Friday, March 07, 2003

Never give up! Never surrender!

It seems that just about everybody thought Bush's press conference was a dud - even Andrew Sullivan. But there is at least one man who liked it. David Frum, who writes:
Good press conference! Bush looked good and sounded calm.
I was struck by the unusual sameness of the questions asked at the conference.


Will there be a March Surprise?

We made fun of Tim Russert's comments following Bush's press conference:
[Bush] has analyzed all the information, all the intelligence, all the data. That he had concluded as commander-in-chief that Saddam Hussein is a risk to American security and that he has made a decision.
thinking that it was Russert's way of excusing the President's lack of detail. However, we were struck by the following exchange on the Charlie Rose Show (6 March 2003):
JIM HOAGLAND: I think there are distinct links between al-Qaeda and Iraq of a nature that helped stage September 11th and other terrorist attacks against Americans.

CHARLIE ROSE: Do you really?

HOAGLAND: I do believe that.

ROSE: But you've seen no evidence.

HOAGLAND: I've seen some evidence. There's evidence buried in CIA files susceptible to various interpretations - that I interpret in that direction.

[and later on in the program:]

ROSE: If they had the information, it would seem to me to be so important to show it to other heads of state, at least.

HOAGLAND: I cannot give you full clarity on this. The one thing I can offer you is that there is a feeling at this White House that you stage your debate pretty much as you stage a political campaign. And you wait until you've got maximum attention - until you've got everybody's attention. You've certainly got Saddam Hussein's attention today. You've got the nation's attention. And you make your best case then. We'll see in a few days, I think, in a very short time, whether there's anything to what I'm saying or not.
Maybe Russert knows something we don't.


Thursday, March 06, 2003

Bush's press conference:

We listened to it, and like other commentators - David Brooks, E.J. Dionne, Ceci Connolly - thought that he was repeating himself in the Q & A session. So we decided to do a break-down of the words and see if anything stood out. Well, he did repeat things - especially about Hussein. He used the word "threat" 17 times, "pray" 8 times, "12 years" 7 times, and variants of "disarm" 41 times. Plus, a couple of cowboy expressions: "It's time for people to show their cards" and "we must smoke these al Qaeda types out".

There wasn't much new in the speech - either about the inspections or the diplomatic process. However, Bush did mention a "federation" when talking about a post-invasion Iraq. That won't please the Turks. Or was it meant to put pressure on them?

In any event, here's the breakdown:

TOPIC BUSH'S REMARKS (not necessarily in the order that they were made during the press conference.)
  • Saddam Hussein is a threat to our nation.
  • I believe Saddam Hussein is a threat to the American people.
  • I believe Saddam Hussein is a threat -- is a threat to the American people.
  • There's a lot of facts which make it clear to me and many others that Saddam is a threat.
  • He's a threat to people in his neighborhood.
  • I believe he's a threat to the neighborhood in which he lives. And I've got a good evidence to believe that.
  • He's invaded countries in his neighborhood.
  • He's also a threat to the Iraqi people.
  • He doesn't allow dissent.
  • He doesn't believe in the values we believe in.
  • He's a master at deception.
  • By the way, he declared he didn't have any [WMD's] -- 1441 insisted that he have a complete declaration of his weapons; he said he didn't have any weapons. Secondly, he's used these weapons before. I mean, this is -- we're not speculating about the nature of the man. We know the nature of the man.
  • We're not going to hope that he changes his attitude.
  • We're not going to assume that he's a different kind of person than he has been.
  • He has weapons of mass destruction, and he has used weapons of mass destruction, in his neighborhood and on his own people.
  • He tortures his own people.
  • He's a murderer.
  • He has trained and financed al Qaeda-type organizations before, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
  • ... it's his choice to make as to whether or not we go to war
  • It's Saddam's choice.
  • He's the person that can make the choice of war and peace.
  • Thus far, he's made the wrong choice.

I take the threat seriously, and I'll deal with the threat. I hope it can be done peacefully.

Security Council
  • Well, we're still in the final stages of diplomacy. I'm spending a lot of time on the phone, talking to fellow leaders about the need for the United Nations Security Council to state the facts, which is Saddam Hussein hasn't disarmed. Fourteen forty-one, the Security Council resolution passed unanimously last fall, said clearly that Saddam Hussein has one last chance to disarm. He hasn't disarmed. And so we're working with Security Council members to resolve this issue at the Security Council.
  • This is not only an important moment for the security of our nation, I believe it's an important moment for the Security Council, itself. And the reason I say that is because this issue has been before the Security Council -- the issue of disarmament of Iraq -- for 12 long years. And the fundamental question facing the Security Council is, will its words mean anything? When the Security Council speaks, will the words have merit and weight?
  • I think it's important for those words to have merit and weight, because I understand that in order to win the war against terror there must be a united effort to do so; we must work together to defeat terror.
  • That's what the United Nations Security Council has been talking about for 12 long years. It's now time for this issue to come to a head at the Security Council, and it will. As far as ultimatums and all the speculation about what may or may not happen, after next week, we'll just wait and see.
  • Well, we're days away from resolving this issue at the Security Council.
  • Well, first, I don't think -- it basically says that he's in defiance of 1441. That's what the resolution says. And it's hard to believe anybody is saying he isn't in defiance of 1441, because 1441 said he must disarm. And, yes, we'll call for a vote.
  • No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It's time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.
  • We, of course, are consulting with our allies at the United Nations.
  • ... I first went to the United Nations to begin with, on September the 12th, 2002, to address this issue as forthrightly as I knew how. That's why, months later, we went to the Security Council to get another resolution, called 1441, which was unanimously approved by the Security Council, demanding that Saddam Hussein disarm.
  • I think if you remember back prior to the resolution coming out of the United Nations last fall, I suspect you might have asked a question along those lines -- how come you can't get anybody to support your resolution. If I remember correctly, there was a lot of doubt as to whether or not we were even going to get any votes, much -- well, we'd get our own, of course. And the vote came out 15 to nothing, Terry. And I think you'll see when it's all said and done, if we have to use force, a lot of nations will be with us.
  • Anything that's debated must have resolution to this issue. It makes no sense to allow this issue to continue on and on, in the hopes that Saddam Hussein disarms. The whole purpose of the debate is for Saddam to disarm. We gave him a chance. As a matter of fact, we gave him 12 years of chances. But, recently, we gave him a chance, starting last fall. And it said, last chance to disarm. The resolution said that. And had he chosen to do so, it would be evident that he's disarmed.
Perception that the U.S. is defying the U.N.
  • No, I'm not worried about that. As a matter of fact, it's hard to say the United States is defiant about the United Nations, when I was the person that took the issue to the United Nations, September the 12th, 2002. We've been working with the United Nations. We've been working through the United Nations.
  • Secondly, I'm confident the American people understand that when it comes to our security, if we need to act, we will act, and we really don't need United Nations approval to do so. I want to work -- I want the United Nations to be effective. It's important for it to be a robust, capable body. It's important for it's words to mean what they say, and as we head into the 21st century, Mark, when it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission.
  • But I meant what I said, this is the last phase of diplomacy. A little bit more time? Saddam Hussein has had 12 years to disarm. He is deceiving people. This is what's important for our fellow citizens to realize; that if he really intended to disarm, like the world has asked him to do, we would know whether he was disarming. He's trying to buy time. I can understand why -- he's been successful with these tactics for 12 years.
  • First, for those who urge more diplomacy, I would simply say that diplomacy hasn't worked. We've tried diplomacy for 12 years. Saddam Hussein hasn't disarmed, he's armed.
  • I believe that when we see totalitarianism, that we must deal with it. We don't have to do it always militarily. But this is a unique circumstance, because of 12 years of denial and defiance, because of terrorist connections, because of past history.
  • France and Germany expressed their opinions. We have a disagreement over how best to deal with Saddam Hussein. I understand that. Having said that, they're still our friends and we will deal with them as friends. We've got a lot of common interests. Our transatlantic relationships are very important. While they may disagree with how we deal with Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction, there's no disagreement when it came time to vote on 1441, at least as far as France was concerned. They joined us. They said Saddam Hussein has one last chance of disarming. If they think more time will cause him to disarm, I disagree with that.
  • So more time, more inspectors, more process, in our judgment, is not going to affect the peace of the world. So whatever is resolved is going to have some finality to it, so that Saddam Hussein will take us seriously.
Faith / Prayer
  • My faith sustains me because I pray daily. I pray for guidance and wisdom and strength. If we were to commit our troops -- if we were to commit our troops -- I would pray for their safety, and I would pray for the safety of innocent Iraqi lives, as well.
  • One thing that's really great about our country, April, is there are thousands of people who pray for me that I'll never see and be able to thank. But it's a humbling experience to think that people I will never have met have lifted me and my family up in prayer. And for that I'm grateful. That's -- it's been -- it's been a comforting feeling to know that is true. I pray for peace, April. I pray for peace.
Terrorism / Terrorists
  • And our fellow Americans must understand in this new war against terror, that we not only must chase down al Qaeda terrorists, we must deal with weapons of mass destruction, as well.
  • We did nothing to provoke that terrorist attack. It came upon us because there's an enemy which hates America. They hate what we stand for. We love freedom and we're not changing. And, therefore, so long as there's a terrorist network like al Qaeda, and others willing to fund them, finance them, equip them -- we're at war.
  • September the 11th changed the strategic thinking, at least, as far as I was concerned, for how to protect our country. My job is to protect the American people. It used to be that we could think that you could contain a person like Saddam Hussein, that oceans would protect us from his type of terror. September the 11th should say to the American people that we're now a battlefield, that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist organization could be deployed here at home. So, therefore, I think the threat is real. And so do a lot of other people in my government. And since I believe the threat is real, and since my most important job is to protect the security of the American people, that's precisely what we'll do.
  • ... it's hard to envision more terror on America than September the 11th, 2001.
  • Colin Powell, in an eloquent address to the United Nations, described some of the information we were at liberty of talking about. He mentioned a man named Al Zarqawi, who was in charge of the poison network. He's a man who was wounded in Afghanistan, received aid in Baghdad, ordered the killing of a U.S. citizen, USAID employee, was harbored in Iraq. There is a poison plant in Northeast Iraq. To assume that Saddam Hussein knew none of this was going on is not to really understand the nature of the Iraqi society.
  • My job is to protect America, and that is exactly what I'm going to do. People can ascribe all kinds of intentions. I swore to protect and defend the Constitution; that's what I swore to do. I put my hand on the Bible and took that oath, and that's exactly what I am going to do.
  • ... we live in a dangerous world. We live in new circumstances in our country. And I hope people remember the -- I know they remember the tragedy of September the 11th, but I hope they understand the lesson of September the 11th. The lesson is, is that we're vulnerable to attack, wherever it may occur, and we must take threats which gather overseas very seriously. We don't have to deal with them all militarily. But we must deal with them.
  • Iraq is a part of the war on terror. Iraq is a country that has got terrorist ties. It's a country with wealth. It's a country that trains terrorists, a country that could arm terrorists.
  • This is a society, Ron, who -- which has been decimated by his murderous ways, [Saddam's] torture.
  • I believe this society, the Iraqi society can develop in a much better way.
Demands / The Mission
  • Our demands are that Saddam Hussein disarm. We hope he does. We have worked with the international community to convince him to disarm. If he doesn't disarm, we'll disarm him.
  • I wish that Saddam Hussein had listened to the demands of the world and disarmed. That was my hope.
  • Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament. And in order to disarm, it would mean regime change.
  • I'm hopeful that he does disarm. But, in the name of peace and the security of our people, if he won't do so voluntarily, we will disarm him. And other nations will join him -- join us in disarming him.
  • ... if [Americans who think Saddam should be disarmed, but feel Bush hasn't presented the case for first-strike] believe he should be disarmed, and he's not going to disarm, there's only one way to disarm him. And that happens to be my last choice -- the use of force. Secondly, the American people know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.
  • [Hussein] has no intention of disarming -- otherwise, we would have known.
  • ... in the name of security and peace, if we have to -- if we have to -- we'll disarm him. I hope he disarms. Or, perhaps, I hope he leaves the country. I hear a lot of talk from different nations around where Saddam Hussein might be exiled. That would be fine with me -- just so long as Iraq disarms after he's exiled.
  • ... in the case of Iraq, it is now time for him to disarm. For the sake of peace, if we have to use our troops, we will.
  • I've not made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully. Hopefully, that as a result of the pressure that we have placed -- and others have placed -- that Saddam will disarm and/or leave the country.
Coalition of the willing
  • But America is not alone in this sentiment. There are a lot of countries who fully understand the threat of Saddam Hussein. A lot of countries realize that the credibility of the Security Council is at stake -- a lot of countries, like America, who hope that he would have disarmed, and a lot of countries which realize that it may require force -- may require force -- to disarm him.
  • If we have to, for the sake of the security of the American people, for the sake of peace in the world, and for freedom to the Iraqi people, we will disarm Saddam Hussein. And by we, it's more than America. A lot of nations will join us.
The Troops
  • [There is] a certain sense of anxiety; I understand that. Nobody likes war. The only thing I can do is assure the loved ones of those who wear our uniform that if we have to go to war, if war is upon us because Saddam Hussein has made that choice, we will have the best equipment available for our troops, the best plan available for victory, and we will respect innocent life in Iraq.
  • I've thought long and hard about the use of troops. I think about it all the time. It is my responsibility to commit the troops. I believe we'll prevail -- I know we'll prevail.
  • I'm confident we'll be able to achieve that objective, in a way that minimizes the loss of life. No doubt there's risks in any military operation; I know that. But it's very clear what we intend to do. And our mission won't change. Our mission is precisely what I just stated. We have got a plan that will achieve that mission, should we need to send forces in.
Others We will give people a chance to leave. And we don't want anybody in harm's way who shouldn't be in harm's way. The journalists who are there should leave. If you're going, and we start action, leave. The inspectors -- we don't want people in harm's way. And our intention -- we have no quarrel with anybody other than Saddam and his group of killers who have destroyed a society. And we will do everything we can, as I mentioned -- and I mean this -- to protect innocent life.
  • I think of the risks, calculated the cost of inaction versus the cost of action. And I'm firmly convinced, if we have to, we will act, in the name of peace and in the name of freedom.
  • There is a huge cost when we get attacked. There is a significant cost to our society -- first of all, there is the cost of lives. It's an immeasurable cost -- 3,000 people died. This is a significant cost to our economy. Opportunity loss is an immeasurable cost, besides the cost of repairing buildings, and cost to our airlines. And so, the cost of an attack is significant.
  • If I thought we were safe from attack, I would be thinking differently. But I see a gathering threat. I mean, this is a true, real threat to America. And, therefore, we will deal with it. And at the appropriate time, Ed, we will ask for a supplemental. And that will be the moment where you and others will be able to recognize what we think the dollar cost of a conflict will be.
  • The risk of doing nothing, the risk of hoping that Saddam Hussein changes his mind and becomes a gentle soul, the risk that somehow -- that inaction will make the world safer, is a risk I'm not willing to take for the American people.
  • The price of doing nothing exceeds the price of taking action, if we have to. We'll do everything we can to minimize the loss of life. The price of the attacks on America, the cost of the attacks on America on September the 11th were enormous. They were significant. And I am not willing to take that chance again.
  • ... we're not going to wait until [Hussein] does attack.
Costs & Benefits
  • We'll present it in the form of a supplemental to the spenders. We don't get to spend the money, as you know. We have to request the expenditure of money from the Congress, and, at the appropriate time, we'll request a supplemental. We're obviously analyzing all aspects. We hope we don't go to war; but if we should, we will present a supplemental.
  • How do you measure the benefit of freedom in Iraq? I guess, if you're an Iraqi citizen you can measure it by being able to express your mind and vote. How do you measure the consequence of taking a dictator out of -- out of power who has tried to invade Kuwait? Or somebody who may some day decide to lob a weapon of mass destruction on Israel -- how would you weigh the cost of that? Those are immeasurable costs. And I weigh those very seriously, Ed. In terms of the dollar amount, well, we'll let you know here pretty soon.
  • You know, the benefits of such a -- of such a effort, if, in fact, we go forward and are successful, are also immeasurable.
Sharing Intel. Info.
  • You asked about sharing of intelligence, and I appreciate that, because we do share a lot of intelligence with nations which may or may not agree with us in the Security Council as to how to deal with Saddam Hussein and his threats. We have got roughly 90 countries engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom, chasing down the terrorists.
  • We do communicate a lot, and we will continue to communicate a lot. We must communicate. We must share intelligence; we must share -- we must cut off money together; we must smoke these al Qaeda types out one at a time. It's in our national interest, as well, that we deal with Saddam Hussein.
Turkey I support Turkey going into the E.U. Turkey's a friend. They're a NATO ally. We will continue to work with Turkey. We've got contingencies in place that, should our troops not come through Turkey -- not be allowed to come through Turkey. And, no, that won't cause any more hardship for our troops; I'm confident of that.
  • I recognize there are people who -- who don't like war. I don't like war.
  • Well, first, I -- I appreciate societies in which people can express their opinion. That society -- free speech stands in stark contrast to Iraq.
  • Secondly, I've seen all kinds of protests since I've been the President. I remember the protests against trade. A lot of people didn't feel like free trade was good for the world. I completely disagree. I think free trade is good for both wealthy and impoverished nations. But that didn't change my opinion about trade. As a matter of fact, I went to the Congress to get trade promotion authority out.
Freedom, Liberty, & God One of the things we love in America is freedom. If I may, I'd like to remind you what I said at the State of the Union: liberty is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to each and every person. And that's what I believe.
  • Well, I hope we don't have to go to war, but if we go to war, we will disarm Iraq. And if we go to war, there will be a regime change. And replacing this cancer inside of Iraq will be a government that represents the rights of all the people, a government which represents the voices of the Shia and Sunni and the Kurds.
  • We care about the suffering of the Iraqi people. I mentioned in my opening comments that there's a lot of food ready to go in. There's something like 55,000 oil-for-food distribution points in Iraq. We know where they are. We fully intend to make sure that they're -- got ample food. We know where their hospitals are; we want to make sure they've got ample medical supplies. The life of the Iraqi citizen is going to dramatically improve.
  • I'm convinced that a liberated Iraq will be -- will be important for that troubled part of the world. The Iraqi people are plenty capable of governing themselves. Iraq is a sophisticated society. Iraq's got money. Iraq will provide a place where people can see that the Shia and the Sunni and the Kurds can get along in a federation. Iraq will serve as a catalyst for change, positive change.
  • ... out of that disarmament of Saddam will come a better world, particularly for the people who live in Iraq.
Project for the New American Century -type stuff ... there's a lot more at stake than just American security, and the security of people close by Saddam Hussein. Freedom is at stake, as well, and I take that very seriously.
Miscellany There's a lot of talk about inspectors. It really would have taken a handful of inspectors to determine whether he was disarming -- they could have showed up at a parking lot and he could have brought his weapons and destroyed them. That's not what he chose to do.
North Korea
  • This is a regional issue. I say a regional issue because there's a lot of countries that have got a direct stake into whether or not North Korea has nuclear weapons. We've got a stake as to whether North Korea has a nuclear weapon. China clearly has a stake as to whether or not North Korea has a nuclear weapon. South Korea, of course, has a stake. Japan has got a significant stake as to whether or not North Korea has a nuclear weapon. Russia has a stake.
  • So, therefore, I think the best way to deal with this is in multilateral fashion, by convincing those nations they must stand up to their responsibility, along with the United States, to convince Kim Jong-il that the development of a nuclear arsenal is not in his nation's interest; and that should he want help in easing the suffering of the North Korean people, the best way to achieve that help is to not proceed forward.
  • We've tried bilateral negotiations with North Korea. My predecessor, in a good-faith effort, entered into a framework agreement. The United States honored its side of the agreement; North Korea didn't. While we felt the agreement was in force, North Korea was enriching uranium.
  • In my judgment, the best way to deal with North Korea is convince parties to assume their responsibility. I was heartened by the fact that Jiang Zemin, when he came to Crawford, Texas, made it very clear to me and publicly, as well, that a nuclear weapons-free peninsula was in China's interest. And so we're working with China and the other nations I mentioned to bring a multilateral pressure and to convince Kim Jong-il that the development of a nuclear arsenal is not in his interests.
  • I'm concerned about North Korea developing nuclear weapons, not only for their own use, but for -- perhaps they might choose to proliferate them, sell them. They may end up in the hands of dictators, people who are not afraid of using weapons of mass destruction, people who try to impose their will on the world or blackmail free nations. I'm concerned about it.
  • We are working hard to bring a diplomatic solution. And we've made some progress. After all, the IAEA asked that the Security Council take up the North Korean issue. It's now in the Security Council. Constantly talking with the Chinese and the Russians and the Japanese and the South Koreans. Colin Powell just went overseas and spent some time in China, went to the inauguration of President Roh in South Korea; spent time in China. We're working the issue hard, and I'm optimistic that we'll come up with a diplomatic solution. I certainly hope so.

For some insightful commentary about the press conference (especially about the two-part questions), check out CalPundit.

For non-insightful commentary, read Tim Russert. Excerpt:
He laid out the case in his way - an interesting way. He said something very straightforward, that he has analyzed all the information, all the intelligence, all the data. That he had concluded as commander-in-chief that Saddam Hussein is a risk to American security and that he has made a decision. Therefore he has to act and has a constitutional duty to act.
Which is a polite way of saying that Bush didn't tell us anything - after all, it's Bush who "analyzed all the information", "all the intelligence", "all the data" - and will act on it. So don't bother the guy!

A BIT MORE: Even Andrew Sullivan thought the press conference was sub-par:
Man, he looked and sounded exhausted. The spin is that he was trying to look calm and reassuring. I just thought he looked wiped. There were moments when he almost seemed catatonic with fatigue.     ...     All in all, though, this press conference struck me as a mistake. He looked drained, wan, exhausted from this interminable diplomatic process. He seemed defeated to me ...
The first full-blown press conference in ages - "the second Bush has conducted in prime time during his presidency" - and Bush wasn't prepared? Our guess is that he did his best - and it simply isn't good enough. Bush can read a speech, but when he's on his own, he's very unimpressive.


Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Oh, my God!

Nicholas Kristof writes an essay in the Liberal New York Times where he calmly notes that half of Americans believe in creationism and then chides the "educated elite" for what he calls a "sneering tone about conservative Christianity". He thinks it's fine to critique "evangelical-backed policies", but then confuses frustration with the reasoning behind the policies with a contempt for the faithful. That's lazy thinking, and playing to the crowds. Few deny the sincerity or question the motives of the faithful. The issue - at least where evolution/creationism is concerned - is which world view is most consistent with the evidence at hand. Science is empirical, inferential, and deductive. Creationism is not. It's fair to object to any philosophical system that answers questions about nature by reference to sacred writ. But Kristof ducks the issue and presents it as one bigot insulting another. What a shame. And from a Harvard Phi Beta Kappa who should know better. How to explain it? We think we've found the answer:


Monday, March 03, 2003

Does the Washington Times crib from Tom ?

The always insightful Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo brings to our attention news of Elliot Abrams firing NSC staff members, and cites this Washington Times report (for 25 February 2003).

After reading it, we wanted to refresh our memory about Abrams. So we typed "Elliot Abrams" into Google and went to the 1st entry in the list - a story (from Dec 11 2002) over at Tom Some of the material sounded familiar, and after further checking we think that the Times reporter (Richard Sale, UPI Intelligence Correspondent) copied material written by the Tom reporter (Jim Lobe). Here is what we found:
Washington Times
25 February 2003
11 December 2002
... Elliott Abrams, the controversial former Reagan administration official ...Abrams, who first came to national prominence as a controversial political appointee in the Reagan administration ....
In 1991, Abrams was indicted by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for giving false testimony before Congress in 1987 about his role in illicitly raising money for the Nicaraguan Contras. He pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses of withholding information to Congress in order to avoid a trial and a possible jail term.
    He was pardoned by President George H. W. Bush along with a number of other Iran-Contra defendants
on Christmas night 1992.
He was indicted by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for giving false testimony about his role in illicitly raising money for the Contras but pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses of withholding information to Congress in order to avoid a trial and a possible jail term.  He was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush along with a number of other Iran-Contra defendants in 1992.
Did Richard Sale copy the text found on Tom and add a few things? (e.g. "before Congress in 1997", "Nicaraguan", "on Christmas night")

Or last winter, did Jim Lobe go into a time machine set for the future, purchase a copy of the Washington Times, return, and use it in his report?


Sunday, March 02, 2003

What the President is reading:

In a Newsweek cover story called, Bush and God, authored by Howard Fineman and four other people, we read:
George W. Bush rises ahead of the dawn most days ... [and] goes off to a quiet place to read alone. His text isn't news summaries or the overnight intelligence dispatches. ... [I]t's a book of evangelical mini-sermons, "My Utmost for His Highest." The author is Oswald Chambers, and, under the circumstances, the historical echoes are loud. A Scotsman and itinerant Baptist preacher, Chambers died in November 1917 as he was bringing the Gospel to Australian and New Zealand soldiers massed in Egypt. By Christmas they had helped to wrest Palestine from the Turks, and captured Jerusalem for the British Empire at the end of World War I.
First of all, how about that business of the book being tied to British (and Christian) conquest of Jerusalem? That's gotta play well in the Arab world.

But we were interested in this Oswald Chambers guy and his book. It turns out that his book is a collection of daily meditations - all Bible based. It's very popular with readers (of 33 reviews at, all but two were 5-star). But one non-5-star reviewer had this to say: (emphasis added)
Chambers' devotional classic is long on practical advice for Christian living, but theologically confused. This is astonishing, considering the author sat under the preaching of the great C H Spurgeon, heir to the Reformed Puritan tradition. It is mystical, even gnostic or pelagian in many places.       There is no mention of a church, of the sacraments. Instead, the Christian "worker" is portrayed as an isolated self-made spiritual giant. The influences are clearly Wesleyan with references to entire sanctification and the second blessing. Spurgeon's meticulous teaching is rejected through Chambers' confusion of the classic Protestant doctrine of justification with sanctification. The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross for the sins of God's people is strangely bypassed - instead the crucifixion is depicted as a mystical "higher life" example of how individual Christians are to live. There is much practical wisdom, but READ WITH DISCERNMENT!
If this reader is correct (and it sound so, judging from the review), this does not bode well for the welfare of Americans. To make a long story short, sanctification means you are acceptable-to-god/holy/righteous (whatever you want to call it). But generally speaking, this has been associated with justification - the doing of good works, being a responsible citizen, etc. We wrote about John Wesley two weeks ago, and considering this latest bit of information, we think it's safe to say that Bush believes he is "right by God" because of his faith alone. One need not do good works. One need not be compassionate in any practical way - merely feeling compassion is enough. Which explains why Bush is gung-ho for dismantling the Great Society. You don't have to do anything for others, just make sure your own home (or ranch) is okay, and have faith in God.

Anyway, back to Chambers and his book. There are many resources on the Internet for this guy and his book, and we checked one of them out. Here, for example, is the thought for March 2:
Have you ever felt the pain, inflicted by the Lord, at the very center of your being, deep down in the most sensitive area of your life? The devil never inflicts pain there, and neither can sin nor human emotions. Nothing can cut through to that part of our being but the Word of God. ...
The Devil, God shaping human events, and being a special ("sanctified") human being. These are all real in Bush's mind.


Are you certain?

John Balzar writes in the Sunday Los Angeles times: (excerpts)
  • On one day recently, three people I respect used the same two words by way of discussing Iraq: "moral certainty."   ...   Implicit in these conversations was a riddle. How can anyone be "morally certain" about war?

  • ... we hear rousing moral preaching about "evil" or "infidels."

  • William Lesher, president emeritus of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, puts it this way: "Moral certainty is not a tenet that stems from mainline religious ethics in the contemporary world. Moral certainty, for the most part, is a luxury of a closed mind ... a fundamentalist religious attitude."

  • Moral certainties ... take us beyond debate. They push us toward the turf occupied by our foes -- to the terrain of fanaticism, where the eye beholds only good or evil, light or darkness.

  • "This is not political discourse. This is actually the language of religious zealots, whether they be Christian or Muslim. It's the language of children's stories," says Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton University. "The trouble with this kind of language, as I see it, is that it's very powerful. In a way, it bypasses the brain."
Bypasses the brain? In that case, it's perfect for Bush. After all, even Peggy Noonan has gushed about how Bush makes decisions based on his "gut":
I had the hunch that Mr. Bush, who had succeeded as a Texas governor in part by relying on his gut sense of people, events, meaning, went into the White House wondering if his gut would be up to the job. If it would give him the guidance it had given in Texas, if it was up to the demands of a presidency. Then Sept. 11 came, and he was thrown back onto his inner resources. He had to use his gut to make big quick decisions. The one time he didn't follow his gut--when he didn't return immediately to the White House after the attacks--he made a big mistake. So he went with his gut thereafter, and in the next 12 months he concluded his gut was up to the challenge.