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Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Final Word

I promise

From The Temple of Democracy, which with the SPLC, are the best online resources out there when it comes to the "southern heritage" movement and racial politics in America.

What Howard Dean doesn't understand.

It is not a new observation that the racial division between white and black working people in the former Confederate states has worked against them and enabled various elites to dominate both of them. Hinton Helper realized that the plantation system oppressed white non-elites before the Civil War. One of the fears of the plantation class before the Civil War was that blacks and whites would work together. You can read about this in "Towards a Patriarchal Republic: The Secession of Georgia," by Michael P. Johnson.

There were attempts for black-white alliances during Reconstruction, in the 1890s with Populism, and Mahon in North Carolina, and other times in the history of the South, and this has been an ongoing hope continuing to this day. However, it has been defeated, again, and again, and again. The trump card that the elites have played over and over is white nationalism. The convincing of white working people, farmers, that their interest lies in a common white identity rather than the common economic interest they hold with African Americans in the South. You can't defeat white nationalism by giving into it. You can't appeal to it and expect to defeat it. You also can't expect to beat the established interests in using it. They can always beat your appeal to it. You can't build an alliance on top of it. The established interests will bust it up with a stronger appeal to white nationalism than you will be willing to make.

To have a movement of ordinary people, black and white, against established anti-democratic interests, you need to defeat white nationalism. FDR thought he could build a progressive future by side stepping the issues. We now witness a party with its strength centered in the former Confederate states demolishing FDRs legacy one step at a time.

Why Imminence Matters

Or, one of the reasons at least. This may be the one that hits home with the public.

Matt Yglesias

"...the reason the Clinton administration was so focused on keeping the body-count super-low is that they were primarily involved in humanitarian "wars of choice." The standard of sacrifice that it is appropriate to ask of the military in such a conflict is different from the appropriate standard when the United States is responding to aggression or even, I would say, responding to a clear and present danger. This, however, is why all the talk about Iraqi weapons and whether or not the threat was imminent matters. We're taking casualties in Iraq like it was necessary to fight this war, at this time, in this way, with these allies or else seriously imperil America's national security. But it wasn't necessary, even if it did help out the people of Iraq and remove a long-term irritant from our foreign policy, only to replace it with a much more severe short-term one.

Monday, November 03, 2003

New Life!

Congrats to Mr and Mrs Kos on the birth of their adorable Bundle 'o' Joy, Aristotle Alberto. He looks like he's got the Democratic mojo already.

Bad Politix

I’m going to take another wack at this because the comments section from my last one won’t contain my response.

Howard Dean says: “White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back ought to be voting with us and not them, because their kids don't have health insurance, either, and their kids need better schools, too."

They ought to be, but they aren’t. And, for a good number of them the reason is pretty obvious. As David Niewert says in this post :

Why would the Confederate flag be an issue in northwestern Washington? Because it is a symbol of white supremacism for people well outside the South as well. This is why phony arguments about its meaning are only cover for the stark reality that anyone -- particularly anyone of color -- who is confronted by the flag knows all too well: The Confederate flag is meant to intimidate -- to trumpet the values of white supremacy. The "heritage" which it harkens back to is mostly rife with the charred corpses of lynched innocents.

Ok. I know that Howard Dean wants no part of that. But, it is inescapable that the confederate battle flag is a potent symbol of race hatred for some people and that it’s obviously not a symbol that the Democratic party should use or accept. And, rejecting the flag does not translate to telling all southerners they are jerks. After all, forty-five percent of white southerners vote Democratic and reject the confederate flag.

Dave Johnson says in the comments to my previous post that when Dean uses this language he is talking about getting poor white guys to vote for the Democrats. Of course he is. But, he’s also the guy who’s very likely to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States and I expect that person not to be a putz and use symbols and images that speak to beliefs that are completely at odds with the central values the Democrats have held fast to through “3rd ways” and “center-left realignments” and elections won and lost for the last 40 years. The only Democrat I know who might use the battle flag is Zell Miller and even he didn’t back Dean up.

As Sara says in the same comments:

I Assume Dean has a good point here, which he argued well at an earlier date, namely that the Symbolic Politics of identity had not gotten anyone health insurance or any other benefit -- and it was time for the Democrats to address all that. If this is his idea about how to do such, well it's pretty weak. It may be Dean is trying to prove he is not "politically correct" or one of the other points of opposition to liberalism, but it is unlikely to get him all that many votes from Molly Ivins "Bubba" and "Bubette" -- and it is going to hurt him among those of use who expect clear argument, and not just symbol chasing.

And, I would add that if you are going to use symbols and images to convey your argument to the masses (which I think is absolutely necessary in the modern media age) then you should certainly eschew associating yourself with negative symbols that the other side has created to sow division between the very people you are trying to bring together.

As for separating himself from the ranks of the politically correct, Dean already is perfectly positioned to do that. His “Sistah Soljah moment” would be to make a pitch for gun rights in front of the New York or California Democratic Party Convention. The boos that ensue from that would warm the hearts of pick-up driving swing voters everywhere and it wouldn’t have to be done again on the backs of a historically shat upon minority group who has shown this party nothing but loyalty. They already did their bit with the original Sistah Soljah.

Anybody who’s been observing politics for a while knows that this issue of how to attract white southerners is a big conundrum for the Democrats (although Ruy Teixeira would argue that we really shouldn’t worry too much about it.) But, the enthusiastic embrace of the flag as an election ploy by some in the comments to my last post on this subject (not Dean himself, mind you) tells me that the Democrats may suffer from a serious misunderstanding of who we can and cannot draw to the Democratic party.

Some commenters seem to believe that the issue of racial equality is a loser for Democrats so we are simply moving to a class based argument, just like the Republicans have been agitating for, for years. Pmac says that “most blacks are capable of sufficiently complex thought that says it's more self-interested to be divided by class than by race,” to which I can only observe that Ward Connerly has apparently been magnificently successful in making inroads in the democratic party even as we've been remiss in getting through to the pick-up truck crowd. I wonder, though, how African Americans by and large feel about this.

I do think it's pretty obvious that we can’t get the racist dittohead vote unless we tell our black voters to go fuck themselves. It’s a (southern) strategy to be sure, but I don’t think it’s a particularly good one even if it weren’t morally reprehensible. The fact is that we need to have an enthusiastic 95% turn-out of African Americans to go with our 45% of whites in order to win in the south anywhere, something that didn’t happen in 2002 and is widely considered to have been a huge contributing factor in our squeaker of a loss in the midterms. So, this is something we should be very sensitive to in this closely divided electorate.

But, even if we were to tell the African American consituency to suck it up, I doubt that expressing a wish to get more “white folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back” will ever draw many converts from the ranks of the right wing unless we are also willing to toss gay rights and abortion and a whole lot of other civil rights issues that virtually define the Democratic party on to the bonfire, too. That's the problem with capitulating in culture war battles. You give them an inch and they take a mile.

There are, however, many hard working white guys all over the country who just don’t want to hear about the damn flag or much of anything else about the culture wars anymore, from either side. They are concerned about losing their good paying jobs and their freedom to own a gun and the national security of the United States. They listen to Rush on the road from time to time but they think he’s kind of a blowhard and they voted for Junior but he’s starting to make them feel nervous. They believe in God but they don’t make a fetish of religion and they are just as sick of hearing people argue about that as they are of the pissing and moaning about the flag. They get teary when they hear the national anthem and yes, they drive pick-up trucks. But, as Gephardt shrewdly noted, they don’t fly the confederate flag, they fly the American flag.

They vote Republican because they think Democrats are weak. It is a matter of temperament, not culture. A lot of them were in or around the military and are comfortable with blacks in positions of equality or authority, and they don‘t give a shit about “southern heritage” symbols if they are going to cause trouble. They are sick and tired of hearing about race because it never seems to go anywhere. They like problems to be solved, not chewed over.

These guys are reachable for us from a number of angles, but we sure won’t gain any points by waving around the confederate battle flag on the stump. It looks patently phony, particularly coming from a Vermont doctor who signed the only civil union law in the country, and these guys are very sensitive to phoniness. And they are sick of the argument. The way to appeal to them is by reframing the culture war issues, not by clumsily evoking the GOP’s favorite divisive symbols. It’s not our style and everybody knows it.

Bush doesn't care about working people and has fucked up the Iraq war. We care about the working man and we will fix the situation in Iraq and deal with terrorism like adults. That is what will get these guys.

One final bone to pick on this issue.

Dean’s comment is one of those “process comments” that should not be on the campaign trail in the first place. It’s like Bob Dole blurting out that he was endorsing Prop 209 in California because it was a “wedge issue,” or Bush saying “I‘m gonna tell the American people that the nation is more secure.” If Dean believes that the Democrats need to appeal to “white folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back” then it is incumbent upon him to actually formulate a message that will do that. Merely expressing a desire to do it isn’t going to move the ball forward. Edwards has a great message on this, and I really hope that people are paying attention to what he's saying.

And, for what it’s worth, saying that my position on this is colored by my support for Clark is bullshit. I’ve been writing about the confederate flag and the southern heritage movement for a long time and my reaction has little to do with the primary battle. I would come down hard on Clark exactly the same way, for both moral and practical reasons. It’s bad politics, that’s all. This is not a realigning election and we will lose if we don't keep our base enthusiastically behind us and appeal to enough swing voters to keep the GOP from stealing it. Let's wait for a second term to start planning how to deprogram the dittoheads, ok?

I hope that Dean wises up and figures out what he really needs to do to win in the South. He's a smart guy and I'm confident that he can figure out some way to communicate without evoking divisive culture war images.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Freeing The Inner Incubus

Leah over at corrente points to one of those patented incoherent rants by everybody's favorite wing nut guest pundit, Cliff May.

In response to a Red Cross worker wondering why someone would attack the Red Cross he says:

What do the terrorists and their allies want? They want to get Iraq and its resources e.g. oil, weapons, cash, -- back into their sweaty hands so they can utilize them to further for their viciously destructive aims. They can accomplish that by killing as many all foreign infidels and their allies as possible, and by driving the rest out of Iraq.

That includes you, Ms. Doumani. You too, represent the hated Judeo-Christian West and it won't help for you to say you never eat at McDonald's and that you think George W. Bush is a unilateralist and uncultured cowboy. The fact is you're working for the Red Cross and people who remember the Crusades and the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols remember what that cross used to stand for.


The "terrorists" want to get Iraqi oil, cash and weapons back into their sweaty hands...

Well, the hell with that. Possession is 9/10th of the law. WE have the Iraqi oil, cash and weapons and we're not giving them back.

And, there's nothing in his piece to suggest that this worker said a word about McDonalds or cowboys. That image just seems to have appeared unbidden in his fevered little fantasy about nefarious Anti-American Red Cross workers with foreign sounding names. He just opened a little can of Bush Doctrine preemptive whoop-ass on her in case she might be thinking about maybe having a program or a desire to hate Happy Meals and cowpokes in the future.

And then he pretty much tells her that the "terrorists" attacked the Red Cross because of the crusades, and his tone suggests that he isn't convinced that actually isn't a pretty good reason to blow the shit out of them. Damn those anti-freedom fry, crusading blood hustlers anyway.

I gotcher Sackin' o' Baghdad for yah, right here.

I fear we are starting to see the re-emergence of that crazy ass, Linda-Blair's-head-spinning like-a-top thing that was so characteristic of even the more sober wingnuts during the Clinton years. Whenever things don't go their way they go all wild eyed and drooly start screeching like Joan Crawford in coat hanger factory.

Flagging Support

I know that Howard Dean isn't a racist, but I also know he isn't stupid so I'm having a hard time figuring out why he's said this confederate flag bit more than once. His vaunted campaign staff have let him down mightily if they didn't school him by now about what an offensive symbol the confederate flag is to the vast majority of Democratic voters and cautioned him to not say it anymore.

This will not do, and it's not just the flag thing, it's also that he accuses his rivals of employing the GOP politics of racial divisiveness by criticizing him. He really is the one in the wrong on this and he sounds like a Republican member of the judiciary committee himself when he throws a racism charge at the others in this situation:

a Dean spokesman called the criticism "a desperate political attack on the part of Governor Dean's opponents."

Spokesman Jay Carson said Dean was trying to explain that Democrats need to broaden their appeal to Southern men, who in recent years have voted Republican in growing numbers. Carson said Dean has been using the flag line since he started campaigning, and that his rivals misconstrued it as support for the Confederate banner.

Dean also released his own statement to clarify his comments.

"I want people with Confederate flags on their trucks to put down those flags and vote Democratic," he said in the statement.

"We have working white families in the South voting for tax cuts for the richest one percent while their children remain with no health care," said Dean. "The dividing of working people by race has been a cornerstone of Republican politics for the last three decades. For my fellow Democratic opponents to sink to this level is really tragic. The only way we're going to beat George Bush is if Southern white working families and African-American working families come together under the Democratic tent, as they did under FDR."

I'm more pragmatic than I've ever been about presidential politics, and I know that he wasn't actually endorsing the confederate flag, but antipathy to this symbol is embedded in the DNA of African Americans since the civil war (and liberals everywhere at least since the civil rights movement) so I can't quite figure out why he would think it was ok to use it. Appealing to racist sympathy, which is what the confederate flag symbol is really all about, cannot coexist with the Democratic party of 2004. It's not the same as supporting the NRA or being for free trade or once voting Republican. The issue of civil rights is the moral center of our party. It's not negotiable.

Sure, we must try to boost our appeal in the South, but we must be very, very careful never to do it that way. It's not only wrong, it wouldn't work anyway. For every yahoo who wudda, cudda, shudda voted Democratic if we accept the symbol of their (racist) "heritage," there will be 5 southern African Americans who will just stay home. Even if it weren't abhorrant on a moral basis, for Democrats, southern racism is a zero sum game.

If Dean meant to say that the party must once again appeal to working class and rural white guys who drive pick-up trucks (which is what I assume he meant) there is absolutely no reason to evoke that stupid flag. How about saying "working men who drive pick-up trucks and watch football on Sunday?" Or, "guys who drive pick-ups and wish they drove Nascar?" There are many, many more southern white men who don't feel the need to put a confederate flag in their pick-up than there are southern white men who do. Those are the guys we want.

I don't want to make too much of this (although I admit that I would be very hard on any Republican who regularly opined that he wanted confederate flag wavers to vote for him) but Dean has to stop using this image or risk developing a serious perception problem --- not just for being dramatically insensitive to racist codes and symbols, but as a mulish, my-way-or-the-highway, know it all.

That's what Bush actually is, but Karl Rove has the sense to know that he can't get elected if people see him that way. Neither can Howard Dean. A little humility is called for on this one.

Poor Bastards

You might call it blank-slatism. Colonized or occupied countries become prey to the philosophical imaginings and unrealizable political wish-lists of the home countries. Privatizing everything is a pretty hard slog at home? Let’s do it in Iraq where we control the whole show. School choice? Hey, teachers unions are nowhere to be found in Iraq. Let’s try it there.

Yo, Tom Friedman. Is this what you had in mind for spreading freedom and democracy in the middle east --- fulfilling every wet dream of a bunch of ivory tower think tank extremists who can't persuade Americans to drink their kool-aid? If it is, looks like you're getting your wish.

Good luck to the poor Iraqi people. They have been released from the yoke of authoritarian tyranny only to be placed in a neocon petri dish to be probed, prodded and experimented upon by a bunch of failed and discredited Dr Frankensteins.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

A Friendly Reminder

...lest we forget what we're dealing with:

Bush came to office after the closest presidential election in American history in 2000, and he is taking no chances in his bid for re-election.

He has vacuumed up about $90 million in re-election funds and is well on his way to his stated goal of $170 million. The money can only be used for the primary season.

Faced with no GOP challengers, White House and re-election officials say they will use much of the money for an enormous get-out-the-vote effort - the kind that helped Republicans win important races last year and take control of the Senate.

The cash also prepares Bush for heavy television advertising, though the money must be spent by the Republican convention that begins in late August in New York. The money will help Bush court Hispanics, Roman Catholics, union members and women, White House officials say.

Do not underestimate how very, very desperate these people are to remove that asterisk nest to Junior's name in the history books. All presidents want a second term. But, this one never got a legitimate first one and they know it. They won't go down easily.

We have to be very, smart and very realistic.

Heartless and Mindless

So, tell me again who the enemy in this war is? Female Iraqi physicians who fall in love with American GI's? Got it.

TWO US soldiers who marched down the aisle with Iraqi brides are to face a court martial.

"They've been formally charged with disobeying an order - no fraternising with the Iraqi people," said Vicki McKee, mother of one of the soldiers.
Her son, Sergeant Sean Blackwell, 27, married a English-speaking Iraqi physician, 25, in August.

They exchanged vows during a double ceremony with Blackwell's friend Corporal Brett Dagen, 37, and another Iraqi doctor in her mid 20s.

Both women had been working with US troops.

"How could they go to Iraq and not be friendly and fraternise?" Mrs McKee told the New York Post.

Now back to our previously scheduled program from Atrios featuring a letter from an aide to Paul Bremer who apparently believes that all the Iraqi people lived in caves and never even saw daylight under Saddam until we came along and showed them that they could walk on sidewalks and drink coffee and play cards and live, you know, life.

You'd think they'd be grateful enough that they wouldn't let their little doctor hussies marry our boys, though. That's taking "living life" just a little bit too far.

There is a war going on, you know.

Oh wait...not that there's a war on...you know what I mean...it's a liberation. But, that doesn't mean people are free to just like, marry anybody they want...that's fraternizing in a war zone...

never mind

Manifest Self-Delusion

All the Friedmanesque nonsense about American exceptionalism makes me want to lose my lunch. Wilsonian internationalism, liberal or neoconservative, has always had a santimonious missionary tone about American superiority that automatically makes it suspect in my eyes --- particularly when it has so often been hypocritically employed to excuse our worst impulses.

Should we stop genocide and ethnic cleansing? Yes. Should we not support authoritarian dictators on behalf of greedy American busnessmen? Yes. Should we work within international institutions to create global consensus on civilized behavior? Of course. Should we lead by example? If only we would.

Should we invade foreign countries and forcefully impose American style democratic capitalism because it is the best of all possible worlds and nothing could be finer?

Emphatically, no.

Here's a bit from Tristero, who says it much more eloquently:

American values never had, and never will have, an "exceptional" role in the history of the world, any more than Islamic values did during the great conquests that constructed the Caliphate, any more than Roman values did under Caesar, Augustus, and the others, and so on. America's dominance of the world is a contingency of history, not proof of the rightness of our ideals. Sure, democracy is a lot better style of governance than a theocracy or a Roman Empire. But the US didn't invent democracy and was only one of several countries and cultures that helped spread it. And today, it is inarguable that other democratic countries have fairer election systems and that other democratic countries treat both their individual citizens and their businesses in many ways that even the most gung-ho America lover would envy. And it is arguable - indeed it is a very common argument - that American economic rule is any better than any other country's for the citizens of a third world country whose economy we dominate. The number of monstrous dictators this country has accommodated, and still does, is shocking.

Manifest Destiny and other ideas helped justify American expansionism. Today, it has resurfaced in debates about America's "exceptionalism" and as part of the "mission" of the neo cons. As I'll show in other posts, about Woodrow Wilson and others, it is also highly influential in one strain of American political liberalism. To say the least, in a world which has overwhelmingly rejected Bush's overt attempts to impose an American empire through military force -and which will certainly continue to resist such attempts in many different ways- America will need to drive a stake through its narcissistic fantasy that it is "special" and its values are, or should be, everyone's. Aside from the fact that it is patently ridiculous to believe America is exceptional, there lie monsters (example: the embarassing absence of the important nations of Europe from the Coalition of the Willing).

To recognize that the US is simply one more country that is sometimes great, sometimes mediocre, and sometimes horrible shouldn't diminish anyone's love of country. In my case, if anything, it increased it. Suddenly, the phony impression I had of a bromide, perfect America was replaced by wonderment at the sheer scale of this country's achievement, both for good and ill. Suddenly, America became real. Because "destiny" is bogus teleology. But America's interactions with its world and the challenges of doing that well while honoring America's boundaries are profoundly exciting.

Exactly. We Americans benefit hugely from the great riches and opportunity that this (mostly stolen) land gave a bunch of immigrants cast off from all over the planet, and there is much to be proud of in what we managed to achieve. But, it is completely absurd to look at this country and not be able to see that we are a long, long way from perfection and that there is much we can learn from others, from history and ourselves. We aren't exceptional and we don't have to be.

The line between good and evil is within each human being, they are not characteristics of nationality or tribe. We don't have a monopoly on either one and neither does anyone else.

Clark's Rx

Kevin Drum discusses Clark's views on Iraq and points to this post by Phil Carter in which he says that he's impressed with Clark's vision but sees a necessity for Clark to get specific on strategy and tactics, and frets that it will be extremely difficult for him to implement his vision in any case.

Kevin doesn't think specifics are necessary because he is more interested in the candidates' instincts and judgements, and I happen to think that fixing the problem will be surprisingly easier once Bush is defeated, particularly if the campaign has been waged in open opposition to the Bush Doctrine.

But if Carter wants some specifics, I've got his specifics for him, right here.

Clark appeared on the newshour last Thursday and discussed this and more at some length:

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's turn to Iraq. More attacks today. There have been horrific attacks this week. If you became president tomorrow, what would you do to restore some sort of security there?

WESLEY CLARK: Well, the first thing I would do is get the big picture right. And what you've got is a regional dynamic in which both Syria and Iran are working consciously against the United States in the region because they believe that this administration intends to handle them next.

So that a U.S. success, however it's defined in Iraq, means that then the United States is free to put more pressure on them. So they don't want us to have that success so the regional dynamic needs to be worked inside Iraq. We would go immediately back to Kofi Annan at the United Nations and say let's talk again about what the United Nations or an international organization could do. I would remove that occupying power, that authority there. I'd put it under the United Nations or an international organization. I would ask the Iraqi governing council to take more responsibility for governing Iraq.

One of the things we want to do is we want to avoid the emergence in Iraq of more intense sect feelings. You have the Kurds in the North. They're armed; they kept their army. They're very concerned if the Turks were to come in. They're prepared if anything should go wrong in the rest of Iraq, they're prepared to say, okay, we have got our independent Kurdistan. You have the Shia in the South. They've never gotten really organized and they're not... they have not been traditionally as radicalized as the Iranian Shia population has, but they're organizing. There's a 500,000 man army of god in Baghdad. There's others and there's jostling for position and there's been some assassinations and assassination attempts in there. If that goes the wrong way, we could have real violence in Iraq.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's go back to something you just said, though. Are you saying that the coalition authority that Paul Bremer heads now, you would transfer that authority to the U.N.?

WESLEY CLARK: Yes, I would.

MARGARET WARNER: Would you retain U.S. authority over the military aspect?

WESLEY CLARK: Yes, you must do that. The United Nations cannot do the military piece, but I believe that you can put the United Nations or you can form an international organization as we did in the case of Bosnia to do the political development and the economic development, and you can take Halliburton out of the expanded nation building role it has and let it do what it normally does which is provide some of the logistics back up for the American troops.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. But are you saying you would do this because you think then that would encourage foreign countries to send serious numbers of troops to help?

WESLEY CLARK: I think you do it for three reasons. First, because it takes the United States off the blame line in the eyes of the Iraqi people and especially in the Islamic world. So now it's not a U.S. occupation. It's a lot of the different nations who are simply there trying to help because remember it's not only the international authority but you make the Iraqi governing council immediately take more responsibility. Then number two, I think it improves your chance of getting more significant, more immediate grant economic assistance. Number three, I do think it makes it more likely you'll get more substantial numbers of foreign troops.

MARGARET WARNER: President Bush said in his press conference Tuesday, we're not leaving, quote unquote, until Iraq is stable. Are you suggesting that the U.S. would ever leave militarily before the situation was stable?

WESLEY CLARK: I think we have to be very careful about leaving. We don't want to leave prematurely. We don't want Iraq to fall apart, but there is a window in there in which we've got the optimum chance for stabilizing and after which if we don't handle things right, it could go downhill and be counterproductive for us.

MARGARET WARNER: So when you say, as you said in the debate Sunday night, you said you want the president... let me get the exact words...you're waiting for the president, to quote, have a strategy to get out. What is your strategy to get out?

WESLEY CLARK: Well, what I do is first of all I've just described it. I put the international authority in. I reduce the influence of the U.S. occupying authority. I put the Iraqi governing council more in charge. I work for the constitution of the Iraqis in the long term. I keep the U.S. in charge of the security situation. I build up the Iraqi security forces. And I would... I do it all the same way we did it, let's say, in the Balkans. We put out a matrix. You said here's your political. Here's your economic. Here's your military. Here's what you're going to do this month, that month, so forth. Here's where you want to be. Here's your objectives. Here's how much it's going to cost. Show it to the American people.

MARGARET WARNER: Here's what I'm trying to get at. Do you agree, for instance, with the Bush administration that until the Iraqis have a constitution and a government elected under that constitution that they can't run the show themselves?

WESLEY CLARK: No, I don't agree that they've got to have a constitution. I mean it took the United States of America seven years after its independence to get a constitution finished. I mean, we started with the Articles of Confederation. So they may work for a long time on a constitution. We don't want to be there running the show in Iraq for seven years.

There are a couple of interesting things in this. First, in the big picture, I think he has pinpointed one of the biggest mistakes of this war in his remarks about Iran and Syria.

The most obvious example of the immature intellectual psychology of the neocons was the absurd idea that the "shock and awe" of this invasion would force the other countries in the region to cower and capitulate for fear of being next. ( Indeed, their reliance on swaggering trash talk and threats reminds me of no one so much as Saddam himself.) This was always a case where leashing our power --- showing cool, controlled international leadership would have been far more effective in keeping terrorists and potential nuclear powers on their guard than impetuously unleashing it for spurious reasons and thereby proving for all to see that we are not the omnipotent colossos that our superpower status implied we were.

America looks much weaker, not stronger, in the eyes of our enemies than we did two years ago when we invaded Afghanistan.

Clark points out in the interview that in the case of Iran and Syria we made a grave error in how we dealt with them after we toppled Saddam. In the embarrassing high fiving euphoria of our preordained military victory (over a 4th rate dictatorship we'd systematically weakened for 12 years) we let the neocon hawks loose in the region to threaten Syria and Iran even more forcefully than we had before. In doing so, we've given them reason to become more aggressive in these early days than they otherwise might have. It was stupid and useless. Had we shut the likes of John Bolton's pie hole for him, we might have been able to keep the Syrians and the Iranians at least off balance and wondering. Instead, we threw down the gauntlet and gave them every reason to get involved from the get-go.

The other thing he said that intrigued me was this:

...you can take Halliburton out of the expanded nation building role it has and let it do what it normally does which is provide some of the logistics back up for the American troops.

What did he mean by that? Is this a reference to the military privatization issue or is there more to it? I think the Halliburton thing is a good campaign issue --- it's one of those one word symbols that, I think, can speak to the working class voters who might swing our way. (Edwards has some good rhetoric on this.) I'd be very interested in what specifically Clark was talking about because the idea of privatizing the military by giving billions to Halliburton cuts right into the patriotic, pro-military image of the GOP.

As for Clark's ability to implement his policy prescriptions, as I've said, I think it will be possible for anyone other than Bush to get more international cooperation (which Clark, of all those in the race, knows full well can be like herding cats) and I agree that it is the single most important key to getting the Iraq situation on track. As long as it's America vs Arabs, we are fucked.

Clark is very well equipped to deal with the challenges presented by a fractious international coalition. Indeed he may be the most qualified American in the country to do that as President and Commander in Chief of the military.

Too Busy With Fundraising, Brush Clearing and Napping?

“I am the one who has to hug the widows and comfort the children.”

well, not exactly....

Increasingly, this proclivity on the part of President Bush to avoid the normal duty of a commander-in-chief to honor dead soldiers is causing rising irritation among some veterans and their families who have noticed what appears to be a historically anomalous slight.

"This country has a lot of history where commanders visit wounded soldiers and commanders talked to families of deceased soldiers and commanders attend funerals. It's just one of these understood traditions," says Seth Pollack, an 8-year veteran who served in the First Armored Division in both the first Gulf War and the Bosnia operation. "At the company level, the division level ... the general tradition is to honor the soldier, and the way you honor these soldiers is to have high-ranking officials attend the funeral. For the President not to have attended any is simply disrespectful."

Repeated questions on the matter posed to the White House over the past week earned only a series of "We'll call you back" and "Let me get back to you on that" comments from press officer Jimmy Orr.

This issue of Bush pissing off the military is potent. It goes all the way from the officer corp that loathes Rumsfeld's highhanded ways to the grunts who feel jerked around and disrespected. It's hard to say how deep this runs.

It appears to be a frustrating conundrum for Rove. This is a constituency of real importance to the GOP, but they are trying to to portray the war as going swimmingly, so they can't acknowledge the death and carnage --- and sacrifice --- being inflicted on American troops. It's quite a problem for a President whose success has depended entirely upon his Commander in Chief status.

Rove has succesfully kept the religious right from straying off the reservation (with the help of talk radio and cable news) but there is some evidence (anonymous ex-Delta force officers notwithstanding) that the military --- and the large swath of American culture that identifies with it --- might actually be in play. It's something to keep our eye on.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Worse Than We Think

This article in Mother Jones by Tom Englehardt offers one of the most thorough surveys of non kool-aid influenced commentary (including his own) on Iraq that I've yet read.

For instance, on the resistence's strategy:

At some level, complex as Iraq itself may be, the messages being delivered by a growing resistance movement possibly united only by its anti-imperial, anti-occupation views seem not so complicated. And they are sending us a message. As Habib of Baghdad University commented, "'They are picking targets for their media value,' he said, noting that the [al-Rashid] hotel is well known as the Baghdad residence of many civilian members of the American-led coalition, as well as some senior U.S. military officers." That makes sense to me. It may be that our leaders are living in their own tiny world, bounded by an imperial utopia on one side and a fearful descent into the Vietnam "quagmire" on the other, but the resisters in Iraq are living with the rest of us in a far larger world, however uncomfortably we all share it.

As was clear from al-Qaeda's September 11th attacks, we all, whether in LA, Washington, Baghdad, or Kabul watch the same movies -- this is one thing globalization means. It used to be that Americans worried about how "violence" in the movies and on television was affecting American children. Now, if you show a dirigible going into a football stadium, a kidnapped train loaded with explosives, a bus wired to a bomb, or... it's likely to be a global learning experience. And whether in the Bekaa Valley, the Sunni Triangle, or New York, everyone knows when prime time is and what TV news cameras are attracted to.

Don't think that only Americans saw that banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln that the President now denies was created by his own people. (Strange, don't you think, that he waited so many months to disavow it?) They know that the brag -- "Mission Accomplished" -- was his, however much he wiggles now. (See Bush Steps Away from Victory Banner, the New York Times)

The message of the most recent attacks in Iraq seems clear enough: Mission unaccomplished, get out! It's hardly more complicated than that. Get out of your hotel. Get out of your headquarters. Get out of the NGO business. Get out of town. All of you. No distinctions. No free passes. And we don't give a damn what you think of us! No one is going to be safe in proximity to the occupation, its forces and its administrators. No one involved in the "reconstruction" of Iraq is going to be safe. And no one who works with the Americans, foreign or Iraqi, is safe either.

The message clearly goes something like that. And with it goes a genuine political strategy. The United States is to be isolated as an occupying power, cut off from allies or helpers of any sort. Reconstruction is to be undermined and made ever more expensive, while the occupation authorities are to be provoked into acts that will only create more opposition. That this strategy is being carried out, as far as we know, without the benefit of an enunciated political ideology or issued statements of intent, that it is being carried out by people ready to die in cars packed with explosives and others hiding bombs at the sides of roads, that it is relatively indiscriminate (there's a message in that, too - don't even walk near those people) and cruel doesn't make it less a message or a strategy of resistance.

In fact, as Robert Fisk, reporter for the British Independent, pointed out in a new piece (included below), the message should be unbearably familiar to us: "You're either with us or you're against us."

There's more on political rhetoric, the Vietnam analogy, Wolfowitz's clownish tours, the emerging anti war movement, military morale, the WMD search and more.

We know a lot of this stuff, but it's amazing to see it all in one place. What a fucking mess.


Haloscan now up, so hopefully there won't be as much frustration with the commenting system.

I saved all the "Frame-Up" comments and will be working with them in a furture post on the subject.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Check this out.

It's an interesting project, and a thought provoking quiz. Obviously, people need to do a little self-assessment about foreign policy. The old divisions just aren't applicable anymore and it's part of the reason why the Democrats have had a hard time fashioning a cogent policy in the face of Bush's bizarre embrace of aggressive neoconservatism.


Lauching Nov. 1: e-thePeople’s American Choices

American Choices is an interactive self-assessment that helps users
understand today’s foreign policy debates. By taking a 12-question
survey,users get a sophisticated but accessible analysis of their stand on
foreign policy issues, and how it compares with that of others.

You can preview American Choices at:
American Choices.org


We believe that American Choices can help people cut through the highly charged foreign policy debate, and contribute to making our collective discussion less polarized and more informed. Our goal is to get 100,000 people to consider our foreign policy options through American Choices by the end of November. With your help we can do this through online media alone.


American Choices was developed in conjunction with the MacNeil/Lehrer
Newshour and By The People. It is available free of charge thanks to
a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Happy Days Are Here Again

I don't write a whole lot about economics because there are so many smart people in Blogovia who know a lot more about it than I do. But, I do wonder about these numbers they are touting every week and every quarter.

Perhaps I'm being paranoid in thinking that if the entire Wall Street establishment could be hoodwinked by a Texas snake oil hustler into believing that Enron was creating a completely new market that was too complicated for their their pretty little heads to understand, then maybe somebody could be cooking the books a teensy, weensy bit with these economic numbers. Or at least selling them dishonestly. (Nah. They couldn't get away with that.)

The Angry Bear, one of those smart guys, shows how "the BLS has magically discovered a way for jobless claims to drop week after week, without the number of jobless claims ever actually falling."

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Alternatively, they could just hang a sign saying "Mission Accomplished." That's a good one, too.

It makes me wonder about these rather, shall we say, grandiose productivity and GDP stats. I mean, c'mon. Are people really working that much harder and more efficiently, all of a sudden? Everybody I know spends every spare minute on line, talking on the phone or bitching about how they haven't had a raise in 2 years. hmmmmm.

I Love You Long Time

Atrios says it's no secret that the red-faced, spitting motormouth that Chris Matthews plays on TV is different from the real guy. It may be that a small percentage of insiders know that, but I doubt most of his viewers do.

Speaking at Brown University this week, the "Hardball" player told students that the White House's rationale for invading Iraq was "totally dishonest" and that the Veep "is behind it all. The whole neo-conservative power vortex, it all goes through his office. He has become the chief executive ...It's scary."

Cheney and the neo-cons saw in George W. Bush "a man who never read any books, who didn't think too deeply, and they gave him something to think about for the first time in his life," Matthews said, according to Rhode Island's Woonsocket Call.

Now why do you suppose that Matthews has conveniently neglected to share this particular view on his show?

This is why they are called mediawhores. It is not just an fun epithet, thrown around to insult them. It is an accurate metaphor for what they do. They sell themselves for access and ratings.

Chris had better buy himself a new teddy, though, because it's going to take some special attention to smooth over
this unfortunate little revelation that he does what he does for money, not love. His pimp had to bring him back into line.

A White House spokesman tells us Matthews' analysis is "disrespectful, totally false and irresponsible. Mr. Matthews has lost touch with reality. The President made the decision to go to war using the same facts as the previous administration and the United Nations, which judged Saddam Hussein as a threat to the region."

But, Bush loves you Chris, he really does. Now, get back out there and sell your ass.

Can't Wait Another Minute

Companies awarded $8 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan have been major campaign donors to President Bush, and their executives have had important political and military connections, according to a study released Thursday.

The study of more than 70 U.S. companies and individual contractors turned up more than $500,000 in donations to the president's 2000 campaign, more than they gave collectively to any other politician over the past dozen years.


Major contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan were awarded by the Bush administration without competitive bids, because agencies said competition would have taken too much time to meet urgent needs in both countries.

Except, in the case of Iraq, there was no urgent need to start the war in the first place and everybody knows it. If getting rid of the evil Saddam was the predominant reason for the war, as the current spin would have it, then the Iraqi people surely could have held out for a couple of months so that we could follow the law in awarding billions of dollars in contracts. There really was no rush, now was there?

There are a good many reasons why Bush and his think tank intellectual dreamers got us into this thing, from visions of Empire to revenge to breaking OPEC to kicking ass. But, this one really helps explain the ridiculous hurry. The corporations didn't get their tax cuts in the first term, and if Karl wanted to raise the obscene amount of money it's going to take to brainwash the public into believing that Lil Cap'n T-Ball isn't as incompetent as he looks, he had to give these guys a taste.

There was no threat, imminent or otherwise, but we rushed into war destroying every international relationship that stood in our way and coincidentally, had to hand out 8 billion dollars worth of no bid contracts to George W. Bush's top political contributors --- because there was no time to fill out the paperwork.


Wishin' and a Hopin'

Avedon Carol writes about liberal internationalists' unwillingness to recognize that continuing to support Bush's Iraq policy is actually harming the cause of Iraqi freedom. Even if you believe that they support the same goals, it is clear that they are untrustworthy and incompetent. Knee jerk anti-Saddam rhetoric aside, it's becoming possible that the average Iraqi is beginning to wonder if he hasn't been thrown out of the frying pan into the fire.

I don't get it. It reminds me of those stories about the guy who uncorks the jinni and you know whatever the guy wishes for is going to be delivered in such a way that it's the last thing he wants, but he wishes for it anyway. Like Godfrey Cambridge saying, "I wanna make 'em laugh," and instead of turning into a great comedian it's just that people laugh no matter what he says or does. So then he wants to be a serious actor and says, "I wanna make 'em cry," and he dies in a traffic accident and they all cry. What you want is for Iraq to be a free democracy, and you say, "I wanna invade Iraq and get rid of Saddam." And you don't get the democracy or the freedom or any of that, you just get the invasion and Saddam out of power because that's all you wished for. So now you wish for - what? For the Democrats to all fall in line and give George Bush whatever money he wants that he claims will go to the restoration of Iraq? Come on, you know you can't just write this guy blank checks. If you're not prepared to nail down those wishes in unmistakable terms so that what you want to happen will actually happen, maybe you just better stop making wishes.

I think that the Democrats have an excellent campaign argument to make here. When some FauxNews whore like Carl Cameron asks the "what would you do about Iraq," the answer is really quite simple.

They should say that the central Iraq policy problem is George W. Bush. He can't get essential international support because after the way he handled the run up to the war, with the insults and the lies, the rest of the world doesn't trust him. He can't run the occupation because he refused to listen to those, even in his own administration, who have experience in post war occupation and planned accordingly. He followed bad advice.

To solve the emerging problems in Iraq immediately, George W. Bush needs to fire his foreign policy advisors, every one of them, and go on a world tour designed to reestablish trust in America's motives and intentions. He needs to repudiate the Bush Doctrine, which has fueled the notion that the US believes it has the sole power to launch preventive wars and resolves to do so whenever it chooses, based upon modern intelligence techniques that we have just proven are completely unreliable.

If he refuses to do those two things, the only answer is to replace George W. Bush. That one act alone will completely change the international dynamic and immediately increase the liklihood of a renewed international effort in Iraq with both financial and military support. The world doesn't mistrust the United States, it mistrusts George W. Bush.

We have problem in Iraq because George W. Bush arrogantly and short-sightedly alienated the rest of the world. Unless George W. Bush personally rectifies that situation immediately, the only solution is to replace George W. Bush.

He thinks the world revolves around him and he's right.

Update: Sometimes I think I'm channelling others and don't even know it. Tristero discusses this same thing and links to Liberal Oasis who writes about it today as well. The consensus is that the answer to the question of what to do about Iraq is get rid of GWB so that America is trusted again by other countries and they will be willing to help us out of this mess that Bush and his cronies created.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Go Clark

"I think it is outrageous. He blamed the sailors for that and it is something -- an event -- that his advance team staged. I guess that next thing we are going to hear is that the sailors told him to wear the flight suit and prance around on the aircraft carrier."

Wes, it's shimmy into a skintight jumpsuit and prance around an aircraft carrier like a Chippendales dancer."

Ok. I guess you have to be a little bit more dignified. Still, great minds do think alike, eh?


Update: Here's the link. Doh.

Oh, Fer Christ's Sake

So, self-described stalker Donald Luskin has his lawyer threaten to sue Atrios (and not incidentally out him) because Atrios also used the word "stalker" in his blog post about Luskin's article “Face To Face With Evil” --- in which Luskin describes his stalking of Paul Krugman.

Irony may be dead, but Luskin et al are energetically committing necrophilia on the corpse. Oy.

Apparently, Donald Luskin (who in my opinion, is showing some signs of serious mental illness) believes that it is acceptable for him to call Paul Krugman "evil" but it is not acceptable for Atrios to call Luskin a "stalker,"a phrase Luskin used to describe himself. Oh, and let's not forget that Don was very offended, hurt and upset by the anonymous creepy people who said mean things about him in Atrios' comments section. It's just too much!

When, exactly, did the right wing become such a bunch of lame-assed pussies, anyway? These are the big, bad motherfuckers who are going to run the world? If this is any indication of how they take a punch, Jenna Bush had better get used to wearing a burka, because Osama bin Laden is going to be sitting in the White House within the next decade.

The whining, the crying, the wringing of the hands about "political hate speech," the law suits over hurt feelings, running away from interviews with a 5'2" woman because she was "aggressive," snivelling about "leftist homophobia" for making fun of the simpering drooling over Bush's "masculinity" --- it's all so pathetic.

We've got nothing to worry about folks. Limbaugh's in rehab because he couldn't take the pain and had to hide his illegal "little blue babies" under the bed so his meanie of a wife wouldn't get all mad at him, Bennett spent years furtively cowering behind the "Beverly Hillbillies" video poker machine at the Mirage so that nobody would recognize him, Coulter's having little temper tantrums on national TV because she's not being "treated fairly," and Junior travels with his own special pillow and can't even give up his favowit, widdle butterscotch candies for longer than an hour and a half.

All codpiece, no filling.

Top Secret GOP Campaign Theme revealed

I will defend my record at the appropriate time, and look forward to it. I'll say that the world is more peaceful and more free under my leadership, and America is more secure. And that will be the -- that will be how I'll begin describing our foreign policy.

shhhh. Don't tell the Democrats.

And by the way, everything in the whole wide world is about me, me, me, nothing but me.

You know, I was struck by the fact when I was in Japan recently that my relations with Prime Minister Koizumi are very close and personal. And I was thinking about what would happen if, in a post-World War II era, we hadn't won the peace, as well as the war. I mean, would I have had the same relationship with Mr. Koizumi? Would I be able to work closely on crucial relations? I doubt it. I doubt it.

That wudda been so sad cuz whenever he went tah Japan on a president trip he woodn't o' had his friend, cuz ther woodn't o' been the peace. Tank gunness we wun it or he wudda missed his special friend, 'n then he wudda been all alone in Japan.

andover,yale, harvard....

Greatest Hits

Here's some more of that good ole 60's deja vu vu. Remember that golden oldie, "Destroy The Village In Order To Save It?"

Here's the Hip Hop update by Grand Master Chickenhawk:

“Honestly, it’s a little tougher than I thought it was going to be,” Lott said. In a sign of frustration, he offered an unorthodox military solution: “If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You’re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out.”

What happened to "give peace a chance," my brotha?

Equivalency Exam

Is Lord Saleton really this stupid or has been tippling in the Madeira again?

He writes:

Four years ago, NATO's military commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, faced a similar barrage of pessimism from the press and from members of Congress hostile to President Clinton's war in Kosovo. The skeptics argued that our adversary, Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, had proven to be too mentally strong for us and that we should back off. Clark turned that argument on its head: By refusing to let Milosevic break our will, we would break his. Milosevic "may have thought that some countries would be afraid of his bluster and intimidation," said Clark. "He was wrong. … He thought that taking prisoners and mistreating them and humiliating them publicly would weaken our resolve. Wrong again. … We're winning, Milosevic is losing, and he knows it."

I never believed Bush's claim that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was essential to the war on terror. I'm angry that Bush continues to invoke that bogus rationale for the invasion. But the assassinations and indiscriminate bombings we're witnessing in post-Saddam Iraq really are part of the war on terror. We can't crumple under this pressure any more than we could have crumpled four years ago in the showdown with Milosevic. Bush is right, just as Clark was right: War is a contest of wills.

That's why it's so troubling today to see Clark join in the same self-fulfilling wave of determined pessimism and obstruction he battled four years ago. "This president didn't know how he wanted [the Iraq war] to end. He doesn't know what he's doing today," Clark charged in Sunday's Democratic presidential debate. "I would not have voted [for the] $87 billion. … The best form of welfare for the troops is a winning strategy. And I think we ought to call on our commander in chief to produce it. And I think he ought to produce it before he gets one additional penny for that war."

I don't know whether we'll win the postwar if Congress approves the money Bush asked for. But I know we'll lose it if Congress doesn't. That's what happens when a nation at war starts to think like the Wes Clark of 2003. Just ask the Wes Clark of 1999.

The analogy might be applicable if:

a) cruel dictator Saddam (like Milosevic) was still in power at the time the comments were made or
b) we were actually “winning the postwar” whatever that means or
c) the bombings and assassinations were proven to be part of the WOT.

The fact is that we already removed the terrible dictator and are now engaged in a guerilla war against Gawd knows who and we don’t have any idea if it has fuck-all to do with the so-called war on terrorism or not. It’s entirely possible that the people who are blowing up Americans in Iraq are Iraqis who (not completely unreasonably) see us as an enemy --- not because of Holy Jihad, but because we invaded their country, killed a bunch of people and look like we're going to be staying around and running things for some time to come. Just because Arabs are doing the killing doesn’t automatically mean that it’s Islamic terrorism. And, even if it is, since there wasn’t any Islamic terrorism in Iraq until we invaded you’d have to conclude that we brought terrorism to the Iraqis.

But sadly I think that Sir Evenhand might be making the braindead point that any assassinations and bombings are part of the War On Terror, in which case we have always been at War With Oceania … er, Terror. Bombings and assassinations were not invented Osama bin Laden. Why, now that I think about it, even the good ole US of A is a terrorist nation by that definition.

Any comparison between what Wes Clark said during major combat operations in Kosovo as the commanding general and what he’s saying now after 6 months of complete chaos in post war Iraq is absurd. You might as well say that if you ever defended any war then you must defend all wars because other than the fact that a bunch of guys in uniform were conducting some kind of military operations in a foreign land, the two situations are completely different.

Furthermore, Clark, unlike patriots Tom DeLay and Trent Lott during Kosovo, isn’t saying that America should just up and leave in the middle of combat. He’s criticizing the president for not having a plan, which is true, not having a firm attainable goal, also true, and for not producing a winning strategy, which is indisputable. He contends that the only way to get these things is to hold up the money --- the only power the congress has when it comes to foreign policy. If Clark had fucked up the Kosovo campaign as badly as this, you can believe that the Republican congress would have flayed both him and Clinton like a couple of dead fish.

Oh wait. They did. Only they did it in the midst of combat operations that proved to be tremendously successful within mere weeks, producing not one American combat death, and the lessons from which were thrown into the shredder when the big swinging Dick Cheneys came into office.

Saleton dutifully reported this at the time and now we see that he is doing his usual church lady superior dance by trying to stretch the Republicans’ laughably inept and silly criticisms of the Kosovo military campaign as equivalent to the ongoing worldwide condemnation of the Bush administration’s inept handling of the occupation of Iraq and the lies that brought us there.

He’s saying that Clark's stating he wouldn’t authorize 87 billion dollars more for an occupation that was billed as cost free and which the president seems to be running by the seat of his pants, without any clear strategy is the same thing as these comments made by leading Republicans during combat operations in Kosovo. (Interestingly, what they wrongly said about Kosovo has actually come to pass in Iraq:)

"Once the bombing commenced, I think then [Slobodan] Milosevic unleashed his forces, and then that's when the slaughtering and the massive ethnic cleansing really started," Nickles said at a news conference after appearing on Meet the Press. "The administration's campaign has been a disaster. ... [It] escalated a guerrilla warfare into a real war, and the real losers are the Kosovars and innocent civilians."

Nickles questioned the propriety of "NATO's objectives," calling its goal of "access to all of Serbia ... ludicrous." DeLay, meanwhile, voted not only against last week's House resolution authorizing Clinton to conduct the air war--which failed on a tie vote--but also in favor of legislation "directing the president ... to remove U.S. Armed Forces from their positions in connection with the present operations against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."

"I don't know that Milosevic will ever raise a white flag," warned Nickles. DeLay agreed: "He's stronger in Kosovo now than he was before the bombing. ... The Serbian people are rallying around him like never before. He's much stronger with his allies, Russians and others." Clinton "has no plan for the end" and "recognizes that Milosevic will still be in power," added DeLay.

Unless Clinton finds "a way to get the bombing stopped" and to "get Milosevic to pull back his troops" voluntarily, NATO faces "a quagmire ... a long, protracted, bloody war," warned Lott. Clinton "only has two choices," said DeLay--to "occupy Yugoslavia and take Milosevic out" or "to negotiate some sort of diplomatic end, diplomatic agreement in order to end this failed policy.

Cohen said it was "highly unlikely" that Clinton would meet with Milosevic in response to Yugoslavia's release of the three captured American soldiers over the weekend, since the Serbs were continuing their atrocities and weren't offering to meet NATO's conditions. DeLay called this refusal "really disappointing" and a failure of "leadership. ... The president ought to open up negotiations and come to some sort of diplomatic end." Lott implored Clinton to "give peace a chance" and, comparing the war with the recent Colorado high-school shootings, urged him to resolve the Kosovo conflict with "words, not weapons."

And here's my favorite:

And DeLay suggested that the United States should pull out unilaterally: "When Ronald Reagan saw that he had made a mistake putting our soldiers in Lebanon ... he admitted the mistake, and he withdrew from Lebanon."

Saleton says, “Bush is right, just as Clark was right: War is a contest of wills.”

Tell it to the 50,000 plus Americans who died in Vietnam and then ask them if that "contest of wills" made any damned difference. Not all wars are the same and this so-called “War On Terror” isn’t a war in any conventional sense, isn’t going to be won by conventional means and can’t be compared with conventional battles that were conventionally won.

Anybody who cannot see the difference between the success of the war in Kosovo (and the disingenuousness of the Republican “peaceniks” who opposed it) and this quagmire we’ve gotten ourselves into in Iraq, much less the ephemeral War On Terror is, as I wrote, either stupid or drunk.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Frame Up

A number of readers have written to me today asking if I’m familiar with George Lakoff, whom Atrios points to in this interesting interview, because I discuss this kind of thing quite a bit here on Hullabaloo. As these guys guessed, I’ve read much of his work and have been very influenced by it. He is completely correct, in my view, about the immense power of framing issues with language and image and his ideas about candidates as “identities” is right on the money.

If I have a beef with Lakoff it’s that the one frame he’s most known for --- the Republican “strict father” and the Democrat “nurturing parent” --- is one of the most unfortunate metaphors for the progressive cause that I can imagine.

It’s not that he’s wrong in his analysis, it’s that he’s used the wrong terms to frame it. (Yep. You heard me. I hereby accept the 2003 Shameless Intellectual Arrogance Award. Thank you very much.)

I don’t think it’s a very good frame to begin with because it isn’t honest. Let’s not pretend that the real frame isn’t “strict father” vs “nurturing mother.” The frame doesn't really make sense otherwise. And, rightly or wrongly, this frame makes the tension gender based, and in doing so it defines progressive leadership as female leadership, something that is an indistinct and still evolving archetypal image. This puts progressives at a disadvantage because people don't immediately associate women with public leadership just yet. That will, of course, come to pass in the not too distant future (I hope.) But framing isn't a matter for wish fulfillment. To work, it must be immediately recognizable. The fact that Lakoff didn’t use the obvious "father-mother" construction indicates to me that knew that this was a problem.

I do not mean to condemn him completely for the fact that his framework is being used to give Republicans an advantage. He has never suggested that Democrats use this as a campaign slogan or even a public identity and yet I read people all the time who think that this “nurturing parent/mother” image is a winning one for the Democrats. I think that it informs a lot of thinking about what issues on which the Democrats should run even when the political environment makes those issues far less salient than others, regardless of what polls say people care about. And, just because we are the “nurturing parent” party does not mean that the way to win elections is to pretend that the only problems worth addressing are those that can be solved with nurturing --- or that nurturing can solve every problem.

Lakoff says that the progressive worldview is:

“Children are born good; parents can make them better. Nurturing involves empathy, and the responsibility to take care of oneself and others for whom we are responsible. On a larger scale, specific policies follow, such as governmental protection in form of a social safety net and government regulation, universal education (to ensure competence, fairness), civil liberties and equal treatment (fairness and freedom), accountability (derived from trust), public service (from responsibility), open government (from open communication), and the promotion of an economy that benefits all and functions to promote these values.”

The conservative worldview, the strict father model, assumes that the world is dangerous and difficult and that children are born bad and must be made good. The strict father is the moral authority who supports and defends the family, tells his wife what to do, and teaches his kids right from wrong. The only way to do that is through painful discipline — physical punishment that by adulthood will become internal discipline. The good people are the disciplined people. Once grown, the self-reliant, disciplined children are on their own. Those children who remain dependent (who were spoiled, overly willful, or recalcitrant) should be forced to undergo further discipline or be cut free with no support to face the discipline of the outside world.

I believe that this is all true. But, I don’t like the “strict” and “nurturing” characterizations any more than I like the “Father” and ”Mother” dichotomy.

If it is necessary to frame the political divide in family terms, I might have done it as “rigid parents” vs. “conscientious parents.” The analysis remains the same, but the words don’t imply character traits that people automatically associate with strong vs weak leadership, but rather they connote negative vs positive leadership.

The word “strict” does imply discipline but self-discipline is valued by most people, even if cruel methods to attain it are not. And the word strict does not, as Lakoff seems to say, necessarily correlate to abuse and heartlessness in most people's minds. “Rigid” on the other hand, implies narrow mindedness and inability to admit error along with a severe, uncompromising temperment.

The word “nurturing” does exactly what Lakoff admonishes the Democrats to stop doing, which is play into the GOP framework. The right has been framing the left and right for many years as the "nanny state" vs "individual freedom." "Nurturing parent" and "nanny state" are too closely related. “Conscientious”, however, encompasses all the empathetic qualities that Lakoff ascribes to the left, but also implies a willingness to react with strength where necessary. A conscientious parent responds to hostile threats as well as well as cries for help.

Both traits are equally masculine and feminine, so there is no archetypal leadership image associated with them.

From a tactical communications standpoint, it is very important for the left to acknowledge that Lakoff is telling us that our current method of framing ourselves is as flawed as the way the other side frames us. (Indeed, I’ve just argued that the master himself has made a major error.) But, even if I agreed with his framework, it would still not be useful to merely parrot it and assume that it is a good tactical framework merely because Lakoff himself is a progressive. The point of all this is to frame issues in such a way as to persuade the undecideds and apathetic and at least some members of the opposition to agree with our side of the argument. That means we have to stop preaching to the choir all the time.

And framing alone is not enough. We also have to take into account certain realities about how people arrive at political decisions these days. It’s my observation that they rely on simplistic symbolism and image more than they have in the past, mostly because of the pervasiveness of the shallow celebrity culture and television's position as the epicenter of the American community. (I’ll elaborate on that in a later post.)

As Lakoff says in the article:

In the strict father model, the big thing is discipline and moral authority, and punishment for those who do something wrong. That comes out very clearly in the Bush administration's foreign and domestic policy. With Schwarzenegger, it's in his movies: most of the characters that he plays exemplify that moral system. He didn't have to say a word! He just had to stand up there, and he represents Mr. Discipline. He knows what's right and wrong, and he's going to take it to the people. He's not going to ask permission, or have a discussion, he's going to do what needs to be done, using force and authority. His very persona represents what conservatives are about.

I think this is right on the money. Schwarzenegger’s campaign rested solely on his scripted action-hero persona. In fact, this may be the first election in which all pretense of substance was completely abandoned in favor of purely manufactured Hollywood symbolism. The “crisis” that precipitated the recall wasn’t real, the ensuing voter “anger” wasn’t real and the winning candidate wasn’t real. The entire narrative was scripted as a loose form reality TV show in which the drama was pushed and prodded by the “producers” even though the outcome wasn’t preordained. It was “real” in the same way that “Survivor” is real.

As Lakoff rightly points out, this stuff is important and the Democrats are just not getting with the program. The other side is doing it with a tremendous amount of sophistication and almost unlimited financial backing. California is the most populated state in the nation and if it can happen here, a Democratic state, it can happen nationally. In fact, in many ways, election 2000 was an early version.

Meanwhile, many on our side seem to believe that there is something distasteful about framing issues and using symbolism and metaphor to win elections as if being unable to govern honestly is the natural consequence of using these communication techniques. This is wrong.

It is only a method to get our ideas across and make the American public see our candidates in a way they are comfortable with. There is no reason that politicians must be vapid in order that their campaigns and issues are communicated through positive framing, metaphor and symbolism. It’s just that the Republicans have such geeky, unpleasant politicians and policies that they have no choice but to pick people like manufactured movie stars or dynastic restoration figures as their symbols and then destroy the opposition with ruthless character assassination.

Here’s a little example of framing that worked for the Democrats. As much as any position on issues or rhetorical brilliance, Bill Clinton, for all of his wonkish intellect, won in 1992 mostly because he symbolized the changing of the guard from the WWII generation to the baby boom. The cold war was over; the boomers were middle aged and ready to take power. There were two important symbolic moments in that campaign, both of which Clinton seemed to instinctively grasp and where his natural gifts as a politician served him well.

The first was when he played “Heartbreak Hotel” on the sax with his shades on, an unprecedented act of post-modern presidential media coolness. The other was showing the footage at the convention of John F. Kennedy shaking a 17 year old Bill Clinton’s hand – an almost literal passing of the torch from the guy who inspired the baby boomers with an inaugural speech in which he said “the torch has been passed to a new generation.” It was brilliant. Clinton understood his historical moment and framed that election as Young vs Old, Change vs Stasis and he used his own quintessential baby boomer narrative (and all that that entailed, good and bad) to make that case.

The task for Democrats in 2004 is to recognize this historical moment and muster all the tools at our disposal to frame this election in our favor and nominate the most qualified candidate whose image and personal narrative best serves as a metaphor for the current zeitgeist.

I’d be very interested in hearing any ideas out there as to how people think their preferred candidate and this election generally should be framed, and what images, symbols and metaphors might be used to advance our cause. (I’m interested in long term solutions but since I believe that this election is critical, I think it's important to focus on that first.)

Any thoughts?

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.)