Saturday, July 09, 2005


It's so nice to see Iraq is becoming friends again with it's neighbors. Look, it's just signed a $1 billion military cooperation agreement (not including troop training aid) with Iran!

On the one hand, it is good that Iran appears not eager to restart the brutal and bloody conflict they fought with Iraq throughout the 1980s. Regional stability is sorely lacking in the area, and every little treaty and crossborder bit of cooperation helps. On the other hand, I don't really like seeing Iran and Iraq as a pals. Hell, I don't like Iran and anybody as pals. Like Kevin Drum, it kind of creeps me out.

But wouldn't it be ironic if Iran gave it's WMD program information and technology to Iraq? Oh, I can see the late-night jokes now...

This Fine Message Brought To You by NARAL

This is really just a dumb idea. Yes, let's just confirm every suspicion and stereotype the religious right has about liberals. Woohoo, teen sex (oh boy, here come the sleazy google hits)!

Link: Instapundit.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Bite Me

Hopefully, John Cole has gotten in the last words on the disgusting "London Bombings big Jewish conspiracy" theory floating around the web.

After all, this is the real map of the Jewish conspiracy.

Might we all benefit from, perchance, not assuming that the Jews are to blame for all the world's problems? I mean, really, y'all flatter me, but I'm not that powerful. Really.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Shadow Boxing

The Family Research Council gives us a perfect example of either totally innocent wordplay or extremely subtle (and well-crafted) bigotry. In the course of criticizing companies for acknowledging the existence of gays, FRC chief Tony Perkins writes the following:
It baffles me how some major corporations, whose success depends on the support of American families, show contempt for the values of such families....Kraft Foods has paid $25,000 to sponsor the "Gay Games" in Chicago this summer--an event known as much for after-hours sexual activity as for on-field athletic competition. And now, FRC has discovered yet another example of corporate devotion to the homosexual agenda.

A full-page ad for Tylenol PM pain reliever appears in the July 19 issue of the pro-homosexual magazine The Advocate. It shows a photo of two bare-chested men lying beside each other in bed. Under one is the caption, "His backache is keeping him up." Under the other is the caption, "His boyfriend's backache is keeping him up." Tylenol is produced by Johnson & Johnson--the same company that makes the famous baby powder.

Let's dispense with the obvious first. The gay games are "an event known as much for after-hours sexual activity as for on-field athletic competition"? This is distinct from the regular And the Tylenol ad--I presume the FRC would prefer that the caption read "his casual AIDS-infected sex partner's backache Herpes outbreak is keeping him up," but I at least am happy to see companies encouraging stable relationships over random hookups.

But here's what gets me--what's with the gratuitous reference to J&J as the company that makes "the famous baby powder"?

On surface, there's nothing wrong. J&J does make baby powder, and it is famous for it. On the other hand--what purpose does it serve? It's not to give reference to an otherwise obscure company--most people have heard of Tylenol. It has nothing to do with the advertisement in question. Could it be that the FRC wants to juxtaposition "gay sex" and "babies", playing on many heterosexuals subconscious fear of molestation?

Many people will claim I'm jumping at shadows, and perhaps they're right. Such a statement might, after all, be totally innocent. And there is the problem with well-crafted hate speech--it can disguise itself so well within the currents of mainstream (and acceptable) discourse that it often is nearly impossible to spot except by two types of people--the haters and the hated. Truly virulent homophobes see that message and think that J&J is putting their kids at risk--however illogical that may be. Other decent people may not even recognize the message, but still register it's meaning, even if only on a subconscious level (which can be just as powerful, if not more so, than overt signals). Homosexuals see the message too, and wonder--innocent, or are they being accused (yet again!) of being closeted sexual predators?

Simply put, there is no way to find out. If some foolish person (like me) writes a post saying that the statement smacks of homophobia, most people with discount it as silly. Immediately, I will be labeled as a loony liberal going wild again, playing the PC card and trying to suppress totally innocuous speech. Assuming the FRC is innocent, they'll say so and complain of political correctness run amok. If they aren't, they have plausible deniability, so they'll still say they're innocent and complain about political correctness run amok. Either way, the result is the same.

It is the ambiguity of speech on the margins that makes bigoted speech such a conundrum. Everybody recognizes and condemns the overt cases, and nobody even thinks about the clearly irrelevant cases. It's the situations in between which are nearly impossible to deal with--and while in this particular case I think the subtlety is a bit far even for the FRC, groups like that certainly know how to turn that ambiguity to their advantage.

I'm Doomed!

PrawfsBlawg links to a Chronicle of Higher Education column (sub. only) which says that bloggers have a reduced chance at being hired as faculty members at colleges and universities.

Fortunately for me, both PB and Conglomerate feel that the reasons are weak, at best. But then, life isn't fair--it might not matter that the reasons are weak. After all, in the hyper-competitive academic market, even the slightest downside can knock an otherwise worthy candidate out of the running.

Is my blog to be the death of my career goal?

(Note: I'm honestly not that worried. I really think that blogging will be a negligible downside to my resume, if at all, and that downside will be far outweighed by the blogosphere contacts I've made and the practice I've gotten writing and thinking on legal topics).

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Democracy's Death

I have a confession to make.

I don't like democracy.

Longtime readers may be a bit surprised to hear this. And before I go on, allow me to make some caveats. When it comes to democracy, I am decidedly Churchillian--I agree whole-heartedly that "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." This is why I am such a fierce advocate of international democratization--simply put, in most cases it is by far the best case scenario.

Nor am I discounting the immense benefits of democracy. Put aside the intangible (but likely still real) effects of legitimacy and implied societal loyalty. Empirically, democracies are less likely to go to war with each other, less likely to engage in mass killings of their own citizens or others, almost guaranteed never to face a major famine, can expect to see far higher economic growth than even comparable non-democratic states, and experience a host of other bonuses.

All well and good. And in light of that, I will say flat out that I want to keep democracy around, at least until something better comes along (or even better, someone fixes the bugs in the system). But until then, let's ask ourselves--if democracy is so great, why are there so few democrats (small "d" essential)?

I. Foreign Policy

The American left has traditionally been the greatest advocate for democracy in the modern geopolitical scene. The influence of the democrats there, though, is but a shadow of its former self, mostly contained within the neo-liberal movement characterized by The New Republic and likeminded spirits. Other Democrats have become far less democratic, either becoming outright isolationists in a juvenile response to Bush's aggressive unilateralism, or joining up with the radical multiculturalist left in treating democracy merely as one (western) choice amongst many options--in other words, not something we (the imperialist west) can impose from without.

The American right likes to pretend it has stepped up for democracy, but again, it is only a small portion of true neo-conservatives who really believe. The rest play lip service to the ideal, but are not converted from their realist roots. Iraq demonstrated this most clearly--once the realist justification for the war fell apart with the lack of terrorist links or WMDs, the Bush administration's incompetence at democratization shone through. In their dealings with other nation's, we see the same thing--how else can you justify our devil's bargains with Uzbekistan, much less, of all places, Sudan? There are some true believers in the Bush administration--Wolfowitz, I think, is sincere if a bit naive--but most are not. Bush himself is only a recent convert to an aggressive US foreign presence--and I suspect that the philosophical shift never happened at all, even as political realities made lip service to the ideal essential.

II. Domestic Policy

Domestically, we're no better. At the moment, of course, Republicans preach a total submissiveness to the "will of the people," which would seem democratic if it weren't for the obvious fact that they're in charge of all our nation's democratic institutions and thus have an incentive to magnify the importance of democratic legitimacy. Where democratic norms have shown themselves to be an obstacle to the pursuit of power--as in Texas redistricting--or democratic bodies have enacted laws at odds with conservative principles--as in Takings Clause cases and the Kelo decision--conservatives have not hesitated to chuck the "will of the people" entirely out the window. Democrats have of late discovered that non-democratic bodies are more likely to be receptive to some of their core policy claims. The vast majority of recent Democratic victories have come from the courts--Roe, Lawrence, Goodridge, many others. Furthermore, they believe that smear campaigns and deliberate misinformation can undercut the process of democratic deliberation by distorting the issues and making it so that a majority of people aren't really seeing the options on the table. Poll after poll has shown issues where a majority of Americans agree with nearly all of the Democrat's policy prescriptions for a given problem--then turn around a say they "trust" Republicans more. Undoubtedly, Republicans feel the same way on many issues--that their arguments are being systematically distorted and twisted so that the people aren't hearing the words they're speaking. In this world-through-the-looking-glass, all liberals are spineless, pacifistic, socialist, nannies and all conservatives are brutish, heartless, racist aristocrats (or hicks). Somewhere along the line, the message is being lost, and after a century of trying to break through the left and right are beginning to despair.

III. On Being the Minority in a Democracy

I tend to view democracy like many members of the critical legal movement view rights or equality. Useful concepts in getting us from A to B on the social progress scale, but at the same time making it virtually impossible for us to move from B to C. The trick, of course, it to figure out how to get to C without risking sliding back to A. Democracy is great for securing governmental legitimacy, ensuring a basic degree of conversation between disparate citizens, and giving some voice to hitherto disenfranchised masses crushed under the heel of the elite. What it is really bad at, however, is protecting the interests of vulnerable minority groups whom the majority opposes. If you believe that American society is still fundamentally racist, for example, how can you communicate that idea through the democratic structure? The majority isn't going to listen to you--you're calling them a racist (even though you're not--there is a subtle distinction between saying society is structurally racist and that the people within it actively harbor malicious feelings toward minority races). It is difficult, if not impossible, to get the powerful to aid the disempowered for no reason at all except for the victims' victimhood. Perhaps you can appeal to "neutral" principles that will force the majority to treat you like they are treated. But again, this is unlikely to work. On the one hand, neutral standards are unlikely to remedy truly deep-seated inequalities. The same standard, applied to two groups in completely different situations, is not going to have the same effect. For example, saying everyone has the right to a $10,000 deduction for their house is only beneficial to those who have homes. Everybody being allowed to speak is only meaningful to those with microphones. And everybody's right to not be discriminated against on the grounds of race only will have an effect where one can prove overt racial discrimination--solving some of the problem, certainly, but not all of it. Where the discriminatory impulses are deeply rooted or subconscious, as racism has become in modern society, this becomes an impassable hurdle.

But, you protest, but this same hurdle is present to the dominant race as well! Submerged racism against them is also nearly impossible to find, or at least prove in a court of law. Very true. Also, very irrelevant. Think about it. If you are a white man in America, how big of a barrier to success would invisible, subconscious black racism be? Odds are, very little. The interviews you have at top companies are likely to be conducted with fellow whites. The important clients you deal with, same. Your boss, same, your co-workers, same. Indeed, with only a little exertion, you probably could avoid ever placing yourself in a situation where black-over-white racism ever impeded your career path. Hence, the inability to provide legal sanction against subconscious black racism is likely to be of little concern, and not being able to remedy it (weighed against, I presume, the harm of accidentally fingering an "innocent" man) will seem "fair." The reverse, alas, is not true. A black person facing subconscious white-over-black racism cannot avoid it and cannot get around it. What for a white person is at worst minor inconvenience is for him at best a major obstacle. The neutral standard remains, but suddenly it is seen in a very different light.

We've strayed a bit from democracy, so let's try and bring it back. Of course, there are many "neutral" standards one could create--presumably some of which would be more hospitable to minority claims. Why does it seem these standards are never presented? The reason is simple--the folks who set the standard are the dominant majority, and the dominant majority is blind to the effects their "neutral" standard has on those out of power. Changing the standard--raising or lowering the bar for proving discrimination claims, for example--is not seen as re-evaluating the standard because it isn't working for certain people. It is seen instead as a request for special rights--an effort to bend the system for the benefit of the few as opposed to an impartial arbiter for all. Don't you see, the majority chides, that it is exactly those grants of special rights that caused your problems in the first place? When we, in our shameful past, helped ourselves and oppressed you? We will not return to that time, and shame on you for asking.

IV. In Their Silence They Cry Out

And that's the rub--"shame on you for asking". The questions that need to be spoken are the ones most likely to get buried. And that brings me to the final criticism from this morbid post--the salvation of democracy, and why I do not see its arrival. For there is indeed a way to fix the problem--deliberative democracy. The only real problem, when you get right down to it, is that we aren't listening to each other. The narratives of the poor and downtrodden almost never reach the ears of those with wealth and power. The stigma of being racially oppressed almost never is known to those in the dominant caste. Our deepest hopes, dreams, and fears never reach the ears of those outside our own group. We talk only amongst ourselves, where democracy requires us to talk to everyone.

Note that today America almost never mentions the word race. Proof that we have moved beyond that sordid chapter in our nation's history? I doubt it. More likely, it is because any white who talks about race is presumed to be a racist, and any minority who does is "playing the race card." Whites don't want to be racists, and minorities don't want their achievements discounted, so everybody keeps quiet and the problems remain beneath the surface. Like many other issues, race has become a taboo--and deprived of being part of the democratic discussion, it enters autopilot. The results, alas, are predictable.

And race is just one of the worse offenders. As Jonathan Chait makes clear in his latest New Republic article, American voters as a whole are disengaged from the policy part of the political process.
The central assumption is that politics revolves around issues and ideas--rather than things like personality, tactics, and outside circumstances--and that the party that wins is the one that presents a more compelling vision of the future.
Alas, this sort of thinking assumes a wildly optimistic level of discernment by voters. Polls consistently show that large swaths of the voting public know very little about the positions taken by candidates. In 2000, the National Annenberg Election Survey found that just 57 percent of voters knew Al Gore was more liberal than Bush, 51 percent knew he was more supportive of gun control, and a mere 46 percent understood that he was more supportive of abortion rights. "The voting behavior literature, which is massive, shows that people are not particularly idea-driven," explains Berkeley political scientist Nelson Polsby. "They don't know what the fashions are, with respect to what ideas go with other ideas."

The people who discuss democracy are likely to be engaged in the issues concerning a democracy. The people who vote, by contrast, are not. We forget that at our own peril, because it is a necessary fantasy that keeps our faith in democracy alive. But there is no there there. Without engagement in politics, there is no way that the dominant groups will ever see past their narrowest self-interest (and the crudest caricatures of their fellows) to a broader sense of community with their less advantaged peers. The balkanization of the media and the growing polarization of political sects merely exacerbate the problem. I don't trust Republicans, therefore I don't listen to Republicans, therefore I don't talk to Republicans, and therefore I never can hear what it is they have to say. Politics becomes a Hobbessian world of pure power games, and it is the poor and disadvantaged, least able to defend their own interests, who inevitably will lose out.

V. Conclusion
This post was depressed, almost needlessly so. I am not that pessimistic about the state of our nation or anything else. Indeed, I think for all its faults, America is still a damn fine nation. But the most important thing, to me, is an everlasting belief that we can do better. We can do better than this oppressive silence that prevents people from discussing their grievances and connecting with their supposed "enemies." We can do better than blind faith in "neutral principles" and easy assurance that we are on the right path. We can do better than a nation in which nearly 66% percent has laws explicitly on the books relegating homosexuals to second class citizenship, where blacks are more likely to go to prison than go to college, where drugs users in inner cities are trucked off for multi-decade sentences while those in the suburbs get treatment after treatment after treatment. We have done better, and we can do better. I will not abandon that dream. Not for democracy, not for stability. Not for anything.

UPDATE: Traffic Jammed.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

No More Sup. Court?

Hanno Kaiser makes the pitch (link: VC). He'd replace it with an ad hoc court, convened twice annually with randomly chosen circuit judges as the members, to resolve circuit splits. This court would only hear cases that were selected by the previous ad hoc court, thus (presumably) preserving objectivity. He claims that
Random selection would also likely have a moderating influence on the courts of appeal, because an appeals panel, intent on adopting an extreme position, could no longer expect review by a politically, ideologically, or philosophically sympathetic Supreme Court.

Isn't the opposite just as likely to be true? A random Court with little institutional memory and no control over the decisions in the cases it does decide to hear is likely to only hear a very few cases. An ideological circuit could decide to just play the odds that its number won't come up. Certainly, they can do that now too, what with the limited amount of cases the Court hears. But this would exacerbate the problem that much more, in my opinion.

Furthermore, the way it is now, the interplay of the dominant, but distant Supreme Court, and the workhorse circuit courts inherently moderates judicial decisions. Think about it, how many earth-shattering decisions have come down from the Supreme Court even in the last century? Brown, Roe, maybe one or two others. And even those have had a far more limited effect than normally ascribed. Critical Legal Theorists have noted that the combination of administrative delay, lower court circumscription, and other factors have severely limited the effect of even the most landmark cases. Thus, as many students are in segregated schools today as there were in Brown, and for many women, getting a safe abortion is not much easier than it was in the pre-Roe era. And while this has it's problems, it is also somewhat predictable, and thus respondable. Kaiser's proposal would throw in yet another level of randomness to solve a problem I don't think exists. Frankly, the myth of an evil, overarching, activist court is just that, a myth. Rarely, if ever, has a court decision made an impact on any of our lives, and it's rulings have made narrow, if any, indentation of the more important political issues discussed around the nation. The whole "attack the court" mentality is a function of conservative victimization--the deluded mindset that their values are under assault even as they control all branches of the federal government and the majority of local governments as well. Weakening the Court would do little to address any substantive concerns (such as they are), it is an ego shot designed to put more power in the institutions that conservatives currently control. When a liberal program comes out through democratic institutions that conservatives wish to see buried, they'll be the loudest advocates of anyone for Supreme Court intervention (see, e.g., Kelo).

Monday, July 04, 2005

Umm...Kinda Making An Assumption There, Maybe?

A bit late, perhaps, and not quite in the 4th of July mood, but I noticed something interesting about this article on female suicide bombers:
According to the Koran, male martyrs are welcomed to Paradise by 72 beautiful virgins. Ayat, as with many of the women she is incarcerated with, believes that a woman martyr "will be the chief of the 72 virgins, the fairest of the fair".

As was put by the blogger formerly known as Maladictorian, this is obviously ridiculously sexist. But more than that, what happens if the female suicide bomber, um, isn't a virgin? Or isn't fair at all?

I suppose while they are changing her body into the "fairest of the fair," they can restore her lost virginity to boot. But still, kind of presumptuous, perhaps.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Shift Right

In this LA Times editorial, VCer Orin Kerr explains why he thinks O'Connor's retirement won't be the seismic shift in Court politics that everyone expects. He gives four reasons why:
Kennedy remains a key swing vote; O'Connor's replacement may not be very different from O'Connor; Rehnquist may resign, taking away a solid conservative vote that may roughly cancel out the impact of O'Connor's lost moderate vote; and respect for precedent will keep the Court from overruling most of the cases for which O'Connor provided the swing vote in the past.

Respectfully, I disagree. Let's take them one by one.

1) Yes, Kennedy is a swing vote. But recall that both Kennedy and O'Connor are moderate conservatives. There are 4 staunch liberals, 3 staunch conservatives, and 2 moderate conservatives. This makes for a nice balance--the liberals need to pick up only one swing vote, while the conservatives need two, but both swingers lean right. Taking O'Connor out of the equation would thus change the Court from it's 4-2-3 line up to a 4-1-4 line up. This means that the liberals only have one shot to grab a swing vote as opposed to two--furthermore, the "swing vote" already leans against them. Since O'Connor and Kennedy were moderate on different cases (for example, Kennedy was more likely to vote with liberals on gay rights, O'Connor on abortion), there are significant classes of cases in which liberals will be out in the cold. So while they'll still manage to pull together a majority in some cases, there will be a lot more which they lose because they can't pull Kennedy over (when they could have gotten O'Connor).

2) This is wishful thinking. As The VC's own Todd Zywicki notes, most conservatives feel there is going to be a fight regardless, so it might as well be someone worth fighting for. The folks with the most at stake in this fight, I.E., the Christian Right, have already made it quite clear they do not expect Bush to nominate an O'Connor-esque justice. Between the two, I think it's fair to assume O'Connor's replacement will be far more conservative (and less pragmatic) than she was.

3) If Rehnquist resigns, he'll be replaced by a conservative. Even if the right was inclined to allow a consensus candidate through on O'Connor (and I doubt it, see above), they'd never countenance it for Rehnquist. His retirement is unlikely to shift the Court's alignment in any meaningful way.

4) This reason is probably true, but limited. Many of the critical issues coming before the Court are not one's with tightly bound precedents. Gay rights, for example, is just beginning to come to the fore. So while I don't anticipate Lawrence being overturned, perhaps the next gay rights case won't be quite such a victory. War on terror cases pose similar problems. If there is one thing we've learned from the Rehnquist court, it's that you can slowly change the overall direction of America's legal jurisprudence without overturning a lot of decisions. Slowly but steadily, the Court can modify, revise, and distinguish its way to a more conservative worldview. Just ask liberals who feel Lopez and Morrison drastically shifted our ISC jurisprudence--while ostensibly not touching a prior case.

So, while it was nice buying into the fantasy for a little while, I don't anticipate Kerr's prediction coming true. Change is in the air--and I'm not sure it's to my liking.

UPDATE: Daniel Solove is even more pessimistic than I am--he doesn't think Stare Decisis is going to be much of a restraining factor.

There's Something About Michael

What it is about Michael W. McConnell? Powerline wants to see him nominated (right after Janice Brown Rogers, but that can't be helped). The Daily Kos thinks he's the best (realistic) choice for Chief Justice AND is continuing to back him to replace O'Connor--even though it would mean flipping a vote on Roe. I've been a longtime member of the McConnell bandwagon (see, e.g., here). How is it that this man is bringing together the left, right, and center like he is?

Indeed, it is rather difficult to find anybody not affiliated with an interest group who opposes McConnell. Helvidius at Ex Post thinks he isn't "necessarily committed to the text and history of the Constitution," which is an absurd charge--McConnell might be the single foremost originalist/textualist in American academia today. Check out some of the titles in his C.V.:
The Right to Die and the Jurisprudence of Tradition, 1997 Utah Law Review 665.

Segregation and the Original Understanding--A Reply to Professor Maltz, 13 Constitutional Commentary 233 (1996).

Originalism and the Desegregation Decisions, 81 Virginia Law Review 947 (1995).

The Originalist Justification for Brown: A Reply to Professor Klarman, 81 Virginia Law Review 1937 (1995).

Nope, nothing that even smacks of Originalism in that list.

Generally, the few people who do oppose him simply don't think he's conservative enough. They cloak it behind terminology like "originalism" and "textualism," but McConnell is proof that "following the text" doesn't always mean following the GOP talking points. What this crowd wants is a conservative activist, pure and simple.

But amongst much of the principled right (and left, especially those which have resigned themselves to the fact that yes, Bush is going to nominate a conservative), McConnell is an excellent choice.

I hope nobody tells President Bush I said that--nothing is more likely to doom McConnell's nomination than hearing that liberals won't scream bloody murder about it.

Now Showing...Me, at TMV

I've just become the latest co-blogger at Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice. You can access my introductory post here. I'll still be posting here, obviously. I'll do some independent stuff at TMV, but mostly cross posting and short little link blurbs. So don't worry--The Debate Link remains alive and well.

Just One Question

A few weeks back, President Bush gave a speech at Montgomery Blair HS in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was rather controversial, since not a single member of the student body--nor anybody from the town of Silver Spring, was allowed to attend. While Bush's restrictive "town meeting" rules are by now old news, this one hit particularly close to home for me since the school is only 20 minutes away from my house (I went to a different High School, but same school district).

So that got me to thinking--if you could get past that lovely barricade Bush has up between himself and independent thinkers, what would you say? If you got the chance to ask just one question or make just one comment, what would it be?

Here's mine:
President Bush, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to ask this question. A few weeks ago, one of my friends enlisted in the army. I told her how proud I was of her, and how she was an incredible person for standing up for what she believed in. Apparently, all her friends had just told her that she was going to die, and I was the first to simply thank her for her selfless choice.

That got me to thinking. I supported--and still support--both our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. I went to a very liberal High School and attend a very liberal college, so being an Iraq war supporter caught me a lot of flak--all the more so because I'm a Democrat. But I believe strongly that the only way to make our world safer is to improve the lives of those suffering under tyranny--creating stable, liberal, democracies which don't slaughter their own citizens. So I persist in my support, because I know that it is the only way for America to win the war on terror--and failure would be disastrous.

Mr. President, I want you to know how hard you and your party have made it for people like me to continue to support this war. Top members of your party accuse Democrats--any Democrat--who questions our progress in Iraq of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy." Words like "treason" seem to fall off the lips of some of your key supporters on a regular basis--and you do nothing to repudiate them. Everything from the FMA to the Flag Burning Amendment to the Energy Bill has been justified on the basis of 9/11--3,000 people didn't die to become convenient political footballs for Karl Rove. Just last week, your Deputy Chief of Staff said that liberals--all liberals, including, presumably, the hawkish ones like me--wanted to give "therapy" to terrorists after 9/11. Only 1 member of congress dissented from the decision to go to Afghanistan--such a blanket statement is shocking, outrageous, and hurtful to the thousands of us who have advocated vociferously for aggressive American responses to terror. It is also sadly indicative. Given the opportunity to work with Democrats on the Department of Homeland Security, you instead decided to use it as a bludgeon in election 2002. Given the chance to find out, once and for all, what we could have done better before 9/11, you decided to obstruct and stonewall. Given the chance to come clean about where we are on Iraq, you stay behind your spin wall and blithely maintain that nothing has gone wrong. And all the while, there has never been any room in the coalition of the willing for willing Democrats--who were hounded out of office in 2002 and 2004 for not having a little "R" after their name. This is not the behavior of a wartime President. It's the behavior of a President at war--with the opposing party.

Mr. President, upon election you promised to be a "uniter, not a divider." You broke that promise. Myself and other Democrats like me rallied behind you on 9/11 and again before Iraq--you betrayed us. You decided that picking up a few seats in congress was worth more than sending America off to war united as one. Charlie Stenholm, Martin Frost, Max Cleland, Tom Daschle--all voted for yea on Iraq, all defeated in bitter, nasty, partisan campaigns because they refused to pledge loyalty to every word that came out of your mouth. Politics is all well and good, Mr. President, but not when we're at war.

I don't think you can regain the trust you've lost. But I'm willing to give you this chance to try. What do you have to say to the legions of moderate, centrist Democrats and liberals who feel like you've spent the last three years stabbing them in the back?

That's what I want to say. What about you?