Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Kerry: Still Would Have Approved Force for Iraq

By Patricia Wilson
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. (Reuters)
Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said on Monday he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing force against Iraq even if he had known then no weapons of mass destruction would be found.

Taking up a challenge from President Bush, whom he will face in the Nov. 2 election, the Massachusetts senator said: "I'll answer it directly. Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it is the right authority for a president to have but I would have used that authority effectively."

Speaking to reporters from the Powell's Landing on the rim of the Grand Canyon above a mile-deep drop, Kerry also said reducing U.S. troops in Iraq significantly by next August was "an appropriate goal."

"My goal, my diplomacy, my statesmanship is to get our troops reduced in number and I believe if you do the statesmanship properly, I believe if you do the kind of alliance building that is available to us, that it's appropriate to have a goal of reducing the troops over that period of time," he said.

On that timetable, Kerry's aim would be to pull out a large number of the 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq in the first six months of his administration.

"Obviously, we'd have to see how events unfold," he added. "I intend to get more people involved in that effort and I'm convinced I can be more successful than President Bush in succeeding in doing that. It is an appropriate goal to have and I'm going to try to achieve it."

Kerry refused to say if he had any private assurances from Arab or European nations that they would help with security and reconstruction in Iraq but said "right now the administration ... is scrambling and struggling to try to find a way to do that."

"All of this should have happened in the beginning, all of these things should have been achieved beforehand," he said. "American presidents should not send American forces into war without a plan to win the peace."


Bush last week challenged Kerry, who Republicans accuse of flip-flopping on Iraq by voting for the war resolution and against the $87 billion request to fund operations, to say straight out if he would have voted the same way if only to eliminate the danger that Saddam Hussein could have developed weapons of mass destruction.

"Now, there are some questions that a commander-in-chief needs to answer with a clear yes or no," Bush said. "My opponent hasn't answered the question of whether knowing what we know now, he would have supported going into Iraq."

"I have given my answer," Bush said. "We did the right thing, and the world is better off for it."

Kerry challenged Bush to answer some questions of his own -- why he rushed to war without a plan for the peace, why he used faulty intelligence, why he misled Americans about how he would go to war and why he had not brought other countries to the table.

"There are four not hypothetical questions like the president's, real questions that matter to Americans and I hope you'll get the answers to those questions, because the American people deserve them," he told reporters.

Kerry, who is on day 11 of a two-week coast-to-coast campaign trip, used the majestic backdrop of the Grand Canyon to criticize Bush for neglecting America's national parks system and pledged to restore $600 million he said the president had cut from the budget.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The People from Missouri

The political implications of a vote on gay marriage.


The issue of gay marriage was all but ignored in Boston when the Democrats convened there a fortnight ago. The word went out that Management didn’t want the issue raised. The candidates were set in what one might call the abortion mode. The abortion mode tells a politician to say: “I do not believe in abortion, but whether to have one is a matter of human rights.” We know that such a right was deciphered by the Supreme Court in 1973’s Roe v. Wade. On gay marriage, the withdrawal goes one step further. The line is: “I’m against gay marriage, but it’s up to the individual states to decide whether to authorize it.”

That was the procedure back before Roe v. Wade: abortion was or was not permitted according as state legislatures decided. Authority on the matter was wrested from the states by the Supreme Court. And it is exactly that looming omnipresence that the voters of Missouri anticipated in their vote on Tuesday. The timing wasn’t planned that way, but the very next day after Missouri spoke out on the matter, a Superior Court judge in the state of Washington spoke up on the other side. The judge’s language was almost identical to that of the court in Massachusetts that set off the whole argument. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state constitution’s equal-protection and due-process provisions granted conjugal rights to gays, and the bells tolled, as they did in San Francisco under the patronage of rump political leaders who sought to prescind the law on the question.

The Democratic leadership is understandably concerned about the political implications of the Missouri vote. President Bush months ago took the controversy in hand when he called for a constitutional amendment. Not an amendment to ban gay marriage, but one to reserve authority on the question to the states, in order to avoid another co-optation by the Supreme Court, invalidating, now, the Defense of Marriage Act. The Democrats’ fear is that the Republican Party’s association with the defense of normal marriage will influence voters who would otherwise go Democratic, and cause them to switch to the GOP in the November election. Between now and November, at least nine states are expected to canvass their voters on gay marriage. At least some of these states are likely to reregister Missouri’s sentiments.

President Bush will almost certainly stay out of the way of the controversy between now and the GOP convention. It would appear opportunistic if he scheduled a fireworks display in St. Louis to celebrate Tuesday’s vote. By the same token, John Kerry is not going to look for an early opportunity to denounce the voters of Missouri as reactionaries who believe that Adam and Eve set an important precedent. The divide in the thinking on the question by contemporary Americans was adroitly formulated by a reflective campaign manager for gay marriage. Mr. Jeff Wunrow said he was busy digesting what had happened. “The only thing I think I’ve learned is to be careful about trusting your instincts. I learned that I don’t think I inherently know much about average voters in Missouri. Every message I thought made sense didn’t resonate. I guess what it says is that seven out of ten people here think they know better how I should live my life than I do.”

The voters of Missouri aren’t saying that. They are seeking to reinforce two traditions, one social, one political. They are defending an institution which is incoherent if attempted—in the same name—by persons of the same sex. That, and the tradition that certain matters are decided not by courts but by political bodies. Leaving the question to the individual states to decide is a broad acknowledgment of political divisions of authority, and is not to be taken as “gay bashing.”

Here Mr. Bush could say something correct and conciliatory. He does not have far to go in his intimate political family to affirm the individual rights of one of his vice president’s children, who leads life as a gay, and must be protected. But this is not to endorse the inherent dissimulation that “marriage” between two members of the same sex attempts. It is unlikely that Candidate John Kerry will publicly dispute the vote in Missouri.

How to argue like liberal

Be Courageous
Tell us how brave you are. Talk about how marginal, revolutionary, lonely, out there, edgy, pioneering, strange your ideas are compared to all the old safe boring tame ones everyone else has. Stand up straight, square your shoulders, squint a little as if facing a strong wind. Stifle a sigh now and then. If you can (this is difficult), make a muscle in your jaw twitch.

Be dismissive
Go on, don't hesitate. Brush people off, especially if they know about something you don't know about. If they later turn out to be Nobel economists or widely-read philosophers, just pretend you've forgotten the whole episode. "When? Where was that? I don't remember that at all, you must have me confused with someone else."

Cheers and catcalls

Use hoorah and boo words.

Hoorah: heart, feeling, spiritual, holistic, instinct.
Boo: intellect, cold, analytical.

Claiming is Succeeding

Blur the distinction between claiming to make your case, and actually making it. If anyone notices this, act surprised and wounded. Notice someone you need to talk to across the room.

Clumsy sarcasm

Say things like 'Of course I could be just as wrong as you.' Or 'Well naturally I'm not as subtle as you are, I don't know how to pick words apart until there's nothing left.' Or 'Certainly, you're right and the rest of the world is wrong.' Or 'Where did you read that, TV Guide/The Sun?'

Define words in your own special way

Define truth, for example, as hegemonic discourse, or monoculturalism, or Eurocentrism. Define education as privilege. Define science as an arbitrary game, or a story, or a power-play.

Develop sudden hearing loss

When your opponent makes a good point, a crushing argument, an incontrovertible case, simply fail to hear, and keep talking as if no one had spoken at all. Talk a bit louder. Lean toward your opponent with an intent, listening expression on your face, then continue to ignore what anyone else says.

Do a Procrustes

Make the evidence fit the case you're trying to make. Force it. If it doesn't fit, don't give up, don't be shy, just keep pushing and hammering and chopping until it does. No one will notice.

Embrace contradiction

Be ostentatiously anti-elitist, and sprinkle your writings equally ostentatiously with references to Foucault, Irigaray, Derrida, Kristeva and such salt-of-the-earth types along with words like 'problematize', 'phallogocentric', 'hegemonic discourse', and similar folksy slang.

Emotional Blackmail

If someone expresses skepticism about religion, demand how anyone can cast doubt on something that consoles people. This tactic can of course be used for any otherwise untenable system of belief.

Evasive Tactics

1. Wrap yourself in a flag.

The martyrdom flag. The victim flag. The spiritual flag.

2. Change the subject.

Fly under the radar

1. Use subtle pejoratives, so subtle that they're almost invisible but prejudice the discussion anyway.

2. Use words that are pejorative to one group and the opposite to the other. 'Science' and 'scientist' are good for this.

Go Ahead, Contradict Yourself

Don't be afraid to make two mutually incompatible statements in one sentence. For instance, if you are a bishop, declare that the Church is not afraid of critical examination, but at the same time guards the 'truths' of its faith very jealously. If anyone asks how you can do both of those, exactly, just look vague and perhaps hum a little sacred music.


Use emotion. If you don't feel any, work it up. Let your voice quiver and tremble. Sound indignant, outraged, self-righteous, passionate, 'courageous', 'defiant'.


Imply things. Be careful not to be explicit, because then it would be obvious that you are not telling the truth.

Mention the Armchair

Call your opponent an 'armchair' something. Armchair psychologist, armchair shrink, armchair historian. Whatever. Indicates that the other party is sheltered, lazy, housebound, nerdy, reclusive, uninformed, unhealthy, and out of touch, whereas you are out there with your sleeves rolled up, down in the muck with the other therapists and archaeologists and coal miners. When there is digging to be done you get out there and dig, you don't just sit in the comfy chair and ponder.

Moral One-upmanship

If people disagree with you, accuse them of Eurocentrism or elitism or intolerance or narrowness or conventional thinking or scientism or homophobia.

Pat yourself on the back

Say things like "This is a trivial issue, there are much more important battles to fight," and then go right on arguing. That way you give yourself credit for having a sense of proportion but still get to go on trying to win the argument.

Pave With Good Intentions

Make it clear that you mean very well, that all the benevolence and right feeling and compassion and tolerance are on your side, and all the other thing on your opponent's.

Play the theory card

Talk about 'theory' a lot. Use the word 'theory' in every sentence. Say 'theory' with a special tone of hushed reverence. Ask people if they're well up on 'theory'. Everyone will be very impressed and very intimidated.

Pretend to be amused

Say things like, 'Not at all, I'm not angry/cross/offended, I'm amused.' Pretend to find the other person hilariously ineffectual and cute. Disguise the tremor in your voice and the bulging veins on your forehead.


If your ideas are weak, if you have neither logic nor evidence to back them up, simply keep asserting them over and over and over again. This will convince everyone that they must be true. If they were not true, surely we wouldn't keep hearing about them all the time?

Say the methodology was flawed

When your opponent presents evidence (and it always happens, so be ready) that would undermine or completely contradict your argument, simply say everyone knows the methodology of that particular study was deeply flawed. Never mind if you know nothing about it, that this is the first you've heard of the study, just say they went about it in quite, quite the wrong way. If there's another study with a different methodology that also proves you wrong, no matter, just say it again.


If your opponent talks of evidence, you talk of proof. If your opponent mentions probability, you turn that into certainty.

If your opponent disagrees with your facts, say your opponent is offended. If your opponent claims to know something about the topic under discussion, call your opponent an elitist.

Translate Even More When the Subject is Religion

If someone expresses doubts about the truth claims of religion, translate that into a statement that science can solve all of humanity's problems, and mock the statement. When your opponent disavows that statement, ignore the disavowal and continue the mockery. Eventually your opponent will get bored and leave the field.

Use 'Obscure' as a First Name

Always refer to people who disagree with you (unless they are so undeniably famous it simply won't work) as 'obscure' while referring to people who agree with you as 'notable' (which sounds so much more dignified than 'famous'). E.g. if you have call to mention the Sokal hoax, be sure to say 'an obscure physicist named Alan Sokal', as if obscurity were not the natural state of nearly all physicists and indeed academics generally.

Use obscurity

Generate such a tangled clot of verbiage that opponents cannot be sure you haven't said something profound.