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 (amazon.com 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.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina - Another Bush Scandal Part 2

Ok, so many, many blogs link to a Salt Lake Tribune Story on the 1,000 (!) firefighters commandeered by FEMA for media relations purposes and thus prevented from, say, actually saving lives in New Orleans. 50 were specifically used by President Bush to act as a backdrop as he toured the devastated area. I think this story fits in well with the grounded helicopters story (see previous post).

The sadly unsurprising moral of both stories is that President Bush cares way, way more about politics than about actually helping Americans. Daily Kos goes so far as to call it:

the most fucked up thing ever done by this president, in a long list of fucked up things.....It's the most fucked up because it is easily the most crassly political act ever taken by this administration. Bush is so thoroughly a PR vessel that he can't even tour a disaster zone without his human backdrop. He's been a PR marionette for so long -- clear brush for the cameras! -- that he's become thoroughly incapable of keeping it real. God forbid he try to connect with people, get a better understanding of their efforts to cope with real disaster. That's not worth his time. Nope, it's got to be turned into a frickin' Bush campaign commercial. Everything is political. Everything.

I think this is pretty much right on. But, in my role as a blogger who attempts to provide a uniquely pragmatic political take on the news of the liberal blogosphere I have to ask: so what?

First, I strongly doubt this is "easily the most crassly political act ever taken by this administration." I'd have to award that distinction to President Bush's turning the tragedy of 9/11 into the most overused partisan weapon since "they'll raise your taxes." Second, he's been doing stuff like this for nearly 5 years, it's just hopefully been much clearer and easier to expose in New Orleans. Third and most important, thus far it always works.

The casual TV viewer doesn't read about this on Talking Points Memo, he or she just sees President Bush striding powerfully through the rubble of New Orleans flanked by 50 firefighters. Until the Dems can muster up a message machine that can successfully disseminate this kind of incredible dirt on Bush (and God knows there's enough of it), it will just fade away like the 1,000 horrible things that Bush has done that the mainstream media feels are just too "conspiracy theorist" to report on. Bush's use of these firefighters surely caused people to die in New Orleans, but almost as surely he will benefit from it politically. We need to worry about how to stop that.

We don't have to argue that we are morally superior to George Bush, we are. We should worry about hitting him where it hurts. I'm going to try to use this story to inspire me to donate to the Center for American Progress - right after I donate a little more to the Red Cross. Then I'm going to write letters to the editor to the Post and the Times (for all the good that'll do). Without a message machine of some kind, the Dems will let this kind of disgusting Potemkin leadership continue to work. And if it continues to work, the devoid-of-conscience wing of the Republican Party (aka the Karl Rove wing) will continue to do it. Bush Republicans will stop at absolutely nothing.

Every loyalist Republican on TV today will be endlessly repeating, "Blame Game, Blame Game." It will be idiotic, dishonest, and effective. The Democratic message machine that I dream of will be only one of these things. And it will have every Dem on TV repeating, "Horse Lawyer, Horse Lawyer." Nice dream.

John Roberts' Supreme Court Hearing

Just because John Roberts is now likely to be the chief justice of the Supreme Court for the next 30-40 years doesn't change the political calculus of his confirmation process (see my previous post below). There is still no plausible way that the Democrats could derail his appointment.

Nor should they waste their time and energy grilling him at his confirmation. TNR online author William Stuntz suggests that not only should the Dems save their energy for a real wingnut nominee, but that grilling Roberts too hard could slow the leftward progress that many conservative judges make once appointed to the court (may be subscription only). The key grafs:

Republicans sometimes complain that these hearings are too ideological, that the only legitimate issue is the candidate's temperament. They have it backwards. Live hearings are always about temperament--which is precisely the problem. They ought to be about judicial philosophy, about the candidate's substantive record. That will never happen as long as candidates sit for days and answer senators' questions. The ins and outs of separation-of-powers law doesn't make for good television. Video rentals do.

That is one reason liberals should want to avoid grilling Roberts. Here's another: The best Supreme Court justices learn and grow on the job. Like many white Southerners of his generation, Lewis Powell (for whom I clerked) was a lifelong segregationist. Once on the Court he saved affirmative action, at a time when the nation needed it. Live questioning in televised confirmation hearings makes Powell-like growth less likely. Nominees take public positions and feel constrained to follow them. Worse, some nominees react to hostile questioning by thumbing their noses at their tormentors. Would Clarence Thomas's voting record be so conservative if his hearings had been more civilized? No one knows, but the question should give liberals pause.

It should, if only because liberals have nothing to gain from grilling Roberts. Again, embracing Roberts (or pretending to do so) for his pro-gay, pro stare decisis record would inflict much greater political harm on a weak and tottering President Bush than pretending to grill Roberts.

John Roberts and the Dems' Missed Political Opportunity

Reposted and expanded from an earlier post on Roberts.

When Sandra Day O'Connor retired, an increasingly unpopular President Bush faced a difficult choice. He could pick an extremist judge to please his base, and risk losing the confirmation battle, or he could pick a moderate judge who would be easily confirmed but who might anger the virulently anti-abortion base. He chose John Roberts, a "solid conservative" but generally a man who fits more in the second category; he's not an extremist, he wasn't chosen for his loyalty, he's a potential David Souter type, though probably more of a principled conservative minimalist.

I was thrilled with the nomination, as I suspect were most moderate Dems. But NARAL and similar pro-choice activist groups have decided to fight Roberts based on inferences about his views on abortion and other social issues. I don't really blame them; they exist to fight against any erosion of abortion rights. But Democratic congressman are fools for not embracing Roberts, a well-qualified minimalist who may not even vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Since Roberts will easily be confirmed no matter what, the Democrats should have tried to gain political advantage and weaken the Republicans, rather than adopt the weak skepticism and general silence that has characterized their response to Roberts thus far.

Instead, the Dems should have embraced Roberts loudly, killed him with kindness. He's a moderate! We think he'll uphold Roe v. Wade! He reminds us of Souter! He did pro bono work for gay rights groups! This gay-loving, pro-choice Harvard man is alright!

Despite the Republican Machine's best efforts, the sight of the entire Democratic party loudly celebrating about Bush's Souter-esque candidate would have damaged Bush and his party among their virulently pro-life base, who have repeatedly won the country for the Republican Party and have yet to realize that the faux-religious and secretly pro-choice Republican leadership has no intention of paying them back. If the Democrats really want to win elections, there's no better point to make to the American people. And embracing Roberts would help make this point. The alternative is to once again let Bush somehow weasel out of a seemingly impossible political situation with another victory. And this seems to be exactly what the energetic organizations on the left are prepared to do by fighting the good but 100% futile fight against the qualified, Souter-licious Roberts.

Roe v. Wade is not at stake here, only partial-birth abortion, which is both extremely rare and wildly unpopular in America. If the Democrats would rather take a principled and suicidal stand against Roberts just to prove that they support aborting a fetus when it's practically viable, then maybe they deserve to keep losing every major election. If they want to win, they should start hugging Roberts now, before Rehnquist's death sucks all the news coverage away from Roberts' inevitable confirmation. [Editor's note: Luckily perhaps, the nomination of Roberts for chief justice will prevent this from happening].

I do not claim to this is the "right" thing to do. I'm discussing how to win and ultimately do the right things for America. Framebot exists to give controversial but correct advice about winning elections. Your comments, supportive or angry, are always welcome.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina damage - Was it all the local officials fault? Um, no. Plus Kaus

Mickey Kaus, who seldom meets a Bush talking point he doesn't like, blogs about the incompetence of local and state officials in addressing Katrina. This, of course, parrots the talking points promulgated by Rove et. al. in an attempt to shift the blame away from Bush and his horse lawyer at FEMA.

Aside from the failures of the federal government in addressing what is obviously a national emergency, let me just point out that most Americans sorting out what went wrong in New Orleans are not constiutents of New Orleans Mayor Nagins or of Louisiana Governor Blanco. So it is not liberal bias that makes people focus on the failures of the federal government. Rather, we're focusing on the elected officials who actually lead us, rather than the local and state officals whom we can't vote out of office even if we wanted to. It seems to me that neither the mayor, the governor, the uber-Republican president, or the uber-Republican congress should remain in power. But most Americans can only vote against the Republicans in their home state and oppose the incompetent president of the nation. If I could also vote out or meaningfully oppose Nagin and Blanco, I probably would. But I can't.

It is insane to pretend that the Katrina destruction was somehow not a primary concern of the federal government. It is insane to pretend that the federal government's response was adequate or even minimally acceptable. Some disasters are necessarily going to overwhelm state and local resources (which President "Unfunded Mandate" Bush has not exactly helped to conserve) and the American people rightly assume that the federal government will competently step in to save lives. As it has done countless times before.

Anyway there's tons of blame to rightly assign to Bush, FEMA, the entire Republican federal government. Let me try to reiterate this in the Republican style with which Mickey Kaus is hopelessly enamored:

1. Bush cut millions in funding from the levee projects, and his actions will end up costing taxpayers billions in reconstruction, not to mention the cost of thousands of lives. (Sensible liberal caveat: Or at least they contributed to this cost).

2. Bush appointed a failed horse lawyer to head FEMA and built a useless bureaucracy which handicapped FEMA and again contributed to the New Orleans disaster.

3. Not to mention that 4 years after 9/11 we appear to be less prepared for major disasters than we were in the mid-1990's.

4. Bush's photo ops in New Orleans prevented helicopters from delivering food to starving US citizens.

Etc. Etc.

Mickey Kaus is like a more sensible and sober Christopher Hitchens: an recovering liberal who is more Republican than most Republicans. Kaus, who claims to have voted for Kerry (and I believe him), votes left but blogs way right. Kaus once linked (without praise, thank God) to a Bush Republicanite blog post that argued that not catching Osama Bin Laden was better than catching him, because he was harmless and he can't be a martyr if we never kill him. Well, good thing the living Osama hasn't inspired other terrorists or anything. As an American whose country was attacked on 9/11, this obscene pro-Bush talking point made me want to punch both the original poster and Kaus in the face.

That said, Kaus is 10 times saner and more readable than Hitchens, and he voted for Kerry. Furthermore, he's got a very unique take on a great many news stories, and his comically cynical, old-fashioned journalist style of writing delights me. I read him all the time, I think he's a great blogger. Frequently he's an idiot (see his update on how eliminating states altogether is the key to preventing another Katrina) and almost always he's a reliable Bush apologist and Dem hater maybe one notch below a Bush zombie like Sean Hannity. But, dammit, he's a great read.

Finally, I believe in The Mickey Kaus Barometer: when Kaus finally turns on Bush, the entire country will finally turn on Bush. Since Kaus is willing to forgive Bush on the Katrina mess, I believe this indicates that Bush's faithful 40% will not abandon him no matter how bad his leadership is revealed to be.

I can hardly wait for the fateful day when Kaus and 90% of registered Republicans finally wake up and realize what a horror show our president is. I just hope it will not take something unimaginably horrible to snap them out of their trance, something like a second Great Depression caused by a massive dumping of US bonds by the Chinese during an oil crisis, or President Bush getting oral sex from a White House intern.

Let us all pray to God that it doesn't come to that.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Rookie Mistake

All links now fixed and operative!

The Horse Lawyer and FEMA - Talking Point

Republicans always look for a simple but destructive turn of phrase that will resonate with the American public. Democrats tend to see the political process as a policy argument, where Americans choose the party that will provide the policies they prefer. They make long-winded arguments for their policies. The Republicans talk to Americans the way major newspapers talk to Americans - at a 4th grade level, at a visceral level everyone can understand. And this is what Democrats have to grasp about political communication: Don't try to be clever, don't talk down, just try to be as clear as possible. That's form, what about content? It should be Simple and striking and hard to disagree with.

Candidate X vacillated on the Iraq war, and his plan only differed from the president's in that he wanted to involve more allies. That's how a Democrat would say it. And it would be easy to nitpick to death - "well, Candidate X's vote against the $87 billion was symbolic, because he didn't want to go into debt to pay for the war. And allies are great, and X has a better chance of getting allies to join than Y, etc..."
But, as a Republican would say, Candidate X was "a flip-flopper" and he wanted a "global test" before fighting a war. You have to play he said she said (No he isn't! No he doesn't!) to defend Candidate X; no one can support X on those terms. And meanwhile the Dems struggled to criticize Bush for not having a plan or not sending enough troops while avoiding like the plague the phrases that would have resonated and been very clear: "Bush is a liar" and "Bush lied about the war."

Not only do Republicans repeat their talking points far more than Dems, their points are far clearer and more striking.

Why the long preface? Because I have a new Republican-style talking point that I like very much:

  • George Bush put a horse lawyer in charge of federal emergencies.
  • The horse lawyer was fired from his job as a horse lawyer for incompetence.

Simple, striking. Anyone can understand it, and anyone will see that it is not a good thing. Hard to disagree with that. You have to say: no no, he's more than just a horse lawyer, and he's perfect for the job - you sound like an idiot.

Horse lawyer. Horse lawyer. Horse lawyer. Not good enough to be a Horse Lawyer!

Try it, it's fun.

Katrina - Another Bush Scandal

Apparently food and relief helicopters were grounded in New Orleans for Bush's fake photo-op visit (via Daily Kos). The AP has it too. Between this and the potempkin levee repair discussed in the previous post, there has to be enough here for a major Bush scandal if the Dems play their cards right.

Did anyone starve to death as a result of this unconscionable delay in food relief? Did babies die? These are the questions that should be investigated, and if the answer is yes to either, this should be all the Dems talk about for the next week.

Absolutely disgusting.

Katrina - Landrieu finally grows a backbone

Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum quotes Sen. Landrieu's press release on the fake levee repair staged for President Bush's photo op in New Orleans. Also, from his update, a report from German TV station ZDF:
ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.

This is the kind of political ruthlessness we're up against in 2006 and beyond.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina - memes, Katrina vs. Iraq

Framebot's new batch of talking point ideas and humerous slogans, nice and short like talking points should be.

1. I'm no longer surprised that George Bush can't win the war in Iraq; he can't even win the war in New Orleans!

2. Bush has run into the same three big problems in New Orleans as he has in Iraq: 1) Corrupt political appointees in charge 2) having no plan, and, worst of all, 3) not sending in enough troops to do the job! It's deja vu all over again.

3. I bet if New Orleans were a giant oil refinery instead of a city, Bush wouldn't have cut the funding for those levees. (cheap shot. But probably accurate.)

4. The most sickening part about George Bush's failure is not that his government is unprepared for a natural disaster, it's that, 4 years after 9/11, George Bush's government is unprepared for a terrorist attack!

Katrina Update 2

In fairness, Laura Rozen has several The Corner writers, including Jonah Goldberg, lamenting Bush's apparently terrible speech a few days ago, and, in Goldberg's case, saying, "This is not the usual post-hurricane scrambling for FEMA patronage and post-hoc insurance coverage. Fair or not, accurate or not, the normal rules really don't seem to apply here [and after a discussion of the poltics of it]...Moreover, it's the right thing to do: Send in the cavalry." And that's why I don't dislike Goldberg as much as many of his colleagues.

Don't forget though, Bush's initial speech after 9/11 was surreally bad, and only after a few days of coaching and speechwriting was he able to "show leadership" to the point where an emotionally vulnerable country and pliable media decided to let him do whatever he wanted until about 4 months ago. Now that the calvary has at last been sent in to some degree, expect Bush to make a great, polished speech sometime in the next few days, and expect Goldberg et. al. to praise it to high heaven.

The best Bush-criticizing post is clearly by John Podhoretz - JPod focuses like a laser on the high stakes of the emergency response in N.O., where 250,000 left-behind Americans struggle to survive:
Look, it's not too much to say that the continued viability of his presidency resides in how he and the administration respond in the next week.

The best part is the title of JPod's post: NOBODY'S A BIGGER BUSH CHEERLEADER THAN I... That is exactly, and only, what he is.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina - Anderson Cooper absolutely freaking out

Framebot almost never watches TV news (it's more like TV news-o-tainment) but I have CNN on and just saw something very surreal: Anderson Cooper just absolutely freaked out while interviewing Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. Cooper (in Waveland, Mississippi, not even N.O.) started by railing against the absence of national guard troops until today, talking about all the Mississippians who are extremely pissed about the absence of help. Then Landrieu comes on, dismisses his question about this and starts thanking Clinton and Bush I, Bill Frist, and eventually President Bush for all of their concern. Cooper, clearly extremely angry, bashes her for politicking, invokes the pissed off Mississippians he's spoken to and all but dares her to complain about the horrible neglect of her city. Landrieu, looking good and wearing an eerily sunny smile, completely refused to take the bait. She kept saying that "there would be plenty of time" to deal with those questions. It was as if she was scared that if she criticized the federal government response Bush would call off the National Guard and just let 'em starve. I don't think the Dems should clearly try to politicize this event, but there's no reason not to agree with a TV anchor when he's clearly on your side. Cooper is letting his "liberal bias" shine through, and God bless. I wonder, why has his objective journalist training failed him? I suspect it may have something to do with seeing the "dead body" of a local woman being "eaten by rats" on main street.

You really had to be there I guess; he mentioned the body and the rats to Landrieu, but her genial smile never wavered. Just a surreal level of hostility in that interview.

Katrina - Framing!

Wonkette has a beautiful meme that any Democrat on TV should try to incorporate as often as possible: EPA cleanup worker calls flooded, ravaged New Orleans "Lake George." Brilliant, shrill perhaps but not obnoxious or snobby, could catch on. Sure you'll be attacked for saying it, but who cares? Just remember to (quite accurately) attribute it to "EPA" or "rescue and cleanup" workers in New Orleans.

Katrina - shooting at the rescuers

Jonah on the shooting:
But when people fire weapons on doctors and rescue vehicles, it is a sign of profound moral decay more grotesque than words can describe.

Again, the shooting is wrong under any circumstance, but why are people doing such a thing? From the WaPo:

"Hospitals are trying to evacuate," Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, told the AP. "At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking potshots at police and helicopters, telling them, 'You better come get my family.' "

As bad as this is, I'm not sure trying to save one's family is "profound moral decay...grotesque" rather than the most natural human response to such an inconceivable disaster. Again, is Goldberg absolutely certain that he wouldn't react the same way if he was starving and his entire family was about to die? Probably he wouldn't, but who among bloggers really knows what that's like?

Katrina Update

Kevin Drum has a sickening timeline of the neglect of New Orleans' levees, not to mention Bush's refusal to let what appears to be a 9/11 scale disaster interfere with his daily photo ops. The conservative blogosphere also bravely refuses to let the suffering and death of a bunch of poor black Democrats get them down. Ok, maybe the people dying in New Orleans had no means to escape the city in time, but some people are shooting at the rescue crews, which Jonah Goldberg says is very wrong. A bold stance, and I have to agree with him there. And the looting is, I guess, unforunate. But these people are dying and their city is in ruins. If my city was destroyed by a flood or terrorist attack and I was starving to death thanks to the incompetence of FEMA, I'd be the first person to loot the local supermarket and Jonah Goldberg and his fat ass would be right behind me. If someone is stealing a half-soaked big screen TV and dragging it to high ground, it's not right, but it's not exactly my number one hurricane aftermath concern.

Kevin Drum's timeline makes me sick to my stomach, or it would if I hadn't already seen Bush bankrupt America, lose a war, allow terrorist-friendly North Korea to build nuclear weapons, and fail to legimately try to catch the man who ordered the attacks on the World Trade Center (for you Bush Republicans out there, his name is "Osama Bin Laden"). I think I'm really just sickened by the accompanying photo. Those American flags...In George W. Bush's America, the water is still rising.

Katrina - a disaster in every sense of the word

Atrios is all over the apparently horribly insufficient response to Hurricane Katrina. The most important and unbelieveable thing is the apparent chaos and horror being visited upon the mostly black and mostly poor residents of New Orleans who did not or could not evacuate the city in time. As I type this people are starving to death, drowning, desperately trying to save the lives of their children right here in the US. Why is this happening? Well, mostly because of an enormous hurricane. (Though I can't resist this free talking point: global warming leads to warmer ocean temperatures and thus perhaps to more and stronger hurricanes. I'm not blaming Katrina on greenhouse gases, I'm only saying that in the future it's crazy not to sacrifice a little to prevent global warming, because this sacrifice may end up saving 1,000's of lives in Florida, New Orleans, hell, the entire South and East of our nation.) But it's made worse by the fact that the Bush administration is simply bad at running our government. It's bad at fighting wars, and it's bad at dealing with disaters, even four years after 9/11. It's bad at both for the same reason: Bush politicizes everything, and (except it seems for John Roberts) tends to hire the most loyal person for each job rather than someone who knows what they are doing. It happened with the CPA in Iraq and it happened with FEMA. I don't advise that the Dems try to score political points on the Katrina mismanagement, as it's a delicate operation and they will likely screw it up, but the smoking gun is here; apparently the funding crisis of our federal government prevented the Army Corps of Engineers from shoring up New Orleans' levees in 2004. George W. Bush is a terrible president and the Republican congress is a terrible congress, and their mismanagement is weakening and harming America in horrible ways.