sure. My thinking is that Arnold won't scare people off, and I believe that to be the operating assumption of the Davis campaign.
Arnold didn't scare anyone tonight, except the Democratic leadership in Sacramento. I think he's won himself the governorship.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
The Bills had been considered a superior team going into Sunday night's game. They were manhandled by the Dolphins' defense and Ricky Williams 17-7. The game was not as close as the score indicated. The Bills' only touchdown came on a Jay Fiedler interception.'
Anyway, not much tonight, but tomorrow we'll be going over the en banc decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed the Recall Election to go on, more Bush hatred explained by Andrew Sullivan and others, my take on Bush's speech at the United Nations, and my take on Iraq and where we go next in the War on Terror.
Until then, sleep tight. I know I will.