Tuesday, January 07, 2003
CRACKING THE NORTH KOREAN NUT: I’ve been remiss in posting on North Korea. My thoughts on the current situation:

1) Give up the blame game. Josh Marshall and David Adesnik are playing a good game of tag about whether the Bush administration is respinsible for the current situation. Marshall thinks Bush's rejection of Kim Dae Jung's "sunshine policy" and inclusion of North Korea in the "Axis of Evil" caused the situation to deteriorate to our current state of affairs. Adesnik points out in response that it was the North Koreans who started a uranium enrichment program in 1999 and declared last fall that the 1994 Agreed Framework was null and void.

Look, there's enough blame to go around. Dole out most of it to the North Korean leadership, who decided to go down this road back in 1999, and then reacted belligerently when confronted with evidence of their duplicity. Dole out some of it to the Bush administration, for publicly rebuking Kim Dae Jung's sunshine policy in early 2001 instead of privately consulting with him. This has undoubtedly complicated bilateral relations, though not as much as Josh Marshall wants to think. But be sure to dole out some more to both Kim Dae Jung and Junichiro Koizumi, for blindly pursuing engagement policies towards Pyongyang, pretending that North Korea would never trigger a reprise of the 1994 crisis, and then blaming the United States for discovering that they were being played for saps.

2) This is more serious than Iraq. Robert Lane Greene does a nice job of explaining why North Korea is just as bad as Iraq. Greene undersells it, however, since North Korea has a much greater incentive to proliferate than Iraq. Pyongyang knows that the more rogue states possess nuclear weapons, the more difficult it will be for the U.S. to focus on North Korea. However, while Iraq probably doesn't want Syria, Iran, or Turkmenistan to acquire nukes, North Korea simply doesn't care. Furthermore, Iraq has at best a nascent nuclear weapons program; North Korea has gobs of enriched plutonium and the necessary delivery mechanisms.

3) “All policy options stink.” When I was researching the 1994 episode for my book, that quote from a high-ranking U.S. policymaker rang true. Even though North Korea is now more dependent on trade with the outside world, economic sanctions won’t return things to the status quo. The simple fact is that North Korea anticipates future conflicts with the U.S., so it views any concession made in the present to undercut its bargaining leverage in the future. The sanctions would be costly, but to the DPRK leadership, giving in would be costlier. Furthermore, as in 1994, North Korea has made it clear that it equates sanctions with war. The threat of multilateral sanctions provides some leverage, but not a lot.

Military statecraft is fraught with risk. Any attempted regime change would devastate Seoul. A limited strike against the Yongbyon reactor would not solve the WMD problem, and could invite North Korean retaliation. Plus, as I pointed out in October, there is the problem of having China and Russia very close by.

As in 1994, inducements combined with the threat of coercion could buy a stalemate for a few years. The problem with this is twofold. First, once it gobbled up the carrots, North Korea would undoubtedly defect from any agreement freezing its nuclear program. Second, consider the message this option sends, given the Bush administration position that North Korea already has nuclear weapons. It creates a clear incentive to develop a crash nuclear weapons program to ensure successful proliferation prior to being detected.

There is also the threat of disengagement – call everyone’s bluff and let China, Russia, South Korea and Japan sort everything out. This could be a useful tactic, but only to focus the attention of these countries. It would have no effect on the North Koreans.

4) Remember 1991. The first Bush administration deserves high marks for how it handled the DPRK problem. It repeatedly offered negative security guarantees – such as pulling out all tactical nuclear weapons from the peninsula – but made sure that North Korea’s allies pressured Pyongyang to reciprocate. Coercive pressure has worked on North Korea before, but only when its allies applied the pressure. China vetoed North Korea’s proposal for a 1975 invasion of South Korea; the Soviet Union was able to get the DPRK to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985 by threatening to withhold a trade agreement. Both countries successfully pressured North Korea to negotiate with South Korea. Obviously, the agreement didn’t hold up, but it did buy the region some time to prepare for the next conflict.

So, intimate to the key players the implications of DPRK proliferation (neither Russia nor China would be thrilled with the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Muslim-majority countries) and/or U.S. disengagement, and then combine some U.S. assurances of North Korean security with Chinese/Russian pressure on Pyongyang to behave better. The result of today's meeting between South Korean, Japanese, and American negotiators is a good step in this direction.

It’s not a permanent solution by any stretch of the imagination, and it will require constant coordination among five or six capitals. But, to paraphrase, all other policy options stink. The U.S. concessions that would be given to North Korea would be of the diplomatic variety, and have been repeated in the past. This eliminates -- or at least minimizes -- David Adesnik's fear of acquiescing to nuclear blackmail.

HOW TO OVERHYPE: John Zogby should know better. This is how he reports his latest poll of 2004 Democratic presidential hopefuls:

"North Carolina Senator John Edwards has surged into a tie for second place among rivals for the 2004 Democratic nomination, latest Zogby America Poll results show.

Among likely Democrats nationwide, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman leads with 11%, followed by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and North Carolina Senator John Edwards, both at 9%. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt is next at 8% and Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle follows at 7%.

In July, Edwards was a distant seventh place among 2004 Democratic hopefuls with 2% support among likely voters.

The poll of 432 likely Democratic voters, was conducted Jan. 4-6 and has a margin of sampling error of +/- 5%." (my bold italics).

Given the sampling error, a more accurate way to report this would be: "In the wake of Al Gore's decision not to seek the Democratic Party nominaion for president in 2002, the remaining hopefuls have statistically indistinguishable levels of support hovering in the high single digits."

I think John Edwards will be a serious contender for the nomination, and my guess is that Zogby believes this as well and is priming the pump. But the amount of breathless hyperbole in that copy -- given the reliability of the data -- is a bit nauseating. Maybe Zogby is plumping for Edwards, or maybe some public relations flack had way too many lattes before writing that.

UPDATE: An alert reader e-mails with the valid point that the sampling error decreases as the support numbers go to either extreme (single digits or above 80%). Still, I doubt the error figure would have declined to the point where Edwards' support is significantly greater than either Gephardt or Daschle.
THE POWER OF INSTAPUNDIT: Did the Washington press corps wake up yesterday and independently decide to focus on blogging? Yesterday it comes out that the New York Times is digging for negative comments on the hardest working man in the Blogosphere, Glenn Harlan Reynolds. Today, the Chicago Tribune runs a piece on InstaPundit, with very flattering quotes from Walter Shapiro, Michael Barone, and Arianna Huffington. Check it out, if only to see Glenn being gracious to another blogger.
Monday, January 06, 2003
THE (IM)BALANCE OF POWER IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Will Kieran Healy trash Glenn Reynolds in the New York Times? Apparently not. Will he devote considerable efforts at mimicry in an effort to put me down? Alas, yes.

Could this be because InstaPundit might get a wee bit more traffic than my blog, and therefore Kieran is too dependant on Reynold's links? Is Kieran bandwagoning? [Could you please not post in the form of a question?--ed.] Another possibility: Reynolds' mug is just scary, whereas mine is, shall we say, closer to geeky.

Oh well. At least I have Patrick Ruffini's Bloggie nominations to fall back on. Thanks, Patrick!
THE DEBATE ABOUT GLOBALIZATION AND INCOME DISTRIBUTION: Laura Secor at the Boston Globe has an outstanding article reviewing the various arguments about whether globalization leads to greater or lesser inequality between the developed and developing world. Basically, the declining-inequality argument relies on more comprehensive but shoddier World Bank data, while the increasing-inequality argument relies on better data but a more suspect time period. Then we get to the good part:

"By many accounts, even where inequality is increasing, poverty is on the decline. The 2002 UNDP Human Development report notes that the proportion of the world's people living in extreme poverty dropped from 29 percent in 1990 to 23 percent in 1999. Says [Harvard economist Benjamin] Friedman, 'If it's inequality you're worried about, the world is becoming a less good place. But if it's poverty you're worried about, while we still have a ways to go, the world is becoming a better place.'"

Other economists dispute this figure, for good reasons, but their arguments seem to me to reduce the magnitude but not the direction of the current trend. The whole piece is worth a read as an excellent (and all too rare) example of a lucid treatment of economics in the mainstream press.

UPDATE: Alan K. Henderson has some further thoughts about why poverty rather than income inequality should be the focus of the debate.
WHITE HOUSE STAFF SMACKDOWN, PART DEUX: Matt Drudge has posted an exclusive on the White House reaction to former speechwriter David Frum's new book, The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush. The money quote:

"He's going on the TODAY show to talk about North Korea, Iraq?!" an alarmed Bush intimate told the DRUDGE REPORT on Sunday. "Mr. Frum should seriously consider letting the president speak for himself on these highly volatile matters."

The Drudge excerpt suggests that there will at least be some criticism of Bush and the White House in the book, some of which echoes John DiIulio. (Among the White House staff, there was a "dearth of really high-powered brains,"). Last month, if you'll recall, John DiIulio pulled off a double verbal flip-flop over the accuracy of a Ron Suskind Esquire article on Karl Rove that quoted DiIulio extensively. The final result was DiIulio completely renouncing his remarks and abjectly apologizing to the White House, even though Suskind was quoting directly from a DiIulio e-mail. This led many (click here and here and here) to gasp in awe at the White House's (read: Karl Rove's) ironclad control over its current and former staff.

Will Frum feel similar White House pressure, and, to put it bluntly, will he have the stones to resist? My guess is yes and yes. The fact that a staffer talked to Drudge suggests that someone was trying to send a message to Frum. Furthermore, Frum's quasi-authorship of the "Axis of Evil" tag line will dredge up some potentially awkward questions about why North Korea was added to the list. However, unlike DiIulio, Frum is the author of the source of controversy, he's not a befuddled academic, and he can turn a phrase. Plus, he's a blogger, so he's got the instincts to counterattack fast and hard. He's probably got the incentive and the verbal ammunition to put up an effective resistance.

Frum announced on his blog that he's taking a 10-day break to promote the book. However, I do hope he blogs thereafter about the reactions he gets.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times and New York Daily News have more on the contents of Frum's new book. From these excerpts, it seems that Frum has another tactic in his arsenal -- reversing the conventional wisdom on Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. From the book:

"Rove was a risk taker and an intellectual. Hughes loathed risk and abhorred ideas. Rove was a reader and a questioner -- a curious man, always eager to learn. Hughes rarely read books and distrusted people who did -- anything she did not already know she saw no point in knowing."

Actually, my favorite quote comes from the Times story:

"The television show 'The West Wing' might as well have been set aboard a Klingon starship for all it resembled life inside the Bush White House."
THE PERILS OF HEGEMONIC POWER: Michael Ignatieff's cover story on empirein yesterday's New York Times Magazine will be discussed in the next few days, but I actually think James Dao's Week in Review piece on U.S. troops in Korea makes many of the same points more concisely. The problem facing the U.S. is that even though critics on all sides are currently attacking the U.S. right now for trying to dictate affairs across the globe, these same critics are also likely to assail the U.S. for any retreat from its current positions.

Imagine for a second that the U.S. announced that it had decided to heed the calls to reign in its power. Say U.S. troops were pulled out of Europe, Korea, and the Middle East. No change in our economic or cultural policies, just a withdrawal of troops from the globe. What would happen? Undoubtedly, some of the animus towards the U.S. would dissipate in the short run. However, within the next year:

1) Japan would go nuclear.
2) The Balkans would be likely to erupt again, with Macedonia being the trigger this time.
3) Afghanistan would implode.
4) India and Pakistan would likely escalate their border skirmishes.
5) Israel would escalate its quasi-military actions in the occupied territories.
6) Arab fury at the U.S. inaction in the Middle East would rise even further.
7) Anti-American activists would criticize the U.S. for isolationism and inaction in the face of global instability.

I don't deny that the looming specter of U.S. hard power in Iraq and elsewhere is eroding our capital of soft power. However, to paraphrase Churchill, the current policy is without question an awful one, until you consider the alternatives.

On the margins, I believe that more accommodating U.S. policies on trade and the environment might buy an additional amount of good will from the developing and developed world, respectively. But those changes will not conceal the overwhelming U.S. advantage in military might, nor will it erase the natural emnity that comes with it.
TALES OF TWO CONFERENCES: Both the American Economics Association and the American History Association wrapped up their annual conferences over the weekend. That their conferences are always at this time is Reason #47 that I'm glad to be a political scientist. The American Political Science Association meets over Labor Day weekend, when snarky culture journalists (many of whom are refugees from an attempted Ph.D.) are usually on vacation and thus can't write articles ridiculing my profession. No such luck for the historians, as the Chicago Tribune runs a typical (and unfair) put-down piece. However, for the AEA, no journalist can top Brad DeLong's hysterical snippets of overheard conversation. Glenn Reynolds' favorite one is here; mine is the following:

"I had an extended conversation with Joe Stiglitz on why the internet is dominated by right-wingers." "That's funny. I had an extended conversation with Bill Niskanen on why the internet is dominated by left-wingers."

P.S.: Not all media coverage of these events is condescending. Click here for an interesting summary of an AHA roundtable on plagiarism, including some surprising comments from Richard Posner.

P.P.S: Jacob Levy reminds me of another big reason why I'm glad my big conference not at this time of the year.
Thursday, January 02, 2003
KUDOS TO OXBLOG: I'm planning on posting something about North Korea in the near future, once I'm freed from child care duties. In the meantime, however, David Adesnik has been on fire over at Oxblog. Click here and here for some recent musings on the Northy Korean situation, here for some subtle analysis about anti-Americanism in recent foreign elections, and here for a marathon four-part critique of Fareed Zakaria.
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
WHY IS THE LEFT MORE SENSITIVE THAN THE RIGHT?: Virginia Postrel and Jacob Levy have posts about the inability of Randy Cohen -- The Ethicist at the New York Times -- to get past critiques of his work from conservatives and libertarians. This, combined with the somewhat snippy reaction I've received from my critique of Paul Krugman (from Krugman and his acolytes) leads to an interesting question: is the left more sensitive to criticism than the right? If so, why?

I'll admit that it might not be possible to answer the first question, since measuring such sensitivity is next to impossible. And conservatives routinely bitch and moan about unfair treatment by mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times. However, the distinguishing factor here is that in recent memory, political leaders on the right do not complain about attacks from left-wing conspiracies. The same cannot be said about political leaders on the left -- see Al Gore, Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton, or Cynthia McKinney (Bill Clinton probably felt this way too, but the longer he stayed in office the better he got at publicly shrugging off those criticisms). The claim of a coherent right-wing disinformation campaign has the peculiar stink of paranoia that renders some on the left unable to distinguish temperate from intemperate criticism. In contrast, those on the right are pretty good at shrugging off being called evil, capitalist pig-dog fascists as part of a day's work.

Why is this the case? Two possible explanations:

1) The left takes things personally. When you have a political disagreement with someone on the right side of the spectrum, the tendency is to have a good fight and then go out for a drink. When you have a a political disagreement with someone on the left side of the spectrum, the tendency is for that person to believe that the disagreement is an indication of a deep character flaw. More (admittedly superficial) proof: run a Google search on "evil" and "right-wing" and you get 135,000 hits; do the same thing with "left-wing" and you only get back 55,000 hits. [Hey, I did the same thing with "liberal" and "conservative", and the liberals had more hits, 426,000 to 380,000---ed. OK, but do the same thing with "Democrat" and "Republican" and the Republicans win, 244,000 to 102,000].

2) Liberals have yet to adjust to the fact that they've graduated from college. Until recently, campuses were thought to be centers of gravity for political liberals. This was certainly the case when I was in school. Anyway, those who form their political positions in a world a like-minded souls are not used to having such views challenged. Those who were conservatives in school were used to being attacked, and as a result are not fazed by it later in life. Liberals face a much harsher political adjustment when they exit the ivory tower.

If it's the first explanation, there's not much that can be done about it. If it's the second, however, then liberals are likely to become much less sensitive -- and conservatives more so -- in the near future. As both David Brooks and George Packer have recently observed, students are increasingly conservative. Over time, liberals will adapt to criticism at an earlier stage, while conservatives will grow more sensitive as they find intellectual kinship at an earlier age.


UPDATE: If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Kieran Healy really likes me. [Dude, he's parodying you--ed. Yes, but I'm not sensitive about it!]

Monday, December 30, 2002
WHAT'S SO WRONG ABOUT U.S. FOREIGN POLICY?: The growth of anti-Americanism as a successful campaign tactic has prompted some musings about whether U.S. foreign policy under the Bush administration is too aggressive, too unilateral, and/or too tone-deaf. Josh Marshall argues yes; Jackson Diehl and Glenn Reynolds say no. Let's review the list, shall we?

Too aggressive? Hardly. Too aggressive implies that the force of arms is used when alternative means of statecraft, including diplomacy, could be used as effective substitutes. One would be hard-pressed to find such an instance over the past two years. Consider:
-- When a U.S. spy plane was shot down over China, the crisis was defused without even a threat of force;
-- Given that the Taliban hosted the Al Qaeda netowrk, and given that the regime was dependant on Al Qaeda's resources, one can hardly call our response too aggressive;
-- For two of the three members of the axis of evil -- North Korea and Iran -- there has been no American provocations, unless one count the Axis of Evil Speech itself. Of course, given these governments' behavior in the past year, it's hard to debate that classification;
-- There are several "allied" governments -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen -- where regime change might not be such a bad idea, but the Bush administration has been silent;
-- On Iraq, there is no question that the administration has taken an aggressive posture -- since 9/11. Prior to that date, as Diehl points out, the administration was actually pursuing a dovish policy on Iraqi sanctions.
I'm not seeing a whole lot of unchecked aggression here.

Too unilateralist? Not recently. In its first six months, the administration committed the cardinal sin of assuming that it should reflexively oppose any policy initiative supported by the Clinton administration. No doubt, this led to some process-oriented mistakes, such as pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol. However, both domestic and foreign critics need to get over their first impression on this score. Consider:
-- U.S. actions against Al Qaeda and Afghanistan came witrh the backing of NATO and the UN Security Council;
-- All U.S. actions to date against Iraq have gone through the U.N. Security Council -- which, it should be added, did not act like a rubber stamp on the issue.
-- The U.S. position on terrorist financing has to reinforce multilateral institutions;
-- On North Korea, the administration has consistently pushed for a multilateral approach -- to the apparent consternation of the North Koreans;
-- In the Balkans, the U.S. has consistently deferred to the EU on policy positions, agreeing to withhold aid unless Milosevic was extradited to the Hague, for example.
-- More than one expert has pointed out that Bush's National Security Strategy is actually more multilateralist than the previous administration's.
-- U.S. foreign economic policy, on the whole, has been consistently multilateral. The U.S. jump-started the latest round of WTO negotiations, advocated vigorously for a hemispheric trade zone, and pushed for more concessionary spending from the international financial institutions. [Ahem, what about the steel tariffs and the farm bill?--ed. Definitely unilateral, but compared to the protectionist trade policies of that monument to multilateralism, the European Union, the U.S. looks like the more responsible actor].
At worst, the U.S. can be accused of threatening to act in a unilateral manner if it doesn't get some of what it wants through multilateral institutions. Which is pretty much how all great powers have acted since the invention of multilateral institutions.

[The Financial Times agrees with this assessment (link via Sullivan): "Under his [Bush's] leadership, the US has acted more multilaterally, more cautiously and more wisely than many had feared after the provocation of September 11 2001."]

Too tone deaf? Depends on who's listening. The broad majority of Americans support a U.S. foreign policy built on peaceful ideals carried out in a multilateral manner. A broad majority of Americans also supports Bush's foreign policy. A vocal minority of Americans and a lot of foreigners don't like either Bush or his foreign policy. What gives?

Let me start with an anecdote. A few weeks ago, a high-ranking White House official gave a talk on homeland security at a University of Chicago workshop on security. This person is respected among international relations specialists, so there was no ivory tower animosity. Nevertheless, the talk didn't go well. The presenter's cocksure demeanor and refusal to recognize the valid questions from the audience led me -- an administration supporter -- to find the administration's arrogance insufferable. It's this arrogance, this refusal to even consider the value of alternative viewpoints, that causes so many within the chattering classes to label it tone-deaf.

This boils down to the following criticism: this administration doesn't take the time to listen carefully to an alternative position and then delineate in full why that position is wrong -- it just says so at the outset. In diplomacy, such things matter. At the same time, as I've previously posted, there's a reason this administration seems so sure of itself -- it has a good read of the current threats to the U.S. As Diehl points out, "In a recent meeting at The Post, my colleague David Broder asked a senior administration official why Bush had come to embrace "an almost imperial role" for the United States. The answer was long, eloquent, and revealing. 'A few years ago, there were great debates about what would be the threats of the post-Cold War world, would it be the rise of another great power, would it be humanitarian needs or ethnic conflicts,' the official said. 'And I think we now know: The threats are terrorism and national states with weapons of mass destruction and the possible union of those two forces.'

'It's pretty clear that the United States is the single most powerful country in international relations for a very long time. . . . [It]is the only state capable of dealing with that kind of chaotic environment and providing some kind of order. I think there is an understanding that that is America's responsibility, just like it was America standing between Nazi Germany and a takeover of all of Europe. No, we don't have to do it alone. But the United States has to lead that.'"

When weak states become a security risk, the hegemonic power has to be involved everywhere. The administration knows this. I suspect that it's critics do as well, but they either don't like the implications of such a policy, or -- more likely -- they don't like the people currently in charge. So the tone-deaf charge is a mutual one. The administration might not be the best listeners of other views, but the administration's critics are also hard of hearing. Because the critics are equally tone-deaf, they fail to notice policies that contradict their entrenched about this administration.
CHILD CARE 1, BLOGGING 0: Back from the East Coast. I had three, count 'em, three posts erased when my mother's AOL connection decided to disconnect. After that I gave up.

This week, I'll be at home taking care of my boy, as his day care is still down. Needless to say, blogging will be light, but trips to the Museum of Science and Industry will be heavy.

UPDATE: Hmmm... maybe no museum trips. I tried to go today and it was a mob scene.
Tuesday, December 24, 2002
THE NEWAXIS OF EVIL: As 2002 draws to a close, our world faces a number of serious threats -- terrorism, AIDS, smallpox, anthrax, nuclear proliferation, chemical weapons, the return of Star Search, etc. However, the Blogosphere has completely missed the most serious threat to emerge -- vampires colluding with governments. From Reuters:

"A rumor that Malawi's government is colluding with vampires to collect human blood for international aid agencies in exchange for food has led to a rash of vigilante violence.

President Bakili Muluzi accused unidentified opposition politicians on Sunday of spreading the vampire stories to try to undermine his government.

Spreading paranoia has set off several attacks on suspected vampires. Last week a man accused of helping vampires was stoned to death, and three Roman Catholic priests were beaten by villagers who suspected them of vampirism. Both attacks happened in Thyolo District, in the south.

At a news conference on Sunday, Mr. Muluzi called the vampire stories malicious. 'No government can go about sucking blood of its own people,' he said."

Here's the AP story, which has some first-person accounts of the vampire attacks.

Well, at least we have a fictional deterrent to this sort of fictional menace.

UPDATE: An alert reader e-mails in another angle to this sinister conspiracy:

"It's obviously aliens, not vampires. Just look at the witness testimony:

'Edna Kachisa said the vampires drilled a hole in her mud-and-thatch house and sprayed a suffocation gas inside. The attackers fled after she banged on a drum and awoke the village, she said.'

Why would vampires drill a hole in someone's house? Vampires are known to mesmerize people and get them to invite them in, because it's a well known fact that vampires cannot enter a home uninvited....

'Another woman outside Blantyre showed journalists a mark on her forearm she said was where vampires inserted a needle to try to draw her blood.'

Again, why would vampires need a needle? It's aliens that probe people and collect samples from them."

STUPID JEWISH GUILT!: Y'know, I was fine with the notion of not blogging for a week until I read Glenn Reynolds three-hanky post, which made it sound like he was the last blogger standing in a massive echo chamber.

This of course triggered the standard Jewish guilt that takes place during Christmas -- the need to work when Gentiles rest, so society can continue to function. Normally this is counterbalanced by the desire to have the traditional Jewish Christmas -- Chinese food and a movie. However, I'm NOT leaving my blogging wingman! I'm gonna provide content, dammit!

Forgive me. This AOL setup is making me a bit giddy.
Monday, December 23, 2002
MY DEFINITION OF BLOGGING HELL: I'm on the East Coast this week celebrating a rash of family birthdays. As a result, my only Internet access for the next couple of days will be my mother's veeeerrrrryyyyyy sssslllloooooooooowwwww AOL account. I believe that blogging with an AOL interface was in fact Dante's sixth concentric circle of hell. Far-sighted man, that Dante.

Needless to say, blogging will be extremely light this week. Instead, check out Andrew Sullivan's adorable beagle, who's almost as cute as my own beagle (actually, they're the same age look a lot alike).
Friday, December 20, 2002
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?: Some thoughts on the end of the Lottroversy:

1) Kudos to Josh Marshall. Lott would not have resigned if the uproar over his remarks hadn’t also come from conservatives like Andrew Sullivan or David Frum (oh, and George W. Bush as well), but give credit where it’s due – Josh Marshall sunk his teeth into this one early and never relented. Josh, staple that shellacked hair on the mantle – although if this is the best dirt you can gin up on Frist, I’ll sleep very soundly tonight.

2) Short-term Republican prognosis – mixed. It’s going to be tough for liberals to argue that conservatives were reluctant to pull the trigger on Lott – the denunciations from the right came pretty quickly. At the same time, liberals have had a field day using this episode to highlight the recent Republican history of catering to the unenlightened on racial matters. As Marshall phrased it:

“Many Republicans want to rid their party of this ugly baggage. Many more refuse to play this sort of politics for advantage. But over the last forty-odd years, many Republicans, in many small and large decisions, decided to organize much of our national and even more of our regional politics around race. They shouldn't whine. They shouldn't cry. They shouldn't make up excuses. They made their bed. Now they should sleep in it.”

As I said before, I think this is overreaching. But despite the Weekly Standard’s best efforts, I can’t deny that it’s smart politics. So this will sting a while for Republicans. However, this leads me to my last point:

3) Long-term Republican prognosis – quite good. Liberals want the distinction to be between enlightened liberals and Machiavellian conservatives. Krauthammer wants the distinction to be between good neocons and bad paleocons (here’s Goldberg, Sullivan and Reynolds in response). I want the distinction to be between optimists and pessimists.

Pessimists come in two forms. The repugnant ones are simply racists, and don’t want to see any progress on racial matters. The more conventional pessimists do want to see progress, but are convinced that racism is embedded in the American soul and will never be successfully purged. They are therefore comfortable with solutions that might achieve material results but compromise American principles. They will also be on guard to interpret any ambiguous statement or action as motivated by racism. Most liberals fall into this camp.

Optimists acknowledge the history of racism but believe that matters have improved dramatically over the past few decades. We might be na├»ve about this, but we also escaped the weight of the past by growing up in a post-civil rights era. Optimists are, to quote Sullivan, “completely at ease in a multi-racial, multi-cultural society, enjoy it, value it and are grateful for it.” Optimists will condemn episodes like the Lottroversy even more fiercely than pessimists because such occurrences clash with their basic worldview.

So why the rosy prognosis? First, over time, optimists will increasingly outnumber pessimists. Second, in politics, Americans like optimism much more than pessimism. Optimists have the imagination that Shelby Steele so eloquently points out is a cancer to racism. What Reagan and Clinton had in common as politicians was the gift of projecting a belief that America would only get better. Perhaps liberals will eventually switch to being optimists on race, but this going to be a conceptually longer trip for them to make than libertarians, neocons, and Christian conservatives.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel has some good thoughts on this as well.
DING DONG, LOTT IS GONE: Here's the AP story.

I'll be posting more soon.
Thursday, December 19, 2002
LOTT IS TOAST: Bill Frist has now put his name forward to replace Lott as Senate Majority Leader. The Washington Post reports: "Frist, who talked with dozens of members and party strategists this week, wouldn't run for the job if he wasn't confident he would win, his allies said." A CBS/NYT poll shows that, "Just one in five Republican National Committee members interviewed this week think Lott should stay on as Senate majority leader; more than twice that number say he should step down. And three times as many RNC members expect Lott to either resign or be voted out as the party's Senate leader as think he will continue in the job." This is among Republican National Committee members.

Putting my (badly damaged) prognosticator's hat on, the final obit will be written when one of Lott's main supporters, seeing the handwriting on the wall, puts their name forward as a substitute for Lott in a (probably vain) effort to deny Frist the leadership post, either Santorum or McConnell -- probably the latter. At that point, Lott steps down voluntarily.

REMEMBER THE SEPARATION OF POWERS: InstaPundit approvingly links to this Ken Layne post on the Bush administration's apparent sluggishness in showing Lott the door:

"Bush smacked Lott pretty good -- again, it was too late -- but Bush is the president. If he wanted Lott gone last week, Lott would be gone. Come election time, the Bush team will be making daily excuses about why they took so long to take down the old racist. All of Bush's efforts to make his party welcoming to all races -- and I believe he's sincere about it -- will be worthless if he doesn't at least force Lott to resign the leadership.

I've lived and worked in D.C., and I realize the place is deeply out of touch with the rest of the country."

Fair point? Not really. I'll concede that when Bush made his speech a week ago, I also wanted him to more forthrightly show Lott the door. However, upon reflection, I'm coming to believe that he's walking a very slippery tightrope here. The big constraint Bush faces is precisely the fact that he's the President and not a Senator. The separate branches of government guard their institutional prerogatives very carefully -- this is why the Executive branch goes bonkers every time Congress tries to act like an engine of foreign policy. If Bush tries to stick his nose too much into how the Senate, or even Republican Senators, organize their own affairs, it could trigger a backlash of support for Lott. I suspect what Bush and Rove are trying to pull off is a way for the members of the Republican caucus to oust Lott without feeling the heavy hand of the White House pushing them. Hence Ari Fleischer's daily tap dance.

I could be wrong and Ken right. But the Lottroversy could be a harbinger of the institutional conflicts that will emerge over the next two years between a Republican executive branch that is in touch with the rest of the country, and a Republican legislature that is more concerned with feeding the special interest beasts.
ANTI-AMERICANISM AS A CAMPAIGN TACTIC, CONT'D: Running on an anti-American platform, South Korea's center-left candidate Roh Moo-hyun narrowly won yesterday's presidential election. [Anti-American? Might that be an exaggeration?--ed. Not much of one. On the eve of the election, National Alliance 21 chairman Chung Mong-joon withdrew his support for Roh after the latter indicated a preference for neutrality in the US-DPRK cconflict, stating, "South Korea should be able to mediate the possible quarrel between North Korea and the U.S. I will call for concessions from both countries so the nuclear issue can be resolved peacefully."]

If my hypothesis about the long-term effects of anti-American campaigns is right, in six months Roh will be an incredibly unpopular leader. Given the meager fruit born from South Korea's "sunshine policy" towards North Korea under Kim Dae Jung, I'm feeling pretty confident.

As an aside, click here for a pretty interesting FT article on how the Korean parties used the Internet to woo South Korea's younger voters. Given that South Korea has "the world's highest penetration of high-speed internet connections" this could be a harbinger of the 2004 presidential election in this country.

UPDATE: Alert reader J.K. e-mails a salient upside I failed to mention: "The election signals the demise of regionalism in Korean politics. Just as recently a decade ago, bitter regionalism fueled presidential politics. A candidate would routinely receive greater than 80% of votes in his home region and receive less than 20% in hostile regions.... political allegiances in this election are realigning along generational lines. I see this as significant step in Korea's maturing democracy. Reduced regionalism will mean less corruption and nepotism in government (and business), a greater national identity, and a more stable political landscape."
Tuesday, December 17, 2002
BAD ECONOMICS. OH, AND MORE MUSINGS ON KRUGMAN: The Chicago Tribune is in the midst of a multipart series by William Neikirk on how overproduction in the manufacturing sector is leading to unemployment and potentially, deflation (click here and here and here and here for the four-part series). It would be easy to read the articles and despair of the economy ever getting on track again. The stories are well-researched -- it's clear that Neikirk talked to a lot of workers, managers, and analysts to write the story.

The problem is, the series flunks the same Economics 101 course that William Greider failed a few years ago when he published a book that stressed the same theme of overproduction and technology-related job losses. The key flaw in the Tribune series is the assumption that if jobs are being shed in key parts of the manufacturing sector due to technological innovation, this must also be taking place in the rest of the economy. Don't take my word for it, though: read Paul Krugman's evisceration of this logic when Greider first posed it five years ago.

[Ahem, you're going to use Krugman to make your point? Does this mean you take back your critique of him?--ed. Not at all, since I'm linking to one of the 90's pieces, which I praised in that post. Plus, there's something in his essay that bears repeating:

"You can't do serious economics unless you are willing to be playful. Economic theory is not a collection of dictums laid down by pompous authority figures. Mainly, it is a menagerie of thought experiments--parables, if you like--that are intended to capture the logic of economic processes in a simplified way. In the end, of course, ideas must be tested against the facts. But even to know what facts are relevant, you must play with those ideas in hypothetical settings. And I use the word 'play' advisedly: Innovative thinkers, in economics and other disciplines, often have a pronounced whimsical streak."

Krugman's right. But this applies not just to economics, but any kind of social analysis. The problem I have with his columns is that the sense of whimsy is gone, replaced with a relentless, redundant grimness that easily curdles into shrillness. But what about Krugman's poke at your link to Andrew Sullivan?--ed. I'll admit it was not the wisest link to select, but I stand by my assertion of increasing shrillness. In the Editor & Publisher piece, one newspaper editor says that Krugman "sometimes beat up too much on Bush."; The Confessore story observes, "To read through his (Krugman's) columns about Bush is to watch disdain pass through frustration into rage." If you want more proof, click here. Beyond that there's nothing to rebut -- Krugman did not respond to the substance of the post. If you want to read more on this, Jane Galt has been kind enough to host a lively discussion.]

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel has more on the importance of play as a public intellectual.
THE LATEST SIGN THAT THE END IS NEAR FOR TRENT LOTT.... PART 2: Fat Joe has called for Trent Lott to resign.

Fat Tony has yet to comment on the Lottroversy.
STUDENTS TO PROFESSORS: DROP DEAD!: David Brooks seems to publish a "State of the Student" essay every year or so. His latest is in the Weekly Standard. It's a good, rambling read, although many of the mating rituals he describes were in place when I was an undergraduate twelve years ago, so I don't know how much has changed there.

The more disturbing passage is as follows:

"There is, one must always remember, a large cultural gap between the students and the faculty. I met few students--alarmingly few students--who seriously contemplated a career in the academy. They thought of becoming high school teachers or reporters or even soldiers. Academia just never came up. And if you focused their attention on the professorial life, they would talk about what they saw as the pedantic specialization of academic research, the jargon and the impenetrable prose, the professors' cloistered remove from the real world. Academia seems stale to many of them, not a place that allows for exciting inquiry."

Sigh. Brooks is right about the lack of student interest in academia. It's always depressing when my best students ask for letters of reccomendation for admission into law school or B-school -- not that there's anything wrong with those choices, but there are more than two flavors of career in the world. Even as someone in the ideological minority, I love my job. I get paid to sit around, read, and think deep and not-so-deep thoughts all day. On regular occasions I'm asked to impart my thoughts to some students, who actually write down a lot of what I say. I'm something of a specialist in what I write, but I'm certainly not a specialist in what I read. The hours are flexible, the dress code is minimal. It's a good life.

On the other hand, perhaps it's best if fewer students enter the world of academia, because the job market can be brutal for newly-minted Ph.D.'s.
THE MERITS OF LIBERAL MARKET ECONOMIES: A recent trend in comparative political economy is to stress the "varieties of capitalism" among the advanced industrialized states. Essentially, these varietoes boil down to the "liberal" and "coordinated" variants. Liberal market economies -- the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada -- operate along roughly laissez-faire principles. Coordinated market economies -- Japan, Germany, France, Italy -- are more comfortable with non-market (i.e., governmental) forms of resource allocation. Researchers who push this typology argue that both kinds of systems are equally valid providers of economic growth/social welfare.

There is, however, one big difference that tends to get overlooked. Liberal market economies age better than coordinated market economies. Last month, the Center for Strategic and International Studies published an "Aging Vulnerability Index" for twelve advanced industrialized states. What vulnerability? To quote the report:

"Today, there are 30 pension-eligible elders in the developed world for every 100 working-age adults. By the year 2040, there will be 70. In Japan, Italy, and Spain, the fastest-aging countries, there will be 100. In other words, there will be as many retirees as workers. This rising old-age dependency ratio will translate into a sharply rising cost rate for pay-as-you-go retirement programs—and a crushing burden on the budget, on the economy, and on working-age adults in any country that does not take serious steps to prepare."

The report rank orders the twelve countries in terms of vulnerability. Surprise, surprise: the four least vulnerable states are also the four liberal market economies in the survey -- the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada. Coordinated market economies suffer because their pension systems are unreformed public behemoths, and because their birth rates have plummeted. All is not sweetness in light in the Anglo-Saxon economies, but comparatively speaking, they're in much better shape.
Monday, December 16, 2002
TRANSLATING LOTT: I know I've been harping on l'affaire Lott, [What, you can't think of a snappier name for the current imbroglio?--ed. How about Dixiegate? Still, anyone with a better name, e-mail it in.], but at this point it's like trying to avert your eyes from a grisly car wreck. Plus, if Drudge is to be believed, this is not going to last much longer. So, in the wake of Lott's BET interview, and given the tendency for Lott's statements to be... misinterpreted, let's parse some highlights of that interview:

WHAT LOTT SAID: "another thing that I picked up on, the need for perhaps us to develop a plan, working together in a bipartisan way, bicameral, and multi-racial, you know, young and old, men and women from all sections of the country to have a task force of reconciliation; sit down and talk.

A lot of, I think, what is wrong here is not enough communication, not enough understanding of how people feel..."

MOST GENEROUS TRANSLATION: "It's starting to occur to me that race is an important issue in the United States."
MOST CYNICAL TRANSLATION: "And if that task force, after years of deliberation, thinks I should resign, I'll think about it."

WHAT LOTT SAID: "First of all, you, you know, you are who you are by virtue of where you are born. I didn't create the society I was born into. In fact, I was born to parents that had very meager means.

My dad was a sharecropper. He raised cotton on somebody else's land. My mother did teach school in a three-room schoolhouse. When they came to Pascagoula, my dad worked in a shipyard.

And so, you know, there was a society then that was wrong and wicked. I didn't create it and I didn't even really understand it for many, many years."

MOST GENEROUS TRANSLATION: "I didn't want to support segregation -- society forced me into it."
MOST CYNICAL TRANSLATION: "I was poor, and societal pressures were overwhelming, so you can't blame me for anything I did or said... hey, suddenly I want to vote for Democrats again."

WHAT LOTT SAID: "I want to talk about the King holiday. I want to go back to that.

I'm not sure we in America, certainly not white America and the people in the South, fully understood who this man was; the impact he was having on the fabric of this country.

GORDON: But you certainly understood it by the time that vote came up, Senator.

LOTT: Well, but...

GORDON: You knew who Dr. King was at that point.

LOTT: I did, but I've learned a lot more since then. I want to make this point very clearly.

I have a high appreciation for him being a man of peace, a man that was for nonviolence, a man that did change this country. I've made a mistake. And I would vote now for a Martin Luther King holiday."

MOST GENEROUS TRANSLATION: "No, I had no idea what Martin Luther King's legacy was fifteen years after his death."
MOST CYNICAL TRANSLATION: "Between clueless and racist, I'm picking clueless."

WHAT LOTT SAID: "I know his (Charles Pickering's) heart. He is a good man and is not a racist or a segregationist in any way. The things--many of the things said against him he was not guilty of."

MOST GENEROUS TRANSLATION: "Charles Pickering is no Trent Lott."
MOST CYNICAL TRANSLATION: "If I'm going down, I'm taking anyone within a five-mile radius with me."

UPDATE: Suggestions for renaming Dixiegate include "Lottroversy" (courtesy of Chris Lawrence), "Mississippi Burning" (courtesy of Tom Maguire), and "Stromstorm."
COOL TOYS: The Financial Times runs a pretty funny piece about a reporter who travelled with the U.S. military during a 5-day live fire exercise in Kuwait. The money quote:

"Some people look natural in a tank helmet, some look ridiculous. I belong in the latter category. But that doesn't matter: I don't feel ridiculous in a tank helmet, I feel like a WAR GOD."

Some will dismiss this as "boys with toys," but it's not just boys. A few years ago I was part of a group of postdocs that the Navy flew out to an aircraft carrier -- the USS John C. Stennis -- to observe carrier flight qualifications in the Atlantic. We got the full tour, which was just goddamn cool. Towards the end of the tour, one of my colleagues, who is a pretty hard-core peacenik, turned to me and said, "We only have fifteen of these carriers? We need twenty! No, thirty!"
WHEN LIBERALS OVERREACH: Trent Lott's decision to fight for his leadership post means the story will stay on the front pages for quite a while. Which means that liberals will use the battle as a way to tar the entire Republican Party as a bunch of racists. Paul Krugman did this on Friday, Josh Marshall did it yesterday, and Salim Muwakkil does it today. Marshall has the best summary statement of this line of thinking:

"The modern Republican party had its roots in the white backlash against the civil rights revolution in the South of the 1950s and 1960s. Over time, a broader Southern Republican politics was created, one that wove in tax-cutting, hands-off government, cultural conservatism, bellicose foreign policy and opposition to abortion. But at the foundation, the hard-edged politics of racial animus remains - an embarrassment to some politicians but an important asset to others."

There's an element of truth to Marshall's historical point -- although on the question of which party has been the party for out-and-out racists, Democrats are still walking away with a score of 160 years to at most 40 years for Republicans. I'm more intrigued with Marshall et al's insistence that racism remains a foundational element of Republican/conservative thought today. To say this requires a pretty powerful set of blinders.

First, consider the president's behavior, both this week and during his tenure in office: Even the New York Times pointed out on it's editorial page last week that, "For all the disagreement that many African-Americans have with his policies, few can doubt Mr. Bush's commitment to a multiracial America." Then there was his denunciation of Lott's statement. Now consider the Note's observation:

"Sometimes, we all know, reporters take liberties with blind quotes from "White House" and/or "Bush" advisers, but there have been too many of them in the last 48 hours, under the bylines and in the voices of too many good reporters, for there to be any mistaking things here: the White House, at a minimum, would not be sorry to see Lott gone, and a textual analysis of all that is being reported suggests that they are softly engineering his departure."

Second, liberal columnists writing this trust that their readers will buy into the stereotype of the Christian right being racially intolerant. However, as Virginia Postrel points out today and David Frum pointed out last week, this accusation doesn't correspond to reality. To quote Frum: "As the Republican right has become more and more explicitly religious, it has become more and more influenced by modern Christianity’s stern condemnation of racial prejudice as a sin. My own guess is that the kind of talk Lott engaged in is much more likely to be acceptable at a Connecticut country club than it would be at the suburban evangelical churches in which the Republican base is found."

Finally, playing the racism card gives liberals an easy out in the battle over ideas. This card works with Trent Lott -- as John Scalzi put it, "people prefer to have the impression that when one's apologizing, that one is actually sorry about the thing they've said or done." -- but it doesn't describe conservatives writ large. As I pointed out last week, and Howard Kurtz points out today, conservatives were genuinely appalled by Lott's statement and his post-statement cluelessness, because those statements contradicted Republican ideals. To quote Frum again:

"The political right has been battling against racial preferences, set-asides, and quotas for close to three decades now. Over the course of that fight, conservatives have articulated a clear and consistent message of equal justice regardless of race. That message has become a central defining principle of the conservative movement."

Liberals can oppose that philosophy with their own -- and they have some decent arguments on their side. However, they can't ignore those arguments by pretending that all of their political opponents are racists. Well, they can, but doing so will relegate them to permanent loser status.

UPDATE: Oddly enough, both Tapped and Andrew Sullivan agree with me on this point.
GOOD RIDDANCE TO: Bernard Law, Henry Kissinger, Michael Bellesiles, and Al Gore (just to be clear, I'm not equating Gore's flaws with the others on that list. But c'mon, the man could be astronomically grating). Take the hint, Trent Lott and Hugo Chavez.

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens makes a similar point. I think he's right in his rank ordering of improprieties as well.
Friday, December 13, 2002
FINAL MEMO TO TRENT LOTT: Let's make a list, shall we? There's Peggy Noonan, William Bennett, Charles Krauthammer, Andrew Sullivan, William Kristol, David Frum, Edward Brooke, Jack Kemp, Robert George, the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, National Review, Weekly Standard, at least a dozen mainstream newspapers, and, oh yes, the entire liberal half of the political spectrum on one side.

On the other side is you, Sean Hannity, and Pat Buchanan. How do you like your odds? What do you think the story will be next week at this time if you're still the incoming majority leader?

You had a chance to defuse this early, and passed. You now have a chance to step down with some shreds of dignity left. Take the opportunity -- resign.
THANKS FOR CLICKING!: This was a busy week for the blog -- more than 15,000 unique visits. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, and Mickey Kaus for the generous links. Even though I study political science, this was a rare week when I actually felt engaged in politics.

Kaus correctly warns against the "revival of 'blogger triumphalism.'" [Didn't you commit this sin less that 24 hours ago?--ed. Irony does not travel well in the blogosphere. Despite InstaPundit's musings, my memos to Rove were likely epiphenomenal, i.e., had no effect on what actually transpired. But aren't White House and congressional types perusing your blog?--ed. That's what Sitemeter tells me -- but that could be the unpaid interns surfing the web.] That said, go back to Howard Kurtz's Tuesday column, and you'll see that the Blogosphere kept the story on life support for enough news cycles to cross over to the old media -- "if the establishment press is largely yawning, the situation is very different online."
WHEN ARE FAILURES ALLOWED TO FAIL?: The Note points out that most Washington insiders think that Lott's viability as Majority Leader is now in serious trouble, and David Frum (who should know) astutely deconstructs the White House's message.

Lott's response.... is to go on vacation. He has yet to hold a press conference on this (Larry King does not count). To quote Frum: "As revolted as conservatives were by the moral obtuseness of Lott’s words last weekend, they were if possible even more aghast at their amateurism and irresponsibility." If Lott survives the current imbroglio -- I don't think his chances are great, but I reluctantly believe it's a possibility -- how effective can he possibly be as a political leader?

This leads to a bigger question: what does it take for failed political leaders to be given the boot? Obviously, failed presidents are voted out of office. Other leadership positions, however, have a more tenuous connection to electoral outcomes. For example, what the hell are Tom Daschle and Terry McAuliffe still doing holding their positions? Weren't these the guys that blew the last election to someone that half the Democratic Party believes is a moron?

There is a sharp contrast between politics and economics on this issue. Capitalism works because failures are allowed to fail. Bad ideas disappear from the economic landscape, while successes are allowed to thrive. One of the big reasons that the American variety of capitalism has more robust job growth, economic growth, and productivity growth than the continental or Japanese modes of capitalism is that the American system has far lower barriers to entry and exit for entrepreneurs. In theory, elections should function in the same way as markets, and in the long run, political failures do eventually exit the stage. However, in the short run, the "political market" is much more sluggish, which leads to the interregnum we have right now.
Thursday, December 12, 2002
THE LATEST SIGN THAT THE END IS NEAR FOR TRENT LOTT....: ... Charles Barkley says Trent Lott should resign on the halftime report of TNT's NBA game (to be fair, it's a pretty dreadful Pistons-Bulls game and I think they were fishing around for topics of conversation). A debate then ensued among the sports broadcasters about whether George Bush had gone far enough in his statement today.

Barkley's position is certainly consistent with David Shields' assessment of Barkley.
THE BATTLE FOR AFRICA: Last month I blogged about how AIDS would have a dramatic effect on the fortunes of states. Now the Economist has a fascinating story on the battle between former South African President Nelson Mandela and current president Thabo Mbeki on the AIDS issue. To understand the effect of AIDS on South African society, consider the following:

"The disease has already killed hundreds of thousands of South Africans and is set to claim the lives of at least 4.5m more, over 11% of the population. Already, 300,000 households are headed by orphaned children. Unsurprisingly, a recent survey showed that 96% of South Africans consider the disease to be a “very big” problem for the country.

AIDS is already striking hard at the professions, notably teachers and nurses. Some analysts worry that the disease has weakened the capacity of the army (with an infection rate of well over 23%) and the police. Life expectancy is slumping as child mortality rises. Ill-health is also entrenching poverty: for a middle-income country, surprisingly large numbers of people report being short of food."

The way to fight AIDS is to reward the provision of accurate information and innovation. The battle between Mandela and Mbeki is over the latter's steadfast refusal to tackle the problem:

"Mr Mbeki questions figures that show the epidemic has taken hold in South Africa. He argues that anti-AIDS drugs may be more dangerous than AIDS itself. He refuses to single out AIDS as a special threat, preferring to talk of general “diseases of poverty”, and will rarely speak about it publicly... Mr Mbeki also refuses to encourage people to know their HIV status and to lessen stigma around the disease. He will not take a public AIDS test, and has only once been pictured holding an infected child. Taking their lead from the president, no members of his government and very few MPs, civil servants, or public figures of any sort admit the obvious when their colleagues die of the disease."

Africa is becoming a vital part of the U.S. war on terrorism (click here and here). If the most powerful leader of the most powerful state on the continent continues to pretend that AIDS is not a problem, the already weak states of the region are going to get weaker.
DREZNER GETS RESULTS!: Click here for the full text of President Bush's remarks on today in Philadelphia. Here's the part on Trent Lott.

"This great and prosperous land must become a single nation of justice and opportunity. We must continue our advance toward full equality for every citizen, which demands ... a guarantee of civil rights for all.

Any suggestion that the segregated past was acceptable or positive is offensive and it is wrong. Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country.

He has apologized, and rightly so. Every day our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals. And the founding ideals of our nation and, in fact, the founding ideals of the political party I represent was and remains today the equal dignity and equal rights of every American.

And this is the principle that guides my administration: We will not and we must not rest until every person, of every race, believes in the promise of America because they see it in their own eyes, with their own eyes, and they live it and feel it in their own lives. We have work to do. Let's be honest about it. We got a lot of work to do in this country, because there are pockets of despair in America. There are men and women who doubt the American dream is meant for them."

To which all I can say is, AMEN.

Mr. Rove, thanks for reading -- you made the 24-hour deadline.

UPDATE: Stephen Green's read of Bush's statement sounds on the mark to me.
THE PATH TO FREE TRADE: Among trade policy wonks, there is a ongoing debate about whether the pursuit of bilateral or regional trade liberalization augments or diverts efforts to liberalize trade at the global level. This question comes up today because the U.S. just announced a free-trade pact with Chile. This comes after last month's announcement that the United States and Singapore had "completed the substance" of a free-trade arrangement. This is an ongoing strategy -- the story notes, "U.S. negotiators turn next to discussions with five Central American nations, Morocco, Australia and several southern African states."

This U.S. strategy has some international policymakers worried that these bilateral deals are slowing momentum for the Doha round of WTO negotiations. However, the evidence points to the opposite conclusion -- this is a crafty way for Bob Zoellick to push trade liberalization on multiple fronts -- what he and Fred Bergsten call competitive liberalization.. The Post story notes, "Some trade experts say the burgeoning number of bilateral deals is undermining the WTO, but the administration's theory is just the opposite. According to Zoellick, countries will be more willing to join broader deals if rival nations sign free-trade pacts with Washington, because they will fear losing access to the lucrative U.S. market."

There's no question that Zoellick's strategy is beginning to pay off. Following a meeting between Bush and President Lula of Brazil, the Free Trade Area of the Americas just gained momentum. [Sure, it works in practice, but does it work in theory?--ed. Yes, it does! Click here to read more.]

One suggestion -- add Turkey to the list of countries for such a deal. Despite U.S. pressure, I'm dubious that the European Union will ever admit the country as a full member. Surely, if Jordan qualifies for a free-trade agreement with the U.S., Turkey -- as a more democratic regime, a more reliable ally, and a more market-friendly economy than Jordan -- deserves the same treatment. For both economic and strategic reasons, if the EU falls down on the job, the U.S. has to be prepared to step up.
Wednesday, December 11, 2002
MEMO TO KARL ROVE -- PART 2: I warned you last night that duck and cover wasn't going to work on the Lott story. Now look -- it's on page one of the Washington Post, and I'm betting it's on page one of the New York Times as well. Look at the transcript of Lott's conversation with Sean Hannity. Even scarier, read the summary of his phone-in with Larry King -- he's still waffling about whether Truman was a better president than Thurmond would have been! This is going to get uglier. Democrats aren't that stupid -- they know a gift from the gods when they see one.

Karl, you want to be the Mark Hanna of your day? You're not going to be able to do that if you convince an entire generation of potential Republicans that it's the party for nostalgic segregationists. Andrew Sullivan is right about this -- there's a generation gap in the reactions. If you fail to take action now, a lot of impressionable young minds will be convinced Bob Herbert -- God help me -- is right.

You've got a chance to prove that the Republican Party knows what century it is, but your window of opportunity is closing. The longer you wait to act, the less it seems like Republicans were genuinely offended by Lott's comments and five days of non-apologies and the more it seems like you're reacting to the news coverage. This is why Lott's contrition today will only feed the beast -- if he'd done it on Saturday, the story would have gone away. I'd say you've got another 24 hours, tops, before this turns into a genuine media frenzy, and the dominant question becomes why Bush has said nothing.

A lot of conservative pundits have called for Lott to step down as majority leader, but conservative pundits are trumped by Democratic politicians in news coverage. It looks like Republicans are stonewalling. Peruse the Post story -- isn't it getting a bit embarrassing that no elected Republican has publicly criticized Lott's remarks? (UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Anne Northup has stepped up to the plate.) Instead, you have Arlen Specter saying, "His comment was an inadvertent slip, and his apology should end the discussion." That's a great defense -- he didn't mean to say he favored segregation in public, it just slipped out accidentally! Worthy of Ron Bonjean, that line. Jesse Helms is also defending him.

Privately, Republican politicians are clearly upset about this -- they need a signal that it's OK for them to speak their peace about this. Karl, give them the go sign, and give it soon.

UPDATE: Click here for UPI's roundup of today's editorial page reaction to Lott.
ANTI-AMERICANISM AS A CAMPAIGN TACTIC: A lot of attention has been paid recently to how the "Arab street" perceives the United States (click here as well). Last week's release of the Pew Global Attitudes survey suggests the problem is more widespread: "While attitudes toward the United States are most negative in the Middle East/Conflict Area, ironically, criticisms of U.S. policies and ideals such as American-style democracy and business practices are also highly prevalent among the publics of traditional allies."

A lot of this anti-Americanism is structural -- the U.S. is the world's hegemon and is currently projecting its power. This sort of behavior is naturally going to trigger resentment. It also doesn't necessarily mean the U.S. should alter the substance of its policies, if the alternatives are worse. However, a disturbing long-run trend is that among our allies, anti-Americanism is becoming a useful campaign tactic for those on the left that would otherwise lose elections on substantive grounds.

Gerhard Schroeder was the first example of this sort of behavior last fall in Germany. We may be seeing a replay of his tactics in South Korea. This New York Times story from last Sunday does a nice job of describing how anti-Americanism is affecting the current presidential campaign. Now this Financial Times story shows that the ruling centre-left Millennium Democratic party will repeatedly exploit the anti-American resentment as a way to win the election.

Two concerns: first, this phenomenon (obviously) is going to make life more difficult for American foreign policy for the next couple of years. Second, this could, in the medium run, lead to a lot of political alienation among our allies. Schroeder's tactics got him elected, but now he's more unpopular than ever. If leftist candidates use this tactic to get elected but then pursue unpopular dirigiste policies once in office, we're going to have allies led by politicians whose only mandate is to pseudo-balance against the U.S.


UPDATE: Nick Gillespie comments on the Pew survey over at Reason's new blog.
"FLOODING THE ZONE" ON LOTT: In no particular order:

1) The press smells blood. This story made the front page of the Chicago Tribune, and was the topic of two syndicated op-ed columns (click here and here). The story is slowly creeping towards the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post with the discovery that Lott's utterance last week echoed a statement he made in 1980. ABC's Note makes a good point on why the story will continue: "this is a TV Nation, and while he has offered three written statements, he has yet to apologize or seek to explain his comments on the air. Until he does that, despite his wagon-circling press strategy and strategizers, we aren't sure he has put things to rest."

2) Fire Ron Bonjean. Joshua Micah Marshall offers some sympathy to Lott's press spokesman: "Bonjean's attempt at damage control is so sorry and pitiful that it's almost like watching a car wreck. You want to look away. But you just can't help watching the carnage unfold." I actually think Marshall is underestimating Bonjean's incompetence. Consider this passage from today's Times story:

"A spokesman for Mr. Lott, Ron Bonjean, said the remarks at the 1980 rally also did not pertain to race but were made after Mr. Thurmond, then a top draw on the Republican circuit, had complained mightily about President Jimmy Carter, the national debt and federal meddling in state matters.... He noted that a campaign rally has a similar celebratory feeling as the party last week (my italics)."

So let me get this straight -- according to Bonjean, whenever a political event takes place in which celebratory feelings are present, Lott is allowed to get all wistful for the days of racial segregation?! Don't most political events -- campaign rallies, honorary occasions, national conventions, victory parties, Gridiron dinners -- have similar celebratory feelings? Doesn't Bonjean's defense of Lott suggest that perhaps the man should be relieved of his Majority Leader duties, so as to cut down on the number of celebrations he has to attend?

3) Is the administration position "evolving"? At yesterday's White House press briefing, Ari Fleischer said, "[Lott] has apologized for his statement, and the president understands that that is the final word from Senator Lott in terms of the fact that he said something and has apologized for it … The president has confidence in him as the Republican leader, unquestionably."

Now read Michael Kramer's column: "Unofficially, the Bushies are beside themselves. 'We need this like a hole in the head,' says one. 'At a time when we're trying to reach out to black voters, Lott's an embarrassment. Gore's right on the substance and also on the politics. If he runs again, blacks are going to remember that Gore was the one who bashed Trent early, and I can easily see all those Democratic commercials replaying [Lott's] words ad nauseam.'" Is this a subtle signal to Lott to take a flying leap?

4) The role of conservatives: Jacob Levy is right on the money here -- the New York Times has a lot of nerve saying that conservatives are belatedly joining the Lott-bashing. As Clarence Page noted today, "you don't have to look far to see the crackerjack job that Lott's fellow conservatives have done in taking him to the woodshed without any outside help." Or, to quote Jonah Goldberg, "For several days now, I've been searching for a conservative to come to the defense of incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. I haven't found one." I'm glad the CBC, Gore, and Pelosi have called for Lott to step down, but the Times is inaccurate in saying conservatives have just been sitting on their hands.

5) A bigger story than Kerry's hair: Josh Marshall -- will you admit that the media is now taking this story more seriously than John Kerry's haircut?

UPDATE: I just took Josh Chafetz's advice -- as did Jacob Levy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Arthur Silber reports that Lott was interviewed by Sean Hannity and sounded more contrite than in his previous statements. At this point in the game, however, Silber's correct in pointing out that a chastened Lott in a leadership position is the worst of both worlds -- the Republicans will be politically vulnerable to the racism charge in 2004, and to compensate, Lott will acquiesce to a lot of Democratic proposals that should be opposed on substantive grounds. Chris Lawrence thinks Lott is going to pull a Clinton and gut it out.
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
MEMO TO KARL ROVE: Did you see the Nightline episode on l'affaire Lott? I was impressed by all of the participants, and grateful that Julian Bond went out of his way to acknowledge that younger conservatives were particularly appalled by Lott's comment. Still, I kept thinking, "where are the f@&%ing senators?!!" Duck and cover is not a successful long-term strategy, and this problem is not going away. The bigger this issue gets, the more people are going to ask what the President thinks about it. Karl, it's time for some pre-emptive action on the home front -- give Trent the boot.

Senate Republicans are missing a golden opportunity here. If they act quickly and forthrightly to remove Lott from a leadership position, they not only eliminate this as a future campaign issue, but they actually look better than the Democrats. Removing Lott after Daschle tried to sanitize the situation sends a clear signal about which party has principles (click here for another example of a hypocritical Democrat). The other option is to try to ride out the current hullabaloo, but that won't work. Newt Gingrich was a polarizing figure, but imagine what Trent Lott will look like after his quote is spliced into every campaign commercial and flyer in 2004. You really want this dogging the President on the campaign trail?

Karl, let's move on -- take a look at David Weigel's choices for Lott's replacement. My vote is for Frist. (The Note concurs.)
ON CARTER'S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH: Given that I defended awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Jimmy Carter, it was not without some trepidation that I perused his acceptance speech. The BBC probably has the most overt anti-American spin on his words, but in truth most of it is harmless. I did find one useful point and one cringe-worthy point.

The useful point is banal but worth remembering: "War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good." I still favor attacking Iraq, but I certainly don't relish the prospect. No one should.

The cringe-worthy point is on global inequality: "I decided that the most serious and universal problem is the growing chasm between the richest and poorest people on earth. Citizens of the ten wealthiest countries are now seventy-five times richer than those who live in the ten poorest ones, and the separation is increasing every year, not only between nations but also within them." The concern for global inequality is touching, but empirically inaccurate. To quote Surjit S. Bhalla -- again:

"World poverty fell from 44 percent of the global population in 1980 to 13 percent in 2000, its fastest decline in history. Global income inequality has dropped over this period and is at its lowest level since at least 1910. Poor countries have grown about twice as fast as rich countries (3.1 percent annually versus 1.6 percent) during the era of globalization in 1980-2000, reversing the pattern of the prior two decades. The poor in poor countries have grown even faster; each 10 percent increase in incomes of the nonpoor has been associated with an 18 percent increase in incomes of the poor. There has been strong convergence in world incomes over the entire postwar period and the developing countries' share of the world's middle class has risen from 20 percent in 1960 to 70 percent in 2000." Click here for more.
ON LOTT'S APOLOGY: Bloggers with hit counts greater than mine have already commented on Trent Lott's lukewarm apology -- Josh Marshall, Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, Virginial Postrel, etc. Howard Kurtz has a nice story on the metastory -- the fact that it was "online pundits" that initially pushed the story forward, not the mainstream media. The latter are now catching up -- click here and here.

The fact that Lott issued this weak statement only a few hours after he again tried to dismiss the incident as in the spirit of "a lighthearted celebration." merely confirms what I said before: a) Lott doesn't get it when it comes to the substantive politics of race, and b) Lott is becoming increasingly tone-deaf as a party leader. As Robert George put it, he's gotta go.

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