Monday, 1 December 2003

Any free traders left?

Reading Stephen Green on the president’s 180 on the steel tariffs, I have to ask aloud if there’s actually anyone in Washington who’s a principled proponent of free trade—or even freer trade, like NAFTA or FTAA (I’m not a huge fan of regional free trade blocs myself, but they beat the hell out of the Son of Hawley-Smoot that many on both sides of the aisle seem to want enacted). I mean, there’s Ron Paul, who probably wouldn’t vote for anything except a unilateral cut to 0% on all import tariffs—meaning anything likely to happen during his lifetime is out—but is there anyone else?

More to the point, what idiot thought in the first place that this pandering exercise would actually work? Now Bush has (a) made a bigger ass of himself with the steelworkers than he would have if he’d simply said “not gonna do it” in the first place and (b) probably retarded the economic recovery by god-knows-how-many months. I realize the president’s detractors will attribute this all to Bush, and his fans will attribute it to Rove,* but surely someone on the political side at the White House must have known this was a disaster waiting to happen.

* This is Lawrence’s Cardinal Rule of Evaluation of the Bush Administration: any intelligent act of the administration will be attributed to Karl Rove (or, by some tenuous connection, Bill Clinton) by Democrats, but to Bush (or someone in the administration with expertise) by Republicans, while any idiocy committed will be attributed to Bush by Democrats but to Rove (or someone else in the administration) by Republicans.

Monday, 13 September 2004


I could have sworn I linked Michael Totten last night. Grr… Michael Munger has thoughts in a similar vein today, although I think the more likely explanation (here comes Occam again) is that some deranged, historically clueless anti-Bush person produced the documents—and they’d have gone nowhere if 60 Minutes had done anything approaching due diligence. To believe that anyone planted the documents to discredit the AWOL charges (something that I find nearly impossible to believe could be done, given the other uncertainties in Bush’s records during the era anyway) requires the following assumptions on the part of the forger:

  • The person who gave the documents to CBS could never be traced back to the forger (i.e. Bush operatives).
  • Someone (CBS) would believe the documents were genuine at first glance, despite all the anachronistic features of the documents.
  • CBS would not consult any experts in document authenticity, or even if they did, the experts would be too stupid (or too in hock to CBS) to figure out the documents were anachronistic.
  • Other people, with fewer resources than CBS, would figure out the documents were fake.

The first three steps require some sort of Jedi mind control on the part of (presumably) Karl Rove, which is a completely idiotic belief on the basis of Lawrence’s Rule (if nothing else).

Anyway, I think the truth about Bush’s National Guard assignment—and the truth about a lot of things that go on in elite politics and in the South—is embodied in this statement by Virginia Postrel:

I also think that Bush got special treatment, probably without anyone having to ask for it. Given his family's connections and the way Texas operates like a small town, people would have looked out for him.

I made a similar point about Clinton during all of his scandals: he didn’t “suborn perjury” from his supporters—they’d have lied for him without his asking, or his (or anyone else’s) needing to ask. There are limits; this sort of thing wouldn’t happen if you killed someone in cold blood, for example,* but it’s a cornerstone of small-town dynamics that many fail to appreciate.

* Well, it might have happened during the Jim Crow era if the victim was an “uppity Negro” or other malcontent; ultimately, that was the problem in Neshoba County, because quite a few people so confused their “loyalty” to the community to the point that they dismissed basic human decency.

Monday, 11 October 2004

Parallel lost

Apparently I’m the only smart person who was completely lost when George W. Bush started talking about Dred Scott v. Sanford during Friday night’s debate. The Baseball Crank writes:

[A]nyone who pays attention to constitutional law debates understood the parallel Bush was trying to draw, however inartfully.

My constitutional law class discussed Dred Scott on Wednesday, and I’d be surprised if any of them had figured out any meaningful parallel to Roe; I certainly hadn’t, in part because Bush’s discussion of the case butchered the basis of the key holding beyond recognition, and in part because Dred Scott was essentially a textualist decision (albeit an “activist” one that struck down a federal law for only the second time in American history).

Meanwhile, Eric Muller elaborates on the “it’s all code” theory, in the process demonstrating Lawrence’s Cardinal Rule:

Surely Karl Rove had scripted some sort of moderately articulate point about the perils of judicial activism on hotly contested matters of personal freedom—something comprehensible and calculated to win over a few voters on the fence—that Bush just totally mangled.

My gut feeling is that—if this was a coded message—anyone who could have figured out the coded message already knew that Bush was committed to appointing justices who believe Roe was wrongly decided on the merits; the “code” theory assumes a remarkable level of political knowledge by the average pro-life voter to be effective, which flies in the face of everything we know about voters in general and (in particular) what Democrats think the general level of intelligence is of pro-lifers.

Thursday, 21 October 2004

Karl Rove: Master of the Donks’ Domain

Matt Stinson kindly gives a detailed exegesis of the Democratic corrollary to Lawrence’s Cardinal Rule of Evaluation of the Bush Administration, which begins thusly:

If there is a single phenomenon that links together political rhetoric from Bush critics this election, it’s their willingness—dare I say obsession—to find in any and all events disadvantageous to Democratic fortunes the hand of Karl Rove.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.