Friday, June 24, 2005

Republicans Heart the Families of 9-11

Well, some of them. The ones that don't get all uppity. The ones that don't ask bothersome questions.

In Kristen Breitweiser's smackdown of Karl Rove, she noted the administration didn't want the 9-11 commission to exist and didn't bend over backwards to support it once it was established.

And those mighty members of the 101st Keyboarders who had been bathing in 9-11 imagery suddenly discovered that maybe these 9-11 families weren't all to be sympathized with after all.

Can we find some more love from Republicans for the families and survivors of 9-11?

Let's see:

here's one.

and another.

hmmm, another.

and here.

and, well, I think you get the picture.

Now That You Mention It...

While we liberals are getting all steamed by Rove's remarks and the WH's and Republican Party's official support of them, let's pause a few moments to give the WH advisor's contentions more serious consideration.

Rove states that we liberals have a different philosophy about fighting the war on terra and responding to 9-11.

First, he says we were all about seeking indictments instead of just bombing the shit out of them. Well, as it turns out, we did end up getting a few indictments. Lookie here:

But wait. Is Rove saying that the Bush administration didn't prepare any indictments as a reaction to 9/11?What about this, from former Attorney General John Ashcroft, whom--I believe--George W. Bush appointed?

"This morning, a federal grand jury indictment charging Nuradin M. Abdi, a 32-year-old Somali national, was unsealed in Columbus, Ohio. Abdi was arrested on immigration charges and has been held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since November 28, 2003. I note that an indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The charges against Abdi are:* Conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists;* Conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda; and,* Two counts of fraud and misuse of documents."

Gee, Rove must have been just furious at Ashcroft. Not only did he deal with Abdi with a mere indictment rather than personally taking him out and putting two bullets behind his ear, but he openly announced that he was presumed innocent!! What a wimp. What a marshmallow. And he calls himself a "Conservative"!

But what about Rove's overall pitch, that somehow liberals didn't approve of bombing the shit out of them? Well, naturally, roll call votes exist to show the level of support for bombing the shit out of Afghanistan, and as it turns out, only one Democrat didn't support the Afghanistan resolution on September 14, 2001.

However, let's not stop there, content as we might be to proudly show our militant colors so those big bad Republicans won't beat us up and steal our lunch money anymore.

Let's ask the question: How well, exactly, has the bombing and take-over of Afghanistan gone?

We knocked over the Taliban, whose crime it was to have provided a country for bin Laden and his gang to play around in. But we didn't actually get the guys who orchestrated 9-11 did we? Not sure what the proper metrics should be to evaluate the bombing campaign, but wouldn't one of them be that we actually succeed in nailing the main culprits?

Now, we got our guy in Afghanistan, but the drug trade there is booming, and it turns out we're still fighting Taliban remnents while simultaneously trying to establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan's Iraq neighbor.

Let's address a final matter: US culpability for 9-11. What's wrong with suggesting that our policies were at least part of the reason we were attacked? Isn't this called taking personal responsibility? Rove's buddies in the evangelical world attributed the 9-11 attacks to our own supposed moral failings as a nation. And surely, if we could be honest for a moment, we have to recognize that we've been mucking around in the Middle East for decades, usually covertly, for our nation's material and ideological benefit but often to the detriment of the region's population.

So, yes, I accept the charge that as a liberal, my philosophy of how to respond to 9-11 is different compared to that of some others. I think mine is the more responsible response.

Wondering about the troops

There's been a lot of back and forth between Lawyers, Guns and Money and Steve Gillard about encouraging the members of the 101st fighting keyboarders to enlist in a war they say they support so much.

What I'm wondering is, how much longer can the demands in Iraq be supported by the current numbers and members of the military currently stationed there? That is, is there a certain point, say, when troops stationed in other garrisons around the world have to get transfered to Iraq in order to give the guys and girls there a break? What relation is there, if any, between the number of new draftees, er, I mean, new enlistees, and the number of troops stationed in Iraq that have to be replaced either due to death or the end of their enlistment period?

Can the number and identification of the current band of troops in Iraq be maintained indefinitely? Is there some sort of rotation that enables some to return here while others stationed here go over there?

Getting Grouchy

Like my blogging compatriot, Alt Hippo, I, too, can get cranky now and then.

What usually serves to make me grouchy is when I haven't had my morning egg-and-bagel, when I haven't had my mid-morning caffeine break, and when James Wolcott hasn't updated his blog.

Fortunately, after I satisfied the first two requirements, James Wolcott came through with a new post. And, boy, is it a goodie. I especially loved this line:

This marks a tactical shift from the stay-the-coursers. Only a few weeks ago, White House flacks and their shoeshiners in the media were shrugging off the bad poll numbers with "Hey, polls go up and down." You know, sorta like the stock market. You just gotta ride out these bumps. But now that it's clear even to Bush fantasists that the polls numbers on Iraq aren't going up and down, they're only going in one direction, and picking up speed as they descend, they're saying that the opinion of the American people must be discounted for their own good.

Shoeshiners in the media. That's a gem. Not sure if it's copyrighted, but I intend to insert it wastefully in future posts. At least you'll known where I got it from.


I keep returning to Bilmon's Rove post. Especially this segment:

But I actually think Rove's rant should be seen as a somewhat encouraging sign. Rove and his idiot chorus aren't roaring at the top of their lungs to try to drown out the liberals -- that would be absurd overkill, given how effectively the corporate media has ridiculed and/or demonized the likes of Howard Dean and Dick Durbin. No, Rove's hate rally is aimed squarely at suppressing the growing doubts of the great silent majority -- and even, to a certain extent, those of the conservative true believers, some of whom are showing ominous signs of war weariness.

The rhetorical assault on the liberals, in other words, is the core of the PR counteroffensive the White House has been promising to unleash for the past week.

Having been advised by the "moderates" to level with the American people and explain just how badly things have gone off the track in Iraq, and how much time, treasure and blood it will take to redeem Bush's casual promises of victory, the Rovians apparently have decided they can't do it -- not without suffering unacceptable casualties on the home front. American troops, after all, are expendable. But Bush's political capital is both precious and increasingly scarce. Much too scarce, apparently, to waste on an exercise as frivolous as a presidential appeal for patriotic unity and shared sacrifice.

A few things strike me as particularly interesting.

First, Rove didn't make these comments in a broader, public context. He made them at a fundraiser for or with a gathering of New York state conservatives. So, as Bilmon suggests, this rancid denunctiation of "libruls" was intended to help sure up the administration's base, which may be at risk of getting itchy, given all the turmoil overseas generated by Bush-Cheney-Rove.

Second, while Rove's comments were no doubt calculated and deliberate, they nonetheless indicate signs of the administration coming unglued. It's as if Rove took the talking points that regularly get fed to Fox, Ann Coulter, Rush, and Powerline and simply said them himself. As Bilmon notes, the administration has been challenged by its more moderate party members to come clean about the challenges the country faces in Iraq and elsewhere. Bush-Rove have listened to this advice and have essentially told them and us to stick it. For whatever reason, they believe the only option open to them now is to attack "the enemy within".

Whatever one might say about this administration up till this point, they have at least appeared to be in control. But the Rove salvo is an indication that as was promised a few weeks ago, the WH is gearing up for an all-out assault on its in country opponents. Its naked partisan ambition is coming out of the closet. Although his party controls both houses of Congress and is responsible for a majority of the members sitting on the courts, W still feels this isn't enough.

He promised to change the tone in Washington. Now we may get to see what he meant by that. Change the tone alright. Change it so that only Republican voices get heard.

The president has never shown an inclination to compromise or recognize the merits of the minority party's rights and the constituencies it represents. But he's bitter nonetheless that members of another party, which supported him in large measure against its better judgement in the first years after 9-11, but remaining unconsulted by the administration in matters of policy, and ridiculed by the administration's allies in the press, won't go along entirely with his agenda.

As the administration continues its assault against opponents and dissenters, we can expect things to only get worse.

Letter to Karl

Kristen Breitweiser layeth the smacketh down on the president's chief political advisor.

Thinking Outside the Box for '08

This was a Washington Monthly article a few months back but I wanted to link to it again because while I gather the article was intended half in jest, I am of the opinion the Democrats need to reach beyond the normal list of suspects for returning the party to the presidency.

I'm particularly intrigued by the idea of having a major CEO running for the job. Ultimately, Democrats need someone media savy, not necessarily policy wonkish to run for the top job. Presidents are decision makers and responsibility delegators. Democrats will also need someone who can transcend the current political climate.

I would have added someone like Bill Moyers to this list. But we can work on that.

The Edwards Gamble*

I believe I shared a view common to lots of others about John Edwards' campaign for president in 2004. That is, that while he was a good guy with a good message, he was running before his time, and that moreover, it was foolish of him (and not good for the Democratic party either) to give up his Senate seat. On the latter point, if his 2004 gamble didn't payoff, he'd be without a political office from which to launch a later bid, say in 2008.

But now I'm thinking I was wrong. Maybe Edwards did the right thing at the right time by running last year.

I need to add that I've been rethinking my underlying premises about presidential campaigns and about what Democrats need to do the next time around. I'm increasingly coming to think that the Democrats need an outsider to run in 2008, someone capable of changing the terms of the debate (and I think the Rove speech this week helps show why this is necessary), and the ability for a candidate to that is inversely related to the degree he or she is embedded in the culture of Washington.

Yeah, this isn't entirely a brilliant new deduction that no one's thought of before. The Outsider is perenually everyone's favorite candidate, like the second string quarterback. Until that Outsider shows his or her inexperience in the public arena and the calls for someone "electable" regain their novelty.

But I think it will be even more important in 2008, if my and many others' suspicions about the likely evolving of events from Baghdad to Capital Hill prove to be correct.

In short, I think Edwards' being out of office will make him a better candidate in 2008.

While political experience is a well sought after attribute for presidential contenders, members of Congress are notoriously bad campaigners, partly because they have spent their lives casting votes on thousands of measures that can't help but prove to be fertile mining fields for op-research teams. These thousands of votes prove difficult to explain sometimes. The result is a statement like "I voted for it before I voted against it". Surely, we can't go through that again.

By the time Edwards runs again in 2008, his voting record, relatively meager as it is, thankfully, won't give opponents as much to go on as it has for other candidates. And the three years out in the public and traveling around will help Edwards hone his message and increase his already substantial ability to connect with voters. He'll be someone who can point to some political experience, he has good name recognition, but he can campaign as a non-Washingtonian, non-establishment figure.

Obviously much more can be said about Edwards' chances, but for now, I'll leave it here. I would like to see, however, other progressive bloggers start sketching out there ideas as to what sort of candidate should run in 2008.

*The first of an intermittent series dealing with the 2008 election

The Administration is desperate and in its final death throes

I wasn't sure whether to post anything about the latest hate-filled screech by Rove, but then I turned to Bilmon's Whiskey Bar and saw that he laid out the case better than I would have. So go read.

The only thing I'd add or extract from Bilmon's take is:

1. Rove's speech was calculated and deliberate
2. Anything Rove says should be understood as coming from Bush himself
3. The speech indicates they know the war in Iraq is failing and they are trying to establish a scapegoat for when the inevitable happens

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Breitweiser, '08

What? You think we have somebody better?

Check out the video clip.

Don't know if she could be convinced to run. But it would be worth a shot.

Take it Back


I was sorry to hear the pressure got to you, and that you decided you needed to make a teary recantation the other day for your remarks about Gitmo.

The bad news is the wingnuts and freepers calling for your head still hate you, and liberals sympathetic to you are disappointed you allowed yourself to be bullied.

The good news is you can still take it back. You can recant your apology. Because what you said needed saying. I know Daley is a force in your state, but Daley also happens to be on crack. And his mother dresses him funny.

The more good news is you don't even have to spend anytime on a replacement speech. Someone in your state has prepared a suitable draft for you already. Go read it.

Recanting previous recants has a proud history. Consider Jerome of Prague, the compatriot of the Protestant reformer, John Huss. Jerome was bullied by the church to recant in order to save his life. Although he initially succumbed to this pressure, he later recanted his recantation. True, yes, he was finally burned at the stake for it. But men and women whose stories live on are those who exhibit courage in the face of severe obstacles and threats.

Think about Galileo, too. Galileo, building on the work of other astronomers such as Nick Copernicus, argued, on the basis of evidence derived from telescopes, that the earth was not the center of the universe, after all, as the church fathers, relying on the bible for their guide, has assumed. Rather, it was the earth that revolved around the sun.

Now, it turns out the church fathers didn't dig what Galileo had to say. They demanded he recant his scientifically derived observations on the pain of death. Although Galileo recanted under this duress, his conclusions were later determined to be correct, and the catholic church admitted as such, finally, in 1991 when Pope JPII apologized on the behalf of the faith.

Time will later prove you to be on the right side, as well.


Jay Bulworth

Confederacy of Dunces

I don't know about you, but I was shocked, absolutely shocked, that the piece on anti-gay politics in last weekend's NYT included this aside about some southern Marylanders all fumed up about gays getting married:

The Grays have converted their basement -- paneled, wall-to-wall-carpeted, decorated with Jim Gray's Confederate memorabilia (a portrait of Jeb Stuart, framed currency) and the twinkling lights -- into an office. They each have a desk here, stacked with brochures and books and buttons. Evalena is Maryland's grass-roots director for Concerned Women for America; she and her husband devote all of their spare hours to convincing fellow citizens of the danger that the institution of marriage is facing.

The religious fundamentalists sure have some spokesmen, don't they?

Flag Burning Amendment = Bud Bowl XVI

Don't tell me we're going to have to go through this every year?!

Anyone old enough to remember the Bud Bowl advertisements that used to accompany the Super Bowl? The Bud Bowl pitted tall neck bottles of regular Bud versus Bud Light on a mock football field, an advertising campaign contrived to pump sales for the beer brand. It was interesting at first. But then it continued every year. Thankfully, I think it was finally put out of its misery (and ours) a few years back.

But the annual flag burning amendment show reminds me a lot of the old Bud Bowl spectacles. It comes up every year, usually, and perhaps not coincidentally, amidst the presence of a lot of other bad news, so as to try to distract the body politic from more relevant matters. It's completely ridiculous, and I don't give a shit if that makes me sound like some latte-sipping, volvo driving, Vermont living, cultural elitist smuck. And it's always accompanied by a biggie size order of hyper nationalism, mindless drivel mascerading as "patriotism" and "love of country", although bizarrely, it serves only to place the interests of a piece of cloth over those of human beings.

Last year the flag burning amendment charade was joined by the anti-gay marriage amendment as cultural warriors continued their never ending campaign to enshrine restrictions and prejudice into the Constitution.

And oh yes, all of this garbage is brought to us courtesy of the "less government" crowd.

If the flag amendment finally passes it will be another in the long line of proofs designed to show that we do finally get the government we deserve.

UPDATE: The Rude Pundit says that if you buy an American flag, doesn't that mean that it's your property, and that you can dispose of your property as you wish?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Another Flag Burning Amendment

Which is downright Nazi like. It's a fascist piece of legislation, designed to intimidate dissent, enforce nationalistic conformity, and to distract the ignorant from the elite's abuse of power by focusing on a piece of cloth.

It's the kind of thing Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot would have done.

And I'm not apologizing.

Slouching Towards Biblical Government

There was a news item the other day that I've not been able to track down for this post, but in sum, it announced the formation of a new progressive religious group intending to challenge the religious hegemony enjoyed by christian conservatives on the nation's airwaves and in its public debate.

On the subject of progressives and religious liberals joining hands, I'm of two minds on the subject.

On the one hand, as someone affliliated with a Christian church my whole life, and as someone who still embraces spiritual values, I welcome any effort to puncture the common misconception about religion that conservatives have engendered. The intolerant, anti-pluralist, imperialistic christianity trumpted by the right continues a long and sad history by religious leaders to gain political power by marginalizing or exterminating their opponents.

As a Democrat and a progressive, I similarly welcome any effort to undermine the Republican party's attempts to manipulate religious symbols and to confront traditional conservatives with the hypocrisy of their "values" claims.

But on the other hand, I'm afraid attempts by Democrats to color their rhetoric in values hues aggreable to religious adherents and to challenge conservatives on their policy applications of bible teachings risks making Democrats fight on the Republicans' terms and terrain. Such conflicts usually end up benefitting the latter.

The Bible is a mighty strange book. As a source for spiritual contemplation, it is an important tool. As a source for determining public morals and public policy, the whole of it leaves a lot to be desired, not the least of which because the Bible's components were written between 2000 and 3000 years ago, in a different language, for a vastly different audience and for reasons that are largely misunderstood or unrecognized.

While Democrats should be sympathetic to "people of faith" and our desire to worship as we please, Democrats must also affirm the value of keeping church and state separate, uplift the values of political and religious pluralism, and caution the body politic of the necessity for basing policy decisions on grounds that recognize the advancements of science and expansion of human freedom over the last several centuries.

The Bush Rove Strategery

Once again I delve into the world of media and come up with two pieces of literature , released on the same day, pointing up a conundrum.

The NYT has a column by Thomas Friedman wondering why the Bush Administration left itself without an heir apparent

Meanwhile, over on (and probably in the latest Newsweek) is a column by Howard Fineman that while peripheral to his talking up of John McCain's 2008 candicacy, alludes to much of the same thing.

If Karl Rove's dream of a new Republican hegemony is to be realized, why does it appear, appear I say, that the choice of the next standard bearer is being left to chance?

I offer a few theories:

1) Call it the "system" theory or "machine" theory of electoral politics. Who the candidate (and his or her opponent as well) is relatively unimportant. This may seem strange considering the cult of personality constructed around Bush and the prominence of Bush's last name. But think about it. If a cult of personality can be constructed around someone who went AWOL during the Vietnam War, and who prior to being elected Texas governor was mostly known for his fortunate placement on various corporate boards and who left several businesses worse off than when he entered them, then what can't the Rove imagery consultants do?

If there is a machine in place to generate votes, to harangue the public with wedge issues, to divert the public's attention from substantive policy issues, but able to produce favorable "analysis" when needed, then again, who the candidate is may not be as important.

This is an analogy that has considerable import in the world of professional sports, especially football, where the success of running backs and quarterbacks in particular is often passed off as being caused by the team or coach's "system". So a political application of this view may not be out of the question.

2) There really is no confusion at all, Rove and W intend for Jeb! to run and to win. The choice of Cheney as VP six years ago enabled W to give the voters an impression that there would be an adult minding the store, while at the same time, helping to ensure that Cheney, because of his health, would not likely run in 2008 (should W win a second term as he did), opening up the electoral field to W's brother to continue the family and party dynasty.

3) Despite all the hooplah about the magical powers of Rove, neither he or his bosses have particularly thought that far ahead. Cheney was selected in 2000 to address that year's deficiencies, nothing more. There was no long term view. If Friedman's befuddlement of why Bush is seemingly giving his successor so many problems to solve is any indication, maybe this theory has some merit.

4) Rove and Bush believe that they need to pick their battles, and the battle for a sucessor is one that would only serve to distract Bush and his lieutenants from other more important, and winnable matters.

5) the lack of an obvious successor allows the president to eventually play kingmaker, forcing potential suitors to line up for the president's support, perhaps winning concessions for the current occupant along the way while maintaining the president's status as party leader for a longer period of time.

Obviously, not all of these theories are mutually exclusive. In some sense, it may be possible that each theory has merit. Given the administration's penchant for seeming to hold contradictory views, this possibility may have even more validity.

Oh, THAT War on Terror(ism)

This morning's Wash Post contained two features of interest. The first was the op-ed column by Harold Meyerson that suggested a counterintuitive correlation between the publics' view of the success of the Iraq venture and the presence of an anti-war movement. Oddly, it seems that instead of allowing the conservative media a free hand to shape the public's image of the war, the decline of anti-war protests has somehow resulted in, or at least paralleled, the wider American public's view that the war is going badly and that the administration is not handling it or the war on terror well.

Meyerson himself acknowledges a confusion generated by this development. One the one hand, united Democratic opposition to the president's Social Security plan seems to have stalled the move towards privatization, suggesting that the traditional duty of the opposing party is to oppose can bear political fruit. On the other hand, Democratic acquicence to the Iraq war and the administration's broader war policies seems to have allowed the Republican Party to sink in the mire of its own ineptness.

Whatever the actual causes of the public's shift in sentiment, however, the decline in protests means the administration has lost a group to demonize, leaving itself to bear the brunt of its policies without the benefit of shifting the blame and allowing the public to draw its own conclusions, despite the best efforts of Sinclair Broadcasting, Faux Nooz and the other tentacles of the conservative establishment to glamorize the war and the administration they support.

The other item of interest escaped my attention at first. It was the picture above the fold on A1. The picture is of an American serviceman with a group of Arabic looking villagers and children surrounding him. At first I assumed the picture was taken in Iraq and was meant to imply one of those feel good stories about Americans winning hearts and minds.

I was wrong. The picture was of an American serviceman and Arabic villagers in AFGHANISTAN. The article highlighted the fact that there are still American troops in that country trying to ward off remnents of the Taliban. Almost forgot about that war on terror(ism). But it's still going on.

The combined effect was to confirm the messiness of our endeavors in the Middle East for which I don't believe there are any easy solutions. For the party out of power this represents an opportunity. I'm not sure I believe the conventional wisdom that suggests that Democrats must have an alternative narrative for the war on terra or on any other issue. I'm not big on CW anyway. But Democrats would perhaps do well to study the lessons from their approaches to opposing the administration on Social Security while allowing it a wider range of latitute on foreign policy. It suggests to me that despite the party's well documented failings and the electoral obstacles it faces, the party's best friend may turn out to be the party in power it opposes.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Week in Review

I was on vacation last week, hence the lack of posts. But what a week it was. Let's review.

Michael Jackson, not guilty on ten counts of child molestation, corrupting minors with alcohol, etc. Court TV scribes, Nancy Grace and Diane Dimond, not happy, as they're caught, cold busted, insinuating, if not proclaiming, his guilt throughout the length of the trial. Grace eats crow before proceeding to the next round of celebrity trials where she can declare the culprit guilty before proven innocent.

Terri Schiavo autopsy results released, confirming everything science had said about her condition over the past 15 years but also including the new fact that Schiavo was also absolutely flat out blind. Couldn't see. And no evidence of abuse. Not willing to leave well enough alone, however, wingnuts respond by again raising spector of judicial homicide; act as if autopsy results are unimportant. An ill-timed Mark Furman book on the case is soon to be released.

The world's worst congressman*, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, is found cashing in on the graciousness of his campaign contributors.

Demonstrating profound courage, in the only way that one can after the contentiousness of the acts has long passed, and the matter is not longer contentious, The U.S. Senate passed a resolution apologizing for its failure to pass an anti-lynching bill during the time over the last century when it might have been useful.

I finally bought a new Dell computer on-line last night and expect it to come in over the next week or two. Whooo hooo! The computer currently holding up dust in my study at home has been dated by archaeologists to have been manufactured in or about the year 1999.

*Well, who would you nominate?