Tuesday, May 18, 2004

While on a trip I heard a clerk arguing with someone about 9/11. The clerk was convinced that the 4th plane, the one that crashed in Pennsylvania, was shot down by the US government. He was also convinced that Bush knew about the plot in advance and did nothing in order to get his war.

I have heard these statements before and I would like to address them.

I will take the easy one first - the airliner.

The clerk maintained that the terrorists would not have crashed the plane unless they could have run it into a city. He thinks that the passengers took the plane but were shot down anyway by the government.

Witnesses talking with people on the plane were told that some passengers were going to rush the hijackers and try to get the plane back. Very shortly after that the plane crashed. The most obvious explanation is that the terrorists crashed the plane before the passengers could regain control. The timing is perfect for this.

If the passengers had succeeded in taking the plane, one of the people on the other end of the cell phones should have heard more.

The terrorists planned to die and probably not have allowed themselves to be taken alive. It would have been very difficult to take control of a plane from someone who is suicidal. Think about the math. If a plane is flying at 300 miles per hour and is less than a mile high, it could hit the ground in as little as 12 seconds. Even assuming that the plane does not go straight down, it would be very difficult to pull both the terrorist pilot and co-pilot from their seats, have someone else take their place, and to pull the plane out of its dive before it broke up or hit the ground.

What about Bush? Did he know?

This is Bush hatred at its worst. It assumes that he was so fixated on Iraq that he deliberately sacrificed thousands of Americans.

Even if you have such a poor opinion of Bush, this falls apart when you look at it closely.

First, how would Bush have known? If intelligence had told him then there must have been dozens, maybe hundreds of others in the know. Let's start with Richard Clarke. He was in charge of all intelligence on al Qaida. If anyone in the US government knew then he should have. Was his book part of the conspiracy?

Was Bush warned by an other country? If so then why did they go straight to him instead of notifying the State Department (and going through Clarke). Even a head of state does not make a call to the President of the United States without making an appointment and letting people know why the call is being made.

And, would foreign countries have the same desire to see thousands die in order to start a war with Iraq? Or would they say something in public?

What about the 4th airplane, the one that was going to hit the White House or the Capitol. Bush's wife and Vice President Cheney were in the White House and Congress was in session when the planes started hitting. It was only luck that the 4th one was delayed. Given the number of airline delays, it could have been the first or second to strike.

As bad as Sept. 11 was, it would have been far worse if either the Capitol or the White House had been destroyed. In addition to the massive loss of life, the government would have been in chaos.

Was Bush willing to risk his wife and staff or all of Congress?

And even if you believe all of this there is one insurmountable problem with this theory - it started the wrong war.

Our first war was with Afghanistan. If it had gone badly there never would have been a war with Iraq. As last as October, 2001, if you had asked a dozen military experts about our chances of successfully invading Afghanistan, 11 would have told you that it could not be done. They would point to a long history of poorly equipped Afghans turning back invaders as recently as the 1980s when they expelled the USSR, the most powerful military force in the world at that time.

If we have waged a conventional war on Afghanistan we would still be fighting. Iraq would never have happened. Had Afghanistan turned into the quagmire that it was predicted to be then no war against Iraq could have possibly happened.

Given what was known in the Summer of 2001, allowing the terrorist strike might have made war with Iraq less likely. If you think that Bush was obsessed with Iraq then the last thing he needed was a distraction like that.

Glenn Reynolds has some interesting thoughts on Kerry in his May 14 entry.

I think it's fair to say that if Kerry wins, he'll win based on anti-Bush sentiment among Democrats and swing voters. But although the anybody-but-Bush vote might be good enough to get him into office, once he's elected it will evaporate: the dump-Bush voters will have gotten what they wanted, and they won't have any special reason to support any particular policy of Kerry's -- or even Kerry himself.

So Kerry might find himself elected, but with support that rapidly fades away, leaving him subject to Washington crosswinds and a slave to his party's interest groups. That's pretty much what happened to President Jimmy Carter. He owed his election to backlash over Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, and the lingering residue of Watergate. But that turned out to be an insufficient base on which to govern.

A few comments on this.

The anti-Bush people will be really disappointed in Kerry, especially the anti-war wing. They want a pull-out. Kerry will add to the troops there but will add NATO armbands to give them credibility.

No matter what Kerry's domestic agenda is it will fail because the Republicans will still control the House and probably control the Senate. Clinton was able to outmanuver the Republican-controlled Congress but he infuriated the Democrats by doing so. If Kerry tries triangulation he will outrage whatever base he has left.

For the record, Watergate was a factor in the 1976 election as was Ford's pardon of Nixon but the real factor was the economy. The economy was bad in 1976 and Ford seemed to be unable to do anything about it except veto legislation.

Things never really improved during Carter's administration. By 1980 inflation was averaging 12% per year with spikes of 18%. Unemployment was up and Iran was holding the staff of the US embassy hostage. Had Carter given the appearance of being a competent leader his party would not have challenged him.

Bad news for Kerry - the first sign that Carter was in trouble was when Ted Kennedy ran against him in the primary and won 20% of the vote. No one bothered to run against Bush. For all of the talk about conservatives being down on Bush, they have not split ranks with him like this.

Russia's top scientists tell Putin to kill Kyoto

MOSCOW, May 17 (Reuters) - The Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases has no scientific basis and puts the Russian economy at risk, Russia's leading scientists said in official advice to President Vladimir Putin.

In the document, obtained by Reuters on Monday, the Russian Academy of Sciences said the global treaty would not stabilize greenhouse gases even if it came into force.

What did I tell you?

The director of research for George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign has a few insights on the two elections.

And while not everyone liked the campaign, it worked with the voters; the elder Bush was 17 points down in April, but he won by eight points in November.

Today, George W. Bush is running roughly even with John Kerry. But political buzzsters are noting that Bush's approval rating has dipped below 50; according to Gallup, no president since World War II has won re-election after falling below 50 in an election year. That's an interesting iron law, but I learned firsthand in '88 that iron laws are absolutely predictive -- right up until the moment that they are broken.

No comments: