July 09, 2004

Willy T: Post 9/11 Political Tides

by Guest Contributor

I jerk every time someone says anything good about John Kerry. The man is so dull, and such a hack, that I have trouble seeing him as President. Even if he does pull out a victory in November, he's another Carter, and will be gone in 4 years.

But the real reason I shudder when I think about a Kerry victory strikes at the heart of my changing political opinions since 9/11.

I voted for Gore in 2000. It's hard to imagine that was just 4 years ago. It was a different millenium back then, and I was naive college junior. It was a time when we could afford not to worry about the consequences of intense anti-Americanism. But that time has passed.

If you read my introduction a few posts back, you know that I have an affinity for classical liberal values. I'm pretty sure that I'm mostly sold on a number of stock libertarian issues -- loosening up drug policies, civil unions/gay marriage, and a general fear of regulation and big spending. Although I'm utterly confused about the death penalty, and am moderately pro-life, I don't consider these issues problematic, per se, for classical liberalism.

But clearly, Bush is no libertarian. A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, new fat spending projects, and a general willingness to keep the status quo on the drug war all turn me off.

Since 9/11, however, I have begun a transition toward the Republican party. I'm a hawk. There's no issue -- not spending, not regulation, or any other domestic issue -- that's more important to national security. Frankly, I'm unsure how any issue could ecclipse national security in importance. Aren't Kerry voters worried that they'll be electing someone who will make terrorists celebrate?

Even if Kerry isn't weak on national security, his constituents clearly are, and are going to seriously affect the way America deals with beligerants. If people are going to hate us no matter what (which they clearly did before Bush was elected), it just seems dangerous to elect someone beholden to peacenik hippies who want to lay down arms in the hopes that the other side will too.

So I acknowledge that even though I can't agree with Bush on a number of varied issues, he's the better candidate for security. If I have to balance my policy desires, I'm definitely going to have problems with Bush. But since 9/11, there's no priority more important than my security.

Willy T

July 9, 2004 11:08 PM | TrackBack

That has to be one of the most moronic posts I have ever read. If anyone is a dull hack, it's Shrub. Talk about the dumbing down of America. That phrase could have been written about your blog.

Posted by: Bill at July 10, 2004 01:52 AM

Gee, Bill, you've show done told us how Willy T's post was dumb. In fact, you done made quite a few arguments and supported 'em with facts and solid reasonin'. Show thing his writin' is she-it. Without yo tripe I'd be sittin still an dumb. Damn. Give us some mo'.

Posted by: Verne at July 10, 2004 03:37 AM

If the truth is that war with Pakistan is the best way to go and that allowing financial support for suicide bombers and apparently attempting to aquire uranium under the UN's watchful eye constitutes successful containment, then Justin is absolutely right. Otherwise, yes, Bush understands security much better than John Kerry.

Posted by: Matto Ichiban at July 10, 2004 02:11 PM

Despite the swipes I took at Kerry in my post, my point was not that people should be happy with a vote for Bush. To the contrary, I understand very clearly why people SHOULD be unhappy with that vote. But there are bigger issues to care about than one's unhappiness.

I also don't care to get into a debate about the Iraq War. The swamp of that debate is at this point unmanagable, and I particularly want to avoid that debate because of my status as a guest blogger, not someone who elects (as a permanent blogger might after a long discussion with his co-bloggers) to take De Novo in the direction of swampy debates.

More precisely, my point was a reaction to Chris's post, which wasn't shy about implying that Kerry is the pro-equality candidate. While I'm pretty much inclined to concede Kerry is the better candidate for gay rights, I'm not sure why that necessarily means that gays should vote for him.

Stipulate that one candidate, X, is better on national security than the other, Y. Even if Y were more friendly to a number of good issues, doesn't X's strength on the most salient issue imaginable outweigh Y's strength on a couple of, granted important, issues? Gays concerned with national security (as I'm sure all are) might still decide to vote for candidate X.

Only if you think the two candidates really are just as good as each other on national security, I feel, should debates about healthcare, gay rights, and maybe even the economy, enter into one's voting calculus this November.

As I said, I voted for Gore in 2000, thinking that Y had better issues than X. For me, my free spirited vote for Y must now face the harsh reality that X will keep me alive.

That's why the title of the post was "Post 9/11 Political Tides." I can't be the only Gore-voter for Bush out there who has had a cold dose of reality slap him in the face. Anyone else?

Willy T

Posted by: Willy T at July 10, 2004 02:35 PM

I sincerely apologize, I don't mean to sound harsh, I'm very open to reading a well thought-out critique of whomever/whatever. This post ain't it. I expect more intellectual heft from DeNovo's contributors. As one of the commenters above notes, there's just so much that's wrong-headed and 'missing' from the post, that it's overwhelming -- I'd need 4 more cups of coffee to feel inspired to write a point-by-point response. I'll just leave my little note at observing that the Guest Contributor ironically considers his past views "naive," and presumably his current ones more sophisticated -- yet, to buy wholesale the false, outdated notion that the GOP is full of hawks, and the Dems of pacifists... Lord, forgive me, but talk about simplistic... and naive.

"The GOP = security" is a line that's spoonfed to the Homer Simpsons of America, where's the analysis here? I can't believe it's just being parroted here without critical consideratiion. Where's the evidence? Where's the strategic consideration that the whole damned Iraq thing backfired -- radicalizing, alieanating, in brief, helping terrorists coalesce, motivate and recruit; that pre-9/11 W.'s administration was asleep at the wheel and that's in great part why the terrorists strikes happened to begin with; that the post-9/11 goodwill of the world's nations (recall, French leaders said, "We are all New Yorkers now") was completely squandered, much like the budget surplus W. inherited? Does the author realize that the polls of the Canadian majority view Bush with "fear and loathing," that even the British people by and large mock our soliders now, post-AbuG. considering us barbaric hypocrites? That Australia is in the midst of elections we are trying to influence because the folks that may come to power are very keen on washing their hands of the whole sordid debacle? That homeland security is still undertrained and underfunded, while Dubya gives lip-service where leadership and action are needed? That Bin Laden (remember him?) is still "on the loose"?

You know, on second thought, I withdraw all my apologies. The author writes, "Aren't Kerry voters worried that they'll be electing someone who will make terrorists celebrate?" Do you know what? That's offensive. That's base. That's just reprehensible. Perhaps worst of all, it's intellectually vacuous and empirically false (guess you didn't catch that Associated Press report, back around the time of the Spain bombings, where supposed Al Qaeda reps. put out a 'statement' that they'd rather Bush won, no, I'm not kidding -- but that's neither here nor there, just propaganda fodder by killers). The more sophisticated analysts, and most recently the 'leak' who remains a Pentagon insider and is publishing a book anonymously, underscore that Bush's administration is falling into exactly the sort of Huntingtonian 'clash of civilizations' that Bin Laden is trying to draw us into, a trap.

Eh... I want to go on, but I don't think this post is worthy.

Please, if you're going to give us an anti-Kerry critique, make it more substantive than the bizarre ad hominem that "he's a hack" and the recitation of tired mass consumption propaganda that the "GOP = security" while the "Dems love baby doves."

You're underestimating your readership's intelligence, and overestimating our patience for the lack of it.

Posted by: Uhmm at July 10, 2004 03:11 PM

Well, I don't think you can really avoid a debate on the Iraq war if your reason for voting for Bush is that he's more likely to keep you alive. I don't think that invading an oil-rich Muslim country that had nothing to do with 9-11 is a very smart response to the "intense anti-Americanism" you're worried about. Maybe it would have been better to, oh, I don't know--focus on Bin Laden? (Something we would have done a better job of in 1998-2000, incidentally, if we hadn't been so busy impeaching Clinton.) What has Bush done that makes you safer? How can you possibly think Gore would have been worse? The total failure of neocon foreign policy is the cold dose of reality that should be slapping you in the face.

Posted by: Kim at July 10, 2004 03:14 PM

What if a draft, to which you might be subject, were in place? How would that impact upon your views? College campuses exploded in 1969 and 1970 over Vietnam, a war that many students subject to draft strongly felt was not a proper role for the U.S. But there has been very little campus unrest for Iraq II. Coincidence? Thoughts of a draft are increasing. If there is another war theatre of operation, for sure a draft will follow.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at July 10, 2004 04:36 PM

Through his misguided foreign policy moves, President Bush has made the world a more dangerous place for Americans, and undoubtedly padded the membership numbers of anti-American terrorist groups.

I am voting against him on foreign policy and security grounds alone, which is why I am flabbergasted by voters who support Bush on those very issues.

Posted by: UCL at July 10, 2004 04:41 PM

The enemy was al Qaeda. Iraq, as we now know conclusively, despite the prevarications of Bush and Cheney, had no meaningful ties with the bin Laden, and consequently, had no role in the perpetration of 9/11. The war in Iraq was a sideshow, a fulfillment of a long held neo-con wish.

Yet the Saudis, who created the conditions that led to the development of the mindset held by 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers, continue to be welcomed at the Crawford ranch with open arms.

Tell me again how Bush has made us safer? The argument falls under the weight of it's own absurdity.

Bush has imperilled this country like no other president in our history.

Posted by: Rich at July 10, 2004 06:37 PM

Josh Marshall deconstructs the Financial Times story:


Posted by: Rich at July 10, 2004 10:41 PM

This post has got to be a joke.

Given that Shrub is willing to lie to induce the American people to support a to war to get rid of the guy (Saddam) who tried to kill his daddy, query what else he (Shrub) is willing to lie for.

I suppose that, with the first team apparently gone for the summer, the scrubs are trying to hold up the fort here. If this post is any indication, they aren't doing a very good job. It isn't even very good satire.

Posted by: raj at July 11, 2004 10:23 AM

(1) Terrible post. The commenters here have said it all.

(2) Great post! Look how many comments you're getting! On the pr board, they call this kind of post "flamebait."

Posted by: Carey at July 11, 2004 05:50 PM

I've seen nothing here from either side proving that Kerry or Bush is better on security. I tend to believe that the whole "Kerry is weak, Bush is strong" schtick is a media construct. It's rarely well researched, and more often used as a soundbite.

Posted by: Greg at July 11, 2004 06:56 PM

I'm enjoying reading the comments, particularly the ones where I'm directly insulted. The intent of the post wasn't actually to draw reactions --just to raise what I see as a relevant and topical issue surrounding the election, and more loosely, the survivor challenge about law and the election.

Again, I'm not willing to get into the Iraq debate, for the reasons stated above. That being the case, I'm conceding that there can be no resolution to the issue on this blog. I do think, however, that even the anti-Bush readers can glean something from the post.

Unless the candidates are precisely as strong as each other on national security, almost no other issue is relevant to the election. If Kerry supporters think that Kerry is better on security, they should vote for him regardless of his health care plan, his gay marriage stance, or myriad other issues. Clearly, there will be some who connect these issues to broader security issues, e.g. implementng a position on an issue that weakens the economy might in turn weaken security. I think this, however, has the potential to explode what really is and isn't "security."

So the debate shouldn't be about whether Bush or Kerry is better on security. While you should of course have that debate with yourself and others (and maybe a permanent blogger will call for that debate at a later time), we might focus more on the question I saw being raised by Chris' original post.

Does Kerry's stance on meaningful issues (again, assuming one of those issues isn't security) count in one's political calculus? And alternatively, for Bush-likers who think Kerry would be better on security, is there anything that culd justify a Bush vote?

Willy T

Posted by: Willy T at July 11, 2004 11:40 PM

As reformulated in Willy T.s' latest comment, the post doesn't inspire the same kind of blinding rage the initial one did. But now it seems kind of short: "Are positions on any other issue or combination of issues important enough to outweigh a perceived marginal advantage on security?" I would say yes. Terrorism is a bad thing; terrorism that kills Americans is a bad thing--but it's not an incommensurable bad thing. Appointing Justices who will assist the outlawing of abortion will kill Americans, too. (Or, of course, you could take the other side and say that appointing Justices who will adhere to Roe and Casey continues the carnage.) So to say that national security is the paramount issue just because suddenly you think *your* life is at stake actually strikes me as kind of selfish and narrow-minded.

As for the rest of the post ("Oh, and I think Bush is better on security but won't attempt to defend my position; feel the chill hand of reality, you naive hippies"), it's still annoying.

Posted by: stan at July 12, 2004 12:03 AM

So you're feeling "directly insulted" by some of the comments above, eh?

What else did you expect when you wrote that a vote for Kerry is in effect a vote for terrorism? ("Aren't Kerry voters worried that they'll be electing someone who will make terrorists celebrate?") As has already been made plain, how stupid that sounds is only the half of it, that you offended a number of people is the other. Insulting? You bet.

By the way, just a reminder, it's your post -- the persuasive onus, if not the burden of proof, for whatever points you attempt to make rests with you, not on the commenters' blips. They're not guest blogging, competing, or initiating a topic/discussion/polemic, you are.

Unsupported assertions and worn-out sterotypes didn't sway the audience. Call it a hunch, but I don't think trying to redefine the topic because you're cornered will work either.

Oh, and those contortions to discuss presidential elections, national security, foreign policy, and terrorism without discussing Iraq look rather painful, transparent, unnatural... and more than slightly silly. But yeah, I guess that's one way to win a debate -- just deem everything off-limits that's central to and undermines your conclusions. How can you lose?

On the other hand, if this were a "Survivor" tribal council meeting, one might say you'd just been voted off the island.

Posted by: whatever at July 12, 2004 03:52 AM

"Uhmm," "whatever" et al. -- Help me understand this. The most important issue facing the US in the presidential election is national security, and yet any criticism or conjecture about which candidate would be most appreciated by Islamofacists is scoffed at as partisan bunk? Why? I want whichever president will most likely scare the bejesus out of anyone plotting to kill my kids.

And I love the perfect ad hominem liberal maxims that inevitably pop up in response to honest requests for debate on 9/11 or Iraq. Keep 'em coming -- "BUSH LIED!!" It's about "avenging DADDY!!" I mean it's the failure of "NEO-CONS FOREIGN POLICY!!" But it comes down to -- wait for it -- "OIL-RICH MUSLIM COUNTRIES!!" You guys seem smart, but you're a microcosm of self-parody. Keep writing, Willy.

Posted by: Clevebound at July 12, 2004 08:35 AM

"I want whichever president will most likely scare the bejesus out of anyone plotting to kill my kids."

As I've stated before, I want a president who will reduce the numbers of those plotting to kill my kids, not increase them. Bush has done the latter, and for that he deserves to be removed from office. Diehard partisan Republicans can accuse me (and voters like me) of being partisan and "liberal" all they want. The reality is that I would vote for Bush, Sr., Reagan, Dole, certainly McCain and a host of other fine Republicans in a heartbeat if I could, to replace this President. I am enraged by his incompetence and ignorance. Being enraged makes me liberal? So be it.

Posted by: UCL at July 12, 2004 10:21 AM

"I want a president who will reduce the numbers of those plotting to kill my kids, not increase them."

Well, that's an easy one. You're not liberal because you're enraged; you're liberal because you would apparently accept appeasement over destruction of a malignant society that wants to destroy you. (Unless by "reduce the numbers" you mean "kill." As Bush isn't generally criticized for being shy in that category, I'll assume that's not what you mean.)

Islamofacism was not invented to respond to Bush. Any so-called "moderate" Muslim who had it in him to join al Qaeda's agenda to kill my kids, whether because of Bush's actions or for any other rationalization, was already morally depraved beyond hope well before he picked up a Kalashnikov. We will never change the minds of morally bankrupt fundamentalists -- we can only remove them.

Posted by: Clevebound at July 12, 2004 11:03 AM

Ironically enough, today, GWB is arguing He Has Made America Safer.

Posted by: Fool at July 12, 2004 03:19 PM

OK, Willy T, let's say that we buy into your analysis, and agree that national security is an issue that trumps most others. Then we can use the same logic to say that "planetary security" would trump national security. Why would we want a leader who's good on national security if he stinks on planetary security? What good is a secure nation if the future of the whole planet is in jeopardy? So shouldn't our main criteria in picking a leader be his stance on "planetary security", i.e. the future of our planet, i.e. environmental issues?

Posted by: Peanut Gallery at July 12, 2004 11:29 PM

"You're not liberal because you're enraged; you're liberal because you would apparently accept appeasement over destruction of a malignant society that wants to destroy you."

"Apparently" being the key word. Pardon the cliche but this assumes facts not even remotely in evidence. Our President, who has no personal understanding of foreign policy or world history beyond what his current advisors tell him, completely neglected Afghanistan and Pakistan in his eagerness to conquer the irrelevant country of Iraq, and I would have preferred to send our 130,000 troops (an inadequate amount by the way) to kick the crap out of the leadership in those countries instead. Do you seriously doubt that Bin Laden is hiding in a supposedly unreachable region of Pakistan right now?

There is nothing "liberal" about being infuriated by this failure of leadership by Bush, and the only Republicans who insist that he has made no collossal mistakes during the past 4 years are partisan Republicans who care more about their party than about the truth.

Posted by: UCL at July 13, 2004 10:10 PM

Concerning this question:

"I can't be the only Gore-voter for Bush out there who has had a cold dose of reality slap him in the face. Anyone else?"

Here are two places where you can find explanations from Gore 2000 voters who are now planning on voting for Bush this election (same web-site, two separate occasions):



Posted by: iab at July 15, 2004 09:23 PM
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