The Summer of Love

Senator Barbara Boxer said “Impeachment should be on the table” on the Ed Shultz Show, 7/11/07.

I just received an email/press release from Boxer, mostly about the Defense Authorization bill, now before Congress:

In the opening of an unprecedented, two-week debate on the Iraq war, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today spoke out on the Senate floor and challenged those who have made statements against the war to follow it up by voting for real, binding measures to bring our troops home.

(And here I must gloat a bit, I’m not only a Boxer constituent, but I also live in Henry Waxman’s district. I’ve lived in other parts of the country where I mostly cursed or rolled my eyes at the people who represented me, and so I’m extremely aware of how fortunate I am to have people like Boxer and Waxman working for me. I took the advice of the great conservative hero, President Ronald Reagan, who advocated, "vote with your feet" and I have never regretted it).

Highlights of Boxer’s speech are here. No mention of impeachment.

Another powerful woman, Cindy Sheehan is on her Summer of Love ’07: Journey for Humanity, marching from Crawford TX to New York City, by way of John Conyer’s office in the House of Representatives. She’s scheduled to reach Conyer’s office on July 23, to encourage him to take the lead on impeachment.

I have no idea whether Sheehan will be able to channel and focus the groundswell of anger in this country for impeachment, or whether this will be yet another ineffective replay of 1960s demonstration tactics. A majority of the public supports impeachment of Cheney (at least), and so the energy is there, it’s just a matter of whether Sheehan (and others) can acquire and demonstrate the skill to focus it. If you’ll forgive the very crude analogy, it’s a bit like watching neanderthals about to figure out how to use fire, for the first time, wondering if this will be the time that they get it, if they ever do.

As maha wrote in Protesting 102, the question is whether they’re "still caught up in the romance of being Outcasts and Rebels, and Speaking Truth to Power, and are not serious about taking and using power to effect change". A further question for Sheehan is whether she can move beyond her own personal loss, and identify more broadly with the international (and intentional) tragedy that is the Bush Administration.

I happened to catch Fox "News" report on Cindy Sheehan’s challenge to Nancy Pelosi, where Sheehan promised to run against Speaker Pelosi if Pelosi did not get behind impeachment, and pronto. Setting aside whether this is a good idea or not, what was striking about the report was how Fox portrayed the two women. They showed a still photo of Sheehan that looked as if she hadn’t slept in days – she looked terrible, every bit the fringe wacko strawman that the right relishes standing up and knocking down. By contrast, Pelosi looked radiant, while the "newscaster" helpfully explained that Pelosi enjoys 80 % approval in her district – well, she probably did before her refusal to consider impeachment.

This parallels the relentless focus by the conservative media on John Edwards’ hair earlier this summer. They spent weeks distracting us with this trivia instead of reporting on the substance of Edwards’ proposals. To my knowledge, no other Democratic candidate got this kind of treatment from the right. And let’s not forget the other sideshows of Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith. One gets the sense that they must actually hold auditions for these distractions, deliberately seeking them out.

The powers behind the right wing media know they’re likely to lose this time around, and so they are doing everything they can to deep-six anyone on the left who has the potential to rock the boat. Winnowing the field. Our field.

Warp Factor Nine

WASHINGTON (AP) – A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaida has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.

A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document – titled “Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West” – called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.

Down in the Engineering Sub-Basement at the White House, a voice barks from an intercom: “We need more power!” A man with a Scottish accent yells back: “Cap’n! The reality-distortion crystals are almost fused after that speech in Cleveland. I canna give ya no more power or the spin engines will IMPLODE!”

“Dammit, Scott! I need maximum spin, and I need it NOW.”

At his news conference Thursday, President Bush acknowledged the report’s existence and al-Qaida’s continuing threat to the United States. He said, however, that the report refers only to al-Qaida’s strength in 2001, not prior to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The group was at its strongest throughout most of that year, with well-established training camps in Afghanistan, recruitment networks and command structures.

Bush used the new threat assessment to show his administration’s policies are the right course.

“Because of the actions we’ve taken, al-Qaida is weaker today than they would have been,” he said. “They are still a threat. They are still dangerous. And that is why it is important that we succeed in Afghanistan and Iraq and anywhere else we find them.”

Yes, I suppose that in some sense, colossal failure does indicate why it is important to succeed. But as I recall, back in September of 2001, just about everyone in the civilized world agreed that success in dealing with those who had attacked us was a good thing. Even many who loathed you, Mr. Bush, and thought you’d stolen your office, agreed that we as a nation should succeed in defeating that threat, and supported you toward that goal.

So why is it, six years later, that what you have to show is a reiteration that they are dangerous?

Why is it, almost six years to the day after your infamously ignored daily briefing entitled “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US”, you are being handed a document entitled “Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West”?

It seems to me there was a tall, horsey-faced guy running around a few years ago, complaining about a place called Tora Bora, and shifting focus onto Iraq. Huh. How about that?

We’ve now spent somewhere around a trillion dollars on our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s a one followed by twelve zeroes. It’s a room full of a million boxes, and when you open each box, inside there is a million dollars!

And yet, six years and a trillion dollars later, the President himself will admit that “They are still a threat. They are still dangerous.” Does he say this in his resignation speech, shamefully acknowledging his failure, before being allowed to honorably retire behind closed doors with a revolver?

No! He does it in irrational defense of his own policies, and in the same breath asserts the importance of success!

Mr. Bush, we all agree about the need for success. That’s what you’re being paid to deliver, and why you were re-hired in 2004. Success against al Qaeda.

Where is it?

The Next Lakoff

Meet Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation:

Drew Westen, a genial 48-year-old psychologist and brain researcher, was talking to a rapt liberal audience about the role of emotion in politics, how to talk back aggressively to Republicans, and why going negative is not to be feared.

It was Day 2 of the progressive Take Back America confab, and those who had crowded into a meeting room of the Washington Hilton were about to discover why Westen, a psychology professor at Atlanta’s Emory University and former associate professor at Harvard Medical School, had quietly become the great rumpled hope of Democrats who believe their candidates should have won the last two presidential elections.

Example: When President Bush recently refused to allow Karl Rove to testify under oath about his role in the sacking of federal prosecutors, Westen said, Democrats blundered. Instead of insisting Rove testify under oath, they simply should have said (over and over), "Mr. Bush, just what is it about ‘So help me God’ that you find so offensive?"

Read the whole article here. The problem Westen’s work addresses is well known: The Rs have learned how to effectively communicate to the gut, and run rings around the Ds who talk to the brain (recall the Bush-Kerry debates). Westen is the guy who looks like he could change this.