Friday, July 30, 2004


It’s no secret to readers of this site that I’m not particularly fond of the Democratic nominee.  So in reviewing last night's speech , my challenge is to figure out how the speech played objectively because as far as subjective impressions go, it’s pretty unlikely I’m going to start feeling good about my junior Senator after two decades of building antipathy towards the man.

So, objectively speaking, I think last night was a bad night for the Democrats.  While it was short of a disaster, I don’t think the liberal poobahs can be very satisfied this morning.  There’s no nice way to say this:  Kerry comes across as a giant dork.  He’s pedantic, and his big grin makes Edwards’ implausibly wide smile look sincere. 

Admittedly even the most gifted communicator would look like an idiot mouthing some of the lines in that speech.  “My mother taught me to see trees as the cathedrals of nature?”  “I was born in the West Wing?”  Uggh!

The bigger problem with the speech, though, was its substance.  Kerry and his party have spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on his service in Vietnam.  But he was only there for 4 ½ months.  And it was 35 years ago.  Zeroing in on such a remote event highlights the paltry accomplishments (by aspiring President standards) of the rest of his adult life. 

Frankly, it’s all a little pathetic, this Vietnam fixation.  And cynical, too.  One of the recurring themes of this site is identifying the condescension liberals have to their fellow Americans.  The left thinks the country is full of stooges.  So it’s natural that they would conclude that America will buy the notion that this career politician is first and foremost a “soldier.”  Because of 4 ½ months; 4 ½ goddamn months.

This isn’t John McCain we’re talking about whose character was forged by years of unimaginable suffering in a Vietnamese POW camp.  And it’s not Wesley Clarke, who actually should be called a “soldier” since he did spend virtually his entire life as one.

And it’s not even Bob Dole who spent a similar amount of time in the combat theatre as Kerry but who spent three years following the war fighting for his life and who physically was never the same (and one can’t help but recall the glee with which left wing “comedians” like Dan Ackroyd mocked Dole’s crippling war inflicted injuries). 

Kerry’s war experience is perhaps most akin to Bush 41’s.  Both were children of privilege who willingly undertook dangerous duties, served for a short while, and had both fans and detractors amongst their brothers in arms.  And while Bush mentioned his military service (mostly to debunk the notion that he was a wimp), it wasn’t a theme of any of his presidential campaigns, let alone the theme.

If you added up all the time Clarke, McCain, Dole and Bush 41 spent talking about their years in service, I don’t think the sum would approach Kerry’s verbosity on the topic.  Once again, it’s just a little pathetic.  The other guys had something to say about current events as opposed to ancient ones; Kerry just wants to be president and he apparently views his military service, short as it was, to be his most sellable asset.

The other big problem, and mark my words this will come back to haunt him, was the single line, “Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response.”  You can hear the conversation amongst the Iranian mullahs:  “Ahmed, shut down the reactor; President Kerry says if we do anything there will be a ‘swift and certain response.’”   But put aside the wimpy language – when you write by committee you get pabulum like that. 

The bigger issue is the suggestion that pre-emption is out.  The overwhelming majority of the American public, insofar as nut-job countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea are concerned, finds the idea of sitting back waiting to be hit completely unacceptable.  Kerry’s formulation suggests a reactive rather than pro-active stance to protect Americans.  As they’re no doubt saying in the National Review this morning, that’s so 9/10. 

But it’s a fitting position for a cautious risk-averse guy like Kerry.  This is a man who has spent the last 40 years cultivating political viability.  We’re apparently supposed to look at his Vietnam service and infer that this is a man with limitless supplies of guts and courage.  If so, where have those attributes been the last three decades?

And where have they been throughout this race for the Whitehouse?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, July 29, 2004


Imagine you’re John Kerry.  You’ve spent your whole life to get to tonight.  At long last you’re one of the finalists for the job you’ve coveted since you were a teenager.  This evening the networks will be covering your every utterance (and a few people might even be watching).  It’s your chance to explain to people what you’re all about, why you’ve always wanted to be President, and why you should be President.  And you’ve got nothing to say.

The fact is John Kerry has sought the Presidency all his life because he’s wanted to be President.  There’s no agenda, just ambition.  He arrives as his party’s nominee with no discernible convictions, or at least none that aren’t terminally malleable.  Hard-wired in John Kerry’s genetic code is a limitless and insatiable ambition.  His thirst for achievement cannot be slaked; it’s not like if he wins the election he’ll magically morph into a normal human being having at long last realized his dreams.

As I write an ancient controversy is resurfacing, one that’s old news to Massachusetts voters but will probably startle those of you who are west of Cambridge.  When John Kerry went to Vietnam, he carried a movie camera with him.  After his swift boat was involved in battles, Kerry would have a shipmate film him re-enacting the battle as if it were really occurring.  This controversy has resurfaced this afternoon because reportedly some of that footage is embedded in the Stephen Spielberg directed video tribute that will air tonight prior to the Senator’s address.

When reports of this controversy resurfaced this afternoon, I literally felt a sense of nausea that this man has a real shot at the presidency.  His ambition knows no limits or boundaries.

Viewing Kerry’s undeniably admirable service in Vietnam in the context of his entire life, I think the following conclusion is inescapable:  He went to Vietnam to gain on his political goals, and once he figured he had gained enough he went home.  He got a couple of medals, filmed a couple of “battle scenes” and got out of Dodge. 

Why else would he have gone?  Did he believe in the cause?  If you believe his writings before the war or his commentary after the war, definitely not.  Did he feel a sense of obligation to the less fortunate Americans who went?  If so, why did he come home after only four months in country?  If he really felt responsible for his swift boat mates, why did he leave so soon?  More pointedly, how could he have left soon if he felt such pangs of obligation?

John Kerry went to Vietnam, movie camera in tow, for the same reason he became a prosecutor and later a Senator – so that he might someday become president.  For him, that’s all everything has ever been about.  Now with only one more obstacle left to overcome, Senator Kerry still can’t articulate why he’s always wanted this job and what he’ll do with it once he gets it.

I don’t begrudge the man his ambitions.  Let’s face it - those with modest aspirations don’t seek the Presidency.  But at this point in history, perhaps more than ever, we need a leader who stands for something beyond his own selfish interests.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


It was raining in Baltimore (postponing the Sox game) and I had finished the book I was reading earlier in the day while on the treadmill so the evening had low prospects indeed.  Because I live in an urban area where there is no grass to watch grow, I put on the Democratic National Convention. 

Actually, for the first hour, I shuttled back and forth between Fox’s coverage and CSPAN;  I certainly didn’t want to miss any of Ben Affleck’s political insights which he was finally sharing with a grateful nation on the “O’Reilly Factor.” 

Because I watched most of the DNC last night, I’m able to offer the following rundown of the “action.” Don’t get spoiled, though, and think I’m going to serve you in a similar manner for the rest of the week.  I’m seriously considering getting a life between now and tonight’s coverage.

1)      Ted Kennedy started the prime time festivities.  I think my feelings about my senior Senator are pretty clear and I really don’t want to beat the proverbial dead liberal warhorse.  I’ll just make the following mini-point.

One of Ted’s policy lamentations during the speech was the following:  “We should have strengthened, not scorned, the alliances that won two world wars and the Cold War."  Wow, is that a revelation or what?  The allies he’s presumably referring to are France and Germany.  Leaving the French aside for the moment, the Germans helped us win two world wars?  Who knew?  I’m not a Harvard history professor like Niall Ferguson’s about to be, but I always thought the Germans were on the other side.    

Okay, okay, let’s give Ted the benefit of the doubt and assume that he meant France and Russia.  But wait – wasn’t Russia on the other side during the Cold War?  And, to finally bring France into the equation - at the risk of nitpicking, France really wasn’t a very effective part of the alliance in WWII.  They had to be liberated because they surrendered in less time than it takes for a fine bleu cheese to ripen (or do whatever it is that smelly cheeses do).

The whole thing makes no sense.  If I didn’t know better, I’d suggest Ted had been drinking.

2)      Barak Obama – Truly a star in the making.  Great speech, beautifully delivered and skillfully composed.  When do you think he’ll be on the Democratic ticket?  My answer:  As soon as possible.

3)      Teresa Heinz Kerry – Her speech was awful, narcissistic and worse still boring.  Whoever monkeyed with Al Gore’s teleprompter was at it again, but this time instead of speeding it up he slowed it down. 

More importantly, the substance was terrible.  She made a special point of praising the Peace Corps.  The Peace Corps!  For chrissakes, we’re at war and some troops are making the ultimate sacrifice and she’s talking about the freakin’ Peace Corps?  Pssst, Teresa – it’s not 1966 anymore. 

Additionally, she hardly spoke about her husband at all except in the vaguest terms imaginable.  The purported reason for her holding the floor at such length was to give us some personal insight into the preternaturally aloof candidate, not to provide us with a primer on African politics circa 1960.  Not that the subject isn’t fascinating, of course.

I should say I have no problem with her having such a prominent role.  Everyone on TV said it was unprecedented for a candidate’s wife to be so prominently featured but people have short memories.  Does no one else remember Liddy Dole prowling the stage like a possessed Southern Belle determined to convince us that Bob Dole was as cuddly a majority leader as the Senate had ever seen?

Teresa speaking made sense because she is an issue in this campaign, but not for the reasons all the pundits put forth.  She’s an issue because she was a very rich woman when John Kerry married her, not to mention a Senate colleague’s widow.  People being what they are, certain cynical types might wonder if a supremely eligible bachelor like John Kerry married her for reasons other than over-powering love.  Teresa has provided such cynical types with ample fodder by repeatedly behaving in an off-putting manner.  Besides, a lot of cynical types imagine eligible bachelor Senator types going for the gorgeous leggy type.  

Senator Kerry lives a rich lifestyle, apparently enjoys that lifestyle, and pursues it in a pretty ostentatious way.  George W. Bush is rich also, and for all we know he loves creature comforts as much as the next rich guy.  But you never see him shuttling off to Nantucket or Sun Valley nor does he participate in rich guy pastimes like wind-surfing, snowboarding, or riding $5000 bikes.  At least not in public.  He apparently prefers sawing down trees outside his crappy little house in Crawford.

Kerry likes his rich guy pursuits and I don’t begrudge him that.  Nor do I get agitated over the possibility that he married Teresa for money.  Frankly, I wasn't a huge fan before he married Teresa anyway.  Moreover, if Mrs. Soxblog had come with a billion dollar dowry you would have heard no complaints from me.

But let’s face it – if America concludes that he married his second consecutive millionairess  wife just for the money, that ain’t gonna help the Senator’s chances. 

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Correspondent Litz writes in with a timely contemporary history lesson.  This is a new and improved version of the previous entry.  Definitely worth a second look:

A Sequence Of Facts Establishing The Motive For The Iraq War:

1. Since the creation of Israel in the 1940’s, most Arab States, including Iraq, have vowed to destroy Israel.

2. In the early 1980’s, with the aid of European companies, Iraq started to build a nuclear reactor that was obviously designed to manufacture atom-bomb grade radioactive materials.  Iraq was obviously trying to develop nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s).

3. In the 1980’s Israel bombed and destroyed the nuclear reactor. 

4. In the 1980’s then President Reagan directed an unpublicized physical support for the revolution against the Soviet Union’s backed regime in Afghanistan.  The revolution victory resulted in a government headed by the Talaban.  The victory also was a significant factor in the breaking up of the Soviet Union.  However the Talaban radical Islamic terrorists’ tendencies grew after their Afghanistan victory.  They eventually provided training facilities for the Al Qaeda.

5. Iraq and Iran both had strong armies.  A war broke out for dominance of the Middle East.

6. During the Iraq/Iran war, Iraq used chemical weapons, WMD’s. This war ended in a draw.  Iran remained a significant threat to the Middle East.

7. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.  This put Iraq in position to invade Saudi Arabian oil fields, and if successful, to control about one half of the world’s known recoverable oil reserves.

8. With the agreement of the United Nations, then President Bush put together a coalition of over forty countries, including almost all of the Arab states, to forcefully remove Iraq from Kuwait.  Saudi Arabia, the most threatened, and most involved and cooperative country in the coalition, put a requirement on the coalition that Iraq not be totally destroyed because that would give Iran a free hand to take over the entire Middle East.

9. The 1991 Gulf War resulted.  The coalition’s victory forced Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, to agree to many United Nation conditions allowing him to retain his dictatorial rule in Iraq, as the Saudi’s required.  Iraq’s ability to sell oil only to buy food and medicines for its citizens was one of the agreements.

10. Shortly thereafter, Iraq again used chemical weapons, (WMD’s) on its own citizens in northern Iraq when they tried to gain their freedom.

11. The United Nations supplied inspectors to confirm Iraq’s compliance with its agreements.  The United States Air Force routinely patrolled both northern and southern sections of Iraq to confirm Iraq’s compliance with its agreements.  Iraq routinely violated its agreements with the United Nations, including repeated firings on U. S, aircraft.

12. During the 1990’s, Radical Islamic terrorists attacked many U. S. facilities, both inside and outside the U. S., killing many Americans and others. The Radical Islamic terrorists openly declared war on the U. S.

13. The intelligence communities of all free-world countries agreed that if Iraq developed WMD’s there was a possibility, with an associated probability, that these would make their way into Radical Islamic terrorists’ hands and be used on the U. S.  This was stated on many occasions by then President Clinton.

14. Iraq expelled the U. N. inspectors.  Why?  Because they had bad breath, or because they were developing and/or already possessed WMD’s?

15. One of the facilities known to exist in Iraq was the body of a modern civilian aircraft that could only be used for Radical Islamic terrorists practicing the highjacking of an airliner.  Other training facilities were suspected.

16. Then President Clinton had four opportunities to “take-out” the know Radical Islamic terrorists’ most significant organizer, Al Qaeda, yet then President Clinton did not act on any of these opportunities.

17. Ex-President Clinton has recently said that in the presidential transition briefings, he told President Bush that terrorism and Iraq were the U. S.’s primary security risks, although no documentation of that exists.

18. On September 11, 2001, Radical Islamic terrorists flew two highjacked airliners into the Twin Towers in New York City, another into the Pentagon, and a fourth into the Pennsylvania ground.

19. The United States declared war on terrorism.  President Bush repeatedly stated that this was a different kind of war, not one against an established state, but against the Radical Islamic terrorists who were spread out all over the world.  It would be a long war and take various forms.  President Bush repeatedly said that states that condone, aid, or harbor Radical Islamic terrorists would be considered enemies and were subject to attack.  Congress overwhelmingly gave President Bush the power to use force wherever necessary to enforce these statements.

20. The United States established a coalition of over 20 nations to execute this war.  It attacked the Radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and successfully disrupted Radical Islamic terrorists’ ability to train and organize.  This was necessary prior to any other action, to cut off support against those other actions.

21. The U. S. spent over one year trying to get the U. N. Security Council to enforce the resolutions being ignored by Iraq.  France, Germany and Russia opposed these efforts. 

22. It was an absolute that Iraq had used WMD’s before.  Iraq had expelled U. N. inspectors.  These two facts alone concerned aware U. S. citizens of our future security.  All free world intelligence agencies agreed that Iraq continued to be a significant security risk.

23. Congress overwhelmingly and specifically authorized the invasion of Iraq without the U. N.’s backing.  Although The Constitution does not specify in what form a Declaration Of War must be made, it is generally thought that Congress’s authorization was not a declaration of war.  When President Bush announced the decision to invade Iraq, he specifically stated that Iraq was not an immanent threat, but the preemptive strike was to keep Iraq from becoming an immanent threat.

24. The Iraq war began, and organized resistance of the Iraq government was rapidly defeated.  Few WMD’s have been found.  Post Invasion:

25. Of the vast amount information captured, one important piece was the documentation that high government officials, and/or their relatives, of The United Nations, France, Germany and Russia were receiving millions of dollars of kickbacks and payoffs from Iraq, using the Iraq oil money supposed to be used for medicine and food.

26. Several thousand Radical Islamic terrorists continue to try to return Iraq to despotism.  At least those Radical Islamic terrorists are focused in Iraq and not yet in the United States.
Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


I wanted to wait until the dust settled before writing on Saturday's Red Sox/Yankees brawl.  My initial reaction was that Saturday represented a transforming experience for the disappointing 2004 Sox.  That's why I screamed so loud when Mueller homered in the 9th that Mrs. Soxblog complained I nearly shattered her eardrums.  Fear not - when she realized Mueller had won the game she was also delighted and quickly forgave me.

The two subsequent games make it appear as if the Sox have consolidated and built upon Saturday's progress.  The rest of the current twelve game road trip (which began in such promising fashion last night), will tell us whether Saturday was just an illusion or if the Sox are finally ready to perform as their talent dictates they should.

One of the interesting side notes of last year's post-season run was how the whole team shaved their heads in a hockey-like show of commitment and loyalty.  Well, not quite the whole team; it was the whole team except the four highest paid players.  Pedro, Manny and Nomar didn't go along.  (Neither did Johnny Damon, claiming he was too pretty to deface himself in such a manner - I'm going to give him a pass here because Mrs. Soxblog insists that he is indeed too damn pretty to shave his head.)  I thought at the time their non-participation was a pretty damning commentary on the Sox superstars.  Not only wouldn't they lead, they wouldn't follow either, and of course it's impractical for a team's superstars to get out of the way.

I wrote a few days ago condemning the lack of leadership from the Sox' superstars, claiming that part of the team's malaise was due to the superstars' attitudes.  I didn't make reference to the fact that I've long thought this season's first turning point came back at the end of April when, after the Sox enjoyed a torrid first month, Pedro decided it was time to break his media embargo in order to tediously piss and moan about his contract situation.  The good feelings surrounding the club immediately dissipated. The Sox followed Pedro's comments by immediately getting swept in Texas and playing sub.500 ball from that point forward.

Watching the brawl, I became perhaps overly excited because I thought it was a demand by the Sox' noble but less gifted players to claim their team's destiny.  Last September after Kevin Millar declared "Cowboy Up" and virtually the entire organization including Theo and Grady sported shorn locks, the team succeeded in spite of a malingering Manny, an utterly ineffective Nomar, and an aging and tiring Pedro.  Maybe we can again do it with limited involvement from the stars.

On Saturday, it was the estimable Varitek who led the charge, giving what the hockey world would call a face wash to a shockingly touchy (and foul-mouthed!) A-Rod.  When the benches cleared it was notable how Schilling was right in the middle of the fracas being his normally feisty belligerent self.  But the real stars of the proceedings, from my perspective, were Ortiz, Kapler and Nixon. 

The obviously brave but crazy Tanyon Sturtze decided to go one on one with the ludicrously muscle-bound Gabe Kapler, pulling Kapler backwards from the pile in a headlock.  As Kapler struggled to turn the tables, the monstrous Ortiz came over to lend a probably unnecessary hand.  As Kapler and Ortiz controlled Sturtze and began to administer an appropriate punishment, a furious Nixon sprinted in to make it 3 on 1 and began delivering upper cuts to the mid-section of the prone Sturtze.

Maybe such things should be condemned.  Or maybe it's the long repressed Bruin fan in me that made me enjoy the spectacle as I began happily flashing back to Bruins defenseman Mike Millbury hitting a  Madison Square Garden fan with the man's own shoe.  But I think it's more than that.

On Saturday the Sox rank and file, which happens to be composed of really fine ballplayers like Schilling and Varitek and Ortiz and Nixon, finally put an end to the dispassionate lethargy that has characterized the team these past few months.  They lashed out in anger, and they lashed out at the Yankees.  What could possibly be wrong with that?

My prediction - the sleeping giant has finally awoken.  We'll see these Yankees again in October for some games that really matter.  And we'll see 'Tek's face wash on A-Rod replayed about a million times after the leaves have changed.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


The following will be hard for those of you under 30 to believe.  When I was growing up, we only had about 7 TV channels to choose from, and one of those was PBS which back in the 70’s hardly counted.  Really – back then PBS was Siskel & Ebert, Sesame Street, and a non-stop parade of pledge drives and tedious British imports.  Even in greater Boston, one of the country’s largest metropolises, our viewing choices were limited to the 3 networks and 3 UHF stations whose reception was marginal.  I bet there are readers of this site who aren’t even aware of the VHF/UHF distinction.

During the quadrennial Convention weeks of my youth (1976 and 1980 specifically), all three networks dedicated their entire prime time schedules to gavel to gavel convention coverage.  Unless you had a limitless appetite for tedium, you hated it.  For a solid four days, there would be no “MASH,” no Barnaby Jones, even no Fonzie – just a seemingly endless procession of decrepit Goldwaters and earnest McGoverns trying to relive the glory of their previous electoral routs.

But here’s the part I really remember.  The UHF stations sensed an opportunity during the convention weeks knowing full well that the typical Joe couldn’t tolerate 4 minutes let alone 4 consecutive evenings of such boredom.  To entice viewers, the UHF stations invariably aired the strongest entries in their film libraries during convention week.  I specifically remember WSBK TV-38 calling it “Unconventional Movie Week” and for a solid four days their tiny broadcast tower emitted classics like “The Great Escape.”  Indirectly, I guess, the 1980 DNC is responsible for the 13 year old me crashing my bike trying to make like Steve McQueen.

Last night, I vowed that as a public service I would watch all the prime time coverage of the DNC, even if I had to turn to C-SPAN to do so.  It was about halfway through the interminable rendition of the National Anthem that I began to wonder, “Is ‘The Great Escape’ on?”  Al Gore spoke quickly (I swear, it was like someone from the Kerry campaign monkeyed with his teleprompter) which at least in theory promised to shorten the listeners’ suffering, but as my mind wandered I realized it’s no longer 1976.  I have over 100 channels to choose from, and that doesn’t even count my In-Demand options.

Before Gore was done, I put on the resurgent Sox.  Speaking of which…

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, July 26, 2004


Greetings from Boston where the highway’s jammed with boozy Senators on a last chance power drive.  That will change soon, though.  Most of the highways in and around Boston are due to be closed or re-routed due to the extreme security measures in place.  Unless you live around here, it’s probably impossible for you to understand what an inconvenience the Democratic National Convention promises to be for Beantown denizens. 

Before the week starts, I wanted to take the opportunity to put some predictions down for posterity:

1)      There will be no terrorist incident in Boston this week.  You wouldn’t believe how tight security is up here.  You couldn’t get the proverbial set of box-cutters within 4 blocks of the Fleet Center, let alone a dirty bomb.  The Wahabbis have yet to show the ability to hit anything other than a soft target.  Believe me – this week, anyway, Boston doesn’t qualify.

2)      There will be no bounce for the Kerry campaign.  None.  Zilch.  No one cares about the convention.  The only ones who will be watching are the hard core political junkies like me.  The junkies on both sides of the spectrum already have their minds made up.  Take my word for this – the tribute to Ted Kennedy will not change my mind on who to vote for.

3)      Speaking of which, the tribute to Ted Kennedy is a national embarrassment and a pathetic display of Boston parochialism.  Believe it or not, most people in Boston think Ted Kennedy is viewed throughout the nation as a respected elder statesmen. 

4)      If there’s any movement for the Kerry campaign as a result of this week, it will be downwards.  Since no one’s going to be watching , the only way the convention can have an effect is by making news somehow.  The only kind of news it can make, from the Democrats’ perspective, is bad news.  Things like a Ted K tribute, for instance, will make news but news that won’t play well in Peoria.  Similarly, something like a Michael Moore rant will make news but again the news will be bad.

5)      Speaking of which, the Democratic party has vowed to control its mad-dogs this week.  The anti-Bush vitriol, they say, will be kept to a bare minimum.  But they can’t help themselves.  The anti-Bush vitriol will be as virulent and vile as it has been this entire campaign season.  In 1992, the Houston Convention played a significant role in causing Bush 41’s defeat.  The same thing could happen in 2004, but this time to the Democrats.  The country sees through the obscenity of Kerry-Edwards pleading for positive campaigning while grinning as their surrogates bash Bush.  If it continues this week, at long last, they’ll be held accountable.

6)      Presumptive nominee Kerry’s speech will be hailed as masterful by a salivating mainstream media.  We will be told by Brokaw and Rather that we have seen a John Kerry that we have not seen before, that Kerry has done a brilliant job introducing himself to the American public.  Bill Schneider on CNN may well be so overcome he’ll be unable to speak.  Michael Beschloss will label Kerry’s oratory “Churchillian” while one of the many historians on the Kennedy’s permanent retainer (Kearns-Goodwin or a Schlessinger perhaps) will hail the passing of the torch.  FoxNews commentators will utter the only discordant note.  And yet, in an astonishing refutation of the media’s collective wisdom, Kerry will sink in the polls rather than rise.  While the media will be moved by Kerry’s allegedly soaring rhetoric, the public will continue to be cool to the aloof and off-putting Senator. 

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Saturday, July 24, 2004


Aaah, the Clinton years - what a wonderful time!  Our tech stocks were flying high and the world seemed peaceful since we didn’t realize that a slew of Wahabbi nut jobs were plotting to kill us all. 

To distract us from the ennui of peace and prosperity, the Clinton Administration constantly plied us with petty scandals to at least keep us somewhat intellectually engaged with our federal government.  For eight years, it was a non-stop parade of disappearing FBI files, dismissed travel office employees, pardoned felons, zaftig interns, perjuring Presidents, and skillfully investing first ladies.  From January 1993 literally right through the administration’s last days (thank you Marc and Denise Rich), the fun didn’t end.

Lately it’s seemed like old times.  You all doubtlessly know about Sandy Berger’s “klutziness” by now, and most of you have probably taken a crash course on classified documents and the required handling of same.  Suffice to say, it’s not looking good for the doughy former National Security Adviser.  But there’s been another scandal this week involving a Clinton cabinet member that’s received scant attention but is actually a whole lot more amusing than the Berger thing.

During her time in Washington, Clinton Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary was known as one of the more arrogant administration officials; no small feat there.  On a flight yesterday that was leaving Richmond, VA and headed for Savannah, GA, O’Leary did little to shake that reputation. 

After the passengers boarded the plane, the flight’s take-off was delayed.  As the plane idled for well over an hour on the tarmac awaiting clearance, the former Energy Secretary became anxious like most of us do.  Then she became pretty annoyed like some of us do. And then she became really pissed off like a few of us do.

But then she did something that pretty much none of us do.  As the Nashville Tennessean reports, “(A)ccounts said O'Leary, who happens to be on the board of the airline's parent company, was unruly and tried to storm the cockpit…Next came a rendezvous with investigators from the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”  And you thought you had to worry about Syrian musicians storming the cockpit.  The real threat all along has been 67 year old Hazel O’Leary.

To be fair, all O’Leary wanted was special treatment because she’s a board member of United Airlines and a former Cabinet Secretary.  It was just another pitcher of that old Clinton era brew- a demand for heightened privileges mixed with astonishingly juvenile conduct served with a splash of abuse of power.  

What good times they were – good times indeed.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Friday, July 23, 2004


Caroline Alexander, who wrote the wonderful "The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty,"  has an op-ed piece in the New York Times today extolling the virtues of archival documents.  She dramatically relays her tale of discovery at the British Admiralty Archives:

“It had come late in the day, but it was more than I had hoped for. Scanned from the original document held by the British Public Record Office, Admiralty File 29/5 contained the complete service record of a man whose life I had been researching for more than two years: William Purcell, carpenter, had concluded 25 years of naval service on Dec. 31, 1812. The last of the 16 ships on which he had served was the Boscawen; the first, on which he had mustered on Aug. 27, 1787, was the Bounty.

"The Admiralty archives are a superb resource, if notoriously difficult to navigate, and the holdings are uneven. Nonetheless, in the course of researching the history of the Bounty, I was continually astounded that so much material had survived from the 18th and early 19th century.”

Ms. Alexander goes on to say, “(Such) records are a cornerstone of a nation's archival history.”  Yes, the virtues of archival documents.  A most timely topic for the week, no?

But why does the Times deem the subject so topical this week of all weeks?  I refer you to Ms. Alexander’s thesis:  “When the Pentagon announced that critical pay records that could have shed light on a gap in President Bush's service record in 1972 and 1973 had been inadvertently destroyed several years ago, it struck me as particularly incredible.”

The President apparently should have stuffed his military records in his pants.  Then the Times would have taken no notice of the matter.


 Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, July 22, 2004


About five years ago, I was acquainted with Ken Baumgartner who at that time was a professional hockey player with the Boston Bruins.  We weren’t close friends or anything – golfed together a couple of times, had a couple of meals together as well as a handful of random encounters.  Although I didn’t know him well, I knew him well enough to know that he was a remarkably impressive guy.

When I met him, Ken was in his mid-30’s and in the process of concluding a long career in the NHL.  For over a decade, Ken was considered one of the least talented if not the least talented player in the league.  He managed to maintain a roster spot by being an “enforcer” (the guy on his team who does most of the fighting, for those of you with the good sense to not follow hockey) and an ideal teammate.

Ken stood out from most pro hockey players.  He was more intelligent, more mature, more focused on the future.  While his teammates would spend their off-seasons on jet-skis or on the golf course, Ken spent the first decade of his career attending Fordham during the summers and ultimately graduated with a 4.0 GPA.  By the time we met, Ken already had Harvard Business School in his sites (which was one of the reasons he came to Boston in the first place).  He has since graduated from HBS and the last I heard of him he was on his way to Goldman Sachs in Los Angeles.

As impressed as I was with Ken, I couldn’t resist asking him once if the Bruins brought him in to be a team leader.  He said that indeed that was one of the things the Bruins had in mind when they signed him, but the idea of him being a team leader was stupid.  On a sports team, the best players are the leaders.  Period.  Whether they’re good at it or bad at it, the job falls to them.  When a team struggles, the players don’t look at the guy sitting on the end of the bench for direction.  They look to the stars.  Ken knew he was literally the worst player on the team; while he could serve as a positive presence or perhaps even a mentor to some of the Bruins’ budding young stars, leadership would not be in his portfolio.


The Boston Red Sox are blessed with three almost surefire first ballot Hall of Famers: Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciapara.  The notion of Manny and Pedro as leaders is so ludicrous it hardly bears discussion.  They’re wonderfully gifted players and they contribute greatly to the team’s success (as it were) but leaders they ain’t.

Nomar’s a tougher case.  No one works harder, and he’s a true class act.  But Nomar, to employ a cheesy metaphor, is an island unto himself.   He’s not the rah-rah type.  He’s not the guy who’s going to call the team meeting or get in a jaking teammate’s face.   He does his own thing, and does it exceptionally well, but like his similarly gifted teammates a leader he ain’t.

And that’s why I think the Red Sox’ struggles, when they’ve had struggles both last year and this year, have been so protracted.  They lack the leadership that will step in and pro-actively get the team back on track.  Gabe Kapler challenged his teammates to do better after last night’s dispiriting loss but, really, who gives a shit what Gabe Kapler says?  As impressive an individual as he seems to be, he is the proverbial guy on the end of the bench.  Of course, Schilling and Varitek have been wonderful about showing leadership but frankly, it’s not their team (although hopefully it will be Schilling’s team next year). 

It’s the big three’s team, and from the big three, nothing.  I’m writing this during the lull between games 1 and 2 of a day night double header against the Orioles.  The Sox suffered dreadful defeat this afternoon to the woeful Orioles.  They looked as lifeless as they have all season.  They didn’t put up any kind of fight.  It’s the kind of moment, literally right now as I write, that you could use some leadership from your stars.  But don’t you just know it – Pedro’s goofing around with one of his 17 cousins in town for the Yankees series, Manny’s got his headphones on, and Nomar’s under the centerfield bleachers maniacally trying to work out a kink in his swing.  Meanwhile, their less gifted teammates hunger for something that they’re just not getting.

But take heart, Sox fans.  In the scheme of things, leadership and character are hardly the most important things.  The most important thing is of course talent and the Sox have talent in abundance – they have more than anyone in baseball with the possible exception of the Yankees.  The ship may still right itself. 

But it will have to right itself, because it doesn’t appear that there’s anyone on the scene to make it happen.


 Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


A quick word about Sandy Berger, beyond how nice it is to have Clinton era type sleaze back in the news.  Berger was reportedly at the Archives studying for his 9/11 Commission appearance.  The report in the Washington Post states (hat tip to the Instapundit):

“A government official with knowledge of the probe said Berger removed from archives files all five or six drafts of a critique of the government's response to the millennium terrorism threat, which he said was classified ‘codeword,’ the government's highest level of document security.”

I spent many years as a student and studied for many tests using many textbooks.  But I never stacked up five or six of the same textbooks.  What possible purpose could there have been for him requesting or pulling five or six of the same documents in the first place?  And why was he using all five or six so he thus inadvertently walked out with all five or six? 
I don’t know what he was up to, no one really does at this point.  It may have been completely benign.  But he’s either the most absent minded guy in the world and obviously therefore unworthy of a security clearance, or something was going on.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a review of Thomas Barnett’s brilliant “The Pentagon’s New Map.” As you might recall, PNM splits the world into two different parts. One is the Core which consists of all the countries that you might purchase a good from or take a vacation in. The other is the Gap which consists of countries that produce pretty much no goods for purchasing and that you wouldn’t visit unless you were a contestant on “Fear Factor.” PNM is all about the need, the urgent need, to integrate gap countries into the core and offers itself as something of a how-to manual for the task.

While it's highly unlikely that anyone at Al Qaeda has read PNM (although we're making progress, Kabul has yet to land a Borders), I do think that on some level Al Qaeda senses the Core/Gap dichotomy. And I think they’re aware that even though PNM has yet to officially or publicly become the government’s playbook, America is steadily and inexorably entering the Gap both with our military (Iraq, Afghanistan) and with our soft power (just about everywhere). For Al Qaeda, America’s shrinking of the Gap is a huge problem. Indeed, America’s growing prominence in the Gap threatens to move Al Qaeda’s goals completely out of reach.

To put it simply, Al Qaeda needs the Gap to remain the Gap. It’s not much of an overstatement to say that Wahabbism wants to take the Islamic world back to the 8th century and have the literal dictates of Islam be the law of the land. Obviously if the Arab world becomes economically and culturally westernized, that will be impossible. If a free market of ideas develops in that part of the world, the Fundamentalists don’t have a chance.

To be culturally balanced, Islam isn’t the only religion that has problems with some adherents that desperately want to turn back the clock. The experience of Israel is instructive in this regard. Since its birth, Israel has struggled with an Orthodox population that thinks strict adherence to all aspects of ancient Jewish law should be a defining characteristic of the Jewish state.

The Israeli Orthodox know that the modern western style world is inimical to the goal of practicing religion with 3rd Century B.C. style rigor. They understand that if free to choose, most people will opt for 21st century accoutrements over non-stop prayer and devotion. To take one example from the country’s early days, they knew that if driving on the Sabbath was permitted, eventually driving on the Sabbath would be common. They confronted one of the oldest problems known to man: How do you keep the boy on the farm after he’s seen Paris?

In spite of a half century of concessions to its Orthodox population, Israel today is and always has been a relatively normal Western style state. There’s been a free market of ideas and most Israelis follow an American type model. In other words, in spite of the occasional symbolic victories, the Israeli Orthodox have lost.

Perhaps ironically, the Wahabbis face a similar set of problems. Whether our government follows the dictates of PNM or not, America is coming into the Gap in a big way. Even if our military doesn’t set foot on Arab sand, Coca-Cola will and Microsoft will and a score of others will as well. I’m pretty sure that’s what the whole “soft power” concept is about. In spite of our government’s absence of any formal plan, America is helping develop a free market of ideas in that part of the world. What a disaster for the Wahabbis the internet promises to be! Keeping the boy on the farm after he’s seen Paris will be easy compared to keeping the potential Jihadi in the madras after he’s seen Paris Hilton.

That’s why Al Qaeda feels it has to destroy the United States. Even if our government cowers as a Kerry led government might, our culture will be unstoppable. If there’s a buck to be made in that part of the world, American companies will make the trip. And even if they don’t, how will Al Qaeda prevent Western culture from entering via the internet?

To do that, they’ll have to somehow stop the dissemination of American culture. That’s not going to happen if America is still standing. And that’s why, from Al Qaeda’s perspective, war is their only choice.

As long as we’re going to be free, there will be no negotiated peace with this foe. They sense us coming into the gap. Even if to date we’re not doing it by deliberate design, our advancement is accelerating. Freedom, as ever, is on the march. In a free market of ideas, Wahabbism doesn’t have a chance. This they know.

So here’s the struggle – we’re racing to fill the Gap, they’re racing to destroy us before we do.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, July 19, 2004


One of the reasons blogging was light the last few days is because Mrs. Soxblog and I went on a golf holiday for the weekend.
The course we were playing, Bald Peak Colony Club on Lake Winnepausakee in New Hamphshire, was a lovely one albeit a bit challenging given the weak state of my game.  Occasionally we caught up to the group in front of us and shared the tee with them for a few minutes while they waited to hit their drives.  They were an affable enough quartet and we chatted a few times during the round.
On the 16th tee, we caught up to them again.  While they waited, I overheard that they were discussing politics so naturally my antennae went up.  I thought one of them said that Bill Kristol was going to speak at the Republican convention.  I incredulously butted in saying, “Bill Kristol is speaking at the Republican convention?!”  One of them corrected me, “Not Bill Kristol, Bill Frist.”
Another member of the group, a nice guy wearing a Bandon Dunes shirt and boasting an impeccably coifed head of hair then volunteered that Bill Frist is wonderful guy.  He said so with such authority, I had to ask if the speaker knew him.  He responded that indeed he did, that Frist was a colleague of his.  I assumed the guy must be a doctor, so I facetiously stated, “So you must be a United States Senator, then.”  To which he responded by extending his hand and saying, “Senator Gordon Smith from Oregon, nice to meet you.”  He seemed like a nice guy, even chuckled at my lame joke about Michael Moore hiding in the bushes with a camera crew.  I was of course dutifully wearing my “W 2004” cap like I always do on the golf course, a fact that went lamentably unnoticed by the Republican Senator.
After playing an entire golf round within close proximity of Senator Smith, I can offer my hundreds of Oregon readers the following assurance:  He is most certainly not shirking his duties to you, his constituents, to work on his golf game.Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Sunday, July 18, 2004


“What’s The Matter With Kansas” by Thomas Frank

(This is the book the intellectual left is reading. Its back cover blurbs come from such luminaries as Molly Ivins, Barbara Ehrenreich, and that noted political philosopher Janeane Garofalo. I read it – now you don’t have to. If I had one of those obnoxious tip things on my blog, I frankly think you would be almost morally obliged to utilize it for saving you the trouble of plowing through this book.)

Thomas Frank will tell you that the Republican party represents the interests of the rich and the Democratic party represents the interests of everyone else. That sets up a riddle that Frank’s book is dedicated to answering: How are some non-rich people, indeed a lot of non-rich people, so stupid that they vote Republican? Frank, a native Kansan who left the state some 15 years ago, returned home to the Republican stronghold to find out how his fellow Kansans could be such idiots.

Frank’s answer to his question is as offensive as the query itself. He proposes that rural backward bumpkins are so aroused by social issues they will habitually vote contrary to their economic interests (not that they realize they're voting against their economic interests, of course, being morons and all) in order to express their views on social issues. But the rubes are being manipulated by the Republicans for conservative politicians have no interest in making any progress on the so-called social issues. Seriously. The conservative politician, in Frank’s opinion, wants to keep issues like abortion as issues in perpetuity because they’re such powerful vote-getters for them. And the idiot Kansans never suspect the ruse.

The unifying theme in Frank’s theses is that people, especially Kansan people, are really incredibly stupid. First, they can’t divine their own best interests. Second, they can’t see through the manipulations of politicians. And lastly, they allow themselves to be fooled in the same manner over and over again.

Are you incredulous that a putative champion of the little guy such as Frank would have such a dim opinion of the little guy’s cognitive abilities? Well, take it from Frank himself: “People don’t spontaneously understand their situation in the great sweep of things. They don’t just automatically know the courses of action that are open to them, the organization they might sign up with, or the measures they should be calling for…American conservatism depends for its continued dominance and even its continued existence on people never making certain mental connections about the world, connections that until recently were treated as obvious or self evident everywhere on the planet.”

Get it? People who vote Republican, the very rich excepted, can’t make mental connections that come easily to all the other inhabitants on the planet. On her blurb on the back cover, Barbara Ehrenreich praises Frank as “compassionate.” One shudders imagining her definition of heartless.
So who is this genius Thomas Frank who so easily diagnoses the mental limitations of others? You’d be wrong to think he’s an Ivy League twit – Frank couldn’t gain admission to an Ivy League University.

Frank grew up in one of Kansas’ wealthiest towns where, to hear him tell it, all the kids obsessed over how to get into one of the prestige Eastern Universities. As Frank heartbreakingly recalls, “I did not win a spot at some highly selective eastern college, as many of the other kids from Mission Hill did. I did not understand what caused me to be sifted one way and then the other.” For poor Frank, the admissions standards for eastern universities circa 1983 remain stubbornly inscrutable. He never does tell us what caused him to be sifted away from, say, Cornell, and sifted to Kansas University.

Alas, things went no better for the hapless Frank at KU. While his friends, in Frank's words, “were channeled” into frats and other organizations, he was not. Note his use of the passive “were channeled.” The forces that prevented Frank from joining a frat just cannot be identified. Surely the frats’ unwillingness to send out a welcome wagon for the teenage Frank had nothing to do with Frank himself, just as his baffling failure to be “sifted” into the Ivy league was also surely none of his fault. After his apparent rush week failures, Frank went on to be cold-shouldered by the college Republicans; if that ain’t the rock bottom of college social existence, I don’t know what is.

I really don’t want to psycho-analyze Frank, but for the life of me, he seems like one of those nerds who is forever nursing his resentment over not being one of the cool kids. I may be wrong about that, but his first book was titled “The Conquest of Cool.” Draw your own conclusions.

Unfairly enough, many nerds aren’t particularly intelligent. They’re always assumed to be intelligent because we like to think that people without social skills and without athletic skills and without any likelihood of having sex have at least something going for them. Tragically, there are members of the nerd herd of average or below average intellect. Some of them can’t even get into their college of choice, or get “sifted” away.

But somewhere along the way, Frank has decided that he is indeed smarter than most everyone else, Ivy League sifting be damned. And he can see things that most people can’t. Like their own self-interest.

Okay, okay, enough about the book’s principle theory and its more than a little pathetic author. What really got me exercised about this book was the utter absence of careful research and scholarship that went into its production. Frank says repeatedly that poor people vote "contrary to their financial interests" by supporting Republicans in "outsized numbers."  The “contrary to their financial interests” part isn’t provable but the “supporting Republicans in outsized numbers part” is. There are mountains of empirical data regarding voting patterns. If such a phenomenon truly exists, there would be evidence to prove it.

But Frank didn’t do the work. No polls are cited, no studies studied. Shockingly, in his almost 70 pages of endnotes, Frank only references a primary source once (the U.S. Census). The rest of his sources are other polemicists from both sides of the ideological divide: A little David Brooks, a little Barbara Ehrenreich, a lot of Ann Coulter.

That’s a major problem if you’re making controversial statements. If you’re serious about making a case, you simply have to provide support for those statements. For instance, Frank states that “The fortunes of (wealthy) Mission Hills rise and fall in inverse relation to the fortunes of ordinary working people.” That’s a helluva statement, saying that the rich get richer if the poor get poorer. It stands decades of accepted wisdom regarding the economic history of the United States on its head. And in Frank’s book, it is completely unsupported.

Another instance of shoddy documentation comes when Frank states that arch-Conservative Kansas Senator Sam Brownback used to be pro-choice. There was a footnote next to this stunning assertion, so I checked it out. The source for this “fact” is a quote by some pro-life guy in a Kansas paper in 1996. Which begs the questions – are there no instances of Brownback asserting his pro-choice stance? Are there no archival pieces of campaign literature? In other words, is there anything other than hearsay to document this claim? If such primary sources don’t exist, then you really don’t have any basis for flatly stating the guy used to be pro-choice. And if they do exist, the author should have cited them instead of some guy’s eight year old newspaper quote.

I circled well over a dozen similar instances of carelessness in this thin volume. Whatever one might think of Frank’s theories, there is a scholarly sloppiness on display here that is at times shocking. In its review of “What’s The Matter With Kansas,” the Boston Globe labeled the book “important.” If future ideologues, both conservatives and liberals, read this book and decide that they should support their contentions with research and evidence, then this will indeed be an important work.

But don’t count on it.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, July 15, 2004


Liberals don’t think much of their fellow Americans.

For the liberal establishment, Americans can be divided into two different camps. Those who vote against the liberal agenda are a bunch of NASCAR-following, pork-rind-eating boobs who take a dim view of “book larnin’” and are usually racist to boot. But their real scorn is reserved, oddly enough, for their political supporters. It doesn’t overstate it much to say that liberals of the John Kerry/Hilary Clinton/John Mellencamp/Michael Moore type feel that most Americans are incapable of wiping their nose unless they have a case worker hand them a government issued tissue along with an instruction manual.

In politics, this disregard manifests itself with disturbing regularity. The welfare reform debate of the mid 1990’s was instructive. Then Labor Secretary, current Brandeis Professor Robert Reich simply couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that welfare recipients were capable of working. He forecast a calamity because the 1995 reforms put a limit on benefits and was going to require many recipients to actually seek employment. Alas, welfare recipients proved a lot more able than their putative champion figured them to be.

Liberal condescension is also manifest in liberal “literature.” Tomorrow, I’ll be offering a review of Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Mr. Frank’s thesis: Republicans sometimes win elections because America is full of idiots. Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickeled and Dimed” is a seminal tract of its kind; although she professes sympathy for the poor, condescension and elitist pity pore forth from every page. Ehrenreich currently has a recurring place on the New York Times Op-Ed page while Tom Friedman puts the finishing touches on his latest book. Literally every Ehrenreich column evidences her disdain for America and Americans. Today’s example? “Groupthink has become as American as apple pie and prisoner abuse; in fact, it's hard to find any thinking these days that doesn't qualify for the prefix ‘group.’”

Liberal condescension of this sort is an old story; a newer phenomenon is the condescension emanating from conservatives who claim an affinity for the common man. A couple of weeks ago, Peggy Noonan set off a stir in the blogosphere by penning an article whose thesis suggested that President Bush might be in trouble because Americans want a break from the excitement of the last few years and that the soporific Kerry might be just the antidote to the excitement overload of the last few years. Note the condescension implicit in her argument. Americans can’t handle the world as it is. It’s too much for them. Thus, even though they should know better, out of weakness they’ll pull the switch for Kerry.

In today’s column, Noonan picks up on the theme that Americans need to be coddled through these rough times. She says that even at this time of war, President Bush must frequently remind the American people that he prefers peace. “When you are president and you are doing hard things in history like making war, and you are doing it in the jingle-jangle of the modern media environment, you have a kind of moral responsibility to make it clear that you hate war, really hate it, and love peace.” She goes on to offer a Margaret Thatcher quote that a leader must never "never underestimate people's fears."

I generally like Peggy Noonan, enjoy her writing, even if she does tend to the pretentious and obviously takes an out-sized pleasure in name dropping. But she underestimates the American character. Most Americans know this is a time of war and that all Americans are on the front line. We want to win. And, quite frankly, we’d prefer our leaders take their cues from Churchill, not Dr. Phil.

It’s never been the American way to shrink from conflict. While there’s a portion of the country that will never help us in the fight (Hollywood, Academia, the New York Times), the typical American is ready. To Barbara Ehrenreich and her cohorts, the American character has always been a stranger. It appears the same is now true for Peggy Noonan as well.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


A correspondent sent me the link to this Peter Gammons article which I’m pretty sure comes from the Summer of 2000. About Senator Kerry, the longtime Massachusetts resident said the following:

“We have been led to cynically believe that many politicians are disingenuous and generally phony, but few will ever beat Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. This man, who changed his middle initial to be JFK and at an anti-Vietnam rally threw someone else's medals into the water, made a self-promotion appearance with Boston talk-show maven Eddie Andelman and claimed he was a big Red Sox fan from his days growing up in Groton, Mass. And at the promotion he said Eddie Yost was his favorite player.

The problem with that is just the simple fact that Eddie Yost never played for the Red Sox.”

I knew it! There was just something about that John Kerry that made me think he’s not completely sincere. Here’s the proof!

By the way, Gammons is a longtime Bostonian. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – no one in Boston likes John Kerry.

From the New York Times letter section, fifth letter down:

“If Israel complies with the International Court of Justice's advisory ruling, that will tell Palestinians that this is a world of law and justice, with no place in it for violence.

If Israel fails to obey the ruling and the United States fails to press Israel to comply, that will tell Palestinians and those who have taken up the Palestinian cause that justice won't come through the system, so terrorism seems to be the only answer.
This moment is critical for Israel, the United States and the war on terrorism.

Reston, Va., July 10, 2004"

Earlier in the day, I posted something saying that America’s resolve in this fight is questionable. Ms. Hacker’s letter signals a corollary to that phenomenon. Many Americans, especially those on a certain side of the political spectrum, are too weak or too dumb to grasp the nature of the enemy.

Does Ms. Hacker really believe that Hamas will beat its suicide vests into plowshares if Israel tears down the security fence? Does she really feel that the security fence is the cause of Palestinian anger?

Frankly her letter is so obtuse it really doesn’t merit a lengthy refutation. I just find the fact that there are people like Ms Hacker out there and that the New York Times feels their thoughts are worthy of publication are things that should be noted.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


History hasn’t been kind to General Curtis Lemay. He was a General for 17 years, was as responsible as anyone for our victory in WWII due to the bombing campaigns he designed and led, and was one of the last great Generals to “lead from the front” personally flying in the most dangerous missions. After WWII, he all but invented America’s Strategic Air Command which went on to win the Cold War (more on that in a bit). But how is he best remembered? As war hungry General Jack Ripper from Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangeglove” or as a “demented cold warrior.”

But yet, when the Cold War was least stable, Curtis Lemay’s presence more than anything else kept the peace. In a great irony, America’s most willing and able warrior was most responsible for there being no war. In Curtis Lemay, the Soviet Union knew it had an opponent who was eager to fight. He personally had designed and executed the strategies that left Nazi Germany in rubble and that incinerated virtually every major Japanese city. From him, the Soviet Union had no reason to expect any quarter.

And thus, an uneasy peace was maintained. Who would attack a country with a wealth of atom bombs if a man like Curtis Lemay had the authority to use them?

Victor Davis Hanson wrote eloquently last week on how deterrence can and should have a role in the Global War on Terror. It’s a great piece; I encourage you to follow the link. His thesis is that our current strategy for thwarting terror attacks is a combination of disrupting the Al Qaeda network abroad and various methods of interdiction at home. Hanson feels, rightly so, that we can add a third prong to our defenses: If we make the terrorists and their state sponsors/enablers (Iran, Syria, “Palestine”) know that an attack on America will unleash furious counter-measures, the likelihood of such an attack will decline precipitously.

Hanson’s piece tacitly assumes that to a great extent terrorists are rational actors and can be treated as such. The terrorists have gone to great lengths to try convince us of their insanity (beheadings, suicide bombings) precisely because they understand that if we know they can be deterred and forced to sue for peace, the game will be up.

Al Qaeda doesn’t kill just to kill. While their ends are indeed sick and depraved, they do have ends in mind, and their ruin is not one of their goals. They want us to leave their part of the world alone so they can return it to the 8th century. That’s not going to happen if American soft power ensures that every Arab teen is some day sipping a Pepsi while looking at internet porn. Thus, in the terrorists’ eyes, the great American colossus must either be destroyed or made to retreat.

The terrorists and their state sponsors don’t want to die; they want to conquer. You can’t conquer if you’re dead. In a way, their goals aren’t different from any of the malign offensive forces that have appeared through history. In spite of the presence of the Kamikazes, the Japanese empire didn’t wish death for itself – it wanted victory.

So America must ensure that its enemies know that another attack on American soil will elicit a response that would make Curtis Lemay proud. Iran doubtlessly has influence over our enemies; so does Saudi Arabia. They can be enlisted as whole hearted partners in our war on terror, even if their enlistment comes at the tip of a bayonet.

At this point, however, America is perhaps incapable of having a deterrent effect on our enemies. While the will to fight of the White House’s and Pentagon’s current occupants may be beyond questioning, our society’s will to fight is not. One of our two major parties is emitting signs that it would like to outsource foreign policy to France and Germany; our entertainment industry and the Academy seem to have no stomach for any of the battles that might lie ahead. Insightful observers have suggested over the last few weeks that many Americans desire nothing more than a “time-out” from the current rapid pace of history. If our enemy questions our current resolve, he is right to do so. We don’t have a society-wide consensus on how to deal with the terror menace. That’s just a fact. The Curtis Lemay mentality is hardly prevalent in 2004.

Thus, if/when we’re attacked again, it is imperative that the American response show that while Lemay is gone his spirit is once again animating our efforts. If so, a deterrent effect will take place and there will exist a real chance that the next attack will be the last.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, July 12, 2004


Last Friday afternoon, a guy named Paul L. Williams was on FoxNews talking about Al Qaeda’s planned use of “Suitcase Nukes.” He was saying that Al Qaeda already has in its possession several of these “Suitcase Nukes” and that they plan to detonate them in a half dozen U.S. cities during the upcoming summer and fall. From my observations, he seemed part knowing expert and part wild-eyed kook. His chilling prediction provoked me to send out a few emails to some people who know a lot more about these things than I do asking if such a scenario is possible. They all pretty much said the same thing: Not likely, but not impossible either.

That of course wasn’t what I was hoping to hear. I wanted to be told that the guy was a Cassandra-like nutcase and didn’t know what he was talking about. None of my correspondents rejected the prediction of nuclear terror out of hand.

So that got me to thinking about and researching four separate issues:

1) What would such an attack look like?
2) Do Suitcase Nukes even exist?
3) If they do exist, how likely is it that Al Qaeda has some?; and
4) What should the U.S. do if such a catastrophe were to transpire?

I gotta be honest – the Williams interview scared me, and I’ve never been the type to mope around in a state of fear. I began this project with low expectations. Thus, I’m delighted to report that my findings on the first three questions are less than apocalyptic. Such an attack is extremely unlikely, and even if it were to occur, it would be horrible but not remotely the ruin of the country.

Still, I think we have to think about the worst case scenarios and game them out. While a devastating nuclear attack by Al Qaeda in 2004 may be extremely unlikely, we’re racing the clock. They seek nuclear weaponry actively, and if we fail to extirpate them before they become a nuclear power, America will doubtlessly suffer grievous injuries.

One of my most painful memories of 9/11 is how the nation moped about aimlessly for at least a day, maybe more, after the World Trade Center came down. It was bad enough that the populace was caught so unaware, but far more disturbing was the appearance that the Pentagon also had never pondered such a scenario and seemed to have no idea what should come next. It’s not fun, but we have to contemplate the worst case scenarios.

Today, I’m going to address the first three questions which deal with the likelihood and nature of such an attack. Tomorrow, even though such an attack is unlikely, I’ll look at how we should respond if this unlikely scenario should become an unfortunate reality.


There’s a common ignorance among most people that nuclear detonations are fungible. That of course is ridiculous. On the one hand, you have something like a 1 megaton bomb which is on the large side of things, but hardly the biggest in most nuclear powers’ arsenals. Such a weapon would flatten everything within 1.7 miles of ground zero.

On the other hand, you have nuclear weapons like the Davy Crocket Fission Bomb, America’s foray into nuclear weapon miniaturization. The Crockett’s yield was often as low as 10 tons (.1 kilotons); a big Crockett would have been about 1 kiloton. By way of comparison, a MOAB conventional bomb also has approximately a 10 ton yield, or .1 kilotons. The consensus of reliable sources is that if suitcase nukes exist, their yield is almost certainly no higher than 1 kiloton and probably a lot closer to .1 kilotons.

So basically they’re likely to have the explosive characteristics of a Daisy Cutter, perhaps a Daisy Cutter on steroids. But what does that mean? What would an explosion of .1 kilotons or even 1 kiloton look like? By way of comparison, the bomb used at Hiroshima was approximately 20 kilotons. The survival rate at Hiroshima 200 meters from ground zero was 50%. A large Davy Crockett (or a large suitcase nuke, as we’ll see) has a yield of one kiloton so it would be about 1/20th the size of a Hiroshima type device. (That doesn’t mean the explosion will be exactly 1/20 the size; nuclear weapons become marginally less efficient as they get larger.)

Again, we’re probably talking about something closer to .1 kilotons than 1 kiloton; .1 kilotons is 2-4 times the power of the ammonium nitrate bomb that destroyed the Murrah building in Oklahoma City. Obviously a .1 kiloton blast in a major metropolitan area, to put it delicately, would be an adverse event. Still, when someone like Paul L. Williams says a city will be nuked, his clear implication is that the city will be utterly destroyed. A suitcase nuke can’t do anything of the kind.


Maybe. We civilians can’t know for sure.

The Soviet Union spent decades aping our technology. It’s a reasonable supposition that they aped the miniaturization of nukes represented by the Davy Crockett. There are also a couple of tactical purposes that might have brought such weapons into being. The small nukes could have been used as land mines, or they could have been the property of the Special Forces for counter-terrorism purposes, ironically enough. Or they could have been the exclusive property of the KGB.

This being the former Soviet Union, we just don’t know. Personally, I think there’s a pretty good chance Vladimir Putin knows and hopefully he’s shared his knowledge with our government.

If they do exist, there are a few relatively positive signs:

1) They’ll be low yield, like the Davy Crockett. The damage they inflict would be a lot more like that wrought by a Daisy Cutter than a 5 megaton “Day After” type projectile.
2) They were almost certainly built with safeguards that would make their operation by anyone other than the Red Army (or its proper Russian successor) impossible. Such safeguards were an obvious necessity given the devices’ portability.
3) They almost surely require routine maintenance every 6 months. If the missiles haven’t been properly maintained, their yield will be dramatically reduced; actually, most experts think if not properly maintained in accordance with the owner’s manual’s dictates, they won’t work at all. On this point, we certainly have Soviet craftsmanship working in our favor; let’s face it, the Soviet Union didn’t produce many things known for their quality and reliability. Additionally, maintaining nuclear weapons in a cave on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border would certainly be beyond Al Qaeda’s abilities. This is a serious problem for the terrorists; if Al Qaeda acquired these things, the bombs have missed probably 20 maintenance adjustments; experts familiar with their American counterparts (the Crockets) feel quite strongly that at this point in time the bombs won’t function at all and if they do somehow function will achieve only a fraction of their intended yield.

Before leaving the question of their existence, I think a word on the “suitcase” nomenclature is in order. Even the smallest Davy Crockett weighs roughly 70 pounds. Estimates are that the portable Soviet nukes weigh at least 60 pounds, probably quite a bit more than that. 60 pounds would obviously be an exceptionally heavy suitcase.

The point of the terminology was apparently to underscore the devices’ portability. Indeed, in all likelihood two men should be able to carry one of the so-called suitcase nukes. A few years ago, a congressman took to the House floor with a mock-up of a suitcase nuke that was basically a briefcase with a thermos in it. The things are portable, but not that portable.


I’m glad to say, in my opinion, probably not.

The rumors of Al Qaeda being a nuclear power began in 1998. The London based Arab daily Al-Watan Al-Arabi reported that Chechens had acquired 20 suitcase nukes from Russian facilities with the intention of transferring the bombs to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in exchange for $30 million and two tons of opium. When Paul Williams went on Fox last week, he was treating this report as if it were gospel truth even though it has never been corroborated by other more reliable sources.

So is it true? Who knows? We can make some logical assumptions, though. If Al Qaeda were a nuclear power, would it have not used one of their suitcase nuke devices on the Coale instead of the pittance of conventional TNT that it instead utilized? If Al Qaeda were a nuclear power, would it be engaging in relatively penny ante activities like hijacking planes and bombing commuter trains? If Al Qaeda were a nuclear power and became one over six years ago, what plausible explanation could there possibly be for the organization’s “restraint” in not utilizing the devices in the past six years?

Moreover, the Al-Watan Al-Arabi report from 1998 describes a frantic search by the CIA and the free world’s other intelligence agencies to pursue the then freshly nuclear armed Al Qaeda. Thus, if the story is accurate, America knew since 1998 that Al Qaeda was a nuclear power.

Readers of this site know that I defer to no man when it comes to harboring disdain for Bill Clinton. Still, it is unthinkable that President Clinton wouldn’t have put us on a war footing with Al Qaeda if he knew they possessed nuclear weapons and intended to use them. Moreover, Bush would have had this knowledge since he took office. Once again, it is unthinkable that if our government knew/knows that Al Qaeda has nukes it would be business as usual as it has been and still pretty much continues to be. You’d have to be a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist to believe such a thing. I’m pretty sure that’s what Paul L. Williams is.

To be more explicit, the alleged deal with the Chechens strikes me as bullshit, total bullshit. It sounds like a falsehood that Al Qaeda and its sympathizers had obvious cause to fabricate, and one that gullible Cassandras and conspiracy theorists were eager to believe and propagate. Even the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, a reliably alarmist voice as far as nuclear perils are concerned, doesn’t believe in the Al Qaeda – Chechen connection.

Of course, there’s an alternative scenario that the Al Qaeda – Chechen transaction did actually occur but the weapons wouldn’t work or Al Qaeda couldn’t get them to work. If that’s the case, than Al Qaeda would not be a nuclear power but would still have enough radiological material from the no longer functional suitcase nukes to make several dirty bombs. Regardless, reasonable inferences from events of the past several years suggest Al Qaeda lacks the ability to deliver a nuclear blow, at least as a result of any 1998 transaction with the Chechens.


Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


A correspondent writes in:

This is off topic with your more recent posts, but I believe worth a note.

Three days ago, I had a conversation with a man whose brother is serving in Iraq. He had just spoken to his brother, who is outraged that Americans are being given the wrong impression about what is happening in that country. No media will cover what is really happening, he said. While troops were (appropriately) outraged by the despicable behavior of some of their fellow soldiers in the prison-torture scandal, this soldier told his brother that morale is very high.

The Iraqi people he and his fellow soldiers have come into contact with have been welcoming and happy to have them there. The men he serves with are proud of their service and happy to be helping these people. They are so enthused, in fact, that they have been building a neighborhood school on their own off-duty time, but the media - so anxious to give us "complete coverage, live from Iraq" - has neglected to cover such stories of palpable good will.

A cousin of mine, recently home from Iraq, reported similar experiences. The two men served in Tikrit and Fallujah, names I know only because of reports of violence. I do want to hear those reports, but I want the complete picture of the atmosphere in Iraq. Even the more conservative media has dropped the ball on presenting both sides of what is happening. Perhaps this is not as exciting as the stories currently making the rounds, but someone needs to remind us, and quickly, that we are in fact a nation full of many people who try to do good and serve others, and not a country of pawns in uniform serving the interests of bullies.

Lately, we are often urged to support our troops, despite how they are serving. I'd rather support them because of it.

The writer makes several excellent points. A couple of more by way of amplification:

Re-enlistment rates for troops in the Iraqi theatre have surpassed the Pentagon's wildest dreams. This is another under-reported fact because it doesn't square with the media's Vietnam Redux fantasies of a military full of furious conscripts ready to come home and go John Kerry on us. Baby boomer nostalgics are waiting for their Gulf War II Ron Kovic - the vigil continues still.

Additionally, somewhat in the media's defense, good news is often too subtle to qualify as "news." It would be a pretty dull newscast that began with a report of how a school being rebuilt by coalition forces got 50 feet of pipe laid and three new pieces of dry-wall put up during a busy day on the construction site. Regardless, the media are doubtlessly aware of how their relentless reporting of every bad incident without putting those incidents into the context of the remarkable progress made distorts the entire situation.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Saturday, July 10, 2004


In October 2002, incumbent Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone tragically died in a plane crash just weeks before he was up for re-election. When the agile Minnesota Democrats managed to convince retired warhorse Fritz Mondale to take Wellstone’s place on the ballot, it seemed as if Mondale, based partly on his own merits and partly on a wellspring of affection for the deceased Wellstone, would crush Republican Norm Coleman in the election.

About halfway between Wellstone’s death and Election Day, the Minnesota Democrats had a memorial service for Wellstone that was to also be a celebration of his life. The event was televised live on C-Span. For Democrats, it turned into a notorious disaster.

As you probably recall, the “memorial service” included the “congregants” booing Republicans who had come to pay their respects. It included numerous “eulogies” that lashed out at political opponents with astonishing bile. It included tribal chants such as “We Will Win” that were remarkably inappropriate given the fact that this was, after all, a memorial service.

And Minnesotans and many other Americans watched. And they were sickened. It was clear that these people should not be rewarded with electoral victories. It was clear that they were partisans of the most vicious and irredeemable natures. The only irony was that the actual candidate for the Senate seat, Mondale, was a dignified man who was above such nonsense. In spite of a surprisingly skillful performance by Mondale at their sole debate, Coleman registered a shocking come from behind victory. The Wellstone Memorial service was widely deemed responsible for the Democrats’ defeat. And make no mistake – it was far more a Democratic defeat than a Republican victory. The moral of the story is that a party puts its darkest face on public display at its own peril.

The Kerry fundraiser of Thursday night has the potential to be a similarly defining moment for 2004. The Kerry campaign has a tape of the event which would exonerate all concerned, if of course they’re deserving of exoneration. Showing unusual resolve, on this one issue, the Kerry campaign won’t budge – it refuses to release the tape.

By now, the story of the ugliness of that night is well known to some but still unknown to others. What still isn’t well known is how culpable the candidate was that evening. As the Boston Globe reports this morning, “Monitors showed Kerry, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, laughing through much of the concert. Afterward, he told the audience that the performers ‘conveyed the heart and soul of our country.’" Once again, as I reported yesterday, the only comments that actually drew Kerry’s ire were references to his running mate as a “kid.”

Of course, Kerry and his campaign are responding to this black-eye with their characteristic waffling, obfuscation, and irresolution. As the Globe reports, “The Kerry campaign's response evolved as the day went on -- from refusing to criticize the remarks to distancing the candidate from them…(D)uring (a) conference call, campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said of Kerry, ‘He does not approve of some of the remarks that were made last night, and he has made that clear.’ When asked how he had done so, because Kerry had not commented on the speechmaking, she said, ‘He has made clear what he thinks American values are.’

People who write that this is a big deal because he eschewed attending a national security briefing to attend the fund-raiser are missing the point. Why does a lowly Senator who never votes need such a briefing, anyway? No, the point here is that the darkest part of the Democratic Party’s heart was on display Thursday night. And the even bigger point is that the candidate, rather than discouraging the descent into the fevered swamp, was thrilled to be captain of that particular swift boat.

The Kerry campaign has said repeatedly that nothing of an untoward nature happened Thursday and that the campaign certainly owes no one any apologies.

Let America decide – release the tape.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Friday, July 09, 2004


(The title is a quote from the invaluable Victor Davis Hanson.)

So much for that “positive and uplifting” crap.

A few weeks ago, John Kerry promised to run a campaign that would be both positive and uplifting. And yesterday, John Edwards vowed, “This campaign will be a celebration of real American values.”

As the New York Times reports, the campaign yesterday hosted a fundraiser that netted over $7 million in New York City. The event, headlined by such enormous contemporary mega-stars as John Mellencamp and Whoopi Goldberg, featured “actors and comedians denouncing the president as a liar, making off-color jokes about his name.” Quite a celebration of American values for the attending Edwards moppets to have witnessed.

Whoopi Goldberg especially distinguished herself with her uplifting and positive commentary which “made an extended sexual pun on the president's surname.” Sticking with the uplifting and positive themes, former rock star Mellencamp referred to the President as a “another cheap thug that sacrifices our young.” Former comedian Chevy Chase hilariously “poked fun at the president's pronunciation of ‘nuclear’ and ‘terrorist’ and said Mr. Bush had invaded Iraq ‘just so he could be called a wartime president.’”

So what did John Kerry, a.k.a. Senator Positive and Uplifting, have to say about all this stridency? Did he scold his overzealous supporters as Howard Dean famously did at one of his excessively bawdy New York fundraisers? Hardly. Kerry’s summation of the event was as follows: "Every single performer (has) conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country."

Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that Kerry found the proceedings entirely unobjectionable. Part of Goldberg’s routine ridiculed Edwards’ youthful appearance. Said the former star of stage, screen, and Hollywood Squares, “Where's the kid? Where's the young Mr. Edwards? He looks like he's about 18.” Apparently, for the highly decorated Vietnam vet, this was the proverbial comedic bridge too far. According to the Times, “Ms. Goldberg's was the only riff Mr. Kerry addressed directly, saying of his new political partner, ‘I have a man, Whoopi, who through his lifetime of experience…’” Take that, those of you who think he has no principles.

At least someone in the Kerry campaign had the good sense to try to create some wiggle room between Kerry and the idiotocracy. Kerry’s press secretary David Wade intoned, “"Obviously John Kerry and John Edwards do not agree with everything that was said tonight. Performers have a right to speak their minds even when we don't agree with everything they say. That's the freedom John Kerry put his life on the line to defend." Yes, John Kerry served four months in Vietnam so Whoopi Goldberg could make off-color jokes about the President’s surname. John Kerry indeed knows the price of freedom.

I find Wade’s use of the word “obviously” to be particularly interesting. When Kerry said that line about every single performer conveying the heart and soul of the country, how exactly was it “obvious” that he didn’t agree with everything the performers said? Perhaps Wade thinks it’s inherently obvious that Kerry never quite means what he says.


The NYT story linked to above was on the front page of the electronic version earlier this morning. Now, it’s all but impossible to find. What gives? Has the story suddenly become non-newsworthy, or is the Times trying to cover up this Kerry campaign embarrassment?

I don’t mean to enter the fevered swamps of right-wing conspiracy mongers (perhaps the story will be sent to the Mena airfield?), but this is very strange.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, July 08, 2004


I received a few emails asking about my reference to Al Gore and his use of his sister’s death for political gain. The story goes like this:

Amazing as it might sound to a contemporary readership, back in 1996 Al Gore was widely viewed as a robotic stiff. Gore was born a son of privilege and had grown up splitting his time between posh Washington hotels and elite finishing schools. He also had a manner that many considered to be cold and off-putting.

This was a problem because after four years of Clinton and over a decade of Oprah, a politician had to be viewed as someone who we’d enjoy having on our living room couch. Thus, Gore went to the Democratic convention with the challenge of proving himself a human being. (Note: this is the exact same challenge the current Democratic nominee faces.)

So how did Gore meet this challenge? First, he began his speech by offering to show the assemblage his version of the then popular dance craze the Macarena (aaah, the 90’s). After the crowd roared its approval signaling that they wanted to see the staid veep do the dance, Gore stood perfectly still for an extended moment and then riposted, “Would you like to see it again?” Ha!!! The crowd loved it.

But it wasn’t to be all laughs and giggles. Having proved that he had as much of a sense of humor as the next guy, Gore then had to prove that he felt things as deeply as we humans do. In order to do this, he relayed in harrowing detail the story of his sister’s death. Below are the relevant passages in full:

“Some of the most powerful forces that do the most harm are often hard to see and even harder to understand. When I was a child, my family was attacked by an invisible force that was then considered harmless. My sister Nancy was older than me. There were only the two of us and I loved her more than life itself. She started smoking when she was 13 years old. The connection between smoking and lung cancer had not yet been established but years later the cigarettes had taken their toll.

It hurt very badly to watch her savaged by that terrible disease. Her husband, Frank, and all of us who loved her so much, tried to get her to stop smoking. Of course she should have, but she couldn't.

When she was 45, she had a lung removed. A year later, the disease had come back and she returned to the hospital. We all took turns staying with her. One day I was called to come quickly because things had taken a turn for the worse.

By then, her pain was nearly unbearable, and as a result, they used very powerful painkillers. And eventually it got so bad they had to use such heavy doses that she could barely retain consciousness. We sometimes didn't know if she could hear what we were saying or recognize us.

But when I responded to that call and walked into the hospital room that day, as soon as I turned the corner - someone said, "Al's here" - she looked up, and from out of that haze her eyes focused intensely right at me. She couldn't speak, but I felt clearly I knew she was forming a question: "Do you bring me hope?"

All of us had tried to find whatever new treatment or new approach might help, but all I could do was to say back to her with all the gentleness in my heart, "I love you." And then I knelt by her bed and held her hand. And in a very short time her breathing became labored and then she breathed her last breath.

Tomorrow morning another 13-year-old girl will start smoking. I love her, too. Three thousand young people in America will start smoking tomorrow. One thousand of them will die a death not unlike my sister's, and that is why, until I draw my last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking.”

I remember seeing the speech. Seriously, it was touching, and he delivered it very well. Problem is, it was bullshit.

Note the following quote that he offered four years after his sister’s death:
"Throughout most of my life, I raised tobacco. I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put it in the plant beds and transferred it. I've hoed it. I've dug in it. I've sprayed it, I've chopped it, I've shredded it, spiked it, put it in the
barn and stripped it and sold it.”

And then there was the inconvenient fact that he had solicited and accepted contributions from tobacco companies and, as the above quote indicates, had carried their water for years after his sister’s death. So in other words, he wasn’t exactly the tireless implacable foe of smoking that he made himself out to be.

So the only reason he brought up his sister’s death and spoke about it in such detail was so his audience, the American public, would conclude that he was a decent guy. He shamelessly exploited his sister’s death, and lied about its impact on his conduct, so he could advance on his political ambitions.

The fact is, there should be some things that a politician should be above. Some things should be sacred. For those of us who had doubts about Gore’s character, this incident confirmed our suspicion that his ambition was all consuming. He viewed every event, regardless of how consequential it might be, through the prism of his own political fortune.

And that was chilling.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight