Just How Bad Is Bush?

News at Home




Mr. McElvaine is Professor of History at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. He is the author of EVE'S SEED: BIOLOGY, THE SEXES AND THE COURSE OF HISTORY (2002) and a writer for the History News Service.

The recent Republican National Convention presented George W. Bush's presidency as a triumphant success. Most professional historians take a radically different view. A significant number of historians, in fact, rank the Bush presidency as the most disastrous in American history. They're wrong.

An informal, unscientific survey of historians conducted at my suggestion by HNN found that eight in ten historians responding rated the current presidency an overall failure. Of 415 academic historians who expressed a view of President Bush's administration so far as a success or failure, 338 (81 percent) classified it as a failure and 77 (19 percent) as a success. Twelve percent of all the historians who responded rated the current presidency the worst in all of American history.

Illustration by Joshua Brown. Click to see his series, Life During Wartime
Such a low grade for the incumbent by historians may not be surprising. But the low rating is not just because most historians are hopelessly liberal. Today 70 percent of the historians who see the Bush presidency as a failure rate the current administration as worse than the two presidencies that liberals have most loved to hate, those of Nixon and Reagan.

The truth is that the current administration is not the most disastrous in our history. George W. Bush's record on running up debt to burden our children is only the worst since Ronald Reagan. His record on government surveillance of citizens is only the worst since Richard Nixon. His record on foreign-military policy has gotten us into only our worst foreign mess since Lyndon Johnson sank us into Vietnam. His economic record on job creation is only the worst since Herbert Hoover. His record of tax favoritism for the rich is only the worst since Calvin Coolidge. His record of trampling on civil liberties is only the worst since Woodrow Wilson or perhaps John Adams.

There was, however, a presidency that was altogether worse than all or any of these: that of James Buchanan, who warmed the president's chair while the Union disintegrated in his term (1857-61). The Civil War was the most calamitous event in our history, and neither George W. Bush nor any other president besides Buchanan has overseen a calamity on that scale.

Here's why Bush's presidency has been a disaster, although not quite the worst in our history. This president has:

  • Taken, in the wake of the terrorist attacks three years ago, the greatest worldwide outpouring of goodwill the United States has enjoyed at least since World War II and squandered it by insisting on pursuing a foolish go-it-almost-alone invasion of Iraq, thereby transforming almost universal support for the United States into worldwide condemnation.
  • Promoted the extraordinarily dangerous doctrine of preemptive war.
  • Presided over the loss of more than a million American jobs, the worst record since Herbert Hoover.
  • Misled the American public about weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to Al-Qaida in Iraq and so led us into a war that has plainly and predictably made us less secure, caused a boom in the recruitment of terrorists, is killing American military personnel needlessly and is threatening to suck up all our available military forces and be a bottomless pit for the money of American taxpayers for years to come.
  • Failed to follow through in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and Al-Qaida are regrouping, once more increasing the threat to our people.
  • Insulted and ridiculed other nations and international organizations and then found it necessary to go, hat in hand, to those nations and organizations begging for their assistance.
  • Inherited an annual federal budget surplus of $230 billion and transformed it into a $400-plus billion deficit in less than three years. This negative turnaround of nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars is without precedent in our history.
  • Perhaps worst of all, wrapped himself in the flag and used the horrors of 9/11 to divert the voters' attention from the disasters that his policies have produced.

It must be admitted, though, that in terms of what it sought to do, the Bush presidency has been successful. His presidency has been remarkably successful, as one historian declared, in its pursuit of disastrous policies. Viewed from this perspective, President Bush's own description in a Time interview (Sept. 6 issue) of his war in Iraq is the best assessment of his presidency as a whole: a catastrophic success. It has been all-too-successful in producing catastrophe.


This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.




comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


...we need disaster prevention not perfection.


You are quite right, Adam, to argue that W. Bush has flip-flopped much more, and between more dangerously screwed-up yet contradictory policies than John Kerry has. That does not mean, however, that you are wise to dwell so heavily upon an argument based on praising the lesser of two wafflers.

Bush is attacking Kerry's inconsistency because it is the best strategy available to him at the moment. Kerry does not need to sink to that level of desperate rhetorical hypocrisy. He can attack Bush's actual track record in office, which is nothing short of abysmal in pratically every field that matters to our national security and our national interest. He will need, however, to be more clear and more consistent as to what his alterative will be on those issues.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


I would vote for Mickey Mouse for President if he were the main other name on the ballot besides Bush. It remains a historical reality, however, that if John not-Fitzgerald Kerry and most other prominent Democrats had not voted to give the most incompetent president in many decades an unprecedented blank check (on Iraq in late 2002), America would be more secure in the world today and for years to come. There would be still be Rumsfeld's old buddy Saddam to deal with, to be sure, and no minor matter in 1983, 1989, 1990, 1998 or 2002, but the American president would have had to do upfront then in 2003 what he or any president must inevitably do anyway, in such situations: persuade, negotiate and compromise to gain support of other countries. The idea of a foreign policy based on Pax Americana alone has never been anything other than sheer lunacy, except maybe for a couple of years after Nagasaki. Finally, it seems Kerry, Powell, McCain, and others are beginning to RElearn that lesson from the otherwise mostly irrelevant (to Iraq) Vietnam War. (By contrast, the bogus "antiwar movement" of today will probably continue burying its head in the sand, hoping to relive the glorious moral victories of the Lincoln Brigade, Kent State, and the "nuclear freeze" until rising sea levels due to global warming wash it and the sand into oblivion.)

There was a perfectly straightforward alternative Senate resolution, the Levin Amendment, on the table in October, 2002, backed by a multipartisan avalanche of knowledgeable opinion condemning the sudden Cheney-Rumsfeld pell-mell rush to war of that year. The Congress instead chose to squander an opportunity of monumental historical proportions, and Kerry cannot escape the damning contradiction between his vote on October 11, 2002 for the blank check resolution which did pass, and what he told the U.S. Congress, as a Vietnam Vet in the '70s, about its constitutional duty NOT to surrender its war-making powers. 9-11 itself changed nothing substantive except in Karl Rove's strategy books. Islamic suicide terrorism, plane hijackings, targeting the World Trade Center: all done before. It offers no genuine excuse for Congressional spinelessness a year later. This is a matter of historical record. It was utterly predictable, and widely predicted that Bush would screw up if foolishly granted unprecedented power to launch an unprovoked preventative attack, so Kerry hasn't a historical leg to stand on if continues to claim that he "only trusted the President".

Our country (with Kerry in the White House from next January on hopefully), has years of work ahead to undo the foolish mistake Edwards, Gephardt, Lieberman, Daschle, Hillary Clinton, and other waffling Democrats including Kerry, made in October, 2002 in cravenly and stupidly voting to give Bush carte blanche on Iraq. The Republicans in Congress did not have enough votes to enact that cowardly and deceitful resolution without help from Democrats. This too is in the historical record, and it is going into the history books, no matter what any politician may pretend. We were warned by Orwell and the truth shall prevail.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


(#42499) Clayton Earl Cramer on September 22, 2004:

"European bashing? What are you talking about?"


(#42328) Dave Livingston on September 20, 2004:

"Why care what some Europeans think about us? After all, Europe is a state of demographic and economic and political decline relative to the rest of the world. Why should we care about the opinions of a bunch of losers? Stuff the Europeans, except for the Cousins."


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

To Adam Moshe: I see in rereading our exchange above, that you may have misunderstood the following remark of mine,

"That does not mean, however, that you are wise to dwell so heavily upon an argument based on praising the lesser of two wafflers" (#42785)

to which you replied "I have no problem praising John Kerry". (#42791)

I did not mean to suggest that ANY praise for Kerry was unwise. Certainly, for instance, he has shown courage under fire, in Vietnam and in this current campaign, and (if the last few days of press statements are any indication) he will not allow Bush to get away with claiming success in Iraq where the long string of his administration’s blunders has replaced one big bad Saddam with thousands of mini-Saddams. Such determination to stand up and expose W. Bush's deceptions is a welcome change from typical Democratic handwringing spinelessness.

What I mean was, praising Kerry solely or mostly BECAUSE he has flip-flopped less than Bush is a weak tactic.

I intend to vote for Kerry because I "dislike him less than Bush" AND because I "consider him to be a competent and credible statesman" (at least compared to Bush) and for several other reasons, but not because he flipflops less than Bush. That last standard is simply too low to be an acceptable gauge of acceptability.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Question for Maarja: What is the deadline until which "these postings WILL be archived" ? And where ? And, without violating any federal guidelines, how do you know ?


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Yes Maarja, you're right of course, but as an archivist your terminology could be a bit more precise, even on this website of imprecision, inaccuracy and impoliteness. "Old stuff can still be googled", until somebody pushes a button and it all goes poof into Error-404-Land.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


The views on HNN are diverse, as are the aptitudes, writing skills, and civility of the view-staters. However, HNN has never been run by professional historians, nor have professional historians ever formed more than a tiny fraction of its commentariat. THAT deceit is the fundamental underlying hypocrisy of the Hypocritical Noodling Network. One can, of course, be a competent historian without being pursuing history as a profession, and there are informed and articulate commenters who lack a deep knowledge of history, but those species are even rarer around here.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Thanks for clarifying your phrase, Jonathan Dresner. I basically agree with your overall assessment. It seems to me that "success" as Bush defines it is. very closely related to his ability to dupe 51% of the voters in the swing states six weeks from now. In contrast, by any objective measure of success - e.g. job creation, the federal budget, environmental protection, civil liberties, national defense, and America's strength and influence internationally - the country is worse off now than four years ago. Bush seems to be spending 80% of his time these days campaigning rather than doing his job, and 90% of his speeches are not about his track record in office. He is hoping that his "base" will continue to be ignorant and afraid and that Kerry will continue to fall short of offering concrete and credible alternatives to his failed policies. Whatever happens in this next election, he is very likely to ultimately go into the history books as one of the least competent and most hypocritical U.S presidents, ever. Kerry, if he wins, will almost surely be lower in those rankings, but maybe not too much lower.

PKC


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Nothing personal, Mr. Livingston, but "unaffiliated" or not, are you ever going to get a clue ?

Bush's "proven wartime success" ? !? !

What, in ignoring warnings about Al Qaeda so they could slaughter Americans at will on 9-11 ? "Proven success" in preventing the French from retaking Des Moines ?

And what, in the name of all that is worthy of discussion by sentient beings, is this great amorphous bogeyman "the Left" before which you cower here in fear (for the 40th or 50th time at least) ?

In your Christian readings (at least some of which, you may are may not realize, were produced in Europe during times of "decline" relative to the Ottomans) have you ever looked at Matthew 5, "Blessed are poor and the peacemakers", etc. ? Is this the big bad "Left" your supposed Christian faith makes you so mind-numbingly fearful of ?





Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Your comments are all over the map, Mr. Cramer, except where they should be: relevant to my prior remarks.

I have never espoused pacifism. One can be a peacemaker such as Nobel Peace prize winners Theodore Roosevelt, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Henry Kissinger were, without being a pacifist.

Once upon a time "leftist" and "left" were terms that had political meaning. In the United States of 2004, they are mainly a reflection of ignorance and intellectual laziness on the part of the user. Such absurdity is all too common here on HNN, the Hysterical Nonsense Network website, but that does not mean thinking people have to buy into it.

To the best of my knowledge, the King James bible, from which I quoted, dates from time of King James, which was produced some decades before the Turks arrived at the gates of Vienna. Of course, the writers of that bible were translating earlier translations of translations, not writing from scratch. I did say and say again "produced", not "written", for that reason.

It gets a bit tiresome to read the same old anti-intellectual European-bashing nonsense, repeated ad nauseum, from historically ignorant people of obvious European ancestry, writing in a European language, about a political system designed by Europeans using European ideals and models. Ditto the crude attempts at rhetoric by self-proclaimed Christians whose so-called religious beliefs come out of pre-fabricated boob tube programs.

Finally, re the 9-11 warnings, read Richard Clarke, against whom Bush and Cheney were too cowardly to publicly testify, and had to hold hands in private session instead.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Being "successful at implementing disastrous policies" sounds like a clever phrase, but does it really hold up ?

Didn't Bush say he at one point he didn't care what the history books ultimately said about him ? I suspect that "success" for him means being the first in his family to be clearly elected president on his own, not on Reagan's coat tails, and not by a weird ruling by a weird Supreme Court.
No more, no less.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Maarja Krusten said, "Would any undecided voter be likely to be influenced by what is posterd on HNN? Probably not..." Probably correct, but my reactiion to the frequent hostility exibited toward Christianity on HNN was part of the motivation for me to recently rejoin the Christian Coalition. Granted there are times I Catholic feel a bit uncomfortable with the Evangelical Protestant dominated CC. Here for me it boils down to a
matter of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

From blind hatred the Left in America seeks to destroy
America's Christian heritage, and if it could it would delete all memory of the influence of Christianity upon the founding of this nation and the development of this nation's character.

For all the Left is upset with Bush, there are those, including unafillated voters such as I, who subscribe to the notion that Jimmy Carter & the Bastard from Hope, Clinton, were among our worst Presidents. Granted Chicken Willie had sense enough not to rock the boat of the developing great economy he inherited from Reagan, but all measures of success are not measured by the dollar. Clinton was a moral nightmare. On the other hand, if one considers the economy of prime importance, Carter presided over one that dove into the realm of 20% inflation and a 21% prime rate--and wondered why that put together with his weak leadership in the face of radicals in Iran, wondered why he wasn't reelected.

it seems academics who post here are far more concerned about the opinion of the U.S. by anti-American Europeans than they are with the proven wartime success of Bush in preventing any serious subsequent attack upon us by militant Islamists. Why care what some Europeans think about us? After all, Europe is a state of demographic and economic and political decline relative to the rest of the world. Why should we care about the opinions of a bunch of losers? Stuff the Europeans, except for the Cousins.


Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

An interesting phenomenon this. Notice how every time the left indulges its hatred of Bush, Kerry falls farther behind.

Who is really stupid in this matter?

CBS News has literally committed suicide over the past week by indulging its taste for denouncing Prez Bush as a wastrel.

Just about every time HNN posts one of these silly pieces, Prez Bush benefits. You folks don't seem to know a Rope-a-Dope strategy when you see one.

And you think that you are so smart and that Prez Bush is a dunce.

It's almost Shakespearian in scope, the self-delusion. Keep it up! The left is committing suicide with this self-delusion. So be it. What this means is that the left is bankrupt and has to come up with something new.


Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Note that the author is also the author of:

EVE'S SEED: BIOLOGY, THE SEXES AND THE COURSE OF HISTORY (2002)

Yet another one.

Another slavish clone of the race, sex, class industry.

You see, there is a downside to turning a humanities department into a high school clique in which slavish obedience to fashion is the price of entry. This creates stupidity on a massive scale.

The real subject of almost every entry on this blog is hatred of masculinity. Yes, and that war is Marxist in origin. 50 years of indoctrination in feminism, in short, has turned almost every humanities department into... what? Well, first it has promoted the most incompetent and weak. That's for certain. Quota systems are notorious for promoting the incompetent. The sexual and racial quota systems have done just that, probably reducing the IQ of the average English and History department by 20 point.

Folks, it's time to start de-programming yourselves. Pay close attention to what happened at CBS News. Correct the path in which you are heading or a calamity of a similar nature will be visiting you soon.


Richard Rongstad - 9/30/2004

Adam Moshe wrote; "Unfortunitely, polls are really the best indicator we have as to where people stand on the issue."

I might agree that polls are the best indicator of voters' positions on any issue. That doesn't mean they are accurate or used ethically. I don't necessarily agree that it's unfortunate polls are not so accurate as pollsters, special interestes and pundits want us to believe.

And then Adam Moshe wrote; "The fact thats 'Polls can be made to justify anything' (I said that) ignores the actual scientific measurements used by professional pollsters".

No, I didn't ignore "the actual scientific measurements" and I don't ignore the science behind the measurements. I say that the selection of the polled population, framing of the questions, phrasing of the questions, timing of the poll and other factors can be used to scientifically tilt the outcome of a poll.

"Nearly seven in 10 Americans supported the ban, including a majority of gun-owners, according to a poll by the non-partisan Annenberg Public Policy Center."

The fact that polling and poll results are both interesting and controversial might be a plus, they generate interest and discussion.

Adam, have you, or anybody else that you know of queried Annenberg Public Policy Center about this particular poll or Annenberg's polling methods?


John H. Lederer - 9/28/2004

Adam, I cannot resist answering <grin>

1- Academia is far less lucrative, less secure, and less profitable than many other fields, leading the graduate schools to be filled with liberals who prefer intellectual pursuits over business or law that might attract more conservatives.

Academia, in the liberal arts, generally does not require one to put one's ideas and concepts to the test of reality.

(In my experience lawyers tend to be liberal. It varies by area of expertise, but overall, liberal.)

2- Academics tend to be more liberal on social issues because they are more attentive to historic injustices and are more likely to sympathize with modern groups (say, gays) who bear some resemblance to historically persecuted groups (say, blacks).

A principal distinguishing concept between liberals and conservatives is the question "The world would be a better place if others did what I tell them to do." This is analgous to education.

3- Economically poorer people tend to be liberal because they are more likely to have experienced the need for government assistance. They are drawn to graduate school because unlike other professional institutions, graduate schools are far more likely to offer enormous financial assistance they cannot get at other institutions of higher learning.

"Those who can do, do. Those who can't teach. Those who can do neither consult."

Finally, my own bias opinion that I must include:
4- Academics are more liberal because they are more knowledgeable on many issues, and thus support policies that are better for the United States. Such policies tend to be liberal. Again, these are all speculations, but it is a good question to ask.

Academics are theoriticians, inexperienced in the grit of reality. Such tend to be liberal.

I am reminded of an apocryphal story about the filming of the original Ben Hur in 1926. The chariot race scene was directed by the legendary action director Buzzy Eason. Thousands of extras were used at huge cost, and one stunt scene seemed jinxed. One man had died in an accident, and an unintended pile up had set the filming back.

Finally the scene was run again, filmed by three main cameras. Thousands of extras cheered and groaned , the chariots whipped around the track in a great cloud of dust, and the dangerous stunt was perormed perfectly..

Eason yelled to his close camera "Did you get it?"

"Too much dust, Mr. Eason." replied the cameraman.

Eason yelled to the second camera stationed farther up in the stand, "Did you get it?"

"Film broke, Mr. Eason" came the mournful reply.

Eason raised his speaking trumpet and called to the distant cameraman stationed high in the stands, "Did you get it?"

"Any time you are ready , Mr. Eason." came the reply.




John H. Lederer - 9/28/2004

Adam, I cannot resist answering <grin>

1- Academia is far less lucrative, less secure, and less profitable than many other fields, leading the graduate schools to be filled with liberals who prefer intellectual pursuits over business or law that might attract more conservatives.

Academia, in the liberal arts, generally does not require one to put one's ideas and concepts to the test of reality.

(In my experience lawyers tend to be liberal. It varies by area of expertise, but overall, liberal.)

2- Academics tend to be more liberal on social issues because they are more attentive to historic injustices and are more likely to sympathize with modern groups (say, gays) who bear some resemblance to historically persecuted groups (say, blacks).

A principal distinguishing concept between liberals and conservatives is the question "The world would be a better place if others did what I tell them to do." This is analgous to education.

3- Economically poorer people tend to be liberal because they are more likely to have experienced the need for government assistance. They are drawn to graduate school because unlike other professional institutions, graduate schools are far more likely to offer enormous financial assistance they cannot get at other institutions of higher learning.

"Those who can do, do. Those who can't teach. Those who can do neither consult."

Finally, my own bias opinion that I must include:
4- Academics are more liberal because they are more knowledgeable on many issues, and thus support policies that are better for the United States. Such policies tend to be liberal. Again, these are all speculations, but it is a good question to ask.

Academics are theoriticians, inexperienced in the grit of reality. Such tend to be liberal.

I am reminded of an apocryphal story about the filming of the original Ben Hur in 1926. The chariot race scene was directed by the legendary action director Buzzy Eason. Thousands of extras were used at huge cost, and one stunt scene seemed jinxed. One man had died in an accident, and an unintended pile up had set the filming back.

Finally the scene was run again, filmed by three main cameras. Thousands of extras cheered and groaned , the chariots whipped around the track in a great cloud of dust, and the dangerous stunt was perormed perfectly..

Eason yelled to his close camera "Did you get it?"

"Too much dust, Mr. Eason." replied the cameraman.

Eason yelled to the second camera stationed farther up in the stand, "Did you get it?"

"Film broke, Mr. Eason" came the mournful reply.

Eason raised his speaking trumpet and called to the distant cameraman stationed high in the stands, "Did you get it?"

"Any time you are ready , Mr. Eason." came the reply.




John H. Lederer - 9/28/2004

Adam, I cannot resist answering <grin>

1- Academia is far less lucrative, less secure, and less profitable than many other fields, leading the graduate schools to be filled with liberals who prefer intellectual pursuits over business or law that might attract more conservatives.

Academia, in the liberal arts, generally does not require one to put one's ideas and concepts to the test of reality.

(In my experience lawyers tend to be liberal. It varies by area of expertise, but overall, liberal.)

2- Academics tend to be more liberal on social issues because they are more attentive to historic injustices and are more likely to sympathize with modern groups (say, gays) who bear some resemblance to historically persecuted groups (say, blacks).

A principal distinguishing concept between liberals and conservatives is the question "The world would be a better place if others did what I tell them to do." This is analgous to education.

3- Economically poorer people tend to be liberal because they are more likely to have experienced the need for government assistance. They are drawn to graduate school because unlike other professional institutions, graduate schools are far more likely to offer enormous financial assistance they cannot get at other institutions of higher learning.

"Those who can do, do. Those who can't teach. Those who can do neither consult."

Finally, my own bias opinion that I must include:
4- Academics are more liberal because they are more knowledgeable on many issues, and thus support policies that are better for the United States. Such policies tend to be liberal. Again, these are all speculations, but it is a good question to ask.

Academics are theoriticians, inexperienced in the grit of reality. Such tend to be liberal.

I am reminded of an apocryphal story about the filming of the original Ben Hur in 1926. The chariot race scene was directed by the legendary action director Buzzy Eason. Thousands of extras were used at huge cost, and one stunt scene seemed jinxed. One man had died in an accident, and an unintended pile up had set the filming back.

Finally the scene was run again, filmed by three main cameras. Thousands of extras cheered and groaned , the chariots whipped around the track in a great cloud of dust, and the dangerous stunt was perormed perfectly..

Eason yelled to his close camera "Did you get it?"

"Too much dust, Mr. Eason." replied the cameraman.

Eason yelled to the second camera stationed farther up in the stand, "Did you get it?"

"Film broke, Mr. Eason" came the mournful reply.

Eason raised his speaking trumpet and called to the distant cameraman stationed high in the stands, "Did you get it?"

"Any time you are ready , Mr. Eason." came the reply.




Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/28/2004

Unfortunitely, polls are really the best indicator we have as to where people stand on the issue. The fact thats "Polls can be made to justify anything" ignores the actual scientific measurements used by professional pollsters, which can be disputed based on methodology and sample population, but ought not simply be dismissed as of all polls were equally invalid. Indeed, history has shown that proper polls taken by legitimate sources can be incredibly accurate in predicting the outcome of an election or a ballot initiative. There is no reason to believe that they are any less accurate when it reports something we simply do not wish to hear.


PS. You asked, "Did they poll 10 Columbia University students or did they poll 100,000,000 American voters." You can actually check the methodology yourself if you like- that is the beauty of scientific polls.


Richard Rongstad - 9/27/2004

I am thinking of using your posts to HNN as evidence of just how bad the history profession is. Is this a good idea?


Richard Rongstad - 9/27/2004

Adam Moshe answered my question; "Where is your proof that 'the majority in this country do indeed favor extending the ban.'"

And here is Adam's answer; "A fair request. Here is one:

'Nearly seven in 10 Americans supported the ban, including a majority of gun-owners, according to a poll by the non-partisan Annenberg Public Policy Center.'"

Gaaak! Another poll cited as evidence. Did they poll 10 Columbia University students or did they poll 100,000,000 American voters?

Polls can be made to justify anything.

But, thanks just the same Adam.

I'll read the USA today article later.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/27/2004

You are beginning to foam at the mouth. I don't want to be responsible for causing a breakdown.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/27/2004

1) “Michael Bellesiles is not a faux historian?”

My comment was clearly aimed at your characterization of Kerry, not Bellesiles, who has no relevance to this discussion.

2) “Well, based on your claim, John Kerry is a lying fear monger and demagogue.”

Can you explain how you reached that conclusion based on my post?

3) “John Kerry and anybody supporting the assault weapons ban is a lying fear monger and demagogue because the whole notion of what is, and is not a assault weapon is based on lies and fear.”

He is only a liar if what he says in untrue, a point you have not made. He very well may be a fear monger, as long as you can extend that label to any politician (i.e. all) who try to build support for something by suggesting that the alternative is negative. As for being a demagogue, again, all politicians might very well fall into this category, based on its strict definition. Those terms however posses a connotation divorced from anything Kerry says about the ban, which was supported by the vast majority of the public long before Kerry came onto the scene. Those terms thus can be called hyperbole and I call them fallacious because their conventional understanding does not match John Kerry in any unique or substantive way.

4) “Any politician of any party that calls for extension of the assault weapons ban is a lying fear monger and demagogue.”

A far more consistent statement. If that is your belief, than I respectfully disagree.

5) “Where is your proof that "majority of Americans believe that the ban should be extended"? That sounds like wishful thinking and conjecture to me.”

I cited my proof in the above link.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/27/2004

Where is your proof that "the majority in this country do indeed favor extending the ban."

A fair request. Here is one:

"Nearly seven in 10 Americans supported the ban, including a majority of gun-owners, according to a poll by the non-partisan Annenberg Public Policy Center."
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-09-12-weapons-ban_x.htm


Richard Rongstad - 9/27/2004

Ralph Luker wrote;

"Mr. Rongstad, Speaking of "lying fearmonger" (your choice of words, not mine), see: Cheney, Richard."

That was my choice of words for John F. Kerry. Try making your point about Richard Cheney, because you have not.


Richard Rongstad - 9/27/2004

Adam Moshe quoted my point 3) and then wrote;

3) “If John Kerry has as you claim "called for an extension of the assault weapons ban" this makes John Kerry a lying fear monger and demagogue on a par with with faux historian Michael Bellesiles.”

Adam Moshe replied;
"This comment is simply fallacious and hyperbole."

You squandered two great words there. Reload.

Michael Bellesiles is not a faux historian?

Well, based on your claim, John Kerry is a lying fear monger and demagogue.

John Kerry and anybody supporting the assault weapons ban is a lying fear monger and demagogue because the whole notion of what is, and is not a assault weapon is based on lies and fear. This has reached the ridiculous proportions of if it's painted black it's an assault knife (rifle), but if it's shiny metal it's a hunting knife (rifle). The fearful American public accepts the lies and cries out to the demagogue politicians "Make us be safe!" Of course the demagogues in both parties are only too happy to please. The law ended up banning specific semiautomatic firearms, a class of firearm owned by individuals since the late 19th-century, and the general public is ignorant of the facts and specifics.

Any politician of any party that calls for extension of the assault weapons ban is a lying fear monger and demagogue.

"Many Republicans voted for the original ban in 1994,"

No matter how many, they are lying fear mongers and demagogues.

"many Republicans propose extending the ban, and the majority of Americans believe that the ban should be extended."

You keep saying many. How many? Where is your proof that "majority of Americans believe that the ban should be extended"? That sounds like wishful thinking and conjecture to me.

"For you to suggest that agreeing with the 1994 Republican Congress, many Congressmen today, and the majority of Americans makes him “a lying fear monger and demagogue,” than I can only imagine what you think of politicians who support laws of major significance that many Americans do NOT agree with."

Imagine away. I do not smoke or use tobacco in any form.

Imagine American liberties perched on a slippery slope and know then that Democrats initiate and Republicans consolidate.


Richard Rongstad - 9/27/2004

Adam Moshe quoted my point 1) and then wrote;
1) “Adam, the half-vast claims that "the vast majority of Americans" have "called for an extension of the assault weapons ban" is because the vast majority of Americans are ignorant; or so the mass media, many historians and the likes of Diane Feinstein and John Kerry would have us believe.”

"Are you saying that Americans are stupid or the likes of John Kerry only think that they are stupid,"

Neither. I said they are ignorant. Worse yet, I think I see a shallowness in Kerry that equates to ignorance.

"because like it or not, the majority in this country do indeed favor extending the ban."

There is a problem with your statement. Where is your proof that "the majority in this country do indeed favor extending the ban."


Andrew D. Todd - 9/27/2004

The Internet Archive, founded by Brewster Kahle, is probably about the oldest of the overt internet archives, and they have been fairly successful at collecting other people's archival material. For example, I understand that they have a good collection of old Usenet material. The way Usenet was set up, every local news server was also an archiving engine for the whole Usenet system, and by retrieving the back-up tapes, it is possible to recover material, by adaptations of the techniques of medieval paleography.

http://www.archive.org/

I believe the British Library also has an archive engine, though I cannot immediately find the bookmark for it.

However, it has repeatedly been revealed that particular developments in computer technology were done as classified military work, and then forgotten, many years before they were "invented" commercially, eg. public key cryptography. That said, I can think of dozens of different spy agencies, from the NSA to the KGB (FSB) to the Mossad, which might have been running their own archive engines. In "black budget" terms, the necessary funds are petty cash.

Probably the most significant lacunae in the historical record of computers and the internet are likely to be local user groups in the period immediately before the internet began to spread. There were hundreds to thousands of such groups in the late 1980's, and while they did not produce many celebrities, they are probably critical to understanding the computerization of society. I have a small collection of materials from the two or three groups I belonged to for a year or so (about two linear inches, as I believe you archivists would reckon), but I don't know how easy it would be to retrieve a larger collection. Judging from the look of the stuff, most was probably printed at a quick-print offset shop (in editions of 500 copies or less), and some of it is photocopied (certainly not acid-free). There doesn't seem to be much mimeographed material in my small sample, but I suppose you will know more than I do about the preservation problems of "purple horrors."

The situation for early dial-up bulletin boards is not too bad, because modems were slow enough, and sometimes toll charges were in effect, so that users were compelled to make their own electronic copies of everything and read it offline. These will have been incorporated into backup cycles, and will eventually surface. Some of these bulletin boards became part of the internet. Others collapsed as a result of the strains incidentally to the internet's birth.


Maarja Krusten - 9/27/2004

See
http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/ew/2004/09/27/stories/2004092700210300.htm


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

oh thank you funny that we cross posted both hitting HNN at 10:28 how often does that happen LOL


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

I don't belong to AHA (or OAH) and only occasionally look at the websites for either. I just don't have time. Is Perspectives archived back to 1998? I guess I could look at the AHA page but I thought I'd first ask you if it is worth looking there for an electronic copy.

The only organization I belong to is the Society for History in the Federal Government (see http://www.shfg.org for it's website)


Andrew D. Todd - 9/26/2004

http://www.historians.org/Perspectives/issues/1998/9811/9811LET4.CFM

As you see, I was still arguing against the "luddite" view


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

LOL. Is there an electronic version of your article available, I would like to read it. Link?

Thanks!!


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

I would guess there are several Interent archives around. A quick google search gave me a hit for one, I didn't look further. The "wayback" archives at http://www.web.archive.org has HNN articles, and your comments in reaction to them, going back to 2002. For example, I just now was able to read an article about historians at
http://web.archive.org/web/20030305085512/hnn.us/articles/969.html .

This wayback archives is interesting, I was able to go back and look at web sites for the National Archives for 1999, 2000, etc. Interesting. The web archives doesn't pick up everything in the drill down links, but enough to give you a sense of how things looked back then. And it does pick up a fair number of links from a top page. Could be useful for historians, for example, through Wayback, I just looked at the DOJ website for September 2001, saw an organization chart which showed Immigration and Naturalization Service. INS later was transferred to Department of Homeland Security, as you know.


Andrew D. Todd - 9/26/2004

The short answer to how long HNN posts will be preserved is "perpetually," maybe not on Google, but on some other search engine then. I had a letter on the subject published in the November 1998 issue of Perspectives. There are all kinds of organizations all over the world overtly and covertly archiving the web. I think it very probable that in the year 2300, someone at The University of Eastern Sierra Leone at Pendembu will be writing a dissertation on "Bill Heuisler, Swift Boats, and the 2004 American Presidential Election," using HNN as his source material.


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

Actually, I'm not an archivist. I am a former archivist, have not been an archivist since 1990. My current job title is historian. Howzat for precision? I sent that afternoon reply while out walking, used my Smartphone. It doesn't lend itself to long explanations, I can only send limited comments that way. First time I've run into problems because my response was too short, LOL, usually they are waaaaaaay too long.

I'm not a technical expert on the word wide web. I don't know how long stuff will show up in google. Since I referred to research back to 2003, stuff that is still available after a year certainly seems to qualify for the term "archived." Check out http://web.archive.org/collections/web.html
for an interesting concept in structured Internet archiving. I'm afraid you'll have to ask HNN's host site administrators as to what the longterm outlook is. Any web experts around could help you too!


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

I referred to "impairments" above. I didn't mean impaired thinking in the sense that the public uses the term. In auditing, a field which requires independence, "impairment" has a different meaning. Anyone can post on HNN, independence is not an issue. But, in considering postings, it is useful for me to know if someone has a possible organizational bias. For example, a publicly identifiable union official might feel compelled to represent the views of his union, not all of which may reflect his own private opinions. Anyone with a position with the RNC or the DNC obviously would have to hue to talking points, at least to some extent. Others may feel unable to criticize organizations for which they work, for fear of being harrassed or fired. So there are all kinds of limitations.

For anyone that is interested, here's how personal impairment is described in guidance for auditors. Auditors are required to speak up about impairments which might affect their work. Item f is the one which might have some resonance here on HNN:

"The audit organization should have an internal quality control system to help determine whether auditors have any personal impairments to independence that could affect their impartiality or the appearance of impartiality. The audit organization needs to be alert for personal impairments to independence of its staff members. Personal impairments of staff members result from relationships and beliefs that might cause auditors to limit the extent of the inquiry, limit disclosure, or weaken or slant audit findings in any way. Auditors are responsible for notifying the appropriate officials within their audit organizations if they have any personal impairments to independence. Examples of personal impairments of individual auditors include, but are not limited to, the following:

a. immediate family or close family member who is a director or officer of the audited entity . .

b. financial interest . . . .in the audited entity or program;

c. responsibility for managing an entity or decision making that could affect operations of the entity or program being audited. . .

d. concurrent or subsequent performance of an audit by the same individual who maintained the official accounting records when such services involved preparing source documents or originating data. . . . .

e. preconceived ideas toward individuals, groups, organizations, or objectives of a particular program that could bias the audit;

f. biases, including those induced by political, ideological, or social convictions, that result from employment in, or loyalty to, a particular type of policy, group, organization, or level of government; and

g. seeking employment with an audited organization during the conduct of the audit."

Anyone still awake or did I put you all to sleep?? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ, I hear the snores....


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

I used the example of an older white male above. Not all of them are biased natch. Of course it goes w/o saying that youngsters, women and minorities also can reflect different biases. People vary greatly . . . .no offense to white males intended!


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

Peter Clarke asked above what I mean by archived messages. I take it most of you do not do "oppo research" on posters--yeah, I know we're not really opponents here but you know what I mean--before deciding whether or how to respond. I am new to HNN, posted a few questions and comment in January and February, then again in April, but haven't had the time to read or speak up much until now. Many of you know each other from past postings and are familiar with each others' biases (or lack of biases), experiences, viewpoints. So you know better than I what to expect from each other.

I'm playing catch-up. So, I sometimes google you. For example, if you want to know everything that a fictious "Chris Smith" has posted on HNN, just google "chris smith" "hnn" and most if not all of the past postings appear. I've gone back and read what some of you wrote as far back as 2003 on other threads. I'm just interested in the prisms through which you view issues and life in general, why you argue the way you do, whether you are open to different viewpoints, whether it might be pointless to dispute your statements if they reflect an entrenched world view, etc. Some of you are very dug in, others less so.

And oppo research can be useful to me. If someone were to reply to me in a way that might make me want to zap back a protest, I first might google him or her. Googling might show me the person was older and might simply reflect the upbringing or work experiences typical for a previous generation. They might have had less experience working with women or minorities than a younger person would, if the field they worked in prior to retirement had been predominately peopled by white males in the old days. If so, I'd be inclined to say, ok, that's why that reply sounded condescending or insensitive. They probably had little exposure to x, y or z in the workplace. I'd then give him/her a pass, figuring he/she meant no harm, but just was reflecting the era in which he/she grew up. You guys may or may not do that, also, although I suspect many of you just shoot from the hip, more fun that way, LOL.

And it helps to know if someone has an organizational bias (what auditors refer to in auditing as "impairment") which might lead him/her to give "talking point" responses or even might limit him/her from saying what he/she really thinks. In fact, there are factors which keep me silent on certain issues. I have to protect myself and you'll never find out what I think about some things, positive or negative.

I tend to think I am safe speaking up the way I have been--although I am a federal employee, the first amendment still applies to me. If you hear of me getting in trouble with the government for posting the way I have, it'll only be a sign that our democracy is in trouble, LOL. So, I think I am ok. Still, there are things I won't say and concerns I won't express. I tend to think that I am protected too by the fact that I truly am an undecided voter, I cannot tell you today for whom I will vote.

In any event, the HNN message threads do live on well past the time of posting and can easily be found through google or other search engines. Thanks for making your way through yet another long post, as I said, I am playing catch up both in learning about you but also in introducing myself and my viewpoints and limitations. Hence the PhD dissertation length postings, LOL.


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

Hey Peter! Just meant although people move on to newer threads, old stuff can still be googled. I read some 2003 HNN stuff that way yesterday.


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

Some veterans argue that the morale of the troops in Iraq remains very high, others point to contacts overseas that suggest that some members of our Armed Forces believe it was a mistake to go in to Iraq. I suspect that what holds soldiers together is the sense of being a "band of brothers," they fight on behalf of each other as well as for the nation. I believe our fighting forces will continue to do their well superbly. I only wish that those who send them to war would think through the implications of their actions more carefully.

I suppose how you view Bush at the end of his first term depends on your experiences in life as much as your ideology. The strongest people I have known have not rejected questions and dialogue. (Yes, I know that it takes skill to do that during a war on terror.) The weakest people I have known have been the ones to cut off debate and to keep others at arms length. It is the fact that Bush seems to operate in a bubble, be it in Washington or on the campaign trail, is what has started to worry me these days. Your experiences with people you perceive as strong or weak may have been different, indeed, that shows in the varied views posted here. I look forward to reading on, in future threads on other pages.


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

In http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50518-2004Sep25.html, Michael Hirsh describes a conversation last January with Paul Bremer. "I asked Bremer, who was then midway through his tenure as America's viceroy in Iraq, whether what he was attempting was unprecedented. Perhaps it was, he said, but the model he was using was the resurrection of post-Hitler Germany."

While Dick Cheney scoffs at the word "sensitive," in another context, it is clear that the Bush administration's officials have not been sufficiently sensitive--that is attuned to--history and to cultural differences. I, for one, would not have expected a situation analogous to postwar Germany in picking up the pieces in a post-Saddam Iraq. Did you HNNers?

Some veterans argue that the morale of the troops in Ira


Maarja Krusten - 9/26/2004

Since activity on this article is petering out among posters, and these postings WILL be archived, let me just close the loop here on Iraq and Vietnam. (X-ref:" The Kerry/Patriotism thread has some interesting exchanges among some vets and me.) The United States says it wants democracy and freedom for Iraq, noble goals. The U.S. also said it wanted a free and democratic South Vietnam, although there were perceived strategic reasons for our increased military presence there. (Domino theory and all that.) The people of South Vietnam, sadly, fell under Communist rule, despite the repeated articulations of goals for them by U.S. Presidents and of course, despite the sacrifices of the men in our Armed Forces. Presidents are just as human as we are and no more able than we to predict how their applied judgments and decisions will play out.

But many politicians are unable to confront errors in judgment in a reasonable fashion. Imagine in your personal life if you invested your money unwisely and lost a big chunk of it. What response is more likely to get your spouse, life partner, whatever, to have confidence in your future handling of the family's investments? Would he/she stop asking questions and allow you to continue handling the money if you said, "You just don't understand this stuff. (And, if you were a woman, if he added, "little lady." Stop asking questions, they only makes things worse. Just leave it to me, I know what I'm doing, I'm on the right course."

Or are would it be more effective to sit down and say, "I did my best but I didn't know enough about the risks. This thing has a steeper learning curve than I realized. Sorry, I didn't mean to jeopardize our future! I'll have to study up some more and learn more about these matters before I try again." Most life partners I know would be more likely to give you a second chance if you showed a willingness to learn than if you stubbornly insisted you had been right. A President may not be able for strategic reasons to use the words "jeopardize our future" or "learning curve," especially in the middle of a war on terror, but he should be able to acknowledge the right of citizens to ask tough questions.

For those of you who don't have a knee jerk rejection of the views of women (gee, would any of you, LOL), Ellen Goodman offered some interesting observations in her editorial published in yesterday's Washington Post at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48883-2004Sep24.html.


Maarja Krusten - 9/25/2004

I assume most of you peruse various pages on HNN. Still,I am looking for answers to some tough question so I thought I'd put up this cross reference. I posted a question at
http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=42828#42828
Please feel free to wander over to check it out, give it some thought, and post your thoughts.

Thanks.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/25/2004

Peter,
Thank you for the clarification. I believe you are absolutely correct, and hope that in time, people will come to see the true differences between the two candidates.


Maarja Krusten - 9/25/2004

Correction to the sentence, "As someone who actually has experience with family members living under a totalitarian regime (my nephew in Estonia was FORCED to serve in the Red Army while his country was under Soviet occupation, something none of our vets have had to endure) I hate hearing that bogus Hussein argument." I meant to write, "Despite my experience with family members living under a totalitarian regime (my nephew in Estonia was FORCED to serve in the Red Army while his country was under Soviet occupation, something none of our vets have had to endure) I hate hearing that bogus Hussein argument." Apologies for the oops and the lack of clarity in the earlier vesion.


Maarja Krusten - 9/25/2004

See http://snipurl.com/9bvc for Rumsfeld's comments yesterday that the situation in Iraq does not have to be "perfect" before we pull out the troops.

"Rumsfeld said the United States wanted Iraq as 'a single country - not broken in pieces, that was at peace with its neighbors and didn't have weapons of mass destruction and had fashioned a government that was respectful of ... all of the diversity that existed in that country.'" U.S. officials may "want" that, but if Rummy is signalling at the same time that we're getting the heck out of there, that's just dreamin.'

The implication that anyone who asks hard questions about Iraq prefers that Hussein still be in power is going to sound might silly (and, in my view, cowardly) if Iraq ends up in a long, bloody civil war or ends up as a theocracy or anything other than a western style democracy.

As someone who actually has experience with family members living under a totalitarian regime (my nephew in Estonia was FORCED to serve in the Red Army while his country was under Soviet occupation, something none of our vets have had to endure) I hate hearing that bogus Hussein argument. As with much of what is coming out of both campaigns this year, it seems as if the politicans are dodging many of the real issues. Ya gotta wonder why.


Mary Jane VanEsselsttyn - 9/25/2004

Most Amercans do not understand fascism which is defined as extreme natnalism, extreme patriotisn, extreme militarism that is controlled by a right wing dictatorship.it is also defined as a merger of big business with government. I doubt that anyone can ignore the facts unless they are living in denial or have not informed themselves which the politicians are counting on.There is not as much diversity as we have been taught by the media as the country has been moving farther to the right since the Reaganists were able to pull the wool over their eyes with false optimism and promises of Utopia that is easy to sell to the guillible and niave specially the baby boomers who have only experienced good times that they beliieve can continue inde ffinately. Distorting the truth always works for those who are easily blinded by their own ignorance


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/25/2004

An excellent point and I see many similarities between now and Vietnam, not in the conflict itself of course, but in how the administration has been discussing it. Not a day goes by, according to the administration, where we are not "winning" the war. All of the deaths, chaos, and instability, all of the CIA reports and analysts, all of the observes on the ground and people knowledgeable on the history and structure of Iraq, they are all wrong (or liars) according to an administration that refuses to be honest with the American people and for good reason: Since the justification for going to war was a farce, we have to at least win, or else it will end up looking like... well, Vietnam.


Maarja Krusten - 9/25/2004

This is the HISTORY News Network so why not step back and consider Vietnam -- and I don't mean through the type of mud slinging going on during the current campaign. I'm surprised students of history so readily accept the spin coming out of both campaigns, but then, I work in Washington and my field of expertise is Presidential tape recordings.

Look at the evidence in secret White House recordings and diary entries from 1965, as presented in Michael Beschloss's REACHING FOR GLORY.

As LBJ and his officials reassured the public that the war was on the right course, in private the President expressed misgivings. He felt boxed in, trapped. "In talking about the Vietnam situation, Lyndon summed it up quite simply -- 'I can't get out and I can't finish it with what I have got. And I don't know what the hell to do.' "

On April 20, 1965, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara told LBJ that Gen. William Westmoreland and ambassador Maxwell Taylor both agreed that bombing "can't do the job alone." They recommend expanding the U.S. troop presence in Vietnam from 33,000 to 82,000, with the likelihood that it will have to rise to 123,000. Although greatly disturbed by the report, LBJ agreed to this expansion of the U.S. commitment and later he commented that "we had no intention of committing this many ground troops (when Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964). We're doing so now and we know its going to be bad."

As a reviewer of the Beschloss book noted, "While constantly telling the American public that the United States would be victorious in the war, in private LBJ expressed his strong belief that the war could never be won and that it ultimately would destroy his presidency. His private assessment proved to be on the mark."

How many men died in Vietnam after 1965? How many suffered years of hell in captivity? How many brave men bear the pain of physical and psychological scars to this day?

And no, I'm not a "liberal." See http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=42719#42719 and some of my other comments on the Kerry/patriotism thread. I'm just reminding you that what a President tells you in public and what is happening behind the scenes can be very different. Here in Washington, where we know perhaps TOO much about how government works, I know many people who always have voted Republican who actually are having anguished conversations about whom to vote for this year. The issues? Iraq and the deficit. While many observers equate Republicans with conservatives these days, the party once actually was a Big Tent party -- and not just for show during conventions.

Finally, some anguished Republicans also express great distaste over the mean spirited attacks on people (be they politicians, pundits, or just regular Americans) who do question Iraq and fiscal policies. Such tactics aren't exactly encouraging people to vote GOP this year - in DC, the tactics are scaring people in Bush's own party. Many good Republicans are wondering about the fear and lack of confidence in our nation's course that seem to lie behind such virulent attacks.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/24/2004

Mr. Rongstad, Speaking of "lying fearmonger" (your choice of words, not mine), see: Cheney, Richard.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/24/2004

Your "time sheet" is stuffed all up and down these comments.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/24/2004

1) “Adam, the half-vast claims that "the vast majority of Americans" have "called for an extension of the assault weapons ban" is because the vast majority of Americans are ignorant; or so the mass media, many historians and the likes of Diane Feinstein and John Kerry would have us believe.”

Are you saying that Americans are stupid or the likes of John Kerry only think that they are stupid, because like it or not, the majority in this country do indeed favor extending the ban.

2) “Indeed, the assault weapons ban is silly because it bans semi-automatic firearms which have been around, oh, since the 19th-century. Assault weapons would seem to be covered under the National Firearms Act of 1934 which created a registry of automatic weapons.”

I really don’t want to debate this particular bill, since I agree with you. However, I do not agree that this bill constitutes the “disarming” of “law-abiding adults” that the author clearly implied.

3) “If John Kerry has as you claim "called for an extension of the assault weapons ban" this makes John Kerry a lying fear monger and demagogue on a par with with faux historian Michael Bellesiles.”

This comment is simply fallacious and hyperbole. Many Republicans voted for the original ban in 1994, many Republicans propose extending the ban, and the majority of Americans believe that the ban should be extended. For you to suggest that agreeing with the 1994 Republican Congress, many Congressmen today, and the majority of Americans makes him “a lying fear monger and demagogue,” than I can only imagine what you think of politicians who support laws of major significance that many Americans do NOT agree with.


Richard Rongstad - 9/24/2004

Adam Moshe wrote in reference to:
c- “…and disarming law-abiding adults…”

And Adam Moshe's answer was thus: "Kerry is a hunter and a gun owner, and has proposed no such thing. Indeed, he has called for an extension of the assault weapons ban, but so do the vast majority of Americans. http://www.issues2000.org/2004/John_Kerry_Gun_Control.htm"

Adam, the half-vast claims that "the vast majority of Americans" have "called for an extension of the
assault weapons ban" is because the vast majority of Americans are ignorant; or so the mass media, many historians and the likes of Diane Feinstein and John Kerry would have us believe.

Indeed, the assault weapons ban is silly because it bans semi-automatic firearms which have been around, oh, since the 19th-century. Assault weapons would seem to be covered under the National Firearms Act of 1934 which created a registry of automatic weapons.

If John Kerry has as you claim "called for an extension of the assault weapons ban" this makes John Kerry a lying fear monger and demagogue on a par with with faux historian Michael Bellesiles. See relevant remarks from John Woolfolk http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=23237#23237.


Richard Rongstad - 9/24/2004

Ralph E. Luker declared that it is "Remarkable also that Mr. Rongstad spends so much of his time reading the work of historians/drunks, people who actually do constructive work, as opposed to just taking cheap pot-shots."

What is most remarkable is that I have not turned in my time sheet for September, yet in a remarkable display of the most stunningly innacurate clairvoyance recently seen in these parts, Ralph E. Luker is able to state that I spend "so much" of my "time reading the work of historians/drunks...". Or... did I leave my time sheet at the bar? Did I stuff my time sheet into the piano player's jar?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/24/2004

Peter,
I have no problem praising John Kerry, since as I have said, I believe much of the anger towards him is based an extremely effective Republican campaign to present Kerry as a flip-flopper more than a reasoned analysis of his actual record, some of which involved changes of position, some involve mere distortion of his statements.

Alas, Kerry has been thus far unable to point out the double-standard in so-called flip-flopping. I do agree with you on one thing: Kerry has to be far more clear in articulating his positions. As for being more constant, I have not seen him acting otherwise on the issue of Iraq, among others.

I think however, that we have a lot more in common than we do difference on the issues of this campaign, and I certainly hope that people will vote for Kerry, regardless of whether they dislike him less than Bush or if they actually consider him to be a competent and credible statesman.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/24/2004

I am suggesting, Clayton, that neither you nor GWB have a clue about what conservatism is. Historically, it is cautious, distant from entrepreneurial capitalism, fiscally responsible, and shows restraint in foreign policy. The Bush administration is fiscally profligate, captive to capitalist entrepreneurs, abusive of civil rights, and heedlessly aggressive abroad.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/24/2004

I do not mean to interupt this string of the debate, but I simply want to add that Bush is not suggesting that the rationale was wrong, but the war having began, we must finish it. He is arguing that we should have gone in anyway, implying that the WMD were never really the rationale for the war.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/24/2004

1) "GREENSBORO, N.C. — The "only legitimate reason" for invading Iraq was the threat of weapons of mass destruction, Sen. John Kerry said yesterday, less than a month after he said he would have voted to authorize war even if he knew such weapons would not be found."

The problem is that, like so many TV ads, the context is removed. The very article your provided me puts it into context. Observe:
"The only legitimate reason was the weapons of mass destruction question," he explained yesterday. "But after you built the international coalition, exhausted the [U.N.] inspections and you have no other choice."

He has not wavered from that position.

2) " GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz., Aug. 9 -- Responding to President Bush's challenge to clarify his position, Sen. John F. Kerry said Monday that he still would have voted to authorize the war in Iraq even if he had known then that U.S. and allied forces would not find weapons of mass destruction."

Again, distorting the context will make anything sound bad, but I happen to agree with Kerry’s vote, as well as his opposition to this war.
"Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for a president to have." The quote does not end there. “But Kerry has charged that the president and his advisers badly mishandled the war, and in the news conference he posed sharp questions for Bush.”
"Why did we rush to war without a plan to win the peace?" he asked. "Why did you rush to war on faulty intelligence and not do the hard work necessary to give America the truth?"
In other words, since his rationale for the vote was to give the president authority to use force as a bargaining chip to show a united America in front of the world, why would he have NOT given it to him knowing what we know now? It was when, and how Bush went to war that Kerry opposes, not the fact that he had that right to make a decision.

3) “Look, if you want to vote Kerry because he's going to put judges on the bench who will mandate gay marriage, polygamy, and disarming law-abiding adults, say so. Stop pretending it is because he has a consistent stand about pre-emptive action.”

I will try to address each point you make:
a- “he's going to put judges on the bench who will mandate gay marriage”

This is possible, although if the people do not like it, they may amend their state constitutions to prohibit it. After all, the job of a judge is to uphold the law, not to take a public opinion poll. Thus far, many states have done exactly that, using the legal process to make the necessary changes.
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=politicsNews&;storyID=6197362

b- “…polygamy…”

Huh? I am not really sure where this one came from, and thus I can only assume that you have read something that I have not. When did Kerry EVER support polygamy??

c- “…and disarming law-abiding adults…”

Kerry is a hunter and a gun owner, and has proposed no such thing. Indeed, he has called for an extension of the assault weapons ban, but so do the vast majority of Americans.
http://www.issues2000.org/2004/John_Kerry_Gun_Control.htm

4) “Stop pretending it is because he has a consistent stand about pre-emptive action.”

I will continue to prove his consistency against false accusations based on a manipulation of his statements because I consider it to be the truth. His position on Iraq has not changed since he started his run for the presidency, as I demonstrated in that slate article. While Republicans want to present the Iraq war issue as either totally supporting the war and everything about it, or totally opposing all war and everything connected to it, the reality is a bit more complex. It is also, in my opinion, an issue in which John Kerry is absolutely correct on.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/24/2004

"bitchy, hysterical and shrill": My, why didn't you just call him "a girl"? Talk about someone who has some gender hatred issues to work out.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/24/2004

"We know many examples when the bloody dictators were overthrown at the will of the populus; it happened to Shah in Iran, even despite the US aid and support.
With the help of the US to the opposition, and the sanctions Saddam would not stand a two-year chance, without dropping a single bomb on Iraqi capital."

Try again. The U.S. started funding opposition in 1998. But it is amazing what a really well organized campaign of torture, mutilation, and murder will do to sap the will of the people to fight.

I suppose that we should have waited at the Rhine for the German people to overthrow Hitler.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/24/2004

"In fact, we haven't heard one word of criticism from you of the Bush administration's fiscal policies,"

Am I happy about the deficits? No. But let's not pretend that the left disapproves of deficit financing. It did not disapprove of in the Great Depression, during World War II (to which this has some similarity), or the Vietnam War. Deficit financing out of recessions is a core tenent of Keynesian economics!

Am I happy with Bush's tax policies? Generally. They are returning power to the people, by allowing ordinary people to keep more of their income. Yes, I find better places to spend my money, now that I get to keep more of it. I've spent it on my telescope hobby, on savings, and on charitable contributions. The left end of the political spectrum, of course, knows better how to spend that money than the people who earn it--like funding "Piss Christ," fellowships for Michael Bellesiles, and other so-called art.

"its flip-flops on the rationale for the invasion of Iraq,"

Flip-flops? The original primary motivation turned out to be incorrect--a mistake that many made, not just Bush. Am I heart-broken that a thug who engaged in genocide, torture, murder, and rape is sitting in a cell, and there is at least a chance of a functioning liberal democracy forming in Iraq? Not at all. It is interesting that it seems to bother the left so much that Michael Moore calls the Fallujah terrorists the "moral equivalent of the Minutemen."

"or its abuse of civil liberties."

Which abuses are those? Should Jose Padilla be tried in a civilian court? Yes. He is a U.S. citizen. Unlawful combatants? The law is clear on this, as well it should be. Follow the law of land warfare, and you have nothing to fear. Break those laws, and risk military tribunal. Most of the "abuse of civil liberties" that the left screeches about are things that did not happen. No libraries have been asked for lists of patrons who checked out books.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, many thousands of aliens were arrested, most of whom were deported for immigration violations. In a few cases, prison guards abused those arrested. This was disappointing, but not surprising considering how emotionally charged the situation was after 9/11. NONE of these abuses were sanctioned by the government, and those responsible have been prosecuted.

Perhaps you mean Abu Ghraib--at which the Army started its investigation in January, and issued a press release about it. So far, all the evidence suggests that soldiers, some of whom are prison guards in civilian life, engaged in criminal behavior as a result of the stress of a life-threatening situation (daily mortar attacks on the prison), and a complete lack of regard for existing military law. Prosecutions are underway for these criminal acts. There have been similar abuses in French and German civilian prisons during that same time, and yet the left does not seem terribly upset about those, or suggest that they represent something terribly wrong at the top of either government.

Here's my question: why do you keep pretending to be a "conservative" when all your questions and statements reveal you to be at least a liberal? Or are you only a conservative relative to the Michael Moore worshipping academic average?


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/24/2004

Try again on Kerry. http://washingtontimes.com/national/20040908-121159-4453r.htm

"GREENSBORO, N.C. — The "only legitimate reason" for invading Iraq was the threat of weapons of mass destruction, Sen. John Kerry said yesterday, less than a month after he said he would have voted to authorize war even if he knew such weapons would not be found."

And a month earlier http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52839-2004Aug9.html:

" GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz., Aug. 9 -- Responding to President Bush's challenge to clarify his position, Sen. John F. Kerry said Monday that he still would have voted to authorize the war in Iraq even if he had known then that U.S. and allied forces would not find weapons of mass destruction."

Clear enough?

Look, if you want to vote Kerry because he's going to put judges on the bench who will mandate gay marriage, polygamy, and disarming law-abiding adults, say so. Stop pretending it is because he has a consistent stand about pre-emptive action.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/24/2004

Bush "flip-flops" (to use a popular Republican term)

NOTE: Just some small samples. The first deals with many issues, and second link deals only with Iraq:

http://www.americanprogressaction.org/site/pp.asp?c=klLWJcP7H&;b=118263

http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20040420-121344-3484r.htm

"The important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our Number One priority and we will not rest until we find him!" George W. Bush, Sept. 13, 2001

"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and I really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." George W. Bush, March 13, 2002


Ralph E. Luker - 9/24/2004

I suspect that, even if John Kerry personally took the time to explain to you the contexts in which those statements were made, it wouldn't make the slightest difference in how you will vote. In fact, we haven't heard one word of criticism from you of the Bush administration's fiscal policies, its flip-flops on the rationale for the invasion of Iraq, or its abuse of civil liberties. I'd say GWB and his administration can safely count on your vote regardless of what policies they pursue.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/24/2004

Perhaps this article will help to clarify Kerry’s position on Iraq, which I consider to be relatively consistent throughout this election, contrary to some of his critics:
http://www.slate.com/id/2106946/

I don’t recall Kerry ever saying that he voted for the war. His point was the at the time of the infamous vote, he was voting so that when Bush went to the UN to confront Iraq, he would have the support of Congress and the teeth of the military to back up his threats. He was right. The UN and Iraq agreed to US demands, validating Kerry’s position. What Kerry opposed was going to war with Iraq when we did, NOT because we did not have the support of the UN per se, but because it was not in our countries best interest at that time to invade Iraq before the inspectors, the international community, and we the United States could evaluate the nature of the threat compared to our other obligations and concerns at that time.

I consider Kerry's position on Iraq to be far more consistant and accurate than his opponent, whose justifications for, and analysis of, the conflict have undergone significant change since the start of the conflict. That is my perception in any event.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/24/2004

"GWB has given us an unnecessary war"

He had plenty of company on this, including very strong majorities of Congress, many of our allies--and even nations that did not approve of the war agreed that Hussein had WMDs.

"with no plan for exit,"

Not true. The plan for exit is to strengthen Iraqi democracy through legitimizing elections in January, an adequate security force to deal with the terrorists who are blowing up children with car bombs, and then withdraw.

"a series of budgets leading to deficits into my children's children's lives,"

Blame John Maynard Keynes for this one. Keynes felt that the straightjacket of balanced budgets was harmful. His view, since adopted by all governments, is that you should deficit spend your way out of recessions, then pay off the debt during the boom times. This was a great theory, but the "pay off the debt during the boom times" part turned out to be pretty difficult.

Significantly, after Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994, they did manage to actually get us to a point where we were paying off the debt. Clinton's tax increases in 1993 made an improvement, and certainly provoked a stock market boom that improved federal tax receipts, but Democratic control of Congress prevented any spending restraint. See http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=1821&;sequence=0#table1 for the numbers.

"an 'economic recovery' without employment increases,"

Nope. Peak civilian unemployment rate was June 2003 at 6.3%. August 2004 rate was 5.4% (a rate that Clinton's Administration didn't get to crow about until August of 1996). You can pull up the numbers at http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?bls. Before you blame Bush for this, unemployment rates were already on the rise when Bush took office in January of 2001. The 9/11 attacks certainly played a significant role in increasing unemployment, shaking confidence, greatly reducing airline travel, and the enormous costs associated with the losses. Remember also that unemployment rate is a trailing economic indicator--usually the last part of the economy to recover.

"international interventionism coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy,"

Odd. But I thought international interventionism was a good thing, when it involved restoring order to Somalia, and Haiti, and ending genocide in Bosnia. But it is a bad thing in Iraq?

Tax cuts for EVERYONE. Sure, the wealthy pay most of the taxes, so they get most of the benefit. But here's something that you won't find out reading Daily Worker or the New York Times: http://www.detnews.com/2004/editorial/0408/27/a09-255537.htm. "The CBO report shows how 2004 income tax rates have dropped for everyone compared with tax laws in force in 2000.

The report also shows that Bush’s tax cuts have been “progressive” — that is, they have shifted the share of the overall federal income tax burden toward the wealthy and away from lower-income earners. Without the Bush tax cuts, the highest-earning 20 percent of households this year would have paid 78.4 percent of all federal income taxes. Now, after the Bush tax cutes, their share of the burden has risen to 82.1 percent. Every other group now pays a smaller share of the total income tax burden."

"a pitiful response to the terrorist threat, ..."

Odd. But when was the last terrorist attack on the U.S.? Richard Reid, shoe bomber, I think, in 2002?

"I say that as a Republican and a conservative." A conservative who disapproves of tax cuts, who supports gun control, and is dreadfully concerned about unemployment? Yeah, right.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/24/2004

I don't disagree with any of them. But anyone who claims that they are voting for Kerry because they disapprove of "pre-emptive action" needs to explain why they are voting for Kerry.

I actually object to the fact that Kerry has changed his position on this between August and September of this year. In August, he said that he would have voted for the war even without the WMDs. In September, he said that he wouldn't. Kerry is too busy pandering to be a leader.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/24/2004

With which of those words do you disagree, Clayton?


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/24/2004

From the Washington Times http://www.washtimes.com/national/inbeltway.htm is this quote from a 1997 "Crossfire": "We know we can't count on the French. We know we can't count on the Russians," said Mr. Kerry. "We know that Iraq is a danger to the United States, and we reserve the right to take pre-emptive action whenever we feel it's in our national interest."


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/24/2004

The left hasn't been demonized; they have defined themselves as hostile to war--many even opposed overthrowing the woman-hating Taliban, insisting even after bin Laden boasted of his part in the 9/11 attacks, that this was unproven. Unsurprisingly, the left is prominent in the efforts to prove that Jews were given advance warning on 9/11, that the Bush Administration knew of the attacks but ordered the Air Force to take no action to stop them, and the even more bizarre claims that the Pentagon was attacked with a missle, not an airplane.

"Left as anti-Christian" is not being demonized. This is simply how the left has chosen to define itself. "Religion is the opiate of the masses" is the operating principle of the left, and has been for more than a century. This is why the left has aggressively pursued removing all symbols from the public square, no matter how minor or broadly encompassing. The recent struggle over the Los Angeles County seal, which included a cross on a Spanish mission, is an example of the insane anti-Christian zeal of the left.

This "follow the herd" claim is nonsense. There remains substantial diversity of political opinion in this country--more so than when I was growing up. It has actually increased in the mainstream media in recent years, because Fox News provides conservative points of view (noticeably rare on ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN). The problem you have is that the majority has rejected the leftist agenda, largely because of economics and secondarily because the majority rejects the fierce anti-Christian zealots of the ACLU.

You don't seem to know much about fascism, or you would recognize that the dominant theme on the right in America is minimal government and laissez-faire. Mussolini (who, after all, was one of the more prominent Socialists in Italy as late as 1917) defined fascism as more a process than an ideology, but that it specifically rejected "humanism, capitalism, and nineteenth century liberalism." Fascism is actually a variant of traditional socialism, with communism's totalitarian streak, and government cartelization of industry leaving ownership in private hands, but regulation effectively destroying all free markets. There is a political party in America today that believes in that, but John Kerry is their candidate--not George Bush.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/23/2004

The press reports raw data from a variety of sources, including the federal government (whose utility as a source of unbiased raw data has declined more under this administration than any since Nixon) and economic trade and study groups whose collection and interpretation of economic data are debated, but considered reasonably authoritative.

One ignores these sources only with very carefully considered reasons. I do not pay much attention to the press interpretation of these numbers, except as a datum of popular consciousness, and I take the reported analysis of these numbers with the appropriate grains of salt depending on sourcing and spin, but the numbers themselves are the best data we have to work with at this time.

In other words, we are not in disagreement, nor have you taught me anything. I just chose not to use that particular post for a gratuitous historiographical seminar.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/23/2004

Remarkable that Mr. Clarke wishes to spend so much of his time at the Hypocritical Noodling Network. Remarkable also that Mr. Rongstad spends so much of his time reading the work of historians/drunks, people who actually do constructive work, as opposed to just taking cheap pot-shots.


Richard Rongstad - 9/23/2004

That's why I smiled as I typed my tongue-in-cheek comment about historians.

Should you be believe JFK to be artificially elevated in the rankings, perhaps my comments here would interest you.

http://hnn.us/comments/42609.html


Mary Jane VanEsselsttyn - 9/23/2004

Leftist has come to mean anyone slightly to the left of the far right and has been demonized as unpatriotic and anti war, godless and anti Christian. It is amazing what Americans will swallow in the name of patriotism. The politicians understand that we the people have a collective mentality and can be counted on to follow the herd. For this reason we are now experiencing the end of politics and the rise of a fascist dictatorship in this country. Any form of intellectualism is looked down on in recent years and the ability to think for ourselves or speak our minds the unforgivable sin.


Vernon Clayson - 9/23/2004

Jonathan Dresner, with "intensive and extensive training" uses the press as authority???? and describes press reports as correct???? Most of the information he takes from the press was put together in haste by news staff working under a deadline. He likely put more time into writing his preceding arguments than the news staff did on writing the articles he relies on. Most news articles should be viewed as a summary for consideration, not as indisputable fact. Even a tragedy, e.g., a death, while a fact, has angles enough that books are written on the what, who, why, when. Read the papers, Jonathan Dresner, but don't believe for a second that they are studious tracts.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/23/2004

"There is more to history than they teach in the schools and on the media. History is a mystery."

Would you care to elucidate? History is a mystery in the sense that there are often places where we do not have data to be 100% certain that we know what happened, and why. But I sense that you mean something else.

"Even historians have to watch what they teach if they wish to keep their jobs."

You mean if they start to present a conservative point of view that they might get fired? Certainly, a leftist perspective won't put any historian at risk of his or her job. A liberal perspective might be hazardous in some schools, where the left tolerates no dissent.

"I agree that our democracy is a delusion and many Americans still do not comprehend the truth that there is really a one party system in America."

Huh? I see some rather dramatic differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party right now. There are dramatic differences on tax policy, some differences on welfare policy, dramatic differences on foreign policy and defense (although Kerry is trying to paper over the differences in the hope of getting elected). There are dramatic differences with respect to gay marriage; gun control; and whether we want to live in a society in which the media soaks everyone in sex. If you can't see these differences, you aren't paying much attention.


Anthony Scott - 9/23/2004

No, my point is not that historians are conservatives -- rather, I am pointing out that many in the field are liberal and grind their axes freely. The passage of time, however, brings a more dispassionate analysis that raises those artificially depressed in the rankings (and vice versa -- such as JFK).

And yes, I am a teacher of history.


Mary Jane VanEsselsttyn - 9/23/2004

Certainly there are those who will disagree with my obervations and I hope we are free to disagree.There is more to history than they teach in the schools and on the media History is a mystery.Even historians have to watch what they teach if they wish to keep their jobs. I agree that our democracy is a delusion and many Americans still do not comprehend the truth that there is really a one party system in America


Richard Rongstad - 9/23/2004

Anthony Scott wrote; "It happens again and again. A current (or recent) President,
often a conservative, is rated as poor by historians."

I smile as I type.... I suppose your point is that historians are conservatives?

I have one other question Anthony.

Are you a professional historian?


Richard Rongstad - 9/23/2004

Arnold Shcherban wrote "Hitler had allies as well... The question is: What does it prove?"

Good point Arnold.

My question is... If George Bush had gone in to Iraq without allies, would that
have stopped the comparisons to Hitler?

So, maybe it proves, if you have no allies then you couldn't be a Hitler.


Richard Rongstad - 9/23/2004

Maarja Krusten wrote; "You cannot always tell voter registration."

I know. But most voters, even in California, register in a party. There is an option in California called "Decline to State" (DTS). But, DTS voters didn't get to vote in primaries. This is all up in the air now, the wackos in Sacramento came up with something called an open primary, which amounts to Republicans voting to pick the Democrats candidates and vice versa. Even a plain and simple DTS registration tells something about the voter. I have often toyed with the idea of founding the Decline To State Party. Let the Sacramento wackos deal with that.

I just used my county's voter registration files to get insight on the bias of a local newspaper editor. His party affiliation and a few other publicly available factors completed the picture.

Frankly Maarja, I don't have the slightest idea how to survey historians working for the federal government. The low profile situation you describe reminds me of the Hollywood actor I met at a seminar. He told me had to conceal his "conservative" political views in order to get work. A few years later Charlton Heston speaking on the Rush Limbaugh radio show reminded me of what the actor had said; and I paraphrase Heston; "There's probably more closet conservatives in Hollywood than there are closet homosexuals."

The question of what kinds of political views are closeted in the federal civil service is an intriquing question. I once conversed with a retired HEW/HUD employee, she insisted that the department was riddled with slippery slope socialists.


Richard Rongstad - 9/23/2004

Ralph E. Luker wrote "What Mr. Rongstad said is non-sense because, the views represented by those of us who publish here are really quite diverse and Mr. Rongstad apparently believes otherwise, but only because he doesn't have much experience here."

With respect to diversity of views published at HNN, let's remove the mask of "apparency", I do believe otherwise.

Mr. Luker has just reminded me of another kind of situation where, if I walked into the corner tavern and tell the bar flies they are all drunks, they would dismiss it as nonsense, and then they'd laugh me out of the tavern.

If I'm not mistaken, HNN has been around about two years.

I do not know how Mr. Luker establishes that I don't "have much experience here." I have enough.
I've got HNN mailings going back to November 2002 at hand, and a few more archived elsewhere.

I cannot fully agree with Mr. Luker that "the views represented by those of us who publish here are really quite diverse". I've been reading these views for about two years, about as long as HNN has been around. I would agree with a claim that the responses to articles published in HNN show a range of diverse political views that is broader than the views found among historians in general.


Richard Rongstad - 9/23/2004

Jonathan Dresner confessed "I am a product of the sixties only in the sense that I was indeed born then..."
Jonathan, I didn't mean to force such a disclosure while identifying myself for the record, but I accept it.

And you continued, "...and I am a historian who believes in engaging non-historians on historical and contemporary issues not to 'teach down' but to exchange and discuss. That's why I'm on these boards, on the blogs, and writing articles."

Okay, I'll take that at face value.

You wrote; "Nonetheless, one of the reasons I picked history as a discipline is its utility as a tool to understand the present."

The reason I picked history was to understand the past, a possible tool in understanding the present and future.

"I supported the toppling of the Taliban, but the President did not see fit to do the job properly."

Well Jonathan, when it comes to support of toppling, I yield first place to nobody. I supported the toppling
of William Clinton, but the Senate did not see fit to do the job properly. I expect that opinions on what a proper job of toppling the Taliban might be and what the President should see fit to do are as common
as noses centered in armchairs.

You Jonathan wrote, "I yield first place to nobody in my desire to see democratic and free societies
emerge throughout the globe."

Jonathan, I do believe you share first place with millions if not billions in terms of desire. However, you, and most of the world, me included, must take a back seat to those that actually take action "to see democratic and free societies emerge throughout the globe." I say that with considerable reservations; because judging from the number of nations and societies that have adopted and still use the words "democratic" and "democrat" and "democracy" in their official names and pronouncements; "democracy" is not necessarily freedom.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/23/2004

McElvaine's numbers are consistent with what the press has been reporting for some months now. They are correct.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/23/2004

Mr. Rongstad,

I am a product of the sixties only in the sense that I was indeed born then, and I am a historian who believes in engaging non-historians on historical and contemporary issues not to 'teach down' but to exchange and discuss. That's why I'm on these boards, on the blogs, and writing articles.

Nonetheless, one of the reasons I picked history as a discipline is its utility as a tool to understand the present (which is something of a prerequisite, it seems to me, for making coherent plans and policies for the future), and I also stand by my belief that my intensive and extensive training, and that of my colleagues, does give us substantial insight and important perspectives. My "biases" as you call them, are supported by years of gathering and considering historical trends, patterns, exceptions, ethical and moral principles, politics, economics, family, religion and a myriad of the other complexities which make up human affairs. Do I have all the answers? No, nor do most of my colleagues. But if you know of a group with a better long-term track record, point me to them, please.

In fact, I supported the toppling of the Taliban, but the President did not see fit to do the job properly. I yield first place to nobody in my desire to see democratic and free societies emerge throughout the globe (and I've written on this with regard to Asia and Iraq), but just knocking down dictators is not necessarily progress. What we have done in Iraq (what we should have done a decade ago) is create an opportunity, a very narrow one, for things to get better: as it is now, I see that we have changed things, but I'm not yet convinced we have improved them.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/23/2004

What Mr. Rongstad said is non-sense because, the views represented by those of us who publish here are really quite diverse and Mr. Rongstad apparently believes otherwise, but only because he doesn't have much experience here. It probably is true that a large percentage of American historians believe that GWB will rank very low on the scale of American presidents. That doesn't mean that they agree on much of anything else. GWB has given us an unnecessary war with no plan for exit, a series of budgets leading to deficits into my children's children's lives, an "economic recovery" without employment increases, international interventionism coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy, a pitiful response to the terrorist threat, ... I say that as a Republican and a conservative. My Democrat and more liberal colleagues might add to the list of this administration's failures.


Maarja Krusten - 9/22/2004

Thanks so much, Val, I did see the Toronto Globe and Mail article. Very interesting. Back in the old days, if the woman in the article had published a few letters to the editor, on her own time, I wonder if she would have gotten in trouble with her company due to harm to its reputation? I wonder if she was using a company computer for her blog, some companies severely limit personal use of company computers. As often is the case with news stories with a human interest angle, we mostly heard her side of it. But the evolving case law on blogging liability certainly is fascinating. Thanks!


Maarja Krusten - 9/22/2004

Sorry for the ooops. I was trying to add that there are many GS-170 HISTORIANS in DOD and some in the civil agencies.


Maarja Krusten - 9/22/2004

You cannot always tell voter registration. In my state (Virginia) we vote without having to declare party affiliation so the public record would not assist you. I can vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primary. The same is true in some other states.

I take it for your survey that you also are excluding from the ranks of "professional historians" those of us who are Historians in the GS-170-HISTORIAN series (under civil service) with the government? There are many GSIt would be impossible to pinpoint all government historians' party affiliations as feds by law are severely limited in what they can do in terms of political activity (we may not wear campaign buttons in the workplace, etc.) You can speculate all you like but feds are in the tough spot of not being able to confirm nor deny any charges you might throw out. Most feds keep their heads down and you could not readily discern their party affiliation. For example, you cannot tell from my HNN postings whom I voted for in 2000 although I have readily admitted to my older voting record of having voted for Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and George Herbert Walker Bush during the Cold War.


Richard Rongstad - 9/22/2004

Clayton Earl Cramer wrote to Ralph E. Luker "Do you mean 'wrong'? It does make sense. I understand what he is saying, and there is a logic to his argument."

Thanks Clayton, especially if you are the Clayton Cramer I think you are.

"I disagree that HNN is a syndicate of professional radicals. HNN actually provides a forum for
quite a wide range of historians, many of who are not 'professional radicals.'"

"...many who are not 'professional radicals'"? I'd like to see somebody run the numbers on that,
factoring in classroom content, public statements and writings, plus voter registration which is public.
I would hope for an outcome that suggested that only 2/3 of professional historians are politically progressive, a more progressive term than liberal, more accurate too. But I would expect an outcome showing that professional historians are progressives at the same rate as a few polls and surveys of journalists, about 70-90%. I'm throwing those numbers off the top of my head, but I believe they are close
to what has been reported for journalists.

I am suspicious that McElvaine and many other so-called professional historians will only set
current events in the historical context that best fits their personal templates.

Would you agree that HNN is a syndicate of professionals? I agree that HNN is a wide range of historians, but I take that to mean a broad range of interests in history, not a broad range of political views.


Nancy Tann - 9/22/2004

I wonder if the numbers quoted in the article can be verified by anyone; such as the amount of the deficit, the number of jobs lost, and objective measures such as that.


Richard Rongstad - 9/22/2004

Ralph E. Luker replied to my post about Robert S. McElvaine's nonsense and the nonsense at the end of each HNN thread by writing " What you said is nonsense."

That's correct Ralph. What did you expect? I was commenting about McElvaine's nonsense and HNN's nonsense.


Arnold Shcherban - 9/22/2004

I indicated they were "after Stalin's death", yes.
The point was that the trials were conducted not as the result of the political or ideological regime change; the very same communists, who colloborated with Stalin and were indirectly responsible for the violations of the Stalin's era admitted that the serious "mistakes"
were made and crimes committed. And this happened under the severe totalitarian regime!
Therefore, it seems outrageous and puzzling (not to me though) that neither of the major political
parties in this most democratic country has ever addmitted, even in theory, that some of its leaders
did commit war crimes, the fact largely proven and recognized by the wide international majority,
including many independent legal experts.

Never, under any official civilised law or circumstances, one agression or violation justified another, ... unless the second one wasn't just the direct answer to the agression against the perpetrator of the first one. Alas, Iraq never committed act of agression against the US or the UK, or Australia, or etc.

Even if Iraq had WMDs, the US and UK had no right to
invade, bomb its territory, and forcefully change the socio-political regime there, no matter how bad Saddam
was. It is not coincidental that the head of the UN called this invasion "illegal", though cowardly so, after
the fight. Trust me, the last thing the head of the UN wants is to piss this country off, but the violation is
so obvious and internationally widely acknowledged, that
to formulate it otherwise would give immediate pretext
for a strong disapproval of his candidacy by the UN majority, the support of which (facing the lasting cold and strained relations with the US officials) remains his only hope right now.
The fate of Saddam and his regime should have been decided by the Iraqis themselves; and it was hated so
strongly, as the US official propaganda was trying to
picture, the Saddam would be overthrown very soon.
We know many examples when the bloody dictators were overthrown at the will of the populus; it happened to Shah in Iran, even despite the US aid and support.
With the help of the US to the opposition, and the sanctions Saddam would not stand a two-year chance, without dropping a single bomb on Iraqi capital.


Maarja Krusten - 9/22/2004

LOL I hadn't heard that one before


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/22/2004

The trials to which you refer were after Stalin's death, correct? Nazi war criminals were tried in Germany, but not by the government that told those criminals to commit their crimes.

Concerning aggression: Iraq's history of aggression and human rights violations is so long and sordid that it is hard to call invading Iraq "aggression."


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/22/2004

"The american people have no knowledge of history, are unable to understand politics and human nature or how the system really works."

Or is that they disagree with you?

Of course, if you are right, we can just dispense with this democracy delusion once and for all. Are you applying for the job of philosopher-king? Or is that historian-king?

I do not dispute that ignorance of history is pretty widespread in America. But I find it interesting that when Bellesiles's Arming America came out, the ones who were taken were American historians. Most "ordinary" Americans recognized how unlikely the Bellesiles rewrite of American history really was.


Arnold Shcherban - 9/22/2004

Mr. Cramer,

You are right: it does prove that Adam was wrong factually, but it does not prove that he or me was wrong
essentially, in the moral and legal sense.
The Iraq war was/is nothing more and nothing less than 'agression' according to the definition under the UN Charter that is accepted by all its members, including all those countries that made up the coalition.
Agression is illegal and immoral, and so this war was/is,
Q.E.D.
That makes your multiple-allies-argument logically and legally irrelevant, as far as the defense
of the legality and morality of this war is concerned.
It is this undeniable logical and legal conclusion that gives me and others intellectual and moral right to compare it with other agressive wars, like say, Germany's agressions in WWII.

Mind you, this not the first time I hear the objections,
similar to yours, to such an analogy coming from some supposed to be intellectuals and serious analysts.
Every time I wonder what is more in these objections: sincere ignorance or deliberate distortion of the suggested momentous analogy.
First of all, I DID NOT compare "Abu Ghraib to the Gulag Archipelago and Auschwitz, and Bush to Hitler" in my last short comment; neither I tried to compare Soviet or Nazi regime or govermental actions with the respective
American ones.
Everyone can compare physical condition of President Roosevelt with the one of Professor Hawking, but does
it mean the one who made that comparison implied that in all other regards they are the same, or that their corresponding actions would have the same consequences, or they have the same good or evil inclinations?
Are you joking, Mr. Cramer?

It is impossible to LITERALLY match or compare the specific motives, actions, and their consequences of the political leaders and goverments that belong to largely different historical era, largely different socio-political and economic systems, largely different international structures, largely different
relative military capabilities, etc.
However, it is quite possible, logically and morally legitimate to compare the presence of allies of one
agressor with the presence of allies of another one,
with the obvious to any half-brained purpose: to show
that multiple-allies-argument does not prove the legitimacy and the morality of any war.

Therefore, just on the latter reasons I consider redundant for myself to even address your polemics with
hypothetical ideological adversary.
However, since you offered some, also undeniable factual argumentation, as the US goverment's apology for the Iraq war, and (forgive my guess) for the past and the future analogous actions of the US goverments, I allow
myself, to add something else.


The obvious to any half-educated person fallacies of your attempted Bush apology, very briefly mentioned above turn me back to my previous dillema: What is it:
Sincere lack of elementary logic or deliberate distortion of the suggested analogy.

PS. Actually you are partially wrong even in facts.
For example, your argument about the absence of
prosecution against Soviet military officers or
other officials accused of abuse of power, tortures,
and murders of its own or foreign citizens during
the Soviet regime is untrue, which is forgivable if
you really don't know better, but unforgivable for
the historian who tries to account for the
pertaining facts. Not one, not several, but many
Soviet military officers, including very high-ranking
ones, along with many party officials have been tried
and covicted, some even executed, for the crimes
you specified.
For example, dozens Red Army soldiers and officers
were tried by Court Marshal, some even sentenced to
death for robbery, rape, and murder during WWII,
though, as some (but not you, of course) can
realize, Russians soldiers have immesurably more
and much heavier justifications for doing that
to Germans, that their American counterparts in Abu-
Ghraib or, in Vietnam.
About a dozen high-ranking commissars: NGB, and
NKVD leaders on a national and republican scale were
tried and executed for the crimes specified by
you, after Stalin's death. Not speaking of the most
grave accusations, natioanal exposure and fierce
condemnation that the entire Stalin's era went
through already under communist regime.
At the same time, this country still to prosecute
some of its political and military leaders for
war crimes committed in Korea and Vietnam, and by
proxy, in many other Third World countries, the war
crimes, officially and unofficially acknowledged and
condemned by the great international majority,
including the International Court in Haague.
To prosecute? I must be kidding right?
They are made national (in some cases -
international) heroes by the mainstream US
media and - what most aggravating - by the majority
of the US historians.
The conservative Vietnam, Nicaragua, and many other wars, or coups hero, Mr. Kissinger, for just one example, in the course of many years was afraid to leave the US territory, since he was supoenaed by the Haggue's Court for questioning.
I hardly have to mention that he still enjoys freedom
(spitting at international opinion, laws, and justice itself) protected only by the superpower of the USA and
the latter's disregard and contempt of international laws, while the perceived American adversaries, being
prosecuted by the same Court, at the insistence and strong pressure of the US goverment, even for lesser war crimes.

Don't get me wrong: it is not the apology of Soviet and Nazi regimes and crimes, just - the appreciation of the concept of 'equal justice to all', that you apparently
strife for, as well.


Kevin Michael Fitzpatrick - 9/22/2004

Remember Eisenhower had sucessufully commanded a force of several million men. The concensus I think was more that he was not an intellectual.


Mary Jane VanEsselsttyn - 9/22/2004

Are the people you are referring to the same old crocks or do they just sound like they must crocked. The amount of ignorance we are seeing in this country is appalling even among historians, politicians and so called Christians who have become self righteous and arrogant. The american people have no knowledge of history, are unable to understand politics and human nature or how the system really works. It is time to stop listening to the experts and educate ourselves before it is to late but most Americans are not willing to put forth the time and effort, For this reason we all pay the consequences.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/22/2004

1) “Would not it be fair to say that "academic historians" have gone through selection processes -- both formal if often hidden and self created-- that selects for those of left of center views?”

I do not believe that would not be fair to say without some systematic evidence. As one antidotal illustration, there are many liberals on the faculty at my school, yet the head of the department is a conservative Republican.

2) “If not true, how does one explain the numerous recent surveys of voter registration in history departments?”

That is a fair question, and I would like to propose my own theories for the phenomenon. Note that I have no evidence to support these theories, they are just my humble opinion:

1- Academia is far less lucrative, less secure, and less profitable than many other fields, leading the graduate schools to be filled with liberals who prefer intellectual pursuits over business or law that might attract more conservatives.

2- Academics tend to be more liberal on social issues because they are more attentive to historic injustices and are more likely to sympathize with modern groups (say, gays) who bear some resemblance to historically persecuted groups (say, blacks).

3- Economically poorer people tend to be liberal because they are more likely to have experienced the need for government assistance. They are drawn to graduate school because unlike other professional institutions, graduate schools are far more likely to offer enormous financial assistance they cannot get at other institutions of higher learning.

Finally, my own bias opinion that I must include:
4- Academics are more liberal because they are more knowledgeable on many issues, and thus support policies that are better for the United States. Such policies tend to be liberal. Again, these are all speculations, but it is a good question to ask.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/22/2004

Do you mean "wrong"? It does make sense. I understand what he is saying, and there is a logic to his argument.

I disagree that HNN is a syndicate of professional radicals. HNN actually provides a forum for quite a wide range of historians, many of who are not "professional radicals."


Anthony Scott - 9/22/2004

It happens again and again. A current (or recent) President, often a conservative, is rated as poor by historians. A decade or three passes, and the perspective gained through the passage of time transforms that man into a much more highly regarded leader.

It happened with Truman, with Ike, and with Reagan. And the opposite happened to Kennedy.

So call me in 2030, and I'll offer a firm historical judgement of George W. Bush. Until then, I'll regard any opinions offered as mere polemical rambling by partisasd.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/22/2004

What you said is nonsense.


Andrew D. Todd - 9/22/2004

Once something has been posted for a week or two, it will have been archived by many different searchbots in many different countries, and the material cannot thereafter be withdrawn. At most, it can be disavowed, disowned, or repudiated. Posting something on the internet for two weeks is practically the equivalent of publication in the traditionally understood sense of the word.


John H. Lederer - 9/22/2004

Would not it be fair to say that "academic historians" have gone through selection processes -- both formal if often hidden and self created-- that selects for those of left of center views?

If true, how does one factor that out of a generalized expression of the view of "academic historians" on political history?

If not true, how does one explain the numerous recent surveys of voter registration in history departments? There are many other indicia, but that one seems fairly clear cut -- republican academic historians are so rare that reports of them immediately beg for explanation, details, and a photograph, much like the reports of an ivory billed woodpecker sin Louisiana.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/22/2004

"But any pre-emption must only be embarked upon after extensive intelligence gathering and sincere diplomatic negotiations, neither of which the Bush Administration performed in the road to war with Iraq."

There was extensive intelligence gathering, by many countries. It turned out to be wrong, for a variety of reasons, including groupthink, the difficulties of obtaining intelligence in a totalitarian society, that Western intelligence agencies were still built around a Soviet model, and the strong likelihood that Hussein's own people lied to him about how they were spending Iraq's money.

How sincere the diplomatic negotiations were before the war is certainly a subject for dispute. If Hussein had stopped playing games with the UN inspectors, it would have taken away the primary reason for the war. Of course, it would also have exposed that Iraq did not have the weapons necessary to threaten its neighbors--and perhaps Hussein decided that it was safer to risk invasion by the U.S. than by Iran.


Val Jobson - 9/22/2004

On some forums, you can go back and edit your posts if you have second thoughts. Here, if it's posted you can't change it [as far as I can tell]; at least you can't undercut an argument by going back and changing your original assertions.


Val Jobson - 9/22/2004

I liked the guy who was asked "Who wrote Handel's Messiah?" Right away he snapped "I don't read books." Ignorant, but clever.


Val Jobson - 9/22/2004

Maarja, here is an article in todays's Globe and Mail [Toronto] about bloggers who have been fired for things they posted on their own blogs, and mentioning lawyers in Canada and the USA who are working on the issue. [You may have to register to read it, I am not sure, but it should be free at any rate.] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20040922.wxbloggs22/BNStory/National/


Maarja Krusten - 9/22/2004

Although I can be quite outspoken, I am naturally inclined to think ahead and generally am interested in strategic risk management
(study potential opponents and any possible pitfalls associated with your actions, act so as to avoid being ambushed, etc.) I haven't had much time to research protected speech on the Internet but it appears the case law still is evolving.

Hosting and search sites appear to have more protection against libel than do authors. See
http://writ.news.findlaw.com/hilden/20040525.html

In some states, corporations have some protection against libel on message boards. See
http://www.delawoffice.com/2001_11_25_archive.html

Am I right that most of us are baby boomers or at least long done with our formal education? Still, the following provides some interesting perspectives on libel and web publishing in a student environment.
http://www.splc.org/legalresearch.asp?id=74

Of course, I cannot vouch for what is said on any of the above sites, I merely pass 'em on FYI. LOL.

[Posted on personal time during my lunch break]


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/22/2004

"I was simply responding to your insinuation that anyone who disagrees with the war was living in a fantasy world (I honestly do not mean to put words into your mouth so if that was not your message, than I apologize for the faulty inference)."

That was not my claim. You seemed to making the case against pre-emption on moral grounds, not pragmatic ones. That is my objection. There might be arguments for and against with Iraq, based on the likely consequences of invading or not invading. Rejecting pre-emption under all conditions is what I consider living in a fantasy.

"Certainly, public opinion polls demonstrated that aside from many world leaders, the populations of many countries did not believe this to be the case. I did not, nor did many journalists, pundits, politicians, academics, and other people knowledgeable."

Don't you find it interesting that so many world leaders supported the invasion? It was obvious to all that this was politically a bad thing to do. It led to the Spanish Prime Minister losing his job; it was obvious that Blair was at serious risk; it was obvious that it would seriously damage Bush's ratings as well. Yet so many world leaders went along with it. Do you suppose that this indicates that their intelligence also led them to believe that the risk was very real?

By the way, this is the sign of real leadership and courage: when you take actions that you know are politically bad for you, but believe that it is necessary to do it anyway.

"Many argue (correctly) that America had economic incentives to invade but I have seen no evidence that we invaded because of it."

Please explain our economic incentives to spend hundreds of billions of dollars fighting a war and occupying Iraq, when we could have started the oil flowing from Iraq by ending sanctions.

"It is my opinion that Iraq is far more dangerous now than it ever could have been under Saddam Hussein. It is now a haven for foreign terrorists in the region, a destabilizing force throughout the Middle East, and have generated unprecedented contempt for the United States, adding to AQ recruitment and silencing many moderates."

To the extent that foreign terrorists are fighting U.S. troops in Iraq--instead of attacking civilians in the U.S., this is a good thing. Yes, Iraq is destablized. We certainly destabilized Festung Europa when we invaded it on D-Day, and I make no apologies for that.

One of the goals was to destabilize the dictatorial structure of the Middle East. It has not gone as well as many had expected. There were clearly serious mistakes in how the occupation was administered--of which failure to properly seal the borders was certainly among the most serious.

Unprecedented contempt for the U.S.? Abu Ghraib did, no question. But not the invasion. But you know what? It's not like the U.S. had many friends in the Arab world before this started.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/22/2004

"It gets a bit tiresome to read the same old anti-intellectual European-bashing nonsense, repeated ad nauseum, from historically ignorant people of obvious European ancestry, writing in a European language, about a political system designed by Europeans using European ideals and models."\

European bashing? What are you talking about? Yes, I am white. But so what? I am not a slave to my ancestry.

"Ditto the crude attempts at rhetoric by self-proclaimed Christians whose so-called religious beliefs come out of pre-fabricated boob tube programs."

What are you talking about? I watch almost no television. There has been a long debate about the nature of war, pacifism, and violence within Christianity since the very beginning. That you don't know about this says more about your ignorance than mine.

"Finally, re the 9-11 warnings, read Richard Clarke, against whom Bush and Cheney were too cowardly to publicly testify, and had to hold hands in private session instead."

The same Richard Clarke whose published book was so at variance with his testimony before the Commission that there was brief discussion of investigating whether perjury charges might be in order?


chaz a nordheim - 9/22/2004

GW has gotten the U.S. embroiled in something worse than Vietnam. We were able to extricate ourselves after 10 years and thousands of deaths,and it didnt destroy
America. But this time,we are stuck in a place where we can't just pull out. If we were to just pull out of Iraq the whole Middle East will erupt, and threaten our supply of Oil. It was a mistake to do something,because it was easy, without thinking of the consequences.


Ben H. Severance - 9/22/2004

Agreed. Pre-emptive war makes as much sense as pre-emptive crimefighting. Nations cannot attack other countries simply for what a current "enemy" might do, nor can policemen arrest citizens for crimes they might commit. As a caveat, however, I would say that there are grounds for pre-emption in the case of a credible and imminent threat. War is too destructive to simply await an invasion before responding. But any pre-emption must only be embarked upon after extensive intelligence gathering and sincere diplomatic negotiations, neither of which the Bush Administration performed in the road to war with Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom was a war of aggression. It remains to be seen whether the saber-rattling against Iran will produce a similar outcome.


Richard Rongstad - 9/22/2004

Jonathan Dresner wrote; "For the record, I'm the historian who said that Bush was being very successful at implementing disastrous policies. I stand by that evaluation at this time."

I am pleased that at least one historian will stand up for his biases. Jonathan Dresner is correct. Toppling bloody dictatorships that are hostile to the United States and setting Islamic terrorists back on their heels are disastrous policies.

For the record, I am the non-credentialed, non-certified, non-impressed, non-ivory tower historian without portfolio that panned the 400+ so-called Historians in Defense of the Constitution in 1998 when I said "Most of the 400 so-called 'historians' are products of the turbulent 1960s and they will recognize the old slogan and admonition from their youth. 'Question authority'. Right on. I say question all 400 of them." With the establishment of HNN, that figure has clearly skyrocketed.


Richard Rongstad - 9/22/2004

Robert S. McElvaine could use some grammatical help in his partisan hit piece "Just How Bad Is Bush?" I cheerfully offer my assistance. McElvaine wrote "Most professional historians take a radically different view". Considering the current state of the history profession this should read "Most professional historians are radicals and take a different view." The standard HNN statement found at the end could use some revision too, as it now reads; "This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts." Considering the modern record of the history profession this should be revised to read "This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional radicals who seek to shape the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their dialectic contexts."


Maarja Krusten - 9/22/2004

Anger management, dispute resolution, verbal abuse, often are issues in workplace and family litigation. Many workplaces these days rate employees on "teamwork and collaboration with others." And lawyers specializing in family law--divorces and child custody disputes--can raise in court issues of verbal abuse, intemperate behavior, cruelty, etc.

Does anyone know whether blog and message board postings ever crop up in litigation over job performance or in family court? To some extent, postings are a person's character references. But given the free-for-all nature of message boards, postings certainly can present an awfully skewed image of an individual. A person who mostly is reasonable and easy to get along with might come across as aggressive, intolerant, or abusive on a message board, depending on the topic and the provocation.

If a poster has a habit of denigrating or flaming others, he/she rarely can point to a rebuttal record proving that this is not his/her habit in the workplace or at home. Unlike Richard Nixon, peopole don't have the tape recorders running 24/7. So it can be awfully difficult to prove a negative.

By no means do I intend to pour cold water on the lively postings on HNN--which rightfully occur under people's real names--but the archival aspects and potential future use of the records present some very interesting issues. BTW, I only discovered HNN in early 2004. I gather people used to be able to post anonymously, is that right? I like it better when I can see who is writing.


Maarja Krusten - 9/22/2004

Many thanks for the nice note and the good welcome, Adam! Because this supposedly is a forum for historians, the fact that so few people see their postings as archival is interesting. You would think anyone who researches an historical figure's thoughts and actions would realize the importance of a record. Once your words are out there, they certainly are out there for googling.

As I understand it, unlike with copyrighted articles, message board posters are not asked about use rights in their postings. They certainly cannot control how anyone else uses their web published words down the road.

I don't know how libel laws apply to web postings, however. I've always assumed that a person can be sued for libel or defamation for what he/she writes about certain individuals. I don't know to what extent choosing to post affects one's status as a private citizen or as a "public figure" under law. I'm not a lawyer.

As is the case with published letters to the editor, postings are public. Anyone can paraphrase or characterize the content of a letter to the editor, although one usually has to ask the newspaper for permission to publish a verbatim copy. The letter writer cannot control what others do with his words once he puts pen to paper, so to speak.

It is unlikely that any of you will ever find yourselves in a similar situation to what we National Archives' Nixon Presidential Project staff did --under attack by powerful Presidential advocates who want to suppress or limit disclosures from historical White House records. But, as I said, you nevertheless might consider that by posting on the Internet, you do leave a record of some of your beliefs, emotions, moderation (or lack of it), interpersonal relations, manner of handling dispute resolution, etc.

You’re creating permanent records the future use of which you will not control. Any prospective employer can check ‘em out, any social scientist, political scientist, historian, psychologist, or communications specialist can cherry pick web postings and use them at in future books. There is a lot to be learned about how people fight verbal battles, both in stated messages and unstated metamessages. A rich source of material for future researchers in many fields, for sure, albeit from a self selecting sample of people who choose to blog, air out their views on message boards, etc.

Tom is right, BTW, about the fate of message boards everywhere. Posting hits and then running can discourage good discourse, sometimes you really have to be tough minded to hang in there in a debate. Some days we feel like doing that, other days we go fuhgeddaboutit.

My experiences in facing off with President Nixon's high powered lawyers were not easy but they taught me some valuable lessons. Although I value freedom of speech greatly, I am always mindful of the record I create when I post on the Internet.


chris l pettit - 9/22/2004

Unfortunately, for all the posturing and spewing of ideology and rhetoric, no one has taken the step of looking at the system that is meant to objectify situations and rise above the biases and prejudices that are inherent in politics, religion, and any other moral judgment based system of self interest...that of law.

Art. 51 of the UN Charter, part of international law and US Constitutional law states that a nation may only attack in self defense. THis is supplanted by Article 2(4) which allows for the Security Council to take definitive action to allow for the maintenance of peace and security, but this too is a narrow standard and there must be explicit authorization of the use of force. The legal definition of self defense stems from the Caroline case and states that a missle or threat must be on the way and that there is NO TIME FOR RATIONAL THOUGHT OR ACTION. Clearly, the war in Iraq and any pre-emptive strike of any nature violate these standards and is inherently illegal. Doesn;t jive with your self interested and inherently uniformed ideology? Tough, those are the laws that the international community has come up with to promote the peace and security of the international system and that the US has ratified and incorporated into its own laws. What you advocate is a violation of international and US constitutional law. While I understand your inherent animalistic urges to destroy anyone who does not agree with you or whom you deem to be dangerous, i would appeal to you to actually use your ability to reason and know right from wrong...and to see the logic in adopting a universally recognized legal standard that is our best (though not perfect) option to try and overcome political, religious, ideological, and cultural bias.

There can be a dispassionate debate and sound conclusions can be reached if we go to legal analysis instead of idiotic ideological rhetoric.

This being said, the ignorant and extremist are rarely swayed, and never really care for anything like human rights, the international community of humanity, or the rule of law. They draw upon the might makes right and end justifies the means argument, foregoing any sort of logical analysis in the process. it is sad that these sort of people are the ones who make the loudest arguments at our current point in history, and that it takes catastrophic loss of life for them to see the idiocy of their positions. My only hope is that I can someday prosecute Bush and Co before the ICC for their crimes against humanity that have been committed, and will continue to be committed no matter who is elected.

America is truly a sick place to be at this present time.

CP
www.wicper.org


tom plotts - 9/22/2004

I've stopped responding to Freeper sludge for this very reason. An open search can tag these entries, and if you get caught on a bad day after losing your cool from refighting Vietnam or something, you can look like almost as big a gonad as the folks that bait you.

Too bad most of the posters of the articles "post and run", leaving the remains to be fought over by a handful of the usual suspects. There are a lot of good conversations that just don't get started because of this, and the few that do get quickly hijacked. The fate of message boards almost everywhere, I'm afraid.

Shoulda registered as Alan Smithy. Think of the freedom...


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/21/2004

Maarja,
I thank you for your kind post. I am particularly grateful for that wonderful post you linked to. You are quite right, there is an irrational vitriol that exists among liberals and conservatives, although I wish I could say that it lives only on this web-site.

Personally, I would enjoy seeing more diversity of opinion on this site. Unfortunately, it seems that few people here actually mind uttering offensive rhetoric, and even fewer appear conscious of the fact that it will live on forever. To be honest, I never gave it any thought before reading your post on the subject. Indeed, a google search of my own name reveals a great deal of information, including everything I have ever written on HNN. In fairness, I have conversed with so many thoughtful and intelligent people here at HNN, I try not to let the bad apples spoil the efforts of others.

In any event, your contributions to this site are welcome and appreciated. I hope that we may engage each other in agreements and in disagreements with all of the respect and fairness that you have demonstrated in your posts.


Maarja Krusten - 9/21/2004

Some of you argue reasonably and thoughtfully (for example, Adam Moshe in the above postings. Other HNN posters use very heated rhetoric and flame opponents. That's a personal choice for you all. But, you might consider that your words will live on in the Internet. See my long reflective post on the other current political thread, which addresses electronic footprints at
http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=42463#42463


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/21/2004

1) “Gun control (regadelss of effectiveness) is an attempt to act before a threat is imminent as is control of access to nuclear secrets.”

I do not believe that it is an appropriate analogy. A better analogy would be arresting a citizen who wants to buy a gun, and then convicting him of that desire.

2) “On a national level think of it as something akin to taking action against Germany in 1936-38 rather than after it attacked Poland, or the fairly persistent policy of the US during the Cold War of preventing a communist government in latin America after Cuba.”

It would be accurate to think of it as attacking Germany in 1929 or 1930, when the actual threat was non-existent but the desire was alive and well. As for America’s Latin American policy, I will not go into that now, but suffice to say, I do not believe that anything we did there would be morally acceptable, nor would that be analogous since many of those countries could not have posed any threat to Americans, except for economic interests on the ground.

3) “It is certainly a policy that should be subjected to rational debate. The debate around Iraq suggests that that might not be achievable. A great many have an automatic reaction to a "Bush policy" similar to what I would have to a contract a lawyer extended me to sign if I I happened to notice hooves in his wingtips and a tail sticking out from the vent in his suit jacket.”

To this, I totally agree. It is still worth trying, as it is an election year and the best time to hold Bush accountable for his actions, if indeed he should be help to account. However, in reality, in today’s partisan environment, I believe it will be many many years before the subject can be debated dispassionately enough to reach any sound conclusions.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/21/2004

1) “From blind hatred the Left in America seeks to destroyAmerica's Christian heritage, and if it could it would delete all memory of the influence of Christianity upon the founding of this nation and the development of this nation's character.”

For a person who laments the “blind hatred” on the left, I cannot help but notice that your post accuses the left (whatever THAT means) as being the enemy of Christianity! Frankly, it is clear that your post is mere partisan rhetoric. After all, you single out 2 Democratic presidents, one of whom was a born again Christian, for total contempt and ignore all Republican presidents. What else can one conclude other than you simply feel “blind hate” (to use your expression) towards Democrats, who you erroneously call the “left” (although I doubt if many true liberals would agree).

2) “For all the Left is upset with Bush, there are those, including unafillated voters such as I, who subscribe to the notion that Jimmy Carter & the Bastard from Hope, Clinton, were among our worst Presidents.”

Again, you condemn the “left” for the very thing you then do yourself. “The Bastard from Hope”? Doesn’t sound very Christian to me. However, the belief that anything good must have been the work of a Republican, no matter the timeframe or evidence, does sound very partisan.

3) “it seems academics who post here are far more concerned about the opinion of the U.S. by anti-American Europeans than they are with the proven wartime success of Bush in preventing any serious subsequent attack upon us by militant Islamists.”

Perhaps it is because I see very little in the way of “proven wartime success.” After all, while the war-part of Afghanistan and Iraq went remarkably well (far better than critics predicted), the post-war reconstruction has been, arguably, a miserable disaster. As for making America safer, Bush opposed the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, he opposed federalizing airport security, and he opposed creating a commission to investigate how 9/11 was able to happen. Of course, he eventually flip-flopped (to use a popular Republican term), but I would hardly call them “proven wartime success.” After all, if the only standard of success is the fact that we have not been hit again, then one could argue that Clinton was enormously successful for most (though certainly not all) of his administration, and I presume you would disagree with such an assessment, no?


John H. Lederer - 9/21/2004

I certainly agree there is an obvious question of what is the criteria, but the fact that a terrorist action will have almost bno warning strongly suggests that action will be necessary before the threat is imminent. That doesn't mean it isn't real or serious, merely that it is not immminent.

We do this all the time in our civil systems. Gun control (regadelss of effectiveness) is an attempt to act before a threat is imminent as is control of access to nuclear secrets.

On a national level think of it as something akin to taking action against Germany in 1936-38 rather than after it attacked Poland, or the fairly persistent policy of the US during the Cold War of preventing a communist government in latin America after Cuba.

Insanity? Well seems to me insanity would be waiting for the threat to become imminent since we have no good defenses against it.

It is audacious and ambitious, and perhaps too of both, but should be somewhat familiar to those who have long advocated the US taking an anti-dictator stance in the world.

It is certainly a policy that should be subjected to rational debate. The debate around Iraq suggests that that might not be achievable. A great many have an automatic reaction to a "Bush policy" similar to what I would have to a contract a lawyer extended me to sign if I I happened to notice hooves in his wingtips and a tail sticking out from the vent in his suit jacket.


John H. Lederer - 9/21/2004

Actaully there is some circumstantial but strong evidence that it was also Oil for Al Qaeda.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/21/2004

1) “That such an action might be morally justifiable does not mean that failure to do so is a mistake. There may be sound reasons for not doing so.”

I agree with you 100%. To me, invading Iraq was a mistake, even if morally justifiable. There were many sound reasons for not doing so (indeed, the former President Bush laid them out very nicely in his prophetic memoirs). I was simply responding to your insinuation that anyone who disagrees with the war was living in a fantasy world (I honestly do not mean to put words into your mouth so if that was not your message, than I apologize for the faulty inference).

2) “We can now say with some certainty that Iraq was not at the top of the list. It did not appear that way two years ago, not because of dishonesty, but intelligence failure.”

I disagree. Certainly, public opinion polls demonstrated that aside from many world leaders, the populations of many countries did not believe this to be the case. I did not, nor did many journalists, pundits, politicians, academics, and other people knowledgeable. The only reason many Americans did was because they were told false information.

3) “Some of the countries that wished us to not invade, it now appears, had financial interests that caused them to defend Iraq's sovereignty. France, in particular, was clearly motivated by their interest in developing Iraq's oil fields (which is why the left has been spouting the preposterous "No Blood for Oil" slogan about the U.S.).”

These arguments about economic motivation hold as little traction from war supporters as they do from war critics. Many argue (correctly) that America had economic incentives to invade but I have seen no evidence that we invaded because of it. Similarly with European countries. France is a popular scapegoat because they have the veto, but ultimately, there are too many rational sound reasons to oppose the war for me to simply assume that those would benefit economically supported it and those who would lose out opposed it.

4) “We have had, for some time, however, a program to try and bring Russia's situation under control, with assistance to them in securing nuclear materials and facilities. This started under the Clinton Administration, and continues today. We managed to do that with Iraq as well, but only because we invaded them.”

I disagree. It is my opinion that Iraq is far more dangerous now than it ever could have been under Saddam Hussein. It is now a haven for foreign terrorists in the region, a destabilizing force throughout the Middle East, and have generated unprecedented contempt for the United States, adding to AQ recruitment and silencing many moderates.

I do agree with you on the subject of Pakistan. There is no real solution other than to do whatever we can to keep Musharif in power for as long as possible.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/21/2004

Could you please provide references in the 9/11 Commission report of Bush "ignoring warnings"? The warnings were loud, persistent, but terribly vague as to the nature of the attack, and the location.

"In your Christian readings (at least some of which, you may are may not realize, were produced in Europe during times of 'decline' relative to the Ottomans) have you ever looked at Matthew 5, 'Blessed are poor and the peacemakers', etc. ?" I'm confused. Are you claiming that Matthew was written during the time of the Ottomans, in Europe? Try again.

There are multiple ways to make peace. Unless you are a pacifist, and believe that the use of force is never justified, the use of force can be a way to make peace. Invading Europe to stop the Nazis was certainly making war to make peace.

If you are a pacifist, you cannot be a leftist. Government is not reason. It is not persuasion. Government is force. You may consider that the use of force to accomplish your ends is legitimate, but unless you are an anarchist (and thus, not a leftist), you can't argue that the use of force is contrary to the interests of either peace or justice.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/21/2004

"Neither Bush nor Kerry has suggested invading Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, and the numerous other countries that fit your description." That such an action might be morally justifiable does not mean that failure to do so is a mistake. There may be sound reasons for not doing so, for example, if such action might strengthen the hand of Islamofascists (as it would in Pakistan), where it would be impossible to do so without enormous loss of life (Egypt, and probably Syria), or where the government seems to be finally making an effort, post-9/11, to bring the crazies under control (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia fit this description, somewhat).

"Might I suggest that countries be dealt with in order of their threat to us? By that standard, Iraq would be on our list, but nowhere at the top." We can now say with some certainty that Iraq was not at the top of the list. It did not appear that way two years ago, not because of dishonesty, but intelligence failure.

As for your desire for a strengthened inspection program, the fact is that the Oil for Food program had become the Oil for Palaces program--and there was sound reason to suspect that it was also the Oil for WMD Components program as well. Some of the countries that wished us to not invade, it now appears, had financial interests that caused them to defend Iraq's sovereignty. France, in particular, was clearly motivated by their interest in developing Iraq's oil fields (which is why the left has been spouting the preposterous "No Blood for Oil" slogan about the U.S.).

"If a nuclear weapon went off in NYC, how would we determine if that weapon originated in Pakistan, or Russia (both nuclear powers whose facilities are at best, insecure)." We might well not be able to do so. We have had, for some time, however, a program to try and bring Russia's situation under control, with assistance to them in securing nuclear materials and facilities. This started under the Clinton Administration, and continues today. We managed to do that with Iraq as well, but only because we invaded them.

Pakistan is a real problem. I do not envy any U.S. President who has to resolve that one. If we are perceived as applying too much pressure to Pakistan's current military dictator, this will strengthen the hand of Islamofascists there. But without some pressure, that government would have continued support for the Taliban and tolerance for related groups in Pakistan.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/21/2004

1) “Anyone that thinks you can wait until a country with ties to terrorist groups (as Iraq had to Hamas, and much more tentatively, al-Qaeda) has actually attacked is living in a fantasy world.”

If that is the case, how do you intend to vote for either candidate? Neither Bush nor Kerry has suggested invading Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, and the numerous other countries that fit your description. May we assume that you believe they are all living in a fantasy world? Might I suggest that in an age of terrorism, our targets be a bit more discriminate? Might I suggest that countries be dealt with in order of their threat to us? By that standard, Iraq would be on our list, but nowhere at the top.

2) “Iraq was attempting to purchase yellowcake. This is no longer in dispute. Iraq had a substantial nuclear weapons development program into the mid-1990s. The attempts to purchase yellowcake gave reason to suspect (along with statements by Iraqi defectors, some of whom may have had other agendas) that this program was still in operation.”

Which is why a strengthened inspections program should have been implemented (as it was before the war). Remember that most analysts spoke of Iraq’s threat post-1998, as that was the year the inspectors left the countries.

3) “If a nuclear weapon went off in New York City, how would we determine if that weapon originated in Iraq or not.”

As I say elsewhere, this is not evidence, merely a hypothetical situation which would work with any example. If a nuclear weapon went off in NYC, how would we determine if that weapon originated in Pakistan, or Russia (both nuclear powers whose facilities are at best, insecure).


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/21/2004

"According your logic, if a nuke went off in New York, the U.S. would have to retaliate against all nations, given your claim that no traceable evidence would have survived the blast." Clearly, that would be irresponsible. That's why waiting until we are attacked is not morally acceptable.

At what point is a threat imminent and credible? With respect to 9/11, that point was reached when the second airplane hit the WTC. Our advance warning of this was vague and uncertain as to method and location.

"The terror link is dubious. Why would a dictator who had put down over twenty assassination attempts consort with a group of fundamentalist terrorists who specialize in killing and destabilizing such secular leaders as Saddam?" The terror link to al-Qaeda is dubious; to Hamas (another terrorist organization), unquestionable. Hussein was funding suicide bombings in Israel. There are a number of curious connections that while hardly proof positive, do suggest some connections to al-Qaeda, such as sighting by Czech intelligence of Mohammed Atta in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer, and the curious similarity of name between one of the 9/11 hijackers and an Iraqi Fedayeen Lt. Colonel.

Without question, Hussein was a secularist, and al-Qaeda is not. But if you told me that a nation that believed in the racial superiority of "Aryans" and their manifest destiny to rule the world would form an alliance with an Asian nation that also believed that they were the master race--and both would ally with Italy--well, that's about as plausible as Hussein hooking up with al-Qaeda. Politics makes strange bedfellows.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/21/2004

All we need are the swing states.....


Ben H. Severance - 9/21/2004

Fortunately I'm not living in that fantasy world you spoke of, for I never said the U.S. must wait to be attacked. But it must pre-empt only if the threat is credible and imminent, terms we both seem to strongly disagree on.

According your logic, if a nuke went off in New York, the U.S. would have to retaliate against all nations, given your claim that no traceable evidence would have survived the blast.

Saddam was not a threat to U.S. national security. The 9-11 attack was perpetrated by Al-Quaeda, whom the U.S. rightly punished in Afghanistan. You forget how most critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom generally supported the president's attack on Afghanistan. Iraq, however, is an instance of badly over-reacting to what amounted to only a "plausible" threat (your word, I believe). The terror link is dubious. Why would a dictator who had put down over twenty assassination attempts consort with a group of fundamentalist terrorists who specialize in killing and destabilizing such secular leaders as Saddam? That terrorists may have consulted Saddam, and are now operating in Iraq, was/is an outgrowth of U.S. targeting of Iraq--the "enemy of my enemy" syndrome. Regardless, the tenor of your entire commentary suggests that you would have the U.S. jumping at every phantom in the night.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/21/2004

"Hitler had allies as well... The question is: What does it prove?"

It proves that Adam Moshe's claim (which he has graciously restracted) about this being a unilateral action was incorrect.

Your use of the "Hitler had allies as well" argument, however, suggests that you are lacking some historical perspective. For a while, it was fashionable in some leftist circles to compare Abu Ghraib to the Gulag Archipelago and Auschwitz, and Bush to Hitler. But I don't recall anyone being tried by the Nazi or Soviet governments for what happened to inmates in either facilities. Nor do I recall either government making apologies for criminal actions by their employees.

There are some other differences between Bush and Hitler, you know. Bush is trying his best to get a functioning liberal (in the broadest sense of the word) democracy going in Iraq. I can't recall any such efforts in any nation occupied by Hitler.

The Coalition has spent billions of dollars rebuilding water systems, power systems, oil pipelines, schools, and government buildings in Iraq. The Nazi government looted most everything that wasn't nailed down in France, Poland, and Russia.

The Coalition has spent considerable energy trying to stop terrorists from using bombs to kill Iraqi civilians. The Nazis murdered tens of millions of civilians.

Hitler arrested, tortured, and executed vast numbers of his political opponents. The worst thing that has happened to Bush's political opponents is that some radio stations have refused to play their music. If you want to draw a comparison in the domestic sphere, compare to Bush to Roosevelt--who authorized locking up 110,000 American residents, 2/3 of them U.S. citizens, without trial.

And Bush? A few thousand illegal aliens were arrested, and most were deported. I don't defend Jose Padilla's treatment, but to compare Bush to Hitler--or even to Roosevelt and the Japanese internment--is unfair to Bush.


Maarja Krusten - 9/21/2004

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0921/p02s02-usmi.html


Arnold Shcherban - 9/21/2004

Jentlemen,

Hitler had allies as well...
The question is: What does it prove?


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/21/2004

Anyone that thinks you can wait until a country with ties to terrorist groups (as Iraq had to Hamas, and much more tentatively, al-Qaeda) has actually attacked is living in a fantasy world.

Iraq was attempting to purchase yellowcake. This is no longer in dispute. Iraq had a substantial nuclear weapons development program into the mid-1990s. The attempts to purchase yellowcake gave reason to suspect (along with statements by Iraqi defectors, some of whom may have had other agendas) that this program was still in operation.

If a nuclear weapon went off in New York City, how would we determine if that weapon originated in Iraq or not. Nuclear weapons leave nothing that you can examine for fingerprints or machining marks--all the materials are vaporized in a fireball. Even a small crude nuclear weapon would result in tens of thousands of deaths immediately, with perhaps another hundred thousand or more over the next several years. The costs would be measured in the tens of billions to hundreds of billions of dollars in direct damage and indirect economic consequences. And this is why we have to wait until we have been attacked?


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/21/2004

Odd. You quote George Tenet, who was emphasizing that perfect proof isn't possible, but that the basis of the decision was as good as you get in intelligence work. "Did these strands of information weave into a perfect picture—could they answer every question? No—far from it. But, taken together, this information provided a solid basis on which to estimate whether Iraq did or did not have weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them." Isn't it this clear to you? Unless you confuse "no question" with "definitive proof," the quotes from the Administration are not evidence of deception at all.

Definitive proof exists in science labs and when working with open sources. That doesn't apply to much else.

Concerning the effectiveness of the inspectors: at the time, UN inspectors were being stonewalled by Iraq. This is one of the reasons that the U.S. decided to invade. Iraq was behaving as though it had something to hide. It turned out that it did--missles that exceeded their allowed range. But their behavior gave the impression that they had WMDs to hide. Some have suggested that it was because Hussein feared that if he admitted that they had no WMDs, it would put them at greater risk of invasion or attack by neighboring countries with a grudge (such as Iran). But behaving as though they still did have large stockpiles of WMDs (instead of the small number of chemical weapon shells that have since been found) guaranteed an invasion by the Coalition.

Concerning the contracts:

"1- It would have sent a message that now that the war is over, the United States is going to once again try to lead the world in an effort to rebuild Iraq"

So all the countries that had led the effort to keep Iraq under the thumb of Saddam Hussein would have now stepped up to the plate to help? Not likely.

"2- It would have been in the best interest of the Iraqis to have an occupying force that was as international as possible, as it would have given far more legitimacy to the occupation than has been the case"

Except that the contracts weren't the occupying force. And France could have gotten in on the contracts by saying, "We'll supply a few thousand troops to help with the occupation." Most of the other nations that have supplied troops did so for occupation duty, not initial invasion.

"3- It would have encouraged countries who originally opposed the war to join in the coalition and perhaps even send troops to rebuild Iraq (and thus to protect their investment)"

Ditto. They could have supplied troops, and enjoyed the benefits of the contracts.

"4- From a purely economic perspective, foreign companies should have been allowed to bid, if for no other reason, than to depress the "

Agreed on this. It would have made the costs a bit lower.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/21/2004

I'm not surprised that you are misinformed. John Kerry keeps talking about our "unilateral" action in Iraq. It wasn't true, even at the beginning.


Maarja Krusten - 9/21/2004

yeah right as if most voters read history books or are familiar with the roles and methodologies of historiams. Despite our debates and snarks and snits on HNN we are largely irrelevant. ever see Jay Leno do his man in street "Jaywalking?" my favorite: LENO: What year was the War of 1812?" MAN IN THE STREET: "Uh I don't know." historical ignorance won't keep that man from voting, nor should it. At any rate, some of the poll results I've seen suggest some voters are making up their minds based on "values" rather than candidates' policy positions, which is the area where historians' views are most relevant. historians just are not on most voters' radar screens. Of course your post was meant as a joke--I know! posted by Smartphone natch.


John H. Lederer - 9/21/2004

My informal survey combined with an extrapolation from the gallup poll, concludes that approximaely 140 million Americans think that historians are unable to accurately appraise Presidents.


John H. Lederer - 9/21/2004

I recall a facinating interview with the Mongolian commander...a bit worried that his troops might rekindle memories of the invasion of Iraq by Genghis Khan. <grin>


David Powell - 9/21/2004

Its a shame when political statements and party talking points are offered as "facts" and history is written before it is history yet. This article is wholely inappropriate for this forum. It takes away much more from the credibility of HHN than it adds.


Ben H. Severance - 9/21/2004

John,

You seem so wrapped up in the righteousness of U.S. military intervention that you can't see the absurdity of your interpretation of the Bush Doctrine. Attacking before a threat is imminent? Like Adam Moshe said, this makes virtually every nation on the planet a threat. When Israel pre-empted the Egyptian air force in 1967, that was justifiable. Invading Iraq, however, pre-empted nothing. To put a twist on your pre-emption theory, given your belief that Bush will invade Iran if re-elected, then would not Iran be justified in launching a strike at the U.S. or against American troops sometime after November 2? But no, Iran is the Evil Axis, always planning secret attacks that only crusaders like George Bush have the clairvoyance to detect and pre-empt.

John, I was just remembered that Argentina went to war with Britain in the early 1980s. Britain is our coalition ally. And Argentina may be harboring feelings of resentment toward Gringo imperialism. I think we should conduct overwhelming airstrikes on Buenos Aires. Granted, that country doesn't pose an "imminent" threat, but real Americans can't wait that long.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/21/2004

My source for the claim would also include the upcoming CIA director:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/21/politics/21goss.html


Jonathan Dresner - 9/21/2004

I don't know about your psychoanalysis, but both the administration and its partisans seem very satisfied with what they've accomplished, and I can't think of more than a handful of major or even minor decisions made by the administration that I think won't turn out poorly in the long run.

I think, as historians and as partisans, we need to grapple with the fact that an administration can be politically powerful and well-lead, but fundamentally unsound in direction and policy. It's not a phenomenon that's well-studied in history or in management studies. Politically speaking, we have to realize that those we don't agree with, even those whose policies we consider criminally bad, are professionals from whom we can learn and who we have to take seriously.

I actually have some real respect for the Bush Administration's focus, its use of and rewards to its political base, its media savvy and the broader conservative movement that built much of the infrastructure (corporate, ideological, etc) the adminstration has so effectively used. I don't want to replicate it, because I consider some of these methods to be politically and morally abominable, but I will not fall into the trap of underestimating them as political operatives.

As far as whether Bush's policies are disastrous, that is indeed a question that will have to be only partially answered until we've seen more of it play out. I can't imagine how Iraq, the deficit, the pro-corporate deregulation or the weakened church-state boundaries can be good things in the short, medium or long-term, but I can't convince anyone who doesn't already agree with me until things have played out.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/20/2004

Clayton,
I stand corrected. Either my own source of information was outdated, or it was simply incorrect. Either way, I apologize for the faulty data.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/20/2004

1) “Iraq would support and encourage terrorists, some of whom might attack the US directly, and many of whom would attack the US indirectly.”

Indeed that is a fear with many countries. However, for me, the argument to invade Iraq on such grounds is simply not tenable given the circumstances of Saddam’s containment and his historic relationship with AQ. Perhaps in the absence of any other concern, I would support taking him out. However, N. Korea does have a history of selling weapons to the highest bidder and they have the greatest threat of all. Ditto with Pakistan and Iran. Throughout Eastern Europe, numerous stockpiles of WMD remain under guarded (and in some cases unguarded). These are all concerns that I have. Between them all, Iraq was the farthest from my list, as it should have been, in my humble opinion, in the minds of our national leaders.

2) “The same appears to me to be true of Iran. I believe that if Bush is reelected we will take action in Iran, though I suspect that it will take a different form than Iraq.”

I hope that you are correct. Unfortunately, I believe that with the military bogged down in Iraq, international hostility at unprecedented levels, and a population that is increasingly starting to question the wisdom of Iraq, I find our chances of confronting Iran to be exponentially weaker because of Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

3) “So, yes, the invasion of Iraq is pre-emptive. And yes, pre-emption can occur long before an "imminent" threat. He told us that too.”

Indeed, he told us many things, but I still do not see how this constitutes pre-emptive action.

4) “A very legitimate point is what is the dividing line between when, in this new doctrine, pre-emption is permissible and when it is not. Wherever it lies, he has given us clear and straightforward notice that it lies before "imminent".

If you are correct, I honestly cannot conceive of any nation that would not fall under such a description.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/20/2004

1) “Your source for this claim?”

Former CIA head George Tenet. He spoke at Georgetown before he stepped down and said what many other intelligence analysts said: that there was never any definitive statements in the intelligence reports. The reports suggested that the most likely scenario was that Iraq had WMD (this is where they were wrong) but that they never had any definitive proof:

“Did these strands of information weave into a perfect picture—could they answer every question? No—far from it. But, taken together, this information provided a solid basis on which to estimate whether Iraq did or did not have weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. It is important to underline the word estimate. Because not everything we analyze can be known to a standard of absolute proof.”

Furthermore, as the following editorial points out, much of the pre-war intelligence that the president had full access to turned out to be quite accurate: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4122113/

Now, all we have to do is look at the administration’s comments to see if they were being truthful. Note that the following is just a small sample:
"There's no question that Iraq was a threat to the people of the United States."
-- White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan, 8/26/03
Iraq was "the most dangerous threat of our time."
-- White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 7/17/03
"No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq."
-- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 9/19/02
"Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent - that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain. And we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons. Iraq has these weapons."
-- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 9/18/02
"Iraq is busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents, and they continue to pursue an aggressive nuclear weapons program. These are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam Hussein can hold the threat over the head of any one he chooses. What we must not do in the face of this mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or to willful blindness."
-- Vice President Dick Cheney, 8/29/02

2) “The choices were war or nothing. Attempts to force compliance from Hussein were not successful”

I disagree. Indeed, all of the evidence seems to now confirm that attempts to force compliance was extremely successful and there is no reason to believe that ever tougher requirements would not have been even more successful. Had the inspectors been stifled, or had there been any evidence they were failing, THEN war would have been a last resort rather than the first and only option.

3) “Countries not prepared to risk lives for the invasion should have no expectation of getting any contracts. Why should they? It's not like France is an ally, and Germany is barely one.”

To answer your question, they should have been allowed for several reasons:
1- It would have sent a message that now that the war is over, the United States is going to once again try to lead the world in an effort to rebuild Iraq
2- It would have been in the best interest of the Iraqis to have an occupying force that was as international as possible, as it would have given far more legitimacy to the occupation than has been the case
3- It would have encouraged countries who originally opposed the war to join in the coalition and perhaps even send troops to rebuild Iraq (and thus to protect their investment)
4- From a purely economic perspective, foreign companies should have been allowed to bid, if for no other reason, than to depress the


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/20/2004

"Not only were they wrong in retrospect, but it would seem that the intelligence never really supported the statements even before the war. In any event, the choices were not war or nothing." Your source for this claim? Both the Butler report and the 9/11 Commission report are clear while the intelligence was largely wrong (although not about the yellowcake), this was not because of intentional deception, but because of the combination of the secrecy, insufficient human intelligence, and problems of groupthink. When this many intelligence agencies make a mistake, it is a bad thing, but hardly Bush's fault.

The choices were war or nothing. Attempts to force compliance from Hussein were not successful, and even what little compliance he provided was because of the threat of invasion--as even Hans Blix admitted.

Were there some serious mistakes made about the occupation? Even Bush has acknowledged it. We haven't occupied and tried to rebuild a country of any real size since World War II, and I am not surprised that it didn't go well--although not as bad as some of the media accounts have made it sound.

"Many advised the administration not to disband the Iraq army, thus leaving thousands of unemployed, armed men roaming the country. Again, the administration ignored this."

Yup. In retrospect, a serious mistake. At the time, I believe the concern was that a military commander might decide to use those forces against our troops. I can't say that I blame Bush for being afraid of that. Imagine how Kerry would have used that in the campaign. Mistake? Sure. It's one that Kerry might have made as well.

"Many argued for internationalizing the reconstruction effort, even if that meant opening up the country to non-Coalition bidders. Again, the administration ignored these concerns." Except that because so many countries were part of the coalition (33 nations supplied troops), this was really international. Countries not prepared to risk lives for the invasion should have no expectation of getting any contracts. Why should they? It's not like France is an ally, and Germany is barely one.


John H. Lederer - 9/20/2004

I don't think we are in agreement on what the war is about, nor what its objectives are.

Iraq would not directly attack the United States ala Pearl Harbor. Iraq would support and encourage terrorists, some of whom might attack the US directly, and many of whom would attack the US indirectly. Moreover, because of its presumed ability (wrongly presumed at that point in time it appears) to arm those terrorists with WMD the threat was heightened.

The same appears to me to be true of Iran. I believe that if Bush is reelected we will take action in Iran, though I suspect that it will take a different form than Iraq.

This is no secret. It is what Bush told us he would do, and if we relect him, I suspect that he will do it unless and until the situation changes.

So, yes, the invasion of Iraq is pre-emptive. And yes, pre-emption can occur long before an "imminent" threat. He told us that too.

A very legitimate point is what is the dividing line between when, in this new doctrine, pre-emption is permissible and when it is not. Wherever it lies, he has given us clear and straightforward notice that it lies before "imminent".






Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/20/2004

"Despite the high-profile departures of Spain and the Philippines, American GIs in Iraq serve with uniformed personnel from Albania, Armenia (as of this month), Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, NATO, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Thailand, Tonga and Ukraine."
http://www.naplesnews.com/npdn/pe_columnists/article/0,2071,NPDN_14960_3190676,00.html

I find it very hard to believe that bribery played a part in the decision of Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, or Italy to send troops.


John H. Lederer - 9/20/2004

I don't think we are in agreement on what the war is about, nor what its objectives are.

Iraq would not directly attack the United States ala Pearl Harbor. Iraq would support and encourage terrorists, some of whom might attack the US directly, and many of whom would attack the US indirectly. Moreover, because of its presumed ability (wrongly presumed at that point in time it appears) to arm those terrorists with WMD the threat was heightened.

The same appears to me to be true of Iran. I believe that if Bush is reelected we will take action in Iran, though I suspect that it will take a different form than Iraq.

This is no secret. It is what Bush told us he would do, and if we relect him, I suspect that he will do it unless and until the situation changes.

So, yes, the invasion of Iraq is pre-emptive. And yes, pre-emption can occur long before an "imminent" threat. He told us that too.

A very legitimate point is what is the dividing line between when, in this new doctrine, pre-emption is permissible and when it is not. Wherever it lies, he has given us clear and straightforward notice that it lies before "imminent".






Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/20/2004

It is a popular conservative tactic, to blame all on "the left." What is the left anyway, and who is in it? Does it mean all liberals? Democrats? Who pray tell is this entity that is responsible for doing so much?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/20/2004

"At last count, 29 other nations had provided troops for Iraq"

I am afraid I do not agree with this statement. To my knowledge, only 6 countries (including the US) have provided any troop support during the war:

Albania: 70
Australia: 2000
Poland: 200
Romania: 278
UK: 45,000
US: 300,000

"...and a few other countries provided use of their bases."

While this is technically true, in some of those cases, we had to bribe the countries into allowing us such use, or at the very least, put a great deal of pressure on them.

As for the nations you listed, you fail to include those nations whose citizens oppossed this war. That would include every nation on earth from which polling is avaliable, save for the United States and Israel. No other nation had a majority in favor of the war.

Worth a read: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A1325-2003Mar20?language=printer


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/20/2004

John,
Your post highlights a significant difference of opinion as to what constitutes “preemption.” To me, the war on Iraq was in no way preemptive. There was no evidence that Iraq was preparing to strike the United States anytime soon and by the time Bush choose to invade, there was every reason to believe that the newly strengthened inspections would have filled in some of the extreme gaps in our intelligence, which was never certain Iraq even had the feared weapons to begin with, let alone the ability and intentions to use them.

You are correct, the question is whether Bush moved too soon. Given the fact that North Korea is very likely a nuclear power but was not definitively at the time of the Iraq invasion, and given the increasingly likely possibility that Iran is looking to go nuclear, the decision to invade a country that posed no threat and whose ties to those who are were virtually non-existent (certainly comparatively speaking), I would indeed suggest that Bush acted too soon. Furthermore, having made the decision to go to war, I would suggest that the war policies of the administration were equally mistaken.

Clayton,
I respectfully disagree. I believe that the criticisms leveled against Bush on this matter are not simply knee-jerk, but in fact legitimate concern with a serious problem. The information Bush gave to the American people to support the war were wrong. Not only were they wrong in retrospect, but it would seem that the intelligence never really supported the statements even before the war. In any event, the choices were not war or nothing.

Bush, to his credit, used the might of the US to force Iraq to comply with stronger sanctions and inspections. I do not recall any criticisms about this, but impressive bipartisan support. Had he ended there, I see no reason why many Democrats (including myself) would have had any problem. Quite the opposite in fact. In other words, given the incredible international and domestic skepticism about the rationale for war, I find it impossible to believe that he would have been criticized for not going in.

As for the aftermath, again there are legitimate reasons to be upset at the administration. Many people at the time suggested that up to 500,000 troops would be needed and many billions of dollars to secure a post-war Iraq. The administration decided against this.

Many advised the administration not to disband the Iraq army, thus leaving thousands of unemployed, armed men roaming the country. Again, the administration ignored this.

Many argued for internationalizing the reconstruction effort, even if that meant opening up the country to non-Coalition bidders. Again, the administration ignored these concerns.

This is not simply trying to score points by highlighting the terrible situation in Iraq, at least not to me. It is legitimate concern that the administration has made terrible choices in the war in Iraq and the price is being paid in blood, money, and potentially, in Iraq’s future.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/20/2004

Unfortunately, while it turned out that the WMDs were more hope (and perhaps delusion on Hussein's part), the reasons why not only our government, but most others believed that Hussein had WMDs were well-founded. Wrong, but not implausible. Had Bush not taken steps against Hussein, I'm sure that the criticism today would be his unwillingness to risk his popularity.

Ditto for the aftermath of the war. The relatively careful use of weapons meant that while not bloodless, the war produced relatively few casualties, either civilian or military (perhaps 10,000 total). A more traditional sort of warfare would likely have killed many of the insurgents that are now blowing up Iraqis. Bush would have been attacked for his brutality; now he is being attacked for failure to wipe out the insurgents in 2003.


Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/20/2004

"Taken, in the wake of the terrorist attacks three years ago, the greatest worldwide outpouring of goodwill the United States has enjoyed at least since World War II and squandered it by insisting on pursuing a foolish go-it-almost-alone invasion of Iraq, thereby transforming almost universal support for the United States into worldwide condemnation."

At last count, 29 other nations had provided troops for Iraq, and a few other countries provided use of their bases. I don't dispute that the Iraq matter hasn't gone as well as hoped, or as it should have--but let's at least get some basic facts right. The nations that objected to the invasion were:

1. France (whose state owned oil company was making deals with Hussein in the last few months before the war).

2. Russia (where at least two major political parties seemed to have been bribed by Hussein).

3. Germany (a nation that is understandably a little insane with guilt since World War II).

4. A number of Islamic nations who don't like to reminded that the major problem of Islam right now isn't the West--it is Islam.

If this is what happens when professional historians try to write about the present, perhaps it is a good thing that so few students pay attention in class.


John H. Lederer - 9/20/2004

For the sake of discussion let us take on "disastrous" policy -- preemptive military action.

Assuming continued advances in technology which (1) favor the attacker (complex systems are inherently fragile and their destruction likely to be catstrophic) and (2) decrease reaction times (3) extend the range of attack, it seems reasonable to suppose that at some point premptive military action will become necessary.

So the question is whether Bush moved to it too soon. Arguably 9/11 provides a piece of evidence that we are on the late side of things.


Val Jobson - 9/20/2004

You need not be afraid of "hatred of masculinity". Your own posts are bitchy, hysterical and shrill; not characteristics normally associated with masculinity.


mark safranski - 9/20/2004

Dr. Luker wrote:
" I suspect that, if the president were the person who won the popular vote, you would have no problem with historians making an interim assessment."

I would. The reaction of historians to unfolding political events are similar to those of other well-informed professional groups with analytical training - the commentary may be informed opinion but it certainly isn't historical judgement. It is also likely, particularly in the heat of a capaign season, to be an opinion influenced by partisan sympathy which among historians is lopsided to one political party by 10 to 1 margins. I'll wager that colors assessment just a hair - recall the earlier "consensus" that Eisenhower wasn't particularly bright or engaged - how well has that " interim " opinion stood the test of time ?

For real historical analysis to begin to we need to at least need to wait for the results of the policies under scrutiny. Initial outcomes aren't the long-term results - to say nothing of the full scope of unintended consequences. Oh, and access to some documents might be nice as well.

http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/


Bob Harper - 9/20/2004

(To Mr. Luker):
FWIW, I think that making these judgments at this time is by definition a political act, no matter how much historians may seek to cover it over with a veneer of academic respectability.
(To Mr. Dresner):
Forgive me if I am unimpressed by your claim to be 'uniquely qualified' to make contemporaneous judgments about a presidency. Far more believable is your statement, "I'm not saying historians don't have biases." Keep that in mind the next time you are tempted to pass final judgment on a work in progress.

Bob Harper


Maarja Krusten - 9/20/2004

If you click on the link about Dr. McElvaine's May 2004 poll, you will see that he then wrote:

"Why should the views of historians on the current president matter?

I do not share the view of another respondent that 'until we have gained access to the archival record of this president, we [historians] are no better at evaluating it than any other voter.' Academic historians, no matter their ideological bias, have some expertise in assessing what makes for a successful or unsuccessful presidency; we have a long-term perspective in which to view the actions of a current chief executive. Accordingly, the depth of the negative assessment that so many historians make of George W. Bush is something of which the public should be aware. Their comments make clear that such historians would readily agree with conclusion that then-Democratic presidential hopeful Richard Gephardt pronounced a few months ago: the presidency of George W. Bush is “a miserable failure.' "

While historians, like members of the general public, can assess the post-decisional aspects of the incumbent administration, right now we mostly must rely on Bob Woodward's books and on the assurances of people in government about what is going on behind the scenes. Some of the policy decisions would seem to indicate that options were not aired out as fully as officials have implied. (That reflects my historian side more than my voting record, which has been mostly but not exclusively Republican -- I am part of the shrinking group, a centrist.) Of course, officials are going to tell us that there is vigorous pre-decisional debate and careful consideration of options, but is that really the case? The evidence, if it exists, is in the as yet unavailable archival record.

Occasionally, some primary source materials emerge through leaks to newspapers or the work of a commission. But we are in the dark, by and large, as to pre-decisional processes, an area the Bush administration has protected from view very strongly and may continue to do so after he leaves office. Still, as someone who has worked both as an archivist specializing in presidential records and as an historian, I would not dismiss the importance of access to the archival record in assessing a Presidency.

Dr. McElvaine writes that the assessment of Bush by historians "is something of which the public should be aware." Unfortunately, I don't believe the public cares much what historians think. It has almost no exposure to it, in any event.

In his September 11, 2004 column in the New York Times, "Ruling Class War," David Brooks argued that CEOs and business leaders are "spreadsheet people" who admire Bush's clarity and values and who tend to support Republicans. Brooks said historians and academics are "paragraph people" who focus on nuance and are drawn to Kerry and the Democrats. (A letter writer later added another class, "PowerPoint or bullet-point people," who "traffic in the meaningless business-speak of the management consultant, language that eschews equally the nuance and hard numbers of reality.")

Joe Klein noted in TIME last week that many voters like the fact that Bush seems to believe what he says even if it doesn't always match reality. Historians are supposed to traffic in reality. In this year's campaign, how often have you seen political appeals based on empirical evidence rather than emotion? Since neither Bush nor Kerry has directly addressed many of the hard issues facing the nation, why then should voters care what historians think? And if they did care, where would they read the type of critical analysis necessary to understand historians' views? They are not reading HNN, that's for sure.

If they were, what would they see? Peter Clarke elsewhere has pointed out correctly that HNN is not a site for historians, rather a site for political opinion with occasional historical overtones. Would any undecided voter be likely to be influenced by what is posted on HNN? Probably not, due to the tone of many of the messages. In a site supposedly focused on critical analysis, it is amusing to see how many of you fling mud at opposing viewpoints, demonize each other, and fail to give credit for any thought by opponents. If you guys handled family issues the way you do divergent viewpoint on HNN, you'd end up divorced from your spouses and estranged from your children! (Surely you are not at home the old fashioned "autocrats of the breakfast table!") And I'd hate to see how much turmoil you'd have in the workplace if you insulted colleagues the way you do each other here. Funny to watch actually and to try to figure out why the one upmanship and mud slinging is supposed to be appealing to readers! In a year where many members of the public say they are put off by negative campaigning, it is fascinating to see how often its tactics are replicated here on HNN's boards.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/20/2004

Actually, Mr. Harper, I think historians are uniquely qualified to carry out such an evaluation, as we are trained in the use of historical analogy (which comparing presidents requires) and in the identification of patterns and building of arguments on sometimes fragmentary evidence.

I'm not saying historians don't have biases.

For the record, I'm the historian who said that Bush was being very successful at implementing disastrous policies. I stand by that evaluation at this time.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/19/2004

Not at all, Mr. Harper. Your judgment is political rather than historical. I suspect that, if the president were the person who won the popular vote, you would have no problem with historians making an interim assessment.


Bob Harper - 9/19/2004

That "an informal, unscientific survey of historians conducted at my suggestion by HNN found that eight in ten historians responding rated the current presidency an overall failure" tells us all we need to know about these historians. For a historian to 'rate' a presidency *before* the end of its first term says a great deal more about his personal ideology than it does about the historical impact of the presidency being rated.