In Retreat

Kyle’s “In Advance” post takes those of us who attacked the Democrats for not ending the war to the woodshed, claiming, in essence, that we’re not being realistic and that we’re expecting too much. Since I have been consistently one of the most vocal and least forgiving of these critics, I’m going to take it upon myself to respond. My response is this:

Virtually everything you wrote, Kyle, is either plain wrong or pure myth.

Take the first graf:

One of the things that really irritated me earlier this year was when Democrats were unable to force Bush’s hand on Iraq by using the emergency funding bill he had called for. It wasn’t the Democratic failure that really got on my nerves, it was how quick the left were to jump down their throats for it.

Actually, there’s nothing “quick” about it. You may be unaware of it but dissatisfaction with the right-wing swing of the party under the control of the Democratic Leadership Council has been building for over a decade, since Bill Clinton’s first term. All that’s happened in the past 10 months is that many of us finally ran out of patience.

For 15 years, the DLC and the Blue Dogs (Dem conservatives for those who may not know) have been telling us we have to turn into the Republicans to win but to just be “patient” and we’d eventually see progress. Meanwhile they consistently pursued an agenda that even its friends characterize as Republican-Lite (Dan Parker [Tom Tomorrow], asked to encapsulate Clinton’s first term during an interview, replied, “He’s been a really good moderate Republican president”) and its enemies consider way too corporate-friendly: NAFTA, welfare “reform”, laissez-faire environmentalism, and Republicans themselves bitchin’ and moanin’ ’bout how Mister Bill was stealing their issues.

Well, we were patient. We put up with it. For 15 years we gave them the benefit of the doubt, 12 of them as a minority party (arguably because they pursued the DLC/BD strategy of laying low), 6 of them through the most criminally insane administration this country has ever seen when we were treated to occasional outbursts of threats to rebel in between long stretches of “go along to get along” quiescence, the latter despite being locked out of their own committee rooms, having the Washington police called by a Republican committee chair and ordered to eject them from a committee hearing (in the dead of night), being called names on the floor of the Congress and told to “Shut up and sit down”, having a president who refused to meet with them and talked only to Republicans, etc etc etc. The list of indignities is as long as your arm, and so is the list of countermeasures they could have taken as the minority party – and didn’t.

We sat through all that for 15 years until 10 months ago when the American people, despite widespread voting irregularities (again), voted overwhelmingly for Democrats who promised to end the war. Poll after poll showed that, and also showed that we expected the Dems to start cleaning up the mess and holding people accountable. We got a good start with the investigations and then…nothing. For months. Not even Pat Leahy seemed ready to dare buck the party leadership’s decision not to confront the president.

But it was the refusal to stop the war – the One Thing Above All Others they were sent there to do – that made the pot boil over.

When you deal in politics, you sometimes have to suck it up and face reality.  Sometimes you’re going to lose.  Sometimes things are just not skewed your way.  The measure that hit the floor in Congress earlier this year essentially required 67 votes to actually force Bush’s hand.  It really needed at least sixty to avoid the filibuster.

This is a neat description of what David Sirota calls The Innocent Bystander Fable – “the myth that Democrats have no power to stop the war, despite controlling both houses of Congress.”

All they have to do is refuse to fund the appropriation for the war. No money, no war. It’s that simple. Kevin’s simplistic conclusions – asserted without evidence – that a) it’s all or nothing and b) defunding the war is “electoral suicide” are contradicted by a) Constitutional law and b) the polls.

AND THE DEMOCRATS KNOW IT. Glenn Greenwald exploded the “electoral suicide” myth weeks ago.

They can’t possibly be that stupid or that ignorant of their Constitutional power. But they won’t do it. Why? Because they don’t want to.

I spent almost a dozen posts at Witness for the Prosecution developing the evidence and the argument that nothing the Democratic party is doing is “accidental”, the result of “fear”, or because “they have no choice”. Those are excuses for continuing what digby calls, appropriately and accurately, “the Kabuki” of the Democratic response: talk tough against the Pres and the Pubs, then do what the P & P tells them to do, turning their collective backs on everything they promised the day before.

I’m not going to repeat all those arguments here – you can click the link above and type “authoritarian democrats” into the search box for a 5-part series or “imperial democrats” for a 3-part series if you’re interested – but I do want to give you the nub.

The Democratic party is currently under the thumb of a minority of conservatives that is an alliance between the corporate-friendly DLC and the Pub-Lite BD Caucus that is – and has been since ’92 – pushing a right-wing agenda at times indistinguishable from the standard Republican agenda. The Congressional leadership and most of the power in the party kowtows to these make-believe Democrats and enforces their tactics and strategies, all of which center around strong liberal rhetoric followed by quiet conservative votes that are rationalized by the “incompetent” and “afraid” memes and the Innocent Bystander Fable.

This post explains why the Kabuki is so familiar to me – I’ve seen it all before. It’s the way legendary Massachusetts Senate President Billy Bulger maintained a conservative lege in a liberal state. For a quarter of a century.

I mean, the answer is in your own post, provided gratis by DLC Big Boy Joltin’ Joe Biden.

As he said in one of the debates, we’ll end this war when we have a Democrat in the White House.  No sooner.

And that’s the point. DLC strategist Al From and the PTB in the party have decided that they’ll win in ’08 if the war is still raging. Their message to the electorate is, as Biden so ably (and concisely, for him – you must have boiled it down) implies, “Elect a Democrat president and we’ll end the war. If you don’t, we won’t.”

But even worse than this callous disregard for the lives of the men and women who will die and be maimed while the Democrats jockey for position is the likelihood that the war will NOT in fact end even if a Dem is elected. Certainly not if it’s DLC doyen Hillary, she’s said so outright. Probably not if it’s Obama who, despite recent statements, has been pretty clear about his belief that our security is somehow tied up with a stable Iraq and that troops at some level are going to be needed for a long time to come. As far as I know, not even John Edwards, who’s made some strong statements in the last few days, has said Word One about closing the – what? 28? – permanent bases built or being built in Iraq.

As for Dodd, eRobin of Fact-esque wants to know what exactly he’s been doing to fight for his own damn bill.

Is Dodd willing to filibuster alone until he physically cannot continue? Is he willing to call out his fellow Democrats who are unwilling to support him? Is he willing to bring protesters to the steps of the Capitol to rally for an end to this war? Is he willing to commit an act of civil disobedience? Is he willing to wake us up even a little bit? Is he willing to take any step beyond publicizing vain amendments?

Is this a struggle for life and death and the future of our country or is it something less?

Good question. It could be asked of the Democratic leadership as a whole.

We have to start divesting ourselves of the myth that the Dems are even marginally liberal. So long as the DLC/BD Alliance is in charge, it is and will remain a moderate -to-conservative Republican party. The proof is in the pudding, as my mother used to say: the FISA vote, the secret meetings at the WH over the trade deals, and the inherently abominable nature of those deals (two of which I wrote about right here on this site – here and here) are more than mere indications that the fix is in.

25 Responses to “In Retreat”

  1. Chief says:

    Powerful ! !

    Answers a lot of Questions.

    “The Innocent Bystander Fable” – Great Phrase. Maybe I’ll ‘borrow’ it.

  2. matttbastard says:

    Amen, Mick.

    Ditto everything, especially this:

    “They can’t possibly be that stupid or that ignorant of their Constitutional power. But they won’t do it. Why? Because they don’t want to.”

    I was going to write a similar post, but you did it much better than I ever could. Thank you.

  3. Well, that’s a hello and a wake up.

    Tragically unrealistic, though I want to live in this world. It’s alright Mick, I tend to break with a lot of liberals as I tend to be more apologist for Dems than most.

    Okay, let’s start at the beginning, here is the ultimate crux. Constitutionally, congress can declare war, which they’ve done, and they control the purse strings. This has been covered ad nauseum. They don’t, however, have the power to issue orders over the president without the votes.

    Which means, essentially, that congress can bring up a bill that only funds a withdrawl and redeployment, but until that bill is signed into law, the President still expresses full Commander in Chief power. Which means, back earlier this year the emergency funding he was calling for, had congress opted to hold out, you would have had exactly what a lot of people were ready to call it, a game of chicken with the troops in the middle with congress refusing to pay out and the president refusing to bring troops home.

    One is tempted to believe that if we pull the funding for the troops, Bush has no alternative but to bring them home, but I don’t think so, especially this president. I do not put it beyond him to shutdown the government and keep the troops in Iraq until he gets what he wants, and he will undoubtedly be screaming from the bully pulpit how much danger dems are putting the troops in.

    And while he will be just as culpable, he will also be right. The moment Dems decided to really play a battle of wills with the emergency funding bill would be the moment troops are endangered because of a political stalemate. This is what you are suggesting they should have done, and I can’t disagree with you further. It’s not the popular position, they took a huge hit in the polls for it but it is the position that I believe was at least proved responsible to the troops. We can’t know for certain what the outcome would have been, but I don’t much like the thought of the worst case scenario.

    It’s very simple, this war is going to end on one of three scenarios. A showdown between Dems and the White House that puts our troops in even more danger, attaining enough Republican support to override the president, or a Democratic president, and that’s it.

    I won’t deny either that Democrats aren’t Liberal enough, nor do I want them to be. Oh, I’m a bleeding heart, but I’m also aware enough to know that America is not made up of my kind. Aside from the definite backlash that would follow from a successful liberal caucus (Yes, there would be a conservative backlash much like the one that saw Bush installed as president and an uber energization of the Neoconservative, Religious Right, and Corporate conservatism), it simply wouldn’t be truly representative.

    Yes, I know the polls, Americans are really liberal, blah blah blah, but you know something, we just saw what happens when a single ideology railroads a nation, it doesn’t work.

    I don’t want liberals in congress I want a congress packed full to the gills with debaters and compromisers, with people who aren’t going to take up sides and play political chess on every bill. I want people who actually employ reason to come up with good governance.

    But thanks for the mention.

  4. matttbastard says:

    To continue (gonna keep this off the main page, since, as noted, I think Mick has said it better than I could):

    Kyle, It shouldn’t surprise you that I agree with every word of what Mick wrote. 😉 I think it comes from having followed politics for so long. We’ve SEEN the (inevitable) results of perpetual kowtowing to the mythical middle, ie where we are right now: the expansion of Executive Power; torture enshrined in law; civil liberties in tatters; tax cut fundamentalism shredding the social fabric; an open-ended war on an abstract concept AND in Iraq; and, most disturbing IMO, all elements of the US Federal government being slowly but surely infiltrated by right-wing ideologues bent on furthering the creative destruction long after Bush has left the Oval Office.

    The DLC and its Blue Dog partisans in Congress have consistently enabled (and, in some cases, directly abetted) movement conservatives in shifting the American poltical discourse further and further to the right, until what were previously bipartisan ‘common sense’ notions (eg, the value of ANY public infrastructure, such as education, social security, etc) are now seen as wild-eyed ‘pinko socialist liberal communist’ thinking. Hell, the word ‘liberal has been stripped of any meaning other than pejorative, to the point where it’s an epithet that some Dem candidates (hi, Senator Clinton) don’t want to be tainted by. Considering the US is, by definition, a liberal democracy (some would argue the FIRST liberal democracy – eek!), this should give one pause as to the true motives of movement conservatives who wish to denigrate the very notion and legitmacy of liberalism (see David Neiwert and Chris Hedges).

    Continuing this recent historical trend, the Democratic Party has been directly complicit in birthing the deadly debacle in Iraq and now in the continuation, despite being given a mandate by the American people to end the war. Not calling them on that–and the longstanding record of rolling over on the aforementioned fundamental principles– makes us complicit as well.

    At some point, progressives, liberals, and leftists need to stand up to the Blue Dogs and the Dem leadership and say ‘enough’ – before every gain made since the Progressive Era–hell, since the founding of the Republic– is slowly pissed away.

  5. First, a couple things I want to clear up. Thing one I think there is probably more home with the Defense spending bill than the emergency one, not only does the vote tally lean more towards Dem favor (as pointed out in the original post, we really just need a majority on this one), but we are seeing more republicans ready to break ranks.

    Further, I do agree basically with all the blue dog stuff as well to a degree. I still remain wary of an overtly liberal Democratic caucus for many reasons, but at the same time it can’t be ignored that there has been a noticeably conservative shift.

    But, I also refute the mandate that American people gave congress. Yes, there was a shift in majority, and yes this was largely based on the Iraq war, but look at the nature of that majority… 50 to 49?

    If you refuted bushes miniscule win over Kerry as a mandate, then I think it reasonable to say by that same metric you kinda have to ease up on the mandate stuff.

    Regardless, my time for debating isrunning out. So some questions, and I want plausible, feasible, and actionable answers.

    -What is a plan for Democrats with only fifty votes to force a withdrawl from Iraq that DOESN’T put troops in danger of being left in Iraq unfunded?

    -What does anyone propose about overcoming the conservative shift in the Democratic party? One that doesn’t result in essentially losing any meaningful foothold in congress, by the way. And third party answers don’t count.

  6. matttbastard says:

    This also seems like a good thread to post a link to Lakoff’s ‘there is no centre’ article.

    (Kyle, you’ll like what he has to say about Obama).

  7. Great article, and this touches on what I was about to say last night about Obama and the third party candidate, but I got to go take my daughters out for a day of fun and stuff, so that will have to wait until later.

  8. matttbastard says:

    -What is a plan for Democrats with only fifty votes to force a withdrawl from Iraq that DOESN’T put troops in danger of being left in Iraq unfunded?

    I’ll happily tackle this first question.

    It doesn’t even need to get to the Senate. It can be done at the House level, where the Dems enjoy more than a slim majority.

    To quote Seb’s second comment in full:
    You don’t need 67 votes. You need to control the House.

    All spending measures have to originate in the House.

    Democrats control the House.

    Bush can’t veto an [expense] authorization you don’t make. You just don’t make it if you aren’t happy with it. End of story.

    That is the power of the House of Representatives. It is more than enough power to get the job done. It is not correct to talk as if they don’t have the power to do it. That is both wrong and distracting. The problem is not lack of power. The problem is lack of will. For some reason, they don’t want to do it. The only two plausible explanations that I can see are that they A) don’t want to, or B) can’t think of a way to avoid getting tainted with ending the war.

    Neither are encouraging to me, but B) seems just stupid. What do they think the point of having the House is?

    As for your second question, I’ll counter with one of my own: how did the GOP manage to shift so far to the right (over the course of 30 years or so) and still maintain moderate support, despite courting and cavorting with extremists? It’s about setting down roots, planting seeds. The germination may take time, but eventually it will bloom. But only if we till the soil, barren and infertile as it may seem.

  9. Can’t we all just get along?

    Just kidding.

    Seriously, let me just say how proud I am to see a real civil debate taking place over an issue of such importance. Good luck finding one similar on Daily KOS!

  10. matttbastard says:

    (publius’ Surrender Donkey’s post is worth reading in its entirety, btw.)

  11. matttbastard says:

    One last link before I catch up on some reading (so I can do some, er, posting :-P): Naomi Klein’s recent speech to the American Sociologists Association (h/t Godammitkitty)

  12. matttbastard says:

    That should be ‘American Sociological Association.

    Coffee time.;-)

  13. xranger says:

    Great dialogue, gentlemen. Fascinating for one on the right side of the aisle watch the thinking and reasoning on the left. Goose, your blog is hitting its stride again.

    Let me add one caveat: I have never felt the Dems came to power because of Iraq. Iraq offers emotion to the debate, but I think the middle (I call them the swing middle, since they decide all national elections) and the Republicans fired the most egregious sinners violating conservative principles.

    Obscene over-spending, and defending the spending vociferously, along with the corruption was too much to handle. The fact that the Dems and their leadership will not realize this could spell doom for them in ’08.

    Linking this with the MoveOn print ad this week, an astonishingly naive misstep on their part, let Bush win the week in public opinion. I mean, Petraeus offered the troop drawdown first, and came across as the winner in the court of public opinion.

    How the Dems let Bush up off of the canvas this week is astonishing, and offers another glimpse as to their indecision and lack of focus.

  14. Gosh, okay, I’m going to need some serious time to fully respond, which I don’t have and may actually never get, but here’s a quick.

    As for the House, you still need two thirds to avoid a showdown with the president, which, remember, we are trying to avoid at the cost of putting our troops in a precarious situation, moreso than they already are. Though, I think addressing Defense spending may be more plausible than emergency funding.

    As for the more horse race leaning part of the debate we have going on here. First, if Dems lose the White House in 08, it’s because we nominated Hillary despite the fact that both Edwards and Obama look to perform much better in the general election than Clinton. It’s a ridiculous thing to behold, but there you have it.

    And of course Dems won back the majority because of Iraq. By your logic, X, sitting incumbents would have first been stroked by up and coming primary challengers and those nominees would have ousted Democratic candidates.

    But as it stands, it looks as though at least the Senate will be even more blue following 08 with at least three, maybe four, republican seats off the top of my head looking very much in danger of going Democrat.

  15. Mick Arran says:

    First, this was a terrific response and I thank you all for taking on the challenge with such verve and intelligence. This is the first time in months that I don’t feel like a v crying in the w.

    Second, I meant to include a link to David Sirota’s IBF post and I see I forgot. Here it is.

    Third, thanks to Kyle and matttbastard for the links. I remember – vaguely; I’m old – reading Kyle’s May post and meaning to comment then, but I assume I got sidetracked, as usual. Perhaps this makes up for my unwitting abstraction. mattbastard’s Lakoff link is particularly interesting. Spot on, tho I’m not a big fan of his framing concept.

    Finally, tho all of Kyle’s questions can be answered, including the myth that defunding the war would hurt the troops, I’ll have to come back to them later because there’s something more pressing that needs to be said. But on the question of how the DLC/BD hold can be broken, I offered this a couple of weeks ago which, I think, makes a realistic beginning if not a complete program. (And don’t be so quick to count out a Third Party.)

    It seems to me that almost everyone got hung up on the war funding question and – except for matttbastard’s link to the Klein interview, which shows he got the relationship at least – missed the larger and more important point: the funding imbroglio is but the straw that broke the camel’s back. This Democratic tendency to support or at least enable authoritarianism, the unConstitutional exercise of executive power, the corporate/conservative agenda of shifting wealth to the already-rich and responsibility to the middle class and the poor (see Paul Krugman’s “The Great Wealth Transfer”), the lackadaisical when not downright hostile Dem responses to workers’ rights, environmental protection, union rights, and so on – in short, the class war conservatives have been engaged in for 30 years – shows quite clearly that the refusal to end the war is NOT a matter of numbers but part of a recognizable 15-yr (at least) pattern that embraces virtually every area of social concern from foreign policy to trade to civil rights to the economy to you-name-it.

    As an analyst I have no choice but to insist that this pattern cannot possibly be accounted for by any explanation other than a series of deliberate, sentient decisions to create it, especially not by the “electoral suicide” meme, which Glenn Greenwald has shown to be pure DLC fantasizing/rationalizing.

    I say all this not to excoriate the Democrats alone but to make this point, the point that arises from Rob’s crucial question:

    This goes beyond politics or party. We are in the midst of an unrecognized – or at least unacknowledged – Constitutional crisis, a crisis that threatens our whole democracy and that has been funded, supported, pushed, bought and paid for by the corporatocracy Klein is talking about in that interview. The Republicans may have been its chief sponsor and promoter but the Democrats, just as beholden to corporate interests as the Pubs thanks to the way our elections are funded, are almost as deeply in the tank as the opposition. Calling them “enablers” rather than contributors is being kind.

    The Democrats are NOT going to challenge, much less change, any significant portion of the status quo. Which means we’re going to have to STOP keying on them and start talking about what we have to do to get our country back, or else be prepared to lose it forever.

    The DLC/BD-led Democratic party has proven that it will not, perhaps cannot, lead in this effort. Continuing to be “patient” will simply tell them they can keep right on doing what they’ve been doing. They won’t lead but they can very possibly be made to follow. There are indications that there’s some seething going on under the surface, a deep dissatisfaction with the leadership’s choices by Democrats who are not (or not yet) corporate camp followers.

    We need to exploit that crack in the wall by attacking the leadership EVERY TIME it consents to support authoritarian laws like FISA or corporate crime like the Panamanian trade deal. Just as important, we have to be vocal about supporting Dems like Woolsey who are willing to call their own party to account for its obsequious obedience to corporate/radcon authoritarianism and greed.

    The war is only a symptom. Creeping despotism is the disease, and if we don’t do something to stop it other than wish the Dems would get their act together, the prognosis is for the destruction of representative democracy in America.

    I wish to hell I was exaggerating.

  16. Methinks we have some room to agree here, Mick, and I’ll tell you why. I’m no econ wonk, and so much of the corporatocracy is lost on me. But I direct your attention to the renewing of the grotesque civil liberty violations (read: “Security measures”) that happened not so recently.

    Supposedly this renewal is only supposed to be for six months? Nine months, don’t remember on the fly, but the point is, there’s no excuse for this. Aside from the potential for violating civil liberties, there’s not even any kind of precedent for this stuff working.

    This is established knowledge, and yet they went ahead with the renewal anyway. I can’t even begin to explain why they would do this.

    But here’s one of the things I think is why this is happening, there’s not enough public debate. I mean, were getting railroaded, and here’s where the money really is destroying our democracy is that so much of political knowledge is coming through TV spots, but that’s not debate, that’s advertising.

    I’m a little incoherent right about now because I’m doing about three things at once rightnow, so sorry about that.

    But here’s the bottom line. We’re getting railroaded because, you know, I don’t even consider myself well informed and I read up on current events anywhere from six to ten hours a day. So it’s hard work just to know what is going on and be informed about it.

    Without that effort, all you’re going to get is what’s on the evening news and the tv spots that politicians and politically motivated groups buy, and I think it doesn’t need to be said that those aren’t particularly geared towards informing people so much as influencing their opinion.

    So the first step to anything here, is to change that. To transform information from a hard fought commodity to a readily accessible resource, and to take the one way flow of opinion that comprises the entirety of American debate, and turn it into a two way experience that not only engages people and keeps them involved, but actually turns into a kind of testing ground for ideas, which, as evidenced by the rise of the neocons, is the opposite of what we have now.

  17. matttbastard says:

    No time to get back into the debate too deeply. As mentioned in Mac’s latest thread, I don’t have a kid, but I do have a cat, and a GF who will soon be demanding my attention ( we’ll leave the mounting debt for another day). But I will link to a New Left Review essay by that contrarian Marxist sonofabitch Alexander Cockburn.

    Even though the focus is on the (lack of an) antiwar movement in the US, the broader point–the lack of a contemporary unified independent left in the US and the effect that has on the overall political discourse–seems in line with what Mick had to say in his preceding comment (which, again, I agree with in toto – nice to know I’m not the only flamin’ lefty who doesn’t ‘get’ modern electoral politics here. Of course, being Canadian, even some of our conservatives are further left than many–if not most–Dems).

    As an aside, the Cockburn essay at least partially legitimizes the old ‘blind squirrel finds nut’ theorem.

  18. mick says:

    I don’t want this to turn into just us three, and I understand Sat’s a busy day for people who actually have lives, but nevertheless, 2 quick points.

    Kyle: After reading you for awhile (I’ve had CFLF on my various blogrolls for ages), I suspect there’s a good deal we’d agree on – most everything, in fact, except the overt and deliberate nature of Democratic culpability for the social disruptions (including economic) and legal atrocities of the last 15 yrs. Otherwise, we’re pretty much on the same page, altho in general I’m prepared to go further down the path than you are. You’re more cautious and more thorough – both admirable qualities – than I am, and still trying to be fair. I gave up fair some time ago.

    For instance, opposing the “the renew[al] of…grotesque civil liberty violations”. Absolutely crucial and absolutely not a “party” issue. It shouldn’t matter which party anyone belongs to when it comes to defending the Constitution from grotesque violations. Michael put up a video of Chuck Hagel with Bill Maher in which both made the point that traditional Republicans are finally realizing that they’ve allowed their party to be hijacked by radical authoritarians bent on destroying the 2-party system forever (among other things) and corrupt beyond all hope of redemption (my words, not theirs). John Dean just wrote a book about the same issue called Broken Government (there’s an excerpt at Salon).

    I think the trashing of our liberties in a phony exchange for “safety” would resonate with Americans across the political spectrum (except that far-right portion that’s wishing and hoping for an autocracy, especially a theocratic autocracy, to take over) if they knew what was going on. As you point out, they don’t. That, it seems to me, is the most critically dangerous issue and the obvious place to start.

    matttbastard: Thanks for the support and all the links to great stuff. Cockburn’s essay touches on a factor I’ve been deliberately ignoring up to now because, as I said above, I think the most important crisis we face isn’t left/right or party sensitive. Still, the fact that there’s been no real opposition presence in the US since the failure to make Reagan et al accountable for Iran/Contra in the mid-80’s is a prime element in the corporatocracy’s ability to get what it wanted and the authoritarians’ ability to ignore laws and even the Constitution itself with impunity.

    That vacuum desperately needs to be filled.

  19. Here’s the scary part about what you and I both agree about Mick, and that’s that it isn’t party specific. Here’s the thing about ideologically centered trends, they go back and forth, if things push too far in one direction, they’ll most likely backlash in the other direction (from political correctness to the sway towards social conservatism-a theory I have that we can probably discuss in greater length some other time). Some definite, “this too shall pass” kinda stuff.

    Another good examle of this is gay rights, polling data shows that, if we just cool our heals, gay rights will have their way as voters under thirty are widely for things like gay marriage and gay adoption, while voters over sixty are vastly against it.

    But there is the backlash effect, particularly with the more extremists of the movement. Lately, and this is what I pick up from LGBT activists, part of the progress of the LGBT movement has arisen out of the ostracizing of the extreme factions of the movement were more successful in energizing the opposition than they were in making true progress.

    But again, this is all part of the conversation we’re trying to push off to a later date. As I say, what makes the civil liberties violations such as the Patriot act and warrantless wiretapping and torture so dangerous is the that they don’t cross party lines and touch upon aspects of the public that run much deeper than mere ideology.

    It is this aspect of the debate that has led me to question Edwards’ courting of the labor bloc because the labor bloc has been dug out by both social conservatism and neoconservatism, both of which get to the heart of the matter.

    This is TMT stuff (if you need I got probably about half a dozen posts on this here, as well as it being covered on Wikipedia, both of al frankens most recent books, Al Gore’s book Assault On Reason). When we talk about people acting out of fear, it’s almost mind boggling how deep this goes.

    It’s not like people don’t KNOW that their civil liberties are being infringed upon. One of the scariest things I’ve seen was Post 9-11 interviews of regular every day people, Joe and Jane Sixpack for the horse race nuts, outright saying, “yeah, if it will make us safer, than I think we should be willing up to give up certain things”.

    And then you look at the campaign rhetoric of Rudy Giuliani, and he’s playing to it, step by step.

    (incidentally, in this single area, at least in the case of the presidential candidates, this is probably why I still hold hope for Democrats, and that’s that they don’t play for TMT, and one of the things I respected most about Kerry was that interview where he laid out his anti-terrorism beliefs because not only did he not bleat about terror and then talk about robbing liberties, but he treated the issue intelligently and honestly. Pity that was one of the many factors that resulted in himlosing the election).

    But, when it comes to wrestling back our civil liberties from the “emergence of the state” (read: American Torture Michael Otterman. There’s actually a whole book on it apparently that I am dying to get my hands on), the two largest challenges we face is figuring out how to counteract the detrimental effects of TMT (The only thing I can think of here is knowledge dissemination; hopefully if people realize they’re being played, then they’ll be more aware and avoid it). The other is, as Al Gore describes in Reason, the tendancy for fear based information to bypass reason centers in the brain.

    In other words, people are still scared shitless, and they’re acting stupid as a result.

    ps. Thank you for the compliments, though I kinda balk at being thorough, I often feel I’m not thorough enough, and you definitely have me on that scale. Also, man is it good having you onboard. You know how long it’s been since I’ve been in a debate where I didn’t feel like it was a bare knuckled brawl?

  20. mick says:

    As I say, what makes the civil liberties violations such as the Patriot act and warrantless wiretapping and torture so dangerous is the that they don’t cross party lines and touch upon aspects of the public that run much deeper than mere ideology.

    They don’t cross party lines or run deeper than ideology? Of course they do. This needs explanation.

    It is this aspect of the debate that has led me to question Edwards’ courting of the labor bloc because the labor bloc has been dug out by both social conservatism and neoconservatism, both of which get to the heart of the matter.

    Not sure what you mean by “dug out”. Could you expand a little more on this?

    It’s not like people don’t KNOW that their civil liberties are being infringed upon. One of the scariest things I’ve seen was Post 9-11 interviews of regular every day people, Joe and Jane Sixpack for the horse race nuts, outright saying, “yeah, if it will make us safer, than I think we should be willing up to give up certain things”.

    And then you look at the campaign rhetoric of Rudy Giuliani, and he’s playing to it, step by step.

    I’m by no means a TMT expert, but what I know of it doesn’t seem to take into account the weariness factor in familiarity. In psychology, there’s a point at which repeated warnings of imminent danger that aren’t true breed cynicism and disbelief in the warner by the warnee. The technical term for this is the BWCWE, or the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” Effect. Basically, every false use of fear makes people more resistant to each succeeding use of fear until they finally become angry.

    I think we’ve reached that stage. If you look at the numbers, nobody seems to be reacting any more except that minority that needs to be afraid and invents fears it wants to be protected from. IOW, the die-hard Republican base. No one else is buying it any more.

    This wasn’t true immediately after 9/11. The Fear Factor (what does TMT call it? the “mortality hypothesis” or something like that?) then was at its height. But in the 6 yrs since, the Bushies have beaten it to death, and the polls haven’t budged in months – there’s no bump any more from fresh threats of danger as there were in the past.

    In other words, people are still scared shitless, and they’re acting stupid as a result.

    I don’t think so. I don’t mean they’re not acting stupid, but I don’t think they’re doing it because they’re scared shitless. I think it’s a matter of confusion and abandonment by the opposition party. They’ve reached the stage where they’re looking for hope from a political system that seems determined not to offer them any.

    I may not have said it here, but I live in the most conservative and most overtly Republican area of Massachusetts – Central Mass – and even the die-hards here are fed up. They know nothing about FISA but they know their govt has been spying on them and they don’t like it. They know the govt wants to do a lot more spying on them and they like that even less. I’ve had conversations with rock-ribbed conservatives in the last few months that would have been unthinkable just last year. They’re finally beginning to see thru the games and the propaganda, and they’re slowly approaching real anger. They feel conned and manipulated.

    The key problem right now, as I see it, is that they aren’t yet able or are reluctant to make distinctions between the parties. They see the Dems in the same light they see the Pubs: as scam artists, liars, and corrupt. And I think they have a point.

    The Democrats haven’t done anything real to separate themselves from the Republicans. My people out here need to be shocked and the only thing liable to shock them is politicians taking risks and standing up for what they believe for the good of the country, regardless of poll results. The skinny on the Dems in this neck o’ the woods is that they’re lazy, opportunistic cowards. That’s what the corporate press and Pub shills have been telling them for years, and that’s what they believe.

    The Dems could cut thru all the lies and crap about them, and turn Pub propaganda back on itself, by acting vigorously and unambiguously against this stereotype, as Obama has suggested. Yes, it’s risky, but in my judgment it’s more risky not to.

    If the Dems wait until they have the WH to make a move, they will have squandered their advantage and – far, far more importantly – a chance to put a sick country on the path to health.

    In a nutshell, we’re ready to listen but the Dems aren’t telling us anything worth listening to.

    ps to the ps. Ditto. But I’m just filling in for Michael while he’s on vacation in the wilds of the Borneo jungle hunting the elusive wapiti tapeworm and doing a little tarpon fishing on the side. So, barring Michael’s tragic ingestion by said tapeworm, this is a temporary gig, as I understand it. Fun, tho. I usually labor in obscurity with minimum feedback. Actually getting responses – and intelligent ones at that – is an experience I haven’t had since I deserted BBS’ for the loneliness of the long-distance blogger 5 yrs ago. I intend to enjoy the hell out of it for as long as it lasts.

  21. Really don’t have time, but I think I misspoke, and wanted to correct that. What I meant was the whole TMT thing transcends party lines.

    More later, obviously.

  22. Okay, since we got to get to other things for now, I simply wanted to make two more additions, and see where we go from there.

    First, Mick, I truly hope you’re right about Americans not voting out of fear instincts, I really do. I also kinda had thought that this was the case, that we were moving away from a climate wherein politicking off of terror would produce strong results.

    But I’m still afraid that we haven’t come far enough, and this is in part fostered by a poll that think I hit late last week. In it, it showed that while Hillary Clinton has made excellent progress in national polls against Rudy Giuliani, if asked who would be the better president in the case of a terrorist attack, Rudy beats her by a fourteen point margin. That’s ridiculous, and that is the effect of TMT. He OWNS terrorism in this campaign, or at least, he owns politicking off of it, and this is where it shows in the polls.

    Second, and this is not me being snarky, but me being realistic. Forcing an end through funding essentially works like this (assuming i have a grasp on it); you have dems write up legislation that redeploys troops, or however you want to put it, and if Bush doesn’t do that, he gets no funding. Assuming this makes it out of Congress, Bush vetoes it and a stand off is therefore begun, one that many who favor this political tactic believe will force Bush to bring the troops home or force him to sign the legislation.

    In a recent online video, Rachel Maddow (whom I love to death) parroted this, calling Biden out for it, but again, all she finished with is simply that the move will force an end to the war.

    No one is answering what I want to know, and that is, without signed legislation, what keeps Bush from keeping troops there, funding bill or not? If it’s just the idea that he would be decent enough to not keep them there without funding, that doesn’t work for me. In fact anything short of iron clad constitutional language at this point is about what I need. If I get this, count me on your side in this.

  23. Mick Arran says:

    The quick answer is the Constitution, which is not ambiguous on the issue. From David Sirota:

    For reference, here is Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution:

    “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.”

    Translated into vernacular, that’s the part of the Constitution that says the Congress – and only the Congress – has the power of the purse. If congressional leaders decided to NOT use that power of the purse, this war would be over.

    Section 7 says, as plainly as day, Section 7. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills. There is NO provision whatever for a president to appropriate money without the House, and in fact the Senate can’t appropriate money, either. It can only accept or reject appropriations bills from the House.

    The only possible way for Bush to sidestep this Constitutional requirement, short of a blatantly unConstitutional Exec Order to the Treasury to borrow the money w/out Congressional approval (which is unConstitutionality an order of magnitude beyond anything they’ve done yet), would be to shift the funds in the Pentagon’s already-approved budget. That would, however, bankrupt the Pentagon, and its legality would be questionable as well.

    This has gotta be quick and dirty because I’m just home in between errands. I’ll expand later if you want. But the Congress has no need to order troop redeployment, as was shown at the end of the Viet Nam war. Their responsibility is to appropriate the money – or not. If not, the Pentagon will use funds already appropriated to redeploy troops either to other stations or home instead of continuing to prosecute the war. If more money is needed for the redeployment, the Congress can, at the request of the Pentagon, pass a supplemental bill specifically for the purpose of paying for that redeployment.

    If Bush tried to appropriate money on his own, going around the Congress, he would be so severely in violation of the Constitution that the Congress could bypass impeachment and arrest him directly, removing him physically from office. They wouldn’t but they could. He would certainly be impeached and then removed. No Pub in the country would dare do anything else. The Framers put the power of the purse in the Congress because that is what separates a king from an elected president. For Bush to defy that would be tantamount to declaring himself – officially – the King of America, and nobody, not even Tancredo or Coburn, would have the balls to back a play like that.

    Does that help clear it up?

  24. No, because I’m clear on just about all of that. What I’m wanting to know is what keeps him from keeping the troops there without money? No one’s arguing that physically congress, specifically the house, can close the purse. What is in question is what prevents the President from holding troops there without the purse? We’re talking shut down government and everything, he just keeps them put. Not even orders them to fight, just orders them to stand still until he is able to bully congress into finally passing a bill that allows him to continue on.

    What I’m saying is that as Commander in Chief, he can order them wherever the hell he wants them to be. Now if these troops were home, and congress didn’t want to fund him deploying them to Iraq, that would be one thing, but they’re already there, and in fact need money to be brought home. Under that condition, ultimately he still has to issue the order to withdrawl or not.

    This is the scenario that I think we who are a little more wary of trying to close the purse are worried about. This is Bush, here. Unless he is constitutionally forced to order troops home upon an absence of money, I don’t put it beyond him to keep troops there on the premise that he believes he can paint Democrats as being the culprit that put the troops in harms way by not funding them.

    I fully understand that Dems can force a closed purse, I just want to know if it’s possible for Bush to keep them there despite the fact.

    there’s actually, I need to do some deep digging, but I think there’s some precedent to a situation like this, though I’m INCREDIBLY hazy on it, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find it. If I can, I’ll bring it in to the debate.

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