Love This Headline

Whatever happened to “will their antiwar stance hurt the Democrats?”

The article is by Richard Wolffe.

Matt Dowd knows more about the politics of war than almost anyone who has worked inside Bush’s inner circle. The president’s long-time pollster was the chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaign three years ago, when he helped frame the conflict in Iraq as a winning issue for his boss. But as Dowd surveys the field of 2008 presidential candidates, he’s puzzled. “The American people have decided what they think about the war and are ready to look to the next stage,” he says. “What I don’t understand is why the big three GOP candidates have all chosen to follow the president’s approach rather than offer up their own alternative.”

Heh. Whatever happened to “the Dems aren’t offering an alternative”?

Unspeakable Truth

David Bell, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University, has an op ed in today’s yesterday’s Los Angeles Times called “Was 9/11 really that bad?” In spite of the flame-baiting headline, which I doubt Professor Bell wrote, it makes a sensible point.

Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?

Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies’ objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.

Yet a great many Americans, particularly on the right, have failed to make this distinction. For them, the “Islamo-fascist” enemy has inherited not just Adolf Hitler’s implacable hatreds but his capacity to destroy. The conservative author Norman Podhoretz has gone so far as to say that we are fighting World War IV (No. III being the Cold War). …

… as the comparison with the Soviet experience should remind us, the war against terrorism has not yet been much of a war at all, let alone a war to end all wars. It is a messy, difficult, long-term struggle against exceptionally dangerous criminals who actually like nothing better than being put on the same level of historical importance as Hitler — can you imagine a better recruiting tool? To fight them effectively, we need coolness, resolve and stamina. But we also need to overcome long habit and remind ourselves that not every enemy is in fact a threat to our existence.

This is pretty much what I’ve been saying all along. There aren’t enough jihadists in the world to destroy the United States. There aren’t enough of them to invade us, seize Washington, and occupy our territory. There just aren’t. That ought to be obvious. Even if they could pull off another 9/11, that wouldn’t destroy us, either.

Professor Bell began his op ed this way:

IMAGINE THAT on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against

Yes, if the jihadists could pull off a 9/11 attack every six hours for four years, that would constitute an existential threat. But, obviously, they can’t come anywhere close to that.

At this point I want to remind readers that I was, in fact, in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and am an eyewitness to the collapse of the WTC towers. Anyone who comments that I am in denial about what happened on 9/11 will be well and thoroughly ridiculed.

Naturally a number of rightie bloggers already are hyperventilating over Professor Bell’s op ed, and their reactions prove once again that righties have the reading comprehension skills of gnats. And you absolutely can not challenge a rightie’s overblown senses of righteousness and victimhood without getting snarked.

The point that Professor Bell only mentions, but which is critical, is that our overreaction is hurting us more than it’s hurting them. Several antiterrorism experts interviewed by James Fallows for this September 2006 Atlantic Monthly article made the same point most urgently. I blogged about this article here, here, and here, and probably elsewhere. Here’s an excerpt:

No modern nation is immune to politically inspired violence, and even the best-executed antiterrorism strategy will not be airtight.

But the overall prospect looks better than many Americans believe, and better than nearly all political rhetoric asserts. The essence of the change is this: because of al-Qaeda’s own mistakes, and because of the things the United States and its allies have done right, al-Qaeda’s ability to inflict direct damage in America or on Americans has been sharply reduced. Its successor groups in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere will continue to pose dangers. But its hopes for fundamentally harming the United States now rest less on what it can do itself than on what it can trick, tempt, or goad us into doing. Its destiny is no longer in its own hands.

“Does al-Qaeda still constitute an ‘existential’ threat?” asks David Kilcullen, who has written several influential papers on the need for a new strategy against Islamic insurgents. Kilcullen, who as an Australian army officer commanded counter-insurgency units in East Timor, recently served as an adviser in the Pentagon and is now a senior adviser on counterterrorism at the State Department. He was referring to the argument about whether the terrorism of the twenty-first century endangers the very existence of the United States and its allies, as the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons did throughout the Cold War (and as the remnants of that arsenal still might).

“I think it does, but not for the obvious reasons,” Kilcullen told me. He said the most useful analogy was the menace posed by European anarchists in the nineteenth century. “If you add up everyone they personally killed, it came to maybe 2,000 people, which is not an existential threat.” But one of their number assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The act itself took the lives of two people. The unthinking response of European governments in effect started World War I. “So because of the reaction they provoked, they were able to kill millions of people and destroy a civilization.

“It is not the people al-Qaeda might kill that is the threat,” he concluded. “Our reaction is what can cause the damage. It’s al-Qaeda plus our response that creates the existential danger.”

This is the point that righties are, universally, too stupid or too scared to get. The pathetic little weenies hide behind their keyboards and do everything they can to jettison the Bill of Rights and the balance of powers because they are afraid and they think a big almighty dictatorial President can save them.

Whoever the next President is, let me say now that it is not enough for this individual to want to end the war in Iraq. I want this individual to lead the American people away from the fear and hysteria the Bushies have cultivated to their advantage. The American people need to understand that, although terrorists can take lives and knock down buildings, the only thing the nation has to fear is, well, fear itself.

Update: See The Anonymous Liberal.

Where Is Everyone?

[Update: Macranger ought to have read my post all the way through before he linked to it. I don’t say what he seems to think I said.]

My impression is that yesterday’s antiwar protests got more news coverage than the big march around the White House in September 2005. And this is true in spite of the fact that the crowd showing up for the 2005 march was much bigger, estimated — conservatively — as between 100,000 and 200,000. From news stories (which, I realize, always lowball these things) it seems the turnout in Washington yesterday fell short of 100,000. Although nobody really knows.

More news coverage is not necessarily better news coverage. Take a look at the Washington Post story by Michael Ruane and Fredrick Kunkle:

A raucous and colorful multitude of protesters, led by some of the aging activists of the past, staged a series of rallies and a march on the Capitol yesterday to demand that the United States end its war in Iraq.

Under a blue sky with a pale midday moon, tens of thousands of people angry about the war and other policies of the Bush administration danced, sang, shouted and chanted their opposition.

They came from across the country and across the activist spectrum, with a wide array of grievances. Many seemed to be under 30, but there were others who said they had been at the famed war protests of the 1960s and ’70s.

Note especially —

Among the celebrities who appeared was Jane Fonda, the 69-year-old actress and activist who was criticized for sympathizing with the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. She told the crowd that this was the first time she had spoken at an antiwar rally in 34 years.

“I’ve been afraid that because of the lies that have been and continue to be spread about me and that war, that they would be used to hurt this new antiwar movement,” she told the crowd. “But silence is no longer an option.”

Dear Jane: Get a blog.

I didn’t watch television yesterday but I take it the television news was All About Jane. I don’t know that this hurt the cause — people still enflamed about Jane are likely to be Bush supporters, anyway — but I can’t see that it helped, either.

At the Agonist, Sean-Paul Kelly criticized Jane’s attendance and got slammed for it in comments. But I’m with Sean-Paul here. Public protests are about action in service to a cause. Whether Jane Fonda has a right to protest — of course she does — it not the point. Jane Fonda has a right to smear herself with molasses and sit on an anthill, but just because one has a right to do something doesn’t make it smart.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — good public protests are good public relations. Protest movements of the past were effective when they called attention to an issue and gained public sympathy for it. And the secret to doing this is what I call the “bigger asshole” rule — protests work when they make the protestees look like bigger assholes than the protesters. Martin Luther King’s marches made white racists look like assholes. Gandhi made the whole bleeping British Empire look like assholes.

The Vietnam-era antiwar protesters, on the other hand, more often than not shot themselves in the foot by coming across as bigger assholes than Richard Nixon and other Powers That Were. Steve Gilliard has a good post up today reaffirming my opinion that the Vietnam antiwar movement did little or nothing to actually stop the war.

And, m’dears, the point is to stop the war. It is not about expressing yourself, feeling good about yourself, or even “speaking truth to power.” It is about stopping the war. Action that does not advance the cause of stopping the war is not worth doing.

In fact, I wonder if these “raucous and colorful” public displays might be trivializing a deadly serious issue.

I disagree with protest defenders that any street protest is better than no street protest. Believe me; no street protesting is preferable to stupid street protesting. I have seen this with my own eyes. And these days there are plenty of ways to speak out against the war than to carry oversized puppets down a street.

That said, based on this video, the protest in Washington yesterday seemed a perfectly respectable protest, although not notably different from other protests of recent years. Some politicians actually turned out for this one, which was not true in September 2005. This is progress.


John at AMERICAblog had mostly positive comments, also.

But will public protests like this change any minds that haven’t already been changed by events? I don’t see how.

That said, I want to respond to this post by Rick Moran of Right Wing Nut House:

The May Day protest in Washington, D.C. sought to shut down the government. Some 50,000 hard core demonstrators would block the streets and intersections while putting up human barricades in front of federal offices. How exactly this would stop the war was kind of fuzzy. No matter. Nixon was ready with the army and National Guard and in the largest mass arrest in US history, clogged the jails of Washington with 10,000 kids.

Where are the clogged jails today? As I watch the demonstration on the mall today (much smaller than those in the past) I am thinking of the massive gulf between the self absorbed hodge podge of anti-globalist, pro-feminist, anti-capitalist, pro-abortion anti-war fruitcakes cheering on speakers lobbying for Palestinians, Katrina aid, and other causes not related to the war and the committed, determined bunch of kids who put their hides on the line, filling up the jails of dozens of cities, risking the billy clubs and tear gas of the police to stop what they saw as an unjust war.

The netnuts are fond of calling those of us who support the mission in Iraq chickenhawks. What do you call someone who sits on their ass in front of a keyboard, railing against the President, claiming that the United States is falling into a dictatorship, and writing about how awful this war is and yet refuses to practice the kinds of civil disobedience that their fathers and mothers used to actually bring the Viet Nam war to an end?

I call them what they are; rank cowards. There should be a million people on the mall today. Instead, there might be 50,000. Today’s antiwar left talks big but cowers in the corner. I have often written about how unserious the left is about what they believe. The reason is on the mall today. If they really thought that the United States was on the verge of becoming a dictatorship are you seriously trying to tell me that any patriotic American wouldn’t do everything in their power to prevent it rather than mouth idiotic platitudes and self serving bromides?

He as much as admits of the May Day (1971) protest, “How exactly this would stop the war was kind of fuzzy.” If I actually believed that getting myself arrested by blocking the door to the FBI building would help end the war, then I believe I would do it. But since I don’t see how such an arrest would make a damn bit of difference, except maybe get my glorious little self in the newspapers (and “no fly” lists), why would I do that? And why am I a “coward” for not doing it?

I haven’t yet smeared myself with molasses and sat on an anthill, either. Does that make me a coward? Or not crazy?

The other part of this post I want to respond to is his accusation that the antiwar left is “not serious.” He speaks of “the self absorbed hodge podge of anti-globalist, pro-feminist, anti-capitalist, pro-abortion anti-war fruitcakes cheering on speakers lobbying for Palestinians, Katrina aid, and other causes not related to the war,” and wonders why more of us don’t show up. Well, son, a lot of the reason more people don’t show up is in fact “the self absorbed hodge podge of anti-globalist, pro-feminist, anti-capitalist, pro-abortion anti-war fruitcakes cheering on speakers lobbying for Palestinians, Katrina aid, and other causes not related to the war.” It is damn frustrating for those of us serious about ending the war to spend the time and money to go somewhere for a protest and find our efforts diluted by the vocational protest crowd.

Moran is making the same error that Gary Kamiya made; he assumes that a “real” antiwar movement has to look and act just like the Vietnam-era antiwar movement. I say again, that movement failed. Why should we be emulating it today?

Moreover, claiming the left isn’t “serious” about ending the war because we’re not all engaging in pointless publicity stunts rather ignores what we are doing, and what we have accomplished. Remember the midterm elections?

Please, Rick Moran, get serious.

As for Mr. Moran’s question about people opposed to the war — “Where is everybody?” — I believe they’re here:

Lese majestie

Ron Chusid of Liberal Values tells the story in the title: “Kerry Unleashed: US a Pariah Nation Under Bush; Authoritarian Right Upset.”

Speaking in Davos, Kerry spoke out against a major problem of the Bush foreign policy, that the United States has become “a sort of international pariah.” …

… Needless to say, the authoritarian right, who would lead this country to disaster before admitting that their leader is in error, is outraged. Little Green Fascists Footballs calls this “appalling blast at his own country,” having no understanding of the difference between one’s country and its leaders when wrong–a common trait among authoritarians.

The correction to the name Little Green Footballs is in Ron Chusid’s post. I’m glad he made it clear that this nonsense didn’t come from Little Green Fascists, which is a perfectly respectable blog.

The wingnuts can’t disprove anything Kerry said about Bush, of course; they’re just outraged he said it.

Along these lines, this was on the Guardian blog page a couple of days ago:

George Bush might have just given his state of the union address but here in Davos he’s definitely a lame duck.

One clue lies in the fact that no senior figures from the US administration are coming. In other circumstances that might be thought a snub to a meeting which aims to gather the world’s most powerful business and political leaders. But now it is just a recognition of reality. Power is shifting elsewhere and the conference organisers seem happy to acknowledge it.

There’s still lots of interest in the US, of course. Hillary Clinton, I am promised, isn’t coming – though don’t rule out a surprise. Her husband loves the place. The conference tried to persuade Barack Obama to show up, but he, too, is apparently too deep in his campaign on the otherside of the Atlantic to find the time. Maybe next year?

Still, John Kerry is coming and so is John McCain, who’s routinely described as the Republican frontrunner.

In the meantime, most people here seem to think of President Bush’s time in office as a mistake the world would do best to forget. There was even a small cheer at a session just now when a senior US business leader pointed out, with a smile, that he’ll be gone in two years. Amen to that.

See also “They’re broken men, so don’t let them take us to a new war” by Henry Porter.

Speedy Gonzales

Marisa Taylor and Greg Gordon write for McClatchy Newspapers:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is transforming the ranks of the nation’s top federal prosecutors by firing some and appointing conservative loyalists from the Bush administration’s inner circle who critics say are unlikely to buck Washington.

The newly appointed U.S. attorneys all have impressive legal credentials, but most of them have few, if any, ties to the communities they’ve been appointed to serve, and some have had little experience as prosecutors.

For background on the U.S. Attorney scandal — it’s not generally acknowledged to be a scandal, but it should be — see old Mahablog posts U.S. Attorneys: It’s the Replacing, Stupid and The Purge. In a nutshell, the White House is using a provision inserted into the Patriot Act last year to fire U.S. attorneys and replace them without (constitutionally mandated) Senate approval.

U.S. attorneys usually are appointed at the beginning of a president’s term and serve for four years, after Senate confirmation. Firing in mid-term for reasons other than gross misconduct is extremely unusual, although not illegal. What is more fishy is that the White House has given itself the power to appoint “interim” attorneys who can serve indefinitely without confirmation by the Senate.

Taylor and Gordon of McClatchy continue,

The nine recent appointees identified by McClatchy Newspapers held high-level White House or Justice Department jobs, and most of them were handpicked by Gonzales under a little-noticed provision of the Patriot Act that became law in March. …

… Being named a U.S. attorney “has become a prize for doing the bidding of the White House or administration,” said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who’s now a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “In the past, there had been a great deal of delegation to the local offices. Now, you have a consolidation of power in Washington.”

I like this part:

A Justice Department spokesman said it was “reckless” to suggest that politics had influenced the appointment process.

Sounds like a threat to me. Anyway, here are the nine new U.S. attorneys:

  • Tim Griffin, 37, the U.S. attorney for Arkansas, who was an aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove and a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.
  • Rachel Paulose, 33, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, who served briefly as a counselor to the deputy attorney general and who, according to a former boss, has been a member of the secretive, ideologically conservative Federalist Society.
  • Jeff Taylor, 42, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., who was an aide to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and worked as a counselor to Gonzales and to former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
  • John Wood, U.S. attorney in Kansas City, who’s the husband of Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Julie Myers and an ex-deputy general counsel of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
  • Deborah Rhodes, 47, the U.S. attorney in Mobile, Ala., who was a Justice Department counselor.
  • Alexander Acosta, 37, the U.S. attorney in Miami, who was an assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division and a protege of conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
  • John Richter, 43, the U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City, who was the chief of staff for the Justice Department’s criminal division and acting assistant attorney general.
  • Edward McNally, the U.S. attorney in southern Illinois, who was a senior associate counsel to President Bush.
  • Matt Dummermuth, the U.S. attorney in Iowa, who was a Justice Department civil rights lawyer.

  • This is from an editorial in yesterday’s New York Times

    The federal investigation into Congressional corruption is approaching a crucial deadline and potential dead end. Feb. 15 is the last day on the job for United States Attorney Carol Lam of San Diego, the inquiry’s dedicated prosecutor, who is being purged by the Bush administration.

    Her investigation led to the imprisonment of former Representative Randy Cunningham, the California Republican who took millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for delivering lucrative government contracts. But just as Ms. Lam was digging into other possible wrongdoing, the White House decided to force her from office without explanation.

    Ms. Lam has been investigating the dealings of Brent Wilkes, a private contractor and deep-pocketed political contributor who was designated co-conspirator No. 1 in the Cunningham case. Mr. Wilkes developed other cozy relationships. Among other avenues, the inquiry has been looking into rich government contracts secured by corporations and lobbyists with ties to Representative Jerry Lewis — the former appropriations chairman — and his staff. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Mr. Wilkes could be indicted before Ms. Lam leaves office. The question now is whether her successor, as yet unnamed, will pursue the inquiry with the same dedication or will quietly smother it.

    I don’t yet know which of the nine people above is replacing Lam. In fact, I infer from the list of nine that nine U.S. attorneys are being replaced, but news organizations and Congress have only been able to identify seven. Not exactly transparent, huh?

    In the wake of the recent firings of a half-dozen U.S. attorneys, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, filed bills that would restore to federal judges the right to name interim appointees when vacancies develop. On Thursday, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., whose office has confirmed that he inserted language making the change in Patriot Act last year, gave his qualified support to Feinstein’s bill.

    Justice Department officials have refused to say how many prosecutors were fired or to explain the firings, but Feinstein has said she’s aware of the ouster of at least seven U.S. attorneys since March 2006.

    Not only should everyone in this White House be indicted and prosecuted, every politician and journalist/media personality who has ever once covered Bush’s butt in the past six years be indicted and prosecuted. However, there may not be enough honest and independent U.S. attorneys to do it.

    Patrick Fitzgerald is a U.S. attorney, btw. I bet ol’ Speedy is achin’ to force him out, too.

    CIA Torture: The True Story

    The Talking Dog interviews journalist Stephen Grey, author of “Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program.” Excerpt:

    As to the CIA officers I spoke to, again, I was impressed with their honesty. They had no illusions that the people being sent to Egypt, Syria or Morocco would be tortured– they were realistic. They made it perfectly clear to the White House and the Justice Department that these people were tortured, but the higher ups in the American government proceeded to continue doing this anyway, and then insisted that the United States did not send people to places that torture.

    Subpoenaed: Karl Rove, Dan Bartlett

    If you’re watching Countdown you already know this — Michael Isikoff reports for Newsweek:

    White House anxiety is mounting over the prospect that top officials—including deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and counselor Dan Bartlett-may be forced to provide potentially awkward testimony in the perjury and obstruction trial of Lewis (Scooter) Libby.

    Both Rove and Bartlett have already received trial subpoenas from Libby’s defense lawyers, according to lawyers close to the case who asked not to be identified talking about sensitive matters. While that is no guarantee they will be called, the odds increased this week after Libby’s lawyer, Ted Wells, laid out a defense resting on the idea that his client, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, had been made a “scapegoat” to protect Rove. Cheney is expected to provide the most crucial testimony to back up Wells’s assertion, one of the lawyers close to the case said. The vice president personally penned an October 2003 note in which he wrote, “Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the other.” The note, read aloud in court by Wells, implied that Libby was the one being sacrificed in an effort to clear Rove of any role in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of Iraq war critic Joe Wilson. “Wow, for all the talk about this being a White House that prides itself on loyalty and discipline, you’re not seeing much of it,” the lawyer said.


    Michael Isikoff on Countdown says Karl and Dan received their subpoenas “in recent weeks.”

    Why Politicians Seem Phony

    Thomas LaFauci is a speechwriter who thought Jim Webb’s SOTU rebuttal was bad.

    The Democratic response to the State of the Union lay there, flat, dead, uninspired. It did not tell the real story or paint a picture of the last six years. It lacked the confident tone of a resurgent Democratic Party and rhetorical constructions that combine politics, policy, propaganda, and poetry to reveal who we are what we stand for, lift us up, or console us in times of tragedy and trouble. A great speech should reach into our collective soul and touch what is most human in the human spirit.

    I thought Webb’s rebuttal was the best political speech I’d heard on television in a long time. I found it thrilling, mostly because of its gut-level honesty. LaFauci hated it because it lacked soaring oratory.

    But soaring oratory is as common as sparrows. Gut-level honesty, from a politician, is a much rarer bird. That’s why it grabs our attention no matter how plain its feathers.

    We live in an age of collective psychological defense mechanisms. Too much of our public discourse amounts to denial, distortion, or delusional projection. News media and politicians alike tip-toe around ugly facts and work harder spinning rationalizations and maintaining pretty facades than facing reality.

    So when anyone in mass media looks us in the eyes and speaks the plain, unvarnished truth, it is astonishing.

    At the bottom of LaFauci’s column it says,

    Thomas LaFauci is a speechwriter who has written for former House Speaker Thomas S. Foley and Senators John Kerry and Joseph Biden. Jr.

    I say that pretty much speaks for itself.

    The Republican War on Workers

    Yesterday some Senators attempted to eliminate a federal minimum wage entirely. Not just keep it at its current levels; they wanted to cut it loose and leave workers to the mercy of their states.

    Talk about being on the wrong side of history; according to a recent Associated Press-AOL News Poll, 80 percent of Americans are in favor of increasing the minimum wage.

    Just more proof the Republican Party ain’t workin’ for the people.

    Bob Geiger is all over this story; you can read about it here, here, and here.

    Along these lines — in his New York Times column today, Paul Krugman says the only way to rekindle true “bipartisanship” is to reverse economic polarization.

    You see, the nastiness of modern American politics isn’t the result of a random outbreak of bad manners. It’s a symptom of deeper factors — mainly the growing polarization of our economy. And history says that we’ll see a return to bipartisanship only if and when that economic polarization is reversed.

    After all, American politics has been nasty in the past. Before the New Deal, America was a nation with a vast gap between the rich and everyone else, and this gap was reflected in a sharp political divide. The Republican Party, in effect, represented the interests of the economic elite, and the Democratic Party, in an often confused way, represented the populist alternative.

    In that divided political system, the Democrats probably came much closer to representing the interests of the typical American. But the G.O.P.’s advantage in money, and the superior organization that money bought, usually allowed it to dominate national politics. “I am not a member of any organized party,” Will Rogers said. “I am a Democrat.”

    I wrote about the “Republican era” of the 1920s in A (Pretty) Short History of Wingnutism. The longer one looks at America in the 1920s, the more familiar it seems — corporate profits rising faster than worker earnings; a crackdown on immigration; culture wars led by an aggressive Christian fundamentalist movement; and tax cuts galore. If they’d had iPods back then, you’d hardly know the difference.

    As historian Eric Siegel wrote,

    According to what came to be known as “constitutional morality,” legislation supporting the right to unionize or limiting children’s working hours was an un-American form of group privilege. Laissez-faire conservatism reached its intellectual apogee in the 1920s. A critic complained that by 1924 you didn’t have to be a radical to be denounced as un-American: “according to the lights of Constitution worship you are no less a Red if you seek change through the very channels which the Constitution itself provides.”

    In Europe conservatism was based on hereditary classes; in America it was based on hereditary religious, ethnic, and racial groups. The GOP, a largely Protestant party, looked upon itself as the manifestation of the divine creed of Americanism revealed through the Constitution. To be a conservative, then, was to share in a religiously ordained vision of a largely stateless society of self-regulating individuals. [The Reader’s Companion to American History, edited by Eric Foner and John Garraty (Houghton Mifflin, 1991), p.222]

    But the accumulative effect of all this Republicanism was the Stock Market Crash of 1929 followed by the Great Depression, followed by the New Deal, as explained in the (Pretty) Short History. But then, Krugman says,

    It was only after F.D.R. had created a more equal society, and the old class warriors of the G.O.P. were replaced by “modern Republicans” who accepted the New Deal, that bipartisanship began to prevail.

    Eisenhower accepted the New Deal. Even Nixon accepted the New Deal. It was the Goldwater-Reagan wing of the GOP, which came to power in 1980, that opposed the New Deal.

    Krugman continues,

    The history of the last few decades has basically been the story of the New Deal in reverse. Income inequality has returned to levels not seen since the pre-New Deal era, and so have political divisions in Congress as the Republicans have moved right, once again becoming the party of the economic elite. The signature domestic policy initiatives of the Bush administration have been attempts to undo F.D.R.’s legacy, from slashing taxes on the rich to privatizing Social Security. And a bitter partisan gap has opened up between the G.O.P. and Democrats, who have tried to defend that legacy.

    What about the smear campaigns, like Karl Rove’s 2005 declaration that after 9/11 liberals wanted to “offer therapy and understanding for our attackers”? Well, they’re reminiscent of the vicious anti-Catholic propaganda used to defeat Al Smith in 1928: smear tactics are what a well-organized, well-financed party with a fundamentally unpopular domestic agenda uses to change the subject.

    Bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship means Dems lose.

    Krugman recalls something FDR said in 1936 about his struggles “with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. … Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.” And he concludes,

    But politicians who try to push forward the elements of a new New Deal, especially universal health care, are sure to face the hatred of a large bloc on the right — and they should welcome that hatred, not fear it.

    Now is the time. We’re seeing signs that the distractions are losing their power to distract; the threats of married gay people and wantonly unthawed blastocysts just didn’t seem to rally the voters in 2005 the way Iraq and economic fairness issues did. As Bob Geiger wrote,

    Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO), evidently convinced that he was beating a dead horse by continuing his quest to ban flag-burning and discriminate against gay people, announced this month that he would not seek reelection in 2008 and the thought of having so little time left to screw the working poor from a comfy U.S. Senate seat must have just been eating him alive.

    Allard, who has voted against a minimum wage increase more often than Fox News smears Barack Obama, went for broke this week and introduced a bill that would have eliminated the Federal Minimum Wage entirely and left the wage rate for the lowest-paid workers to each state.

    In Kansas, this would mean that workers would revert to the state-mandated minimum wage of $2.65 per hour, which is currently superseded by the federal minimum of $5.15.

    This is the last, desperate growl of a dying animal. Now’s the time for the Dems to kick Joe Lieberman aside and mount an openly partisan attack on wingnutism. It’s the only way Washington will ever see bipartisanship again.

    See also: Philosophers’ Playground.