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Monday, September 08, 2003

Everybody's Talkin'

Kos posted this interesting California based poll on the recall showing Bustamonte holding on to his lead.

I would trust the California polls over the national polls on this question. This is a very fluid political situation in a very unusual state. The California pollsters are invariably closer to the mark here than any of the big national guys.

I have to say that in the last few days of doing business around LA, I have had (and overheard) more conversations with strangers about politics than I can remember since the Nixon years. (The impeachment featured a lot of covert whispering. You never knew when you were going to be confronted by a rabid, out of control, wing-nut Clinton hater ... plus the pornographic Starr Report was often "inappropriate" in public.)

I'm hearing almost across-the-board derision about Arnold, some of it disdainfully humorous and some plainly insulted by his lack of preparation.

This is all anecdotal in the extreme, I know, so take it with a grain of salt. It's just unusual in my experience for people to be so openly engaged.

I also happen to live just 4 blocks from Ahnuld's campaign headquarters. You'd think at least a handful of his supporters would show up from time to time in the local Starbuck's talking up their guy while standing in line for their soy latte's. I haven't heard anything but loud, vociferous Arnold bashing throughout the neighborhood. If Ahnuld can't get the desperate, brown nosing, Hollywood opportunist contingent behind him, he's got problems.

I also think Davis is making some headway with his "hair shirt and humility" tour. He looks tan and almost human. But I believe that the biggest thing that will help him was the appearance of Howard Dean, calling the GOP out. If it's followed up with more of the same from other candidates, along with the Big Guns --- Bill, Hill and Al --- I think he might pull it out.

The Democrats are starting to get riled up.

Kaleidoscope Eyes

RJ, over at Let The Record Show, found this unbelievable analysis of Junior's speech on MSNBC.

Now the 2004 election — little more than a year away — is shaping up as a referendum on Bush’s doctrine of pre-emptive war, the argument that he made in the year leading up to the invasion of Iraq that it would be too dangerous for the United States to wait until Saddam Hussein’s regime had developed weapons of mass destruction."

RJ says:

...is that what Bush said? No, what he said was that Saddam had endless supplies of WMD, poised at the ready, to attack us at any moment. The press are shaping up to be the chief revisionist historians.

That's for sure. Get a load of this bucket of crud, from the same article:

It will also be a referendum on America’s uncomfortable role as custodian of Iraq, a country whose citizens seem increasingly ungrateful for having been liberated from Saddam’s tyranny.

You invade and occupy a country that's been tightly controlled and highly repressed for 30 years, all hell breaks loose, the "uncomfortable custodians" stand around like a bunch of raccoons caught in the garbage and the citizens seem increasingly ungrateful for having been liberated.

The bastards.

The prism of Sept. 11 remains the key to understanding Bush’s policy. He believes he is deterring future attacks, not inviting more of them, by pursuing the occupation.

It seems to me that if Operation Iraqi Flytrap was his secret cunning plan all along, then he'd have been wise to have kept his piehole shut about it. Unless the terrorists are blind and deaf they're on to his little scheme now. Golly, I sure hope they don't decide not to cooperate. That would be bad.

(What's really weird is that the writer understands what the "prism" of 9/11 is. It's something about tilting the windmills of Rummy's mind where he left the cakewalk in the rain. I think.)

The electoral question for Democrats is: How can their presidential candidate profit from Bush’s agony in Iraq?

Those Democrats are always trying to profit from Bush's agony. It's so, like, totally unfair.

Supreme Commandante Flightsuit Arbusto would never, ever try to profit from the agony of others. Ever.

The assumption among all the Democratic contenders is that NATO countries and nations such as Morocco would be willing to chip in troops — if only a president other than Bush would ask them.

Morocco? WTF???

And yeah, maybe if the guy asking wasn't the smirking asshole who just told everybody in the world who didn't jump to attention when he whistled that they were "irrelevant" and "corrupt" they might chip in troops. Golly, they might even get some weird ferriners like Canada to join in.

The Democratic candidate will be at something of a disadvantage because Bush can control the timing of events, such as strikes on terrorist havens or announcements of the capture of key terrorist leaders.

uh huh. You betcha. Good point.

Democrats harbor deep distrust of what they see as Bush’s manipulation of the terrorism issue.

So, Bush controlling the timing of strikes at terrorist havens or capture announcements wouldn't be objective evidence of his manipulation of the terrorism issue. Democrats just see it that way. Interesting.

But as commander-in-chief, Bush will not always be the master of events — sometimes he’ll be at their mercy. He may again feel compelled to come to the American people and argue that their own survival is at stake in Iraq.

Ok. So, he's not just keeping these evil villains from attacking us on our homeland. He's keeping them from annihilating us. Except when he'll be at their mercy. Then he'll again be compelled to argue that our very survival is at stake.

In Iraq.

Smoking mushrooms on a cloud in the prism of 9/11, apparently.


Sunday, September 07, 2003

Field Of Dreams

If you build it, they will come.

"There's a reason that foreign fighters are coming into Iraq. There is a reason that we're seeing evidence — not really yet completely clear evidence — of terrorists trying to operate in Iraq."

"They know that this is the central battle in the war on terrorism."
Condi Rice

Boy them Bushees shur r smart. Thank the gud Lord the Ayrab terrists finely kno wear thuh centrul battel is. Now we kin meat 'em on thuh battelfield and Genrul Bush kin kill 'em. Then we wull be saf.

thanks to bayard in the comments section

The Big Speech

Steno Sue's involvement is the big clue.

Josh Marshall wrote about this piece in the Washington Post last night and this morning amends his impression of the importance of the story:

Two points seem clear to me.

1) The chaos in Iraq has opened the place up to serious infiltration by all manner of bad-actors from around the region -- a development which is not a justification for administration policy, but an example of its failure.

2) The administration is far from weaned of its propensity for using manipulated or just plain bogus intelligence to advance its policy or cover its tracks. One veteran journalist/sage whose take on things I never discount tells me this morning: "Yes, the more I think of it, the more the timing is suspicious, and reminiscent of the last Sept. 11 'celebration.' Ridge saying there is a new Al Q threat in the US (but not issuing an alert, because they know that alerts are now politically counterproductive). The Wolfowitz opeds on terrorism. I'd watch for Bush to make a reference to the Post article, or at least to its contents, in his speech tonight. The main difference this year is that they are using the Post rather than the Times to do their leaking."

Sounds right to me.

"Terrorists are in Iraq just like we always said."

"Iran also harbored them."

" They killed 3,000 Americans."

"We will kill them before they come over here and kill us all in our beds."

"The UN must give us lots of money."

"Support the troops."

"I have a big codpiece."

"May God bless the United States of America"

Saturday, September 06, 2003

The Postman

Dwight Meredith writes in:

I saw your post on the Big Meanies. Now you have to admit that it would be unpatriotic and just wrong during a time of war to refer to the President and his party as “spineless” or as a “shitstain,” or as the “Coward-in- Chief” or as the “Waffling Asskisser-in-Chief.” Real Americans who love their country do not criticize the President at a time of war, right?

See also: Spoons, Sullivan, Levy, Drezner and, most importantly, the Manchester Union Leader.

Yes. Those Democrats are way out of line.

I just happened to see Bob Novak make his patented wail about the terrible "Bush Bashing" on Capitol Gang. (He says it at least once a week in response to virtually any criticism of Junior.) He was very unhappy when Mark Shields reminded him of the Marquess of Queensbury rules under which the Republicans operated during the Clinton years.

He disingenuously replied, in typical weaselly GOP fashion, that he was talking about presidential debates and that Bob Dole had criticized Steve Forbes. Then he stuck out his lower lip and pouted for the rest of the show.

(On the Estrada abomination, when it was pointed out for the 6,456th time that the Republicans also blocked Clinton's judges, Kate O'Beirne made the usual tiresome argument that the big difference is that they'd never used the filibuster. As usual, it's the breaking of arbitrary dealines and bureaucratic procedures that really makes the difference to Republicans. Principles, apparently, are for losers.)

I also received a very interesting e-mail from a reader responding to my post of the other day about Paul Wolfowitz's shameless patriotic pandering. She says:

Wolfowitz gets all weepy in the WSJ about Christy Ferer going to Iraq to thank the troops for fighting terrorrism. Left out of Wolfie's article and your comments was the fact that Ferer's late husband, Neil Levin, was a Pataki patronage appointee as insurance, then bank superintendent before getting the plum and quite-high-paid job as head of the Port Authority. He died in the World Trade Center attack.

Wolfowitz used one Republican-connected WTC widow to add cheap emotion to his atrocious op-ed, but most of the rest of the WTC survivors are a lot less thankful for what the Bushies have done to them, their families and their country. And, naturally, you don't see them getting a government-subsidized, spin-producing trip to Iraq. Hopefully, we will see them embarrassing the Bushies and their New York bootlickers like Pataki at next year's convention.

I have felt for a long time that the most potent political force in America right now are the families of 9/11. It's a lot to ask, considering what they went through, but I hope they realize that they have in their hands the ability to change the course of American history.

Nobody can touch them, not even Karl Rove or Tom DeLay.


This single act of hubris may be Karl Rove's downfall.

It's dicey to try to create a soviet style propaganda film in this post-modern, ironic day and age.

It's just plain stupid to make a laughably bad one.

....they actually have President Timothy T-Ball saying, "People can't have an AWOL president!"


Bobo’s Shame

I said below, that I wondered if Bill Kristol was having trouble looking himself in the mirror these days and then lo and behold, I come across this transcript of David Brooks, fellow “reasonable, temperate, believable” conservative, on The News Hour and I realize that somebody is giving out mind altering drugs at Gertrude and Irving’s kaffe klatches. Something is seriously wrong with these people. Get a load of this pile of road apples (emphasis throughout is mine):

DAVID BROOKS: The story that was in the Washington Post by a great reporter by the name of Tom Ricks was that Colin Powell had gotten together with the joint chiefs gone around Rumsfeld, gone to the White House, and persuaded that. My reporting has persuaded me, though Ricks is a fantastic reporter, that that was not true.

JIM LEHRER: Rick covers the Pentagon for the Washington Post. He is a superb reporter.

DAVID BROOKS: And I'm convinced it started with the president who may....

JIM LEHRER: Started with the president...

DAVID BROOKS: After the bombing of the U.N. building, decided to internationalize it, went through an interagency process. Paul Wolfowitz played a key role. I was -- read documents given to Donald Rumsfeld before any of the Colin Powell meetings allegedly took place in which Rumsfeld signed off on the U.N. wording of the U.N. Resolution. I think this all preceded any end run around Donald Rumsfeld. I think it started with the president and was worked by the administration for some of the reasons Mark talked about--

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with what Mark said? The policy is in tatters and that's why they had to--

DAVID BROOKS: They made an adjustment. It evolved in the way they planned months ago. That's their line. I believe what happened was they realized things were going badly -- not only because they didn't have enough troops and I don't think we are ever going to get French troops. They hoped to get Pakistani, Indian, and Turkish troops. But because they need more money and I think that's an underreported part of the story, they need more money to support Iraq and that's not going to come from France or Germany or those countries - it's going to come from the IMF and the World Bank and the Treasury Department played a major goal in going to the U.N. so they could hopefully get some money from those institutions.

JIM LEHRER: The Treasury said, hey, wait a minute, we can't afford this on our own.


DAVID BROOKS: Let me disagree in part. This is so important, this is the future of American foreign policy for a generation. We should not think dollars and cents here. We should think like George Steinbrenner when he buys a slugger, he buys six sluggers because he is just going to throw a lot at the problem. I'm afraid the Bush administration and the Congress is thinking dollars and cents when this has to be done right for the Iraqi people. We need to spend what we need to spend. We can talk about the tax cuts and how we are going to fund it later. But I think the administration so far is being penny pinching and not spending what it needs to get the electricity up, to get all the other problems solved that can be solved with money, of which a lot of them can be.

JIM LEHRER: Do you think politically they can get away with that? Do you think the American people would support what you just said whatever it takes, do it?

DAVID BROOKS: Everybody from Howard Dean to Jesse Helms or whoever is on the right now says we cannot cut and run. We cannot fail at that. Democrats have different ideas how to proceed, but everybody agrees except for Dennis Kucinich, that we cannot cut and run. This has to work out or else U.S. national interests will be harmed across the board.

(ed. How fucking convenient this argument is. "We've made this mess and now there's no choice but for you to help clean it up." That may be true, but it certainly doesn't make a very good case for leaving this miserable failure of a president in office any longer than we have to.)


MARK SHIELDS: This is not a mistake but an error of historic proportions.

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with that?

DAVID BROOKS: No, absolutely not. They made some misjudgments; they thought there were going to be refugees, that there were going to be food shortages, there turned out not to be, but they under-estimated the extent of Baathist terrorism after the war and now they're making adjustments by bringing in other troops, by reconfiguring the troops and most importantly by training the Iraqis. One of the problems that has been going on in the past several months since the war is that you walk into the headquarters where Paul Bremer sits, there are no Iraqis there. The Americans are running the government as if there are no Iraqis. And it's important, and they're beginning to make this adjustment, too, which is giving Iraqis real power, and that's another thing they're changing.


DAVID BROOKS: Some people, some of your friends pretend they listen to you and don't. This administration listens to you but pretends they don't. They pretend they are so far above their critics they don't have to hear but then they're really listening.

Good boy, Bobo. Now, sit up pretty.

First, David Brooks should no longer be considered reasoned, temperate or anything else after this completely ridiculous attempt to paint President Vacuous as somehow leading the administration to change course. This is about as believable as Timothy Bottoms’ version of Bush as John Wayne saying, “If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me! I'll be at home! Waiting for the bastard!"

Everything we know about Bush suggests that he would rather chew straight pins than change course. It will take a lot more than Brooks' word to make me believe that he “led” the administration to do anything other than help him hitch up his codpiece.

And, I suppose that Thomas Ricks might have been fed a bill of goods by the Joint Chiefs and Colin Powell, but let’s just say that since it’s the White House that's got a credibility gap the size of the grand canyon, I’m going to go with the Republican generals rather than Karl Rove and the editorial board of the Weekly Standard.

This absurdity of the Treasury Department making the case for the UN because of the need to secure loans from the IMF and the World Bank is simply crapola. They have been in Iraq since May making assessments and have been expected to make the necessary loans from the get-go. We have more than a little influence with that group. If there has been an impediment it comes from the Republican party. All they needed to do was have John Snow walk over to the capital building and chat up Jim Saxton.

This is all part of the absurd new meme being tossed about by Wolfowitz and others that this appeal to the UN was part of their plan all along and everything is going just swimmingly. The IMF and the World Bank said early on that they would need some indication that the UN recognized the new government of Iraq. Now, Wolfie and his minions are saying that this UN move is just a natural and expected step in the way to bringing the flowers of democracy to Iraq. In fact, we’re ahead of schedule!

Meanwhile, the bombing and killing of American troops and UN workers and clerics and innocent Iraqis, and the pourous borders and the missing WMD and Saddam sending out tapes exhorting people to resist --- IS IRRELEVANT! Commander Codpiece's astute and unique grasp of foreign policy nuance and concerns in the treasury department are the reason we're going back to the UN after calling them a bunch of useless losers just a few months ago.


David Brooks is a shill. He pretends to be (slightly) disagreeing with the administration and speaks in measured tones, but in the end, he manages to get every single image and talking point out there that the administration wants. Even “Bush the crackerjack leader among men.” How impressively servile.

All liberals should be put on notice to find another “reasonable” conservative that we can trot out when some mannequin like Paula Zahn asks if there are any conservatives they like. (Besides, as Paula did when Al Franken named Brooks, the media starlets are likely to confuse him with David Brock, so it doesn’t really work anyway.)

I nominate Joe Lieberman.

Finally, you’ve got to love Bobo’s inability to name a far-right fringe politician now that Jesse Helms has retired. It's hard, I know.

It's hard because there is no far-right "fringe" in Washington anymore.

They’re all in the administration and the Republican leadership.

You Can Believe Me Or You Can Believe Your Eyes

Nearing the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, seven in 10 Americans continue to believe that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a role in the attacks, even though the Bush administration and congressional investigators say they have no evidence of this.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans said they thought it at least likely that Hussein was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to the latest Washington Post poll. That impression, which exists despite the fact that the hijackers were mostly Saudi nationals acting for al Qaeda, is broadly shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents.


Bush's defenders say the administration's rhetoric was not responsible for the public perception of Hussein's involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. While Hussein and al Qaeda come from different strains of Islam and Hussein's secularism is incompatible with al Qaeda fundamentalism, Americans instinctively lump both foes together as Middle Eastern enemies. "The intellectual argument is there is a war in Iraq and a war on terrorism and you have to separate them, but the public doesn't do that," said Matthew Dowd, a Bush campaign strategist. "They see Middle Eastern terrorism, bad people in the Middle East, all as one big problem."

Ooooh. The "intellectual argument." I guess they are talking about those nasty Birkenstocked elites again. Real people just wanna kick some Ay-Rab asses. It don't matter who done it, them ragheads is nothin' but one Big Problem. Yee - hah!

Golly, one might conclude from reading this that Bush’s campaign strategists see such ignorance, prejudice and racism as opportunities to advance their agenda. How typically Republican of them.

But, you've gotta love this:

Key administration figures have largely abandoned any claim that Iraq was involved in the 2001 attacks. "I'm not sure even now that I would say Iraq had something to do with it," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, a leading hawk on Iraq, said on the Laura Ingraham radio show on Aug. 1.

Well, I’m not sure even now that I can fully grasp just what a lying, mendacious, intellectually incoherent piece of shit Paul Wolfowitz has turned out to be.

2 days after the attacks Wolfowitz said:

"I think one has to say it's not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism. And that's why it has to be a broad and sustained campaign."

Even a year later he was still spouting much the same line.

And, why did he say this? What led him to think that “ending states that sponsor terrorism” would end the threat from al al Qaeda? Was he simply lying straight out or did he actually -- stupidly -- believe it?

I think, sadly, that it may have been the latter.

This nonsensical theory came about because of his and other neocon fellow travellers' close association with one of the most crazed nutjobs in Washington, somebody who should have been placed in the far fringes of tinfoilhat-land and was instead operating as a “fellow” at the American Enterprise Institute (alongside other kooks like Michael "Ghorbanifar go-between" Ledeen.) That person was Laurie Mylroie and her obsession with Saddam Hussein had led her to the completely insane and ridiculous thesis that international terrorism could not exist without Iraq's sponsorship, as she reiterated just 2 months ago in testimony to the 9/11 commission.

This is the caliber of thinking Paul Wolfowitz admires and writes glowing book blurbs about.

It has become clear that if Paul Wolfowitz had exercised just a little bit more taste and discretion in his choice of dinner party companions (like Chalabi the conman and Mylroie the paranoid obsessive), we would likely not be in Iraq today. (Josh Marshall has more on the complete destruction of credibility of one of the shining lights of neconservatism, whom he calls the "Comical Ali" of the neocon collapse. Ho. )

With people like this in charge, it is easy to understand why Americans are completely confused and deluded about our foreign policy.

It's going to take a concerted effort on the part of the Democratic candidates for president to educate the country about this. They must repeat it over and over again.

And, it's another reason why whoever becomes the nominee is going to be irreparably hamstrung by a vote in favor of the war. Voters may allow a Republican frat boy to be stupid on national defense, but they will not allow it of a Democrat. That's just the way it is.

Bowl Him Over With A Feather

Avedon Carol says:

"Markets are a great way to organize economic activity, but..."

Couldn't you just fall over laughing? Just like I usually do whenever I see that Alan Greenspan line Pfaff quoted the other day, about how when the Soviet Union fell he just assumed it would "automatically establish a free-market entrepreneurial system."

Hey, I only read comic books, but these people think they live in one.

Hahaha. In fact, I even know which comic book Alan and his little friends think they live in. It’s called “Atlas Shrugged” and has kept dreamy romantic schoolgirls and market fundamentalists of all ages atwitter and breathless for decades.

Read the whole post. It's a timely reminder of why we got all those pesky, intrusive regulations in the first place. And, it wasn't a perverse, liberal compulsion to make business owners lives difficult.

The article to which Avedon refers also says:

Mr. Greenspan said that after 1989 he - or ''we,'' as he put it - discovered that ''much of what we took for granted in our free-market system and assumed to be human nature was not nature at all, but culture. The dismantling of the central planning function in an economy does not, as some had supposed, automatically establish'' market capitalism.

It explains a lot about what has happened to the ex-Communist world since 1989 that men and women with the influence of Mr. Greenspan, occupying posts of great power, should have held so egregiously naive, or historically and culturally ''deaf,'' a belief as did Mr. Greenspan.

What in the hell is wrong with the intellectuals of the right? Has it simply become habit to disregard anything that doesn’t fit their narrow worldview and ideology?

Or are they just, as the recent Berkeley study found, so psychologically resistant to uncertainty, attached to dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity that they are simply incapable of being true intellectuals.

I don’t know, but it’s pretty clear that the ivory tower think tank culture of the right needs to do some serious reassessment if they plan to run the world. Their incompetence and naïveté is as breathtaking as anything we’ve seen since Russia in the 20’s.

Big Meanies

Gawd, I love Republicans. I really do. If they didn’t exist, you’d forget what the kindergarten schoolyard is like, and that would be a shame.

Here are yesterday's talking points as faithfully and robotically mouthed by GOP hacks from sea to shining sea:

"The one thing they were unified on was their negativity and their attacks on the president."
Ed Gillespie, GOP chairman

Oh, my dear Lord, can it be? Can they be so dastardly and despicable as to attack the president during a presidential campaign? Are there no depths to which these treasonous, un-American bastards will sink?

By Gawd, they won’t get away with it. Not by a long shot.

The Republicans are going to whine and stomp their tiny little feet and sob until the big nasty Democrats just stop it, stop it, stop it! It’s against the rules to be so mean!

And, it will work just great, too, because the American people have forgotten all about that unfortunate eight years, 24-7 of non-stop GOP harping, screaming, chest beating and slobbering about Bill Clinton. Now that the dignified Republicans are in charge, all those years of obsessing about the shape of the President’s manhood and his corrupt, murdering ways and his feminazi wife and his Commie connections are lost in the mists of time.

Today, alls I know is that the Democrats are icky and bad for bashing that nice young man, George W. Bush. Why, I've heard that some low class Democrat even called him a "major league asshole," can you believe that?

They'd better quit it … or else.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Lukewarm Water

I don’t always agree with Joan Walsh but I think she is on to something important in today’s Salon Column.

I wrote last fall that I thought the Senate resolution giving the president carte blanche to invade at will was a serious, perhaps fatal, error on the part of the Democratic Presidential Wannabe Club.

The moral reason was obvious. Dick Cheney made it quite clear, two months before the vote, that the administration planned to attack Iraq, no matter what. It was immoral to give Bush a blank check to do that for their own craven political purposes. This was a vote on a matter of life and death, not “bring your daughter to work day.”

The political reason was that the base of the party was going to be slow to forgive. This was clear from the enormous outpouring of e-mails, letters and phone calls coming into Senators’ offices; record numbers by all accounts. As my own Senator, Diane Feinstein said on the floor of the Senate:

People have weighed in by the tens of thousands. If I were just to cast a representative vote based on those who have voiced their opinions with my office - and with no other factors - I would have to vote against this resolution.

Naturally, she voted for the resolution, ostensibly because of the supposed grave imminent threat Saddam presented to the US that we in the peacenik hoi polloi just didn’t seem to grasp.

...the same hoi polloi who knew very well that invading Iraq was a long held wet dream of radical neocons who were opportunistically using 9/11 as an excuse to advance their agenda... the same hoi polloi who could see with our very own eyes that the Bush Doctrine, published and distributed for every American to read, advocates muscular unilateralism and the emasculation of international institutions and the rule of law. You didn’t have to be an insider to know that the administration’s late blooming "commitment" to getting UN approval and international support was nothing but window dressing to buy time.

As Walsh says in her article:

Frankly, I found it equally incomprehensible how someone could support the war as Gephardt did, and now pretend that he didn’t know the president had no plan and no international cooperation to get it done. I knew that, sitting behind my desk in San Francisco, raising my teenaged daughter. Why didn’t anyone tell Gephardt, the savvy House minority leader?

Walsh doesn’t say it, but here in Santa Monica I knew our Senator Diane was voting for it because she was afraid that she’d be labeled a coward by the Mighty Wurlitzer if she didn’t. Continuing to live in the past, and making political calculations based upon the closed, insular advice of political consultants who have outlived their usefulness, the Democratic leadership believed that the conditions of 1991 were again at play and they would not let themselves be caught out this time. Always fighting the last war, as usual.

Walsh says it is "unseemly" for the contenders who voted for the resolution to now pile on the Bush administration. I don’t think it’s unseemly, it’s just not credible. It showed a remarkable political obtuseness not to recognize that when the base of the party is worked up enough to call and write in record numbers, something is in the air besides the smell of patchouli oil. These were Democrats, not anarchists or Naderites. That kind of political tone deafness is a disqualification in my book. At a time when the electorate is closely divided, you’d better pay attention to your base.

The vaunted Carville-Greenberg-Shrum operation further confused the issue by advising Democratic candidates to go around the country saying “I’m for the war, but with reservations” because that’s what their polls told them that many people felt.

Apparently, they didn’t realize that the people who felt this way were looking for leadership on the issue not equivocation. By saying they were for the war but with reservations, voters were simply saying that they supported the president by default in a time of war (and media cheerleading), but they knew in their gut that something wasn’t quite right.

It was the candidates job to identify and articulate where that feeling came from. When the Democrats appeared to be just as uncomfortable and confused as they were, swing voters went with the guys who seemed sure of themselves. You can't blame them.

But, most importantly, the consultants failed to realize that by taking this position the democratic leadership was telling the energized base to go fuck themselves. The results were predictable:

Here’s what the Carville-Greenberg-Shrum operation said in their post-mortem of the election:

On Election Day, Republicans won by 4 points in voting for the House of Representatives (51 to 47 percent). That produced a gain of just 4 seats in the House. In the Senate, Democrats went from a one-seat majority to being in the minority. That represents a swing of 4 points away from Democratic performance in 2000 (even), actually the switch of around 2 percent of the voters, not a seismic change.


This imbalance of energy and direction produced a unique electorate, which would have been noted election night, had the traditional exit polls been available. The 2002 electorate was more Republican and much more conservative than those that showed up in the Presidential election of 2000 and the off-year election of 1998. Republicans were greatly energized by their campaigns, while Democrats were not.

If the Democrats had had the balls to say what they knew very well was the truth, we may have won the mid-terms and kept George W. Bush from hurtling forward with the Iraq war when the rest of the world balked at his bullying ways. At the very least they would have had a principled and coherent position from which to run. It was a huge failure of nerve and it explains the predicament the Wannabe Club finds itself in today.

Hence, grassroots support for Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.* The others look like presidential pretzels trying to explain themselves, now that things have gone wrong. Many of us predicted it would be so.

*I don’t mean to ignore Kucinich, Sharpton and Braun. They also objected to the war and I admire them for it. Their voices are worthy of respect and all three of them have followings that should be valued in the Party. But, they have little chance of gaining the nomination for reasons unrelated to the Iraq war.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Two More Straws

There are so many political and policy atrocities associated with the modern GOP and this administration that it becomes hard to feel anything more than a sort of resigned acceptance and hope that the historians will place them in their proper place in history beside other failed radical experiments.

But, every once in a while something comes to light that begets an emotional charge of such white hot anger and outrage that I find I’m shocked and awed once again at the sheer lack of decency and any claim to honor these people have, particularly after having to listen to their phony pretensions of patriotism and virtue.

Two such cases came up just recently and I wondered once again how low they can possibly go. Pretty low, apparently.

First, I simply cannot wrap my arms around the fact that the White House "sexed down" the EPA assessment of the air quality around ground zero. That they would knowingly place the people involved in the rescue and clean-up operation in long term health danger is simply so disgusting that I find it hard to imagine that any public safety worker in this country could ever vote for the Republicans again.

Remember, the people most likely to be affected by the bad air quality around the WTC after the attacks were cops, firefighters, municipal workers, rescue units and military personnel. The heroes of 9/11, the ones Bush so shamelessly exploited day after day after day --- the ones that Peggy Noonan and K-Lo and Coulter got all misty and moist over.

Thanks guys. And by the way, Fuck You.

Would it have been too much trouble for the party of personal responsibility to give unspun information to citizens of the site of the most deadly terrorist attack in the nation's history so they could decide for themselves how to mitigate the risk of serious long term consequences? The workers would have gone to work anyway, guaranteed, but they might have used more sophisticated equipment and might have discouraged people with respiratory problems from going into the area until it was completely cleared. Gosh, maybe they would have had themselves medically monitored more closely. That would have been terrible.

The only people who likely would have held back are those who work in the Stock Exchange, and there we find the real reason for the lie. Because a bunch of rich traders might have stayed home rather than expose themselves to long term lung damage, Bush and his cronies decided to throw them to the wolves, too.

Good thing you got those tax cuts boys. You're going to need them to pay for your health costs.
Vote Republican. They care.

The other story that made me erupt with righteous indignation is the story this morning in the NY Times affirming that the White House authorized the bin Laden family “evacuation” from the US during the time that flights were suspended after 9/11.

This story has been out there from early days and those who placed any credence in the story were derided as dupes and 5th columnists.

With all that honor and dignity swirling around the oval office, you would have thought that somebody would have been concerned about whether it was right to spirit a bunch of Saudis out of the country rather than “protect” them from the supposed howling mob by putting them in protective custody until matters became clearer.

Meanwhile, the FBI was rounding up thousands of Middle Eastern men all over the country, many held for months on end with no legal representation, even eventually trumping up charges of thought crimes against a handful of dumbshits who failed to be born into rich Saudi "friends of Bandar" families.

This seems like a big story to me --- one that should rightly have the entire beltway awash in gossipy speculation.

Let’s be clear. One of the more fanciful conspiracy theories to emerge immediately after 9/11, the one charging the Bush administration of protecting the Saudi royal family and the family of Osama-bin-fucking-Laden turns out to be TRUE!

Ok. It isn’t as big of a deal as fundraising at a Buddhist temple or a DNA stained dress. I understand that. But, you would think that Tweety and the rest might find it just a little bit intriguing that our president authorized the escape of intimates and family members of the mastermind of the worst terrorist attack in American history.


Look! Over There! Arnold's shaking hands at a fair!

Britney Luvs Bush!

never mind...

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Last Refuge

Anyone who thinks that the battle in Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror should tell it to the Marines of the 1st Marine Division who comprised the eastern flank of the force that fought its way to Baghdad last April.


America's troops and our coalition partners are determined to win--and they will win, if we continue to give them the moral and material support they need to do the job. As the president said recently, our forces are on the offensive. And as Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane said in congressional testimony, "They bring the values of the American people to this conflict. They understand firmness, they understand determination. But they also understand compassion. Those values are on display every day as they switch from dealing with an enemy to taking care of a family."

I saw the troops in Iraq, and Gen. Keane is absolutely right. I can tell you that they, above all, understand the war they are fighting. They understand the stakes involved. And they will not be deterred from their mission by desperate acts of a dying regime or ideology.


Young men and women from across America rushed to the trio, eager to touch them and talk to them. One soldier, a mother of two, told Christy she'd enlisted because of Sept. 11. Another soldier displayed the metal bracelet he wore, engraved with the name of a victim of 9/11. Others came forward with memorabilia from the World Trade Center they carried with them into Baghdad. And when it was Christy's turn to present Gen. Tommy Franks with a piece of steel recovered from the Trade Towers, she saw this great soldier's eyes well up with tears. Then, she watched as they streamed down his face on center stage before 4,000 troops.

To those who think the battle in Iraq is a distraction from the global war against terrorism . . . tell that to our troops.

Cue the plaintive wail of a lone trumpeter playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” as through my patriotic tears I grab blindly for a barf bag and my passport.

I’ve read enough gushy patriotic drivel in the last 2 years to tide me over until Armageddon and I thoroughly expect the Mighty Wurlitzer to play Sousa and Lee Greenwood on a loop during the presidential campaign. However, the above piece of manipulative treacle wasn’t written by a delusional codpiece worshiper like Peggy Noonan. It was written by one of the foremost intellectuals of the neocon movement and the premiere architect of the hallowed Bush Doctrine.

It’s none other than Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz himself, expelling a steaming pile of saccharine pap in order to avoid explaining how his every prediction about the postwar occupation was wrong. Read the whole thing. You'll find not even one word of substance in the entire embarrassing sermon.

I’m sure the AEI Ladies Auxiliary and “Bush Is A Hottie” groupies get all teary eyed at the mere mention of 9/11 widows and brave fighting men on the “front,” but thinking people are supposed to demand a little bit more from the leading designers of our foreign policy. He’s writing in the Wall Street Journal, after all, not the Toby Keith fanzine.

And, please spare me any more adoring profiles of Wolfowitz, extolling his virtue and good intentions, much less his intellectual integrity. This pathetic appeal to emotion exposes him as either dangerously naïve and childlike in his thinking or so ideologically driven that he is willing to say and do anything in service of his goals.

Remember, these guys have always been wrong about everything. It is their special talent. They thought Kissinger was a dangerous appeaser with his weak kneed wussy détente. Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall they were agitating for a stronger military presence in Europe to check an inevitable resurgence of communism. If they’d had their way we would have invaded Russia, for Gawd’s sake.

Typically, now that they have been proved to be both baldly dishonest and dramatically incompetent, they are falling back on their old favorite --- rank sentimentality and gooey patriotic tributes to the troops.

The scoundrels are scurrying to their last refuge much sooner than I would have thought possible. Get out your trowels and shovels because we are about to be buried in patriotic clichés. It's all they've got.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Ahmad's Ugly Secret

Josh Marshall hints about a dark episode from the mid-90's featuring our favorite Iraqi cocktail party guest. I'm guessing this is it.
Keeping Track

The fabulous Mary over at the Left Coaster (and also Pacific Views) alerts me to a Truth Squad compilation of Administration lies leading up to the war. Bookmark this baby for future reference.

I honestly think that one of the keys to the Bushies' "success" is the sheer volume and magnitude of outrages they perpetrate. It's exhausting keeping up with them and the resultant static makes even a hard core news junkie like me want to pick up a cheap novel or mindlessly watch TVLand just to keep my head from exploding.

I salute those who have taken on the immense project of keeping track of the truth. It's going to be important in the coming months.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Oldie Goldie

Andrew Northrup at The Poor Man, does an excellent job of deconstructing this Weekly Standard hit job on Clark (regarding his comments on Meet The Press about the effort to connect 9/11 with Saddam Hussein immediately after the attack on the WTC.)

However, it is important, I think, that we remember that this kind of parsing of extemporaneous speech to make it appear that someone is "slick," rather than just humanly imprecise is a Wurlitzer tactic that goes back to 1992. They take a comment and spread the idea throughout the media that it was deliberately misleading and further that it represents a character flaw on the part of the person who uttered it. Tucker and Sean and their ilk snidely hammer the accusation to a Dem talking head who then spends his entire time (when he isn’t being interrupted) explaining the statement to prove that the intent was not what these guys are saying it was.

We look defensive, they sound confident and the public is confused. Eventually they believe that there must be something to the charges because the endless parsing of it sounds lawyerly, desperate and boring. The charge gets dropped and another, similar, charge is leveled and the process begins again.

It is the death of reputation and credibility by a thousand small smears.

Therefore, I think we have to respond in two different ways to such charges. In print (and on blogs and elsewhere) we should analyze the charges in detail and keep an accurate, truthful record of the entire episode.
But, on television and for quotes in the print media, Democrats should never allow ourselves to get mired in such detail. We need to get past our need (as rational people) to defend with the facts and, instead, attack with the truth.

For instance, when a Democrat is confronted by Tweety or Scarborough about Clark’s “lie” on Meet the Press, he should not allow himself to get involved in the minutiae of the charge and instead should simply point out that it is well documented that the administration set out to tie Saddam to the WTC attack, without evidence, from the earliest hours of the event. Talk about the “unassailable” Bob Woodward’s account in Bush At War and Rumsfeld’s directive to “pull it all together” just 5 hours after the Pentagon was hit.

Of course, big shot Republicans put out the word all over the media about Saddam being behind 9/11. Everybody knows that. The TRUTH is that:

... Perle, Woolsey, Gaffney, and Kristol were using the same language in their media appearances on 9/11 and over the following weeks.

”This could not have been done without help of one or more governments,” Perle told The Washington Post on Sep. 11. ”Someone taught these suicide bombers how to fly large airplanes. I don't think that can be done without the assistance of large governments.”

Woolsey was more direct. ”(I)t's not impossible that terrorist groups could work together with the government...the Iraqi government has been quite closely involved with a number of Sunni terrorist groups and -- on some matters -- has had direct contact with (Osama) bin Laden,” he told one anchorman in a series of at least half a dozen national television appearances on Sep. 11 and 12.

That same evening, Kristol echoed Woolsey on National Public Radio. ”I think Iraq is, actually, the big, unspoken sort of elephant in the room today. There's a fair amount of evidence that Iraq has had very close associations with Osama bin Laden in the past, a lot of evidence that it had associations with the previous effort to destroy the World Trade Center (in 1993)”.

The “facts” in this matter are that Clark made an extemporaneous statement on television that has been widely interpreted incorrectly. He corrected it on the record. All of the Democratic candidates are going to do that from time to time; it is part of public speaking. But, using this minor bit of confusion to imply that he was untruthful or misleading is just another example of the Wurlitzer’s coordinated “dazzle ‘em with bullshit” attack strategy.

It is what killed Al Gore in the press last time and we simply have to stop letting them dictate the terms of the debate that way. One way to do that is to stop being defensive and stop miring ourselves in detail before the public. It makes us look geeky and weak next to the bellowing neanderthals. We must ignore their taunts and remind ourselves that going after our guy is calculated misdirection. We need to keep the audience looking at what we want them to see, and not let the other side direct the show.

The New York Times Is Fair and Balanced, Too!

Atrios makes note of the factual but incomplete graf in today's New York Times article about Bush's speech today. It says that Bush never directly tied Saddam to 9/11; he merely claimed that Saddam and al Qaeda are of the same ilk. Atrios replies:

While Bush did never directly claim that Saddam had a direct role in the attacks of Sept. 11, he has said far more than that they "are of the same ilk." He has claimed several times that they are active partners.

And he has made manipulative associations about Saddam and 9/11 over and over again.

"Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people and to all free people.

If the world fails to confront the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, refusing to use force even as a last resort, free nations would assume immense and unacceptable risks.

The attacks of September the 11th, 2001, show what the enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what terrorists or terrorist states could do with weapons of mass destruction.

We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise. I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons."

Please. His speechwriters put those images together for a reason. They wanted people to associate 9/11 with Saddam Hussein.

And how about our good friend Condi? Notice the artful turn of phrase she uses here:

No one is trying to make an argument at this point that Saddam Hussein somehow had operational control of what happened on Sept. 11, so we don't want to push this too far, but this is a story that is unfolding, and it is getting clearer, and we're learning more," Rice said.

That was in September of 2002.

How about Bill Kristol on September 12, 2001 from NPR:

I think Iraq is, actually, the big, unspoken sort of elephant in the room today. There's a fair amount of evidence that Iraq has had very close associations with Osama bin Laden in the past, a lot of evidence that it had associations with the previous effort to destroy the World Trade Center (in 1993)”.

And then, there's the
mother of all pieces of evidence
, the smoking gun, the proof that the administration sought to directly tie Saddam with 9/11:

According to an account by veteran CBS newsman David Martin last September, Rumsfeld was ”telling his aides to start thinking about striking Iraq, even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks” five hours after an American Airlines jet slammed into the Pentagon.

Martin attributed his account in part to notes that had been taken at the time by a Rumsfeld aide. They quote the defense chief asking for the ”best info fast” to ”judge whether good enough to hit SH (Saddam Hussein) at the same time, not only UBL (Usama bin Laden). The administration should ”go massive...sweep it all up, things related and not”, the notes quote Rumsfeld as saying.

Wolfowitz shared those views, according to an account of the meeting Sep. 15-16 of the administration's war council at Camp David provided by the Washington Post's Bill Woodward and Dan Balz. In the ”I-was-there” style for which Woodward, whose access to powerful officials since his investigative role in the Watergate scandal almost 30 years ago is unmatched, is famous:

”Wolfowitz argued (at the meeting) that the real source of all the trouble and terrorism was probably Hussein. The terrorist attacks of Sept 11 created an opportunity to strike. Now, Rumsfeld asked again: 'Is this the time to attack Iraq'”?

Powell objected”, the Woodward and Balz account continued, citing Secretary of State Colin Powell's argument that U.S. allies would not support a strike on Iraq. ”If you get something pinning Sept 11 on Iraq, great”, Powell is quoted as saying. But let's get Afghanistan now. If we do that, we will have increased our ability to go after Iraq -- if we can prove Iraq had a role”.

Upon their return to Washington, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz convened a secret, two-day meeting of the DPB chaired by Perle. Instead of focusing on the first steps in carrying out a ”war on terrorism”, however, the discussions centered on how Washington could use 9/11 to strike at Iraq, according to an account in the Wall Street Journal.

Is this stuff just bullshit then? Not worth mentioning? If they're going to point out that Junior never "directly" tied Saddam into 9/11, the least they can do is also point out that some in the administration were determined from the very beginning to use 9/11 to justify an invasion of Iraq.

I'm sure I remember the New York Times always pointed out in its later articles about the Lewinsky scandal that Clinton did not "directly" lie when he said he'd never had "sexual relations with that woman." The dictionary meaning of "sexual relations" is sexual intercourse and he actually had oral sex with her. They were always very, very conscientious about making that clear even though everybody on the planet knew that he was implying that he hadn't had any kind of sex with her. I'm pretty sure they did that, didn't they?

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Taunting the Bull

"Our military is confronting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places so our people will not have to confront terrorist violence in New York or Saint Louis or Los Angeles,"

Wow. I thought that the wingnuts playing the Wurlitzer might say something like this, but it’s pretty damned provocative coming from the President.

If he meant that we were fighting terrorism abroad so that someday Americans will no longer have to fear terrorism at home, then his speech writers worded it very badly. Because this could easily be read as another version of “Bring ‘Em On,” only instead of daring Iraqis to kill American soldiers in Iraq; he’s daring terrorists to kill American citizens in America.

That isn’t flypaper. He’s not saying that we’ve drawn the terrorists all to the same place so we can kill them more efficiently. It’s taunting the bull.

Imagine you are bin Laden or some other terrorist nutball and the President of the United States says that by attacking Afghanistan and Iraq he’s keeping you from attacking the US. You’re a loser. You are so weak that as long as we "confront" you abroad you can't commit violence in New York, St. Louis or Los Angeles.

It’s very disconcerting to have to rely on Osama bin Laden and a bunch of fundamentalist holy warriors to be restrained and sophisticated enough to recognize that the President of the United States is just trash talking. It would be extremely unfortunate if terrorists took his statement as a dare to prove him wrong.


I wrote in my post below Waiting For Wesley, that the Esquire article from which I excerpted a long passage had not made the rounds of Blogovia. I was wrong. It appears that the article had been discussed at some length by several bloggers, one of whom -- the great Nitpicker --- even excerpted the same passage that I claimed hadn't been blogged!


I'd read the article at the time but didn't blog it for a number of extremely complicated reasons (Actually, I just didn't get around to it.) I ran a technorati search for links before I wrote the post and only found a small handful of blogs that mentioned the article so I was under the mistaken impression that it hadn't been discussed in any depth. I'm thinking now that maybe the article wasn't yet on-line at the time it was being talked up.

That's what I get for not Googling...

Apologies to anyone else who posted on the story much earlier than I.

Still .... it's a good time to bring it up again, no? Clark's about to announce.

Update: Here's another fine post by Antidotal from weeks ago excerpting the passage in the Esquire article.

Great minds think alike --- but some are a little more on the ball than others. Mea culpa.

Monday, August 25, 2003

They should have gone for Tom Selleck

Everyone seems to be confused by the fact that Ahnuld isn't doing better in the polls but the reason is completely obvious.

They cast the wrong guy.

This is another example of Republicans failing to understand popular culture. Sure, people are stupid enough to vote for an inexperienced movie star. And, this recall election was a perfect opportunity to slide one in because of the very short campaign.

But, didn't it occur to anybody that the only reason it would work would be because the star's established image fit the role already?

I would imagine that if you polled every casting director and studio executive in Hollywood, you couldn't find one who would have (willingly) ever cast him as governor in a serious film. His best role is a monosyllabic robot, for God's sake, and they kept his lines to a minimum for a reason. He can't act.

If the state voters had wanted a robot for governor why would they have bothered to recall Gray Davis?

Waiting For Wesley

I am a little bit surprised that this incredible article in the August Esquire about Wesley Clark hasn’t made the rounds in Blogovia. Anyone who is intrigued by the possibility of the general getting in should read it.

I've written several enthusiastic posts about him in recent months, and I’ve been very interested in a Clark run since the day I saw him testify before the Senate the lead up to the Iraq resolution vote. Not only was his analysis absolutely on target, he was tremendously self-assured, well spoken and telegenic. I thought at the time that he would make an excellent candidate. I didn’t know if he was a Democrat but he was clearly not a neocon.

If anyone is interested in reading just how prescient Clark was that day, you can read the transcript here :

(And if you are interested in reading some really disrespectful Republican nastiness, pay special attention to the “questioning” of these generals by patriotic Senators Bunning and Sessions.)

This statement is particularly interesting in light of recent events:

I think that there is a substantial risk in the aftermath of the operation that we could end up with a problem which is more intractable than we have today. One thing we're pretty clear on is that Saddam has a very effective police state apparatus. He doesn't allow challenges to his authority inside that state. When we go in there with a transitional government and a military occupation of some indefinite duration, it's also very likely that if there is an effective al Qaeda left -- and there certainly will be an effective organization of extremists -- they will pour into that country because they must compete for the Iraqi people; the Wahabes with the Sunnis, the Shi'as from Iran working with the Shi'a population. So it's not beyond consideration that we would have a radicalized state, even under a U.S. occupation in the aftermath.


If we go in unilaterally, or without the full weight of international organizations behind us, if we go in with a very sparse number of allies, if we go in without an effective information operation that takes us through the -- and explains the motives and purposes and very clear aims and the ability to deal with the humanitarian and post-conflict situation, we're liable to super-charge recruiting for al Qaeda.

This appearance and his testimony before the House informed my thinking quite a bit on the Iraq invasion. He believes in multilateralism, as frustrating as it can be, not so much because it spreads the risk, but because it gives leaders and politicians of other countries a stake in a positive outcome. That translates into long term commitment, something that is absolutely essential to dealing with terrorism, failed states and nation building. This article written right after 9/11 strikes just the right note between righteous fury and intelligent, deliberate analysis

And as illustrated in the quote above, he was concerned from the very beginning about the potential negative consequences of an occupation in Iraq and how it would affect our efforts to combat al Qaeda. There were others, like Bob Graham, who also voiced this concern, but I never heard any one else theorize that terrorists would pour into Iraq after the war and transform it into a radicalized state under US occupation.

His comments not only reflected an informed strategic military worldview, as you would expect, they also showed a very complex and sophisticated analysis of the global political implications of where the administration was taking us. It was obvious to me that Wesley Clark isn’t just smart. He’s brilliant. Overachieving Clinton-brilliant.

(Meanwhile the President of the United States was either babbling, “They live in caves…we’re gonna smoke ‘em out"" or he was speechifying in phony flowery words and phrases that were so inauthentic that there were times you wondered if he even comprehended what he was saying.)

Like most Democrats I believe that the President of the United States should be very smart. According to beltway CW, this is an absurd view held only by overeducated, Volvo driving, Birkenstock wearing liberals who are the lowest form of American life and should be ignored if not imprisoned.

It would seem that the sad pathology of the inner city that disparages education and good grammar has strangely overtaken the Republican Party and many of those who make their living commenting on politics. It is now considered gauche in these circles to be “too” smart. The common understanding is that Americans prefer a leader who symbolizes their own mediocrity.

So, the big money Republicans simply market a slow but recognizable brand name and tell the apparatchiks not to mention that he is walking around stark raving naked. All that takes is cash and they have plenty.

We Democrats, however, have to find candidates who are not only brilliant, passionate and eminently qualified, which the base insists upon, but we must also pick someone who has appealing looks, an unassailable personal biography, an engaging personality, Southern roots and a heroic, masculine image so that the clueless swing voters and the giggling bimbos of the press have something to keep them sufficiently entertained during those long boring speeches with all the big words.

Clark is smart, to be sure, but he’s got all the other good stuff, too.

He’s got a very high Q rating and handles the press with the aplomb of a film star. He has a winning smile and an easy laugh. He knows how to speak in simple terms about complex issues. He is a proven military hero, a respected world leader, a southerner and a self made man who worked hard and succeeded at everything he tried.

In other words, he is the man who George W. Bush is pretending to be.

A genuine, traditional, all-American, patriotic winner.

* Word to the wise, draft Clarkers. You’ve got to show some pictures and footage of Clark in uniform. Those 4 big stars are a symbol of Clark’s experience, integrity and leadership. We need to work that mojo. In post modern America it’s all about the symbols, metaphors and memes.

That's what I'm talking about

And, since nobody else has done it, I’ll post this little anecdote from the Esquire article. Even cynical, pragmatic old me got a little bit of a chill down my spine when I read it. It’s a great story and every Clark supporter should spread it around the water cooler and the dinner table:

In August 1995, the general—three stars, working as J-5 for the Joint Chiefs—went to Bosnia as part of the negotiating team Ambassador Richard Holbrooke had put together to end the civil war that had resulted in the massacre of as many as eight thousand Muslim men and boys at the town of Srebrenica the month before. In Belgrade, Clark had met for the first time Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who was sponsoring the Bosnian Serbs. Now the team had to travel to Sarajevo.

Told that the airport in Sarajevo was too dangerous to fly into, the team decided to drive and asked Milosevic to guarantee its safety on a road held by Bosnian Serbs. Milosevic did not, and so the team wound up taking a fortified Humvee and an armored personnel carrier on a pitched, narrow, winding mountain road notoriously vulnerable to Serb machine-gun fire.

Clark and Holbrooke went in the Humvee, the rest in the APC. In his book, the general describes what happened this way: "At the end of the first week we had a tragic accident on Mount Igman, near Sarajevo. [Three members of the team] were killed when the French armored personnel carrier in which they were riding broke through the shoulder of the road and tumbled several hundred meters down a steep hillside."

It is not until one reads Holbrooke's book, To End a War, that one finds out that after the APC went off the road, Clark grabbed a rope, anchored it to a tree stump, and rappelled down the mountainside after it, despite the gunfire that the explosion of the APC set off, despite the warnings that the mountainside was heavily mined, despite the rain and the mud, and despite Holbrooke yelling that he couldn't go.

It is not until one brings the incident up to the general that one finds out that the burning APC had turned into a kiln, and that Clark stayed with it and aided in the extraction of the bodies; it is not until one meets Wesley Clark that one understands the degree to which he held Milosevic accountable.

For more on General Clark, visit
the Clarksphere
the Wesley Clark weblog
draft clark
the Clark Coalition

And for a tittilating bit of DC scuttlebutt on the Clark campaign, check out HoyPuhLoy

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Leave No Child Behind

The commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has told the BBC the US military is hoping to release children it is holding there.

The BBC's Gordon Corera, in Guantanamo Bay, says the US's interviews with the three children - aged between 13 and 15 - reveal they may have been coerced into fighting in Afghanistan.

General Geoffrey Miller who leads operations at the camp is seeking to have the children released in recognition of their age and co-operation, our correspondent says.

"These juvenile enemy combatants were impressed, were kidnapped into terrorism. They have given us some very valuable intelligence. We are very close to making a recommendation on their transfer back to their home countries," General Miller said.

Special treatment

The children have been kept separate from the 700 adults being held at the camp, located on the southern Cuban coast.

They have been held with no access to a lawyer or understanding of what will happen to them, our correspondent adds.

But the children have been given access to games, even videos, as well as an extensive education programme.

This has led to the belief that they can be rehabilitated

Calling Mr. Kafka, Mr Franz Kafka. Please pick up the white courtesy telephone.

Is anybody beginning to wonder what in the hell is really going on down there? Why do I have a feeling that our pride in our vaunted Western values may be a tiny bit misplaced these days?

This is absolutely, fucking sick. If the most powerful country on earth is so vulnerable that we have to lock up some 12 year old Afghan kid in a goddamned concentration camp then this whole thing is hopeless.

The Camp Commandant has apparently come to the professional judgment that these kids can be rehabilitated so at least we won't have to give them a secret trial before we kill them.

And they've had video games!

First Principles

Bill Simon Jr., one of the best-known Republicans in the recall election for California governor, dropped out of the race today, saying that the defeat of Gov. Gray Davis was more important than his personal ambitions.

Mr. Simon had come under intense pressure from fellow Republicans in recent days to withdraw from the contest to avoid splintering the Republican vote


… on Friday, the Lincoln Club of Orange County, a group of wealthy conservative Republicans, unanimously endorsed Mr. Schwarzenegger and urged Mr. Simon, Senator McClintock and Mr. Ueberroth to step aside. Also on Friday, the Republican leader of the State Senate, Jim Brulte, warned that there were too many Republicans in the race and that some would have to drop out to avoid handing victory to Mr. Davis or Mr. Bustamante.

We had a little dust up, if you recall, during the last election when the Democrats put the heat on Bob Torricelli to resign 36 days before the election so that they could replace him on the ballot with someone who could win. The Republicans went into their patented phony ape-shit mode, screaming about the rule-‘o-law-blah-blah-blah, sore-loserman, blah, blah blah.

The reasons as to why this action was so outrageous numbered in the hundreds.

Sullivan said
that the health of the body politic required that Torricelli should have been forced to stay on the ballot so he could be ritually humiliated.

George Will fulminated
that “election laws are supposed to be exacting so they can prevent just such last-minute frenzies by people frightened of losing. Yet today Democrats are asserting this principle: Anytime--even just 36 days before an election--a party has discouraging polls about a candidate, that party can replace him.”

Jonathan Last boldly asserted that “the Democrats haven't just become Nixon, they've become the exaggerated liberal nightmare version of Nixon: Today Democrats are what they believe Nixon was.”

But, despite their varying objections, there was one overriding matter of principle that every last Republican agreed upon, --- a matter so serious and of such fundamental importance to our system that any legalistic hairsplitting or judicial interpretations of it are, by their very nature, antithetical to the practice of democracy.

This principle is not, you understand, that old liberal clap trap about “counting all the votes” or “whoever wins the most votes wins” or even something silly like “short of incapacity or corruption, office holders who have been certified in a legal election should be allowed to serve their entire term.” These are nice concepts but they don’t carry any serious philosophical weight.

No, Republicans hold that the single most important principle upon which our electoral system rests is the sanctity of the arbitrary deadline which under no circumstances shall ever be overruled, even if it conflicts with another arbitrary deadline, is incomprehensibly vague or was instituted by the legislature for purely administrative purposes that had no bearing on anyone but a couple of election workers in outlying suburbs (if anyone can even remember why it was instituted in the first place.)

If an arbitrary deadline is on the books it is sacrosanct under any and all circumstances and no court in the land has a right to tamper with it.

This is because a deep and abiding fidelity to bureaucratic timetables that mean absolutely nothing is the very foundation of our democracy. You can look it up.

It explains why we hear no similar indignant outcry from George Will about “last-minute frenzies by people frightened of losing” at the sight of another weeping conservative being muscled out of the recall on a daily basis. (Lock up your horses, Uberroth.)

You see, the GOP outrage at the Torricelli matter was never about the fact that national Democrats so desperately wanted to keep that seat that they strong-armed their weak candidate to step aside to make way for a stronger contender. The Republicans admittedly did that very thing today in California, so they onviously don't have a problem with it. And, it certainly wasn’t about a corrupt politician being forced to stay the course and face the music --- after all, his opponent had been calling for Torricellis resignation for a solid month before he actually did it.

No, the egregious violation was going past the sacred 51 day deadline for replacing a name on the ballot. When the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the right of the Democratic party to have a candidate in the race superceded this holy edict (the other side argued that the Democrats had to forfeit the race), the Republicans erupted in righteous fury at the Nixonian dirty tricksters.

Lucky for them that this is California and not New Jersey. There aren’t any more hallowed deadlines that prevent them from forcing the non-muscled Austrian GOP candidates drop out of the race so that the Republican Party can take a mulligan and try again to win the seat they legally and legitimately lost 9 short months ago.

Hell, here they could put the thumb screws to Larry Flynt and Gary Coleman just for kicks right up until the polls open --- just 45 days from today.

I Gotcher Trademark Infringement, Right Here

Where DO the Bushies get their ideas, I wonder?

They Get It

TAPPED, writing about the terrific Dean blog pinpoints not only what is so good about it, but what is important about it:

Tapped has thought for a while that the great unacknowledged secret of the Dean campaign's wildly succesful blog -- at least during this slowish news month of August -- is that it has a heck of a lot more in common with Parade Magazine and US Weekly than it does with Slate. The Dean Blog is as goofy and cheesy and low-brow as the American people themselves...

The Dean people understand something that the rest of the Democrats just can't seem to get a grasp on.

Politics and popular culture have converged. The Bushies know this and very effectively market their "product" as a shit-kickin' moron. They know their audience.

Dean's bloggers know theirs too.

In both cases, they are successful because they are entertaining. In the dense and dangerous internet jungle or the maze of the 500 channel sushi menu, being boring will kill you.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Phlegmatic Overachievers

Michael Wolfe wrote another one of his brilliant pieces this week, this time on the liberal cognoscenti. With the exception of Bill Clinton, (who should always be listened to --- he’s one of those freaky people who’s always riding the Zeitgeist) it turns out that the “movers and shakers” of the Democratic party are awfully flaccid and slight. Sigh.

Personally, I love these people. The thinkers, the overachievers, the rational, problem solving, liberal minded, intellectual elite. These are the people whose forbearers can take credit for much of the progress that led to our open and liberal society. (Conservatives and warriors are there, too, in different ways.) But hey, this is my tribe.

However much I love them, however, these days they seem to be living in a different dimension than the one I inhabit.

There was even the sense, for all its various problems—consolidation, Fox (everybody said Murdoch’s name with great scorn), the mess at AOL Time Warner—of the media’s being, well, safely and proudly fair-minded (despite the conservative noisiness).

Ann Moore, while she openly shuddered over the AOL merger, still thought Time Inc. did pretty fine work without corporate interference. And Michael Kinsley, who was there with his new wife, Patty Stonesifer, who runs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said sanguinely, “I don’t see the problem, frankly,” and then offered a defense of big media and Bill Gates.

Indeed, nowhere at the conference, really, was there controversy. In some sense, the theme of the conference, even, was a rejection of controversy—much talk about the erosion of civic trust that came from partisanship.

Well, yes. The erosion of civic trust (partially) comes from partisanship. But, they evidently believe this “partisanship” comes from partisans on both sides equally, and that further, if everyone would just behave, then we wouldn’t have all this unpleasantness.

“Come come, people. Let’s not sink to their level. Let’s “send a positive message of bipartisanship and conviviality so the GOP can see that you get more flies with honey than you get with vinegar.”

The leadership of “overachieving” liberal America are like sheltered maiden aunts and musty Latin professors --- filled with good intentions but useless against a gang of street thugs.

They seem to think that if we can just hold on to our notions of civility and good government, politics will go back to being a more or less collegial game defined by cooperation and compromise. In other words, they think the system itself is defined by the cold war consensus and the New Deal and all this bickering is anomalous and temporary.

This is surprising coming from a group of very smart people. They, of anyone, should know that there is nothing fundamentally “balanced” in our political system and that there is nothing to stop this country from becoming a de facto one-party state, by legitimate OR illegitimate means. History is full of examples of that very thing and the United States (contrary to Prezdunt Pretzel's beliefs) is not specially blessed by God or anything else.

They certainly should be able to see that the modern Republican party has as much a chance of going back to the suprapartisan politics of Everett Dirkson as Arianna Huffington has of winning the California governorship.

Something profound is happening in America and, for some reason, liberalism’s smartest people don’t seem to realize it.

So, it looks as though any stemming of the radical Republican tide really is going to have to come from the grassroots.

Wolfe also discusses Wesley Clark’s appeal in a very interesting way, concluding that he is the wet dream candidate of the liberal intellectual elite but is possibly too “cool” for the “not-so-cool” American heartland. I would agree if he had a different biography. It doesn’t guarantee a win, but you cannot discount the martial spirit of much of the south and rural America, particularly at a time like this. Michael Lind wrote a great article on the topic that I think is more relevant than ever.

The sad fact is that being super-smart is now considered a liability for a president. It makes him a pussy.

Unless, perhaps, he is also a four star General.

As bizarre as it is, we Democrats must now nominate candidates who have images of heroism, machismo or scrappy rags to riches tales of Galtian proportions. But, we have to pretend that he isn’t one of the smartest people on the planet. That would offend the mouth breathers, apparently, who need to believe that anyone smarter than them (a door knob, for instance) is too effeminate to be president.

They can try to characterize Clark as a cold, effete, smarty pants but they have to be very careful. Clark’s only been out of the military for a couple of years. He spent his entire life in the Army --- there is absolutely no history of any counter-culture shenanigans or any issues of personal integrity. His life cannot be criticized on the basis of the culture war, a unique situation for a Democrat. (Republicans, no matter how hedonistic are, of course, exempt. Praise Jeebus.)

They’ll go after him anyway, needless to say, but it stands a good chance of backfiring. Attacking General Clark on a personal basis is akin to attacking the military itself.

It won't stop them. But, it will not help them either.

Helluva Hangover

It is just possible that the tired old saw “…as California goes, so goes the nation” is not the laughable irrelevance that we all think it is as we watch this sideshow. As I read today's LA Times poll, showing that Davis and the legislature both have over a 70% unfavorable rating, it looks to me as if the electorate of this state is having a bit of a temper tantrum.

Historically speaking, that often leads to one of those “clean house” elections --- like 1994.
It’s impossible to know what the country as a whole will be feeling a year from now, but I can easily picture a widespread discontent that could shake up the whole election.

The reason is that the economic downturn is just now starting to be felt and downturns are much more painful when it seems like only last week the sky was the limit. Falling from a lofty height really hurts.

I think that people may finally be coming to terms with the fact that the economy isn’t going back to what it was and that translates into big dreams and aspirations going down the tubes. Recessions come and go, but speculative bubbles are once in a lifetime.

Unfortunately, conventional wisdom emanating from pundits and corrupt analysts made a lot of Americans believe that the business cycle really had been vanquished (if they knew what the business cycle was in the first place) and that the end of history was nigh.

They believed that success beyond their wildest dreams was almost guaranteed so they bought big expensive houses and ran up their debt with cheap credit, secure in the knowledge that they were winners, with a capital win. Why, things were going so well that we could turn politics into a soap opera and journalism into a reality TV show. Seriousness was so boring and 70’s.

Now people are beginning to understand that they may have to lower their expectations. We are in a confusing war, insecure, in debt, underemployed and under the bosses thumb --- and nobody knows what hit them. People are starting to wake up to the knowledge that this may be no blip, no "correction."

George W. Bush’s America does not look like a shining city on a hill.

I hope that Davis doesn’t lose. I think it is a travesty of democracy --- one of many, lately. But, if the worst happens, the Democratic talking points are clear:

As California goes, so goes the nation: Throw The Bums Out.

Coming Out

We can change today’s culture from “if it feels good, do it”. George W. Bush,
Texas A&M Univ. Apr 6, 1998

"It is as satisfying to me as coming is - you know, as having sex with a woman and coming. So can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am, like, getting the feeling of coming in the gym. I'm getting the feeling of coming at home. I'm getting the feeling of coming backstage when I pump up. When I pose out in front of 5.000 people I get the same feeling. So I'm coming day and night." Arnold Schwarzenegger in the documentary "Pumping Iron"

"I think he'd be a good governor." George W. Bush, Crawford, Texas Friday, August 8, 2003

This recall, like the immature obsession with the Clenis™, is nothing more than baby boomers like George W. Bush "doing it because it feels good," GOP style. The poor Republicans had to sublimate their unresolved adolescent sexual confusion into bullying midlife power plays or go to their graves as the saddest lil' guys in the world. Ahhnold is just the latest cartoonlike example.

We boomer Democrats grew out of that “it it feels good, do it” bullshit a long time ago. Even then we pretty much confined it to sex, hair and air guitar solos. Unlike the Republicans, we didn’t let morons and radicals actually run anything. We just partied. (Ahhnuld appears to be one of the few who is double dipping in the FGDI ethos. More likely he never stopped...)

Allowing Junior, Newtie, Norquist, Perle and DeLay to wield real world power is the equivalent of the Democrats running Tiny Tim, Jane Fonda, Bernardine Dorn, Huey Newton and Abbie Hoffman in 1972.

Only now, middle aged and paunchy, the republicans are discovering that it "feels sooo good" to be a rebel and a tough guy, telling the establishment to “bring it on.” Getting in people’s faces is such a rush. It is as satisfying as coming, getting the good feeling of coming in the gym, getting the good feeling of coming at home, getting the good feeling of coming backstage or out in front of 5.000 people on the deck of an aircraft carrier. It’s like coming day and night.

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?