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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, August 03, 2004


political intelligence: oxymoron for the 2000's

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, August 03, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
Hiatus override! I've criticized Dean for being wrong on an issue before - but on the issue of politicizing intelligence, he's got it right. And just like his famous observation that capturing Saddam didn't make Americans safer, he's being vilified for pointing out the obvious once again.

This is what Tom Ridge, defender of the Homeland, actually said last Sunday:

But we must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror, the reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan.

emphasis mine. Of course, what Ridge neglected to mention was:

Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.

Here is what Howard Dean said:

It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics. And I suspect there's some of both in it.

It strikes me that using four-year old information to issue a terror alert warning, a serious occassion which the director of Homeland Security uses to make a campaign pitch, does indeed have some politics interjected where there should be none.

Atrios points out that the media critics of Dean today have not been shy about saying accusing Presidents of politicizing intelligence in the past. But Dean is being accused of a straw-man argument he did not make, namely that all terror alerts are purely for wag-the-dog purposes. More on the relevance of this straw man later...

The Rightists immediately leapt baying for blood, with their same tired refrain of Repudiate This (hey hypocrites: Repudiate that yet?). Today, Glenn notes with pleasure that Kerry seems to have responded:

"I don't care what [Dean] said. I haven't suggested that and I won't suggest that," Kerry said. "I do not hold that opinion. I don't believe that.''

But Glenn is wrong - Kerry hasn't repudiated Dean's (correct) observation, he just disavowed knowledge of what Dean said - and Kerry was actually responding to a question about the straw man, not Dean's actual statement, in that quote.

It's actually a clever dodge, though blunted by the insistence by CBS that Kerry was "distancing" himself from Dean's comment when actually he did nothing of the sort. But Dean is useful to Kerry for the appearance of being "distanced" and still free to say things that are, once you get away from the talking head obfuscation, blatantly obvious to the average American (whose rationaliity I never impugn).


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.