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Monday, January 29, 2007

Bush and Cheney in the National Kitchen

If there were one overarching metaphor for the current U.S. political situation I think it would be this.

U.S. politics in January 2007 is like a huge stove top, like one might find in an industrial kitchen, with 16 or 20 open burners, a huge frying surface and all sorts of ovens, broilers and grills...all of them in active use.

On each cooking surface we can find what we might call one of the "issues and controversies of the day" in various stages of preparation.

Iraq...Bush's "surge" and the Congressional anti-surge resolutions...is clearly the main course. Iraq is hot. Minimum wage is simmering on a side burner. As is the Scooter Libby trial, the 2008 Presidential race, the Gonzales recess nominations, the national debt, our nation's health care crisis. There are all sorts of smaller dishes...Jim Webb's speech is cooking right along side Dick Cheney's CNN interview and George Bush's State of the Union address. Pretty much anything one can think of having to do with our national political life is actively being "grilled" as we speak.

Now, this analogy might be relevant at any moment in our political history. What's so distinct about this point in time is that almost everything in our political life points to a battle over who is going to do the cooking.

In fact, I would argue that we are headed towards an inevitable costitutional crisis over that very issue, a battle for governance.

You see, the distinguishing characteristic of the Bush/Cheney mode of operations has been this: they have managed our nation's affairs as if they would never and could never be held accountable. They are like cooks who've worked as if no one could question their handiwork, even though, invevitably, as all cooks must, they knew they would have to justify their results when the plates hit the table.

In point of fact, hidden in the midst of all the boiling pots and sizzling grills that make up the American national kitchen is this grim reality: almost everything that the Bush Administration has prepared has gone deeply awry. So awry, in fact, that if George Bush and Dick Cheney were cooks of any competent restaurant, they would be fired in short order.

Normally in American politics when we transfer those in power, when we "change cooks," we simply hand off the cooking, more or less, from one party or ideological view to the other. The flavor of the dishes might change, but everyone still gets served. That has been our national tradition.

In this case, it's not that simple.

Whether it's the Plame affair, or the fiasco in Iraq, or warrantless wiretapping, the terrible failure of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, or our nation's incredibly mismanaged health and energy policy, the Bush Administration have been like cooks who have deferred and delayed any sense of accountability about what they've been up to in the national kitchen.

In fact, they've made a utterly horrible mess of things and in January of 2007 it is clear that they CAN'T and WON'T share power with Congress and the American people because to do so would mean that they will be held accountable and suffer the inevitable consequences. The Bush Administration will ask for "one more chance" and "one last, best chance" to run the national kitchen unchecked and unsupervised till January 2009. We all know that's true.

If you ask me, that is why Senator Jim Webb's speech in response to the President's State of the Union was a watershed moment in American political life.

Senator Webb's closing...implying that the Bush Admininstration can go along with the leadership of this Congress and the will of the American voters on Iraq or they will be "shown the way"...created a powerful impression.

Here, for the first time in decades, was a Democrat standing on center stage of American poltical life and elbowing out the GOP cooks. Webb wasn't complaining. Webb was taking over.

We are, in my view, fully engaged in a battle for governance in American politics of which Jim Webb's speech was the opening salvo. I think, given the Bush Administration's stonewalling, this battle is shaping up, inevitably, to take the form of a constitutional crisis.

If the President's response to any challenge to his decision-making power is always "because I say so"...and, at bottom, that has been his response...then the only way to wrest power from this malignant cook is with the force of the United States Constitution. That may come in the form of acts of Congress. That may come in the form of popular calls for this President or Vice President to resign or face impeachment.

I think those who bet on Bush/Cheney to win this Constitutional battle are ignoring something very powerful in American politics.

Each month as we move forward in 2007 will mark both the imminent arrival of the 2008 Presidential campaign, and bring us one step closer to a second round of national accountability regarding the work that's been done the GOP kitchen. There are any number of significant dishes ready to boil over and burn...and fewer and fewer folks have incentive to hide that reality.

This President and Vice President have obfuscated and blustered through their failures past the point where it has done lasting damage to their national party. The 2006 elections left the Congressional GOP in shambles and in retreat. The question now is how much will this administration's intransigence and failure work its poison down into the roots of the GOP at the local level. I predict that local political opposition to Bush and Cheney will drive a wedge deep into the heart of the GOP. When local politicians start to feel the heat...and they have...things will start to change nationally. That's the last stop in American politics: Main Street.

You see, the failures of this administration in the national kitchen reverberate down to the very roots of our democracy.

The American people have always been the ultimate judge of what's been served on the plate in front of them. American politics has always been about decisions and judgments that are made at the kitchen table.

In my view, taking a whiff of the aroma of what's cooking in Bush and Cheney's national kitchen, things could not smell much worse for the GOP.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Senator Kyl and the lies that keep us in Iraq

A few days ago I heard an interview on NPR with Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona. This interview made an impression that so deeply disturbed me that I made a promise to myself to look it up and write a response.

So, with that in mind, today I've gone back and typed out a transcript of a portion of Senator Kyl's interview with Renee Montagne so that a broader readership might be able to parse the import of the Senator's words. These are no small rhetorical flourishes...

These are the lies that keep us in Iraq.

::

First, a bit of context to this interview.

This January 10th, President Bush, in a major address to the nation announced the framework of his new strategy in Iraq. This strategy was in fact under way even as he spoke.

Whatever one thinks of the concept that an escalation of our troop levels in Iraq will achieve peace and stability where we haven't achieved that objective in the entire three years and nine months of our occupation, one statistic stands out. Even as President Bush actively rolls out his surge plan: 68% of the American public opposes it.

Now, Senator Jon Kyl, the third ranking Republican in the Senate, is a significant voice in the Senate. With Republican opposition to George Bush's surge plan growing every day, it is worth paying attention to the rhetoric this Senator uses to justify an open-ended escalation of our commitment of troops to Iraq.

Let's take a look at what Senator Kyl has to say:

Renee Montagne: What are you hearing from the White House that makes you confident about the President's plan for Iraq?

Senator Jon Kyl: First, the President's critics have no alternative plan except to leave...on different kinds of timetables and that is not a strategy to succeed. So...and I also think that most people do agree that if you left Iraq a failed state the consequences for the United States, not to mention the Iraqis, would be disastrous.


First off, Senator Kyl simply doesn't anwer the question. Renee Montagne is asking the Senator what, specifically, about the White House plan inspires his confidence. Senator Kyl has no response to that basic question.

Second, instead of explaining substantively what aspect of the President's "surge" plan is a good idea, Senator Kyl shifts the subject and lies about the "President's critics" saying that they have no "alternative plan except to leave." That is a lie. From day one there have been viable alternative plans regarding Bush's war in Iraq. Whether it was working with United Nations weapons inspectors before the war, going in with twice the number of troops as numerous generals suggested at the time of our invasion, Congressman Jack Murtha's more recent sponsership of a plan for "strategic redeployment," or the Iraq Study Group's emphasis on a renewed diplomatic push coupled with a draw down of our forces, or, as Meteor Blades points out, the McGovern/Polk plan...there have always been substantive alternative plans in opposition to this President's policies in Iraq. To say otherwise is a bald-faced lie. The only reason to deny the existence of alternative plans is so that Senator Kyl can dodge the obligation of comparing the substance and merit of those competing plans with George Bush's own failed policies in Iraq.

Finally, when Senator Kyl says that we can't leave Iraq "a failed state" what he fails to mention is that Iraq has become a failed state under the watch of this president. The "failed state" we see in Iraq today is the direct result of this president's policies. In that light, Renee Montagne's question is germane. What has this administration said that inspires confidence in their surge plan? Senator Kyl doesn't answer this question because the answer is obvious: there is nothing George W. Bush can say that inspires confidence in his stewardship of U.S. policy in Iraq. The disaster that is Iraq today has one name and one author: George W. Bush. His speech was nothing more than the author of that failed policy asking for "one more chance."

Why should this nation give it to him? It's a valid question.

In a follow-up, Ms. Montagne suggests that there are, in fact, substantive, bi-partisan alternative plans for Iraq.

Renee Montagne: Well, though, with all due respect there was an alternative proposed by the Iraq study group...that was a slow, steady withdrawal.

Senator Jon Kyl
: (pauses awkwardly) Exactly, a slow, steady withdrawal.

If your idea is that we can't win, or that we already have lost then there are all kinds of withdrawal plans. My own favorite plan would be get out today, but the President has a different idea, namely that we can still succeed there.


Let's call this strategic lie and rhetorical gimme "the Colin Powell."

The Senator turns face and abruptly acknowledges the existence of substantive, alternative plans for Iraq that have some appeal. In fact, Senator Kyl acknowledges that his "favorite plan" would be to "get out today." But, alas, like Colin Powell before him, Senator Kyl feels that because George W. Bush holds the office of President of the United States it is necessary to suspend his critical thinking faculties (and, we might add, his obligation to represent the people of Arizona), and tow the current presidential lie: Bush's "surge" will allow the United States to "succeed" in Iraq.

This is breathtaking. Jon Kyl has no problem leaving us with the distinct impression that if HE were president, he would pull our troops out of Iraq tommorrow. He says it outright.

That's not just hypocrisy of the highest order; that is a gross dereliction of duty. If Senator Kyl supports the Bush plan, he should step up to the plate and tell us exactly why he does so. If he thinks the surge plan can succeed where Bush has failed for four years running, he should spell out why. Telling us, with a wink, that, dagnabbit, he'd have us out of there in a New York minute if he were president is simply base hypocrisy from a man who is, in fact, carrying water for this president. Senator Kyl wants to have it both ways. That's hypocrisy for those that have eyes to see it.

When we read further, however, that flippant aside becomes stomach turning...

Renee Montagne: Have you spoken with the President or the Vice President directly about this?

Senator Jon Kyl: With both of them, yes.

Renee Montagne: And they have your confidence in this?

Senator Jon Kyl: Well, I must say the President and the Vice President have spoken with a lot of us. It isn't just the President's plan, as you know, of course, there was a lot of consultation both with members of the Congress as well as outside experts. The President had a very large menu to choose from, of different options, and ultimately after hearing all the advice, he settled on the plan that he has.

Now, would I do it exactly the same? Not necessarily, but I am sure not privy to all of the counsel that the president has gotten.

Do I believe that this will succeed? I think there is a good chance that it can succeed. But there are no guarantees and the President has made it clear that there are no guarantees.

One final point. There is no question there will be an increase in violence. And we should not come to believe that that increase in violence is a signal that this is not working. In fact it's probably a signal that this is working in two ways.

We have to inflict a lot more punishment on the enemy. We have to defeat the enemy there. And that's going to mean more violence.

And second, they get a vote in this too. And they are probably going to react very strongly with everything they have.


That is stunning. And dangerous. It is also a textbook example of the political rhetoric that allowed this nation to enter into and now remain mired in the disaster that is Iraq.

First, once again Senator Kyl punts and fails to answer a question. Renee Montagne asks the Senator if the President and Vice President have his confidence. Senator Kyl ducks that question. If anything, his non-response..."would I do it exactly the same? Not necessarily.." implies that the President and Vice President do NOT have the Senator's confidence. Think about that.

Given that implication, what follows is striking. Senator Kyl voices the two big lies that keep us in Iraq.

The first lie runs like this, Jon Kyl says: "it isn't just the President's plan."

Remember all those meeting with Congresspeople and generals? Senator Kyl is implying that because the President met with these folks that he actually listened to them and incorporated their views into his surge plan instead of doing what he was going to do anyway. That is a bald-faced lie. The surge has NOTHING to do with the advice this President has received from Congress, the consensus of this nation's generals or the hard work of the Iraq Study Group. We all know that.

For the entire length and breadth of the war in Iraq, the President's enablers have made it seem like broad swaths of our nation's leaders were not simply in agreement with the president on Iraq but actively supported his policies there. That is simply not true. It's the "everybody's on board" lie.

That's the lie that kept us in Viet Nam and it is the lie that is keeping us in Iraq.

Remember "the Colin Powell?" Even those who carry water for this President disagree with him privately. The "surge," like every other policy in Iraq, is, at the end of the day, the sole responsibility of Commander in Chief, George W. Bush. To state otherwise is to lie. When has this President worked with those who disagree with him? Never.

I know that some will argue that, for political reasons, some politicians have found it advantageous to appear to side with this President. That is true. I don't contest it. It is why I find the "cuddling" with this President engaged in by Congresswoman Tauscher and Senators Lieberman and McCain, among others, to be so foul. Bush and his enablers USE that cuddling to make it seem like there is consensus for the president's policies in Iraq. Politicking, however, has nothing to do with authorship. George Bush owns "the surge" just like George Bush owns Iraq. It is that simple, in principle and reality.

Second, Senator Kyl gives voice to the second big lie that keeps us in Iraq when he says: "I am sure not privy to all of the counsel that the president has gotten."

No. Senator Kyl, that is a lie. You are the third-ranking Republican in the United States Senate. If you do not know something essential to deciding about the commitment of our nation's armed forces to Iraq then the voters of Arizona should kick your ass out of office. There's a reason for this "big lie"...the "I'm not privy" lie...and it's this: if even United States Senators are not privy to the information needed to judge whether to commit our forces to an escalation in Iraq it means two things:

1. only the President knows, hence, only the President can decide, hence, our nation will only do what this President wants.

2. if the third-ranking Republican Senator in the U.S. Senate doesn't have all the information needed to judge Bush's policy in Iraq, than John Q. Public sure as HELL doesn't. The clear implication here is this: Who the hell are you to question this president, Jane Q. Public, if I, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, won't?

Whether it was "trust us" on WMD. Or "trust us" on reduced troop levels for the invasion. Or "trust us" that "peace is around the corner" the consistent bludgeon to stifle the inevitable questions about Iraq has always been this lie: "even our elected representatives don't have all the information", so take your questions and shove it!! It's that simple. That's the real meaning of "I haven't seen the intelligence about WMD, or Abu Ghraib, or body armor" lie.

They know. They all know. And if they don't, why don't they know?

So, after dishing out two bald-faced lies in service of George Bush's war in Iraq, Senator Kyl tells the stomach-turning truth:

"There is no question there will be an increase in violence."


Of course, Senator Kyl needs to coat the truth with a lie. According to the Senator, that increase in violence will mean we are succeeding in Iraq. More violence equals victory.

You see, according to Senator Kyl, we can't leave Iraq because it would become a violent "failed state." So, instead of looking at the numerous, comprehensive, bipartisan plans for getting out of Iraq, Senator Kyl tells us that we must escalate the war there. That escalation will mean violence.

To stop the bloodshed, we are going to have to shed more blood. To save Iraq, we will burn it to the ground.

Just like we did with Fallujah.

::

If there's one thing that characterizes the "lies that keep us in Iraq" according to Senator Jon Kyl it's this: they are the same lies that got us there in the first place.

Why is anyone buying them in 2007? When will our leaders in Congress have the guts to stand up to this President and his enablers and say: enough is enough?

I don't know. But if that interview and those equivocations don't make your blood boil like its 2002 all over again, then George Bush and his enablers have won a significant battle here at home.

Enough IS enough. It's that simple.

It's time for Congress to say no to Bush's surge.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

the turning point

It should come as no surprise that President George Bush, having led this nation into two simultaneous and ongoing wars in the Middle East, repeated one week ago the formulation that has become the bitter and ironic mantra of his presidency:

Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.

Most observers would put it slightly differently: failure in Iraq has been a disaster for the United States. It has also been, one must note, a disaster for the Iraqis themselves, if not our world.

The dystopic vision of failure that the President uses in that speech...describing a potential post-U.S. Iraq as full of "radical Islamic extremists growing in strength and numbers," the use of oil revenues to "topple governments" and an "Iran intent on building nuclear capacity"...reads instead like a litany of present-day ills that Mr. Bush has crafted in no small part with his own two hands.

Nevertheless, this President insists that for the safety of American citizens it is necessary to escalate the war in Iraq, to stay the isolated, treacherous course in the face of his own failures and incompetence, to plow forward once again in an attempt to establish what has not happened once in the four years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq: the establishment of peace on the streets of Baghdad by force of U.S. arms.

There's a reason that this dystopic vision of U.S. failure in the Middle East has come to serve as the rhetorical life raft that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney cling to on our airwaves and in our public discourse. They need this vision of impending disaster in the Middle East to compel United States citizens to support their utterly failed policies in the region. There can be no "other way" in Iraq. Bush and Cheney have successfully imposed their own failure of imagination on the public mind.

There is, however, another way.

Needless to say, this path is diametrically opposed to the Bush/Cheney policy failures in the Middle East. To see that path clearly, however, we must come to see that we stand, as a nation and a globe, at a crossroads from which there is no turning back.

There's something at the root of this dilemma, this fork in the road, this choice between two competing world views and policy sets that expresses the defining question of our day.

::

A little over one year ago I wrote a series of essays on this blog, k/o, entitled, the United States, Iraq and the Post-Oil Middle East. The argument I advanced in those essays was that there are two basic, yet somewhat hidden, features that define United States policy in Iraq:

1. an abandonment of multi-lateral, cooperative foreign policy and international institutions in favor of unilateral military and economic action.

2. a commitment of this nation's diplomatic and military efforts to the fossil fuel economy: ie. supporting our dependence on oil by our commitment of U.S. forces to the Middle East.

The two above policies intertwine to create the world view that can best be summed up as the Bush vision of the 21st Century.

The Bush vision is epitomized in the phrases "Axis of Evil" and "the Global War on Terror" but it can best be summed up by one word: oil. To serve that master, the Bush vision embraces war, instability, an open-ended "bring em on" fight with terror, and a century-long battle over scarce resources in which nation states play a winner-take-all game over the fossil fuels that run our modern economies. When the world competes for scarce oil and natural gas reserves, nations inevitably have to fight to keep the spoils. Winner takes all. And given Bush's inaction on global warming, we will fight and squabble over the very same fossil fuels whose unchecked consumption will cause the oceans to rise around us, wreak havoc on our croplands and drown our coasts.

In clear distinction to this world view stands its opposite, the progressive vision: proudly green, multi-lateral, energy-independent, vested in international institutions that guarantee, to the extent that any institutions can, a modicum of peace and stability. This progressive world view is committed to a network of innovative, cooperative energy solutions that work across national lines. The basic philosophy of this world view is that we on this planet work together not simply because we have to but because we all attain a greater measure of safety and security when we do.

This progressive world view is exactly the world that Bush and Cheney fail to imagine. They cloud over the possibililty of this world with their dystopic nightmare. They cannot comprehend it and so they dare their opponents to propose another way, a competing vision...thinking that no one will propose such a drastic step towards hope. And, by and large, that's what attains. To the extent that the American voters cannot see this new path, and cannot understand this clear alternative, the Bush/Cheney world view, mired in fear and a commitment to failed policies, rules the day.

As progressives, that is our dilemma. We have failed to communicate.

We stand today, however, at a crossroads from which there is no turning back. With a raging war in the Middle East, abandoned climate treaties and a fundamental lack of commitment to alternative energy sources, we must enunciate, in no uncertain terms, that there is an alternative to the Bush/Cheney vision. There is another way. We are at a turning point.

We must demonstrate to our fellow citizens that our dependence on foreign oil and our ongoing engagement in wars in the Middle East are no coincidence. The two are inherently linked. They are tied by what amounts to a failure of vision. We as a nation, are addicted to oil. It drives our foreign policy just as it drives our economy at home. People can understand this fact, this connection. It makes sense. We act unilaterally in Iraq because it seems that we have to do so; we need the oil. People come back to the Bush vision because they cannot see another way.

It is time we enunciate another path.

Simply put, we must put a trio of policy sets on the table again:

a: a crystal clear commitment to U.S. energy independence as a matter of national security

b: a commitment to multi-lateralism and international institutions as the central resource for solving international questions and ensuring that all nations are safe from the threat of terror

c: a commitment by the United States to lead a multi-national effort to thwart global warming and create cooperative, international solutions to our global climate crisis

In sum, instead of spending American lives and dollars fighting a losing war in Iraq, we should put American power and ingenuity to the task of bringing the world together around 21st Century solutions to our energy needs. When we work multi-laterally, we build the safety and security that only come from mutuality and inter-dependence. When we embrace engagement and diplomacy, keeping the strength of our superior military in reserve, we are stronger than when we rush to war. Instead of breeding terrorists, it is high time we grew allies and friends.

This will be a bold change of course. It is merited, however, by the great stakes we face. There is simply no time to dawdle or to invest in two more years of failed policy in Iraq.

Regarding Iraq, the policy implications are clear.

1. The United States must commit itself to finding an international framework to end the U.S. occuption of Iraq while maintaining whatever peace and stability possible.

2. The United States must frame its policy in the Middle East based on an accelerated and ambitious time-table for U.S. energy independence. This will not happen overnight, but the tenor of our relations in the region will change immediately when it is clear that we are serious about a U.S. policy of energy independence as a matter of our own national security.

3. The United States must make clear that we are committed to multi-lateral, internationalist solutions in matters of peace and security in the Middle East. Nothing would give the United Nations more weight in the Middle East than the most powerful nation in the world embracing the UN as a force for peace rather than fighting it tooth and nail.

It is impossible to do anything more than sketch here what this conversion from oil addiction to energy independence, from unilateral military interventions to multi-lateral engagement and cooperation, from denying global climate change to leading a partnership to fight it would be like.

Needless to say, we must turn away from the dark and dystopic Bush vision. This administration needs that vision. They need the fear. They have denied what was obvious for too long. The best way to fight the terror that visited our nation on 9/11 is to work together with our friends and allies to make the world a safer place for everyone. Unilateral war in Iraq is not the answer.

However we frame our alternative, it is imperative that we convey our change in terms of hope and strength. The United States is an innovative can-do nation. Under the leadership of George Bush and Dick Cheney we have lost our way and fallen under thier dark vision. We are so much better than that.

The change to come will not be easy. No truly great work ever is. But this is no time for half measures. We must convey our own bold vision and chart a new course. We must win new friends and grow new allies.

Every American knows that we can do better than Bush. We are at a turning point. It is high time we stood up and shone a bright light on the challenging path ahead.


Monday, January 15, 2007

the era of President G.W. Bush

The era of President G.W. Bush began sometime in the late-1990's when a coalition of Conservative Republican fundraisers, Texas "energy" men and former members of President George Herbert Walker Bush's administration assembled behind the prospective candidacy of the first Bush's eldest son, George W. Bush.

Given what we've learned during President George W. Bush's six years in office, during which time, in partnership with his extraordinarily powerful Vice President, the younger Bush has exhibited both gross inadequacy in presidential leadership and successive substantive policy failures at home and abroad, it is remarkable that neither the media nor the Republican establishment saw fit to question the then Governor of Texas's ability and suitability to lead this nation through the first decade of the 21st Century as President of the United States.

George W. Bush the candidate was, for pretty much the entirety of the 2000 campaign, simply a "likable" Governor from Texas with a huge pile of money. That was all anyone needed to know.

Of course, it turned out not to be that simple...


::

Or, to put it bluntly, it was, in fact, "that simple"...but the simple answer was something that many in this nation thought privately but virtually no one who could have ultimately made a difference, including candidate Vice President Al Gore, saw fit to mention in any decisive manner:

George W. Bush is and was unfit to serve as President of the United States: as a man, as a leader, as an intellect, and, ultimately, even where he has been given his greatest credit, as a politician. It is on that level, politically, that we must now decisively defeat him.

George W. Bush, as President of the United States, is an unmitigated failure. History will remember him as a president with a distaste for nuance, a dislike of policy and a chronic inability for even the slightest amount of self-reflection or pragmatism even in the face of repeated abject failures. President George W. Bush has carried his hallmark characteristics of willful self-certainty, an ignorance of history, ideological rigidity and a faux-naif Reaganite vision of American goodness to their far breaking point. Failure in his stated objectives has been no obstacle to this president; when things don't go as planned, George W. Bush simply changes plans and rationales as if no one will care or notice. In sum, it's not enough for George W. Bush to be the idiot-in-chief, he's been intent on taking the rest of us down with him.

That reality, in conjunction with a lock-step conservative GOP Congress and a national corporate and investor culture that favored the money class to the detriment of the national good has created what most of those who held guarded doubts about George W. Bush the candidate would now acknowledge as the greatest disaster in American presidential history.

George W. Bush is not simply a "failed President." The failure of his presidency threatens the very fabric of our Constitutional Democracy and the standing of this nation in the world at large.

The litany of Bush's failures is as familiar as it is long:

The failed and ongoing war in Iraq, the troublesome and ongoing war in Afghanistan, the rising and unchecked national debt, the debacle of the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina, a failed national energy policy, a failed national educational policy (NCLB), a health care system whose costs are unchecked and out of control, a U.S. military pushed to the breaking point and beyond, an outright war on this nation's environmental and regulatory policy, a myriad of corporate scandals, the nomination of a series of ideologically-rigid Federal judges, the loss of U.S. standing in the fields of diplomacy and human rights, the use of torture by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the rampant use of signing statements, extra-territorial detention and rendition, widespread, extra-legal government surveillance of United States citizens (warrantless wiretapping), the abandonment of the Middle East Peace Process, the abandonment of the Kyoto protocols, the abandonment of engagement with both the newly nuclear state of North Korea and the emerging nuclear state of Iran, the outing of Valerie Plame, the conversion of every Presidential event into crass political merchandizing, the stifling of dissent, the repeated selling of the "Big Lie," the demonization of one's political opponents and distortion of their views, and the failed policy sets surrounding "the axis of Evil", "WMD", "Preemptive Warfare" and the "Global War on Terror."

In all the above, President George W. Bush had the willing partnership of a now-defunct GOP Congress headed by the likes of Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, Trent Lott and Bill Frist and lobbied by the likes of Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist. That GOP Congress, which the American voters saw fit to show the door in November 2006, laid the ground work for the Bush Presidency with the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998. History will remember that impeachment for what it was: a Republican power grab intended to shake the Democratic Party's hold on the executive branch and a needless distraction executed as the United States faced the emerging threat that finally surfaced on our shores on September 11th, 2001.

Impeachment also "primed the pump" for the emergence of a figure like George W. Bush. The Starr Report, it is obvious now, was an assault on the Presidency. It sought to bring down a President, but it succeeded most at bringing down the Office of the President itself. Impeachment made the election of a middling and indifferent student and failed businessman to succeed a Rhodes Scholar, policy wonk and one of the most skilled rhetoricians in American history seem like an even trade. It wasn't. Not even close.

George W. Bush, in partnership with Dick Cheney and the now "out of the majority" GOP Congress, have left their indelible mark on the first six years of this new millenium. Our nation and our world have paid the price.

Our job, at this moment, as patriots and citizens, is to heal that breach. 2009 will be too late. The job of moving this nation out of the era of George W. Bush must begin now. The 2008 Presidential race will be waged in the shadow of this battle and this battle will shape the 2008 race whether the candidates choose it or not.

There are two years to run in President George W. Bush's constitutionally-mandated term of office. The job of every American citizen who understands the debacle that has been the presidency of George W. Bush must be to use that very Constitution to defeat him politically. To put it simply, it is the job of all citizens of conscience to use any and all constitutional means available to us to kick this President's political butt, to thwart his agenda, and, if needs be, to remove him from office.

This is an active issue. The President, in defiance of his Generals, a bi-partisan commission, Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle and the freshly-expressed will of the majority of the American electorate has committed this nation to an escalation of the war in Iraq. Escalation is a policy that defies common sense. It runs in the face of the mandate of the 2006 Congressional elections and the notion of government by and for the people. It is also, one must note, a policy that was well under way at the time President Bush announced it. Escalation in Iraq is a fait accompli. The significant question is, what are we going to do about it?

If Senator Hagel called the President's escalation in Iraq, the "most dangerous foreign policy blunder since Viet Nam" then the President's recent truculent appearance on CBS 60 Minutes should set off constitutional alarm bells. The "educator-in-chief" needs to be taught a constitutional lesson: when the people kick your cronies out of office, pull your congressional majority out from under you, and demand a change of course leading to a U.S. exit from Iraq, you oughtta listen to the people.

I very deliberately mentioned the impeachment of President Clinton above. I am not now advocating a potential impeachment of President Bush as an attack on his party or the office itself, especially if that implies the kind of partisan assault on the Office of the President that the GOP engaged in in 1998. That should be neither our goal nor our methodology.

What I am saying, however, is this: nothing should be off the table in the constitutional battle to politically defeat and thwart George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in their remaining two years in office. We must tie no hand behind our back.

Whether it be acts of Congress, citizen petition, legal challenges, State or Municipal action, First Amendment Protests or a movement to popularize and express support for the impeachment of the President and Vice President, or all of the above, one thing is clear in January of 2007: no constitutional means should be off the table when it comes to considering the range of options for opposing this President at this time.

Two months ago, the first step for this Congress seemed to be simply a return to oversight and the passage of broadly bi-partisan legislation. That point of view naively expected this President to respect the outcome of the 2006 elections. While both of those agendas must be advanced, this President's commitment to an escalation in Iraq changes that.

The Democratic members of Congress, in partnership with the voters of the United States and any and all good faith bipartisan allies, need to reassert government by the people in the near term. The stakes are too high. We cannot hold an election and then allow the will of the voters to be rejected outright. American Democracy is not a monarchy. George is no King. Dick is no Duke of Court.

That, however, is exactly how the President and the Vice President are acting. The voters called for withdrawal and a clear cut timetable for leaving Iraq. Bush and Cheney have given us an escalation in Iraq with no end in sight.

This President must come to know, and soon, that, politically, the era of George W. Bush in American politics has come to a close. He doesn't have "one more chance." He may see the light and perhaps end out his term as a weakened, investigated and censured figure; or, if he remains intransigent and truculent in his insistence on his "god-given" right to override the will of the voters and the oversight of Congress expressed in the 2006 elections, he must face a constitutional check.

We should be flexible and pragmatic as to what that check might be. That constitutional check may come in the form of congressional oversight or legislation passed with veto-proof majorities, or it may take the form of a popular movement for the impeachment of this President and Vice President, a "people's impeachment" if you will.

This President and Vice President are hovering at 30% approval ratings. We must rally the other 70% of this nation and come together to finally break the partisan split that has divided our nation for too long. Our Constitution sets clear and high hurdles for those who would oppose a President. If we are to be effective in opposing President Bush, we don't have the luxury of easy outrage or vaguely symbolic actions. We must reach out to build as broad a coalition in opposition to this president as possible. Pragmatism must temper our outrage and idealism.

Whatever the ultimate political check on this President, this much is clear, the meaning of the elections of 2006 must be made plain to this nation and this world. The American public voted for a change of course leading to a U.S. exit from Iraq. Nothing less than that is acceptable.

Opposition to Dick Cheney and George W. Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq may be what, finally, brings our nation together and ends this war. We may well use that opposition to elect a new President with a new agenda and broad support. That would be no small consolation considering what we already know about the grim legacy of the era of George W. Bush and the challenges our nation faces as a result.

In the end, however, there is one thing our Constitution makes clear: the answers and outcomes are up to us. We, the people, decide. It's high time the guy in the Oval Office be made to realize that fact.


Friday, January 12, 2007

wow, KSFO doesn't get it

Wow, these on air "hate personalities" are out of control.

They get paid to sell hate as entertainment, and then choose to play the free speech victims and mock sincere, rational callers to their special community outreach program?

I don't buy it or get it. I think everyone in this country knows that right wing shock radio has been out of control for years now. These guys are talking themselves out of their own jobs. Sheesh.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you want to spew hate and mockery AND have corporate sponsership of your radio program, at some point one or the other is going to have to give.

Sounds like these guys want more sponsers to pull their ads.

That's fine by me.

the unibrain at work: the tuna storm

One thing about GOP bloggers, "they get the memo."

You may have heard of the unibrow, these folks work as a unibrain.

This shitstorm-in-a-can over the minimum wage bill has been drummed up by the Washington Times. It's a non-story now playing nationwide on NPR courtesy of what I am guessing is another instance of Steve Inskeep's sense of "fair play." This attempt to create some drama out of a non-existent Pelosi / Tuna industry connection is just the latest example of coordinated and distorted GOP attacks that weasel their way into the mainstream media.

Democrat George Miller, Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, crafted left one exemption in the recently passed minimum wage bill that exempts American Samoa. This is the same exemption that was in the 1999 version of this bill. You may agree or disagree with the provision, intending to help Samoan factories compete in their region, but the GOP is claiming this is due to a connection between Pelosi and SF Bay Area-based Tuna giant Del Monte. (DelMonte operates tuna factories in Samoa under their Starkist label.) The entire premise of a DelMonte/Pelosi connection behind the Samoan exemption, however, is spun out of nothing: DelMonte did not buy a facility on Samoa until 2002, well after the 1999 exemption had been written. Further, unlike the GOP and Jack Abramoff-favored Marianas Islands, American Samoa is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. There is no comparison or equivalency.

Now, this bill will raise the minimum wage for tens of millions of Americans in all 50 States. Yet the GOP blog wing is suddently rising to the defense of tuna factory workers in American Samoa? Can you smell the hypocrisy here? To hear the GOP defend worker's rights and the minimum wage should set off alarm bells for anyone who understands GOP rhetoric. The shark is wearing fish fins here.

So, yeah, the GOP has their facts wrong and their real views hidden. What else is new? The GOP hot air machine, having failed in its attempt to prop up regulation-gutting, corrupt politicians like Richard Pombo, is now reverting back to form: distorting their real views and attacking Democrats with a cynical logic that seems to defend workers that they could care less about. (Witness the GOP coddling of Jack Abramoff.)

One thing none of those blog posts attacking Speaker Pelosi mention is that the Republican Party in their six years in total control of our government didn't raise the minimum wage for anyone, anywhere.

Well, that's not true. The GOP Congress gave themselves a pay raise...and it worked...until the voters gave them the ultimate pay cut...the loss of their majority.

Update
: Anyone who wants to read about how minimum wage provisions impact everyday people's lives and are, more and more, supported by the small business community should read this fascinating comparative story from the New York Times.

Update 2: Blogger D-Day has an excellent breakdown of the "total picture" on this story on his blog. I agree with him, read it here.

Update 3
: The vote in favor of raising the minimum wage was 315-116, with 82 Republicans joining all 233 Democrats voting for the provision. No wonder the "unibrain" is working overtime to distract folks from the real story here!

One Graph says It All about the "Surge"

Today's SF Chronicle featured a graphic that says everything anyone needs to know about Bush's proposal for an "escalation for victory" in Iraq.

Here it is.

There have previously been three separate occasions where the United States has had 150,000 plus service personnel in Iraq:

March 19, 2003: U.S. Troop Levels 150,000 Overthrow Saddam Hussein
Jan./Feb., 2005: U.S. Troop Levels 155,000 Post Fallujah, Pre Iraqi Government
Oct., 2005: U.S. Troop Levels 160,000 Iraqi Constitution Approved

The graph makes clear the logical fallacy behind Bush's ill-fated proposal to add an additional 21,000 troops to the 132,000 currently serving in Iraq. How will bringing U.S. troop levels to 150,000+ one more time allow us to control and pacify Baghdad when it didn't in the three previous times we had that many service members stationed in Iraq?

It is January, 2007. How much longer will it take, how much clearer can it be that the Bush Administration has done nothing but lie to cover up the utter failure that is their conduct in Iraq?

That speech was an abject failure in leadership.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

thank you Spocko

This article highlights just what a favor the SF blogger known as Spocko has done all of us.

Right-wing shock radio has developed a culture that is highly deserving of a check from the rest of our society. Right wing "invective as entertainment" has been way over the line in this country since well before the events in Oklahoma City reminded all of us that hate speech has consequences: hate speech is no laughing matter.

Should corporations feel free to buy ads on radio shows, like those on KSFO, where right wing hate jocks advocate using physical violence on our fellow citizens and our politicians because of their political views? Should outrageous and bigoted rhetoric that runs counter to the official corporate policy of a show's advertisers be sponsered by those very corporations? The simple answer is no.

Bigotry may sell, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to buy it or tolerate it. It's a free country, but that doesn't mean we have to buy into hate as entertainment, or support corporations that uncritically sponser it.

Spocko pointed this out in a straightforward and respectful manner and, at least here in San Francisco, that has had real consequences.

Kudos to Spocko.

This story continues.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

billmon, Michael Berube, Jeanne D'Arc

I wrote the following as a comment on post by Skippy at dailykos:

Ah, Ted Barlow Disease...

It's ffff'd.

Hits hardest during seasonal affective disorder season.

The days are so goldarnerd short, why spend them inside?

Dirty little secret of blogging, you've pointed it out Skippy, is that there's this huge trap that makes you ask:

Why should I endure writer's block, eye strain, carpal tunnel, the obligation to READ so much other stuff...for free...even, perhaps, at a cost to my personal and professional life?

It's the question of sustainability. That's the word I come back to.

When I think of bloggers like billmon, Jeanne D'Arc and Michael Berube, however, one core thing comes to mind...it seems like such an utter waste for them to leave off what is, I think, the most critical aspect of their blogs:

They are INFLUENTIAL voices; we respect them. That...more than fame, or power, or money or, even, political dedication, is what makes them so valuable, and probably motivates them to blog...it also makes it such a shame that they have left off.

We want to know what they think. And what they think is not only valuable, but has SHAPED what and how so many others think.

I can respect that folks need a break. I can respect that folks need to leave off. in fact, I can respect anything a blogger says vis a vis blogging.

That doesn't change my thought that until the blogospohere finds a way to nurture and sustain one of its greatest resources: the fresh, vital and influential voices that we have come to know and count on as we move through history together...that we haven't matured as a medium of communication. Somebody should figure this out a bit. It's so stupid.

15K a year for a blog post a week could get you ten great bloggers, I'm sure.

$150,000 a year to run an online magazine.

Somebody should try it...or "we" should try it. $30 subscription = $150K year w/ 5000 readers. Doable, especially with a sliding scale. Build some advertising in and the model could take off and pay something to the host and the writers.

I think that comes to around $250 a blog post. The writers listed at the top of this piece are worth much more than that.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

blog thoughts for a new year

I wish that I had a succinct and brief way to sum up where we find ourselves at the beginning of this new year in politics. For a taste of what's to come, I find myself looking back reflexively at last year.

It's weird to look back. Even my personal trajectory tells a story.

Starting immediately in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, I found myself focusing on 2006, Congress, local politics and local blogs. I wrote a piece about reforming the Democratic party called "To Be a Fighting Democrat" on Dailykos...and that term, which I think was already well in the air, only grew in usage and prominence as the election cycle wore on. In October of 2005, joining a chorus of early opponents of former Congressman Richard Pombo in CA-11, I wrote a piece here called "We all live in Richard Pombo's District." Again, that phrase, this time one I know that I coined, grew and took on a life of it's own eventually becoming a slogan that greeted every visitor to Congressman Jerry McNerney's campaign headquarters. Finally, in collaboration with Joshua Grossman, at the end of 2005, I wrote a piece called "Starting with the Districts" advancing the notion that there were 89 vulnerable Republican-controlled Congressional districts across the nation...including districts that virtually no one was talking about like Mark Foley in Florida, Jim Ryun in Kansas and J.D. Hayworth in Arizona. Joshua and I advocated that one of the key trends in advancing Democrats in these disctricts would be the power of local blogs.

Looking back, that's a pretty good track record of identifying trends and possibilities.

Even given that, however, I can honestly say that what DID HAPPEN in November of 2006 was an order of magnitude greater and more significant than anything I had anticipated.

It wasn't just the depth and breadth of the Democratic victories in State Houses, Governorships, the Senate and the U.S. House. I don't think anyone anticipated the underlying sea change in U.S. public opinion in regards to George Bush, the Iraq War and the Republican Party that has occurred. This is truly a new national political environment. There is virtually no area of American political life, from the national media, to the battles over policy, to the Supreme Court that won't be shaped by this new landscape. I had said before the November elections that they represented the beginning of a two-year battle for governance of the United States. That battle has, whether anyone realizes it quite yet, already fully begun.

In that light, here are a few trends to pay attention to as this battle develops.

1. The blogs aren't going away and will be taken, if anything, more and more seriously and professionally as the 2008 presidential cycle heats up.

This means something on all levels. It means that local and small bloggers will continue to have a significant impact on how candidates are perceived in their districts and states. The lessons learned from the netroots-led defeats of George Allen, Paul Hodes and Richard Pombo are REAL and POWERFUL. It also means that bloggers like Markos Moulitsas and Jane Hamsher and Joshua Micah Marshall will add to their already impressive and significant political clout. These folks are not just "not going anywhere"...I predict that these visible national bloggers will be seen, more and more, as hybrid pundit/operative media figures. Folks in D.C. are and will be paying attention...especially as innovative fundraising tools like ACTBlue become more and more used and prevalent.

Finally, the power of citizen journalism is not going away. Individual bloggers from the well-known to the obscure will still have the power to break stories in ways that change the political landscape. This could be someone posting a diary on dailykos, or it could be an anonymous blogger working off a free blogspot blog. The playing field has changed. It used to be that it was only Matt Drudge breaking "shocking" new stories...and all favoring one side. That's simply no longer true. We're not going back.

2. On that note, one of the major themes of 2007, and one I will write a future elaborated piece on will be this "perception change" about blogging and blogs.

Bloggers and the "netroots" are simply an insurgent political movement that came of age in the digital era and, hence, used blogs as a means of communication because they were there. In sum, blogging is just one part of this broader change in American political life. As the national media has gotten to know blogs and bloggers, they have often, naturally, focused on the nature of the medium, on citizen typists, on the "outrage". That's deceptive.

The best bloggers, whether local or national, are political operatives in the full sense of that term. Bloggers are getting more and more networked and working, more and more, at integrating their electronic activism with more traditional grassroots activism. Many of them, naturally, are looking for work as political professionals. As 2008 heats up in 2007, look for this reality to play itself out in the primary races for both national political parties.

3. I was not alone in pointing out that 2007 and the Democrat's newfound majority in Congress will mean a shift from a straightforward politics of outrage and opposition to an emphasis on policy and legislation.

In this new environment there will needs be new tools and new voices. Look for them as they emerge. There will also be a new, albeit less popular, politics of substance that will fan out through American political life. The do-nothing deadlock of 12 years of GOP control of Congress has been broken. Whether it is actual local debate on policy intiatives in a State context, or innvoating ways to have a national debate about the substance of national Congressional legislation, this will be an era of getting things done, with all the messy trimmings of democracy in action. Look for it.

4. the Constitution and the War in Iraq

Simply put, we are about embark on a national "meta-debate" about the meaning and import of the United States Constitution. This battle has been simmering for years now under the Bush/Cheney Administration. 2007 will be a year that will put the Constitution...and the crisis arising from the conflict between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch, especially over the conduct of the War on Terror and the War in Iraq...front and center.

Look for this battle to shape important aspects of the battle for the presidency in 2008. This war is not going away. Nor are the significant consitutional issues it raises.

5. Global Warming and Energy Independence

This issue is live. It's "on." It's not going away.

6. Whose "sea change?"

Finally, in an era where real and meaningful reform of our government and society is being demanded from all quarters, look for the battle of 2007/8 to be about "who governs"...and in that context, to be about who best conveys to the American public that they represent the "sea change" in policy and ideals that seem warranted by our times and the election of 2006.

It may seem counter-intuitive to think that the GOP could switch gears so quickly into embracing a message of "change." But they will do exactly that. Look for a kind of "Howard Dean" insurgent moment within the emerging GOP presidential primary. It may well be that some candidate no one has yet anticipated emerges to convey a "new message" and a "new era" for the GOP.

We are in the midst of a battle for governance. How that battle gets shaped and fought will determine much of American political life for the next two decades. Big changes in American politics have always meant potential realignments. We saw the beginning of a potential realignment in the election of 2006 in the Mountain West and the Northeast.

It will be some combination of locally-focused political movements, national vision supplied by presidential candidates and an ongoing national debate about major topics like the War in Iraq, our Constitution and a new emphasis on substantive policy debate in Congress that will shape the countours of this sea change.

Much of it, for better or for worse, will remained focused on the remaining 25% of the disaster that is the Presidency of one George W. Bush.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Conventional Dis-Wisdom from the NYT

Nancy Pelosi, first woman Speaker of the House, arrived at that position because American voters overwhelmingly turned the House over to the Democratic Party. The people put Nancy Pelosi in charge of the "people's chamber."

So, what does the NYT give us for analysis at this historic moment?

Try this craptastic piece from Carl Hulse.

Democrats realized their political and legislative dream Thursday. Now they must face reality.

As they take control of the House and Senate, members of the new majority must reconcile diverse ideological factions within their ranks and make a fundamental choice. They can spend their energy trying to reverse what they see as the flaws of the Bush administration and a dozen years in which conservative philosophy dominated Congress. Or they can accept the rightward tilt of that period and grudgingly concede that big tax cuts, deregulation, restrictions on abortion and other Republican-inspired changes are now a permanent part of the legislative framework. [snip]

...as one senior Republican asked, will Democrats hostile to the Bush administration be more like the scorpion in the fable with the frog, unable to resist the urge to sting even if they hurt themselves?

Democrats acknowledge that with their minuscule majority in the Senate and one in the House that is not much larger, they lack the political muscle to go too far in reversing Bush policy even if that was their chief goal.


Hmmm. Carl, I hate to break it to you: the PEOPLE elected a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress in the face of a DEEPLY unpopular president and his War in Iraq, with very little help from a complacent press, including the New York Times. The people did so in historic fashion. Not a single incumbent Congressional Democrat lost their seat in 2006...something that hasn't happened in so long for either party that it is virtually unprecedented. Meanwhile, GOP Conservative stalwarts like Rick Santorum, George Allen, Richard Pombo and J.D. Hayworth had their asses sent packing from Washington D.C.

Congressman Jerry McNerney, someone a few us busted our asses to help elect here in California, was elected decisively by the PEOPLE of CA-11. Nobody else. It was their choice. George and Laura Bush showed up in the district. The GOP spent millions to no avail. It's hard to think the editors at the New York Times are paying attention.

It's somewhat uncharitable, if not counter-factual, to claim that that the COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED AND SHOCKING Democratic majority in the US Senate is "miniscule" and to then call the landslide Democratic delegation in the House...233 members strong..."not much larger." Truth be told, the Democratic party, in a single election cycle, enjoys as powerful a Congressional position as the GOP EVER HAD in its twelve years in control of the House. What editor "passed" on this crap?

This kind of coverage comes as no surprise.

The New York Times is DEEPLY complicit in both a fundamental lack of criticism of George Bush during the 2000 and 2004 elections and, most damningly, a completely uncritical approach to covering the lies, deceptions and misinformation used by this administration and its proxies that led this nation into the Iraq war, a war which has cost 3000 Americans their lives. The New York Times is DEEPLY complicit in the war in Iraq. Nothing changes that fact. Not a half-hearted and unclear retraction. Not another in a long-running series of articles that snipe at Democrats while failing to hold the GOP to ANY reasonable standards of decency and honesty.

I apologize for the outrage, especially since it makes me seem so stereotypically "the blogger." History will not look kindly on the New York Times in this era. Not in the least.

The only people who have framed the 2006 election as a return to some kind of untrammelled "liberalism" that never once existed in this nation (tell me when...under Richard Nixon?...under Jimmy Carter?...under LBJ?) are the GOP, and now, Carl Hulse in the New York Times. This piece is riddled with talking points straight from Karl Rove's desk.

That happens when you forget something about our democracy.

The people decide. That's something the Times and George Bush are going to have to reckon with.

More power to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There's a great deal of work to do in D.C. No Democrat has claimed...ever...that the 110th Congress is going to be anything but a body committed to reflecting majority views of the American voters. The Democratic Congressional delegation reflects the American public deeply. That's a good thing.

It's the people's House, it's the people's Congress, and their job is to do the people's work. And that's exactly what the 110th Congress is going to do. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

read this story

because you should.