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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Scariest Thing I've Read All Week

Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said the changes would allow Mr. Negroponte to wield influence and seek information down to the level of each of the F.B.I.'s field offices, though she noted that the attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales, would remain responsible for ensuring that intelligence activities in the United States did not violate American law.

I feel so much safer now.

Via Daou Report and Corrente


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Thug Life

It's bad enough that that hideous little creep Tom Davis (R-jackboot) drops a horsehead in major league baseball's bed saying that it shouldn't give the DC franchise to an investment group that includes George Soros. The real insult is that he does it so openly to tilt the field to the president's friend, fundraiser and former business partner in the Texas Rangers, Fred "count the Jews" Malek.

I know that it does no good to bring up Clinton rules and wonder what the allegedly responsible press would have made of such a thing if it had happened in 1993. We know that it would have been turned into a non-stop feeding frenzy with blond former prosecutors and strange looking Republican men with comb-overs dolefully wringing their hands night after night on Matthews as they bemoaned the corruption of mom, apple pie and Murika's pastime by Bill and his corrupt hillbilly friends.

But you would think that a Republican congressman (with the clout to haul all the MLB owners in front of his kangaroo steroid committee again and ream them out for another 8 hours) publicly strong-arming them with threats to lift their anti-trust exemption and clearly indicating that he'd prefer they picked a Nixon stooge and Bush pal, would cause a little ripple. The only place I've seen any speculation about this is in the WaPo sports section:

You can't help wondering what's behind the outrageous attack on Soros, who isn't even a major partner in the bid for the Nats. (Local entrepreneur Jon Ledecky is the real bidder.) Isn't it strange that rival bidder Fred Malek, the head of the Washington Baseball club, just happens to be a very big GOP fundraiser? And isn't it strange that, in a telephone interview, Davis went out of his way to praise Malek's bid? And isn't it strange that these attacks on Soros from Republicans came on the very day that Ledecky and his partners were being interviewed by MLB?

Forget Soros (although the irony is so thick you can slice it, considering the "jeweyness" of the whole thing.) Malek is the story. I know that the press thinks this Iraq thing and the whole Bush lying and incompetence thing is so, like, 2004. But can't they even get it up to complain about baseball being threatened by Republican thugs? Not even that?

Now that I think about it, I've long noticed that sportwriters are among the last real journalists around. Whenever politics and sports converge they are the first ones who get to the essence of the story. Costas was tough last night on Larry King. Olbermann is always good. Since the political writers love the horse race stories so much maybe the major dailies should just have them switch places with the sports staff. It could be the answer to everybody's problems.

Update: Jesse has more on Malek. And I see that TAPPED tilled this soil yesterday.

Requiem For Jeff Gerth

I thought it was rather strange that Michael Tomasky wrote a column justifiably skewering Ed Klein for his shoddy journalism and then threw in this bit toward the end:

The problem runs deeper even than Klein. Today, with the explosion of Web sites, all sorts of propagandists and provocateurs who aren't journalists can hide behind the label when it comes to First Amendment protection. Can they write anything they please about public figures, knowing that they can print lies as long as Sullivan is in force?

He explains himself today:

I didn’t mean to impugn the established liberal blogs, which I explained to Duncan Black when I ran into him just a few hours after seeing Markos. My list of bloggers to whom I was definitely not referring includes but is by no means limited to: Josh Marshall, Mark Schmitt, Matt (and all his cohorts, at Tapped of course and at TPMCafe), Markos, Duncan, Kevin Drum (and guests), Jerome Armstrong, Arianna Huffington et alia, Ezra Klein, &c &c &c.

My point, which I think remains valid, was that the blogosphere in general is a milieu that is somewhat more likely than the milieu of traditional journalism to produce reckless error.

I don't think that's possible. I've read a lot of garbage on-line, but none that had the kind of corporate backing and public relations push that Klein's book has gotten from a mainstream publisher --- and Klein's book, as Tomasky points out, is just filled with lies. And mainstream news organizations are giving him a national platform with which to spread them.

The only time that I'm aware of outright reckless error is from the rightwing blogosphere during the Rather scandal --- and mainstream journalism was just as bad and rewarded them for it.

The truth is that after watching the three ring circus known as the Whitewater scandals remain uncorrected even after all this time --- and reading pathetic explanations like this from top Washington reporter John Harris --- it's clear that mainstream news constantly commits reckless errors, on both the micro and macro level, and then rationalizes them with all the aplomb of a second grader caught with his hand in the cookie jar:

People tend to forget, for understandable reasons because the Lewinsky scandal was such a sensational affair, that 1997 was in its own way a very sullen, snippy, disagreeable year in the relationship between the White House and the press. Most news organizations -- the Washington Post included -- were devoting lots of resources, lots of coverage, to the campaign fund-raising scandal which grew out of the '96 campaign, and there were a lot of very tantalizing leads in those initial controversies. In the end they didn't seem to lead anyplace all that great. But there were tons of questions raised that certainly, to my mind, merited aggressive coverage.

The White House was unbelievably resentful -- they thought it was much ado about nothing, they thought that this was a scandal-obsessed press corps. Mike McCreary -- and he's a really great guy -- even before Lewinsky he was in a really pissy mood and I don't blame him for him for it, and I don't doubt that it was unpleasant and that his feelings of resentment were genuine, but he was snapping back at us, angry phone calls and whatnot. From the White House's vantage point the whole thing was not on the level, they thought this was standard political fund-raising that was undeniably a little sloppy but wasn't that big a deal, and we were trying to turn it into the next Watergate.

It was much ado about nothing. The fund-raising scandals didn't rise from the 96 campaign. They rose from the right wing noise machine like all the rest. And what he fails to mention is that this was after four long years of one David Bossie/American Spectator bullshit spoonfed psuedo-scandal after another.

In a cluttered office tucked away in one of the many red-brick office condominiums that ring Washington, D.C., David Bossie, source par excellence to journalists dredging the Whitewater swamp, handles one of the eighteen calls he says he gets each hour. This one is from Bruce Ingersoll, a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal. The discussion centers on bonds. "I have a whole file on bond transactions," Bossie tells Ingersoll. "I will get a report on what I find. I know you are trying to move quickly on this. You want to come out before they come out." A few minutes later Bossie says, "I don't know what I have to give you," but promises to spend the next couple of hours going through materials. "You're on deadline, I understand that." He then points Ingersoll in another direction. "Have you done anything on Beverly? [Presumably that is Beverly Bassett Schaffer, former Arkansas Securities Commissioner.] You guys ought to look into that. There will be lawsuits against the Rose law firm," he adds.

All that has been known since the above article was written for Columbia Journalism Review in 1994 and was fully explored by 1996, when Gene Lyons published the articles that became "Fools For Scandal" in Harper's magazine.

The press performed abominably throughout that period and all the way through the 2000 election, using the same methods of accepting Republican gossip and smears as the basis for their stories:

In the film we see RNC glee as AP accepts their oppo research on a Gore misstatement during the first debate . During their months of filming BBC producers also observed producers for NBC's Tim Russert among others calling to enquire if the team had any new material. This was apparently normal trading on both sides.

RNC researcher Griffin comments in the film: "It's an amazing thing when you have topline producers and reporters calling you and saying 'we trust you.... we need your stuff.'"

And it's not like it's exactly covered itself with glory since then. (Got WMD?)

Really, the blogopshere is the least of journalism's credibility problems. And while I'm sure that it's quite frightening to think of rogue character assassins running around the internet smearing people, it's very hard to see how they could be any worse than the mainstream press already is.

God Told Him

Kevin writes here about how the administration short-changed the VA budget and says:

It's one more piece of evidence that the Bushies really did expect a cakewalk in Iraq and didn't bother planning for additional casualties.

We have a witness who says that Bush absolutely didn't count on casualties. remember this?

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says he warned President Bush before U.S. troops invaded Iraq that the United States would sustain casualties but that Bush responded, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."

White House and campaign advisers denied Bush made the comment, with adviser Karen Hughes saying, "I don't believe that happened. He must have misunderstood or misheard it."


Robertson, in an interview with CNN that aired Tuesday night, said God had told him the war would be messy and a disaster. When he met with Bush in Nashville, Tenn., before the war Bush did not listen to his advice, Robertson said, and believed Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant who needed to be removed.

"He was just sitting there, like, 'I'm on top of the world,' and I warned him about this war," Robertson said.

"I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties.' 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.' 'Well,' I said, 'it's the way it's going to be.' And so, it was messy. The Lord told me it was going to be, A, a disaster and, B, messy."

The evidence suggest that Bush really did believe that there wouldn't be any casualties. But, of course, the evidence also suggests that Pat Robertson is a delusional head-case. So which religious conman was lying?


Not wanting to risk remaining in Russia, Vakhitov went to stay with relatives in Tajikistan. Then events became even more fantastic. Vakhitov and his friends were taken hostage by militants from the Islamist “Uzbekistan” movement, and took them to Afghanistan. In Kabul, the hostages were accused of collaborating with the FSB. The tortures and interrogations began anew.

That was in the fall of 2001. Afghanistan was attacked by the Americans. The regime in the country was overturned, while the prison where Vakhitov was being held had its flag changed.

Vakhitov and his friends were waiting to be rescued from day to day. But the U.S. military instead acted exactly like their Russian counterparts. After September 11, they needed culprits. And all Muslims became suspects.

Especially valuable were Arabs. According to Vakhitov, they were bought in Afghanistan for $5,000 each and taken to Guantanamo.
"They sold everyone. Beggars off the street, the deaf, dumb, and blind. I had a 104-year-old man along with me. And once again, no court investigation," Vakhitov says. And that was how he ended up in Cuba at the Delta camp.

"In Russia the torture is primitive. They mostly just beat me. They would hang me up, and burn me with cigarettes. At Guantanamo, the torture was more sophisticated than in Russian prisons. Our special forces are way behind in that sense. There was more psychological pressure: you couldn’t be left alone for a minute. We fought to have the toilet covered with a blanket. We went on hunger strikes to protest against officers trampling on the Koran and throwing it in the toilet."

Gradually, Russians are beginning to use the experience of their Western colleagues. Vakhitov says that after the Americans handed him over to Russian prosecutors, he was blindfolded and kicked, then forced to kneel and told to "pray to Jesus Christ like a Christian." Vakhitov said that the Americans honestly admitted that because they have a democracy, they could not use all the possible methods to draw out confessions, but that their Russian colleagues would be able to get to work on him.

I know this will come as a shock, but it turns out that the Russians eventually concluded that he wasn't a terrorist after all:

After several months in a detention center, Vakhitov was found not guilty -- once again without any trial -- and released.

When I first started reading these stories from released Guantanamo prisoners I was skeptical. They sounded too strange, too bizarre, too freakishly sexual and sadistic. Then came Abu Ghraib and the pictures of forced masturbation. And it was revealed that female interrogators were smearing fake menstrual blood on prisoners and that interrogators were using fierce dogs to threaten naked men. And we know that prisoners were held in "stress positions" for many hours on end in sharply hot and cold temperatures.

It has been known for years now that many of the prisoners were sold to the US by Afghan warlords for $5,000 a piece. It is clear that three years after they were captured that none of the prisoners in Guantanamo have any intelligence to offer. And it is a proven fact that we imprisoned and roughly "interrogated" many people for years who were completely innocent.

It's interesting that this ex-prisoner says that the Americans are much more sophisticated in their methods. Perhaps this is true in comparison to the Russians, although that's quite a statement, if true. I wrote a post some months back in which I discussed these sophisticated techniques in some detail. Here are reports from prisoners who underwent them:

Many men were handcuffed or tied to a stool as a means of slow torture. The [detainee] sat in one position, day and night. Each time he would fall over, the guards would sit him upright. He was not allowed to sleep or rest. Exhaustion and pain take their toll. When the [detainee] agreed to cooperate with his captors and acquiesced to their demands, he would be removed. Here, I have pictured a guard named "Mouse," who liked to throw buckets of cold water on a man on cold winter nights.

You're always sitting either on the floor or on a stool or concrete block or something low. The interrogator is always behind a table that's covered with cloth of some kind, white or blue or something. And he sits above you and he's always looking down at you asking you questions and they want to know what the targets are for tomorrow, next week, next month. You don't know. You really don't know. But he doesn't -- he's going to have to have an answer of some kind. Now the back of the room comes the -- the torture. And he's a -- he's a big guy that knows what he's doing. And he starts locking your elbows up with ropes and tying your wrists together and bending you.


Some men were tied to their beds, sometimes for weeks at a time. Here, I have drawn a picture showing the handcuffs being worn in front, but the usual position was with the wrists handcuffed behind the back. A man would live this way day and night, without sleep or rest.

The guards come around the middle of the night just rattling the lock on your door. That's a terrifying thing because they may be taking you out for a torture session. You don't know.

"... obviously this is an emotional thing to me, was listening to the screams of other ... prisoners while they were being tortured. And being locked in a cell myself sometimes uh, in handcuffs or tied up and not able to do anything about it. And that's the way I've got to spend the night."


The ten months that I spent in the blacked out cell I went into panic. The only thing I could do was exercise. As long as I could move, I felt like I was going to -- well, it was so bad I would put a rag in my mouth and hold another one over it so I could scream. That seemed to help. It's not that I was scared, more scared than another other time or anything. It was happening to my nerves and my mind. And uh, I had to move or die. I'd wake up at two o'clock in the morning or midnight or three or whatever and I would jump up immediately and start running in place. Side straddle hops. Maybe four hours of sit ups. But I had to exercise. And of course I prayed a lot.

My original post has much more detail.

Of course, these are all quotes from American POW's who were held in North Vietnam.

"When word of torture and mistreatment began to slip out to the American press in the summer of 1969, our public-relations-minded captors began to treat us better. I'm certain we would have been a lot worse off if there had not been the Geneva Conventions around." John McCain

Fight Back

From Liberal Oasis:

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (which has kindly published a few pieces from LiberalOasis) offers an editorial page that, of all the nation’s major dailies, is arguably the most devoted to the truth and the least afraid of the Bush White House.

And it is under attack from the Right for just that reason.

Last week, the Strib not only ran an editorial defending Dick Durbin when Durbin lacked the courage to defend himself, it also ran a lengthy excerpt of Durbin’s speech so readers could examine his words in context and make up their own minds.

Since then, the right-wing Hugh Hewitt has launched a campaign encourage people to cancel their subscriptions to the Strib, in hopes of pressuring the paper to end its defense of real American values.

And Hewitt’s allies at the blog Powerline are trying to keep up the pressure by directly attacking the top editor.

These thuggish attempts to silence brave American voices must be countered.

The best way to do so is to show that speaking truth to power sells.

So if you live in Minnesota and don’t subscribe, now’s the time!

Click here to subscribe, and then email the publisher, Keith Moyer at kmoyer@startribune.com to let him know you’re subscribing because you support the paper’s editorial policy.

Even if you don’t live in Minnesota, you can subscribe and receive the paper via mail, or digitally on your computer.

The Strib is one of the very few unabashed big city liberal papers in the country. The idea of Unctuous High and the Highpockets boys intimidating them is somewhat laughable, but everybody has to answer to the man on some level. This is a paper worth supporting --- particularly since the geek squad are after them.


A couple of commenters tell me that cancelled subscriptions are unnerving the publisher and that some advertisers are suing because of what they say are false circulation numbers. I suspect that this last is thuggery on the part of the wingnut cabal that is coordinating this effort to get the editorial page director fired for his political beliefs.

I would suggest that people start looking around for some "advertisers" to sue all the conservative papers that inflate their advertising numbers. I'd start with the Washington Times. This is a very ugly genie that rightwingers should probably not want to let out of the bottle.

Inside Knowlege

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A Republican congressman from North Carolina told CNN on Wednesday that the "evidence is clear" that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

"Saddam Hussein and people like him were very much involved in 9/11," Rep. Robin Hayes said.

Told no investigation had ever found evidence to link Saddam and 9/11, Hayes responded, "I'm sorry, but you must have looked in the wrong places."

Hayes, the vice chairman of the House subcommittee on terrorism, said legislators have access to evidence others do not.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said that Saddam was a dangerous man, but when asked about Hayes' statement, would not link the deposed Iraqi ruler to the terrorist attacks on New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.

"I haven't seen compelling evidence of that," McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN.

I have heard this from others. I think it must be a wingnut e-mail talking point or something. I've been told more than once, as a conversation ender, that the government has the proof but they can't share it because it would endanger civilians. And it's used as evidence of Bush's selflessness that he won't provide the proof even though he has to take shit from liberals like me.

I kid you not.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Same Old Same Old

This makes Nixon sound like Cicero. The only news here is that he forgot to say "and then I had a choice to make: take the word of a madman, forget the lessons of September the 11th, or do what's necessary to defend this country. Given that choice, I will defend America every time," and "we will form a coalition of the willing and we WILL disarm Saddam Hussein." We've heard all the rest before. Ad nauseum.

I notice the props are having a hard time keeping their eyes open, though. Poor guys.


Is anybody watching Joe Biden saying that the president has leveled with the American people tonight (as opposed to Cheney and Rummy) and he hopes that it has bought him some time? Nice. Paula Zahn has been very skeptical of the speech, particularly all the 9/11 talk, but Joe very helpfully told her that Bush really did a pretty good job and that hopefully he'll now have the time to fix the problems in Iraq. He was actually more supportive than David Gergen who was personally "offended" by the evocation of 9/11 but made the political judgment that it would work.

Begala says he made progress on the question of credibility. But by the same token it was probably not so good to evoke 9/11 so much since it had nothing to do with Iraq. It's a good thing for Democrats to support our commander in chief, though. But we do have a few questions.

Democrats are so helpful to the president. They're still stinking traitors and all, but they are very nice people. They've managed to convince Blitzer and Zahn that their own reactions to the speech were too harsh.

This morning the research shop at the Republican National Committee sent out an email headlined "Democrats Still Wrong on Iraq."

Yeah. Find any of those WMD yet, flyboy?


I think that Kevin is wrong on this:

I actually agree with the overall gist of Christopher Hitchens' latest column in Slate. He argues that it's absurd to think you've scored some kind of withering putdown of war supporters by pointing out that most of them (and their sons) haven't volunteered for duty. Since I support police, fire, and social welfare programs despite the fact that I'm not a police officer, a firefighter, or a social worker, I think he's right on this.

Joining up to fight a war you support is quite different from these other things. A war is a temporary emergency while police work and firefighting are ongoing necessities to deal with everyday occasions of individual misconduct or accident. If there was an earthquake in Kevin's neighborhood and they called for able bodied men and women to volunteer to help dig bodies out of the rubble, I suspect he'd be there.

But this war in Iraq, like Vietnam, presents an even more obvious illustration of why this is true. Any nation that wages a war of choice wholly for ideological and political reasons, particularly when it is opposed by large numbers of its own citizens, should require that those who share those ideological and political goals help with the physical fighting. In fact, they should lead the fighting. It is unfair in the extreme that stop loss orders and extended tours are being forced upon the "volunteer" army when those who support the war are unwilling to put themselves in physical danger. Self defense is one thing. Requiring others to die for your crusade is another.

This is a bad argument for the right and I hope they keep making it. There is something quite primal and instinctive about the old "put your money where your mouth is" logic of expecting people who support a war to be willing to lay down their lives to fight it. People get this one in their gut. It most certainly is a withering put-down and the the put-downees know it very well.

UPDATE: Max Blumenthal in The Nation

I chatted for a while with Collin Kelley, a senior at Washington State with a vague resemblance to the studly actor Orlando Bloom. Kelley told me he's "sick and tired of people saying our troops are dying in vain" and added, "This isn't an invasion of Iraq, it's a liberation--as David Horowitz said." When I asked him why he was staying on campus rather than fighting the good fight, he rubbed his shoulder and described a nagging football injury from high school. Plus, his parents didn't want him to go. "They're old hippies," Kelley said.

Munching on a chicken quesadilla at a table nearby was Edward Hauser, a senior at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas--a liberal school in a liberal town in the ultimate red state of Texas. "Austin is ninety square miles insulated from reality," Hauser said. When I broached the issue of Iraq, he replied, "I support our country. I support our troops." So why isn't he there?

"I know that I'm going to be better staying here and working to convince people why we're there [in Iraq]," Hauser explained, pausing in thought. "I'm a fighter, but with words."

At a table by the buffet was Justin Palmer, vice chairman of the Georgia Association of College Republicans, America's largest chapter of College Republicans. In 1984 the group gained prominence in conservative circles when its chairman, Ralph Reed, formed a political action committee credited with helping to re-elect Senator Jesse Helms. Palmer's future as a right-wing operative looked bright; he batted away my question about his decision to avoid fighting the war he supported with the closest thing I heard to a talking point all afternoon. "The country is like a body," Palmer explained, "and each part of the body has a different function. Certain people do certain things better than others." He said his "function" was planning a "Support Our Troops" day on campus this year in which students honored military recruiters from all four branches of the service.

Standing by Palmer's side and sipping a glass of rose wine, University of Georgia Republican member Kiera Ranke said she played her part as well. She and her sorority sisters sent care packages to troops in Iraq along with letters and pictures of themselves. "They wrote back and told us we boosted their morale," she said.

By the time I encountered Cory Bray, a towering senior from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, the beer was flowing freely. "The people opposed to the war aren't putting their asses on the line," Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn't he putting his ass on the line? "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country," he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, "and I wasn't going to pass that up."

And besides, being a College Republican is so much more fun than counterinsurgency warfare. Bray recounted the pride he and his buddies had felt walking through the center of campus last fall waving a giant American flag, wearing cowboy boots and hats with the letters B-U-S-H painted on their bare chests. "We're the big guys," he said. "We're the ones who stand up for what we believe in. The College Democrats just sit around talking about how much they hate Bush. We actually do shit."

I'm very impressed with their contribution, aren't you?

Silent Majority Redux

Rick Perlstein wrote me an e-mail and reminded me that it was just two weeks after the biggest peace march in American history that Dick Nixon gave his famous "Silent majority" speech on Vietnam --- November 3, 1969. He laid out his plan to "win" the war and successfully marginalized what was becoming a very mainstream anti-war movement. Perlstein thinks that the Bush people probably studied this speech very closely and I suspect he's right.

Read the whole thing, but here's the conclusion of the speech:

My fellow Americans, I am sure you can recognize from what I have said that we really only have two choices open to us if we want to end this war.

--I can order an immediate, precipitate withdrawal of all Americans from Vietnam without regard to the effects of that action.

--Or we can persist in our search for a just peace through a negotiated settlement if possible, or through continued implementation of our plan for Vietnamization if necessary--a plan in which we will withdraw all of our forces from Vietnam on a schedule in accordance with our program, as the South Vietnamese become strong enough to defend their own freedom. I have chosen this second course. It is not the easy way. It is the right way.

It is a plan which will end the war and serve the cause of peace--not just in Vietnam but in the Pacific and in the world.

In speaking of the consequences of a precipitate withdrawal, I mentioned that our allies would lose confidence in America.

Far more dangerous, we would lose confidence in ourselves. Oh, the immediate reaction would be a sense of relief that our men were coming home. But as we saw the consequences of what we had done, inevitable remorse and divisive recrimination would scar our spirit as a people.

We have faced other crises in our history and have become stronger by rejecting the easy way out and taking the right way in meeting our challenges. Our greatness as a nation has been our capacity to do what had to be done when we knew our course was right.

I recognize that some of my fellow citizens disagree with the plan for peace I have chosen. Honest and patriotic Americans have reached different conclusions as to how peace should be achieved.

In San Francisco a few weeks ago, I saw demonstrators. carrying signs reading: "Lose in Vietnam, bring the boys home."

Well, one of the strengths of our free society is that any American has a right to reach that conclusion and to advocate that point of view. But as President of the United States, I would be untrue to my oath of office if I allowed the policy of this Nation to be dictated by the minority who hold that point of view and who try to impose it on the Nation by mounting demonstrations in the street.

For almost 200 years, the policy of this Nation has been made under our Constitution by those leaders in the Congress and the White House elected by all of the people. If a vocal minority, however fervent its cause, prevails over reason and the will of the majority, this Nation has no future as a free society.

And now I would like to address a word, if I may, to the young people of this Nation who are particularly concerned, and I understand why they are concerned, about this war.

I respect your idealism.

I share your concern for peace. I want peace as much as you do. There are powerful personal reasons I want to end this war. This week I will have to sign 83 letters to mothers, fathers, wives, and loved ones of men who have given their lives for America in Vietnam. It is very little satisfaction to me that this is only one-third as many letters as I signed the first week in office. There is nothing I want more than to see the day come when I do not have to write any of those letters.

--I want to end the war to save the lives of those brave young men in Vietnam.

--But I want to end it in a way which will increase the chance that their younger brothers and their sons will not have to fight in some future Vietnam someplace in the world.

--And I want to end the war for another reason. I want to end it so that the energy and dedication of you, our young people, now too often directed into bitter hatred against those responsible for the war, can be turned to the great challenges of peace, a better life for all Americans, a better life for all people on this earth.

I have chosen a plan for peace. I believe it will succeed.

If it does succeed, what the critics say now won't matter. If it does not succeed, anything I say then won't matter.

I know it may not be fashionable to speak of patriotism or national destiny these days. But I feel it is appropriate to do so on this occasion

Two hundred years ago this Nation was weak and poor. But even then, America was the hope of millions in the world. Today we have become the strongest and richest nation in the world. And the Wheel of destiny has turned so that any hope the world has for the survival of peace and freedom will be determined by whether the American people have the moral stamina and the courage to meet the challenge of free world leadership.

Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism.

And so tonight--to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans--I ask for your support.

I pledged in my campaign for the Presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace. I have initiated a plan of action which will enable me to keep that pledge.

The more support I can have from the American people, the sooner that pledge can be redeemed; for the more divided we are at home, the less likely the enemy is to negotiate at Paris.

Let us be united for peace. Let us also be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.

Fifty years ago, in this room and at this very desk, President Woodrow Wilson spoke words which caught the imagination of a war-weary world. He said: "This is the war to end war." His dream for peace after World War I was shattered on the hard realities of great power politics and Woodrow Wilson died a broken man.

Tonight I do not tell you that the war in Vietnam is the war to end wars. But I do say this: I have initiated a plan which will end this war in a way that will bring us closer to that great goal to which Woodrow Wilson and every American President in our history has been dedicated--the goal of a just and lasting peace.

As President I hold the responsibility for choosing the best path to that goal and then leading the Nation along it.

I pledge to you tonight that I shall meet this responsibility with all of the strength and wisdom I can command in accordance with your hopes, mindful of your concerns, sustained by your prayers.

Thank you and goodnight.

God knows it's not unfashionable these days to talk about patriotism and national destiny. And I'm sure we are going to hear a whole boatload of it tonight. But the point in tonight's speech is very likely the exact same point as Nixon's was --- to divide America clearly into two camps and push those who are wavering on the war to see withdrawal as shameful and detrimental to America's security. Perlstein points to the key phrase in this speech: "lose the war in Iraq --- bring the troops home."

That's what the Rove roll-out of the Move-on, "liberal" therapy bullshit is all about. They have to frame withdrawal as a bunch of hippies arguing for "losing" and they have to do it quickly.

According to Perlstein, at the time of the Moratorium, the war was becoming dramatically unpopular. Polls said that 57% of the public wanted withdrawal by a date certain. The march was not perceived as a fringe event --- it was huge and middle class and showed that the nation as a whole was turning against the war. And the media, for the first time,was not presenting this in a hostile manner. The anti-war movement had gone mainstream.

After the speech, things turned around dramatically for the Pres. Here's how Richard Reeves put it in "President Nixon: Alone in the White House":

"A quick national Gallup poll by phone indicates 77 percent approval of the President's's message. A few days later Gallup's overall approval for the President had climbed from 52 perent before the Moratorium to 68 percent. Congressional resoulutions exressing bipartisan suport for the President's position were signed by 400 of the House's 435 members and 58 of the 100 Senators.... 'The euphoria continues,' Haldeman wrote in his diaries... Nixon had his feet up among the telegrams, telling anyone who came in: 'We've got those liberal bastards on the run now!'"

There are three reasons why, in my opinion, the speech worked.

First, he spent about a third of it explaining how we got into Vietnam and showing how it wasn't really his war. This was terribly important because it made people willing to give him the benefit of the doubt early in his first term. There were many people who understood at that point that Vietnam was a quagmire but who truly wanted to see us able to pull it off without what seemed like an ignominious defeat. I remember plenty of people during that time who were willing to give Nixon a break. In 1969, the villian of the war was still LBJ.

Bush cannot do this. He cannot blame his predecesors, or the Democrats or even his allies for getting us into this. He strutted around that aircraft carrier with the words "Commander in Chief" emblazoned on his codpiece and he's stuck with it. Iraq is Bush's war.

Second, Nixon actually unveiled "Vietnamization" in this speech. It was a solution and people were desperate for a solution --- hence the bi-partisan love-fest. Unless Bush has something completely new in mind, he is likely stuck with re-hashing his Iraqification plans and sexing up the numbers to imply that the Iraqis are just minutes away from being able to take over. In this sense, Iraq is Vietnam on crystal meth. It took years to realize that Vietnamization wasn't working. We already know that Iraqification is a bust. He will get no mileage from that.

Third, there was a widespread distaste for the counter-culture movement as a whole. No matter how mainstream the anti-war movement became, its association in the minds of the "silent majority" with long hair and sexual liberation and racial violence and the rest, meant that it was easy for Nixon to conflate "losing" with "withdrawal" and have at least some people who were sympathetic to withdrawal think twice. I don't think those conditions are present today.

The zeitgeist in America is much less shocking than it was then. (At least in the fashion/pop culture sense.) There is no large visible liberal movement for radical social change, no frightening urban violence. Indeed, as I wrote earlier, I think most people would agree that the radical zeitgeist these days is with those who are holding Justice Sunday rallies and having revival meetings at bill signings. And the crazed street theater isn't Jerry Rubin style yippiedom --- it's the nutty extremists that camped out in front of Terry Schiavo's hospice. This isn't 1969.

But, they don't have anything else. And, lord knows, the fear of the enemy within has always worked very well for them in the past. It should be very interesting if they can turn a little known internet group like Move-On into the anti-war movement circa 1969. If they can roll out their tired red-baiting/liberal-baiting one more time in the face of a liberal movement that barely even has breath and make it stick, then I'll really have to believe that there is no stopping them. But I doubt that it will work.

The party of new ideas is reaching back to the days of Richard Nixon at the height of Vietnam for tactical advice. There's a whiff of desperation in the air.

Principle Failure

Josh Marshall writes that Democrats may be folding up their tent on Social Security in the false belief that it is won. Dear Gawd, I cannot believe that my party could actually be this dumb. Protecting social security is going to be a full time seige for as long as the Republicans are in power. In one way or another they are going to try to dismantle it. Unlike us, the Republicans commit for the long haul on these big ticket items. Even if Bush is seen as a big loser, they won't give up.

Which leads me to Josh's second point:

According to CNN, President Bush's worst numbers came on the issue of Social Security. He clocked in at 31% approval and 64% disapproval.

(I'd actually be curious to hear from pollsters out there what the lowest ratings for a president has ever been on any significant issue. I mean, how much lower than thirty percent does it go? With the possible exception of Nixon at the very end of Watergate, how often has a president been under, say, 25% on any issue of significance?)

With numbers like that, is there really any reason imaginable why any Democrat should feel even the slightest need to move even an inch toward accomodation with President Bush's agenda of phasing out Social Security? How unpopular would a president need to be before his unpopularity made it safe to follow the dictates of your own principles?

Do we know that the Democrats as a whole actually are operating out of principle on social security? After the debacle of the bankruptcy legislation, in which many Democrats truly seemed to think that Americans in financial crisis due to divorce, unemployement and health catastrophe needed to be taught a lesson in responsibility, I don't think we should take anything for granted. The Joe Klein wing of the party may very well believe that social security as we know it is obsolete and that we have to introduce "market forces" and "competition" into it or some such nonsense. And there may be more than a few who really believe that benefits have to be cut and that now is the time to do it.

In other words, I don't actually think that holding the line against social security privatization was a matter of principle for all the Democrats. I don't doubt that it was for most. But, I suspect that there are a few of the MNBA-Big Pharma Dems who really do think that social security should be "reformed" and that Bush has the best chance to do it. And there are more than a few who would like to be accepted as one of the boys on a really big ticket item like social security.

That's why we should stay engaged with everything we've got. There is every chance that a "gang of 14" will develop at some point to begin the dismantling. After all, you have CW experts like Joe Klein, who is perceived (and perceives himself) as a New Democrat, saying things like "in the Information Age, you don't deliver public services the same way you did in the Industrial Age. You don't rule out huge bureaucracies, what you do is give targeted cash payments," which makes no sense, of course, but distances you so nicely from all those icky liberals.

This is one of the ways in which GOP liberal baiting affects the discourse. It's aimed at "moderates" of both parties as a way of making them move away from liberal policies. We now have a large number of Democrats in the caucus who have spent their entire careers denying they are liberals and working feverishly to show that they are "different" than the rabble that forms the base of the Democratic party ---- unions, feminazis, uppity African Americans. Like their timorous forbears who capitulated to Joe Mccarthy, these Dems are the ones who cringe when Karl makes sweeping denunciations of "liberals" and who will sub-consciously try to find ways of re-establishing their "reasonable" bona fides.

We unreasonable liberals need to make sure that we push back just as hard. No compromises on social security. Not even one. If we don't I'll bet you money that there will be a rose garden ceremony with Bush smirking and Dems beaming and we will have been screwed one more time.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Rogue State

It certainly is interesting that the Italian authorities have finally gotten fed up with America's illegal behavior and issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents accused of kidnapping terrorist suspects and rendering them to Egypt for "interrogation."

But we've done this with Guantanamo prisoners as well. I wrote about this last February in a long post about "how great we are." This story is from the New Yorker by Jane Meyer called "Outsourcing Torture":

Nadja Dizdarevic is a thirty-year-old mother of four who lives in Sarajevo. On October 21, 2001, her husband, Hadj Boudella, a Muslim of Algerian descent, and five other Algerians living in Bosnia were arrested after U.S. authorities tipped off the Bosnian government to an alleged plot by the group to blow up the American and British Embassies in Sarajevo. One of the suspects reportedly placed some seventy phone calls to the Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah in the days after September 11th. Boudella and his wife, however, maintain that neither he nor several of the other defendants knew the man who had allegedly contacted Zubaydah. And an investigation by the Bosnian government turned up no confirmation that the calls to Zubaydah were made at all, according to the men’s American lawyers, Rob Kirsch and Stephen Oleskey.

At the request of the U.S., the Bosnian government held all six men for three months, but was unable to substantiate any criminal charges against them. On January 17, 2002, the Bosnian Supreme Court ruled that they should be released. Instead, as the men left prison, they were handcuffed, forced to put on surgical masks with nose clips, covered in hoods, and herded into waiting unmarked cars by masked figures, some of whom appeared to be members of the Bosnian special forces. Boudella’s wife had come to the prison to meet her husband, and she recalled that she recognized him, despite the hood, because he was wearing a new suit that she had brought him the day before. “I will never forget that night,” she said. “It was snowing. I was screaming for someone to help.” A crowd gathered, and tried to block the convoy, but it sped off. The suspects were taken to a military airbase and kept in a freezing hangar for hours; one member of the group later claimed that he saw one of the abductors remove his Bosnian uniform, revealing that he was in fact American. The U.S. government has neither confirmed nor denied its role in the operation.

Six days after the abduction, Boudella’s wife received word that her husband and the other men had been sent to Guantánamo. One man in the group has alleged that two of his fingers were broken by U.S. soldiers. Little is publicly known about the welfare of the others.

Boudella’s wife said that she was astounded that her husband could be seized without charge or trial, at home during peacetime and after his own government had exonerated him. The term “enemy combatant” perplexed her. “He is an enemy of whom?” she asked. “In combat where?” She said that her view of America had changed. “I have not changed my opinion about its people, but unfortunately I have changed my opinion about its respect for human rights,” she said. “It is no longer the leader in the world. It has become the leader in the violation of human rights.”

In October, Boudella attempted to plead his innocence before the Pentagon’s Combatant Status Review Tribunal. The C.S.R.T. is the Pentagon’s answer to the Supreme Court’s ruling last year, over the Bush Administration’s objections, that detainees in Guantánamo had a right to challenge their imprisonment. Boudella was not allowed to bring a lawyer to the proceeding. And the tribunal said that it was “unable to locate” a copy of the Bosnian Supreme Court’s verdict freeing him, which he had requested that it read. Transcripts show that Boudella stated, “I am against any terrorist acts,” and asked, “How could I be part of an organization that I strongly believe has harmed my people?” The tribunal rejected his plea, as it has rejected three hundred and eighty-seven of the three hundred and ninety-three pleas it has heard. Upon learning this, Boudella’s wife sent the following letter to her husband’s American lawyers:

Dear Friends, I am so shocked by this information that it seems as if my blood froze in my veins, I can’t breathe and I wish I was dead. I can’t believe these things can happen, that they can come and take your husband away, overnight and without reason, destroy your family, ruin your dreams after three years of fight. . . . Please, tell me, what can I still do for him? . . . Is this decision final, what are the legal remedies? Help me to understand because, as far as I know the law, this is insane, contrary to all possible laws and human rights. Please help me, I don’t want to lose him.

As I wrote back in February, I don't know if this woman's husband is a terrorist. But I do that it's incomprehensible that the "tribunal" wouldn't have looked at the evidence collected by the Bosnian Supreme Court that exonerated him before declaring him a "non-combatant" and locking him away indefinitely with no appeal.

We kidnapped this man off the street as he left a courthouse that freed him for lack of evidence. He was sent to Guantanamo. And he has no further recourse anywhere to assert his innocence.

We have no way of knowing how many people we have done this to, but clearly there are quite a few. It makes me sick to my stomach to contemplate that innocent people are caught up in it. And without due process we simply cannot be sure that there aren't. In fact, we know there are.

I'm getting old now and I don't know how long it will take for this stuff to sort itself out. Maybe I won't be alive to see it. But at some point there is going to be some sort of reckoning. It's happening in Argentina right now. Cambodians are beginning to come to terms with what was done. And no I'm not comparing us to them, except to say that unless we get some transparency there is every reason to fear that we are heading into that territory. As I wrote in that post in February:

We are disappearing people, rendering them to friendly governments that aren't afraid to put the electrode to genitals and threaten with dog rape. And we are building our own infrastructure of torture and extra legal imprisonment. It is a law of human nature that if you build it, they will come. This infrastructure will be expanded and bureaucratized. It's already happening.

John Yoo, one of the primary architects of the Gitmo regimes said:

“Why is it so hard for people to understand that there is a category of behavior not covered by the legal system?”

Because we are supposed to be a nation of laws, not men. If we can fashion laws that cover behavior like genocide, war crimes, child molestation and serial killing, surely we can find a way to cover terrorism. But then, Yoo also believes:

Congress doesn’t have the power to “tie the President’s hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique.” He continued, “It’s the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can’t prevent the President from ordering torture.” If the President were to abuse his powers as Commander-in-Chief, Yoo said, the constitutional remedy was impeachment. He went on to suggest that President Bush’s victory in the 2004 election, along with the relatively mild challenge to Gonzales mounted by the Democrats in Congress, was “proof that the debate is over.” He said, “The issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum.”

We are all torturers now, apparently.

Sunday Freeper Fun

As his final American revival meeting continued Saturday, a fragile Billy Graham was met onstage by former President Clinton, who honored the evangelist, calling him "a man I love."

Clinton spoke briefly before Graham's sermon and recalled how the man known as America's pastor had refused to preach before a segregated audience in Arkansas decades ago when that state was in a bitter fight over school desegregation.

"I was just a little boy and I'll never forget it," said Clinton, who was joined by his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (search). "I've loved him ever since. God bless you, friend."

Graham called the Clintons "wonderful friends" and "a great couple," quipping that the former president should become an evangelist and allow "his wife to run the country."

It seems that some people are a little miffed:

Looks like "the man known as America's pastor " is stumping for Beelzebub.


It won't fool the evangelical voters. They know who and what Clinton is. They know a revival isn't about social justice. It just shows how clueless the Clintons are to think that what you talk about in church is racism and politics. That's what they talk about in "liberal" churches -the heck with Jesus.


Graham called the Clintons ... "a great couple"

"He's a great serial adulterer and, my gosh, what a stunning power-drooling succubus she is!"

Just providing translation...


"The evangelist is suffering from fluid on the brain"

That explains it.


With all due respect, Mr Graham, if Bill Clinton doesn't "allow" his wife to run the country she will crash his Sunday morning sermon with a herd of Code Pink heffers and bitchslap'm upside head with a lamp.


You're right. It really was a shameful thing to do. If Billy Graham has lost a few of his marbles, you would at least THINK that his son, Franklin, might have steered dear old dad away from hosting these reprobates on "his" stage. What an utterly dreadful message that sent. What an embarrassing way to end his evangelizing career.

He should have quit while he was ahead, because I really believe that a lot of evangelicals are going to be very upset about this.


Why in God's name are they(Clinton's) there! Isn't that like Satan going to mass? Hitler going to a Jewish Deli?

These Clinton's have no shame. Two of the most Godless creatures that walked this earth and their getting face time with a Christian hero.

It is very much my honest opinion that alot of elderly people make the stupidest comments of their lives during the last one or two years here on earth. I think Mr. Graham has joined that unfortunate club.

Remember how Killery The Killster said, right after the '04 election results, "I've always been a praying person?" She got the message loud and clear about red staters.......and so now, here we see this blatantly AMORAL, non-religious couple playing the evangelist fiddle, trying to keep time with the new music to their ears!......what utter gall these two vultures have!

This is just too much! I'm prostrate with fury at how they get away with their travelling circus act!


Of course Schummer spoke

What was that antiChristian smuck doing there? I wouldnt care if he was there. We all need Christ - but between that man, Biden and Hillary - every single thing Christians stand for would be ripped apart at the seems and we would begin to see the outright oppression of Christians in this nation. We already see that oppression in the selection process which he is part of.

And then, of course, there are the deep theological discussions:

Nah ... I've got a few skeletons of my own - things I'm not proud of.

I had the advantage of NOT coming from a dysfunctional family, nor willing to do anything for fame or fortune. Having said that, I still don't walk on water.

I believe that all will bend their knee to Him. Of those that are in heaven there will be favorites. Not all will have the same status. God sees through us. If Bill slips in, he won't have the stature he has on this earth. I'm sure BG will do well in heaven. He has been faithful. No scandals. No cheating on his wife. No money scandals etc.. BG has really lead a clean life and so humbly.


Honey, the fact that you admit those skeletons is positive and shows the fruit of repentance.

Not sure about the favorites deal, though. God isn't a respecter of persons; He died for everyone's sins and was raised for everyone's justification. All sin is worthy of death, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus, we are all cleansed. Top to bottom. All wrongs made right.

I'm not proud of my crap either, but I know that I am forgiven.

Don't be too sure that he doesn't have His favorites ... John was His "beloved disciple". Enoch and Elisha did NOT experience a physical death. Notice later in Revelation where depending on things ... it's easy to see how the 12 disciples and certain folks in the Old Testament will be helping Him rule heaven.

He loves ALL but sum have served Him better than others while on this earth. They will be rewarded accordingly otherwise He would not be a just God.

College HiJinks

It's very tempting to make fun of these college Republicans because they are such earnest little shitheads:

Me: What makes you conservative?

SG: Really It’s b/c I believe in freedom…the freedom to live your life, really. …I believe in free market, free enterprise…I think we should have a right to do what we want. Gov’t. should play as little a role as possible.

Me: Where is the campus conservative movement headed?

SG: I think the conservative movement is headed in the RIGHT direction (haha) …in 3 diff ways. 1) children of the Reagan generation, which ultimately inspires more conservative parenting.
2) I think most ppl believe in the same things I believe in.

3) Because I believe in the same things most people believe in, which is right.

However, it is a big mistake to treat these kids as anything but what they are --- the next generation of Republican strategists and operative. This is because the current generation of Republican strategists and operatives came right out of the college Republicans and I have no doubt that those waiting in the wings were trained at their feet. If you want to know where they learn their shit, it's here.

They cut their teeth playing dirty tricks on each other (see Perlstein's "Before The Storm": Blackwell, Morton, 1964 GOP Convention) and then go on to playing dirty tricks on Democrats. It's kind of adorable in a Rottweiler puppy kind of way. Here's a rundown from last week of the College Republican chairman race:

One of the most controversial solicitations carried the letterhead "Republican Headquarters 2004" and asked for $1,000 "because you have been such a patriot, a Republican stalwart and a loyalist to President Bush and the GOP agenda." The letter was signed by "Paul Gourley, National Director."

Gourley said that he never saw the letter until it was posted on a blog, and that he never approved either the content or the use of his name. He, Hoplin and others in national headquarters led a long negotiation to end the contract with Response Dynamics, he said.

Davidson's platform calls for the College Republicans to "align our fundraising practices with our principles."

Davidson declines to publicly criticize Hoplin and Gourley. But a pro-Davidson blog titled "CRNC Chatter: Truth Fears No Trial" declared: "Paul Gourley was the one who signed the fundraising letters that has brought this organization so much negative attention."

Meanwhile, the pro-Gourley "CR Veterans for Truth" ran a statement from Rhode Island College Republican Chairman Pratik Chougule charging that the Davidson campaign is spreading lies about Gourley. "I was mislead into changing my support," Chougule said. " I discovered that it was given to me from a Davidson insider."

Of course, we are now dealing with layers and layers of dirty tricks operations, most of them the brainchild of Morton Blackwell. The college Republicans with their "Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder" t-shirts are too mainstream for the kind of work that needs to be done on campus these days. This is his new baby:

One recent Sunday, at Morton Blackwell's Leadership Institute, a dozen students meet for the second and final day of training in grass-roots youth politics. All are earnest, idealistic and as right wing as you can get. They take careful notes as instructor Paul Gourley teaches them how to rig a campus mock election.

It's nothing illegal -- no ballot stuffing necessary, even at the most liberal colleges. First you find a nonpartisan campus group to sponsor the election, so you can't be accused of cheating. Next, volunteer to organize the thing. College students are lazy, and they'll probably let you. Always keep in mind that a rigged mock election is all about location, location, location.

"Can anyone tell me," asks Gourley, a veteran mock electioneer, "why you don't want the polling place in the cafeteria?"

Stephen, a shy antiabortion activist sitting toward the rear of the class, raises his hand: "Because you want to suppress the vote?"

"Stephen has the right answer!" Gourley exclaims, tossing Stephen his prize, a copy of Robert Bork's "Slouching Toward Gomorrah."


Blackwell says conservatives are underdogs on college campuses. Conservative students may be better organized, but they're still outnumbered. The Leadership Institute contends that liberal higher education is robbing the conservative movement of new blood -- and thereby handicapping the institute's efforts. "You know, the most conservative students are the freshmen," Blackwell told me. "There is an acculturation there."

And that's where the institute is taking its fight. For most of its 25-year history, it has focused on grooming students to work in conservative politics; it's now increasingly devoting its efforts to making campuses more conservative places. Through its Campus Leadership Program, the institute is leading a growing effort to found and support a national network of conservative student groups and publications capable of permanently altering the intellectual and social environment of universities to conservatives' advantage. That goal alone is a stark rejection of the standard conservative complaint that post-Vietnam War higher education is not just grossly liberal, but irredeemably so. Already, the program has shown considerable success. Asked about his campus initiative, Blackwell simply says, "You're talking about the major project for the rest of my life."

The College Republicans are now too high profile to be doing the kinds of serious work that needs to be done to dismantle the last remaining institution that isn't radically right wing. They needed a couple of degrees of separation and Old Mort was just the guy to do it:

"You can get away with stuff that you would take a lot of flak for doing in the College Republicans," says CLP director Dan Flynn. "Because we're independent, we can do activities that push the envelope," agrees University of Miami senior Sarah Canale, whose CLP-organized Advocates for Conservative Thought threw an affirmative action bake sale last year in which the price of a cupcake varied according to the race of its buyer. That it was controversial, she believes, was a victory in itself.

Oh, and by the way, the guy who was teaching the students about suppressing the vote at the "non-partisan" Leadership Institute class and who signed the fundraising letter bilking little old ladies of thousands of dollars, Paul Ghourley?

As of yesterday, he is the new president of the College Republicans. Meet the next Karl Rove. Same as the old Karl Rove.

Here's a shout out to the blogosphere. In their usual fealty to Stalinist tactics, the College Republicans have removed a document from their site called "The History of the College Republicans." It was there fairly recently when I was writing about the Abramoff, Norquist scandals. It's a pdf file that was referenced by quite a few other sites, although I can't seem to find it replicated in its entirety.

I am, admittedly, naive and I didn't download the file, merely bookmarked the link. My bad. Does anyone out there have it? This was the link:


It was a fascinatingly candid rundown of all the big names who got their start in the College Republicans, with a particular emphasis on the legendary trio of Abramoff, Norquist and Reed. It's no wonder they don't want to draw attention to their affiliation with crooks --- and that requires obliterating their entire history, I understand that.


Saturday, June 25, 2005


I've been reading around the blogosphere this morning quite a bit of advice that the Democrats should ignore Rove's comments. That by responding we are "playing into his hands" and "doing exactly what he wants us to do." I would reiterate what I wrote below and say that Karl's not playing chess; he's playing dodgeball.

Neither did Rove invent this technique of derisively referring to Democrats as liberal hippie fags and dykes. Republicans have been doing this for a long, long time. As long as we've been losing they've been doing it with gusto.

Dukakis didn't respond. Gore didn't respond. Clinton did respond, (although I suspect that the real reason it didn't work as well with him was because his womanizing problems made it difficult to subtly label him unmanly.) They just spent a hundred million dollars calling Kerry a "flip-flopper" which in case you didn't get it, was designed to make you think of a flaccid penis. These guys aren't very subtle.

The truth is that to ignore this stuff it is to play into Rove's hands. Because the whole point is to make us look weak. When you don't respond when people call you weak, you reinforce the charge.

Now, how you respond is the real question. I would like to have seen some Democrats say "Karl, why don't you say that to my face." I'd like to see women like Hillary and Pelosi pull out the ferocious mother card and angrily say "how dare you say that I would recklessly put America's children at risk the way you people have done!" No demands for apologies --- veiled threats. Bring it on.

Or we could respond with laughter and eye-rolling derision designed to make them look ineffectual and silly. The Republicans are also very good at doing this. I can't think of a single time we ever have.

This is ultimately about simple leadership archetypes. (The "gender studies set" will know what I'm talking about --- king, warrior, lover blah, blah, blah.) And we are failing to embody them on a very basic level. Asking for an apology is better than nothing. Hitting back in simple ways that convey strength and conviction is even better. If we could come up with something more sophisticated that would work, I'd be all for it. But ignoring it is the guaranteed wrong thing to do.

Republicans are very successful at connecting with the primal instinctive feelings voters have about people in charge. We aren't. It is their greatest weapon against us and it has nothing to do with policy or positioning or demographics. It has to do with the fact that a lot of people make their decisions about leadership on the basis of who looks the strongest. It's primitive shit. And the Republicans strip it down even more simply than it has to be. There is some room for experimenting with this in innovative ways if we would just accept that it exists and work within it.

It's very hard for me to believe that a party led by limp, myopic chickenhawks and closet cases is getting away with this, but they are. And they have for a long time. We are fools if we let it continue.


Friday, June 24, 2005

Greatest American?

"Reagan is credited with engineering the downfall of communism and restoring a nation's spirit."

By whom? Grover Norquist and Peggy Noonan?

Go to the site and vote for anyone but him. Jayzuz.

Update: Ok, it's been pointed out that St Ronnie will win because we are all splitting our votes. (And we're supposed to be the Stalinists.) I understand that Washington is in the number two spot so perhaps we should all vote for him.

The good news is that the Party of Lincoln can no longer call itself the Party of Lincoln. Which is correct because they are actually the party of Richard Nixon who surprisingly was left off the list.

Who's Your Daddy?

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg a Republican running for re-election in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, issued a statement urging both sides to keep politics out of the war on terrorism. 'We owe it to those we lost to keep partisan politics out of the discussion and keep alive the united spirit that came out of 9/11,' he said."

"Both sides" have made intemperate remarks about the war on terrorism.

Iraq is a central front in the war on terrorism.

Therefore, "both sides" should stop criticising the war in Iraq.

I watched the Rove interview on Scarborough last night and it's quite clear that this is a coordinated public relations "rollout." The Bush administration clearly believes that creating this controversy will result in turning down the heat on Iraq and boosting their prospects on other issues. I think they are counting on the press and the distracted public to see "partisanship" running amuck, which is how the Republicans have already positioned themselves for the '06 elections. Bush and his speech condemning the Democrats as the "party of the stop sign" has already laid out the roadmap. But the immediate agenda is to rile up the base with red meat attacks on "liberals," re-brand Democrats as wimps on national security and intimidate ... wavering Republicans.

There are two ways we can play this. We can step back in the hopes that the Republicans will look like slavering beasts, or we can slug it out and see who comes out on top. The first is probably the instinctive reaction of the Dems because we keep relying on the public to "wake up" and realize what crazy fuckers we have running the country. But I think that works against us --- they may look like slavering beasts but we look like a bunch of wilted pansies. No matter how crazy the Bushies are, wilting pansies aren't an appealing alternative. I don't think we have any choice but just keep pounding away. The Democrats really have one meta-issue that they must contend with --- wilting pansy-ism. Everything else flows from that.

As Jeffrey Dubner pointed out yesterday, next week a Supreme Court justice is rumored to be resigning. And I think we know that things are going to escalate dramatically. Bush is going to nominate someone completely unacceptable and he's going to do it for a reason --- he wants the nuclear option. Rove pretty much said it last night on Scarborough. (I don't know if the "gang of 14" will go along; they may decide that James Dobson on the Supreme Court is just fine.) The Republicans are going to spend this summer throwing red meat to their base and hoping that the voices of the noise machine drown out everything else.

This is Karl's overarching theory of everything. Feed the base. Threaten and intimidate anyone who strays from the party orthodoxy. Demonize the opposition. That's pretty much it. Oh and he's also a big fan of the bandwagon effect, if you'll recall. He thinks that if he can give the appearance of winning (which he thinks that a hopped-up rightwing base does) that a fair number of people will always jump on board to be with a winner. In the case of the press, he's right.

His big problem right now is that he's starting to lose Republicans, which is why they are escalating the traitor talk. If Republicans know what's good for them they'll stop airing any misgivings about Iraq or risk being lumped in with us liberals. Rove cannot let them start to drift off.

Like many Republican strategists, Rove was convinced that in order for any president to be "great," he must have a war.(Reagan got to claim victory in the cold war which sufficed very well, thank you.) Certainly, Bush signed on to that theory:

One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.

Do you think he thought that up all by himself?

And the GWOT just isn't good enough. It got the people behind him, but he needed the pictures with the invading army racing across the desert and the codpiece on the carrier and the big speeches to the congress. So, when Rove was consulted about Iraq, I have no doubt that he saw it as the key to victory for Bush in 04, and figured that the GOP could ride both 9/11 and Iraq for years. A war that never ends is a gift that keeps on giving.

The problem is that he didn't realize that while people love a war president, they hate a president who loses a war. He failed to factor in the political price if things didn't go well --- or maybe he did and nobody listened to him, I don't know. In any case, Iraq is now Bush's albatross. It's his war and he's losing it. And the public is blaming him for it. For the first time public opinion is showing that more people believe that Bush started the war than Saddam. And he's losing. Nothing could be worse --- ask the last real Texan who sat in the White House, Lyndon Johnson.

Here's what they are afraid of. When asked about whether they would support a draft, here are a couple of people's answers:

One draft supporter said expanding the size of the armed forces might help move the Iraq campaign along faster.

"If we had more manpower in the Middle East we could get this over with," said James Puma, a retiree from Buffalo, N.Y. "I'm a Republican, I'm with the president. But things in Iraq are not going good at all."

However, Jeremy Miller, a sales manager from Denver, said the Iraq war is "a situation the president has gotten us into and should be able to get us out of" without bringing back the draft.

That's a big, big problem and they are now reduced to Cheney's "you can believe me or you can believe your lying eyes" defense while Rove claims that it would have been even worse if the liberals had had their way --- we're all Hanoi Janes, giving aid and comfort to the enemy and tying the military's hands behind their backs with condemnations of their conduct of the war.

But as Harold Meyerson pointed out the other day, there are no long haired hippies in the streets and there are no street riots and the liberal enemy within looks remarkably like plain old everyday working Americans. The practitioners of political street theatre are the ones who put tape over their mouths with the word "life" written on it. The political revolutionaries are the ones who demand that the government intervene in people's most private and complicated medical decisions. The easily demonized hippies of yesterday are a nostalgia show for kids, like the depression was to me. There's a brand new group of radicals in politics and they certainly aren't liberal. Which is why this has to be troubling as well:

According to the Pew poll, at this point more of the public believes the Republicans are too conservative on social issues (38 percent), than believe the Democrats are too liberal on these issues (35 issues). (Roughly the same pattern, incidentally, obtains in the public’s views on the parties and economic issues.)

Independents are particularly likely to believe Republicans are too conservative on social issues (38 percent), rather than that the Democrats are too liberal (29 percent). More generally, on a six point ideological scale (1=very conservative; 6=very liberal), independents place themselves (3.6) twice as far away from Republicans (2.8) as from Democrats (4.0).

Ooops. More people now think the Republicans are too conservative than think Democrats are too liberal on social issues. That's the Schiavo effect and it's yet another example of Rove making a mistake and overplaying to the base. Republicans would very much like to get people thinking of liberals as a bunch of cowardly peaceniks and conservatives as upright defenders of the nation again. One wonders if they will be able to do that if we have a huge Supreme Court battle this summer. This is a risky time for them.

But it was only a few short months ago that the administration thought they had finessed their war, through demonization of their opponent and anti-gay marriage initiatives, and got themselves re-elected. And they thought that because they had their war they had the political capital to do "great things." Bush would be America's Margaret Thatcher, with an even bigger codpiece.

But Rove was wrong. Bush had almost no political capital at all. His narrow victory, hardball tactics and "play to the base" strategy meant that he couldn't get any Democrats to support his "bold" plan to privatize social security, which was rolled out immediately after the election as his signature domestic issue. This was the conservative issue that was designed to finally secure his place in the pantheon of great presidents --- the book-end to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (Tax cuts in a time of surplus, as in 2001, aren't exactly "bold.") But Rove failed to recognise that a tried and true political reality --- that you can't do "big things" without a huge majority in congress or bipartisan consensus --- is still operative. And, of course, you don't get political capital from a war that you are losing --- you lose it.

These are all political decisions I'm talking about. They are decisions for which the alleged Magus, Karl Rove, is responsible. The jury is still out, of course, and he may yet succeed. But he didn't actually get Bush elected in 2000 as we all know, despite having more money than God and the unified support of Republicans. 2002 wasn't a huge victory either. (If one can assume that tradition holds, the party that won the previous election, which in this case was the democrat Al Gore, always loses in the first mid-term because of places where he had weak coattails. Jean Carnahan would be a good example of that.) They didn't win big, even though we were just one year from 9/11 and Bush was heralded in the media as being the second coming of Alexander the Great. And in 2004, he had the massive power of a wartime incumbency and he still barely managed to pull it out.

A win is a win, so there's little point in belaboring how narrow it was except to wonder whether Karl Rove's feed the base strategy can keep on working forever in an environment where Bush is rapidly losing support everywhere else. At what point does it become a zero sum game in which he loses one voter for every loudmouthed wingnut?

I don't know. Maybe never. But what I see happening right now is a concerted effort to shore up Republicans before the bottom falls out. Democrats --- excuse me "liberals" --- are the preferred whipping boys to get the GOP base blood pumping. And it is a very thinly veiled warning to any Republican who is tempted by these numbers to not play ball. This is Bush doing what he does best --- putting his boot to the throat. Look at what they did to the hapless Bill Frist just this week:

Reversing field after a meeting with President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Tuesday he will continue pushing for a floor vote on John R. Bolton for U.N. ambassador.

Frist switched his position after initially saying Tuesday that negotiations with Democrats to get a vote on Bolton had been exhausted.

Talking to reporters in the White House driveway after he joined other GOP lawmakers for a luncheon with Bush, Frist said: "The president made it very clear that he expects an up or down vote."

Just over an hour earlier, Frist said he wouldn't schedule another vote on Bolton's nomination and said that Bush must decide the next move.

What an embarrassment. Bush "made it very clear" did he? Did he tell the majority leader of the senate to go to the naughty room? This was a very public rebuke to any Republicans who are thinking about defying Bush's agenda.

That's your genius Rove's plan. Intimidate all opposition. Feed the base. Play chicken. It ain't Machiavelli. It ain't even Dick Morris.

It's time for the Democrats to stop thinking so much about what Karl Rove is doing.He is not god. He does not have supernatural powers to control events. And he's not hard to figure out. The only thing he ever does is rile up neanderthals by making Democrats look like wimps. Look at the campaigns he's run. (It is the opposite with a woman candidate --- he makes them look like man-hating harpies.) The whole schtick comes down to exploiting masculine and feminine archetypes. And he didn't invent this. This has been the main political staple of the modern Republican party. He just does it with more relish and less decency than others.

We need to stop worrying about Karl and play our own game. And right now that's keeping the heat on Iraq, stifling any SS plan (it's important that Bush gets NOTHING) and continuing to fight back with fury and authority when we are unfairly attacked. The only way Rove's plans ever work is if the opposition rolls up. Let's not do that.

Update:And here's the in-depth analysis we can expect the gasbags to set forth this week-end, via John Moltz:

Rove’s comments — and the response from the political opposition — mirrored earlier flaps over Democratic chairman Howard Dean’s criticism of Republicans, a House Republican’s statement that Democrats demonize Christians and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin’s comparison of the Guantanamo prison to Nazi camps and Soviet gulags.

I can hardly wait to hear the Gods of Mt Olympus, Gwen and David and Monsignor Tim, have a good chuckle over all this silly partisanship. But, we should not care what they think, ever.

Update II:

Did little Rickey have permission to stray off the reservation because his poll numbers are as bad as Bush's? Or will he be sent to the naughty room too?

Oh Please

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said a litany of comments by Democratic elected officials and their liberal allies underscored Rove's point. "It is outrageous," he said, "that the same Democratic leaders who refused to repudiate or criticize Dick Durbin's slandering of our military are now attacking Karl Rove for stating the facts. . . . Karl didn't say the Democratic Party. He said liberals."

I think the thing that gets me the most is this kind of insulting nonsense, particularly after enduring years of snotty whining about "what the definition of is, is."

For the record, the president ran entire campaign last year on the premise that the Democratic party's nominee was a liberal. He was chosen, pretty much without challenge after February, by Democrats throughout the land. More people voted for him than any Democratic nominee in history. I know it seems like years ago, but it was only eight months ago that the president was saying this sort of thing every single day on the stump:

THE PRESIDENT:My opponent now has a running mate. I look forward to a spirited debate. Senator Kerry is rated as the most liberal member of the Senate, and he chose a fellow lawyer who is the fourth most liberal member of the Senate. Back in Massachusetts, that's what they call balancing the ticket. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: There is a mainstream in American politics and John Kerry sits on the far left bank. (Applause.) He can run from his liberal philosophy, but he cannot hide. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: But you're not going to have fiscal sanity if John Kerry is the President. He's been the most liberal member of the United States Senate, which means he likes to spend your money. That's what that means. Now, he can try to run from his record, but I'm not going to let him hide. (Applause.)

He isn't the only one:

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: On the core values of this great country, it's a choice between our President, who has advocated and supported these values throughout his career, and his opponent, who is the most liberal member of the United States Senate.

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY:But the problem has been, frankly, that the Senate Democrats including Senators Kerry and Edwards -- have consistently supported that filibuster that kept Bill Myers off the 9th Circuit; kept Priscilla Owens, of Texas, from getting to the floor for a vote; it kept Charles Pickering, from Mississippi, from getting to the floor for a vote. Anybody that might disagree with their liberal philosophy isn't allowed to come up to a vote on the floor of the Senate, and that's wrong. (Applause.)

JOHN MCCAIN: And someday, the Democrats will be in the majority. And then the scenario would be, a liberal Democrat president, liberal Democrat judges-liberal judges, and great damage.

You can go to the link and find scores of quotes from Republicans in which liberal and Democrat are interchangeable and which it is claimed that John Kerry the nominee of the Democratic party for president is an extreme liberal. I think it's pretty clear that when they are talking about "liberals" they are talking about the Democratic party.

And that's just fine with me. The Republicans wear their "conservative" label with pride and go out of their way to claim it. It's one of their strengths. We, on the other hand, run from the name they have turned into an all around epithet for their political opposition. There's no getting away from it --- that is a fantasy --- so we might as well embrace it. I never stopped.


1. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
2. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
3. Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.
4. Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.

Karl Rove was talking about the Democratic Party. If Ken Mehlman wants to start distinguishing among us then it's time to name names. Just who are the "liberals" who wanted to give bin Laden therapy?


Thursday, June 23, 2005


I'm going to be very rude here and quote an entire post from Glen Smith on BOP. (Do click over to read the comments.) I think it's important that people think about this:

Karl Rove's un-American attacks on those who disagree with him deserve the condemnation they're receiving. I've known him for 20 years, and I'm not surprised he said them. He's a socially inept but patient thug whose willingness to haunt the nation's dark political alleys for years, waiting for the right time and the right victims, is too often taken for unparalleled political intelligence.

Being attacked by Rove is a little like being criticized by the Boston Strangler. At least you know you're alive. If we want to understand Rove, maybe we should get an FBI profiler.

Rove's a hack. His strength comes from his immorality. There are no barriers. If power didn't corrupt, Rove would have corrupted it.

I've been on the road in America for much of the last two years. I'm asked all the time about the need for Democrats to find their own Karl Rove. If we ever find such a monster in our midst, we should exile him.

I like the black hat Rove wears, but it troubles me that so many people believe he really is a political genius. He's just pathological.

For years I've suspected that Rove is stuck in an adolescent rage, taking revenge upon the Civil Rights marchers (whose courage he couldn't match), the anti-war organizers (who beat him), and those who believe in and struggle for democracy (who drove off Nixon).

I don't recommend therapy for Bin Laden. But Rove might give Dr. Laura a call.

I am currently working on a project about Rove and have done a lot of research on how people perceive him as compared to his actual success. I agree with the assessment above. He is highly overrated as a strategist --- indeed Democrats have imputed to him almost magical powers to shape events in the most complicated ways. It's much simpler than that.

He is just someone who has no limits. And he has a client and a party that are willing to do as he advises. That is a powerful thing, but it is not genius. It is useful in elections, but it is a disaster in governance, as we are seeing. Brute force cannot accomplish every task, as any plumber or mechanic can tell you.

But barring a total meltdown, which is unlikely, Rove is going to be running the Republican party for some time to come. We need to start looking at this man realistically. The key is that the Republicans think he's magical too.

Bravo to Peter for telling it like it is. (And nice new re-design too. Check it out.)