Saturday, December 20, 2003

Dr. Krauthammer reviving a discarded practice:

Over at the Howler, there are some good observations about Charles Krauthammer inappropriately using his medical degree to "diagnose" Howard Dean. What Krauthammer has done is inexcusable, but not original. From Presidential Campaigns Paul F. Boller Jr. 1984, 1985 Third printing
Chapter Twenty-Eight
McKinley, Bryan, and Free Silver

Page 176

Bryan and the Alienists

Bryan was the first presidential candidate to attract the attention of professional psychologists (or "aliensts" as they were then called). On September 27, the New York Times published an editorial entitled "Is Mr. Bryan crazy?" The Times thought he was and as proof presented a list of extravagant statements Bryan had made in the campaign. "No one," said the editors, "can look through it without feeling that these are not adaptations of intelligent reason to intelligent ends." The same issue of the Times featured a letter by "an eminent alienst" announcing that an analysis of Bryan's speeches led inescapably to the conclusion that the Democratic candidate was unbalanced and that if he won the election there would be a "a madman in the White House."

The eminent alienst's letter touched off an orgy of polemical psychologizing about Bryan. On September 29 the Times published a series of interviews with New York psychologists with the heading, "Is Mr. Bryan a Mattoid?" The next day there were more interviews and a new headline: "Paranoid or Mattoid?" Most of the psychologists interviewed regarded Bryan as mentally unfit, though they could not agree on the technical epithet: megalomania, delerium, mattoid, paranoia querulenta, querulent logorrhoea, graphomania, paranoia reformatoria. Admonished one psychologist: "We must rid our minds of the idea that Mr. Bryan is ordinarily crazy ... But I should like to examine him for a degenerate." Another professional thought paranoia was much too good for Bryan. "I do not think," he said solemnly, "that he was ever of large enough caliber to think clearly and consecutively. His mental territory is not sufficiently extensive. A sophomore at City College has a better education. To accuse him of paranoia is to flatter him, in as much as a paranoiac may have a large organization, even if perverted."

Footnote for the above is 30. In the Notes portion of the book, 30 is: Werner, Bryan, 108-109; Jones, Election of 1896, 306.

Chapter Forty-Five
Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society

Page 318


Goldwater's sanity, like Bryan's in 1896 and T.R.'s in 1912 was partisanly called into question. The magazine Fact polled 12,356 psychiatrists on the question "Is Barry Goldwater psychologically fit to be president of the United States?" Only 2,417 replied: 1,189 said "No," 657 said "Yes," and 571 said they didn't know enough about it to answer. Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association dismissed Fact's poll as yellow journalism and criticized the editor for trying to pass off the personal political opinions of psychiatrists as therapeutic exercise.

Footnote for the above is 36. In the Notes portion of the book, 36 is: Faber, Road to White House, 206.


Thursday, December 18, 2003

Where was George?

We have absolutely no evidence to support our view, but we thought we'd share some observations.

  • George Bush was informed Saturday afternoon that there was a good chance Saddam would be captured in a military operation later that evening.

  • When the capture was announced on Sunday morning, two hours later Tony Blair came out and issued a statement.

  • That same morning, journalists were wondering why it was taking the president so long to come out and talk to the nation.

  • When Bush finally did appear (a little after noon), his remarks were brief, he did not interact with the press, and he didn't seem to be particulary engaged.

  • However, the next morning Bush was more in control and handled questions reasonably well in a press conference.
Was Bush waiting until Saddam's identity was confirmed? That didn't stop Tony Bliar.

We get the feeling that Bush did something Saturday night. Celebrate avenging his dad's nemesis? Celebrate the occcupation's progress? And after that he was out-of-sorts and had to be prepped merely to get out there for 5 minutes on Sunday.

But he sobered up (or whatever) and was briefed and ready by the next morning.

Again, there is nothing to prove this, but we were struck by the press' comments about why Bush was taking so long to address the nation, and a review of all the events does lead to the suspicion that Bush was non compos mentis for a while.


Moral equivalence watch:

We read Tom Friedman's execrable column today and were struck by these words he wrote:
I believe the French president, Jacques Chirac, knows something in his heart: in the run-up to the Iraq war, George Bush and Tony Blair stretched the truth about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction — but they were not alone. Mr. Chirac also stretched the truth about his willingness to join a U.N.-led coalition against Iraq if Saddam was given more time and still didn't comply with U.N. weapons inspections. I don't believe Mr. Chirac ever intended to go to war against Saddam, under any circumstances. So history will record that all three of these leaders were probably stretching the truth — but with one big difference: George Bush and Tony Blair were stretching the truth in order to risk their own political careers to get rid of a really terrible dictator. And Jacques Chirac was stretching the truth to advance his own political career by protecting a really terrible dictator.
Tom, there's a big difference between stretching the truth in order to take a country to war, and stretching the truth in other matters.

To make the point clear, let's do a rewrite of Frideman's words:
I believe the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, knows something in his heart: in the run-up to the World War II, Hitler stretched the truth about Poland's aggression against Germany - but he was not alone. Mr. Chamberlain also stretched the truth about the Munich accord bringing "peace in our time". I don't believe Mr. Chamberlain ever intended to press Poland for concessions, under any circumstances. So history will record that both of these leaders were probably stretching the truth - but with one big difference: Hitler was stretching the truth in order to risk his own political career to bring a new order to Europe. And Neville Chamberlain was stretching the truth to advance his own political career by protecting the authoritarian and stubborn Polish leadership.


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Quick thought about the morning-after pill:

We read in the New York Times:
Opponents of the morning-after pill, including religious groups, told panel members that over-the-counter sales could encourage irresponsible sexual behavior.

But Dr. W. David Hager of the University of Kentucky, one of four committee members who voted against the motion, said he was worried about the implications for sexual behavior. Dr. Hager said Plan B would have a similar effect to the birth control pill, which he said ushered in "a new day and age for the expression of sexuality among young people."
If sexual behavior bothers the conservatives, then regulate sexual behavior, not the ancillary components related to sex. On the highways, we regulate speeding. We don't require that the car's engine sieze up at 90 MPH. Conservatives should instead:
  • Consider a voucher program for sex. You get 10 vouchers each year (unless married) and turn one in each time you have sex. Penalty for a no-voucher encounter: $100.

  • Or simply outlaw sex before marriage.

  • Institute a Hotline so that people can report unlawful sexual activity.
That sort of thing. If conservatives really believe that letting people choose for themselves leads to "irresponsible sexual behavior", then by all means propose limiting that behavior, and shun the inefficient method of banning a morning-after pill.


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Brooks - crap =
Howard Dean is the only guy who goes to the Beverly Hills area for a gravitas implant. He went to the St. Regis Hotel, a mile from Rodeo Drive, to deliver a major foreign policy speech, and suddenly Dr. Angry turned into the Rev. Dull and Worthy.

The guy who has been inveighing against the Iraq war as the second coming of Vietnam spent his time talking about intelligence agency coordination as if he had been suckled at the Council on Foreign Relations. The guy who just a few days ago stood next to Al Gore as the former vice president called Iraq the worst mistake in American history has suddenly turned sober.

Sure, he did get off a classic Deanism. He conceded that the capture of Saddam had made American soldiers safer, but, unwilling to venture near graciousness, he continued, "But the capture of Saddam has not made America safer."

Still, the speech was respectable and serious. Coming on the same day as President Bush's hastily called news conference, it affords us the opportunity to compare the two men's approaches to the war on terror.

And indeed, there is one big difference. George Bush fundamentally sees the war on terror as a moral and ideological confrontation between the forces of democracy and the forces of tyranny. Howard Dean fundamentally sees the war on terror as a law and order issue. At the end of his press conference, Bush uttered a most un-Deanlike sentiment:

"I believe, firmly believe — and you've heard me say this a lot, and I say it a lot because I truly believe it — that freedom is the almighty God's gift to every person — every man and woman who lives in this world. That's what I believe. And the arrest of Saddam Hussein changed the equation in Iraq. Justice was being delivered to a man who defied that gift from the Almighty to the people of Iraq."

Bush believes that God has endowed all human beings with certain inalienable rights, the most important of which is liberty. Every time he is called upon to utter an unrehearsed thought, he speaks of the war on terror as a conflict between those who seek to advance liberty to realize justice, and those who oppose the advance of liberty: radical Islamists who fear religious liberty, dictators who fear political liberty and reactionaries who fear liberty for women.

Furthermore, Bush believes the U.S. has a unique role to play in this struggle to complete democracy's triumph over tyranny and so drain the swamp of terror.

Judging by his speech yesterday, Dean does not believe the U.S. has an exceptional role to play in world history. Dean did not argue that the U.S. should aggressively promote democracy in the Middle East and around the world.

Instead, he emphasized that the U.S. should strive to strengthen global institutions. He argued that the war on terror would be won when international alliances worked together to choke off funds for terrorists and enforce a global arms control regime to keep nuclear, chemical and biological materials away from terror groups.

Dean is not a modern-day Woodrow Wilson. He is not a mushy idealist who dreams of a world government. Instead, he spoke of international institutions as if they were big versions of the National Governors Association, as places where pragmatic leaders can go to leverage their own resources and solve problems.

The world Dean described is largely devoid of grand conflicts or moral, cultural and ideological divides. It is a world without passionate nationalism, a world in which Europe and the United States are not riven by any serious cultural differences, in which sensible people from around the globe would find common solutions, if only Bush weren't so unilateral.

At first, the Bush worldview seems far more airy-fairy and idealistic. The man talks about God, and good versus evil. But in reality, Dean is the more idealistic and naïve one. Bush at least recognizes the existence of intellectual and cultural conflict. He acknowledges that different value systems are incompatible.

In the world Dean describes, people, other than a few bizarre terrorists, would be working together if not for Bush. In the Dean worldview, all problems are matters of technique and negotiation.

Dean tried yesterday to show how sober and serious he could be. In fact, he has never appeared so much the dreamer, so clueless about the intellectual and cultural divides that really do confront us and with which real presidents have to grapple.  
OTHER THOUGHTS ON BROOKS: See Pandagon and Roger Ailes


Church & state:

In the news:
President Bush said Tuesday that he could support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

... though Bush has said he would support whatever is "legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage," he and his advisers have shied away from specifically endorsing a constitutional amendment asserting that definition.

But on Tuesday, the president waded deeper into the topic, saying state rulings such as the one in Massachusetts and a couple of other states "undermine the sanctity of marriage" and could mean that "we may need a constitutional amendment."

"I do believe in the sanctity of marriage ...
In the dictionary:
sanc·ti·ty \Sanc"ti*ty\, n.; The state or quality of being sacred or holy; holiness; saintliness; moral purity; godliness.
Bush shouldn't support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He should instead, advocate the repeal of the First Amendment.


To our readers:

We are probably going to be blogging lightly for the next week or so. There's not much to talk about except Saddam - and we've had enough of that, thank you very much. We know the basics:
Saddam was captured by the 4th ID. He was hiding in a hole. There may be more violence in the immediate future. Or maybe less. The U.S. and the world will argue about the trial of Saddam. He had lice in his hair. Bush's approval numbers have gone up. Dean is being attacked by everybody - because the capture of Saddam makes all his arguments against the war invalid. Joe Lieberman is more hawkish than Bush, Wolfowitz, and even Perle. Rush Limbaugh now has something to talk about for months. Saddam didn't "go down fighting like a man." He drove a taxi. The trial of Saddam might take place near election time. And so on.
But do we have to endure Saddam's face on the cover of Time, all the newspapers, and even on the local morning news?

Enough already!


Monday, December 15, 2003

At a military theater near you:


Sunday, December 14, 2003


Dead men tell no tales.