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Thursday, August 28, 2003

Ahmad's Ugly Secret

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Oldie Goldie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New York Times Is Fair and Balanced, Too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was in September of 2002.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Taunting the Bull

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 25, 2003

They should have gone for Tom Selleck

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

They cast the wrong guy.

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

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

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

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

Waiting For Wesley

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

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

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

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

This statement is particularly interesting in light of recent events:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's what I'm talking about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Leave No Child Behind

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

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

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

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

Special treatment

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

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

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

This has led to the belief that they can be rehabilitated

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

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

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

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

And they've had video games!

First Principles

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Gotcher Trademark Infringement, Right Here

Where DO the Bushies get their ideas, I wonder?

They Get It

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

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

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

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

Dean's bloggers know theirs too.

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

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Phlegmatic Overachievers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helluva Hangover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Let Them Eat California Roll

Mister egalitarian, Mickey Kaus writes:

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

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

Then, unbelievably, in the next post he says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 16, 2003


Those Texas Democrats have got what it takes.

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

So Much For My Lunch

Thanks TBOGG:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My friend Gloria wrote in:

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

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

Spinning Failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call In The Script Doctor

Damn, Michael Wolfe is good.

Weapons Of Mass Self Deception

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

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

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

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

But which is it? It can’t be both.

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

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

Dem Plays Duet on the Mighty Wurlitzer

I'm with Atrios on this.

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

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

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

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

The Real Blonde

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

Ain’t it the truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

When he said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dana Milbank wrote about it in The New Republic:

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

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

Birds of a Feather:

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

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

Or George W. Bush in a codpiece.

Friday, August 15, 2003

(Oxy) Moron

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

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

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Hitting The Wall

Candidates See Oklahoma Primary as Early Test of Electability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all about turn-out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Democrats are fighting a war of survival.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

From the "No Shit, Sherlock" Files

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

Yes, Virginia, there is a Conintern.


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

You tell me who produces better journalism.

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

Friday, August 08, 2003

He’s Back!!!

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

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

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

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

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

This is going to be good.

Because Uncoolness Is Definitely Necessary...

Zizka is back:

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

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Mushy Dems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republicans like winner Mitt Romney:

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

Or winner Jeb Bush:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are pounding the nails in our own coffin.

Spun Sugar

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

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

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

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

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

Oh Wilderness!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Looking For Trouble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MATTHEWS: Not smart for us.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending a Fabulous Message

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Brilliant Strategery

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

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

An E-Mail from Ed Gillespie:

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

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

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

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

Dumbshit Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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