Thursday, March 30, 2006

Three times a-fisking

[Welcome back! I decided that this was too much fun to let sit, so this is going up a day early. Those of you who are welcome (but not back) may have missed part one and part two of this exercise. Well, go ahead, we’ll still be here when you return. The rest of us, on to the rest of “what Republicans believe.”]

15. “A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying about WMD existence to enlist support for an unprovoked, undeclared war and occupation, in which thousands of soldiers and civilians die, is, somehow, solid defense policy in a War against Terrorism.”

Again, let’s quibble about the grammar for a second – “A president” cannot be “solid defense policy,” regardless of the president or the policy. For that matter, he can’t be an impeachable offense, he can only commit one. As things stand, it takes a few tries to finally figure out that lying is the subject modified by the subordinate clauses, not the president. Sorry, but if it’s confusing, it’s not correct.

More substantively, President Clinton DID commit four impeachable offenses. The “about” makes no odds; he perjured himself and tampered with witnesses. This is less-than-becoming behavior for the chief executive of the United States. On to the next – lying about WMD. Well, I’ve seen the sixteen words, and they were not nearly the only thing in that speech, so – no. Unless, of course, one is also willing to state that the Democrats also lied about WMD throughout the 90’s. It seems much more likely that the current sense of outrage has to do with Bush actually acting on this intelligence, instead of merely sounding good in speeches. (As we’ve all heard, he often doesn’t.)

This was flawed intelligence that Hussein himself contributed to – his own generals were astonished that there were no chemical and biological weapons to use against the Coalition forces; how were those forces supposed to know better? AH – increased intelligence. Glad to see the Left is on board with the need for a stronger intelligence program.

Leaving all of that aside for the moment, were WMD the only reason to invade? By no means. The “unprovoking” included refusal to comply with any of the terms of the original cease-fire, which according to convention means that a state of war still exists. The current action wasn’t ‘declared’ because one does not need to declare the same war over and over again.

The “deaths of soldiers and civilians” thing is too silly and banal to reason with. War kills things? You don’t say! You never saw that “War is bad for people and other living things” bumper sticker? But I will grant this much: a lot of the current unrest could have been spared if the US had actually done one of the things it’s being accused of here – occupation. Had we simply conquered the country outright and then worked from there, there would be less civil unrest. But there'd also be less freedom, and that's the point of what's going on out there.

16. “Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which should include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.”

Point of fact – gay marriage is not now currently lawful. In many cases, the states have never ruled, and in every case, lack of ruling indicated lack of need, since nobody ever imagined a challenge to the definition of marriage that has existed since history dawned.

I’m tempted to give a pass on “censoring the Internet,” since this blogger’s column came three weeks before the FEC’s ruling that
blogging is protected political speech. But I find that I can’t. Really, who shows the most disdain for bloggers? (A helpful rundown from the inestimable Ms. Malkin begins to answer the question.) Remember the howling by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Jim Boyd in 2004? (Hopefully you do, because the Tribune’s site no longer offers access to the editorial.) Remember this hoo-hah from last year? More recently, we had some holiday fun: according to some, the unwashed, untutored masses cannot possibly be trusted with a public voice. These people are in favor of democracy?

17. “The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's Harken Oil stock trade should be sealed in his Daddy's library, and is none of our business.”

According to this report (nearly four years old, btw), the Harken Oil trade came to light via the Freedom of Information Act. It doesn’t sound like anyone was locking anything away. The SEC investigated it at the time and found no illegalities. Contrast with this. This came to light precisely because of illegal practices by those who were also advising Ms. Clinton:

“The records the White House released yesterday were part of an investigative file from 1979, when the exchange charged Bone and Refco with violations of its record keeping and margin requirement rules. Bone was suspended for three years; Refco paid a $250,000 fine, then the largest in the exchange's history. Internal memos from that investigation cover transactions from the same period in June in which Clinton was trading, but not the same trades. In one instance, the Merc found Bone and a fellow broker were ordering 1,000 cattle contracts at a time – far over the limit allowed at the time – and then allocating them to other customers.”

Conclusion – the public has a right to know about both. They can then make up their own minds based on what they know. Horrors!

18. “What Bill Clinton or John Kerry did in the 1960s was of vital national interest but what Bush did in the 80's is irrelevant.”

There’s a good reason to treat Clinton and Kerry’s past differently from W’s – they are, in fact, different things. Clinton dodged the draft, and Kerry repudiated his own service. Bush partied hard, but unlike Clinton and Kerry, there is no evidence that he advocated the defeat of his own country’s armed forces in war, much less actively worked to make it happen. It’s also important that Clinton and Kerry are proud of their dishonorable pasts, while Bush has turned from his – he’s been clean and sober for quite some time.

19. “Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.”

This is hardly universal. I think that some of our policy toward Cuba, in fact, is shameful – we ought to welcome anyone who tries to cross, even if they aren’t yet ashore. In fact, I’d have the Coast Guard patrolling international waters to rescue and welcome to America anyone they can reach. And that truck with the homemade 55-gallon pontoons would be on permanent display in the Smithsonian as an example of what lengths people will go to in pursuit of freedom – except for the Fourth of July, when it would be paraded down Broadway and showered with ticker tape.

There are, however, one or two things to consider that suggest that it isn’t hypocrisy to treat Cuba and China differently. First, Cuba is about 1/10,000th the size, and second, China is a nuclear power that could incinerate several of our allies in the Pacific Rim. It deserves a little consideration – dare I say, a little nuance?

20. “Affirmative Action is wrong, but it is OK for Bush's Daddy and his friends (here and in Saudi Arabia) to get him to graduate from Yale without studying much, to dodge the draft in the Texas Air National Guard, to bail out his companies (Harken Oil and the Texas Rangers), to get the Governorship of Texas and then to have the Supreme Court appoint him President of the USA.”

Here, at we careen into the homestretch, we are beginning to see frothing and fatigue. This whole screed wobbles precariously on one quite unlikely point, like an upside-down pyramid - somehow the Bush family secretly runs everything. (I mean, hasn't anyone heard of the Illuminati or Xenu? Get your secret cabals straight!)

First, I have no idea how anyone from the House of Saud has anything to do with running the undergraduate program at Yale. Bush didn’t do any worse than Kerry in the Ivy League; maybe the French helped Kerry skate by?

Second, entering the National Guard is enlistment. How does one dodge the draft by volunteering for the armed forces? One may as well say that I dodged my last temp assignment by finding a full-time job, or dodged traffic court by paying the fine three weeks in advance.

Third – Harken Oil was not Bush’s company. It took over Bush’s company. It’s not uncommon for companies to purchase competitors, even ones that are insolvent. It could be for the tax write-offs, for access to new markets, or to reorganize and then resell the acquisition… Whether or not this involved people Bush knew doesn’t seem like a big deal. Most people just call that “networking.” Likewise, the Texas Rangers purchase – Bush was
one of many investors. The team got a sweetheart stadium deal from the City of Arlington that people like to suggest as evidence of the eeeevil of W. Such a deal was par for the course, however, in the 90’s, which saw a huge boom in stadium construction: Baltimore’s Camden Yards, Chicago’s New Comiskey Park (since renamed), Cleveland’s Jacobs Field… The trend has accelerated, with new ball parks also going up in Seattle, Houston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, and San Francisco – and that’s just baseball. AND that doesn’t include new stadia built specifically for expansion teams, such as Denver’s Coors Field, Bank One Ballpark in Arizona, or the Trop in Tampa.

Bush (along with his fellow owners) pulled in a good profit on the sale of the team, ten years later. This ought to be expected in the midst of a boom in the value of sports franchises. (Tom Hicks, who bought the Rangers for $250 mil, could sell the team today
for a tidy profit of $76 million.) What's more, the Texas Rangers were a terrible mess before Bush's team bought them - a bad team in a crappy facility with woeful attendance. By the time Hicks took over, they had the new facility, in which millions of fans watched their most successful seasons, led by major stars stars such as Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez. (An excellent book called "Seasons in Hell," talks about these days in gory detail.)

Fourth – and most importantly – Bush was twice elected Governor, and since then, twice elected President. I’m reasonably sure that he doesn’t have 60 million relatives (with about 2.3 million in Texas alone), so his support was broader than merely family.

21. “You are a conservative, but it is OK to spend like there is no tomorrow and run up deficits that your grandchildren will have to pay, while at the same refunding as much tax money as possible to rich people who do not need it.”

Anyone who thinks that “(R)” stands for “conservative” hasn’t been listening to McCain, Chafee, Snowe, or Specter for the past ten years. This could easily and more truthfully be turned around – you are a liberal, so it is OK to complain about Republicans whether they seek to cut or increase government spending, while completely not noticing the Democrats' role in the growth of federal government's budget and scope. But as it stands, the above statement betrays a flawed argument common on the modern Left – rich people don’t need the money, therefore it is allowed (indeed, laudable) to take it by force of law. Philosophically, it’s part of the larger trend toward class warfare, fueled by the firm belief that wealth is de facto proof of dishonesty and greed, matched only by the belief that the Left Knows Best where our own money is concerned.

I’ll gladly grant that the current Congress is spending like a pack of drunken sailors, which even in peacetime would be irresponsible. But I’m not going to bitch if they pass some tax cuts, even if they do give back more money to other people. Soros earned his, and I earned mine, and I don’t begrudge him his extra million. Where does he get off begrudging me my extra hundred? If rich Democrats really think the government doesn’t do enough for the poor, they have the same freedom as every other citizen to give to their favorite charity, or the local panhandlers, or whatever they please. The key there is, whatever they please; not whatever the government so orders.

That brings us to our stirring conclusion:

“Contemplating these illogical paradoxes can take a toll on a healthy mind.”

They sure can, but this three-part guide should get you through the worst of it safely. For example - a paradox is not the same as straight illogic. The word they’re looking for is “contradiction,” since paradox, by definition, is something that only seems contradictory on the surface. My service to you, the reader!

“So if a friend of yours has been acting a bit dazed and confused lately, be nice: he or she may be a Republican.”

And can you blame this hypothetical friend? Half the people he knows think him daft and wish him ill, and he has to spend all day refuting the dullest, silliest misconceptions about his positions on life and society. No wonder I've gone a bit peculiar.

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