" /> This is no Way to Organize Chaos.: December 2006 Archives

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December 29, 2006

Joe's War

Joe Lieberman begins his op-ed argument for increased bellicosity with this:

I've just spent 10 days traveling in the Middle East and speaking to leaders there, all of which has made one thing clearer to me than ever: While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. Iraq is the most deadly battlefield on which that conflict is being fought. How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001. (emphasis mine)

This is not a sound foreign policy. It isn't a policy at all. It's a crusade. But perhaps Joe has a strategy for his crusade?
The American people are justifiably frustrated by the lack of progress, and the price paid by our heroic troops and their families has been heavy. But what is needed now, especially in Washington and Baghdad, is not despair but decisive action -- and soon.

Wasn't decisive action taken by the president in March 2003? Come on Joe, give me something substantive.
On this point, let there be no doubt: If Iraq descends into full-scale civil war, it will be a tremendous battlefield victory for al-Qaeda and Iran. Iraq is the central front in the global and regional war against Islamic extremism.

Al-Qaeda? Does Joe the foreign policy genius even realize that there is an insurrgency? That there are militias? That the insurgency and the militias are not organized around al-Qaeda but aligned with the Sunnis and Shiites?
To turn around the crisis we need to send more American troops while we also train more Iraqi troops and strengthen the moderate political forces in the national government. After speaking with our military commanders and soldiers there, I strongly believe that additional U.S. troops must be deployed to Baghdad and Anbar province -- an increase that will at last allow us to establish security throughout the Iraqi capital, hold critical central neighborhoods in the city, clamp down on the insurgency and defeat al-Qaeda in that province.

Why wasn't this magic bullet put in the breach months ago? Why is everything so critical now? Why was the president saying "stay the course" until the 2006 midterm elections? Why is he receptive to the surge now? Joe has the answer.
In nearly four years of war, there have never been sufficient troops dispatched to accomplish our vital mission. The troop surge should be militarily meaningful in size, with a clearly defined mission.

And what is that mission?
The addition of more troops must be linked to a comprehensive new military, political and economic strategy that provides security for the population so that training of Iraqi troops and the development of a democratic government can move forward.

He elaborates
In particular we must provide the vital breathing space for moderate Shiites and Sunnis to turn back the radicals in their communities. There are Iraqi political leaders who understand their responsibility to do this. In Anbar province we have made encouraging progress in winning over local Sunni tribal leaders in the fight against al-Qaeda and other terrorists. With more troops to support them, our forces in Anbar and their Sunni allies can achieve a major victory over al-Qaeda.

At least that is substantive. But I don't understand why he insists on repeatedly bringing up al-Qaeda. 7 times, in fact (4 mentions of "Sunni" and 3 mentions of "Shiite"). That's because he sees no important differences between these groups. There are only moderates and extremists. And force is the only way to deal with extremists.

I'm highly skeptical that simply adding more troops to Iraq will fix anything. In fact, I don't think it will change anything other than providing more targets to the "extremists" in Iraq. But the main reason I dismiss this talk of "surging" is because the idea stems ultimately from the same people who thought invading Iraq in the first place was a good idea. They were wrong then and have not admitted as such; why should we trust them again? The premises of invading Iraq--spreading democracy to the Middle East in a neoconservative fantasy--are bankrupt. It's that simple. So when Joe puts forward his support for the surge and then dumbs down the war to "moderates" vs. "extremists" he is demonstrating to me that he has no grasp of the situation in Iraq, no matter how many days he's spent there or how many officiers he's talked to. Iraq is in a civil war that might become a regional war. But that is a far cry from being "the central front in the global and regional war against Islamic extremism." This fatal misunderstanding only provides cover for George Bush's failure but exonerates the intellectual hubris of the neocons who initiated the thing. That alone makes Joe Lieberman unreliable as a foreign policy analyst.

American Decline

Josh Marshall looks at the impending execution of Saddam Hussein and ponders how the unkind the future will be to the Bush administration:

The Iraq War has been many things, but for its prime promoters and cheerleaders and now-dwindling body of defenders, the war and all its ideological and literary trappings have always been an exercise in moral-historical dress-up for a crew of folks whose times aren't grand enough to live up to their own self-regard and whose imaginations are great enough to make up the difference. This is just more play-acting.

These jokers are being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that the whole thing's a mess and that they're going to be remembered for it -- defined by it -- for decades and centuries. But before we go, we can hang Saddam. Quite a bit of this was about the president's issues with his dad and the hang-ups he had about finishing Saddam off -- so before we go, we can hang the guy as some big cosmic 'So There!'

Marx might say that this was not tragedy but farce. But I think we need to get way beyond options one and two even to get close to this one -- claptrap justice meted out to the former dictator in some puffed-up act of self-justification as the country itself collapses in the hands of the occupying army.

Marty Peretz, with some sort of projection, calls any attempt to rain on this parade "prissy and finicky." Myself, I just find it embarrassing. This is what we're reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there's nothing else this president can get right.

What do you figure this farce will look like 10, 30 or 50 years down the road? A signal of American power or weakness? (emphasis mine)


Think back to the days following 9/11. With 90+% approval ratings, why shouldn't Bush have felt an inflation of importance? He told America that we were going to "smoke out" bin Laden and capture him "dead or alive." Over five years later bin Laden is still at large and in his stead we get to hang a secular dictator for crimes against his own people. More Americans have now died in Iraq than were killed in 9/11. The military is not only exhausted but bogged down occupying a country that is essentially in a state of civil war. The government has detained hundreds of suspected terrorists, charged them with nothing, and left them to rot in torture prisons around the world. The United States cannot do anything to stop Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions (remember the 'Axis of Evil?'). Homeland Security Advisor Frances Fragos Townsend claims that bin Laden still at large is not a failure but rather "a success that hasn't occurred yet."

Well, based on all this I would say that not only is the Bush administration a failure--a tremendous monumental failure--but they are also the weakest, most cowardly and immature group of people I have ever seen run a government. So to answer Josh's question, this farce will be a sign of American weakness to future analysts, particularly in light of the position of strength the United States entered the 21st century in. Surpluses and peace became deficits and war. I know the right wing likes to remind us that this war was forced on us by 9/11 but if that's the case, why didn't we finish it and win it decisively? And as for the deficit, that belongs to Bush too.

That's it in a nutshell. Bush is responsible for America's decline in the world. Morally, financially, intellectually and militarily. He made torture official US policy, wrecked our finances with upper-income-bracket tax cuts, dulled critical thinking and intellectualism with empty slogans and Orwellian deception and used the military to carry out impossible adventures.

And this is supposed to be a "conservative" president? I find that insulting to conservatives.

Thanks, Mr. President. Thanks for driving this country into the ground.

UPDATE: The redoubtable Sidney Blumenthal discusses the second-stringer neocons who are helping Bush avoid leaving Iraq while he is still president so he can leave office a "winner." It sickens me to think back to 2000 when all of Bush's flaws were first reported and to see those same flaws at play today. Bush was, is, and always shall be an immature coward who never, never, never, EVER should have been appointed president. I'd go as far to say it was one of the worst mistakes in American history. And yet some people still support him. How pathetic.

December 28, 2006

Blogs and Populism

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that what defines elite journalism is their antipathy towards the populism of elite blogs. To be clear, I am using the term "elite" to designate range of influence. The top news outfits in print, television, cable and the internet have a dominance over the national political conversation while the top bloggers set the agenda in the online universe. None of this should be shocking. But what is interesting is that elite journalists assume their role to be mediators between the powerful and the powerless (top-down approach) whereas bloggers ostensibly conduct their business at the grassroots level. At stake is the attention of the people. Who are they going to trust? The sober commentary of the New York and Washington-based national news media or the writing and analysis of a faceless commentator in cyberspace? At least that is the perception of elite journalists who are, in the classical definition, conservatives. They are conservative in their disdain of populism which leads, as Edmund Burke pointed out, to things like the French Revolution (his analysis of the revolution in France might be incorrect, but that is out of scope for our current discussion). The Burkean definition of conservatism is all but lost today, replaced by the "conservatism" of George W. Bush and his sycophants. The lifeblood of Bush conservatism is nothing other than populism itself, and after the political events of 2005 which culminated in the 2006 referendum on Republican rule, the Democrats properly regained the right to populist politics. The conservatism of the New Right (Goldwater, Reagan and Bush) succeeded because it exorcised antipopulism from the conservative label. But now that conservatism has failed to provide for the people, that political realignment is now dying a long overdue death.

Burkean conservatism, on the other hand, never died but lived in exile with pre-Goldwater Republicans and the journalists who made their mark in the late 1970s. David Broder, George Will, Robert Novak--to name a prominent few--felt comfortable with the conservative rule of Reagan even if they misunderstood what his conservatism was all about. As these journalists became the top voices in their profession, they harbored Burkean mistrust of the masses even while coddling the rank demagoguery of New Right conservatism. Bush Jr., the rankest demagogue of them all, was (still is, for some) adored by these elites who seemed to momentarily forget that populism, according to classical conservatism, leads to anarchy. The reason for this is that the history of populism is largely a left-wing phenomenon. This is ironic because it ought to be easy to denounce right-wing populism, the most prominent historical example of which is fascism. But the elites in journalism don't see fascistic tendencies in New Right conservatism. They don't see the authoritarianism. They are blinded by the authority bias itself. Elite Journalists and the patriarchical Bush administration both see their role as ruling over the masses and leading them beneficently.

Elite left-wing (remember, the origin of 'left-wing' was in reference to that side of the parlement chamber in Revolutionary France) bloggers challenge authority first and foremost. But the challenge is not the mindless "smash the state" mentality of the youthful anarchist left (most elite bloggers are at least in their mid-thirites and several are middle-aged). The challenge is to elite journalists (and politicians) who think their position of power entitles them to adopt whatever narrative is pleasing to them. At present that narrative is conservative, both in the Bush and Burkean sense. Out of this confused narrative of populism and antipopulism emerges the familiar themes about Democrats being weak, the Clintons being inauthentic hicks, conservatives representing "real" Americans, etc. Elite left-wing bloggers point all this out and this disrupts the narrative elite journalists have been cultivating. They plead for civility and comity and centerism; in other words they plead for the great unwashed to stop listening to insightful bloggers and return to the discourse emanating from Washington DC and New York. They brand bloggers as juvenile, unprofessional, lacking in literary prowess, concerned with the trivial and narcissistic. As I've said, they completely ignore the populist challenge coming from elite bloggers who represent, perhaps, a nascent organizational powerhouse for 21st century progressive politics. That's a tough aspiration to live up to but it does not appear that bloggers are going to wane in influence anytime soon. The Burkean conservatives of elite journalism should either start getting the facts straight and doing their jobs or get used to being criticized by the dirty hippies of the left blogosphere.

The right-wing blogosphere is a different story for another time.

My thoughts on this run tandem to this article at Media Matters. I sometimes question their examples of "conservative bias" in the news, but overall they do good work. More attention, however, should be paid to this definitional problem of "conservative," and more recognition should be paid to what left-wing blogging actually represents: intelligent progressive populism.

December 21, 2006

Memories and Journalism

Billmon gets all introspective and looks back at his corpus of observations about Iraq. He reaches the conclusion that while blogging might not be the most important thing ever, it was one of the few places one could find real information about what was happening in Iraq without having to hear about the genius of George W. Bush and how sexy he looked in a flight suit. For anyone who is interested in the decline of journalism into sycophantic stenography, the Iraq War is the best example. What's most remarkable to me is that the press were used as tools by the war effort. Witness now the right wing response to Bush's failure. They blame the American people and the media. How would you feel as a journalist who wrote glowing prose in favor of Bush's steely resolve nearly four years ago, jumped on the bandwagon of portraying actual war veteran John Kerry as a cowardly commie terrorist appeaser three years ago, and now is accused by the delusional right wing that you are responsible for all the trouble in Iraq? You see, if journalists had been doing the fucking job in the first place (there are notable exceptions of course) they wouldn't be in this situation. They would have accurately reported and brought up questions about the wisdom of invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. But because of the authority bias and the pack mentality, journalists did not provide good reporting: they merely told the story the way Bushco wanted it told.

You see, in an alternate universe, there were right wing bloggers who were repeatedly sucking George Bush's cock and had (still have) reading audiences greater than that of most newspapers and cable shows. Why the respectable mainstream media felt it needed to cater to this crowd--who already had a forum--is beyond me. Professional bigot Glenn Beck is still on CNN for christssakes. CNN used to be respectable. I don't understand why they want to be FOX News when there already is a FOX News. Shouldn't they just be good journalists?

My hope is that bad journalism will wither as the conservative movement loses stature. But there needs to be more assertive reporting. Reporters should not be afraid to ask, even in a "time of war," hard questions of the commander-in-chief. If his job is to answer to the American people, then the press is the conduit for that task. The middleman has been corrupted and is it any wonder that people (on the right and the left) who care about politics are seeking alternative vehicles for news? We don't want to hear George Will whine about the lack of civility. Democracy is not about civility. Yes, I mean that. I want argumentation. I want discussion. And then I want votes on it. That's how the system works. It allows us to solve problems without killing eachother. On-high pundits can talk about how they wish the world was the way they want it to be. But they're not in the wish-making business. You either tell me the facts and analyze them in the context of the public's best interest or you're not a journalist. It's as simple as that. And if bloggers are the only ones who care to do that, then so be it. They aren't producing news, but they are reading it right. Bloggers like Billmon add to the conversation. Bloggers like Glenn Reynolds don't. Let them talk about nuking the brown people all they want. No one with a serious mind (not to mention fucking compassion) should be aspiring to be like them.

December 20, 2006

Blow-Dried Wisdom

Apparently, making vapid observations about a current politician's appearance 30 years ago is enough to bestow the title, "political analyst."

In other news, bloggers are ruining journalism.

Scary Brown People

Witness the devolution of conservatism from an elitist cultural and moral critique of liberalism to xenophobic nativism premised on a clash of civilizations. It'll probably be their undoing and make St. John McCain, America's Mayor and Gingrich the Wise's campaigns all the more difficult to wage. According to some bigot on the internet:

Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always A Muslim

[is Obama] a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?


I called her "some bigot on the internet," which is true, but according to her bio:
Schlussel's unique expertise on radical Islam/Islamic terrorism and a host of other issues make her a popular speaker and television and radio news talk show guest, both nationally & internationally. (Her online fan club is the Internet's second largest for a political personality--behind only Ann Coulter.) She is a University of Michigan graduate and holds both Law and MBA degrees from the University of Wisconsin.

Schlussel has often been quoted in quoted in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, USA Today, New York Post, New York Daily News, New York Newsday, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Sports Business Daily, The Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Indianapolis Star, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Kansas City Star, The Arizona Republic, San Jose Mercury News, The Austin Statesman, The Wisconsin State Journal, Charlotte Observer, National Post of Canada, McLean’s of Canada, Daily Telegraph of London, The Guardian U.K., The Vancouver Province, The Jerusalem Post, The Age of Australia, The Irish Times, The Irish Examiner, Associated Press, Knight-Ridder Wire, CanWest Global Wire, Golf World, CNN.com, and many other mainstream press publications.


More at Media Matters. Hate is a hot commodity these days. Obviously we should be taking these people seriously and immediately start interning Muslims; after all they all think alike, don't they? Michelle Malkin wrote a book called "In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror" that defended the Japanese internment and recommends the same for the brown people. The GOP is on it, though. According to US Rep. Virgil Goode, "We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country." I love how they never miss an opportunity to blame Clinton for something. Goode is concerned that if more Muslims enter the country then more elected representatives will start taking their oath of office on the Koran (or something like that...read the letter).

Like I said, it will be interesting to see how the GOP manages the outright racists in their midst. Not to mention the neocon warmongers and unlimited presidential power sycophants. And the Christian nationalists. Quite a nice coalition they've got there. Actually, if you think about it, it's rather impressive that the GOP was able to put all of the most myopic and extreme elements in America under one tent. And that tent is collapsing.

December 19, 2006

Criminals

Juan Cole would like to get the ball rolling on removing Elliot Abrams from the National Security Council:

That does it. Elliot Abrams must go. Elliot Abrams is a felon. He was involved in stealing Pentagon weapons from US stockpiles, selling them to the Ayatollah Khomeini, and then stealing the Iranian funds so garnered to give to far-right Central American death squads, and then lying about all this to Congress. The Congress in the Constitution controls the budget. The Congress had cut off money to the rightwing death squads supported by Reagan and henchmen like Abrams. This elaborate criminal conspiracy inside the White House was the Right's response. They shredded the Constitution (and ever since have been calling their critics "unpatriotic.")

In 1991, Abrams pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lying to Congress under oath. Without the plea deal, he was facing felony charges, since what he did was in fact a felony.

Congress pledged that Abrams would never work at a high level in government again. But by the time the Neoconservative cabal in the Bush administration got Bush to appoint him to the National Security Council, there had been so much turn-over in Congress that, one member told me, "no one remembered who Abrams was."


Abrams was pardoned by Poppa Bush in 1992. He is now the Deputy National Security Advisor. He thinks we need to bomb Iran and Syria into submission. This man is insane and a criminal. Par for the course for the administration of the Worst President in American History, but I'm with Cole: let's purge this radical criminal from government. I'm sure the neconservative welfare office will be happy to get him a job.

McCain and the Sycophants

Josh brings up the problem of McCain's 2008 presidential bid today, raising the issues I glossed over yesterday:

Now, this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. McCain's rep, from the late 90s onward has been based on three things -- a perceived stance of political independence, an embrace of a number of Democratic positions which are more popular than Republican ones (the case for most everything outside national security issues, though that's changing), and his soft-pedaling his actual hard-right positions on things like choice, etc.

For anyone who's paying attention, the independence rep is toast. He's been toadying to conservative orthodoxies for the past year. Something that makes him seem doubly non-independent and craven since it's pretty clear he's doing it just because he wants to be president. That is to say, he's not like longstanding toadies like Bill Frist and others like him. He's also embracing an extremely unpopular position on Iraq -- a war that is extremely unpopular amongst independents. And of course he's George Bush's new best friend.

The idea that John McCain is going to stay the darling of self-identified independents and centrist Democrats while acting like a partisan right-winger and supporting a deeply unpopular war reminds me of those dingbat prognosticators who argue, in so many words, that now that the GOP has the racist vote sewn up all they have to do is get the blacks too and then the Dems won't ever be able to win an election again.

People aren't that stupid.


I think this is highly significant. It's easy, as armchair political analysts, to treat The People as a mass to be manipulated by elites. Certainly you can cite mountains of evidence demonstrating that people do make stupid political decisions. Despite that I still believe that there is a line, when crossed, that will turn public opinion against a candidate and against a political party. The simple truth about the 2006 election was that the people clearly rejected Republican rule. They could no longer be bamboozled into supporting Bush and his war. That being the case, McCain has painted himself politically into a corner. The public already, overwhelmingly, rejects his plan for sending more troops to Iraq. What do you think is going to happen when this "plan" fails to yield results (an end to the civil war)? Is McCain simply going to tell the American people, "Well, I gave it my best shot" and change the subject? If he accedes to public opinion on the matter, wouldn't that make him a "flip-flopper?" There is no easy way out for him because his actions do not match the rhetoric about him, which, as Josh points out, will widen the chasm between the reality-based public and the "maverick" fantasy world of the elite press.

This is the same fantasy world that asks "Is America Ready for Hillary or Obama?" and then ignores polling data that answers their own question! Nearly 4 months ago I called for "purging the radicals" from government and media. By "radical" I meant people like McCain and his Beltway sycophants who constantly distort reality for the reward of vanity. Who knows what John McCain's position on Iraq will be in 2008, but whatever it is, it will appear inauthentic to voters. But like Josh, I think the big question is how long media elites are going to continue insisting that McCain is some sort of foreign policy genius who gives the American people "straight talk." Voters can hold McCain accountable at the ballot box but I'm not sure how we hold the pundits to the same standard. My preference would be for some gutsy management decisions at these news outlets: first get rid of regular commentators like Bill Kristol ("He’s the man with remarkable moral clarity. He tends to forget the clarity he had on getting us into the mess in Mesopotamia. I think if you look at his record, you’d wonder why anybody would allow him to speak publicly anymore.") and start demanding real journalism from these commentators. It's not that I don't think they should have opinions, it's that clearly wrong-headed opinions and outright mendacity go unchecked. Journalists are supposed to be the referees, damnit.

UPDATE: Hot off the presses, a fresh example of McCain sycophantism. And this from the Washington Post's "liberal" columnist. Excuse me while I go vomit in the corner.

December 18, 2006

You

I haven't thought this through entirely (that is, I'm not going to write anything lengthy on the subject) but I find Time Magazine's choice for person of the year to be low pandering (especially since the choice is supposed to reflect someone, good or bad, who has affected us all. We have all affected eachother? Insightful!). Ever since technology started becoming "personal" I've witnessed the promotion of the idea that you can be more of an individual with these tools. I think this is rubbish. I'd say Apple Computer, Inc. is largely responsible for this, by introducing products that are supposed to be vibrant and unlock your inner creative self (observe the Mac & PC advertising campaign). Rubbish. This is the same argument that claims giving every kid in the world a laptop is going to make them a better student. More rubbish. Giving everyone a digital camera doesn't produce hordes of Ansel Adams. And what exactly does the iPod have to do with individuality? The ability to create a custom playlist matters to who, exactly? And what of this YouTube "revolution" (the word Time uses to describe web 2.0)? (Guess what I use YouTube for? Killing time at work. I feel so empowered!) And yes, this technology can be good for politics, but isn't politics about group identity rather than individualism (i.e. public vs. private interest)? And fittingly, Time's choice is doubly ridiculous: first, by avoiding the selection of an actual person and second by giving examples of "you" that only make sense in a group context (number of Playstations sold, etc.). Earlier this year I suggested that there was a "tyranny of the individual" used to justify decision making in conservative government (sort of the public sector equivalent of "the customer knows best"). Of course when there is actually popular referrendum on elites, the 2006 election, the elites don't listen (let's escalate in Iraq!) and Time distills this down to individualism's triumph. Ripped off from Think Progress:

RICHARD STENGEL, TIME MAGAZINE: This is about a change that really has happened this year that I think is truly epical, and this is the fact that, the creation of user-generated content, online, on blogging and every which way is kind of changing the information age. It’s changing the way we get and consume news. It’s changing the way we think about things. In fact, it’s changing everything for people like us who are in traditional media because all of us have changed the way we consume news and it’s about people becoming citizens of this great new global digital democracy.

STEPHANOLOPOUS: But I was reading something just the other day that said still, only, what is it, 13 percent or even fewer of americans even read a blog every day.

STENGEL: It’s not just about blogging, it’s about YouTube, it’s about MySpace. I mean, look at how, you go back to –

WILL: It’s about narcissism, which is why a mirror is absolutely perfect. So much of what is done on the web is people getting on there and writing their diaries as though everyone ought to care about everyone’s inner turmoils. I mean it’s extraordinary.


Now, it does appear that I am having the same reaction as Will to the gushing. But Will reduces blogging to the "this is what my cat did today" sort of nonsense that is out there. Will doesn't mention the blogs that actually look at policy, examine issues and provide good political analysis. And why should he? I've noted what an ass Will is on this blog that no one reads. Does that make me a narcissist? TP asks, appropriately, whether "he believes writing columns for the Washington Post each week and appearing every Sunday on national television is a sign of “narcissism." Whether what I do is narcissism is, I think you'll agree, is less important than an influential columnist misleading millions of readers with garbage and not correcting himself.

Narcissism indeed.

Neoconservatism: The Communist Connection

It appears rather certain, based on news reports, that The Worst President in American History is going to ring in the New Year with a "surge" of troops in a vain effort to regain control of Iraq. This position appears to be favored only by 1) The President 2) John McCain 3) NeoConservatives 4) Bellicose keyboard commandos 5) War pundits and 6) around 20-30% of the public. Another way of putting it: Only a minority of elites who have a vested personal interest in "fixing" Iraq and a slim percentage of Americans (probably the same crowd that still gives George Bush positive job approval ratings) think this is a good idea. I'd like to focus on the neocons because the troop surge is, after all, their idea: an idea that fits in rather well with their entirely discredited worldview. But to understand why this is the case, we have to go back to not only neoconservatism but conservatism's roots. Here, in the ideologically unifying glue of anticommunism can be found the foundations of reckless foreign policy.

First it should be noted that conservatives were not the only ones who were opposed to communism in the Cold War. What separted conservative anticommunism from ordinary American concerns about the Soviet Union was its totality: communism represented the antithesis of Western Civilization. Obviously, if you believed that, then why wouldn't you commit yourself to nothing less than the destruction of the communist threat? Furthermore, you wanted something more aggressive than liberal "containment," a policy that avoided direct military confrontation and simply hoped that the problem would extinguish itself. This is what you would have believed in the immediate postwar years as a conservative, regardless if you were an intellectual elite, a libertarian, or a conservative traditionalist. Whatever reasons you cited for communism being the end of your world, you had that in common with other conservatives. Anticommunism, in short, gave you common cause with other conservatives.

Suppose you were a middle-aged liberal in the late 1960s. You were concerned with the direction America had taken as Vietnam exposed rifts in civil society. What exactly were these students protesting? "The system?" Why were they protesting the university you taught at? You believed that education enlightened people, not encouraged them to become self-absorbed and self-righteous pacifists. They didn't appreciate the threat of communism, didn't recognize that Marx had been perverted under Lenin, then Stalin. Khrushchev could not be trusted. Yes, Vietnam had been poorly planned and executed, but leaving before eliminating the communist threat in the North would be both a sign of weakness and appeasement, and embolden your enemies. Communists throughout the world would see a defeated United States--the most powerful nation in the world--defeated. By the 1970s you agreed with Irving Kristol that a neoconservative was a "liberal mugged by reality" and you too were a neoconservative. The Soviets were still expanding, this time in Afghanistan. Only individual freedom could stop the communist advance. You supported efforts to arm the freedom fighters. You were relieved to hear your president describe the Soviets for what they were: an evil empire. You knew communism had to be engaged directly. And when the Berlin Wall fell, you knew you had been right.

You were shocked in the 1990s when the United States could not commit to victory in Iraq, and undertook half-realized humanitarian missions in Africa and Eastern Europe. This was America's unipolar moment. The mantle of world leadership was ours to grab and to hell with the ineffective UN and our allies. They should be following us, not offering their input. And America's destiny was to spread freedom to the rest of world, using our military might to remove all dictators, by force if necessary. And on 9/11 the enemy revealed itself: shadowy terrorists who now openly called for the destruction of the United States and allied themselves with tyrants who would sell them destructive arms to carry out this goal. You thought America was behind you after 9/11 and behind your president, who showed resolve and rightly declared war on terror. He understood what you knew in your heart: this was World War 4. The regimes harboring the terrorist threat were identifed. They were given ultimatums. When Iraq did not comply we removed the problem and let the Iraqi people choose their government. Although you had achieved victory rapidly, terrorists and jihadists in Iraq refused to admit defeat. They fouhgt back cowardly from the depths of civilian populations, not just fighting against American troops, but also fighting to change perceptions about America's role in the world.

On cable news talk shows you explain it clearly: America cannot and will not lose this war. We cannot surrender to the jihadists, for they represent the greatest threat to Western Civilization since the Nazis and Soviets combined. The American people simply lack the will to fight, enabled by a biased media that only tells half the story. We must show strength, not weakness, in the face of our enemies, and we must be willing to commit more troops, if necessary, to win in Iraq. A prominent conservative senator (and potential presidential candidate) agrees with you. An independent study of Iraq comes and goes. The president, open but resolute, requests time to consider his options for winning in Iraq. But you know he only listens to you and your think tank brethren. Next year, perhaps as little as six months from now, the war will be won and people will wonder what all the fuss was about. You are content you are right, because you know that certain people are put on this earth to lead others through their moral superiority or their intellectual prowess. The people have been duped by the media and the liberals into thinking that we must leave Iraq. That can never come to pass unless we want to surrender to those barbarians threatening civilization...

I have provided this narrative to point out some important similarities between anticommunism 50 years hence and neoconservatism today. There are also significant differences. While the consequesces of communist victory were well understood by conservatives to be the end of freedom and god in a secular, totalitarian state, it is unclear what the negative outcome of "WWIV" will look like. After all, its certainly not secular and the supposed unifying ideology is loosely based on radical Islam. This becomes a problem for the conservative coalition. Anticommunism, as I said, was the glue holding together the midcentury conservative movement. If today's conservative coalition is expected to hold together by neoconservatism, then the coalition is over. This was what I was getting at when I claimed 2008 would be a referrendum on conservative government. John McCain has been calling for more troops for some time, it seems as a political gambit to make him appear tough when Bush would falter int he face of Democratic (small and big D) pressure. But McCain fatally misunderstood what motivates Bush. Bush doesn't want to do the right thing or the smart thing at this point. He wants to save his pride and not fulfill his destiny as the Worst President in American History. No one serious about foreign policy thinks sending 20,000 troops to Iraq is going to make a difference and they won't. But McCain was counting on that policy choice to be the difference between him and Bush (and the Democrats) come 2008. Instead, McCain will be associated with bad policy and hopefully the public will start to see him for what he is: someone profoundly unserious about foreign policy and only interested in getting elected. Furthermore, McCain, despite his ridiculous reputation as a "maverick," will become the symbol of conservative government, having hitched his furtunes to Bush. I don't see how people won't be disgusted by this two years from now. And then Gingrich will come along trying to buttress conservatism with intellectual grandstanding. Its going to be quite the spectacle going into 2008. And I would take pleasure in it but for the fact that 20,000 more US soldiers--on top of the nearly 3000 dead already--will need to be exposed to danger in order to make conservatives feel tough.

Sickening.

December 15, 2006

Narcissistic, Cowardly Pundits

A while back I had a post titled "Dictators and Pundits" which was intended to bring up discussion of the American Elite's preference for strength even at the expense of other American values such as democracy, freedom and justice. This is old news now but deserves attention again: the fawning nostalgia heaped on Augusto Pinochet after his death. There is the obligatory mention--almost as if it were a minor character defect--of the dictator's brutal opression. Then what follows is the suggestion that Pinochet's strongarm tactics were ultimately good for Chile because they led to prosperity and freedom, indeed a shining example for the rest of Latin America. Recently deceased Milton Friedman would have been proud.

The way I've described it doesn't really paint these columns in a bad light. So let's shine some light on them. Washington Post:

It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.

Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle -- and that not even Allende's socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.


As many others have pointed out, Pinochet had no influence on Chile's economic policy during the period in question. All this article avers is that Pinochet introduced these policies that "produced the Chilean economic miracle." I'll have more to say about this in a moment. Let's continue with the article:
By way of contrast, Fidel Castro -- Mr. Pinochet's nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond -- will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.

The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.


When in doubt, bring up Castro. Let's make sure the suggestion is clear: right-wing dictatorships lead to freedom and capitalism. Left-wing dictatorships lead to oppression and poverty. Now I'm coming late to this, but others have brought up an important counter-example: the former communist Eastern Bloc. "New Europe," in the words (not literally, but implied) of Donald Rumsfeld. But based on the singular examples of Augusto Pinochet and Fidel Castro, the Post has neatly explained the world to us.

But let's get to the heart of the matter: the American right favors dictators. Simple as that. Here's Jonah Goldberg in the LA Times with a piece titled, "Iraq needs a Pinochet:"

I THINK ALL intelligent, patriotic and informed people can agree: It would be great if the U.S. could find an Iraqi Augusto Pinochet. In fact, an Iraqi Pinochet would be even better than an Iraqi Castro.

Both propositions strike me as so self-evident as to require no explanation. But as I have discovered in recent days, many otherwise rational people can't think straight when the names Fidel Castro and Augusto Pinochet come up.


Let's stop there a second. Goldberg takes it as self-evident that the US needs an "Iraqi Augusto Pinochet." Pardon me for bringing this up, but didn't Iraq have a Pinochet named Saddam Hussein until March 2003? Oh, yes, I forgot. Hussein was infinitely more monstrous because he nationalized industry. Because Pinochet introduced free market ideas to Chile (which apparently only began to work their magic once Pinochet was out of power) he is far less of a monster than Hussein was. I guess I would have to agree with Goldberg that "rational people can't think straight when the names Fidel Castro and Augusto Pinochet come up." Goldberg certainly can't. But at least he is consistent. Why else would he write a book called, "Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton?" Trash like this is nothing more than a reincarnation of Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" argument. Simply put, the state leads to totalitarianism, and since liberalism relies upon the state, liberalism leads to totalitarianism. Airtight, huh? Some postwar conservative thinkers did a decent job of making this argument, and certainly living in the spectre of Stalinist Russia lent the theory some authenticity. But 60 years later the argument is vacuous and devolutionary. Hilary Clinton (apparently the embodiment of liberalism--does Goldberg even know what 'liberalism' means?) is the descendent of Mussolini? Attempting to be provocative, Goldberg is either ignorant of or guilty of misinterpreting history. If Mussolini and Clinton are somehow the same political phenonenon, why did the fascists in Italy and Germany purge liberals and communists and the weak and the Jews and everyone else that wasn't the embodiment of pure, virile nationalistic bellicosity from their countries? Let me be clear: fascism is anti-liberal, anti-modern (in the liberal sense), anti-progressive (in the liberal sense) and, most important, anti-communist and socialist. Fascism became a type of totalitarianism, as Stalinism became a type of totalitarianism. But according to Goldberg, The Washington Post and the American right, right-wing totalitarianism and dictatorships are preferable. To the American right wing there is no such thing as right-wing totalitarianism, apparently. Only communism leads to totalitarianism. But how then did the "totalitarian temptation" span from a fascist, Mussolini, to Clinton, a liberal? Its all very confusing. The Soviet Union collapsed a decade and a half ago and we're still hearing from the American right about the dangers of communism?

What is wrong with these people?

Fidel Castro is a dictator. But he is not a threat. China is nominally a communist country, but let's be honest, they're on track to be a superpower powered by, you guessed it, capitalism. The threat posed by them has nothing to do with communism. Any other communist states out there we should be worried about? Didn't think so. And this brings us back to dictators and pundits. Since, as the right wing would have us believe, we are in "World War 4" (WWIII was the Cold War, apparently) with "Islamofascism," we must bring freedom to those oppressed by the Jihadists. Hasn't the leader of the free world, George Bush, said as much throughout his "war on terror?" But if we can't bring freedom and democracy outright, argue the intellectuals of the right wing, install a dictator and free markets will flourish. It might take 30 years, thousands of wasted lives, but that's a small price to pay for freedom.

By the way, these are considered serious arguments. Think about that for a moment. These people should not be writing columns for newspapers. These are not serious ideas. They are the arguments of narcissistic cowards who want to be taken seriously for their ideas yet want no responsibility for lost blood and treasure.

Cancer of the Republic.

December 14, 2006

Lunatics

It puzzles me why deniers of global warming are so intransigent in their cause. I mean, what is it exactly that they're afraid of? And why is it viewed in terms of conspiracy? Someone please explain to me what scientists and environmental activists would gain--personally--by governments acknowledging global warming. Is it simply a knee-jerk reaction to the alleged business costs of environmental regulation? Funny though, business seems to think that emissions regulation is an inevitability and though they are prepared to fight it through their lobbying efforts, they see the writing on the wall. Groups like the Rocky Mountain Institute have been arguing for 20 years that alternative fuels and increased efficiency is not only economically feasible, but profitable as well. Clearly, then, the impediment is political. Especially when someone like James Inhofe chairs the Senate Enviornment and Public Works Committee. It's just like Bolton being the United States' ambassador to the UN: why would you appoint someone to that position who believes, fundamentally, that the UN is no more than a tool for the US to use, and reluctantly at that? Inhofe believes global warming is a hoax perpetuated by bad science and subversive freedom-hating leftists (some examples here). As chair of the committee, Inhofe is a political impediment. As the ranking member in the 110th Congress, he will simply be less of a problem.

Here's another lunatic: Michael Crichton. You may recall that Crichton wrote a novel a couple years ago about a global warming hoax that President Bush loved. They even had an in-depth conversation in the Oval Office about it. Bush has neither seen nor read the book version of An Inconvenient Truth but he'll take time to have a one-on-one with a fiction author. Par for the course for The Worst President in American History. But Crichton is especially crazy. His reaction to a negative review of his book was to portray the author of the criticism as a child rapist. Classy.

Again I ask: what is it about global warming denial that makes people like Crichton and Inhofe so crazy? I don't understand.

December 8, 2006

Impeachment

George Bush might deserve impeachment (I am on the record of repeatedly calling him a criminal) but impeachment is not a wise policy option for the new Democratic Congress. Good discussion on that here. But another Kossack argues today that impeachment shouldn't be taken off the table. His argument is simple: if George Bush has claimed for himself "inherent" powers, added signing statements to legislation, and essentially reserved the right to be above the law, why would he or his administration allow themselves to be subpoenaed and incriminated by Democratic committee chairs? He further argues that the courts wouldn't be able to force BushCo to comply because they rely on executive power to enforce their decisions. The courts would have to tell Congress to enforce the law using their only available tool: impeachment. I think this is a compelling argument, but it is completely dependent on King George living up to that pegorative appellation. In other words, there would have to be an acute constitutional crisis, instead of the slow-moving one that began with the Bush vs. Gore decision.

A few years back I watched a series on PBS about Watergate and one of the judges (or was it a Congressman? I forget) recalled a moment when the courts ordered Nixon to hand over the Oval Office tapes. He said something to the effect that the Constitution "wavered" because Nixon, of course, controlled the army. Of course, Watergate avoided a constitutional crisis precisely because the system worked the way it was designed to. That is what makes George Bush so criminal: his disregard for the Constitution of the United States. Now impeachment is a political tool, no doubt. That means Congress is not obligated to invoke it. But if George Bush defies Congressional oversight and doesn't back down, I think Congress has no choice but to impeach him. And if that happens, there are three outcomes: He is impeached, he is not impeached, or he refuses to be impeached. The last outcome I won't speculate on because in my heart I feel this is exactly what radical conservatives desire because it will give them license to start eliminating liberals who are trying to take down their president. The first outcome would also likely involve the impeachment of Cheney leaving us with President Pelosi. I haven't researched it, but I'm sure this conspiracy theory is out there in the right-wing blogosphere. As for the second outcome, there wouldn't be enough votes to impeach Bush, and that too would be bad news for Republicans in 2008. How are the American people expected to react to a situation where a president refuses to abide by Congress, but Congress doesn't have the votes to impeach him? The votes blocking impeachment would be Republican, possibly with Joe Lieberman going along for the ride (couldn't resist that one). Bad year to be a Republican, 2008.

This has been an abstract discussion that is wholly dependent on events that have not and may never transpire. But I think it is useful to look at the boundaries of Congressional oversight in 2007. That's why the blogger at Daily Kos called it "The nexus between oversight and impeachment." Precisely. Its on the table, as far as I'm concerned, and hopefully that will be enough to deter Bush from further ruining America to save his pride.

Local Politics, National Politics

Gordon Smith is Oregon's Republican senator. Last night he gave a speech on the floor of the Senate that expressed his anguish over how Iraq has turned out (He voted for the war). He suggested that Bush's stay the course policy "may even be criminal" and that we need to act now, even if it is cutting and running. This is important. I said yesterday that more and more politicians (particularly Democrats who voted for the war) would start to line up on the side of ending our involvement in Iraq the closer to 2008 we get. I also expected Republicans to do the same, if they're smart. Those left over will alone carry the mantle of "conservatism" and lose badly in 2008 if they carry the Republican nomination. But we must consider Sen. Smith's motivations as well. He is up for reelection in 2008 in a state where it was not a good year to be a Republican. And I think being a Republican will still be a liability in 2008. But is Smith denouncing the war now that he has seen the shifting of political winds and knows he could be on the chopping block himself in two years? To the point, is it the only reason? That's what Kos seems to think. He knows that Smith's seat is a great pickup opportunity for Democrats in 2008. And about that, he is likely right. But to say that Sen. Smith's words are empty, that he gave a speech CNN called "emotional" just to distinguish himself from other Republicans...well, I don't buy it. Of course it is part of his motivation. But it is not the only motivation. Kos appears to be susceptible to David Mayhew's old theory of politicians: their sole motivation is reelection. And I simply think it is more complex than that. Either way, it is good for Democrats and good for America and, most important, good for US soldiers in Iraq that this disaster is being discussed frankly after many years of illusion.

December 7, 2006

2008: Referendum on Conservatism

The 2008 presidential election is destined to be dominated by one issue: Iraq. Today a majority of Americans and most of the Democratic party deem Iraq a foreign policy failure and want our involvement there to end. Expect more Democrats to recant their original 2002 authorization votes and clearly pick the winning side. That will leave George Bush and his followers to defend themselves. And that is what I would like to talk about today. If 2008 is about Iraq, then won't the defenders of the policy--hawks like McCain--essentially hitching the conservative movement's fortunes to failure? Think about it a moment. This is going to be the great Republican gamble of 2008. They are betting that the election will be a referendum on Bush and Iraq and that they are going to win that election because the people are on their side. In other words, 2008 will transcend being a referendum on Bush and Iraq and neatly merge into a referendum on conservatism itself.

And if that is the case, then I can start celebrating early.

I've mentioned here before that the conservative movement fundamentally believes two things: that it is morally, intellectually and philosophically superior; that the majority of Americans believe in conservative principles. It is easy to see how the second belief has been reinforced over the past quarter century. The famous Reagan Democrats helped elect a smooth conservative to office, ushering in a "revolution." (Nevermind that the Carter administration was a disaster and he would have lost to pretty much anyone the Republicans put up against him.) The Reagan myth was only reinforced after his landside 1984 reelection that left no doubt in political analyst's minds that they had just witnessed an electoral realignment in the style of Roosevelt's 1932/36 victories. The circumstances of Clinton's 1992 win did not deter the conservative belief that the people were on their side: not only had Perot siphoned away votes but George Bush Sr. was not a true conservative. He had raised taxes. He hadn't finished the job in Iraq. He was an insider, not ideologically committed to conservatism's cause. Thus in 1994 the Republican takeover of Congress redeemed the movement: the people had spoken and had rejected Clintonian liberalism, or any liberalism for that matter. The mythology of conservative populism spread as demagogic talk radio proliferated, grassroots organizations formed and Gingrich provided the intellectual gravitas for a new era of conservative government. Which is why, of course, Dole failed in 1996. Like Bush, he had not been a true conservative. He was part of the old Republican party, who wanted consensus with liberals. He was essentially the reincarnation of Lyndon Johnson: all political, no ideals.

What has happened in the last six years deserves closer scrutiny. George W. Bush is clearly the greatest incarnation of the conservative populist since Reagan and Goldwater. But upon closer examination, Bush hasn't been principled at all. In 2000 he ran in the context of a Clinton administration that was fading into the sunset while Gore's start rose. This is why it seems so strange today to consider the "compassionate conservative," "uniter, not a divider" campaign Bush ran. Do today's conservatives believe in compassion? Not since the war on terror. Compassion is weakness, and weakness is a liberal characteristic. Yet in 2000 Bush was trying to win against a lackluster Vice President who nevertheless had an edge in most key demographics. And when Bush won, he did so without the popular vote, and under constitutionally dubious, court-ordered circumstances. Surely this should have challenged the notion that conservatives were a majority in the public: they had won, but with a light conservative and with the help of the Supreme Court. The Bush of 2000 never would have been reelected in 2004. But due to the course of events set in motion by 9/11, the uniter became a divider and the Republicans took over the Senate in 2002 by questioning the patriotism of their opponents. America was no longer united against terrorism, it was divided between people who fight and those who aid the terrorists. The only quesion was which had the greatest popular support, and the Republicans got their answer in 2004.

I have averred that the 2004 election was the apogee of the conservative movement. Here is why: it will be the last time Republicans win the majority in a national election. I'm not predicting that it will the last time ever, just that it will be the last time conservatives win the popular vote in their current configuration. The era from Goldwater to Bush ends with Bush. This is why 2008 ultimately becomes a referendum on conservatism. Bush will likely be remembered as the most conservative of modern US presidents but rarely is it asked what makes him so conservative. On virtually all social issues he has sided with the religious right. On all foreign policy decisions he has sided with the neoconservatives. And on all matters concerning the presidency, he has sided with Nixon. This is where the true Bush lurks. His social policy positions have come from kowtowing to a specific and powerful constituency and his foreign policy positions from a previously exiled ex-liberal intellectual cadre. But when it comes to presidential power, he has had a unique inspiration. Bush has claimed extraordinary inherent constitutional powers. His Vice President has been at the forefront of defending the "imperial presidency" which originated in Cheney's years in the Ford administration. Charlie Savage's article in the Boston Globe last month illuminated this quite clearly: "Cheney has made this a matter of principle," Shane said. "For that reason, you are likely to hear the words 'executive privilege' over and over again during the next two years" (emphasis mine).

Executive privilege is not something one sees in classical conservative thinking. It is entirely the product of Nixon-era national security fear of crisis. 9/11 recreated the sense that our national security was always at risk and thus required an unrestricted executive to defend the country. This is now considered a conservative position. Why else would Newt Gingrich suggest we reexamine the First Amendment in light of the threat posed by terrorism? Gingrich is providing the philosophical justifications for Bush-style foreign policy; that is, he is defending Bush-style conservatism, which reduces, through Cheney's defense of the imperial presidency, to Richard Nixon. If this persists, conservatives in 2008 will essentially be running on the platform of, "When the President does it, that means that it it is not illegal."

This is why, I predict, they will fail in 2008. The American people have been wagged by conservatism's dog for so long that Bill Clinton remarked before the midterm election, memorably, "They've trotted that dog out for the last three elections - and it's got mange all over it." Clinton, of course, was right. Republicans lost hugely by being associated with Bush and Iraq. If Gingrich and McCain--who I have repeatedly predicted to be the Republican candidates for 2008--don't distance themselves from the 2006 election strategy--which it doesn't appear they are--they will lose the presidency and more seats in Congress in 2008. And by hitching conservatism to Bush, they will also destroy the mythology of a conservative majority in the American public.

December 6, 2006

Unity08 and Obama

I just had a terrifying premonition: Barack Obama becomes the Unity08 candidate. I guess I read a bit too much over at National Review today. Jonah Goldberg:

My hunch is that average Americans on either side of the ideological divide recognize their dilemma. Bipartisanship is overrated, but nobody wants day one of a new presidency to begin at the partisan equivalent of DefCon 1. America is now in the grip of Mutually Assured Demonization. If the GOP throws up another Bush (or, perhaps, a Gingrich), "Blue" America will turn its missile keys. If the Democrats trot out a Gore, a Clinton or a Kerry, Red America will respond in kind. How else to explain the enormous popularity of Barack Obama, whose anagram-like name seems to spell "fresh start" for millions of Americans who know nothing about him?

First of all, Red America (why doesn't he put it in quotes like he does for "Blue" America?) will flip out regardless of who the Democrats nominate. Its one of their quirky charms. But Goldberg's hunch about the public is, I think, basically correct and Obama will represent a fresh start for them. I argued the same thing in October and still stand by it. But I'm concerned that it's starting to sound like the Unity08 manifesto, which is a certrist (i.e., serious, Beltway insiders) organization pretending to be a citizen-powered movement. They call that "astroturf" in the biz. What's ironic is their stand on the issues sounds mighty familiar:
Unity08 divides issues facing the country into two categories: Crucial Issues – on which America’s future safety and welfare depend; and Important Issues – which, while vital to some, will not, in our judgment, determine the fate or future of the United States.

In our opinion, Crucial Issues include: Global terrorism, our national debt, our dependence on foreign oil, the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies, nuclear proliferation, global climate change, the corruption of Washington’s lobbying system, the education of our young, the health care of all, and the disappearance of the American Dream for so many of our people.

By contrast, we consider gun control, abortion and gay marriage important issues, worthy of debate and discussion in a free society, but not issues that should dominate or even crowd our national agenda.

In our opinion – since the disintegration of the Soviet Union – our political system seems to have focused more attention on the “important issues” than the “crucial issues.” One result: The political parties have been built to address the interests of their “base” but have failed to address the realities that impact most Americans.


Gee, who has been ignoring the "crucial" issues and promoting the "important" issues (sans gun control, unless you count the NRA's tireless lobbying efforts) recently? Here's a hint: they controlled Congress until this year's election. Unity08's position on the issues is a liberal agenda. It is not a conservative one. So why all the nonsense about being unified? I don't get it. I don't wish the Democrats to practice divisive politics, but I do want them to distinguish themselves--clearly--from the Republicans and give the American people a choice.

Maybe Unity08 won't endorse Obama (I think they're permanent passengers of the straight-talk express and Joe's party of one) but if they do it will make them partisans. And God knows, that is the biggest problem facing our nation today, according to George Will and David Broder. We must return civility to Washington, currently being destroyed by the Democrats, and return to a simpler time when the Vice President of the United States could politely tell a US Senator to go fuck himself on the floor of the Senate.

Truly those were halcyon times...

Conscience of a Conservative

A quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation on my part, based on the current rate of fatalities, finds that at least 1500 more US soldiers will die in Iraq over the next two years. Remember, that is basically the Bush plan (stay in Iraq until there's a new president) and the ISG plan (stay in Iraq, but redeploy half of the soldiers by 2008). Those 1500 men and women will die so the serious people in Washington DC can feel good about themselves and their bipartisan unity. That seems reasonable to me. Let another 1500 Americans die in Iraq to ignore the fact that Bush chose to initiate a civil war.

We need to end our involvement there now. Today. Yesterday. But the serious people see the Evacuation of Saigon. They see cut and run. They see America bullied by third world insurgents. In other words, their feelings are hurt by this. Their worldview is predicated on American greatness, and their service to America. That is essentially what neoconservatism has become. It also happens to be insane. I don't care about their feelings. I care about the people who are dying in Iraq for no reason. I don't care about Bush being the worst president in the history of the United States. And while I pray that lessons will be learned from the worst foreign policy mistake since Vietnam, I'm not holding my breath.

I don't think 4500 Americans perishing in Iraq for no reason is sufficient compensation for George Bush to feel like a man. I think it is sick, criminal, negligant, psychotic, immoral, degenerate, sociopathic, intellectually backrupt, corrupt, craven, twisted, petty, and heinous. And to those who like this war just the way it is and enablded it, I hope you feel manly and envigorated by the blood of those 4500 dead Americans.

Not forgetting, of course, the thousands of Iraqis who have died to fulfill these fantasies.

Disgusting.

Comity

Today the Iraq Study Group confirmed what everyone already knows: Iraq is a mess and we need to get out. That didn't stop David "Dean" Broder from writing 756 words profiling and praising the Group for its unity, comity and bipartisanship.

Meanwhile, there's a civil war happening in Iraq. But Broder doesn't care about that. He'd rather supplicate himself before the gods of unity and civility.

Cancer of the Republic.

December 1, 2006

Cowards and Idiots

I'll keep this short because I'm still mad but did you know that the American people have lost the will to fight in Iraq and that is why we are failing there?

That ought to go over real well with voters in 2008.

I wish this cancer had a cure.

Now that I think about it, this especially disgusting line of thought has origins. Back in August I wrote:

Look more closely at Rumsfeld's words. Will is everything here. Military might means nothing. Rumsfeld is characterizing this as nothing less than the willpower of the American people versus the willpower of insurgents/terrorists/fascists. And what is this willpower being applied to? The resolve of each side to continue killing and being killed with no goal in sight. Actually, Iraqi insurgents have various goals whereas the Bush administration does not. Achieving democracy in Iraq, you say? Is that our goal? What is our strategy for accomplishing that goal? Without a strategy and a plan, goals are nothing more than dreams. And what about "resolve?" Are suicide bombers more committed to their cause than Americans who are caught in the blast? Suicide bombers have made a conscious decision to die for their cause. Yet this notion of sacrifice is absent from Bush administration rhetoric (when have you ever heard Bush conjure up the notion of "taking one for the team"?) and it certainly isn't shared by soldiers in Iraq. Didn't John Kerry say it best when he asked how you would ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake? US soldiers in Iraq are being killed--I can't emphasize this enough--for no reason. Please, give me a reason. The formation of government and constitution in Iraq has not induced democracy, the ostensible reason we're in Iraq. It seems to me that the reason Americans have lost the will to stay in Iraq is simply because there is no good reason to be there. And if we've lost the will, then doesn't that mean that America is no longer strong?

Rumsfeld's attacks make it sound like he's criticizing a minority opinion. But a majority of Americans favor a phased withdrawl from Iraq within a year and that same majority thinks it was a mistake to go there in the first place (with hindsight, for sure). Who are the radicals? The extremists? The minority opinion that is weakening America's resolve? Take a wild guess. It is the same people that got us into this mess, who refuse to admit error and refuse to make any serious effort to ameliorate the situation. Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney should not be taken seriously by anyone. They are the ones who are afraid. America doesn't want to "cut and run," America wants to end this pointless and costly conflict as soon as possible. And Democrats should be saying this every day until Election Day and beyond. The Bush administration is AFRAID to admit failure and would rather stick to failed policy and no plan (at great cost in blood and treasure) than get America back on track. It is COWARDLY and beneath contempt. You want to see American will in action? How about taking some action on getting us out of Iraq or the new Democratic Congressional Majority will fully investigate the entire executive branch for failing to uphold its Constitutionally-ordained duty and prosecute them for endangering the national security of the United States. It astounds me that these people are running the country into the ground because they think some Islamic fundamentalists are the second coming of Hitler. Not only are they cowards, but they are idiots as well.


The American people still want out of Iraq. That hasn't changed. Their votes on Nov. 7 indicated that clearly. Rumsfeld may be gone but to me, that's just the shedding of one more layer of corruption. Soon we'll be at the rotten core. As the philosopher Costanza once remarked, "This thing is like an onion: the more layers you peel, the more it stinks!"

But I'm more interested in Bush's enablers. The cancer of the Republic. Josh yesterday:

Let's first take note that the 'blame the American people for Bush's screw-ups' meme has definitely hit the big time. It's not Bush who bit off more than he could chew or did something incredibly stupid or screwed things up in a way that defies all imagining. Bush's 'error' here is not realizing in advance that the American people would betray him as he was marching into history. The 'tragedy' is that Bush "bit off more than the American people were willing to chew." That just takes my breath away.

Now come down to the third graf. Bush gets repudiated in the mid-term election ... "And now ..." In standard English the import of this phrasing is pretty clear: it's the repudiation of Bush's tough policies that have led to the international axis of evil states rising against us. Is he serious? The world has gone to hell in a hand basket since the election? In the last three weeks? The whole column is an open war on cause and effect.

This is noxious, risible, fetid thinking. But there it is. That's the story they want to tell. The whole place is rotten down to the very core.


The article being referenced is Mort Kondracke's, titled, "U.S. Weakness Leads Assassins, Terrorists, Demagogues to Rise." Think about this for a second. Let it sink in. Now cool off and consider this: why won't these people acknowledge that Bush has erred? That he has not only erred, but erred in every possible way, repeatedly, and won't change course? Let me be clear: these people are delusional. They are obsessed with Bush's faux machismo and their idoltary prevents them from seeing the plain truth.

Bush is responsible for Iraq. It is his fault. and because he is the head of state, should shoulder the responsibility.

I can't dumb it down anymore than that. That's as plain as I can make it. We can't punish idiots like Kondracke, Kurtz, Friedman, Krauthammer, Reynolds, etc. for being idiots. Everyone can have an opinion, it's just unfortunate that the opinions of these people are prominent. Think about that, too. How many times have I pointed out the idiocy of these people, how many times have they been wrong, and why are they still allowed to essentially write nonsense in serious newspapers? Absolutely incredible.

I guess I didn't keep it short. But someone has to call bullshit on these people.