Monday, October 03, 2005

What to do about Harriet Miers

What should the Dems have done about John Roberts? Embraced him as a qualified and principled conservative (who was a mortal lock to be confirmed anyway) and who may uphold Roe and has been a lawyer who fought for gay rights. He's an independant thinker, and is potentially a more conservative Souter who will likely "drift left" (aka act sensibly and fairly) when faced with actual Supreme Court cases.

What should the Dems do about Harriet Miers? Fight her tooth and nail. She's an unqualified crony who has never been a judge. Dems should make much of the fact that she's a political moderate who supported the International Criminal Court and Gay adoption. Only be teaming up with the uber-right people who run the country can she be defeated. But if the wingnuts really want her to go down in flames, the Dems should want it even more. Miers is an extreme Bush loyalist, and as such should be destroyed even if she were otherwise qualified. She has no judicial ideology based on experience; her ideology will be to ask about every case: What would Karl Rove do? It will be like having George W. Bush on the Supreme Court for the next 30 years. God save the Republic.

Miers is clearly a crony pick, and as such should be portrayed as a sort of Michael Brown of the Supreme Court. Brown was a horse lawyer, Miers worked for a state lottery. She'd be perfect for the position of chief counsel of Jeb Bush's reelection campaign, or perhaps George W. Bush presidential librarian, but a superpartisan crony with no experience is not appropriate for the highest court in the land. Hiring an unqualified person just because he or she is friends with George didn't work at FEMA, and it won't work on the Supreme Court.

The Bushistas will point out that "39%" of justices have historically not been judges beforehand. The Dems should retort that 0% of justices have not been judges on the recent court. Besides, the problem with Miers isn't just that she's a non-judge, it's that she's nothing but a proxy for George Bush. She's a crony. And the Supreme Court should never be anything but 0% cronies.

The only way Dems can support this woman is through blind loyalty to the Roe v. Wade decision that has weakened their party to the point of near-obsolescence. Like Roberts, there is no way to know where Miers stands on Roe; like Roberts, there's reason to think she won't vote to overturn it; and like Roberts, she would still probably need 1 more vote on the court to overturn it anyway.

The last thing Bush or Rove want is to see Roe v. Wade overturned and thus fragment or destroy their party. The second to last thing they want is to be caught supporting Roe v. Wade. The wingnuts seem to be assuming Miers is pro-choice, we should assume she is pro-life, and far worse, pro-Bush, and the two sides should team up to throw her into the trashbin of history. After all, I think we can all agree that she is unqualified and inappropriate.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Drowned in the Bathtub

Post-Katrina Talking point note:
Republicans say that they want a smaller government. But, especially in the wake of Katrina, Democrats need to point out that in practice, the Republicans "smaller" government (which of course is actually a bigger, perhaps more privatized, free-spending government) basically translates to a weaker government.

Thus, "Republicans want a weaker federal government." When they say "smaller," we say "weaker." Thus we can nullify a Republican rhetorical advantage.

The longer version: "Republicans say they want a smaller, weaker federal government. As we saw in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a weaker federal government is going to fail to protect Americans from disasters at home, whether caused by a hurricane or by terrorists. Americans need a strong, competent government like we had when a Democrat (Bill Clinton) was president."

Also, "Republicans say they want to make government so small and weak that they can 'drown it in a bathtub.' Well, real Americans drowned in New Orleans because of what Republicans have done to our government. They have made our government so corrupt and weak that a horse lawyer was the man in charge of FEMA when Hurricane Katrina hit."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Enquiring Minds Want to Know - Is Bush Really Drinking Again?

I'm not exactly a big supporter of the National Enquirer or of any such Drudge-esque tabloid journalism, but the folks who exposed Rush Limbaugh's drug problem have recently aimed an accusation of substance abuse at a Republican almost as powerful and influential as Limbaugh: President Bush. The delicious title of the article is "Bush's Booze Crisis." That ought to knock a few points off Bush's approval rating, as the Enquirer speaks directly to the profoundly uninformed Americans who constitute Bush's faithful base of support.

I am nearly as inclined to believe an anonymously sourced story from the National Enquirer as I am one from the Washington Post or New York Times; in other words, I don't really believe it. I do think that the organization who busted Rush may be onto something, and I wouldn't be surprised if Bush was sneaking the occasional drink, but this story certainly doesn't prove anything yet.

I post the scurrilous article here because it brings up an interesting point about how politically ineffective the Dems have been since 2000. Al Gore (nearly) lost the 2000 election to an ALCOHOLIC! An alcoholic and a former cocaine user! You never recover from Alcoholism, you merely try to stay dry one day at a time. But it is a permanent disease, one that we certainly wouldn't want the leader of our country to have. A terrorist wouldn't have to slip poison into Bush's wine to ruin him, he'd just have to slip him a glass of wine!

"That's unfair!" you gasp. Maybe so; Bush was unqualified to be President for many other, better reasons, and he appears to have recovered from his 20 straight years of heavy drinking (though if he relapsed immediately after being elected, that would certainly explain a lot about his ineffectiveness as President).

But imagine if Al Gore had been the recovering alcoholic. The Republicans would have destroyed him by July 2000. Their take-down campaign would have made the Swift Boat ads look like a PBS documentary. As it was, all Gore would have had to do was to dispatch an underling to propagate the meme in the media and it would have taken off like a rocket. Gore could have subtly commented on it while disavowing it (He also should have repeatedly stated: "I have never used cocaine in my life"). A huge doubt would have been sown. It was a no-brainer, but Gore decided to be the bigger man and not resort to such tawdry electoral tactics. As a result, one of the worst presidencies in US History was foisted upon a vulnerable America. Thanks Al, thanks Bob Shrum.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

John Roberts - I love Roe v. Wade

At the largely pointless John Roberts confirmation hearings, Roberts once again showed why Democrats should be embracing him, rather than working futilely to derail his certain appointment. The WaPo reports:

John G. Roberts Jr., appearing before a Senate panel considering his nomination to be the new chief justice, immediately ran into questioning today about the Supreme Court's landmark decision on abortion and said he considers it not only "settled law" but a precedent worthy of respect.

Daily Kos points out that the uber-Republican Justice Thomas said something similar at his hearing, and it's an interesting point. I would say that it is impossible to know how Roberts will vote on Roe v. Wade until he hears a case challenging it. But again, Roberts is not a partisan scumbag at the level of Thomas or even Scalia; he is a decent compromise for the Dems. He doesn't have the power to overturn Roe v. Wade anyway, thanks to Kennedy. And the most politically effective move for the Dems would be to loudly celebrate Roberts' relative moderation and shakiness on gays and abortion in an attempt to point out to social conservative voters that the Holy Party of George Bush is using them, and that Bush has no strong inclination to see Roe v. Wade, the Republicans' political golden goose, overturned. If he had, he would have nominated a reliable abortion foe like Emilio Garza or Michael McConnell.

This would be an especially good point for the Dems to make in case Bush is actually stupid enough to nominate Atty. Gen. Gonzales to replace Rehnquist; my prediction is he'll nominate either Garza or Edith Brown Clement. Or perhaps the spectacularly unqualified Larry Thompson, just to make the Democrats reject an African-American candidate, thus possibly endearing Bush to the black community after New Orleans. My money is on Clement.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Accountability for America

Kevin Drum has more good stuff, this time an entire Accountability Contract with America for the Democrats. As Drum explains, it's a contract "solely about promises to restore accountability to politics." And, unlike Nancy Pelosi's already-forgotten pseudo contract, Drum's bullet points are short and very sweet. I like I so much I am posting it in its entirety:

Freedom of Information Act. Repudiate John Ashcroft's 2001 memo (and the White House followups) that encourage agencies to refuse FOIA requests even when no harm would result from disclosure.

Congressional Ethics. Revitalize ethics investigations by guaranteeing bipartisan ethics committees in which both parties have the right to subpoena records.

Independent Commissions. Ensure proper oversight of government operations by appointing independent commissions to investigate disasters like Hurricane Katrina, not handpicked committees designed to provide political cover.

Presidential Papers. Immediately reverse George Bush's 2001 executive order blocking access to a huge swath of presidential papers from previous administrations.

Task Forces. Open up the operation and deliberations of federal task forces to the public. No more repeats of the secretive Energy Task Force run by Dick Cheney.

Classification. Reverse President Bush's 2003 executive order that substantially increased the ability of federal agencies to classify information that had previously been open to the public.

The Press. Provide a personal promise from every Democrat that they will not lie to reporters under cover of anonymity. If they do, reporters are free to break their promises of confidentiality.

Legislative Text. Revive the old rule that the text of new legislation must be available for a minimum of three days before roll call votes are taken.

Voting. Schedule all congressional votes for normal business hours and restrict voting to the normal 15-minute period. Laws should not be passed in the dead of night and voting should not be kept open indefinitely.

His contract is clear, aggressive, and it would send a resonant message to the American public - The Dems are the party of government reform and accountability, the Republicans are the party of corruption and misinformation.

Drum says he'll "let someone else worry about the wordsmithing." Don't! If the Dem leadership gets its hands on it, they'll make it so long and wordy as to be incomprehensible! Just kidding, the Dem leadership would never do anything that made this much political sense.

The Lampanelli Paradox

Let me take a brief brake from all things political to describe a theorum (or paradox) I've just developed. Please pardon me if this theorum is offensive. The Lampanelli Paradox is named for the offensive racial comic and skilled Comedy Central roaster Lisa Lampanelli. It's a theorum about race relations, and it's named for Lampanelli because she has the highest index score of anyone on earth in the following equation:

(Level of offensiveness of one's discourse about minorities) X (Certainty that minorities have that one is not actually a racist in any meaningful way) = Score

The Lampanelli Paradox is this:
1.The more comfortable a person is joking, even about racial stereotypes, with people of other races, the less likely they are to actually be racist in their attitudes towards those other races. (Related assumption: people tend to joke most freely around those with whom they feel comfortable, and to feel most comfortable with those around who they can joke most freely).
2.If one wants to promote racial harmony, one should create an environment where such joking (which acts as a vent of natural tensions about race just as it does as a vent of natural tensions about sex, death, etc) is not punished and is tolerated. Just as people identify their friends as the people they can joke around with almost entirely freely, they will feel more friendly toward other races where a freer discourse is tolerated. This would have the effect of alleviating somewhat the private racism that can flourish behind closed doors.
3. Conversely, if one wishes to instill racial disharmony and tension, one should create an environment where people of one race feel uncomfortable when speaking in the company of people of another race, where they feel they must "walk on eggshells." This would have the effect of creating increased race-based dislike behind closed doors.

This theorum was inspired by my recent viewing of Lampanelli's ridiculously offensive special ( link) on Comedy Central, "Take it Like a Man." I had not guessed from her excellent insult comedy at the various roasts that her entire act was basically racial insult humor a la Don Rickles. I'm not a big fan of almost any creative work that has the scientifically meaningless concept of race as its main theme (I found the movie "Crash" to be ridiculous and boorish, for instance), and certainly Lampanelli's act occasionally got as dull and inevitable as Rickles' often does.

But I was struck by the fact that a racial comic as brutally rude as Lampanelli was toward every minority group was clearly more comfortable with minorities (and vice-versa) than most white people I know. Lampanelli also tells jokes about hating actual racists and hating the "n-word with the r at the end." She tells many (too many) jokes about how, as an overweight white woman, she loves to date black men who don't mind a fuller figured woman. She's in a 2 year relationship with a black man; they plan to adopt a child together. This doesn't mean she's devoid of racial discrimination offstage, but I think it carries more weight than the old standby, "I have friends who are black."

The racial harmony, the sense of comfort in the comedy club where Lampanelli was dispensing one extremely offensive racial joke after another seemed paradoxically to be very strong.

Now, I am not suggesting that the solution to America's problems of racial tension can be solved by encouraging offensive racial jokes. I am suggesting that the freer people are to speak casually around people of a different race, the less likely they will be to harbor actual racial intolerance. Like many people who've attended an American college, I've been exposed to a great deal of political correctness and extreme racial sensitivity in the college environment (almost always imposed by the handful of rich white folks who control the college). I'm suggesting that a racial policy that focuses on semantics and an adherence to strict codes of speech is not only useless but counterproductive in terms of actual racial harmony. That is the bold claim of the Lampanelli Paradox.

Ok, enough stuff that may piss off my constituency. Back to the fight against George Bush, who, according to KanyeWest (and Jacob Weisberg of Slate), doesn't care about black people.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Losing the news cycle part 2

Kevin Drum, on his wonderful blog, has a smart post about the Dems once again losing the PR war to the Bush Machine. A useful corrective to Garance Franke-Ruta's wishful thinking at Tapped. Garance cites Bush's 38% approval rating on Katrina response as evidence of the failure of his PR effort. Two thoughts:

1. 38%! 38%!! The fact that more than 5% approve of Bush's response is evidence of the triumph of his PR effort and of the enduring and strong support of Republicans for perhaps the worst president in the history of our nation.

2. 38% is about the same as his general approval rating at this point. Touche you say? No. Bush's approval rating was a dismal sub-50% on election day and it didn't stop him from stomping John Kerry in the popular vote. And Bush never needs to win another election. Only a legitimate rejection of Bush and of the Republican leadership in general will put the Repubs in jeopardy of losing a significant amount of seats in 2006, or the presidency in 2008. Sure Bush's approval ratings are bad, but, may I remind you, he is one of the worst presidents America has ever had. If he had a coherent political opposition or a critical media his approval rating would be about 10%. And keep in mind, the approval rating of Democratic leaders are almost as dismal as Bush's...and the Dems aren't even destroying the nation.

If we can never make the 40% faithful see how horrible Bush is, they'll just jump onto the bandwagon of the next Rove client, Bill Frist or Mitt Romney or whomever. Bush's PR machine is doing just wonderfully thank you. As reporters say in private, the Republicans are better at everything but policy. And then those reporters parrot RNC talking points and rip Nancy Pelosi apart. The same TAPPED has the story.

It sure was nice to have a real media back for those two days.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Katrina - Bush wins another news cycle

Before we begin celebrating Scott Mcclellan's tough news conference (I seem to remember a tough news conference about Karl Rove and the Plame Leak...remember that?), let us mourn both the rightward drifting media and the 8,744th consecutive missed political opportunity for the Dems: The media coverage has gone from a depiction of bipartisan condemnation of Bush to the typical media presentation of he said-she said, left vs. right. As usual, the debate is he lied, she said the truth, but it's all the same to our anything-but-the-perception-of-liberal-bias media.

I refer to the now dead talking point ("Both Republicans and Democrats have strongly criticized President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina") as the Conan O'Brien talking point, because he's said it at the start of his last two shows. He said it because it is basically the truth, though Republicans get less and less critical by the minute. But Democrats have failed to hammer this wonderful point home, and now we find ourselves back in partisan argument land where any criticism of Bush is just what you'd expect from the opposition party.

Meanwhile the keyboard kommandos at The Corner and all over the rightwing blogosphere have stopped criticizing the president and started doing what they're most comfortable with - cutting and pasting whole sentances from the talking points emails they've at last received from the RNC. If only the Republican (talking point) response had come sooner after the disaster! They wouldn't have had to say all those mean things about our poor maligned president. Anyway, they're better now and they have great sharp little phrases to trot out in defense of our leader - like now, Mayor Nagin is "Mayor Meltdown." Boy they really have a knack for this stuff.

This has happened pretty much every time Bush has made a mistake, most memorably after Abu Ghraib, where the initial conservative reaction was disgust, a fragile disgust that slowly metamorphosized into equivocation and then full throated defense of Bush as the Bush spin machine gave them another reason to deny how horrible their president is. But it's not only the peer pressure from Bush-is-God republican operatives that pulls these stray sheep back into the flock, it's their repugnance at being on the same side as the Democrats who criticize so ineffectively and who clearly hate the conservatives who initially agree with them.

Next time Bush fails miserably and several conservatives criticize him - seize on their words and don't ever let them go! But don't say gotcha. Compliment them as intelligent men and women of reason, who are so objective that they don't mind criticizing their president when they think it's right to do so. In other words, make them feel good about criticizing Bush. Sure they'll try to backtrack, but it's much harder to do once they've been embraced so warmly, their criticisms so sincerely praised and so frequently quoted. And for God's sake, quote them all the time. As with John Roberts, sometimes the Dems can do more damage with kindness than with criticism, which they suck at anyway.

Speaking of which, the Dem leadership at last jumps into the political fray with an urgency and timeliness not seen since America's most famous failed horse lawyer Michael Brown did a "heck of a job" responding to Hurricane Katrina. The problem with waiting 10 days to be outraged is that the American people know you're not genuinely outraged. Actually outraged people (and cunning politicians) don't wait 10 days to feel angry.

Yet another reason why the Dem leadership's criticisms never seem to resonate with the public.