Saturday, May 30, 2009

GOP can't decide if it wants to look stupid, petty or silly, so it goes for all three

I really don't know what to make of the Republican Party's need to continually top itself withs stupid, petty and silly antics.

It's bad enough that their in-house racists like take-the-bone-from-your-nose Limbaugh and Miamia-is-a-third-world-city Tancredo are calling Sotomayor "racist."

But no, the president takes his wife out for a date on Broadway and they feel the need to criticize it as supposedly insensitive while GM prepares to file bankruptcy. What? The Obamas are supposed to be in mourning, or something?

My God, get a grip, you guys!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chief Justice Roberts

An interesting point by Jeffrey Toobin in Slate: In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.

This is, in a nutshell, my primary discomfort with the modern GOP. Surely there are some times when the powerless deserve some help against the powerful?


Over at Obsidian Wings they commented about Gen. Petreaus' political savvy, ending with the comment that they hope he doesn't run for political office as a Republican someday.

I think that's short-sighted. I do hope he considers running, if he thinks he has something to contribute.

Currently I'm wishing Obama well. I think he's being a necessary corrective to Bush-era disasters. I said during the campaign and believe still that Bush represented such an epic failure of values and competence that we needed a complete "anti-Bush" as the next president and Obama is about as un-Bush as you can get.

That said, I think Obama is a singular individual and I see very little evidence that Democrats, generally, have improved at all over the feckless, short-sighted, morally cowardly bunch of hacks they've been. While the Bush-era disaster is, rightly, laid at the feet of the GOP, Democrats did not cover themselves in glory as the opposition, either.

Once Obama's 8 years are over (and I do assume he will be re-elected) the country may well be ready for a swing closer to the middle and someone like Petreaus may be a good choice. Generals tend to be pragmatic individuals, especially the good ones, and not particularly ideological. Given that the Republicans seems determined to go through at least one more round of drubbings in 2012, someone like Petreaus (or maybe a Huntsman-Petreaus ticket) could lead them back from the wilderness. A Huntsman-Petreaus ticket might win the White House, but it's highly likely they would start out with the Congress still controlled by the Democrats, which creates some interesting potential political dynamics as well. It may be that most of the legistlation that gets passed by a H-P administration would be Democrat originated but with signifcant concessions to the middle ground of a moderate GOP. Hard-core left Dems and the Rightist GOp rump might both find themselves left out in the cold -- which would be the best possible outcome.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Powerful testament

Sometimes the best things on Andrew Sullivan's blog are not his writings, but the thoughtful comments of his readers.

Here is an exceptional one:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another brilliant strategic move by Obama

Utah Gov. Huntsman, widely believed by reasonable people (i.e. not Republican wingnuts) to be the Republican's best hope for a credible alternative to Obama is going to be the next ambassador to China.

This is a win for both of them. Huntsman gets to be out of the country during the GOP Civil War, burnishing his foreign policy resume and doing something important (Ambassaor to China is akin to ambassador to the USSR during the Cold War).

Obama takes a key potential rival out of the picture for 2012. It's highly unlikely that Huntsman wouldtake this job from Obama and then turn around and come back to run against him. Plus being in China is not the place to make domestic political contacts.

But most importantly, it allows Huntsman to sit out the GOP nastimess. It allows him to leave Utah as a beloved and popular governor (at the top, so to speak).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Absolutely no question THIS was criminal

This report has the details :

But the bottom line is that apparently Cheney's office suggested waterboarding a captured Iraqi intel officer about supposed links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. It didn't happen, because the interrogators refused, fining the request "reprehensible." That part is good. Somebody drew the line.

But the key point here is that the request was completely improper. Regardless of any and all arguments about torture, terrorists and yada yada proffered by apologists, one fact that is beyond dispute is that the Geneva Conventions did apply to the war in Iraq. No ifs, ands or buts about it. The Iraq was was pure state-to-state conflict between signatories of the Geneva Conventions. If they didn't apply in this case then they simply don't apply anytime. The Iraqi in question was an official of the Iraqi government, acting in his official capacity. If the Geneva Conventions didn't apply yo him, they apply to no one. The fact that the Vice President's office made the request shows a complete contempt for the law. What possible excuse was there?

Emmett Till

And what does Emmett Till have to do with the subject of torture of detainees?

Read this and find out.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fresh blood

Andrew Sullivan is alarmed about McChrystal's possible connection to detainee abuse.

I'd like to find out more, but I'm generally in favor of firing unsuccessful generals. One of the worst attributes of the Bush era was an extreme reluctance to fire anyone over failures, although any hint of "disloyalty" resulted in a swift sacking.

In contrast Gates (and Obama, it seems) have demonstrated a commendable willingness to demand results and let go leaders who fail to achieve them. Serious failures of judgement, such as that exhibited by Caldera with the Air Force One flyover, have also been cause for termination.

It's unfortunate for those involved, of course, who have in many cases served long and admirably. And there should be no shame in being relieved under those circumstances. It's not a scandal. Not everyone is suited for every job. But at these very high levels, with so many lives at stake there can be no shirking of the command responsibility to demand results. Generals, in particular, should understand that nothing less than success is acceptable and that the commander-in-chief will keep trying until he finds the right man or woman for the job.

I can't help but think that Obama is, here, also following the lead of his hero Lincoln. He's searching for his Grant. Only time will tell in McChrystal is Grant or just another Pope, Burnside, Hooker or McClellan.

War crimes cannot be pardoned

Scott Horton makes some interesting points about the limits on the U.S. government's poweres to shield Bush-era officials from war crimes prosecutions. Read the whole thing here, but the bottom line is that former Bush officials linked to the torture polices should be very wary about overseas travel -- ever.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chait states the obvious

But clearly and for that he deserves a link

GOP rebranding fail

Good summary of the problem here from Lincoln Mitchell at the Huffington Post:

The quandary in which the Republican Party now finds itself is not due to a public relations problem, but stems from being strongly identified, and not without good reason, with the Bush administration. The Bush administration is broadly viewed as a failure, not because it didn't present itself well, but because it mishandled both the economy and foreign policy to disastrous effect. Additionally, some of the ideas which have been foundation of the Republican Party have, in the cases of radical social conservatism and unregulated financial sectors, become the views of an increasingly small minority of Americans. Other bedrock Republican views, such as fiscal conservatism and a realist based foreign policy, were abandoned altogether by the Bush administration and the Republican Party in the last decade. These are problems are profound and go to the core not just of the party's image, but to its vision, message and raison d'etre.

The link

Meanwhile Rush is saying the Republicans don't need a listening tour but a teaching tour.


Here's the deal. The only GOP hope seems to be that Obama will really, really step in it, a la Clinton-Lewinsky or Nixon-Watergate or Johnson-Vietnam or at least Kennedy-Bay of Pigs.

This is never a good strategy, of course, While one should always be prepared to capitalize on your opponent's blunders you can't sit around just waiting for one to occur. There are legitimate questions about the long-term impact of some of Obama's policy preferences and they may turn out to be bad ideas, but they are, by definition, long-term questions and completely irrelevant to the GOP's short-term prospects. In the long-term Obama's time as president will be up, too, and the GOP will have to run against someone else.

But right now they have to cope with Obama, and they're still completely clueless about how to do so. Every single piece of real-world evidence about the intellect and instincts and character of Obama show that he's highly unlikely to make the sort of blunders that hobbled Clinton, Nixon of Johnson. He's a little more likely to fall victim to the sort of hubris that got Kennedy in political trouble but that's a slender thread indeed and Kennedy's blunders were masked by some big successes.

Nope, they can't wait around hoping Obama messes up big time. They have forgotten, but the public surely hasn't, that Obama has an easy act to follow. It's hard to imagine that any blunder he could commit would compare to Bush and therefore even his mistakes will not loom large in the public eye.

The Republicans have to address the substance of the public's criticism. The public views the Bush era as an across-the-board failure and the very, very, very first step in regaining the public's trust is that the GOP must acknowledge that Bush was a failure. So far the GOP response has been to wilfully insist that everything was just fine the last 8 years and the public is must too stupid, misinformed or daft to realize it. The public, naturally, disagrees and considers the GOP to be daft and/or stupid to say so.

Pointing out that the Democrats are spenders, for one small example, has no traction. The public says "and your point is ... ." Because in the public's view the Republicans were also big spenders, but the Republicans didn't spend any of it on them. The GOP has to show that it can be trusted with the money and the only way it will have to do that is at the state level. So GOP governors and state lawmakers, get to it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The worms begins to turn

First off, when Fourth-graders begins to ask about torture (and Rice has to respond with legalisms to her vain attempt to defend it) then I think we can see signs that the tide is turning.

On top of that, the latest New York Times article featuring dramatic CYA by Porter Goss and Condi Rice is more evidence that things are going south for the torture crowd very fast.

I think that Cheney, Addington, Yoo and others should be getting very, very worried. Their unindicted co-conspirators are scrambling for the exits and they will be left holding the bag. What is interesting is whether Bush, himself, will be held accountable or Cheney will take the fall.

One amazing thing about all this is how quickly it's unravelling. Indeed. if it were not for the economic crisis this would probably be transfixing the nation. The economic crisis will ebb, but the problem for war criminals is that their crimes never become too old to deal with. Cheney's health may eventually save him from the worst ( a la Pinochet), but younger guys like Addington and Yoo may see justice done.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Slate - Encyclopedia Baracktannica