Sunday, May 04, 2003
Seeing The Forest makes this bold prediction and I am willing to bet my copy of William Bennett's "Witness To A Miracle: I Won More Than 8 Million Dollars Playing Slots" that he's right.
digby 5/04/2003 08:44:00 PM
Democrats on Display
I guess I'm all alone in my impression of the debate last night.
I thought Stephanopoulos was a complete asshole in his vain attempts at out-Gotcha-ing Tim Russert and particularly by baiting the candidates (which they should have ignored) into slamming each other for the entertainment of the Kewl Kidz. This guy used to actually believe in something but now he is so invested in Washington whoredom that he didn't even care that since this debate would have no effect on his ratings he could have dropped the bored cynicism and just acted like a human being --- or even a Democrat and patriot.
However, I was not disgusted or repelled by the candidates, which seems to be the prevailing critique. I was actually kind of confused by the fact that I was hearing Democrats speak about issues for 90 minutes without having to listen to canned 20 minute rebuttals from each of the same neocon think tank robots, or watch them be repeatedly interrupted by some puffy lipped, botoxed Alpha Girl who prefaces every sentence with "Considering this President's enormous ...uh... popularity, what makes you think you can ....."
It's very early and almost nothing really counts right now; it's like the first game of spring training. We don't know yet how events are going to affect us or the other team. We've barely glimpsed the possibilities. But, I came away with some preliminary thoughts about how the primary campaign might shape our agenda.
I think the candidates well represent the spectrum of the party from liberal Kucinich to conservative Lieberman. Some of them are surprising. Sharpton, for instance, was glib and rhetorically effective. He has a way of making verbal connections and using humor that the other guys should study. Lieberman made a straight out case for electibility in the general, which I thought was odd coming from a politician who prides himself on his rectitude and integrity. It made it look as if he may have opportunistically taken his positions for (gasp) political reasons. A very strategic argument, coming from somebody like him. Odd.
Gephardt made a huge gamble on a big plan and threw health care right on the table as a big campaign issue. He made what sounded to me like a good practical argument by pointing out that his plan would not be opposed by the "Harry and Louise" special interests so it might actually...pass. He is a pro, maybe too much so, but good at explaining a complicated issue in plain terms.
The biggest surprise to me was Edwards who has fashioned for himself a fresh Democratic image with a traditional Democratic message. Using his trial lawyer credentials, he is positioning himself as an anti-corporate populist with what seems to be developing as a fairly strong critique of Bush's foreign policy of unilateralism and failure of follow through. He's betting on the Enron analogy. I happen to think that is one of the strongest messages we have and if Bush can tie his little Top Gun stunts in with the economy as they say they are, then a smart opposition candidate can tie Bush's closeness to corporate pyramid schemes in with his failure to plan for a secure future in America and overseas. I'm going to look closer at Edwards (whom I had liked as a candidate until 9/11.) His Q rating is very high and in a world where a drunken fratboy deserter can be dressed up in costume and sold as a war hero, it's clear that anything is possible with the right packaging.
I have followed the Kerry and Dean campaigns and they were both what I expected, although Kerry had a problem with his voice so he seemed a little bit weaker than usual. Dean has a Trumanesque pugnacious spirit and that has got to be very attractive to Democrats, who are starved for somebody to show some damned spine. Kerry, on the other hand, oozes Kennedyesque manly gravitas. Both men are very smart and could run rings around Junior in a debate (although I'd be extremely surprised if Rove allows that this time.) I like both of these guys.
Graham remains a cipher to me as a political personality and I simply don't understand his foreign policy argument. Hezbollah is a dangerous group of terrorists (or "freedom fighters," depending on where you sit on the issue.) But, they do not threaten the US any more than the IRA or the Basques threaten the US. And even if they did, I fail to see why we should give George W. Patton any more blank checks to wage war. If he wants to invade Syria, Spain or Ireland, let him please come back to congress and seek permission. That's the way the system's designed to work. Grahams argument doesn't make sense and fairly reeks of absurd political positioning. The Democrats have to do better than that on foreign policy.
Kucinich and Mosely-Braun both represent the most liberal wing and are indispensible (well, Kucinich is -- Mosely-Braun wasn't very effective) in that they force the conservative and moderate Dems to make a winning case against what used to be considered fairly mainstream liberal goals. I would imagine that most of us, in our heart of hearts, recognize that health care is not a consumer item that people buy the way they buy a car (realizing they can't afford that heart bypass, for instance, so they'll settle for...dying.) If we want to have universal health care it's absurd to pretend that it is a "market" ruled by rational self-interest. There is no relationship between rational self-interest and money when illness and death are at stake. Clearly, at the very least, we need to take for-profit insurance companies out of the business and probably need to go single payer to make it work. Kucinich is the only guy who could cop to that and it needs to stay on the table.
So, all in all, I found the debate quite instructive and rather than feeling disillusioned, I'm actually a little bit more enthusiastic. I would surely like to see Clark and Hart jump in with a couple of dynamite foreign policy arguments because I see difficult times ahead beating back "Mav" Bush and "Goose" Cheney on national security. But there is time for the candidates to develop these arguments.
I do not believe that George W. Bush is unbeatable. Yes, they are tarting him up like a war hero, but in reality he remains a stupid, shallow, reckless loose cannon whose adolescent ego may be in danger of interfering with Karl's ability hold together the disparate and competing factions of his administration and his party.
For all of the staged hero worship and phony hagiography of this man, he is actually their single greatest weakness. We can beat him again.
digby 5/04/2003 06:00:00 PM
Zizka has a scorching series of rants called "12 Reasons Why I'm No Fun Anymore." I particularly like number 10:
Why I'm No Fun X: Inside Players
A lot of people fall for weird scams of the Nigerian type. Some crook comes up to you and offers to let you in on his game. "At last!" you think. "I'm finally getting in on the action". But you're not. You think that someone else is being scammed, but it's you.
Enron was that kind of scam. Up until a certain point, lots of people were making tons of money. The Republicans and many Democrats were on board, and nobody tried to stop it. In the end, a lot of people found out that they weren't in on the action after all.
The Bush administration is running the same scam. They've got plenty of people convinced that they're going to come out ahead. Their proposals are all carefully backloaded, so that by the time people figure out that they've been had, the game will be over.
In politics it's suicide to complain about the electorate, but the electorate these days can really be morons sometimes. The chump electorate and the cheesy pimp media (see next) are the hand we've been dealt. I haven't got a goddamn clue as to what to do about it.
We could try doing what the Republicans do. Say the words fraud, Enron and Bush in the same sentence over and over and over again until they are inextricably linked in the minds of half of the population. It worked with terrorism, Saddam and 9/11.
digby 5/04/2003 03:23:00 PM
As with many things these last couple of weeks, I missed this wonderful essay by Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged on one woman's liberal odyssey and her reluctant acceptance that we need the self-righteous bullies of the left. It is simply brilliant. And, for the many of you who likely read it back on the 29th, read it again. This is where we're at folks. We do not have the luxury of marginalizing our best fighters in a world where the other side rules by sheer intimidation.
digby 5/04/2003 02:02:00 PM
Friday, May 02, 2003
We're So Good
Many nice people feel the need to remind those of us who opposed the Iraq invasion that freeing the Iraqi people is a good thing. I understand this, but I think it needs some examination.
(In any event, for any visiting freepers, I would just like to say that going forward, any discussion by me of foreign policy and war on this blog implicitly carries the disclaimer that I am happy that that bastard Saddam is gone, I believe that it is wonderful that the Iraqi people at least have a chance of a government of their choosing and of course, I support the troops and hate the Dixie Chicks.)
Under different circumstances, I would have supported deposing Saddam purely on the basis of his horrifying human rights record. However, as much as I agree that a free Iraq is a good thing, just as free North Korea or free China or free Sudan or free Tibet would be good things, I believe that allowing the Bushies to get away with using that argument is a mistake for all people who believe in human rights.
By agreeing that the ends justify the means in this case we are allowing them to pretend that the motivation of the US was always to free the Iraqi people (a fact which is clearly untrue since they haven't even seen fit to free the Cuban people who live just 90 miles off our shores and whose exiles are a powerful political constituency.) Their arguments must be evaluated on their own terms by what they hoped to accomplish and what the results have been.
In that light, the best they can claim is that freeing the Iraqi people was a collateral effect of whatever it was we really wanted to do, whether it was eliminating the threat of WMD or terrorism or something else entirely that was never mentioned. Personally, I believe the administration officials who now admit that they were "sending a message" to the world that we are not soft. In fact, it's the only thing that makes complete sense. (We could have easily cut lucrative deals for the oil by lifting sanctions.)
So, on their own terms of "sending a message," was the end achieved and was it worth it? Was that a justifiable reason to flout international law and severely damage our relationships with allies? It's too early to know for sure but regardless of the ultimate result, it is unprecedented and many, many people around the world are not likely to understand or support it.
There is already some collateral damage from this action, one of the most serious of which is the disintegration of American credibility. That means nothing to those in power who believe that "might makes right." But, I don't believe we are omnipotent and this administration, in behaving as if we are, may have set a very dangerous series of events in motion. By creating an order in which the United States does not believe that credibility is important and one in which the rule of law is inconsistently applied, we have made ourselves difficult to understand and predict.
Those who believe that force is the only viable way to ensure security think this is a good thing. But, history suggests that it invites miscalculation and overreaction. Therefore, because the stated goals of Iraq were so confused, I believe that in addition to freeing the Iraqi people, the "ends" are also likely to be an escalated arms race and a breakdown of the international rule of law among powerful and near powerful nations, on top of the "rogue" states who already flout the rules.
The people of the US deserved to know that in order to "send a message" (and incidentally free the Iraqi people) we may have destabilized the world and made it more dangerous than it has been since the height of the cold war, if not longer. Perhaps the American people would have sanctioned freeing the Iraqi people anyway, in which case I commend them for their generosity and compassion. But if that's true, it seems strange that on the heels of our great victory over tyranny (at very little cost to ourselves in lives) we aren't seeing a groundswell of sentiment to free any of the other of the billions of oppressed people on this earth.
Which then begs the question of whether we are also, after the fact, "sending a message" to ourselves --- of warm and hearty congratulations for our righteousness and good intentions. The fact that it was all based on lies will not be allowed interfere with the overwhelming good feeling and love we now have for ourselves, regardless of the real means or the real ends.
digby 5/02/2003 04:23:00 PM
Depends On What The Meaning Of Pervert Is
Sam Heldman, in his invaluable ongoing expose of Federal Court nominee Pryor, linked today to this article in the Washington Post that points out Pryor's use of almost exactly the same language to describe the effects of a right to privacy, (in an amicus brief he filed in the Texas sodomy case) to the language Santorum used in his AP interview.
"Petitioners' protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, a constitutional right that protects 'the choice of one's partner' and 'whether and how to connect sexually' must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia (if the child should credibly claim to be 'willing')"
If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."
And, of course, Santorum also mentioned that the right to "man on dog" and "man on child" sex would inexorably follow any ruling upholding a right to privacy.
Pryor, as hideously theocratic as he is, isn't quite as stupid as Santorum (even a sea anemone isn't quite as stupid as Santorum) so he didn't add bigamy and polygamy to the list of clear and present dangers to America, seeing as they are matters of contract law in which the state has an interest. (As, it would seem to me that adultery is as well. Any lawyers out there who can let me know if that's correct?) But, he neglected to mention the serious threats of prostitution and necrophilia.
Does Rick Santorum think that prostitution and necrophilia aren't among the serious problems affecting America today?
Perhaps he believes that prostitution is not a threat to his definition of what a politically correct family should be. Perhaps he doesn't view it as consensual, since it's obvious that many fine religious Republican men are bewitched by scantily clad women into doing things they shouldn't do.
But, what to make of his not mentioning the immediate danger to our children by necrophiliacs?
Why wouldn't he be concerned about people who might expose their small children to corpses, make them handle them and talk to them in strange and unusual rituals that the mainstream Americans find deeply disturbing?
digby 5/02/2003 02:12:00 PM
Thursday, May 01, 2003
This article by Michael Tomasky in The Prospect is great. (In fact, his column is a must read every week.) I agree with everything he says except the argument that the uproar over the Santorum remarks only benefits the gay community.
I think the uproar should be aimed at all Americans who believe in the constitution and don't practice bigotry for fun and profit. But, it also should be aimed at Americans who don’t like the idea of the government intruding on their private lives. And, I would suggest that is most of them.
The GOP is revealing itself as the anti-privacy party. They are enabling the state to rummage through everybody’s medical records, they want corporations to be allowed to buy and sell your purchase records and any other information they may have, they are more interested in medical marijuana than the serious issue of identity theft, and they want to make permanent the ill considered Patriot Act which gave the government vast new surveillance powers.
Now, along comes Lil’ Ricky telling a reporter outright that he doesn’t believe there is any right to privacy (an article of faith in the anti-abortion cult), that he thinks gay civil rights are a slippery slope to perversion and that he further believes his view of sexual morality should be enshrined as the law of the land for everybody.
This desire and ability to invade the homes and private lives of our citizens is UnAmerican. It goes against every tenet of freedom that George W. Bush constantly preaches about, particularly the All American belief in individualism and the inalienable right to life, liberty and happiness. Who the hell gave John Ashcroft and Rick Santorum and Jack Welch and Dick Cheney the right to information about me without my permission, to investigate me without probable cause or to tell me what I can do in my own home?
The Republicans do not believe in freedom any more than they believe in equality. This negation of the right to be left alone is coming from all GOP quarters --- religious, government and corporate and it is a potent example of their lack of patriotism and any sincere belief in traditional American values. Just what do they think liberty consists of? The freedom to be harassed and coerced by every interest group in the Republican Party until you either join up or shoot yourself in the head?
Jeez. Even France has more respect for individual rights than Republicans do.
digby 5/01/2003 07:02:00 PM
Hitler wrote in "Mein Kampf"
"… in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.
Smart guy, no doubt about it. That surely explains why so many Americans believe that Iraq and 9/11 are connected and why many probably believe that WMD have been found or that they were destroyed in the days before the war or any other of the improbable explanations as to why the fundamental rationale on which this war was based simply must be true in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. A good number of people simply do not want to believe that the President of the United States would blatantly lie over and over and over again on a subject of such importance.
(It also explains the seemingly incomprehensible fact that a president was just recently impeached for supposedly lying about a consensual sex act, a crime Republicans considered to be so heinous that it had to be prosecuted or risk undermining the entire concept of the rule of law.)
But what to make of this? I read that editorial (courtesy of the indispensable Mediawhoresonline) and found myself staring off into space trying to understand how we will be able to function as a society when we finally cast off even the pretense of a requirement for honesty in democratic leaders.
''Would it bother you if we were to discover that George Bush lied about the case for going to war?'' I asked.
He knew what I was referring to. His blunt answer left my jaw hanging.
``Everyone knows he lied about weapons of mass destruction being the point of the war.''
Just a few weeks ago, any statement from me that Bush's case for war was riddled with inconsistencies and illogic would have brought swift and fierce condemnation from this fellow.
Now, basking in the glow of military conquest -- and confronted by a thus-far futile search for chemical and biological weapons -- this hawk breezily conceded the point while also waving it away as inconsequential.
The difference between the gullible average guy who refuses to believe his President would lie and the guy quoted above is significant. The first holds that honesty is so important that he must cling to a belief in the honest nature of his leader even in the face of evidence to the contrary. The latter thinks honesty or even logical consistencies are unnecessary.
Instead of insisting that WMD were present and then manufacturing the evidence to back up that claim, which is what I expected in the event that the WMD claim proved bogus, we now find the administration and Jack Straw in the UK beginning to indicate, like the fellow above, that we lied about the WMD and it doesn’t matter, either in practical terms or as a matter of principle or that what they plainly said was not what they plainly said. Josh Marshall points out that Ken Adelman is even claiming that the UN forced us to lie about WMD.
The editorial writer of the piece quoted above calls it hypocrisy, but that’s really not completely correct. It’s hypocritical in the sense that these people all lie yet proclaim themselves virtuous and honest, yes. But, the phenomenon of lying to persuade people of the rightness of an action you wish to undertake with their permission and then saying later that what you said never mattered at all is something else entirely.
My first reaction was to see it as yet another audacious display of arrogance and privilege. They simply believe they can get away with anything. But, after thinking about it, I actually think it is far more insidious than that. It is an insult designed to get a particular reaction.
Like the boss who requires his staff to obsequiously and insincerely flatter him (because he delights in forcing them to say something they don’t believe purely to please him, and knowing they know it) it is less an act of narcissism than a demonstration of power. Regardless of whether they had bad intelligence or just bad intentions, for the administration to straightforwardly say to their supporters that the arguments they had them put forth with such fervor prior to the war were never correct and don’t matter anyway is, in effect, demanding a loyalty oath that says they are willing to give up any claim to personal integrity in support of the party. You can believe me or you can believe your lyin' eyes.
And to those who expressed skepticism about the imminent threat presented by Saddam, these people are saying , “We have demonstrated that we can get away with lying outright, over and over again and no one has the courage or the will to hold us accountable. You are powerless to defeat us through logic or rational argument. Might makes right.”
When you add this to the ongoing and systematic attacks against any criticism of the President or his policies, you have the makings of a new order. From this, Brownshirts are made.
This gentleman has a choice to make.
digby 5/01/2003 06:32:00 PM
Swallowing the "News"
I honestly don't know if it can get any more surreal than what I am seeing on television this afternoon. In fact, the Fox AllStars are more restrained than CNN and MSNBC in their prostrate, hysterical reaction to seeing George W. Awol alight from his "fighter" plane that you would think he just flew single-handedly, one engine on fire, from the war zone where he shot Saddam Hussein right between the eyes.
I have never seen a more sickening display of pandering penis envy from a bunch of pasty faced, bespectacled, doughboys in my life. Some Bozo on MSNBC could hardly keep from pleasuring himself under the desk as he swooned on and on about how "great the President looks in that flight suit." It's so tight and form fitting and he looks so potent. Why, he's just like Tom Cruise in "Top Gun." Ooooh baby.
He does like his costumes, doesn't he? If he can find a reason to wear that Calvin Coolidge Indian headdress, he'll be a one man version of the Village People.
digby 5/01/2003 04:19:00 PM
During my little hiatus I received a lot of great e-mail, many of them asking why I made the assertion that the Democrats (and a majority of the country) are unified in support the democratic agenda, and wanting me to provide some back-up for that claim. I base some of my belief on this analysis and some on my own observations of the nature of the internecine warfare within each Party.
I never said that the Democratic Party is one big happy family. I said that we have a remarkably coherent philosophy and agreement on policy for such a large coalition of interests and that this is a great strength. Our disagreements, and they are significant, are about strategy.
First, let me reiterate that the unified support within and outside the party does not apply to national security. Americans (including many Democrats) have consistently said that the Democratic Party is weaker than the Republicans on national security for more than 30 years. It is why Democratic politicians twist themselves into pretzels on the issue, trying to be sane and tough at the same time while fighting off the charges of cowardice and fecklessness by the manly GOP. It is a huge problem for us.
But, the fact that George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative” with a program of “affirmative access” and “saving social security,” and even the red, white and blue mid-term campaign featured Republicans across the board pushing their phony prescription drug program is evidence that they know that they cannot win elections on their program of tax cuts, Jesus and the flag alone.
Poll after poll suggests that support for individual policies as well as measures of trust on bread and butter issues accrue to the Democrats. Even on the hot button issue of crime, the Democrats managed to pull even in the last decade. People expect service and support from the government and consistently seek more as the need arises. This is certainly true of Democrats and a large percentage of the independents required to gain a majority as well.
So, to the extent that disagreement within the Party exists, it is strategic not substantive – pragmatism vs principle, accommodate the middle or lead from the left. Certain politicians from red states often accede to their brainwashed constituencies on taxes and some other right wing issues, but with the exception of Zell Miller who seems to really believe in a Republican agenda all of a sudden, I believe this almost always in the context of a sausage making deal or other practical considerations. The basic philosophy of the party is not really in contention. Democrats of all stripes share the same goals of ensuring a stable society through a reasonable redistribution of wealth, equality of opportunity, respect for civil rights and civil liberties, a social safety net, and environmental and consumer regulations to protect the health and welfare of the citizenry.
Certainly, there are those who would like to see more done in certain areas but if one has a philosophical disagreement with those principles, one is highly unlikely to be a Democrat. Our internal battles on policy are almost always a matter of intensity and focus, not policy goals themselves.
Granted, welfare reform was a very divisive issue as was NAFTA. Clinton tried to realign the party and neutralize the image of Democrats as being big-spending protectionists. I believe those issues have largely been settled, unhappily in some cases. There are continuing sharp disagreements on guns as well as this ongoing Wurlitzer induced skittishness at being labeled a “liberal” or “feminist” or “politically correct,” or “outside the mainstream.”
In my opinion, trade is an issue that continues to require attention. Democrats have an affirmative responsibility to workers here and elsewhere and we must fashion a coherent policy on this issue. It is moral as well as practical. If Democrats don’t stand for unions, we have lost our souls (and our best organizers.)
Guns, I’m afraid, should be viewed in the context of civil liberties. In the era of John Ashcroft and terrorism, it is probably a mistake to advocate fooling with the bill of rights in any way, even if the interpretation of the 2nd amendment is contentious. In my view it’s not worth it.
These are issues that I agree still cause some serious disagreement within the party.
As to the third, the discomfort some people feel with being labeled “kooky” or “deviant,” I would suggest that this is the ultimate strategic issue. It’s a result of the silly culture war that has been used to great effect by the other side; it has no basis in reality. Democrats are Americans just like Republicans. We share the same culture, we eat the same food, we watch the same television, we shop in the same endlessly boring mall stores. None of us are exotic foreign creatures who don’t belong, not even the crazy kids on campus and the so-called extremists of the National Education Association or Greenpeace. We should reject this labeling outright. Besides, everybody’s got their weirdoes and the GOP glass house is crawling with them. It’s time to shine the spotlight in their direction.
And finally, the left end of the spectrum is extremely distressed (the centrist faction being typically only somewhat distressed) at the extent to which the party is dependent upon big business donors and the resultant necessity to pay heed to their requests. However, I would suggest that this also is a strategic issue, not a substantive one. Unlike the Republicans, whose governing philosophy is inherently plutocratic, the Democrats have competing constituencies such as unions, consumer advocates, lawyers and civil rights groups which balance their obligation to business donors. Like most other contentious issues within the party, this seems to me to be one of emotional intensity rather than a serious philosophical difference. Our political system has become quite obviously corrupt in a perfectly legal way which is outrageous and unacceptable to some Democrats and regretfully necessary to defend against a very frightening and dangerous GOP to others. The Republicans, on the other hand, comfortably see it as the natural and correct order of things.
Nobody really has the answer to how to stop the ungodly flow of corporate money into politics. It seems to be like water --- if you plug up one route, it finds another. It’s doubtful that even public financing or free TV time could do much more than temporarily plug the dyke. Until a politically possible answer can be found, there are those who believe that the Democrats should just say no to corporate money and people would reward them with their votes. Others call that unilateral disarmament. But the vast majority of Democrats, even DLCers, agree that massive corporate donations taint the system.
Contrast that with the Republicans who, for all of their Stalinist group think have some serious fissures in their coalition that are only held together by a phony and incoherent fealty to tax cuts as the answer to every problem. Their problem is not strategic, it is deeply philosophical and it is a train wreck waiting to happen.
The Republican coalition primarily consists of business and wealthy interests, social conservatives, libertarian individualists, movement ideologues and moderates. Very few of them are truly “conservative” in the traditional sense of the word. (And if conservatism isn’t traditional, it isn’t conservative at all.)
Most business interests and wealthy individuals see government as either a hindrance to their goals or a facilitator of their goals or simply as their goal. They all want to pay as few taxes as they can get away with and are more than willing to pay the chump change that amounts to contributions and lobbying expenses in order to use the government to their advantage in whatever way they need to. They are morally agnostic. Their job as businesses is to maximize profits and most wealthy individuals live in a world that doesn’t show any evidence of a need for government.
The social conservatives like Rick Santorum are in favor of a government that promotes and enforces their set of personal religious values for the common good. They believe in an activist government, but rather than providing a safety net they rely on coercion and police power to “guide” people into making the “right” decisions in the first place. They see government as a tool for radical social change. (I’m including the significant numbers of neo-confederates in this group, although it is an imperfect fit.)
The libertarians are the real small government "leave us alone”“coalition. This is the image of Republicanism that is sold to the public as being what the party is all about --- the cowboy American, a rugged individualist who is self-sufficient and wants the least intrusive government possible. A Republican is strong, manly, confident, competent. Men want to be him and women want to pleasure him. In reality, they encompass the anti-UN black helicopter weirdoes and the intellectual utopians to be sure, but more importantly they also capture the regular Joe American who really just wants to be left alone to live his life unbothered by authority. But that includes religious zealots as much as do-gooders and the IRS.
The movement ideologues are the influential cosmopolitans like Peggy Noonan, Dinesh D’Souza and William Bennett, all of whom are really opportunists who have managed to make careers for themselves by working for the right wing message infrastructure. It also consists of the neocon faction who has transformed US foreign policy into an Imperialist wet dream.
The moderates are people who still believe that the Republican Party is prudent, fiscally responsible and traditional. They are not paying attention.
So, now that they are consolidating their power, how will the GOP reconcile the desire of social conservatives, who have an influence within the party that far outstrips its actual population in the country, with the “leave us alone” coalition? Rick Santorum was just given a big sloppy kiss by the Republican hierarchy after saying that he does not believe in a right to privacy and in fact believes that the government should outlaw any sexual behavior that he believes is harmful to the family values that he believes everyone should have. And the “leave us alone” faction should be repulsed by the idea that the government is seeking to inflict religious values on anybody against their will. If that is libertarian then I’m a John Bircher.
How do the movement ideologues and the social conservatives expect to pay for their enormous police state at home and Empire abroad if the corporations and people with money do not pay taxes? Supply side economics is a scam and they know it. If they remain in power they will have to find a way to raise taxes on the middle class and the poor, probably through a regressive consumption tax.
And at that point, the libertarians, who may have convinced themselves that the GOP will never be able to implement their police state and Empire as long as they are keeping taxes too low to pay for them, will see that they have been played for fools. The modern GOP does not believe in small government or rugged individualism. They simply use the imagery to sell their product.
As the social conservatives begin to flex their muscles, how are the cosmopolitans (who actually live in urban areas) going to feel when confronted with the mean bigotry of the anti-gay rights movement and the ugly intolerance of the still significant racist contingent of the GOP. They scurried like rabbits when Trent Lott embarrassed them. It is only a matter of time before the same thing happens with the gay rights movement. City girls like Peggy Noonan and Jonah Goldberg are embarrassed by the bigotry in their party.
In order to be coherent at all, the GOP must really believe in a huge, intrusive government that enforces religious values. One of their main targets for “reform” is the media. But, the media is big, big business, which has no interest in anything but profits. (Rupert Murdoch, after all, is the guy who publishes topless photos every day in the British tabloids.) If the social conservatives continue to gain real clout, how long before this confrontation happens?
In fact, how long can the Republican Party juggle the Big Government social conservatives and neocons with the valuable libertarian “leave us alone” brand and the big business moral agnostics?
And, how long will the Republican moderates stay in their nether world refusing to acknowledge that their party has become alarmingly radical and incoherent?
We Democrats have a lot of problems to be sure, not the least of which is that we are paralyzed by fear and indecision about how to fight the opposition. But, they have serious problems, too, and they are problems that the Democrats should exploit to the hilt. It’s called divide and conquer and it shouldn’t be too difficult to bring these conflicts into the open. Unlike the bogus wedge issues the GOP employed against the Democrats by demonizing straw men, these wedge issues are real.
Powell vs Rumsfeld is just the beginning. The GOP is on a collision course with itself.
digby 5/01/2003 04:00:00 PM
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
What Reasons Do We Need?
If the presence of WMD was never at issue, there continues to be no proof that Saddam aided and harbored al Qaeda or any other “international” terrorist group that threatens the US, and if legal standards set forth by the UN are irrelevant to US interests then the Joint Resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq would look like this:
To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.
Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in patrolling the north and south of Iraq.
Whereas the United States has the inherent right to use force in order to defend itself;
The President is authorized to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force, in order to enforce the United Nations Security Council Resolutions referenced above, defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq, and restore international peace and security in the region.
That’s it, folks. We are being told, in effect, that this is all that is really required for the US congress to authorize the invasion of a sovereign nation. All we have to do from now on is send our planes over any country and get them to fire on us and we can claim invasion is self-defense.
And, it sure will teach any would be assassins that there's a big price to pay for targeting a certain somebody's daddy, doesn't it?
digby 4/30/2003 01:00:00 PM
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Newtie and the Blowback
Josh Marshall (and everyone else) seems to believe that Newtie was seriously discredited by his rhetorical bayonet charge at Colin Powell last week. That may or may not be the case, but it's hardly a body blow to Gingrich because he was already relegated to occasional Fox News commentary and behind the scenes strategery. The Bushies made a point of never being seen in the same room with him. If he was planning on making a Nixon-like comeback, he's got a long way to go.
However, I doubt that was the point. The Republicans understand propaganda and Newtie understands it better than anyone. He fired off a salvo at the behest of the radical imperialists in the administration knowing full well that he would be severely criticized by the Colin Powell faction. It isn't the first time that he has taken a bullet purely for the purpose of injecting a new meme into the discourse. As that great DC journalist Cokie Roberts once said, "It doesn't matter if it's true or not, it's out there."
These things often sound shocking at first, and it takes somebody with a special gift for controversy to plant the seeds of radical change and nurture it into the mainstream. It's Gingrich's true talent and the reason why he was such a successful "revolutionary" and such a dismal "leader."
The radical right drumbeat for "State Department Reform" is already beginning as a result of his speech. Kristol endorsed it and that's as good as saying it is only a matter of time before it becomes a GOP article of faith. Powell is reportedly unlikely to stay for a second term, so they are planning to purge the state department of career diplomats and analysts who are resistant to their Imperialist fantasies.
Like the Soviet totalitarians they studied and came to identify with, the radical right excels at power strategies and internal political control. And, while George W. Bush is showing quite an aptitude for Stalinist strong arming, the Leninists and Trotskyites are still necessary to consolidate the GOP hold on the body politic.
Newt has not yet outlived his usefulness.
digby 4/29/2003 02:33:00 PM
Monday, April 28, 2003
Ooh La La
Many thanks to the Unablogger for this lovely gift. I think it's only fair to share it with my readers, all of whom will enjoy it purely on an aesthetic level, of course.
Warning: Rick Santorum will find this link objectionable. It makes him feel all squirmy and restless and then he starts to wonder what it would be like to have conjugal relations with his eyes open and the lights on. Once you get on that slippery slope it's downhill fast until pretty soon everybody starts thinking that people should have a right to engage in oral sex ... in their living rooms... at 10 o'clock in the morning ... completely naked!
And that, my friends, is the single biggest problem we face in America today.
digby 4/28/2003 10:15:00 AM
Sunday, April 27, 2003
Beavis and Butthead and GOP “Family” values
It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? Newtie’s back (not that he ever went away) and is reprising his award winning role as bombthrowing bad boy for the GOP Fedayeen. It made me nostalgic for the good old days back in the 80’s when he would denounce “deviant liberalism” to the empty House chamber on C-SPAN. We were all so innocent then. It never occurred to us that within 20 years Gingrich’s Leninist propaganda stylesheet would be the bible of a new right wing media establishment.
Gosh, I’ve missed him being in the spotlight. He is, after all, the reason the Republicans came to understand that openly expressing their “revolutionary” political philosophy of religious coercion, unregulated crony capitalism and global megalomania made the American public recoil in horror. Newt’s very existence exposes “compassionate conservatism” for the crock of shit it is.
Because President Chauncey W. Gardner is a sock puppet, it’s always hard to figure out whether these turf battles are good cop/bad cop or whether they truly represent a death match between State and Defense. But, as Atrios notes, the blow-back on this one is pretty over the top, so it’s hard to believe it’s a scripted routine.
My best guess is that the radical Rummy faction gave Gingrich the assignment to publicly introduce the idea of a need to “reform” the State Dept. (by purging career diplomats) along the lines of Rummy’s own revamping of the DOD, but they forgot what a rhetorical terrorist the guy is and let him do it his way. Certainly, some highly influential neocons agree with the substance of what he said:
Weekly Standard publisher William Kristol told Fox News that Gingrich is right about two things -- a feud between the State and Defense departments is growing and the State Department is in need of an overhaul.
"People in the administration who don't want some criticism are going to say Newt Gingrich stepped in it, but the truth is he told the truth. And Rumsfeld has tried to reform the Defense Department. He's broken a lot of china; he has got a lot of enemies as a result. Colin Powell, who is an impressive man, has not rocked the boat at all at State, and I think that's a mistake. State needs to be reformed," Kristol said.
What they forget about Colin Powell is that he has his own constituency in the American public and could single handedly derail Junior’s re-election if he chose to do so, as Powell not so subtly reminds them from time to time:
"Personally, I'm very much in sync with the president, and he values my services," Powell said on National Public Radio last month. "I also have to take note of the fact if you would consult any recent Gallup poll, the American people seem to be quite satisfied with the job I'm doing as secretary of state."
This is why Rove muzzled Newt. I would guess that any “reformation” of the State department is tabled until after 2004.
And anyway, the much more important revelation in the Gingrich tantrum is his articulation of the neocon fury at the mid-east “roadmap.” That gets to the heart of the Perle/Wolfowitz plan for the region and they are hardly likely to give in on this one.
Let the GOP intramural blood-letting begin.
Which brings us to Lil’ Ricky Santorum’s intriguing remarks. He has no problem with people being homosexuals, nosiree. It’s what they do sexually in the privacy of their bedroom that undermines family values. So, I guess that Ricky doesn’t have a problem with men dressing in drag or wild Gay Pride parades or openly gay soldiers and sailors as long as they are celibate. He’s inclusive, that way.
It’s the dirty nasty sex that must be outlawed because every time Ricky thinks about what they do (and he thinks about it all the time) his family values get all tingly and stimulated --- especially when he pictures that bad-polyamorous-man-with- three-hot-young-babes-all-tangled-up-together-in-one-great-big-bed kind of sex, or when he contemplates a sinful-adulterous-politician-who-strays-from-his-homeschooling-housewife-of-the-year-with-Ann-Coulter-for-some-man-on-dog type sex.
That’s the kind of sex that the government should make sure is illegal because if it doesn’t who knows what a Catholic Senator and former teen-age alter boy who has very, very bad thoughts might do?
Why, something like this could happen:
... When a distraught Sharon Bush phoned her mother-in-law to commiserate about the 48-year-old Neil, Barbara Bush told her coolly, "That's between you and Neilsie."
And when the 50-year-old Sharon met with author Julie McCarron in Houston on April 14 to explore writing a memoir of her life in America's premier political dynasty, they ran into Neil's 40-year-old mistress, Houston socialite Maria Andrews, at a popular restaurant called the Grotto.
Maybe if Neilsie were faced with a little jail time, he might have thought twice, eh?
This is what is so very impressive about the modern GOP's political leadership. Brainpower. Bush himself, as we know, has a towering intellect and Dick Cheney is one of the country’s foremost authorities on …something. But, little Ricky Santorum is so uniquely brilliant that it is clear he is being groomed for the presidency.
His mastery of logic is simply breathtaking. For instance, when talking about partial birth abortion he dismisses the slippery slope argument made by pro-choicers as “absolutist”:
Senator Santorum says,:
"Charles is right. It is the absolutist argument that if they (Abortion Activists) concede even the most egregious and barbaric procedures then it calls into question the whole concept of abortion which they can not permit."
But, in his infamous interview Senator Santorum also said:
“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."
Perhaps the distinction between these two slippery slope arguments lies in the existence of the large and powerful man-on-dog advocate movement which is on record saying their strategy is to whittle away at resistance to privacy laws in order to get the anti-bestiality statutes eventually struck down all together. When seen in that light you can understand why right thinking people everywhere would be on their guards against allowing even the smallest concession to sexual privacy. That would be playing right into the hands of the bestiality rights movement, which after all, represents the base of the Democratic party.
But, that’s not all. On partial birth abortion, Santorum also said, :
"I believe that this is one of the seminal moments in our society. If a government deliberately allows this kind of barbarism to be inflicted on the most helpless and innocent, who among us will be spared in the end?"
Yes, indeed. If the law allows a woman and her doctor to decide that a braindead fetus should be aborted in order to save her uterus, what on earth could stop this woman and her doctor from deciding that her braindead Senator should be "aborted" to save her sanity? You’ve simply got to draw the line somewhere. There's nothing absolutist about that.
I have to agree with Ricky on principle. Until the Supreme Court reverses Griswold and subsequent rulings that imply a constitutional right to privacy, I guess I’ll have to live with the fact that Santorum is allowed to bring home the corpse of their 5 month old fetus and force his small children to hold it, despite the fact that I find such behavior bizarre, sick and abusive. If the constitution allows people to handle fetal corpses in the privacy of their own home, are we not on a slippery slope to sanctioning grave robbery, necrophilia and cannibalism?
It’s the scourge of moral relativism that’s causing the trouble. The intellectual braintrust of Bush and Santorum are in complete agreement on this. Morality is black and white, there are no choices to be made, private or otherwise. There is one true way and they know what it is.
But, as Tim Noah pointed out back in October 2000, the GOP doesn’t have a problem with relativism in general. Science, for instance, is entirely relative:
Bush believes “the jury is still out” on evolution and said:
“I'd make it a goal to make sure that local folks got to make the decision as to whether or not they said creationism has been a part of our history and whether or not people ought to be exposed to different theories as to how the world was formed.”
Santorum actually made sure the congressional record included a “sense of the Senate” resolution attached to the “No Child Left Behind Act” which ensured that an Estrada Supreme Court would have the evidence to rule that lawmakers intended to endorse “intelligent design” being taught in the science classroom. As a matter of intellectual integrity he doesn’t believe it is right to pass judgment on universally agreed upon scientific knowledge if even one crackpot religious nut who calls himself a scientist disagrees.
“A number of scholars are now raising scientific challenges to the usual Darwinian account of the origins of life,” Santorum said after the bill passed. “Thus, it is entirely appropriate that the scientific evidence behind them is examined in science classrooms. Efforts to shut down scientific debates, as such, only serve to thwart the true purposes of education, science and law.”
Perhaps this is what Junior was referring to when he called Santorum “inclusive." And, it does stand to reason that he’d like the man. After all, it’s not easy to find someone who is even dumber than he is. In fact, Santorum is such a putz that he was once named the the dumbest member of Congress.
One example of his brilliance: In speaking about the country's long term prospects, Santorum remarked, "Nowhere in the Bible does it say that America will be here 100 years from now."
"Santorum?" Sen. Bob Kerrey once commented. "Is that Latin for asshole?"
With all of this talk of religion and politics this week, I am a bit surprised that this story didn’t get more play:
Six members of Congress live in a $1.1 million Capitol Hill town house that is subsidized by a secretive religious organization, tax records show.
The lawmakers, all Christians, pay low rent to live in the stately red brick, three-story house on C Street, two blocks from the Capitol. It is maintained by a group alternately known as the "Fellowship" and the "Foundation" and brings together world leaders and elected officials through religion.
Ok. Who cares, right? A nice Christian boarding house. There’s nothing wrong with that. Except, it turns out that this particular “secretive religious organization” is a powerhouse in Washington and has been for more than 50 years. Strangely, however, nobody knows about it.
In a tour de force of investigative journalism, Harper’s magazine this month published a jaw dropping expose of this group that calls itself “the family” and which has been working hand in glove with the political elite for decades. The report, called “Jesus Plus Nothing. Undercover among America’s secret theocrats” is simply mind boggling.
In the process of introducing powerful men to Jesus, the Family has managed to effect a number of behind-the-scenes acts of diplomacy. In 1978 it secretly helped the Carter Administration organize a worldwide call to prayer with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and more recently, in 2001, it brought together the warring leaders of Congo and Rwanda for a clandestine meeting, leading to the two sides' eventual peace accord last July. Such benign acts appear to be the exception to the rule. During the 1960s the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa's postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand "Communists" killed marks him as one of the century's most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise. "We work with power where we can," the Family's leader, Doug Coe, says, "build new power where we can't."
At the 1990 National Prayer Breakfast, George H.W. Bush praised Doug Coe for what he described as "quiet diplomacy, I wouldn't say secret diplomacy," as an "ambassador of faith." Coe has visited nearly every world capital, often with congressmen at his side, "making friends" and inviting them back to the Family's unofficial headquarters, a mansion (just down the road from Ivanwald) that the Family bought in 1978 with $1.5 million donated by, among others, Tom Phillips, then the C.E.O. of arms manufacturer Raytheon, and Ken Olsen, the founder and president of Digital Equipment Corporation.
I urge you to read the whole article. I thought it was anomalous that the freaky Reverend Moon was a silent partner in GOP Inc (which, incidentally sponsored Santorum's “faith based summit” through it’s front group the “American Leadership Conference.”)
Apparently, however, Washington is just crawling with powerful, wealthy and secretive religious organizations that are deeply involved in politics.
digby 4/27/2003 08:58:00 PM
Friday, April 18, 2003
What’s Wrong With The Democratic Party?
First of all, it is terribly important that we remember that the Democratic agenda is remarkably coherent for such a large coalition and it is universally supported within the party and by a majority of the country as a whole.
That is really quite remarkable when you think about it and it is the Democratic Party’s great strength.
We are weak on national security, but I think we can deal with that if we do not cede patriotism and American values to the Republicans. This issue is driven by emotion, not policy, and that is best conveyed through symbolism and rhetoric. We can do that. (See my post below for a longer discussion of that concept.)
It is also important to remember that the Bush administration does not have a real governing majority or an electoral mandate. They just behave as if they do. There seems to be a misapprehension that there has been a huge sea change in American attitudes and political belief and that a vast majority of “regular Americans” have rejected us decadent liberals when in fact all that happened was that a small handful of votes went the wrong way in ’02. Al and Ralph, both left of center, won a clear majority in 2000. We should not allow them to make even us believe that they are universally beloved and supported in this country. The ballot box has certainly not demonstrated that and neither do the re-elect numbers.
Yet, they have successfully enacted a radical economic and social agenda of supply side tax cutting, begun a revolutionary overhaul of the legal system, initiated massive regulation rollbacks and dissolution of the traditional separation of church and state. And they have also, not incidentally, completely overturned half century of foreign policy doctrine in just 2 years.
What’s amazing is that they have done all of this not only without a mandate, but without even explicitly campaigning on those issues or being honest about their implications. They are secretive and uncooperative with both the congress and the press and have assumed an inappropriate level of power in the executive branch. They do this because they know that they cannot win with their real agenda.
So, if most Americans support the Democratic agenda and the Republicans are blatantly governing far more radically than they promised in their campaigns, how are they getting away with it?
First, the other side has a huge advantage in money, incumbency and a constituency that benefits lopsidedly from the unrepresentative electoral college and senate. These are very powerful advantages that are unlikely to go away soon. But, even more importantly, they are overwhelmingly powerful in media, with the megaphone of power they now hold in all branches of government as well as the outright ownership of powerful talk radio, Murdoch newspapers and cable news. As Seeing the Forest so astutely observes, they have a message amplification infrastructure and the Democrats don’t. And that infrastructure serves as a conduit to the grassroots and the mainstream media. It shapes the conventional wisdom and defines the boundries of the establishment mainstream. All of these forces taken together give them the advantage even though a majority of Americans support the Democratic agenda and would reject the radical elements of the GOP agenda if they knew what they were.
Karl Rove knows this and has refined GOP tactics to obscure that profound weakness by using their infrastructure to not only demonize Democrats to the faithful (as they have always done) but to present the Republican Party in general and George W. Bush in particular as a triumphant and overwhelming juggernaut in the belief that this will carry the mushy uninformed with them over the finish line and keep the press on message. It is why, as Paul Krugman points out, “they focus all their attention on an issue; they pull out all the stops; they don't worry about breaking the rules. This technique brought them victory in the Florida recount battle, the passage of the 2001 tax cut, the fall of Kabul, victory in the midterm elections, and the fall of Baghdad.”
But, he downplays the most salient aspect of these victories. The Republicans don’t just “not worry about the rules.” The fact is that they haven’t won anything without cheating since Bush ran as a moderate, seized office on a technicality and began to govern from the most radical edge of his party. The tax cut was passed with fuzzy math and outright falsehoods about the beneficiaries and the election of ‘02 was (barely) won because of smears against a disabled Vet and a coordinated talk radio campaign against a dead man’s grieving family. The invasion of Iraq was sold on lies about WMD and ties to terrorists.
The Bush administration, then, really is the political equivalent of Enron. Ken Lay and George W. Bush and Karl Rove and Andrew Fastow and Jeff Skilling and Dick Cheney are all cut from the same cloth.
If you recall, what Enron essentially did was cook up a bunch of complicated experimental schemes to take advantage of “energy deregulation,” one of those ivory tower think tank wet dreams they managed to foist on a gullible public in various states . They were theoretically clever but had never been tried in the real world. And they predictably failed, but since the company’s financial reports were so byzantine it was able to hide their losses by creating a bunch of new off the books sweetheart deals with insiders and investment bankers who were also recommending the stock to the public. And they kept moving like sharks, using misdirection and tricks to keep investors looking at their "next big new market," while they covered up the failure of the last one.
When a rare person raised questions, the entire establishment that now stood to benefit from Enron’s success joined together to silence the critics. The company appealed to stockholders purely because of their winning ways and preternatural confidence. Nobody knew the details but they knew the plan was good because the cheerleaders and the analysts were all so convinced. So, everybody bought the stock and it became a self fulfilling prophesy. For a while.
They danced as fast as they could but inevitably all the fuzzy math and all the false bravado and all the secrecy and all the backroom dealmaking eventually caused the company to cave in on itself. There was nothing left but a bunch of theories that never worked and a crippling amount of debt.
The Democrats’ job is to prevent this from happening to the country. As taxpayers and citizens we are all shareholders in U.S. Inc. and if George W. Bush gets 4 more years I have no doubt that the results of his erratic decision making, his lack of transparency, his trust in radical ideologues and his reliance on sophisticated public relations to mislead the public will crash into reality. But, by that point the country will have been so seriously damaged that we may never quite recognize it again.
We shouldn't let these guys intimidate us. They are dangerous, but it's because they are reckless and corrupt not because they are a political juggernaut. That's their schtick. It's not real.
Seeing the Forest has more on this subject today, as does the watch and worldgonewrong. If my comment section is any guide, Democrats have a lot of thoughts on this issue.
My position is most poetically expressed by that most excellent comment writer -- the farmer:
"W is only a "great brand" by virtue of the marketing that made him a "great" brand. Great in this case, having about the same inate "great" value as say, the Great San Francisco Earthquake, the Great Fire of 1871, the Great Depression, and/or the Great White Shark. As "unknown blogger" mentioned, you can sell a rock in a box if you want to. Its still just a rock. But, its the box that sells the rock.
So, as Digby is getting at, its now up to liberals to restablish their dominance in the political marketplace. To market a high quality product in a highly visible high quality package. A better deal, more for your money, at a better price. Something that you can plant and it will grow for you. A real live perennial tree of liberty that you can plant in your own back yard. Not a nut tree either. Too many nut trees already. Rather, a big sprawling sugar maple, or a big blue atlas cedar. Or an apple tree, the kind you can make your own fresh pies from for years and years. Mom will love it. Mom and her apple pie tree. Its a patriotic American living thing and it arrives in a traditional hoop bound oak stave barrel half all ready to be planted in Washington DC. Ships in 2004, order today
Now, that's what I'm talkin' about...
digby 4/18/2003 02:41:00 AM
Thursday, April 17, 2003
4 Star Democrat
I have written a few blog posts in the last couple of months about General Wesley Clark, (here, here, and here) mostly as a jumping off point about the absolute necessity for the Democrats to drop the silly notion of the 2002 elections that they will be able to set aside national security in favor of preferred Democratic domestic issues if they vote with the President on foreign policy. Once again, they failed to appreciate that the Republicans will portray their opponents in what ever way suits their game plan regardless of their actual record or personal history. There is no margin in trying to appease them because they will only move the goal posts or lie outright if that's what it takes to stay on message.
Bush has a formidable advantage going into this election and it's not just because of incumbency and money but because many in this country are drawn to the nostalgic martial spirit that is being marketed and sold by the Republicans like it was Classic Coke. Patriotic symbols of strength and superiority make them feel secure at a time when the world seems confusing and chaotic. Questioning of authority is deemed unsafe for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the resulting harsh criticism by those in power.
George W. Bush will be marketed in 2004 as a visionary foreign policy genius and battle hardened commander who is the only man in the race who is seasoned and experienced enough to win the war on terror. He will be wrapped tightly in the flag with brass bands and yellow ribbons and allusions to the great victories of WWII. He will speak of high hopes and serious challenges and he will wield his great personal defeat of Saddam as a weapon against any little pissant who has the balls to suggest they should replace him before he’s even begun to smite evil once and for all. (Oh yes, and we need more religion and tax cuts too. Cue "I'm Proud To Be An American.")
The media, having already learned that patriotism sells, will be signing on to the George W. Bush campaign not so much because of explicit political bias but because the image the Republicans are selling is an image that Americans want to buy. Mostly, that comes down to Good America, Strong America.
I believe that Democrats should give no ground on this. We represent real American values and we have every right to use the traditional language and symbols of patriotism to express that. We are the ones who stand for the Constitution and the American system of justice, which we hold so dear that even in times of war we do not waver. We are the ones who believe in the sacred American values of Liberty, Equality, Opportunity and Democracy and we are the ones who work to ensure that every American, not just the privileged, share in them. We are the ones who have faith that America is strong enough to survive any challenge without sacrificing those values. The flag and Sousa and apple pie and love of country are not the exclusive property of the Republican Party; they belong to all Americans. We should take them back.
I believe that the best person to make the argument that Democrats are Americans too is someone who defies the phony liberal stereotype manufactured by GOP Inc. I think that many Americans could have their eyes opened to the true patriotism of the Democratic Party if that case were made by someone who spent more than 35 years maintaining American security. If that someone was so excellent that he began this career by graduating first in his class at West Point and ended it as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, the Democrats would have the perfect symbol of patriotic leadership as well as someone who has the demonstrated ability to maneuver the political shoals of the Pentagon and Washington without the taint of partisan politics.
I want the Democrats to nominate the candidate who can best beat George W. Bush. Standard stump speeches and stale rhetoric cannot compete with the spotlight conferred upon the flag draped Commander In Chief who is being expertly marketed as the Man Who Saved The World. We will not defeat that 200 million dollar juggernaut with predictable Washington faces or unknown iconoclasts without national security credentials.
This election is not business as usual.
I believe that Democrats can beat the Republicans at their own game if we take back our rightful ownership of patriotic symbolism and nominate someone who embodies those All American virtues.
General Wesley Clark is as qualified to be President today as was Colin Powell in 1996 when he was seriously courted by the Republicans as the most serious threat to Clinton's re-election. He is far more qualified to be President than George W. Bush ever will be. He is a Democrat.
I sincerely hope that he throws his hat into the ring and if he does, I will support him.
To read more about General Clark, please visit the Daily Kos’ Draft Clark web site. Sign the petition even if you are not entirely persuaded but think that he could make a contribution to the primaries. Having a General on the stump would be helpful to the Democrats and he could very well be an attractive VP candidate if someone else emerges as a clear winner. We need him in the race.
digby 4/17/2003 06:57:00 PM
We read that the Bush administration has rolled out a plan to parlay its "success" in Iraq and the immense and overwhelming personal popularity of our wartime President to push its its crazy domestic program. Political strategists speak openly of this strategy and discuss at great length Poppy's failure to do the same thing back in 91. Everyone reporting on politics understands that conflating the President's wartime popularity with his unpopular tax cut is a conscious political tactic.
So naturally, Judy Woodruff just promoted an upcoming segment on CNN with this script:
"Next. The Commander In Chief tries to revitalize his battleplan for the homefront."
All that was missing were the strains of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" in the backround. Judy may have even issued a smart salute, but I probably missed it when my eyes filled with tears at the image of our battle-weary Dear Leader forced to once again climb aboard that political Humvee and roll on down to Capitol Hill to fight the evil liberals and (sadly) even some of his own troops as they try to sabotage his crusade against terrorism and taxes.
Can't we even let our hero shake off the dust of his latest mano a mano combat with the satanic Saddam before we force him to take on Mullah Daschle and Olympia bin Snowe?
Thank goodness we have Major Judy around to keep us focused on the fact that while the war between Good (Republicans) and Evil (Democrats) is not over, our tired but determined President George W. Patton will not rest until every last enemy is crushed under the boot of liberty and justice.
digby 4/17/2003 03:07:00 PM
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
The Lesson Of Iraq
Demosthenes and others have blogged this item from The Guardian yesterday which claims that Dubya has nixed a Syria invasion. Let’s hope it‘s true.
But, it would seem to me to be fairly easy to change his mind if Wolfowitz or Rummy are of a mind to. All they have to do is draw the parallel between Poppy leaving Saddam in power when he had enough troops on the ground to go all the way to Baghdad and Junior leaving Assad in power when he has the troops on the ground to go all the way to Damascus (and Beirut.) I’m sure his good friend and fellow “man of peace” Ariel Sharon would be happy to weigh in on that as well.
If Syria is off the table, however, it appears that Israel is consciously playing cozy with the administration for reasons that make no sense unless they really believe that Assad is about to fold up his tent and run crying from the room. Otherwise, this sort of thing seems designed to inflame the situation to a point where invasion is unavoidable.
Mofaz, who often serves as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "bad cop" in taking a hard security line regarding Israel's Arab neighbors, was quoted Monday as detailing demands he said Israel would ask the Americans to pass on to Syrian officials.
Accusing Assad of having supplied Iraq with weaponry during the war, as well as making statements that appeared to negate Israel's right to exist as a nation, Mofaz told the Ma'ariv daily:
"We have a long list of issues that we are thinking of demanding of the Syrians, and it is proper that this be done by the Americans. It begins with removing the threat of Hezbollah in south Lebanon; distancing long-range rockets; moving Hezbollah away from the south, up to dismantling [Hezbollah]; stopping Iranian aid to Hezbollah via Syrian ports; and halting the granting of the cover of respectability to the terror headquarters of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad based in Damascus, from which they dispatch orders and funding to Palestinian terrorist organizations."
Inexplicably, (to me, anyway) the prevailing view really is that the US can now control events without having to go to war because it has demonstrated that it is willing to use force in Iraq.
Thomas Friedman says that we should begin a policy of “aggressive engagement” with Syria which, because we have no legal basis for a military invasion, falls somewhere between military aggression and “useless constructive engagement.” Basically, it consists of “getting in Syria’s face every day” and reminding the people of Syria how bad they have it. Somehow, this is supposed to force Syria to change because Assad saw what happened to Saddam when he refused to do what the US told it to do.
If that is the case, then it would be ridiculous to take the threat of invasion off the table because without it, it’s just a bunch of annoying hot air. Implicit in these complaints is the threat of military action and everybody knows it. It makes no sense otherwise.
But, more importantly, we need to look more closely at the example we made of Saddam Hussein and the lessons that other foreign leaders are likely to have drawn from it.
Immediately after 9/11 various friends of the administration like Perle and Woolsey immediately began banging the drum to invade Iraq, a desire that was fully documented for years by various highly influential policy makers in the administration.
Throughout the next few months, speculation in the media built as to whether the US was going to adopt this policy.
The administration released TheBush Doctrine stating in clear terms the fact that the US is adopting a strategy of pre-emption to remove the threat of weapons of mass destruction before they are operational.
In August Dick Cheney made a speech laying out the case for regime change in Iraq and the US willingness to invade unilaterally.
In September, the President changed course and went to the UN and asked for a resolution requiring that Iraq rid itself of its WMD and allow inspectors back into the country to verify said disarmament.
The UNSC voted unanimously for this resolution, Saddam declared he had destroyed his WMD long ago and the inspectors were allowed back into the country.
From that time until March, inspectors had been in the country and found no evidence of WMD. The US then said that time had run out and launched the invasion against the wishes of most of the Security Council and much of the world.
Throughout this time, the US government had insisted that if Saddam disarmed we would have no need to invade. Saddam claimed throughout that he had disarmed and allowed weapons inspectors into the country to verify that.
We have been in the country for a month now and have yet to turn up any evidence of WMD and now seem to be shifting our sights to Syria and rewriting the reasons for the invasion to be purely a war of liberation.
Yet, everyone is saying that since we deposed Saddam tyrants and despots everywhere will scurry to do our bidding in order to avoid similar treatment. Indeed, the administration says this straightforwardly: “They would do well to learn the lesson of Iraq…”
But, the lesson of Iraq is that if the US has decided to invade it has no compunction about drawing up a speculative list of crimes such as harboring terrorists and WMD’s, followed by a series of demands that you cease doing those things. Unfortunately, it has also shown that even if you make an effort to comply with those demands and as impossible as it is to prove a negative, it will say that you are lying and invade anyway.
I have no doubt that Bashar Assad is aware that Bush stuck his head in Condi Rice’s office last spring and said “Fuck Saddam, we’re taking him out,” which means that nothing short of Saddam’s ruling junta committing mass suicide could have stopped the war despite all of the posturing before the world community about "disarmament."
The lesson of Iraq is that the United States is going to do what it wants to do without regard to international law or any nation’s good faith effort to cooperate. If they have decided to take military action against you it is a fait accompli. “Aggressive engagement” looks suspiciously like the “Decade of Defiance and Deception” public relations package that sold the war to the American public. No world leader is now under the misapprehension that complying with American demands necessarily guarantees that he will not be invaded and deposed anyway. There is no value in face saving or compromise because the US has proved that it will change its goals and create new rationales at will. So, the only question for any leader in this situation is whether to surrender without bloodshed or go down fighting. All moral authority is vested in America's willingness to deploy its military.
The lesson of Iraq for the US is that the United States had better be prepared to invade any country it “aggressively engages” from now on because it proved to leaders everywhere that capitulating to its “demands” guarantees them nothing. US power now rests entirely on force – it can no longer use diplomacy or any kind of positive reward for good behavior because the lesson of Iraq is that the US cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith. Any threats short of war are useless because foreign leaders can no longer count on the US to keep its word not to invade if certain conditions have been met.
American foreign policy is now entirely unpredictable and is based upon nothing more than an elastic self-serving notion of American security. It requires no international consensus regardless of whether it directly impacts US national security and does not follow any international law or norms. It interprets treaties as it wishes without regard to precedent and holds other nations to standards to which it does not hold itself. It does not speak with one voice so its impossible to judge its real position and act accordingly. The American public are overwhelmingly supportive of the administration's new policy regardless of whether the government lies blatently about its reasons so there is little hope of any internal pressure to moderate. The world must now base its relationship with America on nothing more than blind hope or fear of one man's unknown intentions.
The lesson of Iraq is that the US is now the world’s most powerful rogue state.
digby 4/16/2003 01:02:00 PM
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Following this Atrios post I see that Robert George of the NY Post writes to Romanesko’s Media News in response to Michael Wolff's article and my post speculating that the unnamed "uber-civilian" is Jim Wilkinson:
Michael Wolff probably should have named who he was having trouble with -- it would hardly be the first time that a journalist has complained about how much (or how little) information that they are getting from official sources (or for that matter, how much they are being "spun"). It seems to me that the biggest problem that Wolff (and many in blogworld) have with Jim Wilkinson (if that is indeed the person to whom Wolff is referring) is his "uber-civilian" and "Republican operative" status. First, there seemed to be a hint that it is wrong for a civilian to be doing public affairs. But the simple fact is -- as has been reported elsewhere and I can confirm -- is that Wilkinson is a Navy reservist. Now, that doesn't make him active duty, but it doesn't make him a total "civilian" either.
As for Wilkinson's alleged party affiliation, well before heading to CENTCOM, he worked out of the White House press operation. I'm sure the WH people felt that the combination of military and political background made him a good pick to flack for Tommy Franks. Kinda makes sense to me. Besides, are we to be shocked -- shocked!!!! -- that a press person representing an administration's viewpoints (even those in a war zone) might have been involved in politics earlier?
I don’t know why a civilian reservist who is not on active duty would be wearing a uniform, but perhaps that’s just an odd vainglorious affectation rather than an attempt to appear to be DOD instead of White House. In any case, it is just a little bit of delicious detail and holds no real importance.
What I find really amazing is that George acknowledges Wilkinson is representing the “administration’s viewpoint” when he says:
"I have a brother who is in a Hummer at the front, so don't talk to me about too much fucking air-conditioning." "A lot of people don't like you." "Don't fuck with things you don't understand." "This is fucking war, asshole." "No more questions for you."
I always felt that the administration acted like a bunch of cheap movie gangsters, but it’s quite refreshing to see a Republican concur.
However, he still does not really understand why people object to a partisan hack like Wilkinson being influential in the war zone. It’s not just that Wilkinson characterized the bourgeois rioters as “volunteers” when everybody knows that they were virtually all paid congressional staffers. It’s because his job is to spin the war and control the message and that’s just a little bit offensive to old fashioned people who still think that the military should not be explicitly political, particularly in wartime. And it’s all the more objectionable when this very same fellow is the one who was in charge of compiling the report "A Decade of Defiance and Deception that included so many of the now disproved allegations about aluminum tubes and the like.
Here are some excerpts
of an internet cache of this archived article
from Newsweek written by Martha Brant last September:
Ladies and Gentlemen ... the Band: Selling the war in Iraq
"We’re getting the band together," White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett told the group on their first conference call last week.
The "Band" is made up of the people who brought you the war in Afghanistan—or at least the accompanying public-relations campaign. Their greatest hit: exposing the Taliban’s treatment of women.
Now, they’re back for a reunion tour on Iraq. The Band's instrument, of course, is information.
They aim to use it against Saddam Hussein, respond to his disinformation and control the message within the administration so no one—not even Vice President Dick Cheney—freelances on Iraq.
That’s no easy task. The members talk every day by phone at 9:30 a.m.
The key players are a handful of rising stars in their early 40s and under:
For starters there’s Deputy Communications Director Jim Wilkinson, 32, a fast-talking Texan who has become an unlikely but keen student of Islam. He recently got back from a trip to Morocco where he continued his study of Arabic (which he can now read and write pretty well).
It was Wilkinson who spearheaded the successful Afghan women’s campaign last year. A Naval Reserve officer, Wilkinson got his start working with Bush ally Texas Rep. Dick Armey. He’s the go-to guy when the White House needs information against its enemies.
In the last few weeks, he and his underlings have weeded through hundreds of pages of news clippings, U.N. resolutions and State Department reports to compile an arsenal of documents against Saddam Hussein. They released the first round last week: "Decade of Defiance and Deception" (a broken-U.N.-resolutions hit parade).
Then there’s Tucker Eskew, 41, a savvy South Carolinian, who will soon be named the director of the new Office of Global Communications, which will be formally launched this fall. Neither a Texan nor a lifelong Bushie, he earned his stripes during the Florida election mess by becoming the campaign’s tropical smooth-talker.
It was Bartlett, Bush’s right-hand man and the 31-year-old leader of the Band, who has insisted that this and all documents be sourced. Wilkinson spent hours footnoting the 22-page "Decade of Defiance" document released last week, for example. "We compiled every single possible bit of research we could find and then set out to verify, verify, verify," Wilkinson explains.
The White House is sending administration bigwigs to hearings this week and next to help make Bush’s case against Saddam Hussein—not just to Congress, but to the American people. It’s the Band’s job to make sure that case gets heard.
They’ll be playing soon at a TV, newspaper and radio near you.
I would have thought that once the invasion was underway that the DOD could be depended upon to handle the press. Why a costumed White House "band member" needed to be there is still not clear, George's oh-so-world weary Raines impression notwithstanding. Perhaps it is standard in all wars for the White House to have a representative at Central Command to coordinate "the message" and tell reporters "don't fuck with things you don't understand" and "no more questions for you." But, that wouldn't make it any less disturbing.
digby 4/15/2003 03:29:00 PM
Monday, April 14, 2003
Law and Order: Private Justice Squad
Boy, those police states are just awful. I'm sure glad we liberated the Iraqis from a regime that would do things like this:
...[he] witnessed coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased."
...[they were] engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in] other immoral acts."
...women and girls were handed over to bar owners and told to perform sex acts to pay for their costumes.The women who refused were locked in rooms and withheld food and outside contact for days or weeks. After this time they are told to dance naked on table tops and sit with clients. If the women still refuse to perform sex acts with the customers they are beaten and raped in the rooms by the bar owners and their associates. They are told if they go to the police they will be arrested for prostitution and being an illegal immigrant."
It is so nice that the United States has arrived to set things right.
Oh, wait a minute. These are things that were done by our All American Dyncorps Rent-a-cops in Bosnia. And guess what? We're gonna send 'em to Iraq! I'm sure they'll have some juicy stories to swap with those Ba'athist secret police we've also hired to "restore order."
Dyncorp Wants You
That plan appears to be almost ready. Half a world away from the bedlam in Iraq, just outside of Forth Worth, Texas, police recruiters are currently manning the phones for Dyncorp, a multi-billion dollar military Contractor. For Dyncorp the turmoil that is emerging in Iraq could mean a boom in business.
"When the area is safe, we will go in. Watch CNN. In the meantime fax us a resume if you want a job," Homer Newman, a Dyncorp recruiter told Corpwatch. But Chuck Wilkins, a company spokesman in Virginia, said: "The contract hasn't yet been awarded."
Yet a website has been offering Dyncorp jobs to "individuals with appropriate experience and expertise to participate in an international effort to re-establish police, justice and prison functions in post-conflict Iraq." The company is looking for active duty or recently retired cops and prison guards and "experienced judicial experts." Applicants must be US citizens with ten years of sworn civilian domestic law enforcement. The site even has a toll free number and a "firstname.lastname@example.org" email address for applicants.
The website explains that recruits will help "establish police stations and monitor activities determining the selection, screening and training processes for police officers, demonstrating police practices and techniques used by democratic societies advising local police on criminal investigation methods and monitoring their progress working side-by-side with police officers from around the world reporting humanitarian violation."
Cool, huh? Too bad about those unfortunate allegations of Human Rights Violations and Fraud
The company is not short on controversy. Under the Plan Colombia contract, the company has 88 aircraft and 307 employees - 139 of them American - flying missions to eradicate coca fields in Colombia. Soldier of Fortune magazine once ran a cover story on DynCorp, proclaiming it "Colombia's Coke-Bustin' Broncos."
US Rep. Janice Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, told Wired magazine that hiring a private company to fly what amounts to combat missions is asking for trouble. DynCorp's employees have a history of behaving like cowboys," Schakowsky noted.
"Is the US military privatizing its missions to avoid public controversy or to avoid embarrassment - to hide body bags from the media and shield the military from public opinion?" she asked.
Indeed a group of Ecuadoran peasants filed a class action against the company in September 2001. The suit alleges that herbicides spread by DynCorp in Colombia were drifting across the border, withering legitimate crops, causing human and livestock illness, and, in several cases, killing children. Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers intervened in the case right away telling the judge the lawsuit posed "a grave risk to US national security and foreign policy objectives."
And then there was all that unpleasantness about slavery and prostitution:
What you have here is a Lord of the Flies mentality. Basically you've got a bunch of strong men who are raping and manipulating young girls who have been kidnapped from their homes. Who's the bad guy? Is it the guy who buys the girl to give her freedom, the one who kidnaps her and sells her or the one who liberates her and ends up having sex with her? And what does it mean when the U.S. steps up and says, 'We don't have any jurisdiction'? That's absurd."
Rummy meant it when he said freedom meant people were free to commit crimes. "Course, you're especially free to commit crimes if you are a private cop working for a defense contractor who has immunity from prosecution.
I sure hope our Iraqi friends don't choke on those big old whiffs 'o freedom we're giving them.
digby 4/14/2003 06:33:00 PM