Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Democrats Need to Follow the 11th Commandment

Although it first arose in his 1966 run for Governor of California, Ronald Reagan's espousal of the 11th Commandment ("Thou Shalt not speak ill of other Republicans") really entered the national politics of the Republican party in 1976. Interestingly enough, since then the GOP has had a very successful run in political power. One of their strengths has been their unity.
Democrats, not so much. Democrats vilify each other in primary campaigns in which they spend as much time and energy attacking each other as Republican office holders they are trying to replace. The primary season is when the Democrats write the negative ads about Democrats that the GOP will use in the general election.
Compare: Republicans keeping their unity and directing their fire on Democrats leading to increasing political power and the ability to shape public debate. Democrats fractious and disunited, criticizing each other remorsely leading to decreasing political power and an inability to shape public debate. Maybe, just maybe, Democrats might want to rethink this.
Consider the huge debate about whether Senator Clinton has sufficiently 'apologized' for her vote in 2002 for the authorization of military force act. (She says that if we knew then what we know now, there never would have been a vote.) For all the clobbering of her vote then, what is forgotten is that George W. Bush had misled the country about the intelligence, and the Republican majority of the Congress was united behind Bush's policy, and that the United States was going to go to war with Iraq, even if Mrs. Clinton had immolated herself on the Senate floor in protest. Was her vote unwise? Yes. Was it decisive? No. Do Democrats need to focus our energy on building the narrative that Democratic politicians are politically calculating and inauthentic? No.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Puppy Pictures

OK, isn't she the best?

More on the Troops

Under the present arrangement, the Executive has too much leeway in commiting the armed forces into battle. The War Powers Act, still disputed, was an attempt to rectify that imbalance. The Bush-Cheney Administration has actually tried to increase the power of the Executive.

But the power of the President to intervene around the world with the US military has rested in part on the political immaturity of the public. No one disputes the power of the President to respond to emergency situations without seeking prior approval. But Presidents have also known that once the troops are committed, the opposition can be cowed into silence with the demand to "support the troops." In practical terms, the freedom of action of the President to use the world's strongest military for an interventionist imperial policy has been dependent on the public susceptibility to emotional manipulation.

That era is coming to an end.

The Bush administration is delegitimizing all of the mechanisms by which the government would get consent for imperial interventions around the world. It used to be that people would say things like, "Well, they have access to secret information that we don't have, so we should assume that they know what they are doing." Now, people are beginning to understand that it is entirely possible that there is no such secret information, and that "intelligence gets fixed to match the policy."

When this long tragic saga is over, we will see that Bush's Presidency, through its overreach, helped bring the Imperial Presidency and the era of US hegemony as the world's only hyper-power to an end.


I spent far too much time watching the House debate on the Resolution disapproving of the Bush escalation of the war. I admit that after a certain point in the debate, I muted the set during the GOP speakers. I think that the GOP had written only one speech which they shared among themselves. They also recycled their speakers as well as their talking points. Until the very end of the debate, I did not a Democratic speaker repeat, but I think I saw the same GOP speakers over and over again.

But what was shameful is that the GOP, the party of the President, would not defend the policy that the President is implementing, and which has led to such dire results. At no time did they offer a concise explanation of what the situation was in Iraq, and how their policy was going to affect that situation, and why that policy was better than any alternatives.

Instead, they hid behind the troops, the people that they have placed in harm's way, for reasons that they will no longer declare or defend. The troops will be discouraged, they say, if we evaluate the policies for which they are facing fire. What could be more discouraging than to be asked to risk great danger for policies that your leaders no longer sincerely believe in themselves.?