hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Saturday, November 13, 2004
Jeffrey Sachs is touting a "Simple Plan To Save the
World" As a first estimate, it would cost $75 billion
a year, around $35 billion of which would come from
the US. George Bush had the guts to ask the American
people to fork over 200 billion dollars for his pet
foreign aid project. Do we have the guts to ask $35
billion dollars for ours?






Now, the rest of this post is yet more Whither
Democrats? thoughts, which you don't particularly have
to read:

I didn't vote for Dean, but Howard Dean's quote: "We
Democrats have been so desperate to win that we'll say
anything. But as soon as you do that, you lose.
Because the American people can see right through
that" has never been more relevant amidst the orgy of
Democratic self-abasement this past week.

In all these arguments "what the Democrats *must* do
in order to win", a lot of people seem to be
forgetting that there's many different ways that the
Democrats could win. They could win by going right,
going left, emphasising national security, emphasising
economics, or emphasising moral values. The only thing
the Democrats *must* do in order to win is to give a
majority of voters sufficiently convincing moral
and material reasons to pull the Democratic lever.

Another point being overlooked is that the same
underlying policy platform can be sold in different
ways to different constituencies. Even if the
Democrats "move towards to the center", they can still
be successfully attacked as anti-God&Country
socialists. Does anybody doubt this? And even "far
left" policies by today's standards can be
successfully defended as moderate or even
conservative. After all, on domestic issues Nixon or
Eisenhower were farther to the left than anybody in
today's political climate.

Rather than arguing what the Democrats *must* in order
to win, it seems to me the first step is figuring out
what we *want* to do. That's the first step. The
second step is figuring out how to sell it, along with
how much to compromise in the interests of political

For example, reforming the War on Drugs (not
necessarily legalizing) could be a good issue for us,
even in the Red States. But if all we argue over is
"how do we win?", politically risky (but promising)
issues like the War on Drugs or changing Cuba policy
will never get a hearing. And that pathological
unwillingness to take risks *does* communicate itself
to the American people as weakness and wimpiness. How
could it not?

Lastly, from a marketing or "vision" standpoint, two
small ideas:

1) "Middle Class, Common Sense, Golden Rule". In other
words there are "Middle Class"
issues (taxes, health care, social security,
private-sector unions, jobs), "Common Sense" issues
(defense, education, civil rights, environment,
immigration, campaign reform, abortion, etc.), and
"Golden Rule" issues (foreign aid, anti-poverty &
homeless programs, humanitarian military missions).

2) "(Let's Make America) The Best Across the Board"
This comes from a very interesting Ted Halstead
article, where he asserted an "American Paradox":
Among the advanced industrial countries, we are either
the very best or among the very worst. We have the
best military, GDP, productivity, business start-ups,
R&D, breadth of stock ownership, volunteerism,
charitable giving. At the same we are among the worst
in poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality,
homicide, health-care coverage, teen pregnancy,
personal savings & obesity. So the slogan would mean
(working toward) making America the best in all these
categories, best in infant mortality as well as GDP.

"Middle Class, Common Sense, Golden Rule" & "The Best
Across the Board" are two marketing slogans that seem
to me to have the advantage of not offending anybody
despite being fairly meaningful, and at the same time
being simple enough to be shouted at political rallies
or on TV screens. "The Best Across the Board" also
might have the advantage of appealing to the
patriotism of Americans, even jingoistic patriotism.
Really, there are a million good approaches in terms
of marketing. Nevertheless, here are two.

comment on winds of change:

a couple of points:

1) You're right. At this time in history, with this military at his command, any determined American political leader will prevail militarily in Afghanistan, Iraq, and lots of other places, no matter how. . .suboptimal their leadership may be. But the main danger in Iraq is not that we will lose militarily, it is that we will lose the Iraqi people. Or a much larger chunk of the Iraqi people than is necessary. There are three types of young Iraqi men fighting us right now: Sunni supremacists (Baathists), terrorists, and anti-Occupation Nationalists. Or in other words, evildoers and fools. In concert with our Iraqi allies, we must defeat the evildoers, but good Iraqi and American leadership must also try to reduce the number of young Iraqi fools throwing their lives away by fighting against this temporary Occupation. I want leadership that understands these nuances, and is willing make these moral distinctions even among our enemies.

That we have liberated the Iraqi people is not yet a fact. It will depend on what happens these next few years. I want leadership that understands that. And I want a leader who understands the psychological truth that many Iraqis, irrationally and counter-productively, do not want to give the US credit for liberating their country, and who will therefore try his damndest to put an Iraqi face on this liberation. I want a leader who will try his damndest to engage directly with the Iraqi people, and make them understand our motives and our actions, and try to win them over to our side.

2) There are all sorts of problems with the UN: a)Any venture with blue helmets is a disaster waiting to happen, because no soldier is willing to fight and die for the UN b) Except for violations of sovereignty, UN types treat all parties to a dispute or issue as equally legitimate and worthy of respect, no matter how evil or in the wrong they are, and get huffy if you demand that they take a stand and stop coddling the bad guys c) the UN is filled with and led by smug, pompous lawyers d) these lawyers tend to be very credulous and putty in the hands of swindlers and thugs, leading to lots of corruption e) the Russians and especially the Chinese are not our friends, and obstruct us at almost every opportunity.

However, there are lots of problems where we are not willing to do something, but we want something to be done (e.g. we are not willing to send peace-keeping troops to Sudan, but we want troops to be sent). That means working with some multilateral organization, UN or not. When the UN lends its legitimacy to some venture, like Gulf War I & the unanimous inspector resolution, it is useful. I interpret Kerry's stance as a common sense one: you use the UN to the maximum extent it proves useful, and to the extent it proves obstructionist or ineffectual, you ditch it and get the job done in some other way.

To those who say that the UN/multilateral oranizations is a genuinely malign force, actively on the side of evil, actively determined to thwart American power, I say this: Look at the process by which Hamid Karzai was chosen as the post-Taliban leader of a new Afghanistan. Look at the process by which Chalabi, the IGC and now Allawi were chosen as the post-Saddam leaders of a new Iraq. Compare the results. And then tell me that the UN is an irredeemably corrupt, useless, good-for-nothing organization. . .

Andrew J. Lazarus:

Only this evening did I Google for Soviet casualties in their Afghan War. They were of about the same order of magnitude as ours are in Iraq. Their force was a little smaller, and while they took fewer casualties in the conventional military phase, they did suffer more—maybe double, not more—than we are in the Occupation/Liberation phase.

The next time someone wants to comment on how well we're doing in Iraq, pretend it's Moscow 1980, and explain to me why my pessimism is wrong, and Marxist-Leninism is on its inexorable march. . .

Because the Soviet Union wanted to keep Afghanistan forever, and we don't:) IMO, Probably the most accurate historical parallel to Iraq is the turn of the century war in the Phillipines, and also our early 20-century attempted intervention in Mexico. But even that is imperfect, because our motives in Iraq are more noble than our motives were in the Philipines. IMO, the underlying motivation for the Iraq war was Glory, not Conquest.

Friday, November 12, 2004
comment on winds of change:

I don't really understand why anyone would say they're ashamed to be an American. Assuming that some of the people she's talking to are Indian-American (or Jewish), I can understand the desire to move to a country where you're part of the ethnic majority rather than a minority, but I cannot understand why someone would say "I'm ashamed to be an American".

I think for starters, that sentiment betrays an ignorance of the world and of history. I have an email which has been in an unfinished state for a few months(to you, AL, come to think of it). Here is an excerpt: " . . .At any given time in history, the most wealthy and powerful country becomes the model for other countries to emulate. First think about a world where a young Nigerian or Indian, or Brazilian, burning with ambition to make their country great, respected and esteemed in the eyes of the world, tries to make their country more like the USA. Now imagine a world where that model to emulate is instead- as it very possibly could have been- Nazi Germany; Stalin's, and even Kruschev's and Brezhnev's, Russia; Pre WWII Japan; in the future, an economically and militarily powerful Chinese autocracy which grants some economic, but very little social, political, intellectual or judicial freedom. . ."

On an absolute scale, of course you can come up with any number of legitimate reasons to be critical of your country. But if you're grading on a curve, as you should, I don't understand how someone can say "I'm ashamed to be an American".

I have absolutely no desire to dump on India, but it is perhaps appropriate to mention that after suffering a Muslim terrorist attack in Gujarat, there was a week of rioting and thuggery where hundreds of innocent Muslims were killed. That simply could not have happened in America, and that should be a source of considerable pride.

comment on winds of change:

Actually I think Kerry wil try to raid the top Republican foreign policy talent: McCain, Lugar, Hagel etc. for his administration. Along with Biden, Lieberman, Clark, etc. these are his friends, and the people he trusts. It would also, in my judgment, be smart to appoint an honest, competent Republican for attorney general in Kerry's first term. Frank Keating, for example, would be a good choice. But then, I actually think the "moonbats" are good people, for the most part. There is no contradiction between believing it was a mistake to start the war in march 2003 and also believing that now that its started, we have to make it a success. You can find plenty of people in the Republican base who take a "nuke 'em all, and let God sort 'em out" approach to foreign affairs. To not vote for Kerry because of the "moonbats" surrounding him seems pretty weak, a kind of rationalization.

And, I'll say again that I believe you're profoundly underestimating the difference between electing a hardworking, conscientious member of the reality based community, capable of learning from mistakes and adjusting to facts on the ground, versus a basically well-meaning but somewhat immature man, unwilling to pay attention to details, unwilling to debate or to hear even constructive criticism, and who has an egoistic, self-destructive need to justify every decision or judgment he's ever made.

comment on winds of change:

re: the fixed price thing, doesn't it depend on the price the dealer was offering? What people hate is the feeling that the dealer is pretending that you beat him down, while in fact he's waiting for the ink to dry to whoop it up at the massive profit margin. Offering a fixed price guarantees you won't get jobbed in relation to other customers of the same dealer, but it doesn't assuage the fear that the dealer is offering a fair price on a reasonable margin (what's "fair"? Good question. let's not think about it.)

The biggest misconception among the bigshot Democratic politicos is the notion that they have to drive Bush's approval numbers down, and damage Bush's personal reputation, in order to win elections. It worked for the Republicans with Clinton/Gore, but they have a lot of advantages that we don't, among them more money, the corporate media, and a number of partisans in judicial positions willing to shamelessly abuse prosecutorial and subpoena power in order to damage Democrats, while either refusing to investigate Republicans, or simply letting them off the hook for the same offenses.

But I digress. My point is voters don't have disapprove of Bush to vote Democratic. They simply have to approve of the Democratic candidate more than they approve of Bush. That is, they have to be persuaded that they personally, and the country as a whole, will do better if the Democrat gets elected.

What's wrong with the DNC's current approach is that they're talking a great deal about how the Bush administration has failed, and how their motives are often malign, but it doesn't seem to talk very much about how much better the country will do if the Dems' get the keys to the car.

That said, I think an ideological Republican should be madder at the RNC than I am at the DNC.
Look, these fellas have control of all three branches of government. That's a big deal, and it's not going to last for very long. What has the current administration been doing with all that power?

F!@#-all, as far as I can see. I think the ideological conservatives are being kept in line with the message "Wait until 2004". Then we'll get started on that conservative utopia.

oh and on Iraq, I'm waiting for a Democratic candidate to make these three points:

1) the national security case for going to war with Iraq was very weak, and only looks weaker post-war

2)the moral/humanitarian case for removing Saddam was very strong.

3) Whether or not you supported the decision to go to war, all of us can agree that now that the war is over, it is very important to American interests, and the right thing to do besides, that we give substantial help in rebuilding Iraq, and give the Iraqi people every chance to make their country a success story

The two Democrats that have essentially been making these three points, thought not in these exact words, have been Gen. Wesley Clark and Al Gore (god, I love that guy!).

The other Democratic candidates have not made an explicit distinction between the humanitarian and national security cases for war, which I think is very important.

A personal expansion on point #2:

I do not say this with any smugness or certainty, but I do not believe that going to war in March 2003 was the wisest course of action, even from a humanitarian POV. The costs in war of American blood, toil, treasure, and prestige, and Iraqi blood and Arab humiliation & resentment, have been high enough that it makes sense to ask, as Nancy Pelosi did, whether we could have brought down those statues for a lot less, by pursuing a more patient, long-ranging, semi-covert, "surgical" policy of regime change, with a stronger and more authentic Iraqi opposition.

comment on winds of change:

I think there is a great comparative biography/history book waiting to be written concerning the lives/careers/values/politics/ ideas of three great Americans: Douglas Macarthur, Dwight Eisenhower and George C. Marshall. The modern Republican party foreign policy is essentially a combination of the Eisenhower and Macarthur wings. The Democratic party defense/foreign policy, at its best, espouses the values of Marshall.

If you want a catchy slogan for a Democratic foreign policy, you might say "Democrats believe in kicking ass to win the war and hauling ass to win the peace". Or something along those lines, but less crude.

I think the liberal idealism of this Administration's foreign policy is much exaggerated. There were 4 rationales for the War with Iraq:

1) The National Security case

2) the moral/humanitarian/Iraq as beacon of Arab Democracy case

3) the minor national interest case (e.g. oil considerations, no longer any need to enforce no-fly zones or keep troops in Saudi Arabia)

4) The Resume Building for 2004/Demonstration of American Power/ restoration of American Awe/ The Pride is Back/ we get some cool photo-ops and a big-ass parade/ rah-rah-rah case for War.

The national security case for war was very weak, the minor national interest case is, well, minor, and a cool photo-op should not by itself be a reason for going to war.

That leaves the humanitarian/long-term transformation of the Middle East as the sole legitimate reason for the war, and resume-glossing as a possible illegitimate reason. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the moral case for war, but humanitarian reasons alone have not traditionally been a reason to sacrifice American soldiers in a foreign land. In any case that's not the way this war was sold, making any unbiased person wonder what the Administration's real motive was. Anyway, the circumstances make it vitally important to American interests that Iraq and Afghanistan become success stories.

I take it that praising Krugman in these quarters is almost as bad as praising, shudder Al Gore, but here is something he wrote concerning the humanitarian benefits of deposing Saddam:

"Does it matter that we were misled into war?
Some people say that it doesn't: we won, and the Iraqi people have been freed. But we ought to ask some hard questions not just about Iraq, but about ourselves.

First, why is our compassion so selective? In 2001 the World Health Organization the same organization we now count on to protect us from SARS called for a program to fight infectious diseases in poor countries, arguing that it would save the lives of millions of people every year. The U.S. share of the expenses would have been about $10 billion per year: a small fraction of what we will spend on war and occupation. Yet the Bush administration contemptuously dismissed the proposal.

Or consider one of America's first major postwar acts of diplomacy: blocking a plan to send U.N. peacekeepers to Ivory Coast (a former French colony) to enforce a truce in a vicious civil war. The U.S. complains that it will cost too much. And that must be true: we wouldn't let innocent people die just to spite the French, would we?

So it seems that our deep concern for the Iraqi people doesn't extend to suffering people elsewhere. . ."

Does any conservative blogger have an answer to Krugman's questions? I would genuinely like to know.

Lastly, nothing was more damaging to the Democrat's credibility than their Job-like recantation (see below) of their criticisms of Bush and the Iraq war in the face of military success. James Carville had it absolutely right: if people don't trust you to stand up and defend yourself, how can they trust you to stand up and defend America?

I happen to believe that many of the criticisms made were valid, but in any case, having made those criticisms, they should have stood by them, or carefully explain why their position was a reasonable one at the time, and why they were wrong or why they changed their mind. To put it mildly, that's not what happened. Daschle's mea culpa was particularly comical.

Democrats before the war: No-exit strategy, not enough troops, inept diplomacy, we have a right to ask questions!

Democrats after the war:

2: "I know that Bush canst do all things, and that no purpose of His can be thwarted.
3: `Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4: `Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.'
5: I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee;
6: therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
. . .

I made a distinction between the National Security case(i.e. More Americans will die if we don't remove Saddam than will die if we do remove him) and the National Interest case (i.e. base, presence, oil, Saudis). I called it the "minor national interest" case for war. You apparently believe that such benefits are not so minor.

I don't really disagree, but don't you think the primary justification for the war, in retrospect, is the moral case? And isn't the implication that it is absolutely vital to American interests that say, six months from now, Iraq is an unquestionably successful, even thriving, country?

I should also add to my previous "comment" that in addition to standing up for themselves and their pre-war positions, whatever they may have been, Democrats should always state constructively what they think we should be doing. Criticism of Bush is necessary, but first must come the explanation of what the Democrats would be doing if they were in charge, and then the critique of Bush stems from that.

comment on winds of change:

The problem is that the slippery slope cuts both ways. The second amendment does not grant the right to bear guns, it grants the right to bear arms. You may be complacent about the spread of assault weapons, but if you go up the scale of increasingly destructive armaments you will eventually find stuff that you do, in fact, want to ban. And face the same dilemna of restricting the rights of an individual for the good of society.

To put the point more clearly, it may be true that there is no clear bright line separating assault rifles from regular rifles, but it is equally true that there is no clear bright line separating assault rifles from other more destructive weapons, including shoulder fired stinger missiles.

In other words, I don't want a post saying there's no point drawing the line at assault weapons, I want a post explaining where exactly you'd draw the line and why, including not only the weapons you wouldn't bother banning, but the weapons you would.

For my part, I would say the second amendment exists to protect the rights of private citizens to bear arms for legitimate purposes, including protecting your family and property, and including protection from potential government tyranny. But also that the government has both the right and the duty to regulate and prohibit possession of certain arms, stinger missiles and cop-killer bullets among them. So with any specific weapon, we must ask to what extent regulation/prohibition constrains the right of law-abiding citizens to bear that weapon for legitimate purposes, weighed against the potential benefits to society of such regulation/prohibition.

Getting down to the practical: rather than an outright ban, or outright repeal, How about licensing and regulation, not for ordinary handguns and rifles, but only for assault weapons and more potentially lethal stuff? With great power comes great responsibility, and all that.

comment on winds of change:

Three of the most important national security issues in this election are 1) Handling Iraq, going forward 2) Iran 3) North Korea.

Handling Iraq, I am sure Kerry would be superior. I mean, how could he not? He will be more trusted by the Iraqi people for not having nefarious designs, and he will be more competent, securing ammo dumps and nuclear plants and the like. He will do a better job at creating jobs for Iraqis by not having so much corruption in the contracting process, and by hiring US officials in Iraq, who sort of, you know, know what they're doing, and speak Arabic, rather than friends and family. Hw will be more willing to hold real elections (the elections in January are too convoluted, with people voting in a complicated way for slates of political parties, rather than directly for people), and deal with legitimate Iraqi leaders trusted by the Iraqi people. He will do a better job.

Handling North Korea, I am sure Kerry will do a better job. The administration's argument "bilateral bad, multilateral good" is nonsensical bullshit, a fig leaf to conceal the fact that they haven't had a North Korea policy for four years, other than sticking their heads in the sand. Kerry's answer on North Korea in the debate is a model of clarity and common sense.

Iran, I am not absolutely sure about. It's a tough situation, but I believe that an attempted preventive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would be a serious mistake, as would have been an attempted strike against Cuba in 63 or against Russia in the 50's. The situation is different now than in Osirak. That was only a few years after the third war of Arab aggression against Israel, against someone who had clearly proved his aggressive intentions in an unambigous way, at a time when the Arab/Muslim world was deeply divided against itself. Now an attempted preventive strike would isolate the US&Israel and unite everybody else (including the Iranian people and mullahs), instead of isolating the terrorists and uniting everybody else. If a preventive strike is off the table, what are the options? Joe might be reassured by Bush's firm statement "Iran will not develop nuclear weapons", but Bush said the same thing about North Korea, and showed himself to be a paper tiger. I trust Kerry's judgement, and more importantly, Kerry's willingness to face unpleasant facts and to deal with the situation in a prompt and immediate manner, and seek reasoned solutions, instead of sticking his head in the sand and repeating comforting platitudes.

Alright, last harangue. I think the choice could not be clearer, but vote for whoever the hell you want. . .


I'd be interested in hearing a more detailed argument for you re: exactly what makes Kerry's North Korea policy "a model of clarity and common sense" and why you believe it would work, taking into account the nature of North Korea's regime. . .


Well, here is the Kerry answer I was talking about:

With respect to North Korea, the real story: We had inspectors and television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill Perry negotiated that under President Clinton. And we knew where the fuel rods were. And we knew the limits on their nuclear power.

Colin Powell, our secretary of state, announced one day that we were going to continue the dialog of working with the North Koreans. The president reversed it publicly while the president of South Korea was here.

And the president of South Korea went back to South Korea bewildered and embarrassed because it went against his policy. And for two years, this administration didn't talk at all to North Korea.

While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras were kicked out. And today, there are four to seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea.

That happened on this president's watch. . . [I want both multilateral and bilateral talks]. I want bilateral talks which put all of the issues, from the armistice of 1952, the economic issues, the human rights issues, the artillery disposal issues, the DMZ issues and the nuclear issues on the table. . .

There are two different routes to a bomb: plutonium and enriched uranium. It is the assertion of the Clinton administration & Josh Marshall that the plutonium program was far more significant & important, and more potentially threatening, than the enriched uranium program. The Clinton administration apparently knew about the the North Koreans covert uranium enrichment program, and briefed the Bush administration about it, and were planning with South Korea to confront the North Koreans about it and shut it down, as the North Koreans had already shut down their plutonium program, in concert with all the other issues at hand. Clinton once said somewhere that "I thought I was handing them a big win on North Korea" and Colin Powell apparently agreed. The Bush administration did nothing for 18 months. Then, they publicly disclosed the existence of the covert uranium enrichment program, and said the North Koreans were dishonorable and therefore that there was no point negotiating with them. At some point after that, the North Koreans kicked out the inspectors and tv cameras monitoring the plutonium program, brought out the plutonium rods from hibernation, and started, we presume, pursuing both the plutonium and enriched uranium programs to the best of their ability. (Kerry asserts that there are now 4 to 7 North Korean bombs. I personally doubt that's true, but they probably have something). At some further point the Bush administration modified its policy from "There is no point negotiating with the North Koreans" to "There is no point negotiating with the North Koreans bilaterally", but somehow multilateral negotiations are a different matter entirely, and are going to produce the manna from heaven.

In any case, the key part of Kerry's answer for me was the the long-term human rights of the North Korean people would be an issue in any negotiations with Kim-Jog-Il. It is hard, but by no means impossible, to monitor whether the North Koreans are making any progress in covertly trying to develop weapons on the sly; it is much more straight-forward to see whether the North Koreans are keeping their word on any human-rights "concessions" that they have agreed to. If we can win some real, even if small, freedoms for the North Korean masses at the negotiating table, in exchange for economic aid, we will have laid the groundwork for gradually changing the regime into something less evil and awful. The alternative is to try to foment a Ceaucescu-like revolt of the masses against Kim Jong-Il, probably by starving the regime into submission. Is that what you're advocating?

comment on winds of change:

I found this post viscerally angering, but when you find yourself angry over something as harmless as political kibbitzing, it's almost always better to bite your tongue, so that's what I'm going to do.

FWIW, my take is that the Democrats have a somewhat better chance on winning in 2004 than 2008. My reasoning is that in 2004 they will be running against George W Bush, with a mediocre record, while in 2008 they will be running against someone like Bill Frist or John Kasich, both of whom are much stronger, more appealing candidates than President Bush.

There have been three successes of this administration:

1) Military victory against the Taliban
2) Military victory against Saddam's regime
3) After 9/11, there has not been a mass-casualty terrorist attack on American soil

I think it's fair to say on everything else, the Bush administration has made an absolute pigs' breakfast: the record ranges from mediocre to indifferent to downright awful.

Let's keep it simple: the Democrats will win if they convince a majority of Americans that either the voter personally, or the country as a whole, will do better if the Democrat gets elected. I'll just state categorically that given this Administration's record, there is plenty of room to make that case.

Of the all-important war on terror, there are three aspects to it:

1) preventing terrorist attacks from happening
2) bringing the perpetrators to justice and avenging our dead
3)reforming the dysfunctional societies which produce these terrorists, and even worse, large swaths of the population who sympathise with terrorists

and a conservative would add a fourth:
4) Restoring the American Aura, so that America & Americans, even if they are resented, are feared and respected throughout the world.

This may evoke howls of outrage from the Right, but as a Democrat I'm quite sure that it is possible for a Democratic administration to do as well or better at the first three of these tasks, and to make that case to the American people. The fourth one is the the real ideological dispute, between those who are obsessed with America being feared, even at the cost of resentment, and those who are obsessed with America being liked, even at the cost of contempt. You can go too far in either direction.

Lastly, on a demographic/sociological note, I would say that if the Democrats are to win, they need to increase their share of the white vote, and in particular white men. I would say that either the parties get close to parity in the white vote, and the Democrat's advantage in the minority vote makes them the majority party, or the Republicans increase their percentage of the white vote, and they become the majority party, and our politics becomes the politics of the South writ large on a National scale.

In terms of issue-terrain, I am optimistic and feel the advantage lies with the Democrats. In terms of demographics/tribal factors, I am pessimistic and feel the advantage lies with the Republicans. We'll see how it plays out.

comment on winds of change:

If this has been posted on a liberal blog, I'm sure someone would have noted by now that large numbers of Amricans answer "yes" to the questions 1) "Do you believe Saddam Hussein was involved and had fore-knowledge of the September 11 attacks?" and 2) "Were there Iraqis among the Semptember 11 hijackers?". On a lighter note, a poll once found Americans on average believe we spend 15 percent of the budget on foreign aid. (actual number is a little less than 1 percent)

The percentage of the budget we spend on foreign aid is obviously a much less important issue than civilian casualties, but the factor error of 15X is the same.

Now do large numbers of Americans really believe Saddam Hussein had fore-knowledge of September 11? I think in their heart of hearts they don't, but they believe he is capable of such a thing and they are not willing to give him an out in any way. Similarly, your Iranian friend in his heart of hearts may not really believe that CNN is all a mass of Government lies, but he believes the Americans (we) are morally capable of inflicting 75,000 civilian casualties without remorse, and he is not willing to give us an out in any way.

I've got more to say, but for now I'll say that the fundamental emotion that's causing all these lies to be believed is envy and shame, envy of American (Western) riches, freedom, cultural and technological achievements, and above all, American military dominance, and shame that their societies are lagging so far behind. So you attack these types of lies in two ways 1) by aggressively televising and promoting the truth. If the truth is on your side, then the more sunshine, the more cameras, the more debates, the more interviews the better. 2) by trying to reduce the envy that is the fundamental cause of these lies being produced and believed.

When you're the richest man in town, some people, perhaps a lot of people, are going to hate you no matter what you do. But how you act makes a big difference as well. The poor and powerless have a responsibility not to succumb to feelings of envy, shame and hatred, but the rich and powerful also have a responsibility be generous, polite and humble. They could be doing better, but so could we.

comment on winds of change:

Look, if you are saying Kerry's actions are the actions of an enemy who does not want America to succeed, that means you've effectively driven yourself round the bend. End of story. You can come up with all sorts of reasons for why it's valid, but it's still nonsense. The notion that a President Kerry would treat our allies worse than President Bush is ridiculous on its face.

Also, you're earlier statement about Kos being someone who "encourages others to kill his fellow citizens" is also ridiculously untrue, whether or not its a deliberate lie or not is unclear. To try and act as if your exaggerated version of the worst thing somebody has ever said - for which he apologized - is typical and a judgement on their entire character is not honest and not honorable.

These pieces by Drum and Yglesias I think demonstrate who is serious on the war on terror and who isn't.

The most important aspect of the war on terror is making sure terrorists or other hate-filled lunatics filled with righteous certainty do not get their hands on nuclear weapons. George Bush has twice tried to cut funding for the Nunn-Lugar program, and generally has shown no interest in the subject of restricting access to nukes or fissile material. Miltary strikes against Iran ala Osirak are a dangerous fantasy that can not happen, and would not succeed if they did (Pakistan, probably China and now North Korea would share nukes with Iran in a second if the US or heaven forbid, Israel were to try a military strike). We have not done enough on homeland security, and some relatively simple terrorist scenarios which we have not done enough to guard against scare the shit out of me, let me tell you. Only John Ashcroft/FBI's efforts to track and contain potential terrorists around the country deserves respect, though a lot of innocent young Muslim men have also needlessly suffered, hurting PR efforts. Whether on economic or especially on national security grounds, a Kerry administration will be far superior to the alternative. But the choice is yours.

comment on winds of change:

I was not pro-war, but is defining what failure means all that important in Iraq? Whatever failure is, we can't allow it. There is too much at stake. William Burton early on in the post-war said no one should care whether they were pro or anti war. It simply didn't matter any more. Salam Pax said the same. That said, it probably is important to develop objective measures of the situation in Iraq, but that's somewhat different than developing objective measures of whether invading Iraq was the right decision.

FWIW, here was my take when I read the dismal WSJ report:

Something is not adding up here. After things like the blowing up of 30 children, How is it possible for an average Iraqi to support the insurgents? The New York Times had an article on an Iraqi talk radio station, and without exception every caller said that the insurgents were terrorists, not freedom fighters. The Iraqi bloggers are surprisingly positive, even Salam Pax who was against the war when it started. Young Iraqi men are still lining up to join the Iraqi police and national guard.

David Brook's last column was wrong on specifics but right in principle. The first thing we need in Iraq are legitimate Iraqi leaders, trusted by the Iraqi people. The way to get that is to hold elections ASAP. I think the elections should be for 6 month terms only, so any mistakes can be corrected quickly. As for the abysmal security situation precluding holding elections, well the security situation is already FUBAR so how can holding elections make them any worse? At least people will be dying for the cause of democracy, rather than the cause of Alawi.

Once we have legitimate Iraqi leaders in place, then all our military might and and humanitarian efforts has to be deployed in the service of their agenda, not ours.

Whether your goal is to make Iraq a shining example to the rest of the Mideast, or to salvage the best of a bad situation, the path forward seems clear: Find out who the truly legitimate leaders in Iraq are, and then give them all the principled help we can in order to help them achieve their legitimate goals in service of the Iraqi people. Which makes you wonder why the Administration has spent the last 18 months trying to install puppets, rather than trying to find legitimate, trusted Iraqi leaders.

comment on winds of change:

I'm somewhat mystified by the concern that Kerry will "cut and run" in Iraq. I really don't know where its coming from. Look at the people behind Kerry: Biden, Clark, Lieberman. He's not going to cut and run. On a strategic level the way forward in Iraq is pretty clear: you start with legitimate Iraqi leaders of goodwill trusted by Iraqi people. You provide some mechanism for the Iraqi people to regularly hold these leaders accountable if they prove ineffectual and/or corrupt. And then you provide the military and economic muscle for these leaders temporarily, until the Iraqis can do it themselves. Easy-peasy;) On the tactical level, what can I say? Kerry is competent, hard-working, and will learn from mistakes, like Lincoln. Bush thinks he's infallible and resents any criticism, like Jefferson Davis (cheap shot. sorry.)

The more I think about it, on national security, other than these ridiculous (to me) assertions that Kerry will "cut and run" in Iraq, this election is really a referendum on who you trust to handle Iran. One thing you can say about Kerry, he really really cares about the issue of nuclear proliferation. Bush has given no objective evidence that he does, and what exactly has been his Iran policy for the past 4 years? But that of course is not the last word on the very urgent and very scary issue of Iran.

comment on winds of change:

Well, I'm not a moderate libertarian, so his case against Bush is obviously not mine. On foreign policy, the most urgent issue is Iran's nuclear program, next is moving forward in Iraq (and Afghanistan), next is North Korea, and then a whole a host of other issues. Frum a humanitarian perspective, Darfur is just as urgent as Iran, and there is also Haiti, Liberia, Venezuela, Cuba, etc. etc. On domestic policy, 600 billion dollar (having Biblical knowledge of) deficit, 600 billion dollar (having Biblical knowledge of) deficit, 600 billion dollar (having Biblical knowledge of) deficit, . . .and health care, poverty, job creation, the coming retirement of the Baby Boomers, rising levels of household debt, and all that unimportant stuff. It seems to me you should vote based on who you trust more to deal with those problems. And the extent you think these are problems.

It seems to me that the key difference is that 1)Kerry is hard-working, willing to bust his hump 2)Kerry is not intellectually insecure, and is willing to listen to constructive criticism, and change his mind accordingly. 3) Kerry is a member of the reality-based community. It seems all these criticisms of Kerry's ideology miss the point, because Kerry is capapable of changing positions if the facts warrant it, and of quickly correcting his mistakes . Bush, who asserts his economic policies are working despite the deficit, and despite being the first President since Hoover to lose net jobs, is not. Or else he is just a liar. Likewise, compare the polls of Iraqis on the liberator/occupier question in mid-2003 with the current polls. Read Chris Albritton's latest posts. The strategy we have to be following in Iraq is pretty clear. Keeping in mind Bush's record on this score, who do you trust to execute the strategy in a more effective, results-oriented, paying-attention-to-detail manner?

Israel is in deadly peril from Iran's nuclear program. Who do you trust to deal with the problem in a prompt, energetic, immediate manner? Keeping in mind what Bush's Iran policy has been for the past 4 years, and keeping in mind Kerry's passion for dealing with the problem of nuclear proliferation.

Whatever your answers are to the previous questions, especially, IMO, Iran's nuclear program, is who you should vote for.

comment on winds of change:

As for the liberal bias of the mainstream media, you can have them. Print reporters are of course disproportionately liberal than the population at large, but they are not emotionally invested partisans, and it tends to be a wishy-washy, feather-weight liberalism which cracks at the first sharp gust of wind. Broadcast is a different ballgame. There people today tend to be kiss-ass careerists, a mindset which lends itself more easily to conservatism than liberalism. CBS, due to the faint lingering legacy of Edward Murrow (which will die when Dan Rather leaves), is an exception, but even there they now fold like cheap accordians when challenged by the suits in any way. For us partisan liberals, there are a handful of mainstream guys that really care about winning, and really represent their constituency (Krugman, Herbert, the old Kinsley, a couple others). Everyone else in mainstream "liberal" journalism I would generally characterize as "Mush from the Wimps".

As for Bush winning, I think he might, but it will have nothing to do with the "media cocoon". There has been one praiseworthy and impressive accomplishment of the Bush administration: apart from 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, there has not been a terrorist attack on American soil. Of course, the obvious counter is that apart from Oklahoma City and the first WTC bombing, there were no terrorist attacks during the Clinton administration on American soil. Nevertheless, it is a very real accomplishment which I think people will have in mind on election day. On economic isssues, I think most people are not very satisfied with the status quo, but they are more fearful of things getting worse than they are hopeful of things improving. The sentiment of "Don't rock the boat" might win out over the desire for improvement.

The irony is that change is coming whether Bush or Kerry gets in. The economic situation as it is, with massive federal borrowing, rising debt levels, an aging population with increased health and retirement costs, lots of liquidity fueling an asset bubble of uncertain dimension, an energy crunch, and a corporate upper management that is accountable to no one and is able to consume an astonishingly large and growing portion of the pie, is not sustainable. The choice is between somebody who will work er "proactively" (hate that word!) to try and fix the problems, or someone who will float in LaLa land until the shit hits the fan.

Apologies for length, I'll just say I thought Kerry has done a fantastic job in the part of debates I saw (missed the first 30-45 minutes of the second debate). Without those good performances he might have been toast.

comment on Winds of Change:

Late to the party, I see. Well, call it the rope-a-dope school of blog commenting;)

In my opinion, there were two separate cases for war, the national security case for war (we have to remove Saddam & occupy & reconstruct Iraq because it will make America safer) and the humanitarian case for war (we have to remove Saddam and occupy and reconstruct Iraq because the Iraqi people will be better off, at least in the long run).

The national security argument for war was, and is, to me, bogus. I am not impressed by talk of leakages, and all the things Saddam could have done, if the US had somehow abandoned sanctions and left Saddam blissfully unhindered. We had a US military response to Saddam throwing out the inspectors in 1998, conducted by Gen Zinni, and it seems to have been pretty damned effective. My judgement was that Saddam was weak and getting weaker, not stronger. For gods sake, we had soldiers roaming around Iraq, recruiting Iraqis, with a fair amount of success, months before war was declared. If Saddam had any military capability at all, he would have at least been aware of this, but he wasn't. My judgement was that Saddam had next to nothing in nuclear, next to nothing in biological weapons, and probably some residual chemical weapon capability, but not the ability to use or deploy them effectively. Charles Duelfer is the adminstration's man, and I think we will find if Kerry gets in that his report exaggerated Saddam's potential ability to deploy chemical weapons. As for Robin Burk's argument that patrolling the no-fly zones was stressing the Air Force, it seems preposterous to me, in view of the burden of a 100,000 soldier occupation, and all the flying the Air Force must have to do in support of those soldiers. But I have no real knowledge in that area, and Burk obviously does.

Now the humanitarian case for war was not bogus, though I think the "sanctions are causing Iraqi deaths" argument is wrong. I am somewhat skeptical of the "excess deaths compared to normal times" argument, and very skeptical about attributing excess deaths to sanctions, as opposed to war with Iran, war with Kuwait, and Saddam's misrule in general. In any case, if the sanctions were causing misery, the simplest and most direct way to remedy that suffering would have been to directly ship the medicines, food, etc. to Iraqi hospitals, and to crack down on corruption in the UN programs. If cracking down on UN corruption is an impossibly difficult and complex task, well then what about nation-building? In other words, "sanctions killing Iraqis" is not a reason for war, it's a justification for war. And I am skeptical that the war in Iraq has decreased the number of "excess deaths compared to normal times" in Iraq, now or in the near future.

Nation-building in Iraq and constructing an Iraqi democracy is an indisputably noble endeavor, and in hindsight I think that the Clinton administration can be strongly criticized for not talking or doing enough about the suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam, especially if Saddam was as weak as I say he was. (In that vein, its very heartening to me that Kerry said that the human rights of the North Korean people would be an issue in his negotiations with Kim Jong-Il) But we should have been clear about what we are doing and why, and if our primary purpose for this war was the long-term well-being of the Iraqi people, we should have gone about in pursuing regime change in a different way. Above all, we should not have shattered our credibility by falsely asserting Iraq was a national security threat to the US, and we should have held elections as soon as possible, (May or August 2003?) as Jay Garner and Sistani and Juan Cole wanted to do, and tried to deal with legitimate Iraqi leaders trusted by the Iraqi people, instead of trying to install leaders that we liked, or thought we liked.

Lastly, I'll just mention that Salam Pax around May 2003 was getting a lot of questions "Was the Iraq war the right thing to do?". His slightly exasperated response was basically "What fool cares? Maybe once upon a time we might had a nice chat about what the alternatives were, but its a moot point". That's basically right, but since you asked. . .

Saturday, November 06, 2004
Comment on Winds of Change:

Dave Schuler,
so, if I have it correct, you would vote for Lieberman & Hart, but not Wes Clark or John Edwards (or Kerry). Lieberman I can understand, but Gary Hart intrigues me because he has been very critical of the Bush administration approach to the War on Terror and skeptical of the Iraq war. And suppose Lieberman was the nominee and Michael Moore was *still* getting jiggy in Jimmy Carter's suite? Deal-breaker?

PD Shaw, it seems that you would have voted almost anybody but Bush, except you really, really, really didn't like John Kerry (and Wes Clark, apparently). It seems that for some reason you didn't trust his character and integrity.

Interesting & thanks for replying. Anyway, from a marketing or "vision" standpoint, two small ideas:

1) "Middle Class, Common Sense, Golden Rule". In other words there are "Middle Class" issues (taxes, health care, social security, private-sector unions, jobs), "Common Sense" issues (defense, education, civil rights, environment, immigration, campaign reform, abortion, etc.), and "Golden Rule" issues (foreign aid, anti-poverty & homeless programs, humanitarian military missions).

2) "(Let's Make America) The Best Across the Board" This comes from a very interesting Ted Halstead article, where he asserted an "American Paradox": Among the advanced industrial countries, we are either the very best or among the very worst. We have the best military, GDP, productivity, business start-ups, R&D, breadth of stock ownership, volunteerism, charitable giving. At the same we are among the worst in poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality, homicide, health-care coverage, teen pregnancy, energy efficiency, personal savings & obesity. So the slogan would mean (working toward) making America the best in all these categories, best in infant mortality as well as GDP.

"Middle Class, Common Sense, Golden Rule" & "The Best Across the Board" are two marketing slogans that seem to me to have the advantage of not offending anybody despite being fairly meaningful, and at the same time being simple enough to be shouted at political rallies or on TV screens. "The Best Across the Board" also might have the advantage of appealing to the patriotism of Americans, even jingoistic patriotism. Really, there's a million good approaches in terms of marketing. But I definitely agree the problems of the Democratic party go a bit deeper than that.

Friday, November 05, 2004
Matt Yglesias has pointed out that the deep-red state senators will not be able to filibuster Bush's judges, so expecting to block Bush on his judges and other stuff is a pipe dream.

I agree with that. I think there is one vital thing we must do, though. The red state Democrats will not be able to filibuster judges based on ideology (or character), but they can, and *must*, insist that all judges must answer, on threat of filibuster, some simple, no-bullshit questions on their judicial philosophy. Do you agree with Roe v. Wade? Why or why not? Do you agree with Bush v. Gore? Why or why not? How, in detail, would you interpret labor, environmental and civil rights law?

We *have* to do this. We have to nail their trousers to the mast. At this time, we cannot stop them from getting their agenda through, but we can *not* allow them to do it without public scrutiny and public exposure.

Also, it would be a good idea for Senate Democrats to assert that President Bush is entitled to appoint Republicans as judges, and he is entitled to appoint conservative Republicans, if he so wishes, but he is*not* entitled to appoint GOP partisans to federal judgeships. The difference is between a judge with consistent principles, even if you disagree with some of those principles, versus a hack who just does what is best for his friends & family. Then the democrats should make a long list of acceptable Republicans, and make an effort to promote and praise them.

Just blindly opposing Larry Thompson or Priscilla Owens or Miguel Estrada or Al Gonzales is a recipe for disastrous PR. But opposing these judges because they refuse to answer specific *questions* is another matter entirely. We can even turn it into a political advantage for us: eg. What have are they hiding? Whywon't Larry Thompson tell us his opinions on key civil-rights judicial rulings? Why won't he tell us, point-blank, how he would have ruled on these cases if he had been the judge? etc. etc. And we can also probably get away with opposing specific judges in the context of proposing much better alternative *Republican* choices for the same judgeship.

Re: Terry McCaulliffe as the DNC head, it seems to me that one of the key mistakes was the *pragmatic* decision to front-load the primary system. In retrospect, what we seem to have done is trade a few months extra fund-raising in place of giving more time and attention to ordinary voters across the country during the primary season, to find out what rhetoric and candidates they found appealing. IMO, two of the most important "goo-goo" reforms we need to push through is 1) a "back-loaded" primary system, which spreads the primaries out and pushes the big states to april, may & june. 2) Instant Runoff Voting, which would give Green & Libertarian candidates a chance to support their candidates without playing spoiler, if they so chose. Both of these reforms would be many times more important than the rather silly and ineffectual "McCain-Feingold reform"

Thursday, November 04, 2004
comment on Winds of Change

I want to say something but I'm not sure what exactly;) I guess the first thing is Michael Tomasky wrote an article in the last go-round, December 2002, which has some insightful passages:

Because it has no actual power. . .and for the same psychological reasons that the communists scorned the socialists more than they did the fascists, the American left -- the Nader left, if you prefer -- perceives its greatest enemy to be liberalism. . .

[Republicans] know exactly what they're fighting for. The Democrats do not. However the various constituencies within the Republican Party might differ, they are unified around a central idea, which can be expressed in both positive and negative language: that they are the conservators of liberty and morality, and that liberals are sending the country to hell in overdrive. Whatever Republicans do or don't believe, they believe in those two hypotheses. This unity gives them their passion.

Democrats have no such unity. . .it's no accident that when they had an ideological unity, Democrats also were much tougher partisans, with obstreperous shit-kickers such as Johnson and Hubert Humphrey and lesser-known though important figures, among them Adolf A. Berle, whose classic book, The Modern Corporation and Private Property, today's Democrats would do well to seek out.

You might also want to read the New America Foundation's book "The Real State of the Union". Matthew Yglesias's wry comment on them is that "The New America Foundation takes positions to the left of the current Democratic party and then for marketing purposes calls it the Radical Center" Also Matt Miller's book "The Two Percent Solution".

My outdated "Come the revolution, Comrade. . ." list is here. Shamefully light on military/national security issues, but then I'm not a pro. Heather Hurlburt's Washington Monthly article is unfortunately, 100% true and a serious and fair condemnation of some top Democratic party politician's approach to national security issues. The politicians I trust most on national security issues are Wes Clark, Gary Hart and Al Gore (and in Israel, Barak & Rabin). That makes me a dove, I guess. And as my admiration for Barak & Rabin shows, I'm not sure what's so wrong with being a Trans-National Progressive. OTOH, I think the Nuclear Freeze was a silly-ass idea (as is Missile Defense), and Reagan's spending large amounts of money on conventional weapons was a good idea (though he should have paid for it).

But I feel a bit disingenuos discussing policy here. The people on this board seem to be people who are not happy with the GOP on social issues, and either think the Democratic party must shift to the right on economic issues, military/national security issues, or both. That's not really me. And one of the main ideas here is the vital importance of "purging" or "repudiating" certain "Democratic vermin", as it were: Kos, Atrios, Dean, Michael Moore, Democratic Underground, Indymedia, and Al-Gora. Again, that's not me. I don't agree with Kos or Atrios all the time, but I think they are basically good guys. I never got around to seeing F/911, but I did see "Bowling for Columbine". There was a lot of nonsense, but also a lot of moving, powerful (and funny) stuff that was well worth seeing. I never read DU or Indymedia, but a lot of marginalized people say outrageous things to get attention or blow off steam (read the Yahoo message boards some time). Who cares? A great man once said "When someone endorses me, I am not endorsing their agenda. They are endorsing mine." I agree with that a 100%.

Two questions for the people here. 1) Here are some names: Edwards, Kerry, Clark, Gephardt, Bob Graham, Lieberman, Gary Hart. Versus Bush, which of these, if any, would you have voted for? Why or why not? What if the GOP nominee was McCain, Guiliani, Frist or Kasich? 2) What does "purging the crazies" *mean*, in practice? A refusal to take money? A formal statement "Michael Moore is an unpatriotic . . .er, fatty, and I hate his guts". Some sort of triangulation: "There are some in my party who don't believe we must win the War on Terror. Well, I disagree. . ."?

A last small point: demographic/tribal factors seem to me to be important as well. "Wanted: Straight White Men (And The Women Who Love Them)". If the Democrats are to win, they need to increase their share of the white vote, and in particular (straight) white men. I would say that either the parties get close to parity in the white vote, and the Democrat's advantage in the minority vote makes them the majority party, or the Republicans increase their percentage of the white vote, and they become the majority party, and our politics becomes the politics of the south writ large on a national scale.

Some recent comments on the Winds of Change, Pandagon & Yglesias:


Here is an extremely cynical, uncharitable diagnosis of the problem:

. . .My vote [for the decline of the Democrats] is mainly Vietnam, the end of the draft, and the resultant heavy Republican tilt to the military. When two sides are fighting it out, an uncommitted person is more likely to choose the side that controls the money, the jobs and the guns. Not to say that liberals *can't* win elections. They can and will win this year mainly due to the manifest incompetence of the Bush administration (hah!). But they are fighting, and will continue to fight, on uphill terrain until they close the money/jobs/guns gap. . . From the point of view of Republicans, I think Michael Barone's "Hard America, Soft America" describes what's going on in the heads of Republicans, and how they see themselves as on the side of the angels. Put simply: the inefficiency and customer frustration at the DMV, especially in comparison with private sector retail efficiency, makes regular people distrust any politician who suggests more government as the answer. . .

In regard the "Real Americans" issue, I think it is an issue, and a very real problem for the Democrats. If you want an explanation for the unshakeable self-confidence of Republicans in their own fitness to rule, versus the pathological timidity and cautiousness of the Democrats, there are only two real explanations: 1) the heavily Republican tilt to the military officer corps, and the somewhat lesser tilt of the enlisteds. I don't know if you remember all the Republican hacks saying during the 2000 election, smugly and almost gleefully, "I can't tell you how many officers and junior officers have told me they're going to resign if Gore wins the election". The purpose of such noxious swaggering was clearly to make weak-minded swing voters fearful of the consequences of voting Democratic 2) the fact that the Republicans have had substantial majority support of the majority ethnicity for a long, long time.

There is a very real phenomenon of "Majority Momentum", which is the fact, that in a really close, bitterly contested election, swing voters will be strongly influenced by their peer group, and thus the majority choice within any particular ethnic community will receive a boost in the closing days of a close, bitterly contested election. Thus, all else being equal, "on the fence" black voters will be more likely to vote Democratic, and "on the fence" white voters will be more likely to vote Republican. In the words of the Simpson's, "One of Us! One of Us! One of Us!"

I don't have any real solutions for the Democrats, except not to panic: Democrats still have a hold on at least 40% of the white vote, so the problem is probably not nearly so serious as I am making out. But when the vapors are on me, I do sometimes worry that our national politics will become like some sections of the south writ large, where the Republican party becomes where white people basically belong, where swing white voters who could potentially be Democrats instead succumb to peer pressure, and only oddballs and antedilevian white people remain/become Democrats. . .

Apologies for length. As I said, this is too depressing and cynical a viewpoint, more than is warranted by the reality, especially in light of the fact that Clinton beat these guys like a rented mule. The key difference between Clinton and Gore & Kerry is that Clinton projected optimism, joy, and serene, calm confidence at all times, and was at all times charitable and generous to his political adversaries. Probably over-generous. Clinton made the whole game seem like fun, rather than earnest, painful duty, and people always enjoyed listening to him and seeing him on their television screens . I actually have a tremendous amount of respect for Gore & Kerry as people and as policy-makers, but nobody was a better Democratic politician than Clinton.


I read somewhere a good one about how when the Republicans lose an election they treat it as an outrageous but temporary departure from the natural order of things, and they get really angry and righteously indignant. While when Democrats lose an election they treat it as a matter for existential loathing, self-doubt, and despair over the rejection of their entire worldview and value-system, causing much self-pity and musing about whether happiness is really possible at all in this horrific veil of tears.

I am a stubborn, stubborn person, and I remain convinced that Senator Kerry would have been a far superior President to . . .That Man, even though a (slight) majority of Americans disagreed with me. And I remain convinced that the right way to go about politics is to fight hard (but not fanatically) for what you believe, and try to bring people over to your side over time, rather than try to insincerely change what you believe in response to losing a couple of elections. Kinsley's (funny) essay "Democracy Can Goof" expresses what I believe on this score.

Obviously, when you don't get your way, there is the temptation, even subtley, to expect bad news or to dwell on bad news so you will be "vindicated". This is a grievous sin, and I hope my fellow Democrats don't fall prey to it (many of them have, but only temporarily. They'll get over it). In any case, it does not just afflict Democrats. Some Republicans or Clinton-haters obssess over and magnify any bad news from Kosovo, while at the same time dismissing any bad news in Iraq as insignificant - if you compare it World War II. Sen. Lugar said about Kosovo "This is Clinton's war, so when he falls flat on his face it's not our problem", or words to that effect. This is a shocking and indefensible statement from a senior Senator, and not merely a film-maker, but I believe it would be very wrong to permanently label Sen Lugar as a Very Bad Man Who Wants America To Fail, instead of treating it as an uncharacteristic lapse. I wish you were similarly charitable to Kos.

Obviously, I hope Bush does a good job, and I wish us all good fortune. But losing an election won't change my mind that Bush is currently following many policies that I believe are . . .suboptimal. And losing an election will not change my belief that we would probably be better off if the policies or the people I like had gotten their keys to the car, or if Bush changes towards my direction. Nor should it.


yup, you're right. There will probably be nearly no Senate filbusters of judicial nominees. I think there is one thing we can do, though. The red state Democrats will not be able to filibuster judges based on ideology (or character), but they can, and must, insist that all judges must answer, on threat of filibuster, some simple, no-bullshit questions on their judicial philosophy. Do you agree with Roe v. Wade? Why or why not? Do you agree with Bush v. Gore? Why or why not? How, in detail, would you interpret labor, environmental and civil rights law?

We *have* to do this. We have to nail their trousers to the mast. At this time, we cannot stop them from getting their agenda through, but we can *not* allow them to do it without public scrutiny and public exposure.