Saturday, June 18, 2005

Good Sign

I know that a lot of Jewish voters were ambivalent on Governor Dean in the 2004 primaries, because he seemed tepid in his support of Israel. His base of supporters, drawing from the left edge of the party, made this threat even more pronounced. So I was very pleased to see his prompt condemnation of anti-Semitic bigotry at one of his events.

Balloon Juice gives the heads up. And this is also a sign, however timid, that Dean also will be able to resist the inevitable calls for an immediate Iraq withdrawal. Though I'm not willing to bank on that yet.

Out of Action

Where has this type of Republican gone? Former Missouri Senator John Danforth penned a simply spectacular editorial in the New York Times. An excerpt:
People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.

When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.

We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.

Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.
In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.

By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

Political Animal gets the nod. It is a tragedy that someone like Danforth probably couldn't even get out of a Republican primary these days, let alone become the respected statesman that he is today.

Sirens' Call

That about sums up the situation Democrats are faced with right about now. Legal Fiction talks about the gathering "perfect storm" about to hit the Bush administration. One important issue he gets into is on Iraq, and I think this issue particularly poses risks to the Donkey:
[S]upport for Iraq is dropping fast. Personally, I don't favor setting timetables for withdrawing or even withdrawing at this point. Civil war would be too horrific. But dear Lord, we really have the tiger by the ears here. We can't win without more troops, as this NYT article shows in painful detail. Yet, we are unwilling to send in more troops. The military is hemorrhaging recruits. The insurgency is gaining. We have 130,000 troops trying to patrol 24 million - and the coalition is pulling out. At this rate, we will lose the war. And at this point, we have absolutely no strategy other than hoping that the insurgency will stop. And the American people are beginning to sense it - at the very same time the DSM hit the news.

I agree with Publius--we can't withdraw now, the civil war would be catastrophic and the US would be permanently crippled in its democratization efforts (no, I don't think we are permanently crippled already). But there's a bind here for Democrats. On the one hand, I think it must be awfully tempting to jump back on the "bash Iraq" train. After all, the GOP has no credibility on the matter any more, and the growing insurgency (oh I'm sorry, I meant to write "last throes") is demoralizing both the general public and the military at large. Frankly, to say post-war Iraq is a failure that can be laid at Bush's feet is not an exaggeration, and its pretty tough to tell Democrats not to take the fat target sitting in front of them.

Furthermore, the normal factors that would check Democrats from drinking the withdrawal koolaid don't seem to be operating here. The thing Democrats fear more than anything else, especially after the fiascos of '02/04, is to be tagged as soft on the military. So aside from the firebrands, they tend to shy away from overt positions which suggest they don't care about security. It's important to note, however, that unless there is a substantial paradigm shift in American politics, the left can never get beyond "neutral" on this issue. Recall the period leading up to the last election. Democrats had supported wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, supported the 9/11 commission (Bush opposed), wrote legislation authorizing the Department of Homeland Security (Bush opposed), and pushed for billions of dollars in additional national security funding (Bush opposed, successful). By any objective stance, the Democrats, as a party (as opposed to John Doe Dean Volunteer), were more pro-security than the GOP. Yet the Dems reaped no benefits, indeed, the prevailing conception was that they were weak, spineless, and wussy. At some point, Democrats are going to decide that being pro-security isn't gaining them any political benefits, and that will make the Peacenik wing of the party far more powerful.

The other problem is that even if the Democrats aren't ready to abandon the pro-security stance outright, the issue of Iraq is so hot right now it might even prove to be a disadvantage if they vow to stay the course. Normally, the only risk Democrats face from being too tough on security is a few Michael Moore lookalikes voting for Nader. This is annoying, but outside something crazy like confused Jews in Florida, it isn't likely to be fatal. But right now, it isn't just the left who wants to see us get out, it's the mainstream of the political spectrum that is becoming disenchanted, and the Democrats cannot afford to let the center vent its anger on endangered incumbents. Ironically enough, Bush's weakening stature may help the GOP here, because Republican candidates won't feel as compelled to toe the party line and might start to murmur about getting out themselves. Since GOP foreign policy roots lie more heavily within the Realist School than the Neo-Conservative one, this is not too far-fetched.

In a way, this is a masterful stroke by President Bush. Even his blunder is going to aid him politically, as it places Democrats in an impossible situation, with a political opportunity they can't pass up that will invariably lead to geopolitical consequences they can't escape the blame for. Of course, its a dark victory, because it comes in the wake of Bush's greatest failure on his highest profile project. But it's always seemed like Bush cared more about hurting Democrats than helping the country anyway.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Happy Birthday!

This blog turned one year old yesterday. Helluva milestone. I've been blessed to have such insightful readers, and to have had the support of the blogosphere as I've engaged in this project. Though I've slacked off over the last week, I've tried to maintain a quality site, and hope that I have succeeded at least to some degree.

Thank you all very much for reading. Hope to see again soon!

PS: Bought an X-Box with my new found wealth from the job. So blogging will be even more sporadic as I rot my mind away. But I swear I'll still be posting. I've gotten emotionally attached.

Federal Review

So the last chapter in the Schiavo case (hopefully) has come to a close. Her brain damage was irreversable and completely deprived her of any consciousness.

GOP Senators were unrepentant:
"My concern was for due process, and due process is not a medical issue," said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.). Asked whether he had any regrets, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who visited Schiavo at the hospice in her last days, responded, "None whatsoever." He added: "If a state court decides to take the life of someone, there should be a federal review."

How I wish Estoppel was a legitimate political argument. "If a state court decides to take the life of someone, there should be a federal review"? Next time Santorum and his buddies want to railroad someone through death row, throw that back at them.

And yes, I know that death row inmates do invariably get federal appeals. Too often, they are as cursory as, well, the review Schiavo got. Since presumably Santorum is not satisfied with the results of said hearing, I think it is fair to assume he wants a higher standard of review for Death Penalty inmates as well.


On the DC Metro, Metro Center Station, this advertisement for West Virginia tourism. It shows an ATVer, riding through clearly rugged terrain.

"More dirty laundry than a judicial nominee."

Obviously, they know their audience.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Worst of All Worlds

Balloon Juice tells us that the Representative who brought you "Freedom Fries" and "Freedom Toast," our little jabs at the French for not supporting the war in Iraq, has decided the troops need to come home.

Guys like this are the worst of all worlds. Throwing out petty, demagogic insults in the runup to the war, but as soon as we need to stiffen some spines and get to work, he wants to cut and run. At least Kerry's ambivalence was tempered by his insistence that we get the job done.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Office Space

Tragically, you'll have to go elsewhere for all your Michael Jackson needs. I'm going to be blogging on a reduced schedule (though I won't be stopping entirely), at least for the next couple days. The job is quite interesting, but very stressful. Hopefully, when I've got some time to acclimate, I'll come back to normal.

Try to live on without me.

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Oh yeah. He's still got it. If you don't want to read the whole thing, Obsidian Wings cuts it down to the best parts. But it truly is inspirational to read.

Okay, I'll give you a little taste:
Like so much of the American story, once again, we face a choice. Once again, there are those who believe that there isn't much we can do about this as a nation. That the best idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government—divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on.

In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it—Social Darwinism—every man or woman for him or herself. It's a tempting idea, because it doesn't require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford—tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job—life isn't fair. It let's us say to the child who was born into poverty—pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life's lottery, that we're the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won’t be the chump who Donald Trump says: "You're fired!"

But there is a problem. It won’t work. It ignores our history. It ignores the fact that it's been government research and investment that made the railways possible and the internet possible. It's been the creation of a massive middle class, through decent wages and benefits and public schools that allowed us all to prosper. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative. It depended on a belief in the free market; but it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we're all in it together and everybody's got a shot at opportunity. That’s what’s produced our unrivaled political stability.

Masterful. I greatly anticipate the day I see him moving into Pennsylvania Avenue.

Before and After

So tommorow I get to start my new job! I doubt I'll be doing any job-blogging--there probably won't be any interesting stories anyway. But at least it gives me something to do from 9-5:30 besides posting here.

As for why I haven't been posting this weekend--I've been rereading the old X-Wing series books that had been hiding out in my basement. You ever had a really odd urge to read/find/do something from way back when? I presume that was what came over me when I was scouring boxes at 4 AM Friday night, looking for them.

And yes, they are as much fun to read as they were back in junior high. Some things never change.