Friday, December 01, 2006

One Arm Tied Behind Their Backs

I've been reading Bob Woodward's latest and found myself surprised to read that the U.S. marshalled some 400,000 troops to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwaiit in 1991.

I was reminded of that today when I read this post by Josh Marshall.

It's hard to believe that the American public would have objected to a similar or larger force to go to war against Iraq in the aftermath of 911 but have acquienced quietly when those same numbers were raised in 1991.

Of course, that's not really the point of Stanley Kurtz's post anyway. The actual point is that while the war accomplished one of its goals--dethroning Saddam Hussein--the war mongerer's two other stated goals: uncovering Iraq's WMD and stopping his terrorism and nuclear weapons program related activities; and to establish an American friendly, pluralist democracy in Baghdad, have proven to be bupkis and a fiasco, respectively. So historical revision of any kind, saying anything, no matter how ridiculous, is the order of the day.

Who Am I? What Am I Doing Here?

And Why Am I Running For President?

Does that V remind you of V for Vendetta? A little eery isn't it?

I've complained about this guy before, and I doubt he'll get the nomination. But he's all too representative of the DLC, "sensible" centrist type who has no real philosophy or message except to regurgitate mindless cliches and platitudes.

Of course the addition of HRC, Evan Bayh, or Bill Richardson to the race won't change this dynamic much. Thankfully we were spared the candidacy of Mark Warner who would only have deepened the emptiness.

David Brooks actually had a readable column the other day in which he challenged Republicans to concentrate more on offering solutions to policy problems instead of retreating into philosophical debates about the nature of the state and other abstractions.

Democrats, I'm afraid, have the opposite problem. They're all about solving policy problems--as they understand them--more affordable health care, better education, etc, all non-controversial goals to be sure, but it seemingly isn't driven by any coherent philosophy of government.

Yesterday also witnessed one of those election deconstruction efforts sponsored by Larry Sabato and broadcast by C-Span. There were separate panels comprised of representatives from most of the prospective 2008 candidates, one for Democrats and a separate one for Republicans. There was of course lots of talk about money, who can raise it, who can't. But very little policy stuff and even less discussion of what government should be about. And of course, no sense of how Democrats should think about, much less address, the array of problems presented by the Christianist right, who despite their losses this time around, aren't going away any time soon, if only for the reason that the issues that concern them are, however misguided and malignant from my perspective, originate from some sort of philosophical view of life and government. I used to think, and still tend to think, that Democrats are just generally afraid to address these issues. But another more worrisome idea should also be considered: Democrats don't talk much about these issues because they aren't driven by any deeply rooted philosophical understanding or appreciation for the nature of man, the role of the state, or the politics of conflict that renders these issues contentious.

While Democrats should be thankful for their gains this year, they should recognize that at some point, they will need to not only deliver, but be prepared to tackle the so-called wedge issues that Republicans will certainly continue to raise in the future.

Somewhat along these lines, Glenn Greenwald wonders how come politicians don't address issues like this:

(3) One of the oddest and most damaging aspects of our political discourse is that some of the most significant issues -- ones which have the greatest impact on our laws and government -- somehow become too controversial for mainstream political figures even to mention, let alone seriously debate. An orthodoxy arises which one cannot even question, let alone deviate from, while still maintaining political viability.

One such topic is the role which our commitment to Israel plays in shaping U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. But another equally significant topic is the rationale behind ongoing drug prohibition laws and the havoc those laws wreak on every level. As this post from McQ illustrates (h/t Mona), opposition to drug laws and their accompanying Draconian enforcement efforts (along with still more Draconian laws to enable enforcement) is a political position which finds considerable support across the ideological spectrum. Despite that, opposition to drug laws still remains strictly off-limits for any mainstream political figure. It is hard to see exactly what accounts for that dynamic.

Yes it is. What do Democrats think about drug policy?

Or how about the Separation between Church and State? Greenwald again:

(2) Whenever you think that Bush followers cannot descend any lower into un-American authoritarianism, they always prove you wrong. Congressman-elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, has said that he will take his oath of office on the Koran rather than the Bible, since -- as a Muslim -- he happens to believe in the Koran and not the Bible. Dennis Prager has a column (cheered on by various extremists) insisting that Ellison "not be allowed to do so," arguing that "if you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress":

What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible.

If you hadn't read that for yourself, wouldn't it be hard to believe that someone is actually arguing this? Prager is essentially asking: What has happened to America where now it seems that people can decide for themselves what books they will believe are holy? The viewpoint which Prager derisively attributes to the "Muslim and leftist supporters" of Ellison happens to be one of the core founding principles of the Republic: "it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book."

James Joyner and Stephen Bainbridge both provide excellent rebuttals, including Joyner's pointing out the rather obvious fact that requiring elected officials to take their oaths on the Bible would constitute a textbook case of a "religious test" prohibited by Article VI, and would almost certainly violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as well.

As always, it is the most basic constitutional principles -- which were previously beyond challenge -- that are placed in doubt by the most rabid Bush followers. And these attacks on our constitutional values are, with no sense of irony, waged in the name of defending "America."

Where are Democrats on the big Constitutional issues? If the next campaign is all about "jobs, healthcare and education" I'm going to be sick. And not very willing to open my checkbook.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The War Against Atheists

I was in the midst of posting about this NYTimes op-ed when another one just like it showed up, again in the NYT, this time from the keyboard of Nicholas Kristof.

What the bloody hell?

As I mentioned at Steve M's place, apparently, after years of a one-sided war against secularism and the separation of church and state waged by the media and conservative think tanks, the Sensible Centrists in the Center are NOW offended that the other side is fighting back.

And Steve points out, the attack is all the more confounding on account of what the Kristofs and the culture warriors such as David Brooks say in response--that Dawkins and Harris are wrong to argue against religion and against a conservative religious culture war because, of course, there is no culture war, or that if there was a benign, centrist, moderate, culture war from the Heartland, that such a war is now over. This is kind of like Bush saying he never said his policy was "stay the course" even while YouTube and the Internets are full of Bush statements saying exactly that. I guess it just goes to show that the occupant of the WH is not the only Washingtonian in a State of Denial. So, now that the bullied are striking back, our professional pundit class suddenly wants to declare (for the moment) that the game is over, saving them the burden of responding objectively to Dawkins' and Harris's arguments.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Groundhog Day

Although I don't normally listen to right-wing radio or visit their blogging associates, the recent elections have emboldened me somewhat. So heading home Friday I tuned into one of the right-wing Christianist radio stations in town to listen in.

And it sounded like a tape from 2004. The hosts were lamenting the media coverage of the war in Iraq. The hosts were tired of hearing about all the "negative" and wanted more "hero" stories.* This, after the Thanksgiving Day Massacre in which over 200 Shiites in Sadr City were slain by Sunni insurgents.

Aside from the delusion this line of complaining reveals, though, is the amoral, hyper-Americanism of the Christianist movement. Although Christianists engage in considerable hand-wringing about the supposed loss of "moral absolutes" in American life, it doesn't take much time in the company of the True Believers to recognize the only absolute morals their gang is amped about is their idea of American destiny. Not only are the only lives worth worrying about "American" ones, but to satisfy their fantasies, media coverage and intellectual discussion about our country's foreign adventures should be restricted to that of American soldiers themselves--and of the foreigners we're supposedly liberating only if the latter are sufficiently grateful to their American conquerers.

The ironic thing about the Christianist movement is how essentially amoral it is. And now that they've lost the elections, they've added denial to their portfolios.

The upshot of all of this is, the longer the Christianists and their GOP representatives continue to deny the repercussions of American military actions and the realities on the ground in Iraq and elsewhere, the longer it will take for the American Right to resume power--not that that's a bad thing.

*Christianists continue to attack the media, seemingly forgetting the dominance and pro-war coverage of Fox "news", not to mention the special "heroes" tributes made by CNN's Lou Dobbs, among others. But all of this is irrelevant to the American Christianists who don't just want hero tributes, they want only hero tributes, all the time.