Political Animal


PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS….First there was Trent Lott putting his foot in his mouth. Then Howard Coble suggested that it was all for the best that Americans of Japanese descent were interned during World War II since it was really for their own safety. Now we have James Moran blaming the upcoming war on a Jewish cabal and Arlon Lindner claiming that homosexuals weren’t persecuted by the Nazis.

I realize that a PhD in history is not required for election to the U.S. congress ? nor even a three-digit IQ for that matter ? but what the hell is going on here? Is it something in the water?

Or is it always like this and it’s just that blogging makes it more obvious?


FIXING THE UNITED NATIONS….A MODEST PROPOSAL….I grew up in Orange County in the 60s, and back then “Get US out of UN!” bumper stickers were as common as swallows at Capistrano ? and as well beloved. So conservative distaste for the UN is hardly something new.

However, modern UN-bashing is different from that of my parents’ day. Back then the fear was that the UN was too powerful and the United States would soon find itself in thrall to a socialistic world government run from smoke filled rooms in the Kremlin.

Today’s UN bashers have a quite different complaint: far from being too powerful, the UN is woefully ineffective, too bureaucratic, and irrelevant to the grave dangers we now face. And it is no longer the Kremlin we fear, but a Security Council veto from our cheese-eating enemies, the veto-wielding French.

So let’s fix all that. First, we need to get rid of the Security Council since it’s the veto power of the permanent members that makes it almost impossible to take action on anything that’s even remotely controversial. Then, with only the General Assembly left, we need to change the voting procedure there to reflect both real-world power and dedication to collective security.

Here’s how: let the member countries buy their votes. Every year, each country would get votes in proportion to the money it contributes to the UN budget. This would be great for the United States, since we can easily afford to buy lots of votes. It’s OK for France, too, since if they’re really serious about their status in the world they can always pony up the requisite dough. It’s true that small, poor countries would get screwed, but they do already, so there’s no harm done on that score.

Just think: this proposal would make the UN more action oriented and, by setting up a bidding war, would give it the funds to back up its words with deeds. Let’s do it!

UPDATE: Of course, if you just want to give up on the whole UN thing entirely, there’s always HR 1146, the latest in a long string of efforts to get us out of the UN. Check and see if your congressman is one of the 12 cosponsors!

UPDATE 2: And surveying the landscape of other wildly impractical proposals, we have Matt Yglesias, who suggests that we could fix the undemocratic nature of the U.S. Senate simply by redrawing state lines. Yeah, baby!


THE REAL GEORGE BUSH?….The good folks at the Economist have decided to start sending me their magazine again ? apparently based on the fact that I am sending them money once again ? and the Lexington column this week really hit home when I read it. He is talking about President Bush’s real agenda and says:

Mr Bush’s tax-cut strategy is at heart a more ideological gamble on the future: he argues that lower taxes and a simpler tax structure will make the economy more efficient in the long run?meaning eight, ten, 20 years out.

Something similar applies to Iraq. Mr Bush is on the verge of committing America to an immense enterprise….[As] he made clear in last week’s speech to the American Enterprise Institute, it would be an earnest of America’s commitment to the democratic transformation of the Middle East, which would help to solve the Israel-Palestine problem. But this too will take years, even decades.

The fact that Mr Bush is looking so far into the future is in many ways admirable. But it casts a shadow of doubt over his divisive tactics. For in both domestic and foreign policy, the president is committing America to a long haul without doing the work needed to prepare people for the setbacks that will be inevitable along the way.

Lexington seems quite sure ? for reasons that are unstated ? that these long run plans really are at the heart of Bush’s agenda. But how does he know this if, as he says, Bush has declined to actually spell any of this out? To me, for example, his economic plan seems rather exquisitely timed to produce good news right around summer 2004.

Although there are certainly many who would oppose war with Iraq regardless of Bush’s true motives, there are many others for whom this is key. But in the end I wonder if it matters. Even if a democratic transformation of the Middle East is truly something he believes in, it will never happen if he’s not willing to expend even the modest political capital it would take to talk about it, let alone push the appropriate programs through Congress.

Unlike Lexington, who seems to think he can see directly into Bush’s heart, the rest of us can only judge him by his words and actions. On this score, it seems like wishful thinking to suppose that he is truly committed enough to a democratic Iraq to take the risks necessary to see it through. That’s too bad.


SEYMOUR HERSH, FIRST AMENDMENT TERRORIST….In an interview with Wolf Blitzer yesterday, neocon hawk Richard Perle said this about journalist Seymour Hersh (of My Lai fame):

Look, Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist, frankly.

The ostensible reason for this bizarre remark ? which even caught even Blitzer off guard ? was a New Yorker article in which Hersh accuses Perle of benefitting financially from a war with Iraq, but Tom Spencer explains that there’s some very bad blood between Hersh and Perle that may help to explain Perle’s charge. Apparently it goes back a long way.

UPDATE: A reader warns me that I should be cautious about accepting at face value anything on David Irving’s site, which Tom linked to. However, the excerpt on the site is said to be from “Seymour Hersh’s The Price of Power (1983) pg 322,” so it can be pretty easily verified. If anyone has this book and can check to see if the excerpt is fair, please let me know.

Also, just for the record, Hersh’s book apparently says that Perle was “overheard discussing classified information,” which may or may not be anything serious ? and probably happens routinely in high-level Washington circles, even if it is in technical violation of the law. So who knows? However, whether serious or not, it certainly sheds some light on why Perle dislikes Hersh so virulently.