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July 13, 2007

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As much as McCain's sellout over the past 6 years disgusts me, another part of me wishes he wasn't all but out of the race. The three remaining "viable" GOP candidates all seem gravely flawed

The 2008 election is going to be hugely important - a decision whether we'll repudiate the mistakes and crimes of the current administration or continue down this terrible path - and I hope we as a nation don't screw it up

Spot on. I've felt the same sense of pity for McCain for some time now. What makes it doubly tragic is that it was all so predictable.

Imagine how different the world would be -- and McCain's place in it -- had he chosen the path his heart probably urged him to take: repudiate Bush. Stand with Kerry in '04 -- maybe even run with him, if that option was truly open.

I'd say that Cheney was required to make much the same deal - accepting, in 2004, that Bush/Cheney would be campaigning on a constitutional amendment to make his daughter a second-class citizen - but judging by interviews with the daughter, it's never occurred to any Cheney that legal discrimination intended to affect the plebes could possibly have an impact on people like them. Both Dick and his daughter, in fact, get extremely tetchy whenever it's pointed out to them that when their Christian allies sound off about the evil, evil gay, they are, in fact, talking about Mary Cheney. I suppose all gay Republicans who aren't completely self-hating make this kind of trade-off in their heads - it's okay for those other gays to be discriminated against, so long as it doesn't happen to me.

I can't say I feel any sympathy at all for John McCain: he voted for torture and to repeal habeus corpus. End of story. No one who supports torture ought to be President.

I would feel worse about McCain's decline if I had reason to believe he wouldn't have been an awful, horrible President in 2000. He's always been thoroughly hawkish and thoroughly bad on civil liberties. A Middle East war under his direction wouldn't hve turned into such a torture cesspool so quickly and massively, but if anything it probably would have been even more destructive, since McCain actually would have been willing to push for more and pay for it.

This in addition to the points Jes makes.

Okay, I did feel sympathy for John McCain over the attacks on him, his family, and his daughter: but his willingness to forgive the attacks on his daughter and ally with the attackers puts him in exactly the same box as Dick Cheney, only kind of worse: few anti-gay Republicans actually attack the Vice President's daughter personally, and besides - Mary Cheney is an adult, and as an adult, decided to join a campaign that she knew would discriminate against her and people like her. And the right-wing homophobia didn't (as I recall) really get personally vindictive against Mary Cheney until she and her partner had a daughter. (Dick and Lynne deciding they'd leave their daughter and daughter-in-law out of the picture of them and their newest grandchild was a lovely example of how pandering to bigotry triumphs over family loyalty.) Of course Dick Cheney would never publicly defend his daughter against these personal attacks: of course John McCain would never publicly get angry at the slanderers of his daughter. That would mean saying, to people they need to vote for them, that they think that kind of bigotry is wrong. And they can't afford to do that. Their party depends on those bigots to keep them in power, so when those bigots attack their children, they've got to stand back and let those attacks happen.

That's an altogether different level of selling out than Kerry voting to allow Bush to plan a war on Iraq in 2002.

(And after all, Gore did win the election in 2000, and Bush's supposed victory in 2004 is extremely shaky.)

Though no tape of McCain's quip has yet emerged, this is what he reportedly said:

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?
Because her father is Janet Reno."

http://www.salon.com/news/1998/06/25newsb.html

A nasty little twit who left his crippled wife for rich young thing.

Who cares if he's gone...good riddance.

AT the risk of seeming weak, I can't automatically hold one incredibly stupid and ugly remark against someone. I make themselves, in various circumstances, and though I'm later ashamed and try to make amends, still, it happens. (Now the effort to dodge and deny, that's worth criticizing. People of good character take responsibility for their lapses.)

Clinton is more Shakesperean (nitpick: it's spelled with an 'e' not an 'i') farce than tragedy. You can almost envision the scenes -- the bloviating and hyperventilating Senators, one played by Will Kemp; the lamp-throwing arguments in the Lincoln Bedroom; the Petruchio-like soliloquy for Bill about how to tame an intern; the reflective, poignant soliloquy for Hillary on what it takes to maintain a marriage; and plenty of colorful supporting characters.

But McCain is certainly having a tragic fall, and deservedly so. I was one of those who "had an eye on him" in 2000. But when he decided to full-throttle support Bush for re-election, he threw his reputation away. You could see in his face he knew he was supporting an idiot, and he did it anyway, for the fading and fleeting chance of the Presidency. When he turned on Kerry, and didn't stand up for him against the Swiftboaters, I lost all respect for him. I watch what happens now with the same attention and interest I watch Act V -- the sad, inevitable end to a flawed individual, whose noble qualities have been eclipsed.

As for Bush, you can put him in the same category as Titus Andronicus -- a brutal, unrelenting tragedy, where every scene is more horrific than the last. A Prince Hal who, instead of repudiating Falstaff and growing up, becomes King and learns nothing.

Sure wish I knew how that one is going to end...

Jes: "his willingness to forgive the attacks on his daughter"

I'm not sure (obviously I'm speculating) that McCain necessarily forgave them. (I agree with you that Cheney is not an apt comparison, since I don't think it would occur to him that his family is subject to normal rules, or part of normal political discourse. I think that in the same way he (perhaps unconsciously) assumes that the people who have to obey laws do not include his chief of staff, he might assume that the people being inveighed against by his political allies do not include his daughter.)

McCain couldn't make that mistake, since the attacks were so completely personal. But I don't know that he has necessarily forgiven them so much as decided to swallow his anger, or to set it aside. Which is a horrible thing to do. -- Actually, not the setting aside of anger per se -- setting it aside in the interests of forgiveness is different, as is setting it aside so that you can proceed with the cool dark calculated task of vengeance. But this setting aside is horrible. All the more so since it required giving up on his own greatest genuine strength, namely being a person who seemed like a real human being, not a walking talking focus group.

And in the past three years, he’s abandoned it all.

The ironic thing here is that McCain is probably about the best R candidate that Democrats could have hoped for this time around. His problems are because many Republicans don’t like him, primarily due to McCain-Feingold, his position on illegal immigration, the Gang of 13, etc.

I can’t agree with your larger point here, because his fund raising problem is almost entirely due to the fact that he would not abandon his position on illegal immigration. Had he flip-flopped on that one issue he would still be in the race, at least as far as money is concerned, and that is the most important factor at this stage of the game.

McCain lost in 2000 and has no chance of winning in 2008 because he didn't stand up to the vilest elements of the Republican Party in 2000.

Republicans don't need racists and self-righteous 'Christians' running their party. Sure, he's trying to pander to those elements today, but they don't respect him becauase they broke him before. Had he condemned their behavior when he had the chance, there would have been some Republicans who took him seriously as an honest politician. Since South Carolina, he has shown that he is more interested in winning than in being honest. Sadly for him, his perceived integrity had been his greatest strength. Without it, McCain is nothing but another Senator who thinks he deserves to be President.

Looks like I'm stuck with "none of the above" when voting for President/VP. Unless the Dems can manage to nominate someone I can stand to vote for, that is.

If only we could get von to run.

OCSteve: I agree that McCain is as good as it gets -- and I think for the Republicans as well. For all his various faults, he's the only one I can see, except for Tommy Thompson, and maybe Huckabee, who is really trying to think through the issues and take positions that aren't sheer demagoguery.

It's eerie, watching the Republican primaries.

Okay, this might sound totally stupid and insulting, but Slartibartfast, after everything the Republicans have done over the past six+ years, not just Bush, but the institutional party as a whole, why are you still willing to vote for them? It wasn't just Bush and Cheney that authorized torture. It was the whole Republican Congress. It wasn't just Bush and Cheney that started the war in Iraq with no planning and on reasons that weren't true at the time. It wasn't just Bush and Cheney who've run the "War on Terror" so badly that Al Queda's stronger and more people hate us. The Republican Congress went along with and approved, quite cheerfully, all of these things.

So why do you still want to vote for them? I'm not trying to be insulting, I really don't understand.

Sadly for him, his perceived integrity had been his greatest strength. Without it, McCain is nothing but another Senator who thinks he deserves to be President.

That's what gets me. His maverickness was what those who liked him liked about him. While continuing to rage against the machine, fight the power and nevermind the bollocks might not have guaranteed him the presidency, abandoning those things guaranteed that he wouldn't be president. There was something I heard or read recently about someone in government (I don't remember the context) separating the wheat from the chaff, but being left with the chaff. That's what McCain has done with himself.

Nice post.

Along similar lines, sort of, I've found myself wishing that Al Gore will not run for president again, because it seems to me that he has found his rock to stand on and a run for president might tempt him into the soft marshes again (to do some violence to F. Scott Fitzgerald's metaphor). His having found a principled way, I would be sorry to see him turn back into a poll-obsessed wanker, as he seemed to be during his campaign. Although I think he would make a darn good president, especially now.

I couldn’t help but think of King Lear . . . (Shakespeare’s darkest [play])

[digress]Um, I think Titus Andronicus wins "Shakespeare's darkest" handily.[/digress]

Hee. Yes, by all means let's argue Shakespeare!

I think Titus Andronicus can easily be classified as the bloodiest or most violent play, but "bloodiest/most violent" is not necessarily "darkest."

I'd characterize Lear as the "bleakest" play and figure I had it covered.

But true, it is *very* Shakespearean to give up the best part of yourself to attain your goal, only to see it slip away because you have betrayed your own soul.

but judging by interviews with the daughter, it's never occurred to any Cheney that legal discrimination intended to affect the plebes could possibly have an impact on people like them.

Posted by: Jesurgislac | July 13, 2007 at 04:20 AM


This can apply to so many American minorities who embrace right-wing (authoritarian) legal theories.

one other quibble -- i think it's grossly unfair to Prince Hal to compare him to Bush. The thing about Hal was that he took his time in the pub (especially his learning of language/wit from Falstaff) and used it to become a great, powerful leader.

there are of course elements of that with Bush. He used his drunken days/social intelligence to attain power, but he and Hal diverge in that Bush is an idiot and Hal isn't.

For instance, the St. Crispin's speech in Henry V could be seen either as (1) a great speech; or (2) a cynical manipulation of the army based on Falstaff's old language teaching. Bush isn't capable of something like that, regardless of how you characterize the speech.

I don't get Slarti's remark either. Granted, I'm a Democrat, but still, given how bad not just the Bush admin. is,but the entire leadership of the Republican party, especially how badly they have betrayed their own ideals, and given how grounded in reality Edwards, Obama, and Clinton are, this doesn't seem like a good election cycle for a rational Republican to vote Republican.
The Democrats are nonideological, more prudent about money, committed to the rule of law, likely to fill the government with competent people rather than political appointees,and focused on actual real issues like global warming and health care, not hysterical wacko stuff like teh gays. Their appeal is to reason, not fear or hate.

The Republican party of Eisenhower days is gone.

This Republican party wanted to creat a one-party state in the US. Wouldn't it be ironic if thhey did--and it was the OTHER party?

The difference between the two great Henry V speeches is their strategic setting. "Once more unto the breach" is before Harfleur. Henry's army has recently landed in France, with the aim of overthrowing the French king and annexing the country. They're still cocky and confident.
Henry's not really a heroic figure. He's brave, but murderous with it; witness his threats to the poor old Governor.

By Agincourt, it's all changed. Henry's army is stuck in the quagmire of Picardy and trying just to get back to Calais, but the French army is in the way.
There's the irony in "he that hath no stomach for this fight/Let him depart; his passport shall be made"; Henry and all his troops are trying to do just that. It's not a serious offer. No English soldier on his own would stand a chance of getting to Calais with the French in the way. The only chance any of them have is to stick together; hence his second great battle speech evokes not hatred but love. And love and pity occupy the whole second half of the play, as hatred and belligerence did the first.

why are you still willing to vote for them?

Who's "them"? I voted for perhaps two Republicans last election, and only then because one of the Democrats was nearly certifiably crazy, while the other had basically zero experience and more laughably absurd views than his competition.

Which is something I've noted periodically since the last election, so why you have this impression that I'm glued to the Republican party is kind of a headscratcher.

so why you have this impression that I'm glued to the Republican party is kind of a headscratcher.

Ranging from your vehement defense of Bush and Bush's policies right up to the 2004 election, moving on to your presumption that you would vote Republican in the 2008 election today.

The thing about Hal was that he took his time in the pub (especially his learning of language/wit from Falstaff) and used it to become a great, powerful leader.

I'd omit "great" from that sentence, if it isn't simply a way to emphasize "powerful." I am one of those who find it hard to admire Hal, his oratorical skills aside. He casts aside old friends, launches a pointless, ego-driven war, and has prisoners killed ("expressly agianst the law of arms," as his own soldiers understand).

fair enough - my point was just that hal language skills (and the interesting source of them - falstaff) puts him a different league than bush

Oops.

I didn't assume you were glued to the Republican party, but your comment "Looks like I'm stuck with "none of the above" when voting for President/VP. Unless the Dems can manage to nominate someone I can stand to vote for, that is."

The way it's worded, it sounds like you can't stand any of the Democratic candidates, which seems kinda surprising. And none of the heads of the Republican party, in any branch, have done anything to stand against Bush and Cheney and the rest at all. They've been enthusiastic supporters. Given all that, I guess it's more a question of why vote Republican until the part as a whole shows some kind of major sea change away from what it's become?

McCain lost a huge portion of support when he voted for McCain-Feingold aka "Incumbent Protection Act".

I never really understood his reputation for integrity. He was one of the Keatings Five, and in that light McCain-Feingold looked like "stop me before I cheat again".

"The way it's worded, it sounds like you can't stand any of the Democratic candidates, which seems kinda surprising."

I'm not Slarti, but I could be convinced that Obama would be a good President (though I need to know more). But Clinton or Edwards, I couldn't vote for.

"Maverick", my ass.

McCain was never more than Orrin Hatch 2.0 -- improved media interface, whole new biography module, and better marketing, but the same old code underneath -- a very conservative senator with a grandiose view of his own importance.

Let's put it this way, then: as long as both parties seem content with putting forth their least appealing candidates (as far as I'm concerned): none of the above.

I'm not a huge Obama fan, and he's not highly electable at this point, but if he's the best of the bunch I might wind up pulling the lever for him. Summoning enthusiasm for doing so, though, is tough right now.

I'm not going to bother answering Jesurgislac, because she's apparently committed to hearing only that which agrees with what she already thinks.

I'm not going to bother answering Jesurgislac, because she's apparently committed to hearing only that which agrees with what she already thinks.

This just a clever ruse to cover up the fact that Slartibartfast and Jesurgislac are the same person. Let's take a look at the evidence:

Slartibartfast - four syllables.
Jesurgislac - four syllables.
Each has two "s" and one "i".

Since a similar amount of evidence of the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda was good enough for the President to fire up the tanks, I say, on to Iran!

i'm gonna quote Peggy Noonan:

    But this is a democracy. You vote, you do the best you can with the choices presented, and you show the appropriate opposition to the guy who seems most likely to bring trouble. (I think that is one reason for the polarity and division of politics now. No one knows in his gut that the guy he supports will do any good. But at least you can oppose with enthusiasm and passion the guy you feel in your gut will cause more trouble than is needed! This is what happens when the pickings are slim: The greatest passion gets funneled into opposition.)

interesting way of looking at it, at least.

Slartibartfast - four syllables. Jesurgislac - four syllables. Each has two "s" and one "i".

And we both like women; case closed.

The position of Sebastian and Slartibartfast is difficult for me to understand as well, unless it's based on some Naderite refusal to engage in "choice of evils" voting. One party supports torture, the other doesn't, just to pick one issue. What on earth can you put on the scales to balance against torture that leaves you unwilling to think that Edwards or Clinton are no better than the torture-loving Republican?

I have to say that the Democratic Party's opposition to torture has been rather tepid, so as far as moral discriminators goes, I'm unenthused.

And I've given up voting for candidates based on their party standing for Lent.

rea, I've been asking Republicans exactly that since 2002. They get a funny look and digress.

Slarti, how about voting AGAINST candidates based on their party standing, when the party enthusiastically embraces torture and the indefinite suspension of habeas corpus? (Not to mention bigotry, corruption, cronyism, anti-science...)

I have to say that the Democratic Party's opposition to torture has been rather tepid,

it certainly has. anyone who has been reading ObWi over the past year or so should know just how tepid, too

While there are certainly some anti-torture people on the Congressional rolls of the Democratic Party, they certainly aren't an anti-torture party. Or even a party with a significant anti-torture stance.

I suspect they aren't, because of the unfortunate fact (or I can hope only the appearance of fact) that the American public doesn't seem much impressed by anti-torture arguments.

If McCain hadn't caved to Bush on torture and habeas in an elaborate kabuki dance in November 2005, if he hadn't gone to kiss Jerry Falwell's ring by making the 2006 commencement address at Liberty U., but had continued to be completely wrong on Iraq (because I can't imagine him doing anything else)...

Would he have picked up the votes of those Republicans desperate for someone not pandering to the rightist base of their party? Would he have generated a lot more small-donation contributions from independents and Republicans eager for an alternative to culture-war politics?

My biggest complaint with the Democratic party as an institution these days is that they do not seem to have any idea what they are fighting for. They are very committed to fighting against Iraq, and against torture, and against the erosion of the democratic gains under FDR, JFK, and Johnson. But I never get the feeling that they have an objective that they are trying to gain.

That is not to say that any of the things they are fighting against are not worth the fight but it lacks overall vision. At least with the Republicans you know what they want to get done. They want to get out and kick some butt. I don't agree with their methods, but you know what they want to do.

I think there are individuals within the party who are very goal driven. Examples are Obama on political reconciliation and Edwards on poverty. But the organization as a whole is adrift. And that is why they can't get things done in Congress.

That is why I am and will continue to be delightfully unaffiliated.

That is why I am and will continue to be delightfully unaffiliated.

i'm registered Democratic, but i have little enthusiasm for the Democratic Party as a whole, for reasons including what you just described. nothing about the Dem party itself is inspiring to me, and they continue to disappoint, day after day: i'm not convinced they'll actually work to get us the things i think we need (national health care; sane foreign policy; actual opposition to torture, domestic wiretapping, etc.); i don't think they're disciplined enough to fight the Republicans; and i don't think they're principled enough to clean up the government.

the biggest reason i'm a Dem is because Dems oppose the Republican Party. and the Republican Party,to my eyes, is led by an unholy congregation of bloodthirsty warmongers, vile bigots, religious demagogues and deluded pseudo-libertarian nutbags*. and i just have to vote against that putrid melange.

it's not the best place to be, but you go to the polls to vote for the jerks you've got, not the jerks you want.

* - which doesn't mean i think that the average Republican voter is any of those things; though there are clearly many who are, and it's trivially easy to find examples of all of them on the web.

they certainly aren't an anti-torture party.

When the Democrats ran things, we didn't have a policy of torturing people. Now we do. Heck, when the Democrats ran things, it never even occurred to them that a policy of torturing people might be a good idea.

Not only that, but it's the Republican "unitarty executive" theory, which the Democrats do not accept, that provides the basis for the supposed power to torture.

You're right, the Democrats haven't been as forcefful in their opposition to torture as they ought to have been. They got themselves beaten and intimidated by the Republicans for years, at least until the run-up to the 2006 election. Being too intimidated to speak out against atrocity, however, is not a position of moral equivalence to willingly committing atrocity.

If Clinton or Edwards get elected, there will not be a policy of torturing people.

I've used torture as an example, because that's in some ways the most insanely evil thing this adminstration has done, but I'd be surprised if there weren't half a dozen issues on which the positions of Edwards and Clinton would be more congenial to you (given that you're intelligent, decent people, despite your politics) than the position of any likely Bush successor from the Republicans.

I'm with cleek, despite our differences in temperament regarding actual legislative and electoral campaigns.

And I'm getting a lot closer to cleek there, too.

"Heck, when the Democrats ran things, it never even occurred to them that a policy of torturing people might be a good idea."

Was it not tacitly accepted under some D administrations, if one considers the CIA or various shadowy agencies part of the admin.?

Didn't the Clinton engage in some rather unpleasant rendering to less than respectful regimes?

Something I was told many years ago, "The one thing you can't give for your soul's desire is your soul". Sen. McCain gave up to be President that which made him someone who could be a President. As strange as it may seem, the voters can usually tell when someone does this. Back when he first ran for President I thought Sen. McCain might be a good one and I could vote for him, now I'm glad I never got the chance (I'm a Democrat).

One of the key qualities I want in my President is that he/she remembers just who we are. I find it strange that so many of the "Christen right" forget the biblical question "What matters if he gains the world if he looses his soul?"when defending our country. If we, America, save ourselves by sacrificing that which makes us who and what we are what good is survival? The only kind of person we can trust as President is someone who is willing to say "No, the price is to high." when offed their harts desire.

I'm sorry to see that Sen. McCain has failed that test, once he was a good man. I pray he will learn from this and once again be the kind of Senator America can look to in times of ethical trials and tribulations.

"When the Democrats ran things, we didn't have a policy of torturing people. Now we do. Heck, when the Democrats ran things, it never even occurred to them that a policy of torturing people might be a good idea."

That unfortunately isn't true. Extraordinary rendition (sending people to other regimes to be tortured) began under Clinton.

hillzoy: “Actually, not the setting aside of anger per se -- setting it aside in the interests of forgiveness is different, as is setting it aside so that you can proceed with the cool dark calculated task of vengeance."

That's McCain not as McBeth, but as Richard III:

And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.
Richard III. 1. 3

and this:

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Richard III, 5. 3

and this:

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Richard III, 1. 1

and this too:

An issue! an issue! my kingdom for an issue!

well, paraphrased, sort of…

My recollection is that there were rumours of extraordinary rendition at least as far back as Reagan. Anybody know for sure?

In a way, McCain reminds me more of Macbeth, whose initial rise to recognition and power was due to skill and bravery in combat. Once he is seduced by the Witches' prophecy ("Hail! King of Scotland"), he begins to believe he's entitled to be King. His subsequent actions raise him to the throne but also create the conditions of his downfall.

McCain forgot what got him to "anointed" status. People respected his military record; they also felt that, even if he held views contrary to their own, they knew what the guy stood for. So seduced he was by the dream of the Presidency that he turned his back on the very principles which made him popular. Clueless.

At this juncture, I hope he doesn't become Pres-- Acts III-V of Macbeth are a bad scene....

I'd say that all Presidents skate around the margins when they feel that circumstances warrant. Not saying that's right, but from Clinton on back you will be able to dig up things they did on occasion that were out of bounds.

The Bush/Cheney approach is that if any President has tried it, even once, they'd like to make it the official policy, not an exception.

It's a huge, huge difference. Openly arguing for torture, rendition, indefinite detention, elimination of habeas, etc., is unprecedented in this country, other than fringe elements. Now the fringe elements are running the country.

Of course the Democrats have core principles, but it will take many years to move the center of the dialogue back to where we can discuss health care, workers' rights, anti-trust protections, consumer protection, environmental protection. We agree on basic principles but have differing priorities and approaches.

First we have to get away from the "why should I pay anything to help anyone else when it's my money" attitude that the Republicans have mainstreamed for the last thirty years.

in one form or another, the extra-legal kidnapping and movement of persons by the US govt has been around since at least Reagan.

    "Extraordinary rendition" is not a legal term; it describes the perverted form of a practice already defined by its informality. Used by the U.S. since the Reagan era, rendition involves the extra-legal transfer of an individual from one state to another.[6] While originally used to bring suspected terrorists into the United States so they could stand trial before federal courts, it morphed during the Clinton presidency into a procedure through which the U.S. would affect the transfer of suspects from one country to another where they were expected to stand trial.[7] After September 11, the process apparently took on a new purpose: intelligence-gathering. Instead of focusing on suspects with pending charges, the U.S. sent detainees to States known to "employ interrogation techniques that will enable them to obtain the requisite information," as one alarmed F.B.I. agent explained.[8] These were States that the U.S. had itself accused of widespread and systematic torture, including Syria, Egypt, and Morocco. Rendition to justice had become rendition to torture, or extraordinary rendition.

Typepad just ate a long, detailed comment of mine elaborating on rilkefan's and Ugh's comments about past torture policy.

Shorter Nell:
- CIA research on torture since 1940s: see Alfred McCoy's Question of Torture
- CIA training of police and paramilitaries around the world in torture. Our distinct preference and practice was for clients and proxies to do the dirty work. But we funded them, at times attended the sessions, and protected the torturers.
- US military trained Latin American militaries from 1960s-1990s (at a minimum) at School of the Americas in torture and the national security state approach of which it was a part
- Phoenix program in VN war involved U.S. mil directly and significantly in a large-scale program involving assassination and torture
- Rendition policy under Clinton bad, but order of magnitude smaller and more 'legal'.
Still constituted winking at torture conducted by others on our behalf.

What's new and horrible under Bush, welcomed by fascist base of Republican Party (e.g., see the SC 'double Guantanamo' debate on video), and actively supported by the vast majority of Republicans in Congress, is
- an overt policy of torture conducted by U.S. military, CIA, and 'private military',
- the explicit renunciation of the Geneva Conventions and our own laws and treaty obligations against torture, and
- the promotion of this policy by the political leadership at the highest levels, for political as well as purported security uses (e.g., Cheney's Oct. 2006 radio interview on waterbooarding as a 'no-brainer').

One party's trying to rein in some of the instutitonalized bribery that is lobbying, make sure troops are equipped and capable of fighting, value competence in appointed officials, investigate official wrong-doing in hopes of understanding who and what went wrong and fix it for the future, address known threats to national security and national infrastructure, and get us at least partway out of a costly and undesirable war and occupation. It's not nearly as good as it should be on torture, warmaking, executive power, or a bunch of other things..but it's head and knees above the other major party. The choice seems an obvious one to me.

Meanwhile, anyone, especially Republicans and non-Democrats here, want to venture an answer to my question at 1:29?

Would that have been enough to keep him in it -- retaining his integrity but just being wrong, wrong, wrong on Iraq?

First we have to get away from the "why should I pay anything to help anyone else when it's my money" attitude that the Republicans have mainstreamed for the last thirty years.

I strongly suggest we eliminate the employment tax. Seventy million+ americans get W2 forms and fill out income tax forms and register how much of their paychecks were sent to the federal government before they ever saw them. A big rigamarole.

To simplify the income tax, get rid of all that. Completely. No federal employment tax.

Shift that entire tax onto employers. They would have somewhat *less* paperwork than now, because they wouldn't have to send anything to employees about it.

Lots of people would then not have to fill out income tax forms at all. This is a real simpilification, not just moving the loopholes around. They would like it.

And they would not be encouraged in the illusion that some of their money goes to the government. All of their "income taxes" are paid by their employers anyway, not really by them. They are wage-slaves who don't really pay tax. The illusion that they're paying taxes gives them the idea that they should get a way in where the money goes.

They should and do get a say, but their entitlement doesn't come from how much tax their employer pays for the privilege of hiring them.

I think this minor reform would be popular, and it should have some beneficial effects beyond reducing paperwork.

"Typepad just ate a long, detailed comment of mine elaborating on rilkefan's and Ugh's comments about past torture policy."

Can people with useful contributions please compose in an editor for the benefit of the rest of us?

I'm still not satisfied I have the phrasing right on this, but...

You can find precedents for just about everything done by the Bush-Cheney administration. (Katherine wrote some dynamite stuff on Clinton and extraordinary rendition a while back, for instance.) The thing that's distinctive about this one is that, as Zmulls says, they take every administration's bad precedents and make policy out of htem, and are proud of it all. They put everybody's badness together like the Super Skrull or some such comic-book supervillain, they make occasional matters routine, and then they break down more of the barriers to related wrongs. I think that this quality of comprehensive enthusiasm for wrong-doing and contempt for virtue and competence is strong enough to amount to a qualitative shift, and something genuinely new.

Nell: Meanwhile, anyone, especially Republicans and non-Democrats here, want to venture an answer to my question at 1:29?

Answered in my 08:38 AM (IMO anyway):
His problems are because many Republicans don’t like him, primarily due to McCain-Feingold, his position on illegal immigration, the Gang of 13, etc.

To many R’s, he was wrong, wrong, wrong on those and other issues. Specifically, it was his support of the immigration bill that choked off his fund raising.

The position of Sebastian and Slartibartfast is difficult for me to understand as well, unless it's based on some Naderite refusal to engage in "choice of evils" voting. One party supports torture, the other doesn't, just to pick one issue. What on earth can you put on the scales to balance against torture that leaves you unwilling to think that Edwards or Clinton are no better than the torture-loving Republican?

I don't come from Sebastian's or Slarti's side of the aisle, but I can understand and respect their point of view here. The Republican Party today has been hijacked by corrupt ideologues. But it was not always thus, nor were the Democrats always fired up with the sense of being a Force for Good.

In 1968 I wanted a better Democratic Party. They were saddled with the senseless, unpopular war. It was a long string of Democrats who had paraded through the senate a few years earlier, pleading the fifth when asked how much they had ripped off the taxpayers. Could they not repudiate the war and focus on what the party had done well, and right, in the past?

I didn't get that better party, and over the next couple of decades I became a plague-on-both-houses kind of a guy. We saw in 2000 where that kind of thing leads.

I can't speak for Seb or Slarti, but I get a sense, from lurking here, that they feel the Republican Party has lost its way -- but there is, or was, a core value there that is worth preserving, or bringing back. Even I, not a conservative of any kind, don't want the conservative point of view to disappear from the national discourse. (Because even "my side", faced with insufficient opposition, might well turn into something I don't really like. As it did before.)

I myself would prefer to see the Republican party destroyed, and reconstituted under a new name, with new leaders. But for a Republican conservative (in the best sense) to look into his own party for hope for the future -- as I say, I can understand and respect that. It shouldn't be criticized by cherry-picking one issue on which Seb and Slarti I believe have already disavowed their party's line.

Can people with useful contributions please compose in an editor for the benefit of the rest of us?

I find when I do that I have to spend a lot of time taking out extra hard returns. The precaution that works, I simply failed to do: copy to the clipboard before hitting 'send', so it's available to paste back if Typepad gums up.

Just to piggyback on my own point, or to clarify:

Past Presidents have done "bad things" but usually knew they were bad and embarassed enough to know they had to keep their actions secret.

They didn't issue executive orders or write talking points about them.

I didn't get that better party, and over the next couple of decades I became a plague-on-both-houses kind of a guy. We saw in 2000 where that kind of thing leads.

Monopoly is bad. Duopoly is almost as bad.

When all it takes to win is to be a little bit better than the current GOP....

We need a system of voting that allows multiple parties to get their fair chance. IRV, Condorcet, acceptance voting, etc. The minor differences among them aren't worth arguing about, compared to the need to get one of them in place.

I suggest that Democrats start with single-state primaries. Get candidates that better represent the party and win elections. Expand the method from there.

Even I, not a conservative of any kind, don't want the conservative point of view to disappear from the national discourse. (Because even "my side", faced with insufficient opposition, might well turn into something I don't really like. As it did before.)

And...on some things, they may actually be...[choke]....right. And it would help if they were at least nominally competent and ethnical so they have a chance to convince me of it.

Zmulls echoes my thoughts. I'm under no illusions about the abuses that occurred under many prior administrations, particularly when it comes to black ops and our support for unsavory dictators in the service of realism.

The difference is that before this administration, we had the grace to be ashamed of these things and what they said about our moral standing. Now we have a nontrivial segment of the population who not only isn't ashamed of them, but enthusiastically cheers for them the way a theater breaks out in applause when the bad guy gets pushed into an airplane propeller. And these people are, almost without exception, Republicans.

It's horrifying. And it's one of the most pressing reasons why modern Republicanism needs to not only be defeated, but eradicated as an ideology. The country needs to, as a whole, completely repudiate Bush Republicanism and regard the party with the same sense of contempt and stigma as other malignant criminal organizations like the KKK, or extinct nut groups like the Know-Nothings.

Note for our local conservative friends: Republican != conservative. I'd be happy to see a principled conservative party arise from the ashes of Republicanism, one that isn't dedicated to institutionalizing bigotry and criminality.

Amos, I'm not saying a conservative should now begin a lifelong policy of voting Republicans out. But for the next election, and continue until the mainstream of the party repudiates its current stands on torture, civil rights, budget, authoritarianism, and science, yes. If the conservatives will pardon advice from a moderate, I say that even if there is a "core" to the party that conservatives, or we as a nation, need to resuscitate, that core right now has no power and needs to vomit out the entire party leadership. There is no way to do that except boycott. The Party as it stands is not just besmirched in spots, it's toxic -- even from a conservative point of view. It's as far from conservatism as the Democratic Party of LBJ was from the Dixiecrats, and the response has to be the same until and unless it changes.

Don’t look at me – I’m ‘unaffiliated’. ;)

I'd be happy to see a principled conservative party arise from the ashes of Republicanism, one that isn't dedicated to institutionalizing bigotry and criminality.

Sigh. Me too.

The current incarnation of the Republican party does not go back more than a generation. There were hints in the Nixon and Reagan years (Segretti, Atwater, etc.) of rat****ing but it wasn't mainstreamed.

(I think digby is more willing to nail zombie Republicans back to the 1970's)

In the early 90's, Gingrich ushered in the policy of delegitimization of the opposition, which went hand in hand with the rise of cable television shoutfests. Gingrich realized that TV "journalists" weren't going to call them on facts if he gave them a good show, and took advantage of it. So no matter how far to the right he went, he could always call for people to move to the "middle."

"I find when I do that I have to spend a lot of time taking out extra hard returns."

In emacs that's just esc-q or ctrl-j or something - there ought to be something easy in whatever editor you like - as you probably know, but of course I acknowledge from personal experience that every extra step makes a task much more difficult.

"And...on some things, they may actually be ... [choke] .... right."

I'm sure unreceptive to learning about those things, which I feel angry about on top of the rest.

Because the NRO/Reynolds/Falwell wing of the party is what it is, he decided he had to support torture in order to be president. And on this, he was right.

Isn't it rather remarkable that in order to appeal to the zealously Christian base, a candidate must embrace torture. Not denounce. Embrace.

To appeal to the putative followers of Jesus Christ.

And...on some things, they may actually be...[choke]....right. And it would help if they were at least nominally competent and ethnical so they have a chance to convince me of it.

Well, they may have a shot at nominally competent, but with their record on civil rights issues, immigration and the recent religious chauvinism, "ethnical" might be a bridge too far. ;)

Slartibartfast is my sock muppet. Just thought you should know.

Catsy: It's horrifying. And it's one of the most pressing reasons why modern Republicanism needs to not only be defeated, but eradicated as an ideology. The country needs to, as a whole, completely repudiate Bush Republicanism and regard the party with the same sense of contempt and stigma as other malignant criminal organizations like the KKK, or extinct nut groups like the Know-Nothings.

Yes. But so long as Republicans like Sebastian Holsclaw exist, that isn't going to happen.

By which I mean, not that Sebastian supports the evil things that the Republican Party is doing: he's made it clear that, for the most part, he doesn't. But, neither is he willing to admit that the Republican Party is beyond redemption: and so long as he's willing to keep giving them that one last chance, his Party will continue to keep screwing him and all other decent grassroots Republicans.

Why be loyal to a party that won't be loyal to you?

in one form or another, the extra-legal kidnapping and movement of persons by the US govt has been around since at least Reagan.

Cleek's quote referenced at least three distinct types of "extraordinary rendition," and I wanted to call attention to this since I think there's a big difference between them.

1) Starting under Reagan, the US began "snatching" terrorist suspects from other nations to stand trial in the US, presumably in situations where the host country wouldn't be willing to arrest and extradite them for us.

2) Starting under Clinton, the US also began "affecting the transfer of suspects from one country to another where they were expected to stand trial." This sentence doesn't make any sense to me, unless we change "affect" to "effect," in which case it's saying that we snatched terrorist suspects from country A to stand trial in country B.

3) Starting under Bush, we began exporting detainees in US custody to countries where the interrogators aren't quite so principled as ours.

I don't have a huge problem with (1) or (2) as long as a fair trial lurks at the end of the rainbow. We should try, of course, to sign extradition treaties and make these things happen in a completely lawful manner, but I accept that that's not always possible.

Option (3), on the other hand, is indisputably wrong, and I think quite different in character from the other two versions of extraordinary rendition. You're not any less responsible for torture because you outsource instead of doing it yourself.

Finally, this cute anecdote on extraordinary renditions of type #1:

Snatches, or more properly "extraordinary renditions," were operations to apprehend terrorists abroad, usually without the knowledge of and almost always without public acknowledgement of the host government.... The first time I [Richard Clarke] proposed a snatch, in 1993, the White House Counsel, Lloyd Cutler, demanded a meeting with the President to explain how it violated international law. Clinton had seemed to be siding with Cutler until Al Gore belatedly joined the meeting, having just flown overnight from South Africa. Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides for Gore: Lloyd says this. Dick says that. Gore laughed and said, "That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass."

Bruce wrote-
"I think that this quality of comprehensive enthusiasm for wrong-doing and contempt for virtue and competence is strong enough to amount to a qualitative shift, and something genuinely new."

Hmm. I can't make up my mind about this. I suppose it's close enough to the truth, but I got a little mad at Glenn Greenwald for saying something vaguely similar last week. I guess what bothers me is that I don't actually think the Iraq War and the support for torture is morally worse than, say, bombing Cambodia or supporting near-genocidal killers in various places. But it is true that with people like Nixon and Reagan you could point to areas where they did some things right, even in foreign policy, and it's hard to do this with Bush II. So maybe you're right.

Catsy wrote--
"The difference is that before this administration, we had the grace to be ashamed of these things and what they said about our moral standing. Now we have a nontrivial segment of the population who not only isn't ashamed of them, but enthusiastically cheers for them the way a theater breaks out in applause when the bad guy gets pushed into an airplane propeller. And these people are, almost without exception, Republicans."

I'm not sure about this either. Usually the Bush people do make some half-hearted effort to deny that they torture, so we still have the dubious comfort of knowing that vice has to pay its hypocritical tribute to virtue. And there's always a constituency for brutality in America (and I'm guessing in most societies). After My Lai the attitude of much of the population was "It didn't happen and anyway, they deserved it."

Steve wrote--

"Gore laughed and said, "That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.""

That lowers my opinion of Gore. So when do the special forces from Chile do their snatch job on Kissinger? And can we all look forward to the days when spies and commandos from various countries roam the streets of the US picking up people accused of terrorism or war crimes, so they can stand trial back home?

There might be an imminent threat sort of justification for this kind of snatch, I suppose, but then there's probably still going to be cases when some foreign country would have just as much right to send their agents over here for some ass-grabbing.

The implicit assumption here is that we're the good guys and we're the superpower.

If we do it, it will have a good result because we're good. And if we get caught doing it nobody can punish us for it because we're the superpower.

If special forces from chile or iran or, well, lots of places grabbed Kissinger, and Kissinger showed up in one of those countries under public trial, the USA would not stand for it. If we couldn't snatch him back we might go as far as war. Other countries have no right to grab US citizens out of the USA, unless there's a strong chance the US citizens are former nazis and the other country is israel.

I wonder if it would be useful to hold some trials in absentia. That is, the accused is in a place you can't extradite him from, and you offer to let him have his trial by telepresence. He and his lawyer (who can be at either end of the link) see the evidence, they respond to it, etc. If the defendant is declared innocent then it's settled. If he's guilty then he can give himself up or they can be ready to catch him at the first legal opportunity.

If it's useful he could get some standard penalty for refusing to turn himself in.

Could there be enough value in this -- tidying loose ends, etc -- to be worth doing? Or is it important that accused criminals must be jailed before trial and accept pot luck about the result?

I think I have to take some issue with Slarti and SH's formulation of the democrats as "tepidly anti-torture". Up until (relatively) recently you both supported a regime that A) rather strongly espoused torture; B) strongly questioned either the sanity, patriotism or 'seriousness' of those who did not; and C) had a rather pliant media to assist them in dissuading strong vocal opposition to torture. No you want to castigate those you (implicitly) helped silence for not speaking up?

Stop me before I cheat again, indeed.

I wonder if it would be useful to hold some trials in absentia.

If accused war criminals have gone to the trouble of making sure they're somewhere they can't be extradicted from, why would they bother to participate in a trial in absentia? They don't want to be held to account for their actions; they have no interest in justice, much less in "tidying loose ends," or revealing the truth to an anxious world.

Odds are the truth about the Bush Administration will never come out, since documents will be destroyed, not merely sealed. (If Bush intends to endow a Presidential Library, the contents are sure to be hilarious.) Maybe one of their minions, safely pardoned, will write a book someday - but one not to be published until everyone involved is dead, and certainly not one to be taken on trust as truthful.

Slarti, how about voting AGAINST candidates based on their party standing

That's pretty much what I do. Trouble comes, though, when you run out of people to vote FOR.

Hence my initial comment.

No you want to castigate those you (implicitly) helped silence for not speaking up?

Castigate? Hey, someone mentioned torture, and I noted that the Democratic Party machine isn't exactly your collection of anti-torture firebrands. It's true, isn't it? I mean, there are individual Democrats who carry the anti-torture torch and pitchfork, but your basic congresscrittes, on average, don't care.

I haven't silenced anyone, implicitly or otherwise. I mean, I've wished just as hard as I can that Jesurgislac would just shut the hell UP, from time to time (even though she's me; schizophrenia just sucks, sometimes), but it's never, ever had the slightest effect. So I'm thinking I haven't done much in the way of silencing, unless somehow it's one of those things that works a lot better when you're not trying.

"I haven't silenced anyone"

Oh yeah? What about John Thullen?

I mean, there are individual Democrats who carry the anti-torture torch and pitchfork, but your basic congresscrittes, on average, don't care.

And "don't care enough about torture" still seems better to me than "actively supports torture" which is the mark of every single Republican in Congress. You don't feel there's any difference there? Coming from someone who took several years (till safely after the 2004 election, I noticed) to decide that torture was bad, your condemning Democratic politicians for being lukewarm on torture seems ironic to me.

If accused war criminals have gone to the trouble of making sure they're somewhere they can't be extradicted from, why would they bother to participate in a trial in absentia?

"The outcome of a bona fide fair trial is always something of a tossup."
-- Leo Szilard, "My trial as a war criminal"

It's damn inconvenient to leave the country you happen to be in at the moment, to go to another country where they will jail you for perhaps a year or three while a long elaborate trial plays out.

And they might get the wrong result and convict you when you're innocent.

If the romanian police decided that you were responsible for internet fraud, that you stole the life savings of a collection of romanian widows, would you want to go to romania and stand trial after months or years of waiting in a romanian jail, and maybe spend 20 years in a romanian prison? When they couldn't make you?

They don't want to be held to account for their actions; they have no interest in justice, much less in "tidying loose ends," or revealing the truth to an anxious world.

I have an interest in justice, but not enough to go to romania to prove my innocence.

So anyway, say I could give evidence at my trial in absentia. Maybe they drop all charges. Good for me! Probably a lot cheaper than going to romania to stand trial. If I'm innocent I'd like a trial to exxonerate me. And if justice fails and I get convicted, I'd rather stay out of romania the rest of my life than be there when the trial goes wrong.

Anyway, are there compelling disadvantages to going ahead with a trial in absentia when the defendant cooperates long-distance?

"And that is why they can't get things done in Congress."

No, the reason they (the Dems) can't get things done in congress is purely arithmetical. They don't have the votes. Especially in the senate.

Still, they could have learned a lot from the way Gingrich, Weber and their bunch led the GOP prior to 1996. And they should NEVER have caved to the GOP on not filibustering judges. Do you think the GOP will ever do the same? And the dems, assuming they are the majority but have fewer than 60 votes, won't threaten the "nuclear option" because they are, and have been for forty years, process-driven.
++++++++++++++++++++++
btw enjoyed the Shakespere byplay. Is Cheney Iago?

In the Othello I've just seen, Lord Percy (from Blackadder) was Iago. Rather disconcerting at first.

In the Othello I've just seen, Lord Percy (from Blackadder) was Iago. Rather disconcerting at first.

I've seen this American TV series where the sarcastic doctor is played by Bertie Wooster.

It's kind of fun, actually, switching on to watch Jeeves and Wooster on one channel, then switching over to watch House on another channel.

Though (returning to Shakespeare) if Iago is not likeable and believable, the point of the play is missed: he's supposed to come across, to everyone who knows him, as a good, bluff, honest, decent kind of man. Very Lord Percy, in fact...

(In other words: I think Bush is Iago. I don't know who Othello is, in this context: the American people?)

Can people with useful contributions please compose in an editor for the benefit of the rest of us?

I find when I do that I have to spend a lot of time taking out extra hard returns.

When composing text to be pasted into a limited space, don't turn on word wrap, or turn it off, to avoid that problem.

I've never lost an entire comment on Typepad, myself. Simply backing up restores text in Firefox, save for the very limited problem in some cases where Typepad will revert the text to a previous incarnation, which merely loses those changes. But that's annoying enough that I rarely forget to simply select all text and hit "copy" to preserve that copy until I'm done. On occasion, I drop the text into Notepad for a moment until I'm done, if I'm especially cautious, but that's only to cover for the whole machine crashing.

Following in these simple practices should prevent any comments from every being "eaten," as seems to frequently happen to you. There's no reason to put your text into a situation where it will be "eaten," and there's no reason to use word wrapping when it's a bad idea.

"When composing text to be pasted into a limited space, don't turn on word wrap, or turn it off, to avoid that problem."

Let me be clearer on this: you can compose in an editor (Notepad, one of the many variants, Word, Jarte, a Linux or Mac program, whatever) using word wrap all you like; you simply should turn it off when pasting into a Wordpad, or similar, box, of course, to prevent those irritatiting inappropriate carriage returns you otherwise chose to insert. Using wrap when composing is irrelevant to what you copy and paste.

your condemning Democratic politicians for being lukewarm on torture

I condemn no one. I don't expect you to believe that, though, any more than I expect you to read, for once, what I actually write.

"I condemn no one"

You just hog-tie them with duct tape and toss them in the back of the closet.

Yes, sure, for certain values of "them".

"Free John Thullen"

I'd pay.

Also, to clarify a bit what Gary said: having Word Wrap on in Notepad has absolutely no effect on what you copy from there and paste into your browser. The line breaks Notepad's Word Wrap issues are not hard breaks, it simply wraps the text at whatever the current width of the window is.

My typical habit is to compose short to medium comments in the text box and copy to the clipboard before I post, and to compose longer stuff in Notepad entirely. Only lost a couple posts in a very long time, and those due to crashes or stupidity.

I condemn no one. I don't expect you to believe that, though, any more than I expect you to read, for once, what I actually write.

This post is the reason it's usually not worth my time to engage you.

We say: the republicans are pro-torture.

You (and SH) say: yeah but the dems are no great shakes either.

We say: so you're condemning them for not holding a position for which they were earlier pilloried by the guys you support.

You say: I'm not condemning anyone, I'm just making an observation. It doesn't mean anything. Until I want it to. Why aren't you reading what I'm thinking?

We say: ...

Thanks for playing though.

You say: I'm not condemning anyone, I'm just making an observation. It doesn't mean anything. Until I want it to. Why aren't you reading what I'm thinking?

As much regard as I have for you, Pooh, this is a disappointingly shoddy, even petty interpretation of what I said.

But you're not bothering to engage me anymore, so it's of no consequence.

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