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February 23, 2007

Comments

Vilsack had one of the all time great lines in a debate before first becoming Iowa's governor. His opponent tried to make hay from the fact that he wasn't a "native Iowan." Vilsack, who had arrived in Iowa at age 18 to go to college and had been there ever since (facts with which I think he prefaced his response), said "I got here as soon as I could."

I don't think he was going to win the Iowa caucuses (he wouldn't have been governor for two years), and, even if he did, that was no guarantee of anything (see Harkin in 1992).

And while I'm on the topic, the idea that Iowa somehow has an unfair advantage on who eventually wins the nomination for a particular party due to its going first is, I think, not accurate when there's not an obvious choice (incumbant president). See, e.g., its picks in 1988 (Dole and Gephardt).

Paging General Clark. General Wesley Clark. The train is leaving earlier than you thought. Please board. Paging General Clark.

If we published photos of Bush and Cheney dressed up as crocodiles and winnie the pooh, do you think they would leave too?

It might be worth a try....

If we published photos of Bush and Cheney dressed up as crocodiles and winnie the pooh, do you think they would leave too?

Naw. Those would be the mildest photoshops of Bush/Cheney ever posted.

I heard Vilsack interviewed when he announced his candidacy and was very impressed by how he put things--I found him more appealing than either Clinton or Obama. But I did wonder what he had been smoking when he made the Social Security suggestion.

Where the bleep is Clark? Kos is already preparing to write him off.

I wonder if his support network is just too entwined with Clinton's.

vanity candidates...Kucinich

I think there's a significant difference between a hopeless candidacy by someone who will raise issue and take positions that will go completely unrepresented by the contenders, and a vanity candidate.

That's insulting and unfair. And it fails to recognize how issues are brought into the realm of 'respectable' discussion. They don't magically pass over the fringe stage.

@rilkefan:

Clark is here, at least, somewhere that might un-entwine him quickly:

StopIranWar.com

He's doing it in conjunction with VoteVets. It's sponsored by his WesPAC, so I regard it as a presidential feeler.

I must concur with Nell. Much as it pains me to admit, if we all took Kucinich's policies about peace a little more seriously, I think we'd be a lot better off right now.

Which is not to say I like his idea for a Department of Peace; we have too many Cabinet-level posts now. But a candidate who was not going to war unless we were attacked first strikes me as a good thing these days.

Where the bleep is Clark?

Maybe thinking that its way to early to start running now. Let these guys tear each other apart for a few months. Jump in as a fresh face say about 4 months before the primary season starts (about October).

There are rumbles on my side that Gingrich may do just that. He has repeatedly said its way too early to start running. I think he said he would decide by September.

Kucinich? I think kos nails this one. I certainly hadn't seen this before:

"Spirit merges with matter to sanctify the universe. Matter transcends to return to spirit. The interchangeability of matter and spirit means the starlit magic of the outermost life of our universe becomes the soul-light magic of the innermost life of our self. The energy of the stars becomes us. We become the energy of the stars. Stardust and spirit unite and we begin: One with the universe. Whole and holy. From one source, endless creative energy, bursting forth, kinetic, elemental. We, the earth, air, water and fire-source of nearly fifteen billion years of cosmic spiraling."

I also have to thank kos for the knowledge that in a survey of various experts of mayors and cities (drawn "from writers for the Biographical Dictionary of American Mayors, from other biographers of mayors, and from urban historians and social scientists who had published work related to cities and mayors"), Kucinich ranked seventh worst of all US mayors since 1820. That's pretty impressive, in an unfortunate sort of way.

The strategy of "waiting until things play out further" sounds like a good one. But at the moment it feels like things are hurtling forward. We haven't had a Presidential contest this involved quite this early before, and I don't think anyone can safely predict how all the extra time (and media boredom) is going to play out. It feels risky to not be places like Carson City right now (I think Obama was wrong to skip it)

Gore can enter late if he wants but I'm not sure others have that luxury. (And everyone can just go home if he does)

There is intelligence to waiting for Obama and Clinton to flare out. I think they both will -- they're both celebrity candidates who have high ratings more for name recognition and "star factor" than for any positions. I don't think either will be the nominee when all is said and done.

But it's clear right now that the beneficiary of waiting for the two stars to fade is Edwards. He's running smart, smarter than I expected, and when the Obama/Clinton dust clears, Edwards is likely to be the favorite.

That's why I think Clark should be in it. If Edwards earns enough respect and support now to be The Guy Standing after the frontrunners fade, it's too late for Clark to get in. If Clark were in it now, he'd have huge credibility.

I'm not sure I'm right, but that's how it feels.

On the other hand, Gingrich waiting around is probably the smart move. The GOP doesn't have a serious (one that can win) candidate yet. My prediction right now is that Gingrich is going to be the nominee -- he's the only one ruthless and nasty enough to take it.

OCSteve: I don't think that's likely to be Clark's thinking, since one of his big problems last time was that he waited too long. (And this isn't just what I think; as I understand it, it's a view shared by the campaign.) I very much liked the fact that he didn't get in earlier in 2004 because he'd promised his wife he wouldn't run if she didn't agree, and she only agreed late in the game. I thought it spoke well of him. But it absolutely hurt him in the race.

The strategy of "waiting until things play out further" sounds like a good one. But at the moment it feels like things are hurtling forward. We haven't had a Presidential contest this involved quite this early before, and I don't think anyone can safely predict how all the extra time (and media boredom) is going to play out. It feels risky to not be places like Carson City right now (I think Obama was wrong to skip it)

Gore can enter late if he wants but I'm not sure others have that luxury. (And everyone can just go home if he does)

There is intelligence to waiting for Obama and Clinton to flare out. I think they both will -- they're both celebrity candidates who have high ratings more for name recognition and "star factor" than for any positions. I don't think either will be the nominee when all is said and done.

But it's clear right now that the beneficiary of waiting for the two stars to fade is Edwards. He's running smart, smarter than I expected, and when the Obama/Clinton dust clears, Edwards is likely to be the favorite.

That's why I think Clark should be in it. If Edwards earns enough respect and support now to be The Guy Standing after the frontrunners fade, it's too late for Clark to get in. If Clark were in it now, he'd have huge credibility.

I'm not sure I'm right, but that's how it feels.

On the other hand, Gingrich waiting around is probably the smart move. The GOP doesn't have a serious (one that can win) candidate yet. My prediction right now is that Gingrich is going to be the nominee -- he's the only one ruthless and nasty enough to take it.

Sorry about the double post -- the verification screen hiccupped......

That's not exactly his stump speech in Iowa, though, is it? And the passages that follow, stardust-free, need to get a hearing.

Hilzoy, this is uncharacteristically disrespectful. But that's the regular effect of presidential politics in this country.

"Clark is here"

I'm on his mailing list, and I sign his petitions, so I know where he is in that sense. Afaik there aren't any real incompatibilities betweeen him and the Clintons; maybe if he runs some will become (more) evident. But I expect there's a good chance he'll be the Senator's VP and won't have to make any policy compromises to do so.

The point about his low standing as mayor, in contrast, is legit.

I'll revert to my vow to stay out of presidential threads.

rilkefan, from the perspective of someone who isn't on the Clark list, but just scanning the online political landscape, the Stop Iran War effort is the most visible he's been in a while. And the fact that he's doing it with VoteVets has given it some credibility as not entirely a presidential ploy.

Maybe he will just bank on a VP offer.

Nell: seventh worst mayor since 1820? In the entire US?

Look: I think that the idea of spending some reasonable fraction of the amount of time we spend trying to figure out how to win wars on trying to figure out how not to get into them in the first place is a good one. But Kucinich doesn't advance these ideas; he discredits them.

Clark had a proposal in 2004 that was a lot like Kucinich's 'Department of Peace':

"I also propose creating an agency that will bring the same skill to solving the problems of poverty, disease, and ethnic conflict that we have brought to the challenge of warfare. We should be using our great capacities to prevent conflicts early so we don't need to use force later. That means drawing on the skills that now exist across the federal government.

This new agency should have a budget for real research and development, real planning, and the ability to draw on the US national civilian reserves which I proposed last month. This agency will give us a power to engage that we don't have right now. Because we don't need a new strategy of preemptive force as much as we need a new capability for preemptive engagement."

It had a lot more credibility the way Clark presented it than the way Kucinich did, and when I was arguing this with conservatives in late 2003, I found that one of the obstacles was getting them past Kucinich-inspired caricatures to consider the idea on its merits.

Shorter me: it's because some of his ideas are ideas I like that I mind his discrediting them.

Now I'm giving up presidential threads for Lent.

That stuff on Kucinich is devastating, esp. the 180 on choice; but I was already pretty peeved about his running without a neutrino of a chance and contributing to the Seven Dwarves problem.

Setting aside people who perform 360s on abortion depending on where they're running, why is it considered such a bad thing for a politician to change his mind about an issue? Is constancy such a valued commodity it is seen as better than someone who reexamines their positions and decides that their original position was wrong?

G'Kar: I dunno. I think that it's fine to change one's mind, and I don't actually think it's a problem for most people, unless it looks like something bad, like:

(a) opportunism. Here is where changing one's mind on abortion usually fits, assuming one has moved from a less popular (in one;'s current constituency) to a more popular position. Still worse if one changes positions on serious questions whenever one's constituency changes.

(b) being vacillating in general ("a flip-flopper"). Subheading: having no deep convictions at all, or such a weak grasp of what they are that you can't hold them steady.

(c) changing your mind because you really didn't try hard enough to get it right the first time, or let yourself be snowed when you shouldn't have, etc. The "when you shouldn't have", implying some defect in the original decision above and beyond having gotten it wrong, is key. (G. Romney: 'brainwashed on Vietnam'. The problem, I take it, is that a candidate for President should not be the sort of person one can brainwash, as an adult.)

Etc.

I also think candidates are scared of this out of sheer cowardice, the way they are scared to take responsibility. If you think about actual occasions on which people really do step up to the plate and accept responsibility, it seems to be a political winner, at least as long as what you're accepting responsibility for is a genuine mistake, and not e.g. having joined the Manson family. But politicians seem to have a hard time with this one; I put it down to gutlessness. Similarly with admitting error and changing their minds.

"why is it considered such a bad thing for a politician to change his mind about an issue?"

Because the right and the MSM say so?

"right" meaning "some prominent elements of the right punditocracy during recent elections", sorry.

You have to admit that 'Department of Peace' sounds pretty darned funny. Definitely need to come up with a new name.

Hey you – North Korea… Knock it off or we’re sending in the Department of Peace.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Bad Steve. Bad.

hilzoy,

I suppose the logical followup would be, has Kucinich's change of mind on abortion been accompanied by signs that it was opportunistic rather than heartfelt? I know very little about Kucinich, so this may be a well-known answer, but I'll ask anyhow.

rilkefan,

But doesn't the right have its own problems here? Mitt Romney, for example, is currently addressing the question of why he has moved from prolife to prochoice and back to prolife over the past 15 years. I don't understand how this could be a problem for the left but not the right.

I think it's too late for Clark, barring Clinton and Obama being out of the reason, for some reason. On the other hand, it's important to recall that some folks really do stand more of a chance at being Veep than President; somebody's got to do it, in the end.

"It feels risky to not be places like Carson City right now (I think Obama was wrong to skip it)"

Obama had promised months ago to be elsewhere on that date: getting a reputation for opportunistically breaking promises isn't good politics. But I'm confident Obama will survive missing a February debate with Mike Gravel.

Vilsack was a good governor; ask most Iowans. He might still be a decent Veep candidate. Bill Richardson might also be one, if he can keep his touching under control. But so might Wesley Clark. Or Chris Dodd (Dodd is possibly second only to Joe Biden in anti-charisma, though).

G'Kar, I think the point is that when you're pro-life right up until the moment when you announce your candidacy for the Democratic nomination, people might have reason to believe it was something less than a deeply-considered change of heart. Of course, you never know, but it's not an unreasonable assumption.

Steve,

I assume that was the case with Kucinich, then? I didn't really follow his campaign very closely.

G'Kar: about kucinich, I don't know. About rilkefan's comment: I tend to think that it's less about the right (except in the special case of Kerry's flip-flopping) than the media's nonpartisan laziness and love of certain storylines.

I flipped on CNN last night, and everyone was all breathless about The Clinton-Obama flap. I listened in vain for any actual facts about what people were describing as 'a slugfest' and 'a battle' and so forth, until way into the story, someone said: Obama's camp went dark after their first response. (That's probably the one asking why Clinton didn't disown remarks by her supporters.) But that in no way prevented all these alleged analysts from going on and on and on about how this was a brawl, a battle, the two of them dragging each other into the mud, and so on and so forth.

I remember this from the Clark campaign: there were about three possible questions anyone could ask Clark (why do some retired generals hate you? what would you do in Iraq? what about your statement on the Iraq war resolution?), and about the same number of storylines (golden boy shoots self in foot with Iraq war res. statement; dazzling resume but where does he stand on the issues?; what ever happened to the dream of a Clark campaign?), and as far as I could tell it didn't matter what he said or did: those stories and questions were repeated endlessly.

Until then, I had tended to defend the media. At that point, it became clear to me that a lot of them are just too lazy to research things for themselves, or to think up their own stories based on, you know, observation.

And "OMG!! a contradiction!! How much will this harm the candidate??" is tailor-made for such laziness.

Sorry, I wrongly assumed you had clicked through the link to kos. He says:

His transformation to being pro-choice happened literally overnight -- a week after he announced his 2004 presidential bid. One moment he was virulently anti choice, the next he was a staunch defender.

Nell, re Kucinich:

"That's not exactly his stump speech in Iowa, though, is it? And the passages that follow, stardust-free, need to get a hearing.

Hilzoy, this is uncharacteristically disrespectful.

It was a keynote address -- a public speech. If he doesn't want it to be quoted, he shouldn't say such things in public speeches.

I don't think there's ever anything the least disrepsectful about quoting a politicians's public speeches.

And heaven forfend we should be disrepectful towards our politicians, anyway. If someone demanded that we not quote the public speeches of Republicans, because they weren't -- I'm not sure what the line is: not immediately before an election? -- because it would be "disrespectful" towards them, I'd laugh in their face.

I'm a Democrat, but I'm certainly not under the faintest requirement to "respect" dumbass statements from Democrats, because of that.

"And the passages that follow, stardust-free, need to get a hearing."

Then maybe he should speak them without going off onto waves of prose about our Stardust and spirit uniting, first.

Basically, you seem to be saying that people should ignore part of what he's saying, and is like, because of the admirable other parts; it's understandable that you admire the admirable other parts, but it's no less understandable that other people see no reason whatever to ignore the other stuff he says. It's not as if it's impossible for a human to not sound like (or be) a New Age flake-for-brains.

This is a 100% legitimate point and criticism, and I'm so emphatic because I'm reacting to the implication (more or less direct statement, actually) that it's not. My more sophisticated rebuttal: is so, is so, is so! ;-)

"You have to admit that 'Department of Peace' sounds pretty darned funny."

I still think the "Department of Homeland Security" sounds Germanic, to put it mildly. (I favored naming it the "Department of Defense," and changing the name of what's currently the "Department of Defense" back to its historic name: the "Department of War."

"Homeland" is a term with no history or roots whatsoever in America. Its closest parents are Russia's "Motherland" and Germany's "Fatherland."

Now we have a President constantly referring to "the homeland"; it bothers me greatly.

Steve,

Ah, I missed that, thank you. I did click the link, but I only scanned the piece. Clearly my scanners need work. Unfortunately, all we have at the moment are scavenged Centauri equipment, and you know how poorly made that is.

Perhaps I'm confused, but I thought e.g. Bush's consistency in the face of changing data was considered more a feature than a bug by many on the right, more so than people on the left would feel comfortable with say HRC being in an equivalent situation (the argument would probably be more about providing fodder for partisan attacks than policy if the dust had settled). And Romney I think is perceived to have come too far too fast - then oscillated - and to be unable to base that on clear principles.

That is, I had thought of conservatism more as the hedgehog to the liberal fox, but maybe that's shallow.

Speaking personally here, I rather liked the poetry of the stardust moment and would favor a candidate included to cosmic poesy over one with similar views who wasn't so inclined. But then I think we're living in an age of reasonable monsters, and I'm tired of what some set of gatekeepers wants to consider allowable flights of fancy. Reasonable men get their MBAs and avoid military service and carve out nice careers managing one firm after another and get into power and give us a million war dead and the declaration that they are subject to no law or counsel beyond their own wishes. Reasonable men no longer cut it for me.

I know, I know, campaigns, winning, all that good stuff. I'm not disregarding the necessities of political change. It's just that I no longer feel compelled to give any credence whatsoever to the fact that this one isn't at the moment barking at the moon and that one is. The sleep of reason has bred enough monsters for me, thanks. In my heart, I'm ready to look at the world with love and admiration and delight, and wouldn't mind sharing the experience with a candidate who feels something stir in his soul on occasions other than balance sheet reviews.

The most interesting angle to Vilsack quitting is that he did it because he thought he didn't have the money to compete in the accelerated primary season. That's the reason he gave in his farewell vlog. It's February and somebody's already bailed because of money issues. That's strange to me.

'Now we have a President constantly referring to "the homeland"; it bothers me greatly.'

Heimatland is a beautiful word.

Perhaps I'm confused, but I thought e.g. Bush's consistency in the face of changing data was considered more a feature than a bug by many on the right, more so than people on the left would feel comfortable with say HRC being in an equivalent situation...

For my part, I like people to agree with me, at least when it comes to a factual question. If someone disagrees with me, I'd prefer for them to rethink their position. If someone agrees with me, I'd like them to stand firm. Not to say I'm closed-minded, mind you. I might be, but don't take this as an admission ;)

In either case, what I admire is the fact that the person comes to agree with me, not so much their "steadfastness" or "openmindedness." I'm just being honest here. There are people I admire for their principles even though I disagree with them, but those are matters of principle, not matters of factual analysis. If Dick Cheney steadfastly refuses to admit that things are going not so well in Iraq, I'm afraid I have no admiration for that whatsoever.

Gary, the disrespectful part wasn't quoting Kucinich, it was referring to him as a vanity candidate.

He's not an attractive candidate, and I certainly agree that on the Dept. of Peace question, someone like Clark is a much more effective advocate.

But there are other issues Kucinich has been willing to address that none of the candidates with a chance will. Maybe someone could take the view that he's just so awful that he discredits any of those positions, so that he's automatically a vanity candidate.

Bruce, I appreciate your thoughts. But it's rougher than ever out there in the age of the two-year, billion-dollar campaign. The whole process makes me want to throw up.

The whole process makes me want to throw up.

Seconded.

That's not exactly his stump speech in Iowa, though, is it? And the passages that follow, stardust-free, need to get a hearing.

Kucinich doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being invited to the White House for lunch, let alone being elected President. That's under any administration, republican or democratic.

That said, Kucinich prevented the Cleveland Municipal Light company from being privatized, in the face of pretty hardball opposition and the threat of bankrupting the city, and folks who live there were grateful to him for that.

Regarding the "stardust" quote, at least noone can accuse Democrats of not fielding candidates who are people of faith.

I'm not pro Kucinich or against him, and I have no fear that he will make enough headway to threaten a more mainstream candidate. That said, I'm not sure that he deserves the thumping he's getting here.

There's no harm in putting "Department of Peace" on the table, even if it is laughably unlikely, and even if the proponent comes off as a gold-star flake. His eccentricity gives him the leeway to say whatever the heck he wants to.

Thanks -

You have to admit that 'Department of Peace' sounds pretty darned funny.

Think of it as a liberal Overton Window.

Bruce, I really like what you say. Personally, I think the world is sadly lacking in poetry at this time, not necessarily anything resembling religion.
These days I have a very sour taste in my mouth, following the manoevres of the still distant American presidential campaign at the same time as the frenetic, narcissistic battle between Segolene and Sarkozy, with the polls and the media referreeing 24/24 to see who has won the most recent skirmish. Loathsome !!!

I'm not convinced that someone like Kucinich has the power to move the Overton Window. If anything, he can take a solid idea (as Markos notes, we already HAVE a Department of Peace, it's called the State Department) and render it less credible simple because he's the one bringing it up. Would it help the progressive cause if Carrottop came out for universal health care?

Think of it as a liberal Overton Window.

Interesting. So what will it look like when the window stops moving? I’m actually not opposed.

Promote the Peace Corps to Departmental level and give them a real budget? Stop relying on volunteers and structure it like the military with pay and bennies and possibly retirement?
I could go for that.

Poetry doesn't make anything happen.

That survey ranking the mayors seems pretty arbitrary. They rank Sam Yorty as one of the 10 worst mayors because of the riots and poisoned race relations during his tenure, and slam James Walker, Frank Hague, "Big Bill" Thompson, etc., for corruption and bossism.

Perfectly legitimate reasons, but then why would they list Richard J. Daley as one of the 10 best mayors?

I could see yself supporting a Department of Peace that would include Peace Corps-type efforts, disaster prevention and relief, coordinated long-term efforts to maintain (and improve) key physical infrastructure, maybe bringing standards development efforts under one administrative heading, support for Grameen Bank-type efforts, and on like that. This is all just off the type of my head, not in any sense a serious proposal, and mostly it's just liking the idea of acknowledging peace as a high-level goal alongside preparation for war.

@Chris: Richard Daley senior is in the top 10? Holy cow.

Kucinich prevented the Cleveland Municipal Light company from being privatized

Thus the experts' judgment of his historic awfulness as a mayor?

This is all just off the type of my head, not in any sense a serious proposal, and mostly it's just liking the idea of acknowledging peace as a high-level goal alongside preparation for war.

I would support that. I can see both peace and military types getting pretty much equal pay and bennies. Truth be told, I’d pick the military option over the Peace Corps option. Less work and heartache.

I'm not convinced that someone like Kucinich has the power to move the Overton Window.

I'd say you're right. Kucinich is a person of pretty much no power at all. He's widely known as a flake. His political biography is problematic.

That said, what makes him any less credible than any of the conservative catapulters of the propaganda? He's actually been mayor of a major city, and held national office. What have any of the right wing loud mouths ever done?

You inject progressive / liberal / whatever ideas into the public discourse with the spokespeople you have, not the spokespeople you wish you had.

"Department of Peace" is an eccentric idea. It ain't gonna happen, and as others have pointed out, the Department of State already does what it would do. Floating the idea out there does, however, put a focus on the militarism of current day America.

Kucinich champions lots of less exotic ideas. Universal health care. Repeal of the patriot act. Equity between labor and corporations. Etc.

If other folks won't get out in front on this stuff, we'll have to settle for Carrot Top. It's better than nobody.

I'm not a particular fan or advocate of Kucinich, but at least he's putting this stuff on the table. Who else is?

Thanks -

To follow up on Russell's point, one of those issues is the War on (Some) Drugs, which is a major factor in this country's world-beating imprisonment rate and in the serious erosion of liberty in "law enforcement" at all levels over the last twenty years. Kucinich's willingness to address the issue has libertarians interested in him (real ones, not the Glenn Reynolds kind).

Real libertarians are as marginalized as left-wingers in the two-party, billion-dollar-campaign world. Before anyone gets all fuzzy about how that keeps us in the sensible center, reflect on the seat that far-right foreign and social policy and hyper-militarization seems to have at the table.

(And: Steve, your Carrot Top comment reflects poorly on you.)

"as Markos notes, we already HAVE a Department of Peace, it's called the State Department"

As someone at Maxspeak (maybe it was Max, I forget) said, are we talking about our State Department? They work for peace? Who'd have guessed?

Kucinich isn't my choice of person to represent us, and he won't win, so we don't have to worry too much about the flakiness. What we do have to worry about is that two of the three frontrunners in the Democrats are the sort of unprincipled crackpot centrists and political realists who gave Bush the authority to go to war. That's what is so lovely about our political system. It keeps out the hippies and gives us people like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, who only gave Bush the authority to go to war because he tricked them, poor trusting babies, and because everyone thought Saddam had WMD's. As some New Age flake recently pointed out, if you can be fooled by George Bush, the list of people who can't fool you is probably pretty short.

As some New Age flake recently pointed out, if you can be fooled by George Bush, the list of people who can't fool you is probably pretty short.

I love how Bush is simultaneously an idiot smirking chimp and a master manipulator who Democrats were powerless to resist.

"I'm not a particular fan or advocate of Kucinich, but at least he's putting this stuff on the table. Who else is?"

Bernie Sanders? Barney Frank? Barbara Lee? Other Democrats?

"As someone at Maxspeak (maybe it was Max, I forget) said, are we talking about our State Department? They work for peace? Who'd have guessed?"

I'd have to say that it's a pretty complicated question, and that anyone implying it was otherwise and obvious, is wrong.

When your Secretary of State goes before the world and makes a presentation filled with lies that he knows are lies in order to justify an invasion of another country, that's not peacemaking.

Max invoked Dulles. I think there are many more Secretaries of State in between Dulles and Rice who provide a counter-argument to the idea that our Dept of State is a Department of Peace than there are examples to support the position.

There might be lots of other arguments against a DoP, but that one stinks.

@Gary: Barney Frank et al. are not running for President. There's a legit case that the national spotlight (especially in debates) afforded presidential aspirants is of a whole different order than what Congressional reps can do, especially if they're not committee chairs. The level of attention from the public is different, too.

But I'd love to see somebody with Barney Frank's rhetorical talent, brevity, and wit run while pushing a Kucinich-like agenda.

OCSteve: unfortunately, there's no real contradiction between thinking Bush is an idiot and thinking he fooled the Democrats. And, alas, this isn't just because there are devious and smooth-talking idiots in the world. It's because in 2002, the Democrats could have been rolled by virtually anyone.

To be clear: it's not that they didn't have good ideas in 2002. And it's certainly not as though the world wouldn't have been better off with, say, Gore in office than with GWBush. It's just that during the strange time after 9/11, they seem to have had some sort of colossal failure of nerve.

I kept looking at them on TV, e.g. wen they were voting for the war resolution, and thinking: ???!! Why are you doingthis???!!!

when. when. when.

i cn spel.

"But I'd love to see somebody with Barney Frank's rhetorical talent, brevity, and wit run while pushing a Kucinich-like agenda."

I'd be interested in simply seeing President Barney Frank, but we're obviously nowhere near being a civilization able to elect an openly gay President, as yet.

But while we're fantasizing....

"i cn spel."

I cn rd ths, s i cn gt a gd jb.

Channelling Charles Addams, Gary? Very nice.

NYC subway ads, actually.

AKA my life at 11.

it's not that they didn't have good ideas in 2002

During that campaign, they had exactly one: lower prescription drug costs for seniors.

The colossal failure of nerve was the conflict between what they knew was right vs. what the public seemed to find appealing.

It was the presidentially inclined among the Senate and Congressional Dems who brought about the massive cave-in: Gephardt, Kerry, Clinton, Daschle, Biden, and perhaps a few others. Kennedy and Levin agreed to let them off the hook, buying in to the fears of the effect on the presidential race. Look where it got us.

It's a mug's game.

"who only gave Bush the authority to go to war because he tricked them"

I think the argument that Bush couldn't be completely lying about WMDs was a strong one - the responsible Republican establishment wouldn't allow such a mistake. I certainly thought that SH probably had some negligible bio/chem development going and some old stuff left over, enough that Bush would be able to skate; and of course Clinton et al. said at the time that invading would be a bad idea and that they had voted to give the president the authority to do the responsible and necessary as their policy principles demanded.

Interesting poll for those who care about such things at this stage.

Responisble Republican establishment? I'm not being snarky but,...is there such a thing? Given the types that get elected to the Senate and the House and have positions in the leading think tanks, I don't see how the word "responsible" can be used to modify the term "Republican establishment".

Unqualified Offerings has a long post about the Neocons, their underlying assumptions about political discourse (lying is OK) and the future they are striving for (cauterize the decadent liberal values with fifty years of war).

Not responsible. The people providing the intellectual backing for Bush's policies were no more responsible then than they are now.

I wasn't in the room, and don't know exactly what was said. Suppose, though, that the WH sent some high ranking person up to the Hill, who said that the President needs the authority in order to have leverage at the UN, that denying that leverage would destroy all progress to date with SH, and that the President was promising not to use the authority except under UN resolution (which he needed the authority first to get).

A. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if this is pretty much exactly what happened.

B. If I'd been a member, I'd have found this very compelling. Maybe enough to vote for it.

C. I don't use the word "fooled" to describe someone who believes a specific representation from the President. The point of the President's position was to make it impossible to say no: not only because of the looming election, but, and frankly I think this loomed larger in most members' calculations, because of the extent to which the President had already wagered the nation's prestige on the policy.

I'd be interested in simply seeing President Barney Frank, but we're obviously nowhere near being a civilization able to elect an openly gay President, as yet.

On the other hand, we're closer to that than we are to an atheist president.

" I certainly thought that SH probably had some negligible bio/chem development going and some old stuff left over, enough that Bush would be able to skate; and of course Clinton et al. said at the time that invading would be a bad idea and that they had voted to give the president the authority to do the responsible and necessary as their policy principles demanded."

Oh, I thought there'd be a few rusty weapons lying around here or there, enough for Bush to point to after the fact and proclaim that the Apocalypse had been narrowly averted. I'm a little surprised they didn't try to spin it that way. I was no Nostradamus on what was going to happen--it wasn't clear to me that the Iraqi people might not be better off with Saddam overthrown and the sanctions removed and because of that I felt conflicted about opposing the war. But it was fairly clear the talk of the WMD threat was mostly hype--the evidence hadn't changed simply because of 9/11 and nobody except the crazies wanted to invade Iraq before then.

As for the Democrats, one could have voted for the authorization in good faith, I suppose, while publicly and loudly agreeing with Al Gore, who if I recall correctly was very much against the war and ridiculed for it. I'm too lazy to go look for confirmation, but I think that's how it was. And if so, it says something that the one really prominent Democrat willing to face a little ridicule was the one not thinking of running for President. It'd be nice if our political culture actually punished people for failures of this magnitude, rather than simply laughing at people with unusual religious beliefs that they wear on their sleeves but who happened to be right about the leading question of the day. One of the deep political insights the leftwing blogosphere has had was the realization around 2003 that American political culture strongly resembles the dynamics of high school cliques.

"Responisble Republican establishment?"

I didn't for the most part like Bush Sr. at all but he and the people in his admin were I think the above.


I think CC's argument is very good; I hope I would still have voted "No" in that situation.

"I don't use the word "fooled" to describe someone who believes a specific representation from the President. The point of the President's position was to make it impossible to say no: not only because of the looming election, but, and frankly I think this loomed larger in most members' calculations, because of the extent to which the President had already wagered the nation's prestige on the policy."

I would use the word "fooled" for anyone who believes a President who presents a greatly exaggerated case for the dangers presented by Saddam Hussein. Bush did that and if the Senators really believed him, they were fooled.

And national prestige is not a good reason for supporting him once it became clear he was pushing for a war that many or most Mideast experts said would probably have disastrous consequences. Concern for prestige is what kept us in Vietnam so long. Our prestige would be higher if our democracy functioned in a way that prevented foolish Presidents from starting wars for bad reasons. That's not just a rhetorical point either-- I think it's true that strong opposition by prominent mainstream Democrats would have convinced most of the world that our foreign policy had been hijacked by a group of extremists and anti-American sentiment around the world would probably be lower.

It's because in 2002, the Democrats could have been rolled by virtually anyone.

How about 1998? Were they rolled by the governor of Texas?

Some of them seemed pretty certain about what was going on in 2002.

I get very irritated when people collapse the timing. The state of play changed materially between 1998, 2001, October 2002, February 2003, and March 2003. People on both sides mix and match for their own purposes. It's my sense that war-proponents are worse offenders, but they're not the only ones.

A. Both of my senators voted against the AUMF in October 2002. They knew there was no political price to be paid for doing so -- maryland was like that then (and now) -- and they also knew that there was no national prestige point at issue, because they knew the AUMF was going to pass. I wasn't upset with them about the vote then, and I'm not upset about it now. One shouldn't pretend, though, that they lacked knowledge of either of the above.

B. My congresswoman voted for the AUMF. For which, among other things (some minor gerrymandering and an endorsement by the President) she was turned out of office the next month. She surely knew that there was a price to be paid, even if she underestimated it. I didn't vote for her either, but I respect the choice she made.

C. I don't think reliance in October on an explicit representation from the President about the future use of force against Iraq was unreasonable. Even though it was clear he really wanted to go to war, and that he was not above cooking the books -- iirc, we already knew about the aluminum tubes thing by then -- there was still no reason to believe that he would blow off the UN. In August, Scowcroft's editorial had seemingly stopped the momentum to go without UN approval cold, and in September, the President had gone to the UN to get the ball rolling there. They'd had success with the UN at the beginning and "end" of the Afghanistan thing, and any thinking person could see that Scowcroft (and, iirc, Jim Baker) were right about the force-multiplier affect of a UN resolution.

So far as I'm concerned, the Rubicon, as it were, on this was when the US declined the suggestion of Canada, in the run-up to the aborted second resolution, to give Blix six more weeks (maybe more) and have everyone come back then. IIRC, because Canada wasn't on the SC, it was Mexico who was the proponent of this. (When your best friend pulls you aside and says 'you're making a mistake' you listen, unless you're an idiot.)

D. I think vanishingly little of the President, and thought very little of him in October 2002. That he would lie outright to members of Congress, though, about a thing like this, I would still not have beleived, because if it went bad -- and wars can go bad -- he'd be in a world of hurt. Now as it turned out, he survived to be re-elected after all because there are so many people so seriusly committed to never admitting that the DFHs and libruls are right. But all that lay in the future, and so I don't hold it against anyone who thought the man wouldn't lie to their faces in this way.

because of the extent to which the President had already wagered the nation's prestige on the policy.

Dang. That's what I've been trying to say for almost four years. Thanks for les mots justes there.

In C above, I don't mean force multiplier in the sense of getting more troops -- although there might have been some of that -- but in legitimacy. For example, Turkey would not have resisted US use of its soil (and airspace) had there been a second UN resolution. This is certain.

I’m just tired of the “we were fooled” meme. Yeah we voted for the authorization, but we never thought Bush would actually use it. We were all duped into this war. Bush was able to manipulate us right into it, in hindsight it’s obvious he lied to us. We have no responsibility for this.

Oh, and BTW – we want you to put us in charge of running the country…

OCS, you think the word of the President means nothing?

you think the word of the President means nothing?

Of course not.

If Democrats really believe that Bush lied the country into a war then why is the House not voting on articles of impeachment as we type? Certainly it should qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors”. It takes one single member to introduce it, a simple majority vote from the Judiciary Committee to move it forward, and then a simple majority of the House to pass it.

So why not? If they are sure he lied us into war is it not their duty, their responsibility to impeach? Are they shirking their duty? Are they avoiding it because it would not be politically popular beyond the far left?

I’m not being snarky here – I really want to understand this. Democrats have control of the House and there is not a damned thing the Republicans could do to stop it. The Senate trial is another matter – but Democrats are entirely capable of passing articles of impeachment in the House.

I submit that if Bush in fact lied and there is proof of that then Democrats (and Republicans) are shirking their responsibility to impeach.

OCS, I think that response is borderline trolling. There is no point at all in impeachment if it's not going to result in removal. There is no point in removal if it leads to a Cheney presidency.

I'm not talking about 'lied the country into war.' I think that specific representations were made in the run-up to the AUMF. Are you saying you think there were not? Or that the clear import of the representations can be avoided by some kind of interpretation of what the meaning of is is.

Since you want to understand, Democrats in Congress have many priorities higher than a failed impeachment that would only serve to galvanize republican opposition.

nb: I said rolled, not fooled. There was probably fooling about some points, and cowardice on others.

I agree with CharleyCarp, generally. But what I cannot really understand is the unwillingness of democrats to really stand up, in unison, for the alternate resolution that required the President to come back to Congress for final approval. There are ways of giving the President backing without giving him carte blanche.

I think it's always worth bearing in mind one of the points lurking behind CharleyCarp's: namely, the willingness of this administration to put the prestige of the country on the line in such a way that they can say: look, if you don't do exactly what we want, catastrophe will ensue. To play chicken with our national interests. Not recognizing that the Democrats might have, probably were, in that situation is wrong.

On the other hand, the stakes were high enough, and the possibility that this particular President would not abide by whatever implicit understandings about reasonableness was clear enough, that I really think that anyone who thought war was not a good idea should just have said: no.

When you give someone the benefit of the doubt, it matters enormously what the stakes are, and also whether or not they have done anything to earn your trust. In a lot of circumstances, where the stakes were lower or the President had a better record, I wouldn't mind the vote in retrospect. For that matter, in a lot of situations -- highway appropriations, say -- I'd take ambition and fear of consequences as reasonable grounds for not voting one's conscience.

But not on this one. -- I'm not trying to minimize the difficulty of the situation, given CharleyCarp's hypothetical; only saying: in a case of this importance, you don't let people bully you, and you don't give anyone carte blanche unless you have some very good reason to trust that person.

And with that, I'm out for a while. (See fake blog, linked below just this once).

You said “you think the word of the President means nothing?” as well as “That he would lie outright to members of Congress…”. The end result was war. So how is that not 'lied the country into war'?

And Cheney is in it up to his neck, so I don’t think it automatically leads to a Cheney presidency. Also, the outcome of the Senate trial is not the House’s responsibility.

You say he lied. I say if he lied he should be impeached. You accuse me of “borderline trolling”.

Let’s just go back to bad Hasselhoff videos.

Happy anniversary, CC!

OCS: I don't think it's borderline trolling. I do think, though, that if I were a Congressperson thinking about impeachment, I'd think not just: did the President do something really bad? but: what will happen if we bring articles of impeachment? Will it actually lead to the President's resignation or conviction, or will it just be another partisan foodfight that goes nowhere? Even if it does lead to conviction, what will the effects on the country be? And so forth.

If I thought it wouldn't lead to conviction, I wouldn't go for it -- impeachment is a serious and bitterly divisive thing, and I just don't think one should go for it without any hope of success. Even if I thought it would lead to conviction, I would think hard about it, for the same reason. And all of this is assuming that I believed that the President had in fact done something that deserved impeachment.

I would particularly think this now, having thought throughout the Clinton impeachment not just that I did not believe that he had committed an impeachable offense (I didn't at all like what he did, just didn't think it was near that threshold), but also that the Republicans who brought the articles of impeachment were being reckless, using something that ought to be extremely serious as a partisan cudgel. Having been on the opposite side so recently, I don't think I would be quick to emulate them. I hope not, at least.

I love how Bush is simultaneously an idiot smirking chimp and a master manipulator who Democrats were powerless to resist.

I think the situation here is a combination of two things.

1. Post 9/11 everyone was willing to give Bush an enormous amount of leeway. A negative way to put that is nobody wanted to seem "soft" on terror. Not the best motivation, but also not a particularly suprising political calculation at the time.

2. I don't think folks then grasped how astoundingly feckless Bush is as a person, or how little he considers or even cares about the consequences of his actions and decisions.

Bush was given a not-unreasonable amount of leeway. I think the assumption among a lot of folks is that he would be responsible in how he used it.

Some folks might have been "fooled" by exaggerated claims about the threat posed by Hussein, but probably not that many. Many folks, I think, were fooled by their assumption that Bush would act with some consideration of consequences.

In short, they were fooled by the normal human assumption that the other party actually gives a flying f___.

There's a lot of self-serving revisionism now in people's memories of what their positions were in early '03, but I also think most people assumed they were dealing with, at some basic level, a rational and responsible actor.

Read'em and weep.

Thanks -

You say he lied. I say if he lied he should be impeached.

Works for me.

As a practical matter, I'd like to see Gonzales go first, for his comments on habeas. That would put the fear of God in them, and make some small fry a lot more responsive to subpoenas.

Then, Cheney, for his involvement in the Plame affair. With Cheney out, the real heart of the rot will be gone, and maybe some real repair could be done.

Then, last but not least, Bush. Just because deserves it so richly.

It would be a knife-fight, and an incredible, ugly, drawn-out mess. If you're gunning for the big man, your aim better be good. But, you know, to coin a phrase, I say bring it on.

A guy can always dream.

Thanks -

I share your dream, Russell. And your recommendation on sequence.

OCS: I submit that if Bush in fact lied and there is proof of that then Democrats (and Republicans) are shirking their responsibility to impeach.

Agreed.

hilzoy: namely, the willingness of this administration to put the prestige of the country on the line in such a way that they can say: look, if you don't do exactly what we want, catastrophe will ensue. To play chicken with our national interests.

Yep.

[Among myriad others.]

I don't think it's borderline trolling.

Agreed.

Damn, now I need to find someone to contradict...

Just to clarify: I agree that some things were exaggerated and other things were downplayed in the run up to war. I don’t dispute that. The administration clearly wanted to go to war and clearly tried their best to sell it.

But having a senior sitting Senator say this on the floor of the US Senate:
"Before the war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie."

That seems to me to be a huge thing. I think he should substantiate that. If he can then I think he needs to convince his colleagues in the House to pass articles of impeachment and lead the charge to convict in the Senate. I mean this in all honesty – if anyone has proof that the President lied and as a result we ended up with this war then I want the man impeached.

But being wrong is not the same thing as lying and I just wish people (especially senior politicians) wouldn’t use the term so loosely.

OCS, I think you make a good point about impeachment; there have been probably hundreds of diaries at Daily Kos arguing along similar lines. And scores arguing CC's viewpoint (which I share). Perhaps retroactive Congressional oversight will lead to a political climate where Bush and Cheney could be impeached, but that will take many months and it would probably be destabilizing and petty to kick them out as their successors are being elected.

Btw, there's a clear argument that Cheney is attempting to assert that the VP is a fourth branch of govt not subject to the others and should be impeached on those separate grounds.

CC, I don't necessarily blame anyone who voted for the authorization of force in late 2002, for the reasons you laid out, though I wish they hadn't. I think that by early 2003 (and I don't remember the details as well as you do, but I think I remember them well enough) it should have been clear to any responsible Senator that Bush was pushing for war and they should have been screaming about it. Gore was doing this all along, as I recall. It was no time for bipartisanship.

As for prestige, I don't understand the argument. The US will have prestige if we are perceived as a great power that acts responsibly and not as a bully. And the idea that no one could believe that Bush would just outright lie because if the war went badly he would suffer for it---well, obviously he thought the war would go better than it did, so he was self-deluded on that score. And if it had gone well (i.e., an obedient puppet in place, torture kept discretely out of the press, American casualties low) he might well have gotten away with it and those Democrats who went along wouldn't have had to explain why they opposed Bush's glorious adventure. If you grant that he thought the war would be a success by whatever standards he uses to define success, then it shouldn't have been at all difficult for a professional politician or anyone else to believe that Bush might be wildly exaggerating the evidence for Iraqi WMD's.

I don't think OCSteve is even remotely a borderline troll. I don't expect the Democrats to pursue impeachment because it's a risky political strategy that might blow up in their faces. They should push for investigations into Bush's conduct of the war and into the process that led to war and maybe, just maybe, the public mood would shift enough to make impeachment a realistic option. But the problem is that the leading Democrats didn't act like Gore and they just won't look good portraying themselves as deluded just like the average American.

I'll vote for HRC if she gets the nomination, btw. One goes with the political culture and the candidates one has, etc.... But it will be a disheartening choice.

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