A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I Just Can't Help Myself...

...I have been making trouble over at the Anchoress' again, too:

The Anchoress: It’s going to get worse before it gets better. The press and the left want his absolute destruction. Nothing less will do. If they can destroy him and discredit him…well, to be honest, I think it’s the only way the Democrats can get back into power, thru despiriting the whole country in the manner in which it was despirited in 1976.

Joe Claus: Give me a break, Anchoress! Nobody is going to destroy George W. Bush. Republicans have a solid congressional majority and the absolute best case for Democrats in 2006 will be recapturing one house of Congress, and that only by the thinnest of margins. No more.

The President can continue to make himself a law unto himself for the duration of his presidency, and no one will seriously bring him to book. He will not accomplish much with it, of course. Things actually get accomplished in this country only through compromise and negotiation, not by asserting that Presidential power is beyond the law. George truly has no notion of what these words mean, even within his own party, and in such matters where, long ago, the opposite party actually tried to negotiate with him, he blithely screwed them over. They won’t be back.

Also, the “public” is not going to change its opinion of George much one way or the other, no matter what happens. Close analysis of the professional polling being done makes it very clear that the only real movement in his poll numbers since Katrina has been among members of his own party. And this is where his support is now slowly eroding with patent political foolishness on his part like the Dubai business. The only place George will lose any more support is among members of his own party. He has virtually no support to lose from anybody else. The only way this will significantly change is if something George now does is a roaring, unqualified, and unequivocally large success. There is now very little on the horizon which could ever become so.

George will accomplish little or nothing during the rest of his term, and I confidently expect him to be an immense liability in the 2006 Congressional elections. But even if he isn’t, and Republican losses are minimized, he will not accomplish much more. No President since Lyndon Johnson has had a better hand of political cards to play and none have played them so ineffectively.

And this is not because the media has stopped him or because Democrats have stopped him. It is because he will not negotiate and compromise and he insists on ruling above the law rather than governing within it.

newton: OK, can I say it now?

Joseph, now I’m convinced. You’re full of King-Ranch, St. Gertrudis-pure-bred-cow-manure. (You’ll have to excuse me, I was at the King Ranch today.)

Look, it has been obvious that the media has been trying its best to destroy this president from the start....they hate the man that much that they don’t care if they have to sign a blood contract with Mephisto. ‘I believe someone once called the liberal media “Satan’s Little Helpers.” He might be right…

Darrell: But what do you really think, Joe? Can I send you some literature about contributing to the Republican Party?

Joe Claus: Well, newton, whatever media bias there may be [and I am perfectly willing to concede that it may be considerable], it doesn’t alter the fact that George is the first Republican President in my lifetime to have majorities in both houses of Congress, to have all the members of his own party in Congress completely under his thumb, to have won two terms, and to be able to exercise Presidential power untrammeled even by the law itself. He also had the highest poll ratings for any President, ever, immediately after the fall of the Taliban.

What more did he need to accomplish anything?

And how much has he really accomplished? Try it yourself. Try to make a list of the things he has genuinely accomplished that are likely to outlast his term in office. Lyndon Johnson left this country’s domestic life completely transformed. Most people I encounter born after 1960 simply do not understand how utterly different this country was before 1964. We are still living in the social welfare state which Johnson created. Determined and systematic political Conservatives have frayed it some around the edges, but it still largely exists intact.

George Bush’s accomplishments: Medicare Part D? No Child Left Behind? The Patriot Act? The Bankruptcy Bill? An unfinished war in Iraq and another one in Afghanistan? The successful appointment of two judges to the Supreme Court? A “balanced budget”?A “reduction of government”? A resolution to the illegal immigrant problem?

However biased newspapers and news channels may be, they can’t operate by voodoo to stop anyone with so many political advantages as George has had. He and his people are simply inept. They can win elections, but they can’t intellegently exercise the power it brings them, to do anything succesfully. No politician of the 20th century, Republican or Democratic, would ever have missed the potential for the Dubai deal to blow up in his face. Whatever the abstract merits of the deal, it was a major political accident waiting to happen: “Turn our ports over to the AAA-rabs?!! Have you lost your mind???”Really.

Now I suspect, like the Anchoress, you and Darrell are in constant expectation of “the public” or the “real America” to someday finally rise up, overwhelm the New York Times and all the rest of us, and sweep away “the Left” into the dustpan of History. But these are the real facts: For all the blandishments of Karl Rove; for all the smearing of John Kerry’s war service; for all the waving of the overwhelming threat to our shores in tandem with the red, white, and blue of our flag; and for all the rest of it, fifty percent of this country still voted against Geroge Bush.

The core of people–such as the Anchoress, Darrell, and yourself–who are “social conservatives” is no larger than 35% of the public in the country as a whole, and no larger than 45% of the public even in the reddest of Red States. That 35% now constitutes the bulk of the continued support for the Bush Presidency.

Frankly, you have had a genuine, though small, political advantage in this country since 1980, but it has not come from your numbers. It has come from your unwavering political solidarity and consistency of issue identification. But that is only enough to win elections. It is not enough to accomplish much after you win them. Such accomplishment requires compromise and inclusion, rather than ideological purity and the absolute repudiation of input from those who don’t display it.

That’s how America works. Really.

smmtheory: Joseph, What has President Bush done to, as you put it… “exercise Presidential power untrammeled even by the law itself?” You are yourself showing signs of BDS, so I would really like to know what you are blathering on about since I have not seen anything of the sort you have labeled “make himself a law unto himself.”

newton: I concur with smmtheory. Joseph, you have made yourself a law unto yourself. You need to consult the nearest psychoterapist for your acute case of BDS.‘And once you feel better, please come back to us. And LBJ managed to enslave an entire segment of the American population… to welfare and the Democratic Party. Is that an LBJ “accomplishment” for you, Joseph?

Darrell: What an honor it is to be mentioned in the same breath as the Anchoress! Maybe I can carry her water one day!

Joe Claus: Oh Dear! I seem to have stepped on quite a few tender corns!

I repeat, the Bush Administration is politically inept. In January of 2003 they had enough cards in their hand to accomplish virtually every agenda of my good friends here, had they played them with any degree of intelligence. Unfortunately, George and the boys made three fatal errors.

First, they failed to capture Osama Bin Laden because they did not order our troops into the front of the battle of Tora Bora, and they did nothing to cut off his escape route into Pakistan. The escape of Bin Laden was the first major victory in the War on Terror. It wasn’t ours. It demonstrated to every potential terrorist around the globe that it was possible to outwit and evade the United States, and, actually, to do so rather easily.

Had we captured or killed Bin Laden immediately after kicking the Taliban over like a rotten puffball, we would have appeared invincible, and left the other potential terrorists worldwide completely demoralized. Instead, we gave them great hope. The terror attacks which have occurred since are the result.

The second of these fatal mistakes was the disbanding of Saddam’s army and the six month neglect of the occupation of Iraq between May and November of 2003. George and the boys virtually solicited the Iraqi insurgency to develop and allowed it to steal most of Saddam’s small arms right out from under American noses.

Had they really taken control of Iraq and run it properly from the beginning–and they could have easily used Saddam’s army to do it–none of the other bad news, such as failure to find WMD’s, would have mattered a jot. And they would now have the American army available, with forward bases in Bagdhad, to forstall Iranian nuclear ambitions. At the moment, they don’t have either of these. They have a mess in Iraq that will not be straightened out until after the Iranians go nuclear.

The third fatal mistake was immediately after the 2004 election. The issue George chose for the first showdown with his new “political capital” was Social Security. And the way he went about it made defeating him almost too easy. If he had had the brains to push his tax cuts first, and really push them intelligently, he would have won the first political battle handily, and probably every subsequent one after that, including Social Security.

The way he went about trying to win on the Social Security issue was absolutely laughable. He went on the road making speeches in cities across the country! Why was this inept? First, nobody is ever allowed into a Bush speech except people who already completely agree with him, so nobody sitting on the fence is going to be persuaded by a speech George makes that he can’t attend. All anyone not already convinced that the President can walk on water ever heard about the speech was two paragraphs at the bottom of Page 1 of the local newspaper and 15 seconds of soundbite on the local TV news.

The content of none of those speeches ever made the national media. And there was every excuse available to the national media not to cover them since they were only targeted to local markets. So what does George do to pump his Social Security proposal in the face of a “liberally biased” national media? He gives them genuine reasons not to bother to cover his views! This was stunningly stupid.

Moreover, he never even bothered to make a major, televised, national speech about it or to be interviewed on national television about it! The only time he said anything about it to the country as a whole was in a single Saturday radio address on April 30, 2005! Hardly what you would call penetrating the American political consciousness, now is it? Our campaign spoke to the national audience and we defeated him. And we demonstrated immediately and unequivocally by doing so that his “mandate” from the people was a joke. He simply couldn’t make decent use of the overwhelming advantages that the 2002 and 2004 Republican victories had given him.

He still hasn’t. I repeat, try it for yourself. Just try to list the things his Presidency has done that will endure after he leaves office. My best guess is that there will be only two: deposing Saddam Hussein, and allowing the Iranians to develop a nuclear bomb.

smmtheory: I guess that answers my question about what he’s done to make himself a law unto himself. Sweet. I ask for a legitimate response and get a faceful of BDS talking points. Sweet. I want substance and all I get is smoke and mirrors. Sweet. I do believe they can prescribe medication for what ails you Joseph.

Joe Claus: Well, smmtheory, the Anchoress asks us to be civil here, so I won’t comment on you personally. I’ll also presume that you and newton have not heard that I happen to have a mental health condition [bipolar disorder] and that you are not commenting on me personally with your remarks about my psychiatric health.

If it pleases you, I am perfectly willing to admit that the President asserts that he has legal authority to do what he is doing in matters such as continuing to treat prisoners in ways that violate the McCain anti-torture law, holding Jose Padilla indefinitely without trial [a stance which he has, effectively, though not openly, abandoned, since he hadn’t the nerve to put it to a test in the Supreme Court], and to conduct domestic surveilance without reference to the FISA court.

But I have read little more than the fact that he asserts these things, and not that he personally has provided any sensible justification for the assertions. This boils down to no more than, “It is legal because the President wants it done.”

I, personally, have rational reasons for thinking otherwise, specifically in the NSA/domestic surveilance matter. They are as follows:

If the NSA is subject to constitutional standards of probable cause [and they are, by the way, the statute, the case law, and the common law are all perfectly clear on the matter], and the completely secret FISA court is the primary legal venue for the application of such constitutional standards of probable cause, then all the relevant NSA activities fall under the powers of review by that court. George Bush ordered domestic activities by the NSA without such court reviews, therefore he has placed himself above the law, whatever totally unsupported assertions he is making about the legality of the matter.

Now I am going to presume also that you can follow such an argument as I have just made, and are capable of actually trying to refute it rather than waving mere labels at it: “smoke and mirrors”, “BDS talking points”. I am also going to presume that you have sufficient intellectual integrity and moral courage to address my challenge: Try to list Bush’s lasting accomplishments.

Such presumptions cost me nothing, even when they are proved wrong.


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