George W. Bush

Stereotype Threat

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word “Republican?”   


If you can’t think of anything positive, you’ve identified the primary problem facing the GOP in the 2010s. Despite the GOP’s recapturing of the House of Representatives as well as numerous governorships and state legislatures, the party’s public image has yet to fully recover from the beating it took during the Bush era. The 2010 midterm results were brought about by economic malaise and frustration with President Obama, not by the public’s re-embrace of Republican ideology.    


It’s still quite possible for President Obama to be re-elected in 2012, and it’s not hard to envision the GOP losing the House in two years as well. For all the chatter about America supposedly being a “center-right” country, the reality is that the country will not truly be “center-right” until Republicans finally challenge the stereotypes that have existed about the party for years. 


There are communities all across America filled with people who react with horror and disgust when they hear the word “Republican.” Despite Scott Brown’s historic Senate victory a year ago this month, his party’s losses in the Massachusetts midterm elections demonstrate that the Bay State is one such community. As Boston Phoenix political reporter David Bernstein noted on November 8, “To most Bay Staters (in fact, most New Englanders), ‘Republicans’ are anti-intellectual, vitriolic, reactionary, ‘Party of No,’ Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Tea Party, Southern ideologues. ‘FOX Republicans,’ if you will.”   


Republicans can spend all day denouncing these stereotype as false, or lambasting media, academic and entertainment entities that are viewed as perpetuating these stereotypes—but wouldn’t it make more sense to simply shatter these stereotypes?  


Republicans need to ask themselves the following questions:  


1. Would supply-side economics be held in contempt by large numbers of Americans if Republicans and conservative-leaning media entities made a point of demonstrating that supply-side economics benefited the vast majority of Americans, not just the wealthy?  


2. Would the notion of Republican anti-intellectualism have such currency if Republicans and conservative-leaning media entities did a better job of spotlighting the right’s intellectual class? The recent Fox News special The Right, All Along: The Rise, Fall & Future of Conservatism did a commendable job of reminding viewers of the right’s intellectual heritage, but the broadcast was the exception to the rule.  


3. Would the idea of Republicans being scornful of science even exist if Republicans and conservative-leaning media entities had more prominent figures who regarded environmental science as something other than “the new refuge of socialist thinking,” as Rush Limbaugh called it in his 1992 book The Way Things Ought to Be?   


4. Would the concept of Republicans-as-theocrats be as strong as it is in the minds of millions of Americans if Republicans and conservative-leaning media entities were more vocal in embracing a federalist approach to social issues, as Jonah Goldberg recommended in Reason Magazine last year?   


The Democratic Party can only prosper if Republicans fail to address the underlying, long-standing issues that still make so many Americans uncomfortable with the GOP: the idea that Republicans lack empathy, don’t give a damn about anyone who’s not already a billionaire, loathe gays and single mothers, secretly desire Christian Shari’a, believe mankind plays no significant role in climate change, are obsessed with spending trillions to democratize the Middle East, regard public education as a wasteland and are generally selfish, uncaring jerks.   


There’s nothing wrong with demonstrating empathy. “Compassionate conservatism” may have been an empty slogan, but if Republicans and conservative-leaning media entities don’t do a better job of showing that the GOP is not as hard-hearted as it’s often made out to be, the 2010 midterms will go down in history as a fluke.  


The last decade was an awful one for the Republican Party. Twenty years after Ronald Reagan’s ten-point victory over President Carter, George W. Bush—the man who was promoted in some conservative circles as Reagan’s true ideological heir—barely got past Vice President Al Gore in the Electoral College and lost the popular vote. Four years later, Bush beat Senator John Kerry by three points, hardly a “center-right” blowout. Republicans lost control of the House and Senate in 2006 and surrendered the White House in 2008. Were it not for pro-GOP momentum generated by the Tea Party movement, as well as the aforementioned public frustration with Obama, the party would still be a sickly elephant ready to be put down.    


Too many Republicans still think of themselves as representing the country’s natural majority. This mentality leads to laziness, shortsightedness, arrogance and a failure to recognize and fix key problems. Republicans would be much better off thinking of themselves as a minority group, one that must confront and overcome stereotypes in order to obtain success and social acceptance. Before Republicans can change minds, they must first change their own. 


(Cross-posted at Notes from D.R.)

I Am Scott Brown

Scott Brown’s victory happened for a reason.


Massachusetts progressives were shell-shocked last Tuesday when it was announced that Martha Coakley had conceded the US Senate election to Brown. It’s been a couple of days, and it still hasn’t sunk in for them.


Progressives across the country know that Brown’s victory poses long-term problems for the left. Forget about what it portends for the 2010 midterms and the 2012 Presidential election. Brown’s win horrifies the left because he has weakened the power of progressive stereotyping.


Progressive bloggers and Democratic apparatchiks threw everything they could at Brown—and none of it stuck. He was accused of misogyny, homophobia, and obedience to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh—and a majority of voters in the country’s bluest state failed to buy any of it.


Brown’s victory proves that the old insults don’t work anymore. If you’re a Republican candidate who focuses on real issues, your ideological adversaries will be reduced to branding you a teabagging extremist instead of developing substantive responses to your ideas. If you connect with the voters, your ideological adversaries will find themselves compelled to demonize those voters.


If Barack Obama’s 2008 victory represented the shattering of old racial barriers, Brown’s victory represents the shattering of old ideological barriers. Thanks to Brown, blue-state conservatives and Republicans can now live their lives openly, unafraid of idiotic insults and scurrilous smears.


There was a collective sigh of relief from the blue-state right on Tuesday night. For years, conservatives and Republicans in overwhelmingly Democratic states had to live their lives in fear and shame, having been convicted without trial on charges of ignorance and intolerance. They suffered in silence, realizing that they could not convince ideologically rigid progressives that they too, believed in equality, fairness and diversity, disagreeing only on the manner through which such goals should be achieved.


Now, in the wake of Brown’s victory, they can finally live in peace and freedom, acknowledging their true selves and affirming their true identities. They can finally march down the street in a parade of patriotic pride.


Brown will forever be a hero to blue-state conservatives. He embodies what conservatism actually is: upbeat, hopeful, forward-thinking, energetic. For too long, progressive activists and Democratic strategists have raised the specter of sulking, snarling, scowling Southern conservatives as a means of scaring people away from conservative and Republican ideas; they will no longer be able to get away with such attacks. Brown has demonstrated that an optimistic person from any part of the country can find merit in the right’s core philosophy.


Brown connected with the young, with suburbanites, with people who had long since checked out of politics. He had a compelling message that he delivered with skill—and he defeated Coakley by sheer force of will.


There are millions of “Scott Brown Republicans” in this country. They embrace conservatism because they recognize that the right’s core principles, when adhered to, result in true prosperity and true progress. They know that income tax reduction creates the rising tide that lifts all boats. They know that sometimes, those who defend us must go the extra mile in order to guarantee our safety.  They know that government is necessary, but its size, scope and power must always have clear limits. They know that judges who idealize the Constitution are preferable to judges who ignore it. Above all, they know that America is, was, and will always be the last, best hope of mankind.


“Scott Brown conservatism” is what this country needs, what this country wants, what this country must have. “Scott Brown conservatism” is the sort of clean conservatism that can attract rather than repel, that can heal rather than wound, that can rebuild rather than destroy. “Scott Brown conservatism” is real compassionate conservatism, as opposed to the hyped-up hooey of ten years ago.


“Scott Brown conservatism” doesn’t care who or what you are, not even what party you belong to, so long as you love the Constitution and the freedoms and principles that august document stands for. “Scott Brown conservatism” is more than just “conservatism that can win again”—heck, it already has won, and will continue to win in the future.


Scott Brown’s victory happened for a reason. “Scott Brown conservatism” exists for the reason—to renew America, to protect and preserve this country’s greatness, and to add just a little more light to the shining city on a hill.


41st Senator…45th President?

By the end of the 2010s, we could be calling him President Scott Brown. 


The newly elected US Senator from Massachusetts ran an error-free campaign, strongly emphasizing economic and security issues and always taking the high road. His opponent, scandal-scarred Attorney General Martha Coakley, ran a vehemently negative campaign filled with disgusting lies—and she paid the price for it. 


Assuming that Brown is re-elected in 2012 (the winner of the January 19th election will complete the remaining three years of the late Ted Kennedy’s term), and also assuming that the Republican challenger to President Obama (whoever he or she may be) comes up short that year, Brown would have to be considered an odds-on favorite to become the GOP’s standard-bearer in 2016. Will he have liabilities? Of course—but his positives will outweigh those negatives by a factor of a thousand. 


Brown is a center-right figure for what conservatives often assert is a center-right nation. As a candidate for the US Senate, he tapped into the same spirit of optimism Ronald Reagan embodied on his way to winning Massachusetts in the 1980 Presidential election. He also tapped into the voters’ desire for competent leadership. 


Remember when doomed 1988 Presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis declared that his campaign was about competence, not ideology? In reality, that’s what most voters in this country are looking for. While Reagan and Barack Obama are on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, they both achieved blowout Electoral College victories because they convinced voters that despite their policy positions, they would place effective leadership above ideological crusades.  


Brown traversed ideological barriers because of his promise to do the same. He was a true uniter on the campaign trail, attracting even committed progressives with his message of stewardship and honesty. He could do the same if he attempts to win the White House. 


Can he make it to the Oval Office? Why can’t he? The two biggest liabilities he will face involve his status as a “Northeastern Republican” and his moderately pro-choice stance on the abortion question. He should be able to overcome these obstacles. 


With regard to the “Northeastern Republican” image, it should be remembered that Brown is to the right of the last Republican to win a US Senate seat in Massachusetts, the profoundly progressive Edward Brooke. Brown may not march in lockstep with the broader Republican Party, but he certainly shares the party’s main vision with regard to economic reinvigoration and aggressive antiterrorism efforts. No one will ever confuse him with Dede Scozzafava. 


Conservative primary voters who reject Brown in 2016 because he’s from the Bay State would make a crucial mistake. Brown can explain conservative principles with vigor in his voice and hope in his heart. Few Republicans can do the same. Brown is a throwback to the days of optimistic conservatism—the only brand of conservatism that is proven to win national elections by significant margins. 


As for the abortion question, by the mid-2010s the GOP will have decided whether to accept moderately pro-choice Presidential candidates such as Brown, or to pressure them to shift their status on this issue, as George H. W. Bush did in 1980 after being selected as Reagan’s running mate. With aging Focus on the Family founder James Dobson shifting roles and few obvious successors to inherit his position as the most influential figure among social conservatives, it’s possible that the GOP could decide to effectively tell values voters that they have nowhere else to go, and that they can either get behind a moderately pro-choice Republican candidate such as Brown, or stay home on Election Day and allow a Democrat obedient to NARAL Pro-Choice America to succeed Obama and nominate federal judges who will effectively make Roe v. Wade impossible to reverse. If social conservatives choose the former path, Brown will at least give a fair and open hearing to their concerns.  


As the 2016 GOP nominee, Brown could unify the party, settling the grudges and grievances that have beset Republicans for far too long.  He could appeal to the David Limbaughs and David Frums of the party, reestablishing the conservative-centrist coalition Reagan first brought together. Brown could well become the first Republican since Reagan to win “blue” regions of the country—and make hardcore Democrats blue in the process.


If Brown makes it to the White House, we could bear witness to the true resurgence of conservatism that George W. Bush’s 2000 election promised, but was unable to deliver. If I were a devoted Democrat, this thought would surely make me quiver.

Don’t Worry About the Government

Can we all acknowledge that limited government, as a political concept, is hooey?


In truth, there are very few conservative Republicans who actually believe in the concept of limited government; if they did, they’d be explicit Libertarians instead. Most conservative Republicans believe that the federal government does have a role in protecting what Rush Limbaugh has often described as “the traditions and values that made this country great.”


Most conservative Republicans believe the federal government should restrict abortion for birth-control purposes, should maintain the definition of marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution, should strive to prevent euthanasia, should not officially sanction embryonic stem-cell research, etc. In short, most conservative Republicans do believe the federal government should have a morals clause.


There’s nothing inherently wrong with the belief that the federal government should operate according to Judeo-Christian tenets.  The problem, of course, is selling this belief to a secularized country.


If most conservative Republicans are not, in fact, for limited government, but are instead in favor of a federal government that promotes the philosophy of “ordered liberty” (that is to say, personal freedom within the confines of Judeo-Christian principles), then why not defend this view in the arena of ideas?


Where is the danger in turning federal elections into de facto debates on the propriety of Judeo-Christian conservatism vs. secular progressivism? Why shouldn’t we have races in which Republican candidates reaffirm their beliefs in “ordered liberty”, while Democratic candidates defend their “open society” views?


Most conservative Republicans still admire George W. Bush. While they recognize that Bush was an unpopular figure towards the end of his second term, they still see him as a misunderstood figure who did what he thought was right according to his faith-influenced philosophy.


The GOP’s base still loves Bush because they see him as one of their own—a committed Christian who made mistakes but whose heart was in the right place. Even if his deeds failed, his mission was noble.


Bush, of course, failed to limit the size and scope of the federal government—but the GOP’s base did not really care about that. Bush was, and is, admired by the party faithful because he was a traditionalist Christian subjected to constant rhetorical scourging by secular progressives.


The GOP’s conservative Christian base wanted, and still wants, a champion on earth—someone who will stand fast against the licentious, do-what-you-feel left. Bush’s 2000 campaign was borne of the Clinton-era culture wars; the party’s base saw Bush as someone who would, on a certain level, redeem the White House. 


Progressives often ask why conservative Republicans didn’t protest Bush during his free-spending, big-government days. The question answers itself. To conservative Republicans, Bush’s domestic spending was inextricably linked to his Christian values; supporting McCain-Feingold was his way of throwing the moneychangers out of the temple, and backing No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug benefit was his way of taking care of the least of these. (A desire to take care of the least of these presumably also explains his involvement in the Terri Schiavo case.)


Obviously, conservative Republicans who gave Bush a pass because of the religious nature of his actions are unwilling to give President Obama the same benefit of the doubt, since conservatives see him as the ultimate secularist. To the conservative mind, there is no higher motive for Obama’s actions; he just wants power.


The 2000s proved that most conservative Republicans do not favor limited government; they favor Judeo-Christian government, since they see Judeo-Christian government as presenting the fairest deal for all members of society, including those not of the racial or religious majority. (Perhaps this explains why conservative Republicans are so enthusiastic about a committed Christian such as Sarah Palin; even though Palin will, in all likelihood, not restrict government growth if she’s elected President, she will likely defend Judeo-Christian principles in Washington, as Bush was perceived to have done.)


The Tea Partiers should be aware that they will not, and cannot, realize their goal of limiting the size and scope of the federal government. Neither major political party can accommodate their views. The Democratic Party believes in big government run by secular progressives; the Republican Party believes in big government run by conservative Christians. This is the way it has been for decades. It will not change anytime soon, or anytime later. All one can hope for is that the federal government bureaucracy is run efficiently by whichever party is in charge—and, of course, that God blesses America instead of damning the country.


Focus Groups, State Run (no longer Drive-By) Media, and Idiot Swing Voters

Apparently, multiple "Jornalists" in the State Run Media attended a focus group on President Obama the other night.

Both Dan Balz of the Washington Post and Gloria Borger of CNN were there.

The message we're supposed to take away from this focus group: Republicans (and to a lesser degree Conservatives) shouldn't read too much into President Obama's cratering poll ratings.  Independants still want President Obama to "succeed."  Even the "Independants" who voted for McCain are emotionally invested in President Obama.


President Obama's poll ratings are tanking because he ran the most dishonest Presidential campain of my lifetime.  When you run as a moderate centrist (with a HARD CORE left wing legislative record in both the Illinois State and US Senate) no one should be surprised the public has a massive negative reaction when you govern as a hardcore leftist; this is infinitely more true when your most "moderate" position is MORE bailouts.

(OK, admittedly, President Obama's only genuinely moderate position is continuting George W. Bush's successful Iraq policy.  That's also been his most successful move.)

Here's what I find hilarious: back in 2005, no reporter in the then Drive-By, now State controlled, media offered any similar words of caution to Democrats when George W. Bush's political standing was in peril.

In 2005, no then drive-by, now state-run, media reporter advised Democrats not to go for the kill against George W. Bush.

In 2005, the dominant storyline was when Americans would rise against an "out of control" President.

Contrast 2009 vs. 2005 in the media narrative.

In 2005, American Citizens who undermined our troops were considered patiots.  In 2009, genuine Patriots are called "Teabaggers."

In 2005, dissent was Patriotic.  In 2009, dissent is un-American.

Gotta go to Bed Soon; Here's My Point:

Right Now is the Time to (figuratively) go for Obama's jugular.  Jim DeMint was right...we can destroy the Presidency of the most dangerous person to hold this office of my lifetime over the next few months.  We shouldn't be afraid.

In 2005, Democrats were confronted with a Popular President; they did everything within their power to destroy him politically and personally.

Turnabout is fair play.

I hope this helps.

Cahnman out.


Iraq: Case Closed

From the Top Newspaper in Baghdadi:

Thank You America – And Damn You, You Bastards By Jabr Al Jabouri Al-Bayyna Al-Jadida [Baghdad] July 1, 2009

America chose to save us from the most evil party, and the most despicable President in the universe [Saddam]. Meanwhile, the Arab powers stood firmly against the American project. They used all means to thwart them, but Allah’s will had another say in this matter. America turned the Ba’athists into the world’s laughing stock by showing them fleeing in their underwear on live television. Meanwhile, the Arab powers turned those cowards into national heroes on their satellite channels.

America gave the lives of 4,000 of its people to Iraq’s land to instill security and democracy, while the Arabs sent us their filthy mercenaries who mercilessly murdered, bombed, and slaughtered the Iraqi people.

America came bearing democracy for Iraq, while the Arabs brought us the new religion of the Wahhabis and Salafists. This religion aims to destroy Iraq and return it to the days of minority rule.

America canceled all of our debts and urged the rest of the world to do so, while the Arabs refused to do so and they even demanded payment for every Iraqi citizen living in their countries.

America allowed Shias to practice their religion while the Arabs bombed the Askari shrine. America proposed that the Iraqi President be Kurdish – so that we can prove to the world that Iraq has entered an age of freedom and respect for ethnic minorities. Yet, the Arabs have “removed Iraq from the Arab map,” pointing to the fact that the President is a non-Arab. America urged all honorable Sunnis to take part in the political process, while the Arabs issued a fatwa to kill every Sunni Iraqi who works with the government.

America opened the world to us, while the Arabs slammed their doors in our faces. America urged the world’s countries to open embassies in Iraq. Thus far, the Arabs have not opened embassies… or even acknowledged Iraq’s new democratic regime. America is carrying the burden of removing Iraq from Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, while the Arabs – led by Saudi Arabia – are doing their best to obstruct these efforts.

America urged the Gulf States to allow Iraq to return to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), while the Arabs refused to allow Iraq to join the GCC. The Americans sponsored Iraq membership in international, political, and cultural organizations, while the Arabs expelled the Iraqi Authors and Writers Union from the Arab Writers Union.

America decided to withdraw from Iraq cities and hand these cities over to the Iraq forces on June 30 in preparation for the final withdrawal from Iraq. The Arabs decided to hinder the withdrawal so that their excuse for fighting the occupier and killing the Iraq people can remain. America signed the Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq, which includes all political, cultural, military, and technological fields. The Arabs issued a decision stating that Iraq is “officially occupied” because we signed the security agreement. Never mind that all these Arab countries have agreements with America. The Arabs decided that every American soldier in Iraq is an occupier that must be killed, while if an American soldier was to be in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, or Egypt he would be considered as a friendly ally that must be treated with respect. The Arabs decided to consider every Iraqi living in America to be a traitor and spy, even though Iraqi people living in America are fewer in numbers than all other Arab nationalities. The Arabs consider every Iraqi who works as a translator for the American forces to be a traitor…

This is how Arabs are, and this is just a drop in a vast ocean. All this is what the Arabs do in public. What they do behind the walls is another matter entirely.

According to American news sources, Saudi Arabia has been trying hard to convince America to return the Ba’athists to power in Iraq. However, the American Administration does not care about what Saudi Arabia thinks or wants in this country.

Today, our American friends are true to their word. They have handed over security responsibilities to the Iraq forces, and they decided to withdraw from the Iraqi cities.

I wonder when the American forces in Saudi Arabia – estimated at 80,000 troops – are going to withdraw. When are the 30,000 U.S. soldiers in Kuwait going to withdraw? When are the American bases in Qatar, Egypt, Oman, Yemen, and all other Arab countries that live off American aid going to be shut down?

The geographically close, but, in humanitarian terms, distant Arab Nation does not deserve any political, cultural and commercial ties with us. Nations that are completely different from and unrelated to us are racing to assist us.

After six years of liberation, we now know who our friend is and who our foe is. We should not give a chance to those idiots who claim that Iraq is part of the Arab Nation. These idiots should understand that Iraq is part the federal, free and democratic world.

Translated from


h/t. Weekly Standard


Austin Tea Party Debrief

Greetings from the Great City of Austin in the Great State of Texas in the Good Old U S of A on this, our Independence Day.  Just spent three hours under the 105 degree Texas sun (in addition to walking back and forth to the capital...about 2 miles in each direction).  Before I collapse from Heat Stroke, let me share a few observations:

Attendance: Roughly 3000.  Substantially lower than the April tea party @ the Capitol.  Then again, at the April party the temperature was 75.

Crowd: Mostly folks in their 50's and 60's.  Some families with children.  All in all, an older crowd than April.  About 30% Ron Paul types, 50% more traditional GOPer, 20% assorted other.

Signs: Generally quite clever.  Personal favorites: any of the several that referred to Waxman/Markey as "Crap and Trade."

Sleeper GOP Gubernatorial Candidate: Debra Medina.  I might be biased because I met her today (also briefly met Sen. Cornyn and Gov. Perry) AND got to talk to her a bit.  She's a down the line, SERIOUS, conservative.  Like the message, concerned about viability.  I told her I intend to re-elect the incumbent, but that if she could prove herself a viable candidate in BOTH the primary AND general, I'd consider giving her my vote.

Most Embarrassing Moment for a Speaker: Sen. John Cornyn being greeted by a loud chorus of Boos as he took the stage due to his vote on TARP.

Most Embarrassing Moment for the Ron Paul supporters: Continuing to Boo Senator Cornyn after he acknowledged their concerns and moved on to Porkulus/Crap and Trade/Obamacare where he's firmly on our side.

Best Speaker, Runner Up: Wanye Allyn Root.  The 2008 LIbertarian Party Vice Presidential Nominee gave the crowd an inspiring speech on the value of limited government with a whole lotta quotes from Goldwater and Reagan thrown in.  Gets brownie points in my book for his rousing (by libertarian standards) defense of President Bush's overspending and bailouts being several orders of magnitude less bad than President Obama's overspending and bailouts.

Best Speaker, Overall: Governor Perry.  No one else even came close.  Whatever his alleged flaws, Governor Perry has done A TON over this past decade to have left us the strongest economy in the country right now.

In many ways, the attitude of people in Texas towards Governor Perry right now reminds me of the attitude in NYC of people towards Rudy in July 2001.  The man's gotten so much right that his citizens now take these things for granted.

All in all, an Afternoon well spent!

I hope this helps.

That is all.

Cahnman out.

Thomas L. Friedman: Thank You Very Much George W. Bush

In today's New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman belatedly notices major changes that have been occuring in the Middle East for at least five years:

[S]omething is going on in the Middle East today that is very new. Pull up a chair; this is going to be interesting.

What we saw in the Lebanese elections, where the pro-Western March 14 movement won a surprise victory over the pro-Iranian Hezbollah coalition, what we saw in the ferment for change exposed by the election campaign in Iran, and what we saw in the provincial elections in Iraq, where the big pro-Iranian party got trounced, is the product of four historical forces that have come together to crack open this ossified region.

First is the diffusion of technology. The Internet, blogs, YouTube and text messaging via cellphones, particularly among the young — 70 percent of Iranians are under 30 — is giving Middle Easterners cheap tools to communicate horizontally, to mobilize politically and to criticize their leaders acerbically, outside of state control. It is also enabling them to monitor vote-rigging by posting observers with cellphone cameras.

I knew something had changed when I sat down for coffee on Hamra Street in Beirut last week with my 80-year-old friend and mentor, Kemal Salibi, one of Lebanon’s greatest historians, and he told me about his Facebook group!

The evening of Lebanon’s election, I went to the Beirut home of Saad Hariri, the leader of the March 14 coalition, to interview him. In a big living room, he had a gigantic wall-size television broadcasting the results. And alongside the main TV were 16 smaller flat-screen TVs with electronic maps of Lebanon. Hariri’s own election experts were working on laptops and breaking down every vote from every religious community, village by village, and projecting them on the screens.

Well, Mr. Friedman, it's good of you to notice what's been going on in the region for several years now; it's better late than never.  Where this story gets interesting, however, is to whom Mr. Friedman (unlike Fareed Zakaria) gives credit for this monumental development:

for real politics to happen you need space. There are a million things to hate about President Bush’s costly and wrenching wars. But the fact is, in ousting Saddam in Iraq in 2003 and mobilizing the U.N. to push Syria out of Lebanon in 2005, he opened space for real democratic politics that had not existed in Iraq or Lebanon for decades. “Bush had a simple idea, that the Arabs could be democratic, and at that particular moment simple ideas were what was needed, even if he was disingenuous,” said Michael Young, the opinion editor of The Beirut Daily Star. “It was bolstered by the presence of a U.S. Army in the center of the Middle East. It created a sense that change was possible, that things did not always have to be as they were.”

When I reported from Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s, I covered coups and wars. I never once stayed up late waiting for an election result. Elections in the Arab world were a joke — literally. They used to tell this story about Syria’s president, Hafez al-Assad. After a Syrian election, an aide came in and told Assad: “Mr. President, you won 99.8 percent of the votes. It means that only two-tenths of one percent of Syrians didn’t vote for you. What more could ask for?”

Assad answered: “Their names!”

Lebanese, by contrast, just waited up all night for their election results — no one knew what they’d be.

In other words, President Bush's grand strategy for winning the global war on terror is working, albeit more slowly than anyone predicted.  Of course, as in any war, there have been setbacks along the way:

the Bush team opened a hole in the wall of Arab autocracy but did a poor job following through. In the vacuum, the parties most organized to seize power were the Islamists — Hezbollah in Lebanon; pro-Al Qaeda forces among Iraqi Sunnis, and the pro-Iranian Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Mahdi Army among Iraqi Shiites; the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan; Hamas in Gaza.

Fortunately, each one of these Islamist groups overplayed their hand by imposing religious lifestyles or by dragging their societies into confrontations the people didn’t want. This alienated and frightened more secular, mainstream Arabs and Muslims and has triggered an “awakening” backlash among moderates from Lebanon to Pakistan to Iran. The Times’s Robert Mackey reported that in Tehran “chants of ‘Death to America’ ” at rallies for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week were answered by chants of “Death to the Taliban — in Kabul and Tehran” at a rally for his opponent, Mir Hussein Moussavi.

To those of us who were paying attention, of course, this was apparent back in 2007.  Finally, Friedman closes with a mush brained sop to his liberal readers:

along came President Barack Hussein Obama. Arab and Muslim regimes found it very useful to run against George Bush. The Bush team demonized them, and they demonized the Bush team. Autocratic regimes, like Iran’s, drew energy and legitimacy from that confrontation, and it made it very easy for them to discredit anyone associated with America. Mr. Obama’s soft power has defused a lot of that. As result, “pro-American” is not such an insult anymore.

On the other hand, maybe what's going on right now is the result of a process that was set off five years ago that we have become increasingly irrelevant to over time.  FWIW, Bush probably was too hands off in 2005 and 2006, which probably did allow the Islamists more room to make their move than we had to allow them.  At the same time, doubling down in Iraq in 2007 definately convinced the locals we were there to stay.  Now, in 2009, the process seems to have taken on a life of it's own.


Over the next few years, this will be interesting....

I hope this helps.

That is all.Cahnman out.

Fareed Zakaria: Had you written this two years ago, it would have made a difference....

Fareed Zakaria writes a safe too little too late article on Iraq; no single money quote:

Obama still has the power to shape a decent outcome in Iraq. In doing so, he could help change the political dynamic within the Arab world and present a new model of America's relations with a modern, Muslim, Arab country.

Not that any other President of the United Staes was talking about that 6 and 1/2 years ago (when it was tough) or anything....

(Since I'm gonna go through the article graf by graf, I'd like to pre-emptively (there's that phrase again) inform Mr. Zakaria that his opinion on the liberation of Iraq and the surge remains as irrelevant now as it was in 2003 and 2007.  The only reason I comment on his opinion now is because the drive by media gives him more coverage than he deserves.)

Next, emphasis on slow:

Iraq is going through a slow but crucial transformation, from war zone to new nation-state. The next set of policies that Washington and Baghdad decide upon will determine how well this turns out.



When the surge was announced in January 2007, I was somewhat cautious about it. I believed that more troops and a proper counterinsurgency strategy would certainly improve the security situation—I had advocated more troops from the start of the occupation—but I believed that the fundamental problem in Iraq was political discord among the country's three main sects and ethnic groups. The surge, in my view, would alleviate those tensions but also postpone the need for a solution. Only a political agreement among these groups could reach one.

Insert the word might between but and also and everyone believed this; what's your freaking point?!?

Also, rephrase "Postpone the need for a solution" with "Buy Us Some Time" and the surge suddenly looks a lot better.

I was wrong in some ways. First, the surge turned out to be a more sophisticated strategy—encompassing political outreach to the Sunnis—than I had imagined. Second, the success of the surge empowered the Baghdad government, brought Sunni rebels out from hiding and thus broke the dynamic of the civil war. Sunni militants have now been identified, their biometric data have been collected and their groups are being monitored. They cannot easily go back to jihad. The Shiite ruling elites, secure in their hold on the country, have less to gain by ethnic cleansing and militia rule.

Calling the surge sophistocated; how magnanimous of you!!!  I'm glad you were wrong in some ways!

They cannot easily go back to jihad.  No kidding (I'd use a scatalogical reference were I feeling less charitable).  Credit where it's due to the admittedly flawed Nuri-al Maliki with David Petraeus and Ray Odierno getting the assists on the goal.

Jihadists biodata being held by the US Military; why didn't the drive by media tell me about that in 2007 or anything?!?


An adviser to surge commander Gen. David Petraeus told the reporter Nir Rosen that the civil war in Iraq would end when the Sunnis knew that they'd lost and the Shiites knew that they'd won. Both now seem to be true.

Petraeus' adviser told you the war would be won when the Sunni's knew they'd lost and the Shiites knew they'd won....Gee, I'm sooo glad you and everyone else in the drive by media made that sooo easy from 2003-January 20, 2009 (btw, I could find a million more links on this topic if I felt like investing the time).  At least both now seem to be true....


while a renewal of the civil war—and a return to high casualty levels—is highly unlikely

Speaking for myself, I'd say damn near impossible over highly unlikely.  They again, I'm an optimist when my country takes courageous actions overseas.

Oh, and, by the way, I'm sorry your original concerns about the Surge remain.  I had forgotten that Fareed Zakaria's personal opinion is our primary metric for judging the success of America's Iraq Policy.


American influence is not what it was a few years ago.

Duh.  Thank you Fareed Zakaira.  Had I never heard or read you say this, I might not have lived a personally satisfying life.


Today, Arab regimes paint a picture of Iraq that suggests that American-led democracy has led to chaos, collapse and, perhaps more crucially, to Shiite tyranny. This is a damning indictment because for the rest of the Arab world—which is overwhelmingly Sunni—it suggests that democracy is something to be feared. It is also a convenient lesson because it means that Arab dictators can postpone indefinitely any need to open up their own political systems. But the message does resonate: opinion polls show that large majorities view Iraq as a failure and a sham democracy.

That's right because your buddies in the drive by media didn't have anything to do with this....

(Sorry, Common Dreams was the only site that still has that story up.  That said, much like the last link I could find a million more stories on a similar there if I felt like investing more time on this).


It isn't. There is much going on in Iraq that is admirable. Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis are beginning to work out their differences through negotiation, not violence. Freedom of speech abounds. A new economy is taking shape, in which entrepreneurs are creating jobs and a civil society. Elections are punishing thugs and theocrats who cannot deliver services and rewarding more-pragmatic forces. The appeal of radical Islam is waning.



This was not Barack Obama's war. But it might well turn out to be his greatest legacy to the Arab world. Ambassador Ryan Crocker ended his distinguished stint in Iraq with these fitting words: "In the end, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we came."

Fareed, when we win this war, it will be George W. Bush's legacy to the Arab World.  Barack Obama will get the credit that Mariano Rivera gets when he comes into the game with Yankees up by 17,000 runs because he needs some work.

I end this post with the full text of my e-mail to Fareed Zakaria about this article:

In other words, what you're saying is that now that George W. Bush is out of office, it's OK for the drive-by media to say nice things about America's policy there.

How we leave being more important than how we got in has been true since day 1; the only thing that's changed since then is the American President's last name and the weather.

Some of us had the courage of our convictions to stick with Iraq when it was unpopular.

Generations from now, George W. Bush will be remembered as the American Hero he truly is while insignificant intellectual poseurs such as yourself will fade into the irrelevance you deserve.

To paraphrase Davy Crockett: You can go to hell; I'll stay in Texas.

Adam Cahn Austin, TX

P.S. "War of Choice" my ass.

I hope this helps.

That is all.

Cahnman out.

Obama, Machiavelli, and 43; why style still matters when the follower is quietly copying his predecessor....

President Obama rhetorically threw America under the bus yesterday.

George W. Bush gave the same substantive speech (minus apologies) a year ago.

My question is this: President Obama, as much as you quitely continue 43's counterterrorism policies In Iraq, Afghanistan, Club Gitmo, Terrorist Surveillance, and Rendition has the thought ever occured to you that despite your good (as much as it pains me to admit that) actions, your good actions are easily undermined by your words.

You don't understand Machiaveli 101; fear is more important than love.

I agree with you on a certain level; George W. Bush made us unloved around the world.  God Bless him, George W. Bush rejected the paradigm of appeasement to make sure our enemies feared us.

On the other hand, you really seem to think that by talking to them, our enemies will magically surrender.  Dude, it doesn't work that way.  Pussies are only an inch and a half away from you know what.

President Obama, America has not done anything wrong (except for raising taxes in 1990) over the past thirty years.  Given that you're speaking at Normandy later this week, before you throw America under the bus again, consider America's True Greatness.

I hope this helps.

Cahnman out.

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