October 11, 2006

The Mailbag

David Rieff writes in:

Excellent post, Greg. But fear the answer may be horribly simple and boil down to the old cliche, 'those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.' The know-nothing tradition that you rightly associate with people like Lott or Santorum (and you might have added Sessions, Inhofe, and Cornyn to side only three of their most egregiously stupid colleagues) has always existed in America. But the pain and the panic of 9/11 not only maddened most of us temporarily, but gave that old strain of American know-nothingism and paranoia---the syndrome famously described by Richard Hofstader---a centrality that it hasn't had since the McCarthy period. That, too, was a period of fear and madness. The difference was that, for all their faults, we had Truman and Eisenhower---that is to say, adult leadership, above all the leadership of men who understood the horror of war---whereas as now we have George W. Bush, a man who, as far as I can see, simply rejects outright the idea that America faces a situation of great political complexity and of great moral ambiguity, in short a man whose mindset is the purely emotive one that we all felt in the immediate post-9/11 period but that most of us understood to be emotional and not analytical. Rage has a tendency to make one an idolator of force, but rage is the worst imaginable basis for a great power's foreign policy.

But I think there is also something subtler, and perhaps more intractable about what is going on. You write, correctly, in my view of the current administration's "Bloated sense of American exceptionalism." But I think it is American exceptionalism itself, as our official national ideology, that is now dangerous to our national interest in a way it has not been in the past. The reason for this is simple. During much of the 20th century, much of the world (outside of Latin America, that is, where we were always viewed as the empire) concurred with America's image of itself. Perhaps that was because of what we represented; perhaps, to take the realist approach you and I both favor, it was because it was in Europe's and much of East Asia's interest to do so. But at the very least, the sense we had of ourselves did not seem illegitimate to much of the world as it does now. But now is now, and we are still proceeding as if we get a kind of moral free pass no matter what we do, that we are exceptional. Even the astonishing change in the rhetoric of the military from engaging the enemy to engaging 'the bad guys' is a testament to this. In other words, our sense of exceptionalism is a luxury we can no longer afford in a world as dangerous as the one we now live in. The real vanity, I think, lies there and it could be a mortal vanity, blinding us to our 'rogue state' behavior vis-a-vis torture and our hubris in Iraq---a venture that increasingly ressembles the Sicilian Expedition that Thucydides rightly identified as the moment that doomed Athens.

I tend to refrain from too much analogizing to ancient Athens's demise as harbinger of the current U.S. position, most of the time at least, but it is true the damage done by this Administration to our moral repute and international standing is and has been very considerable indeed. I believe this decade will largely be viewed by historians as an era marked by profound incompetence and deep paranoia. These two have conjoined into something of a national mania, of late, and the key now is damage control. To accomplish same, even for those of us who have little faith in the Democratic party's foreign policy, we must nevertheless hope the Democrats win in November. Further as victory (at least in the House) appears more and more assured, we must not get complacent, and we must look not just for a glancing blow that the Frist-Allen-Rove-Santorum Republicans will shrug off in the advent to the '08 Presidentials. Rather, we need to see a severe body blow delivered, one that has the House lost by a painfully sizeable margin, and hopefully Democratic control over the Senate eked out too (this last will be very difficult, but perhaps just achievable). In short, November 7th has to be a comeuppance of historic scope, at least on par with Gingrich's takeover in '94, so that it forces the Republican Party to survey a landscape marked by a devastatingly large-scale and stinging public rebuke. This is because only the strongest medicine might belatedly force the Republican Party to truly take stock of its woeful current straits, the better so as to divorce itself from the dangerous ideological blinders that have consumed it these past years. In short, the Republican Party needs to reclaim the mantle of relatively sober, deliberate leadership on national security matters (one severely squandered during the Bush 43 years), as well as dissassociate itself from the Schiavo type follies domestically--and it is likely only a defeat of historic scope that will help egg such a process along, I suspect.

UPDATE: Clive Davis, a keen observer of transatlantic relations, seems to agree with David. Meantime, David Broder writes:

What is driving public opinion is an overall impression that those in office -- meaning mainly Republicans -- have let things slide out of control and need to be relieved.

What voters may not know is that the same judgment has been reached by a significant number of people who are part of -- or close to -- the Republican majority. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a dozen times: Major Republican figures, including top officials of several past GOP administrations and Congresses, say, "We deserve to lose this election."

That's for sure.

Posted by Gregory at October 11, 2006 02:04 PM

In short, the Republican Party needs to reclaim the mantle of relatively sober, deliberate leadership on national security matters (one severely squandered during the Bush 43 years), as well as dissassociate itself from the Schiavo type follies domestically--and it is likely only a defeat of historic scope that will help egg such a process along, I suspect.

I think you're misreading the structure of your party. This present Administration is not an aberration, but a natural outgrowth of the Southern wing of the Republican party. That wing has the whip hand, and will not willingly give it up. Democratic wins are likely to occur disproportionately in the North; the Southern Republican wing will be a stronger intra-party force as a result of a big Democratic gain. "Sober, deliberate leadership" on any matters is just not in the cards: the Southern Republicans don't have the institutional infrastructure in place to manufacture it, and the Northern Republicans don't have the electoral weight force the party to follow their lead.

If sober, deliberate leadership is really important to you, you're going to be voting for Democrats for a long time to come.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim at October 11, 2006 02:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Welcome to the Order of the Shrill, Greg :)

One caveat to your post: It's not enough for the GOP to "wander in the wilderness" for 2 years. Wandering in the wilderness means nothing if nothing changes in the GOP; if they're just biding their time and intend to run with the same people peddling the same snake oil once national memory grows a bit dim.

They need to dismantle the alliance of theo- and paleo-cons. They need to clean house. They need to send people like Hastert, Boehner, Reynolds, DeLay, Imhofe, Cornyn, Coleman, McConnell, Allen, Frist, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Negroponte, Goss, Abrams, Poindexter, Rove, Chertoff, Ralston, Addington, Gonzales, and the entire Bush Family* into a political exile from which they will not return.

I don't want to see, in 10 or 20 years, the same people who brought us Bush II coming back for another delusional, destructive regime, as Bush II brought us retreads from Iran-Contra.

If we survive Bush II, I'll count us lucky. But another one like it? There isn't enough luck in the universe to survive that.

*Not a comprehensive list, just the worst ones I can think off, off the top of my head.

Posted by: CaseyL at October 11, 2006 03:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While I would be happy if the Dems took back both houses I do not believe the base of the Rep. party has shrank to a size small enough for a loss to be effective. While many libertarian / economic conservatives have finally seen the light, the remaining have not yet suffered enough. Perhaps they need to see another two years of this mess before the conceed. Doubtful, but perhaps.

Posted by: tregen at October 11, 2006 03:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think you also have to allow for the healing power of Congressional hearings. A Democratic majority in either house allows investigations with real subpoena power, and those investigations can bring home to the casual observer the degree of fecklessness and corruption that has been part and parcel of the Bush II administration. Once Americans realize what's been done in their name, it will peel off all but the hardest-core ostriches and theocrats from the Republican party.

Long term, I think the best result for the Republic is the destruction of the Republican party as a political force. Leave it to the Jerry Falwell wing and watch the Democratic party split into a centrist party (analogous to the Republican party of '49-64) and a center-left party, and let those two parties determine the direction of the country.

Posted by: Dave Pooser at October 11, 2006 03:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rieff's description of the use of the term "bad guys" to describe those we oppose is telling. Our current administration seems to operate with all the subtlety and moral foundation of a superhero comic book. In such a moral universe, those that oppose us do so purely because they are evil, and the only solution to their evil is to defeat them in combat. That kind of comic book storyline was invented and perfected in a world threatened by Hitler and Stalin, two individuals who personified evil in such a way that comic book publishers knew that world-conquering bad guys like Lex Luthor and Red Skull would resonate strongly with children.

But who are our Dr. Dooms? Ahmadinejad? Kim? Bin Laden? For all their danger, none of these people represent an existential threat to the U.S. Furthermore, in the cases of Ahmadinejad and Kim, their countries have interests that might, in narrow circumstances, align with our own and thus could--possibly--be leveraged to create stability, if not friendship.

But that kind of leveraging is inimical to the comic book level of sophistication of this administration and many of its apocalypse-drunk supporters. After all, you don't leverage slight congruences in interests that you may share with Dr. Doom into a peace treaty or whatnot--you use your superpowers to destroy him! After all, why have superpowers if you aren't going to use them?

I grew up loving comic books, but I don't relish living in one.

Posted by: RWB at October 11, 2006 04:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There's a contradiction at the heart of the way in which the Repubican leadership has conceived of our time: Islamofascist terrorism IS a threat - and yet it hasn't seized the reigns of a single major Islamic country that carries weight within the Islamic world. Probably the closest we had to the kind of fascistic Islamic state as conceived of by many of the hard-line clerics was Taliban-era Afghanistan, and look at the mess it has been for pretty much most of the last 80-odd years. Saudi Arabia socially still seems a powderkeg, but it hasn't gone over the edge the way the hardliners have hoped -yet, at any rate.

I bring this up because the Republican party, as it is, hasn't taken this threat intelligently - that is, they've talked about Islamic terrorism in paradigmatic terms, but their power binge at home tells you they really look down on it and don't quite take it seriously. Yet all their responses, both direct and implied - such as baying to the moon over Iraq while making friends out of countries like Pakistan, allowing Israel to undermine Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority as fledgling democracies (albeit flawed, to be true), and so on, show know-nothingness at it finest (or lowest, depending on your point of view). In other words, they marshal their forces only dysfunctionally - they go after all the wrong people, and countries, triumphantly holding them up as what they 'can' do, while allowing the elements they really need to go after to escape - or fester. They've blown the nation-state factor of this kind of terrorism out of proportion while ignorant or clueless about the non-linear aspect of the threat that's posed - one made ripe by our Iraq misadventure.

American democracy, as reified by way of the notion of 'exceptionalism' the GOP upholds, but has become empty-headed, a banality along the lines of 'bringing freedom to the Middle East' or 'culture of life' or any one of another of the GOP's platitudes - isn't a particularly effective model of democracy for anyone - not only the Middle East, but even for the U.S. So many ME countries have clearly defined executive and separated legislative organs in what passes for their constitutions - just as our constitution stipulates. Yet practically every one of the leaders in said countries have taken complete advantage of such separation of powers to set themselves up as Presidents-for-Life, generalissimos, and whatnot, while reducing what passes for their lawmaking bodies to rubberstampers and sycophants - just as we are in grave danger of permitting to happen in Washington. What the ME needs is not what ends up being more of the same even as reified by an American model - what they need is something more along the lines of European-style parliamentary governance, one that places far greater emphasis on consensus-building and review and relief of pressure among competing blocs of power.

The Republican party today, arrogant, bloated beyond recognition even by its old guard, awash in far more cash than it deserves, with their vendettas and backbiting and whitewashing and blackballing - all of it - make them incapable of bringing the kind of leadership and moral levity needed anywhere, because they can't bring it to themselves. That would require a major overhaul of the engine, chassis, U-joint, and everything else that has horribly gone wrong with this political machine, and they can't bring themselves to face that kind of reform. It would require them to perform on themselves something of the political equivalent of what the Iraq invasion was supposed to be - a destruction, a seismic upheaval, a cataract of like proportion that would bring something new. As such, they absolutely deserve everything they should have coming to them in November, and their power hierarchy deserves to be demolished, smashed to pieces, scattered, and consigned to political limbo.

Posted by: sekaijin at October 11, 2006 04:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In short, November 7th has to be a comeuppance of historic scope, at least on par with Gingrich's takeover in '94, so that it forces the Republican Party to survey a landscape marked by a devastatingly large-scale and stinging public rebuke.

I think that Greg doesn't really understand what happened to the Democratic Party in the wake of '94. There was no "soul searching", rather with Clinton at the helm of the Democratic Party, the DLC launched a virtual coup of the DNC -- a disaster which lead to Democrats spending 12 years in the political wilderness. Rather than have a party that stood up for its principles, the DNC decided that "Republican-Lite" was the message to promote, resulting in the Democrats being perceived as a party without a real purpose or agenda.

The ascent of Howard Dean to the chair of the DNC represented the necessary change needed for the Democrats to regain its political mojo -- but Dean's efforts were based on long-term gains --- the only reason that the Democrats are likely to regain control of at least one House of Congress is the overwhelming incompetence and venality of the GOP -- this election won't be decided by the people who support what the Democratic Party stands for, because it still doesn't have a coherent message. The winning margin will be provided by people who are just sick and tired of Bush and the GOP Congress.

"somecallmeTim" has it right --- and what we are most likely to see is something akin to the takeover of the Democratic party by the "McGovern wing" in the wake of the 1968 presidential election loss. The McGovernites gained ascendancy in the party because the left was the most organized and passionate, while the rest of the party was in disarray. The aftermath of a significant defeat of the GOP in November is likely to be a takeover of the party by the Xtian Right, which is based in the old Confederacy. They are the only truly organized and passionate force in the party right now, and they will not be denied.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 11, 2006 06:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

this may be inappropriate sidebar to topic but listening to Bush press conference this morning what struck me was not the obvious ie that the supposed greatest nation on earth is being led by a man who sounds like he'd be in over his head giving a pleasant little talk on American history to my son's grade 5 class - no, what shocked me is how bad in substance and style the press questions are. Are these guys idiots as well? Does power turn them to jelly? It's obvious that Bush is not going to answer a question coherently or directly when he does manage some basic level of coherence so why can't these guys figure out that the way around that is to follow up each others questions until they pin the prevaricating moron down?!! They can't be so stupid as to not realise this so the only explanation must be they're afraid to do it - and if that's the case isn't the whole public discourse thing just a sham that is effectively hollowing out the foundations of the republic?

Posted by: saintsimon at October 11, 2006 06:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

excellent point saintsimon. and don't miss the banter about the suits and tailors and such...amidst and between talk of, you know, little things like iraq's continuing descent into chaos and noko's nuke test...

Posted by: greg at October 11, 2006 07:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

and don't miss the banter about the suits and tailors and such...

One imagines that the purpose of this presser was to demonstrate America's seriousness and resolve in the wake of NK's nuke test. I'd say that backfired....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 11, 2006 08:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As much as I would enjoy seeing the Republicans lose big (and I'm not a Democrat), I don't think it's going to happen, not this year. I think they'll lose a few races, but I don't think the hardcore Republican support are going to stay away or vote Democrat. They're gonna show up, the middling Republicans are going to stay away, and all those idiots will still have their jobs (except maybe Santorum). I could be wrong, and I hope I am, but...

I live in Texas, came from Oklahoma, people down here are still Republican. They don't see Foley as a Republican problem, they see it as a gay problem. They don't see Iraq as a problem at all. They love Bush, they love Fox News, they think the Republican Party should rule us all forever. I don't see a lot of evidence of common sense in anybody in the Republican leadership. They're either beholden to the "Moral Majority" or they're so scared of it being used against them they won't say publicly what a bunch of nutjobs they all are. I think eventually the Christian Soldiers will turn enough people off that they will no longer be useful to the party, but I don't think that's happened yet. Again, I could be wrong. Guess we'll know more in a month.

Posted by: LL at October 11, 2006 08:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The truth is that both parties are effectively run by people who have agendas that may command a lot of votes, but don't particularly reflect any intelligence or seriousness. The left is just wrong on so many social and economic issues, and the right is basically the Dixiecrats, with all that implies.

Unfortunately, I'm coming more and more to the belief that "democracy" inevitably results in our current situation, because pandering to the lowest common denominator garners politicians the most votes.

Posted by: Former Republican at October 11, 2006 09:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


In short, November 7th has to be a comeuppance of historic scope, at least on par with Gingrich's takeover in '94, so that it forces the Republican Party to survey a landscape marked by a devastatingly large-scale and stinging public rebuke.

I'm sorry but your disappointment will continue. There are not enough seats for this to occur. Republicans will not do any soul searching, but instead will try to shut the government down, to "prove" to America that Democrats can't get a thing done while in power. Bush will try to evade all he can any supoenas in an attempt at oversight by Congress. You think they will actually change what is at their core simply because of one political loss? Not a chance! They've decided to go down this road come hell or high water. They are not changing for any reason.

This is the tragedy that America will face now for perhaps another ten to twenty years, as long as people like Coulter and Hannity keep having a say and influence in American politics. The days of bipartisanship and of caring more about the protection of America than the positioning of power are gone.

What is needed in America today is a revolution. Full fledged. But alas, too many want to keep things just the way they are.

Posted by: Dan at October 11, 2006 09:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Saintsimon, I viewed the press conference as well, and my reaction was remarkably similar to yours: the general lowering of the mental level by all concerned (my immediate reaction was Sixth Grade level, but I'll accept your Fifth Grade assessment).

Listening to Bush lecture our collected press corps on "diplomacy" was alternatingly hilarious, depressing, outrageous, and despairing. I recommend this particular exchange to historians who shall be studying this period in the future; it nicely captures the banality, the certainty, the vapidness, the emptiness, the stunted mental function, of this whole process (and perhaps of this entire administration).

Afterwards, I concluded that the press corps -- undoubtedly all college graduates, who socialize with and befriend many intelligent people, and who I am sure are intelligent people -- is caught in some kind of time warp or suspension of disbelief, in which their minds have been co-opted or seduced into a make-believe world of Bush's construction. It completely dumbfounds me.

And we're talking here about long-time employees of WaPo, NPR, the NYT, institutions that one would think would be instinctively skeptical of government in general, and this administration in particular.

Posted by: MD at October 11, 2006 09:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The best that could come out of this for the Republicans is something like the Gingrich revolution of 1994, but this will take some time, because we are seeing the dying embers of the old Gingrich revolution at this time. LL is correct about the hardcore of the party moving ever more strongly to the South. McCain will be something of a disappointment to Republicans as he will be forced to cater to the Falwell-Bob Jones core for his 2008 bid.

Posted by: Ralph at October 11, 2006 10:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

LL despairs too much: Survey USA's polls consistently show that even the inhabitants of Texas and Oklahoma are split about evenly on approving of Bush -- and they are consistently among the top five most pro-Bush states. A fair to landslide majority in amost every state (including such unlikely ones as Mississippi and South Carolina) now dislikes him.

What I am really worried about in this election is the possibility (although the odds are still against it) that the House has been so spectacularly gerrymandered by computer that the Republicans could lose the popular vote by a landslide but still keep control of the House. Take a look at the House vote in 2004 ( http://www.cqpress.com/docs/2004Elections/2004_Elections_VEC.htm ) -- the Dems would have had to win the nationwide vote for Congressmen by 54-46 just to retake the House at all! And one pattern I'm seeing in the Survey USA and Mason-Dixon polls of individual House races is that -- in the "high profile" races which were regarded as likely to tip -- the GOP is doing only slightly worse than last time. Now, this may be simply because both parties are keeping a close eye on precisely those races and keep pumping resources into them to keep them close -- in which case the Dems may take a lot of lower-profile races and win back the House that way. But the possibility of a total breakdown of the American democratic process in this election -- with all that will follow from that -- cannot be ruled out.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at October 11, 2006 10:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't think disapproval of Bush will automatically translate to better numbers for Democrats, esp. in mid-term elections. And RE gerrymandering: exactly. Both parties (and the Republicans seem to have mastered it) have districts drawn so as to virtually guarantee incumbent success. I would love to believe that a lot of the people who voted for Bush et al in 2004 are seeing the error of their ways and intend to "punish" the Republicans at the first opportunity, but I don't think it's gonna happen. Like I said, Santorum may lose (and good riddance), but other than that, I think the incumbents are safe, unfortunately. High turnout has tended to benefit Republicans more than Democrats, at least down here. Gerrymandering, gay-bashing and straight-party voting will ensure that Republicans stay in power. Maybe the Democrats can pick up a few seats in OH or PA, but down here? I really doubt it.

Posted by: LL at October 12, 2006 12:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some observations from a non American.

I think the GOP will probably retain control of the house in the forthcoming elections. For 2 key reasons. Firstly the lack of any kind of real leadership from the Democrats - as has been previously discussed. I mean you couldn't ask for an easier target at the moment and yet there is no one standing up and taking charge in any real meaningful way.

Understandably not helped by the media either (although the democrat leadership failure has nowt to do with that). I suspect the reason no journo's skewer the President during press conferences is that would result in no more invites from the white house ergo no more stories ergo no more money, and with the media so corporatised no editor is going to jeopardise that by condoning any hard questioning by journo's. Its a friendly old back scratching session and not much more - and I'm somewhat surprised that no one's articulated it as such. Everyone is so busy ass covering and making sure the circulation figures stay up that no one wants to ask hard questions...

Which is a reflection of society. I have no desire to offend anyone but in my experience of American Society (having visited numerous times and spending time here with several American friend), the American Political scene and system is coming to represent the decay that's happening across the Western World. To a large degree our populations have become rather ignorant of the basic fundamentals of what ACTUALLY is democracy and what political representation means.

There is an increasing proportion of the population (in America more so that most nations) who simply believe by blind faith that what is on the TV is how it must be. Our media suck because the population demand nothing of them - we simply suck the crap feed to us by the media and believe it all. I'm sure if you ran a convincing advert campaign that Fidel Castro ate babies and sacrificed virgins a decent proportion of the population would believe it. We simply buy what the media give us with no thought whatsoever. In short we have the media we deserve.

More over I've noticed as evidenced by SOME of the posters here that an attitude that completely supports David Reiff's comments - the ad nauseum assertions that the Islamofascists hate freedom and that if you challenge the administrations direction your a terrorist sympathiser etc. Its as it the harder you try to get people to see that there are other ways to view things the harder they dig their fingers in to their ears (metaphorically) and insist that you must be with the enemy. Typically these people are all GOP supporters. Hence the second reason I'll think they'll win. A point blank refusal to accept any challenge to this somewhat warped worldview, which when combined with a complete dearth of any other sort of alternative will keep the more moderate wing of the party marching lock step to the booths...

Lastly. I don't necessarily buy into the conspiracy theories surround the 2004 election results, but you've got to Ask some serious questions. How can an election possibly be free and fair when:

The Head of the Election Committee in a major swing state is also the Head of the Campaign Committee for one of the 2 major parties...

The 3 companies that provide election voting equipment all contribute to the campaigns of a major party...

You have an electronic voting system where is no vote trail... Go back to paper ballots - at least they can't be so easily manipulated

I mean there are serious conflicts of interest represented by the first 2 points. I would find those totally unacceptable if my government tried to run an election under those circumstances, and I'm surprised that no one seems to question it in the US.

Posted by: Aran Brown at October 12, 2006 01:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just to clarify - The issues I've raised above aren't purely an American issue in terms of our society and the media, its just that America appears to be further along this path than the rest of us - but not by much. Western Society as far as our political systems go seem to be rapidly failing to uphold even basic fundamentals of democracy...

Its almost as if we are willing to sacrifice the very things that make us different to Islamic fundamentalists in order to combat them...

Posted by: Aran Brown at October 12, 2006 03:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There are many issues that this post(and the comments) touch on, but I'd like to chime in on one item in particular.

The Fundamental Error of this decade was a failure to properly assess the threat that the attacks on 9/11 posed. It was an exploitation of a vulnerability, not a sign of strength. The attack, by a mere five guys (per plane), showed that the problem was unsecure pilot cabins - not that Al Qaeda had what appeared to be an Air Force.

Why haven't there been any more 9/11s? Because the vulnerability was eliminated through a process of passanger screening, arming of pilots, and preventing a take-over by breaking into the cabin. Once that became clear, subsequent terrorist plots involving planes did not incorporate taking them over. Instead, all we got were plots to destroy the plane - not use it as a weapon.

Unfortunately, Al Qaeda and the terrorist threat in general, was portrayed as much bigger than its inherent capabilities warranted. (True, they represent whatever threat people willing to commit suicide pose, but that means closing other vulnerabilities and using military force in very narrowly targeted missions - not wholesale invasion of countries.) I won't bore everybody with this theme too much more, but remember the Tylenol poisoning a couple of decades ago? Somebody found a vulnerability (unsecured bottles) and exploited it. Sure, try and find the culprit, but the action that does the most to protect the population is to close the vulnerability through improved packaging.

In any event, this failure to properly assess the terrorist threat has lead to pretty much everything else we've witnessed this decade. War in Iraq. Massively increased power of the executive. Use of the inflated threat by Republicans to secure their power.

My position may be one you disagree with, but you'll have to admit that it at least is a credible position that deserves a hearing. But the fact that it has rarely been raised should tell you something about the discourse we've had and continue to have. (Juan Cole is about the only big name who shares my view on this.)

I'll close by noting that I'm not saying we should be blythe about terrorist attacks. They are a serious problem and should be countered agressively, through tough police work and whatever it takes special ops overseas. But it is not an existential threat to the United States or practically any other country.

Posted by: Quiddity at October 12, 2006 03:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I basically agree with that. Someone over at Making Light said it best:

9/11 was a bee-sting. Bush's reaction was anaphylactic shock.

Posted by: kid bitzer at October 12, 2006 03:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The best way to destroy the Republican party would be for a national Theocon party to develop. Hopefully the fundies will get disgusted with the Republicans and vote Roy Moore in 2008.

Divorce the fundies from the Republicans, or just reduce their turnout and fervor, and it's all over. Republicans are back to a permanent minority party. Despite the fact that the Democrats both suck and blow simultaneously. They win by default.

(If only we had some shadowy figure that could fund Roy Moore's campaign . . . I'm looking in your direction George Soros).

A variant on this is Fundy Overstretch: the fundies take control of the Republican party and go too far, ie, try to ban birth control, etc. A kook too far.

Posted by: Brian at October 12, 2006 07:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

MD and Saintsimon: I had the same reaction to the press conference. As a teacher of 7th and 8th graders, I have felt for some time that Bush would have immense difficulty passing any sort of oral presentation assessment at these grade levels, and I am not indulging in hyperbole. Quite apart from his obvious difficulties with language, he never seems to have prepared himself for any of these public appearances, unless a speech has been written for him. A lifetime of not doing your homework eventually takes its toll.

I too have often wondered at the behavior of the White House press corps and their unwillingness to seriously challenge him and use follow up questions to pin him down or expose him. I think it probably has many sources, but at this stage of the game I suspect that simple embarrassment plays a large role. They connived in creating the image of his post 9/11 transformation into a brave, wise, steadfast leader, and while each of them personally has no doubt long ago perceived the emperor's nakedness (perhaps that sartorial chatter has a subtext), how can they now admit they were wrong? The embarrassment is no doubt on his behalf too -- he flounders so desperately these days it is painful to watch him.

Posted by: collette at October 12, 2006 08:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think there has been much philosophic stomping about regqarding Bush, and it seems overblown. The secret to the failure of Bush is this: He does not feel that he can ask anybody for anything difficult. It's kind of saddening how little Bush thinks of the people he attempts to rule. It's not surprising the feeling is reciprocated.

On Iraq -- any discusion with the country about the many more troops that would be needed to accomplish his aim? No.

On Federal Budget Bloat -- Any discussion of how we ought to pay for anything? No.

On the sopmewhat extraordinary actions taken by the executive with respect to civil rights? -- Any discussion? Nope, we have the Unitary Power..

One can go on about international matters, but I just don't want to ruin my morning thinking about it.

I can't figure out if Bush is scared to ask people for things or thinks the supplicant function beneath him, or a bit of both.

But, guys, let's not make a big philosophic hoodoo of this and go on about American Exceptionalism, or Neoconservatism, of Vanity, or any number of other things. It's simple. We are run by someone who doesn't want an unpleasent conversation to get in the way of his doing whatever his gut (a most un-philosphic instrument) thinks is right. And he is determined to use whatever instruments he's got to accomplish that end.

Bush needs to stopped however possible. Whether p. luk and I and Jeff Hart agree on foreign policy, or taxation, or nationalization of this or that or Socia Security policy does not matter. We all most vote Democrat, because our first duty to our country is to help to put impediments in the way to Bush's gut. because we cannot rely on anyone else to do it for us.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at October 12, 2006 03:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

RE WH press corps: they are, with few exceptions, worthless. They want continued access (why, I can't imagine, since all Bushco does is dispense talking points in lieu of actual information), so they regurgitate what Bushco says so they don't piss off Rove and get blackballed or whatever they call it now. If any of the news orgs don't want to be perceived as being PR flacks for the Bush administration, they'd tell their people to 1) not bother going to the WH and 2) try to cultivate some sources that will actually tell them something useful instead of using them to try to juice up Bush's poll numbers.

That's why "leakers" piss Bushco off so much. Bush et al's greatest priority RE the press is to enforce "message discipline," so that it appears the administration is a united front (ie, no dissent, no disagreement, everybody's down with the Decider) and the rest of us only hear what they want us to hear. If not for that pesky free speech, freedom of the press, etc, that's all we'd ever get from the govt we pay so much for.

Posted by: LL at October 12, 2006 05:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think the best characterization of the current Republican leadership is their talking point that what Foley did isn't bad because he didn't kill anyone, he only fondled young boys.

Posted by: james smith at October 13, 2006 05:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>The real vanity, I think, lies there and it could be a mortal vanity, >blinding us to our 'rogue state' behavior

Speak for yourself. I didn't vote for these idiots.

Posted by: Richard Bottoms at October 14, 2006 04:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> As a Republican I will say that it is the worst ever presidential administration in the 200 plus years of our nation.

I am also a lifelong Republican, but I too broke ranks to vote against the theocons. I stomached Reagan's massive deficit spending, and I stomach Reagan and Bush funding and developing Islamic terrorism, and that lunatic from Texas talking the CIA into sending hundreds of thousands of weapons to Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan, and I admit that I knew at the time that that was likely to be a very stupid idea. I realized that Reagan was a little empty upstairs, but he did have a propensity to hire competent people to man the bow, so it didn't run adrift merely because the captain was vacant. Reagan had some morons — Rumsfeld and those other idiots so big on funding Islamic terrorism — but, everybody makes mistakes. You have to accept some limitations.

But, now the Republican leadership has degenerated into the party standing for massive overspending and fiscal irresponsibility, corruption, sexual abuse, lies, complete moral and ethical avoidance of any rssponsibility or accountability, torture...

I cannot understand how any Christian can support the Republican Party any longer — the Republican Party is the main enemy of moral accountability in our country.

They fire any whistleblower. They cover anything up they can, no matter if it is lying, cheating, stealing, hookers, druges, or child abuse.

Posted by: Harvey Woodson at October 16, 2006 03:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.

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