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Glenn Greenwald takes a shot at one of Rob’s and my personal bugaboos – the cry from Obama and the DLC/BD Caucus of conservative Dems that there’s been too much hyperpartisanship in Washington. Glenn wants to know “What partisanship?”
Where is the evidence of the supposed partisan wrangling that we hear so much about? Just examine the question dispassionately. Look at every major Bush initiative, every controversial signature Bush policy over the last eight years, and one finds virtually nothing but massive bipartisan support for them — the Patriot Act (original enactment and its renewal); the invasion of Afghanistan; the attack on, and ongoing occupation of, Iraq; the Military Commissions Act (authorizing enhanced interrogation techniques, abolishing habeas corpus, and immunizing war criminals); expansions of warrantless eavesdropping and telecom immunity; declaring part of Iran’s government to be “terrorists”; our one-sided policy toward Israel; the $700 billion bailout; The No Child Left Behind Act, “bankruptcy reform,” and on and on.
Most of those were all enacted with virtually unanimous GOP support and substantial, sometimes overwhelming, Democratic support: the very definition of “bipartisanship.” That’s just a fact.
As The Washington Post‘s Dan Froomkin observed at the end of last year: “Historians looking back on the Bush presidency may well wonder if Congress actually existed.” How much more harmonious — “bipartisan” — can the two parties get?
He’s right, of course, and regular readers will know how worried we’ve been around here about BO’s naive insistence on what he calls “bipartisanship”, which almost always turns out to mean “doing what the the GOP/DLC/BD Conservative Cabal wants done because they refuse to compromise.” There has been hyperpartisanship, alright, but not on a Pub-Dem split. It’s been coming almost exclusively from the Right along a Conservative-Liberal split – the conservatives in both parties scream about how ANYBODY who doesn’t go along is hyperpartisan. Mention a liberal policy like SCHIP or note how the Medicare Advantage program is little more than a give-away to Big Pharma and suddenly you’re a hysterical partisan who refuses to face reality and compromise [translation: surrender].
There is no reason whatever to back the Democrats.
That’s the lesson we learned the past couple of weeks as Barack Obama forever soiled his undies when ordered to by the DLC, and the 4th Amendment was sent packing in a secret midnight meeting the Dem Leaders (Steny Hoyer, Jay Rockefeller, and Sylvestre Reyes) had with the Pubs and didn’t even bother to tell the membership about. The DLC/BD contingent is a minority with a very Pub-like disgust for democracy because it’s so hard to get anything done when you have to convince people to go against their best interests and the best interests of the country. They keep crabbing about the Constitution and stuff (as if that meant anything any more – “9/11 changed everything! 9/11 changed everything!!“), and how can you talk sense to people like that?
The new statute permits the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and a foreign location, without making any showing to a court and without judicial oversight, whether or not the communication has anything to do with al Qaeda — indeed, even if there is no evidence that the communication has anything to do with terrorism, or any threat to national security.
As I’ve previously explained, the NSA’s objective here is not simply to surveil foreigners who it already suspects as being part of al Qaeda — it can easily obtain a FISA order as to those folks. Nor is the purpose of the new law to allow warrantless surveillance of international-to-international calls — that’s already legal, too. As is the warrantless overseas interception of calls between foreigners and U.S. persons.
What the agency is seeking, instead, is to be able to intercept foreign communications (i) coming across domestic wires where (ii) NSA does not have probable cause to believe that any of the parties is a terrorist or agent of a foreign power; and (iii) there is a chance that some of the intercepted communications will be with persons in the U.S.
The new law allows the NSA to do this, by permitting what David Kris has called a form of “vacuum-cleaner” surveillance that (in the words of the new law) “target[s] . . . persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
Under this new standard, there’s no need that the surveillance have any connection to al Qaeda, or terrorism, or even to national security. The only substantial requirements are that someone overseas be a “target” and that one “significant purpose” of the surveillance be to acquire “foreign intelligence information” — which is very broadly defined to include most anything that occurs overseas and in which the federal government might have an interest (including information necessary to protect against the full range of foreign threats to national security, and information with respect to a foreign power that is necessary to the national defense or foreign affairs).
That’s what Democrats have done. Not Republicans, not Stalinist Commies. Democrats. Specifically, the DLC-run leadership. The message is clear: as far as the DLC/Blue Dogs are concerned, FDR Democrats – liberals – are a thing of the past and from this point on the New Democrats – conservative DLC Democrats – are running things to suit themselves and if you don’t like it, wha’d’ya plan to do about it? Vote for a Republican? By gawd, they’re even worse! Hah! You’re stuck.
No, we’re not. We have options. The best one is to defeat the damn GOP conservatives who have infiltrated the party and grabbed hold of all the leadership positions. The Blue Dogs MUST go down to defeat if we are to replace the New Democrat party of autocrats and corporate stooges with Old Democrats who believe in stuff like universal health care, worker and consumer protections, the Constitution, community, and generosity to those less fortunate. (The Blue Dogs would run the less fortunate over in a truck if they were lying dying on the road because, after all, the BD’s are really Republicans and to a Pub anybody lying in the road deserves to be run over with a truck as a lesson not to lie in roads.) “Compassionate conservatives” my heiny. As we know know, that’s an oxymoron. Conservatives are never compassionate, and anyone who is compassionate isn’t a conservative.
The second possibility – don’t laugh – is to build a Third Party. And yes, it’s possible. Difficult – very difficult – but possible. And you know what? To be effective, it doesn’t even have to win, only scare the New Democrats into thinking they might lose.
The important thing is that we must be ready to Dump the Dems. If we’re not, neither of these options will work because they’ll have no reason to pay any attention to us.
Are you ready yet? What’s it going to take before you’ll be ready to risk a Pub win in order to get your party back? I really want to know. It’s fish or cut bait time.
This has been a week of disappointment for those who still believe Democrats are substantially different from Republicans and Obama is the most different of all. The passage in the House, by a Democratic majority, of the abominable FISA Act gutting the Fourth Amendment right to privacy while pretending to protect it, followed by Barack Obama’s unprincipled acceptance of such a bill for political purposes, has sent shock waves through the progressive community. They’re still reeling from it in a sense, so maybe it isn’t fair to expect them to come to terms with the betrayal so soon. OTOH, given a little time to get used to it, they’ll probably start finding excuses to justify it and that’s not good. It will simply postpone the day of reckoning and we can’t afford any more blindness.
I have to wonder how much more it’s going to take for people to make the final leap from the earnestness of rationalization to the realization that there’s nothing to rationalize. Glenn Greenwald and dKos’ Hunter are both skirting the edge of that realization but can’t yet bring themselves to accept it, probably because they don’t want to know how bad our position as citizens really is after two Bush terms and two years of a Democratic Congress acting like Republicans in everything but name. Greenwald:
What the Democratic leadership is saying is quite clear: we will continue to trample on the Constitution and support endless expansions of the surveillance state because that is how we’ll win in swing districts and expand our Congressional majority…. The only objective of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer is to have a 50-seat majority rather than a 35-seat majority, and if enabling the Bush administration’s lawbreaking and demolishing core constitutional protections can assist somewhat with that goal, then that it what they will do. That’s what they are saying all but explicitly here.
This is the standard rap and it comes from GOP TP’s as old as Reagan: the Democrats are opportunists who revere polls, believe in nothing and will do anything to win. The other usual memes have to do with Democratic incompetence and/or cowardice, but Hunter comes as close to dispensing with these excuses as any prog I’ve read yet.
[T]his one was an absolute no-brainer, the one thing that the Democrats, no matter how stunningly incompetent, humiliatingly ineffective or bafflingly capitulating they may be, could manage to win simply by sitting on their damn hands. But no; it took serious work to lose on this one. Serious, burning-the-midnight-oil work to manage to quite so cravenly negate their own oversight duties.
And that is why this will not be forgotten anytime soon. A caucus willing to go to these lengths to satisfy the illegalities of the Bush administration is not one that can easily be defended. It is understandable that it would take a great deal of courage to enforce Congressional subpoenas. We can understand that voting against funding for the war could be risky, if we were to presume that Bush would simply keep the troops in the Iraqi desert to rot regardless of funding.
But this one? This petty, stinking issue of granting retroactive immunity to companies that violated the law, such that they need not even say how they violated the law, or when they violated the law, or how often, or against who, and the whole thing started before 9/11 so it is clear that terrorism wasn’t even a prime factor for doing it — that whole mess is now absolved, no lawsuits, no discovery, no evidence allowed to be presented?
No, that one is indefensible. It is indefensible because it requires not just passive acceptance of a corrupt administration performing illegal acts, but legislators actively condoning those acts with the stroke of a pen. The Democrats are determined to set themselves as partners in committing crimes, then absolving them; there should be nothing but contempt for such acts.
Hunter realizes that they worked at it, realizes the lengths the Dem leadership went to suborn its own party’s representatives, and dismisses the whole idea of “passive acceptance”, yet he focuses on the indefensible nature of the betrayal rather than the reason for it. Maybe he’ll get to that later.
Indeed, it is indefensible on its face, a decision for which there is and can be no excuse or acceptable rationalization. The Democrats openly and shamelessly sold us down the river. The question is, as always, why? Is it cowardice? opportunism? mere election strategy?
I should think if that’s all it was it would be bad enough but Hunter has his finger on what I’ve been saying for some time when he writes, “The Democrats are determined to set themselves as partners in committing crimes.” Yes, Hunter. I know. They are. Two months ago I wrote in “Dump the Dems 5“:
At some point, if you don’t draw a line in the sand and declare “this far but no further” you become a dictator-enabler, an anti-democrat. A Traitor. You may hem and haw and delay until the question is no longer debatable, but when that moment is reached you MUST stand and fight or be accounted a coward, a sell-out, a Traitor to democracy. If you do not, then you and your party – the party that goes along with you – MUST be rejected by democrats because you have betrayed everything they stand for and allied yourself with monarchists who want to return kings to their thrones and send the people packing back to the fetid serfdom from which they emerged 250 years ago.
One CANNOT be a democrat – or a Democrat – if one believes in or supports or aids the reinstitution of monarchy. That ought to be self-explanatory. That it isn’t any more is one of the great sadnesses of Bush’s sad reign.
Call it a prediction if you like. I knew the leadership would get FISA passed despite the numbers of ordinary Democrats who were against it because the leadership are all in the DLC/BD Alliance and the Alliance believes in modern conservative ideals like the restoration of a monarchy – or at least monarchic powers – in America. As Hunter clearly now understands, this was no accident. It was deliberate. It was design.
The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs. They’re under the thumb of a minority of conservative Dems who are, like the Likkud in Israel, warping the party to suit themselves and their conservative agenda. Like conservatives everywhere, they don’t care what the people want, they don’t care what the polls say, and they don’t give a rat’s ass what the majority in their own party thinks. Like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, they’re going to do what they damn well please and if the membership doesn’t like it, fuck em.
And like the Pubs, these are no longer people liberals and progressives can compromise with. The FISA bill proves it. They will simply adopt the Republican trick of claiming a compromise when what they’ve really done is craft the right-wing conservative agreement the conservative minority demands. Whether you take Greenwald’s position or mine, the antidote to this poison is the same: either defeat the BD’s or treat the whole party as if they were Pubs and fight them.
The other thing that Thomas Nephew’s post about his encounter with Eric Alterman throws into sharp relief comes from his commenters. It is the old tension between pragmatic compromise and ideological purity.
Put another way, when does the need to be elected in order to pursue your agenda cross the line into cowardice and/or philosophical emptiness? When does pragmatism turn into win-at-any-cost vapidness? IOW, where exactly is the dividing line between a Paul Wellstone and a Mitt Romney? And is there any room at all for principles? Alterman – and a great many other so-called liberals in the Democratic party – think not.
You know I have a lot of trouble thinking of any principles that I hold more dearly than defeating George Bush in 2000 (2008?) , in the election … [audience laughter] seriously! I think that principles are a form of vanity. Of moral vanity. I think principles are a very useful teaching method for children. I think… but… I have two problems with principles. One is that whatever principle you have I have a competing principle for the same situation. So when you say I’m doing this on principle I can tell you “but there’s another principle that’s at work in the same situation and you’re violating that principle.” So I think principles are what people do instead of making difficult decisions.
(emphasis in the original)
Maybe. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe pragmatism is a way to avoid the certain pain of sticking to difficult principles, principles you believe in but which may make being elected problematic.
I’m not going to discount the nerve, even the courage it takes for a committed believer to compromise his/her beliefs in order to affect a world which will leave him/her out if s/he doesn’t. But otoh, we’re now looking at a situation in the Democratic party where compromise – some say “surrender” – has gone so far that it’s hard to say what the Donkeys stand for any more or even if – like Romney – they can be said to stand for anything at all.
That isn’t a question Alterman or those like him want to discuss. Here’s Paul from Nephew’s comments section:
Thomas, I think you’ve happened upon the tension that occurs between the idealist and the pragmatist.
Alterman is a political opportunist. He’s more concerned with helping his Party obtain more power and influence than achieving goals based on ideals or principles. You may find he and his kind distasteful (as do I on more than a few occasions), but they are a necessary component of the system.
You are an idealist, who believes that the Party should use its power to push through social justice programs for the betterment of the country.
Paul, you’re oversimplifying to the point of condescension about idealists and pragmatists. And you’re also underestimating Thomas’ pragmatism, which his response and many past posts demonstrate.
Exactly. Mr Nephew has been far more willing to compromise than I have been and I’m nothing if not a pragmatist. The difference between the Alterman/Paul school and the Nephew/Nell school is the difference between a group for whom, just as Eric said, defeating George Bush is more important than anything else, and a group that believes it’s just as and perhaps far more important to prosecute accountability in order to prevent a repitition of the Bush/Cheney lawlessness.
But it goes beyond that, even. Defeating Bush is all very well and certainly important for the country. Yet as critical as that victory is, its importance does not allow us to duck the prime question:
And replace him with…what?
Even if we accept the connected propositions that a) defeating Bush is the Prime Directive and b) defeating Bush requires adopting GOP initiatives – which I hasten to say I don’t accept and neither does Thomas or Glenn Greenwald or any number of other lefties who’ve spoken up since the ’06 election who think exactly the opposite – even if you accept that duality, you’re forced to ask what difference it really makes if his replacement is just going to go on pursuing the Bush Agenda or, at a maximum, refuse to undo the damage that has been done so far.
Democrats and liberals have all too plainly been counting on a win in 2008, and have dealt away much of their honor and self-respect in the process of waiting for that blessed event — which may not come. But even if there is a President Obama or a President Clinton next January 10, the value of that victory has already been tarnished by their party’s — and its apologists — craven refusal to hold the most powerful lawbreaker and political criminal in the land to account.
Mr Nephew is convinced – he and Paul have at least this in common – that the Democratic refusal to stop the war, the spying, the torture, and the destruction of the economy that have been hallmarks of the Bush Regime is some sort of campaign strategy that they will jettison once the election is over and the White House is theirs. Far from being too idealistic, Mr Nephew is arguing that the Democrats are chasing the wrong strategy, that unprincipled surrender is a losing strategy.
In point of fact, it’s much more likely that the Democratic refusal to oppiose George Bush has much less to do with winning the election (as Greenwald pointed out months ago, the numbers suggest their willingness to roll over for the Bushies has badly hurt them in opinion polls, thus actually making it harder for them to win the longer they are seen as Bush enablers) than it has with the strong and demonstrable possibility that the Democratic party has been so focused on its need to WIN that it has become poisoned by its own obsession, infected by Republican success with the They’re Right/We’re Wrong Virus. If that’s the case, then they have chosen deflect a base uncomfortable with their new “principles” by using the win-at-any-cost excuse.
And much of the base is buying it.
There’s a legitimate argument here but those of us willing to have it must be just as willing to go all the way to the ultimate questions:
What has the Democratic party become since it was taken over by the neo-liberal New Democrats in the late 80’s?
Do they deserve to win? Are we really going to be any better off with a party that has grown used to making excuses for torture, supporting govt spying, prosecuting an illegal war, and abetting the growth of imperial powers in the presidency as if they aren’t worth worrying about?
David Sirota has another round-up of the latest on the secret trade deal the Democratic leadership is developing with Bush out of the range of cameras or witnesses – or its own rank and file. The deal as a whole involves Peru, Panama, South Korea and Columbia, with different provisions that apply to each country separately as well as a group of provisions they hold in common. Sirota lists half-a-dozen articles and they’re all disturbing but I want to key on the one that is most indefensible: the deal with Panama.
Economist and investment/globalization specialist Peter Riggs of the Tax Justice Network, which describes itself as an outfit devoted to “combating tax evasion by corporations and the rich”, took a good long look at the Panama trade deal. After noting that the Panama and Peru deals have been considered “relatively non-controversial and will probably pass”, he explains that the deal with Panama has nothing to do with trade.
Indeed, the proposed bilateral trade agreement with Panama has skated through without much attention at all. But the agreement with Panama is highly significant. The problem is, the trade agreement with Panama isn’t really about trade. It’s about foreign investor rights, money laundering, and tax dodging. And the United States should in no way reward this notorious offshore tax haven with a “gold star” Free Trade Agreement.
Panama has two major areas of “economic comparative advantage” in the region. One, obviously, is the Canal. But the other is much more insidious-and major U.S. corporations are hoping that no one draws any attention to it.
Panama’s other economic comparative advantages are in the area of tax and banking secrecy, and the ease with which U.S. companies can create subsidiaries in Panama for purposes of dodging taxes.
Panama is already home to a lot of U.S. corporate subsidiaries. How many? Tens of thousands of U.S. corporations have hung out a shingle-or should we say, set up an email box-in that country.
Panama boasts a total of 400,000 registered corporations-second only to Hong Kong as a home to corporations and corporate subsidiaries. Subsidiaries whose sole purpose, in many cases, is to help transnational companies avoid taxes.
In the last few years, Panama has been consistently condemned by the G-7’s Financial Action Task Force for “resisting international norms in combating tax evasion and money laundering.” The Clinton Administration several times “vigorously expressed its concern about loose corporate accountability standards in Panama, and the murkiness of the Panamanian banking sector.” But the Bush Administration’s deal with Panama – a deal the Democratic leadership is pushing hard – is not only enshrining those low standards and “murkiness” in law, it’s going one step further and allowing corporations to evade both trade laws and courts.
DLC Mastermind and GOP camp-follower Bob Shrum actually had the balls to go on last night’s Daily Show and refer to himself as a progressive. And not just a progressive, but a leader of the progressive movement over 25 years.
It would appear that the Republicans aren’t the only ones living in BizarroLand.
Ready for a third party now?
There’s an interesting argument/discussion/debate going on between Eric Martin of Total Information Awareness and publius of Obsidian Wings about Hillary Clinton that I suspect is a foretaste of the controversy that’s building in the Left Blogosphere as her candidacy intensifies and the primaries get closer. I haven’t been invited and have no business sticking my neck into this, so of course that’s precisely what I’m going to do. I haven’t made up my mind about Clinton yet, and the points brought up by each of them are the ones I’ve been debating with myself (mostly; there’s one element that bothers me that neither of them mentioned, at least not directly). And I don’t think I’m (we’re) alone in that.
publius begins with noting that he can’t get up any enthusiasm for Hillary and he’s wondering why.
I also don’t really care about her 2002 vote. A lot of smart people supported the war in good conscience. No, what bothers me is not her initial support, but her ongoing support in the face of obvious and ongoing failures. What bothers me is her prolonged post-war silence. As Yglesias has documented, she consciously played up an image as a war supporter and a hawk for years. In doing so, she essentially abandoned progressives on the foreign policy and national security fronts until very recently. “Abandon,” I think, is the most appropriate word to use. After all, the netroots’ skepticism of Clinton is rooted in the feeling that she left everyone out to dry when they could have really benefited from her speaking out.
Eric defines this as the standard criticism that she is “cynical and calculating”, responding:
The second criticism has been unfairly attributed to Clinton quite consistently throughout her political career – at least when compared to other politicians. It’s not that Clinton doesn’t possess these strategic imperatives, it’s that the groupthink has settled in such that Hillary has come to represent the conniving electoral gamesmanship of politicians in general. Let me divulge a secret though: ALL politicians have political aspirations, and the vast majority are looking to the next election, or next “promotion” available. Does anyone doubt that perennial candidate John McCain has wanted to be President for a very long time? That he has taken cynical, calculated steps to facilitate these goals. Yet, his career is not marked with the same level of suspicion as Hillary’s. How about George “clearing some brush on my ranch” Bush? Come on people.
But I’ll go further: since political power comes through winning elections, I actually admire Hillary’s desire and ability to play the electoral game. Good on her. Whereas the cold, calculating maneuvering of other politicians is greeted with praise and admiration at the skill and mastery at how they can game the system, with Hillary, for some reason, it’s viewed as unseemly and improper. It would be myopic to discount the influence of sexism on this rather obvious double standard.
(quote edited to correct one obvious typo)
While I think Eric’s characterization is fair and accurate as far as it goes, I also think, with all due respect, he’s missing the main point. What publius seems to be on about is less her maneuvering than her lack of leadership. Asking “Where was she?” is a fair question. While others were sticking their necks out and sometimes getting them chopped off, where was Hillary? Hiding in a bunker?
At the point when a political figure lets other people take all the risks and suffer all the consequences of an unpopular stand she will later adopt as her own, cynicism is not uncalled for. More importantly, it raises perfectly legitimate questions about what she would do as president. (more…)