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May 23, 2007

Comments

So in the contest to see who pisses off their base more, Republicans with immigration or Democrats with the war, you think the Republicans win?

nope, not buying it.

many of us voted D in order to stop the war. but the Ds have shown they're not willing to stand up to the kinds of attacks that they already defeated in the 2006 election. they're running from the same attacks that the people have already shown they don't buy into. they won because people turned out thinking the Ds would change the direction of the war and the country in general. the Ds are changing neither.

there's a reason Congress' poll #s are lower than Bush's, and it's not because Congress is being too aggressive in trying to stop the war.

"Even if the Great Pumpkin appears in September, it doesn’t matter now."

????? Care to explain what the "Great Pumpkin" appearing implies?

"In addition, a chicken-like shutdown over war funding would, sadly, be blamed on Congress and could single-handedly revive Bush (which is why he refused to budge – he was hoping to trigger a shutdown)."

I think that, as a general matter, a certain modesty is in order when it comes to this sort of certainty about other people's motives. It's just barely possible that Bush refused to budge because he thinks continuing the war is the right policy, regardless of political costs to other Republicans. His thinking this doesn't, obviously, require it to be true.

a certain modesty is in order when it comes to this sort of certainty about other people's motives

i'll put that one in the file.

brett- your second point is a fair one. i should have said "one reason" rather than "the" reason

Not buying it. I basically never agree with how you're reading the politics, it seems...

I thought they should not keep sending him back the exact same bill, but keep sending him back variations that got closer and closer to his demands and harder and harder to find any real justification. Make him veto 5 different democratic funding proposals in a row. Hang 5 votes around Republicans' necks, not one.

To do it five times would have required incredible discipline. But they could have done it once or twice more.

I think that publius is spot on in this analysis provided that the Democrats in Congress can stay on message and drive this home. In the Washington Post coverage, Shailagh Murray writes:
Democrats were working to secure two other priorities that the president had previously resisted: an increase in the minimum wage and funding for domestic programs, including veterans' benefits, Hurricane Katrina relief and agricultural aid. [full article]

If the Democrats can secure funding for vetrans and build a consensus around many of the domestic issues at home, then they will be much better off to fight this fight in October. The one absolute positive to come out of this is that the funding is going to be fought in the true appropriations bills and not the supplementals and at that point, Congress has much more power to negotiate.

The downside I see is that October will be prime-time primary season, so Obama, Clinton, Brownback, and McCain (and possibly Hagel) are going to be pulling their allies to try and support their campaigns and who knows what is going to happen when that occurs.

Yes, except that now the Democrats will be on record supporting endless war when they pass the bill.

And come September, there will be some new strategy and some new ray of hope, and the charade will continue on.

I agree with Katherine and Hilzoy. What needed to happen here was a public humiliation, not a quiet capitulation.

I'm amazed that the Democrats can piss away an advantage, even when the vast bulk of the public supports them. Let's face it: we're all shaking our heads at this. You know something's gone screwy when the result of the political process is that everyone thinks we hit the wrong outcome.

Everyone besides Bush and Tony Snow.

katherine -- not sure if i'm right, but i see the country as much more conservative on military/immigration-type issues.

but to be sure, that's the key assumption to the entire argument. at some point, the money does stop and you have a game of chicken. and i think the executive (for various structural reasons) is better situated to win that particular PR battle.

ara - they have an advantage regarding the war, NOT (NOT NOT) on playing chicken with funding. that's a conceptually distinct debate int he public's mind and one that lends itself to "you're betraying the troops" demagoguery.

Notice that yet again the story gets framed: Dems lose, Bush wins. That's their own damned fault for (1) talking about it like it was a disappointment themselves and (2) putting out the impression that anything short of a withdrawal timetable is a loss. As if. Most people don't even support a rigid timetable. We'd just like to see some rationality brought back into the process.

Publius: So why does Bush have any advantage in chicken? Why isn't chicken equally tarring to both sides? Or more tarring to the side being more unreasonable.

People won't remember the Dems as having been reasonable. They'll remember them as having lost and backed down. Just like we don't remember the Cuban Missile Crisis as having ended when the Soviets became reasonable. The storyline I was taught was that Kennedy was just tougher, and they backed down against his show of unflinching toughness.

Publius,

No, no, no, no, no. Bush's "pyrrhic victory"? I do not question your intentions at all, and have always learned something from what you have to say, but as far as how Democrats in Congress should address Iraq, you are completely and utterly wrong. I don't know how it's even possible to write that this is a "pyrrhic" victory for Bush. He's gotten everything he's wanted, and the Democrats have surrendered even on their most limited (but binding) measures.

It's quite clear to me based on this (and earlier posts) that your theory remains that Democrats cannot end the war without greater majorities in Congress, and so all actions towards the war should be with this in mind. I still believe you are as wrong now as you were when you first outlined that position.

The majority of the American public wants the war to end. Even Republicans are forced to acknowledge that at this point. Knowing this, it is up to Democrats to mobilize opposition to the war and turn that opposition into legislation. There is no plan beyond the surge, and the American people, those with any patience for the surge in the first place, will lose even that patience when it becomes quite clear in a few more months time that the surge is not working. And that will be LONG before January of 2009, the earliest point at which you believe that Democrats can do anything to really end the war.

This opposition is political capital, and right now it is being wasted because Democrats continue to fear that if they oppose Bush and his Republican supporters too robustly, they will be considered as weakening American security. This is simply not the case. No one can look at polls saying a majority of Americans want to end our involvement in the war and think that the party that opposes the war needs to back off. I do not understand how it is you believe that Republicans will look at those same polls and yet will somehow not become afraid of the consequences Iraq will have on the 2008 elections until well into next year. That seems directly contradictory to the admissions of select Republicans themselves, who are impatient to begin winding down the war this year.

And again, I know you don't mean it this way (or you do, but in a larger context) but what you're saying comes awfully close to an admission that the war is to be used to increase Democratic majorities in Congress and elect a Democratic president. I know why you say that...but isn't it awfully convenient to not push too hard on this war?

Again I understand you want this war to end as badly as any of us do. But Americans will die in Iraq in even greater numbers until there is a complete change of course, and most Americans are waiting for that change of course. It simply does not seem justifiable to me to wait until 2009 to even begin ending the war.

X - these are good points you raise. i think though the heart of our disagreement is about the politics of chicken. yes, majorities oppose the war, but i see the standoff (and potential funding shutdown) as a different thing and one that the public (1) would strongly oppose and (2) blame dems.

the reason for #2 is (1) the executive is more efficient in this type of PR strategy than a multi-headed congressional beast with members in swing districts; (2) bush will appeal to emotional demagoguery and it will work b/c it's a simpler message

if, however, you think the public's opposition to the war EQUALS support for a game of chicken/shutdown, then my point is wrong. i think those are 2 diff thigns though

I think that this is clearly a big, dispiriting capitulation by the Dems, for the same reasons that other folks have already mentioned. But I think Publius is mistaken in another way, too. Look at this passage:

If Bush had started withdrawing, it would have taken Iraq off the table for 2008 and moved the debate elsewhere. But by escalating the war – and forcing votes on blanket authority – Bush has ensured that Iraq will still be raging during next year’s election season, thus making these early votes relevant.

By now it should be resoundingly clear that as far as Bush is concerned, the Republican Party can fend for itself. He is determined to keep the war going, because not doing so would be tantamount to adding the greatest failure yet to his already lengthy tally of fuck-ups. He's got personal demons to battle, and the war is the arena. Whether the war is conducted well or badly, sensibly or incoherently, is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that the withdrawal, the inescapable proof of failure, be left to somebody else.

It seems to me that at least some Republicans must be sentient enough to realize that they've tethered themselves to a guy who's not only widely loathed and derided, but doesn't give a damn about their political fortunes. It also seems to me that if the Dems kept hammering away with the same proposals -- a withdrawal date, strict accountability, etc. -- some of those Republicans would begin to waver, out of fear for their own sweet gigs. It's likely that by following such tactics, the Dems would paint Bush into a corner, and chip away at his Republican enablers.

Instead, they've opted to sell out, and I suspect a lot of card-carrying Dems are coming to the same decision I have after this embarrassment: Not one dime in campaign contributions, not one second of volunteer time. I'm tired of being played for a fool by these gutless fucks.

Aw hell, I forgot to mention: I think it's certain that if we do withdraw, there'll be lots of ugly news coming out of Iraq. (It was always clear to me that this war would ultimately put us in a position with no good options, and hence ought to be avoided as obvious strategic folly.) If Dems are really looking to the future -- hard to credit, given their own tactical idiocy -- do they really think they're going to benefit if, say, Hillary Clinton withdraws the troops, and horrendous internecine warfare in Iraq yields an Iranian satellite? A smart politician would work like hell to end Bush's war while Bush is still in office.

I'd generally agree with sglover above (aside from the posting rules). The Dems should have stripped all the extraneous items out of the bill, added some metrics for success and some combination of a loose timetable and benchmarks, and sent that to him. If he vetos, keep sending close versions of it to him. IMO, most voters would then understand just how limitless (and unreasonable) a war the Republicans have in mind.

I'm with sglover. I'm going to deregister. The Republicans have no principles and fierce party loyalty. The Democrats have neither principles nor party loyalty.

It truly becomes a sell-out if a majority of Dems vote for the current version of funding.

Nothing wrong with allowing an undesirable bill to a vote, that then passes on 100% Republican support and a fraction of Dems from swing districts.

I agree with Katherine that a more confrontational approach was better, but this assumes that they could get majorities for round two and another veto. It is entirely possible that the leadership could not accomplish this. I do not know, and I am not prepared to say that they just did not try.

As for the Bush pyrrhic victory, that is true only if the political perception is such. If perception remains that Congress "lost," it is not yet a pyrrhic victory.

Part of the problem was managing the perception game from the beginning. Dem Congressional leaders needed to make it clear that they would do their best, but could not affect war policy unless Repubs ditched the Bush position. The "loss" is then defined properly -- a small majority of Dems in Congress cannot overcome Republicans who control the executive.

Instead, it looks and feels like the Dems just chickened out on principles. That is the real problem (and that perception is reality if a majority of Dems vote for the proposed funding bill). Perhaps it is also due to the difficulty of Dems having a unified message and strategy in Congress, but it is still a "loss" without pyrrhic implications at this time.

This is a no-win situation for everybody. Bush however has no long-term to deal with -- all he cares about is getting what he wants until January 2009. So he has a big advantage that way.

The first republicans to yield will look like traitors. The last republicans to yield will look insane. The big mass of them will try to switch all at the same time, and they'll argue that this was the right time to switch. Then they'll hope they're in a good position for the next election and not unlikely they'll be right. You may have noticed this among pundits already -- the guys who were all for the war and then later were all against it are arguing they were right both times, and the people who were against it all along were wrong....

If democrats could get their view across to the media, they could explain the current situation to their advantage. Something like, a long time ago Teddy Rooseveldt wanted to send the fleet around the world and Congress wouldn't give him the funds. He said he already had the money to send the fleet halfway around the world and they could choose whether to fund bringing it back or not....

Explain that Bush has semi-secretly made an ultimatum. If he doesn't get the funds he wants he'll leave the troops in iraq with no fuel and no ammo and no food and then he'll want to argue about whose fault it is. Democrats are not willing to play chicken to that level. Bush is insane and we have to get him out of there.

If Bush was rational then withholding the money would mean he'd back down and pull out of the war he can't fund. He is not rational, he'd rather kill the troops than back down. Congress is rational, Bush is crazy. Get rid of Bush. Get rid of Congressmen who support Bush.

But Democrats mostly can't get their point of view across in the media. The media mostly isn't listening. The media will gather the worst soundbytes they can get and repeat them. "I was against the war before I was for it." "This war is lost." The more a Democratic legislator says to the media, the more chances he gives them to pick up a terrible soundbyte. They can't win that game.

I dunno. I just don't know. I think it might be a good year for primary challenges coming up, both parties.

If you don't think this is a big loss for the Dems, you haven't yet truly internalized the fact that American politics -- like it or not -- is very much like American sports: your constituents tend to be people who project their alpha-male fantasies onto the party they've picked as their favorite "team".

Is there really anything else that can account for Goldberg's impulses besides "world-affairs-as-one-big-macho-football-game"? Ultimately, the Dems just don't offer the same alpha-male satisfaction. Do people really worry that the Dems are weak on security? Or do they worry that the Dems are just kinda weak and don't much enjoy projecting themselves onto weakness?

After all, they lost even when they had majorities in both Houses and broad popular support? How much more of a loser can you be?

Ara nails it.

Except that I would not say that "people" view it that way, so much as "the media" does. Too many years watching and writing insider baseball, they're unable to see it as anything but a game. The media doesn't cover policy, it covers politics, and its model is sports.

Ara: don't deregister. We have to play for the long haul.

Ara, the Democrats do not have a majority in the Senate, not on this issue, and not on quite a few others. And that's not even taking into account the fact that in the Senate a simple majority isn't enough to pass anything. The number of people who refuse to recognize that reality and continue to blame "the Democrats" for failing to achieve the impossible sometimes makes me wonder if the Democrats would have been better off not getting nominal control of the Senate.

Ara, the Democrats do not have a majority in the Senate, not on this issue, and not on quite a few others. And that's not even taking into account the fact that in the Senate a simple majority isn't enough to pass anything. The number of people who refuse to recognize that reality and continue to blame "the Democrats" for failing to achieve the impossible sometimes makes me wonder if the Democrats would have been better off not getting nominal control of the Senate.

Well said.

i agree that bush's win just means that he and the republicans are further married to this cataclysmic mistake of a war. the dems can't stop the war tomorrow. patience. of course the dems have got to keep pushing to stop this war, but its not as easy as one vote.

Okay, fair enough. I won't deregister, but only on the grounds that: (1) there be some benchmarks of progress and (2) there's a timetable for withdrawal from the Democratic Party.

I'm rather sick of rubber stamping these blank checks for a DNC, voting down the line for a party whose existence as scare and bugaboo is the only thing holding the conservatives together with the Christians and keeping them all allied with this cronyist administration.

When do I get to admit that it's not working with these Democrats? They can't get their message out. They piss away every political advantage they have. They have a President who is willing to play chicken with other people's lives and they can't communicate that. They have an Iraqi congress that's taking a two-month vacation during an ongoing war, and they can't make that their talking point. They are afraid of being perceived as cowards, even when their positions enjoy overwhelming support. This party just doesn't work.

2000? 2004? 2008? 2012? How long before I admit that the long-run just isn't materializing with these people?

All the information that any thinking person would need to realize that the grounds for war were a canard and that the likely outcome of the war would be a disaster was all there in 2003. Only problem is that only the leftie-wingnuts were paying attention. And we watched in horror, as these stories of debunked intelligence and outright forgery eventually circulated with a good year's lag into the mainstream press. And yet, large swathes of the party simply wouldn't mount an opposition. They knew better. We know they knew better. But Sen. Clinton was unwilling to risk her political future by opposing a bogus war on the off-chance it went well. And Sen. Kerry just didn't want to look like a rejectionist. After that kind of selfish breech of the public trust, why should I expect any better today? Why should I stick with them?

I know, I know, I know. They vote like cowards and hypocrites today on the hope that they will be in a position of real authority tomorrow. But there is no such tomorrow, not as long as everyone continues to play ball with this anti-democratic party structure and this circus of an electoral process.

At some point, I actually expect that politicians should do the right thing, their career ambitions be damned. Easier when those politicians are wealthy heirs, affluent enough not to have to any real worries other than the state of their conscience. I remember someone once claiming that the reason to nominate rich people was that they were more independent-minded. Story goes, they didn't need the job security.

I'm not sure which is the greater moral fault: being naive or self-delusive enough to have taken a Panglossian view of the war or having been smart enough to know better but too selfish and ambitious to sacrfice anything to stop it. But I know it took the two of them in concert to get us where we are today: on the back-end of a lost and purposeless war. So I don't regard one as being any less dangerous than the other.

Ara, the Democrats do not have a majority in the Senate, not on this issue, and not on quite a few others. And that's not even taking into account the fact that in the Senate a simple majority isn't enough to pass anything.

Who doesn't understand this? The point is, their opposition is battered and tainted. The Republican faction is the one that's ripe for defections -- as long as the Dems keep up the pressure, and keep hammering on fundamental issues.

Capitulating from a position of advantage is never "good politics".

When do I get to admit that it's not working with these Democrats? They can't get their message out.

Do you suppose that some *other* Democrats could get their message out?

I went to a town meeting with my congressman. He got his message out perfectly well while he held the microphone. But the media ignores him. Let them get a soundbite that makes him sound real real bad and maybe then they won't ignore him.

I dunno. USA Today is pretty successful. Maybe the Democratic Party could start their own national newspaper? Their own TV network? Well no, they'd have to get licenses for the latter. They couldn't get licenses for their own radio network either.

There could be pirate radio stations broadcasting Democratic messages from cuba or possibly mexico, but that would probably be counterproductive.

What's your suggestion?

Ara: God knows I am in no mood to be nice the the Democrats just now, but: the difference between the Democratic and Republican Congresses is night and, well, at least early morning. You can pick something public like the USAttorney thing, which would never have so much as started under the Republicans, and which has (I believe) led to a bunch of other corruption cases going forward, since the people in the DoJ who might have blocked them are in no position to do so.

Or you can pick much lower-profile things. A few nights ago I flipped on CSPAN while I was eating dinner, and what should I find but a fascinating debate on a House Bill putting oversight restraints on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, restraints that are very much needed given their recent accounting scandals, the problems in the housing market, and the very real probability that if they got into trouble, we taxpayers would end up holding the bag. Also, it created a low-income housing fund, which is very good news, especially for the Gulf Coast, to which it would be devoted at first.

This all comes to you courtesy of Barney Frank, who is one of the best and smartest legislators I have ever seen. (And being from MA, I know whereof I speak. I don't know Frank myself, but scuttlebutt abounds via people who do, and in his case, it's all good.) He's the Chair of the House Financial services Committee, and he is just incredibly knowledgeable and smart and good. The mere fact that he is Chair is a wondrous, wondrous thing. Likewise Henry Waxman and Patrick Leahy and others who were once just ranking members, but who now get to set the agenda.

Even on this hateful compromise, we are getting the increase in the minimum wage, which is a very, very good thing. Not good enough to make me stop being spitting mad, but when you compare it to what we'd be getting from the GOP -- namely, more war and no increase in the minimum wage -- it's very far from nothing.

Again: I am very very angry about this. But it would take a lot more than mere fury to make me stop supporting them. At least, as long as the alternative continues to take the form it does.

J Thomas: Here's my suggestion. I thought you made a great suggestion above. The President is playing chicken with people's lives over his pet war. It's disgusting. It's vile. The Democrats certainly have enough clout to bellow this. But they do not. They just don't attack effectively. They need to simply repeat that same idea over and over and over again ad nauseam.

Here is what you shouldn't say:

Reid called the benchmark language "extremely weak," but he noted that Bush had initially demanded a bill with no strings attached on Iraq. "For heaven's sake, look where we've come," Reid said. "It's a lot more than the president ever expected he'd have to agree to."

I don't think the media is the culprit. After all, the media isn't right-wing. It's just largely passive and easy to manipulate. These people do have a platform. They just don't use it competently.

Ara, let's review the bidding. My hypothesis is that the media is basicly hostile to Democrats. They will sometimes be hostile to Republicans who've gotten caught also, but when that happens they don't repeat Democratic talking-points, they make up their own. Basicly, the media have moved far to the right to the point that they never particularly sympatnise with Democrats -- they at best *observe* Democrats instead of ignore them. And I'm not at all clear what Democrats can do about that.

Your hypothesis is that Democrats are simply across-the-board incompetent at manipulating the media.

What experiment could tend to invalidate either of these hypotheses? I would prefer to believe yours, because if you're right all that is needed is for Democrats to get better at manipulating the media, or hire people who're good at it. So far all the people they've hired to do that have been incompetent, but all they need is to find somebody who's good at it who's willing to work for them....

Is there a way we could tell whether one of us is wrong? The truth could be some third thing we haven't thought of, but see, if I'm right it doesn't matter who they hire or how hard they work at it. It would be like Hamas trying to get their message across to the israeli public. It doesn't matter how hard they try, the media won't touch it. They'll have to find some way to bypass the media. If you're right it could be much easier. Is there a way to tell?

Do we have examples in the last 6 years of Democrats who've been effective at getting their message across to the media? When was the last Democrat you know of who did well at that?

ditto what Ara said.

lose on the votes or not, but show some spine doing it!

...Ara's 7:32, that is.

i don't have any trouble believing the media is totally in love with the faux-Macho Republicans, and can't help but find ways to mock Dems at every chance. spend a half hour at the Daily Howler, if you don't agree.

Who doesn't understand this? The point is, their opposition is battered and tainted. The Republican faction is the one that's ripe for defections -- as long as the Dems keep up the pressure, and keep hammering on fundamental issues.

The GOP is battered and tainted, but if they're ripe for defections, I ain't seein' it. Sure, congressional Republicans have a disgruntled constituency to worry about, but they also have a rabid base who thinks we can still win this to worry about too. Just ask Bril or DaveC. By continuing to back Bush, they get the best of both worlds: They can tell the base they were behind the war all along, while telling everyone else that it was all Bush's fault.

Overall, I think dmbeaster covered everything I would've said. I just can't see the congressional Dems playing chicken with Bush because he never would've blinked. Even if it meant letting the army hang without funding.

Hilzoy: Consider the long-run. Of course I wouldn't argue that these gain aren't real. The minimum wage is important. Stopping these people from turning the DOJ into the Political Enemies Project is, to be understated about it, important. But there's nothing in the mix of political life in America that would prevent what happened in 2003 from happening again. And that, I'll argue, is more important than the current legislative agenda. That is the question I keep returning to: how do we prevent jingoism and misinformation from bullying us into something this bad again? At some point, we simply have to step away and devote our energies to building the kinds of decent institutions that would actually serve us well.

Let me give an example. I saw Harold Ford, Jr. on some program a few weeks back where someone -- maybe Bill Maher -- was grilling him on his support for the war. Ford pitched it chiefly as a battle between America and Al-Qaeda. When Maher pointed out that some general had estimated the numbers of Al-Qaeda in Iraq at around 500, what did Ford say? He answered that he had to disagree with the general on that one. Just like that. Reality was dismissed. I thought to myself: this is a person I wanted to see in the Senate? A person who would rather fabricate a belief about the enemy than come to terms with his own past decisions. And these are the people we have opposing the war.

Now maybe I'm being harsh. I'm pretty sure Ford doesn't actually believe there are far more Al-Qaeda operatives that American generals report. I'm pretty sure he knows that he's not in a better epistemic position than they are. But he's willing to say it to cover for himself. He is willing to perpetuate the myth and the propaganda for his own self-interest. And that's not really something I can respect anymore.

If we never get to step away from these people, something has gone terribly wrong. I can easily imagine being compelled for the next 30 years of my life to choose between awful and slightly-less-than-awful. I just don't foresee the situation improving until we step away from these party institutions.

Ara: I dunno, I think there are ways of trying to change that that do not involve voting differently. My own view is that the best way I have of making a difference is to try to pitch in in some hopefully helpful way to the kinds of conversations that will hopefully lead (not via anything I do, particularly, but by e.g. sending people off to Google interesting stuff) to the existence of more people who know enough of the basic background to be able to say: wait a minute, what that person said is just not true.

Because it haas always seemed to me that the kinds of things that people find it profitable to say in e.g. political ads are a horrible insult to us,the electorate, and since (worse still) it seems to be a horrible insult that's true (since those ads work), I need to make some effort, however misguided, to help.

The point of this is just: it's a way of doing something that (hopefully) helps to some extent, and doesn't involve me in some future variant of voting for Nader.

If it wasn't obvious, what I was talking about above was: the main reason I blog. Also, it's not meant to produce concrete results by itself; rather that making things better has to be something like rebuilding trust or reconstituting an atmosphere of general civility: it requires a whole lot of people to do little things none of which may have any real impact taken in isolation, but which collectively add up to something.

to the existence of more people who know enough of the basic background to be able to say: wait a minute, what that person said is just not true.

Based on what I've heard about the Washington press corps -- especially what I've heard about Russert and Mathews behind the scenes, but about numerous others besides -- that isn't the problem. The problem is getting more people who are willing to say that on the record. In print, on camera, in the public eye until such time as the liars are forced to back down (Bush on SS, f'rex) or removed from office entirely (still waiting on that front). That's the part of the equation that's truly broken, I think -- that even when they know the Administration is lying, the press corps steadfastly refuses to call them on it -- and it's the part I genuinely don't know how to fix.

The troops can't come home without victory.
There can be no victory without a goal being met.
There can be no goal without it being in a declaration of war.
There can be no declaration of war without congress declaring it.
Congress can't declare it, because it authorized military power.

Here is one way to solve this:

http://www.house.gov/paul/tst/tst2007/tst052107.htm

At some point, we simply have to step away and devote our energies to building the kinds of decent institutions that would actually serve us well.

I think the whole "building new institutions" thing has to mean building new media institutions, and perhaps new grassroots groups if you don't think the ones we have are doing what you'd like.

Media and grassroots groups exist in a basically free market, such that being entrepreneurial and starting something new is actually doable. Parties aren't like that. There are fundamental institutional reasons why the number of major political parties in the USA is going to remain at two.

But the good news is that it's very possible to influence what one party or the other says or does. The Christian Right's influence on the Republicans is the obvious example. To put it another way, I don't think the Democratic Party as an entity has any inherent ideological qualities. It will do what it has to do to get votes. It will do whatever the mainstream media and the netroots and MoveOn and the ACLU and NOW and the unions, etc, can make it do.

Don't deregister. If you've got the energy and the inclination, don't waste your time starting another party. Just force the one we have to do the things you think it should do.

Hilzoy: well I think blogging is very very important. And here, in way too many words, is why. The thing I can't wrap my brain around is this: Any conscientious observant person watching the party debates will notice that even the candidates with a reputation for forthrightness take this bizarre pause before answering questions to calculate something. It's not what they think or how they ought to answer, but what they think you want to hear them say. It is obvious. It is conniving. It is the sort of thing you would sniff right away if you were doing a job interview. Half the time, they don't actually answer the question. We all see it. And we all agree it's terrible, no matter what our politics. But collectively we can't do anything to change it, even though there is no threat of violence, no military junta preventing us from having more honest government. Like this, American political institutions are open and yet still perennially disappointing. Somehow, they are as intractable to the public will as political institutions supported by coercion.

I've noticed two exceptions to this: Kucinich and Ron Paul. Whatever you think on them, I think it is pretty obvious that they are telling you what they believe, how they see the world, not gauging what sounds "Presidential". And yet they are principally still around for other candidates to prove their toughness against them. It was said Obama's best moment in the first debate was when he faced down Kucinich on the topic of war with Iran. If I had a choice between ten heterogenous ideological nuts and ten uniformly-minded empty suits, I'll take the ideological nuts. Now why do we consider these candidates to be joke candidates? Because they can't win, and none of us are willing to vote for an obvious loser. Why are they obvious losers? Because so many of us believe they can't win. We've prisoners-dilemma'd ourselves into the shoddy outcome.

I really don't want to sound like a demagogue underestimating the complexity of these problems, but I really do think the problems are cultural. After all, institutions are open, and we ought to be able to do better. The question is: how? We simply must be intolerant of being spoon-fed nonsense. We just let way too much BS and empty words fly. Unfortunately, we get protective of the BS flying out of the mouths of our favorite candidates. And we compromise about BS. We hold our nose and tolerate it, year in and year out, until we become mentally lazy about spotting it, and we become acclimatized to it. And we accept these bizarre political circuses as the way things more or less must be, for some deep reason that we all forgot years ago. And then somebody comes along (Bush-Rove) and capitalizes magnificently on BS, leveraging it for all it's worth, teaching us whole new ways to employ it.

A certain professor of mine once explained a certain philosophical movement, which had an overly fastidious attitude towards what was meaningful and what was not, as an intellectual response to Nazism and all its BS. I bring this up, because I think that's sort of the problem we're dealing with today: people can't tell BS from non-BS. When the story of the day is "Democrats are giving Bush everything he wants because they are afraid of being perceived as abandoning the troops", we know at least that the Democrats are afraid people can't tell reality from BS. They seem to be operating under the fear of the possibility of propaganda. I'm not sure how anyone could govern effectively this way. To be afraid of propaganda is like being afraid of bogeymen and ghosts: the number of threats is constrained only by your imagination. If they weren't afraid of the bogyeman named BS, maybe they could actually stick the principles. But as long as politicians act on how someone else might frame their actions rather than what their actions actually involved, we're going to be held hostage by the BS we allow to float around us.

Until then, we're being governed by people who exploit errant and emotionally-tinged perceptions.

Ara: I basically agree. But I think it's not entirely a willingness to tolerate BS; sometimes, I think it's just not knowing what's true and what's not. And honestly: if you don't know anything about, say, Social Security, the task of actually finding out is a bit daunting. I've always thought that this was one reason the Monica Lewinsky story was so big: because a whole lot of people do not get, say, housing policy to be able to spot a gripping story of heroism met by betrayal (or something) when it involves housing initiatives, and are inclined at some point just to tune everything out, everyone understands about adultery. So the storyline is accessible in a way that most stories about government are not.

I think this has to change. I think it might have been that very same professor who was quite taken with some Enlightenment views on the kind of citizenry a country needed, especially a democratic one; one of the things I love about blogging is that it makes it so very much easier for all of us to help one another live up to that.

Also, it makes learning about Social Security happen while you're doing something fun like reading TPM. (I will go to my grave thinking that Josh Marshall is responsible for the defeat of Bush's SS reform, since he made it the case that tens of thousands of people actually understood the issues.)

The thing is, though, it's not the sort of change one could bring about through policy. It has to be done individually. Personally, I have much more fun that way, but I can see how it gets frustrating.

Make that: "do not get, say, housing policy ENOUGH to be able to spot ..."

"Why are they obvious losers? Because so many of us believe they can't win. We've prisoners-dilemma'd ourselves into the shoddy outcome."

Certainly there are people who don't just agree with various and many of the positions and points-of-view of both these politicians (Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul), but I think a lot of people don't/won't vote for them not just because of a belief that these candidates aren't "electable," but because we -- as I'm one of them -- don't feel we have reason to believe they'd be all-around good presidents, even if we think they're honest, or we agree with certain positions of theirs to one degree or another.

In other words, I don't think one can neglect disagreements of substance, and doubts about their executive ability, as significant factors, and instead attribute their lack of national success at realistically competing for the presidency entirely to the circular electability issue, relevant though that latter is.

"...I think that's sort of the problem we're dealing with today: people can't tell BS from non-BS."

That's certainly an overwhelming problem, but isn't it always when huge numbers of people are in play?

Which is to say that I don't have any sort of magic solution, either, other than that we all try to do what we can to fight it. (For instance, make efforts to try to keep conversations substantive, rational, logical, and fact-based.)

They seem to be operating under the fear of the possibility of propaganda. I'm not sure how anyone could govern effectively this way. To be afraid of propaganda is like being afraid of bogeymen and ghosts: the number of threats is constrained only by your imagination.

If you're playing chess and you think about a move in terms of the threats your opponent can make in response, it's true that the number of threats is constrained only by your imagination. But thinking about those threats and how to counter them is a big part of the game.

Politicians have always faced that sort of thing, it's just gotten extremely professional now from the Republicans and for one reason or another the Democrats are entirely playing defensively. Either no democrats are ready to do effective lying attacks, or they are unable to get media coverage.

Consider an example from the 2004 elections. The SwiftBoaters got exposed in a collection of lies but that didn't seem to make any difference. Their story got repeated daily. The investigations into Bush's military "service" went differently. Apparently a Republican agent sold a forged document and then tipped off Republican blogs about how to tell it was forged. Dan Rather lost his job and Bush's military history was not an issue after that.

The central problem here is that most people are not paying attention. But then, most people have never paid attention. The days of "yellow journalism" weren't that different. "I only know what I read in the newspapers."

We can't hope to get the mass of voters to pay attention. Though if they did they'd surely demand extreme reforms....

Now why do we consider these candidates to be joke candidates? Because they can't win, and none of us are willing to vote for an obvious loser. Why are they obvious losers? Because so many of us believe they can't win. We've prisoners-dilemma'd ourselves into the shoddy outcome.

That one is structural. When you get one vote, it only makes sense to vote for a third candidate if the difference between the top two isn't important.

I think Democrats would do well to switch to IRV in their primaries. That improves the electability of the winner. Too often they have bruising primary fights and then the weakened winner has to take on the Republican candidate. But if you vote for all the candidates you find acceptable, in the order you prefer them .... It's a lot easier to campaign strongly for your third choice than for the guy who used dirty tricks to beat out your candidate. Candidates with similar positions can support each other rather than be each other's bitterest enemies -- because they aren't splitting the votes in their mutual voting block. "This is my friend and we agree on a lot. If you vote for me first I hope you'll consider voting for him second."

It would be good for the Democratic party. And it might help us eventually get IRV (or related system) in place for actual elections. But that's a very long-term goal, and we need a more immediate solution.

Apparently a Republican agent sold a forged document and then tipped off Republican blogs about how to tell it was forged.

Cite, please?

"Apparently a Republican agent sold a forged document and then tipped off Republican blogs about how to tell it was forged."

This is a new development that I had not heard about.

"This is a new development that I had not heard about."

I've seen the accusation/belief. I'm unaware of any facts to back it up. People can make up their own minds as to how much credibility to give the speculation.

The subject is the Killian documents. I'm unaware of any sound reasons to think Bill Burkett was or is a Republican operative.

Nobody had to "tip" anybody off to argue about the document; there were some on the left who insisted that the fact that blogs responded within a day proved otherwise, but that reasoning was put out by people who were at the time clearly clueless that responses in that time-frame are perfectly normal for blogs.

I don't say any of this because it benefits my "side," since it doesn't -- and I think the fact that no one has claimed to large cash reward offered to anyone who will come forth and testify to George Bush showing up for Air National Guard duty in his last months demonstrates that there's no reason to assume that he did so show up -- but because they're the facts as I understand them, and I followed the whole thing fairly closely (until at least very recently, I was linked to in that Wikipedia entry, for my early posting on why some of the claims about the documents were invalid -- my points were later superseded, but there was a lot of wishful opinionating going on on both sides, until the facts -- including that the document was indeed a forgery -- were made clear).

" Apparently a Republican agent sold a forged document and then tipped off Republican blogs about how to tell it was forged."

Cite, please?

None, it's sheer speculation. As far as I know it's entirely 100% compatible with the evidence, but not proven.

However it came to be, notice the result: SwiftBoaters got caught in multiple lies, and the continuing story was that some navy guys didn't like Kerry in vietnam.

Rather got fooled by one forged document and the continuing story was that the evidence against Bush was forged and Rather was in trouble.

" Apparently a Republican agent sold a forged document and then tipped off Republican blogs about how to tell it was forged."

Cite, please?

None, it's sheer speculation. As far as I know it's entirely 100% compatible with the evidence, but not proven.

However it came to be, notice the result: SwiftBoaters got caught in multiple lies, and the continuing story was that some navy guys didn't like Kerry in vietnam.

Rather got fooled by one forged document and the continuing story was that the evidence against Bush was forged and Rather was in trouble.

As far as I know it's entirely 100% compatible with the evidence, but not proven.

What evidence might that be?

"As far as I know it's entirely 100% compatible with the evidence"

You're saying that Bill Burkett is a "Republican agent" and that he "sold" the documents to Mary Mapes?

Or you're saying that Burkett bought the documents from someone else, a claim he has never made, and which no one I'm aware of has ever made?

How is either claim "entirely 100% compatible with the evidence"? Or do you have another scenario to suggest? Who, specifically, is the "Republican agent" you are referring to, and who did this person allegedly sell the documents to?

The underlying conservatism of the public has nothing to do with why I think you're wrong, publius.

--On immigration: your idea that incremental change for the better is possible is not convincing to me. That has NOT been the pattern in the past. I think the far likelier pattern is: "they got amnesty, now they want this too?!?". Do you know the story of the mid-90s immigration bills?

The overall trend over time is more and more arbitrary & punitive laws but not so much on the willingness to fund enforcement (except funding thousands of border guards every so often so that it looks like you're doing something). So you get a standing population of people here illegally, and you also get a reasonably sized group that gets completely, completely, completely screwed.

Maybe the bill is worth the trade offs overall, but I think you're kidding yourself about future prospects.

--On Iraq: note that my proposed strategy allowed the possibility of *eventually* capitulating, and did NOT ACTUALLY require the funds getting cut off. I see no advantage whatsoever to making him veto one bill and giving up, instead of vetoing:
--a bill with a firm deadline
--a bill with no firm deadline but only six months funding
--etc. etc. so he looks more and more ridiculous vetoing.

What's the downside? This isn't the Gingrich 2002 situation. You say that the primary consideration is winning the next election, but the way to do that is to apply as much political pressure as possible.

my main worry about this bill is that it wo

Last quarter I donated to Barack and Edwards' campaigns. I think I'm going to take the same amount of money and give to the Kucinich campaign this time. It's not a lot of money, but it's my little contribution toward pushing the Overton window some. I don't see that there's much else I can do. (I may also make a small donation to Ron Paul's campaign to help sustain his clear-talking gadfly efforts even though his libertarian vision is very very far from what I want to see.) I'm really, really sick and tired of the mush on this.

I know I've written this screed up before, or ones much like it, but I just don't feel that "be patient, small steps" is such viable advice. We're coming up on the first anniversary of Dad's death, and it continues to wound when I think about how disgracefully abused his efforts as soldier, aerospace engineer, and decent citizen were: this is not the sort of regime for which he fought nor which he taught us to respect. I don't know how many years yet Mom will be with us, and I don't feel like she has an obligation to sit and let little maneuvers use up whatever time it is for some uncertain payoff after she's gone. Nor do I feel like I'm honoring their lessons in ethics and morals by this kind of thing. I want to push, and push as hard as I can, and the only question for me is, where can I shove where it'll do the most good? Anyone offering the answer "don't shove at all" is answering the wrong question.

(To keep the above rant topical I should add that I intend to do the same thing for the other national and smaller-scale races I can vote in. Gotta find out who's seriously advocating either peace or justice.)

There are a lot of people blaming the Democratic leadership who utterly lack the information necessary to do so. I don't have the definitive information to do so, either, but there is another perfectly plausible story aside from the one that they sold everyone out. That's they counted the votes, and they weren't there. I think that there is a pretty good chance that enough centrist Democrats were going to peel off that another bill with a withdrawal timetable wasn't going to pass.

If that's the scenario, then this is what they have to do. If the Democratic leadership stands firm on a timetable, and then loses, they have a real problem on their hands. It is a much stronger position to appear to compromise than it is to appear to lose the vote.

Let's face it: this is where this debate was going to end up. This was always where this debate was going to end up. Blame the centrists if you want to, but understand just how weak a hand the leadership had to play.

Further, I agree with publius that this is a pyrrhic victory for Bush. I agree with his reasons, but I think that he misses one. The inclusion of benchmarks, even waivable benchmarks, is much more significant than you people seem to understand. Yes, Bush can waive them and do what he wants, but he actually has to waive them. Do you understand what a kick in the teeth it's going to be to Republican Congressmen, and their electoral hopes, for Bush to publically state that the government of Iraq is not meeting the goals, and he's going to ignore it?

Fast forward a few months. If Bush waives any requirement for progress, that's going to make life hell for his caucus.

I think I'm going to take the same amount of money and give to the Kucinich campaign this time.

Kucinich would be an RNC wet dream, I think.

Of course, there's always the possibility that he's not nuttier than a Snickers bar, and that he's just serving an extremely nutty district. Or, more remotely, that there really is a danger that the US government is using chemtrails and mind-control rays to keep its population in line.

Slarti, right now I don't much care what would or would not be an RNC wet dream. Three-quarters of the country is against them, and still the Democratic Party acts like this is a very delicate tipping point sort of thing. I want to shove. Being temperate brings us backing down after initial efforts and mealymouthed rotten-followup questioning of people who ought to be getting their hides rhetorically nailed to the wall. The Democratic Party as a whole is failing me, and a lot of others, and I don't see that I have any recourse but to direct attention - and money - to individuals within it who are pushing something stronger.

The Republican Party is, as a matter of repeated free choice, the party of murderous barbarism and cruelty, at home and abroad. I wish the Democratic Party to be something more than the party of kinder, gentler, more hesitantly murderous barbarism and cruelty. But the decision-making center of the party isn't going to move unless it has to, they've made it clear: they're comfortable being murderers' and torturers' shy reluctant buddies. Those outside the party center, the ones who are not intrested in being either murderers or their buddies, need extra help to me.

Yes, I certainly am angry and unfair about this. I promise to chill the moment I have genuinely good reason to believe my country's stepping away from unprovoked war, torture, and the rest as the cornerstones of policy and from rank incompetence plus amoral toadying as the cornerstones of administrative practice. So in the meantime, I shove.

Bruce, I don't argue against any of that, just that sometimes shoving is better accomplished with a polearm than, for example, with a small bowl of tapioca pudding.

If the bowl of tapioca pudding is all you've got, though, maybe you're right.

Slarti: If the bowl of tapioca pudding is all you've got, though, maybe you're right.

And after all, since you supported President Tapioca Pudding for years, you speak from experience.

You're saying that Bill Burkett is a "Republican agent" and that he "sold" the documents to Mary Mapes?

I'll retract the part about the documents being sold, I'm not clear about that part though I vaguely remember reading that they were bought.

I haven't seen anything to show that Burkett is *not* a Republican agent. You have surely researched the topic more than I have, do you know much about where the forged documents came from? Who made them? Why did they make them? How did Burkett happen to offer them in good faith?

I haven't seen anything to show that Burkett is *not* a Republican agent.

I haven't seen anything that might indicate that you're not a moby, J Thomas.

Not that I'm saying you are, but you can see what sort of hazards are involved with that kind of construct, can't you?

Isn't a "moby" a liberal who has registered on RedState (or some other equally sequestered blog) and who is pretending to be conservative while asking questions or making comments that clearly aren't inside the party line? Or does it have some other meaning?

Sorry for the President Tapioca Pudding crack. It felt irresistible, but I probably should have tried harder.

Slart, what is a moby? A quick google search revealed an electronic musician and a specialty programming language.

At any rate, if you haven't seen any evidence whether I'm a moby or not then certainly you should keep an open mind. "On the internet nobody knows you're a dog." "On the internet nobody knows you're a moby."

You might want to do a Bayesian analysis. In the absence of specific data about me, is there some group I belong to, where you know the percentage of mobies? US citizens? NSS members? Obsidian Wings posters? Without better evidence you might assign the change that I'm a moby at the known percentage of the group I'm in. But watch out for the anthropic principle. There might be some reason why you are doing nonrandom sampling from that group.

So -- bayesian analysis. Is passing forged documents compatible with known Republican election behavior? Yes, definitely. It's utterly plausible that they'd do that.

Is it compatible with Democrats? Far less so.

Is it compatible with some amateur thinking he could get away with his amateurish forgery, for personal reasons? Yes, anything whatsoever is compatible with that. There's no guessing what random individuals will do for their own personal reasons. Some things random individuals would have trouble getting resources for.

I said it was "apparently" a Republican agent. Does that seem too strongly stated? I'd be willing to change that to "plausibly" a Republican agent. "Arguably" a Republican agent seems too weak. "Perhaps not" a republican agent stresses the negative, maybe that would be better.

Possibly, although I've seen it used in general to describe someone who's conservative posing as a liberal.

Ah! Someone who misrepresents his political leanings. You could guess at that by looking at what I actually post.

But then, have I labeled my political position? I don't recall doing so. I wouldn't be comfortable as a traditional liberal, and I tend to agree with about 1/5 of things that I hear from self-labeled conservatives these days. I like libertarian ideas in theory, but I tend to disagree with the practice. I don't see that giant completely-unregulated international corporations are in my best interest.

Since I don't particularly like the right or left, I used to figure I was better off out in front. But these days it doesn't work to say you're in the radical front. For some years I told people I was part of the radical center, but Michael Lind has co-opted that label. I somewhat tend to agree with everybody I've noticed who uses the label "radical center" but there's no cohesiveness there, it's a hodgepodge.

Anyway, my political stand is just what it is, and it might not completely agree or completely disagree with yours, and if you want to assume I'm with you or against you then it's your own lookout.

This "moby" concept is kind of peculiar. It seems to assume that people should agree about everything, and if somebody agrees partly but then brings up specific concerns that it means they were faking agreement. Strange. I'd expect that sort of thing in an army or a persecuted religion more than a political discussion.

Per Paul Lukasiak, who did yeoman's work on analyzing the Bush TANG documents, the Killian memos were never proven to be forgeries. The key quote from the link is:

"With each day that passes, it becomes clearer that either the “Killian memos” are copies of true originals, or were retyped by someone whose purpose was to destroy the credibility of Bill Burkett."

(I'm too lazy to look it up now, but didn't Killian claim the docs were given him by a Hispanic woman who was later speculatively identified as the wife of a Republican operative?)

I haven't fully assessed Lukasiak's conclusions, but he does show all his work so the reader can judge for themselves.

I think you should apologize to tapioca pudding for comparing it to Bush. How much damage has tapioca pudding done in the world, really?

I said it was "apparently" a Republican agent. Does that seem too strongly stated?

Not so much "too strongly" as "completely unsubstantiated". So, substantiation would help.

Lukasiak's conclusions exaggerated some flawed work by Dr. David Hailey.

Basically, Hailey did some Photoshop and concluded that a typewriter could have produced that document, if it had used a font that was not yet available.

Slarti, you seem to have a different way to use the language. I don't need to substantiate it to say it that way.

But just to soothe you, I'll change it to "probably a Republican agent".

Satisfied now?

Basically, Hailey did some Photoshop and concluded that a typewriter could have produced that document, if it had used a font that was not yet available.

Slarti, did you look at this link (from luka)?

http://www.glcq.com/set_up.htm

They have a TANG document the White House released that has the same proportionate spacing etc. They claim this shows that TANG could do it, but don't consider the possibility that the WH document was similarly forged.

J. Michael Neal --
I don't agree with them, but you do make some persuasive arguments about Democratic tactical considerations. But then you hang your case on this:

The inclusion of benchmarks, even waivable benchmarks, is much more significant than you people seem to understand. Yes, Bush can waive them and do what he wants, but he actually has to waive them. Do you understand what a kick in the teeth it's going to be to Republican Congressmen, and their electoral hopes, for Bush to publically state that the government of Iraq is not meeting the goals, and he's going to ignore it?

First, let's be clear, here: "Benchmark" has always been a kind of shorthand for, How can we hang the blame for this epic debacle on the wogs? As far as I can tell, the jurisdiction of the Iraqi "government" ends at the boundary of the Green Zone. (Can said government even levy taxes?) Under the circumstances, talk about "benchmarks" and "goals" and so forth has always been disingenuous as hell.

But even assuming benchmarks had some tenuous connection to reality, how would waiving them be any different from the accountability dodging that's been SOP since this idiotic war began?!? By now, shrugging off "commitments" is simply second nature to this government, and I don't see them suffering many consequences for it.

KCinDC: I think you should apologize to tapioca pudding for comparing it to Bush. How much damage has tapioca pudding done in the world, really?

You're right. I'm sorry, tapioca pudding. That wasn't cool.

Slarti: I think I mentioned the Overton window in my initial diatribe. I'll do it again. :-) The Democratic Party's leadership is clearly incapable, in practical terms, of taking stands at the center of Democratic-supporting opinion. For psychological and institutiional reasons both, they're going to stay shifted to the right for some time yet. Those of us who would like them to make just a jump to the left, hold the step to the ri-i-i-ight, therefore have to drag the overall mass of quanitifiable opinion that much further left.

Given a respectable responsive leadership, support in terms of money and effort for Barack or Edwards would do the job. I'd either get them or someone like them or someone who feels compelled to adopt views like theirs, and that would work for me. But they're not adequately responsive, so I have to do groundwork for them, and so do people like me. I'm not yet settled on a particular candidate to use as my means of communication for this - it could be someone other than Kucinich, but it's going to have to be someone significantly farther left than what would be satisfactory to me.

Slarti -- Is Hailey's work separate from the analysis of the (contemporary) proportionately-typed document released from Bush's TANG files *after* the hoo-haw about the CBS document?

cross-posted with J Thomas...

"The Democratic Party's leadership is clearly incapable, in practical terms, of taking stands at the center of Democratic-supporting opinion. For psychological and institutiional reasons both, they're going to stay shifted to the right for some time yet."

Well, yeah, roughly until they decide they want to return to minority party status, since centering their stands in the middle of the Democratic party, rather than biased towards the middle of the WHOLE political spectrum, is a recipe for polical suicide.

"Well, yeah, roughly until they decide they want to return to minority party status, since centering their stands in the middle of the Democratic party, rather than biased towards the middle of the WHOLE political spectrum, is a recipe for polical suicide."

Funny how no one ever suggests this for the Republican Party, even though the same calculations apply there. Instead, Republican voices pulling towards the center on any issue from gay rights to abortion to tax and budget policy to immigration are always urged to get in line with the mainstream of the Republican Party.

" since centering their stands in the middle of the Democratic party, rather than biased towards the middle of the WHOLE political spectrum, is a recipe for polical suicide."

It wasn't suicide for the Republican Party to avoid the middle of the WHOLE political spectrum. In fact, they were quite successful by being to the right of the middle of the Republican Party.

Brett: Well, yeah, roughly until they decide they want to return to minority party status, since centering their stands in the middle of the Democratic party, rather than biased towards the middle of the WHOLE political spectrum, is a recipe for polical suicide.

The Republican Party certainly don't seem to have found it so. Rather than centering their stand in the middle of the Republican party, or even biased towards the middle of the whole political spectrum - which would be substantially to the left of the rightmost members of the Democratic party - they have instead centered their stand at the right of the Republican party, dragged American politics rightwards, and kept moving their stand to the right as US politics move with them.

Obviously, the Republican party have big advantages in doing this: the mass media is biased in their favor, they have more money than the Democratic party for campaigning/spin, and a fanatical devotion to the Pope. I mean, to the Spirit of Nixon.

But that was their strategy over the past twenty or thirty years, and - far from your assertion - it's certainly not been political suicide. Rather the reverse.

Hmmm...I bet they were all above average, too.

Sorry, that last in response to:

It wasn't suicide for the Republican Party to avoid the middle of the WHOLE political spectrum. In fact, they were quite successful by being to the right of the middle of the Republican Party.

Tongue in cheek, in case it needs saying.

Wow. I crossposted with Dan and John. Sorry about the pileon, Brett: not intentional.

Hmmm...I bet they were all above average, too.

Or, possibly: beside themselves.

"Sorry about the pileon, Brett: not intentional."

Come on Jes, you know it was. You and I and Dantheman did some quick calling to each other and created the great left wing conspiracy to pile on. We even semi-enlisted Slarti.

oddly, the Dems are getting flayed in the media right now, for refusing to take a stance that's supported by 60-some% of everyone.

it's not that they didn't win an impossible battle, it's that they didn't even put up a good fight and now they're lying about what a great job they did. what a passel of cowards.

john miller,

"You and I and Dantheman did some quick calling to each other and created the great left wing conspiracy to pile on. We even semi-enlisted Slarti."

What do you mean "calling"? We each just turned to section 21.23(h) of our VLWC handbook, and typed in the proper response. However, it seems you have the August 2006 version, and Jes the March 2005 one. You need to get your updates faster.

oddly, the Dems are getting flayed in the media right now, for refusing to take a stance that's supported by 60-some% of everyone.

Hardly odd. Say they passed another bill that Bush would veto. They'd get flayed for that too.

Or say they went on vacation without passing one. Sure they'd get flayed for that.

It doesn't matter what Democratic legislators do, the media will try to make them look bad for it.

"It wasn't suicide for the Republican Party to avoid the middle of the WHOLE political spectrum. In fact, they were quite successful by being to the right of the middle of the Republican Party."

You'd be hard pressed to convince Republicans of that.

Convincing them, I should say, that the elected Republican party was governing to the right, rather than the left, of the party's base.

publius: I know you said, “I’m not putting political considerations above war policy”, but everything that followed did just that. I’m sorry, but your post reads to me as, “Yeah we’re still stuck there with endless war and (implicitly) many more troops will die or be maimed, but Hey, cheer up, look at what great position that puts us in for 2008!”

I’m sorry to go there, but this is not the first post of yours that struck me this way. I assume that it is not intentional; that you do not mean it to come out that way, but it does come across that way to me. And I’m not claiming that Republicans (or right-wing bloggers) do not play politics with this stuff. It is just a bit gut-wrenching considering we are closing out Armed Forces Month and heading into Memorial Day weekend.

(And yes before anyone asks, this Memorial Day, for the first time, I will be thinking a lot about the part I have played in all this. Normally it is a somber and respectful holiday for me. This year guilt will be mixed in for the first time.)

OCSteve: I’m sorry, but your post reads to me as, “Yeah we’re still stuck there with endless war and (implicitly) many more troops will die or be maimed, but Hey, cheer up, look at what great position that puts us in for 2008!”

FWIW, it read a bit like that to me, too, Publius.

Admittedly, this is a case of "look on the least-worst side of disaster" - but sometimes, that's just... inappropriate.

"Of course, there's always the possibility that he's not nuttier than a Snickers bar, and that he's just serving an extremely nutty district. Or, more remotely, that there really is a danger that the US government is using chemtrails and mind-control rays to keep its population in line."

It's also possible that your view of him isn't entirely rounded, and fleshed out by comprehensive knowledge, but instead is a caricature based on a handful of bits of information. How would you evaluate his years as Mayor of Cleveland, say? And if you don't feel you have a good grasp of how he did, or how his constituents feel about him, then possibly you're not in a good position to analyze just how nutty he is or isn't.

The language you're referring to, in the bill we discussed in the past, came out in the next draft, for what it's worth.

I don't say any of this because I'm a particular fan of Kucinich's, but I do think he's a bit more than a caricature of a "nut," and I'm not aware there's evidence of any particular nuttiness in Ohio's 10th District, which you'll note, incidentally, was consistently Republican until Kucinich ran in '96. with the exceptions of '64 and '58. Other than those years, it's been solidly Republican since 1920, when the District was created. How nutty is that?

"And after all, since you supported President Tapioca Pudding for years, you speak from experience."

This sure seems like 100% gratuitious personal attack, to me. But I may be missing the underlying policy issue it's intended to elicit.

J. Thomas: "I'll retract the part about the documents being sold, I'm not clear about that part though I vaguely remember reading that they were bought."

Well, what's known and isn't known is extremely well-documented, and has been throughly debated by countless people.

In that context, we have facts. I don't know how to deal with assertions that "I vaguely remember" something, when there's no evidence of anyone having even alleged such a thing. It doesn't seem to connect to reality.

"I haven't seen anything to show that Burkett is *not* a Republican agent."

Is there the faintest shred of evidence of Burkett being a Republican agent? How would that work? He's been a sleeper agent for decades?

"You have surely researched the topic more than I have, do you know much about where the forged documents came from?"

Not beyond Bill Burkett. He's alleged at times that he got them from George Conn, who has denied it; both their stories have switched around several times. Beyond Burkett, I'm not aware anyone knows who forged them. Maybe Burkett got over-enthusiastic. Maybe Conn did; maybe someone else did, and gave them to Burkett. I don't know.

But I'm not the one making assertions as to what a "Republican agent" or even an unnamed "probably a Republican agent," had to do with the Killian documents.

"How did Burkett happen to offer them in good faith?"

I don't know if he did or did not. Are you asserting that you know that he did? I thought he was your "Republican agent"? If not, who is? Conn? Or who?

I'm not even following what alleged Republican plot exactly is, any more: who is the Republican Agent, J Thomas? And what's your evidence?

I said it was "apparently" a Republican agent. Does that seem too strongly stated? I'd be willing to change that to "plausibly" a Republican agent. "Arguably" a Republican agent seems too weak. "Perhaps not" a republican agent stresses the negative, maybe that would be better.
Before we argue over how strongly we allege someone is a Republican agent, could we first settle on whom, exactly, you are accusing, please?

"(I'm too lazy to look it up now, but didn't Killian claim the docs were given him by a Hispanic woman who was later speculatively identified as the wife of a Republican operative?)"

Wow, that's staggeringly wrong. Killian was Bush's CO, and the alleged author of the document. That's about as basic a piece of information as there is to this issue.

Kevin Drum summed up the facts best back in January of 2005.

But just to soothe you, I'll change it to "probably a Republican agent".

Satisfied now?

I'm not: who are you accusing?

It looks like he's thinking politically. But it's a political battle. The democrats aren't strong enough to win it, so they have to get stronger. if this makes them stronger then it's much less a defeat than if it makes them weaker.

Face it -- the GOP would be happy to get a Democrat funding crisis and then engineer a military disaster they could blame on Democrats. And you guys are bothered that a nonRepublican is thinking in terms of partisan politics?

The GOP under Bush's leadership is running an undeclared war against the United States of America. And you guys don't want to even admit that you're thinking in terms of strategies to oppose them.

The world didn't change on 9/11/2001. The world changed on 9/7/2000. Or maybe that should be 12/12/2000, when the Supreme Court made Bush President by a 5/4 decision.

This war will not be won until the the inner circle of GOP leaders are jailed and their owners bankrupted. I don't particularly care how well the Democratic Party does provided they don't get taken over by the same people who own the GOP, but for the moment the important thing is that they assist in the destruction of the GOP, and whatever power they get to do it -- constitutional, legal power -- is fine with me.

If we want the troops out of iraq before 2009 it's probably going to take an impeachment. And it looks to me like the Democratic Party is heading toward impeachment. First they have to neutralise the Justice Department so that government workers won't be scared to tell the truth. Then they start revealing secrets. It could go real fast.

Here's USNews explanation about who won: The AP says "Democrats may have lost their fight with President Bush over a timetable for ending the war in Iraq," but "they won billions of dollars for farm aid, hurricane victims, veterans and health care for poor children."

So Bush gets to keep his unregulated war for awhile, and in exchange Democrats get to help hurricane victims that Bush didn't want to, and veterans that Bush opposed aid for, and health care for poor children that Bush wanted to block. This is probably the best single line of publicity I've seen for any Democrat in the last 6 years.

Surely the showdown between the White House and the Dems ended as it had to. Of course most Americans want the war to end, but the electorate will also harshly punish whichever party ends it because it's only going to end badly.

Having won the election on the basis of opposing the war, the Dems had to make some kind of show of doing something with the voters' sentiment, but the reality is they cannot stop the war, not until they have the White House, at which point the public will finally have the guts to admit the war's over.

So the Dems might seem to have 'lost' this time, but it's very small beer because the republicans are strapped to a rocket plummeting through the sub-basements of hell. How relevant is this 'loss' going to be in the average voter's mind in 2008?

In other words, this was a charade, and the Dems pulled the plug on the charade at the least damaging moment. I happen to think that a very high-profile atrocity will occur in Iraq in the next few weeks to make us all forget about this. The Al Qaeda-aligned element there has a very keen sense of political timing, the surge is teetering, and with it the last strands of American resolve; they'll know that a real eye-catching bit of nastiness will kick the legs out from under it.

Sorry to say it, but death by a thousand cuts is the only way this war is going to end.

so I guess I agree with publius.

"oddly, the Dems are getting flayed in the media right now, for refusing to take a stance that's supported by 60-some% of everyone."

A key problem here is that "the Dems" are a disparate party made of individuals. It's neither a group mind, nor a hierarchy with a leadership with Absolute Control over its members. And said members represent districts where majority views differ from one to another.

To characterize this disparate group of people, representing a disparate group of people, as having a unitary mind is to severely distort reality.

Thus we wind up with people railing at "the Democrats" for not doing what a) the leadership can't do (force members to vote a particular way, and make the vote come out differently), and b) the majority of members can't do (change the vote of their colleages).

If folks want things done differently, I suggest switching the means of electing Congress to pure proportional voting.

(Personally, I think that would have dreadful effects in giving a huge amount of power to extremists, and inducing great instability in the system, but people's views vary on that, to be sure.)

Otherwise, and without going further into what
"60-some%" of the people do or don't want, our system isn't set up to enact what 60-some% of the people, across the board, want; it's set up to provide representation by district, and state. If you want Democrats elected from Republican or Republican-leaning districts to vote differently, change the minds of their voters. Otherwise the best you'll get is a "correct" vote, and a Republican there in the next term.

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