“Swamp” Logic

Checking out Time‘s Swampland blog, I found the following:

President Bush today signed into law today the G.I. Bill, which will double college benefits for troops and veterans, despite his earlier threats to veto the measure. The bill was attached to the $850 billion war supplemental that allocates and additional $650 billion for the war in Iraq and $200 billion for Afghanistan.

This immediately struck me as odd. While I am under no illusion about the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, $850 billion is an absolutely staggering figure for a supplemental bill — one that would be much higher than the entire budget of the Department of Defense.

So I followed a link to the Tribune blog, coincidently named, the Swamp, and found a post headlined: “Bush signs $162 billion war spending bill.” That seemed more like it, but then I read a few paragraphs in, and found this: “The bill adds more than $650 billion to the Iraq war and $200 billion for the war in Afghanistan.”

How bizarre. I mean, what kind of $162 billion bill contains $850 billion in additional spending?

Finally, I checked out the AP story, and it all began to make sense:

The spending bill will bring to more than $650 billion the amount Congress has provided for the Iraq war since it started more than five years ago. For operations in Afghanistan, the total is nearly $200 billion, according to congressional officials.

The only logical conclusion to draw is that you shouldn’t trust blogs with “swamp” in the title.

Mass Mandates

One of the most common arguments used in favor of universal health care, specifically government mandates requiring individuals to purchase of health insurance, is that we end up paying for the uninsured the expensive way — when they show up to the emergency room sick or injured. Universal coverage, supporters argue, will reduce the cost of unpaid care.

A recent Belmont Citizen-Herald article included this bit about the Massachusetts universal health care program:

According to state records, Massachusetts spent $647 million on free care in FY 2006. That figure has shrunk to an estimated $453 million for FY 2009. But the decrease has been more than offset by the introduction of Commonwealth Care, subsidized insurance that the state says will cost at least $869 million next fiscal year — probably much more. Architects of Massachusetts’s health care reform law argued that the introduction of Commonwealth Care would significantly reduce dependence on free care.

Further down in the story, it says that the $869 million number is “a figure that the governor and legislative leaders acknowledge is too low, perhaps by as much as $200 million.”

So, to save $194 million a year, the state will end up spending over $1 billion. Sounds like par for the course for a government program. And people wonder why, as a conservative, I have issues with Mitt “I like mandates” Romney.

Does McCain Represent Bush’s Third Term?

That’s an argument the Obama campaign seems to be winning at the moment. A new Gallup poll finds that about two-thirds of voters are at least somewhat concerned that McCain “would pursue policies that are too similar to what George W. Bush has pursued,” with 49 percent “very concerned.”

I think for McCain to win this argument, he can’t focus on pointing to policy differences with President Bush, because in order to keep conservatives in the tent he’s naturally going to have to support enough of Bush’s polices for the Obama campaign to point to as evidence that he would represent a continuation of Bush’s two terms in office.

A lot of the negative feelings for Bush go beyond his policies and to his personal bio — somebody who never had to sacrifice for his country, who only got to where he is based on his last name, who wasn’t a hands on leader when it came to maintaining a failed strategy, somebody who is ignorant of foreign affairs, etc.

Although it’s tricky, a better way for McCain to contrast with Bush is how he would differ as a leader. Much of what a president does goes beyond pure policy. As 9/11 demonstrated rather dramatically, something completely unexpected can happen that changes everything in an instant, and challenges a president to respond. The set of experiences that McCain would bring to the table in such crises are completely different than what Bush brought to the table.

The fact that Bush wouldn’t increase troop levels in Iraq while McCain advocated a surge-type strategy was a policy difference, but more significantly, it was a policy difference that reflected different leadership styles. McCain was unsatisfied with the situation in Iraq, made repeated visits there, met with leaders on the ground, studied the complexities of the conflict, dipped into his decades of military and foreign policy experience, and came to the conclusion that the conflict was winnable with a new strategy. That is very un-Bush like. If McCain can shift the debate toward leadership attributes, I think he’ll have a much easier time distancing himself from Bush.

Clark and McCain’s Judgment

Wesley Clark defended his criticism of John McCain in a statement that concludes, “as an American and former military officer I will not back down if I believe someone doesn’t have sound judgment when it comes to our nation’s most critical issues.”

For years, McCain argued that more troops and a better strategy would improve conditions in Iraq and he tied his political fortunes to the success of the surge — and his judgment has been vindicated.

But back when the surge was announced in January of 2007, Clark wrote in an op-ed for the Independent that the surge would backfire:

What the surge would do, however, is put more American troops in harm’s way, further undercut US forces’ morale, and risk further alienation of elements of the Iraqi populace. American casualties would probably rise, at least temporarily, as more troops are on the streets; we saw this when the brigade from Alaska was extended and sent into Baghdad last summer. And even if the increased troop presence initially intimidates or frustrates the contending militias, it won’t be long before they find ways to work around the obstacles to movement and neighbourhood searches, if they are still intent on pursuing the conflict. All of this is not much of an endorsement for a troop surge that will impose real pain on the already overstretched US forces….

The truth is that, however brutal the fighting in Iraq for our troops, the underlying problems are political. Vicious ethnic cleansing is under way right under the noses of our troops, as various factions fight for power and survival. In this environment security is unlikely to come from smothering the struggle with a blanket of forces – it cannot be smothered easily, for additional US efforts can stir additional resistance – but rather from more effective action to resolve the struggle at the political level.

Clark Apologizes To Obama Rather Than McCain

From “Good Morning Ameirca” this Morning:

ROBIN ROBERTS: General Clark, do you feel like you owe Senator McCain an apology?

CLARK: Well, Robin, I want to say first that Senator Obama had nothing to do with this. These are comments that I was asked about several months ago in terms of me as a retired military officer, assessing John McCain’s qualifications. And so I was on the Sunday interview show. The interviewer brought them up. He actually asked me the question. He’s the one who stated it. ‘Climbed into an airplane and got shot down.’ All I did was directly respond to the question. So I am very sorry that this has distracted from the message of patriotism that Senator Obama wants to put out.”

Meanwhile, on CNN, David Axelrod says, “Look, I think General Clark didn’t mean to demean in any way the service of Senator McCain. the way it came out on Sunday was a bit unfortunate. I’m glad he’s clarified it.”

Sounds like somebody who heard the footsteps of the Livid Left.