P.L.A. - A Journal of Politics, Law and Autism

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Saturday, August 31, 2002

As Labor Day approaches, both parties are engaged in a desperate fight to acquire or maintain control of the levers of power in the Congress. The Democrats hold a precarious majority in the Senate while the Republicans hold a narrow margin in the House of Representatives.

Georgia’s Senate race pits incumbent Democratic Senator Max Cleland against Republican Saxby Chambliss. If the Democrats are to retain control of the Senate, this is a race they must win. The Republicans, noting that George W. Bush won Georgia by 12 percentage points in 2000 and is very popular throughout the state, have targeted Cleland for defeat. The infamous Karl Rove PowerPoint presentation listed the Cleland seat as a “strong chance of Republican pickup.”

The Cleland-Chambliss race figures to be one of the most expensive in the country. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, through August 23, 2002, Chambliss reported raising in excess of $8.3 million and had in excess of $4.3 million in cash on hand while Cleland reported raising more than $6.2 million and has a little more than $3 million remaining.

The foundation of Cleland’s political career is his service in Viet Nam. Cleland volunteered for duty in Viet Nam in 1967 and rose to the rank of Captain. In 1968, Cleland threw himself on a grenade to save other servicemen and was seriously injured. He is a triple amputee having lost both legs and one arm. Cleland was awarded both the Bronze Star and the Silver Star for his service in Viet Nam.

Cleland has a long history of public service on both the state and national levels. He has served in the Georgia Senate and won a number of statewide races as Georgia’s Secretary of State. In addition, Cleland served as head of the Veterans Administration in the Carter years. Cleland won a close race for the Senate in 1996.

Saxby Chambliss is a mainstream Republican. He is a four-term Congressman first elected to Congress in 1994. Although he was elected in the Contract with America tsunami and was a protégé of Newt Gingrich, Chambliss carries little of the Gingrich bombast and little of the bomb-throwing baggage. Chambliss serves as the Chairman of the House Committee on Terrorism and Homeland Security. He takes traditional Republican stances on the issues. He is pro-life, anti gun-control, pro tax cuts and pro defense. Chambliss was handpicked for his Senate run by the Republican establishment including White House political operatives. The White House has been an early and staunch supporter of Chambliss. In March, President Bush took the unusual step of attending a fundraiser for Chambliss while Chambliss was in a primary fight with a fellow Republican. Bush has made three visits to Georgia to support Chambliss. Vice President Dick Cheney has also headlined a Chambliss fundraiser. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has run more than $1 million in ads for Chambliss.

Chambliss was challenged in the primaries. He easily dispatched two opponents winning more than 60% of the Republican vote. Chambliss begins the sprint to November with significant assets. The general trends in Georgia are pro-Republican. Clinton lost to Dole in 1996 and Bush easily defeated Gore in 2000. As noted above, Chambliss has in excess of $4 million on hand and the support of the Bush administration ensures that he will not lack for funds. The Bush administration’s support also guarantees that the likes of Bush, Cheney, Cabinet Secretaries and other Republican heavyweights will make campaign appearances with Chambliss in the fall. Chambliss has the endorsement of Georgia's entire Republican Congressional delegation and the united support of the entire Republican State organization. Chambliss’s position as Chairman of the House Terrorism and Homeland Security Committee provides a platform to make news and earn free media. In addition, Chambliss is a seasoned veteran politician with an easy, outgoing manner and large measure of charm. His family, including his wife of many years, two children and two grandchildren are significant assets as well.

Despite those assets, Chambliss enters the final stretch at a distinct disadvantage. Max Cleland’s political assets are quite substantial. Cleland’s biography of duty and service to his country and the inspiring story of his triumph over his injuries is central to his political career. In addition, Cleland’s campaign will also be well financed with over $3 million dollars cash on hand and a network of supporters cultivated over decades. Cleland has the united support of his party. He faced no primary challenge. The popular Democratic Governor, Roy Barnes supports Cleland. As Barnes is himself running for re-election, Cleland stands to benefit from the formidable Barnes’ get out the vote machinery. Cleland is also supported by that most centrist of Democrats, Georgia Senator Zell Miller.

One of Cleland’s most significant asset is his long-standing relationship with the voters of Georgia. Cleland has been a fixture on the ballot in Georgia for more than two decades. Since his return from Washington where he ran the Veteran's Administration for President Carter, Cleland has constantly been on the state-wide ballot. In his 1996 Senate race, Cleland’s bumper stickers and signs simply said “Max.” In Georgia, nothing more is needed to identify the candidate. Chambliss, on the other hand, has never been on a statewide ballot. His four terms in Congress were spent representing a district south of Atlanta far from the media spotlight. A bumper sticker that said simply “Saxby” would result in a lot of head scratching in most places in Georgia. Cleland is also the best public speaker of any current Georgia politician.

Polling shows that Chambliss begins the race with an uphill battle. The latest polling, done before the primary, showed Cleland with a 60% approval rating and an approval rating among Republicans at a strong 48%. Early polling, now quite out of date, showed Cleland with a 24% lead. That poll is misleading as Chambliss is only now beginning to gain name recognition.

Given the strong position Cleland occupies, why does Karl Rove rate the race “strong possibility of Republican pickup”? How does Chambliss plan to overcome the many political assets held by Cleland? Traditionally, Republicans have attacked Democrats in the South with a charge of “too liberal.” It appears that “Max is too liberal” will be the theme of the Chambliss campaign as well. Chambliss' campaign argues that “Cleland is out of touch with much of Georgia, racking up an extremely liberal voting record while most of the state is conservative.”

The “Too Liberal for (Insert State Here)” charge is a stool with three legs. The first leg is that the Democrat is soft on defense and security issues. That argument serves as a proxy for the argument that the Democrat is a little light in the patriotism department. The second leg of the “too liberal” stool is economic. That leg is usually takes the form of a “tax and spend” charge. The final leg of the stool is social liberalism. Familiar charges in this area are that the Democrat “promotes the gay agenda”, “supports racial quotas,” expels God from the “public square” or the “public schools.”

To be successful Southern Democrats must find ways to inoculate themselves from the “too liberal” charge. Chambliss attempted to use the soft on patriotism argument when he began his campaign by charging that an obscure vote by Cleland on an amendment to a Chemical Weapons treaty bill “violated his oath” to defend the nation.

That charge had absolutely no traction. Both the national press, in the form of a Mark Shields column, as well as the local press ridiculed Chambliss. Critics pointed out that Chambliss avoided military service with student deferments and the claim of a bad knee. Cleland has no knees to be bad as a direct result of his courage and patriotism. In addition, Cleland's work at the VA and his service on the Armed Services Committee serve to make charges against his patriotism laughable. It appears that Cleland is inoculated from charges that he is too liberal on defense and security issues. Max Cleland, sitting in his wheelchair, can wave the flag higher than Saxby Chambliss standing on his tip toes. Max earned it.

The second leg of the "too liberal" stool is also likely to prove ineffective. The central economic vote during Cleland's term in Senate was the vote on the Bush tax cut.Cleland voted in favor of the tax cut. Chambliss argues that although Cleland voted for passage of the tax cut, he was slow to do so. According to Chambliss, Cleland "voted 22 times to gut or delay" he tax cut and voted in favor of passage only when it became obvious that it would pass.

There may be some truth to the charge that the Senate Democtratic leadership gave Cleland a "pass" on the tax cut vote once it was clear that it would pass. Regardless of the merits of the charge, the argument is simply too complex to have traction. Cleland voted for the tax cut. That he was, in Chambliss' view, insufficiently enthusiastic about the measure is largely irrelevant to the vast majority of voters.

Cleland also benefits from the endorsement of Georgia's other Democratic Senator, Zell Miller. Miller is the consummate centrist. He was the first Democrat to support the Bush tax cut. He opposes increased fuel mileage standards. Miller is every Republican's favorite Democrat. Miller strongly supports Cleland. Cleland has been running ads featuring Miller. In those ads, Miller praises Cleland for is bipartisanship and his support of President Bush. Cleland has inoculated himself from the charge of being too liberal on economic issues.

Chambliss may get some traction on the socially conservative leg of the too liberal charge. Cleland voted to outlaw employment discrimination against gays. He supports affirmative action. He voted against the ban on partial birth abortion. Cleland voted against drilling for oil in ANWAR. The difficulty for Chambliss is that it is not clear that a large majority of Georgia voters are as socially conservative as the Republican party. A pro-environmental stance is likely to be a net asset for Cleland. Cleland is not in the running for the hard line pro-life vote. His pro-choice orientation is likely to assist him in is quest for swing voters, particularly in the Atlanta suburbs.

The primary means by which Chambliss hopes to win is to define Cleland as "Too Liberal for Georgia." Of the three elements of the "Too Liberal" charge, Cleland has successfully inoculated himself from two. The third element of social liberalism is likely to be insufficient, by itself, for Chambliss to ride into the Senate. While much could happen between now and November (another terrorist attack, an invasion of Iraq, Cynthia McKinney running as a write-in candidate for the Senate seat thereby drawing African-American support from Cleland) in the absence of a sea change in the political environment, Max Cleland rates to win re-election to the Senate.

Friday, August 30, 2002

Many thanks to Atrios, Demosthenes and Zizkas for their mentions and links.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Questions about Iraq

PLA is sympathetic to the Bush administration’s concerns about Saddam Hussein. We believe that the world would be much safer if he did not hold power and did not now or in the future have weapons of mass destruction. We would like to see regime change in Iraq. We have previously expressed doubts concerning the Bush administration’s policy-making process, its risk-taking tolerance, its hubris and its general competence to accomplish regime change in Iraq at an acceptable price. Our minds are open to be persuaded that those concerns are unfounded. We are troubled that we do not know the answer to several questions. We would like straightforward answers to each of the following questions:

What was bin Laden’s purpose behind the 9/11 attacks and would an unprovoked invasion of Iraq further his purpose? Some have suggested that bin Laden’s purpose in the 9/11 attacks was to inspire a pan-Islamic Jihad against the West and the United States in particular. Suppose Saddam responds to a U.S. attack by using conventional, biological, or chemical weapons against civilian populations in Israel. Would a Sharon-led Israeli government hold its ire as it did during the Gulf War scud attacks or would Israel feel compelled to retaliate? If Israel retaliates with massive conventional weapons or, God forbid, a nuclear strike, what are the chances that bin Laden will realize his dream of a pan-Islamic Jihad against the West? Would a preemptive strike against Iraq set into motion a chain of events in which the terrorists win?

If Saddam responds to a U.S. attack by striking at his own oil production, refining, and transport facilities as well as those in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, what is our plan to protect the flow of oil? How great is the possibility that Saddam could seriously interrupt the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to world markets? If Saddam succeeded in interrupting the flow of oil, how long would it take to rebuild the infrastructure? What effect would a disruption of the flow of Persian Gulf oil have on our economy and the world economy?

How expensive would an invasion of Iraq be? The Gulf War cost approximately $80 billion, much of which was picked up by our allies. How much would a long-term occupation of Iraq cost? Our forces remain in Germany, Japan and Korea two generations after cessation of the conflicts. Would an occupation of Iraq last two years? Ten years? Sixty years? Will George W. Bush ask this generation of Americans to pay that price, in the form of foregoing portions of his tax cut for instance, or will he simply pass the cost down to future Presidents and future generations by financing the war through deficit spending?

George H.W. Bush enunciated the principle during the Gulf War that America would not allow “naked aggression” in the form of an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country to stand. If we invade Iraq without what the remainder of the world views as adequate provocation, do we undercut the principle of the Gulf War? Would such action have any implications with regard to the disputes between India and Pakistan? Between China and Taiwan? North and South Korea?

We do not pretend to know the answers to those questions. We hope that our leaders have carefully considered those questions as well as a myriad of others. We do believe that answers to those and similar questions are essential to an informed debate over the fundamental question of whether to risk American blood and treasure in war. Mr. President, we want to support you and we hope that you make wise and correct decisions. Please help us to understand the issues.

Debate Nightmare

PLA has a third grader. In math class, the third grade is now doing a common type of word problem. After assisting with homework one evening, PLA dozed off into a dreamy slumber….

Mr. Lehrer: President Bush, former Vice President Gore, welcome to the First Presidential debate of 2004. Mr. President, the first question is for you. A train leaves Chicago heading west at 45 miles per hour. It travels for 1 hour and twenty minutes before stopping for passengers to disembark. At the same time, another train leaves Chicago heading east at 50 miles per hour. It travels for 1 hour before stopping to load freight. Mr. President after 1 hour and twenty minutes, how far apart are the trains?

President Bush: Ah… Ah… well, that question uses Fuzzy Math. Um, ah, well... Evil doers may misunderestimate the elevolocation of trains There is a war on. That question has been totally vetted by the SEC and the answer is in documents that we will not release. You can check for yourself.

Mr. Lehrer: Mr. Gore, you have 30 seconds to respond:

Mr. Gore: 110 miles apart. Jim, the issue of public transportation is an important one. The use of mass transit not only helps in the fight against greenhouse gasses and resulting global warming but can also reduce commute times and increase the quality of life……

Next Day’s Washington Post Front page article by Ceci Connolly:

In last night’s First Presidential Debate, Former President Al Gore again proved that he will say anything to become President. Mr. Gore lied by suggesting that a freight loading station for trains is located fifty miles east of Chicago. A press release from the Republican National Committee noted that the closest freight loading station is actually 47 miles east of Chicago…

The next day on CNBC, Howard Fineman weighed in:

Al Gore is just not comfortable in his own skin. He demonstrated that again last night where, in an attempt reinvent himself yet again, he wore a red tie with blue stripes. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, was steady, determined and sure of himself in a blue tie with red stripes…

Fortunately, the alarm clock went off.

What is autism?

Our writing style in our posts concerning law and politics is rather formal. Stilted we will vigorously deny. PLA writes in the first person plural (the royal “we”) or in a more passive voice (“one may presume”). The habits formed by a lifetime of writing for an audience of judges and their clerks (lawyers all) are difficult to break. The posts concerning autism, however will be different. I shall write them in the first person singular. “We” shall not be "royal" but rather shall refer to us, Dwight and Deb. For us, autism is entirely personal. Our younger son (now seven) is autistic and we live with autism every single day.

In my posts on politics and law, I hope to inform, persuade or amuse you. Those posts are for you, the reader. The autism posts are for us. For me. One of the purposes of establishing this site was to have fun writing about law and politics while forcing myself to write about autism. Writing is discipline. I hope that the discipline of writing about autism will allow me to gain some distance and some perspective. I hope to eventually be able to hold autism up to analytical thought and rational analysis. That day has not yet come.

Autism is viewed from many perspectives. To professionals:

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism and its associated behaviors have been estimated to occur in as many as 2 to 6 in 1,000 individuals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2001). Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of autism's occurrence.
Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. The disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others and relate to the outside world. In some cases, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present. Persons with autism may exhibit repeated body movements (hand flapping, rocking), unusual responses to people or attachments to objects and resistance to changes in routines. Individuals may also experience sensitivities in the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste...

That is the professional view. To us, Autism is a seven-year old little boy who is not yet out of diapers and has not yet learned to talk. To kids at school or on the playground, autism is simply what makes Bobby a “retard.” To us, autism is sitting in an audiologist’s office while our two-year old son’s hearing is tested and praying that he is deaf because there is something you can do about deafness.

To some, autism is Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man obsessing over Judge Wapner or counting the queens remaining in a blackjack deck. To us, autism is getting a diagnosis and pouring over the medical literature only to find at every turn that there is “no known cause, no known cure, no approved medical treatments.”

To some, autism is the surreal aspect of savants performing feats of memory or mathematical calculation (like the little autistic boy in Mercury Rising) while being otherwise non-communicative. To us, it is playing with Bobby at the swimming pool and seeing flashes of a normal happy child locked inside him and being unable to break down the wall that prevents us from rescuing our son. I have more to say, much more, but right now, at this moment, the pain is simply too great.


We apologize

PLA apologizes to both of our readers for the condition of this site. We intend to take a number of steps to improve the site. Those steps include a better template, links to other sites, a comment capability, a bio of PLA, and other features. So far, we can’t even figure out how to post our e-mail address in a permanent location.

PLA once had a client that was in the earth moving business. He operated a company that ran bulldozers and other heavy equipment to prepare sites for construction. The client bid on and was awarded a large contract to prepare a site for a new Interstate Highway interchange. Part of the work required a sub-contractor to blast rock. The sub-contract was singularly one-sided in favor of the blaster and the blasting company used every clause to squeeze our client for additional money. A dispute arose and litigation followed.

In preparation for deposition, we asked our client many questions. Questions concerning his bid, the work, the oral negotiations leading up to the sub-contract and the performance of the sub-contractor were answered promptly, confidently and very credibly. Answers to questions concerning the precise language of the written contract, however, were vague, unsure, and hesitant.

After a number of prep sessions, it became apparent that while a successful businessman with the ability to manage a crew and to operate complex equipment, our client could not read. We approached the issue as gently as possible and our client finally acknowledged that he did not and could not read the contract. We asked how he had managed in business without so basic a skill. He replied that he was good at operating a bulldozer and he knew how to get a crew to work. He just was not good at the “paper work”. “Everybody’s head” he informed us “aint growed for the same thing.”

Our head aint growed for HTML.

Why is Georgia a Democratic state?

Georgia is a conservative state. Bob Dole carried Georgia over Bill Clinton in 1996. In 2002, Bush easily won the state over Al Gore with a 55%-43% advantage. Why does such a conservative state have a Democratic Governor, 2 Democratic Senators, a Democratic State Senate, a Democratic General Assembly and seem poised to have a Democratic majority in its congressional delegation next year? Jay Bookman has the answer in today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002
McBride pulls even with Reno

A column in todays Atlanta Journal Constitution by Matt Towery says that an independent poll shows Bill McBride has pulled into a statistical tie with Janet Reno for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Florida. In addition, incumbent Republican Governor Jeb Bush polls under 50% in a hypothetical matchup with McBride. In the hypothetical matchup between Bush and McBride, Bush polls at 46% while McBride garners 33%. The most remarkable finding was an undecided share of 21%. As McBride is relatively unknown throughout Florida, those poll results are good news for his campaign.

Pryor has double digit lead in Arkansas

The Arkansas News Bureau reports that Democrat Mark Pryor has taken a 51% to 41% lead over incumbent Republican Senator Tim Hutchinson with 8% undecided. An incumbent Senator polling 41% with two months until the election is in serious trouble.

/28/2002 9:37:54 AM | dwight meredith]

This article was written before this Journal was established. It was published by Atrios as well as by Zizca. Thanks to both. In addition, it was linked to by Avelon Carol and Jeff Cooper. Thanks to you too.


As the 2000 campaign neared election day, the Bush campaign decided to employ the “bandwagon tactic.” That tactic is based on the presumption that late-deciding voters will break towards the campaign that is perceived to be the winner. Thus, the Bush campaign theorized, if we simply act and talk as if we will win, the late-deciding voters will break for us and our act will become self-fulfilling. To implement the tactic, Karl Rove predicted an electoral landslide as well as a popular vote victory of 7+ percentage points. In the last stages of the campaign, the candidate ignored battleground states in which the election would be close such as Florida, New Mexico, West Virginia , Iowa and Wisconsin to concentrate on states in which Mr. Gore had a substantial lead such as California and New Jersey. The apparent theory behind that choice was that the public and the press would decide that if Bush was sufficiently confident to campaign in “lost states,” he must have the election sewed up. From that conclusion the “bandwagon effect” would result in the undecided voters breaking for Bush.

The essence of that strategy was that an act of exaggerated or unjustified self-confidence could influence the behavior of others in a favorable way. A display of exaggerated self-confidence is the definition of hubris. In the case of the “bandwagon tactic,” hubris may have come within one Supreme Court Justice’s vote of costing G. W. Bush the Presidency. That close call, however, has not diminished the Bush administration’s use of tactical hubris.

On election night, the results of the election were unknown. No one knew who had won New Mexico, Florida or part of the west coast. The result of Florida would determine the election. Before absentee ballots had been tallied, before a decision on recounts had been made, before a lawsuit that ultimately decided the election was brought, George W. Bush announced that he was the winner. He was, his campaign declared, President Elect. While James Baker, the Brooks Brothers riot squad and more lawyers than worked the O.J. trial scrambled to ensure the accuracy of his statement, Mr. Bush was serenely confident in his victory. Given that no one, including Mr. Bush, Mr. Rove and Mr. Baker could possibly know how the Florida electoral votes would eventually be cast, the announcement may be best understood as an act of unjustified confidence, i.e. hubris.

Perhaps the Bush campaign felt that by prematurely declaring victory, he would buck up his supporters, cow Al Gore and his legions, and turn the media and public opinion in his favor and against a recount. Public opinion might then simply demand that the initial Florida results be certified and Bush be installed into office.

If Bush’s declaration of victory was a tactical use of hubris (as opposed to being simple hubris), it is difficult to assess whether or not it worked as planned. Clearly, Mr. Bush’s supporters were invigorated by the declaration. Mr. Gore however was not cowed. The media and, in particular, the pundits seemed to accept the statement and opine that Mr. Bush was the rightful winner even before a recount. The public did not seem to rise up and declare Mr. Bush the winner as a result of his announcement. Once the recount issue went to the United States Supreme Court, however, the tactic of hubris, if that is what it was, may have been a clear winner. A divided court, in an opinion written by Justice Scalia, issued an injunction halting the Florida Supreme Court ordered recount. The basis for such an injunction was that the actual counting of all votes cast in Florida would cause irreparable harm to one of the parties, namely Mr. Bush. The finding of irreparable harm has, as an unstated premise, that Mr. Bush was the rightful winner of the Florida electoral votes and, therefore, of the Presidency. Perhaps the display of hubris in declaring himself the winner reached the audience of five members of the Supreme Court and influenced their behavior. If so, score one huge victory for the tactics of hubris.

After his inauguration as President, Mr. Bush decided that the closeness of the election and his relative lack of a mandate should not temper his policy proposals. Some counseled that he should alter his domestic agenda given that he lost the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes. After all, a clear majority of Americans had voted against Bush in the election. Bush rejected that argument and decided that to proceed as if he had a mandate would, in fact, create that mandate. In essence, Bush decided that if he acted as if he had a mandate, others would get on board and he would, in fact, have a mandate.

The centerpiece of the Bush domestic policy during the campaign was a large tax cut that critics claimed would skew its benefits to the very wealthy while squandering the budget surplus. The tax cut proposal had been developed in 1999 when the Bush campaign worried that his primary challenge would come from Steve (flat tax) Forbes instead of John McCain. Despite the changes in the economy and the potential for deterioration in the budget picture should the economy head into a downturn, Bush decided to proceed with his tax cut proposal with minimal modifications. Thus, Bush decided that the way to deal with the lack of an electoral mandate was to act as if he had one with regard to his largest domestic policy prescription. The decision to proceed with the tax cut was not an act of hubris as Mr. Bush’s self-confidence was fully justified. Shortly after he proposed the legislation, one Democrat, Zell Miller of Georgia, announced that he would support the bill. The tax cut passed by respectable margins in both houses of Congress and became law.

A pattern may be perceived in the above. When faced with a decision, Bush decides on the outcome he desires, announces it as fact and hopes that his show of confidence will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. With regard to campaigning in “lost states,” the strategy did not work but no price was paid. With regard to the “President Elect” strategy, it may not have worked with the public but it may have worked with the only constituency that mattered, the Justices of the Supreme Court. On the tax cut, the strategy seems to have worked to Bush’s short-term political benefit. Whether or not it works in the long term depends on the future of the economy, the budget and the assignment of political blame should either crater.

The President’s Iraq policy follows the pattern. In his State of the Union speech, the President identified Iraq as one of the four countries operating as an “Axis of Evil.” He predicted that “the price of indifference would be catastrophic” with regard to those countries. He vowed that “America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation's security.” Mr. Bush noted that “time is not on our side.” He would not “wait on events, while dangers gather…. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.”

In his Commencement speech at West Point, Mr. Bush made clear that efforts to remove Saddam from power in Iraq were needed and would be taken preemptively:

For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence . . . means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best . . .. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.
[T]he war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.
And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.

Those statements can only be read as announcing that the security of the nation depends, in part, on regime change in Iraq. Indeed, Richard Perle has stated as much when remarking that:

The failure to take on Saddam after what the president has said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism.

A funny thing happened on the way to the implementation of Bush’s announced policy. The Republican Party, the Republican foreign policy establishment, the uniformed military, our traditional allies, countries in the Gulf region, and increasingly, the American people failed to react to the show of confidence by rallying to support the policy.

Within the Republican Party, Senator Richard Lugar, Senator Chuck Hagel and Majority leader Armey have all expressed reservations concerning preemptive military regime change in Iraq. The foreign policy establishment of the Republican Party including former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Wesley Clark have expressed varying degrees of reservation concerning the policy.
The press reports a singular lack of support for the policy within the uniformed officers at the Pentagon. The New York Times repeatedly publishes negative critiques of “war plans” leaked from sources within the Pentagon.

Despite a high profile trip to the region by Vice President Cheney, none of the Gulf states support the policy. German leadership is actively running against the policy in the upcoming elections. Even such a staunch ally as Great Britain has expressed reservations and has failed to commit to support preemptive military action in Iraq. Mr. Bush looked into Mr. Putin’s soul and found a $40 billion development deal between Russia and Iraq.

Recent polling suggests that the American people’s support for war with Iraq is tepid at best and falls precipitously in the event that American casualties are incurred, the war lasts for any extended period or the U.S. has to go it alone without the support of our allies.

Stratfor.com reports that the Bush administration is backing down from preemptive action in Iraq and is looking for a way to limit the political damage of such a reversal. The President meets with his “war cabinet” in Crawford and announces that no discussion of Iraq occurred. The President who once announced that “time is not on our side,” that the results of indifference could be “catastrophic” and declared that “this nation will act” now strikes a different chord. The White House announces that no decision has been made. Bush states that he “is a patient man” and decries the media “frenzy” concerning Iraq.

Perhaps hubris is no substitute for patient planning, consultation with Congressional leaders as well as allies, substantive debate and careful building of support among the American people.