George Bush’s America

I plan to be far, far away from a television set during the SOTU speech tonight. But no matter; Dan Froomkin provides a preview:

President Bush goes before a disaffected nation tonight to reassert his leadership — quite possibly by insisting repeatedly that he’s a leader with an obligation to lead at a time that requires leadership.

“Lead” certainly was the word of the day at the White House yesterday.

After his Cabinet meeting, Bush told reporters : “I can’t tell you how upbeat I am about our future, so long as we’re willing to lead. . . .

“We talked about how to make sure this economy of ours stays the strongest economy in the world, and that we recognize we can’t just sit back and hope for the best, that we’ve got to lead.”

And at the mid-day press briefing , spokesman Scott McClellan was typically unsubtle.

“We are living in historic times and, as the President has said, we have a responsibility to lead. . . . It’s important that we continue leading and acting to spread peace abroad and prosperity at home. The President is optimistic and confident about the path that we are on.”

Didn’t catch that?

The word for the drinking game crowd, boys and girls, is lead.

While you’re at WaPo, check out this story by David Finkel about Randolph, Utah, a town that in 2004 gave Bush “95.6 percent of the vote and support for him continues to be nearly unanimous.”

Randolph is “a place that seems less a part of the modern United States than insulated from it.”

There have been no funerals here from Bush’s war on terrorism. There are no unemployment lines, no homeless people sleeping in doorways, no sick people being turned away from a hospital because of a lack of insurance, no crime to speak of, no security fence needed around the reservoir, no metal detectors at the schools.

Terrorist threats? That’s anywhere but here. Iraq? That’s somewhere over there. Hurricane Katrina? That was somewhere down there. Illegal immigrants? Not here, where everyone is fond of Ramon, who came long ago from Mexico and is married to the Catholic woman, who is the one non-Mormon everyone mentions when the conversation turns to religious diversity. As for racial diversity, everyone says there are three African Americans in the county, including the twins on the high school cheerleading squad, which also includes a Hispanic, according to the superintendent of schools, Dale Lamborn, which means “we’ve probably got the most diverse cheerleading squad in the state.”

Finkel interviewed a number of locals, and boy, do they love President Bush. It’s still September 12, 2001, in Randolph, Utah.

I say slap Randolph, Utah, in a bell jar labeled “George Bush’s America” and put it in a museum, where it belongs.


This is a post about where we go next, but first I want to talk about where we were, and are.

Yesterday’s failure to sustain a filibuster is causing the punditocracy — defined as “people who make a living telling the rest of us what mood we were in 18 months ago” — to run with the story about how Dem leadership caved in to the unhinged, whackjob leftie fringe.

Dana Milbank, hardly the worst of them, characterized the grassroots effort to stop Alito as a “Democratic food fight.” “Elected Democrats and their liberal base are in one of their periodic splits between pragmatism and symbolism,” Milbank writes.

But there’s Left, and then there’s Left. Milbank’s article describes an “impeach Bush” rally in which no one wanted to hear that it ain’t gonna happen as long as the House is controlled by Republicans.

When one of the impeachment forum’s sponsors posted an item on its Web site about news coverage of the event, a reader responded that, without conservative support, “this becomes a cartoon image of the old pinko commie left, and fair game for the wingnuts at Fox.”

The lineup of speakers indeed could have been a Bill O’Reilly fantasy: Saddam Hussein’s lawyer ([Ramsey] Clark), Hugo Chavez’s friend ([Cindy] Sheehan) and the man who denied Al Gore the presidency in Florida in 2000 (Ralph Nader).

Nader, as it happens, couldn’t make it because of a death in the family. But Fox News was there — and the other speakers did not disappoint.

I respect Ramsey Clark’s decision to represent Saddam Hussein at trial, but IMO he and Nader are not part of today’s mainstream Left, and they played no part in the Netroots Uprising. And I’m afraid Sheehan has taken a wrong turn and is aligning herself with the old fringe that’s stuck in a 1970s time warp of identity politics and street theater projects and handing out fliers for the next cause du jour rally.

Frankly, I’m sick to death of that Left.

There is another Left, one that is more serious about good government than it is about making posters. And that Left is serious about winning elections. It’s also serious about building progressive coalitions that can have a real impact on making and enacting policy.

The Left Blogosphere, more than anyone else, speaks for the mainstream Left. And we are the descendants of the Progressive Era and the New Deal. The GOP wants to make us out to be the same old New Left of the 1960s, and there are plenty of people (International ANSWER, Ralph Nader, etc.) who are ready to oblige and play the role of the cartoon “pinko commie left” in front of news cameras. But IMO that’s not who we are. Not most of us, anyway.

I anticipate getting comments about how we should support other lefties instead of Bush. But though its corpse is still twitching the New Left is dead. And its baggage is holding us back. Cut it loose, I say.

It’s not 1968 any more. But note what Digby says — it’s not October 2002 any more, either.

You remember October 2002 and the Iraq war resolution. We made phone calls, sent emails, wrote letters — and the “smart” Dems, the ambitious Dems, ignored us and voted for the bleeping resolution. “The entire leadership of the party,” says Digby. The entire leadership voted for the resolution.

Yesterday was different. “Every one of them went the other way this time,” Digby writes.

Maybe it’s still calculation, but the equation has changed. John Kerry, for one, must realize that his vote in October 2002 hurt him badly in 2004. One could argue that it cost him the election. Kerry must realize that if he has any hope of another presidential nomination, he can’t do it without us. And he must realize that if he has any hope of getting elected, he can’t do it without us — the mainstream Left.

Like I said, maybe it’s calculation. But maybe the long-slumbering Winter Soldier is waking up and remembering why it was he got into politics to begin with. Jane writes,

It was a groundswell that swept me and other bloggers up and called out for direction, and somehow John Kerry heard that and he stepped into a leadership position and he gave it to us. He gave our frustrations a focus, he offered us a chance to stand up and fight regardless of the likelihood of success, and that was all we asked. He validated our efforts and he let people know that their voices were being heard in spite of the timidity gripping many of his peers.

I frankly think the passion of the netroots community surprised him. For those who want to criticize him for not acting earlier or better, I do not think he had any reason to believe that this kind of support was extant or that we would have his back. He put his neck on the line over at Kos and the Huffington Post, not knowing what was going to come back. The outpouring of gratitude that came back to him for his efforts was extremely moving.

I’m not saying I want Kerry to be the nominee, but I’m not ruling him out. Now and in the next few months we’ll find out who our real leaders are.

Digby continues,

I believe that there is finally a recognition that the Party has hit the wall. We have moved as far to the right as we can go and we have been as accommodating as we can be without thoroughly compromising our fundamental principles. Most of us are not “far left” if that means extreme policy positions. Indeed, many of us would have been seen as middle of the road not all that long ago. We are partisans and that’s a different thing all together. The leadership is recognising this.

Now, people, is the time to believe in ourselves, and to work harder. We are having an impact.