Bush / GOP

The Missing Linc (or the strange death of Rockefeller Republicanism)

New TAP supremo Harold Meyerson had a piece in yesterday's Post i meant to put up, if only for this frankly jaw slackening quote from Susan Collins.

Most of the House seats that the Democrats are expected to take from Republicans are in the Northeast and industrial Midwest, heartland of the old Republican Party of Lincoln, McKinley and Eisenhower. Many of the Republicans holding these seats are a distinct minority in a party now dominated by Southerners who are more supportive of executive branch authoritarianism and yet also more government-phobic. And the Republican moderates, judging by their own comments, are boiling mad that the Democrats are going after them. "There is no one who has voted more often with the Democrats than Linc Chafee," Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, told the New York Times of her Rhode Island colleague, who is trailing Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in the polls. "Yet that didn't stop them from going after him with everything they had."

Right. Riiiiiiiight. Of course she is correct. Sensible democrats do prefer Chafee republicans to, say, Brownback republicans. That said, reflect on the cheek of it. After 8 years of being divided, wedged, spun, polarized, split up, pilloried and pounded by a Republican attack machine that asks and receives no quarter - hell, not even a nickle - Collins has the gall to criticize Democrats for going on the attack? Its enough to leave one stammering in amazement. Anyway - i've heard Simon over the last two days say that this is the "last election of the 20th century" and in this sense at least he is dead on. There is a different politics coming. You can see it, as this WSJ piece from yesterday notes, in the battle for the Mountain West:

Despite a Republican edge in registration, Democrats are discovering the Mountain West — and Colorado in particular — to be a new political frontier as the party benefits from a potent mix of changing demographics, anger over the war in Iraq, resentment toward conservative social initiatives and millions of dollars’ worth of advocacy advertising.

But in addition to these signs of the future we also have signs of the past. This election is about the cosolidation, the close of business, of an older sort of American politics - with the GOP being further wiped out in the north, Democrats winning in the rust-belt, conservatives holding firm in the south, and so forth. And if that means that the Democrats are taking out the last of the Rockerfeller Republicans, the Republican party only have themselves to blame.

WPost: Scandals alone could cost GOP their majority

Lot of news this morning.  Bush says Rumsfeld and Cheney will be there through 2009.  Republican House leader John Boehner says the troubles in Iraq are the military's fault, and not Rumsfeld's.  Of course more signs of disintegration Iraq. The NYTimes has a poll showing that the American people believe Democrats will significantly change our strategy in Iraq....

But to me the most remarkable story of the day is a lead story in the Washington Post that reminds all of us what a mess the Republicans have made of the government in recent years:

..."Indictments, investigations and allegations of wrongdoing have helped put at least 15 Republican House seats in jeopardy, enough to swing control to the Democrats on Tuesday even before the larger issues of war, economic unease and President Bush are invoked.

With just five days left before Election Day, allegations are springing up like brushfires. Four GOP House seats have been tarred by lobbyist Jack Abramoff's influence-peddling scandal. Five have been adversely affected by then-Rep. Mark Foley's unseemly contacts with teenage male House pages. The remaining half a dozen or so could turn on controversies including offshore tax dodging, sexual misconduct and shady land deals.

Not since the House bank check-kiting scandal of the early 1990s have so many seats been affected by scandals, and not since the Abscam bribery cases of the 1970s have the charges been so serious. But this year's combination of breadth and severity may be unprecedented, suggested Julian E. Zelizer, a congressional historian at Boston University.

For more than a year, Democrats have tried to gain political advantage from what they called "a culture of corruption" in Republican-controlled Washington. Republican campaign officials insist the theme has not caught on with the public, but even they concede that many individual races have been hit hard.

"So many different kinds of scandals going on at the same time, that's pretty unique," Zelizer said. "There were scandals throughout the '70s, multiple scandals, but the number of stories now are almost overwhelming...."

George Will on George Allen

George Will is my kind of Conservative. And this is a lovely piece of writing. More generally, it is such good news that Jim Webb seems to be ahead. I repeat: Jim Webb is ahead. Anyone in the NDN community who can support his campaign shoud do so. He ran a positive campaign. He ran on the issues. He will be an asset to the Dems in the House on security for a generation. And we will all feel awful if we wake next wednesday and find he lost by a couple of hundred votes.

But Allen, who makes no secret of finding life as a senator tedious, is fighting ferociously for another term, a fate from which his Democratic opponent, Jim Webb, is close to rescuing him. As a result, Allen is dabbling in literary criticism. He has read, or someone has read for him, at least some of Webb's six fine novels, finding therein sexual passages that have caused Allen -- he of the football metaphors, cowboy regalia and Copenhagen smokeless tobacco -- to blush like a fictional Victorian maiden and fulminate like an actual Victorian man, Anthony Comstock, the 19th-century scourge of sin who successfully agitated for New York and federal anti-obscenity statutes and is credited with the destruction of 160 tons of naughty printed matter and pictures.

Responding to Kerry: A desperate act, a failed government, a new era

Within several hours of John Kerry's slip of the tongue, the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, found time to rush to the mikes to somehow, perhaps, to change the subject from how badly they've botched just about everything. 

As James Carville said "Kerry may have blown a joke.  Bush has blown a war."

I'm not really worried about the Kerry remark.  Yes the right-wing spin machine will grab and toss it hard into the debate.  Yes the news organizations will oblige, and pick it up for a day or so.  But at the end of the day, the uncommon good sense of the common people will prevail.  For they have already decided that this election will not be about nothing, but will be about the future of our country. 

The people have already come to believe that the nation has gone off track.  That our foreign policy has failed.  That our occupation of Iraq needs a new path.  That Bin Laden is still on the loose, and Al Qaeda is growing again.  That Katrina showed we are not ready.  That we cannot balance our books, and borrow too much from abroad. That it has become harder to get ahead.  That college has become too expensive, health insurance too uncertain, retirement an extraordinary struggle.  That global climate change has turned from science fiction to fact, and that we have done nothing to lessen our dependence on foreign energy sources.   That the governing party has become too corrupt, and more concerned about their power than America's success. 

The American people understand that this is a serious time, one where important choices must be made.  They are looking for firm, honest, leadership.  The President of the United States, in his insistence that Iraq is doing fine, that the economy is strong and that Democrats are not to be trusted is only serving to remind the American people how tired they've grown of the Republican's commitment to politics over governing; and will in these final days do what is necessary to usher in a new and better era for the great country we love.

Niall Ferguson on "A Failed Presidency"

Niall Ferguson is a high profile right wing Harvard historian. He argues that the problem Iraq is not of competence or strategy, but of will. His view is that America is an empire, and it should behave as such. This means putting in many more troops, and being less squeemish about using them. In short, he was not averse to the concept of Bush's adventuring abroad, even if he thinks he should take them more seriously. Yet this is what he had to say of the President in an article today:

Today, however, the joke is on them. For the Redneck Horn could now just as easily be used by ordinary Americans to express their frustration not merely with Mr Bush but with the entire Republican Party. With a little over a week remaining until the congressional mid-term elections on November 7, some opinion polls indicate that "You're a goddam moron!" is precisely the message voters intend to send the White House. Certainly, "freaking blind" sums up the majority view of the administration's policy in Iraq. And, after the bewildering scandals that have ended the careers of three Republican congressmen in the space of six months, Americans have any number of reasons to ask their elected representatives: "What the hell was that manoeuvre?"

Its a very good piece, worth reading through.

Wolf Blitzer gets "Great American" points, stands up to Lynn Cheney

There is a tawdry brouhaha going around about whether Jim Webb and / or Lynn Cheney wrote sexually explicit passages in respective books. As Webb said yesterday, its "smear after smear - a desperate but politically extremely clever attempt to make the last weeks of this election about anything other than Iraq and the economy. Be it Penthouse models in Tennessee, gay marriage in Virginia or immigration rows in New Jersey - it all smacks of a coordinated campaign to pivot critical campaign messages away from the Democratic ground.

Nonetheless, while we are on the subject of Ms Cheney, you might have missed a very rare example of a broadcast journalist standing his ground, while clearly in the right but being challenged on the issue of terrorism. Read the trasnscript below, or watch the video over at Think Progress - and play the mental game WWSHD? - or what would Sean Hannity Do?

CHENEY: You made a point last night of a man who had a bookstore in london where radical islamists gathered. Who was in afghanistan when the taliban were there. Who went to pakistan. You know, i think that you might be a little careful before you declare this as a person with clean hands.

WOLF: You are referring to the cnn "broken government" special. This is the one john king reported on last night.

CHENEY: Right there, wolf. Broken government. What kind of stance is that? Here we are. We are a country where we have been mightily challenged over the past six years. We've been through 9/11, we've been through katrina. The president and the vice president inherited a recession. We are in a country where the economy is healthy. That's not broken. This government has acted very well. We have tax cuts responsible for the healthy economy. We are a country that was attacked five years ago. We haven't been attacked since. What this government has done is effective. That's not broken government. So, you know, i shouldn't let media bias surprise me, but i worked at cnn once. I watched a program last night.

WOLF: You worked in cross fire.

CHENEY: And i was troubled.

WOLF: All right. Well that was probably the purpose, to get people to think. To get people to discuss these issues. Because --

CHENEY: well, all right. Wolf, i'm here to talk about my book. But if you want to talk about distortion --

WOLF: we'll talk about your book.

CHENEY: Right, but what is cnn doing? Running terrorist tape of terrorists shooting americans. I mean, i thought duncan hunter asked you a very good question, and you didn't answer it. Do you want us to win?

WOLF: The answer of course is we want the united states to win. We are americans. There's no doubt about that. CHENEY: Then why are you running terrorist propaganda?

WOLF: Well all do respect, this is not terrorist propaganda.

CHENEY: Oh, wolf.

WOLF: This is reporting the news. Which is what we do, we are not partisan.

CHENEY: Where did you get the film?

WOLF: We got the film, look, this is an issue that has been widely discussed. This is an issue we reported on extensively. We make no apology ies for showing that. That was a very carefully-considered decision why we did that. And i think, i think --

CHENEY: well i think it's shocking.

WOLF: If you are a serious journalist, you want to report the news. Sometimes the news is good, sometimes the news isn't so good.

CHENEY: But wolf, there's a difference between news and terrorist propaganda. END

Good for you, Mr Blitzer. Good for you. WWSHD? Who cares? What we should do, though, is borrow a line from Hannity's arsenal - and say simply that it is such defense of journalistic integrity that make Wolf Blitzer, well, a Great American.

PA-SEN: Santorum + WWF = WTF???

Normally i wouldn't do anything to give him publicity. But he is 10 points down, and this is so indescribably weird i just can't stop myself. He has already come close to running the most odious ad this cycle, in which he exploits his children for electoral gain. But this is just a whole new level of strangeness. I sent the clip to a friend. His response: "Surely not. Surely this is some kind of brilliant joke? No, it simply can't be real." But, yes, it is:


Viral Video Alert: Stay the Course?

Following up on James' excellent post from earlier this morning, here's a video ridiculing the President's line on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that "it’s never been stay the course."  What is amazing to me about this about-face isn't that the administration is abandoning the phrase, before James Baker and company advocate abandoning the policy, but that they expect Americans to pretend they haven't been spouting this for the last few years.  Maybe that is the Bush legacy: complete duplicity in Presidential communication and leave it to Tony Snow to try and parse the mess.

Immigrants: beware the end of habeas corpus

There are many reasons people have immigrated to the United States over the years.   One of the most important was a sense of security, that here one was safe and secure from bad governments and political strife that had ruined the lives of so many for centuries.

The new Military Commissions Act signed by President Bush may be making that sense of safety and security for newly arrived immigrants to America a thing of the past. While there is debate about whether the new rules apply to American citizens, we do know for sure they apply to non-citizens of any type, even legal residents.  And what are these rules?

According to the NY Times, “While the Republicans pretend that this bill will make America safer, let’s be clear about its real dangers. It sets up a separate system of justice for any foreigner whom Mr. Bush chooses to designate as an “illegal enemy combatant.” It raises insurmountable obstacles for prisoners to challenge their detentions. It does not require the government to release prisoners who are not being charged, or a prisoner who is exonerated by the tribunals.

The law does not apply to American citizens, but it does apply to other legal United States residents. And it chips away at the foundations of the judicial system in ways that all Americans should find threatening. It further damages the nation’s reputation and, by repudiating key protections of the Geneva Conventions, it needlessly increases the danger to any American soldier captured in battle.”

And from Glenn Greenwald:  "The so-called Military Commissions Act of 2006 (.pdf)...is replete with radical provisions, but the most dangerous and disturbing is that it vests in the President the power to detain people forever by declaring them an "unlawful enemy combatant," and they then have no ability to contest the validity of their detention in any tribunal. The President now possesses a defining authoritarian power -- to detain and imprison people for life based solely on his say-so, while denying the detainee any opportunity to prove his innocence…

…the Act creates military commissions and establishes rules for those commissions in the event that the President wants a certain detainee tried, convicted and punished (almost certainly execution). Not even the Bush-led U.S. will openly execute detainees without a finding that they are guilty of terrorism. The commissions exist so that the Executive branch can impose sentence (such as the death sentence) on detainees who are found guilty of engaging in terrorism (or some other war crime).

But there is no right for detainees to be tried before a commission, and there is no obligation for the President to bring any detainee before a military commission. If the President does not want to obtain a finding of guilt and impose punishment, he has no reason to bring them before a military commission. He can just keep them detained forever without any finding of guilt and without any punishment being imposed (just as many of the Guantanamo detainees, and even U.S. citizens, have been kept in cages for years with no finding of any kind of guilt).

The Act even allows U.S. citizens to be subjected to this treatment (though the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdi likely requires for U.S. citizens some opportunity to challenge the detention) because even American citizens can be declared to be "unlawful enemy combatants" under the statute (see Sec. 3(a)(1)(1))."

With this new Act, we now have the ironic and tragic circumstance that the man who has worked so hard to give millions of undocumented immigrants legal status - John McCain - has ensured that when they do come out of the shadows this new legal status will be missing one of the most treasured protections of American life; one that has made America different for a very long time. 

Not sure about you, but I think amending this Act should be a high priority for progressives in the years to come. 

NBC News Poll Shows Least Popular Congress..... Ever.......

From this morning's ABC Note:

Although conservatives think the New York Times/CBS poll is always biased against them, that the Los Angeles Times and Gallup is almost always biased against them, and that the ABC News/Washington Post poll is occasionally biased against them, the Right pretty much has agreed over the years that the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll is rock solid. Today, that's a problem.

And here is why:

Voters' approval of Congress has fallen to 16% from 20% since early September, while their disapproval has risen to 75% from 65%..... In October 1994, with the public fed up with scandals and the failure of President Clinton and his party's lawmakers to deliver in key areas such as health care, voters said by a nine-point margin -- 46% to 37% -- that they wanted Republicans to take control. That compares with the 15-point margin today in favor of Democrats' taking the reins.

And there are also a couple of stories today about something that seemed unlikely a month ago - the situation in Iraq, in the face of unavoidable evidence, has become a net negative for the GOP. Note in particular this quote from the NBC / WSJ piece - ""By 40% to 31%, a plurality of voters now see the situation in Iraq as a civil war among Iraqis, rather than a war between American troops and foreign terrorists there." In short - three weeks to go, and there is cautious room for optimism.

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