Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler Banner Graphic
Caveat lector

SWEATER BOYS! Did Dean and Clark oppose war from the start? Your fashion press doesn’t much care:


ROEPER-DOPE: In the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper, our new HOWLER hero, named it 2003’s finest film. Its brilliant ending, Roeper judged, was “one of the most heartbreaking and yet uplifting moments in recent film history.” (Even his hatchet-hearted pal, Roger Ebert, made it the year’s tenth-top film.)

Once in a while we cut you a break: Go see Jim Sheridan’s In America. No, it isn’t about “the immigrant experience,” as many critics oddly believed. What is this movie about? Love. Love. Love. Love. Real human love! And then, at last, in the end: Wisdom.

Yes, we’ve already told you too much. But: “You’re the lucky ones,” Roeper wrote—“the ones who haven’t yet seen In America. I envy your experience of seeing this film with fresh eyes and pure expectations.”

ATTACK ON ALLEGED FAKE ATTACK: We met Will Saletan some years ago, and we’re sure that he’s a superlative guy. But how bizarre is our public discourse? Saletan reviewed the last Dem debate for Slate. Here’s his account of what he termed the “fakest attack” from the session:

Fakest attack: Kerry. “Gov. Dean has had it both ways [on Iraq]. On October 6, five days before we voted in the Senate, Gov. Dean took a public position supporting the Biden-Lugar resolution, which gave authority to the president of the United States to go to war if he found that the diplomatic effort had been exhausted and all he had to do was write a letter.” (Are you kidding? Dean bet his whole campaign on opposition to the war. If the postwar had gone smoothly, Kerry would have called Dean soft on Saddam. In fact, Kerry has called him that. Kerry’s the flipper.)
“Kerry’s the flipper,” Saletan said—without making the slightest attempt to evaluate the solon’s assertion.

Is Kerry’s complaint about Dean on-target? In fact, on October 5, 2002, Dean did “take a public position supporting the Biden-Lugar resolution” (see Des Moines Register excerpt, below). And to all appearances, that proposed resolution did “give Bush authority to go to war if he found that the diplomatic effort had been exhausted.” Here’s how David Rosenbaum described the measure in the October 6 New York Times:

ROSENBAUM (10/6/02): Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and thus the Democrats’ ex officio spokesman in the Senate on foreign policy, stands somewhere between the hawks and the doves.

Mr. Biden and Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, are offering a proposal that would authorize military action, but only against Iraq and not any other country, and only to rid Iraq of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

By that account, Biden-Lugar permitted war on Iraq over WMD. How did Biden-Lugar differ from Bush’s proposed resolution? On October 3, 2002, Elisabeth Bumiller explained that Bush’s proposal “authorizes Mr. Bush to use force to enforce ‘all relevant’ United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq, leaving the White House free to determine what is relevant. In contrast, the Biden-Lugar language specifies that force is authorized to secure the destruction of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and its ballistic missile program or to defend the United States and its allies against those programs.” Just how different was Biden-Lugar? David Firestone reported, then let you decide:
FIRESTONE (10/1/02): Instead of citing only the national security interests of the United States, as the White House resolution does, [Biden-Lugar] would emphasize the defense needs of the United States and its allies.

It would also require the administration to notify Congress within 30 days of an invasion of the degree of assistance from other countries and the status of plans to rebuild Iraq, with further reports required every 60 days. The White House had agreed to report every 90 days.

Every 60 days, not 90! To be honest, it doesn’t sound all that tough.

There seems to be no question that Dean supported Biden-Lugar. And for weeks now, Kerry has claimed that Biden-Lugar would have let Bush go to war in Iraq, just as the final resolution did. But the press corps has made no attempt to examine this belated complaint. Saletan simply dismisses the claim without attempting to sort it out. “Dean bet his whole campaign on opposition to the war?” That is precisely Kerry’s point! Kerry says that Dean favored a resolution that would have let Bush go to war. Shouldn’t someone see if that statement is accurate? Not in this press corps—a corps which now seems to base all its judgments on what sweater or duck boots hopefuls wear.

Meanwhile, Clark is another dove who seemed somewhat hawkish in real time. As we have noted, Clark wrote a column in the October 14 Time (released October 7) in which, rightly or wrongly, he did seem ready to rumble. “[W]e must …take actions that not only achieve our aim of disarming Saddam—and probably ending his regime in the process—but also help defeat al-Qaeda,” he wrote. In his closing paragraph, he didn’t seem inclined to wait long:

CLARK (10/14/02): The key issue about Iraq has never been whether we should act if Saddam doesn’t comply with U.N. resolutions and disarm. Rather, the problems are how we should act, and when. As for the how, the answer is clear—multilaterally, with friends and allies, with every possible effort to avoid the appearance of yet another Christian and Jewish stab at an Islamic country, with force as a last resort, and with a post-conflict plan in place to assure that the consequences of our action do not supercharge the al-Qaeda recruiting machine. As for the when, let’s take the time to plan, organize and do the whole job the right way. This will only take a few more weeks, and it’s important. It’s not just about winning a war—it’s also about winning the peace.
Would Clark have acted without UN approval? The answer seemed to be yes. “Even if the U.N. is ultimately unable to give us the strong resolution that we seek, the support of friends and allies will be important—as it was in Kosovo—in gaining worldwide credibility for our aims and legitimacy for our actions.”

Clark and Dean say they opposed the war all along. Kerry says that Dean supported Biden-Lugar, which would have allowed Bush to act on his own. Saletan doesn’t seem to care. Does anything matter to today’s press except the jaunty look of your sweater?

DEAN SPEAKS: Here is the relevant part of Beaumont Thomas’ report in the October 6 Des Moines Register. Thomas refers to Dean’s appearance at the previous evening’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. Given the trivia being flogged in the press, surely this topic deserves more attention than it has gotten so far:

THOMAS: Dean opposes the Bush resolution and supports an alternative sponsored by Sens. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat, and Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican. That resolution puts more emphasis on diplomacy and specifies that force be used only for disarmament purposes.

“It’s conceivable we would have to act unilaterally, but that should not be our first option,” Dean told reporters before the dinner.

“The greater fear that I have is that the president has never said what the truth is: that if we go into Iraq, we will be there for 10 years,” he said at the dinner, noting that Bush hasn’t outlined an exit strategy.

MUST-READ WP: In this morning’s Post, Howard Kurtz reports the ongoing claim that the press is “Goring” Dean. In the course of his intriguing article—Kurtz gives many sides a say—he offers the Standard Press Corps Account of the way the corps conducts business:
KURTZ: Indeed, leading White House wannabes have long been subjected to months of media grilling. Bill Clinton was pummeled over Gennifer Flowers, averting the draft and not inhaling marijuana. George W. Bush was depicted as a dim bulb and interrogated on whether he had used drugs during his “young and irresponsible” days. John McCain, who beat Bush in New Hampshire, was portrayed as a tantrum-thrower with psychic scars from his POW years.

Now Dean has been pelted with stories questioning his failure to release his gubernatorial records; controversial comments about Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden; skiing after flunking a draft physical; his temperament; his hesitance to discuss religion; his all-white Vermont Cabinet; why his wife doesn't campaign for him; and whether, all things considered, he is headed for a McGovern-like landslide defeat.

We always do this, this account seems to say. We’re off to DC for a power lunch. But we’ll offer some thoughts on the morrow.