A Jerking Knee Is No Substitute for a Thinking Brain

This Think Progress post is mildly interesting, but the comments bum me out. Here’s the post:

National Review’s Rich Lowry:“Was talking to an influential Republican strategist who thinks if Iraq looks the way it does now in September, Bush will lose about 25 Senate Republicans on a bill with some sort of timetable for withdrawal.”

Now, if true, which is a big if, that would be grand news. Twenty-five Republican senators is more than enough to make a veto-proof (two thirds) majority in the Senate, even giving away Joe Lieberman. We’ll see.

But the comments worry me — here’s a selection:

Sounds great, but I’m not getting my hopes up again. Even if 25 republicans do switch over, (which I doubt) what is to say the dems won’t just hand him a blank check again?

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As a Democrat, the biggest problem in Washington is the Democrats.

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We can’t even get Democrats to vote for timetables. Why would we think 25 Republicans will?

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Bush has just said he wants a South Korea style presence – superbases and fifty years. What makes anyone think he’ll listen to 25 Republicans?

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Fcuk the Republicans and Fcuk the Democrats. Two hemorrhoids, both part of the same a$$hole.

Some of these comments reflect serious ignorance of the issues. For example, We can’t even get Democrats to vote for timetables is just wrong. An overwhelming majority of Dems did vote for timetables. House Dems voted for the appropriation bill with timetables (H.R. 1591) by 216 to 14. Most of the 14 were from the House Progressive caucus, who voted no because the timetables weren’t strict enough. Senate Dems passed the timetable bill 49-1 (guess who?), with one (the ailing Tim Johnson) absent.

Last week Bob Fertik wrote

Unfortunately, there are simply not enough Democrats and Republicans in Congress who are willing to join them in standing up to Bush.

What are the numbers? We know them exactly because the Senate and the House just voted on setting a deadline for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq.

  • In the Senate, the Feingold-Reid Amendment was defeated 67-29, with all Republicans voting no along with 20 “Bush Democrats,” while 29 progressive Democrats voted yes.
  • In the House, the McGovern Amendment was defeated 255-171, with all but two Republicans voting no along with 59 “Bush Democrats,” while 169 progressive Democrats voted yes.
  • The Feingold and McGovern amendments both provided that a troop redeployment out of Iraq begin within a set number of days after the passage of the bill. These were tougher than the timetable bill, in other words. In the Senate, 29 out of 51 Democratic senators voted yes. In the House, 169 out of 233 Democrats voted yes. A glorious total of two Republicans in the entire Congress voted yes.

    Yet some twit commenting on Think Progress wrote We can’t even get Democrats to vote for timetables. Unfortunately, I think this notion is common among a large lump of people who passionately hate the war but aren’t paying close attention to what’s actually happening in Washington to end it.

    Further, the concept of overriding a veto seems to elude some people. Bush has just said he wants a South Korea style presence – superbases and fifty years. What makes anyone think he’ll listen to 25 Republicans? If 25 Senate Republicans voted with the Dems, that would be more than enough to override Bush’s veto in the Senate. By law, Bush would have to comply if Congress overrode a veto. If he didn’t — well, that’s never happened before. It could get interesting.

    I agree there’s plenty of reason to criticize the Dems, but it worries me when large numbers of “progressives” develop knee-jerk antipathy toward the Dems. This is not helpful.

    There’s a middle way between mindless boosterism and mindlessly assuming the worst. This middle way has two steps: First, be informed. Second, think.

    I get the impression that some people think it’s “cool” to run down the Dems or to declare that they’re just like Republicans. Certainly, when Dems do something stupid, speak up. But at the same time, give credit where credit is due. How many people out there really don’t understand that the Dems did vote to end the war? How many don’t understand that the timetables didn’t become law because Bush vetoed it, and there aren’t enough Dems to override a veto? Given the way Dems and Republicans voted on the recent appropriation bills, anyone who says the biggest problem in Washington is the Democrats or that the two parties are Two hemorrhoids, both part of the same a$$hole is being a big-time asshole himself. He’s also standing in the way of the only hope we have of enacting real progressive policy sometime in the future.

    Remember: It’s not about our supporting the Democrats; it’s about training the Democrats to support us. We’re not doing that by treating all Dems as the enemy, indistinguishable from the Republicans.

    Sure there are Dems I’d like to replace. Sure there are times they fall short. Sure they need their feet held to fire sometimes. But when we treat them all like the enemy — even the ones who have worked for issues we care about — then we’re training them to keep ignoring us.

    It Ain’t a River in Egypt

    Kevin Drum writes about the confirmation that Valerie Plame was covert:

    So that settles that. I hope the wingosphere can finally stop bleating about how she wasn’t “really” covert and there was no harm in what Libby et. al. did.


    On another note, this probably means I was wrong about the reason Fitzgerald didn’t try to prosecute anyone for leaking Plame’s name. (Libby was tried only for perjury, not for outing a covert agent.) I figured it was because Plame had been working inside the U.S. for six years at the time of the leak, and one of the technical elements of “covert” under the IIPA Act is that the agent has “within the last five years served outside the United States.”

    But obviously she had been working under cover outside the U.S. quite extensively during the previous five years, which means that Plame almost certainly qualified as “covert” under the specific definitions outlined in IIPA. Nonetheless, for some reason Fitzgerald decided not to bring outing charges against anyone. This suggests that Mark Kleiman has been right all along: Fitzgerald’s decision had nothing to do with technical aspects of IIPA, but rather with its scienter requirements. That is, the leakers had to know that leaking Plame’s name could be damaging, and Fitzgerald didn’t think he had the evidence to make that case. That might have been especially true since the leaks seem to have been authorized at very high levels, something the leakers could have used in their defense at trial.

    Of course the wingnuts aren’t admitting they were wrong; they are clinging to their delusions more fiercely and frantically than ever. My favorite so far is the Flopping Ace, who draws upon his vast personal experience in espionage to write,

    So basically what constitutes a “covert” agent within the CIA is that they travel overseas sometimes using an alias, sometimes using their true name.


    Just wow.

    I mean a foreign country would never keep tabs on the real names of agents would they? But hey, she was “covert”.

    They still haven’t figured out it wasn’t her “name” that was a secret. It was her “job.” They still insist that Plame wasn’t “covert,” even though the CIA says she was, because (they claim) she doesn’t meet the criterion of “covert” under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. And they know this because Victoria Toensing and other Faux Snooze media personalities told them so. And in their minds, since (they think) the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 was not violated, then there was “no underlying crime,” even though Mr. Fitzgerald’s original indictment discussed allegations that other laws may have been been violated, such as “Title 18, United States Code, Section 793, and Executive Order 12958 (as modified by Executive Order 13292).” Those don’t count.

    My understanding has been all along that the reason Mr. Fitzgerald didn’t charge anyone with revealing classified information under any of the several statutes discussed in the indictment is that he couldn’t prove intent. He also couldn’t determine for certain if the people who “outed” Plame fully appreciated that her status as a CIA employee (not her “name,” wingnuts) was classified. My understanding of the various statutes is that to be convicted of spilling classified beans the prosecution must prove the spiller knew the beans were classified. Fitzgerald couldn’t put together a strong enough case to bring this charge to trial, and one reason he couldn’t put this case together is that Scooter Libby wouldn’t tell the truth.

    But try explaining that to a wingnut. Just try.

    Elsewhere on the wingnut-o-net I’m seeing replays of the whole Plame mythos, including the “she sent Joe Wilson to Niger and lied about it” tale, which has been debunked so many times I’ve lost count. It doesn’t matter; you know Faux Snooze and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Echo Chamber are pushing the same old lies and misinformation as hard as they can today. And nobody’s minds will change. We’re way past the point that fact matter to these people.