January 11, 2007 - January 4, 2007
Thursday, January 11, 2007
The last thing Maliki wanted: The
know it won't be popular to say so, but there's a reason Bush's new
strategy in Iraq might actually work. It depends on our ability to keep
two big secrets, though, so after you read this don't tell any of it to
the Iraqis. Okay?
The first secret is that the Democrats in Congress don't want to be
responsible for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. They do want the
troops out, but only if George Bush gives the order. Why? Because there
is no conceivable outcome or scenario in which such a withdrawal
produces anything but an amplifying wave of disaster. And while
disaster per se doesn't bother them particularly, a disaster that can
be laid at their
utterly unacceptable. Because even Teddy Kennedy knows that Iraq is not
like Vietnam. When the Democrat congress terminated funding for our
allies in that war, it was possible to turn a blind eye to the
consequences because Vietnam was insignificant to the global economy.
The repercussions -- horrendous as they were -- consisted of the
massacre of hundreds of thousands of mere people. That's something you
can deal with simply by not dealing with it. When Iraq dissolves into
civil war and stateless chaos, the repercussions will be worldwide. Al
Qaeda will have a new base from which to launch terror attacks against
the U.S., the Iranians will increase dramatically in prestige,
arrogance, and resources, and the consequent volatility of the oil
market will send catastrophic shocks through the global economy. In
short, things will get obviously much worse in a hurry, and the
Americans who voted for Democrats won't give a damn that the mess
happened because Democrats did what their constituents insisted they do.
Yeah, they'll still hate Bush, but they'll also remember that they
weren't paying $4 a gallon for gas when we had a steady drip-drip-drip
of casualties in Iraq, and all that talk about supporting the troops
was only just talk anyway. They'd trade troops for cheap gas any day.
They'll blame the Democrats for forgetting that. And for the $4 a
gallon. And for the terrible thing that al Qaeda did to Chicago.
This means the Democrat strategy has to consist of doing everything
possible to make George Bush quit in Iraq unilaterally, without
substantive coercion by
Congress. It's vital that Bush and the Republicans bear sole
responsibility for all the actual decisions about what is done or not
done in the mideast. Everything else is window dressing, voluminously
cloaked in deniability.
But George Bush has a secret too. When he began the process of lowering
the boom on the Maliki government last night, it was the first time he
could do so with real credibility. Before he faced a majority of
Democrats in the House and Senate baying at him like the Hound of the
Baskervilles, he had no real stick with which to threaten the Iraqi
couldn't afford to admit failure by drawing down troops. He'd be a
worldwide laughingstock if he tried to follow through on his threats in
any substantial way. So Maliki could listen to all the demands about
putting down Shia militias and say yes, yes, yes, while all his
(in)actions said no, no, no.
All that has changed now. The new Democrat majority in Congress means
that the old good cop/bad cop schtick is suddenly credible. Bush is --
for the first time -- in a position to say, "Do this, and this, and
this, OR ELSE." Or else Congress will cut off funding and we'll have to
leave you alone with your death squads no matter how much it damages
American interests and prestige. Bush can say to Maliki, "Don't you
understand? The house of Congress that funds your government is being
run by a woman
give a rat's ass about the stability of the mideast and the global
economy. She just doesn't care."
All in all, this is the best chance we've had in several years to get
on top of the Iraq situation. There's no guarantee it will work, of
course, but there's also no disguising the fact that the partisanship
which for so long undermined the war effort may at last have delivered
the best means of forcing Muhammed to cease waiting for the mountain to
come to him and start moving his lame ass to it. What's more, Nancy and the Dems are likely to leave Bush alone long enough to achieve some results.
Those are my secret reasons for optimism. Just don't tell the Iraqis. Shhhh.
Throwing down the
Somebody picked it up, too. Good for
Dean Barnett, who is Little John to Hugh Hewitt
's Robin Hood,
has posed a challenge
to the liberals who routinely carp at his posts. He has asked them to
explain what it it is they love about America and why, given that they
are so ticked off at having their patriotism questioned. Barnett has
even promised to take back his own slurs on their love of country if
they can convey that love without degenerating into Bush-hating
polemics along the way.
So far, several commenters have made an attempt, but only one struck me
as a sincere effort to communicate honestly and without rancor. I made
to respond to this one at the Townhall site but was dismissed into the
limbo of "Page not found" when I tried to log in. So I got permission
from Mr. Barnett (a fine man, except for his depraved allegiance to the
Red Sox) to reproduce the comment that intrigued me here, followed by
Barnett, you called me out
I love America because it is many places with many people holding many
ideas. I love America because we were all once welcomed as immigrants
are welcomed now, but as I reflect much of my love for America is
framed by my life, by my experience.
I was born in Baltimore. My parents left there when I was young, so I
didn’t get to know the Chesapeake, but I still love the Orioles and
have never forgiven the Colts.
I mostly grew up in Connecticut, just outside of New York, an area with
Jewish delis and Jewish mothers. I walked part of the Appalachian
Trail, I skied in Vermont. I found a little shack in the woods where
they sold a hundred kinds of apples in the fall and made a pie. I drank
real cider and I ate real chowder in Boston and I saw real ships in
Mystic. I went to school in Storrs, saw Livingston Taylor and Bonnie
Rait in Willimantic. I body surfed near a boardwalk in Jersey. It was
my youth, a time of war, a time of demonstrations. I felt like it was
the perfect place to be and the perfect time to grow up -- a time of
electric revolution. I loved New England.
I went to grad school in Baton Rouge, I hitch hiked down through
Virginia and Tennessee and got frightened in a bad part of Memphis. I
sang a song by the New Riders of the Purple Sage while I stuck out my
thumb : “Tonight I’ll see my Louisiana Lady”…. I fell in love with the
food and Mardi Gras, the French Quarter and Grand Isle. We would gig
flounder and catch crabs off a bridge, then meet the shrimp boats and
buy headless shrimp for a buck a pound. We would drive back to LSU and
cook it all up. Other times a friend would take me on the bayous in a
pirogue and we would catch crawfish. I learned to cook gumbo and
jambalaya from Joe Cahn in the New Orleans School of Cooking, and yes I
did meet my Louisiana Lady and I am still a Tiger fan. My fiance and I
were married and we moved to Colorado.
Pike’s Peak is where the song was written: Oh Beautiful for spacious
skies. I have skied the Rockies. Cheyenne Canyon and the Broadmoor
Hotel are minutes from my house. I snuck down to Santa Fe one year and
bought my wife a green sapphire, just because I could. We danced to
cowboy music in Cheyenne Wyoming and drove through the salt flats to
Tahoe. As much as I love New England and Louisiana, I will never move
from the front range.
The country is not just the places and the customs, though that is so
much of what I love.
When I was in grad school we had people from every part of the world
studying physics. Africa, Italy, Beirut, China… Colbert jokes about not
being able to see race… I swear at that time I did not see the races of
my friends, but for most of my life I have been sadly conscious of race.
My grandparents lived in Vicksburg and I spent a couple of summers with
them when I was a child. It was 1959 and 1961. I was not yet a
teenager. I loved the battlefield and became a civil war buff. I always
rooted for the south when I read a history book, though I knew it was
best that they lost. My grandparents lived on Fort Hill. Down at the
bottom of the hill is where the niggra’s lived. My grandmother always
told me what a wonderful school the colored’s had, though of course the
whites would never go there.
I was young and I didn’t understand. I didn’t know about the freedom
riders and was only vaguely aware of what happened in Alabama and
Mississippi. I know some of it now and I am so proud of the fact that
my country can make so much progress in my lifetime. I am so proud to
have seen it.
I love free speech. I love it more than anything.
I played backgammon on line in 1999. My opponent was in Hong Kong. I
asked when the island would be returned to China. He told me the date
and then asked that we not discuss that. I felt sad for the fellow and
reflected on what I take for granted.
When I grew up I listened to Bob Dylan and John Lennon. In school I was
introduced to Yeats, Eliot, Blake… many others.
It wasn’t until recently that I began to listen to political rhetoric.
I had a very conservative friend who was convinced if I would simply
read what he read then I would be convinced, he could make me
conservative. My friend had patience, but after two and a half years he
gave up. In the process I discovered the liberal blogs, but it is hard
to be satisfied listening to voices that will only reinforce my
preexisting notions. So I come to Hewitt’s home to listen and to test
my rhetoric. It is sad though, so much of the conservative rhetoric is
name calling, I honestly suggest you work on that.
It doesn’t matter though, rhetoric, speech is the greatest right we
have, in my opinion.
I know a lot of folks here are concerned about religion in the public
square. My religion is very personal and so that is not such a concern
to me. I do understand the importance though. My father worked for
Union Carbide and lost his job after the Bhopal disaster. Within months
he lost his wife to cancer and his mother was senselessly murdered. He
found strength through the Episcopal Church. He became a deacon. He
worked in the prisons and ran a soup kitchen. I watched him from afar,
I listened to him preach. I spoke at his funeral about the lessons he
learned in the last third of his life, lessons he learned from the
Bible and from his church.
I know the importance that Christianity can have in a person’s life.
All of the major religions have the power to transform. All of the
religions should be respected and should be sanctioned by the state.
Historically America led the way in this regard. I am proud of that.
I work for a semiconductor company. The founder of the company was the
son of Greek immigrants and his right hand man is an immigrant from
Tiawan. In 1989 I was working for Honeywell and our plant was losing
money. We were sold to these immigrants and somehow I became an
assistant to the VP and played a small, but hopefully significant role
in growing the company from 60 million to 2 billion dollars of revenue.
It was the best time of my working life and the most intense. 2001 was
painful for our company and so I have come full circle: rags to riches
to rags, but I had my chance. I got to watch the proverbial American
Dream: so no regrets, no tears.
Until about 1998 I swore I would not own a computer. They were only
good for two things, word processing and spread sheets and I didn’t
need either at home. I began to become vaguely aware of the internet
and bought a computer one Christmas and signed up for AOL under the
misspelled name “abalone”.
The changes in our country and in our culture have been driven by an
incredible business machine. Intel, Apple, Microsoft and the rest have
generated massive wealth and through their direct action and spinoffs
have supported a generation financially. What American industry has
brought forth in the last thirty years is unbelievably important.
Business, capitalism, free trade are very good things.
I guess I should say something about freedom. I was arrested once when
I was in college, marijuana wouldn’t you know. I saw a court room from
the frame of reference of a defendant. We plea bargained and the judge
reached a fair decision.
Years later I was on the jury in a drug case and I saw the legal system
from a different point of view.
America guarantees basic civil liberties for all persons until they are
convicted. I believe in the protections of the accused given by the
Miranda decisions. I grieve at what we have done to Padilla without due
process. The bill of rights is a stunning statement of political
morality that must never be diluted.
Let me say one more thing. I have been privileged to spend a lot of
time in the south of France and in Malaysia. I have visited Hong Kong
and Japan and many other places briefly. I love America like I love my
children. My son is not the fastest person, the smartest person or the
funniest person, but he is my favorite kid. America is like that. There
are finer cuisines in the world. There are more peaceful countries in
the world. There are more advanced cultures in the world. I am always
happiest here though. It is what I know and where I have been. It is
where my life and the lives of my family have been played out.
I love America for what it is: its rivers and mountains and plains. I
love America for its people all who have different ways, yes I love
diversity. I love America for its speech. I love our food and our music
and our theater.
Yes Mr. Barnett, liberals do love our country and it is very possible
to disagree with you without being ambivalent to the United States of
America. I hope you will take it all back now.
I found myself respecting Toadie. He's obviously someone it's possible
to have a real conversation with. So I wrote this to him:
First, let me say I’m not comfortable with Dean Barnett’s challenge. It
smacks a bit too much of requiring a loyalty oath for me. But you
accepted the challenge, and I do have a reaction to share with you.
In essence, your essay declared that you ARE an American and that your
experiences are American, which means that your love of country is
intrinsic. That’s fine. So it is with most of us. But you also write:
Let me say one more thing. I have been
privileged to spend a lot of time in the south of France and in
Malaysia. I have visited Hong Kong and Japan and many other places
briefly. I love America like I love my children. My son is not the
fastest person, the smartest person or the funniest person, but he is
my favorite kid. America is like that. There are finer cuisines in the
world. There are more peaceful countries in the world. There are more
advanced cultures in the world. I am always happiest here though. It is
what I know and where I have been. It is where my life and the lives of
my family have been played out.
On matters of opinion like this, no one can pronounce you wrong, but it
possible to point at
specifics and say, this is an area where we may disagree in a
I, too, have had the opportunity to spend significant time in, and
visit, other countries – France, Italy, Germany, Colombia, Hong Kong,
et al – and every single time, I can’t wait to get home. Why? Because I
specifically disagree with you when you say “There are finer cuisines
in the world... There are more advanced cultures in the world.”
American cuisine consists of all
the cuisines of the world, brought to us by all the immigrants who fled
the land of their birth for the one nation ever founded as an idea
rather than a kingdom. Your choice of cuisine as a criterion makes for
an interesting metaphor. In France I get sick of so much French
cooking. In Italy I tire of even the most excellent pasta. After a week
or so, the experience of it becomes so narrow and confining that I
begin to feel claustrophobic. I yearn for the amazing variety of tastes
we always have available here. The same is true of the vaunted foreign
“high cultures” as well, which in my experience over the last decade or
so have come to seem curiously enervated and mannered rather than
inspiring, as if the incredibly long pasts of older nations have become
a kind of fossilized snakeskin they can’t quite wriggle free of. The
creativity and dynamism which fueled their historical cultural
achievements have in large measure migrated here, where it is still
exploding spontaneously and vibrantly in the vast cultural summation
that is America.
Further, I object strenuously to the notion that there are “more
peaceful countries in the world.” I believe this to be a gross
misstatement of fact that represents a gross misunderstanding of
history. Without the United States of America, the relative peace that
reigned during the so-called Cold War would never have obtained. Europe
and much of the rest of the world would have fallen victim to the most
murderous totalitarian power the world has ever seen. They could not
have protected themselves because what you see as pacifism is more akin
to resignation or exhausted fatalism (on display now in their glacial
abdication to rigid muslim superstitions). But I suspect that you
define peace as the absence of purely military hostilities. A nation
whose people are tortured and murdered in the hundreds of thousands by
their own government is nevertheless technically "at peace" and
therefore preferable to the war-mongering represented by any external
military intervention. I understand. I disagree. But I understand.
Overall, your poetic overview of things American, which is honestly quite
moving at times, nevertheless carries the implication that America is
just one more country, picturesque and sense-laden as any other, and you
love it because it happens to be your own. I believe this is precisely
the disconnect Dean Barnett may have been seeking to uncover. For most
of our history, America has been the hope of the entire world. For very
sound reasons. Time and again, it is the world beyond our borders which
has begged us
to leave our
peaceful homes and pull their
fat out of the fire. Their ingratitude is no surprise, and it certainly
shouldn’t blind Americans to the magnificence of the legacy we tend
to take for granted. Yet I’m guessing you’re too sophisticated to see
that or to understand the import of your more pedestrian view.
In my opinion, a love of America which is rooted in sentiment for the
land and its
people without taking note of American exceptionalism as a nation is
not strong enough to withstand the libels and rationalizations of those
who would make us singularly responsible for all their weaknesses,
failings, hatreds, and crimes.
I don't dispute your love. It's just that it seems, in the final
analysis, more a sensory preference than a passionate commitment. But
that's your right and privilege. As an American.
I should add, too, that I'm reconsidering the fairness of Dean
Barnett's challenge. It is
interesting to look beyond the surface of politics and explore what it
is that's so different in the worldviews of rhetorical combatants.
Anyone who visits here should also feel free to expatiate on their own
feelings about the country whose heritage we share.
If you're visiting from HughHewitt.com, you might also enjoy InstaPunk's
take on the new Iraq War strategy
announced last night by the
President. Or the amazing
attendant to President Ford's funeral. Unless you're really,
at heart, just an
old-time NFL football fan
For those who are interested in this post, there's much more commentary
over at HughHewitt.com
where Dean Barnett's readers, including Toadie, continue to discuss the
issues. Also, here's an InstaPunk
on a closely related topic: chickenhawks.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Eagles Fly, Giants Try
excitement, and something special besides.
Not flying high exactly, but much closer to ground level, the
Philadelphia Eagles continued their battle back from oblivion yesterday
and won their sixth straight game, 23-20, sending the New York Giants
home for the season. They did it with the running game. Brian Westbrook
rushed for more than 140 yards, outshining a superlative performance by
Tiki Barber in his final NFL game. And there was something marvelous
that happened. But we'll get to that later. First, some specifics.
There were high notes and low notes for both teams. Eli Manning looked
like a deer in the headights for most of the game and gave Giant fans
plenty of reason to be concerned about his ability to lead and inspire.
The Eagles offense sputtered early, and until the climactic game-ending
drive, the coaching staff seemed to have trouble remembering that what
got them to the playoffs was ball control, not relentless air attacks.
There was also a staggering price paid for two penalties in the second
half that between them cost the Eagles 115 yards and 10 points.
The high notes predominated, however. After a nightmare second half of
the season, the Giants could have gone meekly, and understandably, into
the night without much of a struggle. Instead, they were valiant. Stellar
moments: Shockey losing his helmet and fighting through a minefield of
Eagle helmets for more yardage; Barber stopped at the line on a
critical third down, but gaining the necessary yard through sheer force
of will; Eli Manning mounting a fourth-quarter touchdown drive when it
seemed the momentum of the game had turned irresistibly against him. Of
course, the Eagles found a way to win according to their recent formula
-- brilliant performances by Westbrook and Dawkins, a gutty performance
by Garcia, and a truly great game played by someone unexpected, in this
case Reggie Brown, who was everywhere on the field at once, like a,
well, offensive version of Brian Dawkins. The cherry on top of the
Sunday was a last-second winning field goal, expertly held (gasp!) for
kicker David Akers by returning Eagle Koy Detmer.
These are the kinds of things one expects from the playoffs, though.
What makes a game special and memorable is not the great deeds but the
small ones, the brief glints that don't spotlight sports stars so much
as illuminate sport. The Eagles and the Giants are fierce lifelong
rivals stretching all the way back to 1933 when they met in the very
first game the Eagles played. Their two regular-season meetings this
year were grueling, traumatic confrontations, huge turning points for
both teams each time. The mood of this game -- destined to finish off a
deeply emotional season for one or the other -- could have been
bitter and murderous. But it wasn't.
On both sides I saw brutal hits that could have started fights -- Tiki
slammed violently out of bounds, Westbrook the same -- except that the
tackler immediately helped the runner to his feet with an exchange of grins and back pats. I saw similar instances between offensive and defensive
antagonists several other times during the game. On the next play
they'd blast each other all over again, of course, but the glint had
been there, and it wasn't my imagination, because at the end of the
game, there was a lot more of it, Eagles and Giants shaking hands and
smiling at one another like gentlemen sportsmen of another era.
Most movingly, Westbrook and Barber embraced one another at midfield,
the two of them having accounted for an astonishing 280 yards of
offense. Watching them, you knew that Westbrook was saying a respectful
farewell to an icon and Barber was congratulating a successful younger
The post-game press conferences confirmed what had been evident on the
field. Andy Reid, Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins, all went out of their
way to laud Tiki Barber for his talent and his heart, and in his turn,
Tiki eloquently pointed the way to what really was special about the
game and these two teams. He told the reporters he thought it fitting
that he should have ended his career in Philadelphia, against Jeremiah
Trotter and Brian Dawkins, men who had repeatedly battered him over the
years. And he related how moved he had been by his meeting on the field
with Dawkins after the game. Dawkins said, "You are a warrior." Tiki
understood exactly what it meant to receive such a compliment from such
a man. Each of them was staring into a kind of mirror. As were the two
teams who took the field yesterday.
Neither the Giants nor the Eagles are the most talented team in the
NFL. But they share things which transcend the ups and downs of any
particular season, including this one. They're the twin dinosaurs of
the northeastern U.S., metropolitan teams -- and next-door neighbors --
who have survived very long histories under the spotlight of
sophisticated big city presses who lionize and assault them beyond what
is imaginable in most other cities. They are sustained by extraordinary
fans. Largely blue-collar fans who are the children, grandchildren, and
great grandchildren of Giant/Eagle fans. Fans who cheer
with complete abandon because it is their birthright, part of their
blood. This is the source of the teams' strength, the deep well from
which they draw their resiliency, their willingness to go above and
beyond, their capacity for tragic collapses, their ecstasy in victory
and despair in defeat. The history and the blood ties make them feel
more than most, and give them that startlingly clear sense of identity
they have in common -- what it means to be an Eagle, what it means to
be a Giant, win or lose.
There are many factors in the current NFL game that have the power to
undermine team identities, the vital bond with fans, and that precious
sense of 'home.' Free agent contracts make a joke of geography, the
Redskins are a status symbol for ambitious Yuppie carpetbaggers, the
Colts of Unitas abandoned their roots for landlocked Indianapolis, and
the Browns who play in Cleveland now are rank impostors. No team is
immune, and both Giants and Eagles have displayed their share of the
spoiled, stateless multi-millionaire syndrome. But they remain where
they began, anchored to the brightest lights of the east coast. And
when the stars are right and the moon is in an ideal phase, both these
great institutions can still plug into the vast legacies of which they
are a part and become, for an afternoon or an evening or a season, a
living monument to what is best in the tradition of American sport.
That's what I saw yesterday.
Fly, Eagles, fly.