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February 28, 2005

Turncoat Joe

Hate to say it, but I think we're remarkably close to getting screwed by Bush and Holy Joe, and we're not even thinking about why. Lieberman found himself ignominiously rejected during the 2004 primaries, basically ignored during the election, branded a traitor during the Gonzales vote, and then viewed as an enemy on Social Security. The sum total of all that has been a marked uptick of interest among Democrats in finding and funding a primary challenge against him. Worse, Joe's got nowhere left to go, it's unlikely that Democrats are going to retake the Senate anytime in the near future (which would give him a committee chairmanship) and it's damn near impossible that he'll be on another presidential ticket or in a hypothetical Democratic cabinet.

With all that in mind, I see no real reason he'd want to languish in the Senate, condemned to a future of intraparty battles and partisan marginalization. Cutting a deal on Social Security might be his way out, because it might bring with it a new position for Joe: Secretary of Defense in the Bush administration. There's little doubt that he's more interested in war and peace than Medicare reform, and by this point his only chance at respect is being the very embodiment of bipartisanship. Taking credit for shattering the partisan impasse blocking Social Security reform and then ascending to a top cabinet position seems like a pretty attractive path for the otherwise marginal fence-straddler...

Update: I should clarify that I find it entirely possible, given Bush's history, that the deal will be stuck, Joe will will vote against SS, and then he'll be left twisting in the wind. My point in the post is not what Bush will or won't do, but what Lieberman thinks he will or won't do.

February 28, 2005 in Democrats | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

But al-Qaqaa is so....Quaint

Brad Plumer, in a post on the nauseating Hilla bombing, notes that a car bomb has to be pretty fucking big to push the death toll over a 100 people, and so there's probably an al-Qaqaa connection here though, he says, there's probably not much point in revisiting the issue.

True enough, but wouldn't it have been nice if, at some point, we had actually visited the issue? I mean, I know we parachuted in and mixed it with the rest of the election's final week feces-throwing, but that seems to have worked to divert attention from it, not interest anyone in a full-fledged investigation. Indeed, we seem to have written it off as part of the 2004 election warfare, and once the polls closed, everyone agreed to leave it in the past. Everyone, I guess, save the insurgents.

February 28, 2005 in Iraq | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

All Head, No Heart

Ouch. Deleting 900 words that took you an hour to write is never fun. But when you're approaching a thousand and you're still not sure if anyone will catch what you're talking about, it generally means your point is muddled and it's time to put the kill on it. So I did. Suffice to say that I'm not a big fan of the Goldwater debate swirling around the blogosphere. I like that Brad and Matt have donned their contrarian capes and swooped down to reality-check Barry's legacy, but I think they're taking a very narrow view of what Goldwater meant.

Goldwater emerged at a very strange moment for the Republican party. They had spent the past 30 years ceding domestic issues to the Democrats and running their campaigns on a combination of red-baiting and, well, more red-baiting. They had no real domestic critique, instead, government was almost a joint custody arrangement, with liberals taking the home-front and moderate Republicans setting the terms of the foreign policy debate. But Kennedy and Johnson proved themselves tough on communism, and suddenly Republicans were robbed of their primary critique.

So Goldwater emerged and smashed the consensus. He created an anti-government message that lost at the outset, but ended the Republican's unilateral disarmament on domestic issues. Democrats crushed him (largely on foreign policy), and then nominated McGovern and ceded their newfound national security strength without ever updating their kitchen table arguments beyond "elect us entitled competent technocrats". That's why liberalism, which now means dull empiricism, has been personified by robotic wonks like Gore, Kerry and Dukakis. Our message is stuck in the 50's, but it exists without any of the advantages we had then, and it cohabitates with the shattered and grotesque husk that is our credibility on national security. Thinking that Goldwater's extremism simply screwed the Republican party is exactly our problem -- it did hurt them by some metrics (though Johnson was going to have major coattails no matter who his opponent was), but it also gave them an intellectual energy that, in very real ways, made their party's ideology whole again. Our analysis is all head while Goldwater's effect was all heart. And, in politics, I'm convinced that heart, not head, wins elections.

Mark Schmitt's corrective to the Goldwater revisionism concludes:

What the think tanks and grassroots groups and Karl Rove and Frank Luntz figured out over the 36 years after Goldwater was how to retain the language of ideological conservatism, leave unchallenged the facade of operational liberalism, and use that combination to exercise power long enough and aggressively enough to destroy every future prospect for operational liberalism. I think they have scuttled much of the strength of real conservatism in the process, but I don't think that's anything for liberals to be glad or complacent about.

Entirely true. Goldwater gave them the energy and ideology that served to power their rhetoric, his loss gave them the motivation to build the institutions that could control the debate and hide their intentions, and the combination of head and heart gave them the full toolset needed to gain total dominance over the government. His run changed the Republican party from a bunch of comfortable technocrats who engaged in a genteel struggle for power into a movement. Meanwhile, liberals are still talking about how reality-based and empirically-sound we are, and now we're beginning to turn on the Goldwater moment as a net negative for Republicans. To me, that looks like an acceptance, even a glorification, of our party's march towards oblivion. Goldwater restored the Republican party's gut, that Democrats were finally looking at him and realizing we need to do the same was the most positive development I'd seen. I'd hate to see us turn trigger-shy now.

Update: Also see Ed Kilgore's take on this.

February 28, 2005 in Democrats | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

How To Not Vote on the Count Every Vote Act in Three Easy Steps

Julie Saltman is wondering how Republicans will oppose the obviously-popular provisions of the Count Every Vote Act. The answer is through the magic of Congress! If every piece of introduced legislation had to face an up-or-down vote at polls, CEVA would pass in a landslide. But not only won't it find itself in front of voters, it's not going to find itself in front of congress critters either. With no Republicans jumping on board and the Democrats firmly in the minority, that bills never going to make it out of committee, and sure as hell won't find itself on the floor. Indeed, the bill is basically dead until its sponsors -- Kerry and Clinton -- run for president in 2008.

Why the bill hasn't attracted any Republican cosponsors is, however, an interesting question. Nothing so self-evidently popular can be ignored by politicians lest they find themselves similarly shunned by voters. So Republicans have created a counter-bill which, under the guise of tamping down on fraud, makes it harder for people to vote. Brilliant. Now the press can satisfy itself by reprinting quotes promoting the legislation of each side and belittling the proposals of the other side, Americans can assume that it's just more partisan food-fighting, and meaningful electoral reform can be totally ignored. So the answer, Julie, is through a manipulation of representative democracy, a mastery of congressional maneuvering, and a compliant press corps. Makes you proud to be an American, no?

Update: Seems Kevin Drum is puzzling over this as well. Guys -- Americans want health care reform way worse than electoral reform, but Republicans haven't had to give them that, either. Bills drafted by the minority and ignored by the majority enter a special hell where, along with lost socks and unwanted puppies, they cower in isolation forever. CEVA will be forgotten in a week or two.

February 28, 2005 in Policy | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Why Does Dashboard Confessional Hate the Children?

Michelle Malkin thinks emo music exists to promote the "cutting culture". That's awesome. Michelle Malkin has got to be the most unintentionally hilarious pundit in America, and I'm an enormous fan of her continuing efforts to outpace pretenders to the throne. Jonah's dorkiness is too self-aware while David Brooks's pop-sociology too easily parodied -- they don't hold a candle on Michelle "internment was a good thing" Malkin. She's less a boring pundit with a recognizable shtick and more an avante-garde goddess who defies parody, I often believes she's just a particularly daring performance artist obsessed with seeing how far her gig can be pushed. And I, for one, enjoy the act immensely.

February 28, 2005 in Media | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack


Thanks, of course, go out to Shakespeare's Sister for the wonderful job she did this weekend. If you're not already, you should be reading her blog regularly.

February 28, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Wacky Republicans

Sometimes my initial reaction to condemn conservative idiocy as pernicious and malevolent and dangerous is just overcome by awe at the weird hypocrisy of it all. This is one of those times:

The government has told a federal appeals court that a suit by an F.B.I. translator who was fired after accusing the bureau of ineptitude should not be allowed to proceed because it would cause "significant damage to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

Lawyers for the government said in a brief filed with the court on Thursday that the suit could not continue without disclosing privileged and classified information.

The translator, Sibel Edmonds, was a contract linguist for the bureau for about six months, translating material in Azerbaijani, Farsi and Turkish. Ms. Edmonds was dismissed in 2002 after complaining repeatedly that bureau linguists had produced slipshod and incomplete translations of important terrorism intelligence before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

So here you've got a conservative-run government trying to squelch a case that accuses the government of incompetence. Let me be clearer: Here you've got a government run by folks who believe that government bureaucracies are incompetent and that national security is paramount arguing that a case exposing bureaucratic incompetence that endangers our national security can't go forward. It's like they're denying their very reason for existence!

That, I guess, is the modern Republican party. One big existential crisis made manifest and given the reigns of a superpower. It's their wacky kids movie, I guess, and we're just all living in it.

Via Nathan Newman.

February 28, 2005 in Bush Administration, Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Misplaced Priorities

Via Julie Saltman and Seeing the Forest comes this gem:

A review of fines levied by other federal agencies suggests that the government may be taking swear words a bit too seriously. If the bill passes the Senate, Bono saying "fucking brilliant" on the air would carry the exact same penalty as illegally testing pesticides on human subjects. And for the price of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl, you could cause the wrongful death of an elderly patient in a nursing home and still have enough money left to create dangerous mishaps at two nuclear reactors. (Actually, you might be able to afford four "nuke malfunctions": The biggest fine levied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year was only $60,000.)

February 28, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

And It Was Good

The other day, I asked Matt Singer to comment on a Montana state senator's bill to tax "big-box retailers" that refuse to pay a living wage. And so he did.

February 28, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 27, 2005

Much Obliged

That’s all for me, folks.  I’m buttoning my collar back up and heading back to the comments threads (and my own place).  I’m off to Chicago for a day of Oscar-related shenanigans.  I’m on a 10-year winning spree with my Oscar picks, and I need to defend my title.

Thanks for letting me invade your space for a couple of days, Ezra.  It was good fun.

On a final note, lately there’s been a lot of grumbling about sexism in the blogosphere and about some of the bigger dogs not giving the smaller pooches their due, some of it fair and some of it not.  At the risk of embarrassing my generous host, I want to acknowledge that he has been supremely supportive of me, long before either issue became hot topics again, and despite the fact that we don’t always agree.  Thanks, EK.

-- Shakespeare’s Sister

February 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack