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May 15, 2005

Comments

Yeah, there's nothing better than a party led by our Adlai Stevensons. Being well thought of by the thoughtful is well worth permanent minority status.

Democrats are always happiest when criticizing each other. Republicans are also happy when Democrats criticize each other. So I guess everybody's happy.

Except me. In the interest of fairness, hilzoy should list every time a Republican has accused a Democrat of criminal behavior prior to conviction. What could hilzoy do to keep me from spamming this comment section with cites and quotes?

Um, grovel? Really, really obsequiously?

I have this odd belief that if we just stuck by our convictions and did what we thought was right, it would also be popular. I think if there's anything that puts people off, it's the 'just another politician' thing. But then I have resolutely backed losers throughout my political life, except for Clinton (though I can't for the life of me recall who I supported in the primary in 1992, which is odd, since I can remember every primary candidate I backed since 1968, when I was 9.)

<sigh>

You don't bring a knife to gun fight.

Groveling will do.

Will suspend my googling, after finding Delay saying Ronnie Earle is trying to "criminalize politics" and Peter King saying Earle is a "runaway prosecutor" Now I think in most states using your prosecutorial powers for partisan political purposes is at the very least grounds for disbarment. So I'll stop there.

There haven't been many prosecutors under the kind of pressure Earle is under here in Texas. I am sure he is doing his honest best to uncover the truth of the matter.

The tricky thing is that Dean, Franks, and Hilzoy are all talking at different levels of publicity. The political tactics are necessarily different. Dean, as DLC leader, can and perhaps should make more extreme statements. Franks, as a Congressman involved in manoeuvring his colleagues' opinions toward seriously investigating Delay, needs to dot every "i." Hilzoy, as an ethicist commenting from outside, judges process, perhaps at the expense of overemphasizing a tactical expression of fairness. The effect here in the thread is a flattening of the various discursive contexts in play.

OK. Look. First, Barney Frank's comment will do nothing, one way or the other, on any issue that we (should) care about. It is profoundly not like e.g. voting for the Bankruptcy bill. He's saying something that's true, and that needed to be said. Period.

Second, I think Democrats obviously need more discipline on votes. We should all have voted against the Bankruptcy bill, period. But I really don't think we need the kind of discipline that the Republican members of Congress have, the kind that means that if you step out of line in any way, not just in voting but in what you say, you are liable to find a horse's head in your bed. (Except, of course, when DeLay has determined that he has enough votes that he can give you permission to "defy the leadership.") I actually think that sort of 'message discipline' is disastrous, and that some of the problems the Republicans in Congress are having is the result of it.

When you enforce total discipline, so that people don't get to disagree with the party line, even verbally, everything turns on the quality of the decisions taken by those who determine what the party line will be. But these decisions suffer, since those who make them lose their ability to correct themselves through the time-honored method of having people tell them when they're wrong. (I mean: this sort of top-down system of message discipline has all the vices of a dictatorship or a command economy.)

Actually, I just remembered that Mark Schmitt made the point I want to make now:

"A command-control system like the White House-led Republican congressional system can be absolutely formidable for a certain period of time. But when it breaks down, it breaks down completely. The collapse is sudden, and total. Signals get crossed, backs get stabbed, the suddenly leaderless pawns in the system start acting for themselves, with no system or structure to coordinate their individual impulses. (...)

The irony of all this for conservatives is that if they actually read Hayek and got anything out of it other than "government sucks," they would know this. Hayek's libertarianism was very pragmatic. Centrally controlled systems are flawed above all because they have no mechanism to correct their own errors, unlike distributed, self-organized systems. The Democrats in the Clinton years always operated in chaos, no one followed the party line, and there was a cost to that, but in the chaos and improvisation they found ways to get out of the holes that they had dug for themselves. The Rove/DeLay/Frist system doesn't have any means for correcting its mistakes -- look at the blank, lost looks on the faces of Senators Lugar and Chafee yesterday when they just had no idea what to do with a nomination that had fallen apart and couldn't fulfill their promises."

I think it would be a bad, bad mistake to want Democrats to stop criticizing one another, when those criticisms are warranted. (This is, to me, totally different from thinking that voting discipline would be bad, which I don't believe.) Put it another way: consider the difference between the left and right blogs. There are of course exceptions to this, but I think the left's blogs have a lot less message discipline, but a lot more interesting thought. Also, they have done a much better job at mobilizing people on issues (TPM and Social Security, for instance.) I don't think these things are unrelated.

In this case, Barney frank was right, and Howard Dean was wrong, and I respect Barney for saying so. And I don't think that in voicing this approval, I am signalling my willingness to unilaterally disarm.

hilzoy,

nice post. I think that Barney Frank may be an equivalent to Daniel Patrick Moynihan in some ways. It's sad that "uniters", such as Frank, and on the other side, Bob Dole, haven't gotten more support from their parties.

One thing that Presidents Clinton and Bush have in common is that they both present themselves as optimistic (though Bush almost lost the election with his candid "it's hard work" comments in the debate.) Another thing in common is that they have stolen the other side's good ideas (think welfare reform and Medicare drug payments) and at least somewhat have successfully taken credit for it.

This may be OT, more about reactions to BD's post, but I think if people here read NRO more they would find that there is actually quite a bit of disagreement between conservatives and even avowed Republicans (which I am not one of). For instance, lively exchanges between Jonah and Andrew Sullivan and Ramesh Ponnuru, or Stan Kurtz, with links to the New Rebublic guys as well. I'd advise all ObWi readers to at least peek it NRO, especially the Corner occasionally.

It's late and some may assert that I've broken the "friends don't let friends blog drunk" rule, but it's LiGhT bE3r, s0 that d0esn't cuont as braking teh rules.

but it's LiGhT bE3r

As long as it's real beer and not that Miller or Bud Lite/Light crap, that's ok. If you are, I'm afraid I'm going to have to stop you: friends don't let friends drink lukewarm goat-piss.*

* Thank you, Dave Barry. Thank you.

Anarch,

I was thinking about you when I took highway M to Verona on my way to pick up my son at one of those St. Paul pinko liberal arts colleges (This avoids actually going into the devil's playground that is Madison, Wisconsin) I honked the horn and waved, well actually gave another type of hand signal.

Anyway, if you are ever driving to the Twin Cities, take the extra hour or so to go by way of US 14 AND 61. The stretch thru the driftless area in SW Wisconsin and the Great River Road from LaCrosse to Red Wing is absolutely the most beautiful drive in the Midwest.

Although those Amish guys in Winona have these blue satin shirts that look like they're some kind of disco shirts. What's up with that? Get with it, Amish guys, it's not the 1970's.

BTW, Point Beer is the best. I'm looking forward to Point Lite. Also, if you buy the August Schell Sampler six-pack, the bottles are not twist tops, so don't discover this fact in your motel room late at night.

"the most beautiful drive in the Midwest"

I'm guessing that puts it on par with California's Highway 101 around East Palo Alto. At rush hour. When there's a lot of construction going on, there's been an accident, and a fetid wind is wafting off the marshes.

Actually, if there's a drive in the Midwest more beautiful than LSD at night going south past the bright skyscrapers of downtown Chicago, it must be something really special.

BTW, Point Beer is the best.

I respectfully but completely disagree.

I was thinking about you when I took highway M to Verona on my way to pick up my son at one of those St. Paul pinko liberal arts colleges...

Ha! We'll get him yet!

(This avoids actually going into the devil's playground that is Madison, Wisconsin) I honked the horn and waved, well actually gave another type of hand signal.

Funny, I did the same thing when driving through both State College and South Bend. We've all got our demons to fry.

Anyway, if you are ever driving to the Twin Cities, take the extra hour or so to go by way of US 14 AND 61. The stretch thru the driftless area in SW Wisconsin and the Great River Road from LaCrosse to Red Wing is absolutely the most beautiful drive in the Midwest.

I've only driven up to Minneapolis once -- I usually go by plane because I'm connecting elsewhere -- and I don't really remember the details, but yeah, it sure were purty.

BTW, Point Beer is the best. I'm looking forward to Point Lite. Also, if you buy the August Schell Sampler six-pack, the bottles are not twist tops, so don't discover this fact in your motel room late at night.

Feh. I had the Capitol Maibock tonight, one of our local microbrews. [I think you can get the Capitol brews as far south as Illinois and as far north as Eau Claire, but I haven't checked that personally.] Nice body, strong taste, crisp finish. Definitely potable stuff, especially with a big "LubeBurger" -- I kid you not -- from Quaker Steak & Lube. Although I must confess that the only beer I've ever truly loved was a microbrew from Hong Kong -- again, I kid you not -- called "Red Dawn Lager", created in honor of the handover by an ex-brewmaster from Miller. God damn that was tasty stuff. Otherwise, I'm a hard liquor/mixed drink man; Sapphire and tonic, two limes, is verily the nectar of the gods.

As for the bottles not being twist tops, I used to work as a bartender and was very rudely surprised one evening when one of our beers turned out not to be a twist top. [It was something like Amstel Light that we served so rarely I hadn't bothered to memorize the details.] Lacerated my hand something fierce, which wasn't actually that bad until we found that someone had screwed up the prep-work and I was forced to cut limes for half an hour...

i'm not kidding, it is really spectacular, particularly near Lake Pepin. And the highway was nearly deserted, at least in early May. Look for the troll sculptures in Mt Horeb, they're too subtle at dusk. Notice the Mason Lodge and American Legion memorial in Mazomonine, but the wierd lawn scupltures along the way add counetpoint.

The greatest Dada work of art(in size, and I think in effect) is the House on The Rock in Spring Green, and I really really think Edward_ should visit it. The tour takes around 4-5 hours and is equivalent to an LSD trip. (LSD in Chicago is great by the way, but it I think that it is illegal to drive a pick-up truck there. I'm not kidding, you can get a ticket for driving a truck on certain thoroughfares.)

Anyway, if Edward_ goes to HOTW, I think he should stay at the Usonian Inn, whatever that is.

In the boondocks, you should tune to 96.1 the Mix in Tomah, which has Christian rock mixed in with 90's pop (about 1:3 ratio.) But don't listen on the return trip, because the playlist doesn't change.

Between Richland Center and Virogua there are a lot of Amish horse and buggy things on the road. Four tips when passing:

1) Slow down

2) Move over to the opposite edge of the road.

3) Don't go on to the shoulder and kick up gravel that may hit the horse.

4) Wave. They'll wave back.

Actually, looking at the congeniality of this thread, I completely take back my statement. You should definitely have a beer or two before posting, haha. Cheers!

It's sad that "uniters", such as Frank, and on the other side, Bob Dole, haven't gotten more support from their parties.

It's early in the day, but seeing Barney Frank referred to as a "uniter" makes me feel as if I'd already had a couple of beers... AND Bob Dole? DaveC, lay off the stuff before posting! Both guys are quick-witted, funny, and have extremely well-deserved reputations as attack dogs. Being willing to criticize people in his/her own party does not make a pol a uniter.

yeah Barney, let's be nice and reasonable with those who toss around accusations of "treason" and "sedition" like beads at Mardi Gras.

As a Madisonian, I don't mind either the Doctor's nasty comments about a very nasty individual or Barney Frank's most sensible rejoinder.

Now, to the important stuff.

The beer I always have in my house is Point. A case of returnables is about $12.00 at Woodman's and it's one of the few beers that you can drink at cellar temperature. If I want better beer, I just randomly pick something from one of our local microbrewers, Capital, New Glarus, Gray's, etc. They seem to have uniformly high standards.

I agree that the 14-61 trip from Madison to the Cities is one of the most beautiful (that isn't man made, I also love driving into the Loop on the Kennedy, the Ike or the Ryan at night) I've taken regularly. There is some that easily matches it around Lake Superior. My grandparents lived in Wabasha, MN, so I've driven up that way often, on many different roads -- Wisconsin 35, on the other side of the river is also a beautiful drive.

Neil Gaiman's American Gods has a nice take on House on the Rock among other things.

I heart Barney Frank as well...

There's a growing sense among frustrated liberals that we're fools to fight within the rules. I can see that in one sense, but I think it's short sighted. We will have the majority again, and when we do, we'll want the rules in place. We'll want the precedent to have been Barney's example, not Deans.

Edward,

"There's a growing sense among frustrated liberals that we're fools to fight within the rules. I can see that in one sense, but I think it's short sighted. We will have the majority again, and when we do, we'll want the rules in place. We'll want the precedent to have been Barney's example, not Deans."

2 responses:

1. Fighting outside the rules may accelerate the day when liberals will be in the majority. As it stands, liberals do not have much access to the public's attention. As a result, we get items like Bird Dog claiming Democrats have no ideas, when they have plenty which the media doesn't cover because Democrats have no power to get them enacted. By going outside the rules and making a big enough splash that people pay attnetion, we can hope to get people to pay attention not merely to the spectacle, but also to the substance of what is being said.

2. Exactly what makes you think that the precedent will be cared about once Democrats are back in power? A press so uninterested in recent history as to fail to note how baldly hypocritical the Republicans' claims are that all judicial nominees should have an up or down vote is not going to change its narrative on offensive rhetoric because of what the Democrats did when they were in the minority.

Exactly what makes you think that the precedent will be cared about once Democrats are back in power?

I guess I see matters only getting worse if that's the case.

I agree with Edward about playing within the rules. I also think it's important to bear in mind that the comment by Barney Franks has noting -- nothing at all -- to do with how we work against the Republicans, or how we treat Tom DeLay, or anything. It's a remark. A remark to another Democrat. Not an uncivil or hateful remark; just a correction. I don't think it implies anything at all about whether Barney Franks would be willing to go on the offensive against Republicans. (His record says: yes, within the rules, but with vigor and aplomb.)

I also think there are lots of ways of playing smart that don't involve scrapping the rules, and that the Democrats in Congress are only beginning to wrap their minds around some of them. There are a lot of options besides (a) rolling over and playing dead and (b) all-out war and the rules be damned.

And finally, I think that having some semblance of honor isn't just right, it can also be a real tactical advantage. Eventually, people are going to figure out that the likes of Tom DeLay do not embody personal virtue. I would like us to offer a clear contrast, not just on moral grounds, but also on tactical ones.

I think we should fight within the rules so we don't become our own enemy. BUT I do think we could fight smarter. We need to use some of Rove's legal techniques: attack, don't respond, use moral arguments against moral arguments, recognize that to a significant percentage of the voters style trumps content and pick candidates with that in mind, poach the opposition's base, and repeat, repeat, repeat, your points.
For example, the legalisms that Democratic pundits presented on the Schiavo case were completely ineffective. Democrats should have challenged the sincerity of the Republicans who were "defending "her. They should have brought up the bankruptcy law and attempts to cut Medicaid and linked them to a culture of life. They should have emphasized the hypocrisy, rather than the abuse of the law.
Also Democratic Beltway insiders need to learn how to say what they have to say clearly without the DC jargon and career-politician tone.

"I have this odd belief that if we just stuck by our convictions and did what we thought was right, it would also be popular."

Cite, please. That sort of behavior tends to be popular in retrospect, but in the heat of the moment gets short shrift.

Even if you knew that your behavior would be unpopular, and you knew nobody would ever respect it or write a book about it, would you still do what you thought was right? I think the answer is yes for very, very few people. Part of the construct of a good society is making sure that people who do the right thing are honored and respected, so that question comes up as little as possible. I'm totally off on a philosophical tangent now.

"Eventually, people are going to figure out that the likes of Tom DeLay do not embody personal virtue. I would like us to offer a clear contrast, not just on moral grounds, but also on tactical ones."

32:FDR said he was going to balance the budget
64:LBJ clearly implied non-escalation in Vietnam
68:Nixon had a secret plan to end the war
Whatever, I could go on...

I would lie, cheat, & steal to feed a hungry kid or keep a soldier alive. "Any and all means" to an end is clearly unacceptable:means should be proportionate to ends. But it is always about the ends. Integity is a luxury of the uninvolved.

"Politics is the art of compromise." is usually taken too lightly, as if citizens and politicians have lists of frivolous goals that are easily compromised. Most of the goals on all sides express extremely serious moral values and the compromises always involve a sacrifice of some personal honour and integrity. In a Hobbesian or Libertarian framework, "politics" or civil society is defined as a trading of personal sovereignty and freedom to gain security or lessen other's need to coerce. Abandon ego all who enter here.

This is not mere sophistry. :)

I think your just wrong Edward, American politics has always been a nasty, mud throwing business, and it will continue to be so. American culture has no respect for the thoughtful, considerate Lefty that wants to make nice and compromise with the Right, it has only disdain for the weakness this reveals.

When your opponent campaigns for years that you are an enemy of the people, that you are against people of religion, that you are evil, then civlity is simply not an option. Even worse, being civil to someone that is telling outragous lies about you not only wastes your time, it makes you look weak, and America will not elect someone that looks weak.

All of this points back to those studies you have probably all read that paint the Democratic party as the comforting mother, and the Republican party as the stern father. I do think that much of the Republican's success including and since Reagen can be traced directly back to this, but that's extremely subjective and merely a matter of opinion.

So I'll just have to disagree, for the same Reason Dean would have won the 2004 election that Kerry lost, American's have no respect for someone that will compromise with a bully, and they love someone that will "gice 'em hell". Your call for civility and compromise with a group that continues to lie at every turn is IMO a call for further defeat.

It's quite odd to hear democrats openly discuss giving up their core beliefs such as separation of church n' state, abortion - heck, even civil rights and lots of other fun stuff.

But civility! My lord, we can't compromise on that! Where would we end up if we started to compromise those ideals. I mean, it's a slippery slope. First we start calling someone who commandeered the Department of Homeland Security to round up democrats so he can ram through a radical redistricting plan, we might soon start filibustering torturer supporters who are presented for lifetime appointments as judges.

Who knows where this would end? <shudder> Blocking rapacious bankruptcy bills or preventing the destruction of social security as we know it?

Who will protect the children?

So I'll just have to disagree, for the same Reason Dean would have won the 2004 election that Kerry lost, American's have no respect for someone that will compromise with a bully, and they love someone that will "gice 'em hell"

From what I understand, being from the midwest, Dean would have almost certainly lost the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Remember, his primary downfall was Iowa.

Kerry did better when he had to prepare for the Presidential debates and was more thoughtful about the real issues. The Democratic primaries tended to be all about Bush-bashing, which did a real disservice eventually to the Kerry campaign because it delayed laying out substantive policy proposals until after his nomination.

This is nonsense.

When did Frank attack Ann Coulter, or John Bolton, fvorslander and false statement?

ok then

From what I understand, being from the midwest, Dean would have almost certainly lost the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

I doubt that, or at least I doubt its certainty. Kerry had marginal appeal in those two states; Dean could certainly have parlayed his moderate stance on, e.g., guns to much greater effect than Kerry. It's an interesting counterfactual to ponder, though.

"...(though I can't for the life of me recall who I supported in the primary in 1992, which is odd, since I can remember every primary candidate I backed since 1968, when I was 9.)"

I was for Tsongas, myself.

"I have this odd belief that if we just stuck by our convictions and did what we thought was right, it would also be popular."

Cite, please.

Longer term over short term. Harry S Truman. Sir Thomas More. Spc. Joe Darby.

I had a hard time with Tsongas, mostly because, being from MA, I was quite familiar with him. In particular, I remember two things: first, that during the big student protests over divestment from South Africa at Harvard, the students were camping out in tents in Harvard Yard, and Tsongas made a big deal out of the fact that he, too, was going to sleep in those tents. As soon as the cameras were gone, he quietly went home. Second, he was excoriating Harvard for not divesting, and was asked whether he had introduced boycott legislation into Congress, which after all was a more appropriate venue for making foreign policy, and would have a much bigger impact. The question seemed not to have crossed his mind.

The sorts of little details that I'm sure I would have known about any of the other candidates had they come from my home state, so in a sense it was unfair for me to hold them against Tsongas. But it made it harder for me to take him seriously.

Anyone who thinks Barney Frank is a milquetoast is nuts. N V T S - nuts. He is a very smart, sharp-tongued, quick-witted liberal. We could use more like him in Congress, not fewer.

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