Not To Criticize the New York Times, but…

The middle of a mostly apolitical New York Times editorial on Hurricane Katrina in today’s paper reads, “But this seems like the wrong moment to dwell on fault-finding, or even to point out that it took what may become the worst natural disaster in American history to pry President Bush out of his vacation.”

I’ll just leave it at that, because it’s the wrong moment to complain that the New York Times can’t write about the worst natural disaster in history without venting their visceral hatred for our president.

The Quagmire Quagmire

A syndicated cartoon that appeared in the New York Times earlier this month depicts a Republican elephant protesting outside of President Bush’s ranch in Crawford. The elephant is holding a sign that reads, “End The War (Before The ’06 Elections).”

History may inevitably repeat itself, but it isn’t supposed to start showing reruns so quickly.

Not even a year has passed since liberals failed to exploit opposition to the Iraq war to defeat President Bush, but that isn’t stopping them from believing that resurrecting the same strategy will bring them electoral success in the 2006 congressional elections. President Bush’s declining poll numbers, enthusiasm for Cindy Sheehan’s protest in Crawford, and the strong showing of anti-war candidate Paul Hackett in a special Ohio election earlier this month have all combined to give liberals hope.

“We have delivered a lesson — the Fighting Dems will win the day,” read one post on the influential liberal blog Daily Kos, after Hackett’s narrow defeat in a heavily Republican district. “On to 2006, when we take back the Congress.”

The mainstream media thinks that Republicans are already quaking in their boots. “Bad Iraq War News Worries Some in G.O.P. on ’06 Vote,” was the headline of one recent New York Times story.

But in reality, the political climate is eerily close to what it was at this time in 2003. Then, as now, the media were publishing stories that showed Americans’ growing pessimism about Iraq.

An Associated Press story from August 23, 2003, opens:

With public confidence declining in President Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, nearly 70 percent of Americans feel the United States will be bogged down in the country for years without achieving its goals, a poll finds.

Around this time of year in 2003, dark horse candidate Howard Dean was capitalizing on anti-war sentiment and surging in polls for the Democratic nomination. Sen. John Kerry was desperate to shore up his reputation with anti-war Democrats and in October he cast his now infamous vote against $87 billion of military funding for Iraq. The vote, and Kerry’s subsequent attempts to justify it, crystallized President Bush’s central argument that Kerry changed his views with the wind and couldn’t be trusted as a wartime leader.

War is unpredictable, and if you eliminate those who are either ardently for the Iraq war or dead against it, you are left with a large chunk of Americans who change their mind based on how things seem to be going.

This month, an uptick of violence in Iraq, uncertainty over the status of its constitution, and wall-to-wall coverage of Cindy Sheehan’s protest all contributed to a negative impression of the war. But this impression could quickly change.

The Sheehan story is what you get when bored journalists are forced to spend a month in Texas without any news to report. Sheehan coverage has already started to wane as the media move from one of their favorite spectacles — protests — to another, storms. This week, images of the grieving Sheehan have been replaced by images of Hurricane Katrina toppling trees as if they were matchsticks.

The next few months hold great promise for Iraq. If Iraqis approve their new constitution in October and hold successful parliamentary elections in December, Americans could suddenly feel pretty good about the war going into the new year.

SOME MAY POINT TO President Bush’s record low approval ratings and argue that Americans are much more pessimistic about Iraq than they ever have been, and therefore it is unfair to draw parallels to other periods of waning support. But certain fundamentals still hold.

When asked in an Associated Press/Ipsos poll taken last week whether the United States should “keep troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized” or “bring its troops home from Iraq immediately,” 60 percent of Americans responded that we should keep the troops in Iraq, compared to 37 percent that favored bringing the troops home.

Democrats are aware of this reality, which is why members of the party have not joined Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis) in his call to withdraw troops from Iraq by the end of 2006.

Any discussion of Iraq puts Democrats in a bind because they must criticize the war to energize their base while avoiding talk of complete withdrawal to reassure moderates. It isn’t a surprise that once they move beyond bashing President Bush for bungling the war, Democratic leaders have a tough time articulating their own strategy for Iraq.

This is not to say that Republicans will coast to victory in 2006, because congressional elections tend to be decided on local and domestic issues. In these areas, the GOP’s abysmal spending record, among other failures, certainly makes them vulnerable.

But if Democrats turn the 2006 elections into a referendum on Iraq, they will soon find themselves in what some might call a quagmire.

Philip Klein writes from New York.

Al Qaeda Targeting Korea?

South Korea is a likely terrorist target, my friend Mingi reports from Soeul:

The ongoing “war on terror” is often seen as a war between the West and Islamic fundamentalist groups from the Middle East. However, South Korean intelligence experts say the war on terror may become a larger part of East Asian lives in November, when the APEC meeting in Busan could possibly become the region’s first target for an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist attack.

“A very high possibility exists that Al-Qaeda or related organizations will carry out an attack during the APEC meeting,” said Chung Hyung-keun, a Grand National Party lawmaker on the National Assembly’s intelligence committee. “Including world leaders, there will be around 100,000 people from many countries visiting Busan for the meeting.” U.S. President George W. Bush is one of those expected to attend.

You can read the whole thing here.

Sheehan Won’t Be Satisfied By Meeting With Bush

Cindy Sheehan has gone to great lengths to portray herself as a mother of a son who was killed in Iraq who just wants to meet with President Bush. “I want one answer: What is the ‘noble cause’ MY son died for,” she wrote earlier this week. Later in the same blog post, she wrote: “I didn’t ask (President Bush) to withdraw the troops, I asked him what Noble Cause did Casey die for.”

However, a Reuters story following her press conference today reads:

“I’m just so honored that the universe chose me to be the spark that has set of … a raging inferno” of anti-war sentiment, Sheehan said. “It’s not going to end. If George Bush came out and spoke with me today and we went home, this wouldn’t end.”

I have avoided joining the chorus of angry conservatives seeking to demonize Sheehan, and I’m not going to change now. My heart goes out to her for the loss of her son, and she has every right to protest and can call Bush a liar all she wants. But at the same time, I don’t think President Bush should be expected to meet with her (again). As her statement today demonstrates, that will not satisfy her. Sheehan does not see herself as just any grieving mother, but the anointed leader of a growing anti-war movement.

Oil and Terror

In this article, Fareed Zakaria takes a look at how Americans are indirectly funding terrorism through our dependence on oil. Though it is no big shocker, the article is worth reading.

In earlier posts, I wrote about the lack of post-9/11 sacrifice among Americans who are not in the military. Oil is the most glaring example of an area where shared sacrifice on the home front would help our war effort. What better way to send a message to the Saudis and Iranians to get serious on terrorism then to drastically reduce our usage of their oil?

Zakaria points out that gas-guzzling SUVs accounted for 5 percent of American automobiles in 1990, but 54 percent today. This has prompted Andrew Sullivan to mount an anti-SUV offensive, which I think he has gotten a little carried away with, posting reader suggestions for bumper stickers such as “U.S. troops died for your SUV — Drive it proudly” and “”How many soldiers-per-gallon does your SUV get?” He suggests that families should get smaller cars and pile kids in the back like they did in the old days.

A self-described soccer mom took issue with him:

Yes, my mother didn’t have an SUV when she was taking care of us in the 1970s. She used to pack four or five of us kids in the back of her Ford Maverick. You know what? The car seat laws are much stricter now. And the car seats are much bigger. And the kids are required by law to sit in them until they are much older. There is no way you could fit even one of today’s car seats in my mother’s old Ford Maverick. I wouldn’t want to try. Kids are much safer in today’s cars, with today’s car seats, than they were when I was a kid. You say yesterday’s kids thrived? I’ll let you check on the car accident statistics, the survival rates, etc., and then you can get back to me on that. In the meantime, I will continue to schlep my kids and my kids’ friends around in my Honda Oddysey minivan, with the three huge car seats inside.

The woman has a fair point. And I did look up the accident data. This table put out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows fatality rates for children under 5 and 5-9 have gone down considerably, whether you chart it from 1975 or from 1990 (when the big increase in SUV usage started, according to Zakaria). I’d have to do further research to see how prominent a role larger car seats and SUV usage played relative to other factors such as stricter drunk driving laws.

My main beef with Sullivan is that he draws no distinction between people with big families who may have a ligitimate need for an SUV and the type of people who drive Hummers around the Hamptons becuase they think it makes them look cool.

I think in the intermediate term, the boom in hybrid cars and the introduction of hybrid SUVs is a positive start. But longterm, we are going to have to develop an alternative energy source, perhaps fuel cells?

Left Fears American Ayatollahs

Daliy Kos has this absurd post, analogizing Christian conservatives and the likes of the Taliban and Ayatollahs. He cites an LA Times article, which reads:

Nearly every Monday for six months, as many as a dozen congressional aides — many of them aspiring politicians — have gathered over takeout dinners to mine the Bible for ancient wisdom on modern policy debates about tax rates, foreign aid, education, cloning and the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Through seminars taught by conservative college professors and devout members of Congress, the students learn that serving country means first and always serving Christ.

So, 12 congressional aides out of thousands have a weekly bible meeting and suddenly this is the crux of an LA Times story, which leads Kos to conclude:

Is there any doubt that the American Taliban has more in common with our Islamic fundamentalist enemies? They’re cut from the same cloth — the belief that a system of secular rules and laws must be replaced with “God’s laws”.

And while the religions may be different, the core of them is not — opposition to rival faiths, hostility to science, interference in people’s private lives, control over women’s bodies, an irrational belief in the supremacy of the male over female, militancy, anti-intellectualism and a rejection of logic, an unassailable belief in their own righrousness, and the deifying of certain unelectable, unaccountable individuals as “spokesmen for god”, be it Pat Robertson or the Ayatollahs.

I think this post does a good job of demonstrating how absolutely irrational leftists can be sometimes, when their anger allows them to lose all sense of proportion. While I am against any efforts to impose religion on society and often take issue with the Religious Right, to compare them to the Islamic government of Iran would be like me saying that anybody who supports welfare programs is the equivalent of Joseph Stalin because both advocate redistribution of wealth. You may say that Christian conservatives who view fetuses as human lives seek “control over women’s bodies,” but in Iran, women are forced to wear Islamic dress, denied divorce and child custody rights and arrested as enemies of the state if they protest against the government. They may both have “opposition to rival faiths,” but Christian conservatives are not arguing that members of certain other faiths be denied the right to practice their religion. I can go on and on.

While this is one example of how the far left has lost all sense of proportion, it represents a pattern. Because of abuses at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, the U.S. is just as bad as our enemies who chop people’s heads off in front of a video camera. Sept. 11 was a tragedy, but the U.S. government is responsible for killing civilians throughout the world. Saddam might have been bad, but Bush is just as much if not more of a danger to the world. It’s not uncommon to hear this type of nonsense from the mouths of the far left.

Army Exceeding Recruitment Goals?

In today’s NY Post, Ralph Peters argues that, contrary to the popular belief, the Army is actually exceeding its recruitment goals for the year. He writes:

Now, as the fiscal year nears an end, the Army’s numbers look great.

Especially in combat units and Iraq, soldiers are re-enlisting at

record levels. And you don’t hear a whisper about it from the

“mainstream media.”

Let’s look at the numbers, which offer a different picture of

patriotism than the editorial pages do.

* Every one of the Army’s 10 divisions – its key combat organizations

– has exceeded its re-enlistment goal for the year to date. Those with

the most intense experience in Iraq have the best rates. The 1st

Cavalry Division is at 136 percent of its target, the 3rd Infantry

Division at 117 percent.

Among separate combat brigades, the figures are even more startling,

with the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division at 178 percent of

its goal and the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Mech right behind at 174

percent of its re-enlistment target.

This is unprecedented in wartime. Even in World War II, we needed the

draft. Where are the headlines?

* What about first-time enlistment rates, since that was the issue

last spring? The Army is running at 108 percent of its needs. Guess

not every young American despises his or her country and our

president.

* The Army Reserve is a tougher sell, given that it takes men and

women away from their families and careers on short notice. Well,

Reserve recruitment stands at 102 percent of requirements.

* And then there’s the Army National Guard. We’ve been told for two

years that the Guard was in free-fall. Really? Guard recruitment and

retention comes out to 106 percent of its requirements as of June 30.

I’d have to read more to find out how accurately Peters is portraying the numbers, but given the situation in Iraq, it is quite admirable that soldiers have the guts to be reinlisting on such a mass scale. It also says a lot about the character of our nation, per the previous discussion of the home front.

Sheehan Soon To Be Forgotten

I feel bad for Cindy Sheehan. Not just because her son was killed in Iraq and not because her mother had a stroke. I feel bad for her because she is being puffed up by a bored media, and will go through withdrawal once she is forgotten about after Labor Day.

The Cindy Sheehan story is what you get when you have dozens of White House reporters camped out in the middle of Texas without any news to cover. Shortly after Labor Day passes, Bush will go back to DC, Congress will get back into session and suddenly the media will forget about Sheehan. Sure, Michael Moore, Moveon.org and the rest of the angry left will try to keep her story alive for awhile. But a month from now, we won’t be hearing much about Cindy Sheehan. I hope she’s prepared for this reality, but I don’t think so.

A New York Times article earlier this week says Sheehan believes her protest is “‘only the beginning’ of what she described as a growing national movement to bring all American men and women home from the war.”