« A Mystery | Main | Scary Scientists! »

October 22, 2007

Comments

For a long time now, a critical mass of Republicans have shared a simple vision on tactics: Win every battle, if possible, and make every defeat as costly as possible to the enemy.

Discussions of whether the political game is more like chess or whatever seem to me to miss the point. (I went back and re-read the original post, which is why I'm picking on that particular phrasing.) The political game is one more like King of the Hill, one that goes on as long as anyone's willing to play it and in which there is no evolving midgame or endgame - there must always be someone at or closest to the top, and others are always (if they're playing well) trying to pull them off.

If the game is King of the Hill, the Democrats are doing the equivalent of repeatedly asking the Republicans to let them on top for a while. This inspires contempt in both the Republicans and not-heavily-partisan bystanders.

As to the question of where to find additional Democratic voters, I say, ignore the "swing voters" - that is, those who assess themselves as likely to vote and yet can't decide whether torture is good or bad, and so on. These people are useless. Democrats should be looking for votes among people who do have some convictions and could be persuaded that the Democrats could represent those convictions better in Congress than the Republicans do. For this election, at least, that includes some people in the situation of John Cole and OCSteve; more usually, it will include single women, non-fundamentalist believers, and the like. I don't want the Democrats to repeat the Republican history of selling their souls to a handful of special interests. I do want to see them act on alleged principles in a consistent and determined way, and thereby (among other things) win the support of people who haven't voted regularly before but who share the sense that this is an important time act.

But these unending attacks for not achieving the impossible are, to me, unfair. And I'm also exhausted with personal attacks for allies simply disagreeing on tactics to achieve shared goals.

This reminds me of when, on a tour of leftist groups protesting in Nagasaki against a US port visit, a friend who was there with a Japanese friend guiding him recounts that the Japanese friend spent the entire afternoon recounting things like 'that group got in a fight with that group and one of their members got knifed, and that group has a grudge against this other group so....'

"Jen, why on earth do you think impeachment will prevent Bush and Cheney from doing any of those things?"

KC - to answer your question, I really don't. In reality, I don't think there is much we can do to stop these guys. The optimist in me (which is fighting so hard to stay alive) thinks that impeachment is the only tool we have left that might stop them.

Why? The only thing I think Bush and Cheney might respond to is a threat to their own power. They don't respond to protests, letters, calls, or Congress. Maybe they'll think twice about more power grabs or wars if there's a possibility of getting thrown out on their asses.

Likely? Of course not. I'm completely aware that the deck is stacked against us. I'm aware that impeachment is likely to fail. I'm aware we are most likely going to be forced into another war. I'm aware that my emails will probably end up being read by the government and my phone calls tapped (if they're not already). I'm aware that martial law is an all-too-real possibility. I'm aware of the prisons being built all over the country. I'm aware that my government tortures people.

But I haven't given up hope. All of these things either haven't happened yet or can be reversed.

For now.

But Bush and Cheney have got to either be totally preoccupied for the next 15 months or removed from office for any prevention or reversals to happen.

If you believe that we can't wait until 2009, what else can we do but impeach?

Charley, I went back and looked 2006 campaign promises, and particularly at Pelosi's "100 hours" checklist. Implementing the 9/11 commission recommendations in full was at the top of the list. Now it's true that this list does not precisely say "let's get the hell out of Iraq already". But it would, if adopted in full, define a set of conceptual borders within which there's no room for the occupation of Iraq as currently conducted. Skimming suggests to me - and I could be really wrong here - that interest in defunding rose as it became clear to more observers just how much increased oversight wasn't going to happen, arising out of discussions about "Well, what can the legislature do?"

The goal now is to win the Presidency. That will end torture. That will end rendition. That will end the Iran war. That will do everything.

If only this were true.

The current rendition program began under Clinton. Depending on who's elected President, that person may or may not decide to keep torture and/or rendition in their back pocket, just in case.

The thing that will end torture, rendition, and the rest are clear laws making them illegal, and a clear affirmation that the executive is bound by law. Congress does the first, and the courts will be required for anything other than a voluntary version of the second. Although, a voluntary version of the second would suit me just fine as a starting point.

Net/net, these issues are likely to persist well into the next administration, no matter who wins in November '08.

To touch on Jen's comments, IMO impeachment, possibly followed by jail, would be an excellent way to put a point on the rule of law question. It might be worth introducing articles of impeachment just to put the charges on the table, and to force Bush to defend his actions publicly. Actually removing Bush from office, however, is really, really unlikely.

I'm not sure it would be worth what it would cost. I think we'd really see the (metaphorical) knives come out, it would not be a pretty sight.

Achievable goals might include criminal prosecution of Gonzales and a clear refutation of the OLC opinions regarding torture and executive privilege. Possibly, impeachment of Cheney. If it got that far, Bush would not have a lot left.

Other than that, I'm not sure there's much Congress can do. They can pass laws, but most of the really questionable stuff Bush does gets done through executive directives. What's really, really needed is a clear and unambiguous affirmation that the executive is not above the law. I think that has to come from the courts.

Thanks -

Publius: The goal now is to win the Presidency. That will end torture. That will end rendition. That will end the Iran war. That will do everything.

You’ve already decided HRC has no chance at the nomination? ;)

BTW - This was a very interesting (for me) peek into the fractures on the left. It gives me a little better feeling for what your caucus is dealing with. (Phew!)


Bruce: Democrats should be looking for votes among people who do have some convictions and could be persuaded that the Democrats could represent those convictions better in Congress than the Republicans do.

That’s actually not an unreachable goal. At least, I’m willing to put some of my more dearly held conservative beliefs (low taxes, small government, fiscal restraint, etc.) on the shelf for four years in view of the big picture here. It’s not like Republicans have done anything productive in those areas anyway. It’s already a given that I won’t be canceling out your vote (Hilzoy’s actually). But it wouldn’t take that much more to get me a little further at this point and actually vote for a D. They just have to convince me they have a real plan to:
-End this war quickly and as responsibly as possible. Quick and responsible are opposites here so this is tough.
-Take care of the veterans and rebuild our military.
-Turn DHS into something other than a joke and a huge waste of money (makes it harder to laugh at the joke).
-Deal with proliferation in a serious way. Preferably diplomatically, but all options on the table.
-Restore habeas, end torture, and get FISA under control. (I initially typo’d FICA there but then said Oops – that goes on the shelf.)
-Stamp out corruption, really this time. Really. I mean it this time. Last chance.

Those are the biggies. If you want to throw in fixing the AMT that’s cool. If you have a plan for energy independence sell me on that too (cloak it in GW rhetoric if you have to). You can have the estate tax. Expand some entitlement programs if you like – just fund it responsibly (i.e. no regressive taxes) and don’t get too carried away.

That hardly sounds like a platform that would be difficult for a D candidate to embrace. And of course many of them are mouthing those words now. But the key part is “convince me” and “real plan”. Oh yeah, and don’t nominate HRC as she scares the crap out of me. ;)

The goal now is to win the Presidency. That will end torture. That will end rendition. That will end the Iran war. That will do everything.

Well, I think we've identified the source of the disagreement.

No wonder you're so sensitive to criticism of the Democrats, publius.

If I believed what you do, I wouldn't be so depressed. I almost wish I could believe it, but I'm too old. I grew up during the period when Democrats were clearly seen to be a big part of the problem.

I'm genuinely curious: what makes you so sure, what with the voting public being so reactionary that it would choose Rudy Giuliani if Dems were to push for real accountability and and end to the occupation and war, that a President HRC elected by that public would "do everything"?

"The goal now is to win the Presidency. That will end torture. That will end rendition. That will end the Iran war. That will do everything."

Rendition? Some of Bill Clinton's former advisors appear to be trying to rehabilitate it. Torture? Maybe we'll stop for a few years; I would be extremely surprised to see us take any of the steps necessary to prevent the nightmare of the last 7 years from repeating.

"the voting public being so reactionary that it would choose Rudy Giuliani"

I doubt this would arise from reactivity.


I expect the next president will be a Democrat and that she or he will steer us back to a world where the US govt wasn't every day doing something immoral and stupid. I didn't like a number of things Bill did, but a lot of those were due to his having to fight Gingrich&Co plus the press plus leading a more conservative polity. With stronger, maybe even effective majorities in Congress the next president ought to do a better job for me than Bill. Maybe it will take two terms to repair most of the damage from the previous two, and certainly one may find what suits me or publius to be not nearly satisfactory - but we've argued over this before.

I do not believe we'll even learn the extent of what happened in the last seven years until several decades from now, let alone doing what's necessary to undo the damage or prevent it's repetition.

"I would be extremely surprised to see us take any of the steps necessary to prevent the nightmare of the last 7 years from repeating."

What can one do to keep a determined rogue (vice-)president with a majority in Congress, a frightened public, and a compliant press from violating the law - beyond pointing to the current mess?

My 8:23 was crossed by Katherine's 8:22.

What can one do? Investigate what happened--a truth commission, or a special prosecutor. Publicize the findings of a truth commission. Prosecute, in cases where the investigation uncovers evidence of a federal crime. Close the statutory loopholes that were used to justify many of these practices. Amend the statutes to make court jurisdiction over these areas clear. Reform the classification system.

I'll bet you that President Clinton does none of these things.

OCSteve, I treat "decent conservative waiting for a delivery of sanity to the party" as a distinct category - I understand you're not a "natural" Democratic voter, but someone who has some common caue with them thanks to the nature of the crisis. To me, at least, this is very different from someone whose longterm outlook and interests line up in a more significant way with the Democrats.

To be honest, I find the challenges of working out common cause with principled people of different outlooks much more interesting than trying to appeal to people of no particular conviction or clue. :)

As usual, Katherine speaks for me in explaining why the presidency isn't enough, and why a foundation of good legislation and legislative practice is crucial.

And, of course, next time it actually happens? You can filibuster the parts of it that they asked Congress to sign off on, & the nominees you know will support it. And not fall over yourself to show that you would never *dream* of considering impeachment.

OCSteve: Oh yeah, and don’t nominate HRC as she scares the crap out of me. ;)

Take Pepto-Bismol. ;-)

OCSteve - I think Clinton's actually your best bet.

Based on his list, I think Obama is his guy. (The one I actually donated to was Dodd.)

publius, I'm also not sure what's more personally hurtful & alienating about my saying that your view of this is what will prevent the Democratic party from becoming a real opposition party that stands for something, & you saying that my view of this would get Giuliani elected if it prevailed. I am obviously generally more angry, upset, despairing, & taking this more personally, but it's largely directed at the party leadership. I do think your & Charley's view is part of the problem, but you guys aren't Democratic power brokers, & your effect on Democratic politicians is approximately as miniscule as mine. So I'm honestly not particularly angry at YOU. Also, I think that if you were actually in office, your votes would be closer to mine than to the center of the caucus. But I'm not going to hold back my anger at them & their attitude. I guess I can see why you take it personally when I start talking about imaginary voters, but it's Chuck Schumer's that are the problem, not yours.

publius

Look - my bottom line on this is that 98% of the things people are upset about will go away with a new president. The entire executive branch will be replaced.

What about all the good people who have been driven out by W's politicising of the executive? You think they're going to just walk back into their old jobs and it'll be just like 2000 again?

What about all the judges we have to endure? How many more will be appointed after the Dems continue to cave?

It's my belief that it will be years, if ever, before the damage to the executive branch is repaired.

It's true - I do have faith in the Democratic Party individuals on a micro-level. Most of them have internalized the spirit/lessons of the 60s. And when they don't, it's usually b/c they're forced to do otherwise b/c republicans have political power. Maybe it's b/c I'm post-Vietnam. But I think things would be very good if modern, post-LBJ Democrats had power.

For instance, let's take these in order of relative importance.

It is simply inconceivable that any Democrat would have gone to war in Iraq or would start one with Iran/China/Syria. It's inconceivable. That alone justifies supporting the Democratic candidate.

Second, torture. Do you really think that any of the Democratic candidates are going to allow systematic torture? I don't know Clinton's history, but a rendition here or there (assuming that exists) is a world away from the systematic lawless assault on basic rights that we've seen. (And that the GOP brags about).

Third, all administrative agencies are going to be run by more liberal-minded people. Democratic judges, USAs, DOJ staffers, State Dept, etc. This underappreciated fact has enormous consequences.

It's just not even close to me. Everything people are complaining about are Republican-inspired policies made possible by the control of the executive branch. Replace that -- and almost all of it changes.

And again, some spine-stiffening is in order. But the Dem Party is light years (light years) better on all levels. This endless complaining about things like impeachment or funding just doesn't fit. The Dems get no credit for all the things they are at least trying and for the (often invisible) things that political power prevents.

I'm not saying don't criticize. I'm just some people's expectations are wildly unrealistic and naive.

The election is roughly one year away. We've made it this long without bailing. Let a Democrat get elected and then pound pound away. But get one in office first.

Most everything begins with political power.

k - whatever, no hard feelings. i just took the imaginary voters line to be a personal barb.

i'm a blogger - things piss me off. but obviously, i - like everyone here - have enormous respect for you, what you do, and what you write (and wish you would write more).

i just want people focused on what i consider the true source of the problems you rightly complain about

All of that would be relevant if I were suggesting people support Nader. I have not. The Democrats, will indeed, torture fewer people than the Republicans & start fewer aggressive wars. If you want actual ACTIVE OPPOSITION to the Republican policies though; if you want things to get better instead of not getting worse for a few years; if you want to do something other than press pause for a few years on disastrous policies, give your time & money to Human Rights Watch or the Center for Constitutional Rights or the ACLU or the NRDC or the labor movement.

"Seb, do you mean that, regarded collectively, 40% of the Dem leadership is insane; or that each Dem leader is, individually, only "mostly sane"?"

Hmm, I think I meant on average. Wanting to seek national office at all in most states suggests personal insanity on some level--say 20% while we're putting silly numbers on it.

HRC I'd put at 50-60%, she scares the crap out of me too.

I'd vote for Obama, for whatever that is worth. (Which considering that 7 years ago I would have thought I could never vote for a Democrat is saying something). He seems only about 30% crazy to me.

I strongly suspect I won't be voting at all in 2008--I can't support most Republicans and the likelyhood that I can learn to like Clinton seems low.

Or to put it another way: the Democrats get elected for the sake of getting elected & holding office & possessing political power & having the majority of Congress & the Presidency. Progressives should support the elections of Democrats because while Democrats hold the Presidency & the majority of Congress, those offices are NOT held by Republicans using them to do active harm--well, to do everything that Bush has done for the last 7 years, & the GOP Congress enthusiastically supported, & which Giuliani is promising to do harder & faster. So that's worth something. But as far as actually using those offices to do active good, when doing so might risk their re-election? Some Democrats are interested & can be counted on to do this. But it's a minority of Democratic office holders, such that if you're looking to actively improve things, you are really much better off looking elsewhere for actual representation.

i think part of the issue is short-term versus long-term. it's fine to give to the groups you list. personally, i think the netroots giving more to democratic candidates has had more effect, but that's a different battle.

anyway, you're arguing for things that will cause more long-term changes. that's fine. but some of the tactics people are defending in the name of long-term change (which isn't guaranteed to happen, by the way, even if we do this stuff) could cost Dems big-time in the short run.

Right now, i am laser-focused on the presidency next year.

impeachment. chicken with war funding against the executive. these are things that will cost dems the big prize next year, in my opinion.

i think we simply can't dismiss or sacrifice short-term considerations at this point in history for longer-term change. we can do all that -- but let's keep an eye on the prize for the next year. criticize but don't give up hope on the one party that's actually trying.

Right, "yeah, you're right long term, but short term it's too important!" That's why we couldn't vote against the war in 2002. That's why Kerry couldn't mention Abu Ghraib in 2004. That's why they couldn't filibuster Gonzales or the MCA.

I've heard this all before. I used to find it a little bit convincing.

you're also lumping every single thing into one category. as i've said, i don't know, a million times, not all of these are the same.

2002 vote - fight til death. kerry should have spoken out on abu ghraib. they shouldn't give telecom immunity. they shouldn't vote for anything with kyl-lieberman in the title.

but, they also shouldn't push impeachment. they shouldn't play chicken with war funding (executive is structurally superior positition). and we shouldn't castigate democrats for an inability to catch mathematics.

it's more nuanced than you're making it

the fact that someone wrongfully raised the argument in 2002 doesn't taint the argument for the entire future on every issue.

Publius, by your own admission, you simply don't know what you're talking about on some important subjects. So please, go look at the archives on this site for Katherine's multiple postings on the history of rendition and the legal apparatus about it. Torture became policy under Clinton, and the foundations were laid for what Bush did with it. True, under Clinton it was a policy for rare circumstances, but it was nonetheless a tool of executive power, there to be used. You have, and I don't think i'm exaggerating, in Katherine one of the best-informed civilians in the world in a position to address the general public on the subject of torture. It is worth paying attention to her research.

Next door, topically, why is it inconceivable that a Democratic president would launch a war against Iraq, Iran, or Syria? Democratic presidents have done catastrophically stupid things in the past and the pressures for war are very strong in the echo chamber Democratic leadership chooses to live in. Indeed, there's extra pressure on Democrats to show they're "really serious about national interests", not just "in a Wag the Dog scenario" to be dismissed as Clinton's attack on bin Laden's encampment was, and so on. This was, as a matter of documented experience, a contributing factor in the last Democratic president's decision to authorize torture and will be a heavy weight on the next one.

What this comes down to is that some of us simply can't see the Democrats overall as a party that is trying. We see them as a party that is wishing for a chance to do nice things but unwilling to do the hard work of acting to block evil and foolish measures from the president and his legislative toadies, nor to keep pushing in the face of their opposition for good measures. But the principle behind Jesus' parable of the talents applies: we want to see people being faithful in the use of the opportunities they have beore giving them a whole lot more. We have been burned before this way, and would like not to be burned again.

You're wrong about funding & impeachment. There's a point at which I might say "too risky," but there was no good electoral reason to say "impeachment is off the table" & "I don't see the connection between torture & impeachment" than from coming in & saying "I support impeachment in the event that we have strong evidence of high crimes & misdemeanors--they classified all the evidence, so I can't tell you whether they did or not." There was no good electoral reason to make absolutely clear in advance that they would pass every funding request. Those two decisions gave Bush license to do whatever he wants--what authority, ultimately, does Congress have to stop him? They let him know: you do not have to make any concessions at all, Mr. President; there is no risk to you in continuing the war indefinitely & ignoring every subpoena & continuing to commit felonies & we will never impeach you or cut off funds for your war; you can also probably get away with bombing Iran. What exactly do you make of 1974, or 1998?

You're also wrong about the best use of funding, even short term. Which would have been a better use of money by the netroots in 2004: $100,000 for general election ad buys for Kerry in Ohio, or 100,000 towards the salary, benefits & travel expenses of Human Rights Watch counterterrorism research & advocacy staffers? There's no comparison.

I'm glad you would have done differently on the 2002 Iraq vote, the recent FISA cave, etc. but that's the Democratic party leadership that you're defending. As I said, I'm happy to vote for Democratic candidates for the purpose of having people in those offices who are going to be actively harmful. But if you're going to claim that they're something better than "not actively harmful", & that I should look to them rather than NGOs & a small handful of politicians to do active good, you're going to have to convince me on the basis of their actual record, not on what you'd have advised them to do.

"who aren't going to be actively harmful", I mean.

Would trial under articles of impeachment give Congress a lever for requiring the President to produce information that he currently is withholding?

I recognize it is not a criminal trial, I'm just wondering if impeachment gives Congress any particular or additional power to compel testimony, either in person or in the form of documents.

Thanks -

"Torture became policy under Clinton"

I think this is an exaggeration - and even if it's not, future policy isn't going to be written on a blank slate. HRC or whoever is going to have a crystal-clear example of what happens when one dabbles on the dark side.

I'd be happy to take Katherine's bet above - HRC said the other day that when she got into office she was going to start with a review of the abuses of the Bush years.

Just to be clear, I don't mean a private review where she decides, "huh, we really should stop torturing people"; I am not certain that would happen but it wouldn't especially surprise me. I'm talking about a full public accounting of some sort.

Bruce Baugh: "Publius, by your own admission, you simply don't know what you're talking about on some important subjects."

No need to be rude.

"I'm talking about a full public accounting of some sort."

Sure, though it would be a circus, and contribute to the Neue Dolchstoßlegende. I don't see why we won't have another Church Committee - but I still think the main thing is for the president to follow the laws. I don't know if this is more likely under a President Obama or HRC - maybe the former would find it harder from a new politics perspective, maybe the latter would look partisan. Getting anything done publicly will depend of course on how the ending of the Iraq war goes - I can well imagine that burning all the political capital of whichever Democrat wins. And the size of the majority in the Senate will be important (esp. if it means Lieberman will come over to our side and does something with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee).

I'll invite you to nice dinner anywhere in the Bay Area (well, not the French Laundry) in Spring 2011 if I'm wrong.

RF, I don't intend that to be rude. Publius says he doesn't know the history of rendition under Clinton. That's not knowing he's talking about, when it comes to assessing what Democratic administrations of the future will, might, or can do. And as for whether it's policy, when you've got guidelines and instructions and contigency plans and stuff, that's policy, and Katherine has shown that these thing existed. What more would it take for you to consider Clinton's practice policy?

Interesting and depressing thread.

Want some more?

Hillary Clinton is elected President and huddles with Bush/Cheney/Rice for a security briefing before the latter leave behind the wreckage of what they have wrought domestically and internationally. They lay out for her the inexorable trap they have sprung.

It turns out there is no wiggle room vis a vis the War in Iraq. All choices lead to chaos in the Middle East.

Worse, tens, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, assumed spent in Iraq, ends up in numerous offshore accounts, sequestered there by the Bush Administration to prevent it being spent on the domestic priorities of the newly elected enemy.

Yes, in all areas of government, Clinton brings in folks who maybe know how to run things, especially foreign policy, instead of polluting every facet of government with callow ideology.

She buys time in assuaging those who want a fast pullout, realizing the cost of letting Iraq be torn asunder.

In March of 2009, Benazir (sp?) Bhutto and many hundreds of Pakistanis are slaughtered in dozens of explosions across Pakistan. Simultaneously, Mussaraf is placed under house arrest, and generals sympathetic to radical Islam take the reins.

Eastern Afghanistan explodes with Taliban violence. Shiites and Sunnis butcher each other in Baghdad. Turkey invades Kurd territory in northern Iraq.

Iran intervenes ...... everywhere, and its rhetoric against Israel becomes even more bellicose. American troops and contractors become separated from their supply lines in Iraq, forcing Clinton's hand. The new embassy sustains a major hit.

Charlie Rangel brings a bill before the Congress authorizing a Draft.

The Left Wing of the Democratic Party takes to the streets in demonstrations not seen since the early 1970s, as the Democratic Party eats itself.

The Republican Party, always helpful, stands on Milton Friedman's ideological principles and does its damage from the Right as it opposes the Draft, especially when their wives, mothers, and sisters begin to realize that their sons and daughters will take some time off from university to have their viscera shredded in George Bush's .......... oh, sorry, now Hillary Clinton's war.

Al Qaeda, always helpful, causes enough trouble in 18 different places to make everyone think the End Times are near. Plus, an al Qaeda leader, close to Osama Bin Laden and thought killed by American troops in 2007, receives an audience with the newly installed Pakistani dictatorship, as does Dick Cheney, now working as a consultant.

Hillary Clinton, a cold, hard individual, ruthless like Margaret Thatcher and practical and pedestrian like Harry Truman, becomes, against Bill's pleadings, the first President since Truman to use the nuclear deterrent on three major population centers in the Mideast.

Or, Barack Obama gets elected and is nibbled to death by events. His hair turns white by 2012, but the world is saved through some combination of soaring but vacuous rhetoric, last minute luck, and Kennedyesque charm.

He survives the assassination attempt by shady fundamentalist hicks from South Carolina who participated in the Bob Jones University-Tehran Mullah Academy exchange program. Their papers read "Billy Bob Mohammed."

End of bed-time story. Sweet dreams.

I don't expect a full accounting. I do expect a very active opposition. This is going to be the key in trimming executive power, and it's actually HRC's greatest qualification for the office. No honeymoon, no deference, no cooperation from Congress. Dem congressmen from Mississippi and Alabama who won't vote to restore habeas now also won't back her on any separation of power issues whatsoever. Whatever AUMFs that might still be around will get read narrowly.

This is actually a big deal, and having the wicked witch in office will bring the office down a notch or two.

Katherine, you can say that the restraint re the MCA was unnecessary, but I don't think we know that. Webb and Tester both won with razor thin margins, and a high profile fight on terrorism -- a fight the Administration was desperate to pick because it thought the politics ran its way -- might have made a difference. I'm very disappointed that Congress hasn't fixed this, but then I'm very disappointed that the people of Connecticut decided that whatever it was they thought they were voting for (rejection of the DFH faction?) was more important than foreign policy sanity. Do they favor ending the war? I guess so. Did they send the most effective guy at keeping the war going back to the Senate, knowing he was going to do exactly what he is doing? It was pretty obvious.

I understood when the Dem leadership caved on the Iraq supplemental that they were betting on some defections in the Fall. It was a decent bet, given the whispers at the time and the trend in public opinion, and ostentatious restraint was designed (and needed) to give defectors space. None took it, and so while I think restraint was defensible earlier in the year, I think the failure of any of the supposed Rep moderates to break ranks means that we're in a new ball game beginning a month or so ago.

Interesting and depressing thread.

Want some more?

Hillary Clinton is elected President and huddles with Bush/Cheney/Rice for a security briefing before the latter leave behind the wreckage of what they have wrought domestically and internationally. They lay out for her the inexorable trap they have sprung.

It turns out there is no wiggle room vis a vis the War in Iraq. All choices lead to chaos in the Middle East.

Worse, tens, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, assumed spent in Iraq, ends up in numerous offshore accounts, sequestered there by the Bush Administration to prevent it being spent on the domestic priorities of the newly elected enemy.

Yes, in all areas of government, Clinton brings in folks who maybe know how to run things, especially foreign policy, instead of polluting every facet of government with callow ideology.

She buys time in assuaging those who want a fast pullout, realizing the cost of letting Iraq be torn asunder.

In March of 2009, Benazir (sp?) Bhutto and many hundreds of Pakistanis are slaughtered in dozens of explosions across Pakistan. Simultaneously, Mussaraf is placed under house arrest, and generals sympathetic to radical Islam take the reins.

Eastern Afghanistan explodes with Taliban violence. Shiites and Sunnis butcher each other in Baghdad. Turkey invades Kurd territory in northern Iraq.

Iran intervenes ...... everywhere, and its rhetoric against Israel becomes even more bellicose. American troops and contractors become separated from their supply lines in Iraq, forcing Clinton's hand. The new embassy sustains a major hit.

Charlie Rangel brings a bill before the Congress authorizing a Draft.

The Left Wing of the Democratic Party takes to the streets in demonstrations not seen since the early 1970s, as the Democratic Party eats itself.

The Republican Party, always helpful, stands on Milton Friedman's ideological principles and does its damage from the Right as it opposes the Draft, especially when their wives, mothers, and sisters begin to realize that their sons and daughters will take some time off from university to have their viscera shredded in George Bush's .......... oh, sorry, now Hillary Clinton's war.

Al Qaeda, always helpful, causes enough trouble in 18 different places to make everyone think the End Times are near. Plus, an al Qaeda leader, close to Osama Bin Laden and thought killed by American troops in 2007, receives an audience with the newly installed Pakistani dictatorship, as does Dick Cheney, now working as a consultant.

Hillary Clinton, a cold, hard individual, ruthless like Margaret Thatcher and practical and pedestrian like Harry Truman, becomes, against Bill's pleadings, the first President since Truman to use the nuclear deterrent on three major population centers in the Mideast.

Or, Barack Obama gets elected and is nibbled to death by events. His hair turns white by 2012, but the world is saved through some combination of soaring but vacuous rhetoric, last minute luck, and Kennedyesque charm.

He survives the assassination attempt by shady fundamentalist hicks from South Carolina who participated in the Bob Jones University-Tehran Mullah Academy exchange program. Their papers read "Billy Bob Mohammed."

End of bed-time story. Sweet dreams.

Maybe Obama will bomb Typepad.

Why would Lieberman be likely to do any oversight with his committee just because we get more Democrats in the Senate? A more realistic hope would be that, with a majority no longer dependent on Lieberman's whim, an actual Democrat could be put in charge of the committee (especially considering that Lieberman will be campaigning for Collins). I'm not holding my breath for either, though.

Charley, Tester called for repeal of the Patriot Act in his campaign, so I'm not sure opposing the MCA would have been a problem for him. Webb's situation might have been different.

As long as we're talking about Democratic leadership versus people not only willing but eager to cooperate on a broad spectrum of human-rights issues, the loss of nerve over ENDA is another example of cowardice in action. A lot of LBGT people have worked on a lot of Democratic efforts over the years; it wasn't unreasonable to expect some quid pro quo. But on politically oriented GLBT weblog these days, you'll find a lot of "well, heck, why bother?" sentiment these days. These are folks for whom things like privacy rights are of critical importance, but who find themselves thinking very much like Katherine for very similar reasons.

KCinDC: "Why would Lieberman be likely to do any oversight with his committee just because we get more Democrats in the Senate? A more realistic hope would be that, with a majority no longer dependent on Lieberman's whim, an actual Democrat could be put in charge of the committee"

Well, since you've kindly given me an intelligent response - the threat of the latter would force the former.


on a somewhat related logical point, you might also check out mccaskill's statements on immigration pre-election. sadly, such things are the price of power AT TIMES given the state of the country as a whole. not always, but these are just often complicated questions.

KC, there's a big difference, in Montana anyway, between a law that is designed to apply to Americans and one designed to apply to foreigners. Conservatives the country over talked a good game about suspicion of government power -- for the last half century and more -- but very few have been willing to live it. There's a non-trivial number of non-liberal people in Montana, and probably other places in the West, for whom the Patriot Act is a real issue.

It's a small number, of course, with the majority caught in the same tribalism we see all around us on the rightward flank.

Re "simply don't know what you're talking about on some important subjects", there are polite ways of expressing your POV, and I don't think this is one of them. As far as "policy" is concerned, Katherine will correct me if I'm wrong but I thought the Clinton admin had in the great majority of cases used rendition in cases where there were warrants or the rendee would face criminal charges, not as a way of outsourcing torture. Saying "torture was policy" (esp. in context) makes the reader think Gore was Cheney lite.

Incidentally, some people here should go yell at James Fallows and Ezra Klein etc. over the Armenian genocide resolution question - they're portraying it as a no-brainer parallel to opposing AIPAC.

Incidentally, Obama and HRC are supporting Dodd's filibuster threat.

Obama and HRC are supporting Dodd's filibuster threat

In their way. Sure would be nice if Clinton would actually say it was telecom immunity she objects to.

But this is way better than silence or sticking by Jay Rockefeller. Thanks, Chris Dodd, and thanks to everyone who made some noise on this.

Yep, that's some nice hedging, but I'm an optimist.

As Ezra Klein puts it, "The incentives for the president are to maximize power. That's why Congress actually has to assert itself here, not look to the goodwill of some future executive to do it for them."

"A lot of LBGT people have worked on a lot of Democratic efforts over the years; it wasn't unreasonable to expect some quid pro quo. But on politically oriented GLBT weblog these days, you'll find a lot of 'well, heck, why bother?'"

Well of course. The Democrats have been 'why bother' on gays since at least Don't Ask Don't Tell (100% Bill Clinton)and certainly since the Defense of Marriage Act passed: Senate 85-14, House 342-67 signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton. At the time the Democrats had 47 Senators and 204 House members. Even if we attribute all the 'nay' votes to Democrats that is 30% and 33%. Not even a bare majority of Democrats. Not even close to a majority. And they don't even pretend they are going to try to get rid of it now.

"Don't ask don't tell" could be overturned in 10 seconds by the President alone. If that doesn't happen in the first two weeks of a Democratic presidency, it will be obvious (again) that gay votes are just like black votes--appreciated in a "we don't need to actually do anything for you" kind of way.

Clinton could have, with the stroke of a pen, allowed gays in the military. Instead, during a time when both the Senate and the House were FIRMLY in the control of Democrats, he came up with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", under which more gay people have been discharged than under the previous policy.

Democrats talk about gay rights. But they don't actually mean it.

seb - that's just not true at all. if the gop didn't have control of congress, doma would never have seen the light of day. Seen a marriage amendment lately?

Actually, this is a perfect example of how political power matters. So many things like this just don't come up b/c the leadership bottles it up. It's hard to credit the Dems for this, but it's true.

but the broader problem is that the Dems weren't the ones who put demonizing gays as the centerpiece of the 2004 election strategy at state and federal levels. i think everyone knows this. it's a bit disingenuous to treat both parties the same on this.

seb - that's just not true at all. if the gop didn't have control of congress, doma would never have seen the light of day.

Perhaps, but Clinton eagerly signed it, and enough Democrats eagerly voted "Yea" to make both majorities veto-proof.

Seen a marriage amendment lately?

Oh, they're just doing it at the state level now.

Clinton had to adopt DADT as a fallback, when it became clear that neither Congress nor the military was going to tolerate tolerance. We've moved quite a bit as a society in 15 years, and I'd like to think that the next admin could instate the policy Clinton ran on in 1992. It's totally unfair, though, to behave as if Clinton came up with this policy, out of the blue, as a way to oppress gays.

Oh, they're just doing it at the state level now.

This is true. What's really important for this thread, though, is that "they" seem to be substantial numbers of voters.

It's also true that the progress going the other way is being made at the state level, and that a federal amendment would've cut that off irrevocably. As it is, where we're going to go is that a few states will make progress, then a few more, and then, eventually, we'll have a Supreme Court with the balls to say that they meant what they said in Loving v. Virginia, and that the remaining state bans are all invalid. OK, this isn't my preferred alternative: I'd like people to act today as if individual human beings have full rights. Unfortunately, a whole lot of people see this thing the other way. It's beyond vitally important, though, that even if my side can't win this battle today, our ability to prevail in the end is fully preserved.

Intolerance against gays is a losing battle. We're going to win. It's going to be a long time, though, and along the way, many individuals lives will be unfairly disrupted. You can blame Bill Clinton for this if you want, rather than Jerry Falwell, but I think that's pretty unrealistic. And adopting a stance that empowers the Falwells, because the Clintons can't make progress fast enough, is worse than unrealistic.

And publius, while I agree with you that a do-nothing Dem Congress is better than any Rep Congress, I'm less than impressed with the Iran resolutions that have done pretty well in the Senate. I don't think these are politically necessary, at this point.

CC: Clinton had to adopt DADT as a fallback, when it became clear that neither Congress nor the military was going to tolerate tolerance.

I think you have to separate “the military” from “the pentagon”, where “the pentagon” = “a bunch of old white men”.

“The military” tolerated gays just fine all through the 80’s (at least the Army). Even though official DoD policy was “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service” and was grounds for administrative discharge, it was an open secret that at least up through the battalion level no one cared. Everyone knew who was gay and I knew several gays who lived openly with their partners off post. There was more discretion in the barracks. The unofficial policy was more like “don’t flaunt it, don’t get in the wrong persons face with it”. You would be discharged for being consistently overweight or failing a drug test, but not for being gay (caveat – if you were a poor performer then any excuse would be used to get rid of you including that).

As Seb noted, DADT changed all that. Clinton made it a campaign issue. In a bizarre twist Barry Goldwater supported a repeal of the ban while opposition was led by Sam Nunn and Barney Frank wanted a compromise. In the years following passage discharges skyrocketed.

I think that this is truly a case where settling for a compromise was worse than never touching the issue to begin with.

FWIW, I think that enough of the old guard is gone and the social climate has changed enough that a complete repeal would be a slam dunk today.

CC - If I hadn't been tied up with work at the time, I was going to write a rant about Kyl-Lieberman and the Iran softness and the next debate. I quite literally wouldn't vote for anything with K-L in the title re foreign policy even if the resolution was "publius is awesome."

this is been a pretty crazy thread anyway. and i tend to avoid this topic like the plague. but i do wonder how much intra-party interest groups (dare I say lobbies) are driving the iran semi-hawkishness among dems. Or, are they simply saying what they feel necessary to avoid political attacks from gop.

either way, the iran business is my most substantive disagreement with the dems. the other stuff, yes, but failing to stop a second war really would drive me to the greens or the new party, the Publius Rocks party (local grass-roots organization)

Publius, when it comes to Democrats flailing around and being semi-randomly hawkish, I don't think that's so much any specific lobby as the conventional wisdom of the capitol village. "We must not be seen as weak on security, and must therefore support things that may turn out to look macho" is an old song among Democratic leaders, after all. I'm sure that some lobbies make it worse, but it's been in the air, certainly since i started noticing and I had my 42nd birthday last month.

Not to speak for Sebastian, who does fine on his own, but he said "the Democrats," not just Clinton, have been "why bother" on gays. That sounds right, in the sense that the party as a whole has consistently ended up somewhere closer to Sam Nunn than to Barney Frank. Clinton wasn't pushed into DADT by the Republicans, but by the social conservatives in his own party. Heck, even the supposedly-liberal Kerry, from supposedly gay-friendly MA, had to toe the line and say "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman." (Whatever that phrase means, anyway).

OTOH, if the fire-breathers on the right had their way, gay men would be forcibly placed into re-education programs where they would all learn to love JEEEzus and flinch in Pavlovian pain-reaction every time they saw a naked man. So, unpleasant though denial of full civil liberties is, it's not like the parties are the same on this one.

o.k., diving for cover even before I post, but here are my two bits re Dem strategy shortfalls from an outsider's (non-Dem) perspective:

1) Publius is mostly spot-on and right in sensing that the American people are not quite in lock-step with all Dem policies. While I disagree that this makes most American’s Neanderthals (o.k., that wasn’t exactly said, but it was implied), at least he senses it. Most of the posts here seem to think that is not the case.
2) Katherine is wrong (IMHO) to think that “The American people are a f*cking hell of a lot closer to me than the Democratic majority these days.” If the “American people” are defined as those living in Manhattan or in Huffington’s neighborhood perhaps that’s right. But Publius properly notes that a lot of people not living in liberal inner cities beg to differ.
3) Publius is right to see an impeachment trial as a disaster for the Dems. Katherine’s views of a protest party are laudable but would take the party straight down. Both points of views are ones that I appreciate and respond to even if I don’t agree (I find myself liking both of you just reading your posts). But I think the Dirty Harry response to an impeachment trial is apropos given Publius’ views of Republicans: “Go ahead, make my day.” Publius sees Dirty Harry’s 45 cal. and rightly senses danger.
4) Dems are over thinking things. It is not just what they are not doing, it is what they are in fact doing. I think the Dems waste time on meaningless stunts that rile up the Republican base. Reid and Pelosi attacked Limbaugh for something he really didn’t say. That was a bonehead move and the Ebay auction showed what the Repubs thought of it. And attacking Malkin for the SCHIP fiasco was a dumb move. At the heart of the controversy was a failure to vet the family held up as the paragon of SCHIP virtue. I would have found someone with a few less resources.
5) The fact that a Democratic president would never even think of starting a war with Iran/Syria (I’ll leave China out for now) is a problem for many Americans in spite of Iraq. Even though Israel will probably make any war with Iran unnecessary, it does not make one feel safe to know that the other side knows POTUS won’t ever pull the trigger. Regardless of how I feel about going to war, a legitimate threat of military action is something I would not want to concede. As Publius admits, that would be all but conceded with a Dem president. And it is nothing nationalistic-it’s just self-preservation.

I have to say the comments here have been really insightful. But please let me know when I can come out of my foxhole.

"Clinton had to adopt DADT as a fallback, when it became clear that neither Congress nor the military was going to tolerate tolerance."

That shows a completely wrong understanding of who can do what. Clinton didn't need Congress for that. There doesn't need to be a bill. All he needed to do was change it by executive order. It was 100% within his power. It was at the beginning of his term (when reelection fears are at their lowest) and when he had a very firmly Democratic controlled Senate and House.

I don't think you are paying close attention to the players here. When you say Congress opposed removing the ban (not that their permission was needed in any case) you are speaking of the Democratically controlled Congress.

The leader of the pro-ban forces was one of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate--Sam Nunn. Sam Nunn was considered a strong vice-presidential candidate for the Democratic Party as recently as 2004 (3 years ago).

DADT was hugely worse than the Reagan/Bush Sr. era policies. It really can't be overstated how many gay people who had been existing in the military for years suddenly got drummed out under the Clinton policy.

As for DOMA, the reason it came up when it did was the court case in Hawaii, not because of the sudden removal of heroic efforts by Democratic leaders.

You don't seem to have looked at the vote totals I provided either. Less than 50% of Democrats (FAR LESS) voted against DOMA.

Democratic President Bill Clinton not only signed DOMA, he mentioned his defense of marriage after signing it in his 1996 campaign for re-election.

I'm not 'blaming' Clinton in the sense of "he was trying to screw with gay people". I'm saying that the Democratic Party reputation of being 'good' on gay rights is very very dramatically overstated. They talk, but their real actions aren't actually very helpful. The Ellen show and Will & Grace did hugely more than Democratic legislators. (Which is what a conservative would expect vis-a-vis government).

Not to put too fine a point on it, but gays in the military were BETTER OFF under Reagan and Bush I. (Technically they are less likely to get discharged under Bush II as well, but that is probably as much a sign of desperation at this point rather than gay-friendly policy after the counter-productive DADT has become such a big part of military culture--totally destroying the old compromises).

think you have to separate “the military” from “the pentagon”, where “the pentagon” = “a bunch of old white men”.

As long as you count Colin Powell as an "old white man" . . .

BC, this is not an attempted bomb-throwing; let me know if it comes out feeling like one.

I have for you the same question I had for Publius. For several years now, polls have consistently shown growing public opposition to the occupation of Iraq, in favor of disengagement, against the president's and Republicans' trustworthiness, and so on. This has been a pretty consistent trend in the polling since 2005, and there's now...well, if the public could override vetos, the polls report, they could pass measures ending the war effort and sustain a presidential veto, and there's either a plurality or an actual majority in favor of starting impeachment proceedings.

Now, polling can be misleading in various ways. But it isn't always. You're certainly suggesting that you think it is on matters of war. But please explain: what exactly is it that the polls are doing wrong, to find this sustained evolution of public thought over the course of several years, with all the polling firms finding the same general results? To what do you attribute the huge and growing gap between their findings and your sense of the public?

(By the way, the next time I express doubts about polling results, if I don't preemptively answer this question myself, someone please be sure to toss it back at me. It's a good one to require some answer on.)

Bruce: [aside]I haven't looked at polls recently and have simply lost faith in them for the most part and think they sometimes do a great disservice to our country. The prevent free thought. (e.g. I know how to think because I saw the poll). For example, how would you phrase a polling question that would accurately reflect the discussion on this topic in this thread? It would be impossible to get all the nuances of thought. I get a kick out of approval ratings. They mean something in a broad sense. That's about it. [done with aside]. I think the polls do reflect a dissatisfaction with the war in a general sense. My point is that dissatisfaction with Iraq does not equal dissatisfaction with the use of military force as a general proposition. Iraq and Iran are obviously two entirely different situations. Here goes my broad brush: Dems seem to think that dissatisfaction with Iraq = dissatisfaction with a strong military. I don't think that is the case. The same repubs that want us out of Iraq probably (no polling data here) would at least support a strong military deterrent to Iran. I doubt they see a Dem POTUS as a viable option in that regard for the exact sentiments that Publius states.

Along those same lines (actually brush getting broader here and painting outside the lines), SCHIP doesn't do a lot of good for dead children. [Allright, hold the fire!! Just exaggerating for effect] I still think a lot of repubs even if against the war would never vote for a candidate that doesn't take national security seriously in spite of the domestic agenda. And they see the dems as not taking national security seriously.

As for the trustworthiness issue, and while I share many of the misgivings posted here, I still reserve my final judgment. I heard the same things regarding Reagan and I, for one, believe that history proved his policies correct for the time as far as national security goes (taxes as well!). I don't know what the President sees on a daily basis in his intelligence briefings. History may take an entirely different view of what has happened. Then again, it may not. We all act as if we know "exactly" what the threats are against this country. We don't know squat. And while my thinking may not be reflective of repubs, I think it is more reflective that what is posted here.


On Clinton & rendition:

1) it can still be "outsourcing torture" even if the receiving country has an arrest warrant, has tried them in absentia, etc. Those things are easy enough to trump up--Egypt has sometimes made basically fake requests for suspects when the U.S. asked it to. Even when they're not trumped up, we are legally & morally obliged not to send someone to prison where they're going to be tortured. So the "we got a warrant thing" I find to be pretty much a red herring.

2) Did Clinton render people to countries that tortured? Yes. Not Syria, as far as I know, but Egypt, whose record is comparable.

3) Were they actually tortured? Egyptian Human Rights groups say yes. In some cases they give pretty detailed accounts, which are consistent w/ later allegations from Bush-administration renditions. I tend to believe them.

4) Did we know they were going to be tortured? Probably. At the time there was not quite the lengthy track record of them violating diplomatic assurances that there is now. But CIA agents & FBI agents say they always knew & that they told higher officials as much. And Egypt's record is well documented.

5) That's sufficient for a violation of Article 3 of the CAT. You're not allowed to send someone to a country where they're more likely than not to be tortured. You're also not allowed to rely on a diplomatic assurance when doing so requires you to ignore a country's record of torture & it's violation of past assurances.

6) The one potential mitigating factor that really carries any weight with me: there have been vague unconfirmed reports that we stopped rendering people to Egypt after they kept torturing them in violation of assurances. But those reports are unconfirmed & if it did happen, it happened after we'd sent a sig. # of people to tortre in Egyptian dungeons.

7) If by "outsourcing torture" you mean "conspired with a foreign gov't to torture a suspect," or "specifically intended that a foreign gov't torture a prisoner," then I don't think we have enough evidence to say that Clinton administration did outsource torture, but we also don't have the evidence to rule it out. CIA agents have said that the real purpose was to get people off the streets & disrupt cells without going through the muss & fuss of a genuine trial, & that interrogation was secondary. On the other hand, we did specifically intend to send them to Egpytian prisons, and the State Department had been reporting for years on what happened in Egyptian prisons. We did read the interrogation reports; we may also have provided some questions. On the third hand, if we actually stopped renditions based on the torture of suspects, that would tend to show that we were not trying to have them tortured.

It's really, really hard to answer this without getting inside the heads of U.S. officials, and I can't do that. Making culpability depend on "specific intent" to torture is a giant loophole. Legally, it allows for things like diplomatic assurances for the sake of plausible deniability. It allows for bad faith OLC arguments that any form of psychological is okay as long as you only meant to break them for long enough to get the information--you didn't mean for them to stay broken afterwards.

Morally, if you know that your actions are going to result in someone being tortured in a foreign dungeon, I don't think a vague regret about it, or a vague hope that maybe they wouldn't be tortured, makes much real difference.

8) As bad as rendition was at the time, trying to rehabilitate it so it can continue under a new Democratic president, as Daniel Benjamin is trying to do, is much worse. I wish someone would ask Hillary Clinton about her husband's rendition policy & Benjamin's op-ed.

I agree with Sebastian regarding Bill Clinton's failure of courage in the DADT controversy.

In fact, if push had come to shove as it did during the civil rights movement, Clinton should have sent troops to the gates of military bases whose commanders refused to comply or dragged their feet.

Which troops would be asking and which troops would not be telling would be difficult to parse in the melee, but Clinton wimped out.

On the other hand, a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the political realities in 1994 showing the currency of incentives and disincentives came down hard in favor of the latter.

Let's see: Would Log Cabin Republicans relent on their criticism of tax increases early in the Clinton Presidency? Doubtful, to cite one example. So, where is the incentive?

That's no excuse, natch, but the world in 1994 was not one that provided much cover for folks who wanted to do the right thing, from what I recall.

Also, Sam Nunn is from Georgia. They have telephones down there, as John McCain found out, and Nunn's newly discovered gay, illegitimate children would have been dragged through the mud.

As an aside, my son received his registration form from the Selective Service yesterday. They didn't ask but I wish he would tell, given the current environment. Both his parents and his girlfriend would be O.K. with that.

I would kiss Dick Cheney right on the lips to avoid the meat grinder that he likes to think extinquishes only the lives of prissy heterosexuals.

I don't need a lecture on who can do what wrt executive power. Congress was set to legislate to reverse an executive action implementing Clinton's campaign promise, and yes, Sen. Nunn was a big player in that, but without the Republicans providing the real hammer, the threat would have been meaningless. It's true, though, that sourthern Dems have been, and remain, problematic. It's also true that until the Republicans get done purging themselves of Northern moderates -- and they're well along -- we'll always need some southerners to have even a bare majority. This constrains what a Dem administration can do, no doubt about it.

The more important constraint is the general public. What WJC couldn't do in 1993 (because Colin Powell and Sam Nunn spoke for a substantial majority of the country), though, HRC may well be able to do in 2009, and it's not just because of personality, or campaign contributions, or anything like that. Our society has changed for the better on this. Are we far enough along to drop DADT in favor of simple tolerance? I'd like to think we are. And the onus will be on proponents of the policy to convince HRC that we are.

I'm not saying that Dems should be upset that their representatives couldn't get the job done in 1993. It's terrible, and I was disappointed about it. One shouldn't act, though, as if it's their fault alone that several hundred years of cultural baggage didn't just disappear overnight when a guy got got a plurality of the vote.

A few comments in reply to bc's upthread.

First, lots and lots of folks who don't live either in Manhattan or near Arianna Huffington share many of Katherine's views. I have family in NH, AZ, and OH, and know folks from lots of other places, and I can assure you folks everywhere are fed up.

Second, even if views such as hers were typical only in large coastal cities (which they are not), that would be a hell of a lot of people. If you think they aren't "true Americans", you would be wrong.

Third, it seems to me that what a lot of "average folks", whoever they are, believe is wrong. I'm sorry that's so, but it's so. One responsibility of leadership is to help make that less so. I prefer my national policy based on reality rather than mythology, if possible.

In any case, I'm skeptical of allusions to "real Americans" because I know a lot of them, and they don't really look, think, or act all that much like the TV ad version.

Dems seem to think that dissatisfaction with Iraq = dissatisfaction with a strong military.

Wrong. I think this is just what you think of Dems, not what they think about anything.

SCHIP doesn't do a lot of good for dead children

You are correct, you are now outside the lines. SCHIP, pro or con, has little to do with national defense. This kind of argument is, really, a red herring.

We all act as if we know "exactly" what the threats are against this country. We don't know squat

I'm not privy to the President's daily security brief, that's true.

I am privy to a wide spectrum of publicly available information, on a wide variety of topics, and it's really not that hard for me or anyone else to figure out that certain things simply are, or are not, true.

Anyone with an interest can, in fact, know a lot more than squat. Anyone with an interest can also, without knowing details, make a decent assessment of who among those who do have access to privileged information have made good and responsible use of that information.

Regarding impeachment, I don't support impeachment of Bush, not because I'm afraid of the Republican "Dirty Harrys" and their big 45. I don't give a good GD about that kind of tough talk. They can pound sand.

I don't support impeachment because, if initiated, that will be the big black hole that will suck up every ounce of political energy for the next year and half, and there are better things to do with the time.

Bush will be gone in about 15 months. He doesn't need to be impeached, he just needs to be neutered. That's doable.

Thanks -

"I don't need a lecture on who can do what wrt executive power. Congress was set to legislate to reverse an executive action implementing Clinton's campaign promise"

You are going to have to describe how Congress was 'set to legislate' to reverse the executive action. Did it have a veto-proof majority? I don't think so, and if it did that would necessarily include an enormous number of Democratic Congressmen--illustrating my point rather well.

"One shouldn't act, though, as if it's their fault alone that several hundred years of cultural baggage didn't just disappear overnight when a guy got got a plurality of the vote."

Did I say that? I think I noted :

that Clinton made a campaign promise, that was 100% within his independent authority to implement;

that he nevertheless did not;

that this was at the beginning of the presidency when historically the President is at one of the higher points of his power;

that this was during a time when Democrats controlled (very strongly) both houses of Congress;

that the strongest opponent of ending the ban was a Democratic senator;

that this Democratic senator was still well respected enough in the Democratic party to be seriously mooted as a vice-presidential candidate only three years ago;

and that the strongest proponent of ending the ban was a former Republican senator.

You rejoinder apparently is that Congress had a veto-proof majority willing to overturn an executive order.

Which I believe to be false, and even if (improbably) true, that would certainly tend to indicate that my thesis (which is "The Democrats have been 'why bother' on gays since at least Don't Ask Don't Tell (100% Bill Clinton)and certainly since the Defense of Marriage Act passed" as responding to "the loss of nerve over ENDA is another example of cowardice in action. A lot of LBGT people have worked on a lot of Democratic efforts over the years; it wasn't unreasonable to expect some quid pro quo. But on politically oriented GLBT weblog these days, you'll find a lot of "well, heck, why bother?" sentiment these days."

Russell:
"First, lots and lots of folks who don't live either in Manhattan or near Arianna Huffington share many of Katherine's views."

Undoubtedly. I have no dispute. I was generalizing and being up front about it.

"If you think they aren't "true Americans", you would be wrong."

Did I say that? I think I was saying the reverse in response to something Publius said knowing he was not saying it that way. I was broadening the definition of Americans to include repubs, not the reverse (excluding dems). I think you are a true American, Russell (if in fact you are American; no offense if you are not).

"Third, it seems to me that what a lot of "average folks", whoever they are, believe is wrong."

I'm not sure if this is the hubris I have seen on both sides of the aisle. I always assume I can learn and try to be open minded. I'm not saying you aren't, but that comment gives me pause. There's a lot of wisdom in the average man. I have learned in my practice to assume that my clients know more than me. It's too often true. I'm not sure I see that deference in what I would loosely (very loosely) style the "liberal intelligentsia."

"Dems seem to think that dissatisfaction with Iraq = dissatisfaction with a strong military. Wrong. I think this is just what you think of Dems, not what they think about anything."

To be clear, I was not saying Dems that are Iraq-contra (no Reagan allusion intended)don't believe in a strong military. I was saying that in looking at Repubs, I THINK (not sure, my opinion, not based on empirical evidence) Dems look at Iraq-contra Repubs and forget that those same Repubs are likely pro strong military. Just an opinion.

"SCHIP, pro or con, has little to do with national defense. This kind of argument is, really, a red herring."

It's not in the sense I intended. I was using SCHIP to stand for domestic policy. For a lot of Repubs, the only domestic policy is the war on terror, i.e. nothing else matters if we get hit big, so stop the big hit.

"I am privy to a wide spectrum of publicly available information . . ."

The "squat" I was referring to was very specific (actual threats against our safety and security). Sorry to have implied it was broader. To that extent, I agree completely with you.

"I'm [not] afraid of the Republican "Dirty Harrys" and their big 45. I don't give a good GD about that kind of tough talk. They can pound sand."

Don't be so sensitive! I was supporting Publius! Dirty Harry was an attempt at humor. I thought Dems were the "fun" party! I do agree with the rest of your impeachment comments, unless your castration comments were literal. That just hurts to even think about it.

I didn't say I thought the majority would be veto proof. Although it probably would have been. Goldwater notwithstanding.

It would certainly have been madness to try to have a veto fight over this at the outset of the administration, given the general political situation. This issue was picked by the opposition because of that situation. The Admin picked DADT to end a losing argument.

I'm not sure if this is the hubris I have seen on both sides of the aisle

No, it's just an observation.

How many people thought Hussein had WMD?
How many still do?

How many believed Hussein had an active operational involvement with Al Qaeda?
How many still do?

How many believed Iraq was involved in 9/11?
How many still do?

Those people were wrong, and it wasn't that hard to not be wrong.

It was really, really not hard, at all, to at least be skeptical enough to not swallow it hook, line, and sinker as a justification for war.

That is what I'm talking about.

Thanks for your posts here.

Thanks -

Sebastian- I'd think the fact that the Republicans actively work to make things worse for out homosexuals would be reason enough to vote Democrat.

"I'd think the fact that the Republicans actively work to make things worse for out homosexuals would be reason enough to vote Democrat."

That depends on how competent you think Republicans are. Reagan and Bush I were MUCH better for gays in the military than Clinton ever was. And 'out' is relative in that context. Gay people in the military in the 80s could live with their lovers off base and it wasn't the kind of problem it became in the Clinton years.

Republicans trying to make things worse are in much the same position as Democrats trying to make things better--swamped by the majority middle. I certainly won't vote for those Republicans as individuals, but the party as a whole doesn't do much on the topic.

And I've never said that either party was good on gay rights. They are both 90% indifferent. And that is why it hasn't been worth my while to make gay rights a vote-deciding issue (on a Party basis--on an individual basis absolutely...I'm not voting for raging homophobes). But this idea that the Democratic Party in general is good on gay rights, is just silly. They aren't.

All I'm saying is that if for some reason you are trying to decide between two candidates, voting for the Democrat as 'better on gay rights' in a general sense just from the party name is silly. The Party isn't that good on the issue. And for those who vote based on promises, Bill Clinton pretty much betrayed that so if that is going to be your deciding factor, it can be difficult to trust.

So essentially I'm saying it isn't this huge plus for gay voters.

You may have hundreds of other--far more reliable--reasons to vote one way or another.

Great! At this moment I have lots of reasons not to vote for generic Democrats, and far more reasons not to vote for generic Republicans. Which equates to lots of reasons to be really annoyed with our political system.

As I recall implementing DADT instead of something worse cost Clinton a great deal of political capital.

Frank: I'd think the fact that the Republicans actively work to make things worse for out homosexuals would be reason enough to vote Democrat.

Even after the Conservatives passed Section 28 in the UK (the infamous law forbidding local authorities to "promote homosexuality"), a law which Margaret Thatcher justified by arguing that without it teachers would tell children that it was "Okay to be gay", you had gay men voting Conservative (and closety gay men becoming Conservative MPs). They'd justify it, if asked, by arguing that the Conservative discrimination against people of their sexual orientation was just one aspect of Conservative politics: that they felt the Conservative policies of keeping the poor poor and the rich richer were much more important to them personally than any declaration that LGBT people were second-class citizens in the UK. From the way they talked, too, they were quite sure that the right-wing habit of discriminating against LGBT people would never mean they themselves would experience discrimination: they were usually wealthy (or expecting to be), middle-to-upper class, white, male - highly privileged people, who expected that if they were "discreet" about their sexual orientation, they would continue to benefit by the system of privilege that the Conservative party supported.

In short, no: do not expect people who know that they will benefit from conservative/right-wing rule as well-off white men, to vote in order to help people with whom they share nothing but a sexual orientation.

Yes Jesurgislac, because heaven knows that since I'm not likely ever to be tortured by the government, that I can't possibly be against that.

It certainly is easier to just attack me for my race rather than bother with...oh the freaking pages I've written on the topic just today.

For a lot of Repubs, the only domestic policy is the war on terror, i.e. nothing else matters if we get hit big, so stop the big hit.

I think these people should be, if not legally forbidden from holding office, then publicly shamed on a regular basis, because the only thing they can accomplish be being elected to government is to destroy it.

Sebastian, I very specifically stuck to the examples of gay men who voted Conservative in the UK whom I knew personally/had talked to. I did not call you out personally. Though, if I had, I would have asked (since it's much more probable that you will someday want to marry than that you will ever be tortured) why the fact that the Republican Party does not want you to be able to marry the man of your choice, and indeed regards whipping up hatred against you as a valid electoral campaign tactic, didn't turn you off ever voting Republican again.

Incidentally, and completely OT, I found the entries for your Fantasy Bio contest when googling just now. I wrote F sometime in December 2004: am I prescient or what? *pats self on back self-gratulatorily*

Sebastian, you're making a lot of sense here to me. I do think that die-hard anti-GLBT bigots hold more power in the Republican system than in the Democratic one, but I'd agree at a minimum that the Democratic default is a sort of benign disregard, and that a lot of Democratic leaders wish very much that the whole thing would just go away.

In addition, the Democratic machine includes a significant constituency that is very specifically pro-gay rights - middle- and upper-class men, nearly all white, who are themselves gay but see themselves as simply gay members of the establishment. Many of them are racist, and perhaps even more are intensely sexist. They strongly dislike rabble-rousers, too; they tend to attribute their success to working within the system, and distrust efforts to change the basic terms of social structures. They often see themselves as part of a legacy of gay people independent of the movement that came together publicly and visibly at Stonewall and in its aftermath, and in some ways they're right to do so, since they were there not rocking the boat beforehand and have been trying to keep things calm ever since. It is a major tension among people concerned with GLBT legal status.

(And yes, Sebastian, I know that you don't need me to tell you that. :) I'm commenting for the benefit of bystanders, laying a bit of context. The tension between "establishment person who is unusual in one regard" and "outsider" is one that drives weirdness in a lot of movements, too.)

bc: I, for one, believe that history proved [Reagan's] policies correct for the time as far as national security goes (taxes as well!). ... while my thinking may not be reflective of repubs ...

Oh, your thinking is plenty reflective of Republicans. You've got all the talking points down: the fighting Democratic p.o.v. is just held by coastal and urban elites, Dems are at fault (due to "insufficient vetting" for outrageous harassment of the family whose son did the radio message on SCHIP, Reagan's policies were right, Limbaugh was unfairly accused of something he didn't say (which he did in fact say, he just edited the tape himself so as not to have to own up to it), and on and on and on.

And you're on Publius' side, eh? Your enthusiasm for his position only confirms one of the reasons for the strength of my disagreements with his view. But I doubt seriously that you share his outlook that a Democratic president will cure all our current constitutional, civil liberties, and endless-war ills.

Oh, dang. Desitalico!

In looking at the http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/about.html>About Me page, I notice that publius is conspicuous by his abscence. This needs to rectified forthwith!

My only contribution would be something along the lines of "although he disdains capitol letters as an Eeeeeeeeevil Tool of the Patriarchy in comments, he bows to the pressures of Society in posts (but he feels really really guilty afterwards)."

For a lot of Repubs, the only domestic policy is the war on terror, i.e. nothing else matters if we get hit big, so stop the big hit.

I bet that this is true.

What I want to say is that this is a really bad point of view. It's fearful, weak, and limiting.

It is, in the end, possible that we will take a big hit. By "big hit", of course, we're talking about a really, really catastrophic act of terror in the US. Suitcase nuke in Times Square on New Years Eve. Every citizen of Phoenix killed off by poison in the water supply. Something like that.

These things are not impossible. They're not highly likely, but they're also not out of the question. Dramatically tragic events of slightly less magnitude, even more so.

We need to do our best to make sure something like 9/11 doesn't happen again. But we might make a mistake. We might, tragically, drop our guard at exactly the wrong time. "It", whatever "it" is, could happen.

What do we, as a nation, want to be on the day after it happens?

If you're of a mind that says "Nothing else matters except not taking the big hit", you have nothing left. Nothing. Whatever you gave up to save you from the big hit was bartered away for nothing. You lose.

If you're of a mind that says "No matter what, we cannot compromise what we, as a people, stand for", then you have a hell of a tragedy to live through, but you have something to live and fight for. To borrow a Biblical analogy, if I may, you have not sold your birthright for a mess of pottage.

Let's gird up our loins, shall we? Let's stop living in the shadows of our own paranoia and live like free people. What are we, mice?

We're all gonna go sometime. The question is how we want to live while we're here.

Thanks -

But, but, the Dems were looking to be trimmers on their own. Pelosi's "impeachment is off the table" comment last year show that.

For Sebastian and others, there is an alternative: Vote Green. At local and state levels, work to give third parties a more level playing field, above all through federal financing of Congressional campaigns.

To give third parties a level playing field, you need a lot more than federal financing. You need a different voting system -- instant runoff or something else that allows voters to express preferences for more than one candidate.

As long as we have a system in which the plurality wins, a third party will always damage whichever of the two main parties agrees with it most, resulting in a win for the least desirable option. That's the way the math works, regardless of financing, and it's why Democrats are salivating at the prospect of the religious right backing a third-party candidate.

Russell and Nell:

Let me be clear: while I may personally believe most of what I posted, I do not believe all. I was responding to Publius' original comment re Dem strategy and some comments re the American public, namely repubs. For example, I COMPLETELY agree, Russell, with your comments about how we live now. I agree that most repubs are too focused on the extreme danger and not on domestic policy.

And Nell, the "talking points" comment wasn't fair. I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to explore the issues. I was a conservative when Carter was in office and was starting to see things that way during the Ford administration. I'm still fairly young, so that is the greater part of my life. I got there without talk radio, pre-Reagan and without Chairman Ann's books. In fact, if you take back my recent trip to the Reagan Museum while visiting family (a cool place regardless of political persuasion), I don't read or hear the "talking points" to which you refer (where are they, BTW?). That, I believe, is part of the problem. Be dismissive with those with whom you disagree.

So, when you tell me Rush doctored the tape, I'm all ears. I only listened to the show myself after hearing about the controversy on the news. If true, that's despicable.

Here is what I actually think (vs. me simply saying what most repubs think) on the talking points raised:

1) I don't think the Dem p.o.v. is limted to coastal and urban elites. There is just a lot more of them there!

2) From what I heard re the Rush/soldier incident, it was a stupid move on the Dems. I will look into what you say. I wasn't screaming "poor Rush," but I was saying that was a dumb move from a political standpoint.

3) Ditto on the SCHIP. I already posted and conceded a lot of the "talking points" on that issue. But it was still a stupid move vis a vis campaign strategy. A family with no assets in a similar medical situation would have been unassailable. (note: I'm not saying attack the family here).

4) Most of Reagan's policies were right. I was in the Baltic republics just before the wall came down. There's a reason they love him there. And yes, I had on the wall of my dorm room during the Reagan years the "One Nuclear Bomb Can Ruin Your Entire Day" poster. So I had SOME balance.

5) On Publius' side? Well, it's not so simple. That's why I take the talking points comment a bit personally. I agree on his Dem strategy. You remind me of the short guy on Princess Bride:

Vizzini: But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy's? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
Man in Black: You've made your decision then?
Vizzini: Not remotely . . .

So, no, I am not trying to put poison in the Dem's goblet (not that I even could). I try to talk straight. My agreement with Publius shouldn't reinforce your opposition.

And a Dem president? No, I don't think any person just because they are of a political stripe are going to cure all of the ills, real or perceived, in the nation. I explicitly disagreed that having a president that would NEVER, ever, no way, no how use military force against Iran or Syria would be a good idea. Not that I am in favor of endless war, but I'm a firm believer in peace through strength (ARRRGGH!! Channeling Reagan again!) Gotta stop!

But if I had to pick only a Democratic president, who would I pick? I'll get back to you on that one. (See, I didn't reflexively throw up at the thought; can you say the same if it were reversed?:) )



1) What exactly do you mean when you use the word "elite"? Also, just because 55 or 60 percent of the people in a state vote for a particular party doesn't mean the other 40 or 45 percent don't exist. I think too many people rely too much on "red state, blue state" stereotypes.

2) What makes you think the "phony soldier" brouhaha was a net loss for Democrats? I imagine only a tiny portion of the public have even heard about it. Of course the Dittoheads rallied around Rush and accepted his explanation, supported by the edited audio and transcript. But they were hardly going to support Democrats anyway.

3) As for the right-wing attack on the Frosts, I'm even more mystified as to how you determined that was a loss for Democrats. Having Michelle Malkin and her stalkerific amateur detective minions as the face of the Republican Party's opposition to a program to help sick children seems like a PR disaster for the GOP to me and reinforces a little more the image of Republicans as mean and uncaring. I don't believe it affected the veto override one way or the other, and I don't believe much would have.

KCinDC:

1) "Elite": Just using it as other were using it to refer to what they thought my opinion was (specifically Nell stating that I was parroting GOP talking points, such as "only liberal coastal elites" believe such things.) So I was just saying I didn't necessarily think that. But since we are on the topic, to me an "elitist" in the political sense is anyone who believes that due to their higher education, intelligence, education or monetary status their opinion is inherently superior to their fellow citizens not for the thrust of their argument, but just because. As in "I'm right because I went to [fill in the blank] or "you're too stupid to really know what's best for you; I do." We find them on both sides of the aisle.

2) Limbaugh: I think the "phony soldier" was a net loss and is even becoming a bigger net loss with this "edited" nonsense. I just read the Media Matters version here: http://mediamatters.org/items/200709280009?f=h_top

They are a bunch of morons on this one from what I read. Limbaugh was taken out of context and all they have to say is "wait, you said 'entire transcript' and you forgot to leave in the part where you said 'I really like the beaches in Florida [not the actual quote BTW, but it might as well have been].'" What a non-issue that completely misses the point. Do you dispute that there have been "phony soldiers?" It certainly looks like it to me. TNR is keeping their mouth shut for good reason. Nothing good can come from it.

3) Frosts: I also wasn't looking at the Limbaugh/SCHIP issues as whether they were net losses or not when I previously posted. Even if they are neutral or winners, though, they are not huge winners. The DNC should have picked a better representative family and avoided the distraction. Publius is right to be frustrated if this is where the energy of the DNC is going. And I am still not sure how driving past someone's house and talking with their neighbor constitutes stalking. Please explain. As for the veto override, I agree-it made no difference.

The Frost issue is representative of one of the great divides between conservatives and liberals. Both agree on helping their fellow man, but conservatives think the government is a bad vehicle for making that happen. Government help tends to become a gravy train and then an entitlement. And conservatives as a result apparently tend to give more:
http://www.philanthropy.com/free/articles/v19/i04/04001101.htm

So, in short, the Frosts were somewhat affluent compared to those most conservatives think should be getting government help. The DNC could have picked a better poster family. Seems like a net loss to me. If nothing else, it fed that damn blue-baiting blogger beast!


The DNC should have picked a better representative family and avoided the distraction.

um, no. there was nothing wrong with the Frosts. the Malkinites would've gone into the same shrieking frenzy no matter who was in the commercial, the same way they shriek and foam about every other fncking thing that doesn't have the GOP Seal Of Approval on it. their entire existence is based on finding things to shriek about and then shrieking until the MSM pays attention to them. they shriek and shriek and shriek and shriek until people walk away from the debate because they're sick of listening to all the motherfncking shrieking.

Let me just follow up my last post in saying what I appreciate about this group is that the conversation is not the typical Limbaugh/Malkin bash, but a substantive discussion. Even in raising the issue, KCinDC, you question what it means in the broader context and I appreciate that. That, and the fact you didn't call me a troll.

oops. Spoke too soon. :)

cute.

but it's utterly nonsensical to talk about the Frost controversy without addressing who caused it and how she did it. she did what she always does, and things ended up the way they always do.

and it's not the Dem's responsibility to get their spokespeople pre-approved by people who hate them and apparently live to shriek about it.

You are making my point. Better to talk about the substance. Do we really want to provide government-sponsored health care to a family with X-assets and X-income? To me that is the issue, not whether Malkin "always" does something a certain way and "why" she does it. And I don't hate Dems, BTW, not that you were saying I did.

And cross posting can be a marvelous thing.

bc -

Thanks for your thoughts here. Briefly, a couple of comments of my own.

I explicitly disagreed that having a president that would NEVER, ever, no way, no how use military force against Iran or Syria would be a good idea.

Unless I'm mistaken, no realistic Democratic candidate for President has taken that position. So, it's kind of an abstract point.

Most of Reagan's policies were right

Reagan's policies, per se, don't do much for me, but I'm sure that's not a surprise.

The thing I give Reagan points for -- big points -- is going against the conventional wisdom of his advisors and approaching Gorbachev. That took courage, imagination, and good will. That's called leadership. I'm happy to give him props for that.

The Frost issue is representative of one of the great divides between conservatives and liberals. Both agree on helping their fellow man, but conservatives think the government is a bad vehicle for making that happen

I think this analysis is correct. I'm a lefty, so I have no problem having the government involved in addressing anything at all that concerns the public interest or public good.

In general, I think the government does a pretty good job of it. Never perfect, not infrequently mediocre, sometimes terrible. But it gets done, and generally gets done well enough, and when it doesn't, I can actually do something about it. Suits me fine. It keeps the wheels on.

For a suprising number of things, it's more important simply that they be done, reliably and effectively, than that they be done in the most cost-effective or profitable manner possible. My two cents.

Thanks -

Do we really want to provide government-sponsored health care to a family with X-assets and X-income?

yes, for all values of X.

the private-sector system we have now is inadequate. health should not have to compete with the profit motive, especially not in a country as rich as this.

To me that is the issue, not whether Malkin "always" does something a certain way and "why" she does it.

yet you did mention the Frosts and gave the tame version of Malkin's main shriek: the Frosts weren't the right people to be talking about for S-CHIP. well, i'm saying they were, and i'm saying it wouldn't have mattered anyway. and when the Dems brought out their next S-CHIP family, the Wilkersons, the shriekers went on shrieking about them, too (for example).

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad