May 03, 2003

No More Circulation of Elites!

You know, I didn't use to be a very partisan person. While I cannot imagine any likely eventuality that would lead me to cross from the Democratic to the Republican side of the aisle--at least not until the poison injected into the bloodstream of the Republican Party by Richard Nixon's southern strategy dies away enough to reduce its fever beneath 104--I used to think that alternation of power, circulation of elites, give-and-take was useful. There are, after all, good things that the Republican Party can do easily that the Democratic Party cannot: tax simplification for example (with the honorable exception of Bill Bradley, who has done the most heavy lifting on this issue in my lifetime); trade liberalization; a general push forward to try to keep the government from making people spend their lives filling out government forms and checking to be sure they are obeying every single regulation (with the caveat, however, that the same Republicans who inveigh against every regulation of the market are very eager to regulate the bedroom).

What I am trying to say is that I used to think that total political dominance by the Democratic Party would not be good for the country, that Republicans had a place just like abortion has a place--that periods of Republican rule should be safe, legal, and rare.

No more. And it is not the mendacious incompetence of Bush II economic policy that has changed my mind. It is things like this news item noted by Matthew Yglesias: this executive branch team is just too stupid and too incompetent for them to have any place protecting my children. We need them out, and some adults in.


Matthew Yglesias: See this is exactly what I was worried about:

A specially trained Defense Department team, dispatched after a month of official indecision to survey a major Iraqi radioactive waste repository, today found the site heavily looted and said it was impossible to tell whether nuclear materials were missing.
So we went to war to prevent WMD proliferation and wound up in a situation where an unknown quantity of radioactive material may or may not have been looted and where we have no idea whatsoever into whose hands it has fallen. Dirty bombs, anyone?

Posted by DeLong at May 3, 2003 09:31 PM | TrackBack

Comments

It's not yet determined that we went in for WMD's. Didn't the administration try to morph us into the understanding that their "emphasis" was not a lie?

Matthew Yglesias aside - your own words are spot on.

I think the administration can be likened to Platonic theorists that prefer form to substance. I can't see how else they can try to jam their square economic ideas with our round needs.

Posted by: Silvan on May 3, 2003 09:45 PM

A couple of things worth noting:

1 - "A month ago", we were at the beginning of the second week of war. It is hard to see how any inspectors could have been sent to those sites while the war was still being waged. The phrase "after a month of official indecision" sets a bell ringing in light of this, an alarm that this reporter has an agenda to push.

2 - There's no way of knowing if those facilities weren't evacuated in advance of the war, to foreclose the possibility of unpleasant discoveries being made.

3 - Screwups lower down in the food chain don't necessarily say all that much about those at the top of the administration. It isn't as if Bush has the time to micromanage every initiative.

4 - "Dirty bombs" are more about hype and propaganda than they are any real threat. As long as there aren't any suitcase-sized tactical nuclear weapons floating around, I'd be more inclined to worry about biochemical weapons.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on May 3, 2003 10:00 PM

This should be grounds for impeachment, he has clearly failed to obey his oath to protect the country.

Posted by: Bowman on May 3, 2003 10:45 PM

This should be grounds for impeachment, he has clearly failed to obey his oath to protect the country.

Posted by: Bowman on May 3, 2003 10:46 PM

I think it's really more of a problem with the success of the conservative movement than the Party itself (by the way, I think the WMD argument was likely a complete red herring that the Bushies didn't really care about much less believed themselves). If you got rid of the Republican Party, this ideoligical movement would manifest itself in some new party or maybe infiltrate the Democrats. The idea is to identify the conservative ideology and then disgrace it.

Posted by: Bobby on May 4, 2003 12:56 AM

You just don't understand, this was a war of liberation! Looting is just one of the choices free people have. And if they happen to loot some WMDs and sell them to Al Qaeda terrorists, well, that's just the price of freedom we'll have to pay.

Now excuse me, I need to go do some war gaming for our cakewalk through Iran after the 2004 Selection.

Posted by: Donald Rumsfeld on May 4, 2003 01:25 AM

You just don't understand, this was a war of liberation! Looting is just one of the choices free people have. And if they happen to loot some WMDs and sell them to Al Qaeda terrorists, well, that's just the price of freedom we'll have to pay.

Now excuse me, I need to go do some war gaming for our cakewalk through Iran after the 2004 Selection.

Posted by: Donald Rumsfeld on May 4, 2003 01:26 AM

You just don't understand, this was a war of liberation! Looting is just one of the choices free people have. And if they happen to loot some WMDs and sell them to Al Qaeda terrorists, well, that's just the price of freedom we'll have to pay.

Now excuse me, I need to go review some war gaming for our cakewalk through Iran after the 2004 Selection.

Posted by: Donald Rumsfeld on May 4, 2003 01:26 AM

First came upon this filed in a Washington Post report filed on 24 April linked here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A35498-2003Apr24?language=printer and I wasn't too impressed. Quote:

KUWAIT CITY, April 24 -- Nearly three weeks after U.S. forces reached Iraq's most important nuclear facility, the Bush administration has yet to begin an assessment of whether tons of radioactive material there remain intact, according to military officials here and in Washington.

Before the war began last month, the vast Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center held 3,896 pounds of partially enriched uranium, more than 94 tons of natural uranium and smaller quantities of cesium, cobalt and strontium, according to reports compiled through the 1990s by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Immensely valuable on the international black market, the uranium was in a form suitable for further enrichment to "weapons grade," the core of a nuclear device. The other substances, products of medical and industrial waste, emit intense radiation. They have been sought, officials said, by terrorists seeking to build a so-called dirty bomb, which uses conventional explosives to scatter dangerous radioactive particles.

Defense officials acknowledge that the U.S. government has no idea whether any of Tuwaitha's potentially deadly contents have been stolen, because it has not dispatched investigators to appraise the site. What it does know, according to officials at the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command, is that the sprawling campus, 11 miles south of Baghdad, lay unguarded for days and that looters made their way inside. . .

Posted by: Bob Briant on May 4, 2003 01:28 AM

I think Brad gives the Republicans far more credit than they deserve: when have they ever tried to rein in government or cut out needless bureaucracy? Not in my lifetime, and I'm almost ready for Social Security.

In the current month I see employment is down by 36,000 jobs, despite 20,000 new ones in government. The last significant reduction in the massed ranks of bureaucracy that I've seen was the 220,000 or so reduction under Al Gore's reforms as Clinton's work geek.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on May 4, 2003 03:04 AM

Trade liberalization, Brad wants to give the Republicans credit for?

Hmmm. That would be joining NAFTA and getting rid of those terrible Clinton steel tarrifs, right?

Oh, yeah, and ending the war on Canadian wheat and lumber?

Opening up the market to Pakistan's textiles as a reward for their lead in the effort against terror?

Or that signal effort to stop the agricultural subsidies and exclusions which impoverish Third World farmers?

Yeah, right. Them Republicans shure are doing a great job on trade liberalization.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on May 4, 2003 03:18 AM

Brad,

Don't you get it?

The adults *are* in charge.

Posted by: Suresh Krishnamoorthy on May 4, 2003 05:44 AM

All of which makes me believe Jeffrey Frankel has a real insight in saying the parties have switched places, with Democrats becoming the party of fiscal responsibility, free trade, competitive markets, and minimal government, while the Republicans have become the party of trade restriction, big government, and interventionist economics - http://www.lewrockwell.com/tucker/tucker30.html

Posted by: Bob Briant on May 4, 2003 05:47 AM

BTW, Gore's reforms were overhyped -- switching from government employees to more highly paid consultants reduced an arbitrary stat on gov't employees while increasing baseline costs to the government. Did hurt unions, though, but I of course think that to be a bad thing.

Posted by: Jeff on May 4, 2003 05:47 AM

Right, there is no logic to Bush's approach to potential Iraqi WMD.

Even if - as I believe - the war was is about something else entirely, one would think that Bush would still want to secure WMD material; for the positive publicity if not for the sake of the protection of Americans.

BTW Abiola's explanation does not ring true. If WMD are serious enough to go to war over then they are serious enough to utilize special forces to secure known sites; even if the mission is risky and some of the men are killed.

Whenever I contemplate Bush strategies, be they economic, foreign relations....... I am left with a most cynical conclusion. But what a job Karl Rove has done!

Bottom line, Bush gets away with this sort of thing because the mainstream media is not doing its job. The typical American is too overworked, too tired, too fat and lazy, too uneducated, too something or another to bother to investigate the issues and then think.

What if, instead of front page headlines glorifying the President's big talk about kicking ass as he emerges from the cockpit of a fighter bomber on the deck of a carrier, the media instead asked questions like the one proposed here? What if they mentioned that Bush actually cannot fly that aircraft because he went AWOL from his ANG unit that he joined to escape service in Vietnam. How mant times were we reminded that Clinton was a "draft dodger"?

The mainstream media is asleep, or drugged, or something. But then so are the Democrats. Have they no spin machine of their own? Are they afraid to use one? So Bush rampages on and on to the cheering of the masses.

Posted by: arslan on May 4, 2003 06:15 AM

I could not agree more with DeLong. Prior to the '92 election, I would have summed up Democrats as a party of people whose policies are frequently counter-productive despite having their hearts in the right place. In contrast, I would have remarked that Republicans often proposed policies that do the right thing...but unintentionally, because their motives were often impure. I would count among these market-based environmental protections, welfare reform, restriction - not elimination - of affirmative action, and balanced budgets. When Clinton was elected, I welcomed a Democrat who was willing to look across the aisle and adopt good policies for the right reasons. I predicted that Republicans would respond by moving to the center and I thought that ten or fifteen years later I might actually be voting Republican if the party had dumped the racist, moralizing b.s. and the Democrats still embraced special interest big government politics. How times have changed.

DeLong's said: "I used to think that total political dominance by the Democratic Party would not be good for the country."

I think most sane, intelligent people used to believe single party dominance was bad. Unfortunately, the Republican party has been taken over by a group of people who simply do not value the exchange of ideas in the way that Americans tradditionally have. They do not respect the existance of the opposition. They honestly want to make America into a one party nation. So, despite the fact that I consider myself a "moderate" on almost all issues, I have never before felt this urgency for Democrats win.

Posted by: space on May 4, 2003 07:00 AM

I could not agree more with DeLong. Prior to the '92 election, I would have summed up Democrats as a party of people whose policies are frequently counter-productive despite having their hearts in the right place. In contrast, I would have remarked that Republicans often proposed policies that do the right thing...but unintentionally, because their motives were often impure. I would count among these market-based environmental protections, welfare reform, restriction - not elimination - of affirmative action, and balanced budgets. When Clinton was elected, I welcomed a Democrat who was willing to look across the aisle and adopt good policies for the right reasons. I predicted that Republicans would respond by moving to the center and I thought that ten or fifteen years later I might actually be voting Republican if the party had dumped the racist, moralizing b.s. and the Democrats still embraced special interest big government politics. How times have changed.

DeLong's said: "I used to think that total political dominance by the Democratic Party would not be good for the country."

I think most sane, intelligent people used to believe single party dominance was bad. Unfortunately, the Republican party has been taken over by a group of people who simply do not value the exchange of ideas in the way that Americans tradditionally have. They do not respect the existance of the opposition. They honestly want to make America into a one party nation. So, despite the fact that I consider myself a "moderate" on almost all issues, I have never before felt this urgency for Democrats win.

Posted by: space on May 4, 2003 07:01 AM

I'm not impressed with the incompetence line. What would Clinton do? Drop a hydrogen bomb on the place?

Posted by: Eric M on May 4, 2003 07:37 AM

First of all, if Clinton had left radioactive materials laying around in Iraq for weeks that is ALL we would have heard about from the media.

Secondly, the definition of incompetence in protecting Americans is safeguarding the Oil Ministry so that nothing there is looted, while at the same time leaving radioactive materials free for the taking. There is NO excuse. Nothing. That by itself makes us far less safe than we were before the war.

Posted by: Dan on May 4, 2003 08:11 AM

This is what I find so compelling:

[Former weapons inspector David] "Albright says the failure to find WMD so far raises larger concerns.

"'One of the questions about whether the U.S. government or officials lied is if the U.S. believed its own story, that there were so many weapons of mass destruction, you would expect them to be completely panicked right now, because they are not protected, and they could go easily missing and get into the hands of terrorists,' he said.

"'And yet they're not panicked. So you do have to start to wonder whether the ... people who believed these stories, really were the American people and not the U.S. government.'"


The entire story is here: http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/05/02/sprj.irq.wmd.hunt/index.html

Posted by: Randy Paul on May 4, 2003 08:14 AM

Competent people keep their eye on the ball. Suppose we had gone into the Balkans on a humanitarian mission, and found oil there. A Bushite would fufill his humanitarian responsibility poorly because he now had a new focus: protecting the oil.

The war in Iraq was justified by liberals as being humanitarian, and I can go with that. It was justified by conservatives (ante facto) as necessary for America's safety, because Saddam would blackmail us with his weapons capability, or pass weapons along to terrorists, or harbor terrorists.

We had enough people over there to protect the oil wells and Ministry, but not to prevent generators from being stolen from hospitals, nor materials looted from weapons sites. This is why, though I never believed this was a war for oil, I am starting to rethink that position.

Posted by: PG on May 4, 2003 08:35 AM

Yes, that is exactly how I feel. I'm polarised big time even though I never wanted to be. To me there is only one side--throw the bastards out.

Really bummed in Pa.

Posted by: Jeanne on May 4, 2003 08:48 AM

Yes, that is exactly how I feel. I'm polarised big time even though I never wanted to be. To me there is only one side--throw the bastards out.

Really bummed in Pa.

Posted by: Jeanne on May 4, 2003 08:48 AM

There's more to this story, and it goes weeks farther back. Tuwaitha was a subject of intense UNMOVIC/IAEA attention, inspected repeatedly in pecetime and high on the list of wartime "must secure" sites.

It's impossible to know what looters did (if anything) because -- in their haste to find a "smoking gun" -- the first arriving US forces broke the seals, rummaged around, showed it off to embedded journalists, and then left the place unprotected.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on May 4, 2003 08:49 AM

There's more to this story, and it goes weeks farther back. Tuwaitha was a subject of intense UNMOVIC/IAEA attention, inspected repeatedly in pecetime and high on the list of wartime "must secure" sites.

It's impossible to know what looters did (if anything) because -- in their haste to find a "smoking gun" -- the first arriving US forces broke the seals, rummaged around, showed it off to embedded journalists, and then left the place unprotected.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on May 4, 2003 08:53 AM

The Democrats and Republicans have NOT switched places on economic matters. But, Democrats have become increasingly conservative of our most important economic instutions while Republicans are bent on undoing the hard won safeguards of middle class capitalism.

Posted by: anne on May 4, 2003 10:30 AM

Not to worry, we will find those weapons.

Posted by: bill on May 4, 2003 10:54 AM

"Not to worry, we will find those weapons"

Yeah. We found the 9/11 hijackers too. We just found them a bit late.

Posted by: Dan on May 4, 2003 11:22 AM

>The Democrats and Republicans have NOT switched places on economic matters.

You'd best tell Jeffrey Frankel. It was his theory and it certainly has the gloss of credibility with the recent fiscal and trade policies of the Bush administration and the galaxy of economic talents in the Clinton administration.

Posted by: Bob Briant on May 4, 2003 11:26 AM

Here's another thought. It seems like it is in Bush's best interest to have some floating nuclear material around (or have people think that there is). What is the possibility that Special Forces got their forces and took it? It would allow Bush to keep people afraid of possible terrorist attacks and thereby maintain a war time atmosphere. And he wouldn't need to actually blame any specific country for harboring WMD (which might ring a little hollow at this point).

The downside is that he could be blamed for letting it happen. However, despite the anger that some may feel, there may be good reason for Bush & Co. to believe that they could spin this as just more unpreventable war time looting. I would be surprised if Bush received a lot of criticism for the blunder. And I won't hold my breath for Kerry or Lieberman to mention it.

Posted by: space on May 4, 2003 11:30 AM

Fine contribution Bill, not quite as inane and useless as this one, but keep trying.

Posted by: Bruce on May 4, 2003 11:33 AM

Bruce, maybe Bill is implying that if need be, this administration will find a way to produce them, like the acquisition of nuclear material from Nigeria.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on May 4, 2003 11:57 AM

QUESTION: How is it that the oil was secured within hours of invasion, but not the nuclear material?

ANSWER: Bushco can't make billions for their friends on nuclear waste, but they can on oil - let the public be damned!

Posted by: Splat on May 4, 2003 04:13 PM

QUESTION: How is it that the oil was secured within hours of invasion, but not the nuclear material?

ANSWER: Bushco can't make billions for their friends on nuclear waste, but they can on oil - let the public be damned!

Posted by: Splat on May 4, 2003 04:13 PM

Would somebody please tell me whether they seriously believe that the Democrats would have handled Iraq even with the mixed success that Bush has?

Because I'm not buying it. Maybe it's because I had to watch 8 years of Clinton kicking the foreign-policy can down the road (or being more focused on domestic affairs). Maybe it's because Nancy Pelosi, in her recent comments, seems to believe that we had the choice to 'topple that statue' with something less expensive than the $20B war we just fought in three weeks (how? exactly? with a phaser beam?). Maybe it's because the same people squawking about the looting of Iraq's museums seem more motivated by the need to *not* talk about the actual freeing of Iraq from torture chambers and tyranny than by any actual concern for human welfare. Maybe because, in general, I get the impression that the Left will support any dictatorship (e.g. Cuba's) over George Bush.

And maybe I'm *not* being as fair as I should be, but for the record, that's how the whole 'rotation of elites' thing looks from my side.

It would be great to be able to vote for a political party that actually was competent to do everything well. I'm not sure what that party is. But if somebody tries to tell me that it's the Democratic Party in 2003, well, *one* of us has a fine supplier of some awfully potent halfling's leaf...

Posted by: Erich Schwarz on May 4, 2003 05:52 PM

Erich, I think at this point a lot of Americans would be willing to settle for a political party that was competent to do one thing well: give them back the country they once thought they lived in.

Posted by: Canadian Reader on May 4, 2003 08:36 PM

Excuse me, but at what point does the obvious become obvious?

They secured the oil fields and the oil ministry. They didn't have anything ready to bring order to the country. They didn't protect anything BUT the oil ministry and oil fields. They didn't even have teams ready to search for and secure WMD. They didn't even CARE if WMD were secured from terrorists!

Maybe because WMD and "liberating the people" was not what this was ABOUT? D'ya think?

If you look at what they DID instead of what they SAID I think it becomes obvious what this was all about. I mean, DUH!

Put your hands over your ears for a minute and use your eyes. LOOK at what they DO. You KNOW they lie, so stop listening to what they SAY! DUH!

Posted by: IssuesGuy on May 4, 2003 08:51 PM

Smallpox, anybody?

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 4, 2003 10:41 PM

Two comments:

--The war is history. It's naive to think that there was a single motive in the White House for the war ("oil" or "freedom", for example). Bad decision or not, get over it: it's time to move on.

--On the issue of dirty bombs, yes, there is lots to worry about. Because the terrorist organization that is good enough to assemble and deliver one is in all likelihood good enough to assemble and deliver dozens.

Posted by: Jim Harris on May 5, 2003 05:31 AM

The war is not history. US involvement in Iraq has just begun, it is not ended.

And an electorate unwilling to hold its leaders accountable for malfeasance in a matter as serious as pre-emptive international warfare is morally bankrupt. This is not a ball game in which you root for "your" side regardless. This is war, and if the US electorate wishes to convey the impression that its ousting of Saddam Hussein is superior to and morally preferrable to a palace coup by one of Saddam's henchmen, or a successful invasion of Iraq by Iran, then they are going to have to display more accountability than the satisfied chant "Saddam's gone and that's all that matters" displays.

Posted by: StrontiumDog on May 5, 2003 05:45 AM

We can now say that the weapons were most secure under Saddam and the IAEA inspections regime.

What bugs me about the partisan criticism of Bush is that Clinton did plenty of lying around the nuclear issue, and his lies established the groundwork for this invasion. It's unfair to blame Bush for all of it.

Posted by: Eric M on May 5, 2003 09:01 AM

In a frenzied attempt to come up with a new e-mail signature that would comprise my shock and awe at how America has been co-opted by zealots, I finally settled on something simple that says it all: "Bush must go." The presence of an righteously incompetent elitist surrounded by single-minded bullies too insecure to risk challenge to their ideas complicates more than one already extremely complicated situations. Alas, Rove understands the need to maintain power at any cost, and Dems will suffer under this non-leadership until they meet Bush & Co. with the same level of focused, determined ferocity.

Sweet Zombie Jesus, people, if the time for Mr. Nice Guy isn't over now, it never will be. Put on your ass-kicking shoes and wade into the mud...

Posted by: Rob L on May 5, 2003 03:00 PM

I HAVE MY ASS-KICKING SHOES ON, AND I'M SICK OF ALL THE ROVEBUSHIT. IMPEACH NOW!!!

Posted by: CARLY on May 8, 2003 10:48 PM
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