Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Hinge of History
Voices are beginning to surface suggesting that John Kerry's Vietnam record is not considered particularly heroic by all of his fellow veterans. In the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Terry Garlock lumps Kerry's anti-war activities after coming home with Jane Fonda's. There's even an organization called "Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry," which is supposed to have a website, although I can't access it today. Rest assured that such veterans will be prominently featured in Bush's reelection campaign if Kerry is the nominee.

Jack Beatty of Atlantic Monthly went to a Kerry appearance recently and says: "Listening to him, I saw a long line of Democratic bores--Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Bradley, Gore--who lost because people could not bear listening to them. John Kerry belongs in their dreary company." Beatty contrasts the long-winded "Senatitis" of Kerry with John Edwards' vitality. If, as a friend of mine reminds me, voters want a president who has the sun in his face, Edwards' optimism tops Kerry's record every time.

Recommended reading: Lots of it. First, wars over ideology are a fairly recent human invention. Until about 300 years ago, wars over resources were the norm--one political entity had something that another wanted, so the latter went and got it. Could global warming cause us to return to those bad old days? Even the Pentagon is thinking about it, as David Stipp writes in Fortune magazine. While we often think that the environmental effects of global warming will take place gradually over two or three generations, Stipp says signs are pointing to the likelihood of a more sudden collapse that might require only 10 years to go from bad to worse. The Defense Department has even sketched out a possible scenario for what might happen after a sudden environmental collapse. If they're even close to being right, we'd be nostalgic for the days when we were only worried about terrorists under the bed.

Next, is Dick Cheney on his way out? Journalist Jim Lobe adds up the evidence from Cheney's recent spate of interviews and says "Maybe." Reports are that some of Daddy Bush's old hands, such as Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, find Cheney too radical for their taste. Even if he heads to a quiet retirement in Wyoming next January, Cheney will still sit at the very hinge of any history written about our historical moment, if anybody is around years from now to write about it.

And finally, after three months of daily reading, I remain utterly in awe of the Progress Report from the Center for American Progress. For example, last Wednesday's edition was an absolute goldmine. (Forward it to a friend who thinks Bush is OK.) There's evidence that the Report is starting to have an effect on the admininstration--earlier this week the Report asked readers to submit possible questions for an online chat about health care that the White House was hosting on its website--but the chat was mysteriously canceled. No wonder, what with the stench of the overpriced Medicare bill and the spectacle of the bill's primary author auctioning his services to lobbying firms threatening to detract from softball questions about anti-smoking programs.

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