Andy Sullivan’s back from vacation,

Andy Sullivan‘s back from vacation, and better than ever. Or, I should say, more liberal than ever:

I loved Bush’s comment yesterday about the smear-ad: “I can understand why Senator Kerry is upset with us. I wasn’t so pleased with the ads that were run about me. And my call is get rid of them all, now.””Us”?? I thought Bush had nothing to do with it.

Boo-yeah! He’s even gotten it on Iraq:

THE WAR: The attempt to put Iraq back together again seemed to lose ground last month as well. The awful slaughter in Najaf led to … exactly the same situation as before. Sadr is still at large. Many hundreds of his soldiers have been killed, but there are more where they came from (Iran, in many cases). Sadr’s legitimacy has increased in the population at large. The coalition is in danger of becoming an instrument in a civil war. Sistani has become a de facto ruler. Jim Hoagland had the right worries yesterday: “For a quasi-occupying power, as the United States is in Iraq today, the worst of all worlds is to have put in place a local regime that the outside power must support at all costs but does not control.” That sums it up nicely. Falluja and Ramadi seem worse than Najaf. I guess we’re left to hope that some kind of Allawi-led transition to some kind of democracy is still possible. But these kinds of clashes – when they do not end in clear victory – seem to me to increase bitterness, unrest, unease and resolve little. At best, we are back where we were. At worst, the mess has deepened. Does anyone believe that the administration has a clear idea of how to rescue the situation? I see few signs of candor or clarity.

A little late, but still welcome. And, of course, we still rocks on his best subject: gay rights:

Then there were the predictable surprises. A closeted gay man trying to pretend he’s straight eventually breaks down and reveals the truth under threat of blackmail from a lover. How many times has that happened? Worse, NcGreevey [sic] tried to spin it as an advance for gay rights. Nope. What the gay rights movement is trying to achieve is an end to these kinds of decptions and lies and phony marriages. Then a prominent moralist, a man who has aggressively denied any distinction between private morals and public lives, a theocon much beloved by the National Review crowd, turns out to have had a checkered past. Again: big surprise. And then that left-wing maniac, Dick Cheney, refuses to give up his federalist principles, his love of family and freedom, or his basic humanity, by signing on to the president’s anti-gay constitutional amendment. Good for the veep, and the entire Cheney family. Too bad his own president has put them in such an awful position. And the GOP platform dispenses with any nuance and comes out not just against marriage rights for gays, but any kind of legal protections for their relationships whatever. That, of course, is what the FMA is designed to do, whatever lies its sponsors tell. No wonder Zell Miller is now the keynoter for the Republicans. Here’s a man who once proudly condemned LBJ for backing civil rights for African-Americans, while Bush’s Republican grandfather stood up for decency. History has come full circle, hasn’t it? The Dixiecrats meet again in New York. Now they’re called Republicans.

I’ve always thought that Andy was the smartest conservative in the country. Now I know it.

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For heaven’s sake, we have

For heaven’s sake, we have plenty of things to attack Bush about. Why attack him for being right?

Despite campaigning as the candidate who can win the war on terror, President Bush said in a broadcast interview today he didn’t believe such a war could ever be won, but must be fought to make terrorism “less acceptable.”

“I don’t think you can win it,” Bush said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. “But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world.”

The comments by the president, recorded during a campaign stop with the television network on Saturday in Ohio, were immediately assailed by Democrat John Kerry’s campaign as defeatist.

“After months of listening to the Republicans base their campaign on their singular ability to win the war on terror, the president now says we can’t win the war on terrorism,” Kerry running mate Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) said in a statement.

“This is no time to declare defeat. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but we have a comprehensive long-term plan to make America safer. And that’s a difference,” Edwards said.

Well, duh it’s unwinnable. We don’t even know what “winning” it means. If it’s won by eliminating terrorism, then no one can seriously make an argument saying it can be won; terrorism, like murder, robbery, and most others crimes, is not a belief. It’s a means to an end, specifically, a means of obtaining political power, or simply of making a political statement. No one can argue that we can completely eliminate murder or robbery; it’s just as absurd to argue that we can eliminate terrorism. Now, most of this war is targeted on a very specific kind of terrorism, one that the right as dubbed “Islamo-fascism”. Then is this war won by eliminating “Islamo-fascism”? Of course not; “Islamo-fascism” is a belief, and eliminating it goes against our nation’s core principle of free speech. And everyone knows that we cannot control what people think.

However, we can reduce the number of terrorist attacks, at least on our country, by increasing train, airport, and port security, integrating our intelligence services, and increasing our paramilitary capacity at the CIA. We can also reduce “Islamo-fascism”‘s power in the Muslim world, by working to dismantle the Mullah-system in Iran, pushing the Saudi government to abandon Wahhabi theology as a national belief, and creating cultural exchange programs similar to those used in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. However, it is ridiculous to assume that we can destroy terrorism or Islamic extremism in their entireties. As much as I hate to say it, Bush was right.

Why, oh, why is the

Why, oh, why is the Florida Senate race being ignored so universally? It’s likely to be the closest race in the country, and is in, arguably, the swingiest state in the U.S. Also, the cast of characters is amusing. There’s former Rep. Bill McCollum [R-FL], who died hard against Sen. Bill Nelson [D-FL] four years ago, and who will likely lose again if he wins the nomination this year. But it’s not that he’s extreme; on the contrary, he voted to expand the federal hate crimes statute to include sexual orientation, and supports embryonic stem cell research. He’s just a bad campaigner. So he’d be the person I’d most like to win this primary. Then there’s the Bush Administration’s recruit, former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez [R-FL], who was losing to McCollum by a fair amount until very recently, when he started attacking McCollum from the right on gay rights and stem cells. Ironically, he was recruited as a moderate in the race. However, the strategy seems to be working, at least in the primary:

Buoyed by his ties to the White House, Mel Martinez has wrested a lead away from Bill McCollum in the Republican race for the U.S. Senate, a poll showed Thursday.

Martinez, a former Orange County chairman from Orlando, is the choice of 33 percent of GOP likely voters heading into Tuesday’s primary, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey done for the Orlando Sentinel and WESH-NewsChannel 2.

McCollum, a former member of Congress from Longwood, won 27 percent

The other candidates – Johnnie Byrd [R-FL], an extremist social conservative who quit the Episcopal Church after Gene Robinson’s consecration (full disclosure: I happen to be a Robinson Episcopalian), businessman Doug Gallagher [R-FL], and Clinton/Cheney hater Larry Klayman [R-FL] – have no chance of winning:

Coral Gables businessman Doug Gallagher is a distant third with 12 percent, while Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd of Plant City drew 7 percent.

Notice that Klayman isn’t even mentioned. I had thought that my old Senator and professional nutjob Bob Smith was in the running, but he doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the poll, or on Politics1’s list of the candidates. Hmm. Meanwhile, it seems that the Democratic nomination is a done deal (free registration required):

With less than a week to go before Tuesday’s primary, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Betty Castor continues to hold a double-digit lead over main rival Peter Deutsch, according to a poll for the Orlando Sentinel and WESH-NewsChannel 2.

The survey, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research and released Wednesday, shows that Castor leads with 45 percent of likely Democratic voters. Deutsch had 31 percent, and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas had 9 percent, with 14 percent undecided. Hollywood businessman Bernard Klein had 1 percent.

Penelas, if you remember, helped us lose in 2000. Al Gore has already expressed his anger:

Gore told the Miami Herald that Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, who faces a three-way Senate primary, was the “single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with during the [2000] campaign anywhere in America.”

I’ve already mocked Peter Deutsch, so I guess that leaves me supporting Castor. I guess that’s good. Anyone who keeps Graham’s seat is okay in my book.

P.S. Sorry for the weird cut-off before; I have no idea what that was about.

Breaking News: The speaker of

Breaking News:

The speaker of the Texas legislature personally asked the top official of the Texas Air National Guard to help George W. Bush obtain a pilot’s slot in a Guard fighter squadron during the war in Vietnam, according to informed sources.

The speaker, Ben Barnes, intervened on Bush’s behalf sometime in late 1967 or early 1968 at the request of a good friend of Bush’s father, then a Republican congressman from Houston, the sources said. The friend, Sidney A. Adger, was a prominent Houston business executive who died in 1996. The Guard official contacted at his behest, Brig. Gen. James M. Rose, died in 1993.

Via Jeralyn Merritt, who also links to a video showing Barnes admitting to helping Bush. This is huge. This shows that Bush did get parental help in dodging the draft, which we’ve suspected since, well, forever:

Jim Moore, the co-author of Bush’s Brain, whom I also mention below, describes this exchange he had in the 1994 gubernatorial debate with Anne Richards. Moore was on the panel of journalists posing questions. This is from Moore’s article in Salon back in July …

The irony in all of this is that I am largely responsible for reducing access to those records. During the 1994 Texas gubernatorial race between Ann Richards and George W. Bush, I was a panelist on the only televised debate between the two candidates. The question I chose to ask Bush first was about the National Guard. I had lost friends in Vietnam, and many of them had tried to get into the Guard. We were all told that there was a waiting list of up to five years. The Guard was the best method for getting out of combat in Vietnam. You needed connections. George W. Bush had them.

“Mr. Bush,” I said. “How did you get into the Guard so easily? One hundred thousand guys our age were on the waiting list, and you say you walked in and signed up to become a pilot. Did your congressman father exercise any influence on your behalf?”

“Not that I know of, Jim,” the future president told me. “I certainly didn’t ask for any. And I’m sure my father didn’t either. They just had an opening for a pilot and I was there at the right time.”

Thank you Josh Marshall. Well, Bush claims to have never used parental help in getting in. And now there’s proof that he used parental help to get in. But he never lied, of course.

I don’t know my administration’s

I don’t know my administration’s policy on global warming, but I’m not an idiot:

On environmental issues, Mr. Bush appeared unfamiliar with an administration report delivered to Congress on Wednesday that indicated that emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases were the only likely explanation for global warming over the last three decades. Previously, Mr. Bush and other officials had emphasized uncertainties in understanding the causes and consequences of global warming.

The new report was signed by Mr. Bush’s secretaries of energy and commerce and his science adviser. Asked why the administration had changed its position on what causes global warming, Mr. Bush replied, “Ah, we did? I don’t think so.”

It would have been fine if he simply said, “Cabinet members and presidents occasionally disagree,” or something to that effect. Well, no, it wouldn’t, because he would be denying scientific fact. But at least it would’ve been better than “Ah, we did?” Know your own policies, Mr. President.

Kerry challenges Bush to weekly

Kerry challenges Bush to weekly debates. Bush assumes fetal position:

John Kerry challenged President Bush on Thursday to weekly debates from now until Nov. 2 on campaign issues like education, health care and national security.

“America deserves a discussion like we’re having here today, which I’m prepared to have with this president every single week from now until the election,” the Democratic presidential candidate said.

The Bush-Cheney campaign rebuffed the debate challenge.

“There will be a time for debates after the convention, and during the next few weeks, John Kerry should take the time to finish the debates with himself,” responded Bush-Cheney spokesman Steve Schmidt.

“This election presents a clear choice to the American people between a president who is moving America forward and a senator who has taken every side of almost every issue,” he said.

Bush, who doesn’t have a penchant for on-the-spot thinking, to put it lightly, has probably made the decision best for him. Though he has made himself look like a coward for the second time in as many days, Kerry would kill him in a debate. Kerry performs best under pressure; after all, when he was being written off as an also-ran in the primaries, he finally got his act together and won. And he performs especially well in debates:

In historic Faneuil Hall, Mr. Weld (Kerry’s challenger in 1996) challenged Mr. Kerry to defend his opposition to the death penalty, demanding that he look the mother of a slain police officer in the eye and tell her why the life of her son’s killer was worth more than her son’s.

Mr. Kerry denounced the killer but defended his position: “I know something about killing,” he said, in an allusion to his service in Vietnam, as the hall fell to a hush. “I don’t like killing. I don’t think a state honors life by turning around and sanctioning killing.”

At another debate, Mr. Kerry, usually considered aloof, was revealing. When the panelists asked the candidates for their most agonizing personal decision, Mr. Kerry said that apart from choices he faced in Vietnam, it was his decision to divorce his first wife, and his worries about how it would affect his daughters. Mr. Weld, by contrast, said he could not think of one.

Italicized phrase mine. If Bush has seen those debates (which are downright impossible to find on the web), which Karl Rove should have forced him to do by now, he knows that he can’t afford to have more debates than is absolutely necessary. So this decision is logical. Cowardly, but logical.

Yeah, about that whole “losing

Yeah, about that whole “losing jobs from outsourcing” thing…

Virginia Postrel posts and links to several stories about a Public Policy Institute of California study on the effect of offshore outsourcing on the Californian economy. Postrel writes, “The study found that outsourcing actually increases employment in California. Now the Assembly is sitting on the study.”

From Dan Drezner, your one-stop shop for all things outsourcing.