Friday, April 30, 2004


Whether or not to raise the minimum wage is perhaps one of the toughest economic and political issues out there. On the one hand, a commitment to free market principles dictates that we should let the market decide – a worker can sell his labor for whatever he wants, and an employer can purchase labor for as little as he can get away with. On the other hand, it seems like anyone working fulltime in American society “deserves” more than a paltry $5.15/hr. But, going back to the first hand - As Clint Eastwood said to Gene Hackman in the climactic scene of “Unforgiven,” “'Deserves’ got nothin’ to do with it.” To punctuate his point, Clint then promptly blew Hackman’s head off.

Indeed, it’s a tough issue. And like most Americans when, confronted with a seemingly insoluble economic matter, I find myself asking, “What does Ben Affleck think?” Frustratingly, the “Gigli” star has maintained a resolute silence on the mimimum wage, leaving the legions of us seeking guidance at a loss.

Mercifully, the silence finally ended yesterday and we have Massachusetts’ senior Senator Edward M. Kennedy to thank for that. Apparently using all of his hefty influence, Senator Kennedy persuaded Affleck to fly to Washington and allow a breathless nation to know his insights on the minimum wage. I won’t keep you in suspense: Affleck thinks the minimum wage should be raised to $7/hr., a sum on which he assures us no one will get rich. Govern your political efforts accordingly.

If I might get serious for a moment and try to de-construct this epic event where political and entertainment worlds have collided, what could Senator Kennedy possibly have been thinking when he flew Ben Affleck in to be his expert witness on the need to raise the minimum wage? Was it a misguided effort to achieve some caché with the kids by having the once dreamy but now chunky matinee idol appear in his corner? If so, the Senator’s staff is a little behind the times. Ben ain’t exactly the hottest thing in Hollywood at the moment. He’s on the verge of becoming a former movie star, chrissakes. Maybe, to be more topical, someone on the Senator’s staff should have checked out Orlando Bloom’s views on the minimum wage. Perhaps Kennedy’s staff felt that Bloom lacked the intellectual heft that Affleck apparently possesses.

As far as Ben is concerned, I know he thinks this might be a clever re-positioning to distract attention from his slumping career, but like Senator Kennedy perhaps he could have made a wiser selection in terms of choosing a political rocket to hook his wagon to. Like Ben himself, Senator Kennedy isn’t exactly the most happening thing in his chosen field of endeavor.

You know, Affleck’s a huge Sox fan. Perhaps he’ll stumble upon this website. So if you’re reading Ben, let me pose the following: What kind of effect do you think Sarbanes-Oxley is having on publicly traded companies?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, April 29, 2004


The key thing now is to stay calm. We have to remind ourselves that it’s only April and while you can lose a championship in the Spring you can’t win one. All teams have hot stretches and cold stretches, and this is just one of the good spells. There will doubtlessly be testing days ahead.

Ah, screw that - this is a team for the ages!!!! Young Theo has put together a juggernaut. I’m 36 years old, and this is by far the best Red Sox team I’ve seen, and I’ve seen some good ones. This blazing April has been accomplished without the best shortstop in baseball (or at least the best shortstop in baseball who doesn’t play third base) and our stud right fielder. The Sox have had more players on the injured list than any team in baseball. Pedro’s been a bit subpar. And yet, all signs point to the Sox just running away from the rest of the A.L. East.

Let’s run it down. Last year the Red Sox had one of the best offensive teams ever. While this year’s output probably won’t equal last year’s, it should be in the same ballpark. Yes, Mueller and Millar will probably be less productive, perhaps a lot less productive. But Nomar and Manny didn’t have great years last year, and Ortiz appears poised to be just a monster in 2004. Also, the bench is a little better.

Okay, so we’ll probably have if not the best offense in baseball (the Yanks are stacked, too) an offense that anyone outside the Bronx would label potent. And now we’ve got the best pitching staff in baseball as well. Beyond the one-two punch of Pedro and Schilling, you’ve got eight other guys who can actually pitch. When was there ever a team that had a 10 man pitching staff where each pitcher was significantly above average? Each Red Sox pitcher is far better than the league norm. The bullpen has gone 32.1 innings without allowing a run. The bullpen – the place you stick the guys who suck and can’t pitch. When’s the last time that’s happened? What’s the bullpen record for scoreless innings? We’ve got to be closing in on it. And here's something else to chill the rest of the baseball world: Even if Pedro should go down, the Red Sox will still have the best pitching staff in the league.

The only uncertainty regards the manager. Let’s start with this – he has to be better than Grady. Who or what wouldn’t be? A chimpanzee randomly making strategic decisions would have out-managed Grady. By a lot. So already we’re improved from last year. The big test will come when Nomar comes back and Tito has to declare his starter at second base. If he chooses Bellhorn, we’ll know Tito’s got game. If he chooses Pokey, we’ll know he’s been practicing spitting tobacco when he should have been reading old Bill James’ Baseball Abstracts.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to go out on a limb with some of my thoughts and be praised for the ones that are prescient and accountable for the ones that are irretrievably boneheaded. Okay Red Sox, I’m going out there with you now: I think this team will be one of historical significance, one of the best ever. Please, please, please - don’t make me look dumb.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight



For what it's worth, the fans sitting in the centerfield bleachers at today's Red Sox game are literally disguised as empty seats. Thought you'd like to know. If I can find a link to the image, I'll post it. If you live long enough, maybe you get to see every cliche take its literal form.


Larry Bird was a hero. It wasn’t just that he played basketball better than anybody who played the game before or since. And it wasn’t just that he happened to be representing my team the Celtics. It’s that he embodied every positive attribute a man engaged in competition could possess. Watching Larry Bird the basketball player, a young person learned not just how to play a game but how to live life.

He was guts personified, intensity personified, diligence personified, courage personified. He endlessly worked at improving his game. He applied himself to his craft with an intelligence and a completeness that the sport had never seen. He sacrificed his body on the court as no great player ever had.

Every season when Bird arrived for training camp, Bird would unveil a new skill that he had developed over the summer. Remember, for most of his career Bird was widely considered the best player in the league. And yet he relentlessly worked on improving himself and his game.

During games, Bird was famous for his hustle. He became a legend as much for the way he dove for loose balls as for the way he sunk big shots. There have been many great players in the history of the NBA. Of those, only Bird played with a total commitment that frequently veered into recklessness. In the Sports Illustrated video tribute to Bird that came out near the end of his career, there’s an entire section dedicated to him jumping over scorer’s tables and diving into crowds and such. No other great player in the history of the league could be honored in such a way.

Bird was always willing to put it all on the line. Woody Allen once famously observed that 90% of life is just showing up. The sports corollary to that is that 90% of what we consider clutch ability is the willingness to “show up” and take the big shot even though you might miss them. Throughout his career, Bird took almost all the Celtics’ big shots. He made a bunch, he missed some too. I still remember him slumping dejectedly after missing at the buzzer against the Lakers in 1987’s Game 4. But he was a hero because he was willing to “show up” and be accountable for the results. How many of us live our professional lives willing to take the big shots?

Bird’s heroism stands in stark contrast to that of many other athletes. Manny Ramirez missed a critical series with the Yankees last year because of a sore throat and refused to pinch hit in a critical situation a few days later because he didn’t consider himself adequately prepared; Drew Bledsoe, in spite of great talent and being the highest paid player on his team, has never emerged as a respected leader. Pedro Martinez protects his body, Bird sacrificed his. Bledsoe, Manny and Pedro are all okay guys – Bird was a hero.

Which brings us to Pat Tillman. I’ve read many of the memorials for this spectacular man, and all that I’ve seen have gone to great lengths to not trivialize his ultimate sacrifice by comparing his battlefield heroics with his football heroics. I think that approach is inappropriate.

There’s on old saying in England that the wars of the British Empire were won as much on the playing fields of Eton as they were on any battlefield. While that may overstate the matter, it makes an important point about sports: While the results of a particular contest may not be consequential, the character that is on display during that contest is real. Some athletes achieve athletic success solely because of their inborn talent; others achieve success because their god given abilities are supplemented by character.

I’m not an Arizona Cardinal fan, so I wasn’t particularly aware of Pat Tillman until he eschewed the NFL for the Army Rangers. Still, his biography was instantly recognizable to any longtime sport fan. Here was a guy who displayed a heroic character as an athlete. The success that he had as an athlete derived more from his inner strength than his good fortune at having won the genetic lottery. He played with courage and intensity, and he prepared to play with discipline and intelligence. As was the case with Larry Bird, a young fan watching Pat Tillman the football player saw a hero. That young person would learn not just how to play football but how to live life.

As sports fans, it’s the Pat Tillmans who keep us coming back and make a mark on our souls. They inspire us, not just as children but as adults as well. They embody the traits that we wish ourselves to possess.

On the gridiron and on the battlefield, Pat Tillman was a hero. May he rest in peace.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


The likely democratic nominee for President will tell you that if we can get the U.N. involved in Iraq, the nation will soon be a veritable oil spewing garden paradise. This notion rests on the simplistic assumption that the U.N. is morally superior to the corrupt Halliburton stooges running our own government. My question: Do Kerry and the Democrats really believe what they say about the U.N., or is their cry for international involvement a cynical political gambit, not unlike tossing someone else’s ribbons away at a 1971 war protest?

The U.N. is a pathetically corrupt and morally bankrupt organization. That’s a reality that the United States simply has to deal with. The Oil-for-Dictators scandal is a disgrace; it should prove once and for all that relying on the U.N. to be a fair and enlightened force for good in the world is hopelessly naïve.

Also indicative of the U.N.’s compromised moral stature is the presence of Lakhdar Brahimi as the special envoy to Iraq. In an interview with a French radio station last week, Brahimi referred to Israel’s policies as "the great poison in the region." Sure – if Israel would only pull back to pre-’67 borders, Al-Sadr would doubtlessly lay down his arms. Kofi Annan’s spokesman, Fred Eckhard, refused to disavow Brahimi’s indictment of Israel’s policies, calling the issue “complex.” After repeated questioning, Eckhard did re-assure the world’s Jewish community that Annan’s views on Israel “do not contain the word ‘poison.’” Brahimi also boasts of never shaking hands with Jews.

Now, I’m a bit more hard-headed than John Kerry and his supporters. I don’t think any of this nonsense should disqualify the U.N. from being involved in Iraq. If the U.N. and Brahimi can help us further our goals, we should use them. That’s what realpolitik is all about.

But we have to be pragmatic about the U.N., what it is and who it’s made of. In Jordan earlier this week, Al Qaeda operatives attempted a chemical weapons attack that would have killed 80,000 people and decapitated the Jordanian government. That’s the nature of the enemy we face. The question for the American political class boils down to this: Is it in our interest to sub-contract our defense against such a group of cold-blooded killers to the United Nations? Should we rely on the U.N., or should we rely on ourselves?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


This will be a brief “count your blessings” kind of post.

Imagine you live just outside Wheeling, West Virginia. Imagine you earn your living working in the local coal mine. Every day you have to descend almost a thousand feet below the earth’s surface and remain there in the darkness for 8 hours doing the kind of grueling manual labor that seems to belong exclusively to another era. There’s danger and there’s boredom, both in ample supply. But you do what you have to do to support yourself and your family. And imagine you have to do this each day on the midnight shift. It can’t be an easy way to get from one day to the next.

And then imagine that after one midnight shift, you plan to ascend to the earth’s surface to once again breathe the fresh air. But on this day your progress to the top is thwarted, for in your path stands a tall gaunt man of serious purpose. He doesn’t intend you harm, he just wants to talk to you. Before you go home to wish your wife and kids a good day, he wants to summarize for you his plans for job creation and health care.

Sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel, right? But it happened yesterday. Making an appearance in West Virginia, John Kerry showed exactly the kind of cruelty and depravity described above. The Boston Globe relates:

“Later, he (Kerry) put on a hard hat and red, white, and blue-colored miner's lamp and rode an elevator 990 feet below ground to explore a series of shafts. There, he summarized his plans for job creation and health care for 10 men coming off the midnight shift.”

If you have a tough day, and you’re stuck in traffic at the end of the day just trying to get home, think of those unfortunate West Virginia coal miners. And say to yourself, “There but by the grace of God go I.”

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


It’s been another terrible few days for Senator Nuance. The latest hubbub centers around the day in 1971 when he threw some stuff over a fence at the United States Capitol. The reason I use a term so vague as “some stuff” to describe the hurled materials is because Kerry hasn’t been exactly clear whether the tossed goodies were medals or ribbons and whether or not they belonged to him. His story has changed over the years, and it changed yet again over the weekend.

Frankly, I don’t care what he threw or whose he threw. Whatever he did, I’m sure it was a cravenly cynical political act. The Kerry supporters say this whole matter should be irrelevant, seeing how it occurred 33 years ago. They’re mistaken; the whole rationale for the Kerry campaign is because of stuff that happened 33 years ago. His actions from that era are very much in play.

The animating force behind the Kerry campaign, indeed the only force behind the Kerry campaign, is his service in Vietnam and his prominent protests that quickly followed. There’s really no other reason why he would have ascended to the Democratic presidential nomination. As a Senator, his performance has been indifferent at best. In his 20 years in that august body, he’s never written or spearheaded a single significant piece of legislation. He’s never chaired (or was the minority chair) of any significant committee. He’s never been voted to a leadership position by his piers. And he certainly hasn’t developed a loving relationship with the Massachusetts voters the way the senior Senator from his state has.

No, all he’s got to make him special is his service in Vietnam. And that’s why he’s used it so relentlessly during this campaign. His ceaseless Vietnam references have been characterized by the gratuitously promiscuous manner in which Kerry has indulged in them. One example among many: while making an appearance along the banks of the Mississippi last week, he told his audience how it reminded him of the Mekong Delta.

Even if it were unchallenged by his foes, Kerry’s reliance on biography, especially this small portion of his biography, is pretty thin gruel to base a presidential campaign on. His slogan might as well be, “Vote for Me – I had four spectacular months 33 years ago.” Even if he had been an exemplary man throughout 1971, how much should that weigh on a voter’s conscience? I’ll grant you that it matters, but how much should it matter? If he were a lionhearted practitioner of principle during that time frame, does that mean that we should ignore the fact that he’s been anything but for the duration of his lengthy political career?

Throughout the 2000 campaign, I was bothered by aspects of then Governor Bush’s biography. I was so disturbed by the drug allegations and the way he apparently misspent much of his life, I actually started out supporting McCain. Character is often immutable, I figured. If he was so callow then, what’s to say he’s different now?

But Bush has turned out to be in many ways a spectacular President. His steadfastness of character and his commitment to principles have been historic. At this point, what he did or did not do in the National Guard or at Yale’s DKE house is irrelevant. If you agree with me that he’s been a fine President, you’re probably going to vote for him. If you think he’s been a poor President, there’s probably no 33 year old biographical fact that would guide you into his column.

The Kerry campaign, on the other hand, says that the only things that are relevant are those that occurred over thirty years ago. Has he run one ad based on his Senate record or anything that he’s done since Vietnam? So when and if someone points out that the John Kerry of 30 years ago was something less than the courageous warrior with the soul of a poet that his campaign has claimed, it’s relevant.

Kerry brought 1971 into play. He’ll have to deal with the repercussions.


It’s impossible not to contrast Kerry’s use of his military service to Bob Dole’s use of a similar record in 1996. Unlike Kerry, Dole had forged an impressive career in the Senate and had served as both minority and majority leader. Dole was also known for how his word was unbreakable; Kerry’s never been so labeled. It was natural that when Dole sought the Presidency, he was comfortable running primarily as a Senator rather than a WWII veteran.

But a lot of people thought Dole should capitalize on his heroic service in World War II, especially in light of the fact that no one confused his opponent with Audie Murphy. Against his better judgment, Dole reluctantly highlighted his brief tour of duty during World War II. Unlike Kerry, Dole did not have the good fortune to emerge physically intact from his service.

As horrific as his injuries were, and as grueling as his recovery was, WWII was not the single peak in his life. For the fifty years between WWII and the ’96 election, Dole had lived a tremendously full and accomplished life and he seemed to know that he should base his campaign on those accomplishments, not the misfortune of having been grievously wounded in battle.

Running as a war hero, however, proved irresistible. At the Republican convention in 1996, Dole read a lyrical Mark Helprin scribed speech that implored America to allow him to serve as a bridge between the present day and the far nobler era in which kids like Bobby Dole proudly went off to serve their country. America was supposed to note the contrast between his service and the callow Clinton’s conduct during the Vietnam era.

But by 1996, Clinton’s avoidance of Vietnam had become an irrelevancy. He had served four years as President; you were either going to vote for or against that President, not for or against the 22 year old child he once had been. Dole’s speech went on to become a complete disaster when, in a brilliant piece of political jujitsu, Clinton saluted Dole for offering to serve as a bridge to the past but as an alternative offered himself up as a bridge to the future, specifically a Bridge to the 21st Century.

Ask Bob Dole. Running on stale accomplishments is never a good idea.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, April 26, 2004


“It was their good fortune, or else their misery, to belong to a generation in which every individual would be given a chance to discover and expose his worth, down to the final ounce of strength and nerve.”

Shelby Foote, in The Civil War: A Narrative

Pat Tillman’s life and death have touched so many of us in such a profound way. As I’ve read the elegies the past few days, I’ve been trying to figure out why this one great man’s story is so meaningful. And then last night, while I was reading Shelby Foote, the above quotation hit me between the eyes. Suddenly I knew why the Pat Tillman story moves and inspires the way it does.

Prior to 9/11, Pat Tillman had what most Americans would consider an ideal life. He was living the dream that virtually every American boy grows up on: rich, handsome, intelligent and a bona fide football hero. He had overwhelmed every challenge that he confronted. He graduated college summa cum laude in three and a half years (a rarity for Division 1 athletes to say the least) and had become a high quality NFL player in spite of his relatively diminutive stature.

But you can’t discover your worth by repeating past accomplishments. Pat Tillman understood that. And apparently, Pat Tillman was all about seeking new challenges and living a life of higher meaning than could be found on the football field. When the climactic struggle between good and evil commenced for all the world to see on 9/11, it would have been remarkable if Pat Tillman had not responded to that call and challenge. His entire life was spent discovering and exposing his worth. Some people redeem miss-spent lives with a single act of heroism; it seems like Pat Tillman didn’t miss-spend a single moment of his life.

Pat Tillman is dead, and his loss must grieve us. He was an extraordinary man, and there are never enough of those to go around. Still, we must be inspired by the life he led in these troubled times. The fight we are in belongs to us all; like the Civil War generation, we’ll all have the chance, in big ways and small, to take our measure. Pat Tillman gave all for this struggle. Inspired by him, perhaps we can all give some, or at least what we have.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


The Red Sox went down to New York for a three game series this weekend; things went well. Some random thoughts:

- Unfortunately, you can’t win a World Series in April. That’s the only bad thing you can say about the events at the Stadium this weekend. Admittedly the Yankees are in one of those little scuffling stretches that all good teams go through. Still, it would have been easy for the Sox to make excuses for a mediocre April because of their injury situation.

- It’s tough to find a weakness on the Sox. Their pitching staff is incredible, certainly the best Sox staff of my lifetime. Their offense, while it doubtlessly won’t equal last year’s output, should be either the best or one of the best in the game. Even their defense doesn’t suck, as long as the other teams agree not to hit the ball at Kapler.

- Speaking of defense, it has long been my belief that anyone with the God-given natural athletic ability to play major league baseball has enough talent to be a competent fielding first baseman. Thus, when you see a long time first baseman who just can’t get it done, you can make some negative inferences about the guy’s character. Hell, even Brian Daubach became a solid fielding first baseman. How tough can it be? Which brings us to Jason Giambi. The guy is simply a menace out there. He’s more likely to injure a teammate than make a good play. And he’s been in the majors for something like a decade so you’d figure he would have had the time to master the relatively short set of skills that the position requires. Posada and Jeter received errors yesterday for plays that Giambi should have made. The guy’s been playing baseball for his whole life and he’s still completely clueless about how to field his position. That’s gotta tell you something.

- I’m not the first to note this – A-Rod can play. Those of us in Boston were harboring delusions that the New York pressure cooker might get to him and maybe he’d hit .248 with 19 home runs. Sorry, ain’t gonna happen. The rest of the Yankee lineup was completely stymied over the weekend by Red Sox pitching, yet A-Rod remained a dangerous man. Even with inflation, $25 million/yr. will still buy you a decent player.

- If you’re looking for the Yankee starter who might hit .248, take a glance at Jeter. For a few years now, the trend has been down. Yes, he had a terrific year last season but at this point he’s no longer a great player. His fielding at shortstop has become an embarrassment (did you see him melt to Ortiz’s “double” in left yesterday?) and offensively he hasn’t been one of the game’s best players for several years. He looks to me like a player struggling with eroding abilities; some can continue to produce, others head off a metaphorical cliff.

- Nomar was on NECN for over a half hour last night. He swings at way too many first pitches and he morphed into Jeremy Giambi during last year’s postseason, but the guy is truly a class act. Although a frequently frustrating player (on a couple of occasions last year I compared him to Mike Greenwell, the Babe Ruth of frustrating players), he’s the consummate professional. Think of how other athletes would have handled the off season that he had.

- The Manny Question. Manny is an offensive machine. He’s also a distraction and a frequent annoyance. If he’s going to hit .320 with 40 homeruns, obviously you can put up with the bullshit – it’s a no-brainer. But, academically speaking, at what level of performance would his nonsense no longer be tolerable? I bet the guys who run the Sox have thought of that.

- Related Query: If you’re going to be an asshole, you don’t get to stick around for 50 years like Ellis Burks. Just ask Jim Rice. Who’s had the longest career in spite of being a poor teammate? Obviously, to stick around forever while being a jerk, you have to be a really good player. This is probably another record that Barry Bonds will come to own.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, April 22, 2004


User note: Get yourself over to and please, please, please participate in their Spirit of America fundraising. If you’re not familiar with the cause, become so. If you are, please contribute. It’s a tangible way we can all help.

Read their site also.

One of the retired Generals was on tonight with Brit Hume. I think it was Scales, but it might have been McClellan. He was stressing the need for “more troops” in Iraq. With the dizzying speed, the alleged need for “more troops” has gone from hypothesis to conventional wisdom to cliché. But are those who say we need “more troops” (like the loyal opposition Senator McCain and a veritable battalion of expert military commentators), correct?

Frankly, I don’t know, and I bet you don’t either. To use the parlance of the day, I’m not so sure it’s a slam dunk. To help us figure it out, I’m asking a few questions and pointing out a few facts:

1) What are the additional troops going to do? If one says we need more troops, one is implicitly saying that we don’t have an adequate complement for the military tasks at hand. Is that true? That leads us to question two.

2) What military tasks are currently going undone? Are there bad guys going unkilled because we don’t have enough troops to do the job? I doubt it. If bad guys are going unkilled, it’s more likely because we continue to show what is perhaps an undue amount of sensitivity. Let’s face it – the gloves are still on, even in Fallujah. I come from the school that says the nihilists should be dealt with severely; I don’t think the potential destruction of a mosque should modify that severity. Do those who say we need more troops do so because they wish to see the level of severity kicked up a notch?

3) During his interview with Hume, General Scales pointed out that Fallujah is a city of a few hundred thousand people and we’re trying to “subdue” it with a force of only 4,000 troops. Scales’ comment illustrates the flabby logic that has been such a feature of the “more troops” movement. We’re not trying to “subdue” a city of 400,000; we’re trying to kill the miscreants among those 400,000. Scales’ analysis begs the inference that we’re outnumbered by the hostiles 100-1. That’s obviously not the case. The size of the city has nothing to do with how many troops it will take to “subdue” the city; Chicago is currently being “subdued” by zero troops because there are no hostiles to subdue.

4) Will these additional troops serve military roles or do the “more troops” adherents envision them doing other things like contracting or police work? Since no one has been able to specify what military function the new troops will perform, one has to believe that the “more troops” folks have something else in mind. If we’re going to have a productive conversation about this subject, they should specify what they have in mind.

5) During the interview, Hume asked Scales if there was any chance that our offensive in Fallujah would fail even with the size of the current troop complement. Scales, replied, “Of course not.” Why again do we need more troops?

6) The Powell doctrine, which guided the first Gulf War, enshrined a few pernicious things within our military culture. One of the worst, though less obvious, was the way it caused several members of the military to assume that they will receive unlimited resources if they complain long enough and loud enough to the right media outlets. During the first Gulf War, the military was blessed with unlimited resources. A ground force of over 500,000 assembled to fight an opponent that had almost been completely destroyed by six weeks of bombing. Now that we’re in a real war, limitless resources are no longer an option. The military will have to figure out how to get jobs done with limited resources, and, more importantly, what jobs can be done with their limited resources. General Shisnieski, the former Army Chief of Staff, wanted a force of 500,000 to occupy Iraq. That would be nice, but clearly assembling such a huge force was never a possibility. Rumsfeld has grappled with how to do more with fewer resources; the “more troops” folks ought to do the same.

7) Historically, offering more troops just for the sake of offering more troops has been a loser. Westmoreland received a half million troops for Vietnam but since his enemy refused to come out of the jungle and get killed, all those troops did was serve as targets for the enemy.

8) Since the dawn of warfare, some Generals have reflexively said that they need more troops before doing anything. The most famous of these was the Civil War’s George McClellan. History has recalled McClellan as inept but it’s forgotten that he was a great organization man who did a brilliant job training and drilling the Army of the Potomac. He just wasn’t a warrior. When the fighting had to be done, it was much better left to Grant and Sherman than the hopelessly cautious and bureaucratic McClellan.

9) War involves risk and death. More troops will remove neither.

One last thing. Not all Generals are like the TV armchair platoon.

In the first several months of World War II’s African campaign, Major General Orlando Ward’s performance had been indifferent at best. Although undoubtedly capable and courageous, Ward was also considered too “sensitive” for his role. Given that what he was sensitive to was the losses of his subordinates, one could say that this made him a better human being than people like his direct superior, George Patton.

On the night of March 23, 1943, Patton needed Ward to take the strategically important Maknassy heights. The task was complicated because over the last 48 hours, Ward had attempted to take the Heights with an insufficient supply of both force (he used only a fraction of the complement available to him) and audacity – he had needlessly forfeited the element of surprise. Patton got Ward on the phone and said the following:

“Pink, you got that hill yet? I don’t want any goddamn excuses. I want you to get out there and get that hill. You lead the attack personally. Don’t come back ’til you’ve got it.” Patton didn’t sleep that night because he felt he had sent his old friend to his death.

Shortly after midnight, the 51 year old General Ward ran point on the mission storming the Maknassy Heights. He was indistinguishable from the lowest enlistee; he inspired his men at one point by challenging them, “You’re not going to let a 51 year old man run your tongues out?” By the end of the morning, Ward’s face was caked with blood and sulfa and his legs and hands had become purple with bruises. But he lived. And yet the Germans repulsed his charge.

That was war. So is this. Heroism was required then, just as it is required now. The troops in Iraq have been showing it steadily, as did the passengers on Flight 93. There’s been a lot of talk about silver bullets the last few weeks. As Ward’s case shows, even heroism doesn’t guarantee victory. This is tough stuff and we’re going to have to be a tough people. Right now, the armchair Generals aren’t helping.


If you have specific reasons why more troops are needed, let me know. I’ll post them.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


In 1988, they were known as “The Seven Dwarfs.” They deserved the title - the candidates seeking to be the Democratic nominee for President that year clearly lacked the stature for the office they sought. These were the men the 1988 Democrats had to choose from: a 40 year old Al Gore, a 45 year old Dick Gephardt, a 46 year old Joseph Biden, Paul Simon (the left wing Senator with the lumpy ear-lobes, not the diminutive pop singer), Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt, Jesse Jackson, the post-Monkey-Business Gary Hartpence, and Michael Dukakis. Dukakis has gone down in history as perhaps the least qualified nominee in the post World War II era. And yet he was obviously the strongest candidate for the nomination.

(Soxblog’s astute readers have probably noted that eight men comprised the “Seven Dwarfs.” Actually the “Seven Dwarfs” nickname came after Hart dropped out. Since he was the only candidate of stature, the remainders received the demeaning label “Seven Dwarfs.” Hart of course later returned to the race but the name stuck since it was too good to be abandoned even after it became inaccurate.)

Gosh, what a crew. One thing about the Republicans – we’ll always give you at least a couple of candidates that have the resume if nothing else. We’ll reliably offer up a guy or two like Lamar Alexander who, although a total lame-o, at least looks great on paper. While the Democrats were foisting this preposterous set of wannabes on the American public, Republicans had second tier candidates with no chance like Al Haig and Jack Kemp chasing the nomination. They had no chance because they were going up against the eminently more qualified Bob Dole and George Bush. Of course, both Haig and Kemp were far more qualified on paper (and paper only – I’m not suggesting for a moment that either one would have been an adequate president) for the job than anyone on the Democrats’ side.

So Dukakis got the nomination. It couldn’t be any other way. None of the other guys were remotely plausible as President. Gore was too young and too untested; he was also Gore. Gephardt was also too young and untested. He was also Gephardt. Simon was basically a Joe Lieberman without the impressive stature and leader’s bearing – a nerd’s nerd. Biden actually had a chance until he padded his resume and, more damagingly, flagrantly plagiarized British politician Noel Kinnock on the campaign trail. Babbitt was an obscure Governor from an obscure state. I’m a political junkie, and for the life of me I couldn’t remember that it was Babbitt who was the 7th dwarf. Reverend Jackson? Does the word “Hymietown” ring any bells?

Hart was of course the prohibitive front runner coming off his strong 1984 campaign and facing such a pathetic group as the “Seven Dwarfs.” But as rumors of his infidelities swirled, Hart defiantly challenged the media to follow him and catch him in the act. The Miami Herald took him up on the offer, and soon enough Hart was caught canoodling with nubile model Donna Rice on the SS Monkey Business. Because Bill Clinton had yet to come along and desensitize the America public to sexual depravity in its leaders, Hart figured he had had no chance and abandoned the race. A few months later Hart re-thought his hasty exit and re-entered the race but by that time he had become fatally damaged goods.

Dukakis thus became the last dwarf standing. At the time, his fellow citizens of Massachusetts knew that he would be an awful general election candidate. In spite of such strengths as a facile mind and an iron will, Dukakis wasn’t born for the rough and tumble of presidential politics. Condescension was his default attitude, aloofness his personal trademark. Those of us who had gotten to know him over the previous decade and a half knew America would find out what we already knew – you may like Dukakis’ politics, but you won’t be able to like the man.

You don’t exactly have to be Professor Santayana to see history repeating in 2004. Again we have a Massachusetts Democrat triumphing over a historically weak field. I won’t bore you with pointing out the similarities between the individual candidates of 16 years ago and the class of 2004. Besides, you’ve probably already done that on your own. (Un-obvious example: Both races had a wacky General but in different parties – if we could go back in time and make Haig a Democrat this whole thing would be almost spooky.) Still, can Kerry take any glee in defeating such a non-formidable class of contenders?

So Kerry’s the last dwarf standing, vintage 2004. And guess what? The country doesn’t like him. Democratic blogger Mickey Kaus has a recurring feature that he titles “Woops, we nominated a turkey.” Kaus pays much closer attention than most people do to politics, but when people eventually tune into this race and focus on the Democratic challenger, most of them won’t like what they see. Kerry is not an easy man to like.

Why bring this all up today? Because in a normal race, the last few weeks would have been damaging to the President. In that time, two major books have come out that have cast the President in an unflattering light. Typically, the media have focused on those books like a laser beam. In the case of Bob Woodward’s book, they've distorted Woodward’s work and made the President come out looking worse than he does in the book.

Beyond the bestseller list, the situation in Iraq has been disquieting at best. Bush gave a press conference that was widely (although unjustifiably) ridiculed. Attacks on Bush’s advisers, from Rumsfeld to Wolfowitz to Rice and even Powell, have been relentless. And through all this, the President has risen in the polls. A lot. A two point deficit has morphed into a six point lead.

Why? To quote Mickey, because the Democrats have nominated a turkey. If people could stomach his opponent, the President would be sinking like a Ted Kennedy driven Buick. Conventional wisdom holds that a presidential election is always a referendum on the incumbent. Not this time. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: The story of Election 2004 will be how manifestly unqualified the Democratic nominee is for the office he seeks.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, April 19, 2004


Over the weekend, Israel struck again. Less than a month after separating self styled “spiritual leader” Sheik Yassin’s head from his body, the IDF introduced Yassin’s successor to a similar fate. In one of the rare instances since he ascended to the throne of Hamas where he did not surround himself with human shield children, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi was struck by an Israeli missile. While Rantissi did not die instantly as Yassin did, he was pronounced dead mere minutes later.

Rantissi thus became the terrorist leader that, mercifully, the world never got to know. Like a homicidal William Henry Harrison or a psychotic Pope John Paul I, Rantissi’s reign was a short and eventless one. In spite of his fierce rhetoric upon becoming the Hamas head honcho, the homicidal healer’s “accomplishments” were few.

The only successful suicide bombing under his short tenure occurred Saturday mere hours before his death and that one wasn’t much of a success. Only one Israeli was killed, and he was the security guard who was tasked with stopping such attacks. 19 year old Kfir Ohayun thwarted the attack and died a hero’s death, a death spent saving lives rather than taking them.

Israel was quick to note that Rantissi’s liquidation was not tied to Saturday’s suicide bombing. In so doing, the Israelis acknowledged that they were going to kill Rantissi anyway due to his background and rhetoric.

It’s remarkable that anyone in America or Europe should question the killing of Rantissi particularly when one juxtaposes Israel’s actions to the 9/11 Commission hearings. The loyal opposition, as personified by the increasingly shrill Bob Kerrey, has gotten great press criticizing the Bush administration for not being on a “war footing” with Al Qaeda even though Al Qaeda had declared war on us. The newly born Vulcans across the American and European left have clucked their approval at Kerrey’s attack, agreeing that Bush should have been more aggressive and killed bin Laden before he had the chance to strike.

And yet Israel, when confronted with foes such as Yassin and Rantissi, should apparently exercise restraint. Jack Straw, the irritatingly gutless British foreign minister, labeled the Rantissi killing “unjustified.” The mind reels! Rantissi is a murderer who has orchestrated the deaths of hundreds of Israelis and until Saturday commanded a terrorist organization that vowed to kill as many Israelis as possible. How can his death possibly be “unjustified?” As I wrote a month ago in regards to the Yassin killing, people of good faith can differ in regards to whether or not the Rantissi killing was wise. But only a very muddled moral perspective would allow one to conclude that Rantissi did not deserve the fate that befell him.

Because Rantissi’s reign at the top was so short and so devoid of “successes,” Rantissi never got to enjoy the fame of an Arafat or a bin Laden. The world really missed something because this guy was a first class monster. Don’t listen to the BBC or CNN who during their coverage over the weekend repeatedly referred to Hamas as "activists." And certainly don’t listen to Reuters, which noted in its story that broke the news of Rantissi’s death that he had a “modestly furnished living room.” In spite of his allegedly Greenpeace type political perspective and his tasteful discretion when it came to home furnishings, the “Pediatrician of Death” really wasn’t that great a guy.

Don’t believe me? Take a gander at some of his own words:

About Suicide Bombers "I congratulate them. They will teach the Jewish mothers in Haifa, Tel Aviv and everywhere."

On the explosion of Space Shuttle Columbia "The explosion of the shuttle Columbia is, it is reasonable to assume, part of the divine punishment of America and, together with it, Zionism - because of their massacres of Muslims, the destruction of their lives, the humiliation of their honor, and their desire to globalize corruption."

"By God, we will not leave one Jew in Palestine. We will fight them with all the strength we have."

"There is no difference between Akko, Haifa, Gaza, Jaffa or Nablus. The Palestinian Intifada will continue until the last Zionist is banished."

On the Road Map peace proposal "This is a Zionist conspiracy against the Palestinian people. Our armed resistance will not stop. On the contrary, Hamas will reach deep into the cities of Israel."

About terrorism "This is the answer to the Zionist terrorism, in the future we will multiply the suicide bombing attacks and we will carry out operations that will shock the Jews."

"This operation, whoever is behind it, is natural." - September 2003, after deadly suicide bombings at a crowded bus stop near Rishon Lezion and five hours later at a Jerusalem nightspot.

"The word cease-fire is not in our dictionary. Resistance will continue." - June 2003, as Egypt tried to work out a truce.

Alright, so he’s gone and right minded people won’t miss him. But what is to become of his organization and its cause, the extirpation of Israel? An encouraging sign came when Hamas declined to identify its new leader for fear that once identified, that new leader will soon have an IDF missile with his name on it. Of course, if he’s never identified, then this person really won’t be much of a leader as far as the public is concerned.

For the first time, Hamas seems like a spent force. Obviously their abilities are degraded. They were unable to avenge the Yassin killing and unable to protect Yassin’s successor. Also, it’s not like they haven’t been trying. Since Yassin’s death, three attacks have been thwarted.

Now apparently, Hamas is also going to get out of the rhetoric game as well. With no leader, who’s going to offer the standard “Death to the Zionist Entity” yell or the “Jihad Forever” scream? This is an important issue, and I don’t mean to be flippant about it. If Hamas has no leader, Hamas will have no fiery public face. That means less hatred will be fomented. That’s a good thing.

Hamas has been a negative force for its people, just as the PLO was and the Palestinian Authority is. Those organizations have shown no other talents than one for nursing grievances. While the Palestinian Arabs undoubtedly have a history to be upset over, Hamas has never had a constructive vision for going forward.

That being said, it can’t be denied that the Arab residents of what’s now Israel got a tremendously raw deal in the first half of the 20th century. During those years, a population of somewhere between 500,000 and 700,000 people was forcibly removed from their homes.

Admittedly, terrible things happened to the Jews during that era as well. Many more Jews were displaced (or worse) from Europe in those years and, less well known, several hundred thousand Jews were evicted from Arab countries at the time of Israel’s birth. These are some of the terrible facts of the 20th century’s history. The relocation and indeed the liquidation of entire populations happened with disturbing frequencies. Still, as people of goodwill, I think we can admit the following: The fact that Jews around the world in the 1940’s had it worse than Palestinian Arabs in the 1940’s could not have made the Palestinians’ relocation any easier or less painful.

All of this happened almost 60 years ago. It’s been more than two generations and as George Bush noted last week, there are facts on the ground that make going back to 1947 impossible. So what happens next? One of the great tragedies of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is that since the early 20th century, there have been both militaristic Jews (such as Sharon and Begin) and Jews of peace (such as Peres and Barak). On the Palestinian side, there has never been any demand for the Israeli men of peace and their goodwill. Arafat could have made a lasting peace with Barak; instead he got himself Sharon. If Hamas has indeed become spent and its war is at last nearing completion, perhaps we have finally reached the point where the Palestinians who desire Israeli goodwill will ascend.

One can hope.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, April 15, 2004


"The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar. The terrorists who take hostages or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid, and murders children on buses in Jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in Bali and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew...They seek the death of Jews and Christians and every Muslim who desires peace over theocratic terror."

George W. Bush, during his press conference Tuesday night

In a perfect world, there’d be nothing remarkable about the President’s comments. To the unsubtle mind, it might seem to be just a depressingly ordinary laundry list of terrorist depravities committed over the past few years. But it’s a lot more than that. By not distinguishing between terrorism against Jews and terrorism against others, Bush has done something unique. He’s given the world a message that the United States will no longer profess to be neutral in Israel’s battle against terror. He has unequivocally acknowledged that Israel faces precisely the same kind of nihilistic forces that currently bedevil us. Such a sentiment shouldn’t be controversial, but it is. Such a sentiment shouldn’t be newsworthy, but it is. For supporters of Israel, Tuesday was a great day.

For over 50 years, The United States has perhaps unwisely endeavored to be a “fair broker” of peace in the Middle East. Being a “fair broker” meant that America had to eschew making value judgments and do everything possible to remain neutral. Although we assumed this pose with the best of intentions, over time we slid into the habit of treating death worshiping terrorists as if they were every bit as legitimate as the free democratic society whose destruction they sought.

For decades, America lived the fiction that one tiny democracy surrounded by a multitude of corrupt and tyrannical dictatorships were of equal moral stature. Moreover, although the tiny democracy constantly sought peace and the dictatorships sought nothing less than the democracy’s annihilation, America pretended that the blame for the squabbling was equal between the two sides. And then, after the unfortunate rise of the PLO and its decades of murder, the United States still refused to make any moral distinctions between the parties. Perhaps the nadir of this philosophy came when then Secretary of State Madeline Albright chased unreformed and unrepentant terrorist Yasser Arafat down the hall in 1998 begging him to return to negotiations that he was obviously pursuing in bad faith. Because Arafat was the party opposing Israel and the United States had to be a “fair broker,” it was nevertheless incumbent upon Albright to pretend that he was a legitimate partner for peace.

I don’t think it overreaches to say that the compulsion to serve as a fair broker, both on America’s part and Europe’s part, played at least a small role (and perhaps a large one) in corrupting the world’s values and allowing bin Ladenism to flourish. Because Israel’s foes had to be treated as legitimate, their terroristic methods could not be unequivocally condemned. Next you saw Reuters peddling pernicious sophistries such as, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” And thus, the slaughter of innocents became something that was not absolutely immoral but instead something that the truly sophisticated could perhaps rationalize or explain away. Ultimately, you had a segment of enlightened society whose first reaction to the massacre in downtown New York was to try to explain, forgive and rationalize. You had a search for “root causes” which, when found, would bestow a certain legitimacy on the perpetrators.

There cannot be legitimacy for terrorism; terrorism by definition is the slaughter of innocents. The slaughter of innocents is never permissible, never explainable, never forgivable. If there are root causes that have brought us to the place where certain parties feel that the killing of the innocents is proper, that’s a reality we have to deal with and a reality we have to change. But the killing, the terroristic murder, cannot be considered morally acceptable.

President Bush sent this message Tuesday night. The question remains – who will echo it? And who won’t?


President Bush has shown himself to be at the very least the best friend Israel has had in the White House since Truman and perhaps Israel’s staunchest supporter in the Oval Office ever. In a related development, Jimmy Carter this week blasted the Bush administration for being “exclusively committed to the policies of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Israel, and hav(ing) made no effort to try to have a balanced negotiating position between Israel and the Palestinians." John Kerry hasn’t made a substantive comment on either Carter’s or Bush’s statement. I haven’t seen a single Democrat distance himself or herself from Carter’s comments.

I know I’m more conservative than most Jews, but come on people! Let’s give who we’re going to vote for in November some careful consideration.


The wonderful blog linked to soxblog last night. Check their site out – it’s fantastic. Actually, it’s just like I envisioned this site when I started it out. Lots of baseball, lots of mostly conservative political commentary. Of course, my loyal readers know I’ve mentioned baseball about twice in six weeks.

“Blog-rolling” - did I just coin a great new term? Has anyone used it before?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


For some perspective, a couple of voices from the past.

Ronald Reagan on how a President needs to have faith in himself (from Edmund Morris’s Dutch)

Reagan said, “LBJ made a remark that I never forgot…‘When Richard Nixon took the oath,’ he said, ‘I had the greatest burden lifted from me that I ever carried in my life.’ He said, ‘There was never a day that went by that I wasn’t scared that I might be the man who started World War III.’ Well, how can you be scared of that?”

Dutch spoke with unusual vehemence. His mouth curled with contempt for a predecessor with so much self-doubt. “As if that’s something that comes on you, and you don’t have anything to do with it! That’s part of what this job is all about! How could he have sat there, living in fear that he somehow might trigger a war?”

Ulysses S. Grant, from his Personal Memoirs,on how the media will not always be a friend to maintaining that faith in himself:

After the war, during the Summer of 1865, I traveled considerably through the North, and was everywhere met by large numbers of people. Every one had his own opinion about the manner in which the war had been conducted: who among the generals had failed, how, and why. Correspondents of the press were ever on hand to hear every word dropped, and were not always disposed to report correctly what did not confirm their preconceived notions, either about the conduct of the war or the individuals concerned in it.

And, to show Reagan’s and Grant’s continuing relevance, a few questions from last night’s Presidential press conference:

1) “How do you explain to Americans how you got that (Iraq) so wrong? And how do you answer your opponents, who say that you took this nation to war on the basis of what have turned out to be a series of false premises?”

2) “Two-and-a-half years later, do you feel any sense of personal responsibility for September 11th?”

3) “Mr. President, I'd like to follow up on a couple of these questions that have been asked. One of the biggest criticisms of you is that whether it's WMD in Iraq, postwar planning in Iraq, or even the question of whether this administration did enough to ward off 9/11, you never admit a mistake. Is that a fair criticism? And do you believe there were any errors in judgment that you made related to any of those topics I brought up?”

4) “Two weeks ago, a former counterterrorism official at the NSC, Richard Clarke, offered an unequivocal apology to the American people for failing them prior to 9/11. Do you believe the American people deserve a similar apology from you, and would you be prepared to give them one?”

5) “You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?”

6) “I guess I'd like to know if you feel in any way that you've failed as a communicator on this topic (Iraq).”

Did you fail, do you want to apologize, do you want to admit mistakes? Repent!!! Obviously, the press corps last night sought a humble President, a man who had been sobered by events and driven to introspection. Famously, they didn’t get it. Harry Truman insisted he never lost a moment’s sleep over the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; few of his confidantes doubted the claim. This President is cut from the same cloth. If you’re waiting for the day when President Bush curls his lower lip and solemnly proclaims his own inadequacies, make yourself comfortable. It’s going to be a long wait.

Here’s what the Press corps just can’t get – displays of humility from the leader of 300 million people are by definition displays of false humility. The most powerful office in the world does not attract the humble. One wouldn’t seek the office unless one had a preternaturally lofty opinion of oneself. If you think you’re mediocre, you’d settle for being a Senator.

Doubt is another matter. Many leaders, while thinking highly enough of themselves to seek a leadership position, ultimately were insecure. They subjected themselves to their own second guessing constantly. In the Reagan quote concerning LBJ, that’s what we see. It’s amazing that LBJ would have such a low opinion of his abilities that he would constantly fear screwing up and destroying the world. Reagan, who walked on as slippery a tightrope above the nuclear abyss as any President, never doubted that he had charted the proper course. Sleepless nights? Hell, Reagan was famous for sleeping like a baby during the day as well. LBJ, on the other hand, lived in fear that he was going to make the fateful mistake.

It’s disconcerting that a President in the nuclear age felt that way. More disquieting still is that we can see how these insecurities affected LBJ’s decision making and policy making. Why was he so indecisive regarding Vietnam? Why did he insist on commanding bombing runs from the Oval Office? Why could he not firmly commit to a course of action? By the end of his term, LBJ had become incapable of acting decisively.

You cannot name a great leader in any endeavor who was as crippled by self doubt as LBJ was. One of the reasons I offer the Grant quote above, beyond the eerie resonance it has regarding the media of today and 140 years ago, is because Grant was uniquely free of self recriminations as a General. Perhaps Grant’s defining moment as a General came at Shiloh; in spite of grievous setbacks during the first two days of that battle, Grant and his troops decisively turned the tables on the third. At no point on that fateful weekend did Grant lose faith in himself or his abilities. Indeed, he blamed his subordinate (and future Ben Hur author) Lew Wallace entirely and never questioned his own efforts. Writing his autobiography 20 years later, Grant still refused any responsibility for the dreadful losses during the first two days of the battle.

Among effective leaders, Grant’s refusal to take the fall is the norm, not the exception. Churchill never took the blame for Gallipoli, Roosevelt never asked for forgiveness for Pearl Harbor, and Washington never apologized to those who lost loved ones at Valley Forge. A great leader knows that things will inevitably go wrong, sometimes very wrong. But part of leadership, perhaps the key part, is moving forward as opposed to falling backwards. It might go too far to say a great leader would never prostate himself before his followers and beg forgiveness or understanding, but I can’t think of a single instance in history that would suffice as an example of such a happenstance.

Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart went before the cameras and tearfully asked for his followers’ forgiveness, but Swaggart could hardly be considered a great leader. Even Bill Clinton knew better than try to such a gambit. In his famous “Ejaculation Proclamation” he basically told his public that his non-intercourse related affairs were none of their concern.

One more thing about this President – when it comes to having faith in himself, this guy’s the real deal. Unlike LBJ or Clinton, Bush isn’t feigning confidence. He’s not losing sleep over his policies, even when they blow up in his face. Some people claim that they find such confidence to be disquieting. Instead, they should be disconcerted if he weren’t so confident. Ambivalence and brooding might be lovely characteristics for a poet or even a Senator. Unfortunately this is a time of war and whoever leads us will have to be made of quite different stuff.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, April 12, 2004


Watching the 9/11 Commission hearings last week, it was obvious that the Democratic Party had reached a strategic decision. In an effort to deny George W. Bush the “leadership” issue and in an effort to refute his claim as an effective wartime President, the Democrats decided to try to blame him and his staff for the 9/11 catastrophe. Their attack hinges on the charge that there’s a lot that the Bush administration should have done prior to 9/11 in regards to fighting terror and some of those things might have even prevented 9/11. The charge is true, and yet the Democrats will get no benefit from this debate. Indeed, the entire debate will hurt the Democrats and their electoral prospects. Quite simply, the Democrats lack the credibility to make the accusation that Bush should have prosecuted the battle against terrorism more aggressively. For such an attack to resonate, one would have to believe that Bush’s critics would have done more. Does anyone believe that?

It’s easy to comprehend the Democrats’ thinking on this one. They see that they’ve got a bona fide war hero as a nominee so they can plausibly position themselves as the warrior party for the first time in decades. Let’s face it, running as a gladiator wasn’t an option that Clinton had available. Thus, they view Bush as susceptible to an attack from the right flank on the terror issue.

They’re right about this much - Bush does have vulnerability on his right flank and not just for his conduct prior to 9/11. If a candidate ran screaming that it’s a national disgrace that our airliners are still defenseless against shoulder launched missiles or that the security (or lack thereof) in our ports is a nationwide joke, a lot of people would listen. I can’t believe the Democrats have failed to get out in front of a single one of these issues in this election season. If John Kerry said that all pilots should be armed or that he would triple the amount of air marshals patrolling the skies, it would be a brilliant political move. The risibly self-promoting Chuck Schumer knows this; he’s been the loudest voice for equipping airliners with the same missile avoidance technology that all El Al planes have. (You probably recall that this technology saved hundreds of Israelis on an El Al flight in Indonesia last year.) But as we enter the general election, Kerry and his party aren’t to the right of Bush on a single terror fighting issue.

So that’s the going forward part of the debate; Kerry won’t play probably for fear that he would hopelessly antagonize his base if he did something like urge an enlargement of the Patriot Act. That leaves only the looking back part. Much of America is willing to admit the whole country, leadership included, missed the boat on terrorism prior to 9/11. And while some no doubt are annoyed at the government for missing the signs, most of the country’s anger is reserved for bin Laden, not for Bush.

Dick Clarke was the Democrats’ Great White Hope on this issue. Unlike every Democratic politician except for Gary Hart and Sam Nunn, Clarke had a ton of credibility on terrorism; he had been a reliable if monotonous Cassandra for over a decade. But he spent, or rather miss-spent, his credibility launching difficult to believe ad-hominem attacks at his former colleagues in the Bush administration while tossing even tougher to believe bouquets at his former colleagues in the Clinton administration. Much of his story was just impossible to swallow. America was too smart to believe that Condi Rice was an ignoramus who had never heard of Al Qaeda until Dick Clarke patiently walked her through the details. The country had an even tougher time believing that Bill Clinton was a steadfast and determined warrior tirelessly focusing his righteous rage on the murderous bin Laden. Indeed, all the available evidence suggested that Clinton pursued zaftig Valley Girls with a lot more vigor than he did Saudi Arabian terrorists.

Tragically for the Democrats, Clarke was really their one and only credible attacker. The rest of them, quite frankly, don’t have their hearts in the war on terror even after 9/11. To suggest that they were frustrated with Bush’s lack of emphasis on terror before 9/11 is simply remarkable. Even after 9/11, these are the people who are more concerned with the allegedly enormous civil rights violation of the government knowing what books you check out of the library than keeping tabs on terrorists. Now, even though I don’t agree with the Patriot Act’s critics, I can understand and even sympathize with their points about the library books and the wiretaps, et al. But these are the people who are willing to suffer “setbacks” in the war on terror in order to preserve these “precious” liberties. In this war on terror, “setbacks” is defined as civilian deaths, potentially a lot of civilian deaths.

I’ll grant the arguable premise that these people are acting in good faith and not just reflexively and childishly disagreeing with whatever is put forth by George Bush’s administration and John Ashcroft’s Justice Department. I’ll even go so far as to concede that these people are just consumed with concern over the durability of the Constitution. But they can’t have it both ways. You can’t be a ferocious warrior in the war on terror and a worry wart about such obviously non-vital and non-essential rights as the fancifully factitious Constitutional guarantee of privacy when it comes to checking out library books. It doesn’t work like that.

To position themselves to the right of the administration in the run-up to 9/11, the administration’s critics would have to able to plausibly say that they would have been tougher and meaner than Ashcroft, Bush, Rumsfeld and the rest. They would have to convince the public that they would have been less concerned with the Constitutional niceties of practices such as ethnic profiling and warrantless snooping. And yet they’ve spent the last two years saying that the guys in the Administration have been too mean. Now they’re right when they say that there’s a lot that the administration should have done that it didn’t. I think virtually everyone would agree with that, especially conservative Republicans. But the immutable fact remains that the Administration’s critics, much like the Clinton administration, would not have done more than the Bush administration. No, like the Clinton administration, they would have done less, probably far less. And thus their attacks are utterly devoid of credibility and will be ultimately ineffective.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Saturday, April 10, 2004


“In a surprise move, Mel Gibson held a screening yesterday of his controversial film “The Passion of the Christ” for leaders of America’s Jewish community. The public relations move backfired, however, when the vast majority of the attendees criticized the film for its insensitivity and its potential for fomenting anti-Semitism. Gibson was surprised and disappointed by the audience’s reactions but made no attempt to deny their dissatisfaction with his project. Said Gibson, “It was really something to be in that darkened cinema as those Jewish faces sneered with contempt.”

Calm down, calm down. Gibson really didn’t say that. I made the whole thing up. Of course, he probably wouldn’t say anything of the sort, seeing how he’s spent much of the last twelve months desperately trying to scramble back into the good graces of American Jewry. He’s tried everything from recasting Simon of Cy’Rene as a veritable New Testament Martin Riggs to suggesting his next film will be a glorification of Jewish heroes the Macabees; to date nothing has worked. Still, it’s unlikely that he’d be so dense or so crass as to specifically label sneering faces as Jewish.

Unfortunately, Boston Globe reporter Charles Sennott isn’t quite so sensitive. Apparently disappointed that the vast American audience for “The Passion” has yet to lead to pogroms or increased anti-Jewish sentiment, the Globe dispatched Sennott to Krakow, Poland, for a screening of “The Passion.” The hope apparently was that the homeland of Auschwitz would prove a more hospitable host for validating Abe Foxman’s and Frank Rich’s nightmares.

During the film, Sennott apparently had reason to feel encouraged that at last evidence of “The Passion’s” ability to foment anti-Semitism would surface. Sennott’s report begins on a hopeful note: “The ray of light from the cinema's projector cast a dim glow on the faces in the packed audience as they watched Mel Gibson's ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ Many of these Slavic faces (emphasis added) sneered with contempt as the Jewish high priests demanded Jesus' crucifixion…” Oh, those sneering Slavs, always so ready to sneer at Jews.

Sennott’s initial burst of optimism, however, turned out to be unfounded. He grimly reports at the end of his story, “On Sunday, in the packed Cinema City theater at a shopping mall on the edge of Krakow, the audience was exiting in a somber march. Several were red-eyed from crying. None felt the movie was dangerously anti-Semitic.” (emphasis added)

Which brings up an interesting thought: How hard do you think the media has looked for a single movie go-er who upon exiting “The Passion” would offer something or anything like the following: “My God, I can’t believe how blood-thirsty those Jews were. They killed my Lord. They deserve to have suffered the way they have the past 2000 years and they deserve whatever else should happen to them.”

It’s quite telling that we haven’t heard anything like that. I think it’s safe to say that it hasn’t been due to a lack of looking. Sennott’s piece suggests that he spoke to every attendee or virtually every attendee and obviously he couldn’t find one viewer to say anything the least bit controversial.

And this is among a group of sneering Slavs!

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


Air America, otherwise known as liberal talk radio, doesn’t stand a chance. The reason it’s going to be a bust has nothing to do with Al Franken’s lack of talent for the medium or the insistence of its producers on having sleep inducing guests like Al Gore. It even has nothing to do with the politically correct twaddle that will doubtlessly prevail given the endeavor’s need to please its oh so sensitive constituencies. The reason liberal radio will fail is because it lacks the enormous and homogeneous pool of listeners to draw from that its conservative rivals enjoy.

When you think of conservatives, or people who vote conservatively, you have a population that’s filled with like minded and similar folks. One of the reasons Republicans perpetually talk about having a “Big Tent” is because historically and currently, our tent is pretty damn small. Even the people in our tent who are somehow different are a lot like the rest of us. When we have gays, they’re not drag queens. They tend to almost always be investment bankers or lawyers. We’d like to welcome more diverse members to our cause, but the fact is that people who believe in such basic conservative tenets as personal responsibility and peace through strength seem usually to have a lot in common with one another.

Take the two most different kinds of conservatives – Evangelicals and the so-called country club Rockefeller Republicans. It’s common to note how disparate these two populations are, but they have a lot more similarities than differences. Both groups tend to be composed of fully employed, somewhat ambitious individuals with relatively stable family situations. Virtually every member of each group is white and at least middle class.

While they may not fancy the same plays or novels, neither group would necessarily be offended by the other’s sensibilities. You put these people in the same room, they won’t become best friends but they will have stuff to talk about. I’ve often seen these two archetypes interact comfortably at ward committee meetings and the like. Now mind you, these are the two groups that are furthest apart on the conservative spectrum.

Conservative talk radio benefits from the relative homogeneity of American conservatives. With so many people having so many similar characteristics, conservative talk show hosts all enjoy a potentially enormous pool of listeners to draw from. That’s why so many conservative hosts with so many different styles are able to draw a large audience. And it should come as no surprise that the most talented conservative host with the most mainstream conservative views, Rush Limbaugh, commands the biggest audience.

Liberals and the liberal movement lack the philosophical uniformity of their conservative rivals. Liberals are attracted to the left side of the political spectrum for a remarkably wide array of reasons. There are true believers like Al Franken who believe in all the stuff that liberals are supposed to believe in. But there are also AFSCME members who care most about devising new ways of leaching on the body politic. And there are the urban poor who reflexively vote Democrat but mainly out of a sense that there’s no reason for them to support Republicans.

There are those who worship the environment, and those who care a lot more about cheap gas than protecting the ANWR. There are liberal Jews who hate nativity scenes, and Black Muslims who hate liberal Jews. There are vegans who hate McDonald’s, and members of the underclass who work at McDonald’s. It’s a pretty diverse collective.

All this spells doom for the liberal radio endeavor. Picture the various types of liberals that inhabit our great land. So many of them have so little in common with so many of the others. Modern day liberalism claims to champion the down-trodden. But how much in common do the down-trodden have with their putative protectors like John Kerry and Howard Dean? Do you think the down-trodden enjoy the same pursuits in their leisure time as Senator Nuance? If they did, there would be a lot more snow-boarders in Sun Valley.

How many Harvard professors enjoy the soothing tones of Ludacris or 50 cent? Similarly, how many displaced downsized union workers in the rust belt look forward to their daily fix of NPR? If you put Steven Spielberg in a church where Al Sharpton preaches from the pulpit, does Spielberg have anyone to talk to? How many of the Church-goers will have been moved by “Schindler’s List?” How many will have even given themselves the chance to be bored to tears by “Amistad?” Seriously, these people may vote for the same candidates, but they view the world in very different ways.

My point is, there’s no way any entertainment form could appeal to every or even many of the groups that occupy the liberal spectrum. Franken’s going to go for the snarky wise-ass New York humor. While I don’t think he’ll be good at talk radio (few are), he’s proven himself a talented writer and performer. But even if he does talk radio well, his shtick won’t play to people who don’t know what “shtick” means. A comparably far higher percentage of people who vote conservatively might enjoy Rush Limbaugh. They’ll appreciate his worldview and “get” his humor. Rush has big fans in Manhattan and L.A., not just Hattiesburg and Tuscaloosa. There’s just no way that liberal radio can command the same size audience as conservative radio given the differences amongst liberal radio's targeted listeners.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, April 08, 2004


As a public service, I’ll be keeping a running diary of CondiTV (Condi Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission).

8:55 AM

To warm up for the festivities, I just read Bob Kerrey’s piece in the WSJ. He says that there will be nothing partisan about today’s hearings and that Kean and Hamilton will come together and issue a joint finding. But Kerrey’s an outlier – he’s a Democrat who favors the Iraq war and thinks Dick Clarke is wrong to oppose that action. Will his attitude prevail or will the more partisan Ben-Veniste and Gorelick have the dominant voices?

8:57 AM

A PR guy is on Fox saying that Condi has to show how much she cares and how badly she feels for the victims’ families. Are we at war or should we just have a giant therapy session?

8:57 AM

Fox is calling today’s proceedings “Rice on the Record.” Pretty spiffy alliteration, no? They also just said that she’s going to give a 20 minute opening statement. I’ll admit it – I’ve been at it for four minutes and I’m already losing interest in this idea.

9:02 AM

The hearings are hereby convened! Tom Kean is shaky – really doesn’t seem like a guy in charge. Lehman, Hamilton and Kerrey all look like more natural leaders. Kean bids Condi a cordial welcome. Hamilton gets to give the Democratic greeting. He lets us know how important it is to shed some light on the previously obscure event of 9/11. “Our purpose is to understand and inform.” Back in the day, Hamilton was a Scoop Jackson Democrat. I bet he wouldn’t have minded shutting down Sadr’s newspaper like his party’s current standard bearer did.

9:05 AM

Condi’s opening statement begins. She’s reading an interminable list of terrorist atrocities dating back to 1983. “The terrorists were at war with us but we were not yet at war with them.” God, is there anything new to say about this subject? Is there any purpose to these hearings beyond a search for a scapegoat?

Condi’s composed and effective. She’s actually giving a very nice history lesson. I always have trouble with Condi regarding the toughness issue; is she tough enough for her job in today’s world? An answer to that question - that’s what I’m looking for today.

9:09 AM

She’s talking about her briefing with Sandy Berger. She has yet to use the term “pompous windbag.”

9:10 AM

One thing’s clear – the Bush administration internally had a lot of meetings with a lot of people. She’s subtly making it clear that it couldn’t all be about Dick Clarke and his concerns, although she’s yet to say anything negative about Clarke. Yet.

9:12 AM

Bush was tired of “swatting flies.” Where are the sensitivity police? Isn’t that imagery dehumanizing? If we view our foes as flies, do we not deny their basic humanity? Where’s the outrage? If I were still at Harvard, I’d think about erecting a shanty-town to protest!

9:14 AM

Condi: Within a month of taking office, Bush sent a strong private message to Musharaf urging him to take action to dismantle the Taliban. It didn’t work; the al Qaeda policy didn’t work because the Taliban policy didn’t work because the Pakistan policy didn’t work.

She’s laying this out clearly enough that Tom Brokaw will be able to follow it. Maybe.

Rice is tacitly saying that the Bush administration's stronger message which came post 9/11 and relied on military menace, was a lot more effective.

9:19 AM

Fox just flashed that Rice’s father was a Presbyterian minister. Good to know. It now just flashed that Rice was tutored by Madeline Albright’s father. Drop that nugget at your next dinner party, dazzle your guests with your erudition!

9:20 AM

She’s reading an actual terrorist related memo from Summer 2001. Richard Ben Veniste is frowning.

9:21 AM

The market is surging. Is it Condi or is it Yahoo? Probably Yahoo.

9:24 AM

About once every two minutes, Rice’s voice crackles. For those of you who think she should run for national office, you might want to bear that in mind.

9:26 AM

Whenever I see a hearing like this, I can’t help but think of the Congressional hearing scene in Godfather II. It’d be pretty cool if at some point Condi said, “Senator, ‘Godfather’ is a term of great honor and respect for my people.”

9:28 AM

Condi: “The governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia now pursue terrorists with energy and force.” Sure. Those energetic Saudis. Good thing they’re on our side.

9:34 AM

Rice is much better at answering questions than giving speeches.

9:36 AM

Kean: Where in the early days after 9/11 did the U.S. place Iraq? Good question; this is the heart of the matter. Should we have continued to use law enforcement to deal with terrorists only after they had accomplished their mission or should we have rolled up the global network? This is the big chance for Condi to lay it out. She isn’t though. She’s saying that right after 9/11 it was all about Afghanistan and protecting the homeland. I don’t know why the administration won’t make this argument. Admittedly we’re not all brilliant like Sandy Berger, but we can follow it.

9:40 AM

Hamilton steps up to the plate. Compliments Condi for her opening statement. He wants to know if we were showing a proper sense of urgency vis a vis terrorism prior to 9/11. He’s also hammering the Clinton administration. He’s even citing the now famous quote form the Bush in the Woodward book about how he (Bush) lacked the adequate sense of urgency prior to 9/11.

9:43 AM

Condi’s response: Finally, she’s putting the Woodward quote in context. No one in the media’s done that to date. I don’t want to sound gushy here, but gosh, she’s effective. This is what the Democrats wanted?

9:47 AM

Condi is very nicely underscoring the fact that the Clinton policies regarding that part of the world were completely ineffective and that of course it was going to take a little time to determine and implement effective policies. She’s also being incredibly gracious to Dick Clarke, saying how they implemented several of his allegedly brilliant ideas.

9:52 AM

She’s talking about the fight to reform the Middle East as a generational challenge. She’s saying that there are beach-heads of progress like Jordan and Bahrain so we have something to build on. “We do better when we’re values centered.” She’s also touting the need for educational reform in that part of the world. No madras left behind? Hamilton nods sagely and compassionately.

9:55 AM

Ben-Veniste now. I’m not a big Ben-Veniste fan. During the Clinton administration, he stood out as a particularly venomous partisan hack. He’s trying to bully her in a prosecutorial fashion. He wants to know if she told the President prior to 8/6/2001 that there were Al Qaeda cells in the U.S.

9:58 AM

Condi points out the obvious. The issue wasn’t that there were such cells in the U.S. The issue is what we could have or should have done about their presence.

10:00 AM

Ben-Veniste’s conduct is appalling; he’s conducting himself like a prosecutor, demanding yes or no answers. Rice wisely refuses to comply. Who was the Republican schmuck that allowed this clown on the commission? Ben-Veniste says, “There was a pattern of suspicious activity suggesting hijackings might occur.” Maybe Ben-Veniste is saying we should have used racial profiling to screen passengers at our airports. Probably not.

10:07 AM

Ben-Veniste’s time is almost up. If I can just endure one more of his question/speech/rant hybrids, I’ll have made it through this ordeal. Anyone neutral watching today’s hearings will be appalled by Ben-Veniste’s conduct. Why doesn’t he just say, “It was all your fault. UBL was an accessory, but it’s like you flew those planes into those buildings yourself,” and cut through the BS. That would show where his black heart lies.

10:10 AM

Fred Fielding’s (who?) turn. Shouldn’t you have to have at least a modicum of fame to appear on one of these commissions?

10:15 AM

Rice is talking about the Clinton administration like it was a disorganized mess run by a bunch of juvenile partisans. Who will buy such an outlandish claim?

10:18 AM

Condi: “You get few chances to make institutional transformative change.” So true – 9/11 provided us with the opportunity to change things before a truly epic disaster occurs. Amazingly, before 9/11, certain government agencies weren’t allowed to share information. Shouldn’t all the government agencies theoretically be on the same side? Does anyone other than a dues paying member of the ACLU think the non-information sharing policies made any sense?

10:20 AM

The intimation from the commission is that the “chatter” and the “traffic” from the summer of 2001 should have caused the government to put the country in lockdown. Maybe it should have, but that course of action wasn’t an option. You can’t change the way a society functions unless the members of that society want it and will allow it. Our society wouldn’t even allow racial profiling at the airports. Even today, there’s a significant portion of our society that thinks if the government knows what books you borrow from the library, then “1984” will have arrived.

It’s the hypocrisy of guys like Ben-Veniste that drives me nuts. He acts like we should have done more, but he and his fellow travelers don’t have the will to do much of anything. All they’re good for is Monday morning quarterbacking.

When’s Kerrey get his turn? Kerrey and Lehman – they’re the ones worth staying tuned for.

10:26 AM

Condi’s making the obvious point that we broke up the Millennium plot because we were lucky. Hardly a prescription for future successes. Yet some of the Democracts act like that success should create the paradigm for any further fight against terrorism. So typically intellectually lazy. Take one isolated incident and act like it’s dispositive.

10:28 AM

Oyyy. Gorelick’s turn. I better go take my Prilosec.

10:30 AM

Gorelick: “I ask you this question as a student of government myself.” Such modesty, such class.

10:34 AM

Go Condi!. “We were there for 233 days…we did not begin structural reform of the FBI.” But she also intimates, what about the Clinton administration? They didn’t do squat.

Gorelick, like Ben-Veniste, is also grandstanding for the increasingly annoying 9/11 families. In regards to shaking up the agencies in a timely manner prior to 9/11, Rice says, “Sometimes until there is a catastrophic event that forces people to think differently…you don’t get that kind of change.” Such an obvious statement of a fact of life – why can some people just not get it? Of course, they do get it. But that fact of life shouldn’t stand in the way of a tacky attempt to score partisan political points.

10:40 AM

I’ll say this for Gorelick – she’s coming across much better than Ben-Veniste. It’s like the Rodney Dangerfield movie “Back to School.” In order to come across as thin, the overweight Rodney tried to surround himself with really fat people. Coming on the heels of Ben-Veniste, Gorelick comes across as incisive and likable. I bet the other commissioners fight for the honor to come after Ben-Veniste.

10:52 AM

Slade Gordon is really boring. He’s asking about the balance between the three ways of preventing terrorism – the hardening of targets, prevention (not sure how that’s different from hardening of targets), and pre-emption. But he’s left out the most important one – deterrence. Why do people not realize that terrorists can be deterred? Terrorists act like they want to be impoverished martyrs, but Arafat, for example, has salted away over a billion dollars. They have goals and they want to achieve those goals; getting killed isn’t one of them. How is Hamas’ promised retribution for the Yassin killing coming anyway?

10:56 AM

Kerrey’s turn – finally! He starts by patronizing Condi, telling her how inspiring he finds her life story. Ech! He’s prophylactically apologizing for being an asshole in his forthcoming examination. Kerrey declares war against “radical Islam!” He just shouted at the annoying 9/11 families for applauding (over a critique of our methods in Iraq) and cut them off! Such a cutting off was way overdue.

10:59 AM

Kerrey takes exception with the terminology of “swatting at flies.” I was just kidding! Unlike me, Kerrey’s not upset about the dehumanizing terminology though. Kerrey’s upset that we didn’t swat enough flies. Can’t argue with that. “Why didn’t we swat (the Cole) fly?”

11:04 AM

It’s getting a little contentious. Kerrey continues with his righteous indignation thing. I wonder how much of it is genuine and how much is feigned. He keeps calling Condi “Dr. Clarke.”

11:07 AM

Condi tells us there were no silver bullets for systemic problems. Too bad. Kerrey’s furious that the FBI and the CIA don’t talk. Isn’t that something that the much vilified Patriot Act fixed? He’s called Condi "Dr. Clarke" at least 3 times.

11:09 AM

Rice just called Kerrey on repeatedly calling her “Dr. Clarke.” “I know I look like Dick Clarke.” Even the annoying 9/11 families got a hoot out of that one.

11:11 AM

Lehman’s turn. Kerrey’s ten minutes were great – a really spirited give and take between two powerful figures.

11:17 AM

Lehman’s running through a list of government screw-ups that helped allow 9/11. Boy, there’s lots of blame to go around. Did you know that many municipalities had a “sanctuary” program whereby they refused to co-operate with the INS in terms of dealing with illegals, including illegal Arab nationals? It was just a few teeny cities like New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Washington, etc.

11:19 AM

According to Lehman, to this day, the FAA fines an airline if they question more than 2 Arab nationals or descendants for an individual flight. Wow! Are we idiots or what?

11:26 AM

Condi: “The country, like democracies do, waited and waited and waited.” Go back through history – try to find an exception to that statement. Have we learned our lesson? As we approach an era of more widely available weapons of mass destruction, that that can no longer be the S.O.P.

11:29 AM

Roemer’s turn. He’s suggesting that there were screw-ups and thus, shouldn’t have someone been fired? Aaah, the heart of the Commission’s quest – give us an Admiral Kimmell and we’ll call it a day.

11:33 AM

Roemer’s big point – we should have had more meetings!!! Roemer misses the point – the facts were there, they were just poorly analyzed. There was that one FBI agent in MN who got it – no one else in government did.

11:36 AM

It’s obvious that the Democrats began the day with the hope that Condi would be their Admiral Kimmell. Ain’t gonna happen. Condi’s coming across as very capable and a lot more on top of things than any of her adversarial interlocutors.

11:37 AM

Roemer’s asking his question having doffed his suit-jacket. What does he think this is, a barbecue? He’s the only commissioner who’s made such a sartorially casual statement. Maybe he’s trying to tap into the Howard Dean thing; if so, he should go all the way and roll up the sleeves.

11:42 AM
Governor Thomspon is the final questioner. After the adversarial fireworks produced by Kerrey and Roemer, his line of questioning is pretty dull.

11:49 AM

Thompson queries: “The Cole – why didn’t the Bush administration respond to the Cole?” One good reason would be that it happened under the Clinton administration. Admittedly, Bush could have sent in a few Texas Rangers.

11:52 AM

Thompson’s teasing us, saying that he’s about to mention the one word that hasn’t been mentioned today. The suspense is killing me. It’s “Congress!” I was hoping it was “strategery.”

11:57 AM

Condi: “The real lesson of 9/11 is that the country was not properly structured to deal with the threats.” Are we today? We’re better structured but are we adequately structured? Who can make us better structured, Bush or Kerry?

These are the issues to ponder as we go forward.

11:58 AM

Hearing adjourned.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


We’ll start with three quotes today that reveal three different approaches to the war. One speaker is wise, another foolish, and the last one weak.

1) From the ever insightful Victor Davis Hanson:

“Is Mr. Assad or Hussein, the Saudi Royal Family, or a Khadafy really an aberration—all rogues who hijacked Arab countries—or are they the logical expression of a tribal patriarchal society whose frequent tolerance of barbarism is in fact reflected in its leadership? Are the citizens of Fallujah the victims of Saddam, or did folk like this find their natural identity expressed in Saddam?”

2) From the always obtuse Maureen Dowd:

“And how can we rescue Iraq from chaos? Now we're told the military is preparing an ‘overwhelming’ retaliation to the carnage in Fallujah. You can hear the clammy blast from the past: We're going to destroy that village to save it.

3) And from the always confused John Kerry in an interview with NPR regarding the closing of psycho cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s newspaper:

"They (the U.S.) shut a newspaper that belongs to a legitimate voice in Iraq. Well, let me ... change the term 'legitimate.' It belongs to a voice — because he has clearly taken on a far more radical tone in recent days and aligned himself with both Hamas and Hezbollah, which is a sort of terrorist alignment."

Asked if he favored Sadr’s arrest, Kerry continued:

"Not if it’s an isolated act without the other kinds of steps necessary to change the dynamics on the ground in Iraq. If all we do is make war against the Iraqi people and continue an American occupation, fundamentally, without a clarity as to who and how sovereignty is being turned over, we have a very serious problem for the long run here, and I think this administration is just walking dead center down into that trap."

The quote from VDH gives us some valuable perspective. We’re dealing with a part of the world where depravity is routine. Sorry, but it’s true. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t good people in the Middle East, but we have to be cognizant of the fact that there are a whole lot of bad ones. And those bad ones will have to be defeated.

Regarding the Dowd quote – just what we need, another baby-boomer pundit obsessed with Vietnam and its nomenclature. “Hearts and minds,” “Body bags,” “Destroy the village to save it,” – enough already. You’d think by now that the intellectual framework that under girded the American effort in Vietnam would be thoroughly discredited. Vietnam wasn’t exactly our military’s or our government’s finest hour. Yet every time America is in a conflict, the Vietnam paradigms dominate the national conversation.

The obsession with body bags is a perfect example. The Washington Post had a headline this morning that screamed:

“US. Forces Take Heavy Losses As Violence Spreads Across Iraq
About a Dozen Marines Killed; Foreigners, Scores of Iraqis Die”

Now, I’m sorry but a "dozen Marines" does not constitute a heavy loss. I know, I know – every soldier’s death is tragic and each one who falls should be honored. But this is war – there will be deaths. 12 deaths simply cannot be thought of as “heavy losses.” We lost 50,000 in the fighting on Okinawa and 3,000 in the fighting in downtown New York; those were heavy losses. We’re at war, and this is a hard thing to say, but we simply cannot afford to burden ourselves with such sentiment at this time.

Another part of the discredited Vietnam intellectual framework is the “hearts and minds” approach. War isn’t about winning the hearts and minds of your opponents. If it were, there actually might be a role for Joe Nye and the other intellectual fossils haunting the halls of the Kennedy School. Unfortunately, war is an uglier thing and requires not persuasion but violence. You’ve got to inflict punishment on the other side. And the other side will stop fighting when it becomes in its interest to do so. The Nazis didn’t suddenly see the errors of their ways in 1945. No – they just got tired of getting killed. Similarly, the Japanese didn’t just see the light and apologize for Pearl Harbor and the Rape of Nanking because they had been intellectually enlightened. They stopped fighting because they figured if they didn’t all their urban centers would soon be incinerated.

As always, the ever fatuous Dowd completely misses the point with her witless jibe about destroying Fallujah to save it. If we destroy Fallujah, it won’t be to save it. We’ll destroy it to destroy it, just like we destroyed Dresden and Hiroshima to destroy them. And hopefully the destruction of Fallujah, if it comes to that, will have a similarly enlightening effect on those inclined to murderous mischief in Iraq as the World War II era destructions had on similarly inclined Germans and Japanese.

Hanson’s point is that we have to get serious about the challenges that we face. Hard tonic might be required to make that region no longer dangerous. The question is, will we have the will to do what’s necessary? The fact is, we’re fighting the clock. Someday, unless the U.S. continues to intervene in a muscular fashion, some of the people in that region are going to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. And those weapons will be deployed against the United States. If there were 10 nuclear weapons in the hands of islamo-fascists, how many would be detonated on American soil?

It’s a question that we all hate to contemplate, but we simply must deal with this disquieting possibility. That’s what makes the candidacy of John Kerry so utterly disheartening. My God, the guy can’t bring himself to take a firm stand on a psychotic cleric who vows death to all Americans. Sadr's an avowed enemy of ours, and Kerry can’t address the topic without lapsing into his all too predictable tones of mealy mouthed Beltway speak.

If we’re going to win this war, we’re going to have to behave in a hard headed manner. It’s one thing to say that the dirty bomber, Carlos Padilla, deserves his Constitutional rights because he’s a U.S. citizen and his attempted crime occurred in the U.S. I think that’s a foolish point of view, but I can see how intelligent people of good will can differ on the subject. But Iraq doesn’t have a Constitution or a Bill of Rights and even if it got those things tomorrow, it would still be perilously close to a Hobbesian state of nature. Adopting policies as if Iraq is a constitutional democracy is naïve at best, and more likely just unconscionably stupid.

And yet much of America refuses to understand the urgency and the uniqueness of the situation. Much of the Democratic Party just reflexively opposes anything the Bush administration does, up to the point where the party’s putative standard bearer instinctively sides with the psycho cleric instead of his own country.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Holman Jenkins tells a revealing anecdote regarding the procurement problems we’re having in Iraq. Thanks to the anti-Halliburton grandstanding of much of the Democratic Party, virtually every contract related to the famous $87 billion package is now submitted to a remarkably unwieldy competitive bidding process. One $300 million package went to a U.S. company that had a “relationship” with Ahmed Chalabi; their company’s bid was almost 40% less than the next lowest bidders (although their competitors claimed that the oufit’s qualifications were suspect). This entire process enraged the Polish and Spanish companies that had bid on the package. Early in the process, Spain and Poland had been given a wink and a nudge by the U.S. State Department implying that their bids would be dealt with favorably because of their active roles in the coalition. So when Spain and Poland protested, the contract was withdrawn from the Chalabi related concern and it’s currently being re-bid. Of course, none of the materials in the bid have made it to our troops or the Iraqis.

We can’t fight this war this way. We can’t treat each contract as if we’re a leafy municipality that’s building a swimming pool. We have a job to do; we’ve just got to get it done. Sometimes we’ll have to do things in what might be an ugly manner. So be it – we simply cannot afford to fail.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight