September 26, 2002

Trust me, I know what I’m doing…

Michael Kinsley offers his assessment of Bush’s argument for war against Iraq. I want to avoid getting into a pro-con war argument here. Instead, I want to focus on a portion of the argument Kinsley offers. He says that because we lack information about how the administration is drawing its conclusions, we are not

“capable of answering the actual questions at hand: Is Saddam Hussein an imminent threat to our national and personal security, and is a war to remove him from power the only way to end that threat? So, we must do with a surrogate question: Based on information we do have and issues we are capable of judging, should we trust the leaders who are urging war upon us?”

Kinsley suggests the ulterior-motive arguments for war (revenge for father, “Wag the Dog”) are mostly “entertaining but silly.” He deconstructs the Bush arguments for several more paragraphs before concluding that:

“You would think that if honest and persuasive arguments were available, the administration would offer them. But maybe not.”

Let’s forget for a moment that war is rarely begun on the basis of sound and reasonable argument (honesty is often ignored, too, re: Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators). Kinsley’s conclusion is trumped by his own previous question. Arguments are important, but the information that supports those arguments is far more important. An argument without reasons (deduction) or examples (induction) is mere assertion driven by pathos and sold with ethos. Are we the people capable of judging whether to go to war based on the information we have? The answer is clearly: No, because we lack information. But that in itself is not necessarily an argument for or against going to war. A more important question Kinsley raises is: How much say can/should/do we the people have in decisions about going to war?

September 25, 2002

Bollinger’s dream team…

What can Lee Bollinger’s dream team be expected to do? Many people are asking that question. Interesting reading. Check here and here for background.

September 25, 2002

TV “news” and journalism…

This article partially illustrates why I think “television journalism” is an oxymoron.

September 23, 2002

Nixon “Checkers” speech…

Today is the 50th anniversary of Nixon’s “Checkers” speech, correctly called a “masterpiece” of television by the Orlando Sentinel. Quite simply, this speech changed everything. Here’s a copy of the speech. It’s well worth reading.

September 21, 2002

Orwell and “regime change”…

Josh Marshall takes a look at the term “regime change” today and speculates about what George Orwell might have thought. Marshall is cogent as usual.

September 13, 2002

“Privatize” out, “reverse reparations” in…

Here’s an interesting story from my local newspaper–The Kansas City Star. Republicans are pulling a “reverse reparations” ad from a KC radio station. The ad is aimed at convincing African-Americans to support GOP efforts to privatize at least part of the Social Security system. The ad specifically equates Social Security payments with something called “reverse reparations.” The mandatory payment statement at the end of the ad said it had been paid for by GOPAC, the GOP political action committee founded by Newt Gingrich. After complaints, GOPAC disavowed the ad by claiming the organization did not place the commercial, called it a mistake, and said it was being canceled. I wonder how GOPAC can cancel an ad it claims it neither placed nor paid for.

This trend has been building in political advertising (from both major parties) for some time now: Create increasingly offensive ads, and, when complaints are made, pull the ad, call it a mistake, and claim the offending PAC didn’t really authorize or pay for it. This seems to me to be a clear violation of the federal law that political ads must state who or what paid for the ad.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall beat me to this by 12 hours (I waited for it on paper). He’s got an interesting angle and more links.

UPDATE: Here’s a news story about the “privatization” definition debacle.

September 12, 2002

In defense of the “opinion journalist”…

Speaking at a conference in Greece yesterday, Jay Nordlinger delivered a powerful commentary on America’s re-awakened patriotism and tenacity for self-defense in the face of great hostility. This speech is also a defense of the “opinion journalist.”

September 11, 2002

Initial reaction to Bush’s 9/11 speech…

The president has just finished speaking. As soon as a text is available, I’ll begin an analysis for Presidential Campaign Rhetoric 2004, which I hope to have posted by tomorrow afternoon. For the moment, I’ll offer a few initial thoughts about what I heard.

There were powerful moments in this speech and a few clunky moments, too. It was unevenly written and, no surprise for this president, unevenly delivered. I find myself wondering what our “great communicator” Ronald Reagan could have done with this moment carried on the words of Peggy Noonan. A great speech is more than great words, however. A great speech, delivered by a leader trying times, requires a commanding presence that Bush just cannot muster in the way that Reagan could. Many of Reagan’s speeches seem rather bland today read in pages of books. But he knew how to stand and deliver in a way that made you believe. And his media people knew how to create a stirring scene.

Bush used much religious rhetoric and imagery, and I wonder about this. It harkens back to our cherished myth of a land blessed by God for the use of a great, free people. It also sounds like the preaching that precedes a crusade.

I think it was an excellent decision to keep the address short. And the White House media people did a splendid job creating the scene. The glowing Statue of Liberty over his right shoulder and a rippling American flag over his left symbolically and majestically fought back the darkness.

I think Bush has delivered better speeches–some very good ones in my estimation, which include his inaugural address, this year’s State of the Union address, and his speech before the joint session of Congress following the catastrophe of 9/11.

Should this have been his finest speech? I think it should have been, but he fell short in my opinion. Does this suggest that Bush is a mediocre president and leader. No, it does not. Instead, he’ll have to continue to struggle with the knowledge that he lacks one important presidential skill–the power to stand and deliver from a podium–while he continues to lead this nation in a just and moral fight against terrorism.

September 4, 2002

Dick Morris’ advice for Republicans…

What’s the point of legislation: To pass laws and regulations necessary and proper to run the republic or to out maneuver the opposition? Hmmmm…

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