We really are in repeat. I'd forgotten Ken Pollack has a big new book out warning us about Iran. I'm sure we can look forward to his numerous appearances on chat shows saying diplomacy is the best solution, but absent that war is probably a better choice than doing nothing. Rumsfeld will deny that there are any "war plans on his desk," giggling as our press fails to note that he neither bothers to make any plans nor does he actually use a desk. Andy Card will comment that one waits until after Labor Day to roll out any new product. Judith Miller, the current Queen of All Iraq, will develop exciting new sources within the new Iranian National Congress. With any luck, the balsa wood drones of death will reappear, as will scary plans for weapons of mass destruction which look like they'd been scribbled by a 5 year old. And, it'll all hit the fan right before the midterms as the Dems once again run and hide.Wake me up, please....oh no, it's going to be worse. We'll have endless weepy tributes to "Iranian college students" who will overthrow the government by Crazy Andy and Tom Friedman. Friedman will write endless "soul searching" columns about "Tom Friedman's war." Oh Lord, it goes on and on... the last two years really did righteously suck. I don't want to do them again.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Thursday, November 18, 2004
It’s not the media that’s the problem, it’s the voters, stupid. We need to re-discover ways to interest viewers/voters in our stories. For going-on-four decades, the now-geriatrics at 60 Minutes have been more or less doing the job. Their show is commercially successful. It sells soap. Lots of it. And they do it with the breathless expose, the stinging rebuke, the final reveal of conclusively damning evidence. They sell the outrage, so people buy it.
If the Democrats were to make a Big Stink about the House’s changing of the rules in order to permit its leaders to remain in their posts even after they’re indicted, highlighting the utter hypocrisy of their reversing their moral position for no reason other than their unwillingness to condemn one of their own for his moral shortcomings, I think it would work. Dems should spread out on all the talk shows and other media outlets and talk about nothing else for two weeks. Get invited on under false pretenses if need be , but no matter what the question, the answer is the moral bankruptcy of the Republican House.
Hence, our friends in the Democrat Party. Here comes Curly Lemon holding out a spinning ball tantalizingly close to a Generals player – and surprise: just as he lunger for the ball, Curly almost by magix flips the ball off of his head – then off of the ceiling! – then, swoosh, into the hoop.
Now here comes Karl Rove, railing against the de-sanctification of marriage caused by the unnatural acts of men marrying men and then actually having sex AS IF IT IS OK. Joe Democrat looks at the issue longingly – he wants nothing more than to stand up and shout "THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING GAY AND NOT A REASON IN THE WORLD TWO MEN SHOULDN’T GET MARRIED AND – GASP – EVEN HAVE SEX IF THEY WANT." You can almost see steam coming out of Joe D.’s ears as he restrains himself, knowing that such an outburst would alineate something like 80% of the electorate outside of Greenwich Village. But he can’t restrain himself: "While I hold the sanctity of marriage inviolate and believe that if should be reserved for a union between a man and a woman, I believe that same-sex civil unions are appropriate." THE CROWQD GOES WILD! Karl grabs the ball before Joe D. Even knows it’s gone and throws it into the hoop, banking it off the corner of the hot dog guy’s cart.
It doesn’t help either that Joe D. Has not only taken the bait, but has done so in a reserved, analytic, nuanced manner. KARL RULES!
So here’s the learning. From Sun Tzu, we all know that the war is won or lost before the battle is even begun (you got that, Mr. Wolfowitz?). There is no winning move for Joe D. on gay marriage. He can either alienate voters or betray his own values and compromise his cherished integrity (gee, this would be a lot easier if Republicans had integrity, wouldn’t it?). So Mr, Tzu (and several millenia of military thoerists), what’s the answer: decline to engage in a war one cannot win.
So Joe D., the next time Killer Karl comes at you with gay marriage, or the pledge of allegiance, or school prayer, or abortion, or flag-burning, or Presidential oral-zex-outside-of-marriage, just refuse to take the bait. Watch the ball spinning. Say to your constituents who are being malisciously maligned, "Sorry, but this is one battle I just can;t fight for you – let’s hope the courts will do their job!" Do not, Joe D., lunge for that ball.
Because without the nuancing Joe D. To make fun of, the Globetrotters’ don’t have much of a show.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
I continue to believe that essentially ignoring so-called social issues, rather than digging in our heels, is the right move. Wanna outlaw abortion? Our position should be something like, "We recognize that abortion presents our society with fundamental questions that should be fully explored. As a party, we believe in upholding the Constitution of the United States, which at this time protects a woman's right to choose."
That's it. Same for gay marriage. School prayer. Let's recognize these issues for the winners they are: either the Republicans get their way and alienate everybody, or the right eventually figures out that the Repubs don't really care about these issues.
The best possible outcome would be for these things to simply fade away from public view, enjoying the obscurity they so richly deserve.
Another tactic: we should pick a few government programs that enjoy broad support, and demand that they be improved and beefed up. Take food inspections: most Americans are reasonably enthusiastic about their tax dollars going to make sure our food supply is safe. But as any viewer of local news shows during sweeps knows, our food supply is far from as safe as it could be. Let's propose a massive increase in the number and thoroughness of food inspections.
It may be that safe food is a loser, but let's picka couple.
The other area I think we should explore consists of issues that make Republicans uncomfortable. Let's get back to talking about our wasteful defense spending. I suspect the Conventional Wisdom is something like, "Oh, no, we'd be seen as weak on terror." But Democrats have made hay for generations by focusing on obvious pork. A riff on this might be to become the anti-pork barrel party, and make that a centerpiece of our message (analagous to smaller government or lower taxes). Of course, that would mean we would have to lay off the pork, but hey, it's pretty good policy, and with our guys on the outs in DC, how much are we really giving up any way?
Two last thoughts: One, we have to put the lie to the various strawmen that Republicans need to survive. So when red-staters voice fears about higher taxes, the question we should be asking is which Democrat raised your taxes to such high levels? Or, which Democrat want to take away your guns? Or force your kids to be gay? Or prevent you from practicing your faith? We're the guys who are tolerant, not the Republicans. In a similar vien, we should stand up and defend forthrightly our own values. The Ivy League is a good thing. East Coast liberals are the guys who favor raising everybody's living standards, and are really good about being caring and selfless.
Finally, we have got to find some leading voices with a Southern accent. This doesn't mean that our PResidential candidate must be a Southerner, but we do have too many New York and California voices. We should be reaching out to bright people from our toughest areas to join the cause, instead of hiring so many from our strength. (We could also look into finding more enterprising ways to tap into young creative talent: right now, there are too few oppportunities to make a career in the politics of helping each other.)
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
First: John Kerry should remain the unquestioned leader of our party, a sort of President-in-waiting. Could there be a more perfect time than now for us to have a shadow President? While there are plenty of warts on our candidate, that would surely be true of any candidate we run. Unless (until?) a powerful, charismatic leader emerges to challenge Kerry’s dominance, all Hail Future-President Kerry.
Second: Ya know how Kerry’s been painted as an out-of-touch elitist East Coast lefty snob? Well, remember Bill Clinton? He was a low-class, trailer-trash amoral bastard hick who didn’t know how the real world worked. If you think about it, you can write the script for any Democratic nominee. (Try it with Edwards: an inexperienced, young, ambulance chaser, driven mad with ambition, with no foreign policy experience. Or how about Dean: an overly smart, hyper doctor from a patrician New York family who went to Vermont because he wanted to be governor, who lacks the temperament needed to be President.)
All of which is a wind-up to #3:Third: Whatever the short-comings of our candidates, we can still focus on re-formulating our message and our approach. I’d begin with the Oklahoma chapter of Christian Evangelicals for Kerry. There is no way we should cede the Bible Belt to the Republicans. People who think of themselves as Christians belong with us and our whole “help-your-neighbor” schtick, not with those on the “every-man-for-himself” right.
Which brings me round to #4:Fourth: We have fallen into the trap set for us by the Evil Ones: the Republicans absolutely require an “us vs. them” mentality, and we’ve taken the bait, hook, line, sinker, rod, the whole damn boat. All of the Red State/Blue State crap should be thought of as unpatriotic Republican dogma. What unites us is far stronger than what divides us. That’s a big part of what was so thrilling about Barak’s speech: he absolutely blew up the us/them dichotomy, and claimed for our side our traditional approach: we’ll win because the majority are with us, and we’ll focus on building that majority.
Let’s start with Alabama: if you’re poor, white, have a truck, and are pissed off at “special interest groups,” get on board out train, because we’re fighting for you. Some of this is cultural (no more condescending East Coast intelligentsia crap), but a lot of this is convincing folks that we’re on their side against their real enemies.
Round 5? OK, since you insist:
Fifth: Let’s quit playing with these guys on the so-called social issues. If they want to outlaw gay marriage, let’s let them. As much as it’s obvious gay hatred, we only make it successful if we acknowledge it. It’s rather like a petulant teenager saying that they’re going to out and do awful things – the whole entire point is to antagonize Mom and Dad. If Mom and Dad stay focused on what counts, the gambit quickly loses its appeal. So fine. Outlaw gay marriage (it’s not legal now any way.) Wanna outlaw abortion – knock yourselves out. With a significant moderate wing, the Republicans will defeat themselves on this junk.
Why yes, let’s even let them ban flag burning. I think the good people of the United States would somehow stumble through history even if burning the flag were illegal.
OK, Round 6, but then I gotta go.
Sixth (Can you tell I was a lawyer): We have got to lose the earnest, analytical, reasoned approach to talking with voters. When choosing the Big Leader, voters are conducting a job interview. We show up with the stronger resume and better skills, but we bore the crap out of the interviewer, while the other guy shows up with no skills and just out of rehab, but he’s totally more fun to hang out with, plus he seems like he’d to a kick-ass job. So we lose. Every freakin’ time. So l loosen up, have some fun that doesn’t involve clucking over how inept the Bushies are (or how medieval the Bible Belt is – it isn’t, you know – they have Wal-Marts there just like everywhere else). Look, I love Al Franken as much as the next snarky New York liberal, but I can see where he’s just pissing off a whole lotta folks. Glad to have him, but let’s get more folks who connect with the non-Harvard educated. (Hey I know: let’s give Jeff Foxworthy a whole lotta cash and see if we can get him on-board). Which leads me to
Big Finish:Right after Fundamentalists for Kerry, how about Country Musicians for Pay Equity? How great would it be to have all of country music’s biggest stars lined up with us pushing for a decent standard of living for their fans?
Folks, it’s all just a matter of imagination and packaging. When it comes to substance, we’ve got the goods. We just need to sell it in better.
Friday, November 05, 2004
BUT I cannot escape the notion that our message must evolve significantly to get us back on track. To that end , I have an observation and a suggestion:
Observation. I heard Al Franken and Joe Conason going at it today, Franken saying that our next candidate had better be a Southern Baptist because boy, did the Republicans make a lot of hey from Kerry’s New England patrician status, which also singularly failed to connect with voters outside of core blue states. (True enough, Al.) But Conason quite correctly reminded Al that when we in fact ran a Southern Baptist (our last two winners, actually), the Republicans did not hesitate to paint him as a hick, a low-class schemer from a alcoholic mother and a who-knows-who father. (Touche, Joe.) They agreed that no matter who we run, the Republicans will smear that person as out of the mainstream. (Good job, boys.)
All of this is pretty common pratter these days. But there’s a deeper truth that I haven’t heard much about, but is basic and fundamental. The Democrat and Republican parties are not similarly situated in our society. We hold certain beliefs about the two sides that we do not articulate. This is a key example: the Democrats are the Dudley Do-Right, while the Republicans are Snively Whiplash. So, a smear from a Democrat of a Republican is going to be viewed (by the press and by at least some voters) as heinous, vicious and beyond the pale. Shoe on the other foot (Republican smears Democrat): well, what did you expect?
Can you imagine a Democratic primary with the kind of tactics that are completely normal on the right? Insinuations from “3d parties” about black babies? Leaks about a candidate’s wife’s prescription drug problems? I’m sure it happens, but on the other side it’s a way of life.
Another example is the “flip-flopper” affair. Bush changes positions like I change underwear (once weekly whether I need it or not). Kerry slightly rephrases his detailed and nuanced positions and wham! Flip Flopper! The reason why the right’s smears stick and the left’s don’t is the unspoken premise that the Democrats are the good guys, and should be above such things, while the Republicans are, shall we say, unencumbered with such expectations.
Suggestion. In the quest to reframe the debate to terms more favorable to our side, I have written before about the transformative power of the concept of value, so that we can move the discussion away from the cost side of government services (taxes) and balance it with the benefit side (clean air, the Air Force, roads, etc.) Here’s another buzzword that I think we should start to focus on: accountability. I’ve mentioned this before, but the more I think about it, the more I think that we must become the party of accountability. I think it’s a more constructive way to highlight the outright deceptive campaign of the Bushes and their lyin’ ilk, and I think it gives us the basis to move the conversation back onto our territory: away from whether the government should help people, and onto the question of how the government should help people.
So that’s two: Values, and Accountability. And when it comes to message discipline, it should go something like this:
Press: “What do you think of the fact that so many voters cited Mr. Bush’s moral values?
Democrat: “I think we need to focus on accountability and providing the American people with the kind of service they deserve.
Press: “But what about this tuna sandwich?”
Democrat: “That’s why I think we need to focus on accountability and delivering value to the American people.
And so on.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
-Bush will have to face more of the consequences of his actions, from the quagmire in Iraq to the failing economy.
-We can all make fun of a hapless incompetent boob for 4 more years,
-There are a whole bunch of incriminating reports coming out that will make Bush voters regret their foolishness.
-Democrats will have 4 more years to sharpen their thinking, build their infrastructure, and find a SOUTHERN PERSON to run in 08. (President Edwards, anyone?)
-The ultra-radical right will no doubt get embroiled with the super-ultra-radical right on issues of whether unwed teen mothers should be shot or drawn and quartered and then shot.
-We can all marvel at the hutzpah of the speculation that Jeb will get the party’s nomination in 08.
-We can finally get a supreme court that is prepared to do away with the pesky commerce clause.
-Democrats can quit attending congressional sessions, and practice fiery oratory.
-Hilariously incompetent “2d Term” appointees.
There are a few negatives, however, that might not be so obvious:
-More smirk, more swagger.
-Smarmy, hard-to-stomach “Veneration of Bush The Elder,” if he should pass on before 08.
-Confirmation that the answer to any public policy challenge is either to cut taxes or invade Iraq.
-Re-definition of political dissent as “providing aid and comfort to the enemy.”
Of course, this list of negatives leaves off such things as the Clash of Civilizations ("WW3"), The 2d Depression, and the transformation of the US into a neo-fascist state. But I thought they went without saying...
We are now safe from the specter of gay marriage. And…
A God-less Pledge of Allegiance
Government health care.
Too bad the Repubs have forsaken the dogma of the crushing federal deficits that under Bush I were coming to eat your children. It might have helped rein in some of the current crowd’s wild spending and tax-cutting.
The Democrats have spent considerable time and and thought trying to reach out to red-staters. In fact, there may be some truth in the idea that the Democrats come across as less than genuine because they are trying so hard to understand and accommodate those with whom they fundamentally disagree.
But far better a certain amount of perceived patronizing than the outright indifference of the Republicans, whose message to those on the other side of the divide is, “screw off.” It’s straight from the Pat Buchanan playbook: the Dems try to win by building a large coalition in the middle, uniting those from opposing points of view, while the Repubs win by breaking the electorate in two in the hopes of ending up with the slightly larger half. We’re terribly concerned about them; they could care less about us.
Of course, the conventional wisdom is something like, “Well, it’s time for the Dems to return to first principles, and with a blank slate start the hard work of re-building their party.” To heck with that. I’m so mad and disappointed in my fellow citizens that this morning, at least, I’m perfectly happy for them to go off and ruin their lives. Work at Wal-Mart. Live in shacks. Be afraid of gay people.
Only in doing so, they threaten my life as well.
I’m really torn between wanting to return to our old custom of trying to explain, patiently, why giving a larger and larger share of your income to rich people is a bad idea. Why sending your sons and daughters off to the military is not an act of honor but too often of desperation. Why invading unarmed nations for no good reason – and then boasting about it – is likely to lead to serious consequences. Why disdaining science is likely to return us to the dark ages. Why hubris is invariably repaid with come-uppance.
If our fellow Americans don’t get these basic principles, I’m not sure what can be done for them. That’s why the other alternative that seems so appealing on this most difficult of mornings is to abandon them as they have abandoned me. Forget fighting for the common good. Fight only for my own. Leave. Secede. Fight to end the flow of untold billions from the blue to the red states. If the red states are so sure that our Boston Brahman doesn’t “get” them, and that the little man from “Crawford” is their guy, then let them go it alone. We have labored mightily to make a go of things with these people as a united people. They have clearly said that our concerns are not theirs, and that they want to go in a different direction.
Abraham Lincoln fought the Civil War to defend the principal that no state could withdraw from the Union of its own volition. That a Union comprised of states so loosely held was no union at all. But what of a state that withdraws with the full consent of the union. Why shouldn’t the East & West Coasts take their industry, their jobs, their wits and wisdom, and form a union that better suits their needs, and let the middle states form the theocracy they so earnestly desire?
Today, this hardest of days, I’m having a hard time seeing why that isn’t the right answer. Something about a higher moral calling. But to protect our security, our Blue-State security, the very best plan may well be to re-join the community of nations on our own, and let our swaggering, misguided brethern reap the bitter harvest of their unconscionable hubris.
Monday, November 01, 2004
1. The New Registrants. Millions of new people have been registered, and they are largely Democratic voters. And they do not appear in the polls, as they have not previously voted.
2. In a similar vein the Cel Phone Vote. In this nugget of ECV, there are millions of voters who do not have land line phones, and are therefore not being counted in the polls. And, of course, they lean heavily Democratic.
3. Nothing Added, Much Lost. This is simply an instinctual theory that few Gore supporters have moved to Bush, while numerous Bush supporters have defected to Kerry. This is often expressed in discussing subsets of voters, like Arab-Americans. Bush got many of them last time, but now many have crossed over to Kerry. Or Cuban-Americans. Or Security Moms. Or White Men. Whoever. This seems compelling on a gut level. Will it pan out in reality?
4. Pissed-off Dems. In 2000, this theory goes, Dems were lazily riding a wave of peace and prosperity, and were surprised by the strength of Bush. Bush's harsh and divisive approach has only served to fire up the Democrats, and the result is an unprecedented effort to mobilize the voters, both in the campaign and on election day.
5. Undecideds Break for the Challenger. In all of the current polls, there remain a non-trivial number of undecideds. Historically, these have generally ended up on the challengers' side. If there are still 4-8% of voters undecided, Sen. Kerry can expect to win 80% of them.
6. The Nader of the Right. Some libertarian clown on the right, Michael Badnarik, is seriously pulling votes away from Bush. If Bush won by a few hundred votes last time, it can't be good news that there is a Nader on his right pulling off ANY votes.
7. Nader ain't Nader any more. In 2000, Nader pulled many key votes from Gore, costing him the election (so goes the conventional wisdom, though there are serious arguments to the contrary). But in 2004, goes the Emerging Conventional Widsdom, Nader is far less of a factor: he is no longer supported by a party, he is on many fewer ballots, and most of his supporters have come to regret handing the presidency to the Evil One.
8. Polls Undercount Votes to Challangers. In this gem, the ECV holds that the polls overstate the results, as people say they're voting for the incumbent, but in reality vote the other way. This is especially true when the incumbent is popular with dominant types (white, male, etc.), and the challenger appeals to the disadvantaged.
9. The Secret 50% Rule. The Secret 50% Rule holds that the incumbent needs an approval rating of at least 50%, or else he cannot win, and President Bush has been holding well below this necessary threshold. I suspect this falls into the same "correlation, not causation" bucket as the Redskins loss = incubent loss, but nonetheless, it is part of the ECV.
10. The Back-firing of Republicans' Voter Suppression Efforts. Many minority, young and new voters will so resent the efforts by the Bush camp to keep them from voting, it just energizes them to vote all the more. "Keep me from voting, will you? Ha! In fact, I'm gonna vote twice just for spite!" Or something.
Well, that's 10, which is more than I would have guessed. Now, let's see how it pans out.
Oh, and let's also hope that Tim Russert managers to make a big enough fool of himself that NBC decides to replace him with Someone With A Functioning Brain.
If Kerry is elected, Republicans predict:
1. He will show irresolution and weakness leading to renewed terrorist attacks. On schools.
2. His perverse love of high taxes will lead to Americans shouldering huge new tax burdens.
3. His liberal DNA will compel him to create numerous huge new goverment programs.
4. He will force us all into crappy government healthcare.
5. The economy will crash and burn.
6. We won't go on the offense against the terrorists, opting instead for a mealy-mouthed law enfocement approach.
7. He will slash intelligence spending and cut vital defense projects.
8. He will eat your babies.
OK, the last one is probably a stretch, but I should point out that I haven't technically reviewed all of the BC04 campaign literature, and it jus tmight be in there.
When the dust settles on the Kerry Presidency, let's look back at the Republicans' track record to see how many of their predictions came true. So far, they are 0 for 27,542.
Senator Kerry seems to have a victory well in hand. Polls do not agree, but the better view is that Kerry has a significant lead in the so-called swing states. It may end up with Senator Kerry losing the popular vote and winning the EV, but I doubt it. My prediction is for Senator Kerry to command a 2-5% point margin of victory in the total count, and to collect 300+ EV’s.
And then. And then...
All too suddenly, we will be embroiled with a newly embittered right-wing, whose adherents are increasingly young and ill-used to losing. Freshly-minted conservatives really do seem to believe that all taxes are bad, all government spending is to be avoided, that Democrats have loose morals, and that urban Americans and not as worthy as good rural folk. They will take the defeat hard, letting their innate bitterness ferment and rage. Given that most conservatives are not really for anything, they will relish their re-found role as accusers of the left.
In ruminating on President Kerry’s campaign, I’m struck by a couple of moments. One of the most powerful moments to me was in the 2d debate, where young George sat on his stool, while Big John towered over him, clearly the indicting prosecutor condemning the unrepentant wrong-doer.
Also from the debates, “I know that. I know that.” And from the Republican convention in NYC, the drum beats of fear: Saddam. Terror. September 11. Death.
The two campaigns home pages: Bush’s, all about Sen. Kerry, Kerry’s, also all about Kerry. No one focused on Bush.
Two Kerry endorsements. One, in the NY Times, as much a back-handed compliment as could be imagined. With friends like that, who needs enemies? The other, in the New Yorker, which had never before endorsed a candidate for President. A thorough, calm, unflinching catalog of the incumbent’s failures, and a singing review of the challenger’s credentials. Only the perfidy of the present incumbent could politicize corners of American culture that had previously been above (or below, or next to) the fray.
From a Halloween party Saturday night: “Who’re you gonna vote for?” asks one of the moms to another. “Well, I know who my husband is voting for, but I think I’m gonna vote for Kerry. I think things have just gotten out of hand, and just gonna get worse.”
The current media mindset, worn like an iron helmet: the race is so close, both candidates have done their best and their worst, and thank God the president is likely to win. The President is seen as stronger on terror. Kerry has made a good effort at portraying himself more in tune with the domestic concerns of Americans. Just like 2000: neck and neck down to the wire (even though in 2000 the press had anointed Bush the winner by a 3-5 point margin prior to the actual vote). Republicans accused of voter suppression, Democrats of registering millions of new voters (these charges are meant to counter-balance each other in the media’s idiotic on-the-one-hand-on-the-other Scale of Justice).
A great line from Al Franken today (who remains really quite annoying overall, even as he oh-so-earnetly slogs away for progressivism: On November 3, the minimum wage won’t be any higher, we won’t be any closer to health care for all, we won’t have taken a single step toward a free and democratic Iraq, etc. As put by the blogger who wins the award for my favorite blog title Max Speaks (You Listen) put it, “Polictics begins November 3.
Congratulations to President Kerry on his stunning victory.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Well, it’s about time!
I think personal responsibility – accountability, if you will – is something that we are desparately short of in these trying times. And I for one applaud young George’s suggestion that we renew our focus on holding people accountable. Well done, George. Go and get yourself a pretzel!
And of course, the arch-enemy of accountability is hypocrisy, so let’s begin the new era with a review of George’s own accountability. Let’s start with the war in Iraq, shall we?
George was pretty sure that Saddam represented a grave threat to America. He said in defending his invasion, “Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant who has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people.” In fact, he wasn’t just saying there is a body of intelligence which strongly suggests that Hussein has WMDs. He was certain; he knew it; “there was no doubt.”
“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”
“'I’m confident that our search will yield that which I strongly believe, that Saddam had a weapons program.”
And as for the connection between Al-Qaida and Saddam, Bush said, “We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaida members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.”
So, when confronted with unmistakable evidence that both propositions were wrong – that Iraq in fact did not have WMDs, and that it did not in fact have any meaningful contacts with Al-Qaida, the President took full responsibility, and humbly apologized to a forgiving nation.
Oh, wait, no he didn’t. First, he just lied:
“We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.”
But then he argued that he didn’t really say WMDs at all. He had meant to say WMD “related program activities,” which in fact was born out. And as for Al-Qaida, well, they never really meant that there were ties between the 9/11 attack and Iraq, just between Al-Qaida terrorists and Iraq (which would be true for dozens of countries, of course, including the US, who had “ties” to Osama Bin Ladn himself during the USSR’s Afghan war.
OK, so Bush isn’t big on accepting responsibity for leading the US into a war by mistake. (A pretty big “oopsie” by any measure.) What about taking personal responsibility for his domestic policies?
Well, when he proposed a massive tax cut, fears of a deficit arose amidst a weakening economy. However, George was sure that deficits wouldn’t materialize: “we can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits, even if the economy softens.” Whew! Hang on…
We ended up having record deficits. Which is a problem, according to George:
“Many of you have talked about the need to pay down our national debt. . . I agree. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to act now.”
It turns out, though, that taking responsibility for these deficits means that they’re not really that important after all, as Vice President Cheney explained: “ Reagan proved that deficits don't matter.”
But surely the massive tax cuts were designed to create jobs, right?
“He has proposed a jobs and economic growth plan that would help create 510,000 new jobs this year and a total of 1.4 million new jobs by the end of next year. The president will not be satisfied until everyone looking for work can find it. “ – White House press release
The President’s plan will help the economy to create 1.4 million new jobs by the end of 2004.” – same
So, when the economy failed to produce any additional jobs, and in fact ended up actually losing jobs, the President took personal responsibility, right?
I think by now you know the answer. The failure to create jobs is given the “bush’ treatment: first it is denied -- “we have too created jobs.” Then it is argues that job creation isn’t really relevant, and that the paltry level of jobs is in fact more than adequate, since those without jobs are too stupid and/or lazy to actually get one, so that the job loss is in fact not real since everyone who deserves a job has one. Plus you can always sell things on e-bay.”
And before we conclude this screed, who can forget candidate Bush’s accusation against President Gore in 2000: “If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that.” Thank God!
Coming Next: The Republicans’ Dire Predictions Are Always Wrong
So here’s my entry.
The Case for Restoring Children’s Right-to-Work
In a perhaps over-zealous effort to infantlize the nation's youth, Thoedore Roosevelt, so-called Republican, gave in to the goo-goo crowd of his day and flat-out outlawed child labor. The harmful effects of this dubious decree reverberate to this day.
Consider the case of Marilyn O'Leary, a third grade student in Floral Park, a suburb of New York City. Marilyn would like to have some money to buy a new Barbie video game. But sadly, Marilyn's parents have not given her the money she needs, claiming that Marilyn needs to focus more on the left-wing agenda that passes for social studies at her local union-dominated school.
And because of this country's misguided labor laws, Marilyn has forfeited her right to work.
In a small building behind a Hess gas station, Eduardo Martinez has a small factory, affixing stickers to various promotional items, like a toy gas truck. Because of the small size of some of the items Mr. Martinez would dearly love to have children, preferably 10 and under, to handle the work. But his right to hire the best worker for the job, at a price that the market deems fair, is utterly and completely cut off.
The time has come in this country to abandon antiquated notions of paternalism, and join the rest of the world in competing with our full might. If Guatemalan children can affix designer logos to polo shirts, just wait til Mrs. Frossberger's third grade class at Floral Park Elementary School gets their hands on a needle and thread. Look out Indonesia: soon, we'll have polo shirts in Wal-Mart for just 99 cents.
A Grand Unified Theory explaining the basic Fundamentals of American Politics, in language that is Simple to Understand.
It may be that the change/status quo pair is more or less synonymous with the unsatisfied/satisfied. While one can look at things from a variety of perspectives, looking at our political life as a contest between those who would change things and those who would preserve things as they are explains quite a bit, and illuminates just how far our culture has swung to the preservers, and how far it has to go until the changers have their day.
Of course, I use the terms preservers, conservatives and Republicans more or less synonymously, as are changers, liberals, progressives and Democrats. I think, however, that the impulses toward change (for/against) are powerful motivators and drive much of our political rhetoric.
Currently, Republicans and Democrats are locked in what appears to be a dead-heat death match for the White House. Republicans tell voters that the world is uniquely dangerous, and that their man Bush is uniquely able to defend (preserve) their safe, comfortable lives. Further, the Republicans argue that if the other man should win, terrible and disruptive things would ensue: taxes would rise, government would become fat and lazy, schools would return to the “soft bigotry” of the past, and the government would take over our healthcare system and ruin it. Democrats insist that while security is paramount, we aren’t doing enough (dissatisfied with the status quo), and that other areas of our lives – jobs, healthcare, education – are in desperate need of change.
In short, Republicans are running on a platform of preserving the status quo, while pointing out that the other party is proposing all manner of scary changes. The Dems acknowledge that preserving our physical safety is key, but propose to make changes to further that goal. Further, they propose numerous changes designed to address areas of dissatisfaction. They point to the other guy as a do-nothing leader whose efforts to implement change have been a failure.
I believe that there is an ideal balance between change and anti-change, and that the interplay of these opposing forces in our society generally serves our interest well. Consider a world made up entirely of anti-changers – Republicans, if you will. It’s easy to guess that we wouldn’t have Medicare or Medicaid, or Social Security or even the minimum wage or anti-child labor laws. Indeed, I don’t think it’s unfair to wonder whether we’d still be living in an essentially feudal society, where those who controlled wealth and power used it to advance their own interests, and helped others only as their consciences dictated.
Now consider the opposite world where there are only those who desire change – liberals run amok. Would it be a society where basic concepts like private property and the rule of law had trouble persisting? I confess it’s a little hard to imagine what it would look like, but it’s easy to imagine that we’d be pursuing change for change’s sake, and that our standard of living would be far lower as society’s resources were routinely used to effectuate changes. We would, however, probably have free cable tv with all the premium services for everybody – and therein lies the problem. Without a semi-permanent infrastructure of institutions and conventions that resist change, wealth creation becomes much more challenging, as generations of communists can attest.
No, the ideal world is not one-sided. It is the constant friction between the two forces that produces the best results over time, though in a majority-rule society, a slight advantage to the forces for change is probably desirable, for it is in the end the forces of change that light the way to the future, even if they are stronger for having overcome the forces that would have us stay right where we are.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
I am still just absolutely dumbfounded that there are any Americans who want to re-up with Bush let alone almost half. Even those that say they plan to vote for the President seem to struggle to come up with any reasons, other than he seems tougher on terrorists and that the economy is improving. Apparently, the encroaching fascism doesn’t seem to be a worry.
I can’t help but think when this guy gets in and introduces 1) national flat tax that just kills the middle class, 2) privatization of Social Security (that so unbalances the system that we will have a budget deficit approaching a billion), and Syria/Iran (Iraq 2.0), there’s gonna be lots of Bush supporters who are going to plead either that they didn’t know he was gonna do these things (even though he says he is), or two, no one told them what bad news this guy was. Oh, and a whole lotta, “Gee, I’m sorry I helped trash freedom and democracy. Whoops! My bad.”
Then the grown-ups will have to take over and clean up this God-awful mess.
I sometimes think that the Dems aren’t really ready to take back the reins of power. So much of the Democratic rhetoric is essentially an attack on the Repubs and Bush, and so little (too little?) is on the vision for the future. With a bit more time, we will certainly bring many more Americans over to our world view of hope and optimism, but right now an awful lot of us still seem utterly trapped by fear and hatred.
The Dems have not quite finished sharpening their message. If we do regain some element of power, we will still have before us the hard work of articulating and selling a basic message. Everyone knows the right’s message: the liberals are tax and spend, big government types who have no God and are completely amoral. But the counterpart from our side is still not fully gelled. The Repubs are heartless robber barons who could give a fig about working class people, and will screw the little people every chance they get. While this seems clear to me, it’s not “soup” until it becomes an unspoken premise of The Media’s thinking.
Plus, that’s just the negative side. On the positive side, everyone knows the Repub vision: smaller government, lower taxes, um…OK that’s about it. But everyone knows it. On our side, we’re still carrying the negative image the Repubs paint of us, and haven’t yet articulated our own vision. In other words, we’re still busy fending off the false attack of the right that what we really want is Big Government and higher taxes. The idea that what we want is better healthcare, schools that work, tax fairness, incentives for businesses to innovate, etc., is still only penciled in.
The right is unified by a single big idea: that the private market place is more efficient than government programs. Our big idea is still a bit murky: it’s something like the government has a useful role to play in correcting the injustices of the market (like only rich people being able to afford health care). But to me, at least, it’s still not there. Somehow or other, I think our big idea will have to take off from the idea of the government as value-adder.
On a related note, from my own perspective, I think the job market remains rather depressed for all but the most low-level jobs. I see precious little hiring of anyone other than customer service types and salespeople. I still don’t see new corporate spending on anything really new. Cowardice reigns! Spend on sure things only – nothing else. Risk is for the poor, not those with means.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
I thought Bob Schieffer did a magnificently bad job. I really couldn’t believe the question about the President’s faith:
You were asked before the invasion, or after the invasion, of Iraq if you'd checked with your dad. And I believe, I don't remember the quote exactly, but I believe you said you had checked with a higher authority. I would like to ask you, what part does your faith play on your policy decisions?
What in the world is this question supposed to elicit? What did Bob expect Kerry was going to be able to say “in response?” This struck me as an overt effort to give the President a chance to speechify in his trademark Unprepared Student style about faith at the end of the proceedings. I was especially surprised when the question turned away from what I thought was going to be something a wee bit challenging, like, “What led you to reject the judgment of your father and others in his administration that invading Iraq was a mistake because of the risk that we would get bogged down in a quagmire with no real exit strategy?”
The real stunners of the night to me were:
-- When the President blamed the flu vaccine shortage on foreigners (the British), said we were working with some less foreign foreigners (the Canadians), and that the patriotic thing to do was to simply do without. Yikes!
-- The President lying about his intemperate remarks about wanting Osama dead or alive (of course). I think this may well be the symbolic nail in the coffin of his re-election campaign. It’s just too easy for the media to replay the two clips right after each other. And as far more perceptive minds than I have noted, it cuts right to the heart of the public’s dissatisfaction with the administration. It is a clear demonstration of the “taking their eye off the ball” charge, it is a clear demonstration that the President is plainly a liar, it is a clear demonstration that the President lacks the maturity to accept any kind of responsibility, and it is a clear demonstration that the President lacks the judgment to handle such an awesome responsibility.
-- I was struck by how obviously inconsistent the President’s remarks were about government sponsored health care. On the one hand, he seemed to think it was, I suppose like all government services, poor quality and likely to lead to abuse (“government- run health will lead to poor-quality health”). But on the other, he seemed quite proud of the government run health care programs: “Veterans are getting very good health care under my administration.” I’m surprised even the muddled press hasn’t picked up on this. Pretty obvious, in my view.
-- The President saying that what unemployed workers really are interested in is education, specifically the No Child Left behind Act. Well, in about three weeks Mr. Bush may have the opportunity to learn first hand what unemployed people are interested in. I’m pretty sure it ain’t higher fourth grade reading scores. He topped off this corker with the “reading is the new civil right” quote. Which I thought was pretty remarkable. What’s the next civil right, I wonder? The right to electricity? Freedom from the 100 hour workweek? (Actually, if Bush wins, we might just be campaigning for that…)
-- Kerry’s smackdown of Bush’s lame defense of his funding for NCLB – actually, two of them. First, “He'll tell you he's raised the money, and he has. But he didn't put in what he promised, and that makes a difference in the lives of our children.” A point which was not rebutted. Second, “You don't measure it by a percentage increase. Mr. President, you measure it by whether you're getting the job done.” KO, Kerry.
-- One for those paying close attention, perhaps, but I thought it was choice: Kerry’s smackdown of Bush defense of his performance on Pell grants. “But you know why the Pell Grants have gone up in their numbers? Because more people qualify for them because they don't have money.” Kerry surely could have hit this more crisply, but for those paying attention, this was pretty devastating: Bush can cite one million more families qualifying for Pell grants because he has made more families worse enough off that they qualify. Too bad the available pool of funds hasn’t been increased (in fact it’s been decreased).
Oh, and by the way, just why won’t anyone in the press ever hold these Repubs responsible for their bad judgments. Every single time we’ve raised the minimum wage, the Repubs have been 100% certain that a catastrophic economic collapse will ensue, and they’ve been wrong every single time. In fact, every time we do something over the Repubs objections (which is every time we do something that doesn’t have as its primary purpose benefiting corporate America), the objections turn out to be crap. And never once have I seen a reporter call these guys on it. They’re now claiming that if Kerry gets in, he’ll tax everyone to death. Didn’t they make the same claims about Bill Clinton? Weren’t they proven embarrassingly wrong?
And that concludes the screed for the day. Respond, if you dare…
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Those of us on the left are falling for the bait, “Big Time.” There’s a database of Sinclair’s advertisers, complete with names and phone numbers, so all of us outraged dems can call the Dayton Ohio Tire Center to complain about their advertising on Sinclair, the license renewal info for each station has been posted so we can all remember to complain at license renewal time, and there’s even some corporate info posted designed to help drive down the company’s stock price.
The outrage stems from the fact that many of these stations are in swing states, and that the allegations have proven effective at getting people to dislike Kerry and support the Other Guy. Oh, and that the allegations are demonstrably false.
All of which misses the point, in my view. Gather round, chillin’, and have the World’s Most Reasonable Man tell you What to Think:
This entire Affair has been orchestrated to prevent the showing of our “Stolen Glory,” “Fahrenheit 911.” There’s been some talk of getting Fahrenheit 911 on broadcast air before the elections. And while Fahrenheit 911 is scrupulously accurate, those on the right can concoct some arguments that suggest there are come cut corners. In my view, there are some corners that may be a wee bit cut, but so what – the overall message is unquestionably accurate.
Like everything else, at the end of the day this is about money. No one would care if the nice fascists over at the Sinclair Broadcasting Company wanted to donate an hour’s worth of air time to show their little exercise in rapid right-wing nuttery. But the fair market value of the time would have to clear the various legal requirements for political donations. (Whether it could clear these hurdles or not, I don’t know.) It would be a significant sum of money, but hardly anything compared with 90 minutes of NBC, ABC and CBS, which is what some on the left have been contemplating. The point is either to make sure that Fahrenheit 911 never sees broadcast air, or that if it does, it will be mind-numbingly expensive.
And that, dears, is What To Think for today.
Caught a snippet of Randi Rhodes on Air America over the weekend, and she was discussing the book 1984 with a high school English teacher (who was great). And they danced around and almost hit the point that lurched me back into Terrified Mode. One of the secrets of double-think was to keep telling people that things are as we say they, that the past was as we say it was, and that the future will be as we say it will be.
And through the cunning use of double-think, simply repeating the lie over and over, it became indistinguishable from reality. (OK, I’m a little fuzzy on the book. I’ll read it cover to cover soon.) The point that frightened me was the idea that, to get people to believe the lies, they have to learn that what they see and hear with their own two eyes and ears is not reliable. I see this manifested today in the way the news media reports things. Today’s blogosphere is full of complaints that the news media tends to equate Repub giant whopper lies with Dem meaningless mistakes and omissions. True enough. But the big evil is that the media has taught most voters that what the politicians say is not true, that you can’t trust anyone, and that while Bush may have needlessly plunged us into war, trashed the economy and handed the environment over to the coal companies, Kerry’s explanation of some of his Senate votes is a bit muddy, and that his wife is super-rich and he may be a bit of a hypocrite.
People have learned that what the press tells them may very well be false – a cultural attribute the Repubs have helped build by feeding the press lie after lie, so that the public no longer trusts the one institution that is supposed to be their safeguard against tyranny. If the media has been corrupted by lies masquerading as “spin,” and the people no longer trust it, what is the way out?
It may be that we are in fact not on the verge of the huge upswing in progressive fortunes that I generally believe is underway. We may be having the last gasp of freedom before entering the dark world Orwell warned us of. If the Bushes are returned for 4 more years, I fear that those few elements of progressivism that remain will simply be squashed for good, and the days of freedom and light will be delayed even further.
Perhaps we’ll move to Guam, or Spain.
Saturday, October 09, 2004
On another note, I absolutely love making the President deny that he’s going bring back the draft. It’s exactly the same as making your opponent deny that he’s beating his wife. Excellent.
I remember when Bush was asked whether he thought he had made any mistakes at his so-called “press conference.” His response was he wished that the question had been submitted in advance (presumably so he could prepare an answer). He then went on to think for a moment and conclude that, thinking back on everything, no, he really couldn’t really think of any. At the debate last night, having had these many months to prepare an answer, he didn’t seem to be any better prepared than he was so many months ago. And still, no real idea of any mistakes. Any adult who has ever encountered a child who’s always in trouble but it’s never their fault will recognize this putz in two seconds.
Big Thought: Remember the build-up to the Iraq invasion? Remember how the President and his people went way, way out of their way to assert their absolute conviction that they were right (phrases like “100% certain,” “no doubt,” “in fact,” etc.)? There’s a reason why: they knew they had to convince a skeptical populace, and they also knew the evidence was beyond thin. And that’s the big point: they knew perfectly well just how lousy their intelligence was. That’s why when the President was asked about mistakes he said there weren’t any (other than a few appointments which didn’t work out, but being such a gentlemen he declined to name them on the air (Paul O’Neill and Richard Clarke you know who you are), but then launched into a lengthy defense of Iraq. In my experience, impassioned defenses where none are called for generally belie a guilty conscience. My suspicion is that the President is going to spend the remainder of his days trying to convince anyone who will listen (and I’m hoping it will be people like Manny Rodriguez, his caddy at the country club) that his invasion of Iraq was justified, even required and noble. But the person he’s most trying to convince is himself.
One last thread: the President has claimed (including in the first debate) that the “miscalculation” (which somehow or other doesn’t count as a mistake) of the “catastrophic victory” (if you wrote this in fiction people would say it wasn’t believable) was the cause of the problems we’ve been seeing in Iraq. But doesn’t anybody remember that the invasion plan was heavily promoted as “shock and awe?” It wasn’t “grind ‘em down,” or “Operation Delayed Victory.” The catastrophic victory was exactly what they told everybody they wanted. The miscalculation was that they simply didn’t believe that the Iraqi’s wouldn’t welcome them as liberators. (“we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”) In fact – once again, I suspect they feared that the event would go off exactly as it “in fact” did, and just desperately wanted to believe that it would go off the way it should in their fantasy.
Friday, October 08, 2004
First of all, on the audience: I was struck by just how much courage it took to stand up, and clearly and plainly speak to the President of the United States some pretty harsh words (i.e, “Did you really go fishing in the rain this afternoon?”). I thought every single questioner was quite impressive and showed a lot of gumption. See? I told you Americans were all right. As for the questions themselves, while I agree that they were quite good, the press’ fawning all over them just underscores to me just how bad most “journalists” are at their jobs. These are the questions that they should be discussing every day, and yet they seem quite concerned with things like Bush’s scowling, Kerry’s tan, etc. Memo to press: maybe if you tried a little harder, you could catch the journalistic standard of Missouri Third Grade Teacher Sandy.
On to the main event: Kerry KO’d the bastard by any reasonable measure. He has permanently defanged the flip-flopper charge once and for all. He has poisoned everything the President says about Kerry by charging that the President is just trying to scare us. Kerry did not flip, nor flop, nor was he wighy-washy or muddled or verbose. Not even French. Asked to speak plainly into the camera and say that he would not under any circumstances raise taxes on families earning under $200K, Kerry did just that without the slightest hesitation. Bush’s answers were frankly strange, and fodder for the conspiricists amongst us who believe that the President’s health is in fact declining and causing him to be a Bigger and Bigger Jerk.
As the discussion wore on, I thought the reaction of the audience members was clearly favoring Kerry. I thought Kerry connected with the American people tonight in a way that pretty much cements things for him come the 2d. I really can’t see how, barring some October surprise or other unforeseen-able event, Bush can win this thing. But then, I don’t really see how he’s getting any votes at all. Are there any Americans who think invading Iraq was a good idea? That we had no choice in order to defend ourselves? I mean besides the President and his immediate family (which for these purposes includes the Dark Lord Cheney).
I may have more on this later, but if the polls fail to continue their current Kerry-favoring trend I’d be pretty surprised.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
The Vice President started off with a long rambling analysis of why it was a Good Thing to invade Iraq. First, he claimed,
It's important to look at all of our developments in Iraq within the broader context of the global war on terror.Thus began the administration’s ever-popular, ever-misleading pap about how taking out Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11 and the larger “war on terror.” The truth is the Iraqi invasion had little to with the war on terror, and everything to do with a neo-con fantasy about bringing democracy to the Middle East at the point of a US Army gun. Dark Lord Cheney went on to say recite the latest version of why we went into Iraq:
Concern about Iraq specifically focused on the fact that Saddam Hussein had been, for years, listed on the state sponsor of terror, that they he had established relationships with Abu Nidal, who operated out of Baghdad; he paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers; and he had an established relationship with Al Qaida. Specifically, look at George Tenet, the CIA director's testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations two years ago when he talked about a 10-year relationship.
The effort that we've mounted with respect to Iraq focused specifically on the possibility that this was the most likely nexus between the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.Deconstructing this is both easy and fun. Almost nothing recited by the Dark Lord turns out to be both true and relevant. But for Edwards, the easy smack down that could have helped put this away for our side would be to say, “Mr. Cheney has tonight recited a whole litany of reason why we had to invade Iraq. All I can say is that not a single one of these reasons was cited by the administration when it asked the US Congress for authority to use force under the certain circumstances, nor the United Nations when seeking to pass the test of global opinion.”
An even more compelling example came when Cheney was trying to score points for the “Global Test” remark of Kerry’s (“We heard Senator Kerry say the other night that there ought to be some kind of global test before U.S. troops are deployed preemptively to protect the United States.”). First, Kerry said the opposite:
No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.Not that we would need to pass a “test before US troops are deployed to preemptively protect the United States,” as claimed be Cheney, but that Kerry would not cede, “in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.” So right there, boom. Smack-down, baby.
Secondly, and even more importantly, the global test that Kerry referred to is nothing more than the ability to convince the world (and our fellow citizens) that the government’s actions were justified. To make light of this “global test” is to lampoon none other than Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people toAnd right there, “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind,” is what John Kerry is talking about. And, for what it’s worth, as I’ve written in a previous post, at the heart of our current difficulties: a lack of respect for the opinions of mankind. We might agree or disagree with France or Russia or China or Saudi Arabia, but to dismiss their views as irrelevant and of in interest is the root cause of the anemia of our coalition and our lack of success in Iraq.
dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which
the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the
opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.
OK, so Edwards quoting Jefferson might be a little much, but only a little. But it does bring out a larger issue: all through the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, many people agreed that Saddam Hussein posed a danger and ought to be confronted. But the evidence we had simply did not warrant an invasion. If it did, why aren’t those coutries whose security is actually threatened right there with us? Where’s Iran? Where’s Yemen? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Russia, for heavens’ sake. All these nations were with us in the Gulf War, and none are with us today. If we can’t convince these guys of the danger, then there was good reason to believe that we were overreacting. I think most Americans know in their hearts that the evidence simply did not warrant the kind of actions we’ve undertaken. (Of some concern, though, is the fact that many Americans don’t care: any killing of Muslims is A-OK with them. Sheesh.)
There were several more opportunities for Edwards to shove the dagger in, all basically missed. “Mr. Vice President, you and George Bush have made our supposed lack of consistency the centerpiece of your campaign. Which I can understand, because if I had your sorry record of failure, I wouldn’t want to run on it either. But the plain truth is, no matter how many times you pretend not to understand our positions, they have been absolutely consistent from the get-go. And I think the American people understand that. Even more importantly, however, is the fact that the American people understand that John Kerry wants to take this country in a different direction than the one it’s heading in, and I know on Election Day we’ll see a a majority of Americans agree with us, not you.”
Ah, democratic fantasies of what might have been. Let’s hope for some more ass-whuppin’ tomorrow night in St. Louis. (“Mr. President, being a lazy stupid slimebag is NOT hard work. Now cut it out.”)
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
But Somehow I Don't Feel Victorious
Reviewing last night’s debate, I’m torn by two warring impulses. On the one hand, I believe the Senator did a god job by staying on message, remembering that the voters are choosing between rival candidates for President and not Vice President, and not “taking the bait” that the Vice President so often threw his way. So, kudos to the young Boy Wonder.
But on the other hand, the lack of clearly explaining his positions, his wishy-washy answers – in fact the very things that constitute “staying on message – made me yell at the TV. (I actually listened to more than half of it on the radio, where the Vice President came off far less evil than he did on TV).
I wanted Edwards to say, “You keep saying, over and over, that we were inconsistent in our views on the war. That we blow with the winds of the polls. Well, sir, nothing could be farther from the truth. John Kerry’s and mine position on Iraq has been consistent and crystal clear to anyone who’s bothered to look at our record. We are for disarming Hussein, but against an ill-advised rush to war without a broad coalition of allies and a clear plan for winning the peace.” Or, “Mr. Vice President, you may think my record or the record of Senator Kerry undistinguished. But sir, I beg to differ. I am proud of my service in the Senate, and proud to defend the record of Senator Kerry. Every time your friends –the big insurance companies, the big polluters, the wealthy – have come after my friends – the working people of this country, I’ve sided with the working people, because I know that what’s best for them is what’s best for this country.”
Or something like that.
Last night Democratic fears were laid to rest when Vice President Cheney did not appear to use any sort of dark magic to place an evil spell on Senator John Edwards, the Democratic Nominee. The Senator's friends and family were pleased, especially since many believed that the insanity of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who faced the Vice President in 2000, was due to just such a spell.
“I was so relieved I thought I was going to cry,” said the Senator’s wife Elizabeth. “When we saw the photos clearly showing the Vice President’s horns and tail, well, we were apprehensive to say the least. But I believe in my heart that my John will come through it all right.”
Kerry campaign advisor Joe Lockhart said, “I thought for a minute there that the Vice President was going to lean over and try to eat the Senator. But it was just a handshake. However, the results from the Senator’s medical exam are not yet final, though based on our review of the videotape, we’re cautiously optimistic this morning.”
Democratic strategists have believed for several years that the inexplicable level of support for the failed Bush administration could only be due to the supernatural powers of Dick Cheney. The first inklings of his special abilities came in 2001 when a poorly-lit video tape of what appeared to be a nighttime satanic ritual in a forest was sent anonymously to Al Gore. On the tape, several men, who have been tentatively identified as prominent neo-conservatives “Scooter” Libby, the Vice President’s chief of staff, Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz and Assistant Secretary for Middle Eastern Affairs Douglas Feith, can be clearly heard chanting, “O Dark Lord, We humble ourselves before your greatness. Death to Terrorists and/or Liberals Forever!” Neither the Vice President’s office nor the White House has commented on the tape to date.
Following review of the tape, many Democrats and para-normal researchers came to believe that the Vice President was using his powers to control the electorate. They cite the fact that, despite conclusive evidence coming to light of the administration’s many policy failures, deception and corruption, over 40% of Americans rate the President as a “strong and resolute leader, with no mixed messages.” The fact that so many poll respondents use almost the same exact language to describe their feelings – “strong,” “resolute,” "beloved leader," “no mixed messages” – has lent some support to the Democrat’s theory that the administration is in fact using magic to interfere with the normal political process.
The debates resume Friday night in St. Louis Missouri, where Senator Kerry and President Bush are slated to take part in an old-fashioned “quilting bee,” with members of the Quilting Society at Quilts on Main in historic St. Charles , Missouri. Senator Kerry is said to be undergoing a secret “preventative” ritual at a Catholic compound in nearby Louisiana this week.
Friday, October 01, 2004
“LEHRER: Mr. President, new question. Two minutes. Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another preemptive military action?
BUSH: I would hope I never have to. I understand how hard it is to commit troops. Never wanted to commit troops. When I was running -- when we had the debate in 2000, never dreamt I'd be doing that.
LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
KERRY: Jim, the president just said something extraordinarily revealing and frankly very important in this debate. In answer to your question about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he just said, "The enemy attacked us." Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us. al Qaeda attacked us.”
I think this exchange made the President mad. He was being accused – justly—of having flubbed the hunt for Osama bin ladn. And he was sensitive about it, especially because he spends almost all his time surrounded with people who dare not even think this thought let alone utter it for fear of harming the Presidential Morale. So in an unguarded moment, he lashed out.
BUSH: First of all, of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that.
And secondly, to think that another round of resolutions would have caused Saddam Hussein to disarm, disclose, is ludicrous, in my judgment.
“Ludicrous.” Right there, ladies and gentlemen, is the heart of the matter. When assembling a coalition, we may agree or disagree with our prospective partners. And if we disagree, it’s not going to harm our overall relationship. But the Bush administration didn’t simply disagree with our partners, they dismissed them. We didn’t think they were mistaken, or seriously misjudging the risk, or simply wrong-headed. We thought they were “ludicrous.” We indicated to them that we had disdain for their points of view. “You’re with us or against us.” We showed a fundamental lack of respect for their views.
It’s the lack of respect – for our allies, for the loyal opposition, even ultimately for their own constituency – that will bring these people down.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Senator Kerry started to settle down a bit, and before long (say, after the first 10-15 minutes), found his prosecutorial voice. The President, on the other hand, soon was revealed to have memorized only about 5 minutes of material, so that he quickly seemed oddly repetitive. Soon, Bush fell back to his dis-engaged mode, where he had a hard time following the conversation, and seemed to forget at times even where he was on his own script. Long, awkward pauses. Trying to remember where he was going and coming up with something that didn’t really fit.
By the last 30 minutes, Kerry was rolling, landing solid punch after solid punch. Bush, reeling, out of material, utterly unable to respond coherently.
OK, on to the insta-nalysis.
Bush seemed to be running for President of Springfield High Student Council. He was repeating his straw man arguments as though he were accusing his opponent of being in favor of more homework, while his own view was that homework was bad. Very bad. (“I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently.” “I know Bin Laden attacked us. I know that.” “Whew. That's a loaded question.” “And by the way, the breach on the agreement was not through plutonium. The breach on the agreement is highly enriched uranium.” “So I went to the United Nations. I didn't need anybody to tell me to go to the United Nations. I decided to go there myself.” “Actually, you forgot Poland.”
Bush’s logic was the perfect expression of a fascist authoritarian regime. Once the President decides to send the troops into battle, there is no choice but to leave them there, presumably forever if the mission isn’t accomplished. The last time we heard this was from the people that brought us the Viet Nam war, when those who believed that the war was a good idea accused those who disagreed of undermining the troop’s morale. The truth is, those with their hands on the levers of government only gave up in Viet Nam when the troops joined the populace in rejecting the validity of the mission, whether because they disagreed with the mission (creating a free and democratic South Viet Nam) or simply thought it was an un-accomplishable mission (pushing string). The same thing is going on now: Iraq was a foolish engagement, our mission there is misguided, and we will not succeed in creating a free and democratic Iraq by going it alone.
Kerry was terribly presidential. Bush, not so much. Senator Kerry was in command, and showed his raw power and strength. When accused, for like the 49th time, of being weak, inconsistent, inconstant, waffling, irresolute, a wilter, even, Kerry brushed off this nonsense easily. “I have no intention of wilting. I've never wilted in my life. And I've never wavered in my life.” Flip-flopper no more.
The terrible burden of doubt flew from the shoulders of Kerry’s supporters to those of Bush’s in a mere 90 minutes. Coming in, Dems worried that if they didn’t get a big win, they’d be in trouble. Repubs worried that Bush could flub it, but if he just stayed on script they’d all be enjoying some fine Randy Travis tunes in D.C. come January 20. By the time the thing was done, the Kerry camp was beginning to think they might be able to get Bruce for the Inauguration. The Bush camp was clearly troubled by their guy’s miserable performance, and by Kerry’s unwillingness to accept the labels Bush tried to tag on him (flip-flopper, weak). Kerry’s guys were psyched that their guy got the job done, “big time,” and that the President seemed so un-Presidential. Kerry’s camp comes out thinking they’ve got a chance to win, Bush’s camp comes out worried they’ve got a chance to lose.
Cripes but Bush came off like an idiot. He seemed to have no ability to discuss the issues in any way other than to speak off the script. “What you like a cookie, Mr. President.” “Jim, the trouble with my opponent is that he thinks we can send mixed messages, and I know you can’t.” “But what about the cookie, Mr. President?” “It’s just not what a commander in chief does, Jim.”
All in all, I’m feeling heartened that my counter-attach theory (below) is panning out. If this was a sporting contest, like say football or baseball, I’m liking the chances of the team trailing slightly and with a lot to prove against a complacent, smug and under-talented bunch of thugs.
In the big ring tonight, Smirking Chimp-Boy vs. The Sen-a-torrr! History awaits the impact of tonight’s debate on the race for the White House. Will it be an utterly-predictable snooze-fest, full of over-rehearsed blurbs devoid of meaning?
Will it be the electorate-moving mega-event the Kerry campaign hopes for?
Will it help Kerry on his road to the Presidency?
Absolutely. I believe that Kerry, consciously or not, is pursuing a counter-attack strategy. The basic idea is to let the President make the first thrust, and when he’s shown his hand, counter-attack. It is a powerful strategy, allowing the defender the chance to husband their resources while the other side expends much of their resources and energy in an ultimately unsuccessful parry. The defender lives to fight another day, and now has a comparative advantage: plenty of resources left, while the opponent is depleted. If the counterattack is strong and well-timed, it can be the death blow. A solid performance tonight can be the first drop in a drip-drip-drip strategy of building momentum through Election Day.
At least that’s what I’m hoping. It certainly explains Senator Kerry’s history as a “strong finisher” as well as a prosecutor. A prosecutor must put on a strong prima facie case, but victory lies in being able to discredit the various excuses and defenses that the defendant raises. As the excuses and defenses are discredited, the prima facie case becomes all the stronger. I suspect that is what is happening here.
The President has now spent his attack capital. Kerry is a flip-flopper, irresolute, soft, etc. He has not had any other campaign. If (when!?) Kerry refutes these claims, the President is cooked. The refutation will not only serve to elevate Kerry, but will show the President to be a liar – a belief for which there is already a considerable foundation laid. Most voters are aware that the President stands accused of misleading us into war. If Kerry can show that the flip-flopper charge is bogus, more people will buy into the “frame” of President as untrustworthy. Plus, they’ll have a solid basis to think that Kerry will be a resolute president.
I continue to be optimistic about this race, since I think the exposure of voters to any kind of facts inevitably helps Senator Kerry and hurts President Bush. In truth, in reality, Kerry is a far superior choice to be President than Bush. (As was Gore.) The President’s ability to obfuscate reality by creating a series of diversions ought to be weakened by his having done so and been caught out on it with the Swift Boat deal. As the election nears, the Media will have a harder and harder time pretending that the actual issues facing the electorate are secondary to things such as “tan-gate,” this morning’s newest diversion (Did John Kerry Visit a Tanning Salon?”).
In the end, of course, we’ll get the President we deserve. If too many of us insist on living in a fantasy world, we’ll get a fantastically bad president. If enough of us wake up and smell the coffee, we’ll get a competent guy who’s actually committed to helping the American people and humanity in general.
And, win or lose on November 2, the days of the fascist-Repubs are about done. Americans have come too far to let these petty thieves take away our liberty. A new day is dawning, and whether it’s President Bush or President Kerry, the Rise of The Progressives has begun and shall not end for a generation.
Besides, even if Bush wins, having him around for 4 more years to torture will be fun. Why, the indictments alone will be worth it.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
"It seems clear that the most important and difficult long-term task facing liberals -- and, really, anyone else interested in returning even the slightest semblance of sanity to American policymaking -- is to begin the work of reversing thirty years of conservative tax revolt dogma."
Truer words ain't been spoken in some time. I think I know the secret path to reversing this idiocy. The core concept is value. Governmental value. The root cause of the public's fear of taxes is the completely erroneous belief that money paid to the government as taxes is money just plain wasted, thrown down the drain. This perception is strongly re-inforced by the way most people are introduced to the tax system: when kids or young adults get that first real paycheck, they see the list of all the various deductions, Fed, FICA, NYS DIS/SU, etc. And they can easily see just how much of what they thought they'd get ("Let's see, 40 hours, $10 an hour, ought otbe about $400 bucks...") goes to taxes.
So we make a big deal out of clearly explaining to people -- generally no less than every two weeks -- that their labor is the primary economic engine of some distant and unconnected thing called The Government. (Apart from keeping score of this grating math, I suspect there is not much other purpose to the bi-weekly distribution of reports of deposits that people get in lieu of paychecks these days).
What we almost never do is the other side of the very same ledger: when people receive government benefits, there is almost no effort made to document in dollars and cents just what people have received. For example, no one receives a statement at the end of every month saying that the federal government has provided national security services costing $38.75. No report from the state of New York saying that the cost of providing the various subway and bus rides, use of the roadways, and other transportation infrastructure comes to $14.21. Nothing from the City of New York (I can't help capitalizing that one!) saying police, fire, sewage, garbage and caring for our young people and providing them with a modest education cost $9.52.
And therein, folks, lies the problem. There is a carefully calibrated system of making sure you knowjust how much you're paying in. And there is almost no system to ensure that you are aare of how much you're taking out. To get Americans back on the bandwagon in terms of adequate public spending (and I can't believe that we haven't fallen way behind the rest of our well-to-do peers), our leaders must begin to help Americans see the value of the government services they receive. Like this: "Like clean air? Clean water? How about pure, unadulterated meat? What about the fact that in our nation, children are not allowed to work in factories. Or that you can rest assured that businesses you interact with meet minimum standards of fair-dealing? If you like these things, then pay your taxes!" I suspect that if most Americans knew the actual cost to them on a monthly basis, of various programs, they'd be more than happy to pay. (Kind of like thinking, "I can't really afford that new plasma TV at $3000, but for just $64 a month, why hell! Why not!") What if we asked Americans if it would be worth it to them to double the number of teachers in our schools, and double the pay of the top half of those teachers? If the answer was, "just $38.56 a year," I think nearly everyone would jump at it. "If you gave up your Starbucks for just one month, we could afford to send every deserving child to the best school they could get into on merit -- all schools would have needs-blind admission." I think that's an easy sell, and the way out of the idiotic tax neurosis the Repubs have sold so well to so many. Most people complain about their taxes, but the truth is that government services are a good value, and that the government is an apparopriate vehicle for us to advance the quality of our citizens lives and ultimately the lives of our fellow humans around the world.
There. Now we've got that sorted.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
"'m going absolutely insane considering the idea that there is even a remote possibility that Bush may actually win another term as President (if that is even what you can call him). I have done a lot of thinking about how this could possibly be the situation we find ourselves in. The only conclusion I can reach is that it's the fault of the citizens. Of course you can point fingers at the media, at the lying liars, and the absolute circumvention of good-faith political discourse. However, if the people do not go the extra mile and look past the propaganda, the fault falls on their shoulders. Here are all the offenders that I can think of, feel free to add to this list.Overly "Macho" MenFor some reason, many men have decided that the macho thing to do is support Bush. This insane "kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out" mentality that many men adopt in order to prove some self percieved testosterone quota has been met meshes perfectly with Bush's unwavering dedication to war.Religious FanaticsOverly religious people believe that their beliefs are more important than the United States. They believe that the constitution should be subserviant to the bible, even when the two are in contradiction. Bush caters to these people at every turn. I know he isn't one of them completely because war profiteering isn't exactly a Christian activity (although that fact hasn't stopped them in the past).Irrationally Frightened PeopleWe live in a post-9/11 world. Obviously, 2004 comes after 2001. However, when Bush and his supporters bring that fact up time and time again, they are really saying "be afraid, be very afraid". The idea that terrorists didn't exist before 9/11 is a crazy one, and the expectation that attacks will hit the United States with voracious frequency is completely counter-intuitive. Yet that is the exact assertion planted when "post-9/11 world" is uttered before some rediculous comment. Unfortunately this preface to a statement, to many people, gives the statement a visceral response. These people believe that Bush has somehow thwarted all kinds of attacks because reality doesn't fit their expectations. They believe Bush will keep us safe, even though every single act on his part proves otherwise.Greedy PeopleSome people refer to this group as "fiscal conservatives". They would gladly do away with many important social programs just to save fifty bucks in taxes. These people only see the ® next to Bush's name and assume that their interest in "small government" will be met. They are duped into thinking that it's true because, at the expense of the security of the United States' economy, Bush gives them tax cuts that we cannot afford. They don't understand that, in the long run, they will wish they could give that money back when they realize what they have lost is worth a lot more than fifty dollars. These people also don't realize that the republican spending platform far exceeds the democrats.Out-Of-Control "Nationalists"The insane idea that blindly supporting the president is a prerequisite to being an American is an extremely dangerous proposition. One man deciding what an entire nation does without question is called a dictatorship. The people guilty of this un-American American Nationalism are the ones who say "screw the UN". They are the same ones who feel unilateralism, for any reason, is preferable. These are the people who claim that not supporting the war is somehow an inslut to the troops. They also claim that pointing out any flaw in the United States or its actions is an indicator that you hate America. These people love Bush because he loves to tell the rest of the world to shove it.Stupid PeopleTo a certain extent this is an umbrella for the other groups, however, there are plenty of people that don't fit into the other categories that still fit into this category. These morons can't see past the propaganda of Republican pundits. They believe the answer to the question "Why shouldn't we hold Bush accountable" is "because Kerry is a Flip Flopper". Logic eludes these people at every turn. For some reason the facts are lightly dealt with after the conclusion is drawn, and in dealing with the facts, they pick and choose which ones to look at depending on whether or not the information fits the conclusion they have already reached. Unfortunately, stupid people are the majority in both the United States and the rest of the world.-This is my first post, thanks for bearing with me.. I look forward to some discourse based in reason and fact (for a change). "
From a poster called richbleak, I believe.
Here's my reply:Re: Richbleak’s thoughtful post:
I have been struggling with the same questions, and have long thought the “blame-Bush/blame-the-media” story line allows our fellow citizens off the hook far too easily. The truth is about half of us approve of Mr. Bush – did in 2000, and do now. I think your breakdown touches on the main strains of Bush support, though I’m sure people could and will quibble with some details.
Americans have a long and shameful history of embracing the sort of public madness which is currently raging across our land. From the very beginning, fanatical zealotry has been a persistent strain in our nation’s history. Breaking it generally requires two things: 1) a sort of fanaticism-fatigue, where expending so much energy on something so abstract and irrelevant seems less and less worthwhile to more and more people; and 2) a catalytic event/leader. The current election cycle seems to me to demonstrate increasing fatigue. We nearly had a catalyst in Howard Dean’s mad dash for true progressivism. Whether or not John Kerry’s run for the WH will be catalytic will turn on whether he wins.
I alternate, basically based on the last thing I read, between being absolutely convinced that this current cycle of public hysteria is breaking like a wave, and will soon seem as silly and shameful as McCarthyism, or alternately being absolutely convinced that we are in fact trudging inexorably down the same path that Germany and Italy went down in the 30’s, and that the insipient fascism we’re seeing has a strong enough hold that we’re all doomed and had better move to remote New Zealand ASAP.
For many, trying to influence which of these visions comes to pass involved political activism. I know it does for me. But it also requires us to remember that our deluded fellow citizens aren’t truly all that different from the rest of us, and that what unites is can be stronger than what divides us. I come from red-state country, have family there, and still visit often. I talk with people who support Bush and can be categorized as overly macho, religious fanatics, irrationally frightened, greedy, nationalists and/or stupid. It seems to me that what these folks have in common is fear. Machismo is an outward response to in inner insecurity, no? And, when I hear religious fanatics explicating their elaborate theories at length, the thought I cannot stop having is that these people are desperately trying to convince themselves, not anyone else. To want so badly to believe in these palpably unbelievable stories shows, to me, enormous fear. I think greed is just greed in some cases, but when I hear middle-class people talk about politics, it is mostly fear that the liberal democrats are going to take what little they have in the form of high taxes. I could go on, but I think most thoughtful people will agree that Bush supporters are powerfully driven by fear. The best way to win them over is not to attack them, or make fun of them, but to support them, embrace them, help them understand that the path out of fear is not hatred, as the Bushes say, but is through hope and love, as the Democrats say. Republican thought plays a valid and useful role in our system when it is the voice of caution, the reminder that people sometimes behave badly, and the keeper of our worst fears. Similarly, Democrats are the party of change, progress, hope and the future – keeper of our fondest hopes and desires. The fair interplay of these forces produces appropriate change over time. We shall see, soon enough, whether this balance is to be restored, or whether the forces of evil have even more triumphs in store. But the best way I can see to effect the outcome is to recognize that those on the right are not so different from those on the left, that in most respects we really do agree on most things, and that like it or not, we are certainly stuck with each other so the best course is to make the best of our common strengths and interests.
I see a lot of hate and vitriol on liberal sites, and I can certainly understand the frustration. I am of course not immune from it. But it is not the way to move things forward.