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Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Let Them Eat California Roll

Mister egalitarian, Mickey Kaus writes:

(Meanwhile, complaints about the long ballot seem overblown. Are citizens who routinely negotiate a typical cable TV guide or sushi menu really unable to find their candidate among 135 names, if the ballot is laid out clearly?) ....

It may come as something of a surprise to him that the 500 channel, digital cable menu that he negotiates everyday (as do I --- with some difficulty, I might add) and long complicated sushi menus may be “routine” over here on the Westside of LA, but they are probably not that “typical” in other parts of Los Angeles, much less California. Certainly, ballots containing 135 names, in no discernable order, spread over many pages and attached to punch card ballots that are impossible to verify by looking at them is not commonplace even for all of Mickey’s salt of the earth pals in Brentwood and Beverly Hills.

Then, unbelievably, in the next post he says:

If Arianna would freely admit her shifting positions and joke about them, almost all would be forgiven. It's bizarre that she hasn't been displaying in public the self-deprecating humor that wins over dinner guests in private.

Don’t you just hate it when somebody you just adoooore at intimate dinner parties turns out to be such a bore when they’re running for office. I know I do.

I’m sure that if she didn’t have to appeal to the great cableless, sushilliterate hoi polloi, we’d get to see more of the charming Arianna that Mickey and I just love at those faaaabulous dinner parties.

(How many nights have we spent at Arianna’s salon, nibbling spicy yellowtail, watching pay-per-view, listening to her tinkling laughter as she gaily tells tales of her former days as Newties courtesan? Life can be so sweet sometimes.)

Now, she is dirtying her hands in the electoral process, having to explain her political evolution in a serious way and being forced to answer questions from the great unwashed...even about her (gasp!) finances. It's so common, so tawdry.

It’s sad, really. She was once one of Us. You know --- the people who are superior to Everyone, conservative and liberal alike?

Saturday, August 16, 2003


Those Texas Democrats have got what it takes.

Send them an e-mail, if you have a minute. A little national Democratic solidarity might just make their day.

So Much For My Lunch

Thanks TBOGG:

ROLLINS: What is your definition of virility? Does it have a role in political leadership?

WALTER: It’s a nebulous quality for a political leader. Bill Clinton was virile—in a very sleazy way. There’s also the sex appeal of someone like Don Rumsfeld. President Bush possesses this intangible something—you really saw it on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Testosterone and camaraderie—many people responded to it. In George W. Bush, people see a contained, channeled virility. They see a man who does what he says, whose every speech and act is not calculated. Bill Clinton showed a lot of outward empathy and he was very articulate but I don’t think many of us would have trusted him with our daughters.

GAVORA: If virility equates with strength, then there is no question that Bill Clinton lacked it completely. Bush has shown that he has it. His willingness to go after terrorism root and branch despite the widespread opposition among our European allies and even some at home, and to withstand that pressure, is strength. Bill Clinton made surface gestures. He refused to go against the media, popular opinion, the pinstriped boys at the State Department, because he lacked that strength.

HAYS: The most masculine man I ever knew was my grandfather, who supported seven children and never failed to stand when a woman came into the room. Bill Clinton is virile, but he’s not masculine or mature. He never became a grown man.

O’BEIRNE: When I heard that he grew up jumping rope with the girls in his neighborhood, I knew everything I needed to know about Bill Clinton. There’s no contest between Clinton and Bush on masculinity. Bill Clinton couldn’t credibly wear jogging shorts, and look at George Bush in that flight suit.

ROLLINS: But why do so many American women love Bill Clinton?

SCHAEFER: You can learn a lot jumping rope with girls. It won’t make you sexually attractive, but it will make you a more effective, patient listener.

O’BEIRNE: Bill Clinton did understand, from the matriarchy he grew up in, how to appeal to women in that modern way.

HAYS: Clinton could feel your pain like one of your girlfriends. But he could never make a decision like Bush has had to make. He would still be trying to negotiate with the terrorists. The use of force, which until recently was passé, has come back. Clinton couldn’t use force except in a motel room.

My friend Gloria wrote in:

When I heard that he grew up abusing animals like Jeffrey Dahmer I knew all I needed to know about George W. Bush. No man over 30 can credibly wear jogging shorts and any man whose idea of comaraderie is to play dress up and show off his bulge to a bunch of sailors isn't what I'd call masculine.

I can see their point, though. There's nothing I hate more than a virile guy who is an effective patient listener. Give me a towel-snapping moron in a Halloween costume any day. Oooh yummy.

Spinning Failure

Dwight Meredith over on PLA has a very interesting post up about the contrary spin points being employed by the two parties regarding the recession. Democrats are saying that the recession started in March 2001 (which is correct) and Bush is saying that it started in January 2001.

As Dwight points out, however, it would be smarter for them to switch their talking points because:

The argument the Democrats should make is that Mr. Bush failed to fix the problem. The more time Mr. Bush had to fix the problem, the more traction the Democrats will gain.

The Democratic line should be, “Mr. Bush wasted four full years and $2 trillion and the American people still can’t get jobs.”

The more time Mr. Bush had to turn the economy around, the better that argument will sound.

The converse is true for Mr. Bush. The later the recession started, the less time his policies have had to work. If the economy remains sluggish, Mr. Bush will argue that his prescription is right, but the medicine has not yet had time to work. That argument works better if it is made closer to the time the symptoms appeared.

This is correct. And, it plays into what I think is a strangely stupid tactic on Rove's part --- Junior's defensive and whiny tone and a pattern of unwillingness to take responsibility for anything that has happened since he assumed the office. (It's always possible that this is one of those unfortunate things that Rove can't control --- Bush himself may be believing his own hype about having been chosen by God or maybe he is just congenitally incapable of admitting fault.)

Bush and his boys are beating their breasts about all the things that have happened on his watch that he just couldn't help. And, he's right as far as it goes. The downturn in the economy and 9/11 were beyond the control of any politician. But, the man has been in office now for almost 3 years. At this point, the questions must go way beyond the problems (and surpluses) he inherited and unanticipated crises. It's about what he did about them.

This constant refrain of "it isn't my fault" is very unattractive coming from a supposed manly-man, "responsiblity era", straight shooter like Bush particularly one who has had a GOP congress (in practice if not in fact for the first year and a half) and has not issued even one veto. It's not like he had any institutional roadblocks preventing him from doing everything he possibly could.

The 2nd term is a referendum on the incumbent. He has almost nothing positive to show for his tenure. His reactions to economic conditions and 9/11 have been unsuccessful. He has failed to turn around the economy and he has failed to make America safer. In fact, it can be argued that 3 years after the advent of the recession and 2 years after 9/11 we are substantially worse off than we were before.

The Democrats need to emphasise Junior's response to problems (or lack thereof) rather than trying to defend the Clinton era by implying that the recession wouldn't have happened had Bill (or Al) been in office. Clinton's legacy will take care of itself. What they need to point out is that every president is confronted with unanticipated crises and that Bush has mishandled every single one that came his way, from the lack of stimulus in excessive tax cuts for the rich to botched homeland security to post war planning in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He's got a record and it isn't very impressive. It's a mistake to let him get away with framing the argument as if he inherited a bunch of huge problems that nobody could have dealt with, when the truth is that it's his job to deal with whatever problems present themselves.

Real Men don't whine and they don't put on cute costumes and pretend that they did something when they didn't. They solve the problem and move on to the next one.

Call In The Script Doctor

Damn, Michael Wolfe is good.

Weapons Of Mass Self Deception

... Writers of all biases have been sent back to further develop the plot—we’ve gotten to the cliff-hanger without being sure of the outcome.

Or it’s like an interactive narrative—we can pick from opposite scenarios:

•This postwar (or post-postwar) querulousness is just a blip for the president, and, as so often before, the Bush political and communications experts will make the necessary adjustments (or do the requisite bullying) and, with relative media quiescence, charge on.

•The war and its aftermath—which is unfolding pretty much exactly as the antiwar forces said it would—have created a situation of great vulnerability for the president, which the media, goaded by the Democrats, will poke and prod with mounting pleasure. The president and his men will become more and more defensive and, as the bullying becomes more brazen, prone to greater and greater mistakes. Hence the stage is set for political calamity.

But which is it? It can’t be both.

It’s slightly surreal and unnerving to be caught without a clear story line—to be in such an unscripted moment. It’s highly uncommercial to have the story meander like this without narrative momentum. Everybody looks foolish and unprofessional. Certainly it’s rare for this White House and its consummate script doctors. And the media, which has grown so dependent on the White House writers, is now uncertain where to go on its own (it’s part of the problem—the media expects that the Bushies will come up with some great new plot twist).

Thank gawd Ahnuld has provided a sideshow intermission. Executive Producer Rove will whip those pansy ass writers into shape by October 11th, you just wait and see.

Dem Plays Duet on the Mighty Wurlitzer

I'm with Atrios on this.

Somebody needs to inform Democrats everywhere that it is ... ahem ... counterproductive for us to use Gingrichian propaganda language when speaking about other Democrats.

You can criticize primary rivals all you want, but when you start using patented GOP talking points, you have crossed a line. I think that John Kerry can come up with some pithy put downs that don't involve the use of manufactured LIES put forth to destroy the reputation of the man who actually WON the last election.

I've always thought Kerry was a good guy. I voted for him in his first election for the US Senate. But, I did not like the way he handled the Iraq war resolution and I'm not much impressed with his campaign so far.

It is not just that he's validating Republican bullshit in order to entertain the press corps, it's that it is criminally stupid to openly reward the GOP and the press for their corruption. As Atrios notes, it seems as though he has failed to notice how the Mighty Wurlitzer and the corporate media work in this country. That's scary.

The Real Blonde

"[Clinton] degraded virtually everything he touched: the White House, the Oval Office, the staff, the cabinet, the country, the legal process.... He is a symbol of decadence." -- William Bennett

Ain’t it the truth.

There is simply no excuse for degrading, decadent behavior and politicians should have zero tolerance for it wherever they find it.

Some might think that Bennett could have found a more productive way to spend 8 million bucks --- some might even call betting hundreds of thousands of dollars in one week-end “decadent” --- but never let it be said that Ole Bill did anything that a Concerned Woman For America would find sexually icky. That would be completely unacceptable.

Which is why its so puzzling that our born again President would have called on a man like Roger Stone to help him “persuade” the Florida canvassing board to reject counting previously uncounted votes:

What the world watched was a G.O.P. melee. When Geller walked out of the room with a sample ballot, the crowd accused him of stealing a real one and responded as if he had just nabbed a baby for its organs. Geller says he was pushed by two dozen protesters screaming, "I'm gonna take you down!" Luis Rosero, a Democratic observer, claims he was punched and kicked. Republicans dispute the charges, but video cameras caught scenes of activism that had morphed into menace. The organizers in the RV outside, who G.O.P. protesters have told Time were led by hardball Washington strategist Roger Stone, had phone banks churning out calls to Miami Republicans, urging them to storm downtown. (Stone could not be reached for comment.)

And now it turns out that Roger seems also to have been running some kind of secret slush fund to pay for a “citizens” revolt against the Florida Supreme Court. (This should not be surprising, seeing as Roger was weaned on Nixonian Dirty Tricks.)

Now, I know that George W. Bush is a fine, upstanding, moral man because he has told us many times that he is one.

When he said:

“I'll bring in a group of men and women who are focused on what's best for America, honest men and women, decent men and women, women who will see service to our country as a great privilege and who will not stain the house."
Des Moines Register Jan. 15, 2000

you’ll notice he specifically spoke of “women” who “will not stain the house.”

Roger Stone is not a woman and he is very careful about stains, so the President can in no way be criticized for saying that and then hiring someone who was fired from the Dole campaign after this story hit the stands:

Big time political strategist Roger Stone and his wife Nikki: The former Bob Dole adviser and his wife were swingers and The Vault was a favorite haunt.

"Roger and Nikki were our customers for a long time," Marini says. "They were heavy duty swingers and ran ads on the Internet and in many sex publications. They were heavy players."

Roger was one of the top advisers who urged Dole and other Republican politicians to emphasize family values and integrity.

"Regardless of his status in politics, Roger never came to the club in disguise," Marini recalls. "He looked like a Ken doll. He was tall, blond, handsome and muscular and his wife was curvaceous and very sexy. She would wear leather bras and tantalizing outfits and he would wear collars, chaps and a leather vest with no shirt underneath."

Then in 1996, an ENQUIRER investigation revealed that Roger and his wife frequented group sex clubs and engaged in group sex orgies. In two blockbuster articles, we published evidence, including a shocking ad the couple had placed in a swingers' magazine soliciting lovers for group sex, a handwritten note arranging a sexual encounter, and revealing photos from sex magazines of Roger and Nikki barechested.

Hours after The ENQUIRER story hit the stands, it was picked up by dailies around the country — and Dole's campaign ended its association with Roger Stone.

Dana Milbank wrote about it in The New Republic:

"There were photos of her in a black negligee and him bare-chested, and there was an enumeration of her personal measurements. Stone said he had been set up, but he was forced to step down as an adviser to the Dole campaign.”

Roger, being ahead of his time as always, immediately went on the Today Show and declared himself the victim of a dirty tricks campaign, thereby predating Graydon Carter’s famous line about the end of the age of irony by more than 5 years.

Birds of a Feather:

One of Roger’s close business associates is none other than the toe sucking Dick Morris. It seems that corrupt, decadent, GOP operatives are in great demand worldwide.

At least all of this role-playing sexual adventurism explains the Republican obsession with Village People style costumes. Some days it makes me wish I could be a fly on the wall at the Fox News, Fair and Balanced company picnic. And then I think of Mort Kondracke in chaps…

Or George W. Bush in a codpiece.

Friday, August 15, 2003

(Oxy) Moron

The worst thing Arnold can do is act like a politician. And bringing a far-left billionaire in as an economic adviser is the kind of move a politician would do," said Scott Jordan, chair of the California Republican Liberty Caucus, which announced its support for McClintock today.

It's sooo typical for politicians to trot out one of those far-left billionaires. How dull.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Hitting The Wall

Candidates See Oklahoma Primary as Early Test of Electability

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean -- viewed as liberal here -- is also paying uncommon attention to the state, quickly following Lieberman's lead in bringing paid staff here. Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) and Edwards plan to open Oklahoma offices in the next few weeks.

"Whoever comes out of here victorious will emerge as a strong general election candidate because -- more than some of the early liberal states -- we are more representative of the general electorate," said Rep. Brad Carson (Okla.), a Lieberman supporter and the only Democrat in Oklahoma's congressional delegation.

Can someone please remind this gentleman (and a whole bunch of other blinkered Democrats) that Al Gore ran to the left of the “leave-no-child-behind, middle-of-the-road, compassionate-conservative-uniter-not-divider” George W. Bush in 2000 and WON? And, between Al Gore and Ralph Nader, the hated and despised “liberals” beat George W. Bush by almost 3 MILLION votes?

This is not to say that the country is ready to blindly endorse the fondest wishes of the liberal wing of the Democratic party but, it does indicate that the “vital center” of this country is not personified by Oklahoma politics.

(I realize that being a hated “liberal” or even “Democrat” is totally uncool in 2003. When I read about the perfidy of the Democratic party as it behaves like a bitchy clique of shallow stupid Heathers here in California, I can understand why so many eschew the label --- we appear to have no honor, no loyalty and no guts. If you were going to pick a party based upon its winning game plan --- and for many Americans that is the only question that counts --- you sure wouldn’t pick the Democrats. But, that is for another post.)

To assume that the country is more like Oklahoma than Iowa or New Hampshire, however, is just plain absurd. That would mean that James Inhofe and Don Nickles are representative of the nation at large, even though they are as far right as it is possible to be without being actual card-carrying fascists. And it would mean that the congressional delegation of 4 Republicans and 1 Democrat is representative of the country’s preferences.

Democrats are so cowed by the in-your-face ballsiness of the Republicans that they are conceding to Rove’s bandwagon strategy. The truth is that the Congress is in Republican hands by the smallest of margins and Bush’s re-elect numbers reflect absolutely no gain from 2000. We are still at parity.

If the last presidential election hadn’t been manipulated by the political machine of the president’s brother and decided by a partisan Supreme Court, the Executive branch would be in the hands of the Democrats, thereby requiring the government to compromise on legislation that would fairly reflect a centrist position.

If the system had not been compromised in 2000, we would have a pretty good picture of where the center really is in a closely divided electorate. Instead, with a combination of spin, institutional strong-arming and a will to power unlike anything we’ve seen before in this country, we are now dealing in a form of fantasy in which the Republicans are selling their far right philosophy as the center despite all evidence to the contrary.

I understand why the lone elected Democrat from Oklahoma feels that he has to portray himself as a reflection of “real America.” I just hope that the Democratic presidential candidates don’t decide after the primaries that they need to adopt his logic.

Because we have hit the wall, folks. The Nader vote should have been a clue --- not that we need to move left, but that we’d gone as far to the right as we could. Any further and we lose the base, either to a third party or apathy. In a closely divided electorate this is suicide.

Karl Rove knows this which is why he’s working so hard to exacerbate the differences between the “electable” centrists and the “radical” leftists within the Democratic party whhile papering over the divisions within his own GOP.

It’s all about turn-out.

wrote a very provocative and interesting post about this next election that seems pretty much on target to me --- and that is if things go well:

So we get a war. The Republican base against the Democrat[ic] base. The Wurlitzer against Dean's army. (I would not be overly surprised if we hear that term first being used in the mainstream media before the year is out.) The immovable object against the irresistable force, with no concept of civility, fairness, or restraint accepted, let alone followed. All of this, too, against a backdrop of an American populace that is newly re-engaged with politics, which understands how important this is, and which will likely be as evenly divided as it was in the past. I have a vision of the most brutal election campaign that the Republic has ever seen, and I don't think I like it, and even less like that it may be necessary.

I find it just as likely that Dean's Army will be portrayed as a radical out-of-the-mainstram group of scary 5th columnists (when they're not flaky ineffectual over-educated hippies) while the Democratic Party establishment ties itself in knots trying to distance itself from them in the mistaken idea that the great middle (or "silent majority") will see them as the way to avoid a distasteful confrontation.

I don't think such a middle exists and I don't think that there is any hope of avoiding such a confrontation if we hope to survive as a political party. The country is divided and the result is a huge political struggle with enormous consequences.

The Republicans are governing far to the right without a mandate from the people. They are unresponsive to reasonable calls for bipartisanship. They are using undemocratic tactics to solidify a majority they have obtained dishonestly. The Democrats are on the defensive everywhere.

I don't see how you can avoid a political war under these circumstances. The Republicans are demanding unconditional surrender.

Dean's angry and motivated Democrats are being seen as the left's version of the Conservative Movementarians. I can only hope that we have even half the staying power and dsicipline they have.

Because the truth is that the two sides are going to be fighting very different wars. The Republicans are fighting for political dominance as far as the eye can see, by any means necessary.

The Democrats are fighting a war of survival.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

From the "No Shit, Sherlock" Files

Conservatives: The New Stalinists, A new study proves it.
By Timothy Noah, Slate

Yes, Virginia, there is a Conintern.


"... Frum added,[w]ith conservatives, I suspect there is much more of a loyalty to people." And how: The Journal supported Bush on non-policy matters 95 percent of the time, whereas the Times supported Clinton on non-policy matters only 28 percent of the time. Raines' anti-Clinton pathology may exaggerate this last statistic, but there's no denying that compared to liberal editorialists, the conservatives march in lock step.

You tell me who produces better journalism.

Apples and oranges. Editorialists marching in lockstep are not journalists. They are propagandists.

Friday, August 08, 2003

He’s Back!!!

I have been wondering what our favorite hectoring deficit hawk thought about events since he endorsed George W. Bush in 2000. Well, it looks like he’s writing a book timed for the election. Here’s what Ross Perot is saying, according to Salon Magazine’s “Perot Gears Up.”

"The United States loses 100,000 jobs a month. The recession won't go away. The stock market tanks. Great companies cook their books. Airlines fail. Foreign investors pull out. Healthcare doesn't work. Social Security is a mess. The space program is grounded. Homeland security is a jumble. Congress can't agree on a budget. And just as federal tax revenues plunge, leaving states in the lurch, the United States takes on huge new military costs across the planet, swelling an already soaring federal deficit and creating the biggest national debt in world history."

Who knew that Ross Perot, of all people, was a member of the Far Left?

I don’t know if he has much credibility with his former followers anymore, but I suspect that a fair number of them will at least hear what he has to say.

Junior is going to blow a gasket. The hatred he feels for Perot really can’t be overstated.

This is going to be good.

Because Uncoolness Is Definitely Necessary...

Zizka is back:

It's really the congregation's problem. Learning not to obsess about other people's private functions is a big part of growing up. Dirty-mindedness is actually a sin -- prurience. Its variations are legion. I don't know how high it stands on the official sin list, but it's there. It's not really for me to tell the churches what to do, but if they could just bump prurience up the sin list a few notches, ahead of homosexuality, this whole controversy would disappear.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Mushy Dems

With a 38 billion dollar deficit, a collapsing health care system and the destruction of the dot-com industry, the time is now for an Austrian weight lifter to lead us. Perhaps we are getting what we deserve.

Frankly, I don't think he'll actually win unless he brings in a large number of new voters who vote for him because they are fans of his movies --- the Jesse Ventura phenomenon. The base will likely stick with Simon -- who, in this crowded field could win if more than 50% of voters support the recall.

I was quite glad that Arnold decided to run yesterday because it meant that Dick Riordan probably wouldn't. Riordan is Davis' worst nightmare (and Karl Rove's wet dream) which is why Davis ran a (gasp!) negative campaign against him during the Republican primary.

Let's clear something up about that campaign right now, shall we? Davis ran negative ads against Riordan pointing out his changed position on abortion rights. He certainly was trying to influence the primary, but not the way people think. He was focusing the Republican base on Riordan's new pro-choice position, not for the purpose of smearing Riordan but because he knew the California Republicans are a bunch of neanderthals. If he hadn't done it, Simon would have.

California politicians are saying that this was a "puke" campaign and have been self righteously shaking their fingers in his face and warning him not to try that again.

Oh my goodness. How perfectly awful that Davis would do such a horrible, horrible thing. Let's recall him. It was just beyond the pale of proper political behavior.

But, maybe somebody ought to tell the Republicans about the rules of engagement, because they don't seem to have gotten the word:

Republicans like winner Mitt Romney:

Although the Democratic primary isn’t until September 17, the Massachusetts Republican party is already on the air with a $200,000 radio ad campaign slamming Shannon O’Brien. The state GOP clearly views O’Brien as the Democratic frontrunner and hopes to tarnish her with negative campaigning in support of their candidate, Mitt Romney, who is running unopposed in his primary. “Clearly, Mitt Romney sees that my campaign is gaining momentum,” O'Brien said. “And he's trying to influence the Democratic primary in an effort to knock me out, and I'm here to say it's not going to work.” According to political observers, Republicans also hope that because the ads came through the state party and not Romney’s campaign, Romney won’t be fingered as the bad guy (The Boston Globe, 8/17)

Or winner Jeb Bush:

The surprising ascendance of Bill McBride was partly ignited by those with the most to dread from his candidacy, the wizards running Jeb Bush's re-election machine.

Nearly three weeks ago, they uncorked a television attack ad that singled out the Tampa lawyer, who was then trailing well behind Janet Reno in the race to become the Democrats' gubernatorial nominee.

You couldn't miss the anti-McBride commercial, which featured the dancing legs of a briefcase-toting man in a business suit. The Bush people were so proud of this concept that they aired it about every nine minutes, or so it seemed.

Seriously folks, the only thing unusual about Gray Davis' "interference" into the primary campaign of his opponent was that the Republican voters were happy to take the bait. It worked because the Republican base in California were more than willing to reject Riordan for his pro-choice views in the first place.

(And, what do you think Ed Gillespie and all the rest of the "helpful" Republicans doling out advice to the Democrats are doing by stoking the division between the DLC and the grassroots? Somehow, I don't think they are really trying to help us.)

At this moment it looks like Riordan won't run in the recall. But, who knows?

I watched him for 8 years, and while he is a congenial fellow and appears to be quite centrist, he is actually a corporate Republican who is willing to get into bed with the likes of Karl Rove to bring some GOP institutional power to California in anticipation of the '04 election. He may be liberal in Republican terms, but he's far from being a true liberal. In point of fact, he was remarkably ineffectual at anything but promoting a sort of genteel cronyism. Lucky for him, his term was up before everything went to hell in a handbasket here in LA.

Now Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamonte is in the race and the entire thing has taken a depressing turn.

I am very disheartened by the spectacle of Democratic politicians running around like a bunch of screaming teenage girls, spouting incoherant crap about being against the recall on principle, but wanting to have an "insurance policy" or a "fallback," all the while stepping on each other in their excitement to get on the "Gray Davis is a ruthless loser" bandwagon.

It's just more of that hair-splitting, "I'm for the war, with reservations," chickenshit politics that translated into a loss in 2002.

Perhaps Davis should ask to borrow the hair shirt Lieberman and pals forced Clinton to wear to such great effect. We could throw around the words "reprehensible" and "deplorable" and dolefully express our great disappointment in his leadership. That's always such a helpful "defense."

We look like a bunch of complete losers. We have no party loyalty, no winning strategy, no overriding principles, no guts and no patience. We don't want our politicians to play the same game of hardball that our opponents play but whine and wring our hands when they win using those tactics.

These forays into banana republicanism are one area where I think we should draw the line and come together as a party to reject them outright as a matter of principle. And, I say this as a political pragmatist. By tying ourselves in knots to find ways to "win" under the terms the Republicans have set, we look desperate and voters can smell our weakness.

(And, in this case, there is little doubt in my mind that allowing the Republicans to "win" with Arnold or anyone else, may be just what they deserve.)

This recall is an assault on the democratic process, just like the bogus impeachment. It represents a willingness to use any loophole and stretch the meaning of any law to attain the result of either permanently crippling their target, forcing him to resign under pressure or ousting him from office in humiliation. When the likes of Joe Lieberman take to the floor of the senate and condemn the President for being "immoral" and the California Democrats spout platitudes about "insurance policies" they are aiding and abetting the Republicans.

Capitulating in any way is to give credence to a fundamentally illegitimate process, one which changes --- perhaps forever --- the expectation that, barring illegal activity, voters can expect that the winning candidate will fulfill his term of office.

We are pounding the nails in our own coffin.

Spun Sugar

Today, a fine journalist from the LA Times named Vicki Kemper wrote the following piece of garbage in a story about Bush and Powell's coffee shop photo op yesterday. (For reasons I don't quite understand, the LA Times does not put all of its stories online.)

Unlike Washington, this is an environment Bush knows and loves, from the canyons on his ranch to the patrons of The Coffee Station. And, here, far away from the partisan capital, the warm feelings are mutual.

(And Karl gives a great big "Yesssss!")

Bush's father spent most of the 70's and 80's in Washington DC but apparently this "reporter" thinks his son was on the outs with him because he's practically a stranger in the place. The fact is that he actually moved his family to DC in 1987 so he could work full time on his father's campaign. After the election, they moved to an affluent suburb of Dallas called Preston Hollows. He lived there until he moved into the Governor's mansion.

And, we all know that he bought the "ranch" in 1999 as a prop for his campaign. I'm sure it is an environment he knows and loves - after all, he's "cleared brush" in the canyons for at least 8 photo-ops since the inauguration alone.

Oh Wilderness!

Get Al From and Evan Bayh on the horn right away. They're going to have to call in their troops for some damage control. The vitriolic, Bush-hating Far Left is at it again:

Here is the pattern that I see: the President's mishandling of and selective use of the best evidence available on the threat posed by Iraq is pretty much the same as the way he intentionally distorted the best available evidence on climate change, and rejected the best available evidence on the threat posed to America's economy by his tax and budget proposals.

In each case, the President seems to have been pursuing policies chosen in advance of the facts -- policies designed to benefit friends and supporters -- and has used tactics that deprived the American people of any opportunity to effectively subject his arguments to the kind of informed scrutiny that is essential in our system of checks and balances.

The administration has developed a highly effective propaganda machine to imbed in the public mind mythologies that grow out of the one central doctrine that all of the special interests agree on, which -- in its purest form -- is that government is very bad and should be done away with as much as possible -- except the parts of it that redirect money through big contracts to industries that have won their way into the inner circle.

Isn't there anything we can do to stop this madness? These out-of-control freaks of the hard left are going to keep us in the wilderness forever.

A majority of voters would never in a million years endorse a man who said things like this. (And, imagine what kind of opportunistic whore his running mate would have to be?)

Thank Gawd the DLC is keeping tabs on fringe politicos like this wierdo.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Looking For Trouble

I've written a lot over the past months about the problems a weak and intellectually deficient president can cause because he cannot manage the competing factions within his government. It leads to incoherent policy swings and constant second guessing. Unless he has a long term association with a group of advisors who think of his best interests first, and control the infighting around him, a dumb president is always being buffetted by the arguments and appeals to ego that characterize courtiers angling for his ear.

This hasn't happened much in our history because presidents are usually ambitious hard-working men who have developed a strong sense of what they believe long before they get into the oval office. This condition is more indicative of Monarchy and history is full of examples of callow, spoiled Royals being manipulated by devious advisors.

What we are seeing in this drama between the State Department and the Neocons is one such example and it may just become lethal if somebody doesn't get ahold of Prince George and tell him that he needs to fire John Bolton and put the State Department firmly in charge of Asia policy.

He is completely out of control now and I begin to suspect (as apparently Chris Matthews does, as well) that he may be trying to tank the North Korea talks on purpose. (I also agree that it might be part of a coordinated attempt to knee-cap Powell and Armitage, but that is just part of the ongoing battle that was launched when Newt Gingrich threw his broadside against the entire State Department professional staff last spring.)

Iraq is a travesty. But there was never really any question of seriously destabilizing the world order by invading such a weak country. North Korea is a completely different story. Neocon crazy men could actually succeed in causing a meltdown in Asia and that is something we really do not want to see.

It's a very good idea to keep in mind that the neocons characterize China(pdf) as being single biggest threat to US hegemony. There are some in the movement who are completely obsessed with them. As they said for more than 30 years about the USSR, they now say that the PRC is building up its military to levels that threaten the US and its allies in the region.

These guys are playing the most dangerous game imaginable. John Bolton may be a complete nut, but he represents Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld in the State Department. It is very hard to believe that he wasn't operating on orders when he made his ridiculously intemperate remarks. They were made for a reason.

The following exchange from Hardball (via the Daily Howler) shows Jed Babbin giving the PNAC official talking points:

MATTHEWS: Jed Babbin is the former deputy undersecretary of defense...Jed, you’re randy to say what a great guy this is but does it make sense to trash talk right before you’re talking about nuclear weapons?

JED BABBIN, FORMER DEPUTY UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No, it’s obviously not diplomatic here.

MATTHEWS: Not smart for us.

BABBIN: It’s not smart if you want to bring these guys to the table and you expect any result.
Right now we can’t expect any real result because the Chinese have not indicated they will make decisive pressure on North Korea. That’s the only thing that’s going to resolve this peacefully and without that, whether Bolton says what he says or not doesn’t matter because the talks will not proceed.


BABBIN: I think the neocons want to crush these guys and feel that they are creating pressure on these people, scaring them, hoping that they’ll come to the table to negotiate. I think it’s the old story of sunshine versus the north wind. The South Koreans have been trying north wind and we at least ought to try to negotiate seriously.

I don't know what the hell he means about Sunshine and the North Wind, but his frist answer is much closer to the truth. The trash talk is not designed to get the North Koreans to the table, it is designed to blow the talks. Those guys do not want to negotiate with China.

They're still complaining about Nixon coddling the Chi-Coms, fergawdsake:

"This preposterous legacy of America's normalization of relations with China more than two decades ago has become a positive invitation to war." Robert Kagan

Bush is all over Powell today like he's his long lost brother, so in the short term the gambit doesn't seem to have worked. But, in every big battle so far, Powell has only succeeded in slowing down the neocon juggernaut, and in the end he reluctantly ends up aiding them.

Let's hope it was because he was saving his political capital to force Lil' Cap'n T-Ball to listen to him on North Korea and China. It's not much, but it's all we've got.

Sending a Fabulous Message

TBOGG links to Julia and Lisa’s posts about the shocking allegations of inappropriate touching by Reverend Robinson.

I too was stunned to read that a religious man a role model would abuse his position and exploit his power by putting his hand on a man's back and arm while engaged in a conversation. Frankly, it turned my stomach. What’s next, men holding hands in public?

What kind of message does this send to the children? How can we expect the good men of this country to control their desire for man on dog sex if we sanction this type of behavior from our leaders? It is, quite simply, immoral and disgusting.

I cannot believe that God fearing men like Fred Barnes will countenance this type of behavior coming from anyone. He will surely denounce such deviance whenever and wherever he finds it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Brilliant Strategery

Via Hesiod, I find that Joe Lieberman has a very cunning plan to win the election for the Democrats. Everyone is talking about Howard Dean's unprecedented grassroots internet campaign, but I think that Lieberman is doing something even more exciting He has, apparently, decided to bypass the Democratic grassroots entirely and fight George W. Bush for the Republican vote.

And, the beautiful thing is that he's using the RNC to do it!

An E-Mail from Ed Gillespie:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) apparently understands what other Democrats don't, that those unwilling or unable to stop terrorist activity by dealing with it will be forced to deal with its aftermath:

"Some in my party are sending out a message that they don't know a just war when they see it, and, more broadly, are not prepared to use our military strength to protect our security and the cause of freedom." (Sen. Joe Lieberman, "Lieberman Takes President, Fellow Democrats To Task On Security, Foreign Policy," Press Release, 7/28/03)

There must be millions of Republicans who will read Gillespie's e-mail and realize that the Democrats are providing them with a viable alternative to George W. Bush.

Never let it be said that Joe doesn't think outside the box.

Dumbshit Theory

I think that Charles Dodgson and some of my readers may misunderstand one of the fundamentals about the Dumbshit Theory, as Jesse at Pandagon calls it.

When it is theorized that Saddam was bluffing about whether or not he had WMD before the war it is predicated on the fact that he played many games prior to 1998 and then refused, until 2002, to allow inspectors back in after they were withdrawn. He did not have any credibility and indeed the international community had absolutely no obligation to take his word for anything.

I’m sure he didn’t approve of David Kay and I’m sure he had good reason to doubt the Americans. And, of course we were spying. But as a leader who had been found to have lied extensively about his weapons programs in the past and had (with or without the tacit approval of the US) violated international law and invaded a sovereign country just a few years before, Saddam did not have much of a leg to stand on by complaining.

The facts are that Saddam had once had an active unconventional weapons program and nobody trusted that he wouldn’t start one up again if he got the chance.

In 1998 he basically pulled the plug on inspections. No, he didn’t kick the inspectors out, but he did restrict their movement to such an extent that it was tantamount to saying, “make me.” The Clinton administration withdrew the inspectors and launched Desert Fox.

Since that time, Saddam refused to allow the UN inspectors back in. The Dumbshit Theory assumes that Saddam made the calculation around 1998 that it was in his best interest to keep the world guessing about whether he was attempting to rebuild his weapons programs. (And, I thought he might have done it as much for internal reasons as any other. Tyants don't keep power if they allow themselves to look weak.)

By the time he agreed to give them unfettered access in 2002, under tremendous pressure, the Bush administration had already made the decision to invade.

None of this says that we had a right to go to war. The UN, with resolution 1441, was unanimous in its requirement that Iraq cooperate with inspections and it did. There is no doubt that we could and should have allowed the inspectors to complete their work while Saddam was on the hot seat and the whole world was watching.

Neither was there any reason that we had to call this bluff immediately after 9/11. The intelligence estimates, as we now know, did not anticipate that even if he was rebuilding his arsenal that he could accomplish it any time soon.

Here’s how the case is made, quite inadvertently, by a member of the Bush administration in a March article by Nicolas Lehman in the New Yorker:

Last week, I went to see Richard Haass, the director of the policy-planning staff at the State Department. Haass is probably the Administration’s most prominent moderate theoretician and is a leading member of the foreign-policy establishment …With his departure, it’s hard to think of whom one could call a prominent moderate theoretician in the Bush Administration.


After months of official talk about removing Saddam from power, would the United States really have been willing to accept his remaining as the Iraqi head of state if he complied with the weapons inspectors?

“That’s a hypothetical,” Haass said. “We said that we would have lived with it. My hunch is that, if you had had complete Iraqi co?peration and compliance, so we had eliminated to our satisfaction the W.M.D.”—weapons of mass destruction—“threat, the question would be, Could Saddam Hussein have survived that?

My hunch is, Saddam concluded he couldn’t survive it, which is one of the reasons why we are where we are. It would have been such a loss of face. But, assuming it did not lead to regime change from within, I do not think we could or would have launched a war in those circumstances.

Instead, if Saddam survived W.M.D. disarmament, we could have pursued regime change through other tools. That’s why you have diplomacy, that’s why you have propaganda, that’s why you have covert operations, that’s why you have sanctions. You have the rest of the tools. So my recommendations would have been, we pursue regime change and war-crimes prosecution—he still should have been responsible for war crimes—using other tools. But I think you had to reserve the military either for the W.M.D. issue or for incontrovertible evidence of support for terrorism.”


The issue is not that Saddam was much too smart to ever try to bluff the US, or that he was a fine upstanding member of the international community who had been truthful about his weapons programs and should have been believed. Neither of those things are true.

The fact is that whether or not Saddam was bluffing has absolutely nothing to do with whether we needed to depose him and occupy Iraq. As the leader of the world (and now purveyors of the Pax Americana) we are supposed to be able to figure that shit out. If we can’t then we don’t have any business taking it upon ourselves to be unilaterally establishing “global order” in the first place.

The problem is that either the intelligence agencies of most powerful nation on earth were so inept that they were unable to independently verify whether he did or did not have WMD or that the most powerful nation on earth knew very well that Saddam did not possess WMD and lied about it.

In either case it completely invalidates the central tenet of the Bush Doctrine --- the concept of “pre-emption.” The US has just proved that it cannot be trusted to launch wars of choice based upon its knowledge that a given country will present a threat in the future.

The Democratic Revolution

Calpundit says:

After all, the real purpose of the war, we're told, was to turn Iraq into a model for other Middle Eastern states to follow. I think this explanation is essentially correct, and what's more, I agree that it's the only real justification the war had.

But, he then wonders why they didn’t do sufficient planning for the post-war period.

I think that things like this happen for a variety of reasons, some of which Kevin mentions --- like the fact that certain people believed the nonsense that Iraqis would be so grateful that they would show up for work on Monday and everything would fall into place.

And, in fact there was some planning, but they planned for all the wrong things --- like a massive refugee crisis that never materialized. (Competence and prescience are not the strong suit of the ivory tower neoconservatives.)

But, the main reason they didn’t plan better is because this so-called real purpose for the war is no more the actual purpose than WMD or ties to terrorism. It is a happy talking point designed to lull good hearted Americans into believing that we are on a grand humanitarian mission. (In fact, its main purpose may have been to gain the support of George W. Bush.)

The reality is that the invasion of Iraq is nothing more than a cold and straightforward demonstration of American military power for the purpose of intimidating enemies and to enable a long term strategic placement of troops and equipment in the region.

This is made quite clear in the PNAC’s defense strategy document that pre-dated 9/11 and formed the basis for the Bush Doctrine:

“Facing up to the realities of multiple constabulary missions that will require a permanent allocation of U.S.forces.”

“Need for a larger U.S. security perimeter” and the U.S. “should seek to establish a network of ‘deployment bases’ or ‘forward operating bases’ to increase the reach of current and future forces.”

“North Korea, Iran, Iraq, or similar states [will not be allowed] to undermine American leadership, intimidate American allies, or threaten the American homeland itself.”

“Main military missions” necessary to “preserve Pax Americana” and a “unipolar 21st century” are the following: “secure and expand zones of democratic peace, deter rise of new great-power competitor, defend key regions (Europe, East Asia, Middle East), and exploit transformation of war.”

The PNAC report concludes that the global order “must have a secure foundation on unquestioned U.S. military preeminence.”

As for Iraq, it explicitly says:

"The U.S. has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in the Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

It also mentions "Saudi domestic sensibilities," and calls for a permanent Gulf military presence even "should Saddam pass from the scene" because "Iran may well prove as large a threat."

It was only after Powell briefly prevailed in keeping the neocons on their leash after 9/11 that the neocons fell back on their pal Michael Ledeen’s old bogus arguments from the 80’s about exporting a “democratic revolution.”

After others like Michael Kelly rolled out the new talking points in the summer of 2002, Ledeen himself opined in the Wall Street Journal:

If we come to Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran as liberators, we can expect overwhelming popular support. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it well the other day when he encouraged his media questioners to think about the people in such places as prisoners, not as free men and women. They will join us if they believe we are serious, and they will only believe we are serious when they see us winning. Our first move must therefore show both our power and our liberating intent.

It pays to remember that in 1985 he also wrote:

”America has voiced against Soviet/Cuban/Nicaraguan power of Central America, however, we have not acted upon it. If we fail to act, our Cuban and Nicaraguan enemies will slowly set their conflict throughout the hemisphere.”

This will only discourage others who are contemplating “taking up the struggle for democratic revolution.” Also, failure to act in Central America, will make the US lose credibility among other nations; causing other regimes not to listen to our advice. They will say, “If America cannot protect a nearby ally against Nicaragua, can it be expected to shelter a distant friend against the Soviet Union itself?”

“We should remain true to our principles—supporting the democratic revolution in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, while thwarting and reversing the totalitarian advance, in order to persuade others to take risks for freedom and democracy.”

I don’t suggest that Michael Ledeen doesn’t believe what he says, although like all the neocons, he is always wrong in his predictions. I do know that he is full of really wacked out ideas, not the least of which was his recent temper tantrum suggesting that we might want to think about declaring war on France.

But, his “democratic revolution” argument was never an explicit part of the neocon argument for removing Saddam until the Spring of 2002, when the neocon faction was pressing its case for invasion.

The big strategic reason for invading and occupying Iraq has been public since Wolfowitz’s 1992 Defense Policy Guidance that formed the basis for the PNAC document and the Bush Doctrine.

Demonstrate our military prowess and willingness to use it.

Establish a permanent military presence in the region.

Prove that leaders of rogue states will not be allowed to undermine American leaders, intimidate American allies, or threaten the American homeland itself.

All the rest is up for grabs. If Iraq becomes a democracy, all to the good (unless they elect someone hostile to us.) But, the plan certainly does not require an outbreak of democracy in the mid-east for it to be perceived as successful by its planners. What matters is that we won easily and our military is established on the ground in the region for the forseeable future. That's why we really did it.

Whether those successes bring about the expressed goal of global order based on a "secure foundation of unquestioned U.S. military preeminence" remains to be seen. It's entirely possible that it will result in exactly the opposite. And that Americans will pay a steep price for such hubris.

Defining Moment

For the record, I’m against allowing gays to marry because I feel that it will rend the very fabric of our society by tearing asunder the traditional definition of the institution at the heart of it. Indeed, we have already gone too far.

In order to restore the sanctity of marriage I propose that we not only pass a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage, but that we also pass one reversing all of the other changes to the definition of marriage that conservatives predicted would be catastrophic when they were first proposed.

For instance, women were considered property of their husbands, and their property was considered the property of their husbands for millennia. It was absolutely fundamental to the definition of marriage and allowing women to be legal equals was correctly predicted to completely destroy the moral basis of the institution. Just think how much better off we would be today if people had listened to conservatives who predicted that marriage could never survive such a huge legal change instead of allowing a bunch of off the wall feminists to destroy the very foundation of society.

Obviously, birth control should immediately be outlawed. During the debate that took place during the 50’s and early 60’s on the subject it was clear to anyone who paid attention that if birth control were made legal it would sanction immorality and promiscuous lust and the institution of marriage would disappear. Clearly, that has happened. Similarly, loosening the divorce laws has led to polygamy just as conservatives and religious scholors predicted.

And, as so clearly demonstrated by recent history, allowing the races to intermarry is tantamount to sanctifying bestiality. (Conservatives knew, then as now, that man is always teetering on the edge of mad dog-love and all it will take is a change in our definition of marriage to push him over.)

Frankly, I think we should think about going back to the earliest definitions of marriage if we hope to preserve it as the basis upon which our society thrives. Therefore, I believe marriage should be defined as a man and the woman (or women) he abducts from an enemy tribe. Now, that’s a legal definition anybody can understand.

Maybe there are those who think that later societies may have made an improvement or two on the concept of what constitutes marriage. Perhaps we can concede that marriage should at least be agreed upon by the groom and the bride’s father. (Abduction can be so unpleasant.) In fact, we could go back to tradition that held for hundreds of years in Europe wherein the engagement celebration was the culmination of contract negotiations between the families and featured consummation of the marriage and the presentation of the blood stained sheet. Marriage itself was only “sanctified” later (by either a notary or a priest) when the actual money changed hands.

But, perhaps the most important tradition to many in the conservative movement will be the return of the tradition of droigt de seigneur. In the modern world this would be interpreted as the right of the CEO, landlord or male politician to sleep with any bride on her wedding night. Surely this is one marriage “tradition” that should be revived.

If we want to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, that is.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Tony's Dilemma

Matthew Yglesias has a great post up about the assertion in the Tom Friedman column today that Blair couldn't make the real case for invasion because of the British public's shallow dislike for George W. Bush's personality and because they hadn't gone through 9/11.

I think that antipathy to the government of George W. Bush is a perfectly sound reason for doubting the humanitarian case for war that Friedman and others on the left have been pushing. The argument would, in short, be that before the war Bush had been given the opportunity to govern one country and he basically made a hash of it. We've seen bad budgeting, crony capitalism, social intolerance, large-scale dishonesty, and a wavering commitment to democratic procedure, liberal transparency, and all other norms of good government. Now as Friedman has repeatedly been at pains to point out, winning the peace in Iraq will be a difficult business and it seems eminently reasonable to ask whether or not the person in charge of the operation is up to the task.

I agree that questioning this particular administration's ability to carry out such an ambitious nation building plan was always perfectly reasonable, even if you agreed with the goals on humanitarian terms. I always thought that the Iraqi people were tough enough to hold out for another couple of years until we could get someone competent in office.

But, I also think that Friedman has completely misunderstood Blair's dilemma with respect to why he had to make the imminent threat argument. It wasn’t because the British hadn’t experienced 9/11 and therefore needed to be persuaded that they were under threat. The reason Blair had to make the phony case for terrorist ties and WMD was because Americans needed to be persuaded that 9/11 had something to do with Iraq. He knew that this opportunity to remove the tyrant only existed because Bush was willing to frighten the American public into believing that Saddam was involved and that he was planning to launch biological, chemical and nuclear weapons at the US in his next attack.

Imagine if Bush had said in his SOTU, “We were just dramatically attacked by Islamic fundamentalists who have declared holy war on our country. We removed the government that was providing them haven in Afghanistan, but many of them are still hiding there and in Pakistan and their influence continues to grow throughout the Muslim world. Kim Jong Il of North Korea told us that he has nukes and is ready to sell them to terrorists to feed his starving population. Despite these huge immediate challenges, I think this is the perfect moment, with only our good friend Great Britain by our side, to launch a completely unrelated operation to liberate the Iraqi people from the Stalinist tyrant who we have allowed to remain in power for more than 30 years. We think that if we build a democracy in Iraq that terrorists will see the error of their ways eventually."

In the unlikely event that Americans agreed that this was a good time to begin launching humanitarian operations only very tangentially related to terrorism, he would have run right up against another argument against invading Iraq right after 9/11 which was that invading a middle eastern country immediately in the wake of 9/11 would potentially alienate many of the Arab states that had been helpful in tracking down al Qaeda and was likely to create even more resentment and be a recruiting bonanza for terrorists.

A majority of Americans might have then concluded that a long term and extremely expensive humanitarian mission in Iraq was not worth throwing away our long term alliances and the support of the entire world after 9/11 just when we needed as much global cooperation as possible to combat terrorism. Certainly, people might have at least asked for more than happy talk about "sending messages" and "setting examples" if the cost of unilateralism as measured in lives and tax dollars -- much less national security -- had ever been discussed.

Friedman, however, persists in his completely unsubstantiated conclusion that America and Britain invading and "building a more decent Iraq would help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive political track and send a message to all the neighboring regimes that Western governments were not going to just sit back and let them incubate suicide bombers and religious totalitarians, whose fanaticism threatened all open societies."

He has said this over and over again.

Can someone please explain to me why he thinks Iraq's neighbors would learn the lesson that the invasion proved that the West was not going to let them "incubate suicide bombers and religious totalitarians whose fanaticism threaten all open societies" when Iraq featured none of those problems?!! Does he think that Arab leaders are as stupid as the Americans who bought the mawkish tripe that Saddam was behind 9/11? For Gawd's sake...

The lesson is that America invaded an Arab country that posed no threat, and had nothing to do with 9/11 because it saw the opportunity to get away with it. As for building "a more decent Iraq," I'd feel a little bit more confident if that hustler Ahmed Chalabi wasn't taking over the intelligence apparatus and using it to settle old scores --- with Wolfie and Rummy's enthusiastic permission, evidently.

I admit that as a hater of totalitarians here and elsewhere, I generally agree with Blair that if we have the capability of getting rid of a tyrannical dictator with minimal loss of life and the support of the international community, that it is a worthy goal. Nobody has to make the humanitarian argument to me. But as the British people wisely understood (and you have to wonder why Blair and Friedman didn't) the problem in this instance was that the President of the United States was an incompetent puppet, his advisors were either ineffectual milquetoasts or radical nutcases, and his timing was cynically opportunistic and counterproductive.

As Yglesias points out, there was absolutely no reason to think that they were going to be any more prudent or competent in this arena than in any other. It was obvious from the beginning that the competing factions of the foreign policy shop in this White House were engaged in a constant tug of war for the ADD-led brain of President Treadmill. The President’s own father had to have his friend Brent Scowcroft write an op-ed piece in the NY Times to persuade him to muzzle Mad Dog Cheney in the run up to the war. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that they weren’t exactly a well oiled machine over there.

I don’t know if Americans will ever face up to the fact that Bush and his cronies either didn't give a damn about 9/11 or, even more frightening, actually believe that Saddam was behind it. But, Tom Friedman should know better.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

The Crazy Aunt (and Uncle) of Iraq Policy

Oh, this is rich. I just noticed that Atrios linked to a post at Abu Aardvaark regarding my very favorite lil’ wacky neocon, Laurie Mylroie:

…Incredibly, Wolfowitz told NBC's Tim Russert that he didn't know who was responsible for the Cole and Khobar Tower attacks. But on that question, the agreement is all but unanimous: It wasn't Saddam, it wasn't Iraq. It was Osama and al-Qaida."

What is Wolfowitz talking about? Boehlert doesn't speculate, but I'm happy to. I would never presume to know the mind of the Wolfowitz, but I have a pretty good idea what is going on here: Wolfowitz is loyal to his friend Laurie Mylroie. Mylroie, for those who haven't come across her before, has long been kind of the "crazy aunt" of Iraq policy. Obsessed with the idea that Saddam Hussein was behind most of the world's evil, Mylroie has spun an astonishing web in a series of articles and a very odd book to "prove" that Iraq was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing - as well as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (you may have thought it was Timothy McVeigh, but hello - pay attention, okay?), the 1997 Luxor attacks in Egypt, the Cole bombing, the anthrax attacks, and the cancelation of Firefly (well, maybe not that last one, but he probably *wanted* Firefly canceled).

In her brand new book, "Bush vs. the Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror" (yes, you read that title right), Mylroie goes even farther, entering into tinfoil hat-country. According to Mylroie, Iraq was responsible for September 11 - not working with al-Qaeda, not coordinating with al-Qaeda, but actually responsible for it, while cleverly setting al-Qaeda and bin Laden up to take the fall. Yes, Mylroie (who was invited to testify before the 9/11 commission, co-authored a book with Judith Miller, is affiliated with AEI, is good friends with Ahmad Chalabi as well as with Paul Wolfowitz) denies bin Laden's responsibility for 9/11… (p.51)

Go read the whole post because not only is it informative, it is also funny.

It reminded me that Wolfowitz had actually specifically endorsed some of Mylroie’s crazy rantings in the famous Vanity Fair article, but it had been overlooked in the flap over WMD and the bureaucracy.

Josh Marshall wrote at the time:

So here's the story with the disputed quotes from Sam Tanenhaus' article on Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in Vanity Fair. As noted here a couple days ago, the Tanenhaus article says that Wolfowitz is "confident" that Saddam played some role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and that he had "entertained" the notion that Saddam had played some role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as well. (Tanenhaus sources Wolfowitz's ideas about Oklahoma City to a "longtime friend" of the Deputy Secretary.)

In the portion of his article that discusses his interview, Tanenhaus quotes Wolfowitz on the 1993 bombing and then notes that Wolfowitz declined to comment on Saddam's possible involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Now, Wolfowitz is also on record as saying that he’s unclear about Cole and Khobar Towers, which his looney friend Mylroie also claims were masterminded by the Godlike and Omnipotent Saddam Hussein.

This is some real crazy-assed thinking and when you combine it with their blind faith in the Iraqi exile hustlers, you really have to question whether we are dealing with people who are working on all cylinders.

Interestingly, when I went back to read the transcript of the vanity Fair interview (which does not contain the refences to 1993 or Oklahoma because while they claim they were off the record) I found this incredible quote from Wolfowitz:

The mistake that Saddam made was in assuming that we would behave in a certain way, i.e. we would never go to war until we'd had six weeks of bombing first. That's a sort of classic intelligence failure, to have a certain expectation and then see all the evidence in light of that expectation.

Yup. Uh huh. He said it.

Bluff Stuff

Via Josh Marshall I see that a former high level Iraqi officialsays that Saddam destroyed his weapons but wanted the world to be unsure as to whether he had WMD, as a deterrent.

I said this back in June, in response to all these questions asking "why didn't he fully cooperate?"

Saddam was a strongman dictator who maintained his power, both within the country and in the region, through fear and violence. Kowtowing to the UN and especially to the US would have substantially weakened his reputation as a ruthless tyrant who was willing to do anything to stay in power. If a totalitarian shows weakness, the whole house of cards can come tumbling down. It’s possible that he felt he had to bluff or lose his grip on power from within.

And perhaps he simply made the logical calculation that, as the North Korea situation has shown, the US will not unilaterally invade a nuclear power and will hesitate to put large numbers of troops in the way of lethal unconventional weapons. Anyone in his shoes might have felt it was in his best interests to keep the world guessing about his WMD capabilities and willingness to use them. When it became clear last fall that the US was going to call his bluff, it appears to me that instead of preparing a traditional defense and going down in a blaze of glory, he made plans to go underground or escape (and perhaps live to fight another day.) I doubt very seriously that even crazy Saddam ever entertained the illusion that his army could defeat the US military in a straight up fight. Once that was inevitable, he went to plan B. Plan A was to keep the world guessing as long as he could about what he was really capable of.

I recently read that he thought his troops would fight an urban guerilla war in Baghdad and they didn't, so the "live to fight another day" theory may be wrong. Nonetheless, I still think it is completely reasonable that Saddam didn't have the weapons but believed it served his purposes to keep the world guessing and this account gives it some credence.

The big question, however, is whether it is reasonable to believe that the most powerful country in the world bought this 3rd rate dictator's gamesmanship and if they did, whether it is reasonable that we have a doctrine of preventive war if our top flight, super sophisticated intelligence services are so easily duped.

If the clumsy posturing of a not-too-bright tyrant is now the only evidence we need to launch an invasion then we are in for a very bumpy ride. (And, I would like to propose that we simply start flushing thousand dollar bills down the toilet rather than continue to fund a defense and intelligence apparatus that is incapable of verifying whether or not these claims have any basis in reality.)

In truth, the hyping of the evidence speaks for itself. (And I still think it is thoroughly illogical that the US would have put tens of thousands of troops on the Iraq-Kuwait border in a long term build last winter if we truly believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.)

If Saddam bluffed and we knew he was bluffing (or certainly should have known) then somebody needs to ask what purpose was served for the people of the United States and Britain for their governments to call that bluff.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Phony

I think this article in Salon is exactly right. It's certainly a description of Commander Codpiece that's come up over and over again in conversations I've had with Democrats.

Rep. Dick Gephardt made his best and perhaps his only significant contribution to defeating George Bush in 2004 last month, when he derided the president's "bring 'em on" challenge to Iraqi attacks on American forces. "Enough of the phony macho rhetoric," Gephardt shot back. The Missouri Democrat's line was more than just padded flight-suit envy. His jibe hints at the strategy that could put a Democrat back in the White House: convincing Americans that Bush is a phony.

The Democrats can only win if they succeed in undermining the president's greatest strength: his credibility as a decisive and authentic wartime leader. The problem is that in such uncertain times many Americans instinctively can't and don't want to believe that George Bush is screwing them. Until the Democrats change how voters view Bush the man, and then link that to a broader critique of his administration, the Democrats will have a hard time punching through.


The core problem with the current Democratic strategy is that a piecemeal, issue-by-issue attack on the policies of the administration will not resonate while Bush retains the esteem and even admiration of many ordinary Americans. And a contest based on issues will only get harder as Bush moves from shoring up his base to moderating his image in the lead-up to next fall. Expect the policy lines to blur amid a renewed focus on domestic issues and a revival of the language and imagery of compassionate conservatism.

The Democrats' greatest danger is to run an issues-based campaign that becomes a ritualized liberal/conservative slanging match. Progressives who are flabbergasted at the audacity of Bush's agenda seem to think that simply communicating Bush's policy failures is enough. But this approach will play straight into Karl Rove's chubby hands and trap Democrats in the defensive, dithering posture that has defined them since the Bush presidency began.

So no matter how bad Bush's actual record may be, Democrats simply can't count on fighting the upcoming election on substantive policy grounds alone.

This is an ongoing problem for Democrats. We are earnest and sincere but every time we open our mouths it's about our 10 point "program" and why is it better. Even my eyes glaze over.

We'd better figure out how to take this personality driven politics to the Republicans.

Besides, Bush IS a phony--- he's a phony Texan, a phony businessman, a phony politician, a phony flyboy, a phony compassionate conservative, and a phony regular guy. He's actually a phony president. Nobody believes, deep down, that he's calling the shots.

The only thing authentic about him is his nasty temper and loyalty to big business.

Do We Sense A Pattern?

The CIA objected to claims in the British government's September dossier on Iraq's banned weapons programme, the issue at the heart of the Kelly affair, it was revealed yesterday.

It appears that among the CIA's objections was the much-trumpeted claim that Iraqi forces could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so.


Yesterday, the FO revealed that the CIA was given a draft of the government's dossier on September 11 last year, the same day Alastair Campbell, the prime minister's communications director, saw it, according to evidence given to the Commons committee.

The committee asked the FO what "reservations and comments" the CIA had expressed about the September dossier in addition to the Niger uranium story. The FO replied: "The CIA made a number of comments". It declined to be specific but added: "The JIC chairman incorporated or rejected them as he judged fit."

How, then, do we explain this, from Dana Milbank’s piece in the W. Post from July 20th?

The claim, which has since been discredited, was made twice by President Bush, in a September Rose Garden appearance after meeting with lawmakers and in a Saturday radio address the same week. Bush attributed the claim to the British government, but in a "Global Message" issued Sept. 26 and still on the White House Web site, the White House claimed, without attribution, that Iraq "could launch a biological or chemical attack 45 minutes after the order is given."


The White House embraced the claim, from a British dossier on Iraq, at the same time it began to promote the dossier's disputed claim that Iraq sought uranium in Africa.

Bush administration officials last week said the CIA was not consulted about the claim. A senior White House official did not dispute that account, saying presidential remarks such as radio addresses are typically "circulated at the staff level" within the White House only.

But, the CIA was consulted and told the British government that it was false. Unfortunately, they apparently forgot to tell the White House because two weeks later the president made the claim in a Rose Garden appearance on September 26th, and in his radio address two days later.

Lucky for him, he was very careful, just as with the uranium issue, to attribute it to the British government so nobody can say he was technically lying. Whew!

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's quite amazing that they made more than one wild claim based upon British intelligence that it later turned out our CIA had already rejected. What are the odds of that happening?

At the very least you'd think that since they knew that elements of the dossier were "dodgy" at least since September 28th (or they would have continued to use the "sexy" 45 minute claim) they'd be extra careful about repeating other claims from that document without making sure the CIA had no objections.

Yet, even with memos flying from the CIA director about the African uranium claim, the NSC didn't put 2 and 2 together and conclude that maybe --- just like the "sexed up" 45 minute fantasy that they were forced to give up back in September --- it might be prudent to stop repeating it.

Talk about bad luck.

It would be very interesting to find out what other claims in the "dodgy dossier" the CIA objected to back in September 2002.

The Rule of Law Cast Adrift

Kofi Annan asks the right questions:

Suggesting that some world leaders at the coming General Assembly should set aside time for basic discussions on these issues, he said, "if we are going to make preventive action, or war, part of our response to these new threats, what are the rules?"

"Who decides?" he added. "Under what circumstances? Did what happened in Iraq constitute an exception? A precedent others can exploit? What are the rules?"

In effect, three months after President Bush warned that the United Nations might become irrelevant, the secretary general turned a traditional midsummer news conference into a stump speech on the value of international institutions in general and the United Nations in particular.

At one point, recalling the bitter dismissals of the United Nations last winter, he said, with a bare hint of satisfaction, "I did warn those who were bashing the U.N. that they had to be careful because they may need the U.N. soon."

The answer to Annan's questions are obvious and should be shared with the American citizenry. They are akin to language in the Bush vs Gore decision.

The doctrine of preventive war is limited to circumstances that George W. Bush sets forth, for the problem of allowing other nations to use the same rationale generally presents many complexities.

Bush decides, under whatever circumstances he wants. Iraq is not an exception, others may NOT exploit the precedent and the rules are what we say they are.

I don't think that most people are comfortable with the idea that the US isn't playing by any agreed upon rules. We like to see ourselves as good citizens and responsible world leaders. I doubt that many have any clue that the Bush administration has caused an international crisis with its unilateral foreign policy that observes no discernible rule of law.

And, I do not believe that Americans want to bear the cost of Bush's military adventurism all alone, whether they favor any particular war or not. The Democrats need to make the case for multi-lateralism by hammering the fact that Bush's go-it-alone stubbornness means that we pay the entire cost ourselves, in lives as well as money --- not to mention the less quantifiable costs in credibility, cooperation and prestige.

Blinded By Faith

Today, one of my favorite blogs,TAPPED says:

One gets the sense that, rather than Bush administration officials regarding the war on terrorism as something new under the sun -- something that might require them to think and act differently and rearrange their priorities -- they regarded it as an excuse to do everything they had already wanted to do.

This is a very important point. During the 2003 run-up to the invasion (and even before, on Eschaton) I wrote about the intellectual inflexibility of the neconservative claque. From January 5th:

It is true that Iraq could get nukes and Saddam could extort the entire western world by withholding oil and driving up the price. So could other countries, for that matter. No matter who managed to do this, it would not be a pretty picture. But, even Kenneth Pollack, who is held up as the authority on the necessity of invading Iraq, argues that while Saddam will have to be deposed, it is not so immediate a threat that we could not wait long enough to mitigate some of the potentially dangerous repercussions and plan for our long term responsibilities in the region before taking action.

Confronting Saddam could have waited because what is not waiting is the simmering anti-American bloodlust that is sweeping the Middle East, particularly in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Invading Iraq on a thin pretext (which is what is going to happen because this war is already timed for American convenience and nothing else) is possibly going to set off a chain of events that could have been avoided if we handled the situation with a little more sophistication and finesse instead of fulfilling some long held neocon wet dream. And that is the real problem.

The Wolfowitz/Perle school never took terrorism seriously when it was becoming a threat on the world stage and they don't take it seriously now. The influential CSP issued only 2 reports since the 1998 embassy bombing about the threat of terrorism until 9/11. The PNAC has been wringing their hands about Iraq and pushing for missile defense for years, but terrorism was hardly even on the radar screen. They are about China, Iraq, North Korea, Russia, Israel, US "benevolent" hegemony and missile defense. Period. Anything else will be subsumed under what they believe is the real agenda.

As with the ever changing justifications for the tax cuts for their rich friends, Bush and his foreign policy mavens are so blinkered and myopic and that they pursue their preordained agenda no matter what the current situation. They seem completely incapable of exercising any flexibility in light of changing circumstances. They just find a way to use the changing circumstances to justify what they plan to do anyway.

This is very dangerous. Bush, with his stupid bellicose posturing has created a needless crisis in Asia by challenging a cornered and neurotically proud despot in North Korea into a nuclear standoff. He has escalated the problem with Iraq to one of immediate danger, when it was a medium term threat at worst, and by conflating it with Al Qaeda and Muslim fundamentalism, for no good reason other than political expediency, he has made it a cause for a whole lot of disaffected people in the Mideast and Indian subcontinent to rally to.

It goes on to discuss how much this all has to do with their childlike devotion to the fantasy of missile defense.

It should be clear by now, with all we know about the bogus justifications for invading and occupying Iraq, that the Bush administration does not care about terrorism and is wedded to grandiose unilateralist ideas that were formulated during the cold war and desperately need to be re-evaluated.

This should be the basis for the Democratic critique of Bush's foreign policy. The world is changing. The neocons refuse to see it.

The Electability Game

In response to a post by Leah over at Eschaton and subsequent discussion of “electability” in the comments thread, a reader named Jennifer Kenney writes something that I think is insightful and worth reiterating.

This is all so ridiculous, to debate electability on the basis of policy positions. Most people - especially most people who are not policy wonks - make decisions with their guts. They like something or don't based on its innate attractiveness, not on a careful weighing of evidence.

If this were not the case, would anyone truly think that Bush was an asset to our national security? Would he have gotten close enough to steal the election? Would the Dems be thinking about running anybody other than Hillary? Would I ever have thought I was "so in love" with that guy who was "just between jobs right now"? No, no, and Whoa Nelly! People aren't such rational creatures.

The question isn't whether Kerry (or anybody else) has the stance on the issues to beat Dean, the question is whether anybody else has the energy and rhetoric to beat him. Most folks aren't aware of him (or that the primary races have even started). When they become aware of him, they'll decide whether or not they like him from their guts, not their heads, and once they make that decision they'll fill in all the logical policy blanks to justify that decision. That's electability.

She’s right. Political junkies and partisans care about issues. Everybody else votes on a gut feeling or tribal identification. The politicians’ job, among other things, is to project an image and an aura that accurately captures who he is and reassures voters that he can do the job. If the politician is astute about the mood and the direction of the country, he will be able to emphasize those personal qualities that people subconsciously believe is needed at that particular time. (Biography and resume count, too. People use them as short hand.)

The post modern nature of the media makes this more important than ever. Narratives are strangely constructed and often left dangling as the herd rushes off in different directions. Truth and reality are presented as relative to which party you belong to --- facts are nothing more than spin points to be debated by the candidate or his “critics.” You can't blame people for relying more and more on their instincts to guide their political choices. It's almost impossible for a busy person to sort out the facts and the truth about any candidate.

As much as it pains me to say it, because I thought he was a good man, Al Gore’s biggest failure as a candidate wasn’t a bad strategy and it wasn’t a lack of passion. It was a stilted and uncomfortable speaking style. It is tremendously unfair, but it is the truth. I can’t tell you how many airheaded Democratic voters I spoke to who complained about his personality. He won anyway, to be sure, but it was in spite of that handicap. Most people voted their pocketbooks and if you recall, back in 2000 this country felt invincible.

Bush, on the other hand, did as well as he did because his family name represented staid, waspy, traditional conservatism at a time when a lot of people had come to believe that the most important part of the President’s job was to project an image of rectitude. (Peace and prosperity tend to make the task of governing look easy.) His faux Texan affectations helped to deliver the south, but his policy positions and grasp of the issues was non-existent and nobody expected him to have them. He was chosen for his brand name appeal.

Interestingly, they have spent the last 3 years re-branding him as their former rival, John McCain -- the straight talking war hero.

I don’t suggest that the Democrats adopt such a cynical approach. But, we are being luddites if we don’t recognize and consciously adapt to the modern political reality. Politics are now inextricably linked to entertainment values as much as civic tradition. Maybe on some level it always has been. We ignore that at our peril.

FYI: On VH1’s top 200 Pop Icons, Bill Clinton comes in at number 18 and John F Kennedy at 32.

The two most popular Democratic presidents of the last 40 years are considered Pop Icons. The coolest people are always Democrats. We can do this.