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Friday, October 31, 2003

Worse Than We Think

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

For instance, on the resistence's strategy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Check this out.

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


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

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

You can preview American Choices at:
American Choices.org


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


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

Happy Days Are Here Again

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

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

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

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

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

I Love You Long Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can't Wait Another Minute

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

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


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

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

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

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


Wishin' and a Hopin'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Go Clark

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

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

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


Update: Here's the link. Doh.

Oh, Fer Christ's Sake

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

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

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

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

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

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

All codpiece, no filling.

Top Secret GOP Campaign Theme revealed

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

shhhh. Don't tell the Democrats.

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

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

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

andover,yale, harvard....

Greatest Hits

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

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

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

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

Equivalency Exam

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

He writes:

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

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

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

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

The analogy might be applicable if:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here's my favorite:

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Frame Up

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

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

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

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

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

Lakoff says that the progressive worldview is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Lakoff says in the article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any thoughts?

Monday, October 27, 2003

Andover, Yale and Harvard

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

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Unflitered Carnage

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

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

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

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

It's Getting Hot In Here

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

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

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

Like A Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Ace Supreme

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

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

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

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

Watch What You Say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Poetic Justice

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

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

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

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

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

It's called karma.

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

Yo Atrios

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2003


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

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

The Demographics of Clarkism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside Neocon Baseball

Pandagon's Rules

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


From The Great Minds Think Alike Files

Holy Codpiece, Batman

The Great Tom Tomorrow (who does it much better)

Via The Great Atrios

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Can You Blame Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

How about this:

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


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

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

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

Or (save me) how about this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's Roll

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

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

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

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

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

Political Spann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And A Little Child Rode His First Pony, Too

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

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

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

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

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

move along folks ...

Look! A family eating dinner!

Arroz con Idiota

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

This is a potent issue for the Democrats.

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 10, 2003

If You Have To Ask You Can't Afford It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was going into rehab in two weeks.

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

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

Deep Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narrative Politics

From The Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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