Friday, September 23, 2005

Why "No" on Roberts

So some Democratic Senators are coming out against the Roberts nomination.

But what they are saying as to "why" they oppose his nomination sound strange to me.

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh said Friday he will vote against the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to be the next chief justice of the United States because not enough is known about how Roberts will act.

"I cannot (conclude he'll be a great justice) because so much essential to reaching a considered judgment about this nominee remains unknown," Bayh said in a statement. "And that is not enough for a lifetime appointment to our nation's highest court, a court from which there is no appeal, a court that is the ultimate arbiter of our most basic rights and freedoms."

But we already know plenty about Roberts' background and views on important issues and values.

As special assistant to the Attorney General in the Reagan Administration, and later as a key legal strategist in the Reagan White House counsel's office, Roberts was an aggressive participant in the administration's attempts to restrict fundamental constitutional and civil rights. In fact, Roberts often came down to the right of ultraconservative legal luminaries, including Robert Bork, William Bradford Reynolds, and Ted Olson. He supported the legality of radical proposals to strip the courts of jurisdiction over certain school desegregation remedies, abortion, and school prayer. He denigrated what he referred to as the “so-called” right to privacy, resisted attempts to fully restore the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, and worked against measures aimed at increasing gender equity. As the Washington Post has reported, at times he was “derisive, using words such as 'purported' and 'perceived' to describe discrimination against women.”

He has dismissed the Constitutional Right to Privacy (oh yes, he offered qualified support for a right to privacy during the hearings, but what did you think he was going to say in order to forestall a Democratic filibuster?).

Sounds like reason enough to me to oppose him. Democratic Senators would be doing themselves and their constituents a much greater service if they would acknowledge these concerns, rather than hide behind, what sounds to me as, a fig leaf of "not enough about Roberts is known".

Using Force

From the Myrtle Beach Online, August 31, 2005 (via AllAmericaPac--Senator Evan Bayh's unofficial 2008 webpage):

He (Bayh) said Democrats need to improve their credibility on national security and convince Americans that Democrats are willing to use force when necessary.

Now, before delving into this statement--which is pretty much boilerplate for anyone affiliated with the DLC--I want to acknowledge the fact that, as Kos argues, progressives are going to have a hard time finding a candidate that satisfies all of their wishes in 2008. So I'm not about eliminating would-be candidates on the basis of any one statement or vote. What's more, I also need to add that despite what I'm about to say, I still like Bayh for the 2008 race, for reasons I will get into in another post. And of course, nothing I'm about to say is anything new.

Nevertheless, Bayh's statement is troubling on a lot of different levels.

The main one is it strikes me as a code message for: Bush was right to wage war on Iraq (and Democrats who supported the war were right to back the resolution providing its nominal authorization).

Among the statement's other implicit messages are that: (a) the public is worried about national security; (b) the display and deployment of military force is a, or the, proper and justified response to that worry; (c) the U.S. possesses nearly unlimited capacity and resources, political, economic, and moral, to wage war, and that (d) Democrats must campaign on a willingness, even a predisposition, to use military force to pursue the country's perceived security objectives.

While (a) is undoubtedly true, I would argue that (b), (c), and (d) are not. And I would argue that the idea that the Iraq war was, and is a fiasco, both as to lies leading to its start--up, as well as to the operational and political breakdowns in its carrying-out.

What's more, despite the subterfuge employed by leading political figures and the media, the public is coming to recognize the war's fallacies as well.

Again, none of these conclusions are new or unusual for a liberal blogger, but they point to the realization that Democrats don't need to be afraid to speak and act against the administration's war aims, especially when those aims are as flawed and dangerous as have been the ones pushed on the public since 9-11.

So why are Democrats like Bayh, Biden, and others, so hesitent to provide a more balanced view of the nation's security interests and the appropriate tools and responses for ensuring them?

Perhaps having voted for the war in the first place, they feel a need to "stay the course" as to their own political positioning, and thus to avoid any potential accusations of "flip-flopping". Perhaps they don't recognize the turnaround in public opinion, especially in the aftermath of Katrina and the soon to be fallout from Rita.

Whatever the cause, it is hoped that the next round of Democratic campaigns and candidates will begin to reassess their views and to come forward with a new framework for providing for the nation's security, one that recognizes the limits, economic, moral and military, to waging war, first, last and always.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Difference

As much as I'd like not to think about or reference anything written at NRO, this item is probably worth mentioning (via Tbogg who has more of a stomach than me):

Plainly it is not governmental inefficiency these agents are worried about. They find the anti-pornography crowd disturbing because they believe that policing pornography violates fundamental rights. This has become the dominant view in our society: As long as what I do doesn't harm you personally, I have a right to do it.* It's a silly view and a view rejected by law enforcement policies all over the country. Were we to truly recognize such a philosophy, we would have to legalize prostitution, drugs and suicide -- as well as the murder of homeless drifters with no family or friends. After all, if someone kills a homeless drifter, how does that affect anyone else?

Once again, let me remind you that the speaker of this fascist drivel is a conservative. You know, the ones that keep lecturing us about how bad government is and how they're all for less government and want to get the government off our backs, supposedly.

So let's be reminded: modern conservatism is not about less government. It's not about freedom or liberty. It's about the opposite. And the great travesty of the last 25 years of American politics has been the Democratic Party's failure to confront efforts (mostly covert)by Republicans to restrict individual liberties and trample human rights. The nomination of John Roberts and his anti-privacy-right views are the fruit the Democrat's meakness on civil liberties issues has wrought.

And for the record, Democrats should be clear, in fact, that public policy should seek to allow people the freedom to do what they want, behind closed doors, among consenting adults, as they see fit, as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. So Ben's ridiculous analogy of the homeless man doesn't hold water. Utilitarian liberalism protects the homeless man because his life has value. It wouldn't matter if he had no families or friends. Unlike conservatives, liberals believe that each individual life has equal value, regardless of gender, sexual preference, race, income, nationality, or upbringing. And while we're at it, yes, the our drug laws are a violation of individual liberties, too.

But the conservative response to Katrina, among other things, should help us all better understand how conservatives really feel about individuals not of their own kind.

And for the record, the Justice Department's anti-pornography efforts are a waste of time and public resources, a violation of individual liberties, and a shameless pandering to a conservative group of special interests.

*a well known proponent of this utilitarian view, that liberty is the right to do as one pleases as long it doesn't hurt anyone else, was John Stuart Mill, whose book, On Liberty, was "a classic defense of liberty and individual sovereignty" and which as a result earned an honorable mention by the conservative Human Rights Online as one of the 10 most harmful books of the 19th-20th century.

Conservatives hate freedom.

Like I Was Saying

From Big Media Matt (via Digby):

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH MISSISSIPPI? Apropos of nothing in particular, take a look at the exit poll data from Mississippi, where George W. Bush picked up the votes of 85 percent of the white population and just 10 percent of the African-American vote. In a state whose electorate is 65-percent white, that led to a hefty 60-40 win for the incumbent. Mississippi's an unusually stark case, but not all that much of an outlier.

Georgia saw 75 percent of whites and 12 percent of blacks pull the lever for Bush.

It was 75-9 in Louisiana, 78-15 in South Carolina, and a comparatively minor 63-6 in Arkansas (generally speaking, whites are most monolithically Republican in the least-white states like Mississippi and more open to Democrats in whiter states like Arkansas).

All of which is just to say that an awful lot of the post-election talk about "culture" and its impact on voting serves to obscure the extent to which a lot of politics is about race.

In Mississippi, Bush got a larger percentage of the vote from people who "somewhat dissaprove" of his administration than he did from black voters.

He did better among self-identified Democrats than he did among blacks, and far better (23 percent against 10 percent) among self-identified liberals than with non-whites.

I'm not sure exactly what follows from that, and I appreciate that commentators don't like to raise the point in order to avoid just engaging in naive allegations of racism, but it's really, really not possible to understand the politics of the South without delving into this stuff.

If you will recall, I posted about the racial characteristics of last fall's election in the south, some time ago, but Matt goes further with it than I did.

Now, it probably should be pointed out that these exit polling numbers should be viewed as not-quite-gospel accurate. If you look at the exit polls from all the states you'll stumble across some rather remarkable figures, and in some states, there were not adequate numbers of black or other minority voters to even figure into the final count, so the sampling and weighting of these poll numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

Nonetheless, the continued racial impact on voting in the South goes a long way to explaining election outcomes and the public policy that results, such as the bizarre anti-labor, anti-working class efforts of southern representatives, including the president's Gulf Coast Wage Cut plan of post-hurricane reconstruction.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mo Dowd

Since the Senator is a print-subscriber in good standing, here she is:

The president won't be happy until he dons a yellow slicker and actually takes the place of Anderson Cooper, violently blown about by Rita as he talks into a camera lens lashed with water, hanging onto a mailbox as he's hit by a flying pig in a squall, sucked up by a waterspout in the eye of the storm over the Dry Tortugas.

Then maybe he'll go back to the White House and do his job instead of running down to the Gulf Coast for silly disaster-ops every other day.

There's nothing more pathetic than watching someone who's out of touch feign being in touch. On his fifth sodden pilgrimage of penitence to the devastation he took so long to comprehend, W. desperately tried to show concern. He said he had spent some "quality time" at a Chevron plant in Pascagoula and nattered about trash removal, infrastructure assessment teams and the "can-do spirit."

"We look forward to hearing your vision so we can more better do our job," he said at a briefing in Gulfport, Miss., urging local officials to "think bold," while they still need to think mold.

Mr. Bush should stop posing in shirtsleeves and get back to the Oval Office. He has more hacks and cronies he's trying to put into important jobs, and he needs to ride herd on that.

The announcement that a veterinarian, Norris Alderson, who has no experience on women's health issues, would head the F.D.A.'s Office of Women's Health ran into so much flak from appalled women that the F.D.A. may have already reneged on it. No morning-after pill, thanks to the antediluvian administration, but there may be hope for a morning-after horse pill.

Mr. Bush made a frownie over Brownie, but didn't learn much. He's once more trying to appoint a nothingburger to a position of real consequence in homeland security. The choice of Julie Myers, a 36-year-old lawyer with virtually no immigration, customs or law enforcement experience, to head the roiling Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency with its $4 billion budget and 22,000 staffers, has caused some alarm, according to The Washington Post.

Ms. Myers's main credentials seem to be that she worked briefly for the semidisgraced homeland security director, Michael Chertoff, when he was at the Justice Department. She just married Mr. Chertoff's chief of staff, John Wood, and she's the niece of Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As a former associate for Ken Starr, the young woman does have impeachment experience, in case the forensic war on terrorism requires the analysis of stains on dresses.

Julie makes Brownie look like Giuliani. I'll sleep better tonight, knowing that when she gets back from her honeymoon, Julie will be patrolling the frontier.

As if the Veterinarian and the Niece were not bad enough, there was also the Accused. David Safavian, the White House procurement official involved in Katrina relief efforts, was arrested on Monday, accused by the F.B.I. of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into the seamy case of "Casino Jack" Abramoff, the Republican operative who has broken new ground in giving lobbying a bad name. Democrats say the fact that Mr. Safavian's wife is a top lawyer for the Republican congressman who's leading the whitewash of the White House blundering on Katrina does not give them confidence.

Just as he has stonewalled other inquiries, Mr. Bush is trying to paper over his Katrina mistakes by appointing his homeland security adviser, Frances Townsend, to investigate how the feds fumbled the response.

Mr. Bush's "Who's Your Daddy?" bravura - blowing off the world on global warming and the allies on the Iraq invasion - has been slapped back by Mother Nature, which refuses to be fooled by spin.

When Donald Rumsfeld came out yesterday to castigate the gloom-and-doomers and talk about the inroads American forces had made against terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, he could not so easily recast reality.

In Afghanistan, the U.S.'s handpicked puppet president is still battling warlords and a revivified Taliban, and the export of poppies for the heroin trade is once more thriving.

Iraq is worse, with more than 1,900 American troops killed. Five more died yesterday, as well as four security men connected to the U.S. embassy office in Mosul, all to fashion a theocratic-leaning regime aligned with Iran. In Basra, two journalists who have done work for The Times have been killed in the last two months.

The more the president echoes his dad's "Message: I care," the more the world hears "Message: I can't."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More of the same

As if the Katrina debacle hasn't been enough, other government endeavors are causing further head-scratching, bewilderment and sighing.

First, consider the case of David Safavian, the Bush-appointed, former head of government procurement at the Office of Management and Budget, and before that, chief of staff at the General Services Administration, who was recently arrested on charges related to obstruction of justice and influence peddling involving scandal-emeshed, Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Turns out that Safavian has a wife who's gainfully employed, mind you, as the Republican House Government Reform Committee's chief counsel for investigations (she has recused herself from any cases involving her husband and OMB).

Take some time to let that connection and influence swill around your mind, and see if you aren't ready for a stiff drink. Government Reform, no doubt.

And as if that isn't enough to about send you over the edge, kicking and screaming, think about the recent jailbreak engineered by the British military in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Um, the Brits had two undercover persons dressed in "full Arabic dress" were arrested by Iraqi policemen for shooting at Iraqi civilians. The Brits used a tank or tanks to bust through the jail, allowing 150 Iraqi prisoners of unknown criminal backgrounds to escape while the U.S.'s junior occupational partner retrieved their two spies. But the Iraqi police who arrested the Brits were policemen presumably trained and supported by the British military. So aren't the residents of Basra and its administration both supportive of, and supported by, the occupying "coalition"? Are we warring against ourselves in Iraq? Can a divided house stand?

Questions of sovereignty raised

The events raised questions about how much sovereignty Iraqi authorities really were granted when the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority handed over power to an interim Iraqi government in the summer of 2004.

How much Iraqi sovereignty? Um, that would appear to be none.

And I won't even bring up the other item on Atrios about the former Iraqi defense official under the previous U.S. installed, Allawi government, under investigation for embezzling funds.

Are there any more shoes left to drop?

Edwards Gets It Right

From today's Wash Post:

The former senator -- who was tapped by Kerry to be his running mate last year and, like Kerry, is contemplating a 2008 presidential run -- said the administration has long favored wealth over work. He criticized Bush for suspending a law requiring federal contractors along the Gulf Coast to pay prevailing wages on reconstruction projects.

"I might have missed something, but I don't think the president ever talked about putting a cap on the salaries of the CEOs of Halliburton and the other companies . . . who are getting all these contracts," he said in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. "This president, who never met an earmark he wouldn't approve or a millionaire's tax cut he wouldn't promote, decided to slash wages for the least of us and the most vulnerable."

Of the potential 2008 presidential field, Edwards is the only candidate with a narrative. I'm not convinced he has the gravitas to pull it off, but he's at or near the top of my preference list anyway. Since Dean was already out of the race by the time my primary came around, I pulled the lever for Edwards. Maybe this time, it will be for a winning cause.