Monthly Archives: December 2004

What Mandate?

Joshua Muravchik, in the January Commentary, examines The New York Times’ shifting view of what constitutes an electoral mandate:

Several of the President’s detractors hastened to suggest that his relatively narrow margin of victory – amounting to 3 percent of the popular vote – should not be taken as a “mandate.” Whether they would have said the same had Bush’s Democratic opponent won by a like amount is doubtful.

The New York Times, for example, has regularly questioned the presence of a mandate in recent elections – but only when the winner has been a Republican. In 1980, when Ronald Reagan bested incumbent President Jimmy Carter by 10 percentage points, the paper’s editors observed that his “mandate,” a word they themselves put in suspicion arousing quotation marks, had “little policy content,” a position they reiterated four years later when Reagan won reelection over Walter Mondale by a whopping 18 percentage points ( a “lonely landslide” and “a personal victory with little precise policy mandate.”) Nor could the 8- point victory by Bush’s father over Michael Dukakis “fairly be called a mandate,” asserted the paper in 1988.

Whenever a Democrat has won, by contrast, the Times has perceived things differently. After Bill Clinton’s first victory (by 6 percentage points) in 1992, the eidtors commented: “The test now will be how quickly President-elect Clinton can convert his mandate into momentum.” When he won re-election (by 8 points) in 1996, it repeated the thought – “There can be no question about his mandate” – and added a little civics lesson: “The American people express their clearest opinion about what they want government to do through their choice of chief executive.”

The Myth of the Invincible Terrorist

Is the Romance of Terrorism played out? The Journal editorial page thinks so.

Tsunami Spin

The obsessive Bush haters are descending into self-parody. UN bureaucrat Jan Egeland (from Norway) implied the other day that “climate change” (presumably caused by the United States) had something to do with the Indian Ocean earthquake and subsequent tidal waves while he further indicted the Bush administration for being “stingy” in aiding the victims.

Other spinners are declaring Bush obsessed with fighting terrorism, which usually requires lethal force, at the expense of the victims of natural disaster. Regardless of whether or not this charge is true, these critics can’t comprehend that the president takes an oath “to defend and protect” the United States – not the entire world. When it comes to defending the world from murderous people, they tell us we can’t be the “world’s policeman,” but they are all for us playing Santa.

Of course, the United States is already doing more to defend and protect the entire world than the rest of the developed countries put together. But none of that cuts the mustard with those who are less concerned with alleviating pain in Southeast Asia than they are in regaining power in Washington.

Political Science

Science becomes politicized and millions die (from today’s Wall Street Journal):

Death by Environmentalist

Aid workers tending to the ravaged islands and coastlines of southern Asia say a big concern is an outbreak of malaria and other waterborne diseases in the aftermath of Sunday’s tsunami. Which reminds us of a just-out World Health Organization report anticipating a shortage in a key antimalarial drug for next year.

The drug, known as Coartem, is the most effective on the market. WHO officials estimate that 60 million doses are needed for 2005. But Novartis, the maker of Coartem, says its Chinese supplier of an essential natural ingredient for the combination therapy came up short. Therefore, only about 30 million doses of the drug will be available.

This news about treatments wouldn’t be so devastating but for the fact that the international groups in charge still can’t get malaria prevention under control. And that’s the real tragedy. A blight that has been all but eliminated in the West, malaria still claims between one million and two million lives every year in the underdeveloped world. Most of its victims reside in black Africa, and 90% of those are pregnant women and children under five.

Beyond the human toll are the economic consequences, which help keep these nations in poverty’s tight grip. It’s been estimated that malaria costs Africa 1.2% of its GDP, or some $12 billion annually. The pandemic compromises the educational development of the children it doesn’t kill, and it depletes the mental and physical vigor of the adult population.

The saddest aspect of this tragedy may be that making things right isn’t that complicated or expensive. We have the means and the know-how. What’s missing is the political will. HIV infections are a fraction of malaria’s, but the former affects more people in the West, where advocates see to it that foreign aid budgets keep AIDS front and center. Third World victims of malaria don’t have lobbyists and Hollywood A-listers calling attention to their situation.

But the bigger problem is the politicized international health agencies that discourage the employment of all available tools of prevention — specifically insecticides containing DDT that is anathema to environmentalists. Bed nets and preventive medicines play important roles, but spraying homes with pesticides is vital. Use of DDT, developed during World War II and the main reason that America and Europe no longer harbor malarial mosquitoes, has been most successful in containing the disease. Still, influential groups like the U.S. Agency for International Development want DDT left out of malaria-control efforts.

Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas noted the hypocrisy of this position at a subcommittee hearing in October. AID “refuses to support and endorse the use of insecticides,” said the Senator, “even when used in small amounts — much smaller than the mass, airborne spraying that the U.S. implemented to eliminate its own malaria problem decades ago.”

This ideological opposition to synthetic chemicals has no basis in science — there is no evidence that the pesticide harms humans or causes widespread damage to nature — but it amounts to a death sentence for millions of African women and children. When South Africa stopped using DDT in 1996 at the urging of environmentalists, malaria cases rose from 6,000 in 1995 to 60,000 in 2000. DDT use resumed in 2000 in the country’s worst-hit province, KwaZulu Natal, and malaria cases fell by nearly 80% by 2001. Zambia, one of Africa’s poorest countries, also saw a tremendous drop in malaria cases when insecticide-spraying was reintroduced four years ago. Today, DDT is protecting a Zambian population of 360,000 at a cost of about $6 per household.

Earlier this year AID, which U.S. taxpayers funded to the tune of $65 million in 2003, was called to the carpet by Senators Judd Gregg and Russ Feingold for supporting the distribution of obsolete drugs in Africa. The agency’s opposition to DDT is no less appalling, especially since United Nations organizations such as WHO and the Global Fund feel pressured to follow our lead.

Congress might consider looking into exactly how AID spends its allocation and how the agency measures results. We are nearly halfway though a 12-year effort to halve malaria deaths world-wide by 2010, yet malaria cases have increased by 10% in the past few years. Obviously, bed nets aren’t getting the job done.

More Bush the Moron

Ron Suskind, Democratic polemicist, describes George Bush in a Times op-ed column as “a man with virtually no experience in foreign affairs or national domestic policy,” who “undistinguished in college, business school and in the private sector, … spent nearly 30 years sitting in seminar rooms and corporate suites while experts and high achievers held forth.”

Suskind’s characterization could have applied to Jack Kennedy who Richard Reeves, the author of a definitive account of Kennedy as president, called the least qualified man to have occupied the Oval Office up to that point. Except instead of spending years in seminar rooms and corporate suites, Kennedy spent years working his way through the Congressional secretary pool. As a businessman and governor, Bush was far more experienced than Kennedy.

Suskind criticizes Bush for picking inexperienced mediocre yes-people for his cabinet. But I remember that Kennedy did much the same thing, only he wasn’t criticized for it. The bland Dean Rusk as head of the state department was cited favorably as evidence that Kennedy wanted to be “his own secretary of state.”

Suskind is trying to resurrect the Bush as moron theme that was supposed to make that deep, nuanced thinker John Kerry president. Can Michael Moore and Al Franken be far behind?

Interesting Essays

Thanks to David Brooks for links to some interesting essays:

The Other Sixties.

When Islam Breaks Down.

See Brooks’ column today for more links.

The Most Diverse and Tolerant Society in the World

James Q. Wilson tells us why it’s ok to say Merry Christmas in America.

Do not be Fooled

Tom Friedman on a good day.

The important point:

Do not be fooled into thinking that the Iraqi gunmen in this picture are really defending their country and have no alternative. The Sunni-Baathist minority that ruled Iraq for so many years has been invited, indeed begged, to join in this election and to share in the design and wealth of post-Saddam Iraq.

As the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum so rightly pointed out to me, “These so-called insurgents in Iraq are the real fascists, the real colonialists, the real imperialists of our age.” They are a tiny minority who want to rule Iraq by force and rip off its oil wealth for themselves. It’s time we called them by their real names.

The Turning Point

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly
…Macbeth

After yesterday’s attack on an American base in Iraq, it seems to me the Bush administration is at a turning point in the war. Among the many lessons of Vietnam, most of them bogus, one of the true ones is: The American people will not tolerate a war where the objective isn’t to win as quickly as possible. From here, it seems the administration’s objective is something other than to win as quickly as possible.

Waiting for the elections and the creation of a viable Iraqi army while Americans are being blown up every day will not do. And emotional presidential statements about how the sacrifices are not in vain are getting a little old.

While the blue state media and the Euro-pacifists may complain about terrorist “abuse” at Guantanamo, I doubt that many Americans care. What most Americans do care about is American passivity in the face of an increasingly brazen enemy.

If the Bush administration doesn’t do what it takes to bring this “insurgency” to a halt with due haste, the public will pull the plug. The public will support more troops to Iraq and a larger military if that’s what it takes. They will also support more innocent bystander casualties if that’s what it takes. And they’ll support air raids into Syria and Iran (Bombing the known nuclear facilities would send a clear message on the war as well as setting back their nuclear weapons program) if that’s what it takes.

Sixty years ago, Harry Truman decided to bring World War II in the Pacific to a close by dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. The decision forced the Japanese to face the fact that their cause was unequivocally lost and in the process almost certainly saved, in the end, American and Japanese lives . Despite the periodic attempts of left wing revisionist academics to villify that decision, Truman’s reputation remains strong.

We need to show the insurgents and their patrons that their cause is equally lost. Needless to say, I’m no military expert, but I’m sure the lesson could be clearly sent by means well short of going nuclear. Right now, the bad guys think they’re winning, while our soldiers are seen as helpless victims. This is an equation the American people will not accept for much longer.

Saddam's Mafia

The Journal describes the unfinished war.