Joe Conason's Journal

Election 2000 flashback: Nader wants it both ways!

Published August 19, 2002 4:05PM (EDT)

Nader's self-negation
The incoherence of Green Party politics continues to baffle everyone, including many of the Greens, as Seth Gitell points out in the Boston Phoenix. Note that Ralph Nader still wants to have it both ways, same as he did after the 2000 election. Back then, Nader exulted in being the decisive factor in Al Gore's defeat, but wanted no blame for the Bush presidency. Now he is backing away from his party's Minnesota Senate candidate, predicting that Ed McGaa will only win a handful of votes, but refusing to offer an outright endorsement of progressive Democrat Paul Wellstone. And the Minnesota Greens themselves have endorsed a Democrat running for State Senate who is far less liberal than Wellstone after their own candidate for the seat dropped out.

In describing the strange final sentence of Ann Coulter's "Slander," I elided two sentences from Vince Foster's suicide note. He didn't use the phrase "lie for sport," as Coulter did, but wrote instead: "The [Wall Street Journal] editors lie without consequence. I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport." I thank the alert readers who pointed out this regrettable mistake -- though if I followed her example, I would just deny it and emit a barking laugh. If you don't believe me, listen to her interview on Counterspin, the radio show produced by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

And thanks as well to the many who alerted me to the double negative in this morning's journal entry. Not enough coffee, I suppose. Still, it's good to be back.
[3:50 p.m. PDT, August 19, 2002]

Isolationist imperialists
"People should be allowed to express their opinion. But America needs to know, I'll be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence and how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies." So said George W. Bush a few days ago, trying to put the best face on Republican defections from his administration's policy regarding Iraq. (It's reassuring to note that the president still thinks Americans "should be allowed" to dissent, even as his lawyers trample traditional civil liberties in the "war on terrorism.")

The true attitude of the invasion faction was, as always, most pithily summed up by Richard Perle, who explained that it doesn't matter what our traditional allies think. Perle is confident that the only ally that matters, the United Kingdom, will be with us anyway. But even vassal states like Bahrain (the country that gave Harken Energy its oil exploration deal) aren't falling into line. The emir of Bahrain paid a call on the ayatollahs in Tehran the other day to express his opposition to "unilateral military action" against Saddam Hussein. This could make it more difficult to use the sheik's turf as a base for American forces. Meanwhile, Bush's soulful pal Vladimir Putin is concluding lucrative deals with the Baghdad dictator, more or less ensuring that neither Russia nor the UN Security Council will support U.S. military action. But as they say in the White House, who cares about international law and world opinion? Real men from Texas don't worry about what those foreigners think. The defense intellectuals around Perle are now creating a policy that includes the worst aspects of both isolationism and imperialism -- no easy achievement, but then these are very smart, very competent people.

Bush would be better off listening to the voices of caution in his own party, who have shown so much more courage than most Democrats (Senators Carl Levin and John Kerry excepted) and his own family. Eventual "regime change" in Iraq (and Saudi Arabia, for that matter) is indeed desirable, and so is the assurance that weapons of mass destruction are not available to the dangerous Saddam.

The administration's bellicose pronouncements could, ironically, have the salutary effect of pushing the Iraqi dictator into acceptance of intrusive inspections -- but only if he doesn't believe an invasion is imminent regardless of what he does. And absent any proof that he possesses such weapons, the case for Saddam's violent removal would be greatly strengthened if he refuses renewed inspections.

Cartoon characters clash
Bob Barr's accidental discharge of an antique handgun has provided considerable mirth to supporters of John Linder, his opponent in the increasingly bitter Republican primary in Georgia's Seventh District. One of them recently showed up at a Barr rally dressed as Yosemite Sam (the outraged Warner Bros.'s cartoon dude who always shot himself in the foot), billing himself as the wacky winger's "official gun safety instructor." Unfortunately, Barr's blazer-wearing goons, including his son, didn't get the joke, as this video of the event indicates. It's a bit reminiscent of certain events in Florida in November 2000. The same Republican underground Website , Political Vine, offers acid commentary on divisions within the Georgia GOP, now chaired by former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed. On Political Vine, members of the ultra-right faction in the Peach State party led by Barr and Reed are known as "Neo-Nasties."
[9:12 a.m. PDT, August 19, 2002]

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