Opening Gambit–the Stuart Stance

Headlife People–

Having landed on this excellent new blog amid a vicious political season (and planning on having plenty of exhilirating tangles in this forum) I feel obligated to offer a littel positioning statement.

I sometimes say that I am a California Republican and a Utah Democrat. This means that I edge, in the balance, towards Tony Blair’s “radical center.” But on some issues I fall clearly on the right, others decidedly to the left. I believe that Ann Coulter is a talking-points-whore who should be confined at Guantanamo. I think Michael Moore’s “documentary” work is on a par with Leni Riefenstahl’s, only markedly less sincere. I worry that George W Bush is not a very bright man, and wish that John McCain were the Republican candidate. I am convinced that John Kerry is the most cynically calculating power-slut we’ve ever seen in presidential politics, and I have been given no reason to think that he actually believes anything other than that he should be president.

I also believe that the New York Yankees should be added to the Axis of Evil and that George Steinbrenner’s assets should be frozen.

That’s the rough picture, there will be more from me.



  1. I had to look up George Steinbrenner on Google. Sorry, baseball-virgin. (Although I will say “Go Redsox”)

    So you say that Bush isn’t bright, and that Kerry is insincere. What I want to know from you is this: is Bush dumb but sincere. Does that make him better than Kerry’s smart-but-calculating?


  2. Assuming the individuals in the team around him are not similarly in need of a RAM upgrades, Bush being ‘not very bright’ (which is not the same as being ‘dumb’) is potentially less of a liability, facing our current challenges, than a leader who is purely concerned with building and maintaining his political power.


  3. Hey John–good to meet you out here in cyberspace. And your German did not fail you–he ‘t’ sound in Schulzke only comes from the ‘z’.


  4. Ronan, I can see that you’re going to be a bit of a blog terrorist. That was not what I was saying at all.

    No president is a lone-standing executive. No man (or even woman) could possibly bear the full burden of executive decision-making single-handedly. Every American president from FDR on has been heavily influenced by his cabinet.

    The appropriate question becomes–what drives the respective candidates decision-making process? Kerry has repeatedly demonstrated that political power is his single imperative. There is nothing he has fought for with sustained conviction in his very long (and closely watched) political career. Half of what he now says on the campaign trail is contradicted by his record developed over decades.

    I do not believe that Bush has been an exemplary decision-maker. But I do believe that he is capable of acting on conviction, and that if he surrounds himself with capable people (which he has) the fact that he is not a master of complex thought, becomes secondary to his process for arriving at political decisions. Given that he hasn’t nuanced himself out of clarity and into oblivion, Bush is able to recognize Islamofascism for what it is.

    For me, this is the single pressing issue of this campaign. Kerry blows his cover all the time with language about ‘global tests’ and terrorism being a ‘nuisance’ akin to gambling or prostitution. Short form: he really doesn’t get it. He does not understand that we are engaged in an existential struggle. He thinks that the Hague can take this thing.


  5. Stuart, hard to believe it’s already been more than a year since I last ran into you!

    Tell me more about this liberal party that Ronan mentioned. I take it you are interested in that word in its eighteenth-century meaning, which is something that I have also contemplated a lot. What is the platform of this party. Presumably, this will <>not<> be something that interests modern-day liberals?


  6. Hey Stuart–

    You’ve been listening to too much RNC spin! Kerry’s ‘global test’ was simply a way of saying that when we decide to invade another country, he’s going to be sure to be honest to us (the citizens) and to the world (they feel the effects, too) about why we’re doing it. It’s pretty clear that this administration was not entirely honest about Iraq, and Kerry is trying to show how he’d be different.

    As far as the “nuisance” comment– you’ve got to read the whole article, man! Kerry said in a piece in the NY Times Magazine (Oct 10, 2004) that he hoped that terrorism would one day be thought of as such, not that it was at present. Obviously, the ‘War on Terror’ isn’t going to be ‘won’ in any conventional sense, just like there’s no way to ‘win’ the various ‘wars’ against poverty, crime, drugs, etc. However, if done right it is possible to put it at the back of our minds.

    The RNC has done a good job of twisting much of what Kerry says, and our “liberal” press corps has done little to correct the lies and distortions. Thus, it is (unfortunately) the obligation of people to do the leg work ourselves to get to the bottom of things.


  7. Stuart,
    Bush voting on his own convictions worries me slightly as I thought his admittance in the last debate of using prayer to make decisions troublesome. Personal conviction is always good. Kerry obviously has his own religious beliefs too. I’m worried though that the President of the most powerful country in the world relies on feelings following prayer to make presidential decisions. How can he therefore be acting on behalf of the entire US public, who don’t all share his religious beliefs?? I think this use of religion in political life dis-tasteful and inappropriate. I am much more akin to the oppositions view of not imposing your religious beliefs on others, when legislating.


  8. Lancer–

    I never listen to the RNC, so you missed that one. But you’re explanation of what “Kerry meant” with the “passing the Global Test” remark did nothing to explain what it actually means–he said, explicitly, that we have to demonstrate to the world that our cause is legitimate. That’s a test, and it is left unclear just whose standard of legitimacy this test requires us to clear. Presumably the UN’s?

    More interesting right now though is your tellingly cavalier claim that its clear that the Bush administration was not honest about Iraq. Please back that up. Because if they were not honest then there are a few others who were dishonest as well–starting with John Kerry (see and check out the doc there), John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman, German intel, Russian intel, British intel and Israeli intel. All of those parties agreed on one point: Saddam Hussein had and was concealing WMD.

    So you can plausibly make the claim (albeit inconclusively) that the Bush admin was WRONG about Iraqi WMD, but you cannot demonstrate that they were dishonest–unless you’re implicating everyone else I listed there as well.


  9. Rebecca,
    I never said that Bush makes decisions based primarily on his convictions, and nothing we have suggests that is the case. I only said that he HAS convictions, which I happen to believe is crucial.

    In fact, if you read Bob Woodward’s book on the runup to the conflict in Afghanistan you will see that the Bush White House tends to make decisions in a group-based deliberative procedure.

    Bush has said that he prays for support, but not that his prayers factor heavily in his decision-making process. You’ve been listening to too much DNC spin!


  10. Hi Stuart,

    Regarding the Bush admin and WMD’s, the NY Times ran a (long) piece not too long ago about one of the two main pieces of evidence for Iraq and its restarting its nuclear program– namely the aluminum tubes.

    The administration has argued all along that the ONLY use was for nukes. Within the CIA and other agencies, however, there was expressed clear doubt that they were for anything but conventional weapons. This was infomation that was privy largely to the present administration, and not to, say, the Senate Intel Committee. I’ll find the link and post it. If not, I’ll get the clipping and send it to you. Either way, you should read the whole thing and see what you think. I think the point is that if you’re Condi Rice and you know that the tubes are best suited for conventional missile but state on TV that they can ONLY be used for nukes, that’s not being honest.

    (PS As a person whose career is directly related to the freedom and security and political stability of Iraq, I was actually in favor of the war, even with trumped-up WMD claims. What bugs me now is how utterly incompetent this administration has been since Baghdad fell…)

    And as for the “test”, it seems fairly clear. No, the UN wouldn’t be involved– Kerry as much as said that no one would have ‘veto power’ over the President’s options for defending the country. The use of ‘test’ in this sense simply means that when/if we go to war, there’s going to be a good reason– and everyone’s going to be able to see it.

    To use an analogy, your purchase of, say, an expensive item of clothing probably passes a ‘test’ in your head. Can I afford it? Do I need it? Is it of high quality? And so on. You probably also have to make sure that it passes the test of others. Your purchase would probably also have to past the ‘test’ of your wife (for example– I don’t know if you’re married!). She’d ask hard questions, and to justify your purchase you’d better have good (and honest!) reasons. Probably not the best analogy, but it’s what jumped in my head as I sit here typing away…

    But honestly, I don’t think that the ‘test’ thing is a big deal. Rather, in the context that it was spoken, Kerry was making it clear that he’d not answer to the UN or anyone else. However, lots of right-wing pundits (getting their cues from the RNC) have parroted this line to make it an issue.


  11. Sorry Stuart – didn’t listen to DNC at all. Purely my own opinion from watching the debates. We will have to agree to disagree. I believe both candidates showed personal faith and convictions, but they’re very different and people will have to choose which they prefer (although I hope votes are cast based on policy not personality). Anyway – since I have no say in the election, being British, it doesn’t really matter what I think…it’s up to the American public.
    I look forward to your visit to DC (presuming you’re still coming??)- we can have some interesting conversation over dinner at our house I think!!!


  12. Lance:(PS As a person whose career is directly related to the freedom and security and political stability of Iraq, I was actually in favor of the war, even with trumped-up WMD claims)

    Oh dear. I feel the blog terrorist welling up within me again…

    You favor the war because of your career (Iraq’s ancient history), Bush and friends favor the war – at least according to the Left – because of their careers (oil, power).

    Both seem imperial to me, although one is probably more benign.


  13. Ronan wrote <>Bush and friends favor the war – at least according to the Left – because of their careers (oil, power).<>What do you think of such accusations? Conversely, what do you think of Bush’s claims to be interested in freedom and democracy (and the values they sprout) in the Middle East rather than oil? Do you espouse views that America is an Empire? If so, how do you overcome the fact that America has hands down the most untouchable military in the history of the world and yet does not use it to make client states? (Afghanistan and Iraq are hard cases to make that this is what America has been doing there.) What about America’s effort in defending Europe during the Cold War? Don’t you think that absent American military presence in Western Europe after WWII that the French would be speaking Russian right now and the economy of Europe would be ruined? Do you buy into the idea that since America also had a perceived interest in containing communism, its protective presence in Europe was morally suspect or less generous? At any rate, America’s behavior over the last 50 years doesn’t seem to support allegations of imperialism. Just because it is economically and militarily powerful does not mean that it has the goals or methods of either the Roman or British empires.


  14. Hi Ronan,

    You’re right– it’s an odd stance. Doubtless, if we were talking about going to war in, say, Sudan, or Spain, I would probably have had a different view. Or better, I would probably have been less indifferent.

    My point was simply that in the lead-up to the war, I knew that there were conflicting reports about weapons and about links to terrorists, but I didn’t put much of an emotional-political-intellectual investment into it because a) ridding Iraw of Hussein was probably a good thing, and b) perhaps we could go dig at Drehem and figure out about administrative activies under Shulgi.

    It’s not an enlightened position and I understand that. Also, I was living in Florence for much of the time and thus much more attention was paid to, for instance, wine, or Tuscan food, than American politics.

    What’s really made me mad, though, is how horribly things have gone, and how so utterly easy it would have been for them to go much better. It’s clear that my grandmother could have plan better for the post-Baghdad Iraq. Sadly, Rumsfeld himself had people with more clout and military experience telling him so. And yet here we are. Why haven’t heads rolled? Why has no one admitted that they could have done things better?


  15. Lance and Company–

    I agree almost entirely on the question of mismanaging the post-war environment in Iraq. There should have been more personnel, the borders could have been secured, and the Iraqi military should not have been totally disbanded. But these are a separate set of questions.

    The likelihood that the Bush administration exaggerated certain information related to aluminum tubes does nothing to suggest that the overall case was made in bad faith. Tell me what a chief executive should do presented with the following pieces of information:

    1. Every major intelligence agency in the world–including those from countries opposed to military action in Iraq–agrees that Saddam Hussein has WMD.
    2. Russia, the one country with the best Iraq intel in the world–and possibly the least incentive to fabricate this kind of intel–warns you not once, but twice, that SH is collaborating in planned attacks on US soil. This was confirmed by Putin in June, and has been one of the most under-discussed news items of the whole post-war environment.
    3. You know that SH has a history of erratic behavior–ill-advised invasions, shoddy assasination attempts and the like, and that scheming in something like this is not beyond him.
    4. SH not only refuses to cooperate with the inspections regime, he systematically blocks your efforts.
    5. You have information, most aggressively pushed by anti-war German intel (see Atlantic Monthly article by Ken Pollack in March 2004), suggesting that SH is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons, and could have them within two years.
    6. While refusing to fully comply with UN resolutions or cooperate with inspections, SH has (in the not too distant past) made menacing comments indicating a flat refusal to give up his WMD.
    7. Putting it all together–as best you can tell, you have a maniac with WMD, refusing to cooperate with inspections and (according to the Russians) co-planning attacks on American soil. Those attacks could come at any time.

    What do you do? More sanctions? Right. Permanent presence of 200,000 soldiers threatening him at the border? Can’t be done. Convinced that your intel is solid (convinced along with John Kerry and John Edwards and Bill Clinton, who framed the ORIGINAL plan for a preemptive invasion of Iraq) you are forced to act. But to do so you have to convince the world that your invasion is justified.

    You have to take every piece of available evidence to build the case for the invasion, because it would appear that the state you are responsible for protecting might be under some immediate threat, and SH is doing nothing to allay those concerns. So in the process odd bits of evidence are exaggerated or wholly distorted–can this be excused? Absolutely not. Is it, in the context of what was unanimously understood in the world intel community to be conclusive evidence that SH had WMD, understandable? Maybe. Knowing what could be known at the time, did Bush do the right thing going into Iraq. According to myself and no less of an international centrist authority than the Economist–yes. No question.


  16. Hey Stuart–

    You’re right. Lots of people from all sides of the political spectrum were talking about Hussein and his Quest for Weapons. This is why the juxtaposition of those views with the reality– a complete lack of weapons, or even of serious, viable attempts to get them (witness: aluminum tubes)– is so stark.

    How could so many have gotten so much so wrong?!? I don’t ask this rherotically. Well, I do– I don’t think that anyone reading this has the key to world intel over the last 3 years. But I also don’t have a neat, cynical reply to the question. How <>did<> Russia, the US, etc., get eveything so wrong? It’s an important question, but no one seems to have an answer.

    Also unanswered, but much less excusable, are questions about why Bush seems unable to hold anyone responsible for the mess. Not just the post-war disaster, but the pre-war intel.

    If your case for war was (and it was) ‘Hussein has WMD’s and connections with terrorists therefore we must attack him’ when in fact all your evidence was wrong, shouldn’t there be an apology? Shouldn’t you hold accountable some of your officers (i.e. fire them) and say ‘look, we made some mistakes and we ask for help in correcting them’?

    Why does no one admit mistakes?


  17. In reply to John’s “America is no empire” comment. I guess I’ve been reading too much Chomsky and wonder why else a nation gets involved in other nations’ affairs if not to serve their own self-interest.

    No, America is not an Evil Empire in case you were wondering if I thought that.

    But here’s the thing: all this “freedom is on the march” stuff is the Bush fall-back position. No mention was made of this before the war, but in the absence of WMDs and a plausible terror-link, there has to be <>some<> reason why we went over there.

    I support “freedom” in Iraq, and now we’re there we absolutely have to see it through. I think Bush and Kerry both agree on this.


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