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"As an impromptu speaker, Bush had a reputation for gaffes and mangling phrases, but Mr. Gerson provided him with memorable flights of oratory..."

"... such as the pledge to end 'the soft bigotry of low expectations' in the education of low-income and minority students and the description of democracy — in Bush’s first inaugural address — as a 'seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations.' As a Bush confidant and head of the speechwriting team, he also encouraged such memorable turns of phrase as 'axis of evil,' which Bush used to explain the administration’s hawkish posture as it started long and costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.In the chaotic months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Mr. Gerson became the key craftsman articulating what became known as the 'Bush Doctrine' — which advocated preemptive strikes against potential terrorists and other perceived threats. With his team of writers, he began shaping Bush’s tone and tenor... 'It is a real mistake to try to secularize American political discourse,' Mr. Gerson told NPR in 2006. 'It removes one of the primary sources of visions of justice in American history.'"

From "Michael Gerson, Post columnist and Bush speechwriter on 9/11, dies at 58/Mr. Gerson helped shape President George W. Bush’s messaging after the 9/11 attacks and then moved to The Washington Post, where he wrote about politics and faith" (The Washington Post).

Speechwriter David Frum said he came up with “axis of hatred” to describe Iraq, North Korea and Iran (even though Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was a foe of leaders in Tehran). Mr. Gerson tweaked it to “axis of evil” to make it sound more “theological” — a battle between good and evil — Frum wrote in his 2003 book on Bush, “The Right Man.”...

Mr. Gerson also had a hand in pushing the Bush White House’s false assertions about Iraq — including debunked allegations of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction — that would seek to justify the 2003 invasion....

Mr. Gerson never publicly expressed regrets for having helped sell the Iraq War....

"What has surprised me most about the history I have lived through is how often we get dragged on demented, destructive rides by leaders who put their personal psychodramas over the public’s well-being...."

"To prove that there were W.M.D.s in Iraq, Putin said, 'the U.S. secretary of state held up a vial with white powder, publicly, for the whole world to see, assuring the international community that it was a chemical warfare agent created in Iraq. It later turned out that all of that was a fake and a sham, and that Iraq did not have any chemical weapons.'  Hard to argue with that. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney let their own egos, gremlins and grandiose dreams occlude reality. W. wanted to outshine his father, who had decided against going into Baghdad when he fought Saddam. And Cheney wanted to kick around an Arab country after 9/11 to prove that America was a hyperpower. So they used trumped-up evidence, and Cheney taunted Colin Powell into making that fateful, bogus speech at the U.N., chockablock with Cheney chicanery. Though Donald Trump was Putin’s lap dog, upending traditional Republican antipathy toward Russia, Putin no doubt has contempt for the weak and malleable Trump. Putin could have been alluding to Trump in his speech Thursday when he accused the U.S. of 'con-artist behavior,' adding that America had become 'an empire of lies.' Certainly, Trump was the emperor of lies."

Writes Maureen Dowd, in "Rash Putin Razes Ukraine" (NYT).

"Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, 45, blew himself up with his family, including four women and six children, rather than surrender to troops who landed by helicopter..."

"... and surrounded the house where he had been hiding, the president said.... [W]hen special forces commandos descended from Black Hawk helicopters guarded by Apache strike helicopters, things did not go entirely to plan, according to witnesses and Washington officials.... 'We heard the translator asking, via speakers, [for] the residents of the house to surrender and the women and children to leave before the attack started. The operation obviously didn’t go smoothly because it lasted for two hours and ended with bombing the house,' [a town resident] said.

"Pentagon officials said earlier that the mission had been met with resistance and that the 'bombing' was the Isis leader, an Iraqi, blowing himself up with such force that half the third, top, floor of the house was destroyed.... Witnesses said that some of the bodies were flung clear of the wreckage, landing in the garden, including those of two children.... Qurayshi, whose real name was Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi, was an officer in Saddam Hussein’s army before joining al-Qaeda after the American invasion of 2003. A trained theologian, he became Isis’s chief ideologue....  Biden said that Qurayshi had been the driving force behind the genocide of the Yazidi people. 'We all remember the gut-wrenching stories of mass slaughter that wiped out entire villages, thousands of women and young girls sold into slavery [and] rape used as a weapon of war,' the president said."

From "Isis leader killed in American special forces raid in Syria, Joe Biden announces/Children among casualties as terrorist blows himself up" (London Times).

In Scranton, Trump stepped on Mr. Biden’s general-election rollout.

In "Joe Biden Accepts Democratic Nomination: ‘I Will Draw on the Best of Us’/Mr. Biden urged Americans to have faith that they could 'overcome this season of darkness,' and he pledged to bridge the country’s divisions in ways President Trump had not," the NYT observes that Trump — "[s]hedding the political tradition whereby each party defers to the other during the week of its nominating convention" — has been trying " to step on Mr. Biden’s general-election rollout" but "with little success."

What's the evidence of "little success"? Is it the way Rasmussen's "approval index" jumped 6 points overnight from Wednesday to Thursday? The Times is just making an assertion — essentially wishful thinking. Trump, deviating from tradition, is having "little success." Just report what you want to be be true! Meanwhile, you'd think Joe Biden was some sort of religious transfiguration — the embodiment of light! It's so stupid that I'm drawn to read the transcript of the speech Trump gave yesterday in Joe Biden's home town of Scranton.

Maybe later I'll get to some of the convention speeches. I will confess to being seated in front of the TV at one point last night. It was just Chris Coons talking into the camera. I tried to watch for approximately 20 seconds, then said "Why do I have to listen to Chris Coons?" and got up and left. Oh! And I saw a triple-split screen of the [Dixie] Chicks singing the national anthem. Why them? Because long ago, in 2003, they outraged country music fans by openly opposing the war in Iraq? But Joe Biden voted for the war in Iraq. Because after all these years they dropped the word "Dixie" from their name, though they kept "Chicks"? The name Dixie Chicks was interesting because of the rhyme and the specificity. Now, they are generic, and why do these dames get to be all women?

I think it's that there's some idea that they have been irritating the deplorables since 2003. The Democrats wanted to pick that scab, remind people of the pain of that war their candidate supported?! "When the war was debated and then authorized by the US Congress in 2002, Democrats controlled the Senate and Biden was chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations. Biden himself had enormous influence as chair and argued strongly in favor of the 2002 resolution granting President Bush the authority to invade Iraq" (The Guardian).

Now, let's look at what Trump said in Scranton:
And I watched President Obama last night, and I watched him talking about everything, and I had to put it out. I said, yeah, but he spied on our campaign, and he got caught. That’s about as bad a thing as you can imagine. If that happened to another campaign on the other side, they would have had 25 people in jail for many years already. Many, many years. It’s a disgrace....

At stake in this election is the survival of our nation. It’s true. Because we’re dealing with crazy people in the other side. They’ve gone totally stone cold crazy.... These people have gone insane, and they’re radical left, and you look at some of the things happening in these Democrat-run cities, which we could solve in two minutes....
Did anyone at the Democratic convention even mention the massive disorder in the Democratic-Party-run cities that has been raging for months? I see many references to Trump as "chaos," but the real-world chaos I see is going on in places that are governed by Democrats.
Joe Biden is a puppet of the radical left movement that seeks to destroy the American way of life....

If you want a vision of your life under Biden presidency, think of the smoldering ruins in Minneapolis, the violent anarchy of Portland, the bloodstained sidewalks of Chicago, and imagine the mayhem coming to your town and every single town in America. You’re not going to have law and order. Do you notice? And I shouldn’t say it because he’ll put it in his speech, if he can read it, which I doubt....
Did the Democrats say one word in support of law and order? It seems that they want to say the disorder is Trump. If Trump is the problem, the solution is easy. It all depends on our seeing Trump as the problem, and I think they've concentrated on that one argument. They won't talk about the problems they're responsible for — the condition of the cities (including police brutality).
There’s only one thing standing between your family and the radical left wing mob, and that’s your vote this November. This is a very important … I feel like I’m a wall. You know, we built the wall on the Southern border.... If you want mobs and criminals, you got to vote Democrat. Look, because that’s what it’s about. They don’t talk about law and order. Now, I’m bringing it up now, but they haven’t, I haven’t seen anybody get up....
But if you want law and order, and I can say it, sometimes they’ll say, sir, say it gently. People want to hear gentle. They don’t want, say it gently. Don’t say law and order. Say, if you’d like law and order and safety. Nah, I can’t do that. If you want law and order, you’ve got to have law and order. You can’t have what’s happening in Portland. Did you see the kid get whacked the other day? Just whacked, like he was a piece of garbage? I mean, who could take it? We don’t want that, and pretty soon we’re going to have to send in our people because we’re supposed to wait to request? Now, I don’t know if they’re embarrassed or what, but these Democrat cities, they’re out of control. They have none. Look at Seattle, where [the mayor] said, no, we want a summer of love. I mean, this woman is crazy, and they would have never taken back Seattle except they knew we were going in the next day. That’s the only reason they even did it.

So tonight we have slow Joe will speak at the Democrat Convention, and I’m sure that he’ll just knock them dead. And he’ll remind us that he was born in Scranton. But you know, he left like 70 years ago, right? He left a long time ago.... But he loves Scranton. I mean, he keeps talking about, I was born in Scranton. I lived in Scranton. Yeah, for a few years, and then he left for another state. You know the state.
He won't say "Delaware."
But this Scranton stuff. That’s why I figured I’d come here and explain to you one thing. But I think you people know it better than I do. He left! He abandoned Pennsylvania. He abandoned Scranton.
He abandoned Scranton? He was a kid. His parents moved and took him with them.
He was here for a short period of time and he didn’t even know it. And today it’s amazing. It goes around in a circle. He still doesn’t know it.
Oh! Mean joke!
But he spent the last half century in Washington selling out our country and ripping off our jobs and letting other countries steal our jobs, Mexico, China, all of them stealing our jobs....
A lot of Republicans don’t want me to say that, but I’ll tell you, unions are fine... And you have unions here. You have non-unions. What I talk about is the worker. They treated our workers horribly..... But these guys right here, are you all union people? I can tell. Are you union? It’s good, right? It’s fine.... American labor will vote for Trump Pence in 2020. They’re all saying that. And this area is going to be an incredible area. This used to be all Democrat until I came along. Until I came along, this was Democrat. This was heavily union. It was Democrat. It was everything. But they liked Trump and I’m going to never let you down and they will let you down. They will let you down.... 
There's a long section about the coronavirus shutdown, and Trump accuses Democratic governors of keeping their states locked down for political purposes: On November 4th, the Governor of Pennsylvania is "going to say, 'Well, we’re going to open it up.'"

He blames Democrats for the fires in California. There's quite a long rant about the failure "to clean your floors... to clean your forests... get rid of the leaves. You got to get rid of the debris. You got to get rid of the fallen trees."

The next section is about illegal immigration: "Biden wants to open your borders in the middle of the pandemic." Etc.

Foreign policy:
After eight long years, Joe Biden and Barack Obama left America weak, disrespected, and endangered. We are respected again. We are a respected country again. They said that one of the leaders called up, top top leader of one of the countries. He asked me to call President Erdogan of Turkey, who I get along with very well. He said, “Sir, please, would you do me a favor? Call Erdogan.” I said, “Why can’t you do it?” He says, “You’re the only one he respects. You’re the only person he respects.” I tell you this story. I like telling very personal stories. But they did say that. “You’re the only one he’ll listen to.” I said, “Is that because of the United States?” They said, “No, it’s because of you.” So that’s not so bad. I might as well. I might as well tell you the stories because they won’t.... 
We withdrew from the disastrous Iran Nuclear Deal, a horror show. The ISIS caliphate was destroyed. The founder and leader of ISIS, the animal known as Al- Baghdadi is dead. The world’s number one terrorist, Qasem Soleimani, is dead. Joe Biden voted for the war in Iraq. I kept us out of new wars. Everyone said, “Oh, Trump, it’s his … He’ll be in a war his first week.” Instead of that, I got you out of wars. We’re down to a minimum number in Iraq. Afghanistan will be down very shortly to 4,000 troops and that’ll come back shortly too. Syria, we took them all out other than where we kept the oil if that’s okay with you. We kept the oil. We have some back and keeping the oil. We should have kept the oil in Iraq too. Remember, I used to say, “Keep the oil. Don’t go in.” I’d say, “Don’t go into Iraq.” But I was a civilian. Nobody cared. I was like you. So nobody cares.
That was an especially good section of the speech, but the next thing is about a mosquito:
I want to get that mosquito out of here. I don’t like … They’ll say it’s cruelty to animals. I don’t know. No, it’s true. They were saying the other night, the shark. They were saying, “Oh, sharks. We have to protect them.” I said, “Wait a minute. Wait.” They actually want to remove all the seals in order to save the shark. I said, “Wait, don’t you have it the other way around?” That’s true. I’m not a big fan of sharks either. I don’t know how many votes am I going to lose? I have people calling me up, “Sir, we have a fund to save the shark. It’s called Save the Shark.” I say, “No thank you. I have other things I can contribute to.”
Ha ha. The Washington Post lunged at that with: "Looks like Trump just validated a key Stormy Daniels affair allegation — by complaining about sharks." It said this was "strong evidence [in support of] the former porn star who alleged she’d had an affair with him." Is anyone actually mulling over the question whether Stormy Daniels spent time in the company of Donald Trump? I thought we all accepted that he did. I forgot why we're supposed to care. But if WaPo wants to go down that road, I see a lady down that way, and her name is Tara Reade.

Back to the Scranton speech:
In every action, every moment, and every decision I’m fighting for you. I’m fighting for Pennsylvania. A lot of people got rich and got powerful at your expense. Now these same liberal hypocrites want to open up borders and let violent mobs rule the streets while they live in Waldorf compounds in communities. They want to defund police while hiring private security. They want to let rioters burn churches while jailing you for praying in your church. They want to abolish school choice while sending their children to the best private schools in the land. They want to cancel you. Totally cancel you. Take your job, turn your family against you for speaking your mind, while they indoctrinate your children with twisted, twisted, worldviews that nobody ever thought possible.... 
Joe Biden is the candidate of these privileged liberal hypocrites who hold you and your values in disdain.... Pennsylvania is the state that gave us the Declaration of Independence, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, and generations of American patriots. Just like you. You’re patriots. You love this country. That’s why you’re here. You’re sitting in this boiling, crazy hot, sun. But you’re smarter than me because with you it’s on the back of your head. With me, I’m going to go home and my wife is going to say, “What happened? You look like a lobster.” Look the sun. This is great. I want to look like Lou, nice and dark. Right Lou? But with Lou it’s a little easier I think.
Who's Lou? A black person?! I search the speech. It's Lou Barletta. A Pennsylvania Congressman. Italian ancestry. It's a little out there to say "I want to look like Lou, nice and dark."

He mixes up Larry Holmes and Ernie Holmes: "Larry. Larry. Sorry about that. I know another one named Ernie Holmes. Larry Holmes." Both are from Pennsylvania at least.

As Trump approaches the 1-hour mark, God makes an appearance:
Together we’ll unite citizens of every race, color, religion, and creed, as one people, one family, one glorious nation under God. That’s another word they don’t want you to say, God. You know that, right? Did you see they were doing something last night that was extremely basic, and always has had the word God in it, and they decided to take the word God out. But this is where they’re coming from. They’re coming to get you....

"God has honored us in the Islamic State to remove all of these idols and statues worshiped instead of Allah in the past days."

"Whenever we seize a piece of land, we will remove signs of idolatry and spread monotheism."

Statements from a video I blogged in 2015.

This was horrifyingly brutish to me at the time, but it feels lofty compared to what is happening in the United States in 2020.

"Some of the president’s critics will concede that Mr. Suleimani was an evil man, but many complain his killing was unlawful. Wrong...."

"He was a United States-designated terrorist commander. As I have been briefed, he was plotting further attacks against Americans at the time of his death. The authority granted to the president under Article II of the Constitution provides ample legal basis for this strike. Furthermore, those who accept the constitutionality of the War Powers Act should recall that Congress’s 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force very much remain in effect and clearly cover the Suleimani operation. This will be a relief to the Obama administration, which ordered hundreds of drone strikes using such a legal rationale. American forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government, and they have every right and authority to defend themselves. This legal act of self-defense was not only proportionate — it was targeted and brilliantly executed, causing essentially no collateral damage."

Writes Senator Tom Cotton in "The Case for Killing Qassim Suleimani/The strike was justified and legally sound" (NYT).

That phrase "targeted and brilliantly executed, causing essentially no collateral damage" made me think of the Iranians hitting the passenger plane, which seems to have been the exact opposite — completely mistargeted, idiotically executed, and causing nothing but collateral damage, extreme collateral damage.

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