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12/11/2004

More MEK

Laura Rozen highlighted this piece of needed background on the MEK. One of the easiest ways to complicate the tasks of warmongers is to develop a background knowledge sufficient to judge the reliability of their claims. Knowing about exile groups is an important first step.

The MEK supported the seizure of the American embassy in Iran: [Congressional Record]

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

WASHINGTON, DC, SEPTEMBER 20, 1993.
HON. LEE HAMILTON,
CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN:
I AM WRITING IN REPLY TO YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 3, ADDRESSED TO SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER. YOU ASKED FOR THE ADMINISTRATION'S VIEWS ON A PROPOSED RESOLUTION REGARDING U.S. POLICY ON IRAN. THE RESOLUTION URGES, AMONG OTHER THINGS, THAT THE PRESIDENT CONSIDER A DIALOGUE WITH THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF RESISTANCE.

ON THE GENERAL TOPIC OF OUR POLICY TOWARD IRAN, THE ADMINISTRATION'S POSITION WAS DETAILED BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY DJEREJIAN IN HIS TESTIMONY OF JULY 27 BEFORE THE COMMITTEE. THAT STATEMENT OF POLICY REMAINS CURRENT.

CONCERNING CONTACTS WITH IRANIAN OPPOSITION GROUPS, THERE ARE NUMEROUS SUCH GROUPS IN THE UNITED STATES AND ABROAD THAT DO NOT ESPOUSE VIOLENCE AND WHOSE POLITICAL AIMS RANGE FROM SUPPORTING A RETURN OF THE MONARCHY TO ESTABLISHING A CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY. MANY FOCUS THEIR EFFORTS ON IRANIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES, AND WORK CLOSELY WITH THE U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE AND PRIVATE HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS. WE DO MEET WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF SUCH GROUPS AT THEIR REQUEST, AND BELIEVE THESE CONTACTS ARE USEFUL AS AN INFORMATIONAL EXCHANGE.

HOWEVER, THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF RESISTANCE IS CLOSELY LINKED TO THE PEOPLE'S MOJAHEDIN OF IRAN (PMOI), ALSO KNOWN AS THE MOJAHEDIN-E KHALQ (MEK). BOTH GROUPS ARE LED BY MASUD RAJAVI. THE ADMINISTRATION MAINTAINS A POLICY OF NO CONTACTS WITH THE PMOI AND, BY EXTENSION, THE NCR. THIS DECISION IS BASED ON OUR OPPOSITION TO THE PMOI'S USE OF TERRORISM. JUST AS WE VIGOROUSLY OPPOSE THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT'S SUPPORT FOR TERRORISM, WE DO NOT CONDONE THE USE OF TERROR AND VIOLENCE IN TURN BY THE MOJAHEDIN OR ANY OTHER OPPOSITION GROUP. NOR CAN WE FORGET THAT U.S. CITIZENS WERE THE VICTIMS OF PMOI TERRORISM IN THE 1970S, OR THAT THE GROUP SUPPORTED THE TAKEOVER OF OUR EMBASSY IN 1979 AND THE HOLDING OF U.S. DIPLOMATS. THE PMOI'S CLAIM THAT THE ORGANIZATION IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ACTIONS CARRIED OUT WHILE ITS CURRENT LEADERS WERE IN JAIL IS A FACILE ONE AND, IN THE CASE OF THE EMBASSY TAKEOVER, ERRONEOUS. AS SHOWN IN ATTACHED 1981 EXCERPTS FROM THE PMOI'S OWN NEWSPAPER -- PUBLISHED AFTER CURRENT PMOI LEADER MASUD RAJAVI WAS RELEASED FROM JAIL IN FEBRUARY 1979 -- THE GROUP FULLY SUPPORTED THE EMBASSY TAKEOVER AND OPPOSED RELEASING OUR DIPLOMATS. ONLY IN RECENT YEARS HAS THE PMOI SOUGHT TO DISTANCE ITSELF FROM ITS PAST IN ORDER TO GAIN WESTERN SUPPORT.

OTHER FACTORS SUPPORT OUR VIEW THAT IT WOULD BE INAPPROPRIATE TO DEAL WITH THE PMOI/NCR. THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF RESISTANCE'S CLAIMS TO BE A DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION HAVE NEVER BEEN SUBSTANTIATED BY ITS ACTIONS. THE NCR DID, AT ITS INCEPTION, INCLUDE A DIVERSE RANGE OF IRANIAN OPPOSITION GROUPS. HOWEVER, WITHIN THREE YEARS MOST OF THE GROUPS THAT WERE NOT CONTROLLED BY MASUD RAJAVI HAD LEFT THE ORGANIZATION. ACCORDING TO ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN'S BOOK THE IRANIAN MOJAHEDIN (YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1989), THESE GROUPS LEFT BECAUSE THE NCR WAS NOT DEMOCRATIC, BUT RATHER MANIPULATED BY RAJAVI.

IN YEARS SINCE, MOST IRANIAN OPPOSITION GROUPS HAVE CONTINUED TO REFUSE COOPERATION WITH THE NCR. A RECENT EXAMPLE WAS A 1992 INTERVIEW WITH THE LATE DR. SA'ID OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF KURDISTAN (IRAN), WHO DENIED ANY LINKS OR CONNECTIONS WITH THE PMOI, AND SAID, "IN OUR OPINION, OUR COOPERATION WITH THE PMOI RIGHT NOW IS IMPOSSIBLE." WE HAVE NO REASON TO BELIEVE THE PMOI HAS BECOME DEMOCRATIC, NOR THAT AN IRANIAN GOVERNMENT ESTABLISHED BY THE NCR WOULD BE.

IN A DIFFERENT AREA, I WOULD NOTE THAT THE PMOI/NCR REPORTING OFTEN CONTAINS QUESTIONABLE STATEMENTS AND ASSERTIONS WHICH DO NOT STAND UP TO LATER EXAMINATION. OUR INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY JUDGES THAT THEIR REPORTING IS NOT RELIABLE WITHOUT VALIDATION FROM OTHER SOURCES.

OUR OWN ANALYSIS DOES NOT SUPPORT PMOI CLAIMS TO WIDESPREAD SUPPORT INSIDE IRAN. THE PMOI'S MILITARY WING, THE NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY, CONTINUES TO BE BASED IN IRAQ AND RETAINS THE SUPPORT AND FINANCING OF SADDAM HUSSEIN'S REGIME. THE PMOI JOINED IRAQI FORCES IN THE EIGHT-YEAR WAR WITH IRAN. THESE TIES TO IRAQ HAVE DISCREDITED THE MOJAHEDIN AND NCR IN THE EYES OF MANY IRANIANS, AND THE ORGANIZATION DOES NOT REPRESENT A SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL FORCE AMONG IRANIANS.

THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET ADVISES THAT FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE ADMINISTRATION'S PROGRAM THERE IS NO OBJECTION TO THE SUBMISSION OF THIS REPORT.

I HOPE THIS INFORMATION IS USEFUL TO YOU. PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL IF WE CAN BE OF FURTHER ASSISTANCE.

SINCERELY,
WENDY R. SHERMAN,
ASSISTANT SECRETARY, LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), the Iraq-based Iranian opposition organization, was in full support of the takeover of the US embassy and the holding of our hostages during the 1979-81 hostage crisis in Iran. Their own published statements show that their anti-US position at that time was much more hard-line than that of Iran's leaders.

Though the Mojahedin now deny a role in that crisis, they advocated a tough hostage policy in several issues of their own official newspaper, Mojahed, published in Persian in Tehran in 1980-81. The MKO's present leader, Masud Rajavi, was in command of the group at that time.

One commentary in particular (in issue 107, published January 27, 1981 -- just a few days after the hostages' release), scores the Khomeini government for releasing the hostages too soon and for too little gain. Among its main points:

-- The Mojahedin at the Embassy: The commentary reminds its readers that the Mojahedin were the "first forces that fully stood in support of the occupation of the American house of spies. The organization's members and sympathizers stood in front of the embassy 24 hours a day for weeks and months...and kept the place as a focal point of anti-imperialism."

-- The hostage "card:" The commentary derides those "monopolizing" power in Tehran - i.e., the clerical regime -- for misusing the hostage card only to benefit themselves in their own internal power struggles. It argues that the card could have been used better for the struggle against American imperialism.

-- Iran's revolutionary leaders: soft on America: The paper mocks the "anti-imperialism" of the leaders as insincere, complaining that their calls for the trial and execution of the hostages turned out to be hollow. It says the Mojahedin had "regularly warned" against giving ground on the hostages, which would only "embolden and encourage the imperialists."

-- America the enemy: The commentary declares that the Mojahedin's policy was to use the hostage crisis to spread "anti-imperialistic culture" and to reveal the true face of American imperialism as the "fundamental enemy of our people." It quotes a letter the MKO sent some fourteen months earlier to Iran's Revolutionary Council demanding that all treaties and relations with America be cut off without delay. The commentary declares that the Mojahedin still aim "as much as possible to close the path to reconciliation with America."

12/09/2004

Escalating Price tag for Iraq

Back in October, John Kerry was routinely criticized for saying the Iraq war cost $200 billion. It turns out he wasn't so wrong.

The Bush administration, facing mounting violence in Iraq and demands for upgraded equipment, is assembling a funding package for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that could surge beyond earlier estimates to as much as $75 billion to $100 billion, congressional sources and experts said on Thursday...

Two congressional sources said the size of the emergency spending bill, which President Bush will send to Congress early next year, could swell to between $75 billion and possibly $100 billion, depending on the level of violence in the coming months. That would include billions of dollars to upgrade equipment and purchase more armored vehicles. [Reuters]

Reaction to Karzai's anti-Heroin Speech

Sounds promising:

His audience listened politely as he claimed that virtually all the profits from drugs ended up in Western banks and in the pockets of the Taliban "enemies" who helped destroy Afghanistan's once-famed vineyards and orchards.

But he drew loud applause and shouts of agreement when he urged Afghans to recover their dignity by ridding the country of a trade which he said could return it to the status of international pariah.

"Let's make a promise today: that whether there will be any support from the international community or not, we will destroy the poppy fields," he said to cheers. "If we don't eradicate poppies, this international community will turn their face from us. If that happens, you will remember this day."
Karzai, inaugurated just days ago, is in the middle of a conference on how to combat opium production. For more details on the problem, see here, here, and here.

Left2Right Mission

I think I'm going to enjoy Left2Right quite a bit. However, a word of advice: their mission will be an abject failure without a coherent narrative explaining the problems confronting liberalism. I agree that liberalism is in crisis, and I have tried to explain why I think that situation exists. I just don't have a satisfactory fix. Their mission:

We're interested in liberal ideas, though we are probably far from unanimous about what "liberal" means, and our being interested in liberal ideas doesn't entail that each of us subscribes to all of them. We think that political debate in this country has deteriorated into a shouting match, a food fight, a flame war -- call it what you will. We'd like to consider whether liberal ideas should be somehow re-ordered, re-framed, re-stated, with the aim of increasing the overall ratio of dialog to diatribe in the American political forum. Some of us will be trying out various ways of re-thinking and re-formulating those ideas; others may end up arguing that such attempts are unnecessary, even counter-productive.

Mystery Project

AP: In an unusually public rebuke of a secret government project, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, complained Wednesday that the program was "totally unjustified and very, very wasteful and dangerous to the national security." He called the program "stunningly expensive."

Rockefeller on Thursday backed off his remarks that the program itself was dangerous to national security. "He was referring to the fact that it was a misallocation of funds," his spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said.

Rockefeller and three other Democratic senators — Richard Durbin of Illinois, Carl Levin of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon — refused to sign the congressional compromise negotiated by others in the House and Senate that provides for future U.S. intelligence activities.

The compromise noted that the four senators believed the mystery program was unnecessary and its cost unjustified and that "they believe that the funds for this item should be expended on other intelligence programs that will make a surer and greater contribution to national security."
Laura Rozen has no idea what the program is. Most of the Drum commenters seem to think it's some sort of space militarization program, which seems likely.

Update, 12/09/04, 10:50 PM EST: Doug Jehl of the New York Times has some more speculation, including:
Among the possibilities suggested by private experts, including John Pike of Globalsecurity.org, a research organization in Alexandria, Va., were that the system might be a controversial unproven program to launch a reconnaissance satellite that adversaries could not detect. Former Congressional officials said they would discount speculation that the debate had to do with any antisatellite space warfare capability.
Here is John Pike's educated guess. The objections to the program, coming from Senator Wyden, are that "the program does not fulfill a major intelligence gap or shortfall, and the original justification for developing this technology has eroded in importance due to the changed practices and capabilities of our adversaries. There are a number of other programs in existence and in development whose capabilities can match those envisioned for this program at far less cost and technological risk."

Moveon Hits Back

I haven't gotten my email yet, but the AP is carrying a story on the Moveon.org response to the Beinart/DLC wing of the party:

""For years, the party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base," said the e-mail from MoveOn PAC's Eli Pariser. "But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers."...

In the last year, grass-roots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive," the message continued. "Now it's our party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back."

Diminution of Civil Liberties Hidden in Intelligence Reform Bill

Some of these policies may have merit. Shouldn't they have been debated?

Under the bill, a legal presumption would be established denying bail for anyone indicted by a grand jury on terrorism charges. Although the suspect could appeal to a judge, the burden of proof would be on the defendant to show release would be prudent.
The bill also allows federal prosecutors to share secret information obtained in grand jury proceedings with state, local or foreign law enforcement officers if it might help prevent a terrorist attack.
Another provision would adjust parts of the law that make it a crime to provide "material support" to terrorist organizations. Two federal courts in California have ruled the statute unconstitutionally vague.
The legislation also plugs a gap in the FBI's ability to obtain eavesdropping warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. Under current law, these secret warrants are reserved for non-U.S. citizens the government can show are affiliated with a foreign power or international terrorist group, such as al-Qaida...

Under the intelligence bill, FISA warrants could be obtained for surveillance against people the government believes are involved in terrorism but are "lone wolves," with no known affiliation to a foreign nation or group. The change does not apply to U.S. citizens, but the ACLU still has concerns.
The GOP ("The Bush administration pushed to include the law enforcement package in the intelligence measure to augment the Patriot Act") has basically increased the severity of the PATRIOT Act with no public debate or comment. Is this how we want our government to be run?

Update, 12/10/04 12:50 AM EST: The Washington Post has more. It adds:
Penalties would be increased for such crimes as harboring illegal immigrants, perpetrating a terrorist hoax, and possessing smallpox, anti-aircraft missile systems and radiological "dirty" bombs. The measure also is more explicit than current statutes in making it illegal to attend military-style training camps run by terrorist groups.

Beinart in The Washington Post

In all the handwringing on Beinart, I haven't seen anyone link to his Washington Post oped. It is an abbreviated version of his New Republic article. I have yet to see any evidence that Mr. Beinart has interviewed or talked to anyone from Moveon.org.

Refund Payroll Taxes

I will support social security privatization if the administration agrees to refund to taxpayers all revenues raised by the 1983 reforms. Those additional taxes were part of a compact designed to prevent the "crisis" administration advocates are creating through their general revenue crisis. If they are going to treat the trust fund as an accounting trick, the contract has been broken, and the damaged parties deserve restitution.

NATO Increasing Training Forces, Powell Upset

NATO has agreed to increase its Iraq delegation of training forces from 60 to 300.

The Nato alliance has confirmed it is to send extra instructors and support troops to Iraq early next year.

At a meeting in Brussels Nato foreign ministers agreed to a US request to boost the alliance's training deployment in Iraq from 60 to 300. [BBC]
Germany, France, Spain, Greece, Belgium, and Luxembourg refuse to allow their forces to participate in the program. Powell remarked about the refusals:
"When it comes time to perform a mission, it seems to us to be quite awkward for suddenly members in that international staff to say, 'I'm unable to go because of this national caveat or national exception,'" Powell said. "You are hurting the credibility and the cohesion of such an international staff or organization." [WP]
I sympathize with Powell, but before he throws anymore stones, he should look up ICC, the. He should also remember that beggars can't be choosers - the discussions he's holding are almost two years too late.

Insurgent Strategy

Washington Post: "They are very effective at intimidation," a local Iraqi politician said in an interview at a secure U.S. military civil affairs center, speaking on condition of anonymity because he, his family and his colleagues have been told they would be killed if he cooperated with reconstruction efforts. "This is their new strategy. Whatever we build, they are going to destroy. If a project is under the aid of the Americans, they are going to destroy it. The terrorists don't want Iraq to be under control, they don't want the people of Iraq to be at peace."
We still have not even acknowledged that this is the insurgent strategy, much less developed effective countermeasures. It lies around, like the debris from their bombs.

Girlie Men

I want to add to J. David Velleman's post at Left2Right, in which he asks if "warring symbols of masculinity" played an unprecedented role in the 2004 election. David focuses on the presidential campaign, but no discussion should exclude the Bunning attacks on Mongiardo in KY. Bunning's proxies called Mongiardo "limp-wristed," and a "switch-hitter." Republican state Sen. Elizabeth Tori actually said "I'm not even sure the 'man' applies to him in the word 'gentleman.'"

Specifics aside, an essential part of the GOP strategy is the two step process of denigrating femininity and then projecting it on the Democratic party. We must either defend "feminine" approaches to governance (things like diplomacy, multilateralism, drug treatment, crime prevention, rehabilitation) or disclaim them. Silence is not a strategy.

Line in the Sand

The 2004 election clarified the demarcation between the Democratic and Republican Parties. The difference is not one of policy, but one of epistemology and temperament. When confronted with new information, Democrats seek to evaluate it on its own merits, while Republicans seek to subvert it to their own ends. The act of identifying as a Democrat is a declaration that one is open to new information, that one desires that facts and knowledge guide their programmes. Republicans believe that they have all the answers (derived either from tendentious readings of the Bible or tendentious readings of Burke/Smith/Hayek/Locke), that new information is either the product of a conspiracy or in fact supports their preconceived positions.

There used to be few differences in policy prescriptions between the GOP and conservative Democrats like those in the Blue Dog coalition or at the DLC. Those similarities, though, are overwhelmingly an artifact of the disingenuousness at the core of the GOP strategy, where they use policy for GOP institution building and power consolidation. Republicans adopt DLC-style policies as their own to hide the radicalism of their true preferences. Simply laying their preferences on the line would result in their repudiation - only after the soil has been tilled will their radical policies be able to take root. The 2004 elections emboldened the GOP, and they are letting slip their masks of reasonableness. Treating transaction costs as accounting fictions, withdrawing troops from Iraq to enable an assault on Iran, eliminating the income tax - these are precursors of the real Republican agenda, and it is far to the right of the DLC.

As I read Ed Kilgore's eloquent indictment of GOP dishonesty, I felt a burden lifted from my shoulders. For the last four years, Democratic opposition to Bush has been hindered, ironically, by an unwillingness to recognize the real radicalness of his agenda, an intertial extension of a presumption of good faith. We haven't been able to indict his depiction of reality because it requires an accusation of malicious intent, and some Democrats were reluctant, either strategically or constitutionally, to take that step. It is a hard step to take, to deny the rationality of one's political opponent, to simply declare them as an enemy. But it must be done - the GOP took that step a long time ago, and like al Qaeda strategizing against us in the 1990s, too few of us even realized we were at war.

Any entity under assault (even one united only by epistemological similarities) must first rally the troops. The DLC must extend to the democratic wing of the Democratic Party a presumption of good faith and reasonableness. The democratic wing of the Democratic Party (DWPD) must do likewise for the DLC. First steps:

  1. Stop the bullshit. Al From, Bruce Reed, and Peter Beinart must stop impugning the integrity of a substantial portion of their Party. If From and Reed can't get their kicks elsewhere, if they need GOP validation to feel good about themselves, they should leave. Similarly, Dean should stop with the Republican-lite talk, and people like Sirota should stop with the vilification of DLC style politics. Even if we disagree on ultimate policy, we can agree on how we make decisions - calling the DLC "Republican-lite" diminishes the Democrat/Republican divide by making it look like Republicans arrived at their positions reasonably.
  2. Start talking amongst ourselves. It is too clear that the DWDP and the DLC wing don't communicate with each other enough. We approach each other with suspicion, the DWDP concerned that the DLC is beholden to corporations and hawks, the DLC concerned that the DWDP embodies the leftist caricatures promoted by the right. I have said for a long time that every legitimate policy position is represented within the Democratic Party itself - to this point, that has been viewed as a weakness, but it must be turned into a strength. We should hold fora where liberal and conservative Democrats can actually debate and communicate, exchange ideas and arguments. I would love to see Moveon.org or CAP fellows actually debating PPI or TNR affiliates. These fora shouldn't be limited to the internet or inside the Beltway, but should take place throughout the country, in Cincinnati and Austin, Fargo and Miami, Fresno and Boston. The various Democratic organizations should go so far as to hire Democrats that come from the other wing. We have a dynamic Party, full of ideas, but our dynamism is hidden by fraternal bickering and GOP demonization.
  3. Highlight Republican power madness. This is not something that most Democratic strategists will agree with - people like Shrum think the electorate can not be moved by complicated arguments. They may be right, but if they are, we are screwed regardless, so we may as well go down fighting. The Bush administration has been characterized, more than anything else, by corruption of process. We need to make that corruption the centerpiece of our critique. We need to achieve the seemingly impossible task of convincing the American people that Bush can not be trusted; the only reason I believe it possible is because it is true. Press releases accusing him of misleading us into war don't do nearly enough to make the case, we must focus on communicating persuasive arguments directly to the people.
There has been much talk on this topic. I have an old post on the DLC, which shows some evolution in my thoughts on the issue. Josh Marshall has lengthy thoughts here. Atrios here. Kevin Drum has written extensively on the matter. Update: Kos here.

Retaliatory Discharge of CIA Officer

A recently discharged CIA officer has sued the CIA, alleging that the agency began a counterintelligence investigation into him after he criticized pre-war intelligence on Iraqi WMN capabilities. The operative was also "told that a promotion was being canceled 'because of pressure from the DDO [Deputy Director of Operations] James Pavitt.'"

Pavitt's name has been bandied about by conservatives charging him with leading the CIA response to the Goss purges. He was recently hired by Brent Scowcroft's consulting firm.

Update, 12/9/04 3:21 PM EST: See also Kevin Drum.

12/08/2004

NID

With the House's passage of the intelligence reform bill, "lawmakers and others involved in the bill began to turn their attention to a new issue: who should get the job of director of national intelligence?" [NYT]

Lawmakers have informally circulated the names of several potential candidates, including a pair of retired members of the Senate with extensive involvement in intelligence and national security issues: Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat who was chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Warren B. Rudman, a New Hampshire Republican who served on the Senate Intelligence Committee and was a member of White House Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board after leaving Congress.

At least three members of the Sept. 11 commission are also often cited on Capitol Hill as possible candidates: Mr. Kean, who recently announced that he was stepping down as president of Drew University in New Jersey and has not disclosed plans; Mr. Hamilton, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and now director of the Wilson Center in Washington; and John F. Lehman, Navy secretary in the Reagan administration.

Another possibility is the elevation of the current director of central intelligence, Porter J. Goss, to the job of national intelligence director, although Mr. Goss could expect a bruising confirmation fight given the reports of turmoil at the agency since his arrival there this year, with the departure of several senior career intelligence officers. At least one influential Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, the principal Republican architect of the intelligence bill, has said that she would not support Mr. Goss for the new job.
Charles Babington, Washington Post:
The White House has not signaled yet whether CIA Director Porter J. Goss, the former Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, would become the director or whether he would remain at the agency.

The new national director would be subject to Senate confirmation. If Bush nominated Goss, confirmation hearings could focus on his decision this summer to bring four GOP committee aides to the CIA and their roles in the unexpected retirements of senior officers in the clandestine service.

Polemiological Ideal

Exactly one week ago Anne Applebaum produced for the Washington Post an opinion piece that, upon reflection, is the Platonic ideal of conservative foreign policy polemiology. All other op-eds are mere corruptions of her masterpiece.

She (or her copy editor) began on a strong foot, entitling the piece The Freedom Haters. Presumably, this is not a reference to Nero, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Josef Stalin, Adoph Hitler, Michael Dukakis, Jimmy Carter, or even Fidel Castro. Rather, it refers to "a part of the Western left." You see, some America-hating reporters at the freedom-hating Guardian (one must ask: guardian of what - maybe Satanism?) have reported that American foreign policy entities have influenced events in the Ukraine.

On November 26, Ian Traynor reported that:

[W]hile the gains of the orange-bedecked "chestnut revolution" are Ukraine's, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.
Ms. Applebaum adroitly shortened the above quote, removing the italicized portions, which were surely disingenuous, tongue-in-cheek condemnations of Mr. Traynor's ideological comrades. No one writing for the Satanic Guardian could ever actually disapprove of anything related to mother Russia.

The Russia loving is even more evident in the comment Ms. Applebaum singles out, by one Jonathan Steele. He argues that, while "on some issues Yushchenko may be a better potential president than Yanukovich," "to suggest he would provide a sea-change in Ukrainian politics and economic management is naive." Could Mr. Steele's hatred for democracy be any clearer? Would this man not spit in John Adams' eye and accuse him of lusting after monarchy? He's saying that Yushchenko is not democratic enough because he doesn't want America to support Yuschenko because he is too democratic!

Lest you think that this moral perfidy is limited to not-so-Great Britain (except for Tony Blair), Ms. Applebaum proves that "in the international echo chamber that the Internet has become, these ideas have resonance" by pointing to Katrina vanden Heuvel's post at one of the Nation's blogs. Ms. vanden Heuvel states:
Yet, this more realistic view of Yuschenko shouldn't diminish the democratic awakening in Kiev and other cities. In many ways, as The Guardian's Nick Paton observes, "this protest is no longer about America's or Russia's candidate, but an end to the past 12 years of misrule." The journalists who are breaking with state rules--as well as the thousands who have filled Independence Square--are "for the first time, realizing how they could one day have a government whose main interest is not stealing from state coffers and protecting favored oligarchs, but actually representing the people who elected them. For most people, this is a first taste of real self-determination."
Of course, this quote is mere cover for Ms. vanden Heuvel's real agenda, which is to diminish the democratic awakening by "darkly [noting] that the wife of the Ukrainian opposition leader, a U.S. citizen of Ukrainian descent, 'worked in the Reagan White House.'" Her praise for democracy is dripping with sarcasm, which is obvious to everyone, because liberals hate democracy and freedom and God and cite Satanic newspapers.

In fact, Ms. Applebaum informs us that these three authors don't just hate freedom and democracy but actually believe that "pro-democracy movements are in fact insidious neocon plots designed to spread American military influence." These authors and their ideological ilk go so far as the argue that George Soros, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and Freedom House are helping the democracy activists in the Ukraine. Of course, none of those entities is actually involved there - only someone who hates America and freedom would believe that.

Even if one of those institutions were operating in the Ukraine, it wouldn't matter because the leftist conspiracy theorists overrate the effectiveness of non-military democracy promotion. And to overrate the effectiveness of non-military democracy promotion proves that the freedom haters are also Ukrainian haters. "If the ideas that Americans and Europeans promoted had greater traction in Ukraine than those of President Putin, that says more about Ukraine than about the United States. To believe otherwise is, if you think about it, deeply offensive to Ukrainians." There is a lot of hate on the left - some might even call them haters.

If only anyone to the left of Our Leader actually meant the good things they said about the Ukraine situation. Unfortunately, the left is full of liars who pretend to like democracy. The three authors above are perfect evidence of this phenomenon - they are too busy hating Bush, freedom, God, democracy, and Ukrainians to actually mean any of the nice things they say about the Ukraine. They love Saddam Hussein because he hates America. They hate Yuschenko because he likes America. Ms. Applebaum doesn't like it when President Bush says things like this, because she is so reasonable, so she is shocked when she reads about people who hate America.
At least a part of the Western left -- or rather the Western far left -- is now so anti-American, or so anti-Bush, that it actually prefers authoritarian or totalitarian leaders to any government that would be friendly to the United States. Many of the same people who found it hard to say anything bad about Saddam Hussein find it equally difficult to say anything nice about pro-democracy demonstrators in Ukraine. Many of the same people who would refuse to condemn a dictator who is anti-American cannot bring themselves to admire democrats who admire, or at least don't hate, the United States. I certainly don't believe, as President Bush sometimes simplistically says, that everyone who disagrees with American policies in Iraq or elsewhere "hates freedom." That's why it's so shocking to discover that some of them do.

I Don't "Believe" in Evolution

How pathetic is it that the English language uses the same word, "believe," to describe both religious leaps of faith and acknowledgement of the explanatory and predictive value of scientific theories? "Believe" in the Nicaean creed ("I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth...") serves an entirely different purpose than in "I believe in evolution."

It is precisely this ambiguity that people like Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute seek to exploit with their sophistry.

"Compromise" on Intelligence Reform

Intelligence reform passed [edit: the House] Tuesday. Unfortunately, as Slate's Fred Kaplan and the Washington Post editorial board make clear, what passed wasn't a compromise so much as a surrender to the Duncan Hunter wing of the House Republican Caucus. Kaplan explains:

The explicit duties of the new national intelligence director, as laid out in the bill, have not yet been reported. Whatever they are, they will be strictly limited by the provision forbidding the abrogation of the defense secretary's statutory responsibilities.

This explains why Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld so strongly opposed the reforms recommended by the 9/11 commission and adopted by the Senate. They would have stripped him of those responsibilities—i.e., of his power over so vast and shrouded a chunk of the national security machinery. It is no coincidence that the lawmakers who put up the stiffest opposition to the Senate bill were members of the House Armed Services Committee. The Senate bill would have greatly reduced the piece of the federal pie that they routinely oversee.
This muddled reform bill is the direct result of administration obstruction (Kaplan singles out Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney) and Hastert's obscence rule:
"It's highly frustrating when you know you have the votes and you can't get it done," says Lee H. Hamilton, the vice chairman of the Sept. 11 commission and a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Why has a bill with majority support in both chambers and the president's blessing fallen into limbo? Because House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has decided he will not bring it to a vote while it faces substantial resistance among House Republicans.
Update, 12/08/04 1:59 AM, EST: See also the Los Angeles Times, which notes that the surrender left many issues unresolved, including immigrant drivers' licenses and a border security fence. Via Mark Kleiman.

Update, 12/08/04 9:18 AM, EST: See also Dana Priest and Walter Pincus in the Washington Post, examining the complexity of the bill:
"Have they created a stronger, central, senior person in charge? It is not clear to me that they have," said Winston P. Wiley, a former senior CIA official and terrorism expert. "It's not that budgets and personnel are not important, but what's really important is directing, controlling and having access to the people who do the work. They created a person who doesn't have that."

The bill says the new director would "monitor the implementation and execution" of operations, a vague description that has perplexed intelligence officials scurrying to digest the legislation.

CIA reports on Iraq

I suspect that most people who intend to comment on Doug Jehl's NYT scoop have already done so, but I wanted to get my two cents in. "The Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Baghdad has warned that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and may not rebound any time soon." The warnings were "echoed" in briefings by Michael Kostiw, a senior adviser to Porter Goss (and a shoplifter).

I'm sure everyone's surprised. Iraq is bad and getting worse, those closest to the action are the most pessimistic, and the only way we find out about it is through leaks. God forbid the people should know the impacts of their leader's decisions.

See also Matt Yglesias.

US Counter-Drug Policy in Afghanistan

Last June, Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times reported that "the Bush administration still cannot decide on a strategy to eliminate this new source of al Qaeda funding more than two years after the Taliban fell." We have since decided on a strategy, but it looks like it is to simply ignore the obstacles highlighted by Scarborough, and just hope for the best. The obstacles:

  • "More than 80 percent of Afghans live in rural areas and a good portion of them live off poppy cultivation, especially in the south around Kandahar."

  • "The warlords [supporting Karzai] skim money off the drug trade as shipments move by donkey or vehicle. The fear is that the warlords would revolt if deprived of the drug money."

  • "Not only would spraying enrage warlords, but it also is likely to harm farmers and their families because the poppies grow near farmhouses."

  • "The U.S.-led coalition is relying on poppy growers as spies for information on movements of Taliban remnants and al Qaeda. Taking down the crop might alienate these sources of information."
At the time, one official said "'there is no easy answer...[t]here's always been proposals to go after the crop' with no agreement on when or how to do it."

On November 15, Bradley Graham of the Washington Post reported that the administration "has devised a...counternarcotics strategy aimed at greater eradication of poppy fields, promotion of alternative crops and prosecution of traffickers." The strategy entails "focusing more intelligence-gathering assets on suspected drug operations," "ferrying Afghan counternarcotics police in U.S. military aircraft," "providing emergency support," "strengthening key border checkpoints with more forces and equipment," "enlist[ing] U.S. troops in extended and specialized training of Afghan police," expanding a British-trained Afghan interdiction force and other Afghan counternarcotics police units, establishing "a special task force of prosecutors and judges to handle drug cases" and "launching of a public awareness campaign to stress to farmers and other Afghans that the drug business poses a serious menace to the country and will not be tolerated." See also Robert B. Charles' on-the-record briefing on Counternarcotics Initiatives for Afghanistan. The DEA is also significantly increasing its involvement. "Drug-enforcement agencies asked Congress for an additional $780 million yesterday to fight the rapidly expanding heroin trade in Afghanistan." [AP] None of these proposals address the problems identified by Scarborough.

Further complicating the picture is confusion surrounding the Pentagon's role in counter-narcotics. Bradley Graham, in his Washington Post piece, reported Doug Feith as saying:
"The key to success there is not turning this into a military mission for the Americans," Douglas J. Feith, the Pentagon's chief policy official, said in an interview. "It's the Afghan government trying to enforce its own laws, and what we're interested in doing is building up their capacity so they could do it."

At the same time, Feith said, U.S. troops, who number about 15,000 in Afghanistan, will "be substantially more involved" in countering the drug trade. "There certainly is a sense this is a problem that we need to address because it could get to the point where it could endanger key goals of ours in Afghanistan," he said.
It is at the insistence of the Pentagon, which "contend[s] that battling the drug trade is primarily a law enforcement problem, not a military one, and must be led by homegrown Afghan forces" that "U.S. forces will be limited to supporting Afghan law enforcement efforts."

The military's opposition to getting involved in the drug problem may be the result of overstretch. The AP reports that the Pentagon intends to "cut its forces in Afghanistan next summer if Taliban militants accept an amnesty." If we are going to reduce operations against the Taliban post-amnesty, some of the obstacles to military involvement in the drug problem should fall away.

12/07/2004

Aerial Poppy Spraying

Afghan farmers are skeptical of US/British tactics in the fight against opium, alleging that illegal aerial herbicide spraying is making children sick. The Afghan government found evidence of spraying, and Karzai filed a complaint with the US and British governments. According to the Independent, Karzai "grilled" the British ambassador, perhaps suspicious because "many in Washington have been pressing for aerial eradication to begin in Afghanistan... [and] advocates have lined up private US contractors who have already scoured the region looking for planes and pilots to hire for large-scale operations as early as next spring, before the poppy harvest begins." Robert Charles may be one of those "many:"

Officially, both U.S. and British diplomats insist that just as in the war on terror, Washington and London see exactly eye to eye on drug eradication. But at a House International Relations Committee hearing in February, a senior Bush administration official accused Britain of being squeamish about eradicating opium poppy fields before Afghan farmers had found other means of income.

"Our priority should not be some kind of misplaced sympathy for someone who will have to do a little bit more work to grow other, less-lucrative crops, such as wheat or barley," said Robert Charles, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement.

British officials believe the more robust U.S. approach, which also may involve crop-dusting raids, could simply alienate the very farmers they are trying to win over, by putting the stick too far ahead of the carrot. They also complain that the 18,000-strong U.S. military in Afghanistan has turned a blind eye to warlords' involvement in the opium trade in exchange for help against al Qaeda and Taliban remnants. [SF Chronicle]
The US has disclaimed responsibility or knowledge of the spraying, arguing that it "might have been done by drug lords to stir up tensions." The US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, "denied contracting the job to any company or agency."
"I can say categorically that the U.S. has not done it and the U.S. has not contracted or subcontracted anyone to do it," he said. He said he did not know who had done the spraying.

Yet the topic has been under discussion for some months, and the Americans have argued for chemical eradication, said officials involved in the counternarcotics program.
Barnett Rubin, in a 10/18/04 Council on Foreign Relations interview:
What is the Bush administration's policy?

They are talking about aerial crop eradication through spraying, as in Colombia. If they carry out that policy, the administration would destroy what we are trying to build. That would make the United States the enemy of the Afghan people. Everyone who works on drug trafficking internationally will tell you that, in formulating an anti-drug policy, the last thing you do is crop eradication. Bring in crop eradication when you have given people alternative livelihoods. That is the policy in countries where drugs are a marginal part of the economy. At this point, we are not offering the Afghans significant alternative livelihoods. We are aligning with some major traffickers who are allies in our war on terrorism. And meanwhile, we would destroy the livelihood of poor people with aerial spraying.

Is this going on now?

No. There is a policy battle over this right now. There are powerful people in this administration who are pushing for aerial spraying. That would destroy everything positive we are trying to do there. We do have to attack drugs. The Defense Department has been cautious on this. Troops were ordered not to do anything about it. A major commander, one of the main allies in the war on terrorism, was arrested with a truck full of heroin. He was taken to Bagram Air Base for three days and then was let go. He is back as a commander of one of the four major garrisons in the country. It was said then that "this is not our job." Now the United States is saying, "It is our job," but we are going about it in the wrong way.
The US has tight control of Afghanistan's air space.

The Opium Threat in Afghanistan

The warlords we relied on to stabilize Afghanistan have exploited their authority to establish criminal fiefdoms.

"Local leaders" backed by small personal armies are involved in drug-running, extortion and thievery. Yet the central government and the US military still relies on them for security...

The export value of the opium will reach $2.8bn this year, or 60% of [Afghanistan's] GDP, according to the UN. Once confined to a handful of areas, opium is now cultivated in most provinces. A greater proportion of the harvest is being processed into heroin inside the country, boosting profits further.[Guardian 12/7/04]
Despite Karzai's inauguration [see also Al Jazeera], the country is still on the wrong side of the hill, and at risk of slipping backwards. It is reassuring that Karzai seems to be embracing pluralism, trying to get moderate Taliban fighters to lay down their weapons (under amnesty) and participate in the parliamentary elections. Karzai's impending summit (this weekend) on the opium problem is a good sign, as is his promise to "use his five-year term as Afghanistan's first elected president to crack down on warlords and the re-emerging country's booming drug economy." He even appears to be taking Human Rights Watch's advice, delaying the announcement of his cabinet for weeks, and promising to nominate based on merit:
Karzai had been expected to name his Cabinet immediately after his inauguration, but a spokesman said Monday night that wouldn't happen.

Karzai repeatedly said during his presidential campaign that he wanted to choose members of his government on merit, not through negotiations with warlords, who still dominate parts of Afghanistan. [LAT]
Less reassuring are the continuing violence and the threats that necessitated high security at the inauguration. And the opium problem is still growing, with no solution in sight (industrial hemp aside). All the policies on the table are directed at farmers, but farmers don't have the biggest stake in the trade: "farmers were not the people who were realizing the highest profits. 'The money is going to traffickers, warlords, corrupt officials and terrorists,' [Vincent McClean, New York Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime] said." Helping farmers without challenging the traffickers and lords that enforce and profit from the trade is a recipe for failure.

And the stakes are high. Two weeks ago Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said: "We all salute President [Hamid] Karzai for his courage and determination...Yet, opium cultivation, which has spread like wildfire throughout the country, could ultimately incinerate everything -democracy, reconstruction and stability." "It would be an historical error to abandon Afghanistan to opium, right after we reclaimed it from the Taliban and al-Qaida," said Maria Costa, also calling the resurgent opium trade "a clear and present danger." Conservative Illinois Republican Mark Steven Kirk yesterday told the Washington Times that Osama bin Laden was living off heroin profits. Afghan drug profits and problems pay no heed to borders.

There is some British happy talk:
Bill Rammell, Foreign Office minister, said a "robust" anti-drugs strategy, which the Afghan government would announce this week, would dent the coming crop. "Once we see the [United Nations opium] report for next year we will see that we have begun to turn the tide," he told reporters during a visit to Kabul. [FT]
See also Reuters. Unfortunately, it seems to be completely out of touch with reality.

Update, 12/8/04, 12:51 AM EST: For more, see Robert Scheer's Nov. 23 LAT op-ed; Washington Post Nov. 27 Editorial; the BBC journal from May/June; and Michhle Alliot-Marie, Afghanistan's Drug Boom, WP 10/6/04. For an explanation of the fascinating methodology underlying the UN's analysis of the drug problem, see Brendan Koerner's Nov. 19 Slate article.

Putin Skeptical About Iraq Elections

BBC:

Russia's President Vladimir Putin says he has grave doubts about plans to hold elections in Iraq next month.

He told Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi at the Kremlin he could not see how a poll could be held while Iraq was under "full occupation".

Correspondents say the Russian leader's comments are a veiled attack on the US.


Orgy

The Drum-Beinart orgy of recrimination has everything exactly backwards.1 I really detest DLC strategic posturing. They and their ilk are the primary impediment to the electoral success of the Democratic Party. Until they understand that there is no opportunity for good faith discussion with the GOP, our party will be mired in purgatory.

The DLC policy platform has a place in politics - it should be the Republican Party. The DLC holds a (usually) reality-based conservative position, occasionally capable of adding real meat to a conversation. The problem is who they are talking to, which is generally either the non-reality-based GOP or the mythical swing voter. The DLC should be talking to the reality-based progressives, best represented by, yes, Moveon.org. Instead, they want to purge them.

The only way to reclaim the mantle of the party of ideas2 is to learn to love the tension within our own party. Democrats are capable of holding policy debates where every legitimate opinion across the spectrum is represented. Conservative hawks can engage liberal doves. Mulilateralists can engage isolationists can engage unilateralists can engage world government folks. We can recognize the legitimacy of each others' positions, the factual and normative underpinnings, and then actually talk about them. That is part of what it means to belong to the Democratic Party - that we grant to those who disagree with us the courtesy of engagement, rather than a boot in the ass.

There is an easy way for the DLC to belong to a party that suppresses disagreement. Join the GOP.

1 See Kevin Drum, Kerry v. the Base, Liberals and Terrorism, Liberals and Terror, Liberals and War; Beinart, A Fighting Faith; Yglesias, Pacifists and Alternatives, Okay, Whatever. See contrary, Atrios, Icky People, Honesty, Asshats, No.

2 How fucking embarassing is it that we "lost" that mantle? Thanks, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Moynihan finds much to criticize among all Democrats. They are filled with hubris and "ideological certainty," he maintains. Clinton "won by default as much as anything, but set out to govern as if he had a mandate for all manner of governing." Meanwhile, the Republicans were "becoming the party of ideas," as congressional Democrats were stuck defending the status quo. [Business Week]
Republicans have ideas, but they are bad ideas, characterized by reactionary hostility to the left hand of the state.

12/06/2004

Texas Death Penalty

The NYT has a long article on the unquenchable bloodlust of the Texas judicial system and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Texas conservatism apparently has no place for civil liberties, the Supreme Court, or the rule of law. George W. Bush and his crown jurist, Al Gonzales, come from and contributed to this indulgent culture of vengeance.

Not Enough Troops

I am going to try to put together a couple of comprehensive reports over the next couple of days on the security situation in Iraq. We are at a point where so much interconnected damning information is coming down the pipes that I, for one, can't keep it all straight. First, we don't have enough troops in Iraq to stabilize the country, and never have. As the BBC reported yesterday, "the head of Central Command, General John Abizaid, said Iraqi troops did not have the training or experience to do the job without extra American help." This has been a constant refrain for 2 years now, from Shinseki to Bremer, on down. We are hampered by the lack of reliable troops.

Second, we have been woefully deficient in responding to the obvious insurgent strategy of targeting nascent Iraqi security forces. The Christian Science Monitor reported General Myers saying "that assassinations and attacks on Iraqi government officials and security forces 'at the municipal level all the way up to the national level... will continue,' as violence escalates with the election's approach," and that "targeted killings of Iraqis who join the new government would continue 'for years to come.'" The Bush/Rumsfeld strategy, to the extent that there is one, is based on replacing American troops with Iraqi troops - yet insurgents have catastrophically disrupted the training processes, and we have not responded at all.

Third, American military readiness is suffering. We don't have enough troops on the ground to achieve any of our strategic goals, there is no relief in sight, and our ability to do anything about it, despite the sound and fury, is waning.

Thanks Steve

I want to take a second to thank Steve Clemons for his generosity. I think a major part of my contempt for people like David Broder is born of the fact that I hear better political analysis at random coffee shops throughout DC. Maybe I'm spoiled - if you haven't met Steve, you're really missing out.

12/05/2004

"Dean" Broder

That David Broder passes as the "dean" of the Washington press corps is bad enough without contributions like today's column, "A National Pledge of Party Allegiance." After a promising start, he manages to repeat some of the worst sins of the press corp in his exactly 750 word column.

First, lets look at the promising part: "Democrats did a first-class job of mobilizing their supporters and bringing them to the polls. But Republicans did an even better job, and that is essentially why they won." This seemingly banal observation is actually extremely important. Democratic values won more support in 2004 than ever before in history. People voted, and Democratic political organizations were effective: we met, or exceeded our turnout goals. The GOP, unfortunately, also met their goals, and theirs were higher. The story of the 2004 election is how Republicans managed to turnout so many new people - who did GOP organizers talk to, who actually were the operatives of the GOP field operation, what was their GOTV message, what were the channels of communication? Those questions are all fundamentally important, but with the important exception of Matt Bai at the New York Times, few have even raised them. I was on the ground in Louisville KY, and I saw no Republican volunteers going door to door. I heard of no non-robotic phone calls, saw no GOP literature in the doors of any voters, much less the undecideds wee were targetting. I have friends throughout the Democratic field apparatus, and they have uniformly related the same stories: the GOP field operation was completely invisible to us.

We have inklings of how the GOP did it, based again in large part on Bai's NYT magazine piece from last summer. They employed peer-to-peer communications to an unprecedented degree, and otherwise used loyalists that held positions of trust in their community: preachers and pastors, employers, and government officials themselves. Yet we are astonishingly ignorant as to specifics - we don't have actual examples of community leaders talking to the eventual GOP voters, we don't know how they were communicating (email? direct mail? phone calls? face to face?), we don't know where they were communicating (pulpits? church steps? lunch rooms? internet sites?), and most of all, we don't know what was being said. No one can get to the bottom of the spectacularly successful GOP field program without being able to answer some of those questions.

But back to Broder. He gets the question right, but immediately draws a very contestable conclusion: "[The Nov. 2 voting] signals a protracted period of two-party competition and means that Republicans and Democrats alike will face intense pressure to keep their coalitions intact." This could be true, but it probably isn't. We don't even have a real idea of who belongs in which coalition - were the bulk of new GOP voters actually PIPA, voters who received (or believed) only the GOP message, and actually thought the Party stood for values opposite those it actually holds? These new voters obviously weren't talking to Democratic organizers or the mainstream press, so it is nigh impossible to glean, for now, what they thought they were supporting. Democrats operated entirely above ground, through at times too public organizing efforts: everyone who voted Democratic knew the values they were supporting. Without understanding the mechanics of the Nov. 2 election, it is foolish to pontificate on its meaning.

Here's where Broder goes obviously wrong:

Democrats, who came out on the short end of the 51-48 percent presidential popular vote and lost seats for the second election in a row in both the House and Senate, cannot afford any more defections. Losses among women, minorities and what remains of their Southern base would make the task of a comeback all the more difficult.
The numbers do not support the idea that there were many defections from the Democratic Party (Southern whites may be the exception). More women, more Blacks, more Hispanics, more labor members, voted for Democratic values than ever before - unfortunately, even more people turned out, and those new turnouts voted GOP. The Democrats lost share among these groups, but they didn't lose numbers, facts which do not support a narrative of defection.

The remainder of Broder's malum opus perfectly exemplifies the mainstream media practice of attributing responsibility for political maladies to disembodied sociological forces, rather than to what all of their own evidence points them to: bad people. We are in a period of intense partisanship, but it is because Republican leaders are vicious partisans, willing, even eager, to sacrifice the national interest for short term political gains. That Democrats take umbrage at such devious tactics should surprise no one.

Broder notes that President Bush "began taking steps to split that Democratic coalition" by appointing or elevating members of identity groups traditionally associated with Democratic values - Rice, Gonzales, Gutierrez, and Spellings. This is pageantry, of the type the GOP has falsely accused Democrats of for decades (usually labelled "pandering"). Bush learned well from his father's Clarence Thomas experience, that friendly faces make poisonous politics more palatable. Bush is appointing people to the most powerful positions in our government not because of their abilities, but regardless of them (Rice and Gonzales certainly aren't fit for promotion, based on their track records and skewed moral compasses).

Broder then argues that the GOP is equally concerned with coalition maintenance, using as proof the strength of Bush's support among Republicans and the new "Hastert Rule," which doomed intelligence reform because some Virginia Republicans, working with Don Rumsfeld, opposed it. Broder says "To [let Democratic lawmakers pass the president's intelligence reorganization plan over the opposition of many Republicans] would alienate [Hastert] from his flock and perhaps put some of them at risk with their voters." This is simply not true. Bush stole Lieberman's Homeland Security Department proposal, yet nonetheless used it to bludgeon Max Cleland and other Democrats. His education and medicare plans passed with bipartisan support, yet were clubs in 2004. The GOP doesn't care about the reality of support or opposition, they are aware of the supremacy of their megaphone and confident in their ability to turn everything, even memorials, into a weapon. Moreover, Broder says nothing about the merits of the GOP's scuttling of intelligence reform. According to Broder, they have hindered the establishment of a modern national security system for partisan gain, yet he spends no mental energy on outrage.

Broder ends with the typical declensionist line, noting that we weren't always so partisan. I would like to add a few examples to his litany. First, from 1992-2000, the Democratic president passed NAFTA and "changed welfare as we know it," among other things, despite serious opposition within his own party, and regardless of the fact the Republicans would continue to villify Democrats on the same issues. In 2001, Democrats stood side by side with President Bush, supported his responses to 9/11, and gave him the benefit of the doubt. That capital was again used to beat Democrats senseless.

There has been a rise in partisanship. But that rise isn't due to sociological changes. President Bush, Karl Rove, Denny Hastert, Tom Delay, Mitch McConnell, Grover Norquist, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and others generate it and benefit from it. Cui bono. Broder either can't, or doesn't see this. Maybe he's too buddy-buddy with the GOP insiders, maybe he's quelled by fear of conservative lashings, or maybe he's just past his prime and lost whatever clarity of vision he once had. But he's wrong, and his "fair and balanced" take on the news enables continued GOP machinations and hurts the polity.

 

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