Thursday, May 31, 2007


Republicans -- they know one trick and one trick only. Too bad it works every four years:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday criticized Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton as a European caricature who would turn the United States into a welfare state....

"Her view is the old, classic, European caricature that we describe of big government, big taxation, welfare state," said the former Massachusetts governor.

"She gave a speech a couple of days ago and laid out her vision for America. And as I listened to her I figured her platform wouldn't even get her elected in France," Romney, who was a missionary in France, said to chuckles and applause.

...Romney said the election of Clinton as president would force the country to veer off course economically, militarily and socially.

"I'm convinced if Hillary were president ... that we would see instead of a stronger military and a stronger economy and stronger families, we'd see a weaker military because she would ... be able to spend money on the social programs that she favors," he said. "We'd see a weaker economy because she'd raise taxes and we'd have less money going into the private sector and creating new jobs. We'd see weaker families as well." ...

Nobody's really coming close to Hillary in the Democratic polls -- so, increasingly, the GOP candidates (aided by GOP apparatchiks in the media) are already running against her. (For the most part, the Democrats don't seem to be running against any Republicans.) And it's the time-honored message: She's a military-hating pinko-slash-fascist from Europe (where all those weirdo ideologies come from, of course).

I quoted some of the recent anti-Hillary commie/fascist rhetoric in a post earlier today. (Please note the update in which I quote Judge Roy Moore's assertion that expanded preschool programs are essentially Nazism.) Also see this for Cal Thomas, Melanie Morgan, and Lee Rodgers shouting "Commie commie commie."

The literal content doesn't matter. "Socialist" and "Nazi," when aimed at a Democrat, are just ways of saying "dangerous nutjob with ideas so strange you can't even imagine what they're going to be, so you certainly can't elect somebody who might have them."
Eric Kleefeld at TPM Cafe looks at some recent poll results, which show Rudy Giuliani losing to all the top Democrats in New York State, and writes:

A new poll just out from Siena College undermines one of the Rudy Giuliani campaign's key talking points to Republican audiences: That he'd be a fearsome adversary in a general election because he'd put blue, east-coast states like New York in play....

The poll finds that in New York, Giuliani certainly does better than the other Republican candidates. Nonetheless, he still loses to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama by wide margins...

But even if Giuliani doesn't put New York in play, he does put the rest of the region in play -- recent Quinnipiac polls show him beating all the leading Democrats in New Jersey and Connecticut.

Is there any surprise there? Giuliani was the mayor of New York City, but he always acted as if he found the place repulsive and believed he was the only good thing about it. If you were watching him from an hour or so away, safely suburban but within the gravitational field of the city (which you found scary), maybe his tough-guy act seemed just the ticket. But New York State is full of people who live a world away from the city (upstate residents) or actually are city residents, most of whom can't stand Rudy anymore. So he loses his own state -- but we really shouldn't discount his potential appeal in heavily suburbanized states like Connecticut and New Jersey (and possibly elsewhere -- say, California).
If you call the Republican president of the United States a Nazi, or even briefly allow your server to host a video calling him a Nazi, the right will unleash hell ... but comparing the possible next president of the United States (a Democrat) to Stalin or Mussolini is, of course, just fine and dandy.

Here's an editorial from Investor's Business Daily:

Sen. Hillary Clinton shared on Tuesday her vision of the U.S. economy under her executive stewardship. She should change her party affiliation -- or the name of her party.

Speaking in New Hampshire, Clinton acknowledged that instead of the "ownership society" that George W. Bush has promoted throughout his presidency, she prefers a "we're all in it together society" where prosperity is "broadly shared."

This is the sort of "it takes a village" rhetoric that tickles the ears of the left, and which can't give up its romantic notions of a collectivist utopia.

Dreams of the left, however, always turn out to be nightmares, and the world has seen its share of all-in-it-together societies that have failed. The Soviet Union, East Germany, North Korea and the worker's paradise/island prison of Cuba enter the mind right away.

...We're not here to label Hillary Clinton a socialist, but we really don't have to; she's done that job for us. The economic proposals she's lining up behind expose an undeniable affinity for raw socialism....

There's also a blog post on the same Clinton speech from right-wing talk-show host Neal Boortz that declares her to be engaged in a "war on individualism" and begins with two quotes:

"Fascist ethics begin ... with the acknowledgment that it is not the individual who confers a meaning upon society, but it is, instead, the existence of a human society which determines the human character of the individual. According to Fascism, a true, a great spiritual life cannot take place unless the State has risen to a position of pre-eminence in the world of man. The curtailment of liberty thus becomes justified at once, and this need of rising the State to its rightful position."

[Mario Palmieri, "The Philosophy of Fascism" 1936]

"We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society."

[Hillary Clinton, 1993]

Let me point out that that last quote is all over the Internet -- but I challenge you to find the sentence quoted anywhere in context. It's just a sentence in isolation, always ascribed to Hillary Clinton, usually with the date 1993.

Did she ever actually say this? And if she didn't, will anyone on the right ever acknowledge that she didn't? Or (far more likely) will the (mis)quote simply work its way up the media food chain -- "proof" that she's a fascist/collectivist/totalitarian -- especially if she actually does get the nomination?


UPDATE: And then there's this, from former "Ten Commandments judge" Roy Moore:

Why, then, do social liberals like Hillary Clinton push so hard for the expansion of preschool programs? ... When the mind of a young child is subjected to state control before fundamental concepts and basic beliefs are formulated, the child is much more likely to learn a liberal social and political philosophy with the state as his or her master. Creation and God-given rights are more easily replaced with evolution and government-granted rights. Totalitarian regimes like those of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin knew well the value of a "youth corps." As Hans Schemm, leader of the Nazi Teacher's League, once observed, "Those who have the youth on their side control the future."


(Via Right Wing Watch.)

Rudy Giuliani utters the wrong scare words:

BURLINGAME, Calif. -- Mayor Giuliani is labeling Senator Clinton's plan to reverse President Bush's tax cuts "an astounding, staggering tax increase" that would turn back the clock and damage America's economy....

"This would be an astounding, staggering tax increase," Mr. Giuliani told reporters yesterday after a visit to a restaurant on the edge of California's Silicon Valley. "She wants to go back to the 1990s.... It would hurt our economy. It would hurt this area dramatically. That kind of tax increase would see a decline in your venture capital. It would see a decline in your ability to focus on new technology."

The 1990s? Er, wasn't that when everyone with a pulse over the age of 13 was a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, or the recipient of a Valley VC's money? Is it even humanly possible to have had more high-tech entrepreneurial capitalism than we had in the 1990s?

The linked article makes that point:

In Silicon Valley, Mr. Giuliani's mantra that Mrs. Clinton would return America to the 1990s might not produce the horrified reaction he seemed to be seeking. That era was the heyday for many high technology firms, at least until the Internet bubble burst in 2000.


But Giuliani's a narcissist. To me, "the 1990s" means "the decade when I was mayor, and the world consisted of the forces of darkness and evil ... and, single-handedly vanquishing them, me. Me! Me! Me!"


(D. Sidhe has a somewhat different take on the economy of the '90s.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


The New York Times quotes Newt Gingrich's words from a story in The New Yorker:

President Bush has presided over a Republican Party in "collapse," and Karl Rove's strategy in the 2004 presidential election was "maniacally dumb" for focusing so heavily on the conservative base....

That harsh assessment of the president and his chief political adviser is being offered ... by former Representative Newt Gingrich....

The White House response? Here it is, in part:

Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary, disputed Mr. Gingrich's assessment.

"It was President Bush who in 2004 got 25 percent more votes than in 2000," Ms. Perino said....

Really -- 25% more votes? Well, actually, no -- not quite.

Bush's vote total in 2000 was 50,456,062. In 2004 it was 62,039,073. That's not a 25% increase -- it's (reads calculator) a 22.95662% increase.

If it were anything over 24.5%, I'd say fine -- round it up to 25%. But 22.95662%? That rounds to 23% -- not 25%.

Can't this administration be honest about anything?
The new New York Times bestseller list was just e-mailed, and Al Gore's new book is #1.

It's especially satisfying because it beat out The Reagan Diaries.

The Hitchens atheism book slips to #4.

(The new list will appear on Times site this coming weekend.)

Dean Barnett, at Hugh Hewitt's blog, started a McCain campaign dead pool yesterday ... and less than 24 hours later, the Politico reported that Fred Thompson is definitely running for president. I connect the two because I don't think the McCain campaign is dead at all -- in fact, I think Thompson might just help McCain win the nomination.

I've given you bits and pieces of this theory, but let me run through it again: There's a fairly solid McCain vote in the GOP (mostly among non-wingnuts), and then there's the wingnut base, which is largely going for Giuliani because he looked (to them) like a terrorist ass-kicker on TV. However, as soon as Thompson, a professional TV star, sent up a campaign trial balloon, Giuliani's numbers started to drop. So Thompson cuts into Rudy's lead, and then maybe Gingrich gets into the race in the fall and cuts into it some more ... and then just enough old-school Republicans vote for McCain, and he squeezes through. (Remember what I told you yesterday: the American Research Group poll has McCain leading in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.)

But can't Thompson actually win? Well, yeah, he might -- but as I said a couple of weeks ago, he may be overdoing the Reagan folksiness and not grasping the fact that he needs to seem like a potential psychopath to win. We'll see once he gets out there.

Anyway, it's a hunch. I really don't know how it'll play out.

Besides the obvious Bushie torture-lust, I think what strikes me most about this New York Times story is -- once again -- the defiant rejection by the administration of the idea that things should done by people who actually have a clue how to do them:

As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

... some of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called "Educing Information," say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.

"It far outclassed what we've done," said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., "had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly," and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.

Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts "amateurish" by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners' culture....

We see this over and over again with these people: Brownie. Monica Goodling. The Konservative Kidz at the Coalition Provisional Authority. Anti-abortion zealot Ellen Sauerbrey overseeing the resettlement (or lack thereof) of Iraqi refugees in America. And, of course, the rejection of pre-9/11 intelligence warnings about Al-Qaeda, and, later, the rejection of General Shinseki's warnings on troop strength for the Iraq invasion and of multiple calls for adequate planning for postwar turbulence.

I'm dreading what I fear will be yet another GOP presidency after the '08 elections, but from what I know about them, I really don't think President Giuliani or President McCain or President Romney or President Thompson will despise knowledgeable people the way this president does. It would hard to top or even equal him in any case. The Democrats, of course, actually like people who know something about the work they're expected to do; in a rational country, after this presidency, that would be a selling point.
Oh, damn -- I missed Buddy Davis Day at the newly opened Creation Museum.

Buddy Davis is a multi-talented christian speaker for Answers in Genesis (AiG).... Other than speaking, Davis is well known as an author, singer/songwriter, illustrator, and dinosaur sculptor....

Answers in Genesis produces and award winning set of videos called the
Creation Adventure Team. Buddy Davis appears in all DVD's along with "proto" the anamatronic dinosaur and Dr. Noah Tall (know it all). These videos take young viewers on adventures throughout God's creations in "Six Short Days", and offers answers to the mystery of dinosaurs in "A Jurassic Ark Mystery".

...Buddy specializes in life-size dinosaur sculpting. Buddy has completed more than 60 sculptures and some have been placed in the new Answers in Gensis museum....

...Upon booking, Davis will attend your church and perform folk/Appalachian style music. Afterwords, the service concludes with Davis re-telling hunting stories and reading from the Bible. Along with Davis' contributions, the night is usually completed with the locals cooking and preparing wild game for dinner. This could be a unique opportunity for your church to reach out to the community....

(That's from Buddy's entry at CreationWiki, "the encyclopedia of creation science." More Buddy info here; his Web site is here. Buy his merchandise here -- and yes, the album 7 C's of History does include a song entitled "God Created the Happy Moose." Oh, and those biblical wild game dinners? I sure hope he prepares them following Jewish dietary laws.)


By the way, I didn't realize that the exhibits in the Creation Museum touch on more than the Genesis story. This is from an NPR report by Barbara Bradley Hagerty:

Hagerty: It is the Culture in Crisis exhibit where the museum makes its obvious moral point.

Voice of actress in exhibit: I just want to go and get this fixed. I can't be pregnant. I w--

Voice of narrator in exhibit: One in three pregnancies ends in abortion.

Hagerty: On one video screen in a darkened room is a distraught girl calling a clinic about having an abortion. On another is a boy looking at pornography on the Internet. Nearby, a church edifice is being destroyed by a wrecking ball with the words "Millions of Years." The Riccardellis [first-day attendees] get the intended point: that if you doubt Genesis, you can ignore the rest of the Bible, and where, they say, does that leave society?

Mr. Riccardelli: I think the first eleven chapters of the Bible is the whole foundation for life. My personal belief is, sin easily entangles us.

Mrs. Riccardelli: I just believe that as soon as you don't have truth, as soon as you get rid of absolute truth, that you just start to rationalize away the rest of your life.

Yikes. And over at the Answers in Genesis site we get this in easy-to-digest form, in an excerpt from The Lie: Evolution, a book by AiG's president and the Creation Museum's guiding spirit, Ken Ham:

A lot of believers think that morality is impossible without belief in God. These people believe morality is impossible if you believe in evolution:

...if you reject God and replace Him with another belief that puts chance and random processes in the place of God, there is no basis for right or wrong. Rules become whatever you want to make them. There are no absolutes -- no principles that must be adhered to. People will write their own rules.

Scary. And the Riccardellis (and lots of other people like them) believe this. And they can vote.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I gather that Norbizness's transcript of Dick Cheney's remarks at West Point over the weekend is somewhat less accurate than the one at the White House Web site. Too bad -- I like the Norbizness version a lot better.
A few stray thoughts about the planned Congressional Black Caucus/Fox News Democratic presidential debate:

* When I read over the weekend in The New York Times that a Fox News political action committee has made several contributions to caucus members and to the caucus itself, it occurred to me that if another broadcast organization had done this, Fox News hosts and other wingnuts would be yelling "Shakedown!" But it's Fox, so it's OK.

* John Edwards was the first Democrat to boycott Fox, while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton followed only afterward, but give Hill a little credit -- she did so after

[h]er top communications adviser, Howard Wolfson, helped run News Corporation's campaign seeking more black representation in the Nielsen television ratings. He did so in his capacity as a partner in the Glover Park Group, the consulting firm hired by News Corporation.

And, of course, she did so after Rupert Murdoch held a fund-raiser for her. Molly Ivins used to quote the old Texas Legislature saying: "if you can't drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against 'em anyway, you don't belong in office." In her own sedate way, Hillary has passed that test of semi-integrity.

* I guess if I were Dennis Kucinich I might also agree to participate, just for the face time. And this sounds rational:

"Certainly many Fox viewers are not part of the traditional Democratic base," Kucinich said, "but they have a right to hear from the Democratic candidates and we as candidates have an obligation to reach out to them. Families who view Fox News have lost loved ones in Iraq, lost their jobs to NAFTA, and lost their homes to medical bills, just as have the viewers of other networks."

But Dennis, they hate Democrats anyway, more than they hate the insurance companies or the outsourcers or the chickenhawk warriors of the administration who actually screwed them.

More here, here, and here. And there's a petition here.
Good news -- Democrats have a winner:

Obama Leads Four Republicans in U.S. Race

Democrat Barack Obama is the top 2008 presidential contender in the United States, according to a poll by Zogby International. At least 46 per cent of respondents would support the Illinois senator in head-to-head contests against four prospective Republican nominees.

Obama holds a three-point edge over Arizona senator John McCain, a six-point lead over former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and a 17-point advantage over both former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and actor and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson....

Too bad he's losing badly in his own party in key states:

A new batch of American Research Group polls give the edge to Sen. Hillary Clinton in all three early states of the 2008 presidential race. Sen. Barack Obama has slipped to third place behind John Edwards in each state, while Bill Richardson is up in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Iowa: Clinton 35%, Edwards 25%, Obama 11%, Richardson 8%
New Hampshire: Clinton 34%, Edwards 18%, Obama 15%, Richardson 9%
South Carolina: Clinton 34%, Edwards 18%, Obama 11%

Ah, but the good news is that the somewhat weaker McCain, not Giuliani, is leading in those key-state ARG polls:

Iowa: McCain 25%, Giuliani 23%, Romney 16%
New Hampshire: McCain 30%, Romney 23%, Giuliani 21%
South Carolina: McCain 32%, Giuliani 23%, Thompson 13%,

But the bad news is that, in the Zogby poll, McCain beats Clinton 47%-43%. (She also loses to Giuliani, and she has only an 8-point lead over Romney, as compared to Obama's and Edwards's double-digit leads.)

So why do we Democrats seem almost certain to nominate our weakest top-tier candidate? And (as I'm always saying) if the unpopularity of the war is such a millstone for every Republican, why is any Republican beating any Democrat?


UPDATE WEDNESDAY: My response to the Politoco's story on Thompson's entry into the race is here. Short version: I think it might help McCain.

Temperament, for Rudy Giuliani, is now officially a non-issue: Michael Powell, a reporter who's covered Rudy in the past, has declared in The New York Times that he's a changed man, tough yet firm, steadfast yet warm and fuzzy, and that will now be carved in stone as conventional wisdom:

The dyspeptic, "not afraid to suggest his opponents have really deep-seated psychological problems" Republican mayor of fact and legend has taken a holiday. What's left on the presidential campaign trail is a commanding daddy of a candidate, a disciplined fellow who talks about terrorism and fiscal order and about terrorism some more.

That attack on Ron Paul in the last GOP debate? Never happened, apparently. We just imagined it.

And never mind the fact that he still tells people they're stupid:

"Ma'am, I really respectfully disagree," the former mayor tells [a questioner]. "Maybe I'll answer your question with a question. Respectfully, again, I don't think you understand the nature of the threat."

And psychologically impaired:

He has not sanded down all his edges. At Oglethorpe University here, where he met with 200 voters, he does not hesitate to challenge that woman who asks about jihad. But he does so in a fashion that leaves her ambulatory....

"This is reality, ma'am," he continues, his voice streaked with just a touch of exasperation. "This isn't me making it up. I saw reality after 9/11. You've got to clear your head."

The new Giuliani is the old Giuliani. As mayor he was rarely if ever Joe Pesci from a Scorsese Mob movie, ranting and raving at the top of his lungs at the slightest provocation. In most of his nasty attacks he didn't raise his voice, and he used respectful words even as he was calling his opponents insane or otherwise unfit. (His most potent weapon was the power of his office -- he'd freeze you out, sue you, or deploy the cops or if you crossed him. He wasn't some guy in a muscle shirt who'd beat the crap out of you in an alley.)

Yes, there was the famous radio attack on the ferret owner during Rudy's mayoralty. In that incident, Giuliani raised his voice. But listen to the entire audio clip of the ferret exchange -- at the end, Rudy speaks in a way that seems calm and expresses deep concern for the caller in a way that differs from what he says to the woman at Oglethorpe University only in degree:

...There are people in this city and in this world that need a lot of help. There's something has gone wrong with you. Your compulsion about it, your obsessive concern with it, is the sign of something wrong in your personality. I do not mean to be insulting. I'm trying to be honest with you and I'm trying to give you advice for your own good....

In other words, "You've got to clear your head" -- same message.

At the end of the video that accompanies the Times story, Powell makes an important point that he doesn't really make in the written story, and that therefore won't become part of the legend:

The Giuliani that we're seeing on the stump right now is an extremely disciplined campaigner, very much unlike the man that New Yorkers saw on a sort of daily or weekly basis in New York, but very much like the candidate that ran in 1993. 1993 was Giuliani's second try for the mayoralty. He had run against Dinkins in 1989. In 1993, the assumption was, on the Democrats' part, that they were going to be able to force him to snap, and that this would so horrify voters that it would assure Dinkins of a second term. In fact, Giuliani ran -- much as he is right now -- a pretty disciplined campaign, in which he didn't snarl, didn't curl a lip.

But if he didn't scream and shout in the '93 campaign and was subsequently a vindictive sonofabitch for eight years as mayor, that means his ability to keep outbursts in check is no indication whatsoever of how angry he can get. He just knows how to control the outward appearance of his anger, and he knows when he needs to do so.

Powell adds,

To me that suggests that the temperament, Giuliani's temperament, is as much an element of sort of stagecraft as it is woven into his essential personality. In other words, he can turn it on, he can turn it off.

But it's not "stagecraft." It's pathology. Rudy's like a wife-beater -- he knows how to look completely rational when the cops show up at the door; he also knows how to slip in one barbed word when he and his wife are in public, so she knows who's boss (and who's going to be boss when they get home) but the people around him don't think he's a psycho.

But it doesn't matter what the truth is. Giuliani's anger is now a positive. It's like Bush's drinking -- it enhances Rudy's myth because he's reportedly risen above it. Even though, in fact, he hasn't.


UPDATE: You probably don't need me to direct you to good posts about this article by Digby and Lambert at CorrenteWire -- but you should also check out dnA's post at Too Sense, which explains why Giuliani is America's baby daddy, and America's pimp.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The government of Poland is apparently receiving messages from Jerry Falwell from beyond the grave:

Poland targets 'gay' Teletubbies

A senior Polish official has ordered psychologists to investigate whether the popular BBC TV show Teletubbies promotes a homosexual lifestyle.

The spokesperson for children's rights in Poland, Ewa Sowinska, singled out Tinky Winky, the purple character with a triangular aerial on his head.

"I noticed he was carrying a woman's handbag," she told a magazine. "At first, I didn't realise he was a boy."...

Ms Sowinska wants the psychologists to make a recommendation about whether the children's show should be broadcast on public television....

Poland is starting to look like the U.S. religious right's version of Utopia -- a law is being drafted there to fire teachers deemed to be promoting "homosexual culture," and, of course, the country recently hosted the anti-gay, anti-feminst World Congress of Families (at which a featured speaker was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey, who has been rewarded for her anti-abortion activism by being given a job for which she's not even remotely qualified, the job of overseeing the resettlement of Iraqi refugees in America, which is barely happening at all). Oh, and, of course, Poland is where the CIA conducted secret interrogations.

I don't know why the wingnuts don't just move there en masse.


(Yeah, I'm back. Thanks, guest bloggers....)

"Do you miss your government yet?" That was Phil Gramm, crowing on one of the Sunday talk shows during the Republicans' shutdown of the federal government during 1995 budget warfare. Grinning ear to ear, Gramm, who was in the process of launching a presidential campaign, actually seemed to think that the resounding answer would be "No!" American conservatives have long courted applause for their "toughness" and "common sense" by talking about how government is so rotten that they want to shut the whole works down and hang a "Gone Fishin'" sign on the gate. Sometimes, to their eventual despair, they come close enough to convincing people that they'd actually do it that the people suddenly have visions of what life without federal government would really be like, whereupon the approval of people like Gramm drops like a rock. The weird fact about many, maybe most Americans, is that they enjoy ranting as if they were libertarian anarchists even as they take it on faith that Social Security will always be there, schools and police and fire departments will get funded, and somebody out there will check to make sure that there's only so much rat feces in their hot dogs. One reason that so many people will always regard Ronald Reagan as the greatest president of their lifetimes is that he was a convinced hypocrite of exactly the right kind; he raised taxes whenever he needed to while continually vowing that he would never let the greedy Democrats force him to raise taxes, and denounced the spread of big government while spending us into a black hole of debt. The open secret of his success was to talk tough, even callously, while being careful not to step on the toes of anyone who might bite back. (You try lobbying homeless discharged mental patients sometime.) One of his concrete achievements was to expand the degree to which it was acceptable for the face of government to disavow any responsibility for the care of its citizens, especially those on the bottom; he probably wouldn't have been able to do that if he'd been willing to fully live up to the viciousness of his rhetoric.

What's been clear for a while now, and just keeps getting clearer and clearer, with new revelations such as those about the workings of the Justice Department and new developments such as the Democrats' caving on the war funding bill, is that we are now, finally, living the dream. George Bush, Jr., the compassionate conservative, didn't come into office talking about shutting down the government and leaving everyone high and dry; back in 2000, his me-so-speaka-the-Gingrich line of cant was supposed to convey the message that he was the antidote to the buffed-and-polished militia group that the Congressional Republicans had turned into. But for all practical purposes, he's managed to shut down the federal government as effectively as anyone has. At first, this seemed just to be the accidental side effect of monumental incompetence and cronyism; when you make sure that all the most powerful government offices are run by somebody who somebody who knew them in college remembers as a cool guy who threw the sweetest keggers, you guarantee that nothing much will get done. There are pitfalls to this approach, sure. When people who know something about reading terrorist chatter are marginalized in favor of people who something about reading political contribution lists, sure, people are going to get hurt by people who are going to go unpunished. But on the plus side, with the right people in charge of FEMA, when a major American city is washed off the map, then the undesirables who weren't able to charter a helicopter will learn that government isn't there to coddle them and they'll have to learn to take care of themselves. Sure, people who are slow to get with the program might get a little upset when they see crybabies sitting on rooftops in the late summer heat, but they'll get over it. A new vision of America is something that not everyone can adjust to overnight, but people get used to what they have to get used to. It's not as if anybody can really hold you accountable--not when you've basically shut down the legislative branch and the judicial branch is a fully owned and operated subsidiary of the Republican party.

It's true that Bush once had grander ambitions than this. In the wake of his "re-election", flush with what he called "political capital", he was going to roll back the New Deal. He couldn't get anyone to play on that one, but even if his current stance has as much to do with neurosis as a deliberate plan--"Today, faced with mounting resistance from the scientific community to adopt his position that the sun is cold and water's not wet, the president folded his arms and held his breath until he turned blue"--it's still an amazing accomplishment in terms of its effect on the country and his own place in history. Assuming nothing much changes, and it's hard to imagine any way it's going to change without some triggering event that it chills my marrow to contemplate, we are going to go through the next year and a half with the American military bogged down in someone else's civil war, hanging in there for no purpose so that the president can spend the rest of his life insisting that things were just about to turn around when his successor spoiled everything by cutting and running. In the meantime, for that year and a half, the country will have no real federal arm for fighting crime or protecting us from terrorists, just a bunch of partisan chair-warmers taking turns going on TV and before Congress to act indignant in the face of people demanding to know why they still have jobs. And this year's hurricane season is predicted by some to be a doozy. This is life without government, folks. It hasn't turned out to be the financial windfall some predicted, what with the deficit that was sweated away in the Clinton years having come back to us having grown seven heads. Nor has it resulted in the streamlining of the bureaucracy itself; part of Junior's master plan, it turns out, has been to pointlessly inflate the size of government, resulting in paralysis as a by-product of confusion, rivalry, backbiting, whatever it takes to keep anyone who knows what he's doing far outside the loop. The attitude among the Democrats and the media now seems to be that, hmm, maybe if we keep our fingers crossed we won't need a government for anything until 2009, and if we just wait until then, the next president can get everything running again just in the nick of time. It's an optimistic attitude, sort of, and Americans love to be optimistic, especially as an alternative to actually doing something. I just hope that it doesn't turn out that governments aren't like motorcycles. Because it's not so easy to get those suckers to just start up again after they've been left lying in the mud and the rain for the better part of eight years.

[x-posted at The Phil Nugent Experience]

Sunday, May 27, 2007


West Point graduates got an earful from Dick "Dick" Cheney, lecturing our young military best and brightest on the terrorists in his head:
“These are men who glorify murder and suicide. Terrorists are defined entirely by their hatreds.”
Yes, and the Bush administration will be defined entirely by its policy of love as well as its unassailable logic.

This Memorial Day we recognize the courage and sacrifice of our 3,682 military dead, the suffering of our thousands of military wounded, and our complete and utter lack of confidence in the civilian leadership.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Why, exactly, would we be surprised that candidates aren't lining up to apply for US Attorney positions?
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's decision to fire nine U.S. attorneys last year has created a new problem for the White House: The controversy appears to be discouraging applications for some of the 22 prosecutor posts that President Bush needs to fill.

Of the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys, 22 are serving without Senate confirmation as interim or acting prosecutors. They represent districts in Alaska, Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, West Virginia and Washington.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration is committed to nominating candidates for all 22 open positions, but so far the administration has submitted only four nominees.

But, of course, Mr. Fratto is spinning like crazy:
"It has nothing to do with recent events," Fratto said. "The closer you get toward the end of the second term, you're going to have fewer people." He also said the administration continues to attract "really, really talented people for top jobs."

Oh, really? People like Monica Goodling? And doesn't that second point contradict the first just a bit? All those "really, really talented" people lining up for White House jobs will lose their positions in January 2009 as well. So why should well-qualified attorneys turn down the opportunity to serve in high-profile positions that would, at least in theory, look fantastic on their résumés?
David Iglesias, the ousted New Mexico U.S. attorney, said that timing may be a contributing factor, but that the administration is in denial if it doesn't believe there are concerns about low office morale, the ability to remain independent or even the odds of being confirmed by a suspicious Senate controlled by the Democrats.

"The Justice Department is embattled, and people aren't readily applying to be U.S. attorneys because of this dark cloud," Iglesias said. "Given the incredible scrutiny by the Senate, you're not guaranteed being confirmed anymore. They're going to start looking at every U.S. attorney for the rest of this administration to make sure that person wasn't put in for purely political reasons."

Gee, I can't imagine why they'd do that. Thanks, Alberto. Heckuva job.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Well, I'm out of here till Monday night or Tuesday. There should be some guest posts coming along, however. Have a great weekend.

Oh, and if you're totally bored, I went and got myself into a poop-flinging contest with Don Surber and his pals, based on this post of mine and a comment I posted on his blog. Jump in if you want.

There's a page-one story in The Washington Post about the two big forthcoming books on Hillary Clinton, one by Carl Bernstein, the other by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta of The New York Times. Both books, we're told, rehash unpleasant stories from the Clintons' past and sprinkle on a bit more fresh dirt.

This is about one '08 candidate -- but it hints at a bigger issue for next year. People often say that the Iraq War will absolutely be the #1 issue in the '08 presidential election -- but they're dead wrong. The Iraq War should be the #1 issue. The voters will want it to be the #1 issue. But it won't be.

It can't be -- because if it is, the Democrat will win handily, and the Beltway Establishment doesn't want that to happen. So when the Republicans try to change the subject -- try to make the election about John Edwards's money and alleged vanity, or about Barack Obama's foreign roots or his pastor's political beliefs, or about all the things in the Gerth/Van Natta and Bernstein books -- the Beltway press will do everything in its power to aid and abet them. That's because the press wants Rudy or John or Fred or Mitt to win. The press has some fondness for Obama, but it can be talked out of that. And the press hates Hillary Clinton and enjoys picking on John Edwards. (And forget Gore -- the press doesn't like him, either.)

So nothing you or I would consider an issue will dominate the discussion in '08. That seems insane, given the war (which will absolutely still be going strong all through next year), and given other pressing concerns (such as health care), but that's the way it's going to be. The election will be a referendum on one of the items the GOP floats as the '08 version of Willie Horton or Kerry's time on the Swift Boat. It's going to be about trivia. It's going to be as if we're in 1860 and we're not talking about slavery because we're too busy discussing whether Abe Lincoln had some sinister motive for growing that beard.

David Brooks on George W. Bush in Salon, August 2, 2000:

We are lucky enough this year to have a man running for president who has not spent his life consumed by the idea that he must be president.

Mark Halperin on Fred Thompson in Time yesterday:

And like George W. Bush in 2000, he presents a decided equanimity toward his future. As he told an interviewer, "One advantage you have in not having this as [a] lifelong ambition is that if it turns out that your calculation is wrong, it's not the end of the world."

Yup, we're being sold the same line again -- if Fred Thompson gets the nomination, we're being set up for another race in which the Democrat is a sick, twisted person who wants to be president because it's a "lifelong ambition," or because of an insatiable hunger for power, while the Republican is a "regular guy" who's running as kind of a lark.

Now, you'd think everything Bush has ever done would be considered box-office poison, but no -- Thompson is seasoning his recycled Reagan with a hint of recycled Dubya. And the press (or Halperin, at least) is lapping it up.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Senator Chuck Schumer was in upstate New York inspecting dams with Congressman John Hall; Schumer later discovered that he had a bull's-eye rash, so he's (understandably) getting antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease.

I don't know which is my favorite subgroup among the fine, noble commenters at Free Republic: Would I choose the ones who actually think he's a wuss for getting medical treatment? Or the ones who are rooting for the tick?

No, I think my favorites are these three:

No honor among thieves, no honor amongst blood suckers.


Two bloodsuckers should be able to get along.


Wonder why the tick bit him? You'd think there'd be some kind of professional courtesy among blood suckers.

Bloodsucker? Senator Schumer? Do I have to spell out why this is offensive?

Look, they could be legit, but (sorry, this is going to be somewhat graphic) why would you need to do an elaborate full-color sketch of a cleaver cutting off someone's hand, or a hand being pierced by a drill? Does a torturer need a diagram in order to figure out how to do those things? Same with dragging someone behind a car -- seems like that would be pretty self-explanatory, no?

And don't tell me these are meant to intimidate people -- how does a drawing do that? A video, yes -- we see the violence happening to a real person. But a sketch?

I'm not saying for certain that the thing isn't legit. All I'm saying is that the Bushies very well might be using the Smoking Gun (!) to disseminate disinformation -- in this case, gory images meant to indelibly imprint the message that gruesome treatment of detainees in Iraq is the work of al-Qaeda, and only al-Qaeda. (Funny, our government never seems to have released any pictures of corpses of Iraqis tortured with drills. Ah, but that's been the handiwork of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, so never mind.)


ACTUALLY: The longer I think about this, the more likely it seems to be a fake -- why do these drawings and hide them in a safe house? If they're not instructional and they're not being disseminated as a means of intimidation, what the hell's the point?


UPDATE: Amnesty International, astonishingly enough, has not instantly issued a statement of condemnation based on an unverified report disseminated on the Smoking Gun -- so mid-list righty blogger Don Surber is in a huff, Glenn Reynolds, naturally, says AI is guilty of complicity. Because the DoD would never spread disinformation, would it?


OH, LOOK: I'm "the left."


UPDATE, MONDAY NIGHT: Via comments, here are a couple more skeptics.
President Bush at today's Rose Garden press conference:

Failure in Iraq will cause generations to suffer, in my judgment. Al Qaeda will be emboldened. They will say, yes, once again, we've driven the great soft America out of a part of the region.

Paging Dr. Freud. Paging Dr. Freud....

Unless he acts, John Edwards will never get past one moment in his life -- a moment that's brought up even when it's utterly irrelevant. From a news roundup that appeared last night on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

John Edwards could be up millions of dollars. Remember that half-billion worth of pirate booty found in a sunken ship last week? Turns out Edwards is an investor in the company that discovered the vessel. So, he will likely get a share of it. Arrr, that's a lot of haircuts.

"That's a lot of haircuts." The $400 haircut may literally be part of the first sentence of his obituary.

The prescribed method for overcoming a negative impression is the political world is well known. Recall Nancy Reagan's smash-hit act of pseudo-self-mockery at the '82 Gridiron Club dinner:


The press corps attended to Nancy Reagan Saturday night in the annual Gridiron musical show, lampooning her taste for designer gowns with a song entitled, "Second Hand Clothes." Sung to the tune of "Second Hand Rose," it included such lyrics as: "Calvin Klein, Adolfo, Ralph Lauren and Bill Blass/Ronald Reagan's Mama's going strictly first class."

Of course, some people thought she was dressed in a way that made her look as if she was mocking homeless people, at a time when the numbers of the homeless were increasing. (I certainly thought that.)

It didn't matter. The stunt worked. The subject of Nancy's taste for the finer things was dropped by the Beltway press corps.

Edwards has to do something similar. The best I can come up with is this: He goes on Leno. (Not Letterman or Jon Stewart -- this has to be cornball, not snarky.) Leno beings out someone who's identified as the worst student at a sorry-ass barber college somewhere in an unfashionable part of town -- the worst student or maybe even a barber-school dropout. (If you've ever seen Leno's recurrent "Jaywalking" bit, you know that he has a disturbing ability to make ordinary people feel comfortable about going on TV and demonstrating how slow on the uptake they are.) Edwards sits down and that D-student barber gives Edwards a really crappy haircut. Hilarity ensues.

Or, hey, how about a monkey? Maybe a monkey can give Edwards a haircut!

Naah -- not enough gravitas for a possible future Leader of the Free World. But only barely. The dim-bulb human barber would be perfectly OK. After all, this is America, and our presidents have to have the common touch.

Anyone have a better idea?

The new book by Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great, just hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Yeah, yeah, if he has to have a #1 bestseller, this is the one I'd choose, but good Christ, the drunken sot is going to be even more insufferable from now on.

Note, by the way, that when Hitchypoo goes on TV and attacks the saintly Jerry Falwell, the right describes it as a "liberal mainstream media" assault on religion, but when Hitch defends the war or attacks, say, Jimmy Carter, he's the righties' pal again. (This habit of doublethink is good training for Republicans in the event Giuliani is running next year.)

(The new list will appear on Times site this coming weekend.)

Time's Joe Klein yesterday:

There is good news from Iraq, believe it or not. It comes from the most unlikely place: Anbar province, home of the Sunni insurgency. The level of violence has plummeted in recent weeks. An alliance of U.S. troops and local tribes has been very effective in moving against the al-Qaeda foreign fighters.... It is possible that al-Qaeda is being rejected like a mismatched liver transplant by the body of the Iraqi insurgency....

Reality today:

A SUICIDE car bomb targeting mourners at a funeral killed at least 27 people and wounded more than 30 others today in Falluja, west of Baghdad, hospital and police officials said.

...The man whose funeral mourners were attending was identified as Allawi al-Isawi, a local contractor who was part of a Sunni Arab initiative working against al Qaeda militants in Fallujah, 50km west of Baghdad.

Fallujah is in restive Anbar province, a stronghold of the Sunni Arab-led insurgency and of Sunni Islamist al-Qaeda....

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Online poll from the CBS affiliate in L.A.: Is George W. Bush The Worst President In U.S. History?

"Yes" is winning as I type this, but not by nearly enough.
Rudy Giuliani is already attacking potential Democratic rivals. Why aren't Democrats doing the same? Why, say, aren't they attacking him?

Giuliani today:

... now he's taking on a Democrat -- John Edwards -- to make his points on the national security front during an appearance today in New Hampshire.

"One of the democratic Presidential candidates today gave a speech in New York and the speech that he gave suggested that the global war on terror was no more than a slogan of George Bush's," Mr. Giuliani told a gathering of employees of an insurance company in Keene. "I understand the zeal and the overzealousness that some of these people have to attack George Bush. It comes out a of a political process," he said.

...Mr. Giuliani said that Mr. Edwards was in "denial" about the terrorist threat.

"When you go so far as to suggest the global war on terror is a bumper sticker or a slogan, it kind of makes the point that I have been making over and over again," he said, unprompted. "that the democrats, or at least some of them are in denial. There is not a global war on terror because of George Bush."

And at last week's debate:

"There's something really big at stake here," Giuliani said. "We're looking at a race here in which the leading candidate for president of the United States (Clinton) has said that the unfettered free market is the most disastrous thing in modern America. ... She's also said, with regard to taxes, that we have to take money from you in order to give it to the common good."

Never mind the fact that Giuliani offered a distorted picture of Hillary Clinton's views, and never mind the fact that Giuliani has also questioned the use of the phrase "war on terror" -- he's out there pounding Democrats ... and no Democrat is pounding him or John McCain or Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney.

If the '08 election has a Republican nominee with very low negatives and a Democratic nominee with very high negatives, this is going to be a big part of the reason. Attacking Bush and Cheney isn't enough; Democrats have to start attacking the people who want to be the next Bush and Cheney.

Today's Boston Globe notes that Mitt Romney isn't doing quite as well as he'd like in the South -- and relates an anecdote that might help explain why:

When Romney visits different parts of the country, he sometimes comes off more as a respectful cultural anthropologist than a glad-handing politician. In Texas recently, he greeted a crowd with, "Howdy, y'all" which drew a hearty "Howdy!" in return.

OK, not bad -- not bad at all. But then:

"Wow, isn't that great?" Romney responded. "That's powerful. What an experience!"

Ouch. Excellent do-si-do-ing, Mitt ... until you stepped in that cow pie.

If The New York Times is right about John McCain's strategy, he's nuts:

... Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney have been mixing it up on the trail with increasing intensity ever since their feisty exchange at the last Republican debate....

[But] If Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney have been skirmishing, Mr. McCain and Mr. Giuliani have something between a nonaggression pact and a mutual admiration society going....

It is an unusual dynamic, to have the candidates placing second and third in most national opinion polls engaging one another fiercely, while allowing the front-runner a wide berth.

Er, yeah, I'll say. But we're assured McCain knows what he's doing:

Tactically, Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney are in direct competition because they have both invested enormous resources to compete in the early nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Mr. Giuliani, though, seems to be leaning toward competing more heavily in the more populous states, including California and New York, holding their primaries on Feb. 5. Several state-by-state polls have shown Mr. Romney gaining ground -- even holding leads, in some -- in Iowa and New Hampshire....

Except that Giuliani and McCain are tied for second in Iowa, per the Real Clear Politics poll average, and Romney's a distant third in South Carolina. And Giuliani's a very close third in New Hampshire (where, by the way, a Romney victory can be discounted, as Paul Tsongas's was in '92, because he's practically a favorite son). And Giuliani will be extremely competitive in all of these states if Fred Thompson chooses not to run, or if he runs and his candidacy fizzles.

Oh and Florida's going to vote in January, and Rudy's taking that state very seriously. (Remember, a lot of ex-New Yorkers live there, as well as a lot of fellow Catholics.) Plus, nationwide, he's the damn front-runner -- and this year we're going tro have Ultra-Mega-Super Tuesday to (possibly) bear that out. So why ignore him?

For this reason?

On top of that, Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain are competing for conservative support. To some extent, that base of voters is up for grabs because of Mr. Giuliani's current support of abortion rights, Mr. Romney's former support of abortion rights and the distrust with which many conservative groups view Mr. McCain because of his sponsorship of campaign finance legislation and his initial opposition to President Bush’s tax cuts.

Actually, McCain is competing for any support he can get. He'd probably have non-conservative support locked up if Rudy weren't in the race; as for conservatives, a lot of them love Rudy -- much more than they love McCain -- though some have fallen for Mitt's pitch, a few are with Hunter or Huckabee or Brownback or Tancredo, and a lot are waiting for Fred Thompson (or, to a lesser extent, Gingrich) to get in the race. McCain is competing to be, at best, high in the second tier among wingnut voters. He's going to win only if he beats Rudy for the non-wingnuts.

The Times article and a Times blog post suggest another reason for the nonaggression pact -- Rudy and John really seem to dig one another. From the article:

Mr. McCain and Mr. Giuliani have something of a political friendship. Mr. Giuliani, after all, bucked much of New York's Republican establishment in 2000 when it tried to keep Mr. McCain off the primary ballot. The two men have taken in a number of ballgames together, not to mention meals in New York’s Little Italy.

Lose the election. Take the cannoli.
Giuliani is leading the GOP field for '08 -- even among Republican voters who are gun owners? Seems bizarre, but that's what Gallup says:

In the combined May data on rank-and-file Republicans' nomination preferences, [Giuliani] has a 32% to 21% edge over John McCain, and at least a 20 percentage-point advantage over every other candidate.

However, among Republican gun owners, Giuliani's front-running status is not as secure. Twenty-six percent of Republican gun owners say Giuliani is their first choice for the nomination, but 22% choose McCain...

Yeah, he's not doing as well among the armed -- but he's still their #1 choice. So what ever happened to the pro-gun/"gun-grabber" litmus test?

I ask that, and then I remember that the two major components of The Giuliani Myth -- that he got the criminal scum off the streets and that he was the self-appointed leader of a hardy band of survivors after Armageddon -- match the top Walter Mitty fantasies of the typical politicized right-wing gun owner almost exactly.

So maybe at least some of the GOP's gun owners see Rudy as an honorary gun guy, even if he isn't one.

Right-wingers are in a tizzy again because ABC News reported last night that the U.S. government is doing to Iran what any sentient Iranian would already have assumed the U.S. was doing:

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions....

We're trying to destabilize the government with propaganda, disinformation, and financial manipulation? Do you think this is a surprise to any Iranian?

What's odd, though, is this:

Current and former intelligence officials say the approval of the covert action means the Bush administration, for the time being, has decided not to pursue a military option against Iran.

"Vice President Cheney helped to lead the side favoring a military strike," said former CIA official Riedel, "but I think they have come to the conclusion that a military strike has more downsides than upsides."

"They"? I'm sure he -- Cheney -- hasn't come to that conclusion.

What's going on? Have all the generals threatened to resign if Cheney's cabal overtaxes the military even more with a new war?

Or is it Bush? Has the Democratic victory in midterms that were clearly a referendum on his Iraq policy made Bush so determined to redouble his war efforts in Iraq -- not as a way of winning the war, but as a counterattack against the real enemy, Reid and Pelosi -- that he's now decided to put Iran on the back burner?

I think that could be it. I think, after the midterms, Bush is even more certain that Iraq is the central front in the war ... on Democrats.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007



At the fund-raiser for Mitt Romney at the posh 1818 Club [in Atlanta} on Friday, the candidate was making the introductions to the room.

Romney gestured to Ralph Reed and said, "Why it's good to see Gary Bauer here." (For the detached, Bauer is a former presidential candidate with ties, like Reed, to the Religious Right.)

Romney then caught himself. "Oh, I'm a little mixed up here,” he said. But Romney still couldn't place Reed's face -- and had to move on.

After the event, Romney approached Reed and apologized for misremembering him.

I guess wearing the Reagan mantle really is important to these GOP presidential candidates.


(Via Right Wing Watch, which adds: "And just what is Reed doing at a Romney fundraiser anyway? Is that any way to repay Rudy Giuliani for his support?")
I think Salon's Gary Kamiya is on to something in this analysis of why Bush hasn't been impeached. But I'm not convinced 9/11 even enters into it:

It is arguable that if there had been no 9/11, Bush's fraudulent case for war really would have resulted in his impeachment -- though this is far from certain. But 9/11 did happen, and as a result, large numbers of Americans did not just give Bush carte blanche but actively wanted him to attack someone....

To this day, the primitive feeling that in response to 9/11 we had to hit hard at "the enemy," whoever that might be, is a sacred cow. America's deference to the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later approach is profound: It's the gut belief that still drives Bush supporters and leads them to regard war critics as contemptible appeasers. This is why Bush endlessly repeats his mantra "We're staying on the attack."

The unpleasant truth is that Bush did what a lot of Americans wanted him to. And when it became clear after the fact that Bush had lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, it made no sense for those Americans to turn on him. Truth was never their major concern anyway -- revenge was. And if we took revenge on the wrong person, well, better a misplaced revenge than none at all.

But if Bush had led us into a disastrous war in Iraq without the pretext of 9/11 -- which really might have happened, given the monomania of the neocons and Cheney, as well as Rove's lust for wedge issues -- would Bush really be at risk of impeachment? Remember, we didn't impeach Reagan for Iran-contra, either, and that was before 9/11. And in the post-Vietnam War era we've probably never reached the heights of fervor to crush an enemy that we reached around the time of the first Gulf War -- and the proximate cause for our outrage was a mere invasion of Kuwait.

If we'd invaded Iraq without a 9/11, it would have been because Bush had successfully trumped up the Saddam threat and persuaded the American people that war was vitally necessary. Americans are not very hard to persuade in matters like this when the president is a tough-talkin' Republican -- think Grenada and Panama. If Bush had successfully sold us the war, wouldn't a lot of Americans, in their guts, still be thinking we'd had no choice but to take action against an imminent threat? Wouldn't we be pretty much where we are now?

Kamiya's on more solid ground here:

There is an ancient human deference to The Strong Man Who Will Defend Us, an atavistic surrender to authority.... Even when it is unequivocally shown that a leader lied about war, as is the case with Bush, he or she is still protected by this aura. Going to war is the best thing a rogue president can do. It's like taking refuge in a church: No one can come and get you there. There's a reason Bush kept repeating, "I'm a war president. I'm a war president." It worked, literally, like a charm.

Without a 9/11, I think Bush probably would have done that anyway: declared that he'd Defend Us against the Saddam regime and painted himself as The Strong Man.

Of course, you have to be the right kind of war president -- a Republican. (Or possibly a Joe Lieberman/Zell Miller Democrat.) It's easy to imagine calls for Bill Clinton's impeachment if, somehow, Haiti or Somalia had led to 3,000 troop deaths and a quagmire with no end in sight. As for Al Gore, if 9/11 had happened on his watch, I think the public would have rallied around him -- but Republicans would have started working on undermining faith in his leadership within days of the attacks, if not hours. Even a quick victory in Afghanistan and a few other successes against jihadists wouldn't have been enough to silence Republicans, who'd be pointing out that all Islamicist terrorism wasn't driven from the face of the earth instantaneously. Gore wouldn't have been impeached; someone (John McCain? Jeb? W in a rematch?) would have probably beaten him in '04 by painting him as weak on terror. The "ancient human deference to The Strong Man Who Will Defend Us" would have given way to the modern American stereotype of all Democrats, even one who may have driven the Taliban from power, as sandal-wearing hippies.

No, I have no idea who set up so it goes to


UPDATE: No, it's not really that hard to find these things out, so I should have done what skimble did -- see the comments.

...and the only enemy he really cares about:

In grudging concessions to President Bush, Democrats intend to draft an Iraq war-funding bill without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops....

While details remain subject to change, the measure is designed to close the books by Friday on a bruising veto fight between Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the war. It would provide funds for military operations in Iraq through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year....

This is the only war Bush is fighting in which results matter. (In the overseas wars, just continuing to fight -- forever -- is enough.) That recent poll showing Congress with approval ratings as low as Bush's is the benchmark he's trying to meet -- he wants to crush this enemy, and his war plan is working.


UPDATE: Greg T. says this in comments:

As big as the Dem victory was last November, it wasn't enough to make Congress veto-proof or give it the votes or nads to impeach. And that's really all that matters. Bush wants to continue to play War Emperor, polls be damned, and they can't or won't stop him.

And as for those polls, Rove knows that an MSM that continues to give Republicans the benefit of manly man worship and false equivalency with Democrats is one that can be used to run out the clock and eventually rehabilitate Bush's image; and also one that can promote the GOP's next big fooler of stupid swing voters.

I agree with every word of that.

Monday, May 21, 2007

From an article about Rupert Muroch and his family in today's New York Times:

Elisabeth Murdoch seconded her father's characterization of how family members were brought up, saying that as children they would read the newspapers around the kitchen table and discuss issues and ideas with him.

"It's about what media can do in terms of empowering individuals and being aspirational and democratizing -- that's what's always motivated my dad," she said....

Yeah, as an individual, I feel so empowered by all this. It's all so aspirational and democratizing.

Official Operation Iraqi Freedom press release, dated today:

Soldiers kill insurgent and seize deadly weapon

AL TARAQ, Iraq -- Coalition Forces took an insurgent and his weapon off the streets of Al Taraq, Iraq during a combat operation May 19.

Soldiers from Fort Drum, N.Y.’s, 1st Platoon, Company A, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) thwarted a possible sniper attack while looking for evidence of three missing U.S. Soldiers who were abducted by insurgents May 12.

..."It is good to get the sniper rifle off the streets and away from the terrorists," said Spc. Doug Coleman, a team leader with the company, and the Soldier who found the weapon. "I am sure that same rifle would have been used on one of us during the mission."

Getting the rifle off the streets will help to make the battalion area of operations safer....

You mean we're so desperate for good Iraq news that we're now sending out press releases when we capture one guy and seize one gun?

(Actually, as the full press release notes, there were two snipers, and one was killed. Still, is a full press release really warranted -- four-plus years into a war we were supposed to have wrapped up in months -- when something like this happens?)

It never ceases to amaze me how much phony macho you can sell right-wingers without inspiring the slightest bit of skepticism in them. For instance, the Web site of one fairly successful mid-level right-wing pundit, Don Feder, is actually the Don Feder Cold Steel Caucus Report. In the site's introduction we're told,

The Cold Steel Caucus Report is not for the faint-hearted. It's not for summer soldiers and sunshine patriots....

It's for conservatives who believe in the old heroes -- Washington, John Adams, Andy Jackson, Abe Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. It's for conservatives who believe that all of our great days aren't behind us, and that God will raise up mighty men to lead us again.

Elsewhere on the site we have this cartoon:

And the lead item on the site right now is a speech to "the Independent Third Force Conservative Leadership Summit," delivered by Feder earlier this month. It ends with the sentence:

It's time for us to pick up our muskets and take a stand on that rude bridge with those embattled farmers -- the Forgotten Americans of today.

Apparently, none of his fans consider this too much.

Oh, and when he was of fightin' age? Well, this is all I could find:

Feder is a 1969 graduate of the Boston University College of Liberal arts and a 1972 graduate of the Boston University Law School.

That sure was an interesting time in American history to have been the right age for military service, and yet, curioussly, he makes no mention of it at all.

The amusing thing about "Steps 2 & 3" of Chuck Norris's "How to Outlaw Christianity" is that even Chuck fans will have a hard time figuring out what the hell he was referring to last week in "Step 1" when he said,

Stay tuned next Monday when I give the second half of this treatise, ... in which I will also convey one of the most shocking, despicable atheistic tactics I've ever seen.

He conveys two tactics -- Step 2 & Step 3 -- and, well, neither one seems the slightest bit shocking. Or despicable. Or intended in any way, shape, or form to affect the legal status of Christianity. So which one is the really evil one? C'mon, Chuck, give us a hint.

Oh, OK, this must be it -- but damn, Chuck, some buildup, please? It's like displaying not-particularly-scary things at a carnival sideshow -- you should at least put signs all along the path to the tent telling us we'll find them "SHOCKING!":

Atheists are making a concerted effort to win the youth of America and the world. Hundreds of web sites and blogs on the Internet ...

(Yes, hundreds! Out of the 68 gajillion Web sites in the world overall!) to convince and convert adolescents, endeavoring to remove any residue of theism from their minds and hearts by packaging atheism as the choice of a new generation. While you think your kids are innocently surfing the Web, secular progressives are intentionally preying on their innocence and naivete.

Chuck's examples of Web material clearly targeted at teenagers include this rad, X-treme, hyphy, emo banner from the site of Richard Dawkins:

Oh my God! That's so teenager-specific! What impressionable youth could resist?

Or maybe this is "one of the most shocking, despicable atheistic tactics" Chuck has ever seen:

Step three: package and promote atheism as reasonable and scientific

Pass the smelling salts! The atheists are claiming they're right!

Oh, but that's not the problem, Chuck says. The problem is that they're doing this by fraud:

So what credentials does a man like Dawkins have to discuss the presence or absence of God? Answer: He's "a scientist."

No, Chuck. He's not a "scientist." He's a scientist. You, however, are an "actor."

But, Chuck insists, Dawkins and Sam Harris and the like have no standing to talk about this issue because their expertise is only somewhat related to their area of expertise:

[Dawkins] is an ethologist and evolutionary biologist -- since when does that make one an expert on God? (Similarly, Sam Harris has a bachelor's in philosophy -- since when does that make one an expert on the universe?)

So says a real expert -- a former karate champion.

Chuck isn't even half trying here. The hook is that atheists want to make Christianity illegal, but in this installment he doesn't even get around to mentioning the law. His headline wrote a check that his text couldn't cash -- but then again, he probably wouldn't have had many readers if he'd given this series an honest title:

"Eeeuuww! Atheists Exist! I Hate That!"


(My previous post on this series is here.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007


What the hell kind of people would actually consider that news? What the hell kind of people would actually post a video of her coughing on high-traffic Web sites as a big newsflash, on the assumption that people would actually want to watch it?

The answer is obvious: people who are Republican.

Tomorrow: Bill Clinton flosses! Further proof that he's the Antichrist?
I'm really losing it for Frank Rich.

Look, I know he has an idee fixe -- that the brand of Republicanism represented by Bush is dead, that the whole country has moved on, and that only the end-timer Bushies don't understand that. But, as a result, he's been implying lately that the GOP, symbolized by its '08 front-runner, is making a clean break with the past. That isn't true at all on most issues -- yet Rich's repeated assertion of this is going to help form the conventional wisdom. That means he'll help make swing voters much more comfortable with that GOP front-runner if he's the '08 nominee.

At least Rich, to his credit, is no longer saying, as he did a couple of months ago, that Giuliani represents a significant break from Bush on the war:

... Mr. Giuliani ... wasn't a cheerleader for the subsequent detour into Iraq, wasn't in office once the war started, and actively avoids speaking about it in any detail.

Here, of course, is Giuliani a week ago on Fox News:

GIULIANI: Anybody proposing giving the enemy a timetable of our retreat is proposing something that is fundamentally irresponsible and something that is unheard of in the history of war.

...It comes about from a fundamental misunderstanding of the terrorist threat that we face. There are people in this world that are planning to come here and kill us.

That, of course, could have been written by Bush's speechwriters. Or Cheney's.

But Rich still thinks a page has been turned. Here he is today (read the column free here):

It [Jerry Falwell's death] happened at the precise moment that the Falwell-Robertson brand of religious politics is being given its walking papers by a large chunk of the political party the Christian right once helped to grow. Hours after Mr. Falwell died, Rudy Giuliani, a candidate he explicitly rejected, won the Republican debate by acclamation....

The current exemplars of Mr. Falwell's gay-baiting, anti-Roe style of politics, James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, see the writing on the wall. Electability matters more to Republicans these days than Mr. Giuliani's unambiguous support for abortion rights and gay civil rights (no matter how clumsily he's tried to fudge it).

But if electability really mattered so much to Republicans, they would have coalesced from the start around John McCain, who was seen as the front-runner and as eminently electable six months ago. They didn't. And if Republicans have really moved on and utterly rejected the causes of the Christian right, why are so many of them looking over their shoulders in desperation, waiting for the much more litmusy Fred Thompson to enter the race?

Republicans are merely weighing pluses and minuses. They want someone who'll take evil brown people and kick their asses -- that means a lot to them -- and they think Rudy's the best guy in the race on that score. Hurting evil brown people counts for so much with these voters that some of them -- by no means all of them -- are willing to put social issues on the back burner. They're treating Giuliani's stands on the social issues the way they've treated Bush's stand on immigration -- they'll vote for him regardless, but they'll fight like hell if he tries to act on his beliefs.

And surely they'd rather have a litmus-test Giuliani. If McCain had pandered to them more adroitly, or if Fred Thompson were already up and running, or if they trusted Romney, we might be looking at a different front-runner, and thus exactly the same GOP we've had for six (or, to be precise, twenty-six) years.

And should we be happy if a moderation on abortion and gay rights is the means by which the GOP gets to continue running the U.S. as a warmongering kleptocracy? How different is this from the tweaks of "compassionate conservatism," which helped push Bush into office? Rudy's social-issue stands are to him what support for education reform was for Bush -- sugar-coating for the right-wing pill.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Well you've probably already read other comments about Russert's "Am I Doing God's Work?" I don't have much to add with regard to the main thrust of the article (except that the answer to the title question is "Are you nuts? Of course not"). But I do want to say something about this:

I don't think the English language has yet found the words to describe the pain and anguish we felt that day [9/11]. And yet we learned much about each other. The bravery of the first responders who went up the stairs of burning buildings. The heroic selfless souls on United flight #93. The patience of tens of thousands of drivers who left the devastated areas in an orderly way.

I have not honked my car horn since September 11 as a gesture of respect to all of them.

Er, I'm confused. Not honking your car horn in response to a terrorist attack on (primarily) New York -- isn't that like not getting a tan in response to a terrorist attack on L.A.? Or not playing shuffleboard in response to a terrorist attack on Boca Raton?

Tim, you should probably honk your horn more if you want to pay tribute to us New Yorkers. Drivers here certainly haven't stopped doing it. In fact, I think a lot of the people we lost that day, if they were alive today, would be pretty quick on the horn if you were in front of them and you sat too long after a light changed -- you know, more than a millionth of a second. That's who we are.

So honk all you want. It would be a gesture of solidarity with us.

Forget Hillary Clinton's little contest. (Best of the lot is "I'll Take You There" -- and why the Smash Mouth verson of "I'm a Believer" instead of the original hit by the Monkees, or even the version by the guy who wrote the song, Neil Diamond?) I think we need a contest to pick a campaign song for Rudy Giuliani.

I'll start off with some obvious choices: this (NSFW) and this.

Any better suggestions?

Clarence Thomas, still not making any effort to actually do a big part of his job:

Justice Clarence Thomas sat through 68 hours of oral arguments in the Supreme Court's current term without uttering a word.

... the last time Thomas asked a question in court was Feb. 22, 2006, in a death penalty case out of South Carolina. A unanimous court eventually broadened the ability of death-penalty defendants to blame someone else for the crime.

Thomas has said in the past that he will ask a pertinent question if his colleagues don't but sees no need to engage in the back-and-forth just to hear his own voice.

A recent tally by McClatchy Newspapers underscored this point: Thomas has spoken 281 words since court transcripts began identifying justices by name in October 2004. By contrast, Thomas' neighbor on the bench, Justice Stephen Breyer, has uttered nearly 35,000 words since January....

Breyer was #1? Yeah, I was surprised it wasn't Antonin Blowhard, too, but the McClatchy story does say Scalia was a close second, with 30,087 words.


(1) Thomas is actually dead. We have a Weekend at Bernie's situation on our hands.

(2) Someday Thomas is just going to snap, and we're going to have a Columbine/Virginia Tech situation on our hands:

A fellow student in his playwriting class, Susan Derry, ... said Cho [Seung-Hui] never spoke in class and would only shrug if asked to talk about his work.

(3) Thomas has many brilliant, original things to say about the issues that have come before the court, but he's saving them all up for his book -- just like Bob Woodward.

Sorry, Clarence, but talking is part of what we're paying you to do. From the McClatchy story:

Justices often will force straight answers from attorneys who might prefer circumlocution.

"You're claiming that you'd be constitutionally protected even if you knew in advance that this particular communication would violate the rule and even if you did it deliberately?" Stevens asked. "That's your constitutional position, is it not?"

"Well, our ... your honor, the significance of the voluntariness ...," Blumstein began.

"Is it or is it not?" Stevens demanded.

"Yes," Blumstein said.

"It is?" Stevens pressed.

"Yes," Blumstein said. "I'm sorry. Yes."

That's how it's done. That's your job, pal. So do it.

By the way, what was it about George Bush the Elder? Why did he stick us with so many people who can't put two sentences together? Dan Quayle. Clarence Thomas. His namesake son. Is it because he couldn't talk very well, either? It's like a cheap horror movie in which a sick mad scientist tries to infest the population with carriers of his own disease.

(Story via DU. UPDATE: For first story linked above, go here.)