MEET THE CANDIDATES
It’s been about 18 months since most of the Democratic hopefuls desiring to succeed George W Bush started running for the presidency. Their race has generated little interest over that time, although Howard Dean’s picture seemed to be on the cover of most of the popular magazines. Although he never reached the cover boy status of former cover girls Jackie Kennedy and Katie Couric, he nonetheless approached the Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, “Bennifer”, level of cover subject. Since the Iowa caucuses are over, more people are now interested in the candidates. Few people, myself included, know where these people stand on the issues, but their personalities and eccentricities are starting to become more obvious. Here’s my observation of the candidates.
John Kerry He is now the leader based on his large victory in Iowa. He is also pulling ahead in New Hampshire as I am writing this and, at least based on the polls, appears to be a potential winner in that state. I will say one thing that stands out about Kerry. He looks presidential. If central casting was looking for an actor to play a president, he could more than adequately fit that position. Nonetheless, when I see Kerry on television I always get a mental picture of former Governor Edmund Muskie of Maine. Muskie goes down in history as the presidential candidate who cried on television. I forget the reason he cried, but television programs play this scene repeatedly. That look alike image could prejudice people against Kerry.
Kerry has had an illustratious career to date. He served two tours in Vietnam, won medals, and eventually became a leader in the antiwar campaign. He returned the medals he earned and testified before Congress against the war wearing a military field jacket. As a young man in his twenties he appeared on “Sixty Minutes” where the interviewer asked him over thirty years ago if he wanted to be president. Talk about peeking into the future. From my personal viewpoint, I always feel annoyed when I see Vietnam veterans protesting the war while wearing army fatigues. I don’t mind them expressing their convictions against the war, but somehow for some unstated reason the constant wearing of army field jackets annoys me. Even when I went to the Vietnam memorial in Washington a few years ago, the veterans on hand soliciting donations, wore army fatigues. For the protesters to do this seems very pandering and manipulative to me. I don’t think that’s right. I don’t like to be manipulated, although we live in an era of open manipulation. Under the current administration, every act, no matter how unrelated, seems to conclude that we must remember 9-11. You can be against the war and not wear an army field jacket. Right or wrong, I acquaint army field jackets with street people or protesters. If you want to remind people of your military service, why not follow the American Legion and wear colorful overseas or “c” caps? At least the American Legion had bars where one could eat and drink.
The problem with Kerry is that he’s not a new face. He’s been around the political scene for decades. Does he have any new ideas for the 21st Century? Although he has been on the political scene for years, other then his initial run for the Senate, he has never captured the nation’s attention. He also lacks definition. Is he a Boston Brahmin or is he recently removed from the ranks of the working class Boston Irishman and thus has the charm and appeal of a Boston pol a la Tip O’Neil? Would we expect to meet him in a pub like “Cheers”? John Kennedy was able to bridge this gap with an allure to both classes. Even George Bush has been able to appeal to working class Texans and southern whites despite his patrician New England roots. It is not clear where Kerry’s basic appeal lies. Will the southern rednecks embrace him or will they reject him as they rejected former Governor Dukasis of Massachusetts as a northern liberal? Liberal is a dirty word in the South. Oddly, some of Kerry’s forbears were neither Boston Brahmin nor Irish working class since his maternal grandparents were Jewish merchants.
I find one of the interesting things about Kerry is his wife. She is the former wife of the deceased Republican Senator Heinz from Pennsylvania. His wife has a net worth of over half a billion and controls over a billion in charitable trusts. All earned from catsup and beans. She is a very powerful person in her own right. She is of Portuguese descent and a native of Mozambique who went to college in South Africa and Switzerland and worked as an interpreter at the United Nations. From all accounts, she cusses like a drunken sailor and is extremely outspoken. Although I have never seen a clear picture of her, I have read that she has an exotic Mediterranean beauty ala Sophia Loren. This may be an exaggeration, but I have a visceral feeling that we couldn’t compare her to Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman or Mamie Eisenhower. If the people elect Kerry or the Supreme Court appoints him, Mrs. Heinz Kerry will break the mold of presidents’ wives. If fiscal conditions get tough, she may be in a position to lend the country some money.
John Edwards John Edwards reminds me of a Dan Qualye with brains. He looks very young despite his fifty years. He also has very limited political experience since this is his first term in the Senate and his first elected office. In this regard, he also bears a resemblance to Dan Qualye when George Bush 41 selected Qualye as his Vice President. The comparison ends there as Danny boy was the son of a prosperous and well-known Indiana family while John Edwards is the son of a poor mill worker. At least that is how he presents himself in his stump speech. Edwards is a former trial attorney who earned millions while representing those who sued tobacco companies. This experience cuts both ways as the Republicans can demonize him as a trial attorney whose work contributes to the high prices in America. Some people may also consider him a defender of the poor, a modern day legal Robin Hood. If nominated we can expect big tobacco money flowing to the Republicans and against him. What else is new? If nominated we can also look forward to a Republican blitz against the leeching legal profession. No one likes lawyers unless, and until, they represent you. The only good lawyers are those who represent us.
I have heard pundits I admire, David Brooks and Mark Shields, describe Edwards as a mesmerizing speaker who inspires people when he talks to them. Both pundits compared him to Bill Clinton in this regard, which is high praise indeed, especially from the conservative David Brooks who doesn’t usually kow tow to Democrats. Based on this observation I would like to hear Edwards in a political debate with George Bush. Edward’s trial experience and his ability to speak on his feet should be a nice contrast to George Bush and his tendency to recite repetitive clichés and mantras. In the past when he has not had the advantage of a prepared speech, Bush has not done well in public settings. Of course, his debate opponent in the last election was Al Gore, a person known to be a monotonous droning stickman without an iota of charisma. Even Gore supporters acknowledge this. Bush’s weakness in these debates was accordingly less pronounced. Edwards also has a nice smile compared to Bush’s famous smirk. A debate would be interesting.
Still, if Edwards is to advance to the point where he is to to debate Bush he has to say something about his positions. I listened to him for about five minutes on PBS and he spoke well, although he didn’t really say anything of consequence or anything specific. Oddly, his speech seemed to concentrate on class differences in America concentrating on the growing gap between the rich and poor, majorities and minorities. If another person had given this same speech with such emphasis on class distinctions, he would have sounded like a revolutionary Marxist I think that it is to Edward’s credit that no one reached this same conclusion about his speech because of his articulation, inspirational talent and ever present smile. This indicates to me that Edwards has a potential to convince people that he stands for something and generate followers. He looks, based on my limited exposure, to be a good salesman. This is an asset that any President needs if he is to lead the country. I would like to hear more of Edward’s specific remedies to address the country’s problems. So I think would most of the country since he is pretty much an unknown commodity. Because Edwards has had a limited political career, there are few prior goofs on his record that could trap him in the “gotcha” game that might cripple his campaign. In this regard, he is similar to candidate George W Bush in the President’s 2000 campaign. Bush succeeded, why not Edwards?
Edwards has another secret asset few mention. That is his accent. Consider our last few presidents. Most of them had regional accents that accrued to their advantage. The current Bush talks like a Texan with a good ole boy appeal. Bill Clinton spoke an odd mixture of country and British as if he were a backwards Arkansan educated in England. Bush senior spoke like a New England patrician. Ronald Reagan had no regional accent and proves the exception to my theory. Of course, he was a movie actor just short of stardom and the studios probably taught him to drop whatever mid Western accent he might have had. Before that, he was a radio announcer and radio announcers try to eliminate their accents to gain wider appeal. Jimmy Carter spoke like a rural tobacco farmer, although he actually worked on atomic submarine programs at one time. Dick Nixon was without an accent. Of course, almost everything about Nixon was featureless. LBJ spoke like a country hick, as well as dressing as one and often acting as one. John Kennedy had the famous Boston accent that the public loved and proved profitable to many imitators. The more entertainers imitate you the more fashionable you become. I always sympathized with Vaughan Meader whose career ended when Oswald murdered Kennedy. Eisenhower and Truman had flat mid western ways of speaking while FDR spoke like the New York blue blood that he was. Those are the only presidents in my lifetime.
The best accented presidential candidate I ever heard was Al Smith. I heard him on records since I was born after his presidential race. . He was the original ”toity toid” “youse guys” candidate. Did he lose because he was a Catholic and the nation’s anti Catholic bias (conventional wisdom) or because of his heavy New York accent? Somehow, I think that both issues were tied together. Today with our increasing acceptance of minorities and individual differences, I believe that accent would have benefited him because it would have moved him off the shelf and would have made him stand out from other candidates. Late night comedians would have had a field day with Smith’s accent. This would have accrued to his advantage.
Edwards has a wife who campaigns with him. She doesn’t appear to be any different than most of the presidents’ wives. Therefore, he has no advantage there. I believe that if Edwards is able to make any solid showing in New Hampshire that he stands a good chance of moving on to be the Democratic nominee. If New Englanders accept his Carolina charm then he should appeal to the rest of the country. If not, he looks like a solid candidate for Vice President.
Howard Dean Doctor Dean is the most interesting candidate. He has generated the most publicity of all the candidates. He seems to have captured the imagination of many people as the candidate of the unusual, I’m reluctant to say weird, since he is unlike most candidates who run for the presidency. Actually, there are many strange people who run for this office, but few ever gain the popularity and financial backing that Dean has. They remain in the minor parties and only have occasional feature articles written about them. Dean captured the imagination of many people who were against the Iraq War since he was one of the few politicians who spoke against it. This gave him instant recognition. Unfortunately, it also gave him instant scrutiny. Unlike Edwards who has had limited political exposure, Dean has been governor of Vermont for over a decade and therefore has a record for people to scrutinize. It seems that analysts parsed every word he spoke. As a result, after his initial burst into the spotlight he seems to be losing ground, not even standing still. It is strange that although Dean was a governor for over ten years he represents to many an anti establishment figure. Most Americans could probably not pinpoint Vermont on a map, so I guess that is not that strange.
I think that for years to come we will be seeing tapes of Dean’s screeching to Iowans after finishing third in the Iowa caucus. Even diehard Dean supporters have to be scratching their heads over that performance. To me, rather than a concession speech, it appeared that Dean was leading a pep rally for a college football team. Give me a D! Give me an E! An A! An N! I have never been to a pep rally, but this seemed to be what I would expect to see at such an event. Dean even looks like a cheerleader as he is small in stature, jumps around and often wears sweaters. Too bad the sweaters don’t identify his college. Can he lift a coed over his head with one hand? Put a megaphone in his hands and doesn’t he remind you of Peter Lawford in the movie (Good News) about college life? Where’s June Allyson? Could she and her diapers come forward and acknowledge Dean? To someone like me who enjoys reading newspapers and keeping current with breaking news, I will be sorry to see Dean’s post Iowa performance destroy his chance. He is good copy and generates headlines because of his strangeness. Sadly as a small person myself, Dean’s undersize did not play well. How often do we elect an undersized wimpy looking president? Where is the candidate who will promote smallness in voters and not just smallness in government? All candidates advocate the latter, but how about the former?
I hate to admit it, but Dean reminds me of someone else. Lee Harvey Oswald. Both are small in stature with the same physical characteristics. Both seem to have just a little controversial sneer on their lips that invite a pugnacious response. I think that if he were to be nominated that some pundit would eventually see the similarities. I’m sure that some even think that Dean is as disarranged as Oswald. Dean not only seems agitated and angry, but always willing to start a fight. Some people admire that characteristic. This is despite the fact that he is running as a peacenik, at least about Iraq. If he were running for office in Israel, I think Ariel Sharon would use him in his campaign. Both generate energy and anger in their appearances. In a presidential election, we could vote for Dean’s sneer or Bush’s smirk. All else being equal, I would vote for Edward’s smile.
I am surprised that more people haven’t compared Dean to the fictional president on “West Wing”. Like Martin Sheen, Dean is small. Both are from New England and former governors of their states. Both are liberals and doctors, with Dean being a medical doctor and the fictional President an economics PHD. In real life Martin Sheen is a anti war activist who has gone to jail for his behavior while Dean is best know for his anti war campaign. I don’t think he has been jailed. Both are known for rousing speeches, although Dean is not known for adlibbing in Latin or Greek like Sheen’s Josh Bartlett. Wouldn’t that add some pizzazz to the campaign? Both are plain speaking (except for Bartlett’s Latin and Greek monologues) with a confrontational attitude. Both have children who have had minor run-ins with the law. The “West Wing” President’s wife is a medical doctor who practices medicine while her husband is President. Mrs. Dean says that if her husband is elected she will continue to practice medicine and not be a traditional first lady. If you don’t like these comparisons, remember that they are as valid as those old comparisons between Kennedy and Lincoln that used to float around after Kennedy’s death. You remember Lincoln’s secretary was Kennedy, while Kennedy’s secretary was Lincoln, et al.
Mrs. Dean is one of the more interesting aspects of Howard Dean’s run. She is more unlike any recent presidential candidate’s wife than any I’ve seen in recent times. She does not campaign with her husband, and from reports I have read she doesn’t even watch her husband on the numerous debates that the candidates have held over the last year. In that regard, I think most Americans would give her high marks. The Deans don’t have cable TV, a strange comparison to LBJ who reportedly kept all network TVs on at all times in his office to monitor what they reported. Mrs. Dean does not wear fancy clothes removing her from comparison with Jackie Kennedy and Nancy Reagan, the former who reportedly spent thousands of dollars a month on clothes and the latter who reportedly accepted gifts of clothes valued at a thousands of dollars a month. Mrs. Dean seems to have no interest in politics and seems a throwback to the earlier days of Bess Truman. Bess often stayed in Missouri while Harry ran the country from Washington. If people elect her husband, Mrs. Dean will give a modern 21st Century twist to this tale by remaining in Vermont, but continuing in her profession by practicing medicine. I would like to see Dean elected just to see how the public reacts to Mrs. Dean.
If Mrs. Dean is somewhat unfashionable, Mr. Dean is somewhat of a cheapskate, buying his suits at J. C. Penny. Wow, he and I have something in common. You would think this attribute would translate to votes among the masses, but it seems that we want presidents who wear striking attire. Consider: sporty shirts (Truman), Seville Row suits (Kennedy), cowboy clothes (Johnson), avuncular sweaters (Carter), and outdoors’ men garb (Reagan) or cowboy boots (G W Bush). Does anyone remember the clothes that Nixon or Ford wore? I have a feeling that Nixon might have purchased his clothes at J. C. Penny. Ford wasn’t around long enough to mark a presence.
An attribute that Dean possesses which no other candidate has, other than Dennis Kucinich, is the novel idea of speaking out on the issues with a minimum of pussy footing. Dean spoke out early and long against the Iraq invasion. This puts him far removed from the other candidates. Dean continually renews his call to repeal all of Bush’s tax cuts, a position that places him apart from Kerry, Lieberman and Edwards, all of whom want to retain cuts for the middle class. Americans often express the idea that they want someone to speak out on issues, but more often than not are upset when one does so. We want results, but without controversy and face-to-face arguments. Mano-to-Mano is not our style, unless one side has overwhelming superior forces. Consider our invasions of Grenada, Panama and Iraq while we back down from Russia, North Korea and China. In the former cases, we had overwhelming superior forces while in the latter we have less of an advantage although the latter countries pose more of a risk to our survival.
Even if Dean does well in New Hampshire, I believe he will have a difficult time in the rest of the country. Despite his endorsement by numerous heavy hitters he seems too strange, too liberal, too angry and too small, to be president. Still, strange things have happened.
Dick Gephardt He’s out of the race after Iowa. Thus, I missed the opportunity to talk about one of my least favorite politicians. I’ll make up for it. I guess that he is a nice guy, but he always looked like an alien life force to me. After years of national exposure, I don’t think most people even recognized him other than that he looked like an alien. From that perspective he would have been better as head of NASA. The man just never seemed to make an impression on the nation. You could put him on the shelf and he would be indistinguishable from most politicians. Enough about him, although he might resurrect himself as a Vice Presidential candidate because he comes from the vital mid West. Any candidate should think hard about that, however, since this mid westerner came in far behind in Iowa. Mid westerners did not vote for this mid westerner. .
Wesley Clark This man is another strange candidate. He is Wendell Wilkie sixty years later having just become a Democrat so he could run for president. I marched straight up 92nd Street in Brooklyn for Wilkie in 1940, but I doubt I will march for Clark. Clark claims that he is presidential material because he headed NATO and won the war in Kosovo while facing down the bad guys mano-to-mano. Sad for him, few Americans remember who was commander of NATO beyond Eisenhower and few even remember the Kosovo war even though it was just a few years ago. Even less people remember who the bad guys were in that conflict. Was it Milosevic?
John McCain is a very well admired war hero and a household name with years of legislative experience, but he was unable to beat George W Bush in 2000’s Republican run. It is doubtful that a less known military man without legislative experience would be better able to best McCain’s record. This is more so since another admired military man, Colin Powell, has stumbled so much in his performance as Secretary of State. Other than Eisenhower, most Americans prefer to see their war heroes staying away from elected office. Not to take anything away from Clark, but he does not have the same war hero reputation as McCain or Powell. Even Schwarzkopf is better known than Clark.
Clark does have some positives. Bill Clinton’s team is behind him. That should give him some bounce as Clinton, despite his nasty habits and adverse press, has still the highest longest standing popularity percentage for a president who served two terms. Just imagine where ole Bubba would be if he had behaved and kept his zipper shut? Grey haired Clark also looks like the popular grey haired McCain so he may be able to filch some Republican votes from people who don’t keep up with events. They may see Clark on television and think that he’s McCain. I think some guys wearing army fatigue jackets may fall into this mistake. Although Clark just became a Democrat, McCain often sounded more like a Democrat than a Republican. Clark also has a diverse religious background that should appeal to most of the country. His father is Jewish, his mother Methodist. His childhood upbringing was as a Baptist He converted to Catholicism and now attends a Presbyterian church. He defended Muslims in the Kosovo War. Unless he has burned his bridges behind him, this varied background should pull in some voters. Where do the Buddhists stand?
Clark, like Dean, is against the Iraq War. As Dean fades, Clark may gain some of the Dean followers. Kerry, however, is now emphasizing both his war experiences and anti war experiences. As such, Kerry has a significant leg up as he can appeal to people on both sides on the war issue. Clark further alienated some veterans by stating that Kerry was only a Lieutenant while he was a General. That remark sounded very childish and something comparable to Dean’s screech. That was not a good move on his part as Lieutenants far outnumber Generals. Too bad neither was a private as privates outnumber all military ranks. I wonder if we have ever elected a private as president? Truman was a Captain, Ike a General, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford and Johnson were all World War 11 officers. Carter, Reagan and the two Bushes were officers, although George W never made it out of the Texas National Guard. Bill Clinton, like most current office holders and cabinet members never served in the military.
Clark may do well in the South because of his military background. In our heavily military influenced Virginia, he is the only candidate advertising on television. All the ads state that he can do better in the war on terrorism than Bush and get us out of Iraq quicker and more efficiently than Bush. I think that this is a difficult sell while polls indicate that the public overwhelmingly supports Bush in his war on terrorism and Iraq. Despite what George W says these are two distinct wars. I think that if we elect a Democrat we might see Clark try for Secretary of Defense. He may be a good fit. On the other hand, if we reelect Bush, then in a non-partisan move, we might see Bush select him to oversee his new Ministry of Religion. Bush is always bringing religion into politics so that there is a possibility that he could establish a Religious Ministry. Clark has had more of an exposure to various religions than most public figures. Better Clark than Pat Robertson. Of course, Robertson is already a minister, so he could be the minister Minister of Religion.
Joe Lieberman You have to feel sorry for Lieberman. He was an almost Vice President four years ago and today he is an also ran bringing up the rear. Haunted by a resemblance to Howdy Doody, a reputation as a goody, goody and with a whiny presentation, he just never seemed to capture the imagination of the public. Never a forceful personality, he gives the impression of a perennial second banana and sidekick. In these capacities, he would probably do well, but I doubt that any Democrat nominated for President would even consider him as a Vice President. Other than his looks, his political impression is as a Bush light rather than an individual of his own. If we want a Bush why settle for a Bush light?
Although people have criticized Dean for his weird campaign, Lieberman has earned his own accolades in this regard. On last night’s PBS News Hour, they showed Lieberman on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. He stated that he had roots in the state because his wife was once a camp counselor there. That must have impressed people to vote for him for president. He was also eating a banana split and remarked that that was the highlight of his campaign to date. He then added that if the voters elected him President that he would give everyone in the country a banana split. I don’t know how representative these few minutes were, but it was embarrassing to watch.
Pundits often say that one shouldn’t run for president unless you have a fire in your belly for the office. I think that poor Joe lost whatever fire he once had. It was obvious to me that the banana split cooled off whatever fire he once had. I think after New Hampshire Lieberman will graciously opt out.
Dennis Kucinich I recall this candidate when he was the youthful mayor of Cleveland and the media called him Dennis the Menace for his boyish looks. He is older now and no longer boyish looking. Now he is very outspoken and seems to be off the mainstream. I guess he realizes that he has no chance to become president, but likes to speak out because he has nothing to lose. He is more a peace dove than Harold Dean, but seems to have generated even considerably less support for his positions. He stands no chance, but somehow has enough money to keep campaigning.
Despite his hopeless outlook, he did come up with the best quip of the campaign. He was the one who stated, after President Bush announced his Mars program, that the President was still searching for weapons of mass destruction there.
Al Sharpton This so called reverend, who apparently received his religious training through the mail, is actually running to be the most powerful black in the country. In this regard, he may be successful. Although Jesse Jackson is not the most popular black figure among whites, I don’t think that whites will embrace Sharpton as the leading black leader in the country. Nevertheless, in the few sound bites that I have seen him in the televised debates, he has gotten off some witty remarks. I am surprised that he is still in the race as it takes a lot of money to run. He may get some votes in the southern primaries in a few weeks if he survives New Hampshire.
That’s my take on the candidates. I am still undecided on whom I will vote for out of this crowd. None of them truly inspire me, but I can’t recall any politician who has inspired me. I guess that it comes down to either John Kerry or John Edwards. The Republicans and Nixon once had the plumbers in the White House, but I think that it is time that the Democrats put a new John in the White House. In a few weeks I will update my ideas on the candidates if any remain in the race.
SCARY SCIENCE FICTION
I don’t stay up late enough to listen to Jay Leno or David lettermen. Yet, I am sure that before they made jokes about Howard Dean’s screeching they issued many a jab at President Bush’s futile search for weapons of mass destruction. I know that numerous cartoonists have done so and Dennis Kucinich made a funny quip on the subject while campaigning in Iowa. If a fifth grade presidential candidate can rip off such a funny belly whooper, I’m positive that first class comedians with tons of writers would have little trouble also doing so. Although we have an affinity to laugh at serious things, the whole issue of our first preemptive war goes beyond a few late night jokes. Many people oppose the war and struggle to see humor in it. They don’t understand why we are at war with Iraq. Recent events have created even greater doubts as to the rightness of our unilateral attack.
People that are more serious than late night TV comedians have long stated their opinions that our starting a war was wrong. Although most opponents to the war thought we should grant more time to the U.N. inspectors, some did not think Iraq had significant weapons of mass destruction and they thought that our search for weapons of mass destruction would be fruitless. Some have maintained that the intelligence surrounding our contention that the Iraqis possessed these weapons was flawed and was more in the nature of “possibly” or “could” have. Many analysts cited the current administration for putting intense pressure on intelligence experts to confront minimizing the existence of dissenting views and routinely dropping caveats and uncertainties inherent in intelligence reporting in painting a worst-case picture. That accusation has been floating around since Bush raised the matter two years ago. Administration critics have accused the president and his advisers of exaggerating intelligence reports, cherry-picking data that was most helpful to their war strategy and pressuring analysts to view Iraq as an imminent threat. War supporters contented that we were in immediate danger of attack because of Iraq’s weapons
Recently resigning as the head of the Iraq Survey Group, David Kay further confused the matter by conceding points to both sides of the argument. He reported that his team had thus far found neither stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction nor any significant programs to produce them. He further doubted his successor would find any because no weapon stockpiles existed before we started the war. I have often seen Kay on television in the past. At those times, he strongly stated that his team would find the mass destruction weapons. He was a firm believer that Iraq was an imminent threat because they possessed these arms. His statements implicitly implied, at least to my ears, that Hans Blix, the U.N. representative charged with determining whether Iraq had biological weapons, was somewhat incompetent because he wanted sufficient time to check for the WMD in Iraq. Thus, Kay’s recent current turn around that Iraq did not have these weapons is quite noteworthy.
While these statements gave ammunition to those opposed to the war, Kay further went on to remove any responsibility from Bush in our colossal gaffe. Kay also stated that Bush and company did not “cook the facts”, but the CIA victimized the administration, like they did the rest of us, by poor intelligence gathering and analysis. Thus, the CIA’s method of intelligence gathering and analysis were the catalyst behind the decision to go to war. Bush followers embraced Kay’s comments as vindication that Bush/Cheney et al did not cook the books, but acted responsibly based on the data they had. Under these circumstances, they were right to attack Iraq and eliminate the immediate threat the mass destruction weapons posed to us. Accordingly, both positions found something to like in Kay’s testimony. Each side used it to their advantage in trying to create spin in their favor. Rather than solve the mystery of why we went to war, Kay’s testimony only compounded the issue by supplying arguments for both sides of the subject.
Kay’s expertise is in nuclear matters and he previously served on the U.N. inspection team in Iraq using these talents. He is not a recognized member of the CIA, although he may be a contract employee since we have learned that some of the Iraqi U.N. inspectors also secretly reported to the CIA. On the assignment for which he just resigned, Kay was under contract to the CIA as the administration’s representative to search for the weapons using his technical knowledge. Thus, his conclusion that the Bush administration did not put pressure on the CIA is not exactly within his field of technical expertise. In his prior job he did not analyze the intelligence and formulate the final intelligence reports furnished the president, but supplied the facts upon which the intelligence reports were prepared. His statement on the accusation of political pressure therefore reflects his personal assessment, although he may still be correct. The CIA director, George Tenet, testifies before congress sometime in March. At that time, we may hear a different viewpoint, although we may not. The Bush family knows Tenet for his loyalty to them despite Clinton’s appointment of him to his position as CIA Director. Previously Tenet accepted responsibility for the current Bush’s misstatement in the 2002 state of the union address about Iraq’s purchase of nuclear raw material from Niger. He took the blame although the CIA had warned the administration that the statement Bush stated in the address was incorrect before the speech. Bush’s team ignored the warning. It will be interesting to hear what Tenet has to say and whether he will remain a loyal soldier or differ from Kay in his assessment. .
Kay’s replacement as our chef inspector in Iraq had earlier stated on the record that the Iraqis have no such weapons. He had previously served as the assistant to Ambassador Richard Butler, Hans Blix’s predecessor, as an expert on biological weapons. Accordingly, he has on the ground experience and should know his business. He previously disagreed with Kay when Kay so strongly maintained that he would locate the weapons. Kay’s expertise is on nuclear devices, which even the Bush administration thought was less of a looming danger than Iraq’s biological weapons. Under these circumstances, the immediate danger of Iraq’s WMD to us is a dead issue, if not previously answered by our invasion and occupation of the country. Not so, however, the full matter of Iraq’s WMD and why we attacked that nation to eradicate these dangerous weapons. Since our reason for invading the country was to save us from impending destruction by these weapons, it seems obvious, at least to me, that we probably would not have attacked if we had known that no weapons existed. The public backed the war because the administration told us that we were in danger. Few Americans questioned that rationale. Would the public have backed the war if Bush/Cheney had told us that they wanted to control the oil or the President wanted to revenge Hussein’s plan to kill Bush l?
The U.S. intelligence community’s belief that Saddam was aggressively pursuing weapons of mass destruction pre-dated Bush’s inauguration, and therefore cannot be totally attributed to the alleged political pressure and exaggeration on the part of Bush and Cheney. The intelligence community first advanced the theory at the end of the 1990s, at a time when President Clinton was trying to facilitate a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. At the time, Clinton was hardly seeking assessments that the threat from Iraq was growing. In 1998 the U.N. inspectors left Iraq and it was widely believed that since the U.N. inspectors were no longer closely monitoring potential arms’ violations that the Iraqis resumed developing nuclear armaments and creating biological weapon stockpiles. Although we don’t know, it appears that former anti Iraqis, who had an axe to grind against Hussein and wanted us to confront him, may have heavily influenced this conclusion. They may have been not the most objective in their outlook. Still other nations, including Israel, Great Britain, Germany and France also thought that Iraq also had resumed developing nuclear armaments and biological weapons. Germany and France differed from us in how to curtail these weapons. Like Clinton’s administration, Germany and France did not see the weapons as a clear and present danger, but something looming in the future.
What is not clear to me is to what degree each country relied on each other’s intelligence. There is a history of intelligence sharing between us and Israel, us and Germany and us and Britain. I am not sure how much we share with France, but Great Britain and Germany often cooperate on intelligence matters. Did such sharing contribute to the contamination of the data and analysis? The origin of bad information is fungible once it gets into a system. Like an Internet virus, false information or conclusions could influence analysts of each nation and preclude an unbiased final report. What is clear is that the CIA’s intelligence report to Bush/Cheney and company was flawed. We are unaware whether it presented contrary opinions on the Iraq weapon stockpiles or what weight was given to these opinions. Why it was flawed is not clear. Was it pressure by the administration to support a preconceived position, poor analyses or poor data collection? We do know that Bush’s advisers rejected the CIA’s negative opinion on the Niger raw material.
Kenneth Pollack, a former national security and CIA official, who had initially vehemently argued for invading Iraq, recently published his reassessment in the Atlantic Monthly. Pollack rhetorically asked how our current leaders could have so badly over estimated the extent of Iraq’s weapons program. Citing wildly unrealistic estimates of threat, Pollack squarely placed the blame on poor intelligence and the manipulation of intelligence data. He could be right or he could be wrong, we just don’t know at this time. Further, in his recently released hook the “Price of Loyalty” former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil asserted that war with Iraq was under discussion early in the Bush administration and that the attacks on September 11 only served to provide the public rationale. Based on readings of these comments, to my thinking Bush’s total reliance on faulty intelligence doesn’t completely ring true. It is possible that the administration exercised pressure. Pressure does not have to be obvious, but can be veiled by subtle overtones, insinuations and winks and a nod. . Bureaucrats like to please those they serve. We know that Cheney had frequently visited the CIA before the serious public war talk had started. Skilled and even cagier individuals could have easily influenced the analysts in orchestrating a desired result by having covered their aim through reliance on innuendo, never having said outright what they wanted to hear.
The costs of these errors, be they due to ineptitude, exaggeration or misdirection, have been devastating. Close to 600 Americans have lost their lives, and countless more than that have been wounded, although we don’t know yet how many will have suffered in life altering ways. It is unlikely that we will ever be able to account for the untold thousands of Iraqis that we have killed and injured or the Iraqis that anti occupation forces have recently been killing and maiming. Of course, from many Americans’ viewpoint, the Iraqis don’t count as much as Americans. Our media does not report on the cumulative Iraqi dead and wounded. The toll of dead and injured, both American and Iraqi, will probably increase over the next half-year. If we don’t relinquish control of the country to Iraq by midyear, as we promised, we can probably expect even greater casualties.
We should be profoundly concerned about the growing body of evidence indicating the current administration was either incompetent or intentionally deceitful in making the case for war. To paraphrase President Reagan on the Iran Contra affair, “Mistakes were made”. Only this time many lives have been lost, as well as billions spent that might have been avoided, and U.S. prestige was damaged. As President Eisenhower stated about war, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Sadly, we don’t seem to notice or care. Bush’s foreign policy calls for preemptive attacks on potential enemies before they attack us. Bolstered by the tragedy of al Qaeda attacks on September 11th, many Americans welcomed this doctrine without thinking it though. The administration never provided evidence that Iraq was involved in the September 11th attacks. Conversely, because of the different political agenda of Osama and Hussein it appears that both of these parties have opposing views. The dangers of preemptive attacks are magnified if we strike any nation based on false information. I would think the calamity of our Iraq invasion would prove to our country the foolish and recklessness of our newly announced policy of preemption The Bush administration never considered that from al Qaeda’s viewpoint, Osama instituted a preemptive attack. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander. It would seem that we could see the evil of a preemptive attack based on our suffering because of September 11.
A year ago, the administration declared that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction constituted an impending threat to the citizens of the United States and to the world. These statements were absolute without any hedging. Bush, Cheney and Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld all unequivocally stated that they knew where Iraq stockpiled their weapons. Condoleezza Rice went so far as to state that we faced pending eradication by a mushroom cloud. Powell even identified the sites and quantified the numbers of weapons available to the Iraqis when he spoke before the U.N. general assembly. Since the American people view Powell highly, his testimony convinced many Americans to support the preemptive war. Nevertheless, after occupying Iraq our military forces never made an effort to secure these areas, concentrating instead on the oil fields. Was this a reasonable approach for those who claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction? At that point, the administrations raised doubt as to its conviction that Iraq stockpiled WMD.
Powell said yesterday that he does not know whether he would have recommended an invasion of Iraq if intelligence had told him Iraq had no stockpiles of banned weapons. Oddly, he still defended his position to go to war. This latter statement seems very self-serving. Yet, to this date there is no credible evidence confirming the existence of either these weapons or the justification given for our preemptive attack. A January Washington Post investigative report, based on various American and Iraqi sources concluded that Iraqi effort to produce terror weapons had been so thoroughly beaten down by conflict, sanctions, and arms embargoes that its forbidden weapons program amounted mainly to wishful thinking. If newspaper reporters can ascertain this, why can’t a government agency with almost unlimited resources? Something is wrong somewhere in government.
A major cost to our misguided invasion is the broken public trust that undermines the basis of our system of government. It is a matter of grave concern for our democratic process if the facts in making the case for war were intentionally overstated or otherwise distorted. Possible misrepresentation by our public officials about the decisions underlining the war must be investigated and confronted. Beyond damaging the trust of the American people, the cost to our standing and legitimacy in the world community has been equally enormous. The credibility of our intelligence and character has been called into question. If we are the world’s leader, in the future what country will reasonably follow a leader that fudges the truth for its own advantage and danger to world peace? Mindful of these terrible costs, we should have an independent nonpartisan investigation into the decision-making processes that resulted in our preemptive venture. Our elected officials should work for a more collaborative international effort in creating a coalition of nations seeking a peaceful world community. Finally, since we consider ourselves a people of faith calling for world peace, we should call for all citizens to advocate every means possible to resolve conflict nonviolently.
In tackling Iraq, however cold-heartedly logical the step may appear in the post-9/11 context, the Bush Administration caused unnecessary damage not only to itself, but also to the United Nations. Bush initially opposed U.N. participation stating that we didn’t need its support and we would go it alone. In his current attempt to rewrite history, Bush now maintains he is defending the U.N. Since Iraq resisted U.N. resolutions, Bush now stated that it was the United States’ mission to uphold the integrity of the U.N. by invading and occupying the country. His message is confusing and convoluted, especially since so many other nations ignored U.N. resolutions. Did we attack and occupy Israel or the African nations that routinely ignore U.N. resolutions? In the eyes of the world, we ignored the wise counsel and nuanced assessment of men like the former chief U.N. inspectors, Hans Blix, Richard Butler, along with Mohamed El Baradei at the International Atomic Energy Agency. I believe history will demonstrate that in planning how to tackle Iraq and choosing not to rely on the archives and encyclopedic knowledge of veterans of the two major U.N. commissions knowledgeable of the issues —UNSCOM and UNMOVIC—we really goofed. We now stand exposed as having used disarmament as a politically marketable excuse more than a real reason for war. Are we to believe that our intelligence services (or those in the Great Britain) were so inept as to not have sought information in the reams of documentation in U.N. hands? Based on what the administration says, I presume so. I believe lawyers refer to this as a lack of due process.
There is no question that al Qaeda is our enemy. We should be committed to stopping this terrorist outfit before it does additional harm to our country and the world. All Americans are united, or should be, against the war on terrorism, which is a war against al Qaeda. Our detour to Iraq, which has never been associated with al Qaeda, reduced the military forces and other resources we could use to fight Osama bib Laden and his followers. If our country .is steadfast in destroying this group and ending terrorism, why then did we curtail the war on terrorism to seek some tangential war and undefined objective?
Whatever transpired, it is over. We invaded another nation because we alleged that they had weapons of mass destruction ready to use on us. They did not. A possibility exists that we ignored or downplayed counter arguments that no such weapons existed. Unfortunately, we cannot take these actions back. We can, however, make a serious attempt to prevent such actions in the future. We should have a thorough independent non-partisan investigation to determine what really happened. Was it bad intelligence or pure politics? We may never know, but we should try to answer that question. Because of election year politics, any independent investigation of the matter will be postponed to next year. Isn’t this an issue that the American people should address before the next election? If we postpone the hard issues, then we are again playing politics with our national security. That item should not provide laughs on Jay Leno or David Lettermen.
THE BABIES OF 2003
Like it has for several years, our local twice a week newspaper printed the names and photos of all the babies born in Williamsburg and James City County in 2003. Similar to what it has been since I started checking on these names, the names reflect an interesting insight into our evolving culture. The trend of what I consider the lack of “everyday” traditional names and the growing popularity of “up scaling” continues. No Robert, John, Michael, George or William among the newly born babies. On the female side, there is one Grace and another Gracie, but no Jane, Lorraine or Harriet. Not even a Margaret. Forget about a Florence, Helen, Bessie and an Ann. Of course, there is no Dunnie. For almost understandable reasons, there is no Deana. Deana’s name is not unique, since it is a biblical one, but it is nevertheless not a common one. I believe that although more people appear religious, many don’t read the bible, preferring to take their religious training from TV evangelists rather than the teachings of the good book. Still people seem inclined to use Biblical names for the newborns. Where are the traditional names of our youth?
Here are the names the paper reported.
Emily (3), Ava (2), Ethan (2), Issabella (2), Kelsey (2), Taylor (2), Aaliyah, Adi, Aidan, Allison, Amanda, Angelina, Benjamin, Bradley, Brianna, Caitlin, Cameron, Carson, Claire, David, Dayshea, Deuce, Diana, Dylan, Elizabeth, Ellerie, Emma, Erin, Forrest, Gabriel, Grace, Gracie, Hunter, Indiyah, Isabelle, Jacob, Julian, Katherine, Kaylee, Kenda; Kevin, Kristin, Kyleigh, Lily, Lindsey, Madelynn, Malya, Matthew, Noah, Peyton, Rebecca, Riley, Simon, Taurean, and Zachary.
Surprisingly the most popular name is Emily, a name I haven’t often come across. Actually, I have never met an Emily, although on rare occasions I have glanced at my book by Emily Post. I believe that there is a leftist women’s political group called Emily, so there is a possibility that the parents who named the children are dedicated liberals and named their children in honor of this group. That would be unusual for Williamsburg, which is definitely a very conservative community. It’s also possible that the parents named the babies after the British writer Emily Bronte, author of 'Wuthering Height”, or the American poet Emily Dickinson. Were the parents avid readers of fiction or poetry, as well as being feminists? If their kids were boys, would they have called them Heathcliff? Emily is derived from the Latin “work”, thus with so many people out of work they may have wanted to give their offspring a leg up.
There were two Issabellas and one Isabelle, another strange name for the area since there are few Latinos, or is it Hispanics, in the area. Is this an indirect homage to Christopher Columbus through his patron since Columbus is incomprehensibly now out of favor. There were no Ferdinand’s, however. There are two Kelseys, another uncommon name. Possibly the parents are fans of the sitcom “Frasier”, which stars the actor Kelsey Grammer. Why not Niles, who is slightly less annoying as Kelsey? If the proud parents had girls, would they have named their offspring Bebe or Lilith? The other double names are Ava, Ethan, and Taylor. Although she was born over the border in North Carolina, Ava Gardner lived her formative years in nearby Newport News, so it is possible that the new parents are old time movie fans. I might say the same for Taylor, recalling another film beauty Elizabeth Tailor, but I have a feeling that these newborn children were males. Elizabeth Taylor also has a connection to Virginia though. One of her many husbands is our somber long time senior Senator Warner. Warner’s taste in women is strange, as the papers also link him romantically with Barbara Walters. There are no Barbaras on the list.
The name Ethan is an old biblical name, also often found in crusty old men in Western movies. I think John Wayne acted as an Ethan in the wonderful John Ford western movie, “The Searchers”. However, if someone were a fan of John Wayne they would have called their child John or Duke not Ethan. Certainly not Marion, the Duke’s real name. I believe that Wayne liked people to call him Duke to forget that his parents named him Marion. I have not many tough guys named Marion.
Duke was well named in “The Searchers” since Ethan means the strong one in Hebrew. Wayne’s “Searcher” Ethan was both strong and stubborn in that movie.
With some exceptions, the other names seemed to be somewhat atypical and at least to my mind not in the mainstream. The names seem to be a mixture of biblical related, as well as Irish related, and as a minimum not mid 20th Century sounding to my ear. I’m obviously caught in a time lock, since I think mid 20th Century. Although they represent the new 21st Century, the names recall mid 19th Century given names. Among the Hebrew names are Benjamin (favorite son), Noah (resting place), David (friend), Jacob (held by the heel), Rebecca (to bind) and Zachary (Jehovah has remembered). Other than Jacob, each of these names has a “feel good – touchy feeling” sound to it. They seem to commiserate with the optimism of new the 21st Century. I’m not sure how Jacob fits into this mold. The Jewish community is small in Williamsburg, so I assume that parents selected these names consistent with their growing involvement in the born again Christian movement. The names resonate back to periods when society was less hectic and chaotic. This is an objective that I believe born again Christians seek. Hence the names. The use of Biblical based given names continues a trend I commented on in last year’s analyses of babies’ names.
The Gaelic associated names include Aidan (small fire), Brianna (strong one), Caitlin (pure), Cameron (bent nose), Erin (peace), and Kevin (handsome). The contrast seems relevant between Kevin, old Irish for handsome, and Cameron, old Irish for bent nose. I would assume that the parents of young Cameron are unaware of the name’s derivation. Would you call your bouncing new baby ‘bent nose”? That name also has an American Indian sound to it. Chief Bent Nose. Nevertheless, although there area number of Irish born residents in the community they wouldn’t seem to produce this many babies. There are a great number of Irish American people in the community, mostly those who left the Northeast, sold their homes for big money, and retired to the milder and slower paced Virginia countryside. These old codgers are not having babies, though, being content to play golf, hang around the library and wait for their pension checks. I guess people just want to improve themselves and appear Irish. Better yet, I think that just like the melodious tone to these names. The names have a certain ring to them.
My favorite name in the group is Deuce. That boy was probably named after his father and his parents selected that name in lieu of the juvenile sounding junior. It is an improvement over junior. The name is extremely striking. I would think that most people would remember that name after being introduced to Deuce. “Did I hear you correctly, is that Deuce?”
I searched the Internet and was amazed to find the most popular names in America in 2002. The list surprised me and once again, I was impressed how far out of the mainstream I am. I should have guessed that people in Williamsburg are not as out of step as I would have thought, but it is me that doesn’t understand how names have changed. . I listed below the top names from the most recent available year. I was glad to see that Michael remains very popular, but was very surprised to see Jacob and Emily leading the list. Other than Michael, frankly, I was shocked to see the first five names for both sexes. Who would have thought that Madison was a female name? Emma seems like something out of a 19th century British novel while Hannah appears to me the personification of a strict German hausfra or governess from the same period. Alexis sounds like a soap opera queen. Each of the male names has significant biblical references, probably proving my thesis that people are becoming more religious. .
Top 50 Names of 2002
1 Jacob Emily
2 Michael Madison
3 Joshua Hannah
4 Matthew Emma
5 Ethan Alexis
6 Joseph Ashley
7 Andrew Abigail
8 Christopher Sarah
9 Daniel Samantha
10 Nicholas Olivia
11 William Elizabeth
12 Anthony Alyssa
13 David Lauren
14 Tyler Isabella
15 Alexander Grace
16 Ryan Jessica
17 John Brianna
18 James Taylor
19 Zachary Kayla
20 Brandon Anna
21 Jonathan Victoria
22 Justin Megan
23 Christian Sydney
24 Dylan Chloe
25 Samuel Rachel
26 Austin Jasmine
27 Jose Sophia
28 Benjamin Jennifer
29 Nathan Morgan
30 Logan Natalie
31 Kevin Julia
32 Gabriel Kaitlyn
33 Robert Hailey
34 Noah Destiny
35 Caleb Haley
36 Thomas Katherine
37 Jordan Nicole
38 Hunter Alexandra
39 Cameron Maria
40 Kyle Savannah
41 Elijah Stephanie
42 Jason Mia
43 Jack Mackenzie
44 Aaron Allison
45 Isaiah Amanda
46 Angel Jordan
47 Luke Jenna
48 Connor Faith
49 Luis Paige
50 Isaac Makayla
I find it very striking that despite the great popularity of George W Bush, the name George doesn’t appear in the top fifty. I think at one time many people named their children after presidents, especially Black people. Remember the song “Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jones”? Or was that just a stereotype used for laughs? Nearly half the population of Williamsburg is Black, but I doubt that George Bush inspires many of them. Of course, few chose to name their kids Bill after Bill Clinton. I think there is little significance to the fact that John; the name of the two major Democratic candidates –John Kerry and Kohn Edwards – is 17th on the list. At the time the babies were born, neither person was on the political horizon. I am not confident that either individual will inspire parents to name their kids after them not matter their future. My belief is parents just seem to give their children names that they like, rather than the traditional methodology of naming newborns in honor of someone else. Nevertheless, I still maintain that in the future, we will see the day when Tom, Jim and Bill will no longer be traditional names, but unconventional ones that parents will select.