Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Terrorists Win

This time.
GOP Biggie Outed as Empathizer — with Turtles!

From Lincoln’s Virtues: an Ethical Biography, by William Lee Miller:

When the boys in the neighborhood put hot coals on the backs of turtles to entertain themselves by watching the turtles’ reaction, there are several courses of action open to you. As a good fellow, you can go along with the fun. As one who does feel the turtle’s pain, but is intimidated, you can keep your objections to yourself. As one who has more important business elsewhere, you could ignore the whole matter. As a budding representative of the relativisms of the century to come, you could shrug your shoulders and say: “They like to put hot coals on turtles, I don’t like to put hot coals on turtles — preferences differ. Who is to choose? Don’t be judgmental.”

Or you can do what the ten-year-old Abraham Lincoln did: You can tell your companions that what they are doing is wrong, and that they should not do what they are doing. And you may even, as young Lincoln did, draw out the larger moral principle, and write a composition — cruelty to animals is wrong — and argue publicly on its behalf in your one-room school.

Or on the other hand you could…

This is from a long campaign profile in the New York Times of May 21, 2000, to which we should have paid more attention than we did:

While playing Little League baseball, running for class president, or even sobbing in the principal’s office, George W. Bush absorbed West Texas values that many old friends say are central to understanding who he is today…

‘‘We were terrible to animals,’’ recalled Mr. Throckmorton, laughing. A dip behind the Bush home turned into a small lake after a good rain, and thousands of frogs would come out.

‘‘Everybody would get BB guns and shoot them,’’ Mr. Throckmorton said. ‘‘Or we’d put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up.’’

When he was not blowing up frogs, young George — always restless and something of a natural leader — would lead neighborhood children on daredevil expeditions around town, seeing how close they could come to breaking their necks.



Saturday, May 30, 2009

Responding to a new low from Andy McCarthy (he thinks Judge Sotomayor isn't qualified to be on a jury), John Cole muses: "I wonder when McCarthy will get around to asking her about her birth certificate."

Commenter Dennis obliges with a link to this:
By the way, has anyone bothered to vet Sonia Sotomayor's birth certificate?

Or will she be the first illegal alien nominated to the Supreme Court by the first illegal alien to serve as president?
Well, no.

In fairness to this dumbass, Ben Domenech made the same mistake, and his family is from Puerto Rico.
If It Bleeds, It Leads.

Oh, come on. You know you wanted to say it.


Friday, May 29, 2009


Not literally, but I'm actually taking a legitimate vacation. I'll be back June 7. Until then, there'll be other folks saying interesting stuff here, so drop by

A couple of stories about fringy people who aren't very nice -- and their less-than-fringy friends.

First, as background, here's a story from Fox News (a story on which I actually think I agree with the Fox base):

Couple Ordered to Stop Holding Bible Study at Home Without Permit

Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a Bible study -- unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.

"On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county." David Jones told FOX News.

"We told them this is not really a religious assembly -- this is just a Bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all," Jones said.

A few days later, the couple received a written warning that cited "unlawful use of land," ordering them to either "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit," the couple's attorney Dean Broyles told San Diego news station 10News....

Atheist that I am, I actually agree that this the government probably shouldn't be doing anything like this -- this is "the free exercise of religion," which the Constitution protects.

But of the people who are upset about this, at least one has gone way too far:

One [blogger] is suggesting a major attack on San Diego County to the point where a checklist is posted.

The checklist suggests county radio frequencies could be jammed, county officials homes attacked and even suggests scouting locations for snipers.

Know who that blogger is? Hal Turner, the radio and Internet broadcaster. Here's the key part of his post:

The following need to be accomplished prior to dealing with the government of the County of San Diego over their interference with a Bible Study group.

1) Home addresses of county officials
2) Office locations of said officials
3) Routes they take to/from offices and times of those trips
4) Best locations along the way for snipers
5) Location of major telephone junction boxes near those homes and gov't buildings
6) Radio frequencies used by county and, if repeaters, in/out freqs. to be jammed
7) IP addresses for trunked radio systems if denial of service attacks necessary
8) Photos of key buildings and determination of any anti-truck bomb barriers

This is some of the basic information needed before launching any effort against a local, county or state government....

You remember Hal:

A radio talk-show entertainer whose earlier statements that he "may" have to assassinate members of Congress if the wrong people were elected Nov. 7 [2006] now has set a timetable for those killings....

"Members of The United States House of Representatives or United States Senate who try to grant any form of Amnesty to millions of illegal aliens are hereby notified they may as well paint a bulls-eye target on themselves. Our Bullets don't care about their sovereign power," he wrote....

That's a typical rant for Turner.

As I told you a couple of years ago, Turner had a very special mentor a while back: Sean Hannity:

... During an August 1998 episode of the show, Turner reminded Hannity that were it not for the graciousness of the white man, "black people would still be swinging on trees in Africa," according to Daryle Jenkins, co-founder of the New Jersey-based antiracism group One People's Project. Instead of rebuking Turner or cutting him off, Hannity continued to welcome his calls.

... according to Jenkins, Turner and Hannity had bonded off-air. In 1998 Hannity received an anonymous e-mail linking to an AOL discussion board on which Turner had allegedly confessed to a cocaine problem and alluded to past homosexual trysts. Turner (or someone claiming to be Turner) wrote in an August 4, 1998, Google discussion forum that Hannity called him to clear the air.... Turner added that such chats with Hannity were "not unusual," often occurring while Hannity held his calls during commercial breaks.

Jenkins told me that ... he encountered Turner [in 2003] and asked him about his relationship with Hannity. Turner claimed that he and Hannity would talk by phone and even recounted that Hannity had once invited him and his son on to the set of
Hannity and Colmes....

How do you like your pal, Sean?


And then there's this:

And here I thought Tom Tancredo, Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh would be the most offensive conservative critics of Sonia Sotomayor. How could I forget this clown?

Yesterday on his radio show, conservative host G. Gordon Liddy continued the right wing's all-out assault on Judge Sonia Sotomayor. [...]

"I understand that they found out today that Miss Sotomayor is a member of La Raza, which means in illegal alien, 'the race.' And that should not surprise anyone because she's already on record with a number of racist comments." [...]

"Let's hope that the key conferences aren't when she's menstruating or something, or just before she's going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then."

Let's not forget who considers Liddy a pal:

How close are [John] McCain and Liddy? ... In 1998, Liddy's home was the site of a McCain fundraiser. Over the years, he has made at least four contributions totaling $5,000 to the senator's campaigns--including $1,000 this year.

Last November, McCain went on his radio show. Liddy greeted him as "an old friend," and McCain sounded like one. "I'm proud of you, I'm proud of your family," he gushed. "It's always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great."

And how do you like your pal, Johnny Mac?


UPDATE: Wow -- Hal Turner himself (if it is Hal) responds in comments.

A more or less reasonable column today from Peggy Noonan, on the subject of Sonia Sotomayor:

Some, and they are idiots, look at Judge Sotomayor and say: attack, attack, kill. A conservative activist told the New York Times, "We need to brand her." Another told me a fight is needed to excite the base.

Excite the base? How about excite a moderate, or interest an independent? How about gain the attention of people who aren't already on your side?

Noonan recommends a line of questioning at Sotomayor's hearing that's probing but thoughtful and respectful. She urges Republicans not to grandstand.

I think she's asking a lot of her party. I think Republicans need to start by taking baby steps -- for instance, by trying to concoct arguments that are merely internally consistent, rather than preposterously self-contradictory.

I give you Wesley Pruden in today's Washington Times:

Limp legacy of the wet and weak

Barack Obama's legacy is coming sharply into focus, four years early. He's out to transform "a nation of laws," once the pride of the Anglo-Saxon heritage and exemplar to the world, into "a nation of feelings." We won't need judges, just social workers damp with empathy.

This is in line with the president's larger vision, to cut America down to a size a community organizer could manage, making it merely one of the nice nations of the world, like Belgium or Brazil. The home of the brave and the land of the free would become what our English cousins call "wet," weak, ineffectual, fragile, fearful, and inconsequential.

Sonia Sotomayor is one of the building blocks of the president's envisioned Mediocre Society. She's a perfect first nominee to the Supreme Court, "untouchable" for anyone tempted to look at who she really is, ... determined to help the president render America harmless, armed with good intentions but at the mercy of ravenous rivals. We may one day look back at her as the best of the worst.

The president is the master of demographic politics, playing the race card in a way that no one else could.... Robert Gibbs, the president's press agent, was an unapologetic intimidator, warning everyone to be "exceedingly careful" in talking about her....

This is scary enough, but [Obama] told a Hollywood audience this week that "you ain't seen nothin' yet." ...

If I'm following this correctly, Pruden is saying that totalitarian dictator Obama, his reverse-racist nominee, and his intimidating press secretary are all slipping on the jackboots to trample good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon America and start a reign of terror that involves ... um, abbey-brewed ales and chocolate? The samba? Did I lose the thread here somewhere? Isn't this a rather unusual sort of fascism?

See, this is where the right gets into trouble. Right-wingers hate Obama and everyone around him in every conceivable way -- but that means a right-wing storyline about Obama frequently meets another storyline in a head-on collision. Obama's a dim bulb who can't even talk without a Teleprompter ... and yet he's also a ruthless puppetmaster who has everyone he meets wrapped around his finger! Obama's a cold-blooded successor to Mao, Hitler, and Mussolini ... and yet his Supreme Court nominee got picked because he's a squishy liberal who thinks it's Everybody Gets a Prize Day! (Oh, and I guess that Court pick is so ineffectual she can't do anything without a healthy dose of affirmative action ... but also such an intimidating infighter that she's put shoe prints on the faces of all the people, presumably whites, she's trampled on her way to the top.)

Settle on one narrative, would ya, guys?


And regarding that Noonan column: it's OK, but it contains one squirm-inducing line, at the end of this paragraph:

[Sotomayor] is of course a brilliant political pick -- Hispanic when Republicans have trouble with Hispanics, a woman when they've had trouble with women. Her background (public housing, Newyorican, Catholic school, Princeton, prominence) is as moving as Clarence Thomas's, and that is moving indeed. Politically she's like a beautiful doll containing a canister of poison gas: Break her and you die.

Am I wrong to be creeped out by that image? Am I wrong to read it as the work of a woman who finds women icky, if not outright toxic? Politico's Ben Smith actually seems to like the line, but to me Noonan seems to be channeling the most cringe-inducing misogynist pronouncements of Ann Althouse.

Last week, Barack Obama and Dick Cheney went mano-a-mano on the subject of national security in near-simultaneous speeches; on the same day, George W. Bush addressed some high school students and talked about ... er, dog crap, among other things.

I guess Cheney's very public, much-discussed boasting about torture is finally getting to his former boss-on-paper. Yesterday Bush, for the first time since he left office, talked about torture and asserted pride of ownership:

Former President George W. Bush on Thursday repeated Dick Cheney's assertion that the administration's enhanced interrogation program, which included controversial techniques such as waterboarding, was legal and garnered valuable information that prevented terrorist attacks.

Bush told a southwestern Michigan audience of nearly 2,500 -- the largest he has addressed in the United States since leaving the White House in January -- that, after the September 11 attacks, "I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you."

In his speech, Bush ... didn't mention Cheney, his former vice president, by name....

Oooh, that's cold.

I think I knows what's bothering Bush. After Cheney's eighty billion recent public appearances, Dick and his camp got word out, via last Saturday's New York Times, that, well, yes, he just so happens to be in the market right now for a big fat book deal:

With his sustained blitz of television appearances and speeches, former Vice President Dick Cheney has established himself as perhaps the leading Republican voice against President Obama.

Not a bad time, then, to be in the market for a multimillion-dollar book contract.

Mr. Cheney is actively shopping a memoir about his life in politics and service in four presidential administrations....

A person familiar with discussions Mr. Cheney has had with publishers said he was seeking more than $2 million for his advance....

(Not to brag, but I told you this public-appearance blitz was an attempt to market his book to publishers.)

Bush has been looking forward to writing his memoir for quite a while; he made a deal for the book in March. As president he liked to think of himself as a guy doing big president-y things (like fighting wars) -- but now a big, (post-)president-y thing he's been planning to do for a long time runs the risk of being eclipsed by similar work by his ex-subordinate-on-paper.

So, yeah, I think he's jealous.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


The latest GOP phony scandal, as you probably know, is evil Obama singled out Republican Chrysler dealers for closure!!!!!!1!1!!!! It's absurd even by the usual GOP phony-scandal standards: as Nate Silver makes clear, the car dealers being put out of business are overwhelmingly Republican because car dealers as a whole are overwhlemingly Republican. Also see John Cole:

I'll just note that the same people now screaming about this were, just a few weeks ago, screaming about the sanctity of contracts trying to make sure that the bondholders would get their way and push Chrysler into bankruptcy and be liquidated and cause every single Chrysler dealership across the country to close. But it would hurt the UAW, so then it was ok.

But did you know that Sarah Palin is trying to make hay of this? She's issued a statement singling out a dealership that's being closed in Soldotna, Alaska; she writes, "Obama closes another dealership -- this time in Soldotna as more of Alaskans' hard-earned money and jobs are lost to big government." (And in the absence of government intervention, the Soldotna dealership would be thriving, right?)

This crossed her radar, I suspect, because one of the owners of the dealership, Shea Hutchings, is a Soldotna city councilman -- a Republican, needless to say.

What kind of Republican? Eric Dondero of the blog Texans for Sarah Palin interviewed Hutchings and got this answer:

I am a Karl Rove neoconservative Republican, not a Sarah Palin grass roots Republican. I'm more of a Christian Conservative Mike Huckabee sort, more so than a libertarian Republican.

To which I say: hunh?

I know about libertarian Republicans vs. values Republicans. I know about country-club Republicans vs. Walmart Republicans. I know there are still six or seven moderate Republicans left, and all the other Republicans hate them.

But since when is being a "Mike Huckabee sort" extremely different from being "a Sarah Palin grass roots Republican"? (Palin eats moose, but Huckabee used to eat squirrel, dammit!) Since when is being a "Christian Conservative" like being Karl Rove, who's apparently an atheist? And why is being a "Christian Conservative" not like being Sarah Palin?

And why, when the governor has your back, do you go out of your way to deny that you're the kind of Republican she is? Isn't that sort of rude?

I'm starting to think that the loss of political dominance is making the old GOP coalition split into a greater number of warring but (to an outsider) frequently indistinguishable subgenres than heavy metal:

Either that or it's a Judean People's Front/People's Front of Judea thing:


We're being told that there's something scandalous about Sonia Sotomayor's assertion that her life experiences affect her work as a judge. This criticism of Sotomayor is being taken to absurd lengths -- references she once made in a speech to Puerto Rican foods she's frequently eaten are being eyed suspiciously by the right:

According to Hill reporter Alexander Bolton, "This has prompted some Republicans to muse privately about whether Sotomayor is suggesting that distinctive Puerto Rican cuisine such as patitas de cerdo con garbanzo -- pigs' tongue and ears [actually pigs' feet with beans] -- would somehow, in some small way influence her verdicts from the bench."

Curt Levey, the executive director of the Committee for Justice, a conservative-leaning advocacy group, said he wasn't certain whether Sotomayor had claimed her palate would color her view of legal facts but he said that President Obama's Supreme Court nominee clearly touts her subjective approach to the law.

So what do you suppose Antonin Scalia would think about all this? He's regarded on the right as a near-ideal judge. Surely he'd be horrified at the notion that a judge's food history matters -- right?

Er, no.

Last year he published a book entitled Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. In an interview he gave to The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog at the time of the book's publication, he made clear that he assumes food and personal history will be a part of a judge's outlook. Oh, and he talked about some of his dining experiences:

In the section entitled "Know your audience," you urge advocates to learn as much as they can about the judge who will decide the case - from what entities they represented as a lawyer, to their favorite restaurant. For a litigator arguing before the Supreme Court, what's important to know about Justice Scalia?

Oh my. Well, I was a law professor, so I'm not scared by abstract academic ideas. I was in the government, and I am aware of both the benefits and the costs of federal agencies. I was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, which is really the paladin of presidential prerogative. So Scalia probably cares about observing the separation of powers.

As for favorite restaurants, we heard that your favorite D.C.-area Italian eatery, A.V., closed recently.

Isn't that a shame? I sometimes go to Tosca, but Tosca's a lot pricier than A.V. used to be. What I recommend is right across the river in Crystal City, a little place called Bebo. It's much less pricey. The ambience is not as posh. But the food is just as good. The pizzas are perhaps even better than they were at A.V. They have a wood-burning pizza oven imported from Italy.

Sounds delicious. But tell me, why is it so important to know the background of a judge, but not important to know the background of a statute? You famously spurn any use of legislative history.

Oh it is important to know the background of a statute if you’re speaking to a judge that uses legislative history. I'm not that judge. I'm giving advice to lawyers. Your job is to do whatever you can within proper ethics to persuade this particular judge.

So judges aren't robotically strict interpreters of the law? And their backgrounds and work history and even personal food tastes are influential on their decisions? And that's true even of the great conservative jurist Antonin Scalia????

Who knew?

Rush Limbaugh got a lot of attention for calling Sonia Sotomayor a "reverse racist" (after which Newt Gingrich effectively said "ditto").

But Limbaugh went one better, or worse, yesterday -- he compared Republicans to brutalized and disempowered seekers of civil rights:

Conservatism is an oppressed minority today. The Republican Party is an oppressed minority.... When you're an oppressed minority, what do you do? You willingly go to the back of the bus and you willingly shut up and you willingly don't make waves. If ever a civil rights movement was needed in America, it is for the Republican Party. If ever we needed to start marching for freedom and constitutional rights, it's for the Republican Party. The Republican Party is today's oppressed minority, and it knows how to behave as one. It shuts up. It doesn't cross bridges; it doesn't run into the Bull Connors of the Democrat Party; it is afraid of the fire hoses and the dogs, it's compliant.

The Republican Party today has become totally complacent. They are an oppressed minority; they know their position; they know their place. They go to the back of the bus. They don't use the right restroom and the right drinking fountain, and they shut up....

Barack Obama thinks of himself as a member of an oppressed minority, but he's not taking it, he's fighting back. He's going to go so far as to desecrate the Constitution to address his grievances. The Republican Party, they've mastered it, they've got it down pat. Washington, DC, may as well be -- (interruption) what, Snerdley? Washington, DC, is the Old South for Republicans, if you want to draw the analogy....

(Audio below, via Media Matters.)

Republicans feel that they're the only legitimate Americans, so they feel entitled to all the power available; it's their due, as far as they're concerned -- even the power of being able to say you're from a group that's been oppressed. They're jealous of those they perceive as having that power.

And, beyond that, well, they're just turning into the '60s and '70s left, in ways that alienated a lot of people back in those days. They call Obama a "fascist." They get giddy holding big protests using live pigs as props. And now here's Limbaugh trying to appropriate black oppression, a tactic I certainly remember from my childhood:

However much the grievances of those white '60s and '70s lefties were legitimate, they weren't black. They weren't entitle to wrap themselves in the history of blackness. And Limbaugh, God help us, isn't either.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


A couple of anti-Sotomayor outbursts Twittered by Newt Gingrich became the lead story on CNN's Political Ticker today. Steve Benen says:

The disgraced former House Speaker ... hasn't served in public office for over a decade, and has no relevance or influence in the Senate at all.

...why are Newt Gingrich's silly ideas the lead story at CNN's political site right now? And why does CNN treat his rants as political news on a nearly daily basis?

Here's what I think: Gingrich may be obnoxious and he may be irrelevant, but his verbal bomb-throwing is good copy. What I mean is, it's better than anything any current GOP officeholder can manage.

And that matters because the news media desperately wants what's going on in D.C. to be an evenly matched fight. By any objective criterion, the Republicans should be all but irrelevant right now. But that's intolerable to CNN, and to much of the rest of the mainstream media.

Is that because closely contested battles are more interesting than blowouts? Or is it because D.C. is still, as Josh Marshall says, wired for Republicans?

I'd say it's a bit of both. And I understand the first reason to some extent -- the press wants to hold our interest. But I think the latter is part of the problem as well. I think the disgraced, unpopular Gingrich -- and the disgraced, unpopular Dick Cheney, for that matter -- are getting an infinite number of do-overs just because the notion of Republicans as a disgraced, unpopular party is incomprehensible and unbearable to the press. If Michael Steele or Eric Cantor or Bobby Jindal can't give good quote, well, find some Republican -- any Republican -- who can, and elevate that person to the president's level. Because the GOP can't be a laughingstock -- heaven forfend.

The Opinionator at the New York Times site flags a couple of posts about General Petraeus -- who has clearly decided that he really, really doesn't want to be the Republican candidate for president:

Huffington Post: Sam Stein surfaces an interview with Gen. David Petraeus aired on Radio Free Europe over the weekend, in which he addressed Gitmo and torture:

[Closing Guantanamo] in a responsible manner, I think, sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees.

Guardian: Michael Tomasky on the Petraeus interview: "This is a pretty big deal. Gen. David Petraeus chooses Obama over Cheney."

So there you go. Anti-torture and pro-closing Gitmo. What makes this interesting, of course, is that one hears Petraeus's name mentioned as a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2012. I bet we won't be hearing it much anymore once it sinks in on conservatives that he's just another girly-man who believes that half measures that keep us half free are just fine.

Tomasky's right -- Petraeus doesn't have a chance in the Republican primaries three years from now.

Which brings to mind a thought I've had recently. What would have happened if the Bush administration had resisted the Petraeus-era approach to Iraq until the bitter end ... and then Obama or another Democratic president, or perhaps a President Kerry after the '04 elections, had tried to adopt it? Can you imagine the hue and cry from the right?

Outreach to Sunni insurgents who'd previously killed American troops? Nation-building and increased cultural awareness? The notion that "some of the best weapons do not shoot"? Even if it was all (quite literally) textbook Army counterinsurgency strategy, wouldn't the right have been using it all as an excuse to bash a Democratic president who endorsed this approach, decrying that president as a limp-wristed relativist who just didn't understand that we're at war, dammit?

So I'd say Petraeus is kinda lucky he got to do what he did for a couple of years under Bush. Now, though, he's headed for pariah status on the right.

David Brody, from Pat Robertson's news operation, asks:

Umm, hello? Can someone explain why the infamous Youtube clip of Sotomayor is not the silver bullet? I mean folks let's think this through for a moment. The whole judicial battle for years has been about nominating "judicial activists" to the court. In this Youtube video, you have Sotomayor saying that the Court of Appeals is where policy is made. Huh? Folks, if this isn't a silver bullet then what is it exactly? This may be a smoking gun and a silver bullet combo. This quote is the essence of the conservative argument against liberal judges for years. Conservative groups realize this and are trying to make it a big deal. The media has mentioned it but so far, GOP Senators have been very reluctant to bash her over these comments. Maybe they're saving their fire for the confirmation hearing. Or maybe they're being typical politicians and shrinking away from a fight because of the political consequences. The point here is this: if you're a conservative Senator and you've been making a big deal of judicial activism for years, staying silent doesn't seem to be an option. Isn't this the exact sort of comment that you have been railing against for years? To sum up, "Where's the outrage"? Will it ever come?

Oh, David, David, David. You did just get off the bus from Podunk, didn't you? Let me explain.

"The whole judicial battle for years" has not "been about nominating 'judicial activists' to the court." The Republican "battle for years" has been about terrifying the population with horror stories about bands of marauding homosexuals, feminists, and (especially) non-white people, all (so the story goes) sicced on good, decent, NASCAR-loving Americans by sinister lawyers and college professors from Cambridge and Berkeley.

Alas for the Republicans, there's been a fairly significant increase in the number of hetero-Caucaso-Americans who regard gays, working women, and the significantly melanined as human beings, and who actually wish them well. Word is that a member of the last group was actually able to get a pretty good job at the White House.

In the recent past, the phrase "judicial activism" was just a delivery system meant to camouflage the true payload: the message Stop those people or they're coming for your daughters! If that's not working anymore, the whole thing falls apart.


UPDATE: Paul Krugman says:

The thing that is really driving conservatives crazy, I think, is that their identity politics just isn't working like it used to. Their whole approach has been based on the belief that Americans vote as if they live in Mayberry, and fear and hate anyone who looks a bit different; now that the country just isn't like that, they’ve gone mad.

I think a party that's jettisoned ideas and made pure rage its organizing force would have gone mad in any case, but Krugman's right -- this isn't helping.

Sure, it's appalling that John Yoo walks the streets as a free man, much less that he's holding forth on the subject of Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick. But what I find striking is the fact that, in addition to the now-boilerplate complaints about "empathy" and identity politics, Yoo -- like all wingnut apparatchiks right now -- is so desperate for battle that he's criticizing Sonia Sotomayor using our side's arguments:

Obama had some truly outstanding legal intellectuals and judges to choose from -- Cass Sunstein, Elena Kagan, and Diane Wood come immediately to mind. The White House chose a judge distinguished from the other members of that list only by her race....

Sotomayor's record on the bench, at first glance, appears undistinguished. She will not bring to the table the firepower that many liberal academics are asking for. There are no opinions that suggest she would change the direction of constitutional law as have Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, or Robert Bork and Richard Posner on the appeals courts. Liberals have missed their chance to put on the Court an intellectual leader who will bring about a progressive revolution in the law.

And the lead item at right now is headlined "Vicious Attack on Sotomayor's 'Lack of Intellectual Depth.'" Follow the link and you arrive at a National Review blog post that features ... a Talking Points Memo clip of Jonathan Turley talking to David Shuster on MSNBC. Here's the crux of the "vicious attack" by Turley that has right-wingers so riled up:

... liberals are obviously enjoying, rightfully, a certain short-term elation with this two-fer, a woman and a Latina, being put on the Court. But in terms of long-term satisfaction, she does not naturally suggest that's she's going to be the equal of a Scalia, and I think that that was the model for liberals -- they wanted someone who would shape the intellectual foundations of the Court. Her past opinions do not suggest that she is like that. She actually -- it suggests that she'll be a great justice, like Thurgood Marshall, she'll be the first Latina, but I'll remind you, Thurgood Marshall's opinions did not have a lasting intellectual impact on the Court.

So, according to Turley, she lacks the intellectual candlepower of (as he says elsewhere) Diane Wood or Elaine Kagan -- but she can be "a great justice" anyway. Wow, that's vicious.

Like speed freaks, righties are pacing the floor and balling their fists; they just want to fight. The talking points they're able to marshal regarding Sotomayor aren't enough to get their juices flowing. They need more, dammit! So they're stealing talking points from our side. If we won't engage them in a bare-knuckle brawl, they'll fight both sides if they have to.


The alternate approach is just to ignore the facts and go into a spittle-flecked rant against Sotomayor as an Obama surrogate, not caring whether certain aspects of anti-Obama fury even apply to Sotomayor. Hence, Quin Hillyer of The American Spectator:

I never in my life thought I could possibly see a Supreme Court pick as bad as Sonia Sotomayor. Barack Obama is quite clearly trying to upend all the underpinnings of American society in order to create his own version of a Brave New World. Government takeovers of banks and car companies, firings of executives, politically based decisions on which individual car dealerships remain open, world tours apologizing for supposed American sins, mollycoddling our enemies while insulting our friends, broken promises about transparency combined with selective release of classifed documents to serve political purposes.... and so much more, and now.... THIS.

Somebody fetch the tranquilizer gun. These guys need sedation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I'm serious. From Politico, on the New Haven firefighter case:

Conservatives ... plan to build an emotional -- and political -- face for their cause by characterizing the firefighters as victims of Sotomayor's judicial overreach and insensitivity.

"Reverse discrimination is something Americans understand; it polls," said one conservative activist. "These are blue-collar guys who were called in on Sept. 11. They were at the ruins of a terrorist attack."

Someone on the right will tell us that she doesn't want the best-qualified firefighters to respond to the next 9/11. We'll be told that in the event of the next 9/11, if it were up to her, the terrorists would kill more of us.

Really. This will be said.

I do enjoy the comedy stylings of Adam Nagourney:

Republicans Weigh Risks of a Supreme Court Battle

President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court has put the Republican Party in a bind, as it weighs the cost of aggressively opposing Mr. Obama's attempt to put the first Hispanic on the high court at a time when the party has struggled with sharp setbacks in its effort to appeal to Hispanic voters.

The Republican Party has been embroiled in a public argument over whether to tend to the ideological interests of its conservative base or to expand its appeal to a wider variety of voters in order to regain its strength following the defeats of 2008....

Gosh, I really, really wonder how this is going to turn out. I'm not sure I can handle the nail-biting suspense.

Oh, please. We know the Republicans are going to oppose her aggressively; the only question was whether the Senate leadership would come out with guns blazing or pretend to be holding fire. We have our answer on that -- the RNC has "accidentally" leaked mild-seeming talking points to the press, and tough talk is being limited to members of interest groups and Republicans who aren't currently in office....

For now.

Here's what happens next: One day -- and it will be one day -- the entire GOP will pivot as one and focus on one or a small handful of anti-Sotomayor talking points. Their message discipline will be perfect and they won't stop until the zone is flooded like New Orleans in August '05. Outside groups and media blatherers may do so in a giddy way, but current GOP elected officials will pretend to be "troubled." Then they'll be moralistic and self-righteous.

The press will probably be supine.

Whatever they're talking about will suddenly be The Worst Thing In The World.

This is coming -- don't doubt it for a second. If you're bored, start a pool and bet on which day it'll start.


EVEN FUNNIER: A real kneeslapper from Politico's Jeanne Cummings:

The filibuster is a particularly thorny issue for Senate Republicans, who railed against the Democrats for trying the tactic against Alito. Their mantra then: That the judicial nominees of President George W. Bush -- or any president -- deserve an up-or-down vote in the chamber.

Those could be tough words to walk away from today.

Oh yeah -- incredibly tough. Why, Republicans would have to engage in hypocrisy! And the press would mostly have to give them a pass on it! That could never happen!

The latest New York Post column by Ralph Peters -- last seen accusing journalists of treason -- isn't going to get much attention, given today's Sotomayor and Prop 8 news, but it's kind of a doozy:

WE made one great mistake regarding Guantanamo: No terrorist should have made it that far. All but a handful of those grotesquely romanticized prisoners should have been killed on the battlefield.

few kept alive for their intelligence value should have been interrogated secretly, then executed.

Terrorists don't
have legal rights or human rights. By committing or abetting acts of terror against the innocent, they place themselves outside of humanity's borders. They must be hunted as man-killing animals.

And, as a side benefit, dead terrorists don't pose legal quandaries....

Does this mean we should have just summarily executed, say, Guantanamo detainee Mohammed Jawad, who was captured in Afghanistan at age 16 or 17, accused of throwing a grenade at an U.S. military vehicle, which would seemingly make him, at most, a guerrilla soldier, not a terrorist? Ah, but it's reported that he was trained by Al Qaeda ... in the use of grenades, a skill I'm sure the illiterate, non-English-speaking Afghan could have used to kill mass numbers of innocent Americans in their beds, somehow. Yeah, he's definitely too much of a super-ultra-mega-monster to be treated like, y'know, a prisoner of war, even though the only act of violence he's charged with was an act of war.

Sure, if you step back, the ordinary rules of war seem absurd -- in the midst of battle you shoot to kill, but killing a soldier captured alive is regarded as brutality. But that's a widely recognized and understandable practice -- except it's not understandable to Ralph Peters, if the enemy in question is not a uniformed soldier but a terrorist (and a terrorist is anyone we say is a terrorist). Then, well, kill him. Kill 'em all.

Rules of engagement? I got your rules of engagement right here.

The Peters column loses steam after that -- he keeps coming back to the notion that if we have to take in Gitmo detainees, they ought to go to Cape Cod, because, well, Kennedy-bashing never gets old and hey, you may as well go to urbanized coastal Massachusetts because it's not as if America has any high-security prisons in sparsely populated states or anything. But really, kill 'em all is a much better solution.

John Cole on Sonia Sotomayor:

Who will be the first to compare her to J-Lo?

I'll go even more low-rent:

Who will be the first to upload a Sotomayor video set to "America" from West Side Story?

Who'll be the first to Photoshop braces on her and compare her to Ugly Betty? (Yes, I know Betty's supposed to be Mexican-American.)

Who'll make the first maid joke?

Who'll make the first joke about stealing hubcaps? (That's easy -- Jackie Mason, who still does jokes about Puerto Ricans stealing hubcaps and doesn't get crap for them because no one under the age of fifty understands them.)

Or maybe we've really outgrown this crap, and it'll be confined to the fringes of the fringes?

The video surfaced a few weeks ago, but it's about to become the scariest thing in the universe, scarier even than Muslim superterrorists in your neighborhood!!!!!:

I thought the existence of that clip -- which the right can use to suggest the notion that liberal judges legislate from the bench and conservative judges don't -- might dissuade President Obama from picking Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, but she's his choice, which means he wants a fight. Either that or he's underestimating the ability of the weakened but still vicious GOP to turn a reasonable person into a monster in the public's eyes -- especially a woman, and especially a non-Caucasian woman. (Remember Lani Guinier?) And, no, I don't think putting the clip in context is going to drown out the braying from the right.

The right is going to work this angle:

Sotomayor describes Latinos as one of America's "economically deprived populations" which, like "all minority and women's groups," are filled with people "who don't make it in our society at all." Attributing those failures to inequities inherent in American society, she affirms her commitment to "serving the underprivileged of our society" by promoting Affirmative Action and other policies designed to help those who "face enormous challenges."

Of Puerto Rican heritage, Sotomayor served from 1980 to 1992 as a Board of Directors member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. This organization promotes amnesty and expanded rights for illegal aliens living in the United States; advocates hiring minority job applicants who have lower testing scores; favors preferential treatment for minorities in job promotions and career advancement; seeks to promote Spanish as an acceptable alternative to English in the business world; and supports race-based redistricting plans that would guarantee electoral victories for Latinos.

It doesn't matter how much exaggeration there is in that. It's going to be shouted from the housetops.

Of course, there's an even-the-liberals opportunity here -- The Washington Post's Richard Cohen hates her ruling in the Ricci affirmative action case involving New Haven firefighters. And, yeah, there's that New Republic hit job.

Oh, and because the right can't mount one of these character assaults without ridicule, we'll be reminded of this case:

In 1998, she was awarded the Court Jester Award by the Family Research Council for extending the application of the Americans With Disabilities Act to a woman who failed the New York bar exam several times because, she said, she couldn't read very well.

For the record, the woman had dyslexia.

Is this enough to get every non-Maine Republican senator lined up against Sotomayor? Oh, absolutely. Is it enough to get the right-leaning and self-hating Dems (Bayh, Nelson, Landrieu, etc.) lined against her? Quite possibly.

I don't know if Obama plays chess, but I wonder if he's sacrificing a pawn here, in the belief that the battle will reinforce his image as a reasonable guy (and reinforce his party's standing with Hispanics for the foreseeable future) -- while perhaps also thinking that if he wins a tough one, that will increase his stature. In any case, he's asking for trouble with this pick -- which may be the point.


UPDATE: I think Bill Campbell is right -- somebody is going to start telling us soon (on the birther fringe, perhaps?) that Sotomayor was a Puerto Rican separatist terrorist once upon a time ... or at least that we can't prove she wasn't.


MORE: Paul Mirengoff of Power Line begins a post on Sotomayor thus:


That's how a friend of mine refers to Sonia Sotomayor. He's joking, I think.

No explanation is offered. The rest of the post is a fairly evenhanded assessment of Sotomayor that doesn't suggest radicalism in the slightest. But, hey, it's clear the right is itching to attack her in the terms Bill describes.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Hey, I'm back -- thanks, aimai, for filling in while I was offline.

I had a thought on Sunday when I was reading The New York Times. On the front page was a story about the Obama administration's increasing reliance on "foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan," even though many of these countries have rather human rights records. In the Week in Review there was an op-ed by Flynt and Hillary Leverett making a persuasive case that the Obama administration's Iran policy is going to bear no fruit because it's all stick and no carrot. Also in the Week in Review we had Frank Rich remind us that the Obama administration is still allowing gay servicemembers to be dismissed from military service, while Obama shies away from endorsing gay marriage.

All of this is disheartening, though for me it's not too surprising -- even before the election I expected to be disappointed by a fair number of things Obama would do as president (and I felt the same way about Hillary Clinton). But after reading just this one day's worth of disappointments and adding them to other actions that have upset the left, it occurred to me that there are going to be serious calls for a primary challenge to Obama from the left in the runup to 2012.

I'm not sure where they'll be coming from -- Glenn Greenwald? Jane Hamsher? Rachel Maddow? But I'm predicting that it will happen.

On one level, I get it. I have problems with all of the policies I read about in the three stories I've cited from Sunday's Times, and they're not the only letdowns I've had from Obama. But I'm not going to join in.

I'm still waiting for someone to show me how we get to the election of an unambiguously progressive president and an unambiguously progressive Congress -- whereas, by contrast, I can easily imagine electing a president soon (certainly in 2016, and I still think possibly in 2012, which is a long way away) who is even further to the right that Bush, as Bush was further to the right than Reagan. (I'm not sure any other kind of Republican could survive the primary process.) Oh, and a wingnut Congress to go with that new president.

I'm still more focused on neutralizing the far right than anything else. I still don't know how that's done. There seems to be no amount of shrinkage sufficient to render the GOP irrelevant. So I'm going to stick with Obama. But I'm telling you, not everyone on our side will.


UPDATE: I see that Maha has been wondering whether moderate Republicans will split from their party and form a party of their own, while Kevin K. wonders if there's more likey to be a third (netroots-based) party on the left. I think the moderate Repubs (most of whom aren't all that young) are just going to continue saying, "Just you wait -- you'll be back" (how long has Christie Whitman been saying that?), and I doubt lefty Dems will split -- the primary challenge still seems to be the netroot weapon of choice, and, as I say, I think at least a few lefties will seriously talk about targeting Obama that way.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

While SteveM is away:

Kos draws our attention to the last part of Chris Caldwell's Financial Times article:

That is why Mr Cheney’s big push has been successful. It confronts Mr Obama with a Gordian knot that he dare not cut. A constitution that enshrines rights is an asset, but it does not come free. If it did, every country would have one. Eight years ago, Americans reckoned that some rights were worth trading for security. If they want those rights back, they will probably have to trade some security. That is the bargain. Until Mr Obama admits it he will be tangled up in an illogic from which no oratory can extract him.

That's really not the way I remember the last eight years. I certainly wasn't offered any choice between safety and law. Everything was done under a cloak of secrecy and no public attempt was made to rewrite or reinterpret the Constitution at all. We were constantly assured that everything was being done in accordance with that ineffable quality "Americanness" enshrined in the Constitution.

But more to the point is the right wing really insisting that other countries without Constitutions chose to avoid them for fear that Constitutions might lead to frightening restraints on the power of the state to secretly detain, torture, and kill citizens and non citizens? without trial?

Hm, what are those countries without Constitutions? How about Saudi Arabia? Oh wait, they *have* a Constitution. Iran? Nope. Got one. Zimbabwe? Nope, got one too--even if its "only a piece of paper." (Warning, PDF).

So, wait, who among the world's countries "choose" not to have a "Constitution" for fear of the scary choice between rights and safety? Why, that would be Great Britain, New Zealand, and Israel.

I've got my own quarrels with the way the UK and Israel, certainly, are handling issues of law and security but can anyone explain to me in what way their lack of a written Constitution was a conscious choice made with regard to the limited issue of safety from pants pissing fear? Because I'm not seeing it.


Saturday, May 23, 2009


I'm out of town this weekend at a Undisclosed Location where I thought I'd have a crappy but serviceable Internet connection. No such luck. So I'm involuntarily off for the weekend. If any guest bloggers are out there and feel like using my allotted bandwith, be my guest. Otherwise, let's all just fire up the grill or the tofu cooker or whatever, and I'll be back Monday night.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I haven't even gotten to #2 on a list by The Telegraph's Toby Harnden of "the 10 punches Dick Cheney landed on Barack Obama's jaw" and already I know the pink-cheeked Limey is full of crap. Here's #1:

1. "I've heard occasional speculation that I'm a different man after 9/11. I wouldn't say that, but I'll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities."

Anyone who was in New York or Washington on 9/11 (I was here in DC) was profoundly affected and most Americans understand this. Obama was, as far as I can tell, in Chicago. His response - he was then a mere state senator for liberal Hyde Park - was startlingly hand-wringing and out of step with how most Americans were feeling....

Yeah? Really? Obama's reaction -- failing to prostrate himself before Cheney and Bush and say, "Oh, great manly men, thank you for doing the dirty deeds necessary to keep us safe" -- is out of step with the reaction of those who lived in the locations that were hit?

Then explain to me why John Kerry got 82% of the vote in 2004 in Manhattan, where the Twin Towers were located, and 75% of the vote in Brooklyn, where debris from the Towers landed, as well as more than 70% of the vote in the Bronx and Queens. Explain to me why Kerry got 89% of the vote in D.C. Oh, and the vote for Obama in those affected areas was even more lopsided.

Screw you, Limey. I live as well as work in Manhattan. You don't even live in the D.C. city limits. When the wind blew north a couple of days after 9/11, I had the windows open and I smelled the toxic aftermath in my apartment.

Yet I've never had the slightest desire to lick Dick Cheney's boots. And the vast majority of my neighbors would tell you the same thing. And we voted for Obama and Kerry in the firm belief that they felt the same way.


UPDATE: Harnden tweets:

Was in downtown DC on 9/11 btw. Moved to VA 12/08.

If "Was in" means "Lived in," then point taken -- though my main point still stands.

And, um -- 12/08? A month after the election? Just a coincidence -- or a terrified flight in anticipation of the rampaging super-terrorist hordes expected during the reign of B. Hussein Osama?

While Dick Cheney, a man who never had (and never will have) Barack Obama's job (and who doesn't have any job at all anymore) has been elevated to the status of Obama's rival, the man who did have Obama's job, and who was (ostensibly) Obama's new rival's boss, also gave a speech yesterday -- and the speech did not get front-page headlines.

For obvious reasons:

ARTESIA, N.M. -- It was a humbling moment for the former commander in chief: President George W. Bush was walking former first dog Barney in his new Dallas neighborhood when it stopped in a neighbor's yard for relief.

"And there I was, former president of the United States of America, with a plastic bag on my hand," he told a group of graduating high school students in New Mexico on Thursday. "Life is returning back to normal."

The speaking appearance was at Artesia High School, near Roswell, New Mexico. Bush spoke at a ceremony for recipients of scholarship money from an oilman's foundation.

Yup -- while Obama and Cheney were talking about life and death and terrorism, Bush was talking about dog crap.

Then again, maybe that's appropriate. It's increasingly obvious from Cheney's public pronouncements that Bush wasn't really president when he was president.

(The nuanced version of that is that Bush wasn't really president for some of the time when he was president. On Keith Olbermann's show last night, Lawrence Wilkerson said of Cheney, "I think the speech he gave today indicated clearly to me who was the president of the United States from 2001 to 2005" -- not 2009, although he didn't say who he thought was president after '05. David Brooks says today that we had a "Bush-Cheney period" until about 2005, but then "Cheney lost to Bush" -- "Gradually, in fits and starts, a series of Bush administration officials -- including Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Jack Goldsmith and John Bellinger -- tried to rein in the excesses of the Bush-Cheney period." Presumably, though, that 2005 end date was just in certain areas of policy; Robert Draper's recent GQ article makes clear that, at Defense, Donald Rumsfeld pretty much did whatever the hell he wanted well into 2006, on issues both foreign and domestic.)

In any case, it occurs to me that certain Republicans undermined, and declared illegitimate, everyone we've elected president in the past generation. They abandoned Poppy Bush, particularly in the run-up to the '92 election. They fought mercilessly to delegitimize, disempower, and ultimately dislodge Clinton, although they fell short of that final goal. Then they undermined both winners in 2000 -- first they manipulated the electoral process to ensure a sleazy Bush victory, then Cheney seized the reins from Bush and ran the place. (In that case, the president's loss of power appears to have been voluntary.) And now they're trying to strangle the Obama presidency in its crib -- and I have very little confidence that anyone's going to get their hands off its neck in time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Remember General William G. "Jerry" Boykin?

Boykin has been portrayed as an anti-Muslim zealot because of what he said while preaching to a Christian congregation about how his faith in God sustained him in battle.

The churches videotaped and distributed Boykin's speeches, and it wasn't long before his personal testimony became public controversy. One story he told about chasing warlords in Somalia 10 years ago came across as belittling the Muslim faith.

This is what Boykin said about one Somali warlord who believed Allah would protect him from being captured by Americans: "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

He published his memoir, Never Surrender, last year -- and his coauthor was a woman named Lynn Vincent, an editor at the Christian newsmagazine World, where she works under editor in chief Marvin Olasky, the Bush spiritual adviser who was the principal theorist of "compassionate conservatism."

Well, now Lynn Vincent's got a new book project:

After last week's announcement that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would pen a memoir to set the record straight about her personal and political life, HarperCollins revealed Thursday that WORLD Magazine Features Editor Lynn Vincent has been signed on as Palin's collaborator.

So, um, I think we can be sure the Palin book is going to be heavy on the Jesus.

And on the Dem-bashing -- Vincent also wrote, with Robert Stacy McCain of The American Spectator, a book called Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party, which World Net Daily, needless to say, gave a rave review:

No, Vincent and McCain do not claim that the Republican Party boasts only the good, the pure and the beautiful, as Aristotle said.

Hardly! It's just that "the Democratic Party has a 200-year history of urban corruption, treason and subversion, mob control, alliance with corrupt unions, and aiding and abetting criminals that has no parallel in the GOP."

... We learn that "the killer and traitor Aaron Burr" founded the Democratic Party.

From this outlaw legacy sprang Tammany Hall gangsters, some actually helping to "elect three of the past six Democratic presidents."

We get the skinny on how big-city Democrats have betrayed the inner-city poor into drugs, disease and squalor.

So, yeah, the Palin book could be a wee bit tendentious.

Vincent's best-known book is the tearjerking Christian memoir Same Kind of Different as Me, which she wrote with Ron Hall and Denver Moore:

It's spent 30 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

(Source; source.)

CNN Monday:

CNN today:

I just want to point out that, despite the glass-half-empty headline for the Democrat and the glass-half-full headline for the Republican, Cheney's approval rating is 37%, while Pelosi's is two points higher -- 39%.

From Jim Rutenberg's New York Times liveblog of Dick Cheney's speech:

At the American Enterprise Institute, "think tank" and "electrified" are words that do not usually go together. But something tells me that the conference room where Vice President Cheney is about to speak here is as excited as a policy institute can get. The room, with closed wooden shutters, is buzzing, and it seems to be on the verge of the world record for "TV cameras per capita in a single room." While I was asking a helpful publicity agent for the Institute to point out any luminaries in the room, John Bolton, the former Ambassador to the United Nations, walked up to take a seat toward the front, his famous mustache neatly trimmed. But suffice to say, this room is packed mostly with press, with high-profile network correspondents -- Jon Karl of ABC News and Bill Plante of CBS News -- mingling with partisan bloggers and mainstream reporters, all here to capture what is something of an historic moment. When was the last time you saw head-to-head speeches from a newly minted president and a freshly former vice president from diametrically opposed political and stylistic bents?

This is part of the reason Republicans control our political discourse, even now: they invest their heroes (even stumblebums like George W. Bush and Joe the Plumber) with an aura of superstardom, and it becomes infectious -- note how giddy Rutenberg is about this "historic moment" (as, presumably, are all those "high-profile network correspondents").

Contrast Rutenberg's breathless prose here with the dry factual recitation of Kate Phillips, whose liveblogging of Barack Obama's speech is interleaved with Rutenberg's.

Much of the stagecraft of the High Bush Era -- Mission Accomplished day, the '04 campaign speeches packed tight with audience zealots -- was intended to create that sense of rock stardom. It worked for Bush for a long time -- and, yes, Obamania was similar in '08, but Republicans seem to be able to gin it up for all kinds of people (not just Cheney now, but Ann Coulter a few years ago, Sarah Palin more recently, and even Limbaugh at CPAC), while Obama's rock stardom is clearly not transferable outside his immediate family. Republicans are believers -- and they make believers out of reporters, too.


And now I've just started reading the prepared text of Cheney's speech, which The Weekly Standard has posted -- and what strikes me about the opening passages is the ego. The introductory passages include all the hero-worship talking points others have used about Cheney -- except here he is using them about himself:

... Those eight years as vice president were quite a journey, and during a time of big events and great decisions, I don't think I missed much.

Being the first vice president who had also served as secretary of defense, naturally my duties tended toward national security. I focused on those challenges day to day, mostly free from the usual political distractions. I had the advantage of being a vice president content with the responsibilities I had, and going about my work with no higher ambition. Today, I'm an even freer man. Your kind invitation brings me here as a private citizen – a career in politics behind me, no elections to win or lose, and no favor to seek....

But, of course, all the Republican rock stars come to believe the hype about themselves -- Bush, Palin, Coulter, Limbaugh, Gingrich, Joe the Plumber. (Often, of course, they're the hype's originators.)

And many of them get quite a bit of love from the press for loving themselves.

The fact that Bush released Guantanamo detainees who've since fought Americans proves that Bush protected Americans from those detainees, and their release years ago is all Obama's fault. The fact that Obama seeks to try, convict, sentence, and imprison Guantanamo detainees proves that he wants to let them loose to kill Americans.

Sorry, folks -- I'm reassured by what I'm reading about the Bronx terror plot that was broken up last night. We all know, or we should know, that there are going to be people out there concocting schemes like this; in this case, the law was on to the plotters a year ago:

Sources said the four men were arrested after a year-long investigation that began when an informant connected to a mosque in Newburgh said he knew men who wanted to buy explosives.

FBI agents supplied them with what they billed as C-4 plastic explosives and a Stinger missile.

The weaponry was all phony.

"The bombs had been made by FBI technicians," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. "They were totally inert."

The system worked. Law enforcement vigilance (and, as far as I can tell, mainstream law enforcement techniques -- not warrantless wiretaps or torture) kept us safe.

Oh, and this happened even though scary Guantanamo superterrorist Terminators aren't on U.S. soil.

... And yet I'm certain this story is going to be used to scare the crap out of us -- particularly about the notion of putting Gitmo detainees in stateside supermax prisons. Already, Pete King, who used to have moderation but is now more and more a Limbaughnista cadre, is getting in an opportunistic soundbite:

"This shows the real risks we face from homegrown terror and jailhouse converts, and the need for constant vigilance," said Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.).

In fact, three of the men arrested appear to have been jailhouse converts to Islam (although they were reportedly recruited by the alleged plot leader after their release) -- but I assume the reference was meant to refer not just to these men, but also to the notion (advanced by backstabbing FBI direcor Robert Mueller yesterday) that we need to fear the possibility of Gitmo detainees "radicalizing others" if they're in custody here.

Give me a break. If we're going to let fear of recruitment dictate our incarceration policies, then maybe we shouldn't put any members of, say, large organized domestic drug gangs in prison at all. Omigod! They might recruit! We'd better just let them walk the streets!

The risk of recruitment is a risk we just have to manage -- and, to judge from this story, it doesn't take a mega-super-hyper-terrorist to radicalize someone.

But the right is going to pare this down to a message you'll hear relentlessly soon: Gitmo release = more terror plots like this. Even though we broke this one up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Oh, goody -- Senator Dianne Feinstein has finally been moved to point out that Americans know how to imprison people, presumably including even super-scary swarthy Muslim super-terrorists:

FEINSTEIN: Yes, we have maximum security prisons in California eminently capable of holding these people as well, and from which people -- trust me -- do not escape. So I believe that this has really been an exercise in fear-baiting. I hope it’s not going to be successful.

Senator Dick Durbin said something similar last night:

DURBIN: ...I would just say to my colleagues who made those statements, you ought to take a look at some of our security facilities in the United States, and you ought to have a little more respect for the men and women who are corrections officers and put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe and to make sure that those who are dangerous are detained and incarcerated. The reality is that we’re holding some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world right now in our federal prisons, including the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the shoe bomber, the Unabomber, and many others.

Jon Stewart made the same point last night -- but do you know when he first made this point? Do you know when he first invoked America's demonstrated ability to house extraordinarily dangerous people, including (as he noted again last night) criminals who've eaten people's brains?

It was late January, mere days after the president announced that he was closing Gitmo.

That's when the Democrats should've begun defending Obama's changes to U.S. detention policy. That's when they should have set the terms of the debate. Because that's when the Republicans began setting the terms of the debate. At the very least, they could have started flooding the zone two weeks ago, when Republicans began rolling out the "Keep Terrorists Out of America Act."

They didn't. And now they're running scared. (Funding to close Gitmo was just blocked in the Senate on a 90-6 vote, and Durbin and Pelosi Feinstein voted with the majority, although they claim it's because they're still waiting for a plan from the White House.)

(CORRECTION: Ali Frick of Think Progress said Durban voted yes, but he voted no, along with Senators Tom Harkin, Pat Leahy, Carl Levin, Jack Reed, and Sheldon Whitehouse. Good for them.)


May I just say that if these guys are brought to America, I actually don't care if they escape? I mean that. Besides the fact that I don't believe any would escape, what would really happen if they did?

It's frightening when a violent criminal who's lived in this country escapes from prison largely because that person, suddenly free in a strange town, has a reasonable idea of how to function in the outside world. It's the criminal's own country. The criminal speaks the language, probably looks like the surrounding population, and knows how the American landscape tends to be laid out.

None of this is true of the Gitmo detainees.

Also, what we fear in the case of our own prisoners is that their past crimes were simple crimes of violence driven at least partly by impulse. The jihadists we fear work exactly the opposite way -- they plan for long periods of time. How long was 9/11 on the drawing board?

If any of these prisoners were to escape, the entire nation would be on alert. Assuming we even were dealing with "the worst of the worst" and not just someone randomly swept up on a battlefield or turned in to U.S. forces years ago as an act of tribal revenge, what is this instant Public Enemy No. 1 going to be able to accomplish? How far is he going to be able to get, and what (if anything) is he going to be able to do (or even have a plan for doing) before he's caught?

Gimme a break. The brain eaters are much more frightening, and we send them through the system without ever losing a second's sleep.

Maureen Dowd is missing some of the forces at play -- unsurprisingly, she sees nothing more than a battle between a couple of Real Men and one inadequate male -- but I have to admit that she's more or less right about what's going on:

It isn't so much that Dick and Rummy are back. It's that they never left.

They had no intention of turning America's national security over to the Boy Wonder. The two best infighters in Washington history weren't yielding turf to a bunch of peach-fuzz pinkos who side with terrorists.

She imagines a Cheney-Rumsfeld dinner and starts to reconstruct the crime correctly, then goes off the rails:

Dick is looking over at himself on the TV behind the bar, where Fox is doing a segment about how Republicans on the Sunday talk shows praised him for his shock-and-awe campaign against Obama.

"I can't believe how easy it was to bring Obama into line," Rummy says, gnawing on Gorgonzola. "We wouldn't have needed waterboarding if everybody cracked like a peanut. It was even easier than getting the bit into Junior's mouth. Way simpler than if we'd had to contend with McCain. In the end, the right guy won."

You're there, MoDo, when you write, "Fox is doing a segment about how Republicans on the Sunday talk shows praised him." This isn't a Great Man thing. It's a Republican zone-flooding thing. It seems to have been largely Cheney's doing, but it didn't have to be Cheney -- the leader of the pushback against Obama's decision to close Guantanamo has been Mitch McConnell, fer crissake. It's not the manliness of the leader, it's the efficiency of the system: message plus message discipline plus message machine.

(Oh, and the line about McCain is just absurd. McCain was a good, obedient wingnut cadre all throughout the '08 campaign, from his VP pick to his McCarthyite ads and speeches.)

And the "liberal media" always cooperates. Politico:

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that terrorism coverage accounted for 22 percent of the news hole it measured from May 11-17.

Few of those stories were the kind Obama wants to read.

In just about all of those stories -- and I'm not even sure the "just about" is necessary -- Republicans set the terms of the debate, while Democrats did what Democrats always do:

Republican have tried for months to keep up a drumbeat on Gitmo, and some Democrats have been frustrated that there has been a vacuum on their side.

How many more decades are we going to have to wait before Democrats learn to anticipate the inevitable Republican attempt to flood the zone of every controversial subject? How many more decades before they actually learn that they need to head off this zone-flooding with preemptive messaging of their own? And when are they going to learn to give one another backup? (Yes, I'm talking to you, Harry Reid.)

So it's not just the fault of the "Boy Wonder," MoDo. It's the parties, stupid. And the press, which gets played by the GOP every time.

And yes, I know Obama has frustrated the left on a number of terrorism-related issues, as Dowd notes. I cut him some slack for that. But he's stood firm on Gitmo so far and he's released at least some vital information on torture. And he has no backup. That's not his weakness. It's his party's.

Here's a quip, obviously pre-prepared, that Newt Gingrich delivered (in a fairly competent deadpan) on Jon Stewart's show last night:

No one has suggested -- no one, even the most bitter partisan, has suggested -- that enhanced interrogation should be used on Nancy Pelosi.

Because no one, including Stewart, knew where Gingrich was going when he started that sentence, the line had the element of surprise and got a big laugh. (It was rather breathtaking how he got a punchline, a vicious attack, and phony moral posturing into 22 words.)

And yeah, what he said was true.

Oh, except for...




And, inevitably:

Even though Gingrich's line was meant to get a laugh, and to please any right-wingers who were watching (nearly all of whom would be delighted if liberals were tortured), I actually believe he couldn't resist putting that moral-high-ground part into the joke. It's a weird look into Gingrich's mind: I believe he actually thinks Republicans are more civil than Democrats for (among other things) not suggesting precisely what he was suggesting. I believe he actually holds those two contradictory thoughts in his head at once, and sees no conflict. And, of course, what he said was wrong.