Friday, March 31, 2006

NTodd To AWOL Dems: Vaffanculo

Jeezum crow, as we say in Vermont:
OK, let me get this straight. Democratic senators get an opportunity to trash President Bush on live TV... and almost nobody shows up? Come on kids. I was hoping for a rockin' sold-out show at today's Senate hearing to censure the president on domestic wiretapping. But I counted at least nine empty chairs around the table. The only Democrats willing to show their faces were Sen. Russ Feingold, who sponsored the censure resolution, and Sen. Patrick Leahy. Over at Daily Kos there's a hilarious thread as bloggers call up Sens. Kennedy, Schumer, Biden and Feinstein to ask, "Where the hell are you?"

After this mighty display of disinterest [uh...'uninterest', actually. ntodd], President Bush shouldn't be too worried. In fact, the only really mean things said were about Richard Nixon. In a bizarre flashback to Watergate, former Nixon aide John Dean showed up to say how domestic spying is worse than anything his former boss did.
I know that most of politics is theater, but you hope that actors will at least bother showing up.
This is absolutely inexcusable. Even if the missing Senators don't believe in the Censure motion itself, they must do whatever they can to hold Bush accountable and make the GOP-dominated Senate do more than pay lip service to its oversight role. Not showing up, political theater or not, is an unconscionable dereliction of duty.

At least my Senator was there to support Feingold. Pat's not as fiery as Russ, though he does have his moments, and he had this to say today:
Because the Republican-controlled Congress has not conducted real oversight, and because the attempts this Committee has made at oversight have been stonewalled by the Administration, we do not know the extent of the Administration’s domestic spying activities. But we know that the Administration has secretly spied on Americans without attempting to comply with FISA. And we know that the legal justifications it has offered for doing so, which have admittedly “evolved” over time are patently flimsy. I therefore have no hesitation in condemning the President for secretly and systematically violating the law. I have no doubt that such a conclusion will be history’s verdict.

History will evaluate how diligently the Republican-controlled Congress performed the oversight duties envisaged by the Founders. As of this moment, history’s judgment of the diligence and resolve of the Republican-Controlled Congress is unlikely to be kind.
I love how he kept repeating "Republican-controlled Congress". Remind people just who's in charge, who's covering up.

Alas, the Democrats are enabling this Republican-controlled government to get away with it all. As of this moment, history's judgement of the diligence and resolve of their party is unlikely to be any kinder.

My judgement isn't kind at all: to them I say...well, I'll let my favorite fascist, Antonin Scalia deliver the message. He has a unique way with words and gestures...


Feingold Speaks


Not surprisingly, I've found little coverage of today's Judiciary hearing, and the committee's website hasn't even been updated with the witnesses' prepared remarks yet. Feingold has at least posted his opening statement, and here's the meat:
If Congress doesn’t have the power to define the contours of the President’s Article II powers through legislation, then I have no idea why people are scrambling to draft legislation to authorize what they think the President is doing. If the President’s legal theory, which is shared by some of our witnesses today, is correct, then FISA is a dead letter, all of the supposed protections for civil liberties contained in the reauthorization of the Patriot Act that we just passed are a cruel hoax, and any future legislation we might pass regarding surveillance or national security is a waste of time and a charade. Under this theory, we no longer have a constitutional system consisting of three co-equal branches of government, we have a monarchy.

We can fight terrorism without breaking the law. The rule of law is central to who we are as a people, and the President must return to the law. He must acknowledge and be held accountable for his illegal actions and for misleading the American people, both before and after the program was revealed. If we in the Congress don’t stand up for ourselves and for the American people, we become complicit in his law breaking. A resolution of censure is the appropriate response – even a modest approach.

Mr. Chairman, the presence of John Dean here today should remind us that we must respond to this constitutional crisis based on principle, not partisanship. How we respond to the President’s actions will become part of our history. A little over 30 years ago, a President who broke the law was held to account by a bipartisan congressional investigation and by patriots like Archibald Cox and Elliot Richardson and yes, John Dean, who put loyalty to the Constitution and the rule of law above the interests of the President who appointed them. None of us here can predict how history will view this current episode. But I hope that thirty years from now, this Senate will not be seen to have backed down in the face of such a grave challenge to our constitutional system.

Right on. It still astounds me that more Dems have not gotten onboard. How can you be an opposition party if you don't oppose? How can you act like a Senator if you cede lawmaking power to the Executive?


Hearing Update


C-SPAN TV will rerun the hearing Friday nite at 8:50pm ET. And of course, the video will be on their website.


Censure Hearings Today


Well, they're going on right now. From liveblogging reports elsewhere, I understand that the GOP has been railing against John Dean, and Leahy and Feingold have been righteous. I would love to liveblog it here, but can't since I cancelled my satellite TV service ages ago (I used to be a CSPAN2 addict) and the stream is awful over dialup. I will, however, get transcripts and other news and analysis up here as soon as material becomes available.

And look to this space for other exciting blogging from yours truly and the other Vichys...wait, that didn't sound right. Whatev. Just keep reloading obsessively, okay?


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Censure Preview


The Nation:
Congressional Democrats have pretty much abandoned their Constitutionally-mandated responsibility to check and balance the excesses to the executive branch – so much so that the one Democrat who seeks to hold President Bush to account for ordering the warrantless wiretapping of American's telephone conversations accuses for party's leaders of "cowering."

So where is Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold finding support?

Among Republicans. Or, more precisely, among prominent alumni of past Republican administrations.
Making arguments about the extreme seriousness of the warrantless wiretapping issue -- and the need for a Congressional response -- will be noted constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein, who served in President Ronald Reagan's Department of Justice as Deputy Attorney General, and author and legal commentator John Dean, who served at Richard Nixon's White House counsel before breaking with the president to reveal the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Watergate era.
According to the Senate Library, the man who before joining the Nixon administration served as Chief Minority Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, has not testified before Congress since 1974, the year that his former boss resigned in order to avoid impeachment.
Dean [explains] that: "There can be no serious question that warrantless wiretapping, in violation of the law, is impeachable. After all, Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons."

Dean does make a distinction between the misdeeds of the Nixon and Bush administration, however. He has argued for some time that the current administration's reckless disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law is "worse than Watergate."

Worse than Watergate. Absolutely. There is a distinct pattern of abuse that goes beyond merely clinging to power. Bush has usurped powers vested in Congress by the Constitution, trampled on civil liberties at home and violated international law. Oh, and he's led us down the path to ruin with his disastrous wars draining our blood and treasure.

Dean has said before that Bush's crimes are worse than Watergate. In fact, I have a copy of his book with that title, wherein he lays out a compelling argument. Of course, we in the leftysphere all know the case against Bush at this point. Wouldn't it be nice if he spells it out on record? I hope to hear "worse than Watergate" echoing in the halls of Congress tomorrow. Then maybe Feingold will get some support from the spineless Dems.

PS--I don't view Censure and Impeachment as mutually exclusive. Censure is the only thing the Senate can do at this point, and while not technically a "first step" toward expelling the President, it does set the stage. Not only that, it keeps the discussion out in the open and allows the debate to be about Bush's failures without necessarily getting rid of "the Commander-in-Chief at a time of war." And keep in mind that it only addresses one star in the criminal constellation known as BushCo.

I look at it as merely the stage of first alleging there is a crime. That will ideally be followed in 2007 by the indictment phase, and then a trial resulting in conviction. But it all depends on just how willing the Dems are to stand for what's right rather than fleeing because of misguided political calculations.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

And now: The Good News!


Slow blogging today. We're waiting for all kinds of other shoes to drop.

In the meantime, I thought I'd offer a positive counterbalance to yesterday's blogging. Here's a profile of Ned Lamont from The American Prospect.

Ned Lamont is an unlikely insurgent.

The founder of a small cable company that specializes in telecommunications systems for college campuses, Lamont is a wealthy man who speaks with the measured cadence of one who earns his living making deals, not political speeches. Yet the Greenwich businessman has got Connecticut Democrats all wired up: Lamont promises a primary run against Senator Joe Lieberman, an entrenched incumbent with national stature, a flush campaign account -- and a firm hold on state party regulars that resembles the grip of an old-time political machine.

Lamont was, in fact, moved to challenge Lieberman himself in part because he could find no established Connecticut politician to take on the senator.

His journey began last fall, when Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha stirred Democrats around the country with his declaration that the Iraq War was a failure and that the troops should start coming home. Lamont found himself aghast at Lieberman’s response: The senator endorsed George W. Bush’s stay-the-course policy. “Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq?” the senator wrote in a column in -- of all places -- The Wall Street Journal. “Yes, we do.”

A furious Lamont, whose only stint in elective office was as a town selectman in Greenwich, tried to enlist more prominent Democrats to challenge Lieberman. They all turned him down.

“It’s kind of like General Motors, isn’t it?” Lamont said in an interview, comparing a politician’s ascent to the climb up the corporate ladder. “If you’re assistant vice president, then you go to executive vice president and then maybe president. You don’t challenge things like this.”

So Lamont decided to take Lieberman on himself. It is, to say the least, no contest of equals.

There's more.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Blackhawk [Workers] Down


Many thanks to Thersites for the opportunity to come over here and and wreck your perfectly nice blog. Even though Thersites and I came up through the left blogsphere farm team system, otherwise known as the comments section at Eschaton, fisking the trolls and generally having a good time, I understand that this is a respectable blog, so I will try to watch my fucking language.

I'd like to begin posting here with an example of how I see the problem of the Vichy Dem.'s I think it's misleading to see the difference between us and the Vichy Dem.'s as one of ideology. Sure there might be some support for Voodoo Economics over at the DLC. They're probably all wearing black socks, too, for all I know. Who cares? No, I think it's more instructive to conceive of our differences in terms of access. Politics isn't the only place that this crops up. Corporate culture is the antithesis of a democratic culture. I say this to preface an issue that could all too easily be framed in terms of left -vs- phony left, aka the right.

It's not.

Via Norwegianity, I found this article by David Sirota. "Ask yourself," writes the eternal Norwegian, "why Joe Lieberman, Chris Dodd, Nancy Johnson and Chris Shays all support Sikorski's efforts to break a union."

I'll let Sirota explain it to you, 'cause I'd use too many goddamned four-letter words:

The Connecticut Post reports that despite swimming in taxpayer-funded profits, the company is proposing massive cuts to 3,600 workers' health care benefits. Under the plan, the Connecticut Post reports, "A Sikorsky employee with an individual health-care plan would pay a total of $1,009 more, while employees with coverage for themselves and their family members would pay an additional $3,528 over the life of the contract."

In response, the 3,600 workers opted to go on strike - but even then, the union offered concessions to end the strike. For instance, weeks ago the New Haven Register reported that "Teamsters Local 1150 offered to have union members pay 20 percent of the cost of health care and sign a four-year contract, rather than a three-year pact, both major concessions." That offer was rejected. Similarly, the Connecticut Post reported that "The Teamsters propose giving back part of the 3.5 percent pay raise over each of the next three years and forgoing a $2,000 signing bonus per employee." Again, that was rejected by company management focused on crushing workers and expanding already massive profits.

Instead, the company has hired temporary replacement workers, ignoring the fact that the workers who assemble the Blackhawk helicopters are among the most specialized manufacturing workers in the nation. Their skills are not easily picked up, begging the question: do we want our soldiers in Iraq flying around in Blackhawk helicopters made with replacement workers? Apparently, Sikorsky does, as the company is now considering making the replacement workers permanent workers, and sinking to the age old ploy of threatening to shut down its Connecticut operations.

Sadly, Connecticut's congressional delegation is refusing to take sides in the affair. Despite the fact that many of them carry a lot of weight in terms of government contracting and could use that weight to put pressure on Sikorsky, these lawmakers have issued a letter that simply asks for both parties to "come back to the negotiating table." Of course, the two parties should do that, and the lawmakers are clearly worried that the company is going to leave the state. However, the fact that the congressional delegation refuses to take sides in a dispute where a massively profitable, taxpayer-funded company is trying to crush workers shows just how pathetically out of touch our government really is.

Now, you see (through that red haze in front of your eyes), I really don't think that anyone say down and said to themselves, "hmmmm. Lessee here. Labor is left, and I'm on the right, so if they want X then I should push for not-X."

Ideology is just a schematic.

No, instead Sikorsky's gotten fat on government contracts. You keep those contracts by paying off politicians. This is that funny kind of money that's called "speech," except you and I apparently never handle bills that big, so I don't know whose picture is on that one.

But wait, I haven't closed the loop yet. They pay for those contracts because that's what makes them rich. This is American capitalism, the American school of capitalism being to capitalism what the American school of anthropology was to anthropology, I guess.

So, why should they share any of this money with the people who actually make the thing. They didn't buy themselves a pet politician like Lieberman. The union didn't give Lieberman a legal bribe. Why should they get any of the money? This is a closed loop between those who pay the politicians and those who can legally give away our tax dollars. Sikorsky has been giving money to Lieberman since 1996. Those other guys, the workers? All they ever do is take money from Sikorsky. You know: in their paychecks. The few votes they could offer Lieberman are insignification compared to what corporate cash buys the candidate.

Ideology has nothing to do with it.

National Lampoon's Family Vacation: Vichy, France

The Thersites family is taking vacation for a few days, and as anyone who's been reading VichyDems lately knows, we need it. Let's face it, the site's quality has plummeted recently. Shallow political analysis, a lack of historical perspective, ad hominem attacks, clumsy sentence structure... I even found myself using passive voice the other day, which certainly won't do for a Resistance Fighter! I would've written a giant "Awk" across half my recent posts if I knew the right html.

There really was no debate over where to go on vacation: we're taking the waters at Vichy*. I'll put a removable American Flag over my "W" sticker, remove the earring and fit right in. Ah, the bubbling mud baths... the bottles of mineral water... the lovely French countryside... and, most of all, a few days allowing my critical mind to take a break while I immerse myself in the luxuriant softness of unthinking patriotism and political shortsightedness. Yes! Germans and French are brothers in spirit. Yes! More sweet Rhone wine. (Let the Free French insist on the dry stuff; liebfraumilch is just as good, really, if you let your palate relax.) Those Germans are good folks; they've even promised to rebuild the train station the Luftwaffe bombed, if we continue to cooperate. I think I'll take a soak in the hot spring again before lunch, safe in the knowledge that the NSA is keeping me safe. Compliance is SOOOO much more peaceful than resistance...

Until we return on Saturday, some good folks will be keeping an eye on the blog. Randwolfe and Julie, as always, may pop up. NTodd and Grand Moff Texan have generously agreed to post or cross-post. And, below, I've started a "Senate Judiciary Commitee" open thread so readers can trade comments and share info on this week's activities (NSA hearings today, Feingold censure hearings Friday). And don't forget to keep an eye on our friends at Unclaimed Territory and FireDogLake, which certainly will have updates on the NSA issue if something new comes up.

Be good to each other while I'm gone. Feed the trolls all you want.

* Oops. I meant to say "camping at the Oregon Coast".

Senate Judiciary Committee Open Thread

I picked a lousy week to go on vacation (or a great one, according to my wife): the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings both on the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program(s?) today (Tuesday), and its first hearing on Russ Feingold's resolution to censure the President for authorizing that program on Friday. Delicious stuff for patriotic policy geeks, but I'll be taking the waters at Vichy, pretending I'm a neocon to avoid arguments and just letting it all hang loose.

In lieu of me obsessing on C-Span, I'd be grateful if readers would do the same, and watch some of the other blogs that may be reporting on developments, and leave comments here tipping each other off as to what's happening, who's talking about it, etc. If nothing earth-shattering happens, great, but if it does, hopefully you guys will watch out for each other here. Thanks.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sherrod Brown, Accommodationist: And Why We Need Real Primaries

One of my recurrent themes is that we need to stop allowing Democratic power brokers in proverbial smoke-filled rooms to pick our candidates for us. States hold primary elections for a reason: to let various Democratic candidates air their ideas half a year before the general election, and let Democratic voters choose which candidate they think best reflects their ideas
and ideals. The debate would capture media attention, educating the public about the spectrum of Democratic ideas, and the eventual nominee would have both name recognition and an energized base going in to the general election against his or her Republican opponent. Good system, right?

But that's not the way it works much of the time. Instead, the Democratic Party or, even more often, narrow-minded, undemocratic groups like the Democratic Leadership Conference and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pick a candidate to back before the primary. In other words, they don't just support our Democrat against the Republican; they support their Democrat against anyone else's Democrat, rigging the outcome of the primary election before the voters ever reach the polls. They do this by promising that their candidate will always have more campaign funding than his competitor (which often makes competitors quit before they start, seeing that defeat is inevitable); by giving information to their choice and withholding it from the competitor; by browbeating campaign contributors to only donate to their choice; and by telling competitors that their challenge to the favored candidate is bad for the Party. Real primary battles are a rarity in today's party politics. (More here and here.)

We've seen this in the recent Illinois Congressional primary, where establishment-backed newcomer Tami Duckworth narrowly defeated long-time progressive Christine Cegelis; in Pennsylvania, where the Democratic establishment is giving enormous support (and tactical advantages) to pro-life, pro-Alito, Vichy-in-the-making Bob Casey over the far better Chuck Pennacchio (Pennacchio's VichyDems guest blog here); and in Ohio, where Party-backed Sherrod Brown bullied Paul Hackett out of the race.

Ken Rudin has a good analysis of the Duckworth-Cegelis race that puts the problem in a nutshell:

Illinois' Sixth Congressional District... [is] the district being vacated by Republican Henry Hyde after 16 terms. It encompasses the suburbs to the west and northwest of Chicago. Two years ago, Christine Cegelis held Hyde to just 55 percent of the vote -- the closest margin for Hyde since he was first elected in 1974. Understandably, Cegelis wanted another shot.

But national Democrats had other ideas. They decided that one way to compete with the Republicans on defense and national security issues is to recruit veterans to run for Congress as Democrats. One of their most high-profile recruits is Tammy Duckworth, a helicopter pilot who lost both legs in Iraq following a grenade attack. She has attracted plenty of money and a ton of endorsement: Both of Illinois' U.S. senators (Barack Obama and Dick Durbin) support her, as does DCCC chairman/Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). National fundraising appeals on her behalf were sent out by John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

Here's the rub, at least according to quite a few Democratic activists I've spoken to: Duckworth refused to run as an anti-war candidate. Her views on Iraq were either more tempered, designed to appeal to the Republican majority of the district, or squishy, depending on your perspective. Cegelis, on the other hand, ran as an out-and-out peace candidate, winning the backing of Democracy for America (once run by Howard Dean and now run by his brother Jim) and other assorted liberal groups. And when the votes were counted, Duckworth, as expected, won. But she won by only three percentage points -- a stunningly close race, given her financial advantage, endorsements and compelling personal story. The moral out of the 6th CD primary: Celebrity is nice, but message counts as well. It's nice to run as an Iraq war vet and be charismatic, but having something to say might not be a bad idea, either.

This is not to say that Duckworth is a bad candidate; perhaps her even-handedness on the war is a smart tactic, given the makeup of the district (carried twice by George W. Bush) . Nor should she be counted out for the fall; national Democratic leaders have invested a lot in her candidacy and will do what they can to make her better in the next seven months. And who knows what the national mood will be by then? Still, she goes into the general election against state Sen. Pete Roskam (R), who had no primary challenge, as an underdog.

If Duckworth was such a strong candidate, then she should have been able to compete fairly against Cegalis without high-level, outside-the-state help from Hillary Clinton, her lapdog strong supporter Rahm Emanuel and the DCCC, John Kerry, and Barack Obama (who, despite his wonderful, roof-raising speech at the last Democratic Convention, is turning out to be a mock-centrist, poll-watching, traingulating DLCer as bad as any of them). The result of the establishment Dems' meddling is that Illinois' Democratic activists are divided, half of them are ticked off and unlikely to do footwork for Duckworth in the general election, a longtime Democratic politician has been shut out of the backroom, and the Democratic candidate enters the general election an underdog. Nice work, Hillary. Nice work, Rahm.

I'll close by shifting attention back to an older story, Sherrod Brown's establishment-backed powerplay that shoved Paul Hackett out of the Ohio Senate race. The one thing Brown had going for him is that, unlike Duckworth and Casey, he has solid progressive credentials; if anything, he's more liberal than Hackett. Proving that I'm not as interested in ideology as I am in fairness and in the belief that honestly contested primaries help the Party in the general election by educating the public and stirring up the base, I still objected to the heavy-handed tactics used to force Hackett out of that race.

Over the weekend, though, a reader tipped me off to this troubling quote by Brown about Russ Feingold's resolution to censure the President for authorizing the NSA to wiretap American citizens without any judicial or congressional oversight:

"It just takes us off discussions we ought to be having in this country on issues that really matter in people's lives," said Rep. Sherrod Brown, a liberal Democrat from Ohio who is running for Senate.

Well, damn his hide. They still don't get it. What we're looking for, and especially what those fabled "swing voters" are looking for, isn't so much candidates who are "liberal"; it's candidates who are courageous. And what we oppose isn't so much candidates who are "conservative"; who we hate are the politicians who evade and triangulate and accommodate and generally allow the mock-conservative neofascists to keep raping the nation we love. Sherrod Brown isn't even in the Senate yet, and already he's triangulating and undercutting the best resolution to be presented in the Senate in six years. He may be liberal, but he's not fighting the necessary fight.

So, ladies and gentlemen, and especially those VichyDems readers who've gently chastised me for saying some liberals are part of the problem: I give you Sherrod Brown, whom I went out of my way to defend even after the Hackett fiasco: a liberal, Democrat, anti-little-d-democratic, accommodationist triangulator. Any "Democrat", liberal or otherwise, who affirmatively attacks Feingold's censure resolution isn't worthy of our support. I'd rather demonstrate to Brown and his handlers that their backroom formula isn't working any more, wait two years, and elect someone courageous who's committed to democratic principles instead of another nascent Vichy. Even a liberal one.

H/T to Eyes Wide Open.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Censure Isn't Impeachment

One component of the Republican spin machine nowadays is to conflate the words "censure" and "impeach", as in: "Russ Feingold wants to censure the President. Do you really want to elect Democrats in November who think it's a good idea to impeach the President in wartime?" Ramesh Ponnuru tried the same tactic in a debate with Glenn Greenwald a few days ago. The media, too, is focusing on impeachment when censure should be the issue of the day. And, unfortunately, many Senate Democrats are buying the Republican line, afraid to support censure for fear that voters will think it's too harsh.

Let's be clear: Russ Feingold has not proposed to impeach the President. He has proposed to censure him. Impeachment would require action by both Houses of Congress; censure can be done by the Senate alone. Impeachment would be a long, drawn-out, procedurally massive process: a trial in the Senate presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Censure is merely a vote on a resolution; if it's approved, a piece of paper is sent to the President scolding him. That's it.

Most importantly, impeachment is the strongest action the Congress can take against a wayward President; censure is the mildest action it can take. Impeachment would topple a sitting President and could be seen as a Democratic attempt to seize by legal means what they could not win in the popular vote; censure leaves the President in place and merely tells him to respect the rights of the citizens who elected him; it gains the Democrats nothing tangible.

This President should be impeached, but neither the Congress nor the American people is ready for that -- and since Bush never was anything other than a figurehead for the powerful, calculating, subterrannean forces that arranged his election and run his administration, toppling him wouldn't do any real good, anyway. Censure, on the other hand, would attack, not the man, but the policies.

Censure isn't impeachment. We need to keep that clear. And even those Democratic senators who don't support impeachment have no excuse for voting no on censure, which, after all, subjects Bush to nothing but well-deserved opprobrium and costs Democrats nothing but political capital -- and not much of that.

Pinging Chuck Norris

The Founder of the infamous counterterrorist unit Delta Force calls Iraq a "debacle":

Q: What's your assessment of the war in Iraq?

A: Utter debacle. But it had to be from the very first. The reasons were wrong. The reasons of this administration for taking this nation to war were not what they stated. (Army Gen.) Tommy Franks was brow-beaten and ... pursued warfare that he knew strategically was wrong in the long term. That's why he retired immediately afterward. His own staff could tell him what was going to happen afterward.

We have fomented civil war in Iraq. We have probably fomented internecine war in the Muslim world between the Shias and the Sunnis, and I think Bush may well have started the third world war, all for their own personal policies.

(h/t to NTodd)

THE Single Most Important Race for Anti-Vichy Forces

Sure, we Resistance Fighters can blow up a supply train here, spy on a German airbase there, even assassinate (politically) an over-collaborationist mayor if we have to. But then there are the big battles, the ones that not only have tactical impact but also send a powerful message that strikes fear into the hearts of our enemies, and those we must win.

It's primary season, and there are lots of races out there we'd like to win (or wish we had won) -- Ciro Rodriguez' brave effort against Henry Cuellar in TX, Chuck Pennacchio's uphill battle against Bob Casey in PA, Christine Cegelis' narrow loss to Tammy Duckworth in IL, Marcy Winograd's challenge of apparent DINO Jane Harman in CA.

But one race stands out above all others. One race will signal whether we Resistance Fighters can make a difference now, or whether we must content ourselves with the hope of victories merely over the long haul. One race will send a powerful message to all Vichy candidates and, more importantly, to the poll-watching fencesitters -- that message being either that their corporate-funded multi-million-dollar campaign war chests make them invulnerable to us mere citizens, or that we, the People have the ability to bring them down and must be listened to. One race is the belwether for the sould of the Democratic Party. Over the top? Maybe. But I believe it's true.

That race? Ned Lamont vs. Joe Lieberman, in Connecticut, to decide who the Democratic nominee will be against a Republican challenger who, in all likelihood, won't stand a chance against either of them in the general election. The Senate seat will be decided in the primary.

Lieberman is the perfect Vichy: supports the Iraq War, supports the NSA surveillance program even without warrants, was the first Democrat to come out against censuring the President, supports the President's profligate budgets, supported Sam Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, supports laws that limit the right to abortion. The list is endless. Bush reportedly is even considering him to replace Don Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

Ned Lamont, his opponent, is an entrepreneur and a true Democrat. He's not a party patsy, nor an idealistic do-gooder -- most self-made millionaires aren't naive! -- but his views are consistently both common-sensical and progressive. He's by far the best candidate both for the Democratic Party and for the citizens of Connecticut.

Lamont has only two disabilities: (1) he doesn't have Connecticut's immensely wealthy insurance and banking corporations backing him financially, as Lieberman does (they love their man!), and (2) he doesn't have the firm backing of the Democratic establishment, which has a knee-jerk and unreasoning preference for almost all incumbents in primaries instead of allowing primaries to be open and stepping in only for the general elections.

But Lamont can win. He polls well, Connecticut Democrats are increasingly dissatisfied with Lieberman, and he's gathering national support. And if he wins, all Democrats will smell the wind of change a-coming, and will have to pay more attention to their progressive base if they don't want to face Lieberman's fate. It's the most important race of this primary season -- maybe even of this year, including the general election -- and Lamont needs to win.

There's a good story about Ned Lamont here (h/t to Randwolfe). And you can donate to Lamont, and VichyDems' other preferred candidates, here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I Visited My Senator; Have You?

Putting my money where my keyboard is, I just dropped by the local office of my Democratic senator, Ron Wyden (OR). I delivered my message about getting off the fence and getting behind Feingold. His staffer was friendly, and said that they've been getting slammed with calls, both in that smaller district office and in Washington, all in support of Feingold. He also explained that their office uses a computer program to report all constituent contacts back to D.C. in real time, and that the nature of the contact -- phone call, letter, walk-in -- is logged and reported, as well.

Three minutes. Nice contact. Report going to Wyden. Democracy. You?
Senator Walk-In Information Here

Domenech Resigns Under Fire As WaPo's Resident Rightie

What brought him down? Not calling Coretta Scott King a Communist. Not making homophobic jokes. Not crying about liberal judges ordering children off incubators over their parents' objections without mentioning that his hero, George Bush, signed the Texas law allowing the state to take children off incubators over their parents' objections. Not failing to do basic research and know his topics. Not screening the comments on his blog, and editing the list of blogs that linked to it so that only sycophants appeared on it. None of that is enough to even make modern Republicans of his ilk bat an eye.

But plagiarism still will bring down someone working for a major paper, thank God.

But now what will I do for fun?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Grabbing the Rebound

In a slightly surreal open letter to Laura Bush advising her to -- and how to -- straighten out her husband's second term, Sally Quinn shares some interesting insights into what other Republicans think of Bush 43 and his administration:

The biggest problem your husband has now is that so many top Republicans have turned against him. Without the support of his own party, it's pretty much impossible for him to run the country. After the way they went after him over the Dubai ports deal, you can imagine what they are saying about him privately.

Incompetent, unrealistic and insincere were a few of the words circulating at a private dinner recently. Referring to the president's refusal to seek advice on anything -- the war, the economy, foreign policy -- one of the most prominent Republicans in Washington called the situation so dire that he feared "the country would fall apart with another three years of this."

"They don't listen to anybody," said another prominent Republican who was close to the first President Bush.

To a person, every Republican and Democrat I talked to compared your husband to his father. W didn't come out on the winning end. "A real gent," "gracious," "responsive," "inclusive," "conciliatory" were words used to describe the senior Bush. Democrats told how he always returned their phone calls, sometimes at 2 a.m.

Now even Dad's former friends and advisers can't get through. "All of his father's old boys are out in the wilderness together," lamented one of them.

Quinn urges Laura to sweet-talk George into reforming his act, citing "senior Republicans" for the propositions that Bush (a) doesn't listen to people outside his clique, (b) listens to Carl Rove, who likes to win elections (c) doesn't pay attention to what the American people want and need, whereas even Republican congresspeople do (at least in election years), (d) operates a White House that functions like a cult, (e) should get new help, (f) should listen to advice (see a, above), (g) should fire Rummy and hire Lieberman as Secretary of Defense, (h) should work with Congress (including Democrats) instead of ignoring or bullying it, and (i) "[t]ell him to take responsibility for his actions" including Iraq.

All in all, of course, that laundry list is better read as an explanation of why Bush should simply resign, retire to Crawford and resume heavy drinking than as a "letter to Laura". George start listening to other people, working with Congress and considering the needs of ordinary Americans? I'm not holding my breath; it's not in his nature.

What's telling about Quinn's article isn't its (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) "Laura" approach or its unsurprising list of Bush's faults. It's the suggestion that senior (read: old) Republicans -- of his dad's generation -- are finally waking up to how truly abysmal the Bush presidency has been for the country and the Republican party. Bush 41 Republicans were greedy, deceptive, smart, and ultimately fairly moderate. Giving political life to Bush 43 -- who is emotionally needy more than greedy, deceptive as only an unreformed alcoholic can be, fundamentally incurious to the point of stupidity, and deeply gullible in his reliance on faith (Christian, ideological, economic, Rovian) over evidence -- was their greatest mistake, and they're finally realizing that fact.

Those older Republicans still possess power. They could be the Democrats' greatest, secret allies. But while it's tempting to hope that the unseemly caution of Congressional Democrats is attributable to their already having made that alliance, we'd better hope it hasn't been struck yet. The old Republican guard can't topple 43 without Democratic energy, and the Democrats can't allow themselves to be lulled into compacency. Drinking Scotch with a former Bush 41 Cabinet member while dissing 43 isn't enough; we need Feingoldian energy plus Republican defections or at least passivity to even think about succeeding.

The stage is set for either a minor and temporary, or significant and enduring, Democratic takeover of both the Congress and the White House. Minor and temporary is enough to start, and it's in play already. The 41s do understand political reality; they know, deep down, that their party must pay a price for having elevated such a dangerous stooge to the Presidency without adequate controls, and being realpoliticians, they won't balk (much) at paying that price, at least in the short term. The price: Democratic control of Congress, if not in '06 then in '08, and possibly a Democratic return to the White House for one term. To take that deal, however, it's not enough for Democrats to lay low while a few well-placed Republican old-schoolers surreptitously undermine their party's Bushian and theocratic elements from their side; Democrats need to give things a vigorous shove from their side as well. Those well-placed Republicans may be willing to do their part. Are the Democrats?

And, looking a little farther into the future, we Resistance Democrats need to prepare for the next war. That war has already started, as the DLC and DCCC work to extinguish progressive voices from the party and consolidate control of the party in corporatist, unipartisan hands in the '06 Congressional midterms. But it won't turn into a real shooting war until after the November elections, when the accommodationist Democrats will make their move to appoint Hillary to the White House with some cooperation from the Old Guard Republicans, who will accept that Bush's failures put the White House temporarily out of Republican reach and who will be willing (good Calvinists that they are) to suffer the relatively mild penance of seeing a corporatist Democrat babysit the White House for one term while they ready Jeb for 2012.

The Game for all Democrats is to accept any allies, even Bush 41 cronies and Democrats with whom they disagree, in the effort to retake one or both houses of Congress in '06 -- and to have the courage and wisdom to do what it takes, on top of those allies' efforts, to win that objective (Feingold's censure resolution, of course, being the obvious start). Then, after next November, the Game for all progressive Democrats will be to take the moderate Republicans' and DLC's bait and reject their hook, by doing whatever it takes to see that a progressive Democrat, and not a regressive one like Hillary, is positioned to profit from the inevitable "bounce" we'll get in '08 following the debacle that is Bush 43.

I know this may be stretching it, but purely for illustrative purposes, the situation is analogous to the one America faced at the end of WWII: the U.S. (progressive Democrats) and Soviets (DLC Democrats) were allies until Hitler (Bush) fell, and at that moment became enemies again. FDR's failure at Yalta was his failure to plan ahead for that shift, but we needn't make a similar mistake. In '06, all Democrats are allies. In '08, however, there's going to be civil war. Both those savvy, wizened Bush 41ers and their DLC allies understand that, and are positioning themselves already. Let's be sophisticated enough to understand it, as well, and beat both groups at their own game.

New Roots Project Campaign: Look Them In the Eye And Say, "Censure the President."

There's a simple, powerful new Roots Project campaign afoot: the Roots Project bloggers are asking people to visit their senators' local offices (tomorrow, if possible, because many senators are home now but are returning to D.C. on Monday) and individually, politely, firmly ask them to support Feingold's censure resolution.

It's not a protest. It's not a group thing. It's just individual citizens, looking a staffer in the eye and saying, I'm who your senator is working for, and I want him/her to censure the President for spying on Americans without getting a warrant first.

All politics is local, Tip O'Neill used to say. This is as local as it gets. Buy bag lunches for a couple of coworkers and carpool at lunch. Swing by as you're running errands. Ask your next door neighbor to go with you: multiply your effect. But please make every effort to do it, because just as one constituent phone call is worth 100 out-of-staters' calls, one personal visit is worth 100 phone calls.

You can find your senators' district office addresses at this site. [UPDATE, MARCH 24: Click on the senator's name in the Senate directory to go to his/her website, then explore that site until you find the contact info, and please let me know if you have any trouble finding it (see my comment on this).]

For folks in Eugene, OR (my town), the addresses are:

Ron Wyden (D-OR)
151 West 7th Ave
Suite 435
Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 431-0229

Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Federal Building
211 East 7th Avenue, Room 202
Eugene, OR 97401
Phone: 541.465.6750

UPDATE, MARCH 24, 8:18 AM P.T.: Good post about this effort at FireDogLake, especially if you'd like more insight into the issue and talking points. Remember: it's the warrants, not the spying.


Netroots to Netboots: Blogs' Impact on State Politics

The National Journal/Hotline Blogometer today underscores the validity of efforts by bloggers to impact political races, including state political races (which interests me as a participant in the multiblog, state-oriented Roots Project). Talking about my own state, Oregon, the Blogometer's Bill Beutler writes:

The OR GOV primary is a few months off yet, but 1 group of bloggers cast its vote in the blogosphere nearly 6 months ago. It's called the Atkinson for Governor Blog Network -- in support of state Sen. Jason Atkinson (R) -- and while it's certainly not a new thing of itself, it is a new iteration of blogger activism. Like the liberal bloggers who came together in early '03 to support Howard Dean, bloggers selected the candidate prior to the campaign reaching out to them. Like the Blogs for Bush effort led by the still-operational namesake/flagship blog, bloggers have volunteered to associate themselves with the campaign. What's also notable is that this is happening at the state level. In '04 most blog activity was concentrated on the WH contest, but the rapid growth of the blogosphere has enabled parallel blogospheres (of varying size) in each state.

The rest of the article is worth reading, if only to get a sense of the direction the political blogosphere is heading. I'm convinced that blogs today will turn out to be as influential as the pamphleteers were in Revolutionary times, or the Muckrakers were during the Progressive era. Our goal should be to ensure that liberal blogs maintain an advantage as blogging makes the vital shift from words to deeds -- which, paralleling Howard Dean's 50-state DNC strategy, must include working hard to develop blogs as rallying points for boots-on-the-ground grassroots work on the state and local level.


A Simple Question

The Washington Post

Why do other columns on the Washington Post's website contain a Technorati-generated, random list of blogs discussing that column (for good or ill), while the Permalinks for Ben Domenech's Red America only list blogs that support his positions? (Example.) Does the Post intend for Red America to be a right-wing echo chamber, pneumatically sealed and isolated from other views?

Very truly yours,

Another Vichy? Please Help Decide

Following is a comment posted over at Unclaimed Territory that caught my eye:

"I believe we have problems here that will take major overhauls to fix. Obviously I prefer to see republicans tossed out this November, but it might be just as important to make sure the Democrats feel the pressure to respond properly to public input or be replaced by someone willing to do her/his job."

Anyone who wants to do *precisely* this very thing should support the congressional candidacy of Marcy Winograd.

Marcy is running a primary challenge against Jane Harman, in my own district: CA's 36th. The 36th, FWIW, is a safe Democratic seat (Kerry carried the district in '04: 60%-40%). I don't even know if the GOP is gonna bother to run a candidate this year (two years ago, the GOP offered only token opposition: a school teacher who paid for his entire candidacy out of his own pocket). For better or worse, the winner of this Democratic primary WILL be the winner of the congressional seat.

The seat's current inhabitant, Jane Harman, is one of the key Democratic supporters of the president's illegal warrantless eavesdropping program. She was one of the four Democratic members of Congress briefed years ago on the nature of the program, and who chose to remain silent. And when the program was finally exposed, Jane Harman voiced her outrage... not at the administration for engaging in this program, but at the NYT for daring to speak of it.

Marcy Winograd, by contrast, is an outspoken opponent of this program, and will immediately vote to halt warrantless spying on all Americans. She estimates that 19,000 Democratic votes on primary election day (June 6, IIRC) will carry the day over Harman. That's 19,000 votes from the progressive communities of Venice, Mar Vista, West LA, Torrance, etc. This can be done.

To join me and my family in volunteering your time, money and energy to the doable task of evicting Jane Harman from Congress, and replacing her with someone willing to provide, you know, Congressional oversight, please check out Marcy Winograd's campaign websites:

Patrick Meighan
Venice, CA

I'm never over-anxious to label a Democrat a Vichy; there are plenty of relatively conservative Dems who are good party members and aren't Bush enablers (and, unfortunately, relatively liberal Dems who hurt the party). But in primaries where there's a great challenger against a marginal or bad incumbent, I'm glad to take the challenger's side.

I could use help from my readers on this one; even if you're not from California, please research the candidates and let me know your thoughts. My questions are: is Harman bad? How bad? Is Winograd good? How good? Are the state party and/or DLCC trying too hard to affect the race, as in Ohio and Pennsylvania, or staying neutral, as in the Cuellar-Rodriguez contest in TX-28? If it's neutral, should it be? And most of all, should we take a stand?

If the consensus is that VichyDems should actively support Winograd over Harman, then we can help publicize the race, ask Winograd to post a guest blog, etc.

What to do?

Letters to Editor Tool

As readers who've been following the progress of the Roots Project know, writing letters to the editors of local papers is part of our "netroots to netboots" strategy. LTEs influence both newspapers' readers and (more than they like to admit) their editorial policies (the latter because papers that disagree too often with their readership tend to lose readers).

Whenever the Roots Project has opened a front in a new state, we've laboriously listed all the contact info for every significant paper in that state. That's still the best way, IMHO, because it generates more personal, individual letters than online tools do -- and the one thing all LTE editors are on guard against is institutional, cookie-cutter letters; they just won't print them.

But we don't have that info up for many states yet, so I'm glad to have an automated tool to fall back on, provided by MoveOn. Letter to the Editor Tool.

The goal: support Senator Russ Feingold's censure resolution, and encourage every senator to support it instead of vacillating.

The message: that it's not about spying, it's about warrantless spying. (Background here and here.)

It's God's own work, folks. Take the time to write a few, and please let me know back here if yours gets published, or if your paper prints a summary of "number of letters received" on this topic.

Actually, It's Not Funny

Sometimes, I post humorous stories about Democratic spinelessness, like this telling cartoon or this, from The Onion:

"We are entirely capable of bungling this opportunity to regain control of the House and Senate and the trust of the American people," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said to scattered applause. "It will take some doing, but we're in this for the long and pointless haul." "We can lose this," Reid added. "All it takes is a little lack of backbone." ***

Kennedy said that, even if the Democrats were to regain the upper hand in the midterm elections, they would still need to agree on a platform and chart a legislative agenda—an obstacle he called "insurmountable." "Universal health care, the war in Iraq, civil liberties, a living wage, gun control—we're not even close to a consensus within our own ranks," Kennedy said. "And even if we were, we wouldn't know how to implement that consensus." ***

[DNC Chair Howard Dean said]: "Over the last decade, we've found a reliably losing formula, and we're sticking with it." Dean reminded Democratic candidates to "stay on our unclear message, maintain a defensive, reactive posture, and keep an elitist distance from voters."

Funny. Really funny. And not funny at all. But you know what would make The Onion stop poking fun at Democratic infighting, lack of backbone, and continual return to a losing electoral formula? A party-line vote to censure the President.

Censure = Democratic panacea. Even if it doesn't get a majority. And I'm not joking.

Time to Replace Harry Reid as Minority Leader?

Filibuster a Supreme Court nominee who has placed his opposition to Roe v. Wade in writing, holds a radically broad concept of Presidential power at a time when that exact issue may be presenting a Constitutional crisis (or would, if we had an opposition party), and was evasive in his confirmation hearings? Nah: the (pro-life) Senate Minority Leader calls it a "conscience vote."

Filibuster the unconstitutionally overbroad Patriot Act that includes provisions which invade Americans' civil liberties without making them safer and makes the President's powers even broader? Nah: leave Feingold hanging out there with only a couple buddies for support.

Filibuster an immigration bill that's much more on conservatives' radar than liberals'? Hey, sure!

The man's loyalties and priorities both are misplaced. Boxer for Minority Leader.

Go Visit Firedoglake, Crooks & Liars, and Greenwald

But remember who brung ya!

Feingold good

Lieberman bad

Lieberman cracking

Personally visit your senators' offices to urge "yes" on censure. (Find out where they are here.)

Call, fax and email your senators' offices for the same good reason.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ben Domenech Watch: Infants Against Infanticide

Even as it addresses tragic events, Ben Domenech's Red America is shaping up to challenge Stephen Colbert in the "satiric wingnut comedy" category. Today's Example:

A group of British doctors fought in court for the right to remove a fully-conscious little boy from a ventilator, over the objections of his parents, because they judged his quality of life to not be worth living.

This case, Domenech says,

ought to serve as one of the ever-growing number of signs of the apocalypse (along with the popularity, of course, of Ryan Seacrest).

But there's a little recent history Domenech apparently wasn't aware of:

March 22, 2005: Sun Hudson, a six-month old Texas baby died last week when health care providers at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, Texas removed his life support system over the objections of his mother. The action was authorized under the 1999 Futile Care Law which was signed into law by then-Gov. George W. Bush.

Which tells us four things:

(1) Domenech doesn't know current affairs and doesn't bother to do research;

(2) He doesn't have the common sense to learn from his own mistakes. As a college journalist in 2001, he wrote "never trust a male cheerleader." It subsequently was pointed out to him that Bush used to be a male cheerleader, which should have taught him to pay more attention to those niggling historical details -- yet today he's made the same mistake again. (Here, Ben, this might help.)

(3) Domenech will never be a conservative nominee to the Supreme Court, since he's on record as paying attention to foreign law (sad to see such a young man limit his options that way); and

(4) As is the case with many Republican men with similar personal histories and overloud assertions of orthodoxy, Domenech appears to have a thing for Ryan Seacrest.

I'm going to go make popcorn now and see what else he comes up with.

Ben Domenech Watch: WaPo Commits Infanticide

Moved here.

Filthy Lucre

(Click cartoon to enlarge)
A perennial problem faced by political bloggers is the practical one of making a living: while many bloggers are doing important work, almost none make enough money at it to justify the time they invest. Many conservative bloggers are on the payroll of a party organization or foundation, but most liberal bloggers aren't, and struggle.

VichyDems is relatively new (started in January), and as a boutique blog (focusing primarily on Democratic Vichys, Republican Tories and swing-votes in Congress), gets only a few hundred hits on an average day. I spend several hours a day on the phone with politicians' offices, gleaning information from newspapers and other sites, and crafting posts, which tends to cut into the time I invest in my "real job." Saving the world simply doesn't pay as well as my family might wish. (I'm still waiting for my sidebar ad revenue to reach $100 so Google will send me a check -- which I've committed to contributing to our ActBlue candidates anyway!)

So I've decided to swallow my pride and, as many bloggers are starting to do, ask for contributions. I'm far from desperate or destitute, but even small gifts (especially if repeated monthly) do help more than people may realize. My "tip jar" is over on the right (the "Make A Donation" button); I'd be grateful for any help you can give.

Oh, and if you know any liberal millionaires looking for a blogger to support, shoot them a link, would you?

Russ Feingold On Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" Tonight

On Comedy Central. Hat-tip to Lee Nelson.

Update: video here at C&L.

It's The Warrants, Stupid.

Bill Glauber writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online:

Belle Plaine - Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold wants to make one thing perfectly clear - he's for wiretapping terrorists. He just wants it done legally.***

[W]hen Feingold made his case to censure the president, he received sustained applause from a crowd of nearly 100 people at the Belle Plaine Community Center in Shawano County.

"If you were on the phone with an al-Qaida person, I support your being wiretapped, all the time, for a long time," he told the audience. "We have laws already that allow the president to wiretap your line for 72 hours without a warrant. All he has to do is apply for that warrant. . . . The whole thing they're saying about how Senator Feingold doesn't want us to be able to wiretap. That's absolute nonsense. I support wiretapping every single person who is working with a terrorist. Just do it within the law. That's all we ask."

In an interview, Feingold said letters to his office were running 3 to 1 in favor of his censure position. He said "people are coming around," although only two Democratic senators have become co-sponsors of the resolution: Tom Harkin of Iowa and Barbara Boxer of California.

Hey!! The rest of you Democratic senators!! See how easy that is? Framing! Simple words! Catapaulting the propaganda!

Again: Feingold: I support wiretapping every single person who is working with a terrorist. Just do it within the law. That's all we ask.

Now if only I can remember where I've heard that before...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Scientific Proof: Republicans Really Are W.A.T.B.s*

We always knew it was true, and now there's proof, from a study in the Journal of Research Into Personality c/o the Washington Post:

"Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative," says the article. "At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals."

Delightfully, this gem comes from the Post's new far-right antidote to reality-based journalism, the 24-year-old Ben Domenech, who goes on to describe President Bush:

President Bush is just a real-life version of Dr. Strangelove's General Jack D. Ripper - blustering, impotent and murmuring about conspiracies to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids, just another spineless conservative wussyboy who has to prove he's a big brave man in cowboy boots.

OK, sure, Domenech is trying to parody liberal academics -- but, in the end, all he does is (a) confirm that the academics are probably correct about conservatives in general and Bush in particular; (b) give us some delicious new ways of describing Bush that we can now attribute to Domenech, deflecting any accusations that we're stooping too low in our rhetoric, and (c) personally acting in a way that suggests that he, Domenech, was a whiny kid in nursery school who always thought everyone was out to get him and was always running to the teacher with complaints. You know, like whiny complaints in major newspapers that the "teachers" are out to get conservatives like him.

I didn't have high hopes for Domenech, but I'm starting to think he may be fun to have around -- sort of an Alan Colmes for the left, only not as smart or assertive (/snark). We can only hope he consistently delivers this level of quality journamalism.

(* WATB= liberal blogspeak for "Whiny Ass Titty Babies" and used to describe those Republicans who, despite their current dominance of all branches of government, news media, and business, still complain of persecution and blame liberals (e.g. "the liberal media") for all their perceived problems. I think it originated on Eschaton.)

Update, March 22: Making Domenech look even more ridiculous (and transparent): while the rest of the Washington Post uses a Technorati link to highlight the main blogs discussing a given article without screening them for content, Domenech's new column only shows supportive, conservative blogs -- the right-wing echo chamber building a hermetically-sealed little cubbyhole and pretending it's really in a major newspaper. Ben? If you possess that fabled Republican courage, you'd let the web guys set up the normal Technorati link and let the chips fall where they may. It'd be a nice cross-reference to the reality-based community, and lot more fun for the rest of us, too.

Even funnier is Domenech's later post, A Comment About Comments. Why doesn't RedAmerica have comments? Because he's afraid we'd say nasty things, and he might get trolled. Unlike, say, every single liberal blogger who's ever had to deal with the scroll monster and other conservative basement-dwellers.

Update, March 23: The fun never ends. Domenech's latest Colbert-style satire of a right-wing columnist is discussed here.

Red America is just getting richer and richer. I may even blogroll it.

Swing Voters Aren't Necessarily Centrist Voters

In today's Washington Post, Mark Penn writes:

[W]hile the base is critical, it's not the whole picture. Behind all the rhetoric, the reality is that swing is still king. The two or three or 10 voters who are the quietest in focus groups, who never demonstrate and who belong to no political party, will be the ones who determine the political course of America.

Swing Is Still King. Of course, swing voters are critical to winning elections. But Penn's article could inadvertantly mislead people, too, in two ways. First, the Democratic base is not as reliable as it used to be. Ralph Nader's "spoiler" role in 2000 showed that some portion of Democratic voters can be siphoned off, with huge repercussions. And the base today is especially restive, unhappy with the leadership, and prone to defection. Democratic politicians who take the base for granted in 2006, and especially in 2008 when Bush will be out of the picture anyway, are making a grave error. Just as Republicans did in the 1960s and 1990s when they played to their conservative base, Democrats would be wise to pay attention to their liberal base today, or risk losing their energy, their money, and even their votes. As Penn writes, it's possible to appeal to both the base and the center, but when a choice must be made, a wise Democrat today will think hard before veering right.

Second, swing voters are not necessarily centrist voters. That's the main problem with the Democratic Leadership Council's calculus, and the reason why Democrats have lost control of Congress under the DLC's centrist reign of power: calculatingly centrist policies may appeal to people's minds, but can lose their hearts. Swing voters are looking for politicians they can believe in. For example, most of them are pro-choice, but they will vote for anti-choice Republicans. Why? Because at least those Republicans stand for something, and swing voters respect that. The best strategy for a Democrat courting the swing vote is to articulate different ideas, and show courage and clarity in promoting them. Whether swing voters agree with those particular ideas or not, they will nevertheless respect their proponent. And -- and I know this is a foreign idea to the current crop of Democrats -- it actually is possible, through force of conviction and clear, powerful rhetoric, to change people's minds. People who don't think the NSA surveillance program is a problem can be educated and convinced that it is. People who don't think that Democrats are strong on national security can be convinced that they are. But to bring people to our way of thinking, we need to be unabashed about saying what that is.

I'll end with something I've said before but that bears repeating until the Democratic leadership actually hears it:

The Republicans won complete control of government not by running to the center, but by running to the right and persuading the media and the American public to shift right with them. They don’t tolerate defections from the party line; they stick to centrally-distributed talking points and abide by rigid party discipline enforced by a man nicknamed “The Hammer.” They don’t fall silent when discourse turns discordant; they trot out the Big Lie and repeat it so often that it becomes Truth in the same way that big mountains create their own weather. They won by doing the exact opposite of what the DLC crowd preaches we need to do to win.

It’s as if the Democratic leadership doesn’t understand how mirrors work: the key to Republican success wasn’t in the fact that they ran to the right (and that we similarly must shift right if we want to win); it’s in the fact that they ran AWAY from the center -- became more extreme -- and in doing so earned both the support of their base and the trust of centrist voters, who respect people who can articulate and adhere to principles even if they don’t agree with all of them. Copying the Republican formula for success doesn’t mean becoming more conservative
[or, I hasten to add, more dishonest], it means becoming more liberal and being proud of it. Articulating, and expecting some reasonable degree of adherence to, a unifying party platform is a good way to articulate principles and win elections, and if that means tossing one or two enablers like Lieberman overboard, good riddance; they're dead weight anyway.

But in addition to the above response, which I believe is true, I have a second reaction to the concern that attacking Vichy Democrats will cost us a potential majority: that until our “leaders” start listening to their constituents and acting like Democrats again, they (and we) don’t deserve to be in power. Until we have our act together and are prepared to govern in a coherent, articulate, unified way, we should stay the hell out of it.

Our nation is facing tremendous problems; only a drastic change in course can possibly reverse them. If we Democrats are not prepared to change America's course, however, then it’s better for the inexorable collapse to occur on the Republicans’ watch than on ours. My preferences, in this order, are: (1) a dialed-in, unified, energized, liberal Democratic Party in power, correcting American's course and restoring her fortunes; (2) a faltering, dissipating, weakening Republican Party in power, living or dying with the consequences of their past actions while real Democrats continue to rebuild our party in the wings; and (3) a faltering, dissipated, weak Democratic Party in power, demonstrating once again to voters that we aren’t ready for prime time and possibly being blamed for a nationwide economic, military and social collapse created by the Republicans but foisted on us.

A lot of intelligent, energetic grassroots activists are working to make sure that (1) above comes true. Most of the Democrats in Congress are working hard to see that (3) above comes true, even though they're too struck with Beltway Blindness to realize that's what they're doing. If they don’t catch a clue and start working with us, (2) above is going to occur again in November, and then either (2) or (3) will occur in 2008. And that’s simply not good enough. Democrats deserve better. America deserves better.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Hoist the Damned Sail!

This might be the most important story of 2006. And 2008. If the Democrats will hoist a sail:

Read what Cokie Roberts said (h/t Digby) about the Senate Democrats and why they've been stalling on censure, and what Digby says about that. Read FireDogLake, and Crooks and Liars, and always, always read Glenn Greenwald, and then understand a lot of things that have kept you up nights, and take a little piece of hope with you to bed tonight.

Our leaders are, as I have said and said again, waiting for a parade to run out in front of so they could claim to be leading it. Or, in Jack Reed's metaphor, they've been waiting to see whether there's enough wind to justify them hoisting a sail. Cokie Roberts, quoted in Digby, above:

Jack Reed of Rhode Island said to me this week-end "we have a strong wind at our back and all we have to do is get a sail up, any sail, some sail" but they haven't managed to do that yet. They were interested to see how Senator Russ Feingold's call for censure worked with the blogosphere, mainly, and also in polls.

Which is fine. Really: it's great! I don't care how they get there. I don't care that they waited. I don't care whether they're in front, behind, or right beside us, just so long as the Democrats in Congress finally leave the safety of the harbor and start sailing in the right direction, where the rest of us have been pointing all along.

Regular people (not just bloggers) have been lobbying their senators (contact list) to do the right thing. And, of course, bloggers have been pressing the issue: I've been screaming my head off, and so have others. I've posted on censure and Democratic cowardice and the fatal nearsightedness of political triangulation here and here and here and especially here, and here and here and here, and that's just in the past week or so. And, thanks to the miracle of SiteMeter, I know for a fact that what I've been saying has been read by at least a few influential people, from the anonymous people whose ISP is the "U.S. Senate Sergeant-At-Arms" to Jonathan Alter of Newsweek. I don't say that to brag, but to support the suggestion that the powerful have been watching the bloggers like a sailor watches his telltales, to get a sense of which way the wind is blowing.

And if what I've been saying, and what everyone else on the leading edge of the censure issue has been saying, from Jane Hamsher to John Amato to ReddHedd to Bob Fertik and the other good people at to Greenwald, finally convinces the Senate Democrats to hoist even a scrap of sail and get moving, then they'd better have one hand for themselves and one hand for the boat, because it's going to heel over and the water's going to start racing along the hull and we're going to be at hull speed, and planing above hull speed, faster than anyone's seen since Watergate finally caught the public's attention. The ship of state is going to be moving fast, if the Senate Democrats are ready to hoist a sail.

We're going to be moving fast because there is a gale-force wind, not just here in the blogosphere but in the letters to the editor pages of every paper and in the streets and coffeehouses and bars, and in the smalltalk among parents at the school choir recitals and soccer practices I've been to just in the last few days, and in the basement of my church just yesterday, and everydamnedwhere that regular Americans gather and talk. There is such a populist wind in favor of honesty, in favor of the rule of law, in favor of courage and sanity and against triangulation and cowardice, that any scrap of sail the Democrats can muster the courage to hoist will sail the President finally into a position of humility -- not humiliation, just humility -- before the Constitution and the People, and incidentally -- just incidentally! It's not our goal! -- may sail the Democratic Party into a majority of both houses of Congress, and then into the White House, where I hope and pray they prove themselves worthy of it.

It's populism and freedom and the rule of law and democracy, and it is that great a wind. If only the Democrats in Congress will dare to hoist the sail.


Glenn Greenwald on Warren Olney's Radio Show

Our friend Glenn Greenwald did a great job today on Warren Olney's radio show, "To the Point." (Former Angelenos may remember Olney from his post-Rodney-King-riots show, "Which Way L.A.") Even on an all-star panel including former Nixon White House counsel John Dean (a good guy!), Matthew Iglesias from The American Prospect, and Ramesh Ponnuru from the National Review, Glenn stood out as both the most expert and as a mature Constitutionalist (especially compared to Ponnuru, who came across as a partisan whiner who made ad hominem arguments and kept shifting the discussion from censure to impeachment then arguing that impeachment was too extreme).

It's worthwhile listening (and not too long): RealMedia.

Ford Unveils New S.U.V.: The Ford Occupation

I don't always obsess on politics. Sometimes, being a normal American male, I obsess about cars, especially SUVs.

Watching the progress from Escape to Explorer to Expedition to Excursion, I've long advocated that Ford skip the obvious next steps -- the Incursion and Invasion -- and build a new S.U.V. called the Occupation -- a vehicle so large that it comes with its own hybrid so people can drive around inside it (what if the kids spill their milk in the back seat?). The Ford Occupation gets infinite gas mileage because wherever you're going, it's already there. And it would bring new meaning to conservative suggestions that we "turn Iran into a parking lot."

It's Nothing Personal

Of the Iraq war, putzdit Howie asdfghj has this to say in today's Washington Post:

For some liberal pundits, it's payback time. For some conservative commentators, it's time for uncomfortable explanations. For the rest of us, it's the best show in town.

And this:

But this is no high-minded debate about military strategy and ancient religious hatreds. It is an old-fashioned smackdown by those who detest George W. Bush against those who once defended him. (Link)

News, Howie: it's not always personal. For instance, the serious debate over the war has nothing to do with loving Bush or hating him, except for some immature people inside the Beltway (including, frankly, you). The debate over the war has to do with the debate over the God-damned war: brave Americans coming home crippled, families torn apart, a nation devastated, our strength played out to the point that we have few options for confronting Iraq. Stuff like that.

Nor, for that matter, is the Feingold censure resolution about Bush, or Feingold, except for some imature people inside the Beltway (including, frankly, you). It's about checks and balances, respect for the Constitution, effectively fighting the war on terrorists instead of diluting it, reinforcing that we are a nation of laws. Stuff like that. What it's NOT about is a man who was always just a front-man for larger forces anyway and who cannot run again anyway, or a man who is being undercut at every turn by larger forces and is going to run anyway but not until two years from now.

History is not a proxy for the personal egos of Beltway insiders. It's the thing, itself. And the way to assess historical events is from that perspective, not from the perspective of a Washington gossip columnist.

So, Howie, and the rest of you pundits and "journalists" who are squandering your platforms while wondering why people don't read newspapers anymore: pay a little attention to the grand sweep of things. Set the election-year cynicism aside, especially since it's not even an election year yet. Yes, personal politics influence politicans' decisions, but that's not the measure of their positions' worth. When politicians argue over a divisive war, focus on the merits or demerits of their arguments, not on the little pissing contests and turf wars that may partly underlie them. When Bush breaks the law, focus on the law, not on Bush. When Feingold moves to censure the President, focus on censure, not on Feingold. You're writing the First Draft of History, Right?

So start writing that for a change.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Presidential Politics Be Damned: Democratic Senators Should Simply Do the Right Thing re: Censure

To understand national politics in the runup to a Presidential election -- which, unfortunately, has already started -- one must know who's running, where the alliances and allegiances are, and who's tacking which direction and why. In such times, politicians tend to overthink: for example, every Senator who's not immediately supporting Russ Feingold's resolution to censure the President is overthinking a fundamentally simple question, to-wit: when the President admits breaking a serious law, is it too much to ask that the opposition party unanimously and formally register its displeasure?

But electoral politics do interfere. Hillary Clinton already is running hard, trying to accumulate both money (she didn't REALLY travel to Oregon to raise money for her Senate race, did she?) and information (which, as her husband kept reiterating, is the new currency of power) for her 2008 bid. What's more, she's trying to corner those markets: asking contributors not to make contributions to any other Democrats, cutting the national party out of the data game, and positioning her lackey, Rahm Emanuel, to reclaim a tenuous Democratic Congressional majority in a way that will make the entire caucus beholden to the Clintons, their allies and the DLC rather than the DNC.

The front line at present, of course, is Russ Feingold's resolution to censure the President for what he admits is an intentional, ongoing breach of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. As I said above, this should be a no-brainer -- but then, this (threee years out) is an "election year", so everyone acts as if they have no brains. Mark Dayton (D-MN) announces he thinks the President has broken the law and should be reined in but won't vote to censure him because he doesn't want to play "Presidential politics," thereby revealing how eager he is to play presidential politics. Marshall Wittman, a Republican (yes, you read that right!) senior staffer at the Democratic Leadership Conference who used to work in the Bush 41 White House and was a Republican Congressional aide before that, displays his (understandable) disinterest in the overall good of the Democratic party and his willingness to undercut anyone who isn't Hillary by handing Republicans a two-fer, slamming Feingold and sneaking a gratuitous shot at John Kerry into the soundbite as well: he called the censure resolution "the equivalent of calling for a filibuster from Davos." Link. (John Kerry called for a filibuster of Samuel Alito at a conference in Washington, D.C., but announced it to the press while attending an economic summit in Davos, Switzerland -- a working trip that Republicans, and apparently the pro-Clinton DLC as well, knowingly misrepresent as a hoity-toity ski trip.)(I keep scratching my head: can anyone still believe the Democratic Leadership Council and its favorite, Hillary Clinton, are in any way affiliated with the Democratic Party, when the DLC not only hires an unreformed Republican like Wittman, but doesn't fire him the day after he makes a statement like that?)

But back to the point, which is that for many senators, the game now, two and a half years before the next Presidential election, is not governance. It's not even partisan politics. It's already dog-eat-dog, individual, Presidential electoral politics, a slow but deliberate jockeying for position long before the sprint, like short-track speed-skaters. And that premature and self-interested triangulation is interfering with the real work we've sent our representatives to D.C. to do -- like protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Mark Leibovich published a good "players roster" of Senatorial Presidential contenders in Sunday's Washington Post; it's a must-bookmark for anyone who wants to understand what's really happening beneath the surface of Washington politics, even with 2008 seemingly so far away. Leibovich explains how jealousy makes senators afraid to support each other, and how even good-faith efforts to lead can get miscast or misinterpreted as election-cycle jockeying for position:

Of course, it's also common for senators to use their colleagues' interest in the White House as a weapon to impugn their motives. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was asked not long ago about something Brownback had said about Bush's judicial nominations. "Eh, I'm not running for president," Reid said, "so I have a very different constituency than Brownback does."

People who have served in the Senate say members are often uneasy with outward expressions of ambition -- particularly the ambitions of their colleagues. It's human nature for a senator to ask, "Who does that guy think he is?" says former senator Gary Hart, who ran for president in 1984 and 1988. He says he detected resentment and jealousy from other senators, especially during the heady days of his 1984 campaign after he stunned frontrunner Walter Mondale in the New Hampshire primary.

"They were angry at themselves for not running while I did," Hart says.

Those Senators who are already taking sides for the 2008 elections are falling prey to this syndrome in the embarrassingly cowardly way they are responding to Feingold's censure motion: they know Feingold is eying a Presidential bid in 2008, so they interpret his censure resolution as an electoral tactic, not as a serious effort to focus public attention on Presidential misconduct. Such black-and-white thinking is a mistake. Feingold's action was both the right thing to do, and the right thing to do politically; the one isn't cancelled out by the other. Wise Democrats would see this and support censure even if it benefits Feingold politically, because reining in an arrogant, unrestrained, mendacious president is more important than any individual candidate's fortunes two and a half years from now. In any case, a rising electoral tide floats all boats. A unanimous Democratic vote for censure would advance the interests of ALL Democrats: the 1/3 who are up for reelection this year, the 2/3 who would profit by regaining the majority, and all of the Presidential contenders. And a split-party vote, with censure not just losing but going down in flames with significant Democratic defections, would hurt all Democrats -- not just Feingold but all the rest.

Mature leaders should be able to separate politics from governance and do the right thing. If mature leadership is still in the Democrats' toolkit these days, dusty and in need of oil but still functional, then I would respectfully suggest that demonstrating that it is might persuade a few voters to pull the "D" lever next November. Which would be good for everyone.