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  • I’m Telling You, It’s Going to be Close

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on February 24th, 2004 (All posts by )

    Dick Morris cites to a recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll which shows Dubya in seriously deep doo-doo. Bush’s job approval is at an all-time low of 45%. More importantly, as Morris points out, the public now ranks security concerns fourth in terms of priority, and Dubya is rated way lower than the Democrat on all non-national security issues. In other words, Jane Public trusts the Donks to spend the money on health care, education, etc. Voters are ambivalent about tax cuts. Morris suggests that Bush must talk up the dangers of terrorism, etc. But, that will backfire. Bush has to proclaim that his policies have succeeded, and by doing so, he makes himself less relevant and less desirable as a candidate.

    A victorious war is instantly forgotten by the voting public. The American voter is a tough boss. She only wants to know, “what have you done for me lately.” Past good service counts for nothing. The good news is that Jane Voter has concluded that Iraq was a good idea and that we won. She has also concluded that the Democrats, whatever they say, will carry on following much the same course that Bush has followed. So, for Republicans, the bad news is she now considers the war on terrorism, Iraq, etc. to be essentially resolved as political issues. And with the war effectively over, or at least under control, peacetime issues will dominate. This leaves only bread and butter issues, and the voting public appears to be in a mood where it wants new middle-class entitlements that only the Democrats will provide — like subsidized day care so Mom can work all day. Ambivalence about tax cuts is no surprise. American middle class voters do not like anything which they perceive as benefiting the rich or the poor at their expense. George Stigler had an article about this years ago entitled ” Director’s Law of Public Income Redistribution”, (Journal of Law & Economics, 1970, vol. 13, issue 1, pp. 1-10; not available online) named after U of C economist Aaron Director. Director and Stigler demonstrated that American government policy consistently benefited the middle class at the expense of the rich and the poor. This is contrary to most political rhetoric, but there it is. This is also consistent with Walter Russell Mead’s finding that Jacksonian values have come to permeate the American suburban middle class — and that Jacksonians are “opposed to federal taxes but obstinately fond of federal programs seen as primarily helping the middle class (Social Security and Medicare, mortgage interest subsidies).” And suburban voters trust the Democrats on these issues more than the Republicans. Also, Jacksonians do not much like foreigners, and the immigration and outsourcing issues are going to hurt Bush. I even think calling the invasion of Iraq “Operation Iraqi Liberation” was a mistake. Social work for foreigners does not get you much popularity with the American voting public.

    Dubya seems to be tracking his father, despite his attempts not to. Bush, Sr. won a war and thought that would matter to people months later. It didn’t. It was ancient history by election day ’92. So while it is a long way to election day ’04, I am not yet willing to bet that Dubya won’t get a one way ticket back to Crawford on the same basis — thanks for the war, there’s the door. I’ll only bet on this: Whatever happens, it is going to be close.

     

    47 Responses to “I’m Telling You, It’s Going to be Close”

    1. Jonathan Says:

      If W loses it will be good because it will mean that none of our cities got nuked. But it will also be bad, because it will likely mean that Bush’s replacement will deemphasize the war — or, worse, will interpret his electoral victory as confirmation that we overreacted to 9/11 — and allow our enemies to regroup. That would be the way to disaster.

      I think that Bush’s current negatives are mainly a function of a lull in the war, and of nonstop Demo attacks on him to which he has not seriously responded. I still think that he will probably win decisively. But I could be wrong. W’s many irresponsible domestic policy decisions would make it easy for conservatives and libertarians to sit the election out, if it weren’t for the war. His failure to explain the war adequately could end up hurting him as erstwhile supporters start to believe the drumbeat of media defeatism.

    2. Sandy P. Says:

      I will never understand how we could watch our fellow Americans make their final choice of how they will die and need to explain the war adequately – we are turning into the nanny state, we’re children.

      And it’s going to be quite a surprise when AQ tests the new pres’ determination. Can’t blame W for that one, they wanted change and bennies.

    3. linden Says:

      It’s the economy, stupid.

    4. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Yes, it’s going to be close. Given the last presidential election and the current economic, political and geopolitical situation, I just have to wonder what planet the “landslide” supporters live on.

      From an electoral standpoint, and from both polls and anecdotal evidence, it seems a lot easier to find people who are strongly opposed to Bush than it is to find people who strongly support him. Even among conservatives. And the gay marriage constitutional amendment nonsense will not change that situation. Like he doesn’t have enough s**t on his plate in an election year…

    5. Jonathan Says:

      I guess I’m from Planet Contrary.

      If you look at Tradesports.com, current odds are around 65% that Bush will win and around 50% that he will receive more than 300 electoral votes. These odds suggest that I am wrong and that it will be close. I think the consensus is probably wrong. We’ll see.

    6. Lex Says:

      I hope Tradesports.com is right, and take a lot of comfort from those numbers. If they start to break, don’t tell me, I’ll become terribly upset.

    7. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Jonathan, see what the IEM and Tradesports thought of the Iowa primary. These markets are the best live opinion polls around. But that’s all they are. And we’re still way too far from the election for polls of any kind to have any value. For starters, we don’t have a Democratic nominee yet. Until that’s done, polls about Bush’s victory sound rather…well, not very relevant.

    8. Andrew X Says:

      I’m a landslider, here’s my thinking in fact McNugget form

      1. Senators / Congressmen have a VERY bad record of getting elected President. Not only does Kerry (assuming) have to defend 19 years of votes, the Senate GOP can happily pile on a bunch more that will force him to choose or take a pass, which might be just as bad. Kennedy was the only one in about a hundred years, and he squeaked by Nixon almost as close as Bush / Gore.

      2. Sitting Presidents NOT challenged by their own party have an almost unbeaten record.

      3. If all states vote as they did in 2000, Bush wins by 10 or so electoral votes. That means the Dem HAS to win everything they did in 2000, plus. Also, more than a few Gore victories, like New Mexico, were by 1% or so. Not as much the case with Bush. The South is virtually gone for Democrats.

      4. Comparisons with Bush father don’t really hold water. W is a very different kind of President. Also, a factor in 1992 that gets little mention is that Bush 41 was basically in the 12th year of an administration. Americans like change for changes sake, but not really after only four years (lacking other major reasons).

      5. Nader may have little effect, but he sure ain’t gonna help the Dems.

      6. Note that I haven’t mentioned the war yet.

      7. Remember that Bush beat Ann Richards by about 1%, and got re-elected by over 10%. I’m just sayin’.

      8. Young people are trending conservative. You will see many more Jews vote Republican given recent events. Blacks and Hispanics are surprisingly conservative on a number of social issues.

      9. Bush’s campaign has SOOOO much ammo to use against opponents, not just money, but the litany of foolish and contradictory things they have been saying over the past year and a half. Take the paradigm of “How dare Bush not act on pre-9/11 intelligence” plus “How dare he invade Iraq without cause”, and spread that paradigm to issues we’ve seen across the board. Now, make a bunch of ads showing that. Bam!

      10. If Vietnam is paired with Kerry’s name, no matter how “good” it is for him, it’ll be terrible for him. The ONLY people who look back fondly on that era are the radicals. For everyone else, it’s a horrible, painful era that we want to forget. Kerry ain’t helping.

      11. Kerry’s a New England Senator. It seems kinda sad, but New England just doesn’t transfer well to much of America, politically speaking, much like Berkley. Through all of history, Massachusetts gave us people rather out of tune with the rest of the country. In the revolution and civil war, they were the radicals. (They were right of course, but still the radicals. Are they “right” now? Hmmmmm.) The South? Forget it. Only Kennedy could do that, and let’s face it, in 200 years, if we had a President with more sheer charisma, I can’t think of who. Kerry? Charisma? Uh huh.

      12. The conventions. Radicals have quite clearly stated their intent to surround the Republican Convention and do their thing. Be my guest. When Kerry sees those pictures, as we all will, he will weep. Meanwhile, Sharpton and Dean will speak in Boston, and get as enthusiastic a response from the country at large as they already have.

      13. God, Kerry is a boring speaker. And if Edwards wins anything AFTER super-Tuesday, and he might, that’s gonna be a problem.

      14. Bush does not have to replace every job lost since 11/2000. He just needs to be on a strong upward employment trend that has been visible for 90 days or so, and he’ll be fine. I think that will happen.

      15. NOW I’ll mention the war.

      16. The war. We all know that associated baggage for both sides. I need not repeat it here, except to say Persian Gulf War I “felt” over, and behind us. This one will not be, not for a long time.

      Those are just a few of the rapids that the Democratic nominee (assuming Kerry) is going to have to negotiate. That’s a pretty rough ride. Nothing is certain, but I already have bets on the table, and I’m not losing sleep over it.

    9. Sandy P. Says:

      Bill Hobbs reported Peterbilt is upping its mfg. from 12 trucks/day to 30, was at 36 before, starting in 2 weeks.

      Also reported was that in WI, companies are going to give raises since their prospects are improving AND the MFG council(?) says 2004 is looking good. (Even my husband is feeling a little better.)

      Debt may come in at $50 bill less (trend macro), plus tax revenues are up, NYC is $1.4 Bill in black, TN is up $100mil over projections which it’s trying to hide from the taxpayers….UComp is down $1 billion, and I wonder what the rest of the country is doing?

      It is the economy, Stupid. And they are stupid.

      Of course, if we wanted 300K good-paying jobs, we’d open ANWR, but that’s another story.

      And didn’t Greenspan say something yesterday that consumers are paying down debt? Tax returns are being filed. There’s still $5 trillion sitting out of the market, but Abby Cohen believes 11800 on the Dow in about a year.

    10. Lex Says:

      Andrew X, good analysis. Sure hope you are right.

    11. Jonathan Says:

      Sylvain, I appreciate that the consensus may be wrong. That is what I am arguing: that the current consensus overdiscounts Bush’s recent political setbacks. Amidst all the hype, it’s easy to forget that the election is months away.

      It’s a bit like securities markets when temporary events significantly raise or lower premium levels in near-term options contracts. The distant expirations tend to overdiscount whatever happens in the short-term expirations. This is a familiar pattern in human behavior.

      Andrew: From your keyboard to God’s modem. I hope that you are correct.

    12. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      – Andrew, speaking of trends, that of the president’s approval ratings seems to be of no interest to you. I’d think it ought to figure prominently in any attempt at predicting the turnout of the election.

      – I consider #1 and #2 irrelevant. People don’t lose because they’re Senators anymore than incumbent Presidents win only because there is no challenge in their own party. I know that this kind of pseudo-statistical handwaving is fashionable these days but it proves nothing. It reminds me of all those Wall Street experts telling people to invest in 2002 because the stockmarket does not fall three years in a row. Right. If these are the top two reasons to believe in a landslide, count me totally unconvinced.

      – #3 is essentially an outcome predicated on the past repeating itself exactly; which is unlikely, if only because we now all know about the precedent. If the last mid-term election has proven something, it is that turnout matters. Given all that’s happened in the past 4 years, and the current political landscape, I don’t think we can assume the turnout will be the same; the game is in flux. Don’t underestimate the Dems this time around. In 2002, the Republicans did a masterful job getting out the vote. The Democrats are already getting their s**t together in this respect. And that’s what Soros is funding with his millions. On the ground, it is going to be one amazing battle.

      – “Comparisons with Bush father don’t really hold water. W is a very different kind of President. ” You need to substantiate that assertion. More importantly, you ought to prove that a majority agree with you. But I don’t see how that supports a landslide since the Dems agree with you. They’re not arguing they’re the same thing. They believe W. is far worse i.e. we’ll still be in Iraq in November and the economy is not so hot etc etc.

      – Nader ? He doesn’t have the Green Party behind him this time. But yes, not good for the Dems. However, I find it interesting that one could believe in a Bush landslide and have to use Nader in the top 5 reasons. I don’t want to sound harsh, but this one should be way at the end of the list.

      – “Note that I haven’t mentioned the war yet.” No, but Bush has. He has officially labelled himself a war president on Meet the Press. Implying that this is what he wants to be judged on. Big, big gamble. Especially when poll after poll shows that it’s the economy, stupid. For whatever reason, you’re either a war president, or you’re close to the average Joe’s concerns. You can’t be both. Bush has chosen, and I wouldn’t assume too casually he has done the right choice. I certainly question his timing.

      – #7 How that proves we are going to have a landslide in 2004 is rather…well…..puzzling.

      – #8 trending in the sense that there are more of them. I have not seen evidence that a growing proportion of them are turning conservative yet. Or in numbers large enough to suppose a landslide, or a significant Republican edge. Living in a rather conservative state – NH – where Dean didn’t campaign, I can tell you it’s a lot easier to find fired-up young Dems than their Republican counterparts. So I’ll need more evidence to buy this one before I agree it’s a factor in supporting a landslide.

      – #9 If you think the Democrats will be short on “foolish and contradictory things” this administration has done or said, you’re dreaming. This one is at best a wash for the Republicans. Whether it’s Iraq or the economy, the Democrats have plenty to chew on. Too much, in fact. They even have dental records, for crying out loud.

      – #10 Confusing. Kerry pushed out his military credentials mostly at the beginning of the primaries, to differentiate himself from his opponents. And I totally disagree it’s bad for him, unless he were to constantly push it in everyone’s face. Moreover, he doesn’t really have a choice. The media and the voters are interested in that part of his background. And given W.’s service record, which does not exactly compare to Kerry’s, it will come up. Of course, Republicans sense a rather embarassing weakness in the armor of their “war president”, so, very conveniently, well, “it’s an old war”, “it’s not relevant” and “people want to forget”. Right. And you want me to believe they’d say the same thing if Bush was a decorated ex-Navy SEAL ? Give me a break.

      You can’t spend 8 years dragging Clinton in the mud for dodging the draft 30+ years ago and decide the people want to forget when it’s your turn. That’s too easy. And Kerry wins on this count.

      – #11. So what ? This kind of New England generalization supports a landslide ? And W. has charisma ? Uh ? And speaking of charisma and New Englanders, there was that John F. Kennedy guy back in the days.

      – #12 Well, when the anti-abortion activists and other gay marriage ban social conservatives start doing their thing, I’m sure the radical loonies will offset each other quite nicely. As they always do.

      – #13. Yes. This is one saving grace for Bush; the other guy is as boring a speaker as he is. If he wins, this could be the most soporific Presidential TV debate ever. Hardly supports a landslide though. Bush has proven you can be the more boring, less charismatic guy and win.

      – #14. Actually, that has happened in the past 90 days and his ratings are going down. And I totally disagree 90 days would be enough to prove much of anything. The opposition could argue as much, and suggest the entire term should be judged and make a perfectly fair point. And if that was sufficient, Bush 41 should have done better; I recall things were improving before he left.

      Anyway. In case that wasn’t clear, I don’t buy the landslide argument. I did for a very short while. Tax increases, national health care, I thought….this kind of crap is going to put people off big time. Talking with the locals of course, it turned out they are more rational and pragmatic. They don’t believe Congress will pass any of it anymore they believed it would when Clinton ran on a similar platform. The more moderate, independent types just expect Democrats to propose such things as a matter of course, as a sop to their political base. They’re not too worried about these things actually happening anytime soon. And it doesn’t look like the Democrats can make inroads in Congress in 2004. Or that it would be enough for a new Dem President to pass such massive government programs. As far as many people are concerned, this is like Bush’s Mars plans.

      I’m more worried. But then I know what nationalized healthcare looks like.

    13. Burt Says:

      Clinton’s approval rating at the same point in his career was 42%…

      But I can’t remember which scandal he was weathering at the time.

    14. Andrew X Says:

      Sylvain –

      (thwock) Back atcha.

      Generally, no, you can’t conclude because ‘XYZ’ happened three times before, it will happen a fourth. But if you’re a betting man, you’re certainly going to factor that in. I think many of the factors regarding lack of primary challenge, Senator vs. Governor, New England, Bush’s record in Texas elections, no, they are not absolutes, they are factors. But there is a number of them, and they do add up.

      RE: Comparisons with Bush’s Father – He IS different in a number of ways. Maybe people do not like him for entirely different reasons (Bush HW the unilateralist?), but he is different, in that he is a bolder gambler, and connects with his base in a way Dad did not.

      Nader – “Top 5” is happenstance. I’m not going in relevance order, just what comes to my head. I said he “may have lttle effect, but is not helping the Dems”. That stands up. It’s just one of the list. If it weren’t true, Dems would not care. I see many reactions, but not a lot of “I don’t care” from Democrats about Nader. They are ticked at him, and rightly so.

      “I haven’t mentioned the war” is simply my way of pointing out the number of factors not war related. I would hope he DOES mention it. It is huge. People are free to think is is not. Analytically, huge majorities are free to think it is a minor issue. Those huge majorities are wrong.

      BTW, remember that 54% to 44% constitutes a “landslide” in electoral vote terms, because the electoral tend to magnify the margin of victory, just to keep our terms straight. I’m thinking along those 54/44/2 terms or so.

      #9 – Ah ha…. we shall see. Frankly, I don’t see it yet from the Demo side. Their criticism has been all over the map, but not coherent and focused. Frankly, I have YET to see ANY answer to the general question… “WHAT is the Democrats overall, big picture strategy on this war?” Umm, go after Al Queda? So the big picture of WWII was, “Go after the Japanese fleet?” Do you have a big picture? Hint: Mine, and my President’s, is…. radically undermine and destroy where possible the locked in amber tyrannies of the Middle East, and, by destroying the Iraqi tyrant and building a civil society there, cause a radical paradigm shift in political thinking in the region, which will in the end give people power over their own lives that they can use rather than sitting around pissed at the world and plotting jihad. Agree or not, that’s the big picture, AND…. it’s working, far beyond Iraq, in Libya and elsewhere, publicly and quietly. THAT’s the plan. And it could not be done with Saddam in power. Period. So what does Kerry and party offer? Please. I’m all ears. I’ve been waiting two years now.

      #10 – It’s not Kerry’s “military credentials” it’s “Vietnam” and all the freight that word carries with it. I heard Jimmi Hendrix at the end of a Kerry rally recently. My theory is, that was a fun time for hippies and radicals, but not for others, who have no desire to re-live it. Just me, but I think it’s true. And I don’t think Kerry wins by bringing that era back to us all.

      #12 – one thing about the “social conservative loonies is”, this is just a perspective, but they seem to have a better sense of how they come off on TV, and will not stand in front of a camera under a banner of Che and call for revolution “by any means necessary”. Their ideology “might” be just as radical, but they’re not going to put it on TV like the leftist activists will. Hint: International ANSWER will be in everyone’s face in August. Kerry AIN”T gonna like that.

      #13 – I have been amazed by some the the eloquent speeches Bush has given. His 9/20/01 was a masterpiece, but set that extraordianary week aside, his recent one in London was fabulous. He is a far better speaker than I ever saw before he was elected.

      #14 – I’m just not gonna curl up in a ball over polls when the Democrats are headlines every day, and the Republican are silent, and I actually think they should be until the Dems are too married to go back. I like Kerry, as an opponent I think he’s beatable, and I don’t want to see the GOP help the Dems strengthen their choice.

      So I stand by what I wrote. Love the ‘Net… it’s all archived and we can all come back to it and see who comes out right in the end.

    15. Andrew X Says:

      OOOOO, one more, regarding “fired-up Dems”. Y’know, from all I’ve seen, I’d totally agree with you.

      Funny thing is, in Wisconsin, Dem turnout for the primary was LOWER than in both 1996 and 1988. There have also been lower turnouts in more than one other state, I can’t say which ones at the moment as I am digging, but I know that is the case.

      I find this surprising, but it is apparently the case. That should be extremely worrying to Democrats. It says that the party may in fact be very divided. If the country (I believe) is basically 45%/45%, and even one fourth of the Democratic forty is not enraged at Bush the way 3/4 of that 45% are, and maybe the fourth do hold national security in high regard, well, that comes out to 34% of Americans furious at the President, 50% ready to support him, and 14% – 16% in the middle, undecided, or out of the game. Those are grim numbers for the Democratic Party.

      I beleive the Dem base IS totally fired up. I don’t believe they are even close to a majority (maybe a third), and I do believe most of those who are not “with them” are in fact going to be “against them” because they aren’t into the anger thing, any more than they were with a similar dynamic with Clinton, who beat opponents specifically because of that.

      ‘Nuff said, I’m done.

    16. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Andrew, all right. I’ll bite one more time. But this space is a bit narrow for such long threads so I hope you won’t mind if I abstain afterwards.

      – I am a betting man. Which is precisely why I won’t bet on facts that have no relation whatsoever to the odds of an outcome. Unless someone can prove to me that all those Senators who were never elected – or a significant majority of them – lost *because* they were Senators, the variables are totally independent. Correlation is not causation. And many, many bets are lost forgetting this simple yet cardinal rule. You trust these factors if you wish. I don’t. This is no different than betting on this party because this football team won the AFC championship. The correlation exists; it doesn’t mean it has any effect on the odds. And if it doesn’t, why bet on it ?

      You might argue that they matter to the extent they are perceived to matter. But I haven’t seen any evidence that they are either, besides media pundits mentioning them because they have little to say in the time alloted to them. I don’t think American voters ever chose one candidate over another because one is a Senator and the other one isn’t. They’re smarter than that.

      – You seem to assume the differences between W. and his father work in the former’s favor. I don’t know. Both have different strengths and weaknesses. I don’t think that is very relevant either, or that these differences can suggest, or support an argument for a landslide result either way.

      – He has mentioned the war. He is a war president. Problem is, he means the war on terror in general. But most voters think Iraq. And right now, that’s not helping him. Things on the ground are worsening, and every time they do, some Administration official can be found to claim this proves the opponent’s “desperation”. Right. I’ve heard that one for a year. So has everybody else. The danger for Bush is this : find himself in a situation where the benefits of being a war president, as far as domestic polls are concerned, are in the hands of insurgents half a world away. When they fail, his ratings go up; when they succeed, his rating goes down. As I said, a gamble. In the meantime, the Democrats can load it up on the “deficit president” and all the other good stuff.

      #9 – And what is the Republicans’ coherent strategy ? I don’t give a hoot if a strategy is big, visionary or coherent on paper. It’s where the rubber meets the road that judgments are made. How it’s executed and whether it works. And bottom line : the US are spending an abysmal fortune policing and rebuilding a ruined country that had none of the WMDs that were supposed to justify its invasion. Because this was the primary justification for this. Not spreading freedom and the right to a friendly McDonald’s. And so we clobbered Iraq. While Iran next door was busy going nuclear, our “friend” Pakistan was distributing the real goods all over the place, and our other “friend” Saudi Arabia is still churning out suicidal Islamic wackos by the truckload. Many of whom train taking shots at US troops in Baghdad. Some strategy. You will forgive the average Joes and Janes out there if they feel unimpressed by the grand plan. When the daily news count American body bags, strategies have a way of sounding phony, if not downright wrong, to voters. I’d suggest the Republicans go a bit quiet on the grand strategy right now, and focus on day-to-day execution. A little bit of humility, especially from one Dick Cheney, would go a long way in this respect.

      #10 – I don’t think Kerry loses anything by mentioning his Vietnam record. You only wish he did, and I can understand why you would. There is no negative here, not against an opponent who plays the “war president” angle and was in the National Guard while Mr Kerry was a lieutenant in the delta for two tours. Like it or not, many voters are sensitive to that. Republicans know it, and that is why they crucified Clinton on his record. And their hypocrisy on this matter is nothing short of stunning: daring to claim today that Vietnam is not relevant because it’s an old war when 8 years earlier, some of the same compared Clinton’s draft dodging to Bob Dole’s World War II record. World War II !! Forty+ years earlier. Give me a break. This does not hurt Kerry at all.

      #12 – This is mostly a reflection of your bias. I don’t think extremists of either side come off better on TV. And your point has a corollary. Yes, a Ralph Reed might look better than many of his counterparts on the far left. But that is also why he creeps people out a lot more. (I know he creeps me out). “but they’re not going to put it on TV like the leftist activists will.” Really ? Well, funny, I lived here during the Gingrich “revolution” and I didn’t get that impression at all. They can, and they will, given the opportunity. Watch the gay marriage ban space in the short term. The media loves extremists of all stripes, and you can bet they will seek out the maddest right-wingers they can find. You can count on it. And it won’t look pretty. And the Left will use those guys to paint the right in a nasty color; like in the old Gingrich days. Fair game.

      #13 – I have never been impressed with Bush’s speeches, ever less their delivery. I wouldn’t call any of his speeches masterpieces. That is the kind of word I reserve for Churchill’s work. Who was far better than Tony Blair. Who is head and shoulders above Bush; and I am being very kind to Bush.

      #14 – I don’t see how this comment relates to mine or your original point. Bush is going to win by a landslide because you are not going to curl up in a ball ? Let’s stay on topic….

      As for the turnout at the Wisconsin primaries, you are interpreting them in a way that fits your bias. A lower turnout can also reflect a race perceived to be less interesting because a winner has already emerged. Which was the case.

      As for the anger part, it’s done. Dean took care of that act. They got the nastier bit out of their system. The very fact that the Dems trounced Dean, and now might give Edwards a chance, should tell you they are getting more rational and reasonable by the week.

      Do not assume. Not that you’re alone. In fact, your opinions are rather common among most conservatives I know. To me, it is starting to smell like the pride and the complacency before the fall. I’ll admit to being of a paranoid bent. But if these are not the right times to be paranoid, I don’t know when.

    17. Andrew X Says:

      Can’t…. stop…. self……

      RE: Odds. Not sure I get it. There are factors that make it difficult for a Senator/Congressman to get elected that are in fact in play here… unless the fact that the ones who run tend to lose is just a pure statistical anomoly or coincidence. I don’t think that’s the case. There are reasons for that reality, but I’m trying to be succinct. Suffice to say I believe those reasons ARE in play. Not absolutes, just factors.

      RE: Iraq. I just disagree that it is nothing but a catastrophe, or that it is getting worse. I think to expect it to be Japan right now is naive. I think explosions make news, while schools, business, hospitals and city councils opening or renovating for the first time in 30 years does not. Entire towns that see no violence at all do not. Increasing coordination between Iraqis and the US does not (no video). Increasing anger of Iraqis toward the insurgents who have clearly demonstrated that their only agenda is to make people miserable does not. I believe the media and NGO’s on the scene are in large part either hostile (NGO’s particularily, with “U.N.-thought”), and the media is hostile if European, and either hostile or just not very experienced if American. A generalization yes, there are exceptions, yes, but basically true, as spelled out recently by Dr. Bob Arnot when he resigned from MSNBC and left Iraq. (Do a Google search)

      RE: Strategy. I care a great deal what the overall strategy is, because that helps clarify where you are going, and why. You mention Pakistan, which is a great example. NO ONE would know the extent of what Pakistan was doing had Libya not blown the whistle, which they did directly because of the invasion, the exact kind of benefit we are striving for. (Don’t kid yourself, that is TOTALLY why Qadaffi did what he did. Totally. No possible doubt.)

      “Time for Republicans to go quiet?”. Quite the opposite for the other side. I’m begging now. I’m pleading. It’s been two years. I’m on my knees. “WHAT do the Democrats have in mind, overall? Go back two years and take two years of hindsight if you wish. Tell all we’ve done wrong. But WHAT should we DO, as of 9/12/01? Not what we should NOT do, that’s a cop-out. What? What now? What then? Pleeeeze! It’s night, so take your time. I cannot beleive in how many forums i have pleaded for this answer, and gotten nothing.

      Vietnam – You’re missing the point. All I’m saying is, no specifics regarding Kerry, Bush or anyone else, I just believe that Vietnam in ANY context is a losing issue. There’s too much pain, we lost, tear-gas burns the eyes, friendships and families were torn asunder, and it has been OFF the radar screen for decades. I just don’t see bringing it back, in ANY context regarding ANY facts, being a winner for more than a small number of people. The music was cool, but that’s about it.

      The rest is all just personal interpetation. Like I said, archives are cool. We can both keep some crow in the fridge.

    18. Eddie Thomas Says:

      I’ll conjecture another point in favor of Bush: the debates. Bush showed against Gore that he can think on his feet and that he is well aware of how he is perceived by others. Kerry appears remarkably thin-skinned. I suspect Bush will do well.

    19. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Andrew, all right. One more time :)

      You are confusing correlation with causation. Just because a Senator never got elected does not mean all those Senators lost *because* they were Senators. The correlation to date, however long the record, is not sufficient to establish the two variables are related. This is a common, and very mistaken statistical inference. Show me the evidence that proves that all those Senators lost primarily, or very significantly *because* they were Senators. Until then, I consider the two variables to be independent.

      Iraq: it is getting worse. We have less troops on the field and the number of soldiers killed is still climbing. Each successive Bremer plan to transfer authority back to Iraqis has essentially aborted. I don’t care about conspiracy theories about the media or the NGOs, as if the latter had any relevance. I care about the facts on the ground, and they show that security is not improving. When all people have to claim things are going well are media and NGO conspiracy theories, despite all the painful evidence from the Pentagon, I smell denial. Sure, it could be worse. Always can be. But claiming things are going well is just ridiculous. I never said it was a
      “catastrophe”. And claiming I am naive by implying I have unrealistic expectations is not only contradictory but a worn, old trick. I never did. It’s not going well. Period.

      – Strategy: Qaddafi is irrelevant. He had next to nothing; but he is a cunning man and he figured that the US would be very eager to exaggerate his pathetic, obsolete little arsenal to prove they got something right out of this grand mess, and that he’d be able to get something big in return as a result. Something out of proportion with his effort; namely an end to sanctions. And he’s getting there. And the Pakistani connection was not discovered through Libya, but by the IAEA through Iran. I know we have since learned that Pakistan supplied Libya, but the Pakistani scandal was already a few weeks old when that came up. Once again, Pakistan is one of our allies. Another great intelligence success. We invaded the one target that had absolutely nothing left. It’s like everyone else had something, except Iraq. Brilliant. Sorry, but I can excuse those who think the grand strategy is Murphy’s Law on a grand scale.

      – Talking about what we should not do is not a cop-out. Sure, you want to see it that way. That’s a very convenient excuse to dismiss criticism. Many Democrats thought we were not justified to invade Iraq based on the argument and evidence presented by the Administration. As it turned out, they were right. You can deny it all you want. The facts remain. Of course, the average Republican concludes that they did not want to take on Hussein, period. That is another convenient conclusion but one cannot infer the latter from the former. I know quite a few Democrats. They have no problem with taking Saddam down, on principle. But not for bogus reasons. Because the consequences of doing something this enormous for bogus reasons are too costly in the longer run, as they see it. Take Britain, for instance. It is quite unlikely it will ever participate in another preventive intervention with this President, or even the next. The British Parliament will not trust our intelligence, or theirs, for quite a while (nor should they, so I guess that’s a good thing; we finally know how little we know). And nobody else will either. Never mind our troops and Americans at home. Deep cynicism seems very smart all of a sudden. America’s power is unchallenged. Its credibility is just shot to bits.

      – Vietnam ? I’m not missing the point at all. You are waving hands to try and dismiss something that makes Bush look bad. Kerry served two tours, he fought in the field, he was decorated. He got his ass kicked in a real quagmire. There is nothing here that is negative for him, especially not today. Are you implying the Democrats voting for him can only be former 70s hippies ? And why would a former radical – a real one – vote for a rich kid who volunteered for two tours ? As a matter of fact, I know one of these characters and he can’t stand Kerry. The guy is an establishment figure. The radicals of the Democratic Party, young and old, rooted for Dean.

      Further, not only are you assuming that a majority are turned off by Vietnam to a point where they would not vote Kerry because he served then – but of course, they loved John McCain for his military record, and Republicans advertised it when he campaigned – but you also implicitly assume that those people who remember Vietnam will constitute a majority of the turnout. What about all those people who were not born then ? The younger, more mobilized crowd ? As it turns out, they’re loving this stuff.

    20. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Eddie, I’ll have to disagree with you too :) I remember those debates and was not impressed with Bush at all. On a couple of occasions he clearly had no scripted answer and fumbled miserably. Gore’s loss was mostly self-inflicted. His constant, condescending off-screen sighing alone did 2/3 of the work.

      And there is little evidence Bush is aware of how he is perceived by others than people from his own party. That is all he cares about.

    21. Andrew X Says:

      Well, we’re pretty much playing ping-pong here, and we both know where we stand, so I’ll leave the technicals where they are, and, of course, we will see.

      I just gotta say, for me to even begin to be comfortable with a Democratic candidate, I have to…. HAVE TO…. get something, ANYTHING, in the way of helping me believe that they DO have a grasp of grand strategy against the fascism that currently exists and is willing to kill us in large numbers at any opportunity. Just a couple of random ideas very different from what we see Bush doing….. I am not advocating, just giving examples…..

      Turn the screws on Israel to get out of all or most of the territories unilaterally, and use the relaxation of tension to make overall progress beyond Palestine.

      Drive the Saudi Royal family out of business for their dalliance with terror, replace them with…..??

      Use the full power of the United States to de-nuclearize Pakistan and/or Iran, whatever it takes.

      Try to get agreement with UN/Europe/others to literally institute a virtual “death penalty” for governments involved in nuclear or bio weapons proliferation.

      Try to get agreement with UN/Europe/others to cut off every single dime of trade or aid with nations like Egypt and Syria unless they institute serious democratic reforms.

      I advocate or oppose none of this…. These are merely examples. But I have heard NOTHING like this from Bush’s opponents other than pissing and moaning about what HAS happened, nothing about what they will do instead. Because every single option above has serious down sides and risks, and it’s far easier to sit around and be sanctimonious than stick their necks out for the risk. Am I wrong about their lack of proposals? Tell me, please, I already begged.

      I’m not trying to put you on the spot, Sylvain, as I have asked for this in multiple forums, and have yet to hear anything tangible in response. I’m actually surprised the Democrats have gotten as far as they have without…. But wadda I know ;-)

      Save the archives!

    22. Sandy P. Says:

      Interesting tidbit from Bill Hobbs:

      In 1998, at the peak of the Clinton-era economic boom, 6,934 LLCs were formed in Tennessee. That dropped to 5,710 in 1999, and then plummeted in 2000 as the Clinton-era boom ended, the Internet bubble burst, Wall Street slid, and the economy slumped toward a recession. There were just 4,629 LLCs formed in Tennessee that year. In 2001, President Bush’s first year, the rate of LLC formation began to rise, reaching 4,962. In 2002, there were 6,204 LLCs formed in Tennessee. And last year, as the Bush Boom gained strength, Tennessee entrepreneurs formed 7,412 LLCs.

      Tennessee is only one state – I’d love to have data from all 50 states – but it is one more bit of data indicating there may well be more validity to the household survey than its critics will admit.

    23. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Andrew, just because others don’t have the same answers does not imply they have no grasp of the “grand strategy”. There is no one single strategy. You seem to assume that if the Republican answers constitute a “grand strategy” then anything else isn’t. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume they don’t have a strategy. So what ? Is any strategy just better or good simply because you have one ? Not quite. Strategies are meant to reach goals, and must be judged according to their results; whether it sounds good on paper, or who wrote it, is ultimately irrelevant if it doesn’t work or fails to reach its objectives. And all consequences, intended and unintended, must be assessed. In the latter department, the current Administration has some explaining to do. If it goes out there this year and arrogantly claims it doesn’t – as Mr Cheney seemed to believe still recently – that will not go down well with voters.

      And does a lack of strategy – as you see it – invalidate any criticism they make ? Of course it doesn’t. There is plenty to criticize. And people don’t care as much about things that go right according to the plan they were sold than they do about risks and failures.

      We are talking elections here. The Republicans cannot blame their opponents for things they imagine they would or wouldn’t have done if they had been in power. But the Democrats can criticize the Administration for what it has done, and sometimes against their own judgment. That’s their job as a political opposition, just like it was the Republicans’ not so long ago. And there is plenty to talk about. If only because there are rather large gaps between the plan and what has happened.

      And I am not talking about voting for a Democrat. What I want to see is a real, effective opposition. I have conservative friends who dream of a US mirror of UK politics, with the party in power dominating the agenda while the ineffective opposition rambles and fractures and makes a mess out of itself. That’s just bad news, whoever the dominant party is.

      The Dems are starting to show some sense and that’s good news as far as I’m concerned.

      The next bit of good news would be for early opinion polls after the Democratic nomination showing their nominee ahead of Bush by enough of a margin to kick the Republicans out of their complacency and arrogant certainties. If they are going to remain in the White House, I want them on their toes.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think the Democrats have gone this far yet.

    24. Sandy P. Says:

      Hmmm, more good economic news:

      Norfolk Southern Corp., the No 4 U.S. railroad, keeps seeing higher cargo volumes as a rising U.S. economy buoys manufacturers and other shippers, the company’s chief executive said on Friday. “Every indication is that the first quarter is going to be as strong a quarter for us as the fourth quarter was,” Norfolk CEO David Goode said in an interview. “But, more importantly, for the economy, what that says to me is that you are seeing strength across practically every business group …. The economy is beginning to develop some strength.”

      Think we’ll start hearing about this come the Wednesday AFTER the election?

    25. Moira Breen Says:

      Sylvain – I share your general pessimism about Bush, but I don’t think you’re getting the point about the possibility of a Kerry misjudgment in playing the Vietnam card. Then again, I think Andrew’s a bit off, too, because I think the misstep would be in the evocation not of the war but of the era. How to put this succintly – “it’s not the war record, it’s the Jimi Hendrix”?

      You’re quite right that Kerry can profitably compare his service to Bush’s – don’t see how he could lose on that specifically. And I don’t think his problem would be in dredging up painful memories among people who lived through that time, as Andrew argues. What Kerry really needs to avoid, among people my age and younger, is provoking the “die Boomer die” reaction. His Vietnam service won’t hurt him. In itself, having opposed the war won’t hurt him. A whiff of patchouli – what 20-somethings of my acquaintance refer to as “that hippie-shit 60’s nostalgia” – might. That odor of the mummified-Boomer simply couldn’t be associated with someone like McCain, but Kerry’s vulnerable. There may be a young, mobilized group that finds all that stuff gah-roo-vay, but they’re people who are going to vote Dem anyway. I’d ditch the Hendrix, if I were Kerry.

    26. Jonathan Says:

      Hendrix, shmendrix. I’m no spring chicken and I can’t stand that stuff. It reeks of ignorance, self-absorption and cheap moral posturing. But then I wouldn’t vote for Kerry if I were paid to, and most people who go for 60s nostalgia probably don’t vote Republican. Maybe the explanation is that Kerry likes it. There seems to be no political rationale for reminding the rest of us about that wretched period.

    27. Stevely Says:

      Sylvain – have you really looked at Kerry’s record in Vietnam? He didn’t serve “two tours” in the delta (which would be 2 years) he was in country about 4 months. Besides, it’s what he did AFTER Vietnam that will be a problem for him. If he wants to make an issue of his service during Vietnam in the election, he’s a fool; there are no small number of veterans who remember exactly how he slandered and dishonored them by turning against the military and everyone in it when he got home. My Dad, for one (who did 2 actual tours of one year each).

      If Kerry is smart, he’ll get this issue off the table fairly quickly, so people know that he was in Vietnam and got some medals and that’s it. If there’s more scrutiny, they’ll learn that he’s a disloyal and self-serving man who will turn on comrades and country if he gains from it. Not exactly great leadership credentials.

    28. Andrew X Says:

      “kick the Republicans out of their complacency and arrogant certainties. If they are going to remain in the White House, I want them on their toes.”

      Hear, hear. Concur.

      I think the follow-on posts cover my point about Vietnam. It’s not Kerry’s service, it’s that that single word (Vietnam) carries LOTS of baggage with it, much of it bad. Average people who were not counter-culture don’t want to revisit it in any form, no matter what Kerry’s role was, and the younger, well, they tend to be less than fascinated with “what Grampa did in the war”.

      (Me, I’ll sit at their feet mesmerized…. but that’s just me. ;-)

      I just think it’s a strategic error, but one that the Democratic Party seems prepared to invest a lot in. Maybe they’ll change their mind, or it won’t play well early on, or whatever, but that’s my call.

    29. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Stevely, he did serve in the Mekong delta and had command of a Switft boat. Technically you’re right in that he didn’t do two full tours. However, he certainly spent a lot more than 4 months in the country. There are a lot of urban legends flying around his record, including a lot of bullcrap and even fabricated photos (http://www.snopes.com/photos/politics/kerry2.asp). And if the guy managed to get all these medals in 4 months, I’d argue I’m even more impressed.

      Bush cannot compete with that. And by positioning himself as a war president, he invited the comparison.

      “If there’s more scrutiny, they’ll learn that he’s a disloyal and self-serving man ”
      It’s called a politician.

    30. Scott Says:

      Great thread. I’m praying Andrew is right, literally praying…

    31. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Andrew, I don’t think it’s a mistake at all, whether you’re John McCain or John Kerry. We are talking about individuals here, and their personal baggage is of interest, not the overall conflict it belongs to. Nobody refers to that period as something worthy of nostalgia, nor did anyone imply it should be emulated. Of course, there are the usual idiots who want to claim Kerry is “unpatriotic” by virtue of his vocal opposition to the war. As if being a patriot meant doing whatever the government tells you to do without asking any questions or voicing any opinion. Unlike most anti-war activists at the time, he at least knew what he was talking about. And as Daniel Ellsberg – read his book, Secrets – and others have long since proven, the patriots were not those who were in favor of the war, especially in its later stages. Heck, if Nixon, Kissinger or Westmoreland were “patriots”, sign me up as unpatriotic too. Any day.

      Kerry fought, and opposed the war. And right he was on both counts. But I don’t think the Dems are going to “invest” that much in it. It came up during the primaries to differentiate Kerry from his opponents for two reasons : first, General W. Clark was assumed to be a tougher opponent for him. In this respect, the military credential bit was perceived to matter. I think that’s rational, from a campaigning standpoint. Second, Kerry does have a fairly boring political career and background. This is probably the most exciting part. Third, given the current context and Bush positioning himself as a war president, you can expect any unusual, above-average bit of military experience to count, especially if the President did little at the time.

      It would be a strategic mistake if that was all, or most of what they ran on. So far, no such thing. As far as I know. So I doubt it has hurt him in any way. It certainly was part of the “electability” package early on. The whole concept of which I am finding quite odd by the way. Suddenly, it’s as if each Dem wants to pick the guy he thinks all the other Dems like, first and foremost and before any policy consideration. So the first primary winner suddenly runs ahead of the pack, riding some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy initiated in Iowa. Now, what if the guy gets nominated and these same voters then realize they don’t really like him or his platform so much ? That is the question. And that’s a landslide angle I can see. Some sort of self-inflicted implosion, as the Dems escaped from Dean to run to an anti-Dean who loses his momentum after the primaries. But don’t ask me to gauge the odds on this one.

    32. Andrew X Says:

      Riiiight. You spelled out some of what I’ve been thinking, maybe I didn’t spell it out as cleary.

      Kerry really rode the tide of the Dean implosion, and now he’s riding the momentum. I just have a sense (now I’m a partisan obviously, so takes it or leaves it) that there is less “there” there than many of his supporters realize, and more downsides. That’s all above, so no need to repeat.

      I did mention it above and watch for this… What if Edwards wins even one or two states on Super Tuesday, or even AFTER super Tuesday? The Democrats would be saying, “We ARE going to nominate John Kerry…. but we’re still not sure about this guy”. That would throw a lot of things ka-blooey. I’m wondering about precedent of candidtates winning primaries after another one has it pretty much locked up. I don’t know off hand.

      I can’t predict the impact of such an event(s), other than it would be interesting to say the least, and bad or nuetral at best for the Democrats. But my “sense” is that it has a reasonable chance of happening.

    33. aaron Says:

      Kerry in Vietnam: He had a very dangerous post. Someone wrote that in given year officers in patrols like Kerry’s had a 75% chance of being wounded or killed.

      Kerry performed several brave acts which resulted in injury on three seperate occasions, sending him home in just 4 months.

    34. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      An Edwards win is a stretch. And he will need more than a couple of states to stay in the race.

    35. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      The “four months” meme is part of election confusion. He was first assigned to the USS Gridley, which saw four months of action off the coast of Vietnam between late 66 and the summer of 68. From August 68 to November 68, Kerry trained as a Swift skipper. For the next five months, he was the commanding lieutenant of a Mekong Delta patrol boat. Wounded 3 times, Silver Star etc. Short time in actual combat but aside from a few select units – Special Forces, LRPs etc – most soldiers spent a fraction of their Vietnam time in the field. As the well-connected scion of a wealthy diplomatic family, there is no doubt he could have avoided all of this.

      If one wants a Democrat who made a bit too much of his Vietnam experience, see Al Gore : http://www.snopes.com/military/goreviet.htm.

    36. Bill Says:

      http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=37300

      Veterans are going to be pretty pissed with Kerry when they read about this…

    37. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Bill, with all due respect, this is nonsense. Atrocities were committed by US forces in Vietnam. Many were witnessed, others were reported and covered up (anyone who thinks it’s easy to report mischief by fellow soldiers has never spent a day in the military). And not only through torture. “Recon by fire” – firing up huts with machine guns before going through a village – was practiced by infantry platoons to try and reduce risks of ambush. Just like the French did years earlier. It was one ugly mess.

      Just because this one man has built a few schools and churches does not make Kerry a liar. The “couple of bad apples” defense does not diminish the seriousness of the crime, nor does it make Kerry a liar either. Denial, based on nothing but military credentialism – I was a Green Beret therefore I’m right – is not a mark of courage. Far from it.

      As a matter of fact, many of the “bad apples” defended themselves in the same terms at the time.

    38. Robert Schwartz Says:

      I love college football, but I hate the week before the big game (OSU Michigan, in my case) because it is always spent in pointless and inane chatter about what will happen, which very seldom proves to be on point.

      Furthermore, it is still February. Political junkies may want to handicap the big game. But it is probably too early to have the relevant information to make decent book. The winter book probably favors the incumbent, no intra party challenger, no third party challenger (in the 20th century incumbents don’t lose without 3rd party challengers running towards their base), economy in decent shape. etc.

      What will happen, in the next few months? If I knew, I would be making real money not spouting off here.

      I assume that Kerry has the nomination locked up at this point. This raises several issues for the Dems.

      First, The idea of winning without the south has been discussed by Democratic strategists since 1948 at least. I recall somebody (perhaps Ben Wattenberg) discussing a QuadriCali (North-eastern Quardrant and California) strategy in 1972. All of these discussions took place before the last three censuses (censae?) moved electoral votes to the south and west. Kerry is a New Englander and a particularly stiff one at that, I don’t think he is going to play well in the south.

      Second, the Democrats have depended on the Black vote. In 2000, they had the Clinton legacy (Our First Black President) on the pull side and a particularly nasty advertising campaign by the NAACP blaming Bush for the murder of James Byrd on the negative side. The result was high turnout and a very one sided vote. I do not see that happening again in 2004. First Kerry is not Clinton, he has no Elvis in him. No pull. Second, the world did not come to an end. The KKK did not ride again. My guess would be that the Black community would return to more historic voting patterns. Lower turnout and a slightly higher vote for Bush. The leverage of these changes in places like FL, OH, PA and MO could be tremendous.

      Third, is the personality issue. I do not run in Washington circles and I don’t know either Bush or Kerry. That said and going strictly by press reports and what I pick up on TV. Bush is a fairly affiable fellow, better one on one than in a formal setting. Kerry, to know him is to loathe him.

      But like I said. Its still winter book. And its a long long time til November.

      Batter Up! Play Ball! Go Cubs!

    39. Robert Schwartz Says:

      No sooner do i finish my previous post than I receive the Best of the Web with the following about the personalities of Kerry and Bush:Writing in the Yale Daily News, Boris Volodarsky reports that John Kerry, who as a Yale undergraduate was active in the Yale Political Union, was “lackluster” in that role:

      The Yale Liberal Party, of which I am a member and John Kerry used to be chairman, passes on many unpleasant stories about him. According to Liberal Party lore, Kerry was among the worst chairs in its history. Jorge Dominguez, currently a professor at Harvard and a member of Kerry’s Liberal Party Executive Board, reports that under Kerry’s leadership the party went on YPU probation. Probation means that the party’s leader could not get enough of the party’s members to sign a YPU attendance roster. Although getting people to sign in turns out to be a surprisingly arduous job, very few chairmen fail to do it in the end. Not getting enough signatures suggest one of two things: either the chairman faced some unfortunate circumstances or he has some personality problems. According to Dominguez, Kerry’s leadership caused his probation.

      It makes for an interesting contrast with the collegiate George W. Bush, whom Michael Segal describes as “the know-’em-all”:

      His Yale classmates claim that he knew everyone in their undergraduate class, and one can almost believe this was literally true. . . . He didn’t know just the names–classmates marvel about how he could sum up each person’s essence with great insight and humor.

      “Recently,” Volodarsky notes, “Kerry mentioned that George Bush remains the same guy he was in college.” That of course doesn’t mean Kerry is the same guy he was, though there are indications he may be. In today’s New York Times, reporter Adam Nagourney describes an editorial board meeting with Kerry as a less than inspiriting affair:

      More than once, Mr. Kerry’s answers would wander down the tracks, thick with the Washingtonese that he had moments earlier said had been purged from his speech, as his listeners sunk deeper into their seats. An aide seated near him did not try to hide a yawn or two.

      At least the listeners weren’t sinking deeper into one of the worst chairs in history.

    40. DSpears Says:

      “Bill, with all due respect, this is nonsense. Atrocities were committed by US forces in Vietnam. Many were witnessed, others were reported and covered up (anyone who thinks it’s easy to report mischief by fellow soldiers has never spent a day in the military). And not only through torture. “Recon by fire” – firing up huts with machine guns before going through a village – was practiced by infantry platoons to try and reduce risks of ambush. Just like the French did years earlier. It was one ugly mess.”

      My first respones is: it was a war. The sanitised version of WWII that the majority of the public clings to contains plenty of the same sorts of attrocities (more were prosecuted in WWII than in Vietnam). By your reasoning, the Fire Bombing of Dresden and the Nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would fall under the same category as “Recon by fire”. Personally, those things were necessary to win a war, but they are in the same category.

      And that’s making the broad assumption that what your saying is true on the whole (not isolated incidents).

      If that actually happened where is the proof? The fact is that other than May Lai there are really few other documented cases from a war that lasted twice as long as WWII. If there was anything there, the hysterical Vietnam backlash of the early 70’s would have prosecuted them. No doubt about that.

      The fact is that it’s very difficult to find anybody 30 years later who can recount any of these horrors in the first person. Even the people who originally said they witnessed attrocities have largely back off their accounts. Nobody can serously say that the military is still intimidaing these people, right?

      War always creates this type of environment. WWII saw plenty of soldiers prosecuted for misconduct, many more than in Vietnem. I’m sure things went on that nobody should be proud of then, as in any war.

      But Kerry and this brand of protester have in common is that they allege:

      Not only did soldiers and probably some officers engage in less than savory activities involving civilians (who by the way could have been VC, that was the real problem) but that the miltary and the civilian leadership
      a) knew about,
      b) did nothing to stop it,
      c) because they condoned and even encouraged it.

      Not supported by evidence, unless of course the generic “cover-up” defense is used.

      This country could really use a thorough, unbiased re-examinatuion of the Vietnam war mainly to clear up the MTV 30 second summary of the event that goes something like this:

      “An irrational fear of communism lead paranoid leaders to start a war in Vietnam. The government shipped a poorly trained fighting force of poor draftees who had no interest in being there half-way across the world to fight against a people who just wanted to free themselves from centuries of unjust capitalist rule to form a utopian workers paradise where everybody would be free from want. The American miltary-industrial complex forced the administration to keep the war going when it was obvious that it was a lost cause becasue they wanted to increase their profits. On orders from the Pentagons of both Johnson and Nixon, the soldiers were told to murder and torture everybody, civilian or not. A bunch enlightened college professors and Rock Stars started protesting against this over-reaching of the imperialist American government and suceeded in turning the American people against the war. Once these brave patriots forced the American government to end the war, Ho Chi Mihn took over and created a peaceful workers paradise that bothered nobody. And the American invasion of Cambodia so scared the Cambodian people that they elected a dictator to protect them who ended up killing millions. That wouldn’t have happened without America’s involvement in Vietnam.”

      Wrong on all accounts.

      The fear of Communism was NOT irrational, it was very rational on the basis of the 100 million murdered by the various communist governments of the 20th century alone, much less China’s imperialistic aims in the region.

      The fighting force was mostly composed of volunteers (like John Kerry) and while many of the draftees were poor people that couldn’t buy their way out, the concept of a conscription army was the real problem. Contrary to popular mythology, the large scale opposition to the war was really just enlightened self-interest: college students didn’t want to get drafted and go to war. The protests ended when the draft ended, not when America pulled out a couple of years later.

      The least covered story of the Vietnam era is what happened AFTER America pulled out of Vietnam, namely Ho Chi Mihn started murdering his newly “assimilated” people by the hundreds of thousands. Workers paradises being what they, Pol Pot never would have come into power as long the US was in the region miltarily. But I guess 2 million dead is the price you have to pay for paradise.

      This is a long overdue discussion, a lot of misconceptions need to be corrected. But an election year is not the time to have intelligent discussion.

    41. Anonymous Says:

      DSpears, I totally disagree. Some acts are morally criminal, regardless of their context. Asserting firebombing Dresden was necessary to win the war does not prove it. And whatever Ho Chi Minh did after the war does not change anything to what happened during it. And the number of people one kills relatively to others is not relevant in proving crime; do Saddam Hussein’s considerable crimes make the murderers at your local prison innocent ?

      Calling Kerry a liar because he was one of the few who had the balls to tell unpleasant truths is bone-headed and cowardly. And if most other war opponents acted on shallow principles, so what ? That makes the testimonies of the Kerrys and other Ellsbergs all the more remarkable.

      “The fact is that it’s very difficult to find anybody 30 years later who can recount any of these horrors in the first person. ” Well, duh. It’s mighty hard to find German soldiers who witnessed or participated in atrocities against Jews in Poland. Does that mean it did not happen ? How many people do voluntarily admit to heinous war crimes they committed, participated in or witnessed ? You are essentially saying absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

      In fact, there is plenty of proof. For those people who want to see, of course. And many, many veterans have come forward with their own stories. They are easy to find and involve everyone, from other Senators – like ex-Navy SEAL Bob Kerrey – down to unknown privates. I guess we are asked to believe all those people are suffering from some sort of mass delusion. None of it happened. Couple of bad apples. Move right along.

      “Not supported by evidence, unless of course the generic “cover-up” defense is used. ” Really ? That’s interesting. And as we well know, there were no government cover-ups at all when it came to Vietnam. Aside from My-Lai, at least 36 cases involving possible war crimes in Vietnam went to Army court-martial proceedings. Twenty one resulted in convictions. The number of cases that didn’t go that far for whatever reason – including technicalities – is much higher : 242 for the Army alone. And as with any crime, the number that are reported is most likely a fraction of the total.

      And yes, the military and civilian hierarchies knew about it and kept it quiet as much as they could, for obvious reasons. If they could keep something quiet, they always did. And they still do.

      I understand that people don’t want to hear about this. But that makes the truth all the more important. Shallow excuses – “it was a war”, “Ho Chi Minh did worse after we left” – do not cut it. It is natural to run away from one’s mistakes and try to sweep the dirt under the rug. But this is America.

      “But an election year is not the time to have intelligent discussion.”
      Clearly.

    42. DSpears Says:

      First of all:

      “Calling Kerry a liar because he was one of the few who had the balls to tell unpleasant truths is bone-headed and cowardly.”

      I don’t think what he was saying was the truth, whether he knew it to be or not. Since he nor you have proved that what he said was true, name calling isn’t really helpful to your case.

      “I understand that people don’t want to hear about this. But that makes the truth all the more important. Shallow excuses – “it was a war”, “Ho Chi Minh did worse after we left” – do not cut it. It is natural to run away from one’s mistakes and try to sweep the dirt under the rug. But this is America.”

      Just to be clear, are you against all war or just Vietnam? Are you trying to make the case that Vietnem was just like every war America has fought or different? I’m confused.

      If you are making the latter argument, then the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed in the firebombing of Dresden certainly defeats that argument alone. Hiroshima and Nagasaki smash it to pieces.

      I am simply making the case that Vietnam was no different than any war America has fought from the standpoint of civilian casualties and attrocitities committed against the enemy. To the contrary, probably less.

      “Aside from My-Lai, at least 36 cases involving possible war crimes in Vietnam went to Army court-martial proceedings. Twenty one resulted in convictions. The number of cases that didn’t go that far for whatever reason – including technicalities – is much higher : 242 for the Army alone. And as with any crime, the number that are reported is most likely a fraction of the total.”

      Assuming for a moment that you are making the argument that Vietnam was different: during World War II, which lasted half as long as Vietnam, 443 soldiers were EXECUTED after court martial for various attrocities including murder and rape. 21 is a much smaller number than 443 (agreed?), and that’s just soldiers who were convicted of acts that required the death penalty. And, to quote, “…as with any crime, the number that are reported is most likely a fraction of the total.” So by your assertion the numbers of unreported attrocities in WWII must have in the thousands at least.

      These are all small numbers by the way considering a total of 2.6 millions soldiers were in Vietnam over that period. Regardless of how you do your math, 21 or 242 or even thousands for that matter can hardly be characterized as “widespread” or “typical”. The words I would use is “miniscule” or “statisticaly insignificant”. And the numbers for Vietnam are drastically lower than the more “noble” WWII.

      As for your assertion about cases that never went to trial on technicalities or were “covered-up”, it would be pure speculation to comment on any of those either way. Being acused of something isn’t the same as being guilty (OJ Simpson aside).

      So I’m not sure what you are trying to prove, but my point is that John Kerry and the VVAW were trying to make the argument that the Vietnam war was different than other (more noble)wars, that the American military had somehow lost it’s moral compass and was engaging in widespread and unprecedented activities. I have seen absolutely no evidence of the allegation of “widespread” or “unprecedented”.

      The implication was that a large minority or a majority of Vietnam soldiers were considered to be barbaric murderers, whether that was the goal or not. That stain he purposely or accidentally left on his fellow verterens more than makes up for any medals he won (whether he threw them over the Whitehouse fence or not).

      My speculation is that these were just cover arguments for the larger argument of whether the Vietnam war should have been fought at all. Again, that’s my speculation, it is impossible to prove motives and secret agendas. The people opposed the war had failed to make the argument that South Vietnam should be allowed to fall to the communists, at least not to those in charge (Johnson then Nixon) so they turned to other methods to achieve their goal. Again, the vast majority of the protests stopped when the draft was ended, not when the war ended. That speaks volumes.

      The point about the hundreds of thousands that Ho Chi Mihn murdered is entirely an argument of whether or not the War should have been fought at all, not an excuse for any attrocities committed.

      That’s a different argument that I am perfectly willing to have at any time. But even if attrocities were committed on a widespread basis (not proved) it doesn’t change the argument for whether or not we should have fought the war in the first place.

      If you are simply against all war then I have no answer for you, other than to say that efforts at expsoing the horrors of war would be better spent elsewhere.

    43. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      “I don’t think what he was saying was the truth, whether he knew it to be or not.”
      What he was saying has been proven to be the truth. If he didn’t know it, you are only arguing he was lucky. I don’t think he was. Unless you are willing to argue that all the others who did the same thing at the time were also deluded. Kerry is just a political lightning rod here. He was one of the more famous examples. But he was certainly not an isolated case. Accusing him of being a liar is accusing hundreds of others. Who have since become many thousands and been proven correct by evidence.

      “name calling isn’t really helpful to your case.” I am not the one calling people liars as soon as they speak unpleasant truths.

      “If you are making the latter argument, then the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed in the firebombing of Dresden certainly defeats that argument alone. Hiroshima and Nagasaki smash it to pieces.”I am actually arguing such comparisons are totally irrelevant. Just because previous wars killed hundreds of thousands of civilians without resulting into war crime convictions does not make later killings of lower numbers of civilians less of a crime, nor do they prove they are not war crimes, or that they were less common.

      For starters, laws on war crimes were in a large part created after World War II, in reaction to its widespread abuses.

      And I will certainly challenge assertions that firebombing Dresden was necessary to win the war. This needs to be backed up with evidence.

      “I am simply making the case that Vietnam was no different than any war America has fought from the standpoint of civilian casualties and attrocitities committed against the enemy.”
      So what ? If nobody complained about similar abuses in previous wars, and if Vietnam is no different therefore nobody should complain, and they are dishonest if they do so ? This is nonsense. By that standard, we should go back to lynching people. After all, nobody complained about it until a few decades ago. Does that make those who finally did liars with a suspicious agenda ?

      We establish higher standards precisely because we believe we lacked them in the past and the cost of not having them is perceived to be much higher than the benefits, if any, of their absence. You are implying the lack of such standards in the past proves they are not needed today, or that those who claim they are are either deluded or liars. This is circular reasoning. Convenient, certainly; but wrong.

      – Speculating about numbers is unhelpful. I don’t know if it was widespread, assuming we agree on what widespread means in the first place. But it was most definitely not statistically insignificant, and certainly cannot be when so many veterans recall such events. Finding a Vietnam veteran who recalls such abuse is certainly not difficult; which is surprising given the reluctance one would expect in talking about such matters.

      I served in the military. As in the civilian world, a fraction of abuses end up being reported and dealt with. And in war time, the proportion is known to be lower by at least one order of magnitude – both because of primary priorities and the chaotic nature of the beast – so that most of those that are dealt with are either extreme outliers, or those lower crimes prosecuted for their example value…which is to say because the problem is considered serious and widespread enough to require examples to be made.

      So assuming 1 in 10 are reported – a generous figure, based on historical evidence and my own admittedly limited peacetime experience – we should compare that number with the actual number of troops actually involved in field combat, i.e. those people who had the opportunity to exercise the kind of abuse we are talking about. I assert the result would not be statistically insignificant. Just because the military paper-pushers in Saigon did not kill anyone with their ballpens and typewriters does not disprove anything.

      And since when do problems have to be “widespread” or “unprecedented” to be cause for serious concern ?

      “Being acused of something isn’t the same as being guilty (OJ Simpson aside)”Many cover-ups have since been revealed. People do not cover things up if it’s not in their interest to do so. And since you bring up OJ Simpson, it’s also likely people got away with murder. One can even argue it probably is a lot easier in a war zone. After all, it would be rather hard for a few civilians to credibly claim they didn’t mean to wipe out half a village with machine guns and grenades. For soldiers in a combat zone, it is a lot easier. Which is why prosecutors are less likely to pursue a case if the unit was engaged in actual combat at the time of the incident. Everybody knows you can commit crimes and get away with them during a war; you just have to pick your time correctly.

      “John Kerry and the VVAW were trying to make the argument that the Vietnam war was different than other (more noble)wars, that the American military had somehow lost it’s moral compass and was engaging in widespread and unprecedented activities.” It was certainly a different kind of war – after all, that is the main argument used to explain why and how it was lost; to take but one example, by contrasting the relative success of Special Forces with the failures of conventional infantry against guerillas – and given the smaller number of men on the ground and the nature of the target, abuse can be expected to be higher in a conflict like Vietnam than in more conventional situations (Iraq, say). Conventional armies are ill-suited to policing and guerilla warfare. Everywhere draftees have been sent to fight guerillas, the civilian population ends up between a hammer and a hard place. The American military was not immune to that problem.

      “The implication was that a large minority or a majority of Vietnam soldiers were considered to be barbaric murderers, whether that was the goal or not.” Actally, the goal of many of these people – and Ellsberg explains this very well in his book – was to explain that the way the war was fought was indeed barbaric for the civilians on the ground and therefore counter-productive. Helicopter pilot flies over village, spots one guy in the rice paddies firing at him with an AK-47, calls air strike that burns the entire village to the ground. Ellsberg and others have certainly made a very convincing case that civilian casualties were simply never a factor, from the Pentagon down. Which is not the same as purposely achieving high civilian body count. But ends up achieving awful results. And certainly puts you on the wrong end of the guerilla/hearts-and-minds part of a conflict. This pattern was very common; was civilian murder the primary intent ? No. But in too many cases, that was the main result.

      “That stain he purposely or accidentally left on his fellow verterens more than makes up for any medals he won (whether he threw them over the Whitehouse fence or not).” Rhetorical nonsense. Kerry is not responsible for the biases of those who will choose to overgeneralize no matter what. Those who committed these acts are responsible for that stain. And shooting the messenger(s) will actually support and perpetuate the biases of those whose interest it is to grossly exaggerate the scope of the problem.

      “The point about the hundreds of thousands that Ho Chi Mihn murdered is entirely an argument of whether or not the War should have been fought at all” No. This is not the argument at all. We are not arguing whether or not the war should have been fought. We are talking about war crimes. In other words, about the way it was fought and its consequences for civilians in the middle of it. Future mass murders – of which we knew nothing at the time and therefore could hardly use to justify any casual disregard for civilian life – cannot justify war crimes, especially when these war crimes make the enemy’s victory more likely by strengthening his support among the native population. Ho Chi Minh’s crimes do not justify war crimes that happened before them. Whether they justify the war post-facto is another discussion entirely.

      “Again, the vast majority of the protests stopped when the draft was ended, not when the war ended. That speaks volumes.” Why does it speak volume ? About what ? If a large enough group believe a war shouldn’t be fought, you can expect protests to diminish when those most likely to be drafted to fight it are no longer at risk of being involved in it. And there are other factors behind this change that are also very well explained in Ellsberg’s book. It speaks even larger volumes about Nixon and Kissinger’s abilities to lie to the country about both their actions and intentions.

      “But even if attrocities were committed on a widespread basis (not proved) it doesn’t change the argument for whether or not we should have fought the war in the first place.” If it doesn’t change the argument, why do you bring it up, when it’s not even the topic at hand ? They were committed on a widespread-enough basis that I will call revisionists when I see them. This has nothing with whether the war should have been fought or not. One can agree a war needs to be fought and totally disagree on its execution. And yes, sometimes, the way a war is prosecuted can make it grossly immoral. In Vietnam, both sides made it a disgusting affair. People whose only interest is to prove this side had a monopoly on crimes instead of that one miss the point entirely.

      “If you are simply against all war then I have no answer for you, other than to say that efforts at expsoing the horrors of war would be better spent elsewhere.” Thank you. Please let me know what my time should be spent on instead, Great One…Seriously, this patronizing conclusion is totally irrelevant and uncalled for since none of my arguments, nor anything in this discussion, relates about the morality of war itself, of whether one should be for or against it, let alone whether the Vietnam conflict was justified or necessary.

      I understand it is convenient for you, and probably consistent with your own biases, to paint any criticism of US armed forces, past or present, as the product of some sort of loony, extremist and ultimately naive anti-war creed. Your conclusion shows that summary dismissal is what you’re after. War crimes were committed in Vietnam. For more than two decades. By the French. By the Americans. By North Vietnam’s communist forces. Everybody indulged in it, either directly, or, as was most frequent and quite widespread with US forces, indirectly through the consistent use of heavy firepower in civilian areas out of institutionalized risk-aversion. Tell commanders their own body-bag count is the one and only metric and civilian casualties in a conflict of this kind are guaranteed to go through the roof; as for the average infantryman, he will surely prefer to watch aircraft blast a potentially hostile village than take the risk of being the pointman going through it. Both are understandable, but do not in any way constitue moral justification of the consequences.

      It seems war horrors are of interest to you when they concern the adversary. Once it’s about US forces showing the same weaknesses as others before them, it’s not so interesting or relevant anymore and time would be better spent doing something else. No surprise there. And as long as this is a common reaction, it will be important to expose these facts. It will be done until the truth is no longer unpleasant and no longer elicits denial. Get used to it.

    44. David Mercer Says:

      I personally blame McNamarra (sp?) for how the whole Vietnam mess turned out. If they’d dumped half as many bombs on Hanoi as on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, it wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long.

      And the Brass knew it, but good ole Bob had Johnson so scared of the Chinese getting sucked into it that it was a no go.

      Which is madness, as China was ALL fucked up from the Cultural Revolution, and was actually fearing another head to head war with America. But nobody realized they were as afraid of Korea II as we were. :-(

      But all that aside, to me it’s not so much what Kerry did in the war or after. It’s that he ALWAYS seems to come down firmly on every side of an issue, depending on how the political wind is blowing.

      I don’t necessarily like all of Bush’s principles, but he at least appears to have some.

    45. DSpears Says:

      “And I will certainly challenge assertions that firebombing Dresden was necessary to win the war. This needs to be backed up with evidence.”

      That’s not what I’m arguing. I don’t know if it was necessary to win the war. But what if it was? Was it justified then? Do you buy the historical conclusion that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary to win the war? I do. Does that change the moral question involved in whether we should have vaporized hundreds of thousands of civilians?

      Do you condemn these acts as war crimes or not? From a consistency standpoint it is relevant.

      “What he was saying has been proven to be the truth.”

      Where was anything proven? You speak of proof, you present none. Just innuendo adn Daniel Ellsberg. Where are these thousands of Veterens that claim all of these crimes? You can’t seriously say that they are still being intimidated by the Army, right?

      “For starters, laws on war crimes were in a large part created after World War II, in reaction to its widespread abuses.”

      ..and yet by the numbers you presented the convictions under the less restrictive standard (WWII) resulted in 20 time the number of convictions (and that’s a low estimate).

      “So assuming 1 in 10 are reported – a generous figure, based on historical evidence and my own admittedly limited peacetime experience – we should compare that number with the actual number of troops actually involved in field combat, i.e. those people who had the opportunity to exercise the kind of abuse we are talking about. I assert the result would not be statistically insignificant. ”

      Let’s run the numbers: 10 times 21 convictions (I’m sorry, you just can’t count the number accusations for obvious reasons) is still only 210. Out 2.6 million how many were in actual combat? Half? That’s 1.3 million over a 9 year period. That’s 0.016 percent. That’s less than the amount of fecal matter that the FDA permits in food. You can use any defintion for “statistically significant” that you like. Even assuming ALL acusations were true (242), which is violates logic, and only 1 in 10 were repoted, that’s still only 0.185 %. Maybe a large enough number to be significant, maybe not, but an unrealsitically high figure regardless.

      The point I’m making, and let’s be perfectly clear here so that you cannot try to distort what I am saying to mean that I condone war crimes (I do not). War crimes should not be committed by US forces ever, and when they do they should be prosecuted. But they should be prosecuted by facts, not by anecdote or innuendo that the numbers don’t appear to be high enough.

      If you know of a specific war crime that was committed, report it. The Congressional hearings that Kerry participated in didn’t result in any convictions, or any specific allegations against any soldier or group of soldiers, correct?

      So what was their purpose?

      “”But even if attrocities were committed on a widespread basis (not proved) it doesn’t change the argument for whether or not we should have fought the war in the first place.” If it doesn’t change the argument, why do you bring it up, when it’s not even the topic at hand ? They were committed on a widespread-enough basis that I will call revisionists when I see them. This has nothing with whether the war should have been fought or not. One can agree a war needs to be fought and totally disagree on its execution.”

      Vietnam Veterens Against the War WEREN’T trying to stop the war? If that’s the case then they picked an odd name to convey their cause.

      Revisionist? I don’t dispute any of the War crimes convictions from the Vietnam War. What facts have I tried to revise?

      You simply have made no factual case whatsoever. Other than a book by Danial Ellsberg you have sited no facts.

      So we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    46. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Yes, in the absence of convincing evidence they were necessary, I consider them to be war crimes.

      “Where was anything proven? You speak of proof, you present none.” The proof is accessible to anyone who can use Google. And what are the odds that I am consistently unlucky enough to meet the Vietnam vets who witnessed abuse ? Sounds like I should play Lotto more often. There is the short Dellums Committee report, of course, which confirmed that yes, ears were cut because they were the favored means to confirm kills in the field. Except you can’t tell by looking at ears whether it belonged to a VC or someone else, and there was quite a bit of pressure to report body count. You figure it out.

      “Even assuming ALL acusations were true (242), which is violates logic,” Why does it violate logic ? Is it logic to assume that only those cases that reach convictions were true ? Do you actually believe OJ Simpson-style situations are less common in the military during a war ? Given the way military rules and procedures work, given the institution’s understandable biases and tendency to protect its own in war, your logic, assumptions and statistical insignificance claims are amusing. Actually, one million served in combat positions; fewer saw actual combat; the fleeting nature of the enemy, and the difficulty of making contact were notorious; in some areas the odds of stepping on a mine or other booby trap were higher than being shot at.

      We are talking about the military at war. Not about the domestic civilian justice system and drug dealers. If a few thousand accusations didn’t make it, and even one in ten could have resulted in a conviction, that is hundreds of cases and possibly thousands of dead civilians. And again, we are assuming a fairly generous, and, I think, quite unrealistic, ratio of reporting. After a period of time in a war zone, the perception of what is acceptable for the soldiers involved is quite different than it would be for civilians back home. Hence the outrage at home when Marines were filmed casually torching a village; for the guys involved, there was probably no particular malice involved. But back home, the picture looked rather disturbing. Ellsberg witnessed that one and explains it very well.

      French veterans of the war in Algeria – including in my own family – have rather shilling pictures of what they did to captured rebels and civilians in hostile areas, and how they treated them. They didn’t see anything wrong with it at the time. And yes, these practices were widespread. It was the same in Indochina. The military and civilian hierarchies knew it and did little to control it, essentially arguing such clamp-downs were bad for morale and operational effectiveness. There is little evidence to assert American soldiers or the US military were immune to this. It would be amazing if they were, given the context.

      As for comparisons with World War II, I don’t see how they could be relevant. The number of soldiers involved, the conflict, the rules, the politics at home and abroad. Nothing matches. And given that the largest massacres of civilians were not considered to be war crimes, unless committed by the enemy, the standards of that era seem convenient at best.

      “So what was their purpose?” Ask Congress. Should we blame Kerry for actions Congress did or didn’t take when he was a lieutenant ?

      “Vietnam Veterens Against the War WEREN’T trying to stop the war? If that’s the case then they picked an odd name to convey their cause.”Trying to stop a war doesn’t imply one believes the motive for the war to be wrong, or that it shouldn’t be fought. Many who were opposed to the war were staunchly anti-communists, and, from the outset, believed in the overall mission; yet they couldn’t accept the way the war was fought and thought it totally counter-productive to our aims. They believed we were fighting to lose and couldn’t accept it. They came to believe it had come to a point where all we got out of it were increasingly negative returns. Hence their loud opposition. Ellsberg was one of them. John Paul Vann was another. And before dismissing either one, I suggest you read what they have to say. Then we can talk about inuendo.

      “Revisionist? I don’t dispute any of the War crimes convictions from the Vietnam War. What facts have I tried to revise? “ This started with your response to my comments to a link posted above by Bill. You disagreed with my comment, which referred to this particular link. I call that article a lame attempt at revisionism. And I stand by it.

      Finally, I’ll leave this discussion aside. Not only is this too far from the topic of the original post, but it seems moral relativism is an appropriate line of defense when the target is a Democrat and past mistakes of the US military are involved. Not interested. Sorry.

    47. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      One more thing regarding World War II’s relevance. There is a fundamental difference between both conflicts that makes interventions like Vietnam more prone to civilian abuse. In WW2, we had a conventional conflict. The enemy wore uniforms, had tanks, planes, artillery, boats, you name it. There were civilians and non-civilians. Shit happened but overall, you knew who was who.

      In South Vietnam, there was no such thing. Encounters with uniformed, regular NVR units were the exception, not the rule. The enemy blended in the civilian population. And when conventional infantry is used in a guerilla warfare context where anyone could be an enemy, it does not take a long time before everyone is the enemy, as far as the soldiers in the field are concerned. And a contemptuous – at best – attitude towards the locals invariably follows. Hostility is not uncommon. Retribution becomes a natural impulse and is acted on. It happened all the time in Indochina, in Algeria – where draftees were also heavily involved – and generally across the world (South America, Asia) in similar civil-war/guerilla contexts. Somehow, we must believe the American military of the late 60s-early 70s was largely immune to this, despite hundreds of official testimonies by people who served there, and thousands of subsequent informal, individual witness reports.

      And if the Army convicted very few, then that is all that must have happened.

      And why must we believe this ? Because one of the people who exposed this is a Democratic candidate, and this part of his record looks incomparably better than the current President’s ? So we must demolish him and, should we succeed, defame all the others who had the courage to publicly admit the ugliness of what was going on ?

      Yes, many good soldiers have been unjustly stained by what happened in Vietnam. And the blame for this should be laid on all those who committed – actively or passively, by letting it happen – those crimes. And we will never know how widespread it was as long as denial is the standard reaction. As long as people simply refuse the very possibility of a given outcome, the truth will remain elusive. Or buried. And if it did turn out it was a general, widespread problem, the reputation of those who did not fall prey to the disease will not be irremediably stained; they will be heroes.