How to Prevent a "Stabbed In The Back" Myth

Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly and Swopa at firedoglake, among others, are concerned that, by denying Bush and McCain their "surge", the Democrats will again be subject to demonization for a generation as "traitors" who stole victory from the military due to cowardice or contrary motives. This sort of thing can be constructed in hindsight even for unpopular wars. The majority of the population supported withdrawal from Vietnam at the time, but within a few years many were convinced that it was liberals and the counter-culture who had defeated America. That is, after all, a much more comforting belief than accepting blame for defeat.

There is a Democratic answer to this, however:
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To Save Afghanistan, We Must Leave Iraq (and Dems must say so)

Richard Armitage, who is reasonable and intelligent by (former) Bush official standards, has hammered the last nail into the coffin on Iraq. Afghanistan is in serious danger of being lost to the Taliban, and, if it is lost, the instability is likely to quickly spread to Pakistan. Pakistan has had nuclear weapons and is a signatory neither to the Non-proliferation Treaty nor the non-first strike agreement (rival India is a signatory to the second, but not the first). Their longstanding conflict with India, also a nuclear power, threatened to escalate to all out war just a few years ago. And, of course, Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, was a place where we had a legitimate, or at least defensible, casus belli: to capture or kill bin laden and dismantle al queda.

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The Lieberman Maneuver is a One-Punch Ticket, or Let's Lamont Them Again

A dangerous incrustation of conventional wisdom, congealing around us as we speak, is that the Lieberman victory invalidates the strategy of primary challenges against conservative Dems. However, that could only be true if the strategy that got Lieberman elected were repeatable. And it is not. To re-elect Joe Lieberman, the Republicans had to betray their own candidate and force their own backers, members, and organization to work towards the re-election of a Democrat that had spent almost two decades vilifying.

There will be a cost to this, not visible but nonetheless real. Any potential Republican candidate who wants to take on a Conservative Dem now has to wonder if their party will stand beside them if the Dem is primaried out. This is likely to cost them some candidates, good ones who will not run simply for ego or to make a point, but only if they see a realistic shot at victory. But once can be a fluke. If the Republicans pull this again, they will create a civil war in their party between those who advocate this strategy, and those who fear having a bus hitch a ride on their backs.The Republican Party would be declaring war on itself. Since they so love declaring war, they could not pick a better target. Such a civil war could be a useful for us as replacing a centrist Dem, so, by all means, let's Lamont them again.

Why Rumsfeld Went Down

Bush has been telling us he decided to dump Rumsfeld weeks ago, but vowed the opposite publicly, as he did not want to play politics with the decision. The only appropriate response to that claim is laughter; there is nothing with which a President who has built his legacy around the disaster that was 9/11 will not play politics. Furthermore, the military establishment, through the panty-hose puppets (much more transparent than sock puppets) of the military papers demanded Rumsfeld's resignation the day before the election, costing the Republicans the Senate ( the editorials could easily have flipped 4000 votes in Virginia, R to D. Indeed, it is hard to imagine their impact was so slight), probably as well as some Congressional and state seats. Did Rove really just forget to hint to the military what was coming?

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James Carville: Why Centrists Logically Become Traitors

All the anger, anguish, and alarm over Carville's recent attacks on Dean and, by proxy, the netroots, while justified, miss that this is not only a defense of personal power, but an attack on the interests of the Democratic Party. After all, to suggest replacing the 50-state strategy, which has just proven so dramatically effective, with the old losing strategies, headed by Ford, Tuesday's only loser in a close race is a noble summons to leap off a cliff, or at least to break the tsunami. Which is what you would expect from someone of the ideological bent of Carville and his keepers, which is to say the Clintons. It is not simply a question of personal ambition, much less corruption. For a Democrat with a centrist agenda, it is simply not desirable that the Democratic Party have too much power.
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The Google Thing

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
--AZ-01: Rick Renzi
--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
--CA-04: John Doolittle
--CA-11: Richard Pombo
--CA-50: Brian Bilbray
--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
--CO-05: Doug Lamborn
--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell
--CT-04: Christopher Shays
--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
--FL-16: Joe Negron
--FL-22: Clay Shaw
--ID-01: Bill Sali
--IL-06: Peter Roskam
--IL-10: Mark Kirk
--IL-14: Dennis Hastert
--IN-02: Chris Chocola
--IN-08: John Hostettler
--IA-01: Mike Whalen
--KS-02: Jim Ryun
--KY-03: Anne Northup
--KY-04: Geoff Davis
--MD-Sen: Michael Steele
--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
--MN-06: Michele Bachmann
--MO-Sen: Jim Talent
--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
--NV-03: Jon Porter
--NH-02: Charlie Bass
--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
--NM-01: Heather Wilson
--NY-03: Peter King
--NY-20: John Sweeney
--NY-26: Tom Reynolds
--NY-29: Randy Kuhl
--NC-08: Robin Hayes
--NC-11: Charles Taylor
--OH-01: Steve Chabot
--OH-02: Jean Schmidt
--OH-15: Deborah Pryce
--OH-18: Joy Padgett
--PA-04: Melissa Hart
--PA-07: Curt Weldon
--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
--PA-10: Don Sherwood
--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
--TN-Sen: Bob Corker
--VA-Sen: George Allen
--VA-10: Frank Wolf
--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
--WA-08: Dave Reichert

83,000 in the Gitmo Archipelago

You know, just the other day, I was in a discussion in the comments at Crooked Timber, where we debated whether it was legitimate for Human Rights Watch to refer to Club Gitmo and the rest of the US WOT franchise as "gulags". I argued that there was indeed a similarity in kind, but assumed there was not one, yet, of scale. I ventured no guess, but when a "reasonable" interlocutor said that this was only a few dozen people, some "unreasonable" person, more concerned with fact than moderation, responded that it was at least 8000. No one seemed to think it was more than 10,000 or 12,000, so the "scale" portion of the debate looked at where gulags were in the first few years of their inception. The only relatively hard number that came up was "around 100,000" by the end of the 1920's, i.e., after a decade or so.


Well, like everyone else, I was just not paranoid enough. My apologies; I'll try to do better. 83,000 probably exceeds where the Soviet gulags were at in year 4. Of course, there are countervailing considerations. The gulags were not the sole such Soviet atrocity. And despite the surprisingly large number, the same article indicates the numbers are, in fact, trending strongly down. Indeed, it speaks well of the homeostasis of the American organism that Bush is quickly being neutralized, though our terrain is still richly wooded, and this is the territory where dangerous surprises lurk behind the trees.


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Rosa Parks and What is Wrong with Libertarianism

One element of the Republican coalition that may feel that can claim Park's legacy without embarrassment are the Libertarians. After all, Libertarians certainly would oppose a government telling people where they had to sit on a bus or requiring them to surrender their seats to others. But the Libertarians would have all buses private anyway. Would a Libertarian support having the government prohibit private entities from imposing whatever rules they like on their own buses? It would, at the least, be a compromise with the soul of the Libertarian philosophy to do so, and I have heard Libertarians defend racial discrimination in housing on similar grounds.

Would "the market" then work to effectively stop such discrimination, making government intervention unnecessary? In the social context of the American South in the 1950's, it's hard to see how. The majority clearly favored and benefitted from such discrimination, and, besides being the numeric majority, this group had more disposable income per capita than the oppressed minority, giving them even greater clout in the market than they would have from their numbers alone.

A bus line that required blacks to surrender seats to whites would get a much larger share of the white market than one that did not, given prevailing attitudes. It would lose much of the black market, of course, but its non-discriminatory competitor would be limited to that less lucrative market. Even if such a competitor could remain in business, which is doubtful, it could not run as many lines, nor be as frequent, which, of course, also makes it less competitive. In fact, the discriminatory bus line could well be better off banning blacks entirely. It's not going to get much of their business anyway, and the whites would probably prefer not to see them at all (if the whites enjoy the power that comes from forcing others to vacate, this might not be true. I don't understand the underlying psychology of the time and place well enough to make this call. But "whites only" seems to be what the South went for when it could, so I think it reasonable to assume that would be their "consumer preference") The logical result would be two bus lines, one for whites and one for blacks, the latter clearly inferior in service, assuming it was economically viable at all. If not, the result would be that only whites could ride busses.

Notice that this is actually worse for blacks than what racist government intervention produced. In a sense, the market here is behaving as advertised: it is filling consumer preferences more effectively and efficiently than the government does, and possibly than the government could. It is not producing greater efficiency in use of resources; multiple bus lines serving similar routes is less efficient than having one bus line. (in fact, the logical market outcome would be racially segregated bus lines run by the same company, but even that is less efficient). But that productive efficiency loss is compensated for the fact that a white consumer preference is being met that otherwise would not. The market would have to pass on this cost with somewhat higher prices or reduced service, but prejudice seems to be more emotionally compelling than minor increases in bus fare, and the public would never be exposed to the alternative to form a basis for comparisons anyway.

When the government imposes discrimination, it is imposing a social norm. When it prohibits such, it is also imposing a social norm. Although I believe greatly in individual freedom, I don't think there is any way around the fact that the government is going to impose some norms. To arbitrate which norms should be imposed, you have to get down to the substance of the norm. It cannot be a purely procedural debate.

Grounds for Impeachment: A Foundation

"If the President knew or should have known that the intelligence justifying the war with Iraq was falsified or deliberately distorted, it is grounds for impeachment."

This is something the Democrats should begin pushing as a resolution and talking point, and also ask Harriet Miers about in her confirmation hearing. Because it is hypothetical, it makes no accusations. However, it puts those who would oppose it in a difficult position. If they vote "No", they are saying that a President can legitimately lie us into war without consequence to him, as impeachment is the only recourse for a sitting President (If the Repubs want to split hairs and say censure not impeachment, that moves the debate greatly in the direction we want.) That's a difficult position to defend, and Congress people who take it will be binding themselves more tightly to Bush and his questionable Iraq justifications, even while they are currently trying to distance themselves. On the other hand, if they vote for it, they will be hard-pressed to vote against impeachment later, if the hypothetical is confirmed. Simply lobbing the "I" word into the air constitutes a sea change. Thus, this is a "win either way" situation for us, which is what you ideally want in politics.

More Crimes in the Plame Case?

Some others pointed out that, according to the Times' accounts, Miller got Fitzgerald to limit his questions to Libby on the premise that there was no other significant source - then credited the words "Valerie Flame" in her notebook to some other source that she can't recall. Another problem that I haven't seen discussed is in this passage:

"Mr. Abrams [Miller's lawyer - M] said Mr. Tate [Scooter's lawyer -= M} also passed along some information about Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony: that he had not told Ms. Miller the name or undercover status of Mr. Wilson's wife."

Isn't revealing grand jury testimony a crime? Especially to someone with a clear stake in the testimony? Especially to someone with an incentive to coordinate the testimony? Isn't that witness tampering?