Saturday, September 09, 2006

Filed Under: "I Love Him on Social Security, But He Makes Me Crazy on Just About Everything Else"

Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum writes:
MEMORIES....The most remarkable phrase in print Friday was Brigadier General Mark Scheid's recollection about Donald Rumsfeld's response when Scheid said they ought to think about doing some postwar planning in Iraq: "I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that."

Second place goes to this, from Jennifer Medina in the New York Times:

In answering repeated questions about the scandal....

Yes, that's the Monica Lewinsky scandal that the stars of the Times "repeatedly" asked Ned Lamont about at a dinner on Wednesday. The mind reels.

But there's lots of tennis on today and a pretty good football game later this evening, so that's probably about it for today's blogging. Who do you think will face Federer in tomorrow's final?
So I said:

I'm not exactly sure of your point, Kevin. I say, "Good for Ned Lamont!" It's about time somebody said it, other than me:
The conventional wisdom in the Democratic Party (the DLC) is that after what Lieberman said of Clinton during his impeachment, Clinton owed Lieberman his Presidency. That had Lieberman not written the op-ed piece for the NYT (calling for censure and not removal from office) and given the speech on the floor of the Senate condemning Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Democrats in the Senate wouldn't have had a position to rally around other than removing Clinton from office. That's purely spin, and shows how once a politician is inside the beltway, on the incumbent chowline, he's less interested in reading the pulse of the people, and most interested in bending the people to his will.

Had the Democrats come out and said to the American people, "What Bill Clinton did stinks, but it's a private family matter and not a matter for the Congress of the United States," it would have been over and done with, and most Americans would have rallied behind the Democrats. The fact that not one Democratic politician had the wherewithal to step forward and just say that, straight out, explains why Democrats have lost so much ground in elections. If you need a political consultant to help you craft a position that will attract a majority and not raise any hackles (instead of using your own common sense, speak your mind, and do it extemporaneously) you're not any kind of leader capable of making people's lives better; you're out for yourself and your career.

Our big problem, we who are liberals, is that we allowed others, Republicans, to define us. We waited for our supposed liberal leaders to correct the record, defend the most honorable of political positions and successful public policies, but they didn't. In a vacuum, the rhetoric, the ad hominem, the insults, all stuck.

We remained silent, because we kept being threatened, in whispered voice, that "You're not being reasonable, you're too extreme, the other voters don't like you and the only chance we have is to move the Democratic party to the center. . . . you have no choice but to swallow it and come along, because who else are you going to vote for?"

To centrist Democrats I say, "We liberals caved to your bluff...we gave you the reins and several election cycles to fashion a 'rescue,' and what you did was hang us all."

We went along with Clinton's abandonment of liberal policies because there was no money in the kitty after Reagan's highway robbery on America. We, reluctantly, and against all reason, accepted welfare reform without safety nets being put into place for those neediest because If his budget scheme worked, THEN we thought, Clinton would have the power (and the money) to shore up the all of the social welfare programs that Reagan, Gingrich, and friends, had decimated.

But Bill couldn't keep it in his pants.

And that put an end to any benefits that the real American people might have gotten out of that Presidency.

Bill Clinton's fiscal policies and his economy took a great toll on a great number of bedrock Democrats. Middle-aged, middle-management (and upper management) white males, years from retirement, were laid off as never before because of all the shiny new cheaper recent graduates entering the job market. Take a look around Home Depot - that's all the work they could find. As a Home Depot sales associate.

Democrats were told to go along, it's a "transition time" - with NAFTA, it'll all get better, the price of everything will come down. It doesn't matter how cheap a bathmat is, if you're barely able to afford the rent/mortgage, you're not buying the bathmat.

You may not want to go back and talk about these things, Kevin, but I assure you that they're not going away. And Republicans are not going to stop talking about Lewinsky.

While we're on the subject of things that, by not talking about them, they don't go away but get carved into stone and admired for centuries in S. Dakota:

Ronald Reagan. Addled. Demented while in office. 25th Amendment should have been invoked. How do we know this?

A couple of years before Reagan's second term was up, his aides thought Reagan was senile. We all heard the stories about his nodding off in meetings, but it was much more than that. The concern was so great, that his thinking was (classic dementia) "disordered," that senior aides asked Jim Baker to stop by, attend a meeting and determine what to do. Jim Baker, the Republican party fixer.

Baker attended, and as is typical of Alzheimer's patients who know that they're being tested, Reagan got it together to fake it. Baker assured the staff that Reagan was fine, "Just getting older."

Answer this for me, please: When did Jim Baker get a medical degree?

We have no mechanism to protect the American people (and the world) from a mentally and/or emotionally disturbed head of state. We leave to politics that which ought to be taken out of the political arena - determining the mental and physical fitness of a Commander-in-Chief, someone with whom we trust nuclear codes. We trust that men and women of good will, when it comes right down to it, will put aside political jockeying and do what is right when no one is watching.

These last decades has shown us that there are no such people, of good will, in politics anymore. Politics in America stopped being about public service long ago. It's about highly competitive people gaming a capitalist system with legislation that will let them get rich and powerful at the expense of others. That last part is key, and a new phenomenon on the American political stage.

Up until recently, the typical politician was merely thinking about feathering his own nest and the nests of those in his circle. What harm that happened to others who were not able to get out of the way of a corrupt politician's grab for power and riches was unintentional. The politician was just out for himself, but didn't set out to inflict harm on people. He just didn't care and lived happily in the state of denial.

With Bush-Cheney, the harm they do, the pain that they inflict on others is a lagniappe. They get a kick, a jolt of joy, from how their policies hurt people. From their torture policies, Abu Ghraib and the secret prisons that this administration has been denying, and the victims of Hurricane Katrina, to Karla Faye Tucker: These are sadists.
"In 1999, during the 2000 Republican Presidential primary race, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson interviewed Bush for Talk Magazine (September 1999, p. 106). Excerpt from this interview is quoted below:

In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, a number of protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Karla Faye Tucker. "Did you meet with any of them?" I ask. Bush whips around and stares at me. "No, I didn't meet with any of them," he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. "I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with Tucker, though. He asked her real difficult questions like, 'What would you say to Governor Bush?'" "What was her answer?" I wonder. "'Please,'" Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "'don't kill me.'"

I must look shocked — ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel — because he immediately stops smirking."

I came across Tucker Carlson's extended comments about that interview, which I hadn't seen before today:
In 1999, during the 2000 Republican Presidential primary race, Carlson interviewed then-Governor George W. Bush for Talk magazine. Carlson reported that Bush mocked soon-to-be-executed Texas death row inmate Karla Faye Tucker and "cursed like a sailor." Bush's communications director Karen Hughes publicly disputed this claim. Carlson did not vote in the 2004 election, citing his disgust with the Iraq war and his disillusionment with the once small government Republican party.

Asked by Salon about the response to his article on Bush, Carlson characterized it as "very, very hostile. The reaction was: You betrayed us. Well, I was never there as a partisan to begin with. Then I heard that (on the campaign bus, Bush communications director) Karen Hughes accused me of lying. And so I called Karen and asked her why she was saying this, and she had this almost Orwellian rap that she laid on me about how things she'd heard -- that I watched her hear -- she in fact had never heard, and she'd never heard Bush use profanity ever. It was insane. I've obviously been lied to a lot by campaign operatives, but the striking thing about the way she lied was she knew I knew she was lying, and she did it anyway. There is no word in English that captures that. It almost crosses over from bravado into mental illness. They get carried away, consultants do, in the heat of the campaign, they're really invested in this. A lot of times they really like the candidate. That's all conventional. But on some level, you think, there's a hint of recognition that there is reality -- even if they don't recognize reality exists -- there is an objective truth. With Karen you didn't get that sense at all. A lot of people like her. A lot of people I know like her. I'm not one of them.[14]"

We not only don't personally know the people to whom we give the power over our lives, we don't personally know the people they surround themselves with, OR, the people who follow them around, ask the questions and then broadcast their responses. We take on faith that all of these people perceive reality as we do. We presume a vetting process where none exists, other than they did what was necessary to convince someone that they could be trusted with the keys to the silo. File this under, "I thought You were watching the explosives!":
At Logan Airport, they were training some new dogs on detecting explosives. As part of their practices, they attached half a pound of Semtex to the bumper of a maintenance truck. All well and good.

But someone didn't tell all the concerned parties about the exercise. A maintenance worker came along, hopped in the truck, and drove off without being observed -- and with the explosives still stuck to the bumper.

Good news: no one has been hurt.

Bad news: the explosives apparently fell off the truck somewhere.

Good news: Semtex is very stable, and needs a blasting cap to detonate -- and none was with it.

Bad news: officials STILL haven't found it.

Your tax dollars at work, folks. I'm SO glad that when I travel, I fly out of Manchester airport.

We have MSM all over the country defending their shallow coverage of the Bush administration and a Republican Congress' lack of oversight because "it's not warranted . . . . Bush-Cheney, Republicans, just have different policies than you have, but they're good people."

David Broder, "Newsweek needs to apologize to Karl Rove," "One Leak and a Flood of Silliness"?? Do they have you on Afghan heroin, Broder? Is your daughter chained in Rove's basement?

During the 2000 campaign, on the days just after the drunk-driving arrest story broke and was finally admitted to by the Bush campaign, CSpan broadcast an interesting exchange on an airport tarmac between Karen Hughes and David Gregory of CNBC. Hughes had just briefed the reporters who were assigned to the Bush campaign. They had all dispersed, leaving Hughes and Gregory alone on the tarmac in front of the Bush campaign's plane. Everyone was gone but the two of them and CSpan's camera was still rolling and caught it. I don't think Hughes realized that this was going out on the air. David Gregory asked her, and these are exact quotes,
"Has the Governor (Bush) ever been arrested for DRUGS?"

How difficult is that question? It's either a "yes" or a "no", isn't it?

Hughes thought for a good 10 seconds, actually closing her eyes to think undisturbed as she formulated a response, at which point she opened her eyes, looked at David Gregory and said in clipped, sharp and distinct syllables:
"The Governor has admitted to 'youthful indiscretions'."

Anytime that anybody in the Bush administration is asked a difficult question, that's the kind of answer they give. It begs the follow-up question, "So that's a 'yes'?"

But that follow-up is never asked, leaving it open-ended. That allows the interviewee (im)plausible deniability when asked by another reporter at another time. Until "oh, that's old news . . . move on to something else."

Before you know it, six years have gone by, we've spent more than $300 billion in a two-front war with no end in sight (and a third-front is on the horizon to begin as soon as the election is over), we're not any safer from terrorism, we're in debt up to our eyeballs for several generations, the quality of life has diminished for most Americans significantly, massive global change due to human activity is ongoing with no intervention on the boards, and people still argue that he didn't lie, that he didn't do drugs much less get arrested for them. People will still vote for Republicans this November, and probably in enough numbers to let Bush claim a mandate to continue de-constituting the Constitution, drop nukes on Iran, shrug off oversight, torture, maim, imprison and then execute whomever he perceives is a threat to his rule.

People will vote for Republicans (or not vote at all) because people are not getting smarter. 64% say it is true that Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda. Disinformation helps to elect Republicans who can then perpetuate disinformation that helps to . . . . you get the cycle. People are getting less informed. Or they're getting turned off. That's one very prominent Republican strategy: Turn off the voters with negative campaign attack ads. The GOP is planning to launch a record blitz of them the last sixty days of this election season. Republicans do not want a debate on the issues - they want to turn off those voters who don't go to the polls when elections go negative.

Take a look at this exchange between Paul Begala, Victoria Toensing and Bob Novak on the now defunct 'Crossfire':
BEGALA: Miss Toensing, I want to begin by playing a piece of videotape. We talked in the last segment about, my shared view that human beings are fallible, and therefore people are going to make mistakes, one of the reasons I oppose it. But some are more than fallible. Some are flat out embarrassing. I want to show you a piece of tape of our president back when he was the governor of Texas in March of 2000, the election, in a debate that CNN broadcast. Asked about this issue of the death penalty, specifically about lawyers who had slept through the case when their client's life was at stake. Take a look.


JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Press reports say that the idea of lawyers sleeping through death penalty cases is common enough that there's a phrase for that in Texas, it's one of those sleeping lawyers cases.


BEGALA: How can we trust public officials to carry out the most harsh punishment when they laugh about it?

TOENSING: Well, I think he was probably laughing at the reporter rather than laughing at the situation. That was back in the days when he didn't know how to debate well. He really knows how to do it very well these days, Paul.

BEGALA: In fact he was also interviewed by Tucker Carlson, who is a member of our CNN team and asked about the Carla Fay Tucker case. And there too he laughed and in fact mocked Mrs. Tucker, according to Tucker Carlson's report, said he mocked Mrs. Tucker, and said "please don't kill me." Is that the kind of people who are making these life and death decisions?

TOENSING: I didn't see him say that. It seems to me like he's a pretty serious president and he's taking the lives of all of us in this country pretty seriously. So I can't get hung up on that little three-second snippet that you're going to pull out.

BEGALA: You are going to trust your lives to these politicians who make these jokes up?

NOVAK: Paul, I would be terribly disappoint if you got through one of these programs without taking a cheap shot at the president of the United States.

BEGALA: He is laughing about executing people.

NOVAK: You didn't disappoint me. You took another cheap shot...

BEGALA: If he laughs about executing the innocent it is not a cheap shot.

NOVAK: That is beneath you. Why don't you get off his back and not drag up stuff two years old. This subject is death penalty, it's not George W. Bush. You may not realize that.

BEGALA: George W. Bush just laughed about executing an innocent person, Bob.

NOVAK: You made your point...

BEGALA: Thank you.

NOVAK: Which is not a very good one.

The whole system, the politicians, their staffs, political culture and machine around it which includes the consultants and the lobbyists, the media . . . it's all poisoned. The few who aren't openly corrupt enable those who are by going along because it's "expedient."

I have listened for the last few days, in the lead up to all of the anniversary coverage tomorrow of September 11th, about how "honorable" this one is, "a great American" that one is (Tom Kean, George Mitchell, etc.).

Anybody who is defending the 9/11 Commission either doesn't know the first thing about the Commission (how it was formed and operated, what it did, how it did it, the histories of the people on it, etc.) or they have some investment in getting the report accepted. For whatever reason. But whatever the reason, it doesn't stop them from describing members of the commission (some truly mediocre people whose gifts are that they're personable) as "Great Americans." I suppose we have Sean Hannity to thank for the lowering of that bar. Lee Hamilton, Tom Kean, George Mitchell (not on the committee, but swept up in the ABC "Path to 9/11" controversy) are not my idea of it. But what others think they're great about is that they navigated a political hot potato through to completion (a report) in order to find solutions for preventing future 9/11s. Only to see their recommendations go unimplemented. The fact that these men and woman (Jamie Gorelick) couldn't understand that exactly what they avoided is what would prevent their recommendations from being implemented. Just imagine any commission investigating some catastrophic failure agreeing beforehand to report on and investigate only that which they can agree on, and everything else gets left out. Unless it's 'no holds barred,' conditions start getting added on that aren't going to get you the information that you need to fix the problem. From not subpoenaing materials, and not putting people under oath, to not even interviewing scientific experts, the 9/11 Commission was set up for infamy. American standards for excellence have never been lower. See Kristin Breitweiser's interview with LKL.

Republicans have been able to get away with their assault on America since Reagan because of Democrats who don't want to get into it, who feel uncomfortable with confrontation. "Not getting into it" doesn't work in any kind of relationship; not in business, not for marriages or raising children, or casually, in acquaintances and friendships.

I've sometimes wondered over the last years if Democrats who "don't want to get into it" think that if they are considerate, if they are nice, if they don't create any problems for Bush-Cheney and the Republican-controlled Congress, if they don't make waves, if they think that Bush-Cheney and Frist and Lott and Gingrich and Delay, Santorum and Thune, Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl, Saxby Chambliss, LINDSAY GRAHAM, all of them, will be nicer to them and let them have a seat at the table?

How's that been working for us so far?

Those democratic voters whom "going along to get along" resonates with may want to take a look at this, and this. Glenn Greenwald did a terrific review of it here; the book is a must read if we're going to get through this, all of us, whole, as a nation, and better for it all, on the other side.

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