Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, November 6th, 2006.


Democratic Party, elections, Republican Party

Today I got phone calls from Rudy Giuliani and both Clintons. They were recordings, of course.

Rudy wanted me to vote for whoever is running against Eliot Spitzer for Governor. I had forgotten somebody was running against Spitzer. There’s been barely any campaigning in the Spitzer-whoozits race, even though the incumbent Pataki is retiring and it ought to be a wide-open seat.

A state poll shows the Republican gubernatorial candidate trailing behind Spitzer by 50 points. I wonder why anybody bothered with the recorded phone call.

Some guy is running against my congress critter, Nita Lowey (D), but I’ve seen not one shred of campaigning. This may be because the challenger has raised only $3,000 since the primary. The only Republican Party money he has received was a $250 check from the New York State Young Republicans, plus the loan of a desk at the headquarters of the Yonkers Republican City Committee.

And Senator Hillary Clinton is expected to win easily.

Sidney Blumenthal writes that “Rove’s legacy may be to leave Republicans with a regional Southern party whose constrictive conservatism fosters a solid Democratic North.” It sure looks that way from here.

In New York, there’s more action in the state and local races. Tom Watson explains it better than I can, as I’m not native to these parts. My state senator, Nick Spano (R), is one of those guys who campaigns year round. I get more junk mail from Spano than from all the single-issue advocacy groups put together. He’s been in the New York State Senate for 18 years, probably because he’s so good at getting his name in voters’ faces. The challenger, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, barely campaigned at all until about a month ago. She has some impressive TV ads running now, including one in which Eliot Spitzer endorses her. I wonder if it’s too little, too late; Spano’s been running a dirty campaign, including push polling. However, these days maybe all Stewart-Cousins needs to win in Westchester County, New York, is a D after her name.

One phenomenon of New York elections that has baffled me are parties that appear on the ballots but which nominate the same candidates as either the Dems or the Republicans. One such is the Working Families Party, which has nominated the Democratic slate. Tom Watson explains why voters should vote “D” instead of “WFP.” If you’re a New Yorker, you should check this out.

Tomorrow night I plan to blog from a Democratic Party whoop-it-up in Manhattan. It should be fun, so be sure to drop by.

Update: From the New York Daily News:

Candidates for statewide office made a final push for votes yesterday as polls suggested New York was headed toward a Democratic sweep amid massive Republican finger-pointing.

Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Eliot Spitzer was so confident, he didn’t even bother to campaign on the last full day before voters go to the polls – choosing instead to huddle with advisers behind closed doors.

But he had little reason to worry: Polls showed him trouncing his Republican opponent, former Assemblyman John Faso, by a record-smashing 50 percentage points.

Meanwhile, Democrat Andrew Cuomo was gliding comfortably ahead of Republican opponent Jeanine Pirro, 53% to 37%, and even scandal-plagued state Controller Alan Hevesi was besting his underfunded Republican challenger, Chris Callaghan, 50% to 38%, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday.

That New York Dem post-election shindig I’m going to should be lively.

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Army Times

Bush Administration, Iraq War

A couple of days ago I wrote about the editorial running in the military Times newspapers calling for Donald Rumsfeld to go — I’m not sure they care where, as long as it’s out of the Pentagon. As I explained, the editorial was quickly dismissed by a number of rightie bloggers on the grounds that “the editorial position of the Army Times has been and still is VERY liberal” and “Their editorials are always dripping with disdain for the military and have a huge liberal bias.”

As I said in the post, I do have some contacts in the military, and I finally heard from one of them about the alleged liberalism of the Army Times. This is from Robert W Thomas, Colonel (Retired), US Army, and he is responding to this rightie blog post that calls the Army Times “VERY liberal.”

The writer of this article seems to be using the term “liberal” to mean anyone who disagrees with the administration. I guess it is better than calling them stupid. I have been reading the Army Times for 40 years and I have never thought of it as a “liberal” newspaper. Nor would I call it particularly conservative. The Army Times is primarily an advocate for soldiers. The target audience is the enlisted soldier and they report on things that impact the soldier’s welfare and career. The editors and staff of the Army Times have a long term and close association with service members and like all community newspapers, try and keep up with the pulse of the community. What they are reporting on and offering opinions about reflect the concerns of the community they serve.

So, it seems that the writer is misinterpreting the word “liberal”. The military wants to and tries to hold itself to extremely high morals/ideals. Professional soldiers are shocked when things like Abu Ghraib happen. We’re not supposed to allow ourselves to fall to those depths, and the Officer Corps in particular doesn’t forgive lapses like that amongst our own. The typical reaction is that good soldiers wouldn’t do things like that if they had good leadership, therefore it’s the leadership’s fault, and therefore the leadership needs to go. This would be true for whatever level of leadership is found to be accountable.

The Officer Corps takes its role in the preservation of our democracy very seriously. As such, it is absolutely committed to the principle of civilian control over the military. For this level of discontent to be voiced so openly through the “community newspaper” is quite stunning. Military folk are not particularly liberal by nature. They would not tolerate, nor would they read a “VERY liberal” newspaper. This isn’t about being liberal, its about us holding ourselves to an unbelievably high standard and having no tolerance for those that don’t appear to live up to that standard.

(Full disclosure, Col. Thomas and I have a long acquaintance owing to the fact that we have the same parents and grew up in the same household. We have several other relatives in common, as well. Pretty much all of them, actually. Funny how that works.)

The question of the “liberalism” of the military Times papers is now settled, as far as I’m concerned, and the rightie bloggers I quoted are officially designated whackjobs.

Along with addressing the newspaper question, I posted the Colonel’s email because I believe the point of view of professional career officers is not much found on the blogosphere, left or right.

Righties, who think they have a copyright on all things military, make excuses for Abu Ghraib and Haditha and other such incidents, and they blow a gasket if any Democrat calls attention to them and shriek that liberals “hate the military” and “blame the troops.” Righties like to think they represent the “military” point of view, but I do not believe they do.

Stories — true or not — of antiwar protesters insulting or spitting on troops during the Vietnam War persist to this day to cling to the Left and fuel a belief that liberals “hate the military,” but on the whole this is nonsense. Since the invasion of Iraq, most of us leftie bloggers have been respectful of the troops and are careful to aim our criticism of the war at the White House and the Secretary of Defense, plus the SecDef’s civilian minions. Nor have I seen much hostility toward the military from the antiwar left these days. The only exception I am aware of are incidents of students harassing military recruiters on campus. As I wrote here,

For the record, I disagree with the students’ position. The military services are not our enemies; they are not the ones who make decisions to wage unjust wars. Blame the bleeping idiot civilians running the military for that. As long as the recruiters are not press-ganging students into boot camp, I say leave ‘em be.

As I wrote here, the troops are not only doing a job they should not have been asked to do, they are subjected to more stress than the human nervous system was designed to bear. I am probably more forgiving of those who have fallen short of the ideal than my retired officer bro’.

Although invididuals must be held accountable for their actions, ultimately the fault for failures both ethical and military is the fault of leadership — especially the Commander-in-Chief — and the civilian political factions that rushed us into an unnecessary and costly war. I believe most leftie bloggers have been clear about that.

In fact, both sides of the blogosphere accuse the other of “blaming the troops.” But as this fellow wrote in March,

How many times have you heard right-wingers twist a criticism against the president or against the war into sounding like a criticism against the troops serving in Iraq? I’ve heard it countless times. When John Kerry directly and specifically criticized Bush, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie immediately transformed that into Kerry blaming the troops. Or when Wesley Clark criticized Bush for allowing an unnecessary war in Iraq take resources away from finding bin Laden, a Fox News anchor directly accused him of denigrating the troops. This technique is used widely and often by conservatives to deflect criticism about the war, essentially using the troops as a human shield to make Bush and the conservatives in general impervious to criticism for their massive blunders and incompetence.

The essence of this strategy is simple: conservatives say that liberals, or any critics of the president, hate the troops. Liberals want to blame the troops for everything.

The irony here is, it’s Bush who blames the troops. Take prisoner torture, for example. Bush and Gonzales advocated torture as an acceptable technique. Bush advanced the use of torture in the military hierarchy, giving the go-ahead for its use. But when we actually see the horrifying images of how prisoners were treated at Abu Ghraib, who gets blamed by the Bush administration?

The troops.

It’s a plain fact that low- and middle-level service members have borne most of the blame for the Abu Ghraib. That’s got to change.

And it’s a plain fact that the neocons, more than anyone else, are responsible for stampeding the nation into Iraq. And now they want to escape blame. Folks, this will not stand.

And in case any military personnel stumble on this blog, please understand that we have the same purpose — to protect and defend the United States and the Constitution. It’s righties, not lefties, who are the odd ones out these days. They’re the ones who support sending the Constitution through the shredder.

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Great Minds Thinking Alike

Bush Administration, Congress, Democratic Party, elections, FEMA, Republican Party

Paul Krugman:

President Bush isn’t on the ballot tomorrow. But this election is, nonetheless, all about him. The question is whether voters will pry his fingers loose from at least some of the levers of power, thereby limiting the damage he can inflict in his two remaining years in office.

There are still some people urging Mr. Bush to change course. For example, a scathing editorial published today by The Military Times, which calls on Mr. Bush to fire Donald Rumsfeld, declares that “this is not about the midterm elections.” But the editorial’s authors surely know better than that. Mr. Bush won’t fire Mr. Rumsfeld; he won’t change strategy in Iraq; he won’t change course at all, unless Congress forces him to.

What I’ve been saying. Maybe Professor Krugman is a Mahablog lurker.

At this point, nobody should have any illusions about Mr. Bush’s character. To put it bluntly, he’s an insecure bully who believes that owning up to a mistake, any mistake, would undermine his manhood — and who therefore lives in a dream world in which all of his policies are succeeding and all of his officials are doing a heckuva job. Just last week he declared himself “pleased with the progress we’re making” in Iraq.

Yesterday there was much buzz about David Rose’s Vanity Fair piece, “Neo Culpa,” in which prominent neocons throw President Bush under a bus. There is much to remark upon in this short article, but I was most struck by this bit:

Richard Perle: “In the administration that I served [Perle was an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan], there was a one-sentence description of the decision-making process when consensus could not be reached among disputatious departments: ‘The president makes the decision.’ [Bush] did not make decisions, in part because the machinery of government that he nominally ran was actually running him. The National Security Council was not serving [Bush] properly. He regarded [then National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice] as part of the family.”

Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute freedom scholar:
“Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes.”

For more on the walking pathology that is Michael Ledeen, see Glenn Greenwald. The point is that from 9/11 until Katrina, Bush floated along within a carefully crafted image of a great leader. But in fact, he is no leader at all. He is to leadership what a black hole is to matter. All the time he’s been occupying the White House he’s been playing dress-up, putting on a president’s clothes and pretending to do a president’s job. But no one is really doing the president’s job, and the nation lurches from one disaster to another, unguided.

Back to Krugman:

In other words, he’s the sort of man who should never have been put in a position of authority, let alone been given the kind of unquestioned power, free from normal checks and balances, that he was granted after 9/11. But he was, alas, given that power, as well as a prolonged free ride from much of the news media.

The results have been predictably disastrous. The nightmare in Iraq is only part of the story. In time, the degradation of the federal government by rampant cronyism — almost every part of the executive branch I know anything about, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been FEMAfied — may come to be seen as an equally serious blow to America’s future.

And it should be a matter of intense national shame that Mr. Bush has quietly abandoned his fine promises to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

If I believed in a personal God, I’d be tempted to interpret Katrina as a Divine Memo — the hand of the Almighty sending a great storm to show America who their much ballyhooed President really is. It’s a heartbreak the storm devastated the unique but fragile city of New Orleans and sacrificed so many vulnerable people. But if the hurricane had hit Texas or Florida, President Bush might have felt a spark of personal interest and been less disengaged. I know this sounds harsh, but for American politics Katrina was, in truth, a perfect storm.

The public, which rallied around Mr. Bush after 9/11 and was still prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt two years ago, seems to have figured most of this out. It’s too late to vote Mr. Bush out of office, but most Americans seem prepared to punish Mr. Bush’s party for his personal failings. This is in spite of a vicious campaign in which Mr. Bush has gone further than any previous president — even Richard Nixon — in attacking the patriotism of anyone who criticizes him or his policies.

That said, it’s still possible that the Republicans will hold on to both houses of Congress. The feeding frenzy over John Kerry’s botched joke showed that many people in the news media are still willing to be played like a fiddle. And if you think the timing of the Saddam verdict was coincidental, I’ve got a terrorist plot against the Brooklyn Bridge to sell you.

Moreover, the potential for vote suppression and/or outright electoral fraud remains substantial. And it will be very hard for the Democrats to take the Senate for the very simple reason that only one-third of Senate seats are on this ballot.

Tomorrow night will likely be a nail-biter. Some recent polls show the race tightening. Billmon calls this phenomenon “the idiocracy vote.”

Part of the trend shown in the Pew and ABC/Post polls may simply be “natural tightening” — as Republicans and Republicans-who-call-themselves-independents come home to their party. But what needs to be kept in mind is that at this late stage the remaining independent undecided or soft leaners generally constitute the least informed, least involved and, in many cases, least intelligent segment of the electorate. Or, to be perfectly blunt about it: Many of them are completely fucking clueless, which means they tend to be the most easily manipulated by the kind of limbic, cesspool politics the Rovian machine now specializes in.

I think it’s also true that for a stubbornly high percentage of the voters, the default position is still conservative and Republican. Scandals and/or disappointments, such as the Mark Foley case or the Iraq quagmire, may knock them off that position, but there’s a built-in tendency for them to drift back. The Reagan coalition may be old and fraying, but it remains the dominant structure in American politics.

Yet hope remains.

The key question, of course, is how many of these soft-headed soft leaners will actually turn out on Tuesday.

That’s what the famous Republican “ground game” does, of course; flush out the idiots and get them to the polls. Recent events may have taken some of the energy (and volunteers) out of the ground game, however. We’ll see.

Returning to Krugman:

What if the Democrats do win? That doesn’t guarantee a change in policy.

I’ll come back to this in a minute.

The Constitution says that Congress and the White House are co-equal branches of government, but Mr. Bush and his people aren’t big on constitutional niceties. Even with a docile Republican majority controlling Congress, Mr. Bush has been in the habit of declaring that he has the right to disobey the law he has just signed, whether it’s a law prohibiting torture or a law requiring that he hire qualified people to run FEMA.

Just imagine, then, what he’ll do if faced with demands for information from, say, Congressional Democrats investigating war profiteering, which seems to have been rampant. Actually, we don’t have to imagine: a White House strategist has already told Time magazine that the administration plans a “cataclysmic fight to the death” if Democrats in Congress try to exercise their right to issue subpoenas — which is one heck of a metaphor, given Mr. Bush’s history of getting American service members trapped in cataclysmic fights where the deaths are anything but metaphors.

Hidden behind the trivial and phony issues dangled in front of the American electorate, there are real issues critical to the nation’s survival.

Jonathan Schell writes,

The stakes, as President Bush likes to say–and on this point he is correct–could scarcely be higher. But they include one stake he never mentions: the future of constitutional government in the United States, which his presidency and his party have put in serious jeopardy. The old (lower case) republican system of checks and balances and popular liberties, you might say, is in danger of replacement by a new (upper case) Republican system of arbitrary one-party rule organized around an all-powerful presidency. …

… It is simply impossible to know in advance when, in a great constitutional crisis, the decisive turning point–the irrevocable capsizing–might come. We are left wondering whether we are witnessing just one more swing of the familiar old American political “pendulum,” bound by its own weight to swing back in the opposite direction, or whether this time the pendulum is about to fly off its hinge and land us with a crash in territory that we have never visited before.

This is the danger we face, and — with the exception of Keith Olbermann — the news media and the professional “pundit” corps are ignoring it.

Back to Krugman:

But here’s the thing: no matter how hard the Bush administration may try to ignore the constitutional division of power, Mr. Bush’s ability to make deadly mistakes has rested in part on G.O.P. control of Congress. That’s why many Americans, myself included, will breathe a lot easier if one-party rule ends tomorrow.

In spite of the poll-tightening, conventional wisdom still says that Dems are nearly certain to take the House, but not the Senate. If I had to choose one house of Congress to take back, I believe I’d rather have the House. Senators are too entrenched, too cautious. But the House will be infused with new blood, and under the leadership of old lions like Waxman, Conyers, and Murtha, the House might pose a real challenge to the Bush Administration.

But here’s the thing: no matter how hard the Bush administration may try to ignore the constitutional division of power, Mr. Bush’s ability to make deadly mistakes has rested in part on G.O.P. control of Congress. That’s why many Americans, myself included, will breathe a lot easier if one-party rule ends tomorrow.

I realize the Dems will not have a veto-proof majority. But I say again that Republican politicians are going to be in a very uncomfortable place for the next couple of years. They can no longer hide behind the coattails of a popular president, and now that Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay are out of the picture, K Street is not so much the cornucopia of cash and influence it once was. Republican House members in particular, once they are a minority, might feel compelled to choose between loyalty to Bush and party leadership and their reelection chances in 2008. I’m not saying they will switch parties, but it’s possible many of them will cross the aisle and vote with the Dems now and then.

And check out this editorial in the current issue of The American Conservative, “Bush Must Go.”

It should surprise few readers that we think a vote that is seen—in America and the world at large—as a decisive “No” vote on the Bush presidency is the best outcome. We need not dwell on George W. Bush’s failed effort to jam a poorly disguised amnesty for illegal aliens through Congress or the assaults on the Constitution carried out under the pretext of fighting terrorism or his administration’s endorsement of torture. Faced on Sept. 11, 2001 with a great challenge, President Bush made little effort to understand who had attacked us and why—thus ignoring the prerequisite for crafting an effective response. He seemingly did not want to find out, and he had staffed his national-security team with people who either did not want to know or were committed to a prefabricated answer.

As a consequence, he rushed America into a war against Iraq, a war we are now losing and cannot win, one that has done far more to strengthen Islamist terrorists than anything they could possibly have done for themselves. Bush’s decision to seize Iraq will almost surely leave behind a broken state divided into warring ethnic enclaves, with hundreds of thousands killed and maimed and thousands more thirsting for revenge against the country that crossed the ocean to attack them. The invasion failed at every level: if securing Israel was part of the administration’s calculation—as the record suggests it was for several of his top aides—the result is also clear: the strengthening of Iran’s hand in the Persian Gulf, with a reach up to Israel’s northern border, and the elimination of the most powerful Arab state that might stem Iranian regional hegemony.

The war will continue as long as Bush is in office, for no other reason than the feckless president can’t face the embarrassment of admitting defeat. The chain of events is not complete: Bush, having learned little from his mistakes, may yet seek to embroil America in new wars against Iran and Syria.

Meanwhile, America’s image in the world, its capacity to persuade others that its interests are common interests, is lower than it has been in memory. All over the world people look at Bush and yearn for this country—which once symbolized hope and justice—to be humbled. The professionals in the Bush administration (and there are some) realize the damage his presidency has done to American prestige and diplomacy. But there is not much they can do.

There may be little Americans can do to atone for this presidency, which will stain our country’s reputation for a long time. But the process of recovering our good name must begin somewhere, and the logical place is in the voting booth this Nov. 7. If we are fortunate, we can produce a result that is seen—in Washington, in Peoria, and in world capitals from Prague to Kuala Lumpur—as a repudiation of George W. Bush and the war of aggression he launched against Iraq.

If a conservative wrote that, then bipartisanship is still possible.

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