WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 14, 2004
ROEPER-DOPE: In the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper, our new HOWLER hero, named it 2003s finest film. Its brilliant ending, Roeper judged, was one of the most heartbreaking and yet uplifting moments in recent film history. (Even his hatchet-hearted pal, Roger Ebert, made it the years tenth-top film.)
Once in a while we cut you a break: Go see Jim Sheridans In America. No, it isnt about the immigrant experience, as many critics oddly believed. What is this movie about? Love. Love. Love. Love. Real human love! And then, at last, in the end: Wisdom.
Yes, weve already told you too much. But: Youre the lucky ones, Roeper wrotethe ones who havent yet seen In America. I envy your experience of seeing this film with fresh eyes and pure expectations.
ATTACK ON ALLEGED FAKE ATTACK: We met Will Saletan some years ago, and were sure that hes a superlative guy. But how bizarre is our public discourse? Saletan reviewed the last Dem debate for Slate. Heres his account of what he termed the fakest attack from the session:
Fakest attack: Kerry. Gov. Dean has had it both ways [on Iraq]. On October 6, five days before we voted in the Senate, Gov. Dean took a public position supporting the Biden-Lugar resolution, which gave authority to the president of the United States to go to war if he found that the diplomatic effort had been exhausted and all he had to do was write a letter. (Are you kidding? Dean bet his whole campaign on opposition to the war. If the postwar had gone smoothly, Kerry would have called Dean soft on Saddam. In fact, Kerry has called him that. Kerrys the flipper.)Kerrys the flipper, Saletan saidwithout making the slightest attempt to evaluate the solons assertion.
Is Kerrys complaint about Dean on-target? In fact, on October 5, 2002, Dean did take a public position supporting the Biden-Lugar resolution (see Des Moines Register excerpt, below). And to all appearances, that proposed resolution did give Bush authority to go to war if he found that the diplomatic effort had been exhausted. Heres how David Rosenbaum described the measure in the October 6 New York Times:
ROSENBAUM (10/6/02): Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and thus the Democrats ex officio spokesman in the Senate on foreign policy, stands somewhere between the hawks and the doves.By that account, Biden-Lugar permitted war on Iraq over WMD. How did Biden-Lugar differ from Bushs proposed resolution? On October 3, 2002, Elisabeth Bumiller explained that Bushs proposal authorizes Mr. Bush to use force to enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq, leaving the White House free to determine what is relevant. In contrast, the Biden-Lugar language specifies that force is authorized to secure the destruction of Iraqs weapons of mass destruction and its ballistic missile program or to defend the United States and its allies against those programs. Just how different was Biden-Lugar? David Firestone reported, then let you decide:
FIRESTONE (10/1/02): Instead of citing only the national security interests of the United States, as the White House resolution does, [Biden-Lugar] would emphasize the defense needs of the United States and its allies.Every 60 days, not 90! To be honest, it doesnt sound all that tough.
There seems to be no question that Dean supported Biden-Lugar. And for weeks now, Kerry has claimed that Biden-Lugar would have let Bush go to war in Iraq, just as the final resolution did. But the press corps has made no attempt to examine this belated complaint. Saletan simply dismisses the claim without attempting to sort it out. Dean bet his whole campaign on opposition to the war? That is precisely Kerrys point! Kerry says that Dean favored a resolution that would have let Bush go to war. Shouldnt someone see if that statement is accurate? Not in this press corpsa corps which now seems to base all its judgments on what sweater or duck boots hopefuls wear.
Meanwhile, Clark is another dove who seemed somewhat hawkish in real time. As we have noted, Clark wrote a column in the October 14 Time (released October 7) in which, rightly or wrongly, he did seem ready to rumble. [W]e must take actions that not only achieve our aim of disarming Saddamand probably ending his regime in the processbut also help defeat al-Qaeda, he wrote. In his closing paragraph, he didnt seem inclined to wait long:
CLARK (10/14/02): The key issue about Iraq has never been whether we should act if Saddam doesnt comply with U.N. resolutions and disarm. Rather, the problems are how we should act, and when. As for the how, the answer is clearmultilaterally, with friends and allies, with every possible effort to avoid the appearance of yet another Christian and Jewish stab at an Islamic country, with force as a last resort, and with a post-conflict plan in place to assure that the consequences of our action do not supercharge the al-Qaeda recruiting machine. As for the when, lets take the time to plan, organize and do the whole job the right way. This will only take a few more weeks, and its important. Its not just about winning a warits also about winning the peace.Would Clark have acted without UN approval? The answer seemed to be yes. Even if the U.N. is ultimately unable to give us the strong resolution that we seek, the support of friends and allies will be importantas it was in Kosovoin gaining worldwide credibility for our aims and legitimacy for our actions.
Clark and Dean say they opposed the war all along. Kerry says that Dean supported Biden-Lugar, which would have allowed Bush to act on his own. Saletan doesnt seem to care. Does anything matter to todays press except the jaunty look of your sweater?
DEAN SPEAKS: Here is the relevant part of Beaumont Thomas report in the October 6 Des Moines Register. Thomas refers to Deans appearance at the previous evenings Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. Given the trivia being flogged in the press, surely this topic deserves more attention than it has gotten so far:
THOMAS: Dean opposes the Bush resolution and supports an alternative sponsored by Sens. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat, and Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican. That resolution puts more emphasis on diplomacy and specifies that force be used only for disarmament purposes.MUST-READ WP: In this mornings Post, Howard Kurtz reports the ongoing claim that the press is Goring Dean. In the course of his intriguing articleKurtz gives many sides a sayhe offers the Standard Press Corps Account of the way the corps conducts business:
KURTZ: Indeed, leading White House wannabes have long been subjected to months of media grilling. Bill Clinton was pummeled over Gennifer Flowers, averting the draft and not inhaling marijuana. George W. Bush was depicted as a dim bulb and interrogated on whether he had used drugs during his young and irresponsible days. John McCain, who beat Bush in New Hampshire, was portrayed as a tantrum-thrower with psychic scars from his POW years.We always do this, this account seems to say. Were off to DC for a power lunch. But well offer some thoughts on the morrow.