Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

When the House passed a war funding bill that provided $50 Billion for the Iraq War effort, the biggest string that most people focused on was the requirement to withdrawal completely out of Iraq by the end of next year.  But, as it turns out, there were even more strings, strings that would be nice to have in place.

On top of bringing troops home, the bill would revise the Army Field Manual to further narrow allowed interrogation techniques, but also, and even more importantly, would require the CIA to adhere to the same standards as the military.  Gone would be the legalese voodoo played with such techniques as waterboarding.  On top of this, the bill would also effectively put an end to CIA rendition, otherwise known as torture outsourcing.

The Iraq funding measure revises the Army Field Manual to prohibit torture and abuse, including waterboarding, and authorizes an array of specific interrogation tactics. It specifically states that CIA operatives must adhere to these rules as well.

“The House of Representatives made great progress last night by passing legislation that reinforces the ban on torture and abuse by any government body or official,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, in a release. “This could end the CIA’s use of torture if signed into law. America does not stand for torture and Americans can now know that no element of our government is engaged in torture. This will begin to restore America’s tarnished image at home and abroad.”

But the bill’s future in the Senate will prove to be problematic, and even if it manages to survive the gauntlet there, it will face almost certain destruction at the hands of Bush’s veto pen.  So, for the second time this day, I find myself thinking ‘wake me up when the veto comes’.

Unfortunately, this bill, which the more one learns, the more one likes, has absolutely no chance at being signed into law.  Bush, whose efforts in Iraq have been falsely bolstered by recent mischaracterized data, will not be cowed, and his supporters in Congress have enough to go on to at least give them some plausibility in refusing a veto over ride.  This again puts the onus upon the Democrats to continue sending back this bill to the President until he does sign it into law, but I think we both know that that will not happen.  Still, wouldn’t it be nice?

7 Responses to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”

  1. It would be nice if they continued to send back the same bill. But failing that, as we discussed yesterday, it would be just as nice if they just sent him back nothing at all.

    As John Galt would have been all too happy to point out- principles are non-negotiable. They can either convince us our principles are wrong or force it upon us if they wish, but they should not have “our” approval for the compromise of “our” principles. (This is officially the most militant thing I’ve said since I was a blue-blood theocon in college and early law school).

  2. You know this is a very new tack for me, and it requires a certain understanding. In the past I’ve often not been a large fan principled leadership in the sense that Bush embodies it, in other words, I’m something of a populist, I believe there should be some kind of waffling as dynamics don’t stay static, and I’m a fan of compromise. But the deciding factor here is that this kind of governance only works if all the parties involved are willing to engage on equal footing.

    It took a realization that this administration and this current guise of the Republican party refuses to engage in compromise, it refuses to cede any ground, and it does this in favor of a radical and failed ideology. What makes this even worse is the fact that while Republicans are stalwart, Democrats are… well… bendy. So while normally I’m very anxious about someone sticking to principle hard and fast, at this point getting the Democrats to do so would simply mean leveling the playing field a little.

  3. mick says:

    In that case, I assume you find Obama’s rock-hard belief in bi-partisanship disturbing.

  4. Actually, Mick, I don’t.

    There is, I admit, a discrepency between what I feel now, and what I feel all the time, and this under the understanding that much of the problems stem from the fact that the Chief Executive is totally against bi-partisanship which largely creates the dynamic that bi-partisansip won’t work.

    The fact is, I have endorsed Obama from the beginning because his philosophy is largely in line with how I think government should work, and the only way to get to that place is to put someone in the Executive who embodies that. But, and I was going to leave this as a comment to your analysis, but I guess this goes equally well here now; you do fit perfectly into the piece I wrote entitled, “Why Obama Won’t Win,” that being that the left has been turned so anti bi-partisan that the philosophy that Obama offers won’t sit well with many of the more entrenched liberals/progressives.

    A lack of bi-partisanship is what is called for now among Democrats because without that, they will be trod upon by the Republicans. But it is also my feeling that with the right President, one who will halt Republican chicanery when is necessary, but won’t push them from the table completely, then I think we can get back to the kind of decision making and legislating that will be most beneficial to the country.

    This kind of philosophy does require some compromising of one’s own ideology, I’ve always understood this, and this single idea has been what has informed much of my political life. It is also informed by two simple facts; not everyone agrees with me, and being human, I and everyone who subscribes to the same ideological ideals as me do share the possibility of being wrong from one occasion to the next.

    We are in a cycle of which ideology is the dominant and that ideology being allowed to run rampant until enough people get fed up with it that another ideology can take over. As long as we continue to elect the more hardliners in any political faith, we can expect that cycle to continue.

    Anyone who has endorsed Obama to this point has not done so because he is a great progressive or a liberal; he isn’t. But, this goes to my coverage of the gubernatorial race in Virginia of 05, and shows what I think is a better way for the party and for the country, and it does come at the expense of my more pure political beliefs. Good governance over everything else.

    To understand how this can be at odds with liberalism and progressivism, or to get rid of the silly labels, a more leftist philosophy is that it recognizes that every great once in a while conservatives might have a point, further, even if they don’t have a point, there are a great many conservatives in this country and it would be unfair to govern roughshod over them without taking into account their sensibilities.

    There will always be the idealogue stalwarts who must be minimized, and it is not necessarily to them Obama is reaching out a hand. You say there are no moderates left in the party; that may be true, that may not be true, pack mentality does play a role and under these current circumstances I think it not quite possible to make such an assessment. But what is I think something worth testing is that if we removed the greatest hindrance to a populist/consensus style of democracy is the executive who has tipped the scales of power out of whack.

    Electing most people currently in the field on either side of the fence right now would essentially just keep those scales off balance. I think McCain would have a chance of not doing that, I think Obama would have a chance of not doing that, maybe Biden, maybe Richardson, and that’s about it.

    No, I stand pretty much un-waivered in my support for Obama; I still believe this is the one guy who has the best chance of not just being a good president, but actually starting to heal some of the wounds that have festered in our political discourse. Unfortunately, the hardest of the liberal base are just as guilty as many on the right, the so-called 24%ers of not really wanting that to occur.

  5. I think there’s a difference between bi-partisanship and compromise. Bi-partisanship means (in my mind) taking things that you agree with on principle, and negotiating and compromising the details.

    As in, there’s a big difference between saying “I think $100 million for program x is too little, you think $500 million is too much, let’s compromise,” and “I want $500 million for program x, you don’t think it should exist at all, let’s compromise.” In the former scenario, you’re arguing over details to come to a mutually beneficial result. In the latter, compromise means the second person is sacrificing principle for the sake of appearing cooperative.

    Indeed, true partisanship itself involves sacrificing principle at the altar of what is good for the party. As I’ve said before, political parties are just umbrella groups to elect members of various interest groups that do not always have the same basic principles. I think that when Obama talks of bipartisanship, he is implicitly acknowledging this, and rejecting the notion that one interest group (ie, him) should sacrifice its own principle in the interest of aligning with other interests groups that he usually agrees with. I guess what I’m saying is that there is a huge difference between principle (which inherently involves no compromises) and partisanship (which inherently requires compromise of principle).

    On Social Security (about which I have a pro-Obama, anti-Krugman post today), I reject the notion that Obama is acknowledging underlying problems with the program simply out of a sense of bipartisanship. Instead, I believe his sense of bipartisanship comes into play only because he sees underlying problems with the system. Call it a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma if you will, but it’s a very important one.

    Similarly, I think (could be wrong, though) Obama’s sense of bipartisanship doesn’t involve compromise on torture or civil liberties, which are principles rather than details. This is why I, unlike others, loved his response to the question about whether security can ever win out over civil liberties when they are in conflict- ie, rejecting the premise of the question and refusing to answer it. He implicitly understood that by answering the question in any way- even by saying “no”- he was making a compromise of his principles because it would mean a de facto acknowledgement that freedom and security are not coextensive.

    Anyways, I think this is why I and a lot of other ex-Republicans like Obama so much- he understands that personal principle is a much, much different thing from party orthodoxy. Even when I disagree with him- which is the vast majority of the time- I’m able to appreciate that he’s just starting with a different premise than me.

  6. Okay, I like where you are going with that Mark (and you don’t have to put the PE thing in there anymore, we know who you are by now dude).

    I’m going to try to come at this from an angle slightly different than you though. I think you can use your principles to set the boundaries of the debate, or the field of compromise, just as your intellectual opponent will, but then, you actually take those boundaries and you actually debate.

    I think with the exception of the most pure of the idealogues, what this does is put into play a lot of the problems that plague the nation, and when the boundaries are so offset, I think what is the responsible thing to do is to not throw your hands up in the air and say “I quit”; that’s what today’s politics are like, and it usually means one side (modern Goppers) winning out ridiculously over the loser. This leads to what I think is one of the worst things for this country and that is an idealogically pure solution.

    I don’t like purity pretty much in any form (probably a topic for a future post I suppose, but Pure Oxygen will kill you. Pure water is a diarretic. Pure anything ends up being pretty bad for you, and it seems as though this is pretty analogous in most situations).

    Instead, you realize you have still a problem, but coming at it from the same old angles won’t produce a net result, so you have to take a step back and attack it from totally different angles completely. In truth, this is one of the reasons why Democrats keep losing on the torture debate.

    The thing is, Republicans have sketched out their boundaries, the Democrats have sketched theirs, and they continue to clash on them leading to ugly skirmishes through which nothing gets done. The onus lies upon the Democrats, however, to create an entirely new angle, and I agree with you Mark, Obama’s answer on National Security was great specifically in this context, but it needs to go so much further.

    Torture can’t be equivocated because it is not legal, and it is not moral, but instead of the old right versus wrong arguments, we have to come back out, and construct the narrative from the very beginning to show a full and comprehensive national security/ anti-terrorism plan that does not include torture, but provides a clear and plausible theory that will make us safer, keep intact our Constitutional principles, and make America more effective on the World Stage not just in dealing with our enemies, but with our friends.

    It can’t be just about torture, but changing the entire course of our foreign policy to be in line with being both safer, and more American.

  7. Mark says:

    Damn autosave- I post from two different computers, and I kept forgetting to change that tag on this computer. Thanks for reminding me.

    Anyways, I pretty much agree with you on the whole purity thing- it’s what Orwell would have referred to as orthodoxy. However, I would put one caveat- you have to always be true to what you actually believe rather than what people tell you to believe.

    This doesn’t negate compromise, I might add. In fact, I probably should have added a third hypothetical above: the situation where program x already exists as a $500 million program, one person wants to eliminate the program, and the other person wants to maintain current funding levels, or even increase funding. In that case, I think compromise is acceptable for either party because the first person is either keeping the program from growing further or reducing it, thus keeping consistent with said person’s core principle. The second person is still in decent shape because he can still hold on to his core principle that the program should exist. I guess you would say my approval of this result is the Burkean conservative side of me speaking, rather than the libertarian side.

    Anyhow, completely off-topic, but given the libertarian view of the political spectrum as being 2-dimensional rather than 1-dimensional, I’m starting to really like your blog title “Comments from Left Field.” On the libertarian spectrum, “Left Field” would roughly mean statist on economic issues, and anti-statist on issues of personal freedom. Mick would probably be lined up to guard against the double, and the rest of you would probably be playing pretty straight-away left-field. Me? Dead center, baby! Bush/Cheney? First base, playing to guard the lines (remember, crony capitalism is a big deduction on the economic freedom scale, which is why they’re not in the outfield).
    If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, this will help:


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