Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Expect to See this Ignored or Used as an Occasion to Mock Liberals in Wingnuttia
Does DeLay Matter?
Of course DeLay is relevant to the extent that he manages some success in recruiting fundamentalists to his culture jihad.
But he's also important for the window he provides into the conservative id.
I've always been inclinlately that it's a bit delusional to judge a proposal, or a movement, by any plausible rationale a PR group can come up with-- particularly when the GOP has been so hostile to empiricism and so committed to opaque, pork-laden bills that make no sense in terms of public policy.
What's more, Tom DeLay was no obscure back-bencher; he was the most powerful Congressman in Washington for the better part of a decade. His snarling, take-no-prisoners amoralism and hyperpartisanship earned him many rewards from the Republican Party.
His antics, and his off-the-wall pronouncements, are a peek into what the GOP leadership is thinking when they're not uttering carefully crafted, sensible-sounding, intentionally irrelevant talking points-- and into the mindset of the culture jihadis who compose "the base" (or, in Arabic, "al qaeda").
Evil and Eternal Return
Even taking his post to be 100% true, in substance and tone, it's not obvious to me that sins from five decades past are of any particular meaning today, other than a reminder that powerful interests are willing to spend lots of time, effort, and money to dishonestly skew debates over public policy.
I have long been skeptical of efforts to divine the "historical roots" of this or that ideology or organization. In college I tended to hear more of these arguments from the left than the right, but folks on the right are perfectly capable of making them too, it turns out.
If it were established tomorrow, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the pro-life movement was hatched in 1920 at a secret meeting of five white male Protestant physicians in order to prevent the "outbreeding of the superior race," it's not clear to me that it would matter much.
The fact is, many people today genuinely believe that abortion is a moral evil.
Now, the cabal would be very worth knowing about, if it were true, and it would be worth reflecting on who gains and who gained by spreading this view, but it wouldn't change the fact that the view is deeply held.
Fishing for objectionable "historical roots" generally seems to me to be a substitute for engaging others' views on the merits.
Richard Cohen punditry
Wow! How counterintuitive!
OK, my turn.
He may be regarded as a liberal... but he cheated on his wife with the secretary, he plays golf, and he makes a lot of money! Conservatives, meet your new standard-bearer, Bill Clinton!
Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Good Old Days Weren't Always Good and Tomorrow Ain't as Bad as it Seems
Andrew yearns for a John McCain who stands up to torture. McCain opposed it in the Republican debate last week, but when it counted, he caved in to the administration. McCain had criticized the conduct of the war, but when the flaccid surge plan came out-- one that has produced scarce results to this point, despite the assurances of Republican leaders like John Boehner-- he jumped on board.
All evidence indicates that in matters of war and peace, and of whether America should torture suspects and prisoners, McCain is much more attuned to burnishing his "maverick tough-guy" brand than the altering actual policy that the country pursues.
For his part, Joe Klein thinks that a Democratic president who takes office in 2009 should be sure to appoint loads of Republicans to his cabinet. That's a fine idea, in theory, but we live in the US in 2007, not in "theory."
Klein's plan is akin to pointing out that there had been some rancor between Democrats and Republicans over how to handle the issue of the US Communist Party in the 1950s, so President Truman should have appointed Roy Cohn to a high-level position in the State Department.
I agree with the idea in theory-- hyperpartisanship is, in fact, bad for America. But as Klein himself pointed out the other day, McCain lost the GOP presidential debate because he said sane words sane about torture. The other leading candidates "won" by trying to out-do each other in appealing to the bloodlust of GOP values voters.
Who are these Republicans that Klein thinks should be appointed? Jim Leach, and Dick Lugar, maybe. But beyond that? The sad fact is that the GOP is a debased, spent party.
Klein's moral compass, the moral relativism of fetishizing bipartisan centrism, is useless to him now. Hopefully he will figure that out soon.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Jon Chait on the netroots
The fundamental aspect of the rise of the netroots that Chait misses is the context. Chait compares the mindset of the GOP in 1964 with the mindset of the netroots today in that both thought that being true to one's party would mean winning. He might want to compare election results from those two years to glean the importance of political context to this analysis.
The president's unerring instinct for the errant and the unpopular makes it pretty easy for netroots-influenced Dems to agree on policy these days. All we have to do is stand athwart the administration yelling "stop." It's good policy and good politics. But all we've heard from the media-- including its stand-ins for liberals, like Joe Klein-- is that opposing the president's deeply unpopular, deeply wrongheaded and dangerous actions will be seen as shrill and partisan by the voters. It's not true.
Context for the rise of the netroots: Over four years ago, we stumbled unprepared into an unnecessary, catastrophic war, because the right wing message machine-bred GOP thought it might be fun. The centrism-uber-alles Democratic Party went along, and the lazy mainstream media, cowed by attacks from the right, failed to even try to report the facts on Saddam's WMD program. The Iraq invasion was the product of a debased, one-sided, rhetoric-over-reality political culure.
Context for netroots-backed prescriptions today: This county hates this war and does not trust this president, with good reason. Opposing the president is, therefore, both good policy and good politics.
Chait writes, in a view anticipated this morning by Yglesias's MSM Rules, that "[w]hat they consider treasonous is any criticism of any part of the Democratic Party or its activist base from the right. You can attack the Democratic leadership in Congress for failing to force a troop withdrawal from Iraq, but you cannot attack it for opposing a troop surge." Chait overlooks the fact that the troop surge is a travesty of a mockery of a sham, a purely political move guaranteed to produce little or no serious effect strategically, but certain to draw the US presence in Iraq out for longer. The public views it as such. Therefore, opposing the surge is good politics and good policy.
The netroots have provided rhetorical and moral support for newly assertive Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid despite endless heckling from an MSM on issues such as choosing an Intel Committee chair, use of a military airplane, a bipartisan visit to Syria, and stating that the president's policy guarantees a loss in Iraq. The MSM, unaccustomed to assertive Dems, has a knee-jerk tendency to cast GOP actions as "assertive" and Democratic actions as "shrill"-- ie, Joe Klein warning against investigating the president's unlawful warrantless wiretaps. This timid, unprincipled mindset, unattached to reality and politically ineffective, is combatted by the netroots.
Chait, miscasting the netroots as preoccupied with fealty, misunderstands what it is to be a "wanker." Wankers are not the ideologically deviant, they are rather those such as David Broder who are willing to lie and to treat Democrats unfairly. Chait's mischaracterization makes the netroots look more like the anti-heterodoxy Right than the anti-distortion force they really are. Throughout his article, he miscasts the netroots as being concerned with ideological correctness, when they are in fact concerned with factual accuracy and representing huge majorities of people. He goes particularly awry when he describes the netroots as not believing in the concept of fairness, when in fact they are working for a fair, conscientious, and diligent MSM-- which we haven't seen during the Bush administration.
Kos's statement that "I'm all about winning" can only be understood in the context of the rule of the Bush adminstration and, formerly, the lapdog GOP Congress. Chait sees the netroots as unequivocally unconcerned with ideas, and every bit as bloodthirsty, hostile, and dishonest as Grover Norquist. This is premature, and I believe it will turn out to be wrong.
We don't know how the netroots will behave if/when it is in the majority, not the opposition. The New Right wanted to cut taxes, remake the law to be more hospitable to social conservatives, and claimed to want to shrink government. The netroots want to end our involvement in Iraq's civil war, expand health insurance to more Americans, and stop running up huge deficits. The netroots do not have the encompassing worldview that the New Right had; it is unlikely that they will give into the dark side and deliberately deceive the public, like Bush the compassionate conservative, about how extreme their desired policy prescriptions are once they are near power. Admittedly, though, Chait could prove to be right-- a sense of grievance that outlives underdog status can lead to overreach.
I think it's more likely that the impact of the netroots will dissipate after the urgent need to oppose the current administration fades away. I think it would be much better for America if President Obama appoints Jim Leach and David Iglesias to positions in his administration that pursuing the Bush route, but I don't know how widely held that view is.
Chait's most sound observation is that we're long overdue for a left-leaning counterpart to the right-wing movement. Because the right has such an effective message machine, it gets heard, and it seeps into the public consciousness and begins to sound respectable merely through repetition. Left-leaning ideas are instantly dismissed as unserious, while wild-eyed right-wing ideas about launching a democracy jihad throughout the Middle East are treated as sober and thoughtful. Brian Williams launched a fusillade of Limbaugh-friendly questions at the Democratic presidential candidates the other night-- unimaginable from the other side.
The dominant narratives of the past fifteen years have been pro-GOP in the face of truth-- truth about the popularity and effectiveness of programs like Social Security, truth about the GOP's efforts to appear more centrist than it intended to govern, truth about the downside of failure in a war of choice. The media was cowed by the right, and the Democrats instinctively tacked to the right out of an unsupported belief that this was tantamount to "seriousness" on issues like the war, the president's illegal wiretapping, privatization of Social Security, huge deficits to enable tax cuts for the very wealthiest, and just about every other issue. The netroots, by providing support for reality-based views that got little to no expression in the MSM, is fighting for truth and justice.
Dan Shaughnessy Watch
On the other side of the debate, former Moss teammate Cris Carter says, "People are going to be pleasantly surprised. He does need structure, and he's got that there. Randy is not going to have a problem because of what they have as far as structure with the players and the front office and the coach." Tom Brady restructured his contract to allow cap room for the trade.
And safety Rodney Harrison said, "When Corey Dillon came in, everyone thought he was an outlaw. He proved otherwise. When I came in, everyone thought I was an outlaw, ruthless. I think I proved that otherwise. Let's get a chance to know the guy before we make any judgments. If he comes in and is selfish, there are going to be problems. But if he has the right attitude, it will be huge for us. I've always said, if he comes in, doesn't work hard, and acts like a prima donna, it's not going to work. [Moss, unlike, say, Terrell Owens, is making just $3 million and joining a team with a clear identity. He could easily and painlessly be cut if he misbehaves--E.E.] But if he puts the team first and works hard, he has the talent to do special things for us. It comes down to the small things, and buying into what we're all about here."
Obviously Shaughnessy is incapable of doing any reporting-- he just formulates an obnoxious opinion, then types it out with as much condescension and self-involvement as he can cram in.
But would it kill him to read the paper? You know, the one he works for?