Towards A Good Samaritan World

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

John Dickerson thinks that McCain is being insincere with his recent support for Bush-- and that he wants the moderates to know it. Why? Dickerson admits that:

McCain has so far mostly walked the line by embracing Bush on issues where they really do agree. Only 38 percent think it was worth going to war in Iraq, and yet McCain is more hawkish than Bush. He has called for more troops in Iraq—a position only 7 percent of Americans support. McCain sounds genuinely convincing in his support of Bush's Supreme Court picks. "Elections have consequences," he has said repeatedly, arguing that only violent opposition should derail a nominee. McCain has hardly endorsed Bush's policies uniformly or uncritically. He's been leading the fight against torturing prisoners, and his endorsements of the Iraq invasion are often paired with criticism of how badly the administration has botched the execution.

Bush took a brave stand when he went to war in Iraq; and a stand highly consistent with the "rogue state roll-back" that McCain advocated in 2000. That's more important than any "historical animosity" from Campaign 2000-- and it's to McCain's credit if he realizes this. If McCain is being as manipulative as Dickerson claims, that goes a long way towards discrediting him. But Dickerson is not persuasive. He blinds himself by reading his distaste for Bush onto others.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


This breaks my heart:

President Bush yesterday tried to shift the focus of immigration reform away from his unpopular plan for a guest-worker program and toward a crackdown on illegal border crossers.

I admire illegal border crossers almost as much as I admire our troops in Iraq. Both, in their different ways, are defying the institution which is the root of most of the injustice in our world-- those strange entities, borders-- and doing good: respectively, feeding their families while serving their fellow men in hard, lowly jobs, and liberating and bringing justice to victims of tyranny. I fervently hope that all efforts to close our southern border to illegal crossings fail. My heart is with the coyotes and the wetbacks... I would like to think that closing the southern border is technologically impossible, that nothing we can do will succeed in shutting them out. And part of me would like to pretend that it's technologically impossible, to tell immigrant-bashing voters: "sorry, folks, the Mexicans will always find a way to get through, so get used to it!" But I don't think it's true.

(Not that all illegal immigrants are Mexican, of course; many are visa over-stayers; and the policies that would shut them out are even more ominous...)

So I'm crushed to hear Bush escalating the war:

We have a comprehensive strategy to reform our immigration system. We're going to secure the border by catching those who enter illegally, and hardening the border to prevent illegal crossings. We're going to strengthen enforcement of our immigration laws within our country.

Or this:

When non-Mexican illegal immigrants are apprehended, they are initially detained. The problem is that our detention facilities don't have enough beds. And so, about four of every five non-Mexican illegal immigrants we catch are released in society and asked to return for a court date. When the date arrives, about 75 percent of those released don't show up to the court. As a result, last year, only 30,000 of the 160,000 non-Mexicans caught coming across our southwest border were sent home.

This practice of catch and release has been the government's policy for decades. It is an unwise policy and we're going to end it. (Applause.)

I love catch-and-release. What a brilliant idea! And whenever you're talking about building more prisons for people who have harmed nobody, it's a sure signal that you're yielding to the Dark Side.

And yet, Bush still stands by his guest worker program. So-- is it worth it? Should I oppose Bush for his new hard line on illegal crossings, or should I consider this the price he's paying for the guest worker program? Anyway, I hope securing the border fails and the guest-worker program passes.

Meanwhile, here's some really good news:

Democrats found themselves in the unusual position of agreeing with the Republican president, although they took the opportunity to slam House conservatives.

"You have advocated a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, a view at odds with many members of your party in Congress," wrote Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, in a letter to Mr. Bush. "As Congress finally begins to address this problem, I hope that you will stand up to the right-wing of your party and stand up for what is right."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said the president "must demonstrate leadership by saying no to his right-wing allies who want to close our borders and yes to the business community, labor unions and Hispanic Americans who want realistic and comprehensive immigration reform."

Wow! It's the first sign that the Democrats are leaving behind mindless oppositionism and supporting a policy on principle despite its being associated with Bush! It's tragic for the country that they didn't show the same decency when the Social Security debate was going on earlier this year, and Bush seemed ready to make the tax-and-transfer system more redistributionist-- raising the cap and reducing scheduled benefits for upper-earners-- while enacting private accounts. Then they refused to debate or discuss or engage in the sorts of things that responsible policymakers do, preferring to demagogue. But now Reid is writing to encourage President Bush! And I have a strange, sudden affection for Ted Kennedy, whose pronouncements on Iraq have been so monstrous.

Refreshing. I'm a long way from forgiving the Democrats for hanging the Social Security albatross around my generation's neck... but it's worth thinking about it anyway.


Jon Henke argues (hat tip Instapundit) that despite the superficial bickering, the parties are mostly in agreement about Iraq:

So, after 2 years of debating Iraq policy, the Democrats have decided that training Iraqi security forces to take over and reducing US deployments as they do—"as Iraq stands up, we will stand down"—is the best course in Iraq? And this epiphany, David Broder writes, may have "pointed the administration and the country toward a realistic and modestly hopeful course on Iraq."

The Democrats have not come up with a new Iraq Policy. They've jumped onboard the Bush administration's existing policy, with the novel new suggestion that we stay the course...but try harder.

Sounds right to me. The Iraq debate here seems phony to me. Of course we'll withdraw troops: that was always part of the plan, and it's silly to get indignant about it. But it would be idiotic to do so before the elections, and of course everyone knows we won't. Lack of WMDs doesn't matter: if he didn't have them, he would have as soon as we lifted the sanctions, which were both unsustainable and immoral. That some people still don't understand this is pathetic, but irrelevant since we can't rewind the tape anyway.

Ralph Peters sets himself apart by offering a rare dose of fresh thinking:

To have any hope of reaching a positive outcome in the Middle East, you must chose a side and stick to it. Wishy-washy attempts at mediation alienate everyone.

As a result of our every-child-deserves-a-prize approach to Iraq's redesign, the Sunni Arabs continue to view us as their oppressors, the Shia see us as protectors of the Sunnis — and our Kurdish allies are scrambling to make deals with Iraq's neighbors (including Iran and Syria, as well as Turkey) to ensure their survival should the country explode when our troops depart.

Our reluctance to kill Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia gangster, turned him into a hero and a true power broker (he's not afraid to take sides). The fecklessness of our policies left the Kurds determined to become the Middle East's new Sparta — their peshmerga militias remain the most potent force in Iraq after our own. And the Sunni Arabs, who needed to be broken down before they could be built up again (think the psychology of basic training), have been allowed to create an image of heroic resistance.

I think Peters is close to the truth here, but he doesn't understand something about America. The nature of the American polity is such that we could never think this way. Ralph Peters is a soldier, and he's thinking like a soldier, but we're governed by politicians. Of course, that's a good thing, even if it does lead to a lot of muddle. Soldiers have moral clarity, but they have other vices to offset it.

Friday, November 18, 2005

"Bush has lost his gamble," concludes James Klurfeld. Because now the Senate seems to be under-cutting his war.

How does he figure? For the 1000th time, Bush got rid of Saddam. That's the main thing.

"Bush lied" isn't the only historical revisionism that's going on here. There's also this surreal, postmodern idea that a war in which the enemy was defeated and the main war objective achieved can somehow be lost.

Bush won his gamble.