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Wednesday, May 14, 2003


As anyone who reads this blog knows, Operation Strangelove is an every night event here at Hullabaloo. But, tonight was a very special night in which the Artists Network held a screening of the Greatest Movie Ever Made in Battery Park overlooking Ground Zero, followed by "The Art of Dissent: Satire and Protest" Panel immediately afterwards featuring:
Janeane Garafolo (recent target of blacklist threats)
Art Spiegelman ("Maus", The New Yorker)
Jeremy Pikser (screenwriter, "Bullworth", "Reds")
David Rees ("Get Your War On")
Gene Seymour (Newsday film and Jazz critic)
representative from the Guerrilla Girls (who make their anonymous appearances in gorilla masks)
Moderator: critic John Leonard (CBS Sunday Morning, New York Magazine, Harper's, The Nation)
Nile Southern, son of screenwriter Terry Southern, and September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows will introduce.

Wish I could have been there. But, the hearts of Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellars and little old me beat here tonight on Santa Monica beach right along with them. Terry Southern, the "hippest guy on the planet" is sharing a laugh with all of us too -- stunned as we all are that fiction has sprung to vibrant life, resulting in dialog that, until recently, could only have been called satire:

"I'm not into nuance"

"And, does that mean you couldn't go in there and take a television camera or get a still photographer and take a picture of something that was imperfect, untidy? I could do that in any city in America. Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots, and problems, and looting. Stuff happens! But in terms of what's going on in that country, it is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over, and over, and over again of some boy walking out with a vase and say, "Oh, my goodness, you didn't have a plan." That's nonsense. They know what they're doing, and they're doing a terrific job. And it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here."

"This is still a dangerous world. It's a world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mental losses."

"There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive. All I'm doing is remembering. When I was a kid I remember that they used to put out there in the Old West a wanted poster. It said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive."

Even Terry couldn't have made this shit up.

Reality is Art and Art is Reality and don't ever forget it. If they can shut you down, they will. They always do.

Many thanks to the great Uggabugga, king of the graphic thunderbolt, for the tip.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The Hips vs The Straights

I would like to applaud TAPPED (a great blog, in any case) for correcting a common misapprehension about Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party. They cite Joe Klein's egregiously mistaken assertion in Time in which he says, "One could argue that the only winning strategy for Democrats in the past nine presidential campaigns has been camouflage."

TAPPED responds:

Bill Clinton wasn't a camouflaged liberal. He was a genuine centrist, who combined liberal views on some issues with moderate, even conservative, views on others. So was Jimmy Carter, more or less. The most successful act of campaign-trail camoflage during the past couple of elections has been that of George W. Bush, a hard conservative who ran as a center-right candidate. Yes, the Democrats have a weak field. But during the last few years it's been Republicans, not Democrats, who have had to hide their true beliefs on most issues to build a political majority.

Thank You.

Like most purveyors of DC conventional wisdom, Klein persists in seeing Clinton and Bush through his own psychological prism. The reporting about both Presidents says much more about the establishment political press than it does about either men. It’s not about politics. It’s about them.

Back in ’92, Klein and all the others were just giddy with excitement when they realized that the first baby-boomer (like them!) was going to be president. Instead of Guy Lombardo we had Fleetwood Mac, man! It was like being in college again. All night bull sessions, solidarity with the brothas, takin’ down tha man. It was finally happening. A liberal JFK kinda guy was coming to power and it felt good. (Of course, Clinton didn’t run as a liberal, but that picture shaking hands with Jack said it all, right?)

Then they woke up with a morning-after hangover to turn to the face on the pillow next to them and saw that, like them, he was actually a paunchy professional whose adolescent idealism had long ago been subsumed by compromising practical concerns and failed marriage and bloated ambitions and mid-life insecurities. He was a damned politician. They had projected their younger, better selves onto Bill Clinton and saw their older cynical selves reflected back. He was them and they hated him for it.

Klein says Bush, on the other hand, is “bold, decisive, uncomplicated, a man of real convictions who has not been afraid to take unpopular positions.”

This is how Klein sees himself today, cleansed of Clintonian complexity, filled with manly courage and moral clarity. The description bears little resemblance to Bush, however. TAPPED asks,

“Can Klein name a single issue on which Bush has taken a clear position that was deeply unpopular? On the most controversial issues, like therapeutic cloning, Bush has taken muddled, carefully-calibrated stands designed by Karl Rove. Where Bush has pursued a very conservative agenda, he has mostly been forced to adopt moderate rhetoric to shade over hard-right views.”

Klein is being purposefully blind and to such a degree that you can only conclude that he is unable to see Bush in a realistic light. To him, Bush is the anti-Clinton, the modern boomer – a playa, an operator, a winner. Like Klein. He has “a clever team.” (Like Ken Lay.) He’s a man. Like your Dad was a man. A 50’s style man.

Neither of Klein's CW characterizations bear any relationship with reality. Clinton had never been much of an idealist and Bush is not a man of real conviction. The first was always an ambitious politician driven to power and the latter is the glad-handing celebrity front man for a very powerful political operation. They are both products of their age, but not in the way the media perceive them.

This is another chapter in the long ongoing saga of the baby boomers and it isn’t going to end until the last one of us dies. It will forever be the hips vs the straights even though very, very few of us have consistently been one or the other. I figure the last one of us to be president will probably be 2012 or 2016. I don’t think the country would survive much more.

Stand By Your Man

I’m with Atrios on this:

Great, just what we need - non-stop nitpicking of the candidates by "even the liberal" TNR. Look, I'm not against constructive criticism but this kind of carping isn't exactly helpful. Besides, I thought that was EVERYONE ELSE IN THE MEDIA's role.

So, the Dems will get stepped on from the left over at the Nation, smacked into submission from the center by The American Prospect, and bludgeoned from the right by the New Republican - and that's the liberal media for god's sake.

I’ve also noticed this self-destructive impulse on the part of the SCLM, even the great Buzzflash, which finds it necessary to slam Tom Daschle every single day on something. Today the screaming headline is “Graham Blames Bush Iraq Strategy for Saudi Blasts. Daschle, As Usual, Waffles.”

C’mon. Daschle is a Democrat and a good human being and he's being savaged every day by the Republicans. Is this really necessary?

Josh Marshall wrote inThe Hill last week about the thuggish intimidation tactics that the national GOP and the Wurlitzer are employing on him in South Dakota, which should make decent people cut the guy some slack. The machine is using everything it’s got against him. They literally compare him to Saddam Hussein and then have the temerity to cry ”Unpatriotic!” when he does far less than these same people did when Clinton was in office. Trent Lott said “I can support the troops without supporting the President” but these Republican PoMo relativist hucksters simply turn around and say, “and your point is….?”

We know by now that it doesn’t matter what a Democrat actually says or does, he will be attacked via the Mighty Wurlitzer, if it is deemed useful to the cause and according to whatever script has been written for them. And we also know that appeasement doesn’t work and we want the Democrats to fight back. But, what we are failing to understand is that unless the Democratic Party from the grassroots to the elected representatives support politicians who do fight back, they cannot survive. Democrats win with collective power.

Via Salon magazine last month, look what happened when Tom Daschle came out blasting:

As the war abroad continued to escalate last week, the nation's leading Democrat requested help for someone else under attack: himself. In response to Republican criticism, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's reelection committee sent out an e-mail last Thursday to union presidents and other supporters asking for them to "take the time to defend Senator Daschle from his critics."

The e-mail, obtained by Salon, noted that after Daschle "criticized the Administration's diplomatic efforts, the conservative attack machine went into full swing."


The Daschle e-mail goes on to complain that the Republican National Committee, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, former Rep. John Thune, R-S.D., and their allies "put out scathing attacks on Senator Daschle -- going so far as to even question his patriotism." These criticisms, the e-mail stated, are being used by conservatives to "flood their rhetoric on talk radio and in news rooms across the state and country." It implored recipients to defend Daschle, who served with Air Force Intelligence during the Vietnam War, "as a veteran, a patriot, and the best friend South Dakota veterans ever had."

"Please speak out," the e-mail pleads. "This is important." Attached to the e-mail is a March 22 column by Beltway pundit Mark Shields defending Daschle.

Remember what it was that Daschle said?

"I am saddened, saddened, that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to go to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."

It’s perfectly ok for Newtie to say such things. He is, after all, a member of the Republican cabal that now rules the world. But, a Democrat is mercilessly worked over if he says…well, anything except praise for His Majesty, George W. Bush.

So, what happened when Daschle appealed to his supporters to speak out on his behalf?

Zippo. They left him hanging out to dry. He stood alone while everybody criticized his statement as well as his request for support.

One Democratic strategist saw the e-mail as indicative of a larger partywide problem. While Daschle's e-mail "might be kind of pathetic," the strategist said, "what's more pathetic is that his party doesn't stand behind him more." Daschle has decided to take on a more aggressive posture, "and is to be applauded for that, but the problem is that there's no supporting choir for him. At the DNC, the structure is not there, and the Senate is not known as a place of grand alliances -- especially when you have six guys running for president."


Frist spokesman Stevenson asked whether the "conservative attack machine" also includes a number of Democrats who, when asked for their views on Daschle's comments, begged off considerably, like Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., who on the day of the remarks said "there is plenty of time later to point fingers and to figure out what went wrong with what. But tonight is a night for us to unite our country and have our thoughts and prayers for our young people out there in the Gulf." Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said in response that "you have got to say that the blame for the war is Saddam Hussein's," as did former Sen. Tim Wirth, D-Colo., who said in response that "the failure is Saddam Hussein's."

Daschle's home state newspapers were harsher, Stevenson notes. In fact, the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader editorialized that "Tom Daschle was out of line" and "went far beyond what was needed"; the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan condemned Daschle's "fierce partisan rhetoric" and called for him "to elevate himself from that garbage at once."

Daschle consultant Dunn says that those taking issue with the timing of the Daschle missive need to address their reservations elsewhere. "In terms of timing," Dunn said, "this letter came following a period" when Daschle was attacked by Hastert, DeLay, Frist, Santorum, chair of the GOP House Conference Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., Racicot and Fleischer.
"Many of our supporters were saying, 'We want to hear from you, all these Republicans are attacking,'" Dunn said.

One Daschle advisor alleged that the attack originated at the White House and was done so for purely political reasons -- so President Bush could more easily pass his legislative agenda. "Clearly they recognize that since January of 2001, when the Senate was 50-50, that Senator Daschle as the leader of the Senate Democrats was in a position to heavily influence what happens to the White House agenda and they've made him their No. 1 target."

The Daschle brouhaha came toward the end of the filibuster against the federal appeals court nomination of Miguel Estrada, and just as the Senate was about to defeat the Bush initiative to permit drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It also occurred "right before Senator Daschle defeated a huge part of their tax policy," the Daschle strategist says, referring to last week's move by the Senate to cut Bush's proposed $726 billion tax cut to a mere $350 billion.

The Senate "is the only place in Washington they cannot just roll people." The Daschle strategist hadn't "a doubt" that this was a White House-coordinated effort.

The problem is not Daschle’s lack of courage. It’s the Democrats’ failure to stand together even though they know full well that the whole thing is bullshit and that Rove is playing politics. This non-stop criticism and derision of Democratic politicians’ character is only helping the GOP, and they are quite adept at assassinating the characters of Democrats without our help.

Addendum: On an unrelated note, this same Salon article quotes a Republican strategist who ran a campaign against Bush in the primaries (can you say Mike Murphy?) saying that the way to get to the Bushies is to “belittle them.” He offers nothing to back that up, but I think there may be something to that. Bush himself is thin skinned and the wing-nut pundits turn into hysterical old women when anybody successfully makes fun of President Codpiece. On the other hand, I can’t argue with Chris over at Interesting Times when he says “Never NEVER EVER take political advice from the opposition. In fact, pay attention to what they say you shouldn't be doing because that probably means they are afraid what you are doing might actually work.” So, take it with a grain of salt.

I see Kevin at Calpundit has weighed in this as well.

Working Class Hero

An irony impaired fellow in the comments section to this post, criticized The Farmer, one of the very best blog commenters around, for his assumed "Connecticut" liberal elitism in writing a humorous mash note to GW Codpiece stalker, "Jessica."

I had planned to respond to this fellow's post by prosaically stating that my only complaint about The Farmer was that he didn't post here enough.

I'm glad I didn't because The Farmer himself wrote a stunning autobiographical tone poem in response. Here is a taste. I urge you to read the whole thing:


Do you know anything about old timey drugs Mike? You will need to know some things about old timey drugs and guns and time clocks and crippling parasitic poverty to play spin the bottle with some of this crowd Mike. What do ya think Mike? Are you up for a wild ride on the frayed ragged edges of the rusty American dream? I can deliver you up a road trip through the American wheat field that will take the wrinkles out of you JC Penny Dockers, Mike. Take my word for it. Take my word for it again. I have been down the road and back. I have fucked the homecoming queen Mike. Have you ever fucked the homecoming queen?

And I have even sat myself down for dinner with members of the Bush family in a pretty tropical cafe on a pretty tropical island with twinkle lights dancing like stars in a canopy of sea grapes too...and I have read the collected writings of Robert Motherwell and Alvaro Muti and climbed to the top of the Washington monument and thrown sticks to a black dog in the surf at Muir beach. I have burned my own dining room furniture in a woodstove, for warmth following an unusual freak nor-easter, and bailed friends out of jail and sat in hospital waiting rooms as children were born. And watched the lights in the sky being sucked into a hole in the clouds from a Castilian style balcony overlooking a small town. Have you ever had to burn your dining room furniture for warmth in the cul-de sac, Mike?

Mike. I now buy my chickens from a rural Christian homstead family who lived in a tepee for an entire winter while they built their own home from scatch. (And an ugly contraption it is) But, who cares, they did it themselves and because they raise their animals humanely..I don't care what their fantasitical religious views are, and they don't bother me with em. Good for them and me. Oh Mike....you have no idea what is going on out here in the outback. Not a clue. Trailer parks..hahahahaha.. oh yeah, Mike, trailer parks across America are blooming with satellite dish enlightenment, Mike. Sure they are. When was the last time you were anywhere near one?

I once sat in a small boat on a lake on the Western Range of the Colorado Rockies, in the middle of what they like to call no-where, gliding on a lake as calm as melted glass and watched as tens of thousands of bats emerged from caves and descended onto that lake like starlings from an autumn sky only to clatter and flit by me completely unimpressed. While I watched dumbstruck. Tens of thousands of living things keyed, by God, or perhaps not, to go wherever they had to go....and to do what they had to do.

Anne Dillard once wrote this:

"There is a way a wave rises above the ocean horizon, a triangular wedge against the sky. If you stand where the ocean breaks on a shallow beach, you see the raised water in a wave is translucent, shot with lights. One late afternoon at low tide a hundred big sharks passed the beach near the mouth of a tidal river in a feeding fenzy. As each green wave rose from the churning water, it illuminated within itself the six - or eight-foot-long bodies of twisting sharks. The sharks disappeared as each wave rolled toward me; then a new wave would swell above the horizon, containing in it, like scorpions in amber, sharks that roiled and heaved. The sight held awesome wonders: power and beauty, grace tangled in a rapture with violence."

Think about that Mike. Anne Dillard is onto something there.

I am an American Mike.....I am like one of those sharks, roiling and heaving... forgotten America, Mike. I am working America, Mike....a scorpion in a watery amber glass. A tangle of life twisting in an illuminated wave rolling onto the beach of a new century. Tangled in some forgotten power and grace and horrible unrealized violence. So batten down your so called beloved trailer park hatches Mike. There may be a storm a comin. I'll leave it up to you to save us from oursleves.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Codpiece Redux

Seems I missed a couple of very pertinent details on the "Hottie" issue.

First, per Tim Noah, I find that the author of the WSJ piece, Lisa Schiffren, also wrote that famous speech scolding the fictional character Murphy brown, for having a child out of wedlock. She is a big believer in traditional values. As she wrote then (on behalf of pin-up boy Dan Quayle):

When we were young, it was fashionable to
declare war against traditional values. Indulgence and self-
gratification seemed to have no consequences. Many of our
generation glamorized casual sex and drug use, evaded
responsibility, and trashed authority. Today the "Boomers" are
middle-aged and middle-class. The responsibility of having
families has helped many recover traditional values.

Ultimately, however, marriage is a moral issue that requires
cultural consensus and the use of social sanctions.


It's time to talk again about family, hard work, integrity, and
personal responsibility.


I know it is not fashionable to talk about moral values, but we
need to do it. Even though our cultural leaders in Hollywood,
network TV, the national newspapers routinely jeer at them, I think
that most of us in this room know that some things are good, and
other things are wrong. Now it's time to make the discussion

A panting “public discussion” about lusting after another woman’s husband is apparently one of those “good things.”

However, it would be wrong to categorize her statements about how “hot”, virile”, “powerful” and “sexy” she finds the POTUS as hypocritical because she didn’t specifically say that you shouldn’t call President George W. Bush “hot”, “virile”, “powerful” and “sexy” on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Obviously, anyone who would construe from her statements about a fictional television show sending “wrong” messages about morality that making lascivious comments in a national newspaper about a married politician would be similarly wrong, are just trying to play “gotcha.” She never said anything about that. Publicly expressing your libidinous desire to schtupp the President of the United States is completely different than a fictional character setting a bad example. Completely.

And as to the codpiece itself, it has come to my attention from various sources, including Buzzflash, that the Flyboy in Chief didn’t release his parachute harness as any pilot would automatically know to do if he wanted to preserve his Top Gun.

Which makes me ask a question that has occurred to me numerous times in the last couple of years. How often have you ever heard of someone who qualified to fly fighter jets never flying a plane again? It’s a very special club. Yet, it seems that Junior never even flew a piper cub in the 30+ after he went AWOL. Odd.

It makes me wonder if he ever really checked out on jets. It takes a modicum of brains to do it and there is little evidence elsewhere in his life that he has them.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Santorum Whistling Dixie

I took a leisurely stroll around downtown Blogovia this morning and came across a number of interesting discussions. David Niewert, as always, has tons of good stuff on Orcinus, but I was very intrigued by his post on the Santorum flap and a succeeding one in which he responds to Richard Einhorn’s comments about how the gay rights issue is going to play in the election.

Calpundit, who has previously asserted his belief that this is a good social/cultural issue for the Dems, cites a Harris poll that shows a vast majority of Americans are supportive of gay rights in general. Niewert also demonstrates this in his examination of the voting patterns on various gay rights issues over the past decade. Using my personal rule of thumb, the free market of popular culture, it seems clear that gayness is no longer marginalized, particularly among the young, but also among middle class women and upper middle class people of both sexes. (You get this by observing television commercials on programs that treat gay issues positively or feature gay characters– marketers do a lot of research on demographics.) So, it’s obvious that there has been a sea change in attitudes.

Niewert posits the idea that the Trent Lott affair and the hesitancy in supporting Santorum’s actual beliefs, means Rove has made the calculation that he has to appear to have deep-sixed his bigot base in favor of more socially liberal suburban moms in order to win. (Einhorn agrees, also suggesting that this “wink-wink” strategy with respect to both black and gays is pretense, but may also be designed to appeal to Hispanic voters.)

This leads me to a very interesting post on the subject by the prolific J/Mac Diva on Silver Rights in which she challenges this conventional wisdom by examining various comments by those you would expect to agree but instead are sure that because of their stands on race and gay rights, the Democrats are the likely losers.

So, what’s really going on?

Back when Atrios was all over Trent Lott I did a bunch of research on the neo-confederates. Here we have a movement that claims it is all about their "southern heritage” and denies any accusation of racism. Their web-sites don’t use the “n” word and they try (and fail) to contain their hatred of African-Americans by bleating unconvincingly about history and ancestors and birthright, blah,blah,blah.

They hammer about affirmative action and highlight crime statistics and discuss the horror of a breakdown of American values and all the other unsubtle appeals to racism that we see throughout the Southern wing of the mainstream GOP. But, what you don’t see (and I’m not talking about full-on white supremacy neo-Nazi garbage) in the neo-confederate movement is no holds barred racist language. They have learned to use code words because even stone racists realize that it is no longer ok to spew their unadorned hatred in public. So, they go on and on about the illustrious history of the antebellum south and how special it all is.

But, strangely, I found that they also spend a vast amount of time spewing the most vile commentary about gays and lesbians. Who knew this was such a huge part of America’s Southern heritage? These confederate historical associations are so obsessed with the “gay rights” agenda that you can only conclude that the “threat” of homosexuality was the most hotly debated issue in the pre-1860 south. Why else would these benign heritage societies spend such an inordinate amount of time and energy detailing the dangers of the “gay lifestyle?”

Unless, of course, discussing gays and lesbians as if they are less than human is a convenient way of signaling your bigot credentials in all things. Then, it makes sense for these historical organizations to take a bizarre stand against gays, while proclaiming their mission is a simple desire to celebrate their heritage. Trent Lott broke the rules. Santorum didn't.

None of this negates Niewert’s central argument, which is that Rove is trying to woo two constituencies with completely opposing values, but it exposes Rove’s dilemma. Certainly, the anti-gay agenda is popular with the Christian right (many of whom are also neo-confederates.) But, he knows he cannot win without also placating all of his bigoted base and appealing to a fair number of suburban swing women. Therefore, the Democrats must hammer that wedge by associating the heinous racism of the neo-confederates with hatred of gays and lesbians – something that shouldn’t be too hard, because it is absolutely true. In fact, it is a conscious, Atwateresque tactic, but one which has outlived its usefulness in a closely divided electorate.

Democrats simply have to stop talking about “programs” all the time and speak in bigger terms. In this case, they must reach those suburban women who are their natural constituency on these social issues by using language of family, psychology and community. They need to say that "traditional American values" means the freedom to be who you are (a huge majority of Americans do NOT believe that they have the right to pass judgments on other people’s personal lives.) They need to say "Lott/Santorum" like it’s one word, over and over again. They need to remind audiences that every gay person has a mom and a dad and siblings and friends and co-workers, just like they do.

This is Oprah’s audience and they need to make an explicit appeal to them based upon their values and they need to speak in that Oprah language.

Karl Rove knows that his biggest problem is that his party’s philosophy is completely incoherent. If he can keep people focused on Bush’s codpiece and fear (or fear of Bush’s codpiece), he can eke out a victory. The Democrats have to attack along all of his fault lines. This is one of them.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

"Here's grace and a codpiece; that's a wise man and a fool."

I posted a little picture a few weeks back showing a woman in a red dress with a sign that said “W” is a Hottie. Lo and behold I get an e-mail the other day from the presidential groupie herself:

Hey Digby!
I am the so called "red stater" with the "w is a
hottie" poster. Where did you see it? I'm sure you were nowhere
within a hundred miles of someone that would support our troops and
our president. BTW- "W" IS a hottie! I would have hated to
see Al Gore in that flight suit yesterday. ; )


I didn’t reply. I thought it was sweetly…irrelevant. However, yesterday I realized that I had to go back and take another look at that sizzling million dollar moment when I read this titillating little piece in that bastion of right wing testosterone, the Wall Street Journal. GOP women are veritably oozing with admiration for the suddenly potent POTUS.

I had the most astonishing thought last Thursday. After a long day of hauling the kids to playdates and ballet, I turned on the news. And there was the president, landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, stepping out of a fighter jet in that amazing uniform, looking--how to put it?--really hot. Also presidential, of course. Not to mention credible as commander in chief. But mostly "hot," as in virile, sexy and powerful.

My goodness. It sounds like she needs a cold shower. I think maybe it's time to get out those old well thumbed National Reviews from the Clinton era. This kind of thing can get away from you in a hurry.

sexual passion is one of the most powerful and disruptive forces we ever encounter, one capable of inducing irrationality and self-delusion on an epic scale; and [that] it takes great effort, by individuals and societies, to channel anarchic lusts into civilized patterns of living : Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review Issue: Feb 8, 1999

Sadly, she seems to be a little bit unsatisfied with her own man, which I can only interpret as 60's style moral relativism. (And, what about her poor children? Is this the example that Republicans wish to set for their kids? This truly is too shocking.)

But a business suit just doesn't do it the way a flight suit does. In the course of this I peeked over at my husband, the banker. He was in his third month of reading a book about the Six Day War and didn't seem to notice.


The man uses overwhelming military force to vanquish a truly evil foe, facing down balking former "allies," and he is not taken seriously as a foreign-policy president. He out top-guns the Hollywood version, and all the media can talk about is the impending campaign commercial.

Some so-called men read books. Real men use overwhelming force. Oh baby.

Actually, the media showed the same enthusiasm for Dubya's high water costume as a bunch of 12 year old girls who win front row tickets to a Justin Timberlake concert. Pretty much like this woman.

Our lubricious scribe went on to interview some of her fellow deprived Manhattanites:

“He's a hottie. No doubt about it. Really a hottie. Why haven't I noticed this before? He looks so much better than Michael Douglas in that movie we saw," comparing the tired, indifferent megastar of "The American President" to the totally present leader of the free world.”


"I think he is actually protecting me and my sons, and I find that attractive in a man."

"Oh God, yes," she said. "I mean, that swagger. George Bush in a pair of jeans is a treat to watch."

Yeah, baby!

She admits that many liberal women find Bush revolting.

Many of them still cite Bill Clinton and his allegedly penetrating intellect as more appealing.

Liberals make such a fetish of intellect. But who cares how smart you are if you can't make a decision and follow through?

Damned right. What kind of a fetish is intellect, anyway? Now, form fitting military costumes with zippers everywhere or a cowboy hat and high heeled boots (or maybe, just for a treat, a pair of fishnet stockings and a little French apron…)

She begrudgingly admits that the oh-so-boring intellectual Clinton was sorta, kinda known for his “swordsmanship” (as she proudly claims Ronald Reagan was in his sexier, sentient days.) But, it wasn’t the right kind, you see.

I recall reading an extended colloquy about hip women having dreams about sleeping with the president. And then there were all the women who did sleep with the president. Or whatever. Sex. Not quite sex. Frustrating, bad, unidirectional sex.

Sexual frustration has obviously muddled the poor dear’s mind because, inexplicably, she goes on to say “After all, the era was ushered in by Gennifer Flowers "writing" in Penthouse about Bill Clinton's prodigious lovemaking talents…”

This squirming scribbler sounds like a woman who knows about such things as bad “unidirectional” sex. After all, she did work with Dan Quayle and William Kristol and her sad, flaccid, pin-striped husband is too busy “reading” to service his revved up Bushie.

The Clinton years must have been hell for these ladies. After all, Newt Gingrich is the reigning “swordsman” of the GOP and that is a sad, sad state of affairs (so to speak.)

Still, despite her completely transparent horniness she knows she must pay obeisance to Bennettesque pseudo virtue:

This was all, of course, demeaning, degrading, offensive to the high art of democratic self-governance--and highly entertaining. And of course the Bush people can't let their more dignified version of it get out of hand.

I couldn’t agree more. The President strutting around in a costume that (how do I say this delicately?) exaggerates the presidential package to such an unbelievable degree that one cannot help but wonder if somebody mischievously switched his with one from the “Anchor’s Away” revue at Chippendales, is certainly dignified.

But, perhaps this is all part of a cunning plan:

Legend has it that Edward III, king of England from 1327-1377, had the codpiece of his armor enlarged to astounding proportions because he had heard that strength and military prowess were correlated with a man's endowment. As he was in the midst of the Hundred Years' War with the French at the time, it would not be surprising that he would try to seek any possible advantage available to him. He then ordered that the nobility and knights do the same to their armor. The legend goes on to say that the gullible French (from the nobility all the way down to the peasantry) were scared to death by the advance of the "well-equipped" men.

Can anyone doubt that the dastardly French were similarly intimidated when they saw this:

A Cod-piece can fool them all
Make them think you're large
Even if you're small
Just be sure you don't fool yourself
For it's still just imagination
And to be sure it works like a lure
And will raise a wench's expectations
But have a care you have something there
Or the night will end in frustration

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Projection Prediction

Seeing The Forest makes this bold prediction and I am willing to bet my copy of William Bennett's "Witness To A Miracle: I Won More Than 8 Million Dollars Playing Slots" that he's right.

Democrats on Display

I guess I'm all alone in my impression of the debate last night.

I thought Stephanopoulos was a complete asshole in his vain attempts at out-Gotcha-ing Tim Russert and particularly by baiting the candidates (which they should have ignored) into slamming each other for the entertainment of the Kewl Kidz. This guy used to actually believe in something but now he is so invested in Washington whoredom that he didn't even care that since this debate would have no effect on his ratings he could have dropped the bored cynicism and just acted like a human being --- or even a Democrat and patriot.

However, I was not disgusted or repelled by the candidates, which seems to be the prevailing critique. I was actually kind of confused by the fact that I was hearing Democrats speak about issues for 90 minutes without having to listen to canned 20 minute rebuttals from each of the same neocon think tank robots, or watch them be repeatedly interrupted by some puffy lipped, botoxed Alpha Girl who prefaces every sentence with "Considering this President's enormous ...uh... popularity, what makes you think you can ....."

It's very early and almost nothing really counts right now; it's like the first game of spring training. We don't know yet how events are going to affect us or the other team. We've barely glimpsed the possibilities. But, I came away with some preliminary thoughts about how the primary campaign might shape our agenda.

I think the candidates well represent the spectrum of the party from liberal Kucinich to conservative Lieberman. Some of them are surprising. Sharpton, for instance, was glib and rhetorically effective. He has a way of making verbal connections and using humor that the other guys should study. Lieberman made a straight out case for electibility in the general, which I thought was odd coming from a politician who prides himself on his rectitude and integrity. It made it look as if he may have opportunistically taken his positions for (gasp) political reasons. A very strategic argument, coming from somebody like him. Odd.

Gephardt made a huge gamble on a big plan and threw health care right on the table as a big campaign issue. He made what sounded to me like a good practical argument by pointing out that his plan would not be opposed by the "Harry and Louise" special interests so it might actually...pass. He is a pro, maybe too much so, but good at explaining a complicated issue in plain terms.

The biggest surprise to me was Edwards who has fashioned for himself a fresh Democratic image with a traditional Democratic message. Using his trial lawyer credentials, he is positioning himself as an anti-corporate populist with what seems to be developing as a fairly strong critique of Bush's foreign policy of unilateralism and failure of follow through. He's betting on the Enron analogy. I happen to think that is one of the strongest messages we have and if Bush can tie his little Top Gun stunts in with the economy as they say they are, then a smart opposition candidate can tie Bush's closeness to corporate pyramid schemes in with his failure to plan for a secure future in America and overseas. I'm going to look closer at Edwards (whom I had liked as a candidate until 9/11.) His Q rating is very high and in a world where a drunken fratboy deserter can be dressed up in costume and sold as a war hero, it's clear that anything is possible with the right packaging.

I have followed the Kerry and Dean campaigns and they were both what I expected, although Kerry had a problem with his voice so he seemed a little bit weaker than usual. Dean has a Trumanesque pugnacious spirit and that has got to be very attractive to Democrats, who are starved for somebody to show some damned spine. Kerry, on the other hand, oozes Kennedyesque manly gravitas. Both men are very smart and could run rings around Junior in a debate (although I'd be extremely surprised if Rove allows that this time.) I like both of these guys.

Graham remains a cipher to me as a political personality and I simply don't understand his foreign policy argument. Hezbollah is a dangerous group of terrorists (or "freedom fighters," depending on where you sit on the issue.) But, they do not threaten the US any more than the IRA or the Basques threaten the US. And even if they did, I fail to see why we should give George W. Patton any more blank checks to wage war. If he wants to invade Syria, Spain or Ireland, let him please come back to congress and seek permission. That's the way the system's designed to work. Grahams argument doesn't make sense and fairly reeks of absurd political positioning. The Democrats have to do better than that on foreign policy.

Kucinich and Mosely-Braun both represent the most liberal wing and are indispensible (well, Kucinich is -- Mosely-Braun wasn't very effective) in that they force the conservative and moderate Dems to make a winning case against what used to be considered fairly mainstream liberal goals. I would imagine that most of us, in our heart of hearts, recognize that health care is not a consumer item that people buy the way they buy a car (realizing they can't afford that heart bypass, for instance, so they'll settle for...dying.) If we want to have universal health care it's absurd to pretend that it is a "market" ruled by rational self-interest. There is no relationship between rational self-interest and money when illness and death are at stake. Clearly, at the very least, we need to take for-profit insurance companies out of the business and probably need to go single payer to make it work. Kucinich is the only guy who could cop to that and it needs to stay on the table.

So, all in all, I found the debate quite instructive and rather than feeling disillusioned, I'm actually a little bit more enthusiastic. I would surely like to see Clark and Hart jump in with a couple of dynamite foreign policy arguments because I see difficult times ahead beating back "Mav" Bush and "Goose" Cheney on national security. But there is time for the candidates to develop these arguments.

I do not believe that George W. Bush is unbeatable. Yes, they are tarting him up like a war hero, but in reality he remains a stupid, shallow, reckless loose cannon whose adolescent ego may be in danger of interfering with Karl's ability hold together the disparate and competing factions of his administration and his party.

For all of the staged hero worship and phony hagiography of this man, he is actually their single greatest weakness. We can beat him again.

Ponzi Politics

Zizka has a scorching series of rants called "12 Reasons Why I'm No Fun Anymore." I particularly like number 10:

Why I'm No Fun X: Inside Players

A lot of people fall for weird scams of the Nigerian type. Some crook comes up to you and offers to let you in on his game. "At last!" you think. "I'm finally getting in on the action". But you're not. You think that someone else is being scammed, but it's you.

Enron was that kind of scam. Up until a certain point, lots of people were making tons of money. The Republicans and many Democrats were on board, and nobody tried to stop it. In the end, a lot of people found out that they weren't in on the action after all.

The Bush administration is running the same scam. They've got plenty of people convinced that they're going to come out ahead. Their proposals are all carefully backloaded, so that by the time people figure out that they've been had, the game will be over.

In politics it's suicide to complain about the electorate, but the electorate these days can really be morons sometimes. The chump electorate and the cheesy pimp media (see next) are the hand we've been dealt. I haven't got a goddamn clue as to what to do about it.

We could try doing what the Republicans do. Say the words fraud, Enron and Bush in the same sentence over and over and over again until they are inextricably linked in the minds of half of the population. It worked with terrorism, Saddam and 9/11.

Whose World?

As with many things these last couple of weeks, I missed this wonderful essay by Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged on one woman's liberal odyssey and her reluctant acceptance that we need the self-righteous bullies of the left. It is simply brilliant. And, for the many of you who likely read it back on the 29th, read it again. This is where we're at folks. We do not have the luxury of marginalizing our best fighters in a world where the other side rules by sheer intimidation.

Friday, May 02, 2003

We're So Good

Many nice people feel the need to remind those of us who opposed the Iraq invasion that freeing the Iraqi people is a good thing. I understand this, but I think it needs some examination.

(In any event, for any visiting freepers, I would just like to say that going forward, any discussion by me of foreign policy and war on this blog implicitly carries the disclaimer that I am happy that that bastard Saddam is gone, I believe that it is wonderful that the Iraqi people at least have a chance of a government of their choosing and of course, I support the troops and hate the Dixie Chicks.)

Under different circumstances, I would have supported deposing Saddam purely on the basis of his horrifying human rights record. However, as much as I agree that a free Iraq is a good thing, just as free North Korea or free China or free Sudan or free Tibet would be good things, I believe that allowing the Bushies to get away with using that argument is a mistake for all people who believe in human rights.

By agreeing that the ends justify the means in this case we are allowing them to pretend that the motivation of the US was always to free the Iraqi people (a fact which is clearly untrue since they haven't even seen fit to free the Cuban people who live just 90 miles off our shores and whose exiles are a powerful political constituency.) Their arguments must be evaluated on their own terms by what they hoped to accomplish and what the results have been.

In that light, the best they can claim is that freeing the Iraqi people was a collateral effect of whatever it was we really wanted to do, whether it was eliminating the threat of WMD or terrorism or something else entirely that was never mentioned. Personally, I believe the administration officials who now admit that they were "sending a message" to the world that we are not soft. In fact, it's the only thing that makes complete sense. (We could have easily cut lucrative deals for the oil by lifting sanctions.)

So, on their own terms of "sending a message," was the end achieved and was it worth it? Was that a justifiable reason to flout international law and severely damage our relationships with allies? It's too early to know for sure but regardless of the ultimate result, it is unprecedented and many, many people around the world are not likely to understand or support it.

There is already some collateral damage from this action, one of the most serious of which is the disintegration of American credibility. That means nothing to those in power who believe that "might makes right." But, I don't believe we are omnipotent and this administration, in behaving as if we are, may have set a very dangerous series of events in motion. By creating an order in which the United States does not believe that credibility is important and one in which the rule of law is inconsistently applied, we have made ourselves difficult to understand and predict.

Those who believe that force is the only viable way to ensure security think this is a good thing. But, history suggests that it invites miscalculation and overreaction. Therefore, because the stated goals of Iraq were so confused, I believe that in addition to freeing the Iraqi people, the "ends" are also likely to be an escalated arms race and a breakdown of the international rule of law among powerful and near powerful nations, on top of the "rogue" states who already flout the rules.

The people of the US deserved to know that in order to "send a message" (and incidentally free the Iraqi people) we may have destabilized the world and made it more dangerous than it has been since the height of the cold war, if not longer. Perhaps the American people would have sanctioned freeing the Iraqi people anyway, in which case I commend them for their generosity and compassion. But if that's true, it seems strange that on the heels of our great victory over tyranny (at very little cost to ourselves in lives) we aren't seeing a groundswell of sentiment to free any of the other of the billions of oppressed people on this earth.

Which then begs the question of whether we are also, after the fact, "sending a message" to ourselves --- of warm and hearty congratulations for our righteousness and good intentions. The fact that it was all based on lies will not be allowed interfere with the overwhelming good feeling and love we now have for ourselves, regardless of the real means or the real ends.

Depends On What The Meaning Of Pervert Is

Sam Heldman, in his invaluable ongoing expose of Federal Court nominee Pryor, linked today to this article in the Washington Post that points out Pryor's use of almost exactly the same language to describe the effects of a right to privacy, (in an amicus brief he filed in the Texas sodomy case) to the language Santorum used in his AP interview.


"Petitioners' protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, a constitutional right that protects 'the choice of one's partner' and 'whether and how to connect sexually' must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia (if the child should credibly claim to be 'willing')"


If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

And, of course, Santorum also mentioned that the right to "man on dog" and "man on child" sex would inexorably follow any ruling upholding a right to privacy.

Pryor, as hideously theocratic as he is, isn't quite as stupid as Santorum (even a sea anemone isn't quite as stupid as Santorum) so he didn't add bigamy and polygamy to the list of clear and present dangers to America, seeing as they are matters of contract law in which the state has an interest. (As, it would seem to me that adultery is as well. Any lawyers out there who can let me know if that's correct?) But, he neglected to mention the serious threats of prostitution and necrophilia.

Does Rick Santorum think that prostitution and necrophilia aren't among the serious problems affecting America today?

Perhaps he believes that prostitution is not a threat to his definition of what a politically correct family should be. Perhaps he doesn't view it as consensual, since it's obvious that many fine religious Republican men are bewitched by scantily clad women into doing things they shouldn't do.

But, what to make of his not mentioning the immediate danger to our children by necrophiliacs?

Why wouldn't he be concerned about people who might expose their small children to corpses, make them handle them and talk to them in strange and unusual rituals that the mainstream Americans find deeply disturbing?

Any ideas?

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Soft Underbelly

This article by Michael Tomasky in The Prospect is great. (In fact, his column is a must read every week.) I agree with everything he says except the argument that the uproar over the Santorum remarks only benefits the gay community.

I think the uproar should be aimed at all Americans who believe in the constitution and don't practice bigotry for fun and profit. But, it also should be aimed at Americans who don’t like the idea of the government intruding on their private lives. And, I would suggest that is most of them.

The GOP is revealing itself as the anti-privacy party. They are enabling the state to rummage through everybody’s medical records, they want corporations to be allowed to buy and sell your purchase records and any other information they may have, they are more interested in medical marijuana than the serious issue of identity theft, and they want to make permanent the ill considered Patriot Act which gave the government vast new surveillance powers.

Now, along comes Lil’ Ricky telling a reporter outright that he doesn’t believe there is any right to privacy (an article of faith in the anti-abortion cult), that he thinks gay civil rights are a slippery slope to perversion and that he further believes his view of sexual morality should be enshrined as the law of the land for everybody.

This desire and ability to invade the homes and private lives of our citizens is UnAmerican. It goes against every tenet of freedom that George W. Bush constantly preaches about, particularly the All American belief in individualism and the inalienable right to life, liberty and happiness. Who the hell gave John Ashcroft and Rick Santorum and Jack Welch and Dick Cheney the right to information about me without my permission, to investigate me without probable cause or to tell me what I can do in my own home?

The Republicans do not believe in freedom any more than they believe in equality. This negation of the right to be left alone is coming from all GOP quarters --- religious, government and corporate and it is a potent example of their lack of patriotism and any sincere belief in traditional American values. Just what do they think liberty consists of? The freedom to be harassed and coerced by every interest group in the Republican Party until you either join up or shoot yourself in the head?

Jeez. Even France has more respect for individual rights than Republicans do.

Loyalty Oath

Hitler wrote in "Mein Kampf"

"… in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.

Smart guy, no doubt about it. That surely explains why so many Americans believe that Iraq and 9/11 are connected and why many probably believe that WMD have been found or that they were destroyed in the days before the war or any other of the improbable explanations as to why the fundamental rationale on which this war was based simply must be true in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. A good number of people simply do not want to believe that the President of the United States would blatantly lie over and over and over again on a subject of such importance.

(It also explains the seemingly incomprehensible fact that a president was just recently impeached for supposedly lying about a consensual sex act, a crime Republicans considered to be so heinous that it had to be prosecuted or risk undermining the entire concept of the rule of law.)

But what to make of this? I read that editorial (courtesy of the indispensable Mediawhoresonline) and found myself staring off into space trying to understand how we will be able to function as a society when we finally cast off even the pretense of a requirement for honesty in democratic leaders.

''Would it bother you if we were to discover that George Bush lied about the case for going to war?'' I asked.

He knew what I was referring to. His blunt answer left my jaw hanging.

``Everyone knows he lied about weapons of mass destruction being the point of the war.''

Just a few weeks ago, any statement from me that Bush's case for war was riddled with inconsistencies and illogic would have brought swift and fierce condemnation from this fellow.

Now, basking in the glow of military conquest -- and confronted by a thus-far futile search for chemical and biological weapons -- this hawk breezily conceded the point while also waving it away as inconsequential.

The difference between the gullible average guy who refuses to believe his President would lie and the guy quoted above is significant. The first holds that honesty is so important that he must cling to a belief in the honest nature of his leader even in the face of evidence to the contrary. The latter thinks honesty or even logical consistencies are unnecessary.

Instead of insisting that WMD were present and then manufacturing the evidence to back up that claim, which is what I expected in the event that the WMD claim proved bogus, we now find the administration and Jack Straw in the UK beginning to indicate, like the fellow above, that we lied about the WMD and it doesn’t matter, either in practical terms or as a matter of principle or that what they plainly said was not what they plainly said. Josh Marshall points out that Ken Adelman is even claiming that the UN forced us to lie about WMD.

The editorial writer of the piece quoted above calls it hypocrisy, but that’s really not completely correct. It’s hypocritical in the sense that these people all lie yet proclaim themselves virtuous and honest, yes. But, the phenomenon of lying to persuade people of the rightness of an action you wish to undertake with their permission and then saying later that what you said never mattered at all is something else entirely.

My first reaction was to see it as yet another audacious display of arrogance and privilege. They simply believe they can get away with anything. But, after thinking about it, I actually think it is far more insidious than that. It is an insult designed to get a particular reaction.

Like the boss who requires his staff to obsequiously and insincerely flatter him (because he delights in forcing them to say something they don’t believe purely to please him, and knowing they know it) it is less an act of narcissism than a demonstration of power. Regardless of whether they had bad intelligence or just bad intentions, for the administration to straightforwardly say to their supporters that the arguments they had them put forth with such fervor prior to the war were never correct and don’t matter anyway is, in effect, demanding a loyalty oath that says they are willing to give up any claim to personal integrity in support of the party. You can believe me or you can believe your lyin' eyes.

And to those who expressed skepticism about the imminent threat presented by Saddam, these people are saying , “We have demonstrated that we can get away with lying outright, over and over again and no one has the courage or the will to hold us accountable. You are powerless to defeat us through logic or rational argument. Might makes right.”

When you add this to the ongoing and systematic attacks against any criticism of the President or his policies, you have the makings of a new order. From this, Brownshirts are made.

This gentleman has a choice to make.

Swallowing the "News"

I honestly don't know if it can get any more surreal than what I am seeing on television this afternoon. In fact, the Fox AllStars are more restrained than CNN and MSNBC in their prostrate, hysterical reaction to seeing George W. Awol alight from his "fighter" plane that you would think he just flew single-handedly, one engine on fire, from the war zone where he shot Saddam Hussein right between the eyes.

I have never seen a more sickening display of pandering penis envy from a bunch of pasty faced, bespectacled, doughboys in my life. Some Bozo on MSNBC could hardly keep from pleasuring himself under the desk as he swooned on and on about how "great the President looks in that flight suit." It's so tight and form fitting and he looks so potent. Why, he's just like Tom Cruise in "Top Gun." Ooooh baby.

He does like his costumes, doesn't he? If he can find a reason to wear that Calvin Coolidge Indian headdress, he'll be a one man version of the Village People.

Democratic Unity

During my little hiatus I received a lot of great e-mail, many of them asking why I made the assertion that the Democrats (and a majority of the country) are unified in support the democratic agenda, and wanting me to provide some back-up for that claim. I base some of my belief on this analysis and some on my own observations of the nature of the internecine warfare within each Party.

I never said that the Democratic Party is one big happy family. I said that we have a remarkably coherent philosophy and agreement on policy for such a large coalition of interests and that this is a great strength. Our disagreements, and they are significant, are about strategy.

First, let me reiterate that the unified support within and outside the party does not apply to national security. Americans (including many Democrats) have consistently said that the Democratic Party is weaker than the Republicans on national security for more than 30 years. It is why Democratic politicians twist themselves into pretzels on the issue, trying to be sane and tough at the same time while fighting off the charges of cowardice and fecklessness by the manly GOP. It is a huge problem for us.

But, the fact that George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative” with a program of “affirmative access” and “saving social security,” and even the red, white and blue mid-term campaign featured Republicans across the board pushing their phony prescription drug program is evidence that they know that they cannot win elections on their program of tax cuts, Jesus and the flag alone.

Poll after poll suggests that support for individual policies as well as measures of trust on bread and butter issues accrue to the Democrats. Even on the hot button issue of crime, the Democrats managed to pull even in the last decade. People expect service and support from the government and consistently seek more as the need arises. This is certainly true of Democrats and a large percentage of the independents required to gain a majority as well.

So, to the extent that disagreement within the Party exists, it is strategic not substantive – pragmatism vs principle, accommodate the middle or lead from the left. Certain politicians from red states often accede to their brainwashed constituencies on taxes and some other right wing issues, but with the exception of Zell Miller who seems to really believe in a Republican agenda all of a sudden, I believe this almost always in the context of a sausage making deal or other practical considerations. The basic philosophy of the party is not really in contention. Democrats of all stripes share the same goals of ensuring a stable society through a reasonable redistribution of wealth, equality of opportunity, respect for civil rights and civil liberties, a social safety net, and environmental and consumer regulations to protect the health and welfare of the citizenry.

Certainly, there are those who would like to see more done in certain areas but if one has a philosophical disagreement with those principles, one is highly unlikely to be a Democrat. Our internal battles on policy are almost always a matter of intensity and focus, not policy goals themselves.

Granted, welfare reform was a very divisive issue as was NAFTA. Clinton tried to realign the party and neutralize the image of Democrats as being big-spending protectionists. I believe those issues have largely been settled, unhappily in some cases. There are continuing sharp disagreements on guns as well as this ongoing Wurlitzer induced skittishness at being labeled a “liberal” or “feminist” or “politically correct,” or “outside the mainstream.”

In my opinion, trade is an issue that continues to require attention. Democrats have an affirmative responsibility to workers here and elsewhere and we must fashion a coherent policy on this issue. It is moral as well as practical. If Democrats don’t stand for unions, we have lost our souls (and our best organizers.)

Guns, I’m afraid, should be viewed in the context of civil liberties. In the era of John Ashcroft and terrorism, it is probably a mistake to advocate fooling with the bill of rights in any way, even if the interpretation of the 2nd amendment is contentious. In my view it’s not worth it.

These are issues that I agree still cause some serious disagreement within the party.

As to the third, the discomfort some people feel with being labeled “kooky” or “deviant,” I would suggest that this is the ultimate strategic issue. It’s a result of the silly culture war that has been used to great effect by the other side; it has no basis in reality. Democrats are Americans just like Republicans. We share the same culture, we eat the same food, we watch the same television, we shop in the same endlessly boring mall stores. None of us are exotic foreign creatures who don’t belong, not even the crazy kids on campus and the so-called extremists of the National Education Association or Greenpeace. We should reject this labeling outright. Besides, everybody’s got their weirdoes and the GOP glass house is crawling with them. It’s time to shine the spotlight in their direction.

And finally, the left end of the spectrum is extremely distressed (the centrist faction being typically only somewhat distressed) at the extent to which the party is dependent upon big business donors and the resultant necessity to pay heed to their requests. However, I would suggest that this also is a strategic issue, not a substantive one. Unlike the Republicans, whose governing philosophy is inherently plutocratic, the Democrats have competing constituencies such as unions, consumer advocates, lawyers and civil rights groups which balance their obligation to business donors. Like most other contentious issues within the party, this seems to me to be one of emotional intensity rather than a serious philosophical difference. Our political system has become quite obviously corrupt in a perfectly legal way which is outrageous and unacceptable to some Democrats and regretfully necessary to defend against a very frightening and dangerous GOP to others. The Republicans, on the other hand, comfortably see it as the natural and correct order of things.

Nobody really has the answer to how to stop the ungodly flow of corporate money into politics. It seems to be like water --- if you plug up one route, it finds another. It’s doubtful that even public financing or free TV time could do much more than temporarily plug the dyke. Until a politically possible answer can be found, there are those who believe that the Democrats should just say no to corporate money and people would reward them with their votes. Others call that unilateral disarmament. But the vast majority of Democrats, even DLCers, agree that massive corporate donations taint the system.

Contrast that with the Republicans who, for all of their Stalinist group think have some serious fissures in their coalition that are only held together by a phony and incoherent fealty to tax cuts as the answer to every problem. Their problem is not strategic, it is deeply philosophical and it is a train wreck waiting to happen.

The Republican coalition primarily consists of business and wealthy interests, social conservatives, libertarian individualists, movement ideologues and moderates. Very few of them are truly “conservative” in the traditional sense of the word. (And if conservatism isn’t traditional, it isn’t conservative at all.)

Most business interests and wealthy individuals see government as either a hindrance to their goals or a facilitator of their goals or simply as their goal. They all want to pay as few taxes as they can get away with and are more than willing to pay the chump change that amounts to contributions and lobbying expenses in order to use the government to their advantage in whatever way they need to. They are morally agnostic. Their job as businesses is to maximize profits and most wealthy individuals live in a world that doesn’t show any evidence of a need for government.

The social conservatives like Rick Santorum are in favor of a government that promotes and enforces their set of personal religious values for the common good. They believe in an activist government, but rather than providing a safety net they rely on coercion and police power to “guide” people into making the “right” decisions in the first place. They see government as a tool for radical social change. (I’m including the significant numbers of neo-confederates in this group, although it is an imperfect fit.)

The libertarians are the real small government "leave us alone”“coalition. This is the image of Republicanism that is sold to the public as being what the party is all about --- the cowboy American, a rugged individualist who is self-sufficient and wants the least intrusive government possible. A Republican is strong, manly, confident, competent. Men want to be him and women want to pleasure him. In reality, they encompass the anti-UN black helicopter weirdoes and the intellectual utopians to be sure, but more importantly they also capture the regular Joe American who really just wants to be left alone to live his life unbothered by authority. But that includes religious zealots as much as do-gooders and the IRS.

The movement ideologues are the influential cosmopolitans like Peggy Noonan, Dinesh D’Souza and William Bennett, all of whom are really opportunists who have managed to make careers for themselves by working for the right wing message infrastructure. It also consists of the neocon faction who has transformed US foreign policy into an Imperialist wet dream.

The moderates are people who still believe that the Republican Party is prudent, fiscally responsible and traditional. They are not paying attention.

So, now that they are consolidating their power, how will the GOP reconcile the desire of social conservatives, who have an influence within the party that far outstrips its actual population in the country, with the “leave us alone” coalition? Rick Santorum was just given a big sloppy kiss by the Republican hierarchy after saying that he does not believe in a right to privacy and in fact believes that the government should outlaw any sexual behavior that he believes is harmful to the family values that he believes everyone should have. And the “leave us alone” faction should be repulsed by the idea that the government is seeking to inflict religious values on anybody against their will. If that is libertarian then I’m a John Bircher.

How do the movement ideologues and the social conservatives expect to pay for their enormous police state at home and Empire abroad if the corporations and people with money do not pay taxes? Supply side economics is a scam and they know it. If they remain in power they will have to find a way to raise taxes on the middle class and the poor, probably through a regressive consumption tax.

And at that point, the libertarians, who may have convinced themselves that the GOP will never be able to implement their police state and Empire as long as they are keeping taxes too low to pay for them, will see that they have been played for fools. The modern GOP does not believe in small government or rugged individualism. They simply use the imagery to sell their product.

As the social conservatives begin to flex their muscles, how are the cosmopolitans (who actually live in urban areas) going to feel when confronted with the mean bigotry of the anti-gay rights movement and the ugly intolerance of the still significant racist contingent of the GOP. They scurried like rabbits when Trent Lott embarrassed them. It is only a matter of time before the same thing happens with the gay rights movement. City girls like Peggy Noonan and Jonah Goldberg are embarrassed by the bigotry in their party.

In order to be coherent at all, the GOP must really believe in a huge, intrusive government that enforces religious values. One of their main targets for “reform” is the media. But, the media is big, big business, which has no interest in anything but profits. (Rupert Murdoch, after all, is the guy who publishes topless photos every day in the British tabloids.) If the social conservatives continue to gain real clout, how long before this confrontation happens?

In fact, how long can the Republican Party juggle the Big Government social conservatives and neocons with the valuable libertarian “leave us alone” brand and the big business moral agnostics?

And, how long will the Republican moderates stay in their nether world refusing to acknowledge that their party has become alarmingly radical and incoherent?

We Democrats have a lot of problems to be sure, not the least of which is that we are paralyzed by fear and indecision about how to fight the opposition. But, they have serious problems, too, and they are problems that the Democrats should exploit to the hilt. It’s called divide and conquer and it shouldn’t be too difficult to bring these conflicts into the open. Unlike the bogus wedge issues the GOP employed against the Democrats by demonizing straw men, these wedge issues are real.

Powell vs Rumsfeld is just the beginning. The GOP is on a collision course with itself.