Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rewriting the Vietnam War

One of the many disturbing themes emanating from the neoconservative cabal in Washington is the idea that we could have — and should have — won the Vietnam War if only we hadn't lost our nerve. The views these people express about Vietnam shine considerable light on their approach to Iraq, and the parallels are much more than superficial.

Read more...C–SPAN is running an American Perspectives segment from 2006-06-23, featuring Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Rush Limbaugh, and some of the cast and crew of the television series 24, discussing the image of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in light of the fictional Jack Bauer. Secretary Chertoff slid in this quote amid praise for the steadfastness of the real people working to prevent terrorist attacks:

The fact of the matter is, American history shows we cannot be defeated in a fight unless we lose our nerve or we lose our will. We have only lost those conflicts where we have withdrawn from the field of battle before we prevailed.
In the Vietnam War, the U.S. military withdrew from South Vietnam without having driven the North Vietnamese army and the Viet Cong guerrillas back across the 17th parallel. The question is, could the United States have prevailed militarily if we had remained in Vietnam? My answer, and the clear answer of the American public, was that the Vietnam War was not only not worth the sacrifice, but it was unwinnable.

The Vietnam War was manifestly not worth the sacrifice, because the doomsday predictions about what would happen if we allowed South Vietnam to fall were completely off the mark. The toppling of that domino did not lead to the sweeping spread of communist revolution around the world. Three decades on, the United States is seeing the advantages of reestablishing trade with Vietnam, even though it is nominally still communist (rather like China). That still leaves the question of what it would have taken to defeat the communist forces of the North Vietnamese army. We had already bombed North Vietnam extensively, with no discernible effect on their determination to press the fight. The Tet Offensive largely removed the Viet Cong as a major factor, but the North Vietnamese army was still in play. In the meantime, the South Vietnamese government and army were in substantial disarray, and utterly unable to stand up as U.S. forces stood down.

Should we have sent in hundreds of thousands of troops for an infantry march all the way to Hanoi? How many American soldiers would have been lost in such an exercise? How many Vietnamese soldiers and civilians? And to what purpose? Should we have reunited Vietnam under the flag of the south? I don't think that China would have taken that lying down; despite the historic hatred between China and Vietnam, the PRC strongly supported North Vietnam. What if we had just pushed the North Vietnamese back north of the 17th parallel? We would have had to remain indefinitely to hold the border.

In Vietnam, the United States didn't lose its nerve, it woke up and realized that it was squandering its blood and treasure on a fool's errand. Likewise, the United States will not prevail in Iraq simply by determinedly standing our ground until the bad guys give up. To defeat the insurgency, we need better intelligence, in both senses of the word: we need more knowledge of the enemy, and we need better planning. We can't bomb them into submission, any more than Israel was able to bomb Hezbollah into oblivion. The battle in Iraq, much like the battle in Vietnam, is first and foremost a matter of hearts and minds. If the people over there support what we are doing, we will succeed; if the broad middle opposes us or is apathetic, we are doomed to failure. Most of all, if we succumb to the temptation to refight the last war, to show that withdrawing from Vietnam was a mere lapse of judgment, we will find the desert of Iraq no more hospitable than the jungles of Vietnam.

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Intelligent Design and the Lotto

The so-called "Intelligent Design hypothesis" holds as its central premise that it is impossible for life as we know it to have arisen by random chance; therefore, some intelligent force (i.e., God) must have guided creation. That argument is hogwash, as can easily be demonstrated by analogy to the California Super Lotto.

Read more...The winning numbers for the 2006-08-12 drawing were, according to the California Lottery website, 10 12 34 37 47 (8 mega). To win the jackpot, you must match all five regular numbers and the mega number. The odds of doing so are 1 in 41,416,353. If you played the same set of numbers every drawing, you would have a 50-50 chance of winning some time in the next 276,000 years. It is thus "virtually impossible" (or perhaps even "inconceivable") for those six numbers to have arisen by random chance; there "must" have been an intelligent guiding hand choosing those specific numbers. In fact, the odds of winning even once in a human lifetime are vanishingly small, so if you win it must be because you made the proper sacrifice to a golden calf, or because you let the Zodiac guide your selection, or because Rod Serling planted the enchanted fortune cookie machine at your dinner table, or simply because the Flying Spaghetti Monster smiled down upon you.

The flaw is that you are looking in isolation at the odds that you will win. The missing piece of the puzzle is that millions of people play the lottery, and so the odds are quite good that someone will — by utter random chance — choose the winning numbers. Perhaps not on this drawing, perhaps not on the next one, but it is only a matter of time. Likewise, the odds that a few carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen atoms would randomly group together to form DNA is infinitesimal for a single instance. However, how many sets of numbers did the universe play before it hit the winning combination? Also, life begets life: once you have living organisms, the process ceases to be completely random. Organic molecules tend to lead to the formation of other organic molecules. Given an entire planet's worth of raw materials, plus a couple billion years, the odds that life evolved without the guiding hand of a supernatural intelligence begin to look much different.

I won't pretend that I have disproved the existence of an intelligent Creator; that task is intrinsically impossible, because any contrary evidence could simply have been planted by a deity with a strange sense of humor. However, "Intelligent Design" is not science, and has no scientific foundation whatsoever. It is simply religious dogma dressed up with the superficial trappings of scientific language. At its root, the existence or non-existence of God is purely a matter of faith.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ramesh Ponnuru on the Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert's guest last night, 2006-08-14, was National Review columnist and author of the book The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life, Ramesh Ponnuru. Even though Ponnuru clearly watches The Colbert Report regularly, he didn't seem to grasp the ridicule to which Stephen subjected him.


Stephen Colbert: My guest tonight is a National Review columnist who calls the Democrats "the Party of Death"; I assume he's been reading the voter rolls in Chicago. Please welcome Ramesh Ponnuru! [applause] Ramesh, thanks for comin' on.

Ramesh Ponnuru: Thanks. I saw what happened to Joe Lieberman when he didn't take your invitation, so....

Colbert: Are you running for something? (No.) Because, if you were, you've got a catchy little slogan here: The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life. I'm 100% behind you here. Democrats are the Party of Death. You know, I think they're behind [Ned] Lamont, right — so are the al Qaeda. (That's what I hear.) Vice President Cheney said al Qaeda supports Lamont. (I did hear that.) Well, good; I thought I might've been crazy. You got a great blurb on the cover from Ann Coulter; that's some credibility right there. Now, tell me why the Democrats are the Party of Death.
Ann Coulter has about as much credibility as Geraldo Rivera or Britney Spears. Enough said.
Ponnuru: Well, one of the stories I tell in the book is how the Democrats started out as the relatively "pro-life, anti-abortion" party, and then became nearly monolithically "pro-choice," and they stopped being the majority in this country at the same time.

Colbert: Now, when you say abortion, you're not using that in a comedic way, right? You're using it very seriously. (Right. Yes.) Because I want to make sure we don't make any abortion jokes tonight, because — it's a funny word, I understand that, like guacamole — but you are being serious right now. (Right.) You're being serious? Okay, good.

Now, you make a good point: the Democrats are the Party of Death. Please explain to my audience — I have to explain to them all the time the Democrats are the Party of Death — explain to them how raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare, and pulling out of Iraq makes them the Party of Death, 'cause I've shouted myself hoarse about that to these people.
Blowing things up and killing and torturing civilians and ignoring the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the poor, sick elderly — now that's what I call "a culture of life."
Ponnuru: I know you have. Well, first I need to explain that not all Democrats are part of the Party of Death, and some Republicans are part of the Party of Death. I'm using that phrase really to refer to all the forces in our politics and culture —

Colbert: Does it say some Republicans on this? No, it doesn't: it just says "The Democrats, the Media, the Courts" — just probably ran out of ink at some point.

Ponnuru: There's a lot about the Democrats, a lot about the media, and a lot about the courts in the book.

Colbert: Now, why do you think some people troop out Reagan's name for things like stem-cell research, which I assume you're opposed to. (I'm opposed to some kinds of stem-cell research, sure.) Are you opposed to embryonic stem-cell research?

Ponnuru: If it involves killing a human embryo, yes.

Colbert: So why do you think people troop out Ronald Reagan's name to try to get that passed?

Ponnuru: Well, because there are some members of his family who support it — of course, some members don't — and they're just trying to establish this as something conservatives and Republicans can support, you know, by using a dead man. [arches his eyebrows]
"Some members of his family," yes, that would be his wife and his son and namesake, for starters, specifically the two people best qualified to speculate what Reagan's position on the issue would be if he were alive today. Sometimes, Mommy really does know best.
Colbert: What if they — I would say the only reason I would support cloning and embryonic stem-cell research, is if we could clone Ronald Reagan, and then if we could just get him back, and then just end it right there, that would be great.

Ponnuru: Well, you wouldn't be able to debate yourself any more, either, though.

Colbert: You know what, I could get a couple more of me; that'd be pretty good. Now, you're against activist judges, correct? (Yes.) I am, too. Tell me, what is your argument? Why do you think that they're part of the problem? You say the courts; how are the courts part of the problem?

Ponnuru: Well, I mean, the Supreme Court imposed on this country a policy of abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy, for essentially any reason. That is a policy that — certainly when put in those terms — only about 10% of the American public supports. That is the #1 reason why this has become such a divisive issue for the last 35 years in this country. Other countries that don't have judges imposing pro-abortion policies, haven't had anything near this amount of strife over the issue.
Well, there are just a couple of little problems there, Mr. Ponnuru. Apparently you've never bothered to even skim through the actual Roe v. Wade decision. It says, in relevant part, with emphasis added:
(a) For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman's attending physician.

(b) For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.

(c) For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.
That's nothing remotely close to "a policy of abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy, for essentially any reason." I'm not quibbling over jots and tiddles here, either. The Supreme Court imposed a policy of abortion on demand prior to fetal viability for essentially any reason. In practice, viability means roughly the end of the second trimester, after which time states may completely outlaw all elective abortions, so long as they allow a reasonable exception for the health of the mother.

The point about other countries where the courts have imposed pro-abortion policies against the will of the people is also worthy of examination. Take, for a clear example, the Republic of Ireland. In the early 1990's, a court — and a foreign court at that, the European Court of Human Rights — struck down Ireland's absolute prohibition against all abortions, even when the mother's life is in immediate danger due to the pregnancy, struck down the prohibition about disseminating information about legal abortion services available elsewhere in the E.U., and struck down the prohibition against travelling outside the Republic for the purpose of obtaining an abortion. The ECHR acted after cases in which, for example, a young woman and her parents were criminally prosecuted for leaving Ireland to obtain a legal abortion. True, the ECHR's ruling was not automatically binding upon Ireland; it was necessary to amend the Irish constitution. However, the amendments were pushed through mostly by the weight of the ECHR decision, against the weight of a population that is, nominally at least, 90% Roman Catholic. There was a great deal of hemming and hawing, and tut-tutting by the church, but the amendments were ratified by a popular referendum (also legalizing divorce for the first time in the Republic of Ireland) and there was far less civil strife over the issue than we see in the United States; indeed, there was less strife after the court's decision than before it. The Roe v. Wade decision didn't sow strife because it decided the issue, it sowed strife because it decided the issue clumsily.
Colbert: How do they do it differently? How could this be handled differently?

Ponnuru: Well, in every European country, for example, there are some time limits. In many countries — even Scandinavian countries that we tend to think of as very liberal — it's much harder legally to get an abortion after, say, the 12th week of pregnancy. In this country, thanks to the Supreme Court, it's an absolute and unlimited right, all through the third trimester.
There you go again! If your fact-checking is this sloppy, why on earth would I bother to read your book? The Supreme Court has never held an absolute and unlimited right to abortion.
Colbert: The judges are making this decision, and not the legislatures, not the duly elected people. Doesn't that upset you?

Ponnuru: I think we would have a healthier politics in general if these decisions were put back into the democratic arena. The outcomes wouldn't be completely the ones that I would favor, but everybody would have a say, it wouldn't just be the judges arrogantly, you know, on the basis of nothing in the actual Constitution, substituting their judgment for the people's.
That's an absurd argument to put in such black-and-white terms. Fundamental rights must never be left to the whim of the majority, they must be protected by the courts against the majority's efforts to undermine them. That's why the Supreme Court in 1954 substituted its judgment for the duly elected representatives who passed the Jim Crow laws, for just one obvious example.
Colbert: Yeah, I think whenever possible we should have the legislature make the decisions and not the judges — except in cases like Oregon and their Right to Death statute, which the Supreme Court held up, and that's a case in which I think that neither of them should be listened to.

Well, now you've called the Democrats, the media, the courts, "the Party of Death," what's next? How do you ramp it up from here?

Ponnuru: I might do something on cannibalism next time.

Colbert: Cannibalism? Okay. The party that eats its children.

Ponnuru: Well, stem-cell research, there's a little tie-in.

Colbert: Please come back with that next book, I appreciate it. Ramesh Ponnuru; we'll be right back.
Ramesh Ponnuru is a sloppy, lazy fool who got batted around by Stephen Colbert like a sock full of catnip in the paws of a crazed, half-deaf tabby cat.

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Jon Stewart on the Colbert Report

A few days ago on Faux FOX News The O'FrankenReilly Factor, comedian circus master journalist Geraldo Rivera made some disparaging remarks about Comedy Central, and specifically about The Daily Show and The Colbért Réport. The parentheticals are host Bill Oh'Really; the rest of the quote is Geraldo Rivera.

Comedy Central is now a big hit — Stewart and that Colbert guy (They do okay.) I mean, relatively, relative (They do okay.) They make a living putting on video of old ladies slipping on ice and people laughing. That's their life. That's their life. They exist in a small little place where they count for nothing. — Geraldo Rivera, 2006-08-02
Last Thursday, Stephen Colbert made a special appearance on The Daily Show to demand that Jon Stewart apologize to Geraldo. Last night, Stewart showed up on The Colbert Report.


Stephen Colbert [on last Thursday's 2006-08-10 Daily Show]: What are you trying to imply, Jon? That O’Reilly and Geraldo are narcissists enthralled in their own overblown egos, projecting their own petty insecurities onto the world around them, inventing false enemies for the sole purpose of bolstering their sense of self-importance, itty-bitty Nixons minus the relevance or a hint of vision?

John Stewart: [Colbert spelled Jon with an H as a dig at Stewart.] Stephen, I don't see why I have to apologize to Geraldo. It doesn't —

Stepan Coldbear: Jon. [long pause, setting up a soap-opera-style shot of Jon Stewart over Stephen Colbert's shoulder, both looking in the direction of the camera] Jon, why are you closing yourself off from Geraldo? He came to unlock the vault of your heart, and when he opened it, it was empty. An empty vault! And he had a camera crew — it was very embarrassing.

Jon: I really don't understand why —

Stephen: Well, maybe if you walked a mile in his shoes.

Jon: What, by fighting Danny Bonaduce for charity, or (No, Jon.) giving away troop movements (No, Jon.) in Iraq? I mean, I don't know —

Stephen: No, Jon: by walking a mile in his mustache. [places fake mustache on Jon's upper lip] ... Now do you understand? Now will you apologize?

Jon: Sh-sure. Uh, hey Geraldo! [in a flat tone of voice, gradually trailing off] I'm really sorry about the whole thing and ...

Stephen: Whew! Great! I'm glad you did that; I was afraid this was gonna be a "thing" between us. (No!) Okay, let's take you off the ["Called Out" dry-erase marker] board. Uh ... I do not have an eraser. You know what: hold on. [tears fake mustache off Jon Stewart's face, erases Jon's name with it, and then replaces it on Jon's face] Now, I know you're gonna want to get back to your monkey, so thanks for stopping by, Jon.

Jon: Thank you very much, Stephen. I appreciate it.

Stephen: Jon Stewart, everybody — a big man!
It's nice to see that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert can handle a little constructive criticism from their friends and fellow fake journalists Geraldo Rivera and Bill O'Reilly, and respond appropriately. FOX News is "a tale, told by idiots, full of sound and fury"; unfortunately, it signifies quite a lot.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

The newest Internet country code

As I write this, it's Monday evening in California, but it's already the wee hours of Tuesday morning in Finland, where the Åland Islands will soon be waking up to their newly activated ccTLD of .ax.

The Åland Islands are an autonomous province of Finland, but they are located just off the coast of Sweden, and Swedish is the official language of the provincial government. Until now, the Åland Islands have been allocated domains under the subdomain.

Just a little geek trivia for a Monday evening....

P.S. No word yet on ccTLD's for Serbia and Montenegro. ".rs" is a possibility for Serbia, but Montenegro is a thornier problem: I'm betting on ".cq".

UPDATE: a reader reports that ".me" has been selected for Montenegro, although there has not yet been an official announcement. Look for domains like "" to begin popping up soon.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Condi on MtP

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the featured interview on today's NBC News Meet the Press. Host Tim Russert questioned Condi about the situation in Lebanon and the broader situation in the Middle East. To her credit, Condi pronounced Hezbollah better than most Americans. However, she echoed the administration's bizarre fantasies of the situation.


Tim Russert: Can there be any peace until the Hezbollah militia is destroyed?

Condoleezza Rice: Well, the one thing that all Lebanese agree with — perhaps all but Hezbollah — is that it cannot have the situation again that obtained when Hezbollah crossed the Blue Line, a kind of state-within-a-state, attacked Israel, abducted soldiers, and really plunged the entire country into war without even the knowledge — let alone the consent, not even the knowledge — of the Lebanese government. If you talk to the Lebanese, they're very focused on extending the authority of the Lebanese government throughout the country, of being able to bring Lebanese forces throughout the country, and making certain that any arms are going to be in the hands of just [only] the Lebanese government.
Everyone in Lebanon except Hezbollah agrees — that's a little like saying "everyone in Utah except the Mormons." Certainly the Lebanese government sees the necessity to have control of the de facto Lebanese armed forces in the hands of the government, but the people on the streets so far strongly support Hezbollah and its military campaign. Russert goes on a bit later to quote polls cited by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, showing that 87% of the Lebanese people, including 80% of Lebanese Christians, support Hezbollah against Israel.
Russert: Do you believe Israel has shown the proper restraint?

Condi: I'm not going to try to judge each and every Israeli operation; I do know that Israel has the right to defend itself.
That's mostly a diplomatic non-answer, but the core point is that Russert did not ask her "to judge each and every Israeli operation." Condi was using a form of spin called a "straw man."
Russert: Many have suggested that the way to bring a permanent resolution to this crisis is to peel off Syria from Iran — Syria, a secular Sunni country; Iran, a Shi'ite country — and the way to do that is to talk directly to Syria. Richard Armitage, who was the top deputy to your predecessor Colin Powell at the State Department, said this — and he was the last senior official from the U.S. to talk to the government of Syria in 2004 — he said he "completely disagreed" with Secretary Rice's description of the conflict as "the birth pangs of a new Middle East." He said, "The administration has an irrational fear that talking is a sign of weakness. It is the best way of gathering information and influencing events." Why not go to Syria and talk directly to the Syrians?

Condi: Well, it's ironic: Richard Armitage was actually the last [senior] U.S. administration official to go to Damascus, [and he told them], "You know, it's about to be a new day, the President had just been re-elected, it's really time for Syria to make a strategic choice. ... The problem isn't talking to Syria, the problem is that Syria doesn't act when people talk to them. ... To talk to Syria about Lebanon is a very interesting strategy, since we've spent a lot of time and energy trying to get Syria out of Lebanon — they occupied Lebanon for the last 30 years — and I think to suggest that somehow Syria is a part of the equation for a stable Lebanon, after they occupied the country for 30 years, after they created the conditions that permitted Hezbollah to become a state-within-a-state, after they have repeatedly intimidated and perhaps even contributed to the assassination of Lebanese officials — it's a rather odd strategy to say that Syria is somehow going to be a part of stabilizing Lebanon. [Condi also pointed out that the U.S. does talk to Syria, we have an embassy and a chargé d'affaires, although we withdrew our ambassador when Syria refused to cooperate with an international investigation into the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.]
It is absolute lunacy to suggest that it is possible to create a stable Lebanon without making Syria a part of the equation, because Syria has been — as Secretary Rice points out — a part of the equation of the instability of Lebanon. Syria must be part of stabilizing Lebanon; most particularly, Syria must refrain from destabilizing Lebanon. Do we really expect Syria to refrain from destabilizing Lebanon just because we wag our finger at them from afar?

Russert also referred to a quote from President Bush: "This moment of conflict in the Middle East is painful and tragic. Yet it is also a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region." At that, Condi threw in the canard about the Chinese characters, crisis = danger + opportunity; surely there is someone at the State Department who actually speaks Chinese, who could disabuse the Secretary of such embarrassing 傻的外国人 foolishness. You might as well say that the English word do is composed of the words danger and opportunity, since it contains the first character of each.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ned Lamont on the Colbert Report

Monday's Colbert Réport featured an interview with Connecticut Senatorial candidate Ned Lamont. Lamont is challenging incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman for the Democratic nomination, primarily on the issue that Lieberman's position on the Iraq war has been consistently ass-backwards. CrooksAndLiars has the video; here's the text of interview:


Stephen Colbert: My guest tonight is a Democratic Connecticut Senate hopeful who says Joe Lieberman is in bed with the President. I say they're in a ménage-à-trois with America. Please welcome Ned Lamont. [applause] Mr. Lamont, thanks for coming on — brave man.

Ned Lamont: Delighted to be here.

Colbert: We invited Senator Lieberman, he declined. You've got that on him. All right: have you come on to announce that you are dropping out? You're only up by 4 points in the polls.

Lamont: I've come to announce that we're going on strong. We need your help, every step of the way, between now and August 8th.

Colbert: I'm not sure if I can give you my help, sir: you just got the endorsement of the New York Times [reg. req'd]. Okay? You know that they're destroying America, you know that newspaper is destroying America, correct?

Lamont: It was a well-written, articulate analysis of the issues, and I think they came to the proper conclusion. (Really?) What do you think?

Colbert: I don't know; I just met you, sir. Let's find out. What have you got against Joe Lieberman? He's my kind of Democrat. [laughter] What's your beef with him? You're a Democrat, he's a Democrat, he's a mandarin of the Senate — why are you takin' him down?

Lamont: I think George Bush is driving this country into a ditch, and if Joe Lieberman won't challenge him, I will. I think it's time for the Democrats to stand up and pose a real alternative. [cheers] Yes.

Colbert: Oh, they're just cheering for my comeback. But Joe Lieberman has friends in high places — the President, the Republicans — I mean, he gets along with those people. You're gonna be a junior Senator when you get in there, you're not gonna have the same tug that he does — I mean, the President kissed him. Can we have that footage up there? [2005-02-02, Bush State of the Union speech, Bush kisses Lieberman on the cheek] You think the President's gonna kiss you, sir?

Lamont: I prefer a respectful handshake, I should say, but —

Colbert: I mean, obviously, the first date, just a handshake, but after a couple of years?

Lamont: We'll see where we evolve from there, if that's what you're suggesting.

Colbert: All right, so you're open to the idea?

Lamont: I'm open to the idea we need to get some people down to Washington, D.C., who will stand up to this President, say it's time to start bringing our troops home from Iraq, and give the people of Iraq the opportunity to solve this for themselves.

Colbert: So, your campaign slogan is "Cut and Run"? You're a cut-and-runner? That sounds like cutting and running.

Lamont: I think what we're doing right now is a failure of a policy. I think the situation is getting worse every month. You have 3,000 dead a month, right now, over in Iraq. I think we've gotta change course. That's our best hope for success in Iraq.

Colbert: But what do we do? What do we do with the troops? We can't leave right now. I mean, it's our — you know, things may not be going as well as we'd hoped — we're on the road toward victory, but we can't get out now. Then we've lost. If we get out now, we've lost; will you agree there?

Lamont: No, I think our best hope for success, which is a stable Iraq, is for us to start bringing our troops home and have the Iraqis step up and take responsibility for their own destiny. We'll be there for political support, we'll be there for humanitarian support and reconstruction, but only the Iraqis can solve this. We can't do it for them at the barrel of a gun.

Colbert: Okay. Word on the street is that you're running against Joe Lieberman by running against the President. You're connecting these two people in people's minds, correct? You think Lieberman gets along with the President too well.

Lamont: I think he enables this President. I think it's a President that's taken this country way off of its historical course.

Colbert: Should we hinder the President? It's a time of war right now, he's the commander-in-chief. Shouldn't we just stand behind him, unquestioningly?

Lamont: No, not when he's wrong. When he's wrong, I think it's our duty to stand up, and I think it was Joe Lieberman who chastised guys like Jack Murtha, who said "stay the course" is not a winning strategy; Senator Lieberman said, "You're undermining the credibility of the President." I think it's our obligation to stand up as citizens.

Colbert: Now, why do you think Bush... In a time of war, is that really the time to be asking whether we should be at war?

Lamont: We've been over there 3½ years, we've been over there in Iraq almost longer than our troops were in World War II.

Colbert: Once it's over, we can ask whether we should leave.

Lamont: At the pace we're going, we're gonna be there for an awful long time. I think the best hope for us is to start bringing those troops home. We've gotta start asking those questions now. Look, we got into this mess not because we asked too many questions but because we asked too few. And now is the time to start asking those questions.

Colbert: All right, but Lieberman's a Democrat, you must agree on a lot of things, right? He's pro-choice, he's for taxing and spending like other Democrats — anything else besides the war you're battling over here? If the war ends, if between now and the election — which is 8 days from now, correct? — we could turn the corner in Iraq between now and the 8th, and then where would you be left, what's your campaign based on other than opposition to the war?

Lamont: Well, I think the war was the defining issue, it says a lot about what type of a country we are, what our priorities are. Here we are, spending $250,000,000.00 a day in Iraq and we're not investing in universal health care for all Americans, we're not investing in clean energy, we're not investing in great schools. People I'm talking to want us to start taking care of America and start investing in America again. From Joe Lieberman, all they hear is all Iraq all the time. He's been wrong on that issue from the very beginning.

Colbert: Now, are you — who's a greater friend of the state of Israel? You or Joe Lieberman? Is there a greater friend of the state of Israel than you?

Lamont: I believe the Senator and I are both committed to Israel's security and well-being, so I think Israel — that's part of our bipartisan tradition in this country. It goes back a long time, and that's not going to change. (So, no difference there between the two of you?) No great difference, no, sir. I will say, though, when it comes to Israel, the invasion of Iraq has done nothing for Israel's security. It's emboldened Iran, and a bolder Iran makes Israel even more vulnerable. I think we took our eye off the ball when the United States should have played its historical rôle as a peacekeeper, and that's one of the reasons we have the troubles in Israel we have today.

Colbert: But we got Qadhafi (معمر القذافي) to stand down. You'll give me that, right? (I will give you that.) Okay, fantastic. (That gives you an idea of what the power — ) So, you give that to Lieberman, too?

Lamont: I give that to the power of diplomacy. It gives you an idea, if even Qadhafi can be turned around, look at what we might be able to do with Iran and other parts of the country [sic] if we engage them in constructive diplomacy.

Colbert: What got you into the race? Did you look at the war and what was happening there, and say, someone has to stand up against Lieberman because he's not fighting the President hard enough? Was it the war that motivated you mostly?

Lamont: The war was very important, but just fundamentally, I think the President's taken the country in the wrong direction. I look at $9,000,000,000,000.00 in debt, I look at Dick Cheney's energy bill with billions of dollars of subsidies for the oil producers, I look at 63 lobbyists for every single Congressman in Washington, D.C. — I think we are way off our moorings, and it's time for people to go down to Washington, D.C., and say so.

Colbert: Sir, you're rich, and best of all, you didn't have to work for all of it — why aren't you a Republican?

Lamont: I've been a Democrat all my life. When I turned 18, we had a guy named Richard Nixon who was our President, and we had a war going on in Viet Nam, and I just think the Democratic Party is a lot more progressive and a lot more entrepreneurial. I'm a guy that started up a business from scratch, and I think if you're an entrepreneur in business, you're more likely to be a progressive and a Democrat when it comes to your political.

Colbert: All right, thank you for coming on, sir. Senator Lieberman, the ball's in your court.

Coming soon: my analysis and commentary on the American Bar Association task force report on Presidential signing statements. The report, issued last Monday (2006-07-25) hasn't gotten nearly enough media attention.

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