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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Saturday, 11 November 2006
Quotes Regarding Elections
Topic: Election Notes
Quotes Regarding Elections
Just for the fun of it -

RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections. The rabble is like the sacred Simurgh, of Arabian fable - omnipotent on condition that it do nothing. - Ambrose Bierce

"Our elections are free - it's in the results where eventually we pay." - Bill Stern

"Democracy is a form of government that substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few." - George Bernard Shaw

"An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry." - George Eliot

"Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates." - Gore Vidal

"Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." - H. L. Mencken

"In our brief national history we have shot four of our presidents, worried five of them to death, impeached one and hounded another out of office. And when all else fails, we hold an election and assassinate their character." - P. J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores

"Win or lose, we go shopping after the election." - Imelda Marcos

"You will expect me to discuss the late election. Well, as nearly as I can learn, we did not have enough votes on our side." - Herbert Hoover

"The unconscious democracy of America is a very fine thing. It is a true and deep and instinctive assumption of the equality of citizens, which even voting and elections have not destroyed." - G. K. Chesterton

"Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hard-working, honest Americans. It's the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them." - Lily Tomlin

"The Roman government gave them bread and circuses. Today we give them bread and elections." - Will Durant

"A politician should have three hats. One for throwing into the ring, one for talking through, and one for pulling rabbits out of if elected." - Carl Sandburg

"The best argument against democracy is a five minute talk with the average voter." - Winston Churchill

"Votes are like trees, if you are trying to build a forest. If you have more trees than you have forests, then at that point the pollsters will probably say you will win." - Dan Quayle

"Vote for the man who promises least. He'll be the least disappointing." - Bernard Baruch

"If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side." - Orson Scott Card

"The voters have spoken - the bastards!" - Morris

"Those that know how to win are much more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories." - Polybius

"The sun don't shine on the same dog's ass all the time." - Jim "Catfish" Hunter

"If you can keep your head about you when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation." - Jean Kerr

"When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less." - Paul Brown

"Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war, because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans." - Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North, Patton, 1970

Posted by Alan at 14:12 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Friday, 10 November 2006
Gloating and Recriminations - Agenda-Driven Hysterical Harrumphing
Topic: Election Notes
Gloating and Recriminations - Agenda-Driven Hysterical Harrumphing
After the midterm elections, where, in the end, after a few days of counting the votes again at few locations, it does seem the nation chose to say, "Stop, let's rethink all this." A good number of those claiming there was nothing to rethink lost their seats in Congress. For the first time in twelve years the opposition party will have control of both houses - one third of the government, with the power to approve or deny funding for anything the government does, subpoena power to investigate anything the executive branch does, and the power to change laws enacted or to enact new laws the executive branch must follow, even if the executive branch has for the last few years has maintained that's "old thinking" and in the dangerous world in which we now live the president has the right, if not the duty, to ignore the law for whatever he decides is the greater good at the moment. And at the highest level of the judicial branch, the Supreme Court, all that will be straightened out? Well, that's the system - two hundred thirty years old and still working, to some extent.

Things certainly had been simpler for the preceding six years - with one party in control of two of the three branches, and appointing compliant judges to the third branch at will. All the whining that things needed rethinking was mocked, and the media pretty much joined in. Everyone seemed to enjoy the bully winners laughing at the hapless losers who wanted "to think about things" - much like the amusement in seeing a masterful football team roll over some comic and bumbling last place team, ruining up the score with that eleventh touchdown and doing the funky victory dance in the end zone again and again. There's a certain pleasure in watching masterful professionals at work, doing what the want at will. It's heady stuff.

Some people, on the other hand, equally enjoy seeing the hapless underdogs rise to the occasion and unexpectedly win - the '69 Mets winning it all, or Rutgers beating Louisville two days after these elections. It's that satisfying "fall of the mighty" thing. And most people like to think of themselves as the underdog who will one day win it all - even rich and successful folks. Everyone has some sort of chip on his or her shoulder, however subtly hidden.

So the underdogs won control of Congress and the mighty will get their comeuppance, or something.

But it wasn't all good. It came with baggage -
A new recording Friday attributed to the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq mocked President Bush as a coward whose conduct of the war was rejected at the polls, challenging him to keep U.S. troops in the country to face more bloodshed.

"We haven't had enough of your blood yet," taunted terror chieftain Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, identified as the speaker on the tape.

He gloated over Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation, claimed to have 12,000 fighters under his command who "have vowed to die for God's sake," and said his fighters will not rest until they blow up the White House and occupy Jerusalem.

Yeah, yeah - that was predictable. Comment on right was generally - "See, Bush was right, the Democrats and al Qaeda are the same thing, out to kill us all."

It was nonsense, but also predictable.

The Associated Press item in this case notes that was just what Abu Hamza al-Muhajir had in mind -

The audio message appeared to be an attempt to exact maximum propaganda benefit from the results of Tuesday's midterm elections, in which the Republicans lost control of both houses of Congress, in part because of the war.

Al-Muhajir praised the American people for handing victory to the Democrats, saying: "They voted for something reasonable in the last elections."

He also said Bush was "the most stupid president" in U.S. history.

"We call on the lame duck not to hurry his escape the way the defense secretary did," al-Muhajir said in reference to Rumsfeld's resignation as Pentagon chief on Wednesday. "Remain steadfast on the battlefield, you coward," said al-Muhajir, who took over leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June. "We will not rest from our jihad (holy war) until we are under the olive trees of Rumieh and we have blown up the filthiest house - which is called the White House," al-Muhajir said.
Blowing up the White House is not, of course, what the Democrats have in mind. They'd like one of their folks to move in there in January, 2009. Abu Hamza al-Muhajir is not thinking things through.

But the president and his national security team will meet Monday with members of that "blue-ribbon" commission trying to devise a new course for this unpopular (now a matter of record) war - and that would be the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State Baker and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton. No gloating will be involved. This is all about rethinking things.

But at the end of "election week" there were still those resisting any of that rethinking stuff. Over at Andrew Sullivan's Time Magazine site there was an extended discussion of what Rush Limbaugh had been saying (see the footnote to The Day After - Fallout). Limbaugh pretty much admitted he had lied and been saying that the Republicans were great, when he knew they were corrupt incompetents, but the threat that any Democrat would win any seat gave him no choice. Democrats in power would destroy the nation and happily let the Islamic fanatics rule the world - and you just could have that. Hugh Hewitt had been saying much the same on his radio show and at his website. The idea that the Democrats want al Qaeda to take over the world and end what we know as the United States after two hundred thirty years seems to be a given on that side, even if the voters, in the end, just weren't buying that view.

That view of those who want to rethink things does seem cartoon-like and childish, and Sullivan concludes with this -
There comes a point at which an adult conservative should be eager to see the Democrats come to the center, if only to avoid the hubris and corruption that always stems from one-party rule, whichever party it is. I think the explanation for the intellectual dishonesty was that an entire industry was built around demonizing the left; and that this demonization became all conservatives were about. There was so much money in it; and it was so easy to demonize liberals that that's all they ended up doing.

The Republicans had become so enthralled by what they were against that they had forgotten what they were supposed to be for. So they came off as negative, mean-spirited and cruel. Hence the solid American center moving back to the Dems. The result, however, is in many ways a good conservative one. Many more conservative Democrats are now in Congress than before. We have a chance to move in a realistic way in Iraq, now that the loonies have been removed from the Pentagon (Cambone has just been given his papers, I hear). And we may get a sensible compromise on immigration. Bush has a real opportunity to rescue his presidency. For the sake of the country, I hope he succeeds.
Yeah, but Limbaugh and his crowd rely to that, usually, by reminding everyone that Sullivan is a fag - a homosexual man engaged to his "partner." Are you going to listen to what he says? Don't you read you Bible?

The problem is that line of thinking (to use the term quite generously) seems to has lost its power. Consider this from Republican Chairman Steve Salem from Woodbury County, Iowa, of all places -
You've heard of IslamaFascists - I think we now have Christian fascists. What is the definition of a fascist? Not only do they want to beat you, but they want to destroy you in the process... if things keep going the way things are going locally and statewide, it is going to be more and more difficult for Republicans to recruit candidates. We have elements of the party who are moral absolutists, who take the approach that if you don't take my position every step of the way, not only will I not support you, but I will destroy you.
That's odd. The Republican Party in Iowa wants to run candidates who listen and think things through?

You'd think Iowa is suddenly New York City, where Paul Krugman says pretty much the same thing in that newspaper Rush and that crowd revile, the New York Times -
… we may be seeing the downfall of movement conservatism - the potent alliance of wealthy individuals, corporate interests and the religious right that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s. This alliance may once have had something to do with ideas, but it has become mainly a corrupt political machine, and America will be a better place if that machine breaks down.

Why do I want to see movement conservatism crushed? Partly because the movement is fundamentally undemocratic; its leaders don't accept the legitimacy of opposition. Democrats will only become acceptable, declared Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, once they "are comfortable in their minority status." He added, "Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate."

And the determination of the movement to hold on to power at any cost has poisoned our political culture. Just think about the campaign that just ended, with its coded racism, deceptive robo-calls, personal smears, homeless men bused in to hand out deceptive fliers, and more. Not to mention the constant implication that anyone who questions the Bush administration or its policies is very nearly a traitor.

When movement conservatism took it over, the Republican Party ceased to be the party of Dwight Eisenhower and became the party of Karl Rove. The good news is that Karl Rove and the political tendency he represents may both have just self-destructed.

Two years ago, people were talking about permanent right-wing dominance of American politics. But since then the American people have gotten a clearer sense of what rule by movement conservatives means. They've seen the movement take us into an unnecessary war, and botch every aspect of that war. They've seen a great American city left to drown; they've seen corruption reach deep into our political process; they've seen the hypocrisy of those who lecture us on morality.

And they just said no.
And they seem to have said no even in Iowa.

And even in the UK folks get it. There's Martin Kettle in The Guardian with this -
The Democrats did not just win among the usual groups such as the poor, women and black people. This time they won among the middle class too, among small-town voters, among every age group and - crucially and emphatically - among independents and moderates. Even where the Democrats lost they polled significantly, taking 45% in the south, 28% of white evangelical Christians, 20% of conservatives and 15% of people who voted for Bush in 2004. These strong showings among unlikely groups help explain why Democrats won congressional seats in so many "red" states this week and why the win that finally gave them control of the senate came from the near south.

No one can say if this is an epochal hit or one from which the Republicans will bounce back in 2008. But the implications of the 2006 crash are fascinating. This is not the creation of a new majority… but a lot of space has nevertheless opened up in which the Democrats could do even better in future. Clearly such optimism has to be highly contingent. Only a fool would overstate it. Karl Rove has not become incompetent overnight. But this week defies the argument in influential recent books that America is a conclusively conservative country.

It will take time for this to sink in among conservative Republicans. This election has been a major blow to their self-image and world-view. Like the Thatcherites, they got used to assuming that they were always right and would always be victorious. On Tuesday the voters told them they were wrong. It has taken many false starts for the Conservative party to get back in the game in Britain. Something similar could happen to the suddenly weakened Republicans. But there's nothing they like more than a fight.
He's right about that last part.

And he notes the implications of it all - it's a reminder to the rest of the world that the problem is not America but this American administration - "Foreigners have had the useful reminder that Americans are not nuts." In fact, Americans seem to have actually become multilateralist in foreign policy for the first time - fifty-eight percent agreeing that America's security "depends on building strong ties with other nations" compared with thirty-four who think it depends "on its own military strength." What's up with that, Rush?

And the quite conservative former diplomat Greg Djerejian, with Rumsfeld gone now too and that Gates dude taking his place, is actually feeling relief -
Regardless, what we saw [Tuesday] was American democracy at its finest. We saw the public mount a critically needed intervention, because without it a President well beyond his depth would have likely continued to cast his lot with discredited cocksure ideologues and/or Jacksonian nationalists like Rumsfeld.

In Gates, we have an anti-ideologue and a realist. In his role with the Baker-Hamilton commission (a welcome dose of bipartisan sanity in an increasingly moronic Washington, media and blogosphere), he will have had access and been influenced by distinguished peers grappling with what to do next in Iraq in a climate characterized by sober appraisal of the national interest, rather than the agenda-driven hysterical harrumphing afoot in all the usual quarters.
Now that's a nice turn of phase - agenda-driven hysterical harrumphing. Agenda-driven hysterical harrumphing has made Rush Limbaugh a very rich man.

Sullivan is gleeful -
What we are seeing is an almost Shakespearean drama in which the wayward son is forced back to the advisers of the father he once rejected. Two words: Poppy's back! His arch-nemesis, Rumsfeld, is gone. Two of Poppy's closest allies and friends are now trying to figure a path out of the hole Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld dug. So the Bush presidency is back! The other Bush presidency. The one that, in retrospect, seems sane and wise.
Yes, Andrew, but that's only by contrast. The father was goofy and dangerous in his own way - and stuck with completely at sea Dan Quayle until the very end, for goodness sakes. But just goofy would be a relief these days. (It is odd that William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and the main spokesman, "deep thinker" and cheerleader for the neoconservatives, was Dan Quayle's press secretary - but that sort of makes sense now.)

Things are getting back, though, to something like sensible. The problem is that in cutting Rumsfeld loose other problems just had to come up. He's not in office, and no longer a government official, and as Pinochet and Milosevic discovered, there a bit of exposure now -
A lawyer for the families of Saudis in the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay hailed the resignation of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and said he "reserved the right" to sue him over alleged abuses there.

Kateb al-Shammari said in a statement that Rumsfeld's departure after the Republicans' drubbing in mid-term congressional elections was a "positive step" for the detainees, since he was "primarily responsible" for the abuses there. Rumsfeld was also a main advocate of keeping Guantanamo "outside international and US law," and he sanctioned the use of torture under the euphemism of "interrogation techniques," Shammari charged.

"In my capacity as a lawyer in this affair and agent for most of the families of Saudi detainees in Guantanamo, I reserve the right to file a lawsuit against Rumsfeld and the other (officials) responsible for the abuses committed against the detainees, and for their continued detention without legal justification," the lawyer added.
Yep, we had ninety Saudis at Guantanamo, repatriated thirty-seven, and sent them the bodies of the two who, in an act of asymmetrical warfare against us, as we said, managed to commit suicide. And a lawyers' group representing Guantanamo prisoners said in Washington that Rumsfeld's resignation on Wednesday leaves him open to legal action over his alleged role in "authorizing torture" of people held in our worldwide war or terror - he's open game now. We have denied authorizing torture down there, but Rumsfeld has angrily defended the use of "robust interrogation techniques" to find out what we could find out. Now he's in trouble. It will all be in what you call what was done, as what was done was done.

And it gets worse, in Germany, with this -
Just days after his resignation, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called "20th hijacker" and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a "special interrogation plan," personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that one of the witnesses who will testify on their behalf is former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq. Karpinski - who the lawyers say will be in Germany next week to publicly address her accusations in the case - has issued a written statement to accompany the legal filing, which says, in part: "It was clear the knowledge and responsibility [for what happened at Abu Ghraib] goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld."
And others are named - Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, former assistant attorney general Jay Bybee, former deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo, General Counsel for the Department of Defense William James Haynes II; and David S. Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. And there are military - General Ricardo Sanchez, the former top Army official in Iraq, General Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of Guantanamo, senior Iraq commander, Major General Walter Wojdakowski, and Col. Thomas Pappas, the one-time head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib.

Guys - don't leave the government. Germany was chosen for all this because German law provides "universal jurisdiction" - allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world.

But being in the government doesn't seem to matter -
Indeed, a similar, but narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004, which also sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld. The case provoked an angry response from Pentagon, and Rumsfeld himself was reportedly upset. Rumsfeld's spokesman at the time, Lawrence DiRita, called the case "a big, big problem." U.S. officials made clear the case could adversely impact U.S.-Germany relations, and Rumsfeld indicated he would not attend a major security conference in Munich, where he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, unless Germany disposed of the case. The day before the conference, a German prosecutor announced he would not pursue the matter, saying there was no indication that U.S. authorities and courts would not deal with allegations in the complaint.
Right - US law could handle the problem. But now, things have changed. Rumsfeld's resignation means that he will lose the legal immunity "usually accorded" high government officials.

And they're also arguing that the previous German prosecutor's reasoning for rejecting the prior case - that we can deal with that stuff - had been proven wrong. We don't do jack about such stuff, obviously.

And this administration has long said we will not adhere to the International Criminal Court (ICC) - such things are just a way for envious people to make trouble for us, because we're so powerful - so Washington is laughing. It's all very odd.

It's as if the election results uncorked a lot of things. Back in 2005 Italy issued arrest warrants for thirteen CIA agents (see this) - they said we kidnapped people we had decided might be radical Muslims off the streets of Rome or Milan or wherever and had flown them on "Ghost Air" to secret prisons in countries that practice torture. The Italians didn't think much of that. But that story disappeared.

Now, two days after the elections here, there's this news item - one of those guys the Italians say we kidnapped and flew to Egypt for "enhanced interrogation was Abu Omar, also known as Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. There seems to be a handwritten account of it, from him, smuggled out of the Egyptian prison where her was being held. It made its way to Italian prosecutors. And it was leaked to the press -
In his letter, Nasr described how his health had badly deteriorated. He had lost hearing in one ear from repeated beatings, he said, and his formerly pitch-black hair had turned all white. He said he was kept in a cell with no toilet and no lights, where "roaches and rats walked across my body."

He also gave a graphic account of Egyptian interrogation practices, including how he would be strapped to an iron rack nicknamed "the Bride" and zapped with electric stun guns.

On other occasions, he wrote, he was tied to a wet mattress on the floor. While one interrogator sat on a wooden chair perched on the prisoner's shoulders, another interrogator would flip a switch, sending jolts of electricity into the mattress coils.
And there's this -
Court papers allege that the kidnapping was orchestrated by the CIA's station chief in Rome and involved at least two dozen CIA operatives, most of whom arrived in Italy months before to lay the groundwork. Italian judges have issued arrest warrants for the CIA officers and have pledged to try them in absentia if necessary.

The U.S. has refused to confirm or deny the allegations.
The Democrats win an election and all sorts of things happen.

It may be time for some major CYA, as Michael Wolff discusses in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. That issue is getting a lot of buzz as it has the item where all the neoconservative bigwigs explain what went wrong with Iraq (the change-the-world theory was fine but the Bush folks were idiots). Michael Wolff offers Survivor: The White House Edition, must about Woodward's latest book, but more about where things are heading -
Bush fires Cheney and names McCain as the replacement V.P. - although it is not yet entirely clear to me who tells Bush to fire Cheney, if not Cheney. The war in Iraq, except for the shooting, is so over. But between now and when, as the president has no doubt accurately described it, we "cut and run," when there's a final helicopter lifting from a Green Zone rooftop, there's a whole third act to play.

… Everybody's positioning himself for the end.

The plot structure of the war, and how it reaches its conclusion, is determined less, at this point, by events in Iraq (although the Times gamely reported a few weeks ago on the front page that the military was really, truly honing a new counter-insurgency strategy) than by the involvement of so many drama queens with their super-awareness of crisis and timing.

The basic facts, after all, are three years old: no WMD, no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, not enough troops, no planning, and, obviously, no idea about how to deal with an ever growing insurgency.

But patience is key. Richard Clarke, the terrorism expert of both the Clinton and first Bush administrations, went public more than two years ago with his harsh critique of the Bush terror war, and, to many, seemed like a bitchy Cassandra, which is not necessarily the perfect career face. Clarke seemed to think he could precipitate the dénouement, but the drama has its own rhythms. It's only in the third act that you get the big reversals and tough truths - we're finally ready.

Knowing when we're ready is the important skill set - the higher media talent.
And if that's not cynical enough, try this -
This information divide itself - between those who have read these [Woodward] books and those who haven't, or, anyway, those who have read about these books - becomes a crucial element of the third act. In some sense, it was the third act of Vietnam that defined these dual constituencies: part of the country, which followed the information trend, came to believe the war was unwinnable and suspect, while the other part, more remote from the information, continued to believe in the simpler, standard patriotic assumptions. This is the same divide that we now analyze ideologically as blue and red, but in so many aspects it might just be reduced to the smarts and the stupids, or the on-the-makes and the always-out-of-its.

It involves not only information (i.e., knowing that Saddam and Osama were not partners in the same law firm) but opportunity too - or opportunism. This is one reason the smarts have such a bad reputation among the stupids, because so many of them, including the Democrats in Congress, the news media, and Woodward himself, as well as the many people who once helped give the president his 80 or 90 percent approval rating, were stupids when that was advantageous. And because so many of them, like Woodward, and the editors of the New York Times, and the Clintons, did not make the break across the information divide until they were confident that they'd be in good company.

Indeed, the Woodward book gives a pretty clear picture of the time lag between when the smarties knew the war was a loser and when they decided to strategically alter and broadcast their own positions with regard to it. In some sense, the book goes back to Woodward's career theme: who knew what when. First there's the cover-up and then the unraveling.
And now we have the fall guys -
Rummy, for instance - "enigmatic, obstructionist, devious, never know what his game is" Rummy (as Woodward has Scowcroft describe him) - is, let's face it, dead. He's gone at any moment. Indeed, as Woodward points out, he's managed to hold on only because intransigent Cheney intransigently supports him.

Cheney. "Cheney was the worst," Woodward says, again using Scowcroft as his moral guide. Kissinger, the architect of the bloodiest and most catastrophic phase of the Vietnam War, emerged as well as he did (for sure, a war criminal to some, but to many, a man of renown) because most of the ill will got heaped on Nixon. Kissinger was the contrast gainer. Next to Nixon, he seemed … human.

So, yes, Cheney is the new Nixon.

… Cheney, in this respect, is such a gift. Born to be hated. He might even willingly - given his dystopian personality - take the fall. He resigns - his hundred heart attacks could be the gentle cover. But it's clear: the war's on him. It's his mistake. (Since we've regarded him as a virtual president anyway, we ought to accept his leave-taking as a virtual impeachment and removal.) McCain is nominated to replace Cheney as V.P. The Republicans go wild because they have a presidential contender in the White House (likewise, the Democrats might not be so unhappy to have McCain suddenly stuck with Iraq). The smarty-media pendulum swings (or at least hesitates) because McCain is McCain and because he might be the next president. A big conference of Arabs is convened. McCain heads a blue-ribbon delegation to Iraq (Powell comes back for this), which determines that the Iraqis are ready to handle their own security. We cut and run, declaring victory.

And Bush can go to China, or North Korea. With Kissinger.

The end in Iraq may not yet be near, but it is ordained.
Ah - gloating and recriminations. The midterm elections just sped up things a bit. Rethinking things? It's already been done.

Posted by Alan at 22:19 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006 22:22 PST home

Wednesday, 8 November 2006
Things Changed
Topic: Election Notes
Things Changed
Out here in Los Angeles, Election Day was the hottest November 7th on record - ninety-seven degrees downtown. The records go back to the 1870's or so - and this was off the charts. But it was hotter elsewhere. The war in Iraq and President Bush's stubbornness and air of militant entitlement, and the openly corrupt and stunningly ineffective congress, and the sense that the economy was only good for the rich folks, and so much else, seemed to have people rather angry. Exit polls couldn't quite capture it - for some it was the war, for some the Teri Schiavo business, for others it was the incompetence revealed with the nearly useless and inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina more than a year ago, for others all the money that went to Halliburton and the like there and in Iraq, for others the issue of the president claiming no laws applied to him, and underneath it all the inarticulate who couldn't afford health insurance, who knew they could lose their jobs tomorrow with the next round of "enhancing shareholder value" and who just felt something was wrong and it might be time for a change. The midterm elections changed things

By late Wednesday it was clear what had happened. The nation seems to have agreed it might be nice to have a House and Senate of new people, not the old crew making their friends and families rich and agreeing to whatever the president said, and when they eventually got around to working concerned with issues like changing the constitution to ban flag-burning as a form of protest and making sure gay people couldn't ever get married or even have the legal rights straight folks have. Three weeks before the election they spent a day or two working on banning the commercial production of horsemeat - a niche export industry but very worrisome. With legislator after legislator reading statements into the record documenting the love of horses things did reach the near edge of the absurd. (For the record, Just Above Sunset thinks horses are fine animals.)

Late Wednesday is when Associated Press and NBC called the final Senate race - Jim Webb over the incumbent Republican, George Allen, in Virginia. That assured Democrats of fifty-one seats when the Senate convenes in January. That was a net gain of six seats - a sweep. Earlier, State Senator Jon Tester - the outspoken organic farmer who long ago lost three fingers in a meat grinder accident (a "man of the people" in some strange way) - had won over the incumbent Republican Senator Conrad Burns Montana. Both races were close and the results late, but the possibility of a recount changing things was so remote only the concession speeches were in question - seeing who could be most gracious. Rick Santorum had set the bar high there.

The Democratic Senate total does include two independents - Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont - but they both say they will caucus and vote with the Democrats. Bernie Sanders certainly will, but Lieberman is an odd duck - a six term Democrat with a long history, from the Civil Rights days in the sixties, of voting with that side, but a recent history is whining and voting with the Republicans on all issues and scolding Democrats for any public or private disagreement with any policy or position of the president. He's the wild card, publicly saying the war in Iraq is going great and no one should disagree with this particular president on anything. And when he lost the Democratic primary and ran as an independent, financed to a large extent by the White House and saying it would be better than having him in the Senate rather than the man officially selected by the Party, he burned a few bridges. The Senate may actually be split in an odd way.

The House will not be split - by Wednesday the Democrats had gained almost thirty seats, and they only had needed fifteen for a majority. Ten more seats were too close to call, but control of the House was not in question. Things had changed.

And other things had changed. Conservative values were in question.

In Arizona voters rejected a measure to ban gay marriage and any sort of civil unions - in spite of John McCain arguing that this had to pass for the moral good of that state and the whole nation. So in the land of Barry Goldwater the people spoke in one voice - restricting the rights of gay folks was dumb, intrusive and mean-spirited. The late Barry Goldwater had actually held that same position, although the issue at that time was gays in the military and in public office. He didn't see the big problem. And neither did the voters there now - they'd had enough of being jerked around by the "values" crowd. (Oddly enough, somewhere around here, perhaps in a box in the back of the closet, I have a tape of my second ex-father-in-law, when he was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Heath Affairs in the Reagan administration, appearing on the McNeill-Lehar News House show arguing the opposite, and not very convincingly.)

In Missouri the voters also told the values crowd to take a hike - the initiative funding stem cell research passed handily, and the incumbent Republican senator who opposed it was tossed out as well. The argument that such research involved murdering actual children - or that it secretly legalized human cloning - didn't gain much traction. The "values" crowd seemed a bit loopy on the issue.

In another setback for values conservatives, South Dakota rejected a law that would have banned virtually all abortions. This had been passed overwhelmingly by the legislature earlier in the year and would have been the toughest abortion law in the country, allowing abortions only to save a pregnant woman's life. The idea was that the ban would be challenged in court, and that might provoke litigation that might eventually lead to a Supreme Court reversal of Roe v Wade. It lost by a 55-45 margin - folks saw it as too intrusive, with language that failed to guarantee the rights of victims of rape and incest. It was a bullshit ploy, and they'd have none of it.

"It was a thumping," Bush conceded in his press conference Wednesday at the White House. "It's clear the Democrat Party had a good night." (He will not use the term "Democratic" Party - it gives them too much respect - it's the "Democrat" Party.)

But with power on Capitol Hill tilting the other way now, the president faced the unpleasant reality of both houses in the opposition's hands for the final two years of his term. This will not be nice. He announced that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would step down as Democrats, and most everyone, have demanded.

That was a surprise. Two weeks earlier he had said Rumsfeld would stay on to the end of his term - two more years - as Rumsfeld had done an "excellent job." He was adamant, and vehement about that. Things change, and the big issue really was the war. Something is happening.

Internationally, you got things like this -
… from Paris to Pakistan, politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens said Wednesday they hoped the Democratic takeover of both Houses of Congress would force Bush to adopt a more conciliatory approach to global crises, and teach a president many see as a "cowboy" a lesson in humility.

In an extraordinary joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American election results as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has consistently railed against the Bush administration, called the election "a reprisal vote."

In Paris, American expatriates and French citizens alike packed the city's main American haunts to watch results overnight and early Wednesday, with some standing to cheer or boo as vote tabulations came in. One Frenchman, 53-year-old teacher Jean-Pierre Charpemtrat, said it was about time U.S. voters figured out what much of the rest of the world already knew. "Americans are realizing that you can't found the politics of a country on patriotic passion and reflexes," he said. "You can't fool everybody all the time - and I think that's what Bush and his administration are learning today."

… In Copenhagen, Denmark, Jens Langfeldt, 35, said he didn't know much about the midterm elections but was opposed to Bush, referring to the president as "that cowboy."

In Sri Lanka, some said they hoped the rebuke would force Bush to abandon a unilateral approach to global issues. "The Americans have made it clear that current American policy should change in dealing with the world, from a confrontational approach, to a more consensus-based and bridge-building approach," said Jehan Perera, a political analyst. The Democratic win means "there will be more control and restraint" over U.S. foreign policy.

Passions were even higher in Pakistan, where Bush is deeply unpopular despite billions in aid and support for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. One opposition lawmaker, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, said he welcomed the election result, but was hoping for more. Bush "deserves to be removed, put on trial and given a Saddam-like death sentence," he said.

… in China, some feared the resurgence of the Democrats would increase tension over human rights and trade and labor issues. China's surging economy has a massive trade surplus with the United States. "The Democratic Party ... will protect the interests of small and medium American enterprises and labor and that could produce an impact on China-U.S. trade relations," Zhang Guoqing of the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report on Sina.com, one of China's most popular Internet portals.

The prospect of a sudden change in American foreign policy could also be troubling to U.S. allies such as Britain, Japan and Australia, which have thrown their support behind the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Will there be a change in policy? Rumsfeld was cut loose while his old friend and best friend from their days together in the Nixon and Ford administrations, Vice President Cheney, was off on his first hunting trip since he shot another old friend in the face. One of Lloyd Bridges' lines in the movie "Airplane" was "I guess I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue." Cheney picked the wrong day to go hunting up by the Canadian border. Or he knew what was coming and decided it would be best to be out of town, shooting small animals.

The replacement is Bob Gates, and one way of looking at it is like this -
How twisted is this country? An Iran-Contra crook and ex-CIA chief is immediately greeted as a sane, grown-up yet "fresh" replacement for the delusional old Donald Rumsfeld.

Even more fun, Gates' nemesis Daniel Ortega was elected president of Nicaragua on Monday. You may remember Ortega as the Sandinista leader who fought off the Contras in a long bloody "civil war" in large part engineered by … Oliver North, William Casey and deputy CIA director Robert M. Gates, among others. North, a convicted felon and official fall guy for Iran-Contra, was in Nicaragua last week campaigning against Ortega.

History doesn't just repeat itself; it repeats itself with the same exact people.
A more conventional way of looking at it is this -
In turning to former CIA Director Robert M. Gates to take the reins at the Pentagon, President Bush has selected a low-key loyalist who is in many ways the opposite of outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Whereas Rumsfeld often seemed bent on running roughshod over the Pentagon brass, Gates is described by longtime associates as collegial and a consensus-builder.

If Rumsfeld had little regard for President George H.W. Bush and many of his pragmatic security advisers, including Brent Scowcroft, Gates was part of that inner circle. He remains close not only to Scowcroft but to other Rumsfeld rivals, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rumsfeld placed little trust in intelligence agencies and pushed the military to encroach on their turf. In a turning of the tables, a 27-year veteran of the CIA and the National Security Council is poised to take charge of the military.

Democrats praised Gates' nomination, hoping for a less combative Pentagon chief. But Gates has proved controversial in the past. He was forced to withdraw from his first nomination as CIA director before winning a split-vote confirmation four years later.
So one of Daddy's friends is coming in to clean things up, a man who is already part of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group - charged with developing an array of alternatives to the current Iraq policies. Gates recently traveled to Iraq as part of that team and met with Iraqi leaders and our military commanders. The intervention has begun. The president's father is reported to have a long-standing problem with Rumsfeld - he would have nothing to do with him, and the son appointing Rumsfeld to Defense, or letting Cheney tell him he should, had been an in-your-face thing in the family. Things change.

And the big change may be this -
Rumsfeld "is a guy who is kind of burdened with his own certitude at times," said John Gannon, a former high-ranking CIA official who worked with Rumsfeld and Gates. "That is not Bob Gates. He came out of an analytic culture where listening to the ideas of others and questioning your own assumptions is part of the tradecraft."
Listening and questioning your own assumptions? Things really are changing at the White House.

Rumsfeld was a leading advocate for invading Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11 - deposing Saddam Hussein was unfinished business the wimp father had screwed up. Gates was one of those who cautioned the first President Bush not to press toward Baghdad after we fixed the Kuwait thing in 1992. To be fair, of course, Cheney was saying the same thing at the time.

And for the record, Gates was first nominated to be CIA director by Reagan in 1987, but he withdrew due to congressional opposition - he was too closely tied to the Iran-Contra scandal, and that had been engineered by CIA Director Casey while Gates was his deputy. He was not charged with anything, but people wondered. Instead Gates joined the National Security Council staff at the White House, where he made connections with Brent Scowcroft and Condoleezza Rice. When he finally got to run the CIA four years later one of his first initiatives as director was to deal with the accusations that that intelligence had been politicized within the agency. He appointed a task force on "analytic objectivity" and implemented all of its recommendations. So we're talking a major change here - he'd not tolerate visits from Cheney to anyone to badger them for the "right" results. He may run Defense the same way - let's deal with what we know for sure, the actually facts. Yipes! New thinking!

As for Rumsfeld, there was one last shot -
In brief remarks, Rumsfeld described the Iraq conflict as a "little understood, unfamiliar war" that is "complex for people to comprehend."
Ah! He got it, no one else did, and they we're not as smart as he is, and people are just so stupid.

An assessment of that from Andrew Sullivan -
He then compared himself to Churchill. Yep: still clinical. The truth is: it was Rumsfeld who little understood and was unfamiliar with the actual conflict he was tasked with managing. It was not too "complex for people to comprehend." It was relatively easy to comprehend. If you invade a post-totalitarian country and disband its military, you better have enough troops to keep order. We didn't. Rumsfeld refused to send enough. When this was made clear to him and to everyone, he still refused. His arrogant belief in a military that didn't need any actual soldiers was completely at odds with the actual task in Iraq. But he preferred to sit back as tens of thousands of Iraqis were murdered and thousands of U.S. troops died rather than to check his own ego.

So let me put this as simply as I can: Rumsfeld has blood on his hands - American and Iraqi blood. He also directly ordered and personally monitored the torture of military detainees. He secured legal impunity for his own war crimes, but that doesn't mean the Congress shouldn't investigate more fully what he authorized. He remains one of the most incompetent defense secretaries in history (McNamara looks good in comparison). But he is also a war criminal: a torturer who broke the laws of this country. The catastrophe in Iraq will stain him for ever. His record of torture has indelibly stained the United States.
But other than that he did a fine job. It should be an interesting next two years.

As for the election itself, Sullivan had a few choice words -
The obvious result of last night's returns is the complete historical and geographical inversion of what was once the Republican Party. Nixon's cynical Southern strategy has now been played out to the nth degree - and, after a good period of opportunistic success, it has failed. All the states Lincoln fought against are now the bastions of his own party. And most of the rest of the country - especially the sane, common sense conservatives of the Midwest whence Lincoln himself hailed - have been forced into the Democratic camp. Formerly solid, freedom-loving Republican states, like California, are now overwhelmingly Democratic.

The GOP is now very much the party of Dixie; and the consequence of this election is that the Congressional leadership is even more Southern than it was before. The irony is that it was the moderate Republicans who were disproportionately punished electorally by the extremists in their midst. And so the party that lost because of its extremists now sees itself more dominated by the extremists. Nixon's cynical ploy - played beyond the extreme by Rove - has, in other words, come back to haunt and defeat his party in the end. Because it over-reached.

So now the battle for the soul of conservatism can begin in earnest. Either the Democrats will capture it; or the Republicans will recapture it.
The short version of that - the Republican Party is now the party of the Old South, racist, delusional, anti-science, xenophobic and evangelical. That's all they've got left. The real and principled conservatives have gone and hooked up with the progressives/liberals to deal with reality. (And that's where Barry Goldwater would be too.)

There is too a lot of comment out there on the Rove strategy floating around, and it hooks into that. Since before 2000 his "genius" was realizing you could win by removing the middle, the "swing voters" and moderates, as there really were no such people. You rile up your base against the godless liberals, and make them seem somewhere between evil and stupid, and by default you get just enough of the uninformed to augment your unwavering base, and you get 50.0001 percent of the vote and insist you have an overwhelming mandate that's so obvious that the media concedes that the nation has obviously changed course and become just like your base. And it worked for six years. Then it didn't. There actually seems to have been a middle after all.

Juan Cole, the University of Michigan Middle East scholar, puts it this way -
The fourth popular revolution of the twenty-first century (after the Ukraine, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan) swept America on Tuesday, as voters engaged in the moral equivalent of storming the Bastille. The United States of America has roundly repudiated the Bush Administration and Republican Party dominance of all three branches of the Federal government and its dominance of many state offices, as well. Corruption and war drove this slap in the face to the Old Regime crafted by Newt Gingrich and Traitor Rove.

… In my view the real significance of the Democratic victory is four-fold.

First, it demonstrates once again that the American public simply will not put up with a return to the age of colonialism and does not want to occupy Asian countries militarily. Do you think that Abu Ghraib and American torture-pornography, the daily grind of violence, the stupid mistakes, have passed them by so that they didn't notice? They might swallow all this reluctantly but they want light at the end of the tunnel. There is not any in Iraq… They want it over with. It isn't.

Second, Bush is not going to be able to put any more Scalia types on the Federal benches or the Supreme Court.

Third, a Bush administration war on Iran now seems highly unlikely. A major initiative of that sort would need funding, and I don't think Congress will grant it. The Democrats don't want an Iran with a nuclear weapon any more than the Republicans do. But they are more likely to recognize that there is no good evidence that Iran even has a nuclear weapons program, and have been chastened by Iraq enough to distrust purely military solutions to such crises.

Fourth, there will now finally be accountability. It is obvious to me that the Bush administration has been engaged in large-scale crimes and corruption, and has gotten away with it because the Republican heads of the relevant committees have refused to investigate these crimes. Democratic committee heads with subpoena power will finally be able to force the Pentagon and other institutions to fork over the smoking gun documents, and then will be in a position to prosecute.

… The Democratic victory has enormous implications for US domestic politics. There will likely be an increase in the minimum wage, e.g. And the creeping tyranny of the evangelical far right has been slowed; even a lot of evangelicals seem uncomfortable with where that was going, and a lot of them deserted the Republicans in this election.

What are its implications for Iraq policy? Those are fewer, just because the executive makes foreign policy. Congress can only intervene decisively by cutting off money for foreign military adventures, which the Democrats have already pledged not to do. Moreover, the Iraq morass is a hopeless case and even if the legislature had more to say about policy there, it is not as if there are any good options.

… What we can say is that the electoral outcome is a bellwether for the future of American involvement in Iraq. It will now gradually come to an end, barring a dramatic disaster, such as a guerrilla push to deprive our troops of fuel and then to surround and besiege them. More likely, the steady grind of bad news and further senseless death will force Bush's successor, whoever it, is, to get out of that country. One cannot imagine us staying in Afghanistan for the long haul, either. Bush's question in 2003 was, can we go back to the early 20th century and have a sort of Philippines-like colony with a major military investment? The answer is, "no." Iraqis are too politically and socially mobilized to be easily dominated in the way the old empires dominated isolated, illiterate peasants. The outcome of the Israel-Hezbollah war this summer further signaled that the peasants now have sharper staves that even penetrate state of the art tanks. The US can still easily win any wars it needs to win. It cannot any longer win long military occupations. The man who knew this most surely in the Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld, most egregiously gave in to the occupation route, and will end up the fall guy as the public mood turns increasingly ugly in both countries.
And that happened fast. And then the Democrats called for a summit on Iraq -
Eager to show "Democrats are ready to deliver", Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid called for a bipartisan summit "to find a new direction" on Iraq.

"The President must listen and work with Democrats to fix his failed (Iraq) policy," he said.
That might not be a bad idea, given this -
In the final days before Tuesday's midterm election, President Bush dispatched two top officials to Iraq in a bid to pressure al-Maliki to quickly disband Shiite militia groups and death squads that have killed thousands of Sunni Muslims.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte was rebuffed by al-Maliki, however, when he demanded the Iraqi leader disband militias and wipe out death squads this year.

A top aide to al-Maliki, who refused to allow use of his name because of the sensitive nature of the information, told The Associated Press the prime minister flatly refused and said the task could not be taken up until next year.

Al-Maliki's refusal to act against the militias has caused deepening anger among Sunni politicians who took enormous risks in joining the political process.

Sunni lawmaker Salim Abdullah said the Iraqi Accordance Front bloc had sent messages to other political groups warning that if there is no balance and the militias are not dissolved "we will withdraw from the government."

"We are under political pressure, and if these demands are not met we will abandon politics," Abdullah said. "And this will leave us with only one alternative, which is carrying arms, and then it will be civil war. And we are against the civil war."
Yep, what we've been doing is just not working. It's time for a change. We got one.

__

Curious post-election quotes from Rush Limbaugh -
The way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I'm going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, "Well, why have you been doing it?" Because the stakes are high! Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me they represent a far better future for my beliefs and therefore the country's than the Democrat [sic] Party does and liberalism.

… I'm a radio guy! I understand what this program has become in America and I understand the leadership position it has. I was doing what I thought best, but at this point, people who don't deserve to have their water carried, or have themselves explained as they would like to say things but somehow aren't able to? I'm not under that kind of pressure.

… There hasn't been in the ideology in the Republican Party, any conservatism for at least two to maybe four years. You could argue Bush was more of an ideologue in the presidential campaign of '04, but in looking at what happened yesterday, it wasn't conservatism that lost. Conservatism won when it ran as a Democrat. It won in a number of places. Republicanism lost.
It's a new world.

Posted by Alan at 22:46 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006 09:30 PST home

Tuesday, 7 November 2006
Notes on Election Day
Topic: Election Notes
Notes on Election Day
Tuesday, November 7, in the evening in Hollywood, monitoring the news, it became clear there was not much other than the elections in the media. After two days of record heat - the highest November 6-7 temperatures since 1854 or some such thing - in the still evening it was watching the results trickle in. There wasn't much else on the air or on the net.

And the wave of Democratic wins raised questions. What was going on?

The election had clearly resolved itself into being a referendum on the war, on the corrupt Republicans in congress, and on so many things.

Molly Ivins, the plainspoken contrarian woman from Austin, has her list -
Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, unprecedented presidential powers, unmatched incompetence, unparalleled corruption, unwarranted eavesdropping, Katrina, Enron, Halliburton, global warming, Cheney's secret energy task force, record oil company profits, $3 gasoline, FEMA, the Supreme Court, Diebold, Florida in 2000, Ohio in 2004, Terri Schiavo, stem cell research, golden parachutes, shrunken pensions, unavailable and expensive health care, habeas corpus, no weapons of mass destruction, sacrificed soldiers and Iraqi civilians, wasted billions, Taliban resurgence, expiration of the assault weapons ban, North Korea, Iran, intelligent design, swift boat hit squads, and on and on.
That'll do. Exit interviews seemed to indicate folks had just had enough. Even large blocks of the evangelicals were voting the incumbents out. The Republican "get out the vote" system was working fine. They got their folks to the voting booths - but they voted their frustrations. They weren't supposed to do that.

But more than anything the election seemed to be a referendum on the president. That evening he was in the White House, staying up quite late (beyond nine) to monitor the results. The Republicans, unlike the Democrats, had scheduled no "watch the returns" party with cameras and the press. They knew better. And one can imagine things were grim at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But what's the problem? If the elections were a referendum on the president, the head of a rather dysfunctional if not incompetent government, what was the case against him?

One can Google a few hundred thousand answers to that question, but could it be what some, like Andrew Sullivan, call an increasingly unavoidable question - Is George W. Bush criminally insane? Is that what people are thinking?

Bill Gallagher, perhaps the Niagara Fall Reporter's only nationally read columnist, is sensing that -
Bush's fantasies are even disturbing his fans. In a sit-down with wire-service reporters, Bush assured them that Rumsfeld, the most incompetent man on earth, would keep his job for two more years. Maybe in the last days of the Republican-dominated Congress, Bush can get him declared Defense Secretary for Life, sort of an American Raul Castro.

Gushing over Rummy and Dick Cheney, the two principal thugs who lied to get us into Iraq and designed the disaster, Bush claimed they "are doing a fantastic job and I strongly support them."

The remark prompted conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan to raise the question of Bush's mental fitness. Sullivan told CNN Bush is so delusional, "this is not an election anymore, it's an intervention."

Sullivan, long a cheerleader for the war in Iraq, said Bush is "so in denial" he simply can't come to grips with his failure: "It's unhinged. It suggests this man has lost his mind. No one objectively could look at the way this war has been conducted, whether you were for it, as I was, or against it, and say that is has been done well. It's a disaster."

Sullivan added, "For him to say it's a fantastic job suggests the president has lost it. I'm sorry, there is no other way to say it."

The president's nanny corps - his mother, his wife, State Department hands Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes - know he's unhinged, but are too loyal to share that disturbing truth with the world.
Maybe they didn't have to. The elections were the intervention.

That's one way of looking at it, and certainly vivid, but it may be only a metaphor (one hopes). The noted Middle East scholar at the University of Michigan, Juan Cole, no fan of Bush at all, would like to keep thing a bit less hysterical and offers this -
Bush is not insane, he is just not very good at putting policy into effect. That is, he is a mediocre leader who has to cover up his horrible mistakes with optimistic slogans because his lack of leadership skills leaves him with no practical alternative. Give me an example of any positive and successful accomplishment of his presidency, unmarred by substantial failures. Afghanistan? Israel-Palestine? Lebanon? Iraq? Al-Qaeda? Domestically, he has, by cutting taxes on billionaires, run up the national debt by trillions, and boasts in that insane yet just mediocre way of his that the deficit is "coming down." He put the expense of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars off-budget, and somehow the business page journalists haven't managed to notice that the deficit is not actually less than $300 billion if you count the wars. Nor is adding even $290 billion a year to the national debt a positive accomplishment. We pay interest on that debt, folks.
See? There's no point in name calling - or more precisely, in offering diagnoses of pathological behavior, however apt. The simple managerial answer will do. He's not good at running things, and he overcompensates, acting out.

Either explanation will do fine. The intervention is underway - or the manager's performance review. Take your pick.

The news that got swallowed up under all this, on Election Day, may be of local interest, although it was discussed previously in these pages here and here in a forum with Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta and the professor of marketing at the upstate New York graduate management school - the pressure on news organizations to make money - higher and higher profit margins each year - that makes them abandon anything like responsible journalism. As ABC News' political director, Mark Halperin, recently told Bill O'Reilly, he wanted to make ABC News more like Fox News, with its giant conservative audience. As he explained to O'Reilly - This is about moving product, not producing good journalism.

And so it is, as out here the other shoe dropped - "Dean Baquet, the editor of The Los Angeles Times, who refused to go along with staff cutbacks ordered by the Tribune Company, was forced out of his job today, according to people at the newspaper."

They want to cut reporters, particularly the investigative kind who work so slowly. If you can reduce labor costs you can get a good jump in net profit. They had fired the publisher who protested. Baquet stayed on, hoping he could convince them a newspaper really needed good reporters. They prefer "good enough" - good enough to move product, in this case whatever sparkly items the readers find amusing and drives up circulation and makes for higher advertising revenue. All the Pulitzer Prizes are for chumps, it seems. They brought in the managing editor of the Chicago Tribune to run things - to cut staff and make the paper more like the profitable fourth-rate region rag in Chicago. Ah well.

The New York Times publishes a region edition of its daily and Sunday editions at a printing plant down in Torrance, as does the Wall Street Journal. Those will do - better than a bad imitation of the barely adequate Chicago paper. There's no other local alternative out here. Sigh.

And the sort of thing the new and profitable Times will cover? The most overlooked news stories on Election Day - Barbados Faces Invasion by Giant Snails and Duct Tape No Magical Cure for Warts, Study Finds. Fascinating.

The consequences of the election will not be covered. Only a limited few - news junkies and policy wonks - find such things fascinating.

Posted by Alan at 21:51 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 8 November 2006 07:04 PST home

Monday, 6 November 2006
Sort of a Surprise
Topic: Election Notes
Sort of a Surprise
It was clear on Monday, November 6, the day before Election Day, that there had been no October Surprise to shift everything around. And there had been no real November Surprise, unless it was the verdict and sentencing of Saddam Hussein. He will be hanged (or hung, if you prefer that usage).

In reaction to that, Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, dropped a line -
If this was their October Surprise, then these guys have really lost their touch. With Iraq as an election issue having been totally overwhelmed with stuff that can only remind Americans of how the Republicans have screwed everything up over there, Karl Rove is lucky that this whole Saddam sentencing thing can safely be relegated to somewhere in the "back of the book," maybe even the "Where Are They Now" column.
And even the acerbic and pro-war Christopher Hitchens said Don't Hang Saddam -
Before the arrival of coalition forces in Iraq, one of Kurdistan's most respected leaders, Barham Salih, was the target of an assassination attempt by the Ansar al-Islam group. He was saved only by the momentary impulse to duck back through his doorway for a cell phone he had left behind, but several of his entourage were murdered. The killers were apprehended, tried, and sentenced to death. Salih is now the deputy prime minister, but he was then the man responsible for signing death warrants in northern Iraq. He declined to sign the warrants for those who had murdered his friends and nearly taken his own life. At the time, he told me that he hoped the new Iraq would abolish capital punishment "even when we capture Saddam Hussein." Like many leading Kurds, he had been influenced by discussions with Danielle Mitterrand, the widow of former French President François Mitterrand, who was a great friend of Kurdistan as well as a stern foe of capital punishment. The idea was that the new Iraq would begin life without the death penalty. I have had discussions with many Iraqi dissidents who take the same view. Almost every preceding change of regime in the country was marked by the execution of at least some of the previous leadership. Perhaps it might be desirable to break with this depressing tradition. Moreover, now that even the Turks have abolished capital punishment just next door, in order to conform with European Union stipulations, why should Iraq not signal its membership of the community of civilized nations in the same way?
There's much more of course, but that's the gist of it. Executing the previous leadership is just no way to do business - if the business in question is civilized governance. Tony Blair too came out against hanging him. We seem alone in our own concept of civilized governance, and in the concept we will impose in Iraq.

Hitchens does add this detail -
The case for carrying out the sentence of death, or for not protesting if it is carried out, is the following: Saddam Hussein has been tried under Iraqi law as it stood when he was dictator and has been sentenced according to that law. It is not for anyone else to tell Iraqi courts and judges what to do or to suggest retrospective changes in the system. He had the day in court that was denied to his victims, and the sentence should stand, even if the Iraqi parliament should later decide to abolish capital punishment. This might be technically correct, but then so until recently was the "sovereign immunity" defense, which said that those who were recognized heads of state could not be tried under the common law. Partly overturned by the British House of Lords in the case of Augusto Pinochet, and by the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, this doctrine is giving way to the idea of "universal jurisdiction," whereby crimes such as torture and genocide are akin to piracy and indictable and prosecutable in any place where the wanted person may be found. That being the case, the Iraqi courts should act according to a putatively universal standard. This standard might not include such features of the Saddam trial as the recent abrupt replacement of the presiding judge on the grounds that he seemed too soft on the defendant.
So the trail was a bit of a joke, and as a surprise that could change our elections, it passed with a shrug into obscurity without much impact.

But it was a game try, and does seem like a ploy, given this, the verdict of death was read out Monday, but not precisely what he was convicted of or why -
The full verdict, a document of several hundred pages, explaining how and why today's judgment was reached was not released. U.S. officials said it should be ready by Thursday. So why issue the verdict today? U.S. court advisors told reporters today it was delayed mainly for technical reasons.
They put lots of caveats out there explaining how there's no proof the verdict was timed for political purposes, but they couldn't seem to actually get the full verdict ready for a "slam dunk" on the Sunday before the elections over here. So they announced the death sentence and they'll do their best to get the full verdict done by Thursday. Yeah, it smells a tad fishy. But then it didn't provide the necessary bounce, so it hardly matters.

So much for that surprise. And there was this -
If the president of the United States made a special trip for your campaign, you might come out to say hello.

But when President Bush turned up in Pensacola, Florida, today, Charlie Crist wasn't there.

Crist is the Republican hoping to be Florida's next governor. And the White House sent out schedules indicating Crist would be at a rally to introduce Bush.

Instead, Crist was 600 miles away in Delray Beach, at a restaurant called "Lox Around the Clock." And his absence from the Bush event upset some folks, including Karl Rove, the president's political strategist.
Oops. No one likes that kind of surprise. So the president spoke with his brother, the governor, at his side, and another fellow who wasn't running for anything, and the nutty Katharine Harris, who supervised the 2000 Florida elections that swung things Bush's way but has no chance at all of winning her election. It was a bit of a bust.

And the day before the election had few surprises, just symbolism like that. It was the birthday of John Phillips Sousa and at his grave the service bands played the marches, as they do every year - Stars and Strips Forever and so on. That was nice - something to get folks in the mood to do their patriotic duty and go vote.

Our friend the high-powered Wall Street attorney felt the symbolic event of the day before the election was this -
The USS Intrepid, the aircraft carrier that survived World War II bomb and kamikaze attacks, got stuck in the mud in the Hudson River on Monday as tugboats tried to pull it from its berth.

The ship - a huge floating military museum that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists a year - was supposed to be towed across the river to a dry dock in Bayonne, N.J., for a $60 million renovation.

Six tugs pulled with a combined 30,000 horsepower but moved the Intrepid only about 15 feet. Not even an unusually high tide could free the 27,000-ton, 872-foot-long ship from the ooze.

"We had the sun, the moon and the stars in alignment, and it was just a very disappointing day for us," said Bill White, president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
There you have it, the heroic ship of state jammed in the muck, unable to move, the propellers caught in the slime. That about summed everything up, or so our friend said on his cell phone as he drove west out of the Holland tunnel, past Bayonne, off to his home. As a symbol of how things are going, that'll do fine.

But there was a surprise at the last, something to turn everything around. That would be the "robocalls" - hundred of thousands of pre-recorded, automated phone calls in many key states containing anti-Democratic political messages. The calls initially sound like they're coming from the Democratic candidates since they mention the Democrat's name in the opening line. And the robot part is interesting - if you hang up the system will keep calling you back, again and again and again, until you listen to the whole thing, to the very end. Only then, as required by law, is the call identified having been made by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Actually, they are required by law to put that up front, but by the time anyone gets a complaint together and forces them to cease and desist, as it were, the election will be over. It's pretty clever.

The calls were timed to go out around six in the morning, waking people up and irritating them no end. The idea was that you hear the Democratic candidate's name and hang up and try to get another few minutes of sleep - but the call repeats and repeats and repeats. So you're ticked off, and you won't vote for that Democrat no matter what.

Keith Olbermann did a segment on it on his "Countdown" show on MSNBC that you can watch here. You'll be amused by what happened to Tammy Duckworth, the Iraq War veteran running for congress in Illinois, the woman who lost both her legs in combat. Her supporters have been calling her office, screaming mad, asking why she's doing this. Her people explain that they are NOT making the calls, and if you'd have listened to the end the call clearly says it was coming from the National Republican Congressional Committee. But it's kind of hopeless. Most people just don't call the candidate's office - they simply change their vote in anger. Karl Rove had his surprise after all, and he was no doubt giggling.

Philadelphia Daily News columnist Jill Porter here describes her personal experience with the calls. But she's hardly alone. The calls went out in at least fifty-three congressional districts. In New Hampshire, the state's deputy attorney general said the National Republican Congressional Committee agreed to stop targeting voters with the prerecorded calls as New Hampshire makes it illegal to target anyone on the federal Do-Not-Call registry with prerecorded political calls, but quotes a National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman saying they will continue to make the calls to voters. The idea is they will work out the legal issues later.

The media was late to the story - it was a surprise after all - but the Washington Post finally got around to covering it. That's here, with this sort of thing -
Whether "robo-calls" are positive or negative, mean-spirited or humorous, thousands of Americans are sick of them, according to campaign organizations that have been fielding complaints over the past two weeks.

An Ohio woman, who did not leave her name, called The Washington Post in tears yesterday, saying she could not keep her phone line open to hospice workers caring for her terminally ill mother because of nonstop political robo-calls.

Pamela Lorenz, a retired nurse in Roseville, Calif., called her own experience "harassment as far as I'm concerned" and said, "If I were voting right now, the opponent who's doing this, he'd be off my list for throwing that much trash."

... Many voters hang up as soon as a robo-call begins - without waiting for the criticisms or the NRCC sign-off at the end - so they think it was placed by the Democratic candidate named at the start, said Sarah Feinberg, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Our candidates are inundated with phone calls from furious Democrats and independents saying 'I'm outraged and I'm not going to vote for you anymore,' " she said.

Feinberg said some voters have received robo-calls late at night, despite federal rules barring such calls after 9 p.m. NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said his organization ends all calls by 9 nightly.

Democrats also cited Federal Communications Commission guidelines saying the originators of automated calls must identify themselves at the beginning of each call. Republican Party lawyers, however, said the requirement does not apply to political nonprofit organizations. They rebuffed a "cease and desist" letter sent yesterday by the DCCC.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, the DCCC chairman, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), compared the widespread robo-calling to a 2002 Republican effort in New Hampshire to jam Democratic phone lines to prevent the Democrats' get-out-the-vote effort. The Republican National Committee has spent more than $2 million to defend its officials in the case, he said. "Make no mistake, this is a dirty trick, one they've done before, one they've gotten caught on and one they continue to do," Emanuel said.
What the Post adds to the mix is the legal detail - the calls don't come from the Republican candidate himself (or herself), so the rules about when you cannot call and having to identify anything upfront don't apply. The Democrats can take their "cease and desist" order and shove it.

This is the surprise. Senior Democrats late in the day before the election called for a federal investigation of the calls, but who controls the federal government? They come off as ineffectual wimps again.

But does the law apply in some way to another matter? In Virginia there's this -
Tim Daly from Clarendon got a call saying that if he votes Tuesday, he will be arrested. A recording of his voicemail can be found online at: www.webbforsenate.com/media/phone_message.wav

The transcript from his voicemail reads:

"This message is for Timothy Daly. This is the Virginia Elections Commission. We've determined you are registered in New York to vote. Therefore, you will not be allowed to cast your vote on Tuesday. If you do show up, you will be charged criminally."

Daly has been registered to vote in Virginia since 1998, and he has voted for the last several cycles with no problem. He has filed a criminal complaint with the Commonwealth's attorney in Arlington.
Oops, he recorded it (listen here). And he's filing a criminal complaint. Rove and his guys could be in trouble, ten months from now, when it hardly matters There are reports in many states that these automated "you'll be arrested" calls and the others have gone out in massive numbers (see this) .

The other calls? There's more?

Note this excerpt from an email from the Webb for Senate campaign in Virginia -
Widespread Calls, Allegedly from "Webb Volunteers," Telling Voters that their Polling Location has Changed.

A couple of examples:

Norman Cox has been registered to vote in the same location in Arlington since 1972. Someone from a 406 number (in Montana) called to tell him that his polling place has changed. [Note: The Webb Campaign is NOT making any such phone calls.] Cox said he believed that he was being mislead and the caller hung up.

Peter Baumann in Cape Charles, VA (North Hampton) got a similar call from a "Webb volunteer" saying his polling location had changed. He said: No, I'm a poll worker and I know where I vote. The girl--who was calling from California - hung up.

The Secretary of the State Board of Elections Jean Jensen has logged dozens of similar calls, finding heavy trends in Accomack County (middle peninsula) and Essex County (outer peninsula) [as reported by the counties' registrars].

Fliers in Buckingham County Say "SKIP THIS ELECTION" (paid for by the RNC) have caused many in the African American community to call the Board of Elections to see if the election is still on. The full tag line says: "SKIP THIS ELECTION... (and then in smaller print): Don't Let the Tax and Spend Liberals Win."

Voter Machine Problems:

a. On many ballots in heavily Democratic neighborhoods, Jim's name is cut off. The ballots say: "James H. (Jim)" with no Webb. b. New reports that ballots in Essex County have Jim's name split on 2 pages. The "James H (Jim)" on one page, "Webb" on the next. c. Reports of voting machines in Isle of White that do not provide a clear image of the ballot, making voting a challenge.

Voting issues need to be a foremost priority in the next Congress. This is unconscionable.
Yeah, but it all works. Surprise!

And it's not big deal, maybe. Note this from New York's Nineteenth District, where the former pop singer John Hall (Hall and Oates), a Demomcrat, was, Monday, trying to win the Republican seat from Susan Kelly -
I was handing out leaflets for John Hall yesterday at a grocery store. There were two tables, a democratic one and a Republican one.

When I was handing out palm cards, several people said to me something like, "I WAS going to vote for John Hall, until I got all those phone calls. I got seven or eight, right at dinner time."

The guy from the Republican table, who was a local district leader - friendly and chatty - actually came over to me and said, "You know, most of those are coming from Sue's office, but don't tell anybody."

I don't know how high his connections are to the Kelly campaign, but that's the information he volunteered.
It's all fun and games.

Or you can look at it this way -
I think it's useful to take a step back and examine, in the simplest terms, what the Republicans are doing here: they are attempting to sabotage the American democratic process because it's inconvenient for their candidates.

Of course these robo-calls are only one manifestation of a consistent theme, but when I approach the calls without the cynicism of a political news junkie, I find them breathtakingly despicable. The people behind this aren't schoolyard bullies, or even college kids. These are adults with years of political experience and a comprehensive understanding of what exactly their acts amount to. The NRCC simply does not believe that Americans should be able to make informed choices about their representatives in the voting booth. They are perfectly willing to dismantle the democratic process, which cannot function properly when voters are harassed (or even worse, harassed under false pretenses). I think it's fair to say that their behavior in this instance is "profoundly immoral and malevolent," which is how the Oxford English Dictionary describes "evil." Despite our desensitization to these types of transgressions, we cannot afford to take them lightly.
But we do. It's all about winning.

You do what you can as in Pennsylvania, as reported by Keystone Politics -
Santorum Poll Released by Indicted Republican Operative

Early this morning, Keystone Politics editors received and released a poll by McCulloch Research and Polling showing that Rick Santorum was within 4 points of retaining his Senate seat. Further research into McCulloch Research and Polling shows that Rod McCulloch, principal at the firm, has been indicted in voter fraud and forgery in Illinois.
No one was supposed to notice.

Well, it's all about winning. It certainly isn't about civilized governance, or governance of any kind. Not much that they've tried has worked out, and no one is visiting New Orleans much this days. Or as Bill Montgomery puts it - "To me, this is practically the definition of a political train wreck: A party (or, in this case, an organized crime family posing a political party) that is remarkably good at grabbing and holding on to power, but incredibly bad at actually running the complex machinery of a modern post-industrial state."

Maybe that second part doesn't matter. Maybe it does matter.

In any event, we've had our surprise.

Posted by Alan at 22:05 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006 06:08 PST home

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