Thursday, January 29, 2004

"Bush's new budget will also estimate this year's budget deficit at about $520 billion, the congressional sources said. That would easily surpass the $375 billion shortfall of last year, the highest deficit ever in dollar terms." Astonishing. And the story -- unbelievably, are there no editors at the Post? -- doesn't even mention if this number includes funds for Iraq and Homeland Uber Alles Security. I'm guessing not.

So what's a fiscally irresponsible president to do? Cut spending to the third world! In fairness, though, President Feel Good's budget is still higher than Clinton's. But then, Clinton was focused on eliminating the deficit. Scrooge.

But this is baffling.

The Times New Hampshire tracking poll is extremely encouraging. Kerry scored a solid victory, winning pretty much every demo, except those petulent kids.

It didn't get much play at the time, but the December edition of the Atlantic Monthly ran an excerpt of Douglas Brinkley's book on Kerry's time in Vietnam, called Tour of Duty. At the time, Kerry seemed to be fading fast, which may have explained its lack of visibility. I didn't even mention it, although I was greatly impressed by Kerry's self-awareness, composure, and ability to articulate what he was seeing, feeling, and thinking during his tour. It's time to revisit.

I admit it. I've been won over by Kerry. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks. But after reading this, I'm no longer wondering about Clark.

"Wesley K. Clark could not keep quiet for long. The meeting with Vice President Cheney on July 16, 2002, had started with casual banter. But the retired four-star general quickly cut off the chitchat, grasping his chair and sliding it next to Cheney's.

"'Mr. Vice President, we know you only have a short time, and we have some very important matters to discuss,' Clark said, according to a person who attended the session. 'So if you don't mind, I'd like to just jump into the meeting.' Cheney nodded, and Clark raced through a 10-minute summation of what Acxiom, a Little Rock firm that collects and sorts detailed consumer data on virtually every American, could do to aid the war on terrorism." C'mon, Amy, come back into the light!

And Dean is losing it. Fast. Al Gore seems to be in charge, which may explain things.

Josh Micah Marshall's star continues to rise. He has an essay in the New Yorker this week on the flaws in Bush and the neocons empire "plans."

"The Bush doctrine, with its tenets of preëmptive war, regime change, and permanent American military primacy, promised a new global order. The best way to think of that order is by analogy with the internal organization of a nation-state. What makes a state a state is its monopoly over the legitimate use of force, which means that citizens don’t have to worry about arming to defend themselves against each other. Instead, they can focus on productive pursuits like raising families, making money, and enjoying their leisure time. In the world of the Bush doctrine, states take the place of citizens. As the President told graduating cadets at West Point in 2002, America intends to keep its 'military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.' In other words, if America has an effective monopoly on the exercise of military force, other countries should be able to set aside the distractions of arming and plotting against each other and put their energies into producing consumer electronics, textiles, tea. What the Bush doctrine calls for—paradoxically, given its proponents—is a form of world government.

"The new order envisaged by the Bush doctrine hasn’t quite worked out as it was meant to. That’s because, from the beginning, the White House has acted on the assumption that bold action would make our allies rally behind us and our enemies cower. Building a consensus with our friends before we acted only encouraged quarrelsomeness. The point wasn’t that dictation was superior to consensus; the point was that it created consensus.

"Again and again, things didn’t turn out that way. In March, 2002, Dick Cheney, in his only trip abroad as Vice-President before last week, toured Middle Eastern capitals to line up support for the war against Iraq. Foreign leaders used the occasion to denounce the planned attack. A week after Cheney’s return, the Saudis and the Kuwaitis were arranging their first rapprochement with Iraq since the Gulf War. In the months preceding the second Gulf War, a year later, the Administration was castigated for bungled diplomacy with its allies. But the real problem was that, though America could do as it liked, its erstwhile allies didn’t necessarily fall in line.

“'Bill Clinton was actually a much more effective imperialist than George W. Bush,' Chalmers Johnson writes darkly. 'During the Clinton administration, the United States employed an indirect approach in imposing its will on other nations.' That 'indirect approach' might more properly be termed a policy of leading by consensus rather than by dictation. But Johnson is right about its superior efficacy. American power is magnified when it is embedded in international institutions, as leftists have lamented. It is also somewhat constrained, as conservatives have lamented. This is precisely the covenant on which American supremacy has been based. The trouble is that hard-line critics of multilateralism focussed on how that power was constrained and missed how it was magnified.

"Conservative ideologues, in calling for an international order in which America would have a statelike monopoly on coercive force, somehow forgot what makes for a successful state. Stable governments rule not by direct coercion but by establishing a shared sense of allegiance. In an old formula, 'domination' gives way to 'hegemony'—brute force gives way to the deeper power of consent. This is why the classic definition of the state speaks of legitimate force. In a constitutional order, government accepts certain checks on its authority, but the result is to deepen that authority, rather than to diminish it. Legitimacy is the ultimate 'force multiplier,' in military argot. And if your aim is to maintain a global order, as opposed to rousting this or that pariah regime, you need all the force multipliers you can get."


Uh oh. The Yankees can't buy a third baseman, and it doesn't look good for finding one in their depleted farm system (great writing, whether you like baseball...or the Yankees...or not). But we can dream, can't we?


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