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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Monday, October 27, 2003

Andover, Yale and Harvard

"The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the—the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice."—Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2003

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Unflitered Carnage

All over Baghdad there are buildings that are not exploding and yet the media insists upon covering today's three measly bombings after obsessively talking about that untidy rocket attack on the al Rashid yesterday.

It's long past time for a little fairness and balance. It's very important that the public knows that some schoolkids painted a mural in Basra yesterday and some of the lights stayed on in Tikrit for more than four and a half hours. A couple of GI's also shared a coke and a smile with some teenagers.

I wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea and think that things are rapidly going to hell in a handbasket in Iraq. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Oh and about that Vietnam analogy. Is anybody getting that "Tet" feeling, yet?

It's Getting Hot In Here

Best wishes to TBOGG and friends, who's blogging live from hell.

Satan has quite a sense of humor. First Schwarzenegger, now this....

It's smoky and smelly here too. Seriously, this is bad.

Like A Prayer

Atrios links to Dana Milbanks' article about Junior's sweets habit and quotes a passage from Stephen Mansfield's, "The Faith of George W. Bush" which says: "Aides found him face down on the floor in prayer in the Oval Office. It became known that he refused to eat sweets while American troops were in Iraq, a partial fast seldom reported of an American president."

I guess it's significant that Bush ended his alleged self-imposed partial fast, but frankly, it's the lying face down on the floor praying thing that freaks me out.

What the hell? Do Methodists lie face down on the floor to pray these days?

I know that some super-fundamentalists and charismatic Christians, in the throes of an ecstatic revival meeting will throw themselves down on the floor face first. And Muslims pray this way 5 times a day. But, it's a little bit unusual, to say the least, for a Methodist to take this position in prayer in the middle of their office.

I think maybe there's a little bit more to this story than meets the eye, don't you? Isn't it just a bit more believable that somebody was taking a little unauthorized afternoon nap? (Perhaps as a result of an authorized afternoon nip...?)

Maybe Junior had a couple more "pretzels" than doctors think is wise or didn't get his usual 15.5 hours of sleep and just fell over in exhaustion. Maybe he was madly searching the carpet for the fine bud he was just sure he remembered dropping the night before.

All of those scenarios are more likely than Cap'n FratRat praying face down on the floor all by himself. Yeah.

In spite of all the hoohah about carnal acts in the oval office, at least the Clenis was hands free and fully alert while he was on duty. In fact, his concentration was amazing. Junior can't even stay upright.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Ace Supreme

I was interested to read in Lloyd Grove that Howard Dean has hired Ace Smith to do oppo research on his opponents. Those of us who follow California politics are familiar with Ace, an operative associated with the famous puke politics of Gray Davis. According to that linked transcript, it was Ace himself who came up with idea of distorting Dick Riordon's abortion record for the supposedly unforgivable ads they ran to "interfere" with the Republican primary. (The phrase was coined, by the way, not by Arnold Schwarzenegger but by fellow Democrat Bill Lockyer who put the handcuffs and muzzle on Davis during the recall when he told him, "No more puke politics.")

Personally, I don't have a big problem with hardball politics in this day and age. I think it's probably smart to be as rough and tumble as you have to be. Certainly, the Republicans aren't going to hold back, so we'd better be prepared to hit back.

I do wonder, however, how sadly betrayed many of Dean's supporters must be to learn that he would hire such a low-life, dirt digging, mud slinging political bad boy as old Ace. I feel their pain. Considering the fact that the Clark campaign's hiring of the deplorable Chris Lehane's wife was considered to be a total capitulation to the reprehensible tactics of cynical DLC nasty campaigning, I can only imagine how hurt they must be to find that the lowlife Ace has been brought on board.

Frankly, I say do what you feel you have to do, Howard Dean. Take off the gloves and flay anybody who gets in the way, Democrat or Republican. That may be what it takes to defeat 9 other Democrats and George W. Bush.
But, please folks, spare me any more of the kumbaya, up-with-people, no negative campaigning crapola, ok? These guys are playing to win --- and Dean is one tough sumbitch who's prepared to wrestle down in the mud with the worst of them.

Watch What You Say

Oh Gosh. You take a few days off and look what happens. Greg Easterbrook, one of those wonderful “reasonable” writers often held up as an example of what liberals should strive to be (conservative, apparently) reveals a lack of self awareness so huge that you wonder if he should be allowed to cross the street unassisted, General J.C.Christian Patriot turns out to be a real person and Rummy says we maybe, might, could win the WOT but it’ll probably mean that we have to create an entirely new war room ... er... department because the pentagon is just too untidy.

The Easterbrook flap is interesting in the same way that the Limbaugh black quarterback flap was interesting. (And isn’t that similarity likely to be the reason that ESPN let Easterbrook go? Some sense of what’s good for one bigot is good for another?) I’m very impressed with all the testimonials from Easterbrook’s many friends in the political press and the editorial apologia in TNR this week could bring a tear to your eye. All of these people say they just couldn’t believe that old Greg meant what it sounded like and that it is completely out of character and that he needs an editor and that blogs are so frightfully slapdash and slipshod and my goodness people certainly do get upset over every little thing, don’t they?

But, these slapdash little weblogs can be quite revealing. I certainly have written some things that I wish I hadn't and I'm sure I'm not alone. But, whatever it was, I know that it came from somewhere inside my fried and flaky head so it is my responsibility.

The question then is how to explain such a glaringly obvious, clichéd, anti-semitic remark as Easterbrooks'. He claimed it was a mistake and he’s sorry, which I don’t doubt. But, this kind of thing doesn’t just appear completely out of the blue and unrelated to anything we believe or think. The mind doesn’t work that way.

Easterbrook’s Tarantino movie rant was highly emotional, almost to the point of being irrational. (It certainly bore no relationship to any kind of reasonable cinematic critique or even an intelligent treatise on movie violence.) While he called Tarantino a “phony” and spared him no amount of snobbish disdain, he reserved his true ire for the allegedly money worshipping Jew who runs the parent company and the allegedly money worshipping Jew who runs the distribution company that released Tarantino’s allegedly artless film.

The thought and the idea came to him because on some level, when he got mad about Tarantino’s movie and he thought about who was responsible, something in him said … money worshipping Jews. He could have thought … rich white liberals. Or… decadent culture salesmen. Or, balding elitist fatcats. But he didn’t. Seeking to blame someone for a violent martial arts movie made by an Italian American starring a blond Buddhist, for some unknown reason, he just immediately thought of the "money worshipping Jews" involved and furiously admonished them in his little unfiltered forum before he had a chance to edit himself.

I don’t doubt that Easterbrook no more thinks he is an anti-semite than Rush thinks he is a racist. Most anti-semites and racists don’t think they are anti-semites and racists. Sometimes it comes out in anger, when they aren’t thinking clearly and they kind of clap their hands over their mouths like Easterbrook did and whisper, “did I say that?” Others think they are making reasonable observations and that those who object are being peculiarly sensitive. They search for justifications and usually claim victim status themselves at the hands of the PC police.

But, here’s the thing. When you get mad about something and the words “money worshipping” and “Jews” come immediately to mind, that’s anti-semitism. Period. When you see a black quarterback who’s not performing up to expectations and your interpretation, based upon no evidence whatsoever, is that the only reason he’s got his job is because of “social concern in the NFL ” and that “the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well, you’re a racist.

You thought it, you said it, you wrote it, you’re responsible for it.

The same thing applies to Jesus' General and good ole Rummy, the man who makes Peggy almost as hot as her man Dutch.

I'm beginning to think that Stanley Kubrick and Terry Southern are God. What other explanation can there be for these two?

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Poetic Justice

Uggabugga has one of his patented charts up showing how the unbelievable Evan Thomas Newsweek article frames the Rush pill popping story as the sad, sad story of a shy, retiring guy who's just looking for love in all the wrong places. I couldn't believe it either, and Quiddity very nicely lays it out in all it's vomit inducing glory.

Thomas sets forth Rush's excuse that he took these drugs for back pain as if it is a proven fact. But, he apparently never mentioned back pain to the housekeeper (although he did say his left ear was bothering him at one point) and the e-mails that are published don't ever mention pain. He doesn't say, "it takes more and more to ease the pain," or "I need at least 30 a day to get relief." What he says is "I want to go out with a bang, tee hee." or "They obviously go longer when mixed with the little blues, which I really like."

I simply can't dredge up any compassion for this guy no matter how hard I try. Being revealed as a drug addict, one who illegally purchased drugs on the black market --- many of which are obtained by stealing from people who really need the medication -- is poetic justice.

He has never shown one ounce of sympathy for the misfortunes of anyone, always chalking up whatever problems people have with weakness of character or laziness or the liberal culture of decadence. I doubt if he has ever in his life thought, "there but for the grace of God go I," always assuming that his success is attributable to his moral superiority, which also protects him from the vagaries that beset those whom he considered lesser beings.

This petty demagogue, who has done more than any single person to destroy the last vestiges of civil discourse in this country --- this purveyor of lies who transformed the stupid, corrupt fringe of hate radio into a mass media phenomenon and brought it into mainstream thinking --- this Goebbels of the modern, quasi-fascist Republican Party that now threatens to do to the country as a whole what it has done to our political system --- this weak man, this immoral man deserves everything that's happening to him.

It's called karma.

Oh, and Jonah, please feel free to use this as an example of leftist hate speech and lack of compassion toward Rush. And use this one too, if you like (although it might undercut your argument just a tad if anyone happens to read the excerpts of Rush's right wing hate speech toward old people who can't afford their heart medications.)

Yo Atrios

Don't give that extra money away. Spend it, save it or buy something for your wife who no doubt deserves to get something out of your blogging obsession. If she's not happy, you're not happy, then we're not happy. You see, it's really a selfish gesture, so you shouldn't feel guilty.

Of course, now that you're getting a fancy new laptop, we expect you to up your output from 20 hours a day to 22. You have no excuses. You can sleep when you're dead.

Monday, October 13, 2003


Ray Teixeira analyses the gallup poll data and evaluates how Clark might appeal to some of the very people we need to win the election. (His site, btw, is invaluable and should be read with regularity by anybody interested in serious scholarly analysis.)

It tracks nicely with my instinctive feeling about the guy, so naturally I'm impressed.

The Demographics of Clarkism

In the latest Gallup poll, Wesley Clark once again is the top choice of Democratic registered voters around the nation. Clark garners 22 percent support, compared to Dean at 15 percent, Kerry and Lieberman at 12 percent and Gephardt at 10 percent.

These results are similar to an earlier Gallup poll of September 19-21, so Gallup was able to combine the data from the two polls and run demographic analyses of the different candidates’ bases of support. These analyses are quite revealing, especially when comparing Clark and Dean.

While Clark receives more support than Dean among both men and women, his margin over Dean among women is just 3 points (16 percent to 13 percent), but an impressive 12 points among men (29 percent to 17 percent). He also beats Dean in every region of the country, but especially in the south (25 percent to 8 percent). Also intriguing is how well he does among low income voters (less than $20,000), clobbering Dean by 26 percent to 5 percent. In fact, Clark bests Dean in every income group up to $75,000. Above $75,000, Dean edges Clark, 26 percent to 25 percent.

In terms of ideology, Dean beats Clark among liberals, 24 percent to 18 percent, but Clark wins moderates by 24 percent to 11 percent and conservatives by 23 percent to 7 percent. The general picture, then, is that Clark does especially well, relative to Dean, among the very groups where Democrats have been having the most problems. That suggests to DR that the emerging Clark candidacy deserves very serious consideration indeed.

And there are other reasons, too, of course. Like Clark’s ability to raise a large amount of money in a short time period. Or his increasing success in connecting with voters on the retail level. Or that he may be able to generate considerable support from blacks, the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituency. Or, counter-intuitively, the very thing that has led to so much criticism of Clark from his Democratic rivals: he’s not a “regular” Democrat. He says he voted for Nixon and Reagan. He only recently registered as a Democrat. He’s said nice things about Republicans in the past.

The fact of the matter is that in today’s anti-establishment, pro-outsider mood–witness the destruction of Gray Davis and election of Arnold Schwarzenegger–these are probably all good things to have on a Democratic candidate’s resume. Swing voters who are dissatisfied with Bush and therefore inclined to look closely at the Democratic candidate will not be put off by Clark’s partisan heterodoxy; on the contrary, it will make it easier for them to see the Democratic candidate as an agent of change, not of the Democratic party’s establishment (as, say, Gephardt or Kerry) or of the liberal faction of the party (Dean).

This last is big, particularly in the South. Clark being a "Manchurian Republican" is primary campaign hype. His narrative "journey" to the Democratic Party is a powerful invitation to many who have been brainwashed by the dittohead crapola but are feeling the cognitive dissonence of Republican triumphalism/failure. Combined with the natural affinity of the cavalier culture with a succesful military man, Clark is the best positioned to edge out Bush in a few critical southern swing states.

On a grander scale I think he can win because he's got a look, a biography, a confidence and a story overall that serves as a metaphor for manly achievement and leadership --- the current obsession of the entertainment zeitgeist. If we can't get George Clooney or Michael Douglas to play the role, I'd say Wesley Clark has got the best chance of winning the hearts and minds of the giant studio audience we call the American public. And, as an extra added bonus, he can actually do the job.

Before everyone starts calling me a shallow-piece-of-shit-Clintonite-DLC-pig, please be advised that I'm a pissed off Democrat of the highest order, so Dean is da man for me as far as that's concerned. I love what he's saying and in a perfect world he'd be my guy. Indeed, according to the poll, he already is -- he wins with liberals in Democratic states who make more than 75k a year (or used to ...)

But, I am rather desperate that we keep these right wing zealots from doing any more harm and that means taking back the presidency in 2004 and immediately working on taking back the congress shortly thereafter. I believe that Clark has the best chance of doing that and these demographics illustrate why.

But, lest anyone think that I don't care about substance, I do support Clark for one major substantive reason beyond what I think is his electability. He's a rare foreign policy expert/intellectual with long military and diplomatic experience who's willing to enter the public sphere and do it as a Democrat. His thinking on the subject is completely correct, in my view, and that is one area in which the president of the United States (as we are seeing) really wields power and must exert control. This guy has the goods on this subject over any candidate in the race. He could re-shape the relationsip of the US with the rest of the world during a very challenging period and finally put to rest the left-over GOP red-baiting about the Democrats at long last.

And, if people are worried about Clark being too inexperienced on domestic politics, they should take heart that this is his weak point. When it comes to domestic policy, I just have a feeling that the Democratic Party can provide more than enough expertise. As an institution, we've forgotten more about successful economics and social programs than the GOP has blond fascist pundettes. I don't worry that he won't get the right kind of advice.

And, unlike our current president, he's actually smart enough to understand it and make a decision all by himself.

Inside Neocon Baseball

Pandagon's Rules

Apparently, the proper way to have handled Zimmer lunging at Pedro Martinez would have been for the Red Sox to head into the Yankees bullpen at the beginning of the game before anyone had done anything and then throw Zimmer down. Even though they hadn't threatened the Sox or Martinez to that point, their history with the Sox, as well as the clear and present danger Clemens had historically posed to hitters would have justified it. And if we find out that they weren't actually planning to attack Martinez, well, it's okay, because we'd have brought peace and prosperity to the New York Yankees.


From The Great Minds Think Alike Files

Holy Codpiece, Batman

The Great Tom Tomorrow (who does it much better)

Via The Great Atrios

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Can You Blame Me?

Matt thinks I'm a tad cynical. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...)

Maybe, but I'm not the only one. Read this by Todd Gitlin.

... with the respect Americans have long paid to the most efficient hucksters, since P. T. Barnum, they admire him [Schwarzenegger] for the style with which he pulls the wool over their eyes.

For all that his supporters may think they've outfoxed politics as usual, Schwarzenegger is "smart" the way any conventional politician is "smart": About his positions, he's said next to nothing. California has snookered itself, thinking it's defeated politics as usual. What it's done is ditch a blah celebrity in favor of a wow celebrity.

And so, once again, the Democrats reaped the bitter harvest of their own pallor and incompetence. As governor, Davis droned. As lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante droned. As campaigners, they droned. Neither shone. Neither made himself lovable. They gave lousy spectacle. In a world of stargazers, they were third-magnitude stars. And so they discredited politics.

Thus did the self-made demagogue spin implausibility into victory. Give him this: He struck a blow at dreariness. He pulverized doubt. He proved himself the king of demolition as self-help. Life's a movie, after all. Don't like the government? Go out and blow up some stuff. Nothing is real.

Just remember, it isn't only a "California problem." It's a national problem. And, it ain't going away.

[Schwarzenegger] campaign officials
now concede, preparations for his candidacy and especially for the remarkably successful strategy he would follow -- avoiding the traditional press and going straight to the entertainment media with vague messages and movie-style sound bites -- were laid as early as June, when they conducted a series of highly revealing focus groups.

The groups, put together in San Francisco and the conservative San Fernando Valley, almost unanimously described Gov. Gray Davis as indecisive, remote and beholden to special interests. Schwarzenegger was seen in a much more positive light; the participants were generally aware of the actor's involvement with the Special Olympics and after school programs in California. They also expressed less interest in policies and more in "leadership" when asked what it took to govern.

The focus group findings gave birth to one of the most audacious media campaigns ever waged, in which the candidate made an end run around the establishment media -- newspapers and the more serious television news shows -- and used talk radio, entertainment shows and televised daily events to sell himself to "viewers" (as voters became known to some inside the Schwarzenegger campaign). He presented himself as an outsider who, though light on detailed policies, was decisive, optimistic and forward-looking.


The most important element to me was striking the balance between policy Arnold and celebrity Arnold," said Dan Schnur, a Republican consultant who worked on Peter Ueberroth's short-lived campaign. "Schwarzenegger made people comfortable with the idea that he could govern. The lesson is that substance matters, or at least the appearance of substance."

In fact, Schwarzenegger sat down for more lengthy interviews with print journalists than critics believe, said Walsh -- 13 in 9 weeks.

But many of the articles that appeared seemed to have been influenced by the television coverage, a number of experts said, with much of the emphasis placed on Schwarzenegger's appearance and manner, rather than his comments on policy matters.

"What we were witnessing was a highly evolved version of a tendency already in place," said Schell. "The power of the entertainment media eclipsed the serious media. Nobody seemed to notice."

How about this:

David Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, noted: "We sometimes don't like to admit it, but acting is part of political leadership. Franklin Roosevelt once told Orson Welles that they were the two best actors in the country." He said that Mr. Schwarzenegger "has a window to do things that few others would have, but it'll close fast."


Mr. Reagan was a consummate pragmatist, but he was guided by fixed views. It is not yet clear whether Mr. Schwarzenegger is, too, but he has so far pursued his career goals single-mindedly, while reinventing himself periodically.

When asked, before he ran for office, what kind of governor he would be, Mr. Reagan famously answered: "I don't know. I've never played a governor before."

By the end of his presidency, he would confess there had been times when he "wondered how you could do the job if you hadn't been an actor."

Or (save me) how about this:

The 20-year-old voted for the first time because "this year it seems like your vote counts."

She went with the recall and was leaning toward Schwarzenegger "because he wasn't a politician," she said. "And I also really liked his wife."

But at the last moment, Richardson switched her vote to Green Party candidate Peter Camejo.

Now maybe we can completely change American politics in the next 12 months by running a sincere and earnest campaign based upon the issues and good old fashioned grassroots campaigning. But after last week, I am more convinced than ever that we will lose huge if we try that.

I admit that I'm cynical about how the process works these days. But, I also think I'm realistic. I'd like the Democrats to wise up and save this country from the radical right wing that holds all institutional pwoer in the federal government right now. And that will not happen by spending the next year deluding ourselves that the people in this country vote on the basis of 12 point plans and "Dingell-Norwood" bills.

Most people think that politics is an interactive reality TV show. We'd better be prepared to put on a good show.

Let's Roll

I have, at long last, added the following links to the blogroll. I'm sure that most of them are already regular stops. I urge you to check out those that may be new to you. They're all good.

My list is in no particular order, as you can see. This means absolutely nothing except that I dread alphabetizing the whole damned thing.

Smirking Chimp
The Hamster
Steve Gilliard
Whiskey Bar
Left Coaster
War Liberal
Suburban Guerrilla
Open Source Politics
Mark Kleiman
Mad Kane
Not Geniuses
Sasha Undercover
Crisis Papers
Easter Lemming
Bohemian Mama
Prometheus 6
Crooked Timber
Take Back The Media
Brief Intelligence
Book Notes

Update: I knew this would happen. I forgot some of the links I intended to include.
I'll add them for awhile as I think of them:

Prometheus Speaks
discourse.net (a law professor for our side)

Political Spann

Atrios is featuring an interesting Novak note (Via Cosmic Iguana) about CIA disgruntlement over the leak of Johnny “Mike” Spann’s name in the media in November 2001.

You do have to wonder if Novak ran his Plame story past the same CIA contacts who expressed such outrage over Spann. Why would they have such completely differing views on what should have been the same issue --- unless his CIA sources are not very well informed and didn't know Plame's status. (Then again, maybe Novak is a lying piece of garbage and never bothered to check it out with the CIA, always a possibility, considering his political bias and habit of believing traitors when they tell him what he wants to hear.)

There was a difference between the Spann case and Plame, though --- and not just because Spann was dead.

The CIA itself made the early determination that revealing Spann's name wouldn't compromise anyone in the field because of the kind of operative he was. This is from the NewsHour November 29, 2001:

TED GUP: I think Jim Risen is right in his read on this. I would caution that we not read too much into this disclosure. I don't think that it represents a sudden break with tradition or policy at the agency, a sudden rush towards revelation and openness. I think that the reason that his identity could be revealed was not only because it was somewhat compromised by the media, because in the past others have been outed, so to speak, by the media in life and in death. And the agency has not owned up to it. But in this case, I think he was purely paramilitary in his functions, as opposed to the sort of clandestine case officer working in an embassy who has a long-running relationship with foreign nationals, running them as agents, getting intelligence and documents and such.

So in this case, exposing his identity, I think, did not run the risk of endangering foreign nationals who are who were reporting to him. I think he was in country a brief time. He had only been at the agency for two years, and so I think they could afford to disclose his identity without those other ramifications.

Larry Johnson, angry Novak critic on the Plame affair, was also a big critic of the administration's admitting Spann's CIA affiliation. His fear in that case, was that Spann's family would be in danger from terrorists.

Here is the CIA’s official response to critics about the Spann revelation.

It is very interesting, though, that somebody leaked Spann's identity to the media and proceeded to turn him into the first military hero of the WOT, replete with Arlighton burial. Tenet was right out front in the beatification, most people believing at the time that he was desperately trying to salvage the CIA's tattered reputation after having failed to predict 9/11. We must remember that the Spann revelation took place only about 6 weeks after that day. The country was in a frenzy.

But looking back it sure reeks of the administration using the CIA for self-serving politics and PR --- much the same as the Plame scandal, if less dark and sinister.

Perhaps the best defense at this point for any leaker, if caught, is to say that since the administration had been leaking the names of CIA operatives since November, 2001 they just didn’t realize that there was anything wrong with it. It has been SOP from the very beginning.

And A Little Child Rode His First Pony, Too

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A powerful car bomb has killed at least 10 people outside a central Baghdad hotel used by U.S. officials, injuring many and filling the air with thick black smoke, police say.

Eyewitnesses said they saw a car crash through the security barrier at the Baghdad Hotel and explode. The hotel is widely thought to be used by members of the CIA, officials of the U.S. -led coalition, their Iraqi partners in the Governing Council as well as U.S. contractors.

A policeman at the scene said at least ten people had been killed. Hotel employees said five or six bodies lay in the hotel courtyard.

At a nearby hospital, a Reuters photographer saw more than a dozen wounded, many seriously. Several were Iraqi policemen.

Maybe we should all pitch in to sent the NBA refs to Washington and New York to teach the media how to avoid being manipulated by hectoring coaches into changing their calls. From what I'm seeing this morning, the kool-aid kidz are completely in the tank.

move along folks ...

Look! A family eating dinner!

Arroz con Idiota

Rice Fails to Repair Rifts, Officials Say
Cabinet Rivalries Complicate Her Role

This is a potent issue for the Democrats.

The problem is not just Condi Rice. In fact, it isn't really about her at all. It is about a president who doesn't know what's going on and who no one listens to or respects. His administration is awash in infighting and backstabbing and the result is, as the article says, a dysfunctional foreign policy that is incoherent and ineffectual.

The issue is leadership; the real deal, not the solid-gold dancer jumpsuit version. A puppet whose strings are being pulled in 5 different directions isn't a pretty picture. But, that's what's happening, and it's been clear that it's been happening for quite some time.


In Rice, "you've never really had a national security adviser who's ready to discipline the process, to drive decisions to conclusions and, once decisions are made, to enforce them," said one former senior NSC staff member. In particular, he said, "she will never discipline Don Rumsfeld" when he undercuts decisions that have been made. "Never any sanctions. Never any discipline. He never paid a price."


As the administration enters an election year, the situation has become worse, several officials said, because everyone understands that no one will be fired no matter how far they stray from policy.

These managerial questions have been especially acute on the administration's policy toward the three countries identified by Bush as the "axis of evil": Iraq, Iran and North Korea. In each case, officials said, the NSC has been unable to bridge gaps in ideology and establish a clear and consistent policy.

From the start, top administration officials have waged a bitter battle over policy toward North Korea. Powell has led a group seeking to engage with the secretive and isolated communist government; Rumsfeld and Cheney believe talk is useless and have sought to destabilize and ultimately topple the government. Neither side has gained the upper hand, resulting in a policy stalemate that has left allies and North Korea perplexed.

The two factions, convinced they had the backing of the president, have pursued contradictory policies, often scheming to undermine each other. Insiders said that Rice rarely kept on top of the intramural bickering, though she seemed to lean more toward the Rumsfeld/Cheney group, and at times recommended policies to the president that he later rejected.

The debate sharpened after North Korea acknowledged a year ago it has a secret nuclear program.

North Korea demanded talks with the United States, but the administration insisted that other nations be at the table. When China agreed in April to act as a host of the talks, some State Department officials quietly hatched a plan to have Powell give instructions directly to the head of the U.S. delegation, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, that would allow him to speak to the North Koreans.

When Kelly briefed members of the Rumsfeld/Cheney faction -- which opposed the talks -- they moved quickly to thwart him. Within four hours, State received instructions from Rice that specifically forbade Kelly from speaking directly to the North Koreans, officials said.

The North Koreans, stunned that they would not get a one-on-one meeting, refused to attend the planned second and third day of the meetings, held in Beijing, and the talks were generally viewed as a failure. To win a new round of talks, the administration reversed itself and agreed to bilateral discussions during a six-nation conference held in August.

Similarly, the administration has veered between talking to Iran on issues of mutual interest, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, and appearing to foster a revolt against the ruling clerics by street demonstrators. "Iran is an emblematic example of how this administration, when it is so deeply divided, just can't produce a coherent policy," said one NSC participant in interagency debates.

More than two years ago, the NSC began drafting a presidential directive on Iran that would officially set the policy. But the draft has gone through several competing versions and has yet to be approved by Bush's senior advisers. Rice has scheduled a number of "final" meetings to approve the draft, but consensus was never reached and the president never signed the document.

Thus, as the administration faces a showdown with Iran over its nuclear programs and needs its help in Iraq, administration officials can point only to a brief statement issued by the president in July 2002 as defining the administration's policy toward Iran.

"All too often what you've had in the last two years is diametrically opposed views between OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] and others, and then no decisions being made. A lot of stuff gets papered over," said a State Department veteran.

Rice's hands-off approach is most evident in the aftermath of the war with Iraq. Administration officials felt that the postwar effort in Afghanistan -- a diverse collection of nations doing assigned tasks -- had been inefficient and ineffectual. So the Pentagon was given the primary responsibility for rebuilding Iraq.

Yet, after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and his armies vanished in early April, signs quickly emerged that the Bush administration had not completely prepared for the aftermath. The early relief and reconstruction effort, assigned by Bush to the Pentagon in January, stumbled over such basics as staffing, transportation and communications. U.S. authorities sent inconsistent messages about Iraq's political future and proved unable to provide a clear vision to Iraqis or Congress of what the Bush White House intended.

"The NSC is not performing its traditional role, as adjudicator between agencies," said a State Department official, who described "a very scattershot approach to staffing and management. You never knew quite what you were supposed to be doing and with whom."

A U.S. official who served in Iraq said the NSC failed to make decisions about Iraq's postwar reconstruction and governance until long after the war ended. Decisions that some agencies thought had been settled were unexpectedly reopened or reinterpreted by the Pentagon, he said.

Even members of Rice's staff expressed frustration. The NSC and State Department staffers were stunned to learn, for example, that the Pentagon, with the approval of the vice president, had flown controversial Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi into southern Iraq after Bush had opposed giving Chalabi special treatment.

Some of Powell's key lieutenants, who had gone along with the president's decision to give the Pentagon the principal postwar role, were frustrated first by the Defense Department's refusal to include them -- and then Rice's unwillingness to intercede.

"Everything went back to Washington, where it became tangled up in the bureaucratic food fights," said the official who served in Iraq. "Absolutely everything."

Yet, the president responsible for this is mess is still seen as a strong leader, despite his falling poll numbers on individual issues:

Thirteen months before the 2004 election, a solid majority of Americans say the country is seriously on the wrong track, a classic danger sign for incumbents, and only about half of Americans approve of Mr. Bush's overall job performance. That is roughly the same as when Mr. Bush took office after the razor-close 2000 election.

But more than 6 in 10 Americans still say the president has strong qualities of leadership, more than 5 in 10 say he has more honesty and integrity than most people in public life and a majority credit him with making the country safer from terrorist attack.

Something needs to be done about that because that's a very large part of what people are going to be voting for. And once the Republicans get through with whoever the Democratic candidate is he's going to be bloodied and damaged, no matter how perfect he starts out. The failures of this administration have to be laid directly at the feet of George W. Bush or he and his war chest will win.

Friday, October 10, 2003

If You Have To Ask You Can't Afford It

Looking back over the last 6 months or so, I find that Rush, surprisingly, has a big problem with the government helping people with their prescription drug needs. Whoda thunk?

Back on March 17th, he had this to say:

Rosemarie Lowry, sixty-seven, of Braintree, who lives on less than 800 dollars a month, and takes medications for everything from high blood pressure to depression, said she was harassed by a Walgreen's pharmacy in Quincy when she said she couldn't afford her medicare copayments. She said the pharmacy gave her one pill from each of her ten prescriptions and told her she'd get her full thirty-day supply if she came back with the copayment.

The pill-a-day-approach continued for several days until the pharmacy just cut her off. At that point, Lowry said, she borrowed the twenty dollar copayment from a friend and got her medicine. "I need my prescription," she said, "It's not like I'm taking the kills-- pills-- because I like taking pills."

So we got a little game going on here. The copayment was fifty cents. They raised it to two bucks, but there is an out because there is a federal law: pharmacies must fill prescription even if the patient says they can't afford the copayment. My friends, can I just tell you the way this is too--

Copayment of two dollars means that these drugs are essentially free! Two bucks! Interesting that they -- don't ask this lady if she has any family members who could pay the two bucks. But -- even apart from that, in addition to Medicaid, the major drug companies offer compassionate care programs for those who can demonstrate they can't afford their medicines.

And these companies spend billion dollar -- billions of dollars a year on, in - in disbursing free drugs in hardship cases like this. So you come up with a law that says "uh [mumbles] if somebody says they can't afford a copayment, you've got to give them medicine anyway." So, the copayment goes up from fifty cants to two bucks, and all the patients have to do is say they can't afford it.

Can't afford two bucks? I'm telling you -- this -- this is like, free drugs!

Two bucks. It's just -- you -- you think the welfare system hasn't gotten out of hand? You think the sense of entitlement in this country hasn't gotten out of hand? What do you mean, I'm out of touch? Don't give me this out of touch. You mean to tell me that I -- because I can afford two bucks, I'm out of touch. Is that what out of touch means now? Because I can afford two bucks? Don't tell me this. I hear this out of touch business all too often. And it's a bogus charge.

And it's -- this is my point. This is how ridiculous this is getting. This is how serious the entitlement mentality in this country has gotten. People -- [unintelligible] -- two bucks copayment! That's all it is. For a prescipt -- two dollars. Well, can you buy a can of dog food for two dollars? You can't even say that I am faced with the choice
here of dog food or my prescription copayment. Cause dog food's more expensive than two bucks! We don't have dog food copays yet, but I'll bet ya to hell they're coming.

Dog food copays, just so Democrats'll have some hardship cases to demonstrate how it is the country doesn't care anymore about the seasoned citizens of America. Two bucks! Out of touch, my sizeable derriere. You know, [taps papers on console] [sighs] unbelievable. I'm -- I don't know what John Kerry's done. John Kerry's trying to figure out whether he's Irish or Jewish today. You know, it's saint Patrick's day today, and he's got a big identity crisis he's facing.

I don't know what John Kerry's doing about the two dollar copay, for crying out loud. [sighs] But, you see folks. This is -- what I mean. This is where this stuff starts. People are not now even willing to fork up two measly -- and don't give me this fixed income -- two bucks! Two bucks! It's -- it's essentially -- this is nothing!

You'd certainly never guess he was fucked up out of his mind on narcotics. Why, he makes just perfect sense...

And you can bet that right after this little koo-koo rant they cut to commercial and Rush immediately swallowed a fistfull of 20-dollar-a-piece little blue babies and washed them down with a frosty Pina Colada Slim Fast. No wonder he was pissed. Just the thought of $2.00 a pill drove him to madness.

See, Rush knows from prescription drug hardship. The National Enquirer published some of his alleged e-mails in which he was very, very afraid that he wasn't going to be able to get his "medicine" either.

100=2.5 to 3 days of the little blues[oxycontin] You know how this stuff works...the more you get used to the more it takes. But, I will try and cut down to help out. But remember, this is only for a little over two more weeks. Just two weeks....I understand your challenge and will do all I can to help. But I kind of want to go out with a bang if you get my drift. Hee hee hee.

He was going into rehab in two weeks.

Poor Rush. See, he deserved his "medicine" because he had a 250 million dollar contract to spew bile all over the airwaves condemning old people for not being able to afford their life-saving blood pressure medication. And, sometimes even that wasn't enough.

Damn. It's a sad, sad day when a fucked-up, filthy rich, Republican junkie propagandist has to lower himself in front of the help by promising to cut back on his Oxy just to keep his monkey fed. What's this world coming to?

Deep Thoughts

Just for the record, I would urge all 16 people who read this blog to read the testimony of Generals Clark, Hoar, Shalikashvili and McInerney before the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 29, 2002. (And pay close attention to the hostility of the Republican Senators toward all the generals except the kool-aid drunk McInerney. Dumb is much too kind a phrase to describe them.)

You will see that General Clark gives a highly nuanced view of the situation in Iraq and that he objects quite strenuously to some language in the newly drafted resolution --- with which Senator John Warner sandbags the generals by asking them for an opinion without giving them the benefit of seeing it before that moment.

It is fair to criticize candidates, and Clark is going to have to find his way through this kind of minefield, so I am not accusing anyone of unfair tactics. Indeed, criticism of Clark’s approach to Iraq is similar to the item that Kerry’s staff distributed about Dean’s “threat” to seniors. Dean explained that he was bluffing his Republican legislature in order to stop them from passing some bad legislation and it worked. Clark’s view (and many others’) on Iraq was that the congress needed to give Bush the tools to get the UN to make a similar bluff to Saddam.

Part of politics, war and diplomacy is playing devils advocate or bluffing your opponents. If you take a literalist approach you will find many odd statements by politicians as they attempt to finesse certain issues publicly. Politicians have to be able to deal with those accusations and frankly, Dean did it a lot better than Clark did yesterday.

But, the issue is pretty much the same. If you read this testimony, you will see that Clark accepted that dealing with Iraq in the near future was a done deal. He expressed reservations about that, but moved quickly on to the importance of multilateral rather than unilateral action, and he spoke at great length about the political risks both in Iraq and around the world of a badly planned post-war and the pre-emption policy in general.

If Joe Lieberman took this testimony as proof that Clark was unreservedly supporting the resolution, he was mistaken.

As I have written before, Clark made the rookie mistake of musing aloud to the NY Times and others about his hypothetical thought processes if he had been a Senator who was required to cast a vote. He allowed them to see him turning over a complex issue in complex terms, something they are incapable of conveying properly. Due to his belief that a resolution of some sort was required to get the UN on board, a very important goal in order to prevent Bush from setting the precedent of pre-emption, like may others, he found the issue challenging.

This was a big mistake. He should have simply said then --- and yesterday --- “I took the president at his word when he said he needed the Senate resolution to get UN backing to force Saddam to allow inspections and disarm. If I had known then that he was misleading the congress and the nation about his true intentions to go to war no matter what, I would not have voted for it.”

Unfortunately, Clark's going to have to learn how to dumb himself down like that if he wants to be a politician in 2003 America. He needs to smile a lot and tell people about what it was like to claw his way back from being seriously wounded in Vietnam. He needs to humbly admit that it was a privilege to personally command the mighty NATO forces to save the Muslims of Kosovo --- all without losing a single American life in combat. That is what sets him apart from the others. That’s his narrative.

His intellectual depth and integrity are (sadly) irrelevant (if not downright liabilities) except as they advance his personal story --- the up from the bootstraps, self-made man stuff. He needs to talk as little as possible about policy prescriptions and concentrate on his vision for America. He needs to get over any modesty he has about being a hero and a born leader. He’s a politician now, which means that bragging and whoring his story is the job description.

Wesley Clark is now in the entertainment industry, just like everybody else in politics.

Narrative Politics

From The Guardian:

But the key to the election of Governor Arnie is a phenomenon which might be called narrative politics. American electoral campaigns have tended to be driven by the theory of "retail politics": the candidate made as many speeches, shook the maximum number of hands, accrued the largest air-mile account as possible. Races were won by imprinting a face and a few simple policies through ceaseless repetition.

But, in recent American elections, the centrality of chapped hands and battered soles to a candidate's chances has been balanced against the quicker, simpler power of narrative politics. The victor was likely to be not the man who put in most hours but the one who told the most extraordinary story about himself.

Hence George W Bush - a notoriously indolent campaigner - was able to match the more assiduous Gore because his candidacy was a better yarn: a son following his dad into the Oval Office, a drunk sorting himself out, a child taking revenge on the administration that beat his father.

Previously, the election of the wrestler Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota was an extreme example of narrative politics - voters bored with the process waking themselves up with an unlikely plot twist - but even Clinton can be seen as a beneficiary of this electoral mentality. In 1992, the entry into the White House of a womanising, draft-dodging poor Southern boy whose father had died before he was born was simply a better story to tell history than the re-election of the patrician George Bush senior.

A rough rule of narrative politics is that the candidate whose life story makes the best Hollywood movie will win the race. Which is why Schwarzenegger represents the greatest triumph of the theory to date. In the past, narrative politics has had to be combined with retail politics: Clinton, like Reagan before him, had spent years shaking hands and practising legislation.

Schwarzenegger, who had done the retail part unknowingly in multiplexes over decades, relied during his campaign entirely on his narrative: his pitch. Beginning with the neatness that a man who had made a film called Total Recall should be competing in a recall election, his run for governor was such a bold and ridiculous tale that you kept thinking it needed a script editor.

Even apart from his own compelling back story - body-building to nation-building - there was also the B-plot that his marriage to Maria Shriver (niece of JFK and Bobby) also made the race a strange and wonderful pay-off to one of America's greatest political storylines: the Kennedys. The advantage of narrative politics is that weaknesses are reclassified as strengths. A politician who knows nothing about politics? What a premise. A leader who can barely speak an American sentence aloud? Such a gripping yarn. A candidate whose answer to the bankruptcy of California is to propose tax cuts? We sure want to stay and see how this turns out.

The paradox of narrative politics is that it is the very improbability of the campaign that gives it plausibility. In voting booths now - as always in cinemas - audiences will sacrifice coherence for surprise. This is democracy played by the rules of a Hollywood script conference and so, in this context, the coming of the machine governor ceases to be a surprise. Arnie may know nothing much about politics but he's a proven genius at the business of getting Americans to swallow preposterous propositions and outcomes.

I know it's difficult for us political junkies to view something we take very seriously in this way. But, I am convinced that it is a very important key to advancing our cause.

As a good friend of mine once said, "it's all about who you want to watch on television for the next four years." I used to think that was ridiculously cynical. But, with the ascension of Clinton, Bush and (mind-bogglingly) Schwarzenegger, I think it's obvious that there is merit in this concept.

Recognizing the power of this type of politics does not require that we choose candidates who are as vapid and empty as Schwarzenegger and Bush are. It just means that we must pick candidates who also have the story and charisma that modern media requires and be prepared to tell that story to the American people.

The framing of the campaign and the arena in which it will be engaged is likely to be chosen by the Republicans purely because of their natural domination, as incumbents, of the free media, their Mighty Wurlitzer and the period between the primaries and the convention during which Democrats are going to be financially dead in the water. We will probably be fighting on their terms, even though we will win on ours.

Whoever gets the nomination must appeal strongly on this narrative level or we will lose to a 300 million dollar advertising campaign in which steely eyed George W. Bush, underestimated all his life, is sold as having risen to the occasion when the chips were down proving his courage and fortitude in the face of the greatest challenge any man of his generation has ever faced.

Even if his show is getting less and less believable, people are not likely to switch channels unless they are guaranteed something more satisfying.

Thursday, October 09, 2003


Army investigators are leaning toward filing slap-on-the-wrist charges versus a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay who was investigated for espionage, a military source told the Daily News yesterday.

The "handful" of minor charges against Capt. Yousef Yee could be leveled by next week and are not expected to include the more serious allegations of spying, sedition or aiding the enemy, according to the source familiar with the probe.

"It's very weak," the military source said, saying the charges are likely to be related to dereliction of duty and disobeying a general order. "It's nothing compared to espionage or anything like that."

And, here I got the impression that Yee was this year's little Johnnie Walker Lindh.

Yee's arrest came six weeks after the arrest of Senior Airman Ahmad al-Halabi, an Arabic translator at Gitmo. Al-Halabi was charged with 30 counts of spying for Syria and Qatar, and his case touched off a broad espionage investigation at Camp Delta

Syria and Qatar. At Gitmo. Where we're holding the Al Qaeda and Taliban we captured in Afghanistan. Sure.

Is anybody getting the feeling that, with the exception of 9/11, every single thing connected with the WOT is complete bullshit?

Good News

I have to wonder why the news media are spending so much time covering the Kobe Bryant and Lacey Peterson cases without giving equal time to the many non-alleged rapist basketball players and happily married couples who've managed to work through their problems without resorting to violence? And, why is it that every time some crazy dude shoots up his office or an old man drives through a street market or an airplane crashes, the media rush to cover it without also showing footage of harmonious workplaces and good driving elderly and safe air travel? You'd almost think they believe that "dog bites man" stories aren't newsworthy or something.

Thank goodness we've managed to shame them into fulfilling their duty with Iraq, at least. Now, for every story of car bombing and carnage, huge street protests, daily military casualties and political chaos, we are seeing two equally important stories about a first grader going to school or a pick-up soccer game between a GI and an Iraqi. Life goes on (even for weird foreigners!) in the middle of a hated, chaotic, foreign military occupation. Now, isn't that good news?

The Reviews Are In

Charles Pierce:

I think I saw it Tuesday night. The deepest circle of Pundit Hell. It was on MSNBC. They were all on the beach, grooving on Arnold, their eyeballs moving in swoony arcs parabolic and anabolic at the very thought of the electoral pectorals then flexing across town. Chris Matthews was there, caught in an awful psychological conflict between the tattered threads of his vestigial conscience and the obviously painful nipple erections that this whole thing had been giving him for a month. Next to him was the lovely and batsh*t Peggy Noonan, less blonde than she was when she was fondling the feet of President Dutch, thoughtfully laying a finger upside her head while pondering how far a good Catholic girl would have to go to get from May Processionals to melting like the dew over a lubricious chucklehead who had not yet asked her if he could put his tongue in her more interesting Near Occasions of Sin.


I have no idea why, but I'm watching MSNBC. Chris Matthews is jumping on Jesse Ventura for saying that Arnold's a Republican and is therefore pretty much in thrall, in a lot of ways to the party, and that Arnold took special interest money, neither of which is particularly offensive.

From Matthews' reaction, you'd think that Ventura just dug up the corpse of Matthews' grandmother and started dry-humping it on a channel that people actually watch.

The farmer:

Chris lurches rightward toward Peggy who sits quivering, pitter-patter, like a fledgling bird in a spring wind, excited with expectations which challenge her cognitive dissonance. His large marauding paws grope for her pert heaving breasts and she welcomes his advances, submits, two hungry searching tongues quarry each others hot breath in the glimmering lambent light of the theater of the absurd - fireworks explode, the surf crashes and roars through the piles and pillars beneath the Santa Monica pier. Arnold Schwarzenegger is declared the Governor of California. Somewhere in America a predator falls upon its prey.

What is it about Chris Matthews' show that evokes images of bodice-ripping, drooling (and necrophiliac) ravishment?

Swoon Strategy

Matt Yglesias responds well to Michael Kinsley’s uncharacteristically obtuse piece on Wesley Clark.

For one thing, Kinsley seems to be contradicting himself here. Either Dean is "the one candidate who seems to be able to get people's juices flowing" or else people are "in a swoon" over Clark. It can't be both unless there's some subtle swoon/juice distinction I'm missing out on. More fundamentally, though, Kinsley doesn't seem to have considered the possibility that some of us are attracted to Clark not just because we think he'd be a good candidate, but because we think he'd be a good president

I don’t have much to add except that I think it’s absurd to characterize support for Clark as a “snub” of Dean. I like Dean. I’ll vote for him unreservedly in the general if he wins. At this point, I happen to believe, for a variety of reasons that Clark is the better candidate (not the least of which is that he has, in my view, a certain kind of starpower that makes it easier for the Democrats to compete against a 300 million dollar advertising campaign.)

Is it a strange new concept in presidential primaries to pick the candidate you think can win or did I miss the memo instructing us that the guy who is in 2nd place in the national polls is automatically anointed because his fervent supporters feel entitled to it? Frankly, this entire argument feels like deja-vu all over again. The McCarthy kids vs. Bobby's army. I really hope that doesn’t happen. It isn’t good for the party.

On a slightly different note, this article in the LA Times this morning makes for some interesting reading on the subject of early campaign shake-ups. Sometimes winning campaigns have some rough spots in the beginning and they manage to get beyond them and defy expectations --- even bringing over a lot of people from the opposing party.

Schwarzenegger had kept his decision to enter the race a surprise even to his political strategists. Offstage at the "Tonight Show," Gorton had stood with a press release in his pocket declaring that Schwarzenegger would not get in the race.

The surprise generated a huge media reaction, but it also got his campaign off to a flat-footed start.


Saturday, the day after his poor television showing, Schwarzenegger talked a reluctant Bob White, the former chief of staff to Gov. Pete Wilson, into running his campaign. Schwarzenegger had been chatting with White about politics for years, conversations that often involved the nature of government finance.

To make way for White, Schwarzenegger eased Gorton, a longtime Republican operative who had moved his family from San Diego to Los Angeles the previous year to help the candidate, into a more limited role as an advisor.

White immediately began hiring, tripling the staff in about a week, and he created a structure, with daily staff meetings at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The changes steadied the campaign but did not stop its woes. Campaign strategists largely kept Schwarzenegger under wraps, relying on proxies who hurt as much as they helped.


Two weeks in, the campaign's polls were showing a decline from the day of his announcement. And time in the short race was running out. "Every day was like a week, and every week was like a month," said Mark Bogetich, who did opposition research for Schwarzenegger.

The campaign lacked both a compelling theme and a field general. Over the middle two weeks of August, both problems would be addressed.

The theme came first. Over that first, gloomy weekend, the campaign's ad-maker, Don Sipple, faxed Schwarzenegger a memo, without telling Gorton, which outlined a populist argument that would become the campaign's centerpiece.

Schwarzenegger should portray himself as the "governor of the people," as contrasted with Davis' appeals to "special interests," the memo said. Soon phrases from the memo began appearing regularly in Schwarzenegger's remarks.

To resolve the field general issue, Sipple teamed up with White to recruit Mike Murphy, the Republican strategist who had successfully managed campaigns for governor for John Engler in Michigan and Jeb Bush in Florida as well as John McCain's bid for the White House.

Inside baseball types would have said that in a very short campaign these problems would have been fatal. And a lot of us would be saying it was immoral or something to call in seasoned pros to advise an outsider politician. Seems they got through it ok.

Commander Codpiece Lays It On The Line

Via Altercation:

Studies in Misplaced Confidence:

The Bush Administration on finding Osama Bin Laden in Central Asia: “We’re going to hunt them down one at a time…it doesn’t matter where they hide, as we work with our friends we will find them and bring them to justice.”
— President George W. Bush, 11/22/02

The Bush Administration on finding Saddam Hussein in the Mideast: We are continuing the pursuit and it’s a matter of time before [Saddam] is found and brought to justice.”
— White House spokesman McClellan, 9/17/03

The Bush Administration on finding the leaker in the close confines of the White House: “ I don’t know if we’re going to find out the senior administration official. I don’t have any idea.”
— President George W. Bush, 10/7/03

Rush To Judgement

Calpundit wonders about the baseball Hall of Fame's continued hostility to the admission of former Dodger owner Walter O'Malley. He notes O'Malley "won eight National League pennants and four World Series, was part of the original migration of the league west of the Mississippi, and built one of the beautiful ballparks in the country." He also played a large role in breaking the color barrier in baseball as an owner in the team that hired Jackie Robinson.

Ostensibly he will never be voted into the Hall because of the still simmering anger over moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to LA.

But really, isn't it clear that now that the baseball Hall of Fame has assumed its rightful place as an adjunct of The Party, resistance to O'Malley's admission is simply a rational response to the misplaced "social concern" of the 1947 Dodgers and the traditional fraternity of ultra-liberal sportswriters who were very desirious that a black player do well? The Hall may just agree with the correct sentiment that Jackie Robinson got a lot of credit for the performance of the Dodgers that he didn't deserve and that while it's impossible to remove the slacker from the Hall after all this time (the commie PC sportswriters do get uppitty) they can draw the line at admitting one of his do-gooder bosses.

Oh, and by the way, that's not a racist statement. It's just a very obvious observation by someone who isn't afraid to see the truth about the delicate politically correct world of professional sports.

Anybody got some little blue babies? I'm jonesing, Big Time

Pumping Up the Deficit

Bob Sommerby rails eloquently about the total irresponsibility of the press corps in continuing to describe the California budget deficit as being 38 billion rather than the 8 billion it actually is. He quotes numerous Schwarzennegger aides and spokesmen using that figure as well.

The reason for this is quite clear. Governor Schwarzennegger is going to rescind the car tax and then “open the books” and “end the crazy deficit spending” by reducing the deficit from 38 billion to 12 billion.

I’m sure that a few lone Democrats will show up on television to argue the figures, but they will be interrupted and talked over with a flurry of competing numbers and angry denunciations of partisanship. The hosts will quickly move on to the subject of how Schwarzennegger’s superior leadership skills were able to bring California together.

Everybody knows that Davis was recalled because of the 38 billion dollar deficit and soon everyone will know that Arnold Schwarzennegger, in less than 3 months, was able to reduce it by more than two thirds.

Thank Gawd we got rid of Davis. Think how many more hospitals, libraries and police stations would have had to close if Schwarzennegger hadn’t stopped the crazy deficit spending.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Dumbass Media, Dumbass Politics

There is some awfully good writing in the blogosphere today. Here, Jeanne D'Arc shares a searing portrait of her own personal brush with an Arnold-pig and how it made her feel --- the powerlessness and self-doubt that such actions provoke.

And, she points out yet another example of the extreme ignorance that permeates the media coverage of politics:

My angriest moment last night did not come with the announcement that a sexual predator was now in charge of my state, but earlier, when, on MSNBC, Laurence O'Donnell was making an interesting point about Gray Davis, which I think applies to all the Democrats progressives hate.

He noted that Davis took huge amounts of money from growers, but when an issue of enormous importance to farm workers came up last year -- giving them the right to mandatory mediation, which they needed to get around the growers' stalling -- he sided with the workers. Ultimately, even the worst of the corporate Democrats has the glimmer of a soul, which can't be claimed by the other side.

O'Donnell went on to point out that this time around it was Herr Schwarzenegger who got the growers' money, but he was struggling to talk over Chris Matthews, who snapped, "Who gave him more?"

The farmworkers? Chris Matthews thinks Gray Davis sided with farmworkers because they gave him more money than growers? Well, don't I feel silly. I've lived in an agricultural part of this state for more than twenty years, and I never knew that rich farmworkers were buying up our politicians. It must be all the money they save by living five or six men to one seedy motel room.

There were so many examples of dumbass commentary last night that any questions as to why the public voted for a groping, malicious, preening movie star were answered. Rank stupidity is a ratings grabber.


To those who are jumping on Clark for being a tool of the evil DLC, while also jumping on Clark for allowing "smart cookie" Donnie Fowler to go, be advised that said smart cookie is also one of the DLC Washington crowd. He worked on all 3 Clinton/Gore campaigns and his father was the chairman of the Democratic Party. He's not exactly a fresh faced internet activist.

It's entirely probable that Fowler has some other reasons for resigning that are a little less...romantic.

This is inside baseball crapola and at the moment, it is far more entertaining and worthwhile to watch the Red Sox and the Cubs try to defy history.

Clark's organizational issues will or will not take care of themselves.

One thing people really need to get a grip on about Clark's campaign is that any thought that it's going to be an up by the bootstraps grassroots effort like Dean's is kidding themselves. He's a different kind of candidate with a different approach. Perhaps it isn't as thrillingly participatory at the moment, but it has its own logic, timing and strategy.

I Sense The Rabble Is Getting Roused

I've often been accused of being a radical left wing rabble rouser, but the truth is that I am really just a very freaked out moderate liberal Democrat. This Republican Party has been giving me the willies since they used the nuclear option of impeachment. I've worn my tin-foil hat with some discomfort these last couple of years, with my "shrill" carping about the GOP being seen as slightly ...er...Krugmanian.

So, it is music to my ears to find Calpundit saying things like this:

So what's next? The California recall is just the latest in a lengthening string of naked power grabs that reveal the cankered soul at the top of the Republican party these days. Even leaving aside Florida 2000, we've seen unprecedented mid-decade redistrictings in both Colorado and Texas; campaigns that compare Democrats directly to Osama bin Laden; an indecent and truly morally bereft performance following Paul Wellstone's death; the end of the traditional blue slip rule for judicial nominees in the Senate — because control of both houses of Congress and the White House and most of the judiciary isn't enough for them; and the Valerie Plame affair, a scandal that, I think, is truly an "At long last sir, have you no decency?" moment.

And now this. Fighting Arnold or trying to recall him is hopeless, and we should forget about it. A recall would fail, it would engender a big backlash among California voters who are tired of the circus, and it would make the Democratic party look like obstructionists and crybabies.

But this has got to stop. We should be mad as hell over what's happening, and we do need to be willing to fight every bit as nasty as the Republican leadership is obviously willing to fight. It's pretty obvious they simply don't understand any other language.

But we don't just want to get mad, we also want to get even. And that means picking our battles. State and local action is important, and we should fight hard for every governorship and every congressional seat, all the way down to every city council seat. But — to kill a snake you cut off its head.

Texas-style Republicanism is the engine of the radical right today, and George Bush is its leader. He should be our target, not Arnold Schwarzenegger. So stay mad, stay mad as hell, but stay smart too. November 2004 is the next battleground, and evicting George Bush from the White House is our goal. Don't forget it.

Amen brotha.

Dark Wishes

Please, please read this excellent piece by Cary Tennis in Salon (who writes the best advice column ever) called The Moviegoing Voter

This election --- on the heels of the only slightly less celebrity driven win of the equally unqualified George W. Bush --- is a reflection of an abdication of citizenship and an entertainment addled collective id. As Tennis says, it will not make me sleep better at night.

I have been thinking for some time now about the appeal of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the appeal of an avenging hero from a foreign land who rescues us from our indolence and despair. I have been thinking about the visceral appeal of a terminator, the man of violence and certainty who will end things as they are and bring about a new world that looks as fresh and bright as the world of childhood. I have been thinking about Schwarzenegger as a man with the appeal of a violent Christ into whom all our sins of weakness and equivocation are poured in the form of punch cards: A Christ with special sticker options, a V8 Christ, a Hummer Christ who does not turn the other cheek but fires his weapon with the vehemence of Jehovah and the casual coolness of a gangster, who slaps around the whimpering, duplicitous and heartless -- actionless! -- gray father Davis who has unforgivably let the roof collapse on California, who has let Easterners and Southerners trick us and take our stuff, who in his pasty, wimpish impotence has failed to register even one pure, simple, masculine note of outrage at what he has allowed to happen, whose gestures are as cold and empty as the gestures of a department store mannequin, whose face is as unmarred as the face of a virgin, whose tactics seem the tactics not of a lion but of a lowly, cunning reptile, a snake or poisonous insect.


Tomorrow Belongs to Him

This photo from the Joe Weider Collection was published in the Sports Illustrated edition of December 7, 1987

The article linked above was written in 1991. We've elected an ruthless, fascist misogynist and the press has known all this about him for many, many years.

thanks to reader tomm for the link

Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

As I roll around the various comments boards this morning, commiserating with my brethren, I'm finding a rather disturbing strand of analysis that portends very ill for the future of the Democrats if this idea gets perpetuated within the party.

There is a strong and vocal group within our coalition that have come to believe that the reason the Democrats have come up short recently is because they are simply not liberal enough. If it weren't for the DLC and Joe Lieberman and, most importantly, the evil pernicious Bill Clinton, these people believe that the Democrats would be running the country today. Indeed, Gray Davis would have survived if he had not been such a tool of the DINO wing of the Democratic Party.

By golly, he got what he deserved for not being a true liberal and if he had been none of this would have happened.

This is followed by calls to action to purge the party of these nefarious centrists and moderates who have cost us our natural majority by playing to the middle.

I would be very interested in seeing the evidence to support this, particularly in light of the fact that the state of California, including 30% of self described liberals, just voted for a Republican who can in no measure be seen as more liberal than the man he replaced.

I have complained vociferously about the establishment's unwillingness to fight the Republicans and I am certainly supportive of the idea that consensus politics will no longer work. I agree that a change of tactics is necessary to defeat a very ruthless and dishonest GOP political machine.

But, everybody had better wake up to reality and wake up quick if they think that centrist/moderate Democrats should be drummed out of the party because that is the surest ticket to minority status for a generation.

Here's a little list of Democrats for you:

Tom Allen, U.S. Representative, ME Joe Baca, U.S. Representative, CA Brian Baird, U.S. Representative, WA Chris Bell, U.S. Representative, TX Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative, NV Marion Berry, U.S. Representative, AR Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Representative, OR Lois Capps, U.S. Representative, CA Dennis Cardoza, U.S. Representative, CA Brad Carson, U.S. Representative, OK Ed Case, U.S. Representative, HI Jim Cooper, U.S. Representative, TN Bud Cramer, U.S. Representative, AL Joseph Crowley, U.S. Representative, NY Jim Davis, U.S. Representative, FL Susan Davis, U.S. Representative, CA Artur Davis, U.S. Representative, AL Peter Deutsch, U.S. Representative, FL Cal Dooley, U.S. Representative, CA Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Representative, IL Anna Eshoo, U.S. Representative, CA Bob Etheridge, U.S. Representative, NC Harold Ford, Jr. , U.S. Representative, TN Charles Gonzalez, U.S. Representative, TX Jane Harman, U.S. Representative, CA Baron Hill, U.S. Representative, IN Ruben Hinojosa, U.S. Representative, TX Joseph Hoeffel, U.S. Representative, PA Rush Holt, U.S. Representative, NJ Mike Honda, U.S. Representative, CA Darlene Hooley, U.S. Representative, OR Jay Inslee, U.S. Representative, WA Steve Israel, U.S. Representative, NY Chris John, U.S. Representative, LA Ron Kind, U.S. Representative, WI Nick Lampson, U.S. Representative, TX Jim Langevin, U.S. Representative, RI Rick Larsen, U.S. Representative, WA John Larson, U.S. Representative, CT Zoe Lofgren, U. S. Representative, CA Ken Lucas, U.S. Representative, KY Denise Majette, U.S. Representative, GA Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Representative, NY Jim Matheson, U.S. Representative, UT Bob Matsui, U.S. Representative, CA Carolyn McCarthy, U.S. Representative, NY Karen McCarthy, U.S. Representative, MO Mike McIntyre, U.S. Representative, NC Gregory Meeks, U.S. Representative, NY Michael Michaud, U.S. Representative, ME Juanita Millender-McDonald, U.S. Representative, CA Brad Miller, U.S. Representative, NC Dennis Moore, U.S. Representative, KS Jim Moran, U.S. Representative, VA Grace Napolitano, U.S. Representative, CA David Price, U.S. Representative, NC Silvestre Reyes, U.S. Representative, TX Mike Ross, U.S. Representative, AR Steve Rothman, U.S. Representative, NJ Loretta Sanchez, U.S. Representative, CA Max Sandlin, U.S. Representative, TX Adam B. Schiff, U.S. Representative, CA David Scott, U.S. Representative, GA Brad Sherman, U.S. Representative, CA Adam Smith, U.S. Representative, WA Vic Snyder, U.S. Representative, AR John Spratt, U.S. Representative, SC Charles Stenholm, U.S. Representative, TX Bart Stupak, U.S. Representative, MI John Tanner, U.S. Representative, TN Ellen Tauscher, U.S. Representative, CA Mike Thompson, U.S. Representative, CA Jim Turner, U.S. Representative, TX Tom Udall, U.S. Representative, NM Robert Wexler, U.S. Representative, FL David Wu, U.S. Representative, OR Evan Bayh, U.S. Senator, IN John Breaux, U.S. Senator, LA Maria Cantwell, U.S. Senator, WA Tom Carper, U.S. Senator, DE Kent Conrad, U.S. Senator, ND John Edwards, U.S. Senator, NC Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator, CA Bob Graham, U.S. Senator, FL Tim Johnson, U.S. Senator, SD John Kerry, U.S. Senator, MA Zell Miller, U.S. Senator, GA Herb Kohl, U.S. Senator, WI Mary Landrieu, U.S. Senator, LA Joe Lieberman, U.S. Senator, CT Blanche Lincoln, U.S. Senator, AR.

The above are the national representatives who belong to the DLC. Notice the states they represent and then tell me that the key to victory is to purge these people (and their constituents) in favor of more liberal candidates.

19 of our 49 Senators are members. 74 of our 204 Representatives are members. They represent 37% of the Democratic coalition in congress.

That is not just a fringe group. These people don't subscribe to centrist thinking because it's cool. They do it because a rather large number of Americans do too. And even in a state like California, which is as good a Democratic state as exists, you find one of the Senators and many Representatives belong to the DLC. And again, it isn't for the wild and crazy slumber parties. It's because, as we've seen, even a Democratic state is not monolithically liberal.

Seeing the DLC as the reason for our troubles is simply the wrong analysis. That is not the problem. (If anything, it's the Republicans who have the policy problem --- they could not win if they ran honestly. And they're on the verge of crashing into that internal inconsistency.)

The Democrats' problem is one of tactics and strategy. We have been too complacent and too stiffly unresponsive to the modern politics of personality, public relations and advertising. We have consistently underestimated the power of Republican dominated talk radio (which I believe was hugely responsible for Arnold's victory yesterday.) We have been slow and sluggish in recognizing that we are in a new political era in which symbolism and image are going to substitute for serious dialog and in which substance is only relevant to those who are deeply engaged.

The problem has nothing whatsoever to do with the perfidious DLC or a legacy of Clintonism. Moderate Democrats are a fact of life and if liberals insist on turning this election into a refendum on purity or make it a "grassroots vs the establishment" battle, we will lose.

The Republicans are going to have more money than anyone can even imagine in this election. They will be spending it on everything from blanketing the airwaves with patriotic images of Junior at Rushmore to opening offices in every single precinct to get out the vote. If anyone thinks, after watching this debacle of an election here in California, that we can win without using every single resourse at our disposal --- and that includes establishment Democrats with experience and access to money and power --- then we are fools.

The lesson isn't that we aren't liberal enough. And, it's not that we are too liberal. It's that we are naive about the modern political landscape. That's what we need to change.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Why Bother?

If you are watching MSNBC and Fox this afternoon, it's pretty clear that Arnold has won. The exit polls usually tell the tale early in the day and if Matthews and Noonan are any guage (the first is grinning and spitting maniacally and the other is sitting by the shore with wave after wave of orgasmic anticipation rolling over her face) the recall has been a rousing success.

I plan to vote anyway, hoping that their statistical analysis is wrong, but I can see that they're pretty sure it's going to be a long night of Republican gloating. Tune in and join the premature party. We only have 4 hours until the polls close. No reason to wait.

My Gawd, these Republicans and their mediawhore cheerleaders have the grace and class of chest thumping neanderthals.

Update: I just voted. The lines were longer than I've ever seen them and the poll workers said it was a lull.

Something needs to be done about the press on this. I'm sure their ratings are very important and all, but they have behaved very irresponsibly since about 2pm this afternoon, completely unable to contain their excitement at what they believe to be a rout by their favorite groping misogynist.

If they can contain breaking news for an entire evening, teasing the story ad nauseum to get us to tune in to their regular news cast, they can keep their pie holes shut until polls close on election day. This one is completely out of hand.

Update II: Atrios reminds me that the Republicans were all atwitter when they called Florida 15 minutes before the polls closed in the panhandle. I wonder how they would have liked seeing the press having a victory party for Gore on television 5 hours before the polls closed.

Not a problem, I'm sure. See, that was in Florida and it took place three years ago and people were driving to the polls and it was a plot. This, on the other hand, is just old fashioned, shoe leather reporting.

Update III: Jesse has the perfect rundown of MSGOP election coverage:

Apparently, Ann "88" Coulter is going to be on the show, too. This brings the balance of confirmed conservatives/hacks/nostalgists for Germany circa 1938 to anyone left of Zell Miller up to 5:1.


Dirty Politics

Jeanne D'Arc says it all
Civil Intercourse

Via Counterspin Central and Atrios I read that gubernatorial candidate Georgy Russell claims she was roughed up at a couple of Schwarzennegger rallies.

I have no idea if it is true, but I can say that here in Santa Monica yesterday afternoon about 15 young white males with signs were standing outside Arnold's headquarters on 4th avenue shouting down some code pink protesters across the street in very crude and intimidating terms.

One man walking across the street shouted, "your guy is going down!" to which the honorable and dignified "Schwarzennegger Studs" replied, "he's not going down on you, you fucking faggot!" followed by more cries of "faggot, pussy ... etc." Then they literally goosestepped down the sidewalk. I'm not joking. I saw it.

So I'm not surprised that Arnold's followers would rough up a woman at a campaign rally. That's how brownshirt thugs operate.

Susan Faludi has an interesting take on the subject in this piece for the LA Times this past week-end:

According to the article, after Schwarzenegger had bedded the woman, he picked up a phone and, claiming he was dialing his lawyer to reschedule an appointment, asked her to take the receiver. It turned out the number he dialed was her husband's, and while she held the phone, Schwarzenegger yelled into it these words, cleaned up by The Times' censors: "I just [made love to] her! I just [made love to] her!" As Tina Turner would say, what's love got to do with it?

A Schwarzenegger spokesman told The Times that the episode with Peters and his wife was just a case of "locker room humor." Which actually explains a good deal of Schwarzenegger's appeal to male voters. He comes out of the testosterone-ruled world of weight rooms and action movies, where women are the designated observers and adorners, and where men find their place in the wolf pack through a well-established ordeal of hazing and humiliation.

The men who don't make it to the top in that world still have the compensation of identifying with the one man who does, as long as they don't identify with any of the women, as long as they don't "say nothing." They still belong to the pack, by virtue of being male.

No matter how much sand gets kicked in their face, they still can fantasize that one day they, too, like Charles Atlas, will do enough leg lifts to rise in the ranks. At a time of deep economic and international insecurity, the easy power of the bully boy is a siren call to the American male populace, as evidenced by President Bush's continuing allure to the very men whose interests are least served by his domestic and foreign policies. The locker room game works as long as only men get to play, and only as long as they agree to play by certain rules. One rule is that sensuality is verboten, but aggressive jocularity is not. Humiliating women in a "playful" way can signal a powerful rejection of "the feminine" and a powerful reinforcement of male bonding.

It is a very peculiar sort of sexual/cultural/political theatre we seem to be playing out in this country these last few years. Perhaps it's a reflection of the vast fundamental changes that have happened as women and gays have begun to become professional and social equals.

The resulting confusion and obsession with stupidity, coarseness and vulgarity on the part of sexually repressed white males (and the women who love them) in the political realm is the best explanation as to why people like Arnold and George W. Bush could become iconic masculine figures.

They are not, after all, real heroes. They pretend to be heroes --- one being a rich playboy who never had to work hard a day in his life and the other a vain fame seeker who spent his entire career wearing make-up and posing naked in front of a camera.

In fact, you could say that these two great manly heroes of the right are not manly at all. Bush, who refused his opportunities to truly compete in any traditionally masculine spheres, whether in sports, business or the military, has actually led the life of a wealthy socialite. Arnold, whose body has been the source of his fame and fortune, is little more than a beauty queen turned cheesecake actress.

But that doesn't phase the starry-eyed droolers of the right whose faith based philosophy permeates every aspect of their lives:

Republicans have seldom shied from an embrace of manliness. The New York Times recently ran a report on the new Bush re-election headquarters. It explained that the offices display two large photos: one of President Bush "sweating and looking rugged in a T-shirt and cowboy hat"; another of Ronald Reagan "also looking rugged in a cowboy hat." And all this was before Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to run for governor of California. Yup, that's the Republican Party.

Of course, George W. Bush is famous for his "compassionate conservatism." He is capable of great tenderness of expression, much of it related, no doubt, to his triumph over alcohol and his religious awakening. But Bush as hombre has been the dominant theme of his post-September 11 presidency.

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, likes to tell a story about Mr. Bush out in Iowa, early in the 2000 presidential campaign. A group of Hell's Angels rode into town, and Gov. Bush simply waded into them, hugging them, bonding with them, relishing them. Not every American politician could manage this, without affectation. Mr. Bush was also, in that campaign, known to have a much better time with the rough 'n' ready cameramen in the back of the plane than with the (much more effete) reporters who also accompanied him.

Was this written by Peggy Noonan? How about Kathryn Lopez? Kate O'Beirne of "Clinton couldn't credibly wear jogging shorts" fame?

Nope. This was written by none other than Jay Nordlinger on the Wall Street Journal's web site.

Can you hear the desperation in his words? The neediness? The deep and abiding desire to be part of that wolf pack? Indeed, it seems to be a desire so deep, and yet one so impossible for these men and women to achieve in any authentic way, that they have embraced a faux, fun house mirror version of masculinity so imbued with symbolism and phony iconography that it has inverted upon itself and become a parody of the manliness for which they yearn.

As a matter of fact, this Republican obsession with manliness is remarkably similar to the good humored, self referential, hyper-masculinity of the gay scene. A scene in which "cowboys" often "relish" wading into crowds of "bikers" and where body builders are the epitome of masculine pulcritude.

Not that there's anything wrong with that....

But, I think the least these goosestepping adolescents and breathless columnists on the right could do is stop pretending to be manly and brave when they are obviously refusing to face up to some very complicated feelings about their place in the world. And, I'd really appreciate it if they'd spare us the romance novel drivel about their masculine icons at least until either of them do one seriously manly thing in their lives that doesn't include cosmetics, daddy's money or sophomoric frat boy sexual behavior.

(Thanks to Dwight Meredith for the Nordlinger tip.)