As We See Them
Presidential Elections and other Stories in the Meat Market
Bits and Pieces before the Crowds Roar
On the eve of What? It is a huge question mark for several reasons. No one knows what to do
in Iraq. I do believe Senator Kerry will get more countries aboard but whether that has any effect on the insurgency is problematical at best. I do believe that the terrorist threat does not require wholesale take-overs of rogue states, therefore depleting our resources. Twenty guys with biological weapons could wreak havoc. And at this point the temptation is too great to produce these weapons as an "equalizer" against the "super-power." As, at the very least, an agent of blackmail and coercion. "Toughness," as defined by the Bush people is not what is needed. "Competence" is the operative word. And some of the ingredients of that word are intelligent use of our own resources as well as the resources of others. It would mean a full understanding of the enemy and why they are there. It would mean the full cooperation between nations and international organizations.
I don't know if anyone has noticed, but the economy is not booming. There are fundamental problems that can't be fixed by tax cuts. Job growth is sluggish, according to the Conference
Board. The economy is not at a full-stop but it is not full of confidence either.
The odd electorate has an odd habit of buying the large spate of political books without necessarily reading them. This was explained by the chairman of Barnes and Noble,
Len Riggio. "Informal polls taken by our store managers indicate that some 70 percent of our customers say they have no intention of reading these books; 15 percent say they will; and 15 percent are undecided."
There is every reason to believe that tomorrow will not bring home a clear-cut winner. There are going to be significant challenges to the vote count. It may even be worse than Florida. Hang on.
The one thing that would prevent that would be for the electorate to have a gut-check
as the curtain is pulled and say, "the man I saw in those debates is not a POTUS."
November 1, 2004
The bin Laden tapes reveal several things. The crazed bin Laden knows nothing about freedom,
is in a rather desperate state, and is egotistical enough to believe he can sway a close
election. As we predicted the terrorists would try to decide the outcome of the election
in a variety of ways. The decision of the American people should hinge on the leadership
capabilities of George W. Bush and nothing else. We think he has failed. Other people think differently. Let the votes be counted.
Which brings us to a second point. The election is going to be very close, like 2000,
and the media is going to focus on voting machines, undercounts, and the rest of it. As
I recommended in Sunoasis, if bloggers and "grass roots journalists" want to leap to the head of the class they will fan out through the rural counties of Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio,
and Pennsylvania and a few others. They will check records and make reports, followed up
by larger media. Political officials of both parties, lawyers for non-governmental agencies,
credentialed media, and other interested spectators should join in to make sure this count is accurate, fair, and without taint.
I saw an interesting survey by top historians on their take of Iraq. Historians are fact-finders and, the best of them, truth-seekers. Most good citizens are truth-seekers.
There is a large difference between truth-seeking and decision-making. I'm not sure too many
in politics or out would have done differently than President Bush. He stands accountable for
the mistakes that have been made.
The military historians like Malcolm Muir Jr. of VMI, are impressed with the military
victory over the Baathist regime but chagrined not more attention was paid to the aftermath. Andrew Wiest of University of Southern Mississippi makes the astute observation that,
"...what was a quick military victory collapsed into a torturous insurgency." Joseph Nye,
whose book I am currently reading, says that history will judge it as "a serious blunder." Nye is very much a proponent of "soft power," and he feels a lot of it has been squandered by the president. Andrew Bacevich of Boston University makes the point that "...war retains only limited utility. The hazards entailed in opting for the sword remained considerable..."
Only one historian, Victor Hanson of the Hoover Institution, sees this in terms of a possible success. He seems to lament the fact we can't, in this postmodern age, wage all out war because we don't accept evil as real.
There's no question this is a watershed period of time; a turning point. A great deal of thought will be divided along political lines as they were in Vietnam.
Whoever wins Tuesday one fact will remain: This is a divided country. It's not dangerously
so but it means that the winner will be hog-tied for years. My gut feeling is that four years more of
President Bush means a greater degree of social tension and upheaval; a greater chasm in the
body politic. He is an insulated President, afraid of those who disagree with him. That is the surest sign of immaturity and lack of experience. Senator Kerry would bring needed change,
especially in Iraq, but at home as well. He would get to the center quicker than Clinton did I believe.
October 30, 2004
It was very telling that the conservative and excellent weekly magazine, The Economist,
came out with an endorsement of John Kerry. It was not a strong endorsement but this sentence is
the killer. "In the end we felt he (Bush) has been too incompetent to deserve re-election." Whether
that does the trick is rather hard to say. It's doubtful but it is significant that The
Economist is read by the "influentials," who are usually up to their eye-balls in business and government.
President Bush got whip-sawed by the terrorist attack. On the one had it demands much more
involvement than he was capable of or wanted. That was the fatal blow if indeed the ax comes
swinging down on Tuesday. I'm not at all convinced it will but it won't change the fact that you can't have a "hands-off" commander-in-chief during a "war." And he has called it a war without defining exactly what he means by it. There is no doubt in my mind that if President Bush had been a CEO rather than a POTUS, he would have been fired by the board of directors. The type of leadership in this period of time demands agility, intelligence, an active hand of the commander-in-chief, and so forth. Not secrecy, not distrust of press and critics. The terrorist
attack also energized all kinds of agendas in his administration that came to the fore because
of his weak leadership. One was the question of impropriety of the Halliburton contracts. It's not that there was impropriety; it's that the appearance of such a thing undermines the effort. A competent leader would have seen this and prevented it. There's no question that Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, along
with Cheney had their minds wrapped around the middle-east long before George W. Bush got the bright idea he should run for office. The terrorist attack, rather than energizing new, innovative thinking, energized their obsession with Hussein. And they attacked without looking at the dynamics, with scarcely any thought to the aftermath.
And now this report that perhaps as many as 100,000 civilians have died in Iraq, mostly due to allied bombing. This is Vietnam all over again and simply can't be rationalized away.
October 28, 2004
Senator Kerry has one and only one chance of defeating President Bush. Or, at least, gaining some momentum lost in the past month or so. He must stand up, full of brazen balls and tell the
American people this: "President Bush has been defeated by bin Laden. We must throw the loser out and put in someone who will defeat bin Laden, that lone nut running around Pakistan." And that is the truth of the matter for anyone who cares for the truth. In the light of the intelligence report that paints a grim picture in Iraq we can say, "President Bush has been defeated and disgraced. Why can't the American people wake up?"
Well, it is up to the candidate running against him to wake the people up. And his message
should be clear: In the war against terrorism, the terrorists have won the first stage. It is not the last stage but it is the first one.
September 16, 2004
Everytime I see a picture of one of the fallen soldiers in Iraq I feel anger. And
when I settle down and analyze it a bit I think, well of course. Where are the kids of those
who support this effort? Where are their asses? And their spoiled, uglyAmerican children who
view themselves as a class apart, as an old Tory class familiar to history. Where are they?
If President and Laura Bush are so adamant that this is a good war, why aren't their kids
fighting or, at least, helping where help is needed? Where are the Cheney kids? Where are the boys and girls of all those Republican politicians who view this as a "good war?"
The answer is that those now in power have given up on democracy long ago. When my
progenitors were in southern England, they spent several centuries doing small things.
And when the King got a bug up his rear or was pestered by his neurotic wife, he would point to my progenitor and his like and say, "go over here and fight for me. Kill and be killed my good man." And, naturally, one of those progenitor's fled the scene around 1640 and holed up with Roger Williams in the Providence Plantation.
There is one caveat to that of course. Back in the old days the Kings actually fought on the battlefield. The princes and noblemen fought on the battlefield. It was required of them. They had no credibility if they didn't. So, things were different back then. Now we have a phony social order commanded by people who have as little investment in liberal democratic values as the very people they are fighting.
If you are not willing to fight and die for your cause then no one else should.
President Bush looks to be in decent shape. There's nothing stopping him going to
Iraq and doing a patrol or two in southern Iraq. Cheney would not pass the physical but at the very least he could be a clerk/typist.
I would think that anyone, whether they are for or against the war, would be angered by the lack of commitment by those who have the power to wage it.
In fact, when we look at that grand vista of elites, those who gain the most from being in America; the athletes, the actors, actresses, stockbrokers, politicians, et al, where are they? One man, one brave and decent football player is all I see. It is the most sickening display of how far we've fallen from the democratic tree. We have produced something out of ourselves that is as old as Ur. The one redeeming quality is that every four years we can get rid of the miscreant class and stick in a new one. The new eventually spoils and stinks and must be thrown out as well but at the cutting edge between the one and the other some bit of vitality is possible.
Twenty years of this political class is enough. They are spoiled; look at their kids. They are spoiled and they stink.
Sometimes good fierce anger is just enough to clean the air and, even, turn an election around.
September 3, 2004
Senator Kerry has lost a lot of steam of late because of the way he handled the attack
ads and the fact he has not spent money in August. That was an item we noticed a few months
ago. The Kerry camp was going to stop spending money on ads in August and ramp it up in
September. It's hardly a lost cause.
There's no doubt he should have gotten on top of the attack ads and fought them
as soon as they came out. It's very difficult to know what happened thirty years ago.
If there is complete fraud involved that's one thing but if there is mere differences of
opinion then the hoopla is foolish. And, one of the members of the attack group admitted
in an article yesterday that he and some of the others were inspired by "Tour of Duty,"
based on Kerry's war diaries. "Thirty years ago, every man in United States military uniform was a war criminal, and in 2004 a lone hero emerges and his name is John Kerry. That's not right. That's just not right." So says retired Navy Captain George Elliot.
What we have here is a clash of ego's and not truth-seeking. Captain Elliot was Kerry's immediate superior and gave Kerry excellent marks in fitness reports. It's an odd connection but there is the same
kind of murk in all of this as there is in trying to discover the connection between the anti-Kerry ads and the Republican Party. And in murk, always bet on the opposite of the Republican Party.
Was Kerry politically conscious at the time? Did he understand his path and calculate
both his war achievements and war opposition because he wanted to cover all bases? Seeing
how he came from a political family my guess is yes, that was in his mind. It was no doubt
in Bush's mind to skip the whole war thing as being deleterious to his prospects as a man.
And the Republican's of that day were very pro-war. So, we have a fun-loving coward on the
one hand and an ambitious conniver on the other. That is, if we are to judge their actions of thirty years ago.
We still see hope in the ambitious conniver since the fun-loving coward has had a chance
to show his stuff. That stuff could only come from someone who has given nary a thought to the world and its reality. And we are not part of the show that calls him stupid. He ain't stupid
but he is empty.
The cynical days can be dictators. And when one steps away and becomes idealistic or
visionary the dictator seeks him out to be taken off during the night and shot. And the
cause of the cynicism is the pain of carrying around a consciousness that is assaulted every hour, demanding to leap now this way, now that way, reduced by humiliation, shame, ignorance, until we seek refuge; and when safe we then design a secret plot against the terrible world. If only a dark opinion, at least that. Something.
August 27, 2004
Senator Kerry looks pretty confident of late. It is quite evident that he has given
some thought to the crucial questions in Iraq and knows what he talks about. That doesn't
guarantee success but it does put him ahead of the current president for that elusive
plum called "leadership quality."
Maybe it was because Senator Kerry actually took fire in battle and had to lead
men against other men who were trying to kill them. Maybe it was because Senator Kerry
actually had convictions at a young age and acted them out.
Our poor, inept president is as much a leader as John Wayne was; a mythical,
fantasy-laden one for a people who have no or little sense of reality. And there
are people today who still believe John Wayne won all those wars.
It is shameful the way the American people have slipped out of reality and into
some mass culture induced purple haze. And it has happened to the extent that, soon,
they will clamor for their favorite cartoon character to run for President. And he would
probably or she or it have a pretty good shot at the job.
The chief requirement of a liberal, democratic people is growth and development.
The American people, in large measure, have become an oppressive people; ignorant but
with power. And they will pull down and kill off anything that tells them the truth.
They have been delicately shaped by the mass, gross culture and will learn too late the
requirements of not only a liberal, democratic culture but a vast world power as well.
Well, we get the venom out and spit into the good Earth and move on.
After all, we love the people; they are us and we have passed through their current
stage of development and know there is so much more.
They were sold out by the professors first; then the priests and ministers came in
and finished the job. Now it's the feeble, rickety politicians who are up to their eyeballs
in corruption. Washington D.C. has become a kind of Vietnam all over; a machine everyone
knows is bad and corrupt but no one knows what to do about it. And this will knock out another
generation of citizens and we will inch closer to the day when the critical mass of people
are beyond saving themselves.
And that day will be a bad day.
It is not developing new aspirations for itself.
It is not humble to the task of building a culture when it is in the zenith
of its power.
It favors the masturbating actress over the poet.
It believes it can hide behind money and machines and atom bombs and CIA's and
large government buildings.
It has no respect for others or for itself.
May 6, 2004
People overrate the influence and power of television. TV has become meaningless
blather that is only made real when the cameras focus on one detail. When all the cameras
are focused together on one detail, as they did on the Towers in 2001, or the infamous "scream" by Dean, then it is a
The single most powerful medium is the leadership of the President of the United
States. In the past twenty years or so we have had, as a people, a very lackadaisical
relation to that leadership. We have discounted it at every opportunity; sometimes
out of a democratic spirit, sometimes to prove we are skeptical enough not to have
a tyranny, but mostly because we were preoccupied with our own pleasures and pursuits.
The President has the power to connect to a problem and connect the people to
the problem so that all share in the responsibility to solve it. The problem with
President Bush is that he is not connected to what is happening in Iraq and he hasn't
connected the American people to what is going on in Iraq.
Newsweek has a story trying to compare Vietnam and Iraq. There
are some striking similarities. One is that both started with the wrong
assumption: the attack in Tonkin Gulf and the presence of WMD in Iraq.
The WMD is a huge blunder because an honest citizen can question any
information, any statement coming from the White House. The second
similarity is that the U.S. is fighting thousands of miles from home,
on the homeland of others; others of a different religion, race,
history, culture, language. This may, in the end, be the telling thing.
Third is the assumptions that no one questions: in Vietnam it was the
domino theory which had all the southeast Asia and, eventually, the
Pacific Rim going communist. In Iraq it is that terrorism has a final
aim of destroying the U.S. In both cases America has asserted itself
as a humanitarian force. And that last point has weight when the
leadership is in place to make the point. There is nothing humanitarian
War must be fought only when there is no other option. It
is failed leadership that goes to war before all the options have been
The debate now is framed between "out at all costs" types who aren't
concerned about anything but their pride in being right. And between
the cowards like FOX TV who will not question anything of the policy
and are like the frightened townspeople who dare not say the emperor
has no clothes. In other words, the debate is poisoned.
President Bush could have been a leader had he told the truth about
the intentions of being in Iraq. That is, if he knows the truth himself.
After all, it could very well be that he, himself, was given the WMD
and "democracy in Iraq" as the chief reasons for going into Iraq while
the real reasons remained with his chief, inner staff. A President so
removed from the reality of "why we are in Iraq" is not a war-time
president and in all likelihood a likeable figurehead as he was portrayed
from the beginning.
One of the clear evidences of this is when he decided to land on the
carrier to pronounce the end of the war. He obviously never consulted
anyone about the aftermath and what it may entail. It's amazing with
all the sources of information available and all the expert testament
to how difficult the aftermath was going to be, he never had a clue.
Wonder why he didn't have a clue?
A war-time President must absorb the conflict, understand the principles involved,
be aware of the consequences of both action and inaction, have a thorough mission plan,
and know when to attack and when to pull back. Lincoln had this in spades, so did
FDR. LBJ wanted to be that type of President but could never come up with any real
reason to be in Vietnam except for a "domino theory" that he didn't really believe in.
And Vietnam taught a chief lesson: If the commander-in-chief doesn't know, no one else
does. And so the war effort disintegrates.
President Bush is not a war President because his style of leadership only works when
everything is going well. He has not taken the leadership role in the war in Iraq, has
not connected the people to the situation in Iraq, and so the effort is getting very mired
with terrible consequences to follow. The prestige of the United States has suffered a
blow and will take years to recover.
The moment President Bush landed on the carrier one knew that he was purely a figurehead and had not paid an iota of interest to the majority of analysis that said the war would be easy, the peace would be hell.
It's past the point of arguing about the initial action in Iraq. The deed has been done. Politics dictate that the arguments go on forever but that is not the crucial point. The central point now is, who is the leader to take us out of the mess?
And the leader must take on these facts: America is fighting on someone else's homeland, an enemy who has great patience, and a more ferocious belief in its rightness. These are the correlation's with Vietnam that make sense. There are stark differences.
One other very difficult similarity: Neither Vietnam nor
Iraq attacked the United States. Neither posed a threat
directly to the United States. They were invaded on the assumption that they would be a threat if either the communists or terrorists won out.
April 17, 2004
To win in November Senator Kerry will have to convince the people that he is linked
to the so-called Reagan Revolution. Ronald Reagan still casts a huge shadow on the
political landscape and Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr. have all tagged along, playing
in the shadow of Reagan. It does not please us perhaps but it is the fact.
Al Gore would have won in 2000 had he continued the chain but as soon as he
delinked by connecting with the old left he was doomed. However controversial the election
turned out, it was Gore's election to lose and he did so by breaking the Reagan chain.
Kerry's recent proposal for corporate tax cuts is one link in the chain. His avowal to
fight terrorism is another.
The problem is precisely that the people don't want an activist government. They would
prefer Howdy Doody to Lincoln or FDR at this point. And that instinct is always underrated
by the Democrats who have yet to shake the burden of overusing the public sector, at
the expense of the middle-class. It's certainly more complicated than that but the gut
speaks loud in American politics.
The people do not want big government and only call on it when times are bad.
But, in the grain of it they would rather suffer in hell than rely on government.
The liberals underestimate this at enormous risk to their future. Neither do the people
want a culture of victimization; that has ended. Don't squeal you are a victim; go out
and prove that you aren't. That's the prevailing attitude and it did change when Reagan
took office in 1981.
There is one caveat to that humble assessment. The current President has stated
that we are in a war. He has defined it as a war and a war is one of the crisis moments
that calls on a strong federal government. So, the central question is, "who would make
the best war President?"
Note: Rumsfeld is not as entertaining, charming, or favored as he was just six
months ago. And the people are going to look at Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al
as the chief instigators of the war in Iraq. Can the Democrats come up with anything
better? I'm sure they are working on it, at least in theory.
March 28, 2004
We are the first to admit that President Bush had a very difficult command decision to make with regard to Iraq. Some evidence has filtered in that the decision was made at the very beginning of his administration but we can hardly state that as fact. What we know is the President made the decision. And his decisions make history for this period of time at any rate.
We watched his interview on Meet The Press. And one remarkable feature stood out among everything
else. His leadership qualities hinged on an instinctive, reflexive response by the nation after 9/11. He was given the mantle of leader; he has not earned it.
He so appears to be someone controlled by others it's rather scary. He has become a figurehead. Why do we come to this conclusion? Because the President showed no evidence of thinking through his decision. A great leader has always seen the other side and come down on the side of what his best judgement dictates. Therefore, his arguments are filled with substance. President Bush argued his case as one with scant interest in the details, in the thinnest veneer of wrangling with the tough problems involved, and thinking through the implications of a long-stay in Iraq.
It is becoming apparent that Iraq was a kind of White Whale for some in the Bush Administration. There was always a grave threat posed if Hussein could
manufacture and hand-off the wrathful weapons to terrorist groups. Of course, this threat
is posed by North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, India, France, and Germany to name a few. In fact,
who is to say how the configuration of the world will evolve in the 21st century that
will make one-time allies, deadly enemies?
To be generous one could say that the globe, after September 11th, was in a state of
panic and what had been a shadowy nightmare scenario suddenly seemed very real; therefore,
in a state of panic, the globe, including the United States, overreacted. And Iraq is, then,
a case of the flush of panic overcoming any sound sense and thinking through required of
not simply an invasion but the occupation and rebuilding.
President Bush can't be faulted for the false intelligence. But, he stands accountable anyway. And when one combines the false intelligence reports with his lack of credibility; his utter lack of belief in himself that such a policy is worth pursuing, then one begins to worry a bit. He appears to believe in the war on terrorism and in his pursuit of Al-Queda. He seems
far less certain about Iraq. And that tells me that the idea of invasion was planted elsewhere than midnight, lonely vigils in the Oval Office.
We've seen two other shallow Presidents who did demonstrate some remarkable traits as leaders. One was Reagan and the other was Clinton. Reagan had a genuine belief in what he was doing and a vision that was transformative, at least in political terms. Clinton was a thinking President and knew the way things work. President Bush is playing a board game
in his private room, in the big house. And when a Hussein is captured or Al-Qaida are killed he
goes, "Krr-boom" and throws the little toy up in the air in triumph.
That's not to say there weren't reasons to go into Iraq, especially if there was a universal belief that it possessed the weapons. But, a war demands true leadership. It will fail without it. And this is the problem now when looking at President Bush. Does he have the leadership qualities that will take America into the next crucial four or five years?
We think some of the fears sounded at the beginning of his Presidency are legitimate.
"He's not a hands-on guy," they said. He makes decisions based on a "moral compass" and leaves the details to others. By doing so he has opened himself to the belief that he is easily duped and/ or controlled by those around him. Every hard-boiled realpoltic type, like Rumsfeld, knows
a mark when they see it. They know the man is a boy and why he is a boy. Many Kings were treated this way by their chief advisors. We have the Boy-King, off-spring of the elder Bush, who, one must say had more life experience and practical experience than the son.
It doesn't bode well, either, when the American presidency starts to look like an inherited office. After the Bushes, the Clinton's may pop up again, reversing roles as though they
are in training at Esalen.
This is the very thing the framers wanted to avoid. And we know the people still clamor for some ruling class that gives them context. It's the fear that America democracy is falling back into old, ancient
habits that is so disturbing.
American political genius is about breaking habits. FDR, for instance, and his use of
public spending to stimulate the economy. Or, JFK's spirited call to bring youth to public
service. Even Reagan's repudiation of "big government" was a unique change of habit that proved
It will need to go through a thorough shake-up one of these days; hopefully, just before the people lose it all to their inability to create out of themselves a unique political culture.
We have yet to understand, as a people, the difference between the past from which America
was born and the present in which she finds herself. It's a different critter. It's lost
its ability to comprehend itself through experience. Now it relies on myth, created by
popular culture. This is a prescription for having a sentimental and violent nation.
February 28, 2004
In politics we are at the end of a tired era. The old graybeards who are rooted
in the 60's and still cling to its assumptions, are gathering as much hatred about
George Bush as the terrorists do. And make no mistake about it; it is hatred. That is
the final signal, the final puff of smoke from any group. And it's certainly not the case of loving Bush. Bush should not be loved, he should be defeated.
New politics don't come out of old hatreds.
The hatred is not so much
about Bush as it is how thwarted their ambitions for power became during the 80's and 90's. They had a sense of entitlement, as if their ideas should be the ruling passion of the democracy. The hatred they generate is similar to the passionate hatreds the right wing spewed in the 50's and 60's. The kind that was directed against Kennedy, for instance, or
The problem for the left-liberal democrats is that the right-wing was based on the grass roots of the country. The left-liberal is rooted in doctrines that come sailing over from
Europe and are grafted onto an American experience that is quite different. Americans do not
like "class war" whether it pits poor against rich; white against black; men against women;
gay against straight, etc. And "class war" is at the bottom of the left, the root of it and
it has never escaped that root.
The fall of
a political era is measured by the level of hatred it creates. It means that there are no
animating ideas that fire up the political imagination. The "fire" is as weird as Dean's
tirade after Iowa. It is a Ghostdance before the Camera because one thing the left has
learned. The political theater of the street is passe; it is the theater of the mind that
races through TV screens that is the prize.
The fact that the political culture is dominated by fat comedians on the left and
right says everything about the condition.
Now one can see clearly how devastating that 60's and 70's period was. The young
at that time are now middle-age and becoming powerful. Their leaders are anti-heroes
who live in fantasy worlds; and that includes both Clinton and Bush. No leader emerges
because the era they grew up in was destructive to anything that had authority. Therefore,
the clown, the anti-hero, the pro wrestler, the pornographer, the sex diva are raised up
as the virtuous and good. The Actor becomes the Saint who can say nothing wrong and, in fact,
whose words are amplified ten-ways by the nature of the media and the way it is absorbed into the
The best politics will emerge in contradistinction to what is emerging in the baby-boom
generation. Make book on it.
Re: Dean. For the folly of his "scream," he will probably lose his chance at the
Presidency. But it points up a greater theme. The Media is an American priesthood who
must always remind the Kings and Princes that it can destroy them at any moment. "Play
nice with us, we play nice with you..." Why Dean? Perhaps it was because of his success on
the Internet that will, one day, challenge mass media for power.
January 23, 2004