Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Media and "Substantive" Presidential Campaigns

A few days ago, Glenn Greenwald noted--raised an alarm over, to be exact--the rather flimsy, non-chalant references to the policy of arresting American citizens without warrants or without some sort of judicial review by GOP presidential contenders, Rudy Guliani and Mitt Romney. About said policy, the former Mayor of NYC said he would "want to use this authority infrequently". Meanwhile, the GOP's newest $23 million dollar man, Mitt Romney, said he'd make up his mind after hearing "the pros and cons from smart lawyers".

That was this past Sunday.

Today is Thursday, and in my copy of the Washington Post today there was an article about Guliani, with picture, highlighting the former Mayor's hope that the president would not have to veto the supplemental military spending bill, as well as his position on abortion. Nada about the "arresting citizens without warrants infrequently" quote. Yesterday there was a swell article, with picture, about the GOP's $20 million man, Romney, with nary a reference to the "wait to hear the pros and cons from smart lawyers" regarding arresting citizens without warrants. But at least the article highlighted that Romney is Mormon.

Today's NYT, meanwhile, went slap-happy with the--you guessed it--fundraising angle of the 2008 campaign, with pictures and graphs and all kinds a neat stuff. But zero about how Guliani wants to only "infrequently" arrest American citizens without warrants or about how Mormon Romney wants to consult with "smart lawyers" before deciding whether he would or would not arrest or favor the arrest of, American citizens without warrants.

To the best of my knowledge, neither of these two major newspapers have even mentioned how the contenders would handle questions about arresting American citizens without warrants.

But the media is, nonetheless, concerned about the perceived lack of substance associated with Barak Obama's campaign.

How long do you think we'll wait before someone in the "liberal media" thinks to search for, much less mention, the presidential wannabees' policy views on the unConstitutional arrests of American citizens?

Alternative Reality


Damn, it's amazing how the wingers will just make shit up to keep their own little fake world intact.

In this edition, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rush Limbaugh claim that fired US Attorney Carol Lam was 1) just a law professor with 2) no prosecutorial assistance, 3) appointed by President Clinton, because 4) she was Bill's former campaign manager in Southern California.

The only problem is that 1) Lam was never a law professor, 2) had 15 years of prosecutorial assistance, 3) was appointed by Bush and 4) never worked as a campaign manager.

But what's a little lying if it helps smear someone (even if she is a Republican) who would dare question Dear Leader.


So the Republican Noise Machine in Congress and on radio is now saying that Lam was appointed by Clinton, in addition to the other lies?

TPM has more.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Mocking Those in Harm's Way

Remembering recent past hostage episodes in the Middle East, and those related to this war in particular, I was wondering how long it would take for American wingnuts to begin chastizing the captured British sailors. Ah, not long.

Some lowlights from the "culture of life" brigade:

In his April 3 Post column -- headlined "Where's Winston?" -- [Ralph]Peters called the captives "wankers" and asserted that they "wimped out in a matter of days and acquiesced in propaganda broadcasts for their captors," a reference to videos aired on Iranian television in which several of the captives said that they had entered Iranian territory. Peters continued: "Jingoism aside, I can't imagine any squad of U.S. Marines behaving in such a shabby, cowardly fashion. Our Marines would have fought to begin with. Taken captive by force, they would've resisted collaboration. To the last man and woman." He went on to write that the "once-proud" British military has "collapsed to a sorry state."

In an April 3 post on National Review Online's weblog The Corner titled "Brit Wimps," [John]Derbyshire linked to Peters' column and stated, "Once again, it's me and Ralph Peters on the same wavelength, deploring the cowardice of the British sailors and marines kidnapped by Iran." Derbyshire further wrote: "When it happened, I said I hoped the ones who'd shamed their country would be court-martialed on return to Blighty, and given dishonorable discharges after a couple years breaking rocks in the Outer Hebrides." Derbyshire added: "And in any case, there was no evidence of torture or mistreatment in any of the filmed cases I have seen. They look just fine. You can't fake that. The girl sailor had that headscarf on within hours. From what I've heard of torture, even weaker cases can hold out for a few days."

...on the March 28 broadcast of Michael Savage's nationally syndicated radio show, a caller asked if the British troops were given Bibles upon their capture. In response, Savage said: "I don't think these people need a Bible. They probably need a condom," adding, "By look of the British sailors, they look like they took them off the back streets of Liverpool." Savage went on to say that they were "lucky they found a job in the navy. I mean, I don't know. You take a look at them -- no wonder they were captured. I don't think they even know they were on a boat".

There They Go Again, Part XXVUR

David Ignatius, in today's Wash Post:

...The United States is losing a war in Iraq, yet instead of uniting around a policy that could reduce the damage and create a sustainable strategy for the future, Congress and the White House are on a collision course over funding for the troops.


The Democrats' problem is that they seem determined to join the Bush administration in doubling down bad bets on Iraq. In the Democrats' case, the mistaken gamble is that by imposing a Washington timetable for troop withdrawal, America will compel good behavior from the fratricidal Iraqis. That idea is naive. But then, so is the Bush administration's politically divisive strategy for an open-ended troop surge in Baghdad. No matter how clever Gen. David Petraeus's battle plan, it won't work unless it can be sustained politically, in Baghdad and Washington. The crucial asset for Petraeus is time, which in turn is a function of political consensus at home. And that asset is wasting, even as the number of U.S. troops goes up.

Here we return to Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, and his partner on the other side of the bipartisan hyphen, former secretary of state James A. Baker III. Four months after its release, the Baker-Hamilton report still looks like the best way to unite Democrats and Republicans before there is a dangerous collision over funding for the war. The report has something for everyone: It shares the Democrats' goal of withdrawing most U.S. troops by March 2008 and stresses the need for milestones in Iraq. But it endorses the Bush administration's view that milestones should be jointly negotiated with the Iraqi government, rather than imposed by Washington. And it recognizes that troop withdrawals must be contingent on political and military conditions on the ground.

The Baker-Hamilton report focused on the need for a sustainable policy -- one that would make Iraq an American project rather than George W. Bush's war. That requires a shift in military strategy from U.S. combat operations to a counterinsurgency approach centered on training and advising the Iraqi military. But the study group, composed of five Democrats and five Republicans, also said it could "support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission."

The most controversial aspect of the Baker-Hamilton report was its call for greater American diplomatic engagement in the region, including talks with Iran and Syria and a new push on the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Four months later, Bush administration officials have sat around a table in Baghdad with Syrians and Iranians, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is beginning a serious effort to midwife the birth of a Palestinian state, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is visiting Damascus. We're all Baker-Hamiltonians now.

The Baker-Hamilton report offered a way out of the partisan wilderness when it was released in December. It still does. It provides an Iraq platform on which responsible Republicans and Democrats can gather. Neither side will get everything it wants, but both can claim a measure of support for their positions. That's the essence of building consensus.

A train-wreck debate on Iraq will be destructive for both parties, not to mention the people in the Middle East. The Baker-Hamilton report is the best framework for building a policy that is sustainable, in Washington and in Baghdad. Leading Republicans and Democrats say that, in principle, they still support Baker-Hamilton. So do something about it.


Sigh. Where to start?

How about by noticing Ignatius's selection and repetition of Very Responsible words? First, there's Sustainability or a variation of such. Today's chicken-little op-ed gives us four of them big daddies.

I particularly liked the two references to Consensus, another Very Reponsible word. To Consensus is added Uniting or Unite, which can be thought of as a companion to Consensus. Correlaries include use of the word Gather, when depicting what Responsible Democrats and Republicans should do, for the good of their parties, for the good of America, and for the good of America's professional op-ed column writing class that hates all the bickering and is fearful of a trainwreck debate on Iraq.

And of course, the word Responsible gets a cameo appearance in the Very Responsible word game.

But let's turn to the various straw-men and false choices Ignatius offers us. First, he claims that the Democrats' call for withdrawal, or the setting of a withdrawal deadline, is a "mistaken gamble" designed to scare the Iraqi government straight. It won't work, says Ignatius. Now, he may be correct that some Democrats think a firm deadline will motivate the Iraqis to co-operate with each other better. But the sense I get from listening to Democrats in favor of withdrawal is that the goal is end American military involvement in Iraq, save American lives, and let the Iraqi's go on with the task of solving their own problems. So, I think Ignatius's allegation here is just bupkis designed to prevent anyone from making a decision on leaving Iraq or to at least stifle the "partisan debate" in Washington, which is what I think Ignatius really worries about. I suspect that if the war was going badly, but Republicans still controlled Congress, Ignatius wouldn't be at all concerned.

The second laugher Ignatius throws our way is his claim that a happy middle ground is to accept Baker-Hamilton's plan to set a "goal" of withdrawing American troops by March 2008 together with establishing suitable "milestones" for the Iraqi government to meet, but to ignore both in case "political and military conditions on the ground" aren't up to snuff by March 2008, in which case we can just keep doing the same ole thing.

I don't know about you, but I'm heartened that such Wise Men are in charge of informing us about our government and the world.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pelosi Hating Syndrome

Republicans have not responded well to criticism of Dear Leader, labeling any and all non-sycophantic observations as depicting a deranged state of Bush Hatred Syndrome.

But since Democrats captured Congress Republicans are demonstrating their own form of Opponent Hatred Syndrome. Speaker Pelosi's trip to Syria seems to have brought out the worst of it.

Just a few minutes ago I endured the pathetic, wimpering, whining of some prick from Human Events on Paula Zahn's show, bitching about how Pelosi, by virtue of visiting the Middle Eastern country, was "hijacking America's foreign policy". Fortunately, Zahn was giving this hack-refugee from the Republican Noise Machine the business. If Republicans wanted to highlight the degree to which a female politician of the other party gives them the willies they could not have picked a more winning strategery than to highlight Pelosi's trip and screaming like a banshee about it.

The loss of power within one branch of the federal government has not boded well for this administration and its intellegencia-welfare dependents, as its abundant lack of competence and vision is increasingly coming under focus in committee hearing rooms and across teevee screens around the country.

You don't want a female, Democratic Speaker of the House showing up your non-existent foreign policy over seas, than shut up and win an election. Oh yeah, that takes votes, doesn't it. Republican crying about Pelosi and the Democrats "interfering" in foreign policy and military budget decisions is like sucky teams getting pounded on the football field or basketball court howling about their opponents "running up the score."

What a pathetic bunch of losers.

Sick of the BS

I remember the days when Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo was pretty measured, less cynical, less bombastic, more boring, then Daily Kos or Atrios, to name a few. And it still is. More measured that is. But it's rarely boring or apt to give the Administration and the Very Serious People in Washington a pass anymore.

In addition to its yeoman investigative work on the various scandals in the Administration and Congress from Duke Cunningham to Prosecutor-gate, Josh is just plain ole fed up nowadays. Tired of the BS just like the rest of us. The prez's recent railings at Speaker Pelosi is just the latest fuel on the fire:

I knew as a general matter that the White House was just bamboozling the press with this Pelosi-in-Syria malarkey since plenty of Republicans from Congress have recently gone there too. But I didn't know the precise details. In addition to recent trips by other Congressional Republicans there's actually a GOP House delegation in Syria right now, according to ThinkProgress. And in March a senior State Department official held talks in Damascus about flow of Iraqi refugees.

So which member of the White House press corps or which cable network host has directly asked an administration official why they're only concerned when prominent Democrats visit Damascus and not Republicans. Wolf Blitzer, whatever hack they've got on the air at the moment on Fox, MSNBC? Whichever. Someone let me know when someone puts a question like this directly to an administration official.

And war-funding:

I'm not sure why no one brings this up. The president keeps saying that the Democrats are substituting their judgment for that of the generals on the ground. But this is an easily rebutted statement. The entire story here is that the president substituted his judgement for that of the generals on the ground. Remember, they didn't think the surge was a good idea. So what happened? He fired them. That's why Gen. Petraeus is there. The president looked around until he could find a general willing to agree with him. And when he did he put him in charge. This isn't about the 'generals on the ground'. It's about President Bush, whose judgment has been catastrophically abysmal from the start. Who can deny that?

And while we're at it, can someone explain to me why CNN's Suzanne Malveaux played suck up to former unconfirmed and unconfirmable, Ambassador-stand-in, John Bolton, about Pelosi's trip to Syria?

MALVEAUX: Tough questions today about Middle East flash points and risky diplomacy. We are joined by the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton -- thank you so much for being with us today. Of course, the first question: you've worked for the president, you've put in a lot in foreign policy here, what we're seeing is Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is going to Syria to deliver a message from Israel, to open up negotiations. Has the president lost control of his foreign policy?

BOLTON: I don't think he's lost control, but this is a very confusing thing to do, and I think it's naive at best and possibly quite counterproductive. I'm at a loss to understand why Speaker Pelosi wants to do something like this.

MALVEAUX: Well, the White House has said, and it has asked her, essentially, that, look, this is not helpful, in terms of our stand. I know the Iraq Study Group says talk to Syria, talk to Iran. They say don't do this. How would you approach her if you were still in the administration and in your ambassadorial -- kind of in your position?

BOLTON: Well, I don't think it's productive for her to go to Syria at all, but to pretend to be an envoy for -- not just for the United States, but for Israel, has to be sending, at best, very confusing signals to the dictator in Damascus, so I would simply hope that people would understand that, under the Constitution, the president conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House.

MALVEAUX: But what's strange here is that the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, I mean, he knows where to go if he wants to have talks, negotiations, go to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Instead, he goes to Nancy Pelosi here. I mean, what does that say?

BOLTON: Well, I hope that isn't exactly what he's done, and if he has, then I think we need to talk to him, too. This is not the time for people to misunderstand who speaks for the United States, particularly in the Middle East. So, I think there are a lot of mistakes being made here and, hopefully, we'll have this visit get passed without more mistakes being committed.

MALVEAUX: It's hard to believe, because the prime minister really is -- he is very close to the Bush administration. They like the president here. Do you think that we are seeing maybe some back-channel talks that are going on, that perhaps there's a tacit approval from the White House, "OK, let this happen"? I can't imagine that he would allow this to go forward, perhaps without a wink and a nod from the administration.

BOLTON: If this is a back channel, it's a pretty public back channel, so my guess is there's confusion and, hopefully, once the trip is over, we can get it straightened out, because, if it's not straightened out, it can only be counterproductive.

MALVEAUX: Do you think that this also perhaps portends to something that might happen in the future? I'm being somewhat flip, but you know, Syria today, Iran tomorrow. I mean, where does it end?

BOLTON: I think that's part of the problem. I think, when you have members of the House and Senate, who are out essentially freelancing, it gets competitive. You know, the governor of New Mexico is now about to go to North Korea to conduct some diplomacy, so I think this is a mistake. I think people ought to let the debate in this country take place and let the president conduct our diplomacy overseas.

First, Bolton's just a punk and a hack. Why have this nucklehead on your show, particularly when you're just going to feed him lines? And how about noting that an armored humvee full of GOP congresspeople were over there, too. How difficult is that?

No Bill Would Be Just Fine

So today the President is warning Congress that the failure to send him a "clean" war supplement bill would delay funding to the troops. Even though Congress has passed, in two different forms from each chamber, legislation to add another $100 billion or so to the U.S. military's occupation of Iraq, the fact that each bill includes language setting non-binding and unenforceable dates of military withdrawal has got the Unitary Executive up in arms and threatening a veto.

But as anti-war Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has argued, and as even supporters of the Omnipotent Presidency, such as John Yoo, have affirmed, Congress has two tools at its disposal for dealing with the war-turned-occupation. One of those tools is its "power of the purse". So, Congress need not send the president a war supplement bill at all. The President, and his war-mongering supporters are dependent on a Democratic Congress to continue and expand funding for their empire-overreaching dreams.

If it's true, as Atrios or TPM, remarked the other day, that the public's support for Democrats last fall had to do with the party's conversion to taking up the serious issue of the day, that being Iraq, than the clearest signal Democrats could send the public about the party's position on the occupation of Iraq, and towards American empire more broadly, would be to unequivocally pull the plug on the siphon of cash.

The potential downside I see to this isn't over the matter of "supporting the troops". The problem will be if shutting off the war-cash spicket has negative economic repercussions across the country--that is, the U.S. country--as money drains away from the nation's most prolific employer of last resort; the U.S. military and the multitude of contractors attached to it. That is to say, the ongoing occupation isn't just a political issue, confined to matters of "terrorism" or "stability" in the Middle East, as much as it is about funding military pork around the country and continuing to prop up the Military Industrial Complex, whose existence and grotesque size belies the lack of comparable military threats opposing it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Changing the Tone in Washington

George W. Bush, June 2000:

....The jab came a day after Bush complained about a lack of civility in Washington with comments that were especially critical of the administration.

Speaking to Republican activists at a fund-raiser Thursday, the GOP presidential contender said: ''There's no bigger issue than to restore confidence in Washington, D.C. There's no bigger issue than rejecting this type of politics where people are willing to tear down as opposed to build up. The politics of war rooms and focus groups and enemy lists - we've got to get rid of that kind of politics if we're to have a hopeful 21st century.''

Hours earlier in Tennessee, Bush singled out Gore, his Democratic opponent.

Pointing to language that has led Gore to adopt a less aggressive campaign style, the Texas governor told an audience in Gore's home state: ''Proposals he disapproves of are never just arguable; they're 'risky schemes.' This kind of unnecessary rhetoric is characteristic of the tone in Washington, D.C. It's the war room mentality.''



There has been an assumption that Monica Goodling, the Justice Department's liaison to the White House, is pleading the Fifth simply because of her role in preparing false testimony to Congress. That is, at least, the impression given by her lawyer's letter to the investigating committees.

But this profile in Legal Times shows that Goodling is far from just a mid-level aide who played a peripheral role in the purge. On the contrary, she's very well-connected and apparently one of the main drivers behind the process of selecting U.S. attorneys.

Just look at how Legal Times describes Goodling's role in the interviews to select U.S.A. replacements:

Interviews for U.S. Attorney replacements took place with only a handful of people: David Margolis, the department's top-ranking career official and a 40-plus year veteran; a member of the White House Counsel's Office; the head of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys; and Goodling.

Charles Miller, whom Gonzales appointed as interim U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, interviewed with the panel in the fall of 2005. "They asked me what I'd done to support the president," Miller says. It wasn't a question Miller expected. He told them he'd voted for Bush.

But a former prosecutor who did not get a U.S. Attorney post was left with a sour feeling after his interview in 2006. "Monica was in charge, in essence, of the interview," recalls the former supervisory assistant U.S. Attorney. "I walked out of that room and thought, 'Wow, I've just run into a buzz saw.'"

It can't be surprising, then, that Goodling got her start in national politics in 1999 by working in the Republican National Committee's war room for political opposition research. There, she was working directly underneath Tim Griffin, then the deputy research director of the RNC who bragged that his shop made the bullets in the war against Democrats -- and later the administration's pick to be the U.S. attorney for eastern Arkansas. Goodling, of course, played a key role in helping install her old boss in the spot last year.


Andrew Sullivan:

So Cheney goes to Australia and meets with John Howard who tells him that the Hicks case is killing him in Australia, and he may lose the next election because of it. Hicks's case is then railroaded to the front of the Gitmo kangaro court line, and put through a "legal" process almost ludicrously inept, with two of Hicks' three lawyers thrown out on one day, then an abrupt plea-bargain, with a transparently insincere confession. Hicks is then given a mere nine months in jail in Australia, before being set free. Who negotiated the plea-bargain? Hicks' lawyer. Who did he negotiate with? Not the prosecutors, as would be normal, but Susan J. Crawford, the top military commission official. Who is Susan J. Crawford? She served as Dick Cheney's Inspector General while he was Defense Secretary.

Money quote:

As the deal developed in recent weeks, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, the lead prosecutor for military commissions, and his team on the Hicks case were not in the loop. Davis said he learned about the plea agreement Monday morning when the plea papers were presented to him, and he said the prosecution team was unaware that discussions had been taking place.

"We got it before lunchtime, before the first session," Davis said at a news conference Friday night. In an interview later, he said the approved sentence of nine months shocked him. "I wasn't considering anything that didn't have two digits," he said, referring to a sentence of at least 10 years.

If you think this was in any way a legitimate court process, you're smoking something even George Michael would pay a lot of money for. It was a political deal, revealing the circus that the alleged Gitmo court system really is. For good measure, Hicks has a gag-order imposed so that he will not be able to speak of his alleged torture and abuse until after Howard faces re-election. Yes, we live in a banana republic. It certainly isn't a country ruled by law. It is ruled by one man and his accomplice.


Matthew Dowd (from the NYT):

AUSTIN, Tex., March 29 — In 1999, Matthew Dowd became a symbol of George W. Bushs early success at positioning himself as a Republican with Democratic appeal.

A top strategist for the Texas Democrats who was disappointed by the Bill Clinton years, Mr. Dowd was impressed by the pledge of Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington. He switched parties, joined Mr. Bush’s political brain trust and dedicated the next six years to getting him to the Oval Office and keeping him there. In 2004, he was appointed the president’s chief campaign strategist.

Looking back, Mr. Dowd now says his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.

In a wide-ranging interview here, Mr. Dowd called for a withdrawal from Iraq and expressed his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s leadership.

He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.

“I really like him, which is probably why I’m so disappointed in things,” he said. He added, “I think he’s become more, in my view, secluded and bubbled in.”

In speaking out, Mr. Dowd became the first member of Mr. Bush’s inner circle to break so publicly with him.

He said his decision to step forward had not come easily. But, he said, his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power.

Mr. Dowd, a crucial part of a team that cast Senator John Kerry as a flip-flopper who could not be trusted with national security during wartime, said he had even written but never submitted an op-ed article titled “Kerry Was Right,” arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq.
“I’m a big believer that in part what we’re called to do — to me, by God; other people call it karma — is to restore balance when things didn’t turn out the way they should have,” Mr. Dowd said. “Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating an election.”

Mr. Dowd’s journey from true believer to critic in some ways tracks the public arc of Mr. Bush’s political fortunes. But it is also an intensely personal story of a political operative who at times, by his account, suppressed his doubts about his professional role but then confronted them as he dealt with loss and sorrow in his own life.

In the last several years, as he has gradually broken his ties with the Bush camp, one of Mr. Dowd’s premature twin daughters died, he was divorced, and he watched his oldest son prepare for deployment to Iraq as an Army intelligence specialist fluent in Arabic. Mr. Dowd said he had become so disillusioned with the war that he had considered joining street demonstrations against it, but that his continued personal affection for the president had kept him from joining protests whose anti-Bush fervor is so central.

Mr. Dowd, 45, said he hoped in part that by coming forward he would be able to get a message through to a presidential inner sanctum that he views as increasingly isolated. But, he said, he holds out no great hope. He acknowledges that he has not had a conversation with the president.


Glenn Greenwald:

Two of the three leading Republican candidates for President either embrace or are open to embracing the idea that the President can imprison Americans without any review, based solely on the unchecked decree of the President. And, of course, that is nothing new, since the current Republican President not only believes he has that power but has exercised it against U.S. citizens and legal residents in the U.S. -- including those arrested not on the "battlefield," but on American soil.

What kind of American isn't just instinctively repulsed by the notion that the President has the power to imprison Americans with no charges? And what does it say about the current state of our political culture that one of the two political parties has all but adopted as a plank in its platform a view of presidential powers and the federal government that is -- literally -- the exact opposite of what this country is?


Paul Krugman

The Republican Party’s adherence to an outdated ideology leaves it with big problems. It can’t offer domestic policies that respond to the public’s real needs. So how can it win elections?

The answer, for a while, was a combination of distraction and disenfranchisement.

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 were themselves a massive, providential distraction; until then the public, realizing that Mr. Bush wasn’t the moderate he played in the 2000 election, was growing increasingly unhappy with his administration. And they offered many opportunities for further distractions. Rather than debating Democrats on the issues, the G.O.P. could denounce them as soft on terror. And do you remember the terror alert, based on old and questionable information, that was declared right after the 2004 Democratic National Convention?

But distraction can only go so far. So the other tool was disenfranchisement: finding ways to keep poor people, who tend to vote for the party that might actually do something about inequality, out of the voting booth.

Remember that disenfranchisement in the form of the 2000 Florida “felon purge,” which struck many legitimate voters from the rolls, put Mr. Bush in the White House in the first place. And disenfranchisement seems to be what much of the politicization of the Justice Department was about.

Several of the fired U.S. attorneys were under pressure to pursue allegations of voter fraud — a phrase that has become almost synonymous with “voting while black.” Former staff members of the Justice Department’s civil rights division say that they were repeatedly overruled when they objected to Republican actions, ranging from Georgia’s voter ID law to Tom DeLay’s Texas redistricting, that they believed would effectively disenfranchise African-American voters.

The good news is that all the G.O.P.’s abuses of power weren’t enough to win the 2006 elections. And 2008 may be even harder for the Republicans, because the Democrats — who spent most of the Clinton years trying to reassure rich people and corporations that they weren’t really populists — seem to be realizing that times have changed.



Via Jonathan Schwartz. John Hockenberry recalls in a talk at MIT what it was like at NBC in the dark days of the selling of the Iraq War. As Aaron Swartz has it:

You may or may not be aware that there was a real strong full-court press to sell the media -- and I'm not pro- or against it at this particular point, but there was a process in place where individuals in the media got access to the individuals involved in the planning of the war. There were generals who came in, there were former secretaries of defense, Schwarzkopf spent a whole lot of time giving sort of off-the-record, quiet briefings. And the generals would sort of bring in a certain group of editors and reporters and I went to all of these briefings.

Swartz then paraphrases:

At one of [these briefings] , Hockenberry explains, a well-known pollster told about a briefing he gave to all the senior officials at the White House about how the polling data from the Arab world showed that America's negatives were simply off-the-charts. Everyone was quiet. Condi asked a few technical questions and then finally Karl Rove spoke up. "Well, that's just until we start throwing our weight around over there," he said.

Hockenberry was stunned and thought they should do a piece on what this revealed into the mentality of the war's planners. But NBC News didn't think this was a very good idea. America wanted the war to happen; their job was just to wait and see how it turned out. "We're not particularly interested in the story," Hockenberry explains. "We're a process that's trying to maintain people in front of the set, so in a certain sense media at that point was doing its own kind of shock-and-awe that went right along with the war's shock-and-awe [because] the business is just to grab eyeballs."


The Washington Post:

After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration's gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort.

The CPA had the power to enact laws, print currency, collect taxes, deploy police and spend Iraq's oil revenue. It had more than 1,500 employees in Baghdad at its height, working under America's viceroy in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, but never released a public roster of its entire staff.
Interviews with scores of former CPA personnel over the past two years depict an organization that was dominated -- and ultimately hobbled -- by administration ideologues.


Just in case, you know, you forget or something.