Running against the Saudis

I largely agree with Jonathan’s post below. Like the woman in the Mark Twain story who tried to out-cuss her foul-mouthed husband, when it comes to sounding tough the Democrats know the words but not the music. And Jonathan has surely right that the wonderful, beautiful, generous Bush/Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld/DeLay cabal has given the Democrats an opening to turn the tables around, with its security incompetence at home and abroad, its extension of corruption, cronyism, and patronage politics to the defense, homeland security, and intelligence budgets, and its subservience to the House of Saud, reflected in, among other things, its refusal to do anything about our addiction to petroleum.

I still think of the Saudi issue as Kerry’s great lost opportunity in 2004. The one anti-Saudi line in his acceptance speech brought the convention to its feet cheering wildly. He then promptly dropped the issue for the rest of the campaign.

And I’ve never understood why what I took to be the central message of Fahrenheit 9-11 &#8212 that George W. Bush basically worked for Prince Bandar (the man he called “Bandar Bush”) &#8212 never penetrated the public discourse on the film. Yes, Moore’s self-indulgence and flagrant inaccuracy gave his critics lots of ammunition, but on the central point everything the film said was well-documented. Yet I don’t recall any of Moore’s defenders, or any of the Democratic candidates who were getting Moore wrapped around their necks, trying to bring the conversation back to the main point.

Given the Saudis’ free ways with money, it wouldn’t be surprising if a number of important Democrats (and especially Democratic lawyers and other power-brokers, as opposed to office-seekers) had enough Saudi cash in their pockets to make them unhappy about too much Democratic criticism of the Kingdom. Others &#8212 Wesley Clark among them &#8212 are so convinced that the fall of the Saudi monarchy is both a real possibility and potentially a huge disaster for the U.S. that they’re reluctant to make waves. (Clark has said that if free elections were ever held for the Presidency of Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden would win in a walk.)

But the open Republican embrace of the country whose government did more than the Taliban to help al-Qaeda in the run-up to 9-11 is an enormous vulnerability for them. Running against the Saudis may cost money and caused raised eyebrows among the lawyer/lobbyist class and the foreign policy cognoscenti, but the voters would love it. And, as a bonus, it may be the one way to sell the country on effective action to cut back on oil imports.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

One thought on “Running against the Saudis”

  1. During the campaign I compiled a lot of documentaion of the "Bandar Bush" story, and the Kerry people knew it was out there and wouldn't touch it. Kerry's blog "outreach" person was told to keep blogs at arms length. I also tried to do opp research on the various grous putting together the Swiftboat-type smears, and they seemed uninterested in that too. They felt that putting their head under the covers and waiting for that stuff to go away would be the most effective response.

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