January 24, 2008


Slowly, but Surely, Pyongyang Is Moving (David Albright and Jacqueline Shire, January 24, 2008, Washington Post)

There is no indication that North Korea is backing away from its commitments to disable key nuclear facilities and every reason to expect this process to unfold slowly, with North Korea taking small, incremental steps in return for corresponding steps from the United States and others in the six-party discussions.

Disablement of the five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon slowed in part because the United States decided that unloading the irradiated fuel rods as fast as North Korea proposed could needlessly risk exposing the North Korean workers to excessive radiation. North Korea is unloading the rods and making steady progress on the other aspects of disablement at the Yongbyon site. Could it be happening faster? Probably, and North Korea would point out that promised shipments of heavy fuel oil are also slow in coming.

North Korea's nuclear declaration was to be received by Dec. 31. On Jan. 2, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the United States was still "waiting to hear" from the North. Pyongyang responded that the United States had its declaration. After some tail-chasing, it emerged that North Korea had quietly shared an initial declaration with the United States in November. According to media reports, this declaration stated that North Korea had a separated plutonium stockpile of 30 kilograms and denied that it had a uranium enrichment program.

Does this quantity of separated plutonium make sense? Yes. In short, 30 kilograms is at the lower end of the range of plutonium that we have assessed North Korea could have separated. This estimate is based on what we know about how long its reactor operated to build up plutonium in the fuel rods and how much plutonium was chemically extracted from this fuel at the nearby reprocessing plant.

What about any enriched uranium? There is no question that North Korea has committed to providing the other nations in the six-party discussions with information about its uranium enrichment efforts and should be held to that commitment. But we should not lose sight of an uncomfortable fact -- that U.S. policymakers misread (at best) or hyped information that North Korea had a large-scale uranium enrichment program. There is ample evidence that North Korea acquired components for a centrifuge-enrichment program, but few now believe the North produced highly enriched uranium or developed its enrichment capabilities in the manner once claimed by the United States.

We've seen in the past how poorly the Right handles having a puffed-up bogeyman pulled out from over them. Recall their fury at Ronald Reagan, who recognized long before they that he'd beaten Gorbachev.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 24, 2008 9:07 AM

Speaking of poorly handling things, OJ:

I get the impression that the first media conservative who gives a full-throttle defense of George W Bush and makes it an integral part of their on-air persona will achieve TV/Radio ratings that rival Rush Limbaugh's at HIS peak.

Could that be the thing that is missing on the GOP side this year? Granted, McCain does have to be his own man with his own proposals, but there is some expectation that Bush is to be defended and praised. He did win 2 terms, you know.

Posted by: Brad S at January 24, 2008 10:58 AM

You're right that the candidate that tells the truth about the last seven years will find that a lot of us agree that Bush, not only won two terms, but he's been able to do his job superbly against almost superhuman odds.

Posted by: erp at January 24, 2008 11:43 AM

Its getting quite odd watching Oj bash the "right" on this blog as he openly pushes his big, intrusive government world view.

Now RR is not part of the right.

Posted by: Perry at January 24, 2008 11:53 AM

I would not put it past Bush to stop it from happening, Brad. I stopped trying to second guess the man when he told the press he would not be taking matching funds. Pure political genius.......

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at January 24, 2008 12:00 PM

President Reagan bore little resemblance to what the Right claims makes a rightwinger, which is why they came to despise him once he was actually governing the country. He was great because he wasn't a petty ideologue. They're little because they are.

Posted by: oj at January 24, 2008 1:21 PM

Rush Limbaugh peaked when the GOP was at low ebb. When they have power the Right hates them.

Posted by: oj at January 24, 2008 1:30 PM


I think we can all agree that the most prominent current promoter and "guardian" of the Reagan "legacy" is Rush Limbaugh, and he really showed it a week ago when he roughed up Newt Gingrich on air because Newt dared to suggest backing away from that. In fact, what Rush does is considerably more hagiographic than anything the Reagan Library or the Young America's Foundation (owners of the Reagan ranch) could do.

The problem with what Rush is doing is that his heavy promotion of Reagan's "legacy" is blinding him to the obvious positive characteristics of W. And in the process, a lot of other conservative commentators are having issues with thinking in the here-and-now.

To a large degree, W could use of of these commentators to do a similar sort of promotion. Given what we know about validation and it being a human desire on a par with praise/attention/affection, many millions of people would gravitate toward that commentator, should he/she choose to promote W's legacy.

Bush will likely do an "Aw shucks" sort of downplay, but I don't think he'd stop it from happening. And I know that Limbaugh will not be able to do it, so invested he is in Reagan.

Posted by: Brad S at January 24, 2008 3:15 PM

North Korea is a gravaman for part of the 'Right', a signpost that the State Department is totally devoid of common sense.

Now, it is true that the Norks do not directly threaten the US, and that their implosion would certainly affect China and the South much more. And if the North decides to go down with guns blazing, the South would lose the most. The whole point of the 6-party talks was to keep the neighbors involved, to let them know the stakes, and to find leverage that the US alone did not have.

Now that the State Dept. is quietly moving towards dual negotiations, does that make communication with the Norks more or less reliable? We know Condi's opinion, and we know John Bolton's. History shows which is more likely to carry the day.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 24, 2008 3:49 PM

Bush lost his popularity with the bloggers and Rush when he supported immigration. The spite and loathing for Bush on a lot of websites is astounding. Of course, a lot of the anti-immigration libertarians (strange that such a thing could exist, and they are mostly just hawkish hedonists that dislike political correctness) also dislike Bush for being a Christian, but his stance on immigration gave them a more acceptable reason to vent.

Posted by: Patrick H at January 24, 2008 4:17 PM

Thanks for responding, Brad. I'm not sure how Reagan got mixed up in my comment, but ok. My point was that not only would he "Aw shucks", but he would actively stop it. I think he knows he gets his best work done dancing on the edge.

Patrick, Bush never had popularity with Bloggers. This is just the current whine. Remember Steel tariffs? Port deal? Education? The bloggers hate Bush because they dream of cutting the Gordian knot, and Bush isn't a dictator. Then, and this is where the hate comes from, he solves the problem or makes it better, using the democratic tools at hand......

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at January 24, 2008 5:28 PM

In my mind, the biggest and only real mistake Bush made was letting the price of oil and more precisely gasoline go up so much. Gasoline prices and approval ratings go hand in hand... Bush should have either spared no expense in keeping the price down or just gone ahead like OJ says and send the price REALLY thru the roof and at least get some long-term benefit out of the massive PR hit...

Posted by: Benny at January 24, 2008 5:42 PM

Keping China in was a part of the reason behind the six party talks, jim. I think so, anyway. The Chinese are the ones that can leash North Korea. Having the others in is to influence China, to let them know that yes, you are the man behind the curtain and we're saying it in public.

If the Chinese wanted it so there would be no Kim dynasty, just a nice fascist general to hold things together. So long as Kim is useful as their Pit Pekingnese he gets to stay. If he becomes too costly, he is gone.

Posted by: Mikey at January 24, 2008 5:46 PM

Americans want to conform, so it was dissonant for conservatives to defend W when the left and middle were so antagonistic over Iraq. Immigration gave conservatives an excuse to go join the crowd, and they took it.

Posted by: Ibid at January 24, 2008 7:25 PM

Rush's Reagan doesn't exist. I happened to hear that interview with Newt, who could barely restrain laughter at his ignorance of the early 80s.

Posted by: oj at January 24, 2008 7:58 PM

I remember being a bit surprised when immigration became a flashpoint. Not because of the nativist reaction (guys like Tancredo, etc. are very predictable), but that nobody (on the Right) could articulate a response. Congress-critters like McCain lied just for the heck of it, while most of the rest of the party got swept up in the frenzy.

It started out being like the dust-up over admitting so many boat people, but it quickly became something else. Maybe a lot of people wanted an excuse to attack Bush - although there will probably never be such a consequential conservative (or such a consequential Christian) in the White House again in our lifetimes.

Of course, on immigration, the Dems are much more vulnerable than the GOP - remember the Philly debate? But the press will never report it that way, and the GOP nominee is going to have to deal with this issue very well to negate the harping from the media.

The question for all Republican is - do you want to win in November? In 1980, Jimmy was manifestly not up to the job, and the GOP had the ideas nailed down. It took the fortitude (and optimism) of Ronald Reagan (and Paul Volcker) to see things through.

This time, it seems we aren't even sure that we have the right ideas. Whoever the nominee is will have to 'remind' us, or will have to discover them himself. But we know the answers aren't with Hillary and Obama. Or Pelosi and Reid. Or Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann. Or Valerie Plame.

Bush's 'legacy' will take care of itself. He has left most things in better shape than he found them, and with Bill Clinton turning into Senator Bilbo, that will only get clearer as time passes. No GOP nominee is going to run against Bush (not even McCain), so the party will find its balance between now and October. The Dems might not.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 24, 2008 8:17 PM

One key premise of neoconomics/Bushonomics is that taxing consumption instead of income will foster savings. A huge gas tax right after 9-11 would have been good economics, good security-wise, good environmental politics and good for morale (we're all doing our part).

Posted by: oj at January 25, 2008 7:09 AM


Recall that the blogs hated W because he's an Evangelical, just as they hate Huckabee now.

Posted by: oj at January 25, 2008 7:11 AM


Huckabee is more than just an evangelical. Which is why a fair portion of the "evangelical" vote (~35%, maybe more) doesn't like him one bit.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 25, 2008 8:34 AM

With others in the race he can't get 100%. If he's really getting 65% it's staggering.

Posted by: oj at January 25, 2008 1:48 PM

My guess is that Huckabee is getting about half of the solid Baptist vote, probably more than half of the Pentecostals and Four Squares, and just about half of the independent conservative churches. Maybe those estimates are a bit low.

But, he is probably getting only about 10% of the conservative Presbyterians (PCA, OPC, and others), and probably only about a third of the Methodists, Lutherans, C of C, and the like. I doubt if very many Republican or independent Catholics will vote his way (10-15% tops?).

The mainline (liberal) churchgoers are probably even less likely to vote for him, although most of them are Democrats, anyway. Has anyone seen any kind of breakdown on denominational support for Huckabee?

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 25, 2008 7:15 PM

To follow-up, I saw at NRO that (in SC) 43% of professed 'evangelicals' voted for Huckabee, and 27% for McCain.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 25, 2008 8:30 PM

Newt ought to hang his brilliant head in shame for his office "romance" which led to Clinton and eight years of agony. He's a lot smarter and more knowledgeable than Limbaugh and most of the rest of us, but as we learned with Carter, book learning isn't as important as character.

Posted by: erp at January 26, 2008 4:33 PM