Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 24, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE NATIONAL SECURITY DILEMMA....Publius defends the Democratic Party leadership here. He makes some pretty good points. If you don't have the votes, you don't have the votes (though the whole Armenian genocide thing was pretty amateurish). Then he says this:

Granted, FISA is a different story. I strongly disagree with the leadership, but I also recognize it's a much thornier political issue in the swing districts and swing states that determine political power.

OK, so what do we think about this? The liberal blogosphere shares several widely held principles, and two of them come into conflict here:

  1. As political realists, we should give some breathing room to centrist Dems in reddish districts. Ideological straitjackets don't build majorities.

  2. The Democratic Party needs to get a spine. Nobody respects a weakling.

National security is where this particular rubber hits the road most conspicuously. The reason we can't defund the war is because Dems in swing districts think they'll lose their seats if a Republican opponent can club them over the head next year with a 24/7 barrage of grainy black-and-white commercials accusing them of not supporting our troops. Ditto for FISA, Kyl-Lieberman, the "General Betray-us" ad, shutting down Guantanamo, the Military Commissions Act, and a host of other related issues.

So here's my question: when we blogosphere types complain about this weak-kneed attitude, are we complaining because (a) we think the centrists are wrong; they could keep their seats in marginal districts even if they toed the progressive line on national security issues. Or (b) because we don't care; they should do the right thing even if it means losing next November?

Kevin Drum 11:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (155)

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When I argue the position it is both. President 25% and his merry band of fuck-ups aren't able to drive the nation at this point. The only reason to think they could is that you are a moron and don't recognize that fact. And even if I am 100% wrong, it is still the right thing to do.

Posted by: heavy on October 24, 2007 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

All of the above. B first, but then A. Warrantless wiretapping is the kind of thing that, if you weigh it politically, proves you are unfit to uphold the Constitution. That said, upholding the Constitution and doing it proudly and loudly will get you votes, so the answer is "both."

Posted by: abject funk on October 24, 2007 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

buckle up kevin -- i got, um, criticized rather sharply in the comments over there. this is a really passion-driven fault-line. i'm not sure i understood the depths of it.

Posted by: publius on October 24, 2007 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

I would also add that the Democratic positions on these issues is not the "progressive" position, it is the Constitutional position.

Putting it that way makes it so much tougher and refreshing, something the Dems, for some reason, cannot or will not do at this point (aside from Dodd, Feingold, and a few other noteworthy badasses).

Posted by: abject funk on October 24, 2007 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

(a)

Posted by: jrw on October 24, 2007 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with abject funk, that if you're weighing the FISA issue as a matter of 'what won't piss off my electorate more', then you've ultimately failed the first test.

Not to mention that a good half of the votes on these contentious issues came from Senators who don't face votes for at least another 4 to 6 years. It's hard to say that these votes will immediately send them in the dog house with the electorate with that many years to rehab their image. There's no excuse for those who are already out of the electoral troubled waters, so to speak.

Posted by: Kryptik on October 24, 2007 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

"The reason we can't defund the war is because Dems in swing districts think they'll lose their seats if a Republican opponent can club them over the head next year with a 24/7 barrage of grainy black-and-white commercials accusing them of not supporting our troops. Ditto for FISA, Kyl-Lieberman, the "General Betray-us" ad, shutting down Guantanamo, the Military Commissions Act, and a host of other related issues."

On what planet is this not already happening? Did you sleep through the Max-Cleland-As-Osama episode?

You really expect us to believe that Republican attack ads are somehow based on reality? Wake up, Kevin.

Posted by: scarshapedstar on October 24, 2007 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

What happens when Democrats stand up to the most unpopular president in polling history?

How many angels can dance on a head of a pin?

What difference does it make? Neither one is ever observed...

Posted by: anonymous on October 24, 2007 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

It depends on the issue. The FISA issue is Constitutional. If an elected official can't see that one he or she should be voted out of office. The General Betrayus ad is purely political. If a Democratic Congressman needs to distance himself from MoveOn that is alright by me.

Kyl-Lieberman involves the question of whether another war in the Middle East is in America's best interests. Lets ask the real questions at the heart of Kyl-Lieberman. First, what is the upside to America of a war with Iran? Exactly what do we expect to gain from such a war. Second, what is the downside? Is America safer if we make enemies out of the Iranians for at least 100 years?

Third, what about Israel? I suspect a lot of the really serious people pushing the war with Iran think such a war will enhance Israeli security. Will it? The future is a long time. The sun is going to come up a lot of times. After a while America is going to get bored with doing Israeli bidding. What happens to Israel if it remains perpetually at war with its enemies? I don't see going to war with Iran as being in the long term best interests of Israel. I might be missing something. What?

Each of the other issues demand similar independent examination.

Posted by: corpus juris on October 24, 2007 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

SPEAKING of "having the votes", here's some essential reading on the state of "democracy" in Amerika:

Will the GOP Election Theft Machine Do It Again in 2008?
By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman [The Free Press]

With record low approval ratings for the Bush/Cheney regime and the albatross of an unpopular war hanging from the GOP's neck, do you think that a Democratic presidential candidate will win the White House, get us out of Iraq, and end our long national nightmare?

Think again - the mighty election theft machine Karl Rove used to steal the US presidency in 2000 and 2004 may be under attack, but it is still in place for the upcoming 2008 election.

With his usual devious mastery, Rove has seized upon the national outrage sparked by his electoral larceny and used it as smokescreen while he makes the American electoral system even MORE unfair, and even EASIER to rig. Thus the administration has fired federal attorneys when they would not participate in a nationwide campaign to deny minorities and the poor their access to the polls. It has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to install electronic voting machines that can be "flipped" with a few keystrokes. And under the guise of "reforming" our busted electoral system, it is setting us up for another presidential theft in 2008. ...
__________

To think!: Once upon a time the saying was "My vote cancels yours." Now it's simply "Your vote is subject to cancelation."

Posted by: Poilu on October 24, 2007 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

Hispano-fascism and infiltration of terrorists are far and away the greatest security threats, and Dick Durbin is leading the way in pro-terror.

Posted by: Luther on October 24, 2007 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with questions like these is that people who are actually in the "B" camp will answer "A", and think they really mean it. I've been dealing with these people long enough now to know that they don't actually care about winning, and the ability to influence policy that goes along with it; they just want a "tough" Democratic Party -- a party that "takes a stand," and damn the consequences. But they will actually argue at length that this approach will win elections (if it did, wouldn't the Republicans, dug in behind the immovable object that is the Bush presidency, still have a majority in Congress? But
I digress...). We have our share of people who are such ideologues that their judgment, and capacity for intellectual honesty along with it, become warped, just like the other side does.

Posted by: Martin Gale on October 24, 2007 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the whole point of HAVING a senate with six year terms was to put a decision making group in the process that isn't constantly worried about their next election. Consider that even the senators in swing states probably have a 99% re-election guarantee due to incumbency. Even bringing the subject up shows how utterly gutless they are.

Posted by: Midland on October 24, 2007 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

(a)

There is no evidence that all these issues that matter so much to us on the left make much of a difference to centrist voters. Maybe if these guys took a leadership role on a controversial issue, but just voting for it will maybe make it into an ad, but definitely make almost no difference on their reelection prospects. See openleft.com for various analyses of this. The simplest argument for this is just that many centrists do not vote against their party, and are reelected just fine.

A totally separate argument is that these guys deserve to lose if they aren't helping the party and can't even fend off a Betrayus attack ad; replace them with someone more worthwhile. But the main point is (a) -- they are cowards that no actual polling data suggests would lose based on these votes, much like the Democratic leadership recently.

Posted by: JD on October 24, 2007 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

(a) is the correct answer. Nobody respects, or wants to vote for, candidates who demonstrate that they are unprincipled cowards. Or if they aren't unprincipled cowards, are willing to act that way. What's the difference? Progressives need to effectively demonstrate that they can support and defend vulnerable Democrats who do the right thing.

Posted by: jimbo on October 24, 2007 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

So here's my question: when we blogosphere types complain about this weak-kneed attitude, are we complaining because (a) we think the centrists are wrong; they could keep their seats in marginal districts even if they toed the progressive line on national security issues. Or (b) because we don't care; they should do the right thing even if it means losing next November?

The FISA collapse doesn't fit here. Legislators' consituents are not clamoring for immunizing the telecommunications companies; it's the Bush administration, lobbyists, and their shills who are making what little noise there is. Dodd, Feingold, and the principled minority are making the only logical argument in Congress. The other side--insisting on retroactive immunity--is simply insisting, offering no argument and no evidence for its position.

The frame you set with your question doesn't capture what is (and what is not) going on with FISA. Senators are not folding because they have been convinced by evidence or legislative reasoning; they are capitulating without a fight and without explanation. In the absence of transparency and public debate, I have to guess that money is the deciding factor here.

Posted by: Boolaboola on October 24, 2007 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's (a). Emphatically so.

The lesson of the 2006 election was that clear, forthright opposition to the Iraq fiasco was a winner, and "blue dog" Republican-lite-ism was a loser. Cf. Harold Ford. Of course, none of this stopped the Beltway swells from trying to spin the 2006 election as some triumph of the moderate or conservative Democrat.

The party that shows that it stands clearly for something and is willing to fight for it is likely to sweep along many undecideds. Ceding to Bush and his enablers the privilege of setting the parameters of acceptable discourse is insane, especially as we know how a large swath of the population has finally seen the bankruptcy of so-called conservatism and is ready and willing to embrace a new set of guiding principles and values.

Build it and they will come. But if you go to the other side's field, no matter how hard you play, you'll always be the Away team.

Posted by: ppg on October 24, 2007 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

if it did, wouldn't the Republicans, dug in behind the immovable object that is the Bush presidency, still have a majority in Congress? But
I digress...

The difference here is the fact that the public is on the Democrats' side on most issues in theory. Just that most of the Democrats we have won't actually fight to support that side.

Whereas the Republicans continue on a bullheaded march with the same unpopular platform and positions that continue to dig themselves deeper in a hole with the public. The only reason their succeeding politically is because the Democrats keep conceding, out of some idiotic sense of reconciliation or need for some kind of facade of bipartisanship. That's where the outrage is coming from. Dems were elected because the public wanted them to change things. They're responding by actively capitulating instead of passively. That's unconscionable.

Posted by: Kryptik on October 24, 2007 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

or we think option c) If Dems in congress fight and show spine it might help in swing districts.

A lot of swing voters I know are fed up with the Republicans but feel that the Dems don't stand for anyting. That Dems in Congress will do whatever it takes to get elected. If you cave to the Republicans on issues when they call you names, how will voters know what you will do when the going gets REALLY tough?

Posted by: little blue dot on October 24, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

Little blue dot has a point.

A lot of the perception of weakness is precisely the fact that many Dems seem to appear too calculating. They don't make a stand. It doesn't help that much of that calculation is bat**** wrong too. Like the idea that they need to go along with the REpublican scheme du jour or they'll look soft on terror and weak. The irony that's lost on them is that it's that very capitulation that makes them look weak in the first place.

Posted by: Kryptik on October 24, 2007 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

As someone has noted above, even if the Dems do not defund the war, there is no guarantee that they will be spared GOP attacks that they are weak on national security. As a matter of fact the attacks are guaranteed even if the Dems pour in extra trillions in the hell hole of Iraq.

I for one am tired of the Dems making such execuses for their spinelessness.

Posted by: gregor on October 24, 2007 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

What I wouldn't give for a politician to say to the voters "if you don't like my decision...vote me out of office. I am trying to lead, but I will stop my efforts once you let me know you no longer want me in this position."

It is not as if any of the politicos will have a hard time at life after losing an election. It's really, really crazy when you think about it, that is, deciding how to vote based on politics instead of an idea about what is the correct thing to do, consequences (minimal at that) be damned.

Anyone who says anything about "political realities" is merely talking about "re-election realiities" and that is such a sad and vacant way to address issues such as life and death, wealth and poverty, hope and despair, as to be immediately disqualifying.

Especially when everyone elected to congress, by definition, is rich based on their salaries, and almost always independently wealthy aside from their congress critter renumeration.

Posted by: abject funk on October 24, 2007 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

On some issues, it is true that loyal Democrats are in the minority (given Lieberman and a couple of conservative Dems who will defect). But on such issues, the Democrats need to adopt tactics suited to a minority: use the rules of the Senate to stop actions that violate basic principles.

It doesn't take 60 votes or 67 votes. Where funding is concerned, 41 will do. Without 41 votes, Bush can be blocked from doing all kinds of things, but too many Democrats are afraid to use such tactics.

Posted by: Joe Buck on October 25, 2007 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly (a) is the proper road to take. No matter how they vote, those Dems in dicey districts are going to get hammered over the head by Republican opponents for not being supportive of the troops. Tell them that THEY should frame the issue and not wait for the Repubs to do it for them. THEY should jump on the very things that got them elected in the first place and force the Repubs on the defensive on issues, and there are a multitude of them, where the Repubs are weak.... corruption, health care, social security, etc. etc. etc.

Posted by: Claimsman on October 25, 2007 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

I couldn't disagree more, as this defense of the Democrats entirely misses the point: the Democrats aren't pursuing the appropriate strategy given their inability to override filibusters.

First, they need to be far more aggressive in politicizing each vote, i.e. they need to scream bloody murder at Republican obstructionism. They need to do this for months on end before the average voter will even notice. If the concept of 'Republican obstructionism' gains traction, you can help the average voter draw the conclusion that Democrats aren't to blame for the lack of progress on Iraq, health care, etc. but Republicans. The solution? Elect more Democrats.

The failure to do this has left the congress with a lower approval rating than Bush, with few people appreciating who is to blame.

Second, if you can build up enough consensus that Republicans are obstructionists, you can start to do what the Republicans did: start demanding an 'up or down vote' on every bill, or threaten to remove the filibuster.

Third, if you can't pass a bill, you don't have to worry about the consequences of it being implemented. Vote to bring the troops home every month, then you'll be in a better position to unseat Republican incumbents who voted against bringing the troops home over a dozen times.

There's even an upside to getting enough votes to provoke a presidential veto: you can now tell the American people that the only thing standing in between them and X (whatever the bill is - bringing the troops home, universal health care, etc.) is a Republican president.

Sadly the Democrats are completely and utterly failing to leverage their position to their advantage in the upcoming election. Pelosi and Reid are both incompetent wallflowers that exhibit almost nothing in the way of leadership, charisma, backbone, or even sound strategic thinking. Heaven help this country if they remain in power and in control of the Democrats until the '08 election.

Posted by: Augustus on October 25, 2007 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

This is not the question you asked, but in relation to the other part of the post "if you don't have the votes, you don't have the votes", there is a difference between not getting the legislation you want passed, or passed without a veto or threat of a filibuster, and passing bad legislation. The democrats have passed bad legislation that the did not have to. Leaving FISA alone would ahve been better than the law they passed. Of course, you have to defend your position, but then you get to the question you asked, in which I agree with those who say both a and b. You defend the consitution, and there is enough resonance with that throughout the country that you could defend that position. but you hav to do it, and be aggressive and clear in your explanation to the public. Many of us are disappointed in the democrats that they cannot speak as eloquently about this as I read many times a week by in posts by digby, publius, greenwald and others.
Just an added point, FISA in particular seems to be as much about the corporate money as much as defending your position.

Posted by: patrick on October 25, 2007 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

There is a way to do right and be right. The democrats are doing neither now.

They have made no attempt to take the message to the people. Do they even understand the message? We have criminals in charge.

There. Is that hard to understand?

1 The country poll after poll has shown that it knows what the problem is. But the dems have not even begun to change the terms of debate to focus on showing the country that it understands those concerns.

2 They have not taken over the levers of power -why does Joe Lieberman still have a chairmanship? That is so basic that it is dumbfounding and Reid should just go home in shame. Pelosi can take the next flight.

3 Why do the Democrats flinch every time the GOP SAYS it will fillerbuster? Why do the Democrats end up defining bipartisanship as doing whatever the GOP says should be done?

4 There is of course no unified voice in the Democratic party. The GOP overcame with with its contract. Can't the Dems come up with a oh I don't know let's call it a platform?

If I was there I would kick the Democrats ass too regardless of whether or not I agreed with them of Bush - Just because I could and I would get my Rep stoked.

Shit this ain't rocket science.


Posted by: paulo on October 25, 2007 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody respects, or wants to vote for, candidates who demonstrate that they are unprincipled cowards.

Your theory doesn't hold water. Need I remind you that two of the biggest Vietnam-eligible warmongers this country has seen took a pass on that one?

Posted by: junebug on October 25, 2007 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

Successful Dems throughout history didn't shrink from their policies. They talked about them as if they were right and the other guys are wrong, period, end of story. Dems today start the discussion by conceding certain basic assumptions to the Rs and are immediately on the defensive, which puts the centrists at a disadvantage against a swaggering, doubt-free election opponent.

Dems, progressives and centrist alike, need to do a better job of selling their position as the strong, patriotic one and branding the witless, fanatical Rs as the ones destroying the country with their policies. It's a pretty simple message: stupidity is a form of weakness. The situation we're in today is because Republicans were spectacularly, stupidly wrong about everything, and we'll do better. Most Dems actually believe this. They just don't talk like they believe it.

Posted by: robsalk on October 25, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

I really can't imagine I have to write this Kevin (I mean, you are by far one of the smartest bloggers around) but the WORST thing the Democratic leadership has done is allowing embarrassing votes reach the floor. That's PSCI 101. How do I know this - It's the class I bloody teach! Besides the fact that Democrats are allowing WORSE legislature to reach the floor (FISA for example) they also allow floor votes that make them look bad! This is pathetic. Policy preferences aside, I can take my VERY WORST students and they can explain to you how majorities and the Congressional committee system works. Why Democrats can't figure this system out boggles my freakin' mind. They continue to look bad Politically, Strategically, and Morally. That I cannot abide.

Posted by: Augie on October 25, 2007 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

If you define a centrist as someone who, in order to be reelected allows the subversion of the Constitution to be redefined as protecting the country, your center is seriously in need of recalibration.

The root question here is, are the voters smart enough choose wisely if presented with a principled framing of an issue. If the answer is no, we've got bigger problem than campaign strategy.

Posted by: skip on October 25, 2007 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

I worked for many years in the Hawaii Legislature for the House Majority Democratice leadership, and since I was the person in charge of scheduling bills for votes on the House floor, I understand a little something about parliamentary procedure.

The one ironclad instruction the Hawaii House Speaker had for me was this: If we (meaning the majority) even have an inkling that we might not have the votes, we don't schedule the bill until we know for certain that we do.

Democrats in Congress need to play hardball, and not be so accommodating professionally to their colleagues across the aisle. Democrats control the calendar, which is no insubstanial power. They need to be smart in how they wield it. Once a bill makes it to the floor, it's subject to any number of amendments or procedural motions, and it's easy to lose control of the measure's fate.

Sen. Harry Reid should not calendar the FISA bill for a vote. Let the Senate Republicans (and Joe Lieberman) come up with the 60 votes, for a change, in order to pull it to the floor. Why do the procedural work for them?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on October 25, 2007 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

Your theory doesn't hold water. Need I remind you that two of the biggest Vietnam-eligible warmongers this country has seen took a pass on that one?

Who's the biggest coward, the coward or the coward who cowers before him?

Posted by: Boronx on October 25, 2007 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

Whatever happened to (c)?:

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
~Benjamin Franklin

Pandering to mere political prurience or would-be "expedience" is not the function of the citizenry OR the press, of which bloggers should consider themselves a part. Our job is to demand what's right and in the common interest, regardless of the targeted recipient's "political affiliation".

If you believe the Democrats have presented a significant alternative to the prior Republican domination, you simply haven't been paying attention. And what's the good of tacitly accepting an allegedly "pragmatic" posture of utter moral ambivalence from a political party, merely to have it retain "control" and thereby CONTINUE engaging in the same "politically expedient" moral ambivalence? That very notion sets a precedent for a continuum of APPEASEMENT where staunch opposition is what's earnestly needed! (Need I even mention Neville Chamberlain?)

The Republikans have pretty much "crashed and burned" already. But the Democratic Party appears fully poised to nullify its own "advantage" by adopting a tactic of "weasel and burn." Let them TAKE A STAND, for Chrisake! They might even get RE-elected for such notable expressions of integity. (Consider Cynthia McKinney's congressional "resurrection" -- not her last, I certainly hope!)

What the Democrats need to do, campaign-wise, is to play a little "hard ball" of their own by, this time accurately, resurrecting ad strategies similar to the anti-Goldwater campaign of the 1960's -- i.e., depict further Republikan rule as the ushering in of UNLIMITED war, complete with mushroom clouds! In our time, that scenario is not at ALL "far-fetched".

The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave man only one.

Posted by: Poilu on October 25, 2007 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

You garner nothing but contempt when you run from a fight because you are afraid to lose. Stand firm against Bush, and if the 70% of Americans opposed to the war turn on us, then let them have their damn war. We can't run as Republican-lite and then turn into Liberal warriors after we are elected.

Posted by: GrinningGrouse on October 25, 2007 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

Donald - off topic, but I need to talk to you about native rights in Hawaii, and what I heard on NPR today. I am emailing you right now...

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on October 25, 2007 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

The reason we can't defund the war is because Dems in swing districts think they'll lose their seats if a Republican opponent can club them over the head next year with a 24/7 barrage of grainy black-and-white commercials accusing them of not supporting our troops.

Good. If a Dem can't put principals in front of price then he/she shouldn't be there. Period. Fuck the posers...

Posted by: elmo on October 25, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

Amen, Poilu.

I will die on my feet, thank you. All others are welcome to live on their knees if they wish, but as for me?

Should that day come, I would make it a point to have my name fall from trembling lips. I would want my visage on posters with REWARD! across my forehead. I would want the merest mention of my name to invoke terror in the psyche of my enemy.

I would not rest so long as my enemy could rest.

Doubt me? Try me.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on October 25, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

The price you pay to nowhere has increased a dollar more...

Posted by: elmo on October 25, 2007 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

The reason we can't defund the war is because Dems in swing districts think they'll lose their seats if a Republican opponent can club them over the head next year with a 24/7 barrage of grainy black-and-white commercials accusing them of not supporting our troops.

Really? They really think to lose their seats to Republicans? The Republicans who still mindlessly support a historically unpopular president? The Republicans who, while 80%+ of the country wants out of Iraq, want to keep surging away? The Republicans who spent the 2006 campaign arguing a vote for the Democrats would have our troops leaving Iraq and our government following the whims of MoveOn, and then failed to win a single seat?

*Those* Republicans?

Let's be honest here - after the debacle of the last couple of years, the Republicans can't say shit about national security, and most people aren't buying into them even if they're saying it. Arguing that you fear the mighty Republican response is 100% bullshit - it's like saying you can't defund because Rush will get mad, or you won't get on Don Imus' show! It's "no one anticipated the levees breaching" stupid - the person saying it is either a completely misguided idiot, or actually lying to you, or both. Either way, such a person shouldn't be anywhere near Congress.

Posted by: a1 on October 25, 2007 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

both.

there's some risk of it losing seats, but: (1) not, in most cases, a very high risk; (2) worth it.

Posted by: Katherine on October 25, 2007 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

Why are we concerned about keeping a majority? So we can do nothing again? This is absurd. I am so disappointed. Hell, we're in danger of losing the majority for not doing anything, not doing too much. A1's response was right on the money.

Posted by: Lazlo on October 25, 2007 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

To echo and expand on scarshapedstar, on the big picture stuff, any Democrat will be painted soft on terror, a tax-and-spend liberal, etc. so you ought to go ahead and fight those battles with your head up.

I always thought that the idea behind allowing Democrats in more conservative districts some leeway is that they may need to help out local constituencies and industries by supporting bad policies (i.e. ethanol subsidies in a corn producing district). Either that or it means, generally for straight male progressives, that we should look the other way for conservative Democrats voting for anti-woman and anti-gay bills.


But really, how many Americans think it's absolutely necessary to our national security that telecom companies have retroactive immunity? What is the attack ad against a Democrat voting against that going to say? It would need about five minutes of straight exposition to even explain the connection.

Posted by: rufustfyrfly on October 25, 2007 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

I think the idea that swing districters lose their seats if you defund the war is flat wrong. I guess if everyone decided to pretend that defunding the war ment letting troops in the field run out of bullets rather than forcing their withdrawl then it might be a problem, but of course that's not true at all.

Oh wait...

Seriously, defunding the war is a political winner in swing districts if it's advocated forcefully and effectively. The problem is reps lack the stones (and in some cases the ernest belief) to do so.

Sure you can say that polling is mixed and this is unclear. It is. But that's true in a universe where defunding the war is not the unified accepted and argued position of the Democratic party. If it were, i think it's reasonable to expect that forcefully making the argument could increase support for that policy.

Also, morally it is the right thing to do. I would rather end the war 6 months early and lose a majority. Because LESS PEOPLE WOULD DIE FOR NO REASON. And that's GOOD.

Sort of sad that this needs to be said.

Posted by: IMU on October 25, 2007 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

It's a testament to the perceived strength of the well oiled rightwing propaganda machine that few dems are willing to risk confronting it. Sure they have a couple of decades of think-tank research supporting their proganda efforts, but if we don't have any confidence in the power (and desire of the people) of truth, then where does that leave us. We have got to vigorously oppose them, don't be afraid to call a lie a lie. If the people are so lost that they won't respond to that, then all is lost anyway.

Posted by: bigTom on October 25, 2007 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

This is supposed to be the Mother Fucking United States of America, God Dammit. And if it's not going to stand for what it was supposed to stand for, government by the people for the people, of the people--and a government of laws, then it has no business existing.

So b.

Posted by: MNPundit on October 25, 2007 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

Blech, the B is on FISA and Torture. Like it or not, it seems a plurality of Americans support torturing the darkies over there somewhere.

For everything else, it's A.

Posted by: MNPundit on October 25, 2007 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

So MNPundit has my back. Anyone else?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on October 25, 2007 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

Arguments 1 & 2 - It doesn't matter, and it's just not Iraq. It's the whole cave to Bush mentality.
I worked hard, and gave hundreds, to Dem's in 2004 under the belief that they meant what they said - if a majority, things would change. What a chump I was!
While the situation with the base for Dems may not be as dire as for the Repubs, since more of the fickle middle is currently leaning their way, the Dems are still in trouble.
I've given up on them. Their flyers go in recycling. Their calls go on the take me off list. And, living in Michigan, where they refuse to campaign, although not take my money - fuck 'em.
The only place I see where they might make a difference is in the courts, especially the Supreme. But they've pretty much rolled on that too.
As a previous lifelong & committed Dem, fuck 'em.

Posted by: sal on October 25, 2007 at 3:02 AM | PERMALINK

sal, Dems really don't campaign in Michigan? That seems rather impractical.

I wonder if there's some sort of grassroots way to push for a change of leadership. I would hate for this to become a regular way of putting pressure on a Dem congress, but they have been given a year and I am really not impressed. Does anyone know if there's something like this in the works?

Politicians are craven, opportunistic bastards. Surely someone more competent than Nancy Reid can be persuaded to take the reins if he or she knew they had popular support among Dems.

Posted by: sweaty guy on October 25, 2007 at 3:24 AM | PERMALINK

Why don't the Dems break the FISA bill in two? One can be the technical fix they thought they'd agreed on with McConnell before the August recess; the other can have whatever else the Blue Dogs want in it.

The Dems can pass the first one and get it to Bush quickly. Then they can tie the second one in procedural knots in the Senate, which would still give the Blue Dogs in the House a chance to vote for it.

Looks like win-win to me.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on October 25, 2007 at 6:11 AM | PERMALINK

Most Americans at heart are cruel, unthinking, xenophobic, homophobic fascists. As long as Republican politicians appeal to those traits Democrats will have an extremely difficult time dominating the legislative agenda. How to win the battle? Democrats also need to appeal to the desires of the majority. Goose step, goose step, goose step.................

Posted by: steve duncan on October 25, 2007 at 6:21 AM | PERMALINK

B at the core, but almost certainly A as well.

Sure, there's a *risk* involved that Republicans will be mad at you and do mean-er things when you don't pass their legislation, but as many have said they'll probably do that anyway. There will *always* be something to use as a club. There will always be veterans to accuse you of sucking up to someone.

The extent of the risk depends on how the Democrats *behave* - gonna underline a previous commenter -

Successful Dems throughout history didn't shrink from their policies. They talked about them as if they were right and the other guys are wrong, period, end of story. Dems today start the discussion by conceding certain basic assumptions to the Rs and are immediately on the defensive, which puts the centrists at a disadvantage against a swaggering, doubt-free election opponent

Amen.

Posted by: glasnost on October 25, 2007 at 6:37 AM | PERMALINK

the congressional oath of office:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."

bush ignoring FISA is only a political issue for members who forget their oath of office.

Posted by: supersaurus on October 25, 2007 at 6:45 AM | PERMALINK

I vote for all of the above. Even if we lose a few districts somewhere, I think we'd pick up more elsewhere. I think Dem turnout would improve a lot if people thought they actually stood for something. And besides, these are not issues that should be compromised on. What profiteth it a party or a country to gain a swing district yet lose its soul?

Posted by: jussumbody on October 25, 2007 at 7:26 AM | PERMALINK

B.

Particularly with regard to Bush's illegal and unconstitutional wiretapping program. He should have been impeached for that within 24 hours of the Dems taking over Congress. I don't care one whit about the politics of it.

Posted by: Toast on October 25, 2007 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

Considering the life of luxury most of our ex-congresscritters lead as lobbyists and defense industry employees -- in the very few instances where they actually DO get un-elected -- you'd think they wouldn't be so worried about getting re-elected. I'd bet Santorum, for example, is making a shitload more money now from wingnut welfare than he ever did legally (and I emphasize the 'legally' part) as a Senator. Or does that only work for Republican ex-representatives?

As to your question though - I'm past the point of caring why they are so spineless. I don't particularly care if Dems in red districts lose because they won't vote for democratic principles. Be gone with them then! Might as well let the republicans win in their districts, for all the difference it makes.

Posted by: gypsy howell on October 25, 2007 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

How about I'm okay with the Democrats compromising on the war, given how slim their control of the Senate is. Our political system is designed to resist change until there is overwhelming support for change.

But at the same time, compromising on the FISA bill was stupid and gratuitous.

And if Telecom Amnesty goes through I'm not voting in the next election.

Posted by: DBake on October 25, 2007 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Neither a nor b is true. These are the same people who said that the democrats would get clobbered in 06 if they ran against the occupation.

This weird idea that being against this disastrous occupation is "toeing a progressive line" needs to be stifled. These are WINNING issues in November.

Now whether the Rahm and consultants are, perhaps like the republicans, bed-wetting pantywaists, scared of their own shadows or are, perhaps like the republicans, venially committed to corrupt beltway political practice, is not relevant.

Run against the occupation. Run on the Constitution. If they call you weak on Terra, call them scaredy-cats. They're AFRAID of the big, bad Iranians? The Cubans make 'em wet their pants? There are guys in caves who thing bad things about America?

Make fun of them. Don't get fooled again.

Posted by: jayackroyd on October 25, 2007 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Neither a nor b is true. These are the same people who said that the democrats would get clobbered in 06 if they ran against the occupation.

This weird idea that being against this disastrous occupation is "toeing a progressive line" needs to be stifled. These are WINNING issues in November.

Now whether the Rahm and consultants are, perhaps like the republicans, bed-wetting pantywaists, scared of their own shadows or are, perhaps like the republicans, venially committed to corrupt beltway political practice, is not relevant.

Run against the occupation. Run on the Constitution. If they call you weak on Terra, call them scaredy-cats. They're AFRAID of the big, bad Iranians? The Cubans make 'em wet their pants? There are guys in caves who thing bad things about America?

Make fun of them. Don't get fooled again.

Posted by: jayackroyd on October 25, 2007 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

The answer is a. This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

Posted by: G'kar on October 25, 2007 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

It's pretty obvious that "centrist Dems" are of marginal popularity not because they are Dems, but because they are "centrist".

There's also no point in winning office to do the wrong thing. Progressives will be less willing to vote for you, and that means you may very well lose because you try to curry favor of right-wing voters. Right-wingers aren't going to vote for you, anyway. (Harold Ford.)

A good politician should be able to make their case to their constituents. Hell, even the Republicans have managed to do that, and they have no case. With 53-88% of Americans supporting progressive policies, it shouldn't be that hard for a decent liberal politician to make the case and win.

We don't need more Republican-Lite Democrats. They hurt us dramatically, because they make the whole party look bad.

Posted by: Avedon on October 25, 2007 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

It's (a), Kevin.

I'm wondering if you live in a bubble. "Letting corporations break the law" is not a popular position anywhere.

Let's be honest why people in Congress are helping the telcoms. It's not because they are "afraid" of "looking weak". It's good old-fashion money talking. Telcoms have lots of money and politicians like people with money.

Posted by: RickD on October 25, 2007 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, no one understands the FISA issue. You can explain it and explain it, but all you do is confuse people because it's a technical matter that most people do not understand.

If our intelligence agencies are serious about catching terrorists, they'll use the appropriate technology to do so. Warrants will be issued where appropriate, and so on and so forth. No reasonable person would conclude that there would be any roadblocks in their way.

This issue centers around a roadblock that exists solely to keep these intelligence agencies from spying on US persons. Once and for all--you do not turn the vast spying apparatus of the United States on US persons WITHOUT A WARRANT. Note that, as long as you have a warrant, you can eavesdrop on US persons.

There is no way a Democrat can win on this issue--precisely because the Republicans will shamelessly exploit fear, ignorance, and confusion in order to score political points. That is entirely the MO of Karl Rove and his disciples. If you had a decent discussion of these issues, all sides could reach a compromise and move on. It should not be a political decision but the Republicans realized that, because they are wrong on the war and haven't caught bin Laden and have squandered every ounce of goodwill, they cannot remain politically viable without resorting to scare tactics and fear mongering.

So get a goddamned warrant. That way, we haven't completely shredded the constitution because of our fear of the bogeyman. Insist on warrants, and call the Republicans on their tactics. Expose their tactics. Take care of the issue at hand and remind people why they can't be trusted. The Democrats need to make an issue out of the dishonest fear mongering of the Republicans, especially as it relates to their presidential candidates.

End of story.

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 25, 2007 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin presents a false choice to choose from. The reason 'we' can't defund the war is not "because Dems in swing districts think they'll lose their seats if a Republican opponent can club them over the head next year with a 24/7 barrage of grainy black-and-white commercials accusing them of not supporting our troops." The reason 'we' can't defund the war is because most Democrats in Congress support the war.

They support it! They don't want to defund it!

So so so so so many liberal commenters keep making the mistake of thinking that Democrats in Congress believe what they, the commenters, believe. The Democrats in Congress really want just what I want, they're just having a hard time getting it because Bush and the Republicans are so darned tough.

No. False. Entirely false.

For instance, telecom amnesty. If all the Republicans in Congress died tomorrow, there would still be a majority of Congress in favor of passing the telecom amnesty bill. Democrats support it! They're not trying hard to block it and failing... they're trying hard to pass it, and succeeding.

Any commenter who writes as if the Democrats actually want X but are somehow blocked from passing it, when most Democrats are on record as saying "I do not support X at all", is a fool. On the war, on telecom amnesty, on so many other subjects - the Democrats in Congress do NOT believe the same things that their liberal supporters do.

Any commentary which assumes the Democrats in Congress want to do something but are blocked, when most Democrats are on record saying "I don't want to do that", is just worthless. This piece: worthless.

Posted by: Anon on October 25, 2007 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

In the case of red-state Democrats who vote with the Republicans on a bunch of issues, what I'd like to know is the explanation for their votes. Is it

1. He/she is voting his/her conscience. (Pretend that the following sentences are all gender-neutral.)

2. He is pandering to his constituents.

3. He is sucking up to the pundits and opinion-makers.

4. He is sucking up to his campaign contributors.

Kevin's question, "Do we do what is politically expedient, or follow our conscience?", only makes sense if the explanation is 2. It's not at all clear to me that that is the case in most of these votes.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on October 25, 2007 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

I just don't see how B could even come into play (at least in the senate). Is there a single democrat who's likely to lose in 2008? I think the entire list of democrats who could lose looks like this:

Mary Landrieu (D-La)
The end.

I suppose Tim Johnson could lose, but I would expect his health to play a larger role than his votes.

I wish we could stop having these conversations, but until the dems step up and fight over something, it won't end..

Posted by: Crusty Dem on October 25, 2007 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. I just noticed that one of the commenters, apparently in all seriousness, used the word "Hispanofascism". Life is great when you can take any prefix that represents some group of people (a.k.a. "the others") and take "fascism" on the end.

Pimlicofascism - authoritarian rule by jockeys
dominofascism - authoritarian rule by black rectangles with white dots on them
pandafascism - authoritarian rule by giant bears FROM CHINA!

Posted by: RickD on October 25, 2007 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Definitely (a). The centrists could keep their seats in marginal districts if they would quit letting the consultants and right wing intimidate them and instead learn to define the issues in Democratic terms.

Why do dems allow Republicans to define what is so obviously wrong. Change the dynamic and define the Republican penchant for spying as un-American, unneccessary, an abuse that is illegal and un-Constitutional, and one only fearful people who are willing to give up their rights support. Define the Republicans as the party that treats Americans as fearful children who give away their money and their rights and as the party that will not respond to the American peoples wish to get out of Iraq, the party that will not be accountable to the American people.

Remaining in Iraq, stripping the Constitution, raping the Treasury, always threatening war and being accountable to no-one are actions that should be defined as weak, fearful, reckless and un-American.

Posted by: Chrissy on October 25, 2007 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

You're afraid of Republicans running attack ads... against the Constitution?

C) Even moderate Republicans are becoming worried about the amount of power being placed in government hands, and you can't go wrong running on freedom and the Constitution.

Stop being such whiny cowards. This is why Dems lose when they should win - they refuse to stand up for principles. If they won't defend us against the Bushies, how can they defend us against Al Qaeda?

Posted by: A NON on October 25, 2007 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Since no one else is mentioning it, there is a thing called AIPAC. I suspect we are in Iraq and that we are rattling the saber against Iran in large part because the AIPAC lobby has been pushing both parties to support their cause.

It would be nice to see more politicians stop taking money from them. But then you get into a discussion about public financing of campaigns and who needs that?

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 25, 2007 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Stop being such whiny cowards. This is why Dems lose when they should win - they refuse to stand up for principles. If they won't defend us against the Bushies, how can they defend us against Al Qaeda?

Again, the great irony lost on them being that strategists for the party seem all too willing to convince them that selling out to the administration is the only way they can look strong on Nat'l Security and terror.

Posted by: Kryptik on October 25, 2007 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. I just noticed that one of the commenters, apparently in all seriousness, used the word "Hispanofascism". Life is great when you can take any prefix that represents some group of people (a.k.a. "the others") and take "fascism" on the end.

How dare you, good sir. How dare you.

You left out the most galling and dangerous sort of facism there is:

Friggatriskaidekafacism: Authoritarian Rule by FRIDAY THE 13TH!

Vote Vorhees, or he'll kill your family! If that's not facism, I don't know what is!

Posted by: Kryptik on October 25, 2007 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

defunding the war is a political winner in swing districts if it's advocated forcefully and effectively

You haven't thought this through. If you "defund" the war by refusing to pass a supplemental approppriation, what happens next?

You don't really think that what happens next is that Commander-in-Chief Bush salutes and meekly orders the troops home, do you?

We don't want to go there unless we have the votes to win the resulting constitutional confrontation by impeaching Bush and Cheney--which we don't.

Posted by: rea on October 25, 2007 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

3 points:

1) How about we just choose (a few)battles wisely? They don't have to do everything, at this point I'd be satisfied if Reid&Co. could do anything - merely pick an occasional battle that they demanded full party fealty to, and then took that fight all the way home - I mean armtwisting, 3-month long full court press on the media, procedural tricks, whatever. I haven't seen them win anything that progressives can attach some hope to. FISA, GITMO, war defunding, limiting Bush's ability to make war with Iran, Cheney impeachment, universal healthcare, hell - a bill to shore up the nation's bridges - I don't really care. Just do SOMETHING before November 08.

2)I think we progressives suffer from the weakness that we only pay attention to the polls we want to, so we probably get angrier at the Dem politicians than we should. I catch myself thinking the whole country agrees with me sometimes...we look at 'best-case' polls that show up on Kos or Eschaton, meanwhile pols have to look at 'worst case' polls. I see people on this thread throwing around "70% against the war". OK, let's be honest here. 70% of Americans may feel negatively about the war, or think it was a bad idea, but that doesn't mean 70% of the people are ready to leave/defund etc. Same with GWOT in general, torture, FISA, SCHIP, impeachment, and other issues. Sure, there's alot emotion, but also lots of mixed feelings out there. Lead and people will follow? Maybe. But maybe not. That's where I go back to point #1.

3)Reid/Pelosi's message control, and ability to manipulate the media has been just utterly atrocious. How in the world, for example, could you lose the public debate over a bill that gets the troops more time at home? And yet, somehow they did. My goodness - I am just amazed at how incompetent the Blue messaging is. Hey idiots: these are AD CAMPAIGNS! You are selling PRODUCTS to the American people! Now go hire some friggin people who know how to do that.

Posted by: ssdagger on October 25, 2007 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
Obviously, (a). The GWT as Bush conceives it hurts the "national security" of the United States. I mean, duh.

Posted by: Tim Malone on October 25, 2007 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans have shown that they will attempt to paint Dems as weak on national security regardless of how they have voted, therefore you may as well do the right thing.

Posted by: flounder on October 25, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

The so called "political realists" of option 1 are like generals fighting the last war. The war in Iraq is unpopular. Bush is unpopular. Americans are beginning to realize that Republicans are not that good at national security, and they do not want us to start a war with Iran.

We are in a time when being serious about national security, as opposed to adolescent approach of the Bush administration, is good politics as well as good policy.

Posted by: david 1234 on October 25, 2007 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Republicrats buy into Republican talking points and believe that doing the right thing means losing in November. I wonder how many elections we will win when we start leading instead of lying around in our own excrement taking suddenly available money from telecoms?

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on October 25, 2007 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum:

You'd make an excellent Democratic strategist with this argument of false dichotomies, with the underlying essential premise that Democrats must always remain passive.

Posted by: brendan on October 25, 2007 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

You haven't thought this through. If you "defund" the war by refusing to pass a supplemental approppriation, what happens next?

You don't really think that what happens next is that Commander-in-Chief Bush salutes and meekly orders the troops home, do you?

We don't want to go there unless we have the votes to win the resulting constitutional confrontation by impeaching Bush and Cheney--which we don't.

Why is it that we're expected to meekly get behind Bush then when he demands his money for his war?

By not letting supplementals through, we put a spotlight on how much the war actually costs, as well as showing just how ridiculous the amount Bush keeps asking for on top of it. We show the real monetary costs of this war.

Then we say 'no more'. We hang this across the necks of Republicans and Bush who want to continue the war by showing both the egregious monetary costs and the physical costs both in lives lost, soldiers discarded or otherwise kicked in the nuts by this administration despite the ridiculous amount of extra funding we're giving this war still, etc. We stand up.

I saw a lot of people compare the costs of the SCHIP program and put it into scope in regards to how much just one DAY of our war in Iraq costs. Yet this never made it out into the mainstream or really seemed to be echoed much by Dems in the Congress. That's one thing they could have done which they just don't do. Frame the costs both in just outrageous amount as well as the fact of how much Bush is denying for good programs that cost a fraction of what we keep funnelling into Iraq.

These are ways Dems can start putting a hold on this war while keeping the blame and focus rightly on Republicans, yet this doesn't even seem to be under consideration amongst the leaders and their 'strategists'.

Posted by: Kryptik on October 25, 2007 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

The USAmerican people are desperate for a real leader, and will flock to the first Dem to rise to the occasion.

Posted by: Disputo on October 25, 2007 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

You have to give Reid and Pelosi credit for knowing their recent history--when the majority party in the 1990s (the Dole/Gingrich Congress) went after the President, they lost nearly every battle except Health Care and made the President more popular than he ever could have hoped to be.

Reid and Pelosi are taking the hit because they're not going to give Bush and his base a reason to reunite. Their efforts at least have created a solid voting record for Republicans to have to defend next year. Each and every time they vote against the Democrats, they are voting against the preference of the American people.

Anything that keeps the Republicans from rallying behind Bush is a good thing. Keep him in the mid-twenties and keep forcing Republicans to vote against the troops, against health care and against global warming initiatives. And raise money for Democrats in 2008. Drive as many of them as possible into retirement and oblivion.

The approval rating for Congress is supposed to be low. People are supposed to dislike the overall concept of a "Congress."

But have you noticed that it's an incumbent racket? People disapprove of Congress but they sure like the guy they keep sending to Washington, don't they?

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 25, 2007 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

As atrios points out there is no ground swell popular movement to immunize telecoms. There is literally no one but lobbying money on the pro side, and there are millions of us on the anti-side. This issue is a no brainer. This isn't like guns where you have real living breathing people like the NRA who are going to run candidates. There is no political cost for this, particularly if the Dems get out in public ahead of the president and show that the presidents intransigence is the only thing keeping the bill from passing. The guy is at 24%, Dana Perino is looking rather tired. There's no way a he can go to the mat on this without losing unless, the dems permit him to create the media framing.

Posted by: patience on October 25, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Reid and Pelosi are taking the hit because they're not going to give Bush and his base a reason to reunite.

Hmm, I dunno. If this is really what Reid wanted, he should have just offered his job to Hillary Clinton. Two birds, one stone.

Wow. I just noticed that one of the commenters, apparently in all seriousness, used the word "Hispanofascism". Life is great when you can take any prefix that represents some group of people (a.k.a. "the others") and take "fascism" on the end.

I am still trying to figure out why Islamunism and Saddamunism never took off.

Posted by: sweaty guy on October 25, 2007 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

My goodness - I am just amazed at how incompetent the Blue messaging is. Hey idiots: these are AD CAMPAIGNS! You are selling PRODUCTS to the American people! Now go hire some friggin people who know how to do that.

Right on. The Dems seem to think that they can win by out-wonking the other side. They haven't yet figured out that this is show biz.

Posted by: Disputo on October 25, 2007 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

I just noticed that one of the commenters, apparently in all seriousness, used the word "Hispanofascism".

I assumed that was a ref to Franco....

Posted by: Disputo on October 25, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, my Hillary comment seems kind of glib just looking at it up there. What i mean is, Senate Majority leader is an organizational role I think Hillary could manage quite well, and it would distract her from running in a general election where she is.... quite likely to rile up the GOP base into voting against her.

Now granted, they would have to go for some line about how horrible it would be if Hillary ran the Senate under a Dem president, but that would certainly be less compelling to to Johnnie Bible-thumper than keeping her out of the White House again.

Posted by: sweaty guy on October 25, 2007 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

> Reid and Pelosi are taking the hit because
> they're not going to give Bush and his base a
> reason to reunite. Their efforts at least have
> created a solid voting record for Republicans to
> have to defend next year.

Um, its not hard to defend a solid record of _wins_, particularly when those wins include humiliating your opponents. If there is anything that cause the mushy middle to waver it is seeing a winner crushing and burning his enemies - waver /in the direction of the winner/ that is.

If anyone seriously thinks that defensive pantswetting by the Democrats is going to lead to victory in 2008 then I suggest they are deluded or on Rove's payroll.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 25, 2007 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

(NB: Forgive me. For ease of writing, I'm going to use concepts of "left" and "right" that comport with the MSM version, not reality. Use "left" as a stand in for Democratic, even though I know better, and "right" as a stand in for Republican, even though EVERYONE should know better than to use right and Republican in the same sentence, in any context and on any issue. That said...)

First, Pale Rider's comment is very perceptive, and I think right. Not about what the strategy ought to be (put me down as an "a" person to a degree), but what it is.

But this isn't just a "me, too" point I'd like to make. Instead, I'd like to reply to ppg, who wrote:

The lesson of the 2006 election was that clear, forthright opposition to the Iraq fiasco was a winner, and "blue dog" Republican-lite-ism was a loser. Cf. Harold Ford. Of course, none of this stopped the Beltway swells from trying to spin the 2006 election as some triumph of the moderate or conservative Democrat.

Or you could say that Ford, as far to the middle as he is, was already too far to the left for his district. Obviously, taking on the Bush Administration is a political winner in, say, Barney Franks' district, or in Charlie Rangel's district. And Pelosi's opposition in SF is because she's too far to the middle. But that's not the whole electorate.

We made this mistake in '94. We noted that those seats which were lost were the ones with the most moderate members (measured, as I usually do even though I know its flaws, by the Americans for Democratic Action liberal quotient), and we thought, "See? Being an outspoken leader is the way to win!" It didn't occur to us that those who lost were in the most vulnerable district, and that *for their districts*, they WERE being outspoken leaders. If you look at the rabid dogs that, by and large, replaced those who lost in '94, and see how popular that is, the electorate was stretching pretty far left to accept those who lost, and eventually that rubber band snapped.

Last year, some of the rubber band snapped back. So some of these new legislators can be be strong on these issues. Their districts are ready to move in "my" direction. That's why I think "a" is true. But it's not a universal.

Finally, to those saying, "Yeah, but it's NOT about safety and grainy black and white photos! It's about the CONSTITUTION!" Well, all I can say is that you're fooling yourselves. To those paying attention and to those watching The Daily Show, it is. But in a 30 second spot, if you don't know as well as I do that it's going to play out just as Kevin has predicted, you're either smarter than that and fooling yourself, or you've not been paying any attention. To anything. Not to Max Cleland, not to Bush-Kerry, not to anything. It has happened that way in the past, and it will continue to happen that way.

My mother taught me that a good definition of insanity is doing the same thing you did yesterday and expecting a different outcome. It may be that we can reframe this as defending the Constitution. Or, as I prefer, the WATB's being scared of freedom (thanks, Atrios). But we'll have to do it, and do it well, because it's going to play out EXACTLY as Kevin predicts.

Posted by: RonZ on October 25, 2007 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Look, there's a problem with "not having the votes" these days. Used to be, it meant not having a majority, 51 votes. Now the Democrats are taking "defeats" in which they have 58, 59 votes, and they're taking it dozens of times with barely a note that this is not democracy. This is obstruction of democracy by a determined minority.

And what Augustus said above too. They ought to tar the Republicans with being undemocratic in the small "d" sense. I mean that's what the Republicans did to them when they filibustered a half-dozen judges. Cripes!

Posted by: David in NY on October 25, 2007 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

If anyone seriously thinks that defensive pantswetting by the Democrats is going to lead to victory in 2008 then I suggest they are deluded or on Rove's payroll.

What you suggest is exactly what Newt Gingrich thought he could get away with in 1995 by shutting down the government. He was hubris personified. He did not do anything defensive--he was offensive from the get go. He went right at Clinton and had his ass handed back to him. (And this led directly to the ascent of Tom Delay).

How is it defensive to create a massive voting record for Republicans to have to go out and defend? They're now on record as having voted against a one year in Iraq, one year home break for the troops, against a timetable for withdrawal, against SCHIP, against benchmarks and against increased VA benefits. Every single thing the Democrats have tried to do I support completely--they sent those bills to the floor and the Republicans blocked them. Why would I blame a Democrat for something a Republican blocked? This Republican minority is obstructionist in nature, and they can be crippled by that. It requires patiently forcing them to vote against good bills and it requires putting them in a box they can't get out of. As more and more of them retire, and as fewer and fewer Republicans decide to run, it sets up a perfect storm for 2008 that will sweep the obstructionists out of power. Right now, they CANNOT RAISE MONEY. They are broke. That means they know they're going to lose and no one is backing their dead horse. All they have is obstructionism.

What they're counting on is misplaced blame. If people blame the Democrats for their obstructionism, they win. I refuse to take the bait. They're the problem, not the Democrats.

Now, if the Democrats get 60 votes in the Senate and still can't get anything done, start firing them and replace them with people who can get something done.

It seems a little pissy and immature to complain about the people who at least tried to do the right thing when the evidence is clear--the people who want to do the wrong thing are the obstructionists.

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 25, 2007 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

c) centrists want to continue supporting their industrial military constituency and are Kyl-Lieberman wannabes who desire more war, more spying on citizenns and more military aid to Israel.

Posted by: Brojo on October 25, 2007 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

(c) we're pissed because the democratic cacaus never seems to even *try* to shape public opinion on these matters.

anything that's short of 60% public support - at the *outset* - dems won't push for. defunding the iraq war has maybe 40% support but we know 60-70% want the troops home asap. why don't the dems educate people on our options here and build public support for the defunding route?

on warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention without charge, geneva conventions, torture, etc. public opinion is perhaps more even divided. but if democrats cannot rally around *the bill of rights* and *the rule of law* and at least *try* to bring the public to their senses, what are they good for? minimum wage increases and stem cell funding?

Posted by: jethro on October 25, 2007 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

> But in a 30 second spot, if you don't know as well
> as I do that it's going to play out just as Kevin
> has predicted, you're either smarter than that
> and fooling yourself, or you've not been paying
> any attention. To anything. Not to Max Cleland,
> not to Bush-Kerry, not to anything. It has
> happened that way in the past, and it will
> continue to happen that way.

Watch the scene in the last episode of /Lonesome Dove/ where Captain Call tries to hand over leadership of the group to his bastard son Newt. The biggest, nastiest, stupidest dude in the group challenges Newt to a fistfight. Newt _immediately_ charges in with both fists swinging - and gets his butt kicked. At which point the group picks up Newt, says "good fight", and rides off under his leadership - leaving the big guy spluttering "bu bu bu but I WON the fight".

This theme is echoed in just about every Western, war movie, coming of age movie/play, etc ever made. It is an archetype. The group knows who the best leader would be, but they need to see him PROVE THAT HE WILL FIGHT in a tough situation. He doesn't have to win by himself, but he has to be tough enough to _try_.

The American public has seen Democratic politicians lying down in front of the Republicans, peeing their pants, and begging for mercy for the last 10-15 years. I ask you: why would _anyone_ vote for self-proclaimed "leaders" who act that way?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 25, 2007 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

It's definitely A for Kyl-Lieberman (too hard to explain in an ad, if they use that against you they can just make up anything anyway). I think it's also A for specific withdrawal deadline Iraq War measures and for MCA. I think the leadership should be able to pass a FISA bill similar to the House version w/o telecom immunity as well.

There's always going to be a version that can be cast as allegedly stronger, since stronger for the GOP means more arbitrary and sure to backfire, which is what Gitmo has done, what invading Iraq has done, and what failing to set any deadlines to withdraw from Iraq has done.

Posted by: bob on October 25, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Certain things should be beyond question. Someone should stand to protect the constitution. The real problem here is that, for whatever reason, the conservatives are defining the argument. It seems nearly every thing Bush did with wiretapping could have been done legally, quickly and still upheld the constitution -- but they chose to violate the highest law of the land. To make this rant shorter -- this is about Democrat's wonderful ability to compromise and hear all sides of an issue and come to a reasoned compromise (what I like to call "intelligence") and it's running head into the Republican's constant distortions, oversimplifications and propoganda about an issue simply to gain power.
HOW DO THE DEMOCRATS LEARN TO FIGHT PROPOGANDA? That's the question! I'm not sure, but I would suggest that after every attack, we DEFEND hard, and with one voice, and instantly return the argument to the issue not the slogans.

Posted by: psmarc93 on October 25, 2007 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

What you suggest is exactly what Newt Gingrich thought he could get away with in 1995 by shutting down the government. He was hubris personified. He did not do anything defensive--he was offensive from the get go. He went right at Clinton and had his ass handed back to him.

Apples and Oranges.

As you say, Newt was hubris personified. He didn't go after Clinton with some higher purpose in mind -- he went after him as a pure power play, because he could, and the public sided with Clinton against such a naked display of politics.

THE CURRENT SITUATION IS DIFFERENT! The Dems are not only on the side of the angels in this case, but the people are with them too. ALL IT TAKES IS HAVING THE GUTS TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT. That is the only thing that the Dems are lacking.

Posted by: Disputo on October 25, 2007 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

What you suggest is exactly what Newt Gingrich thought he could get away with in 1995 by shutting down the government. He was hubris personified. He did not do anything defensive--he was offensive from the get go. He went right at Clinton and had his ass handed back to him. (And this led directly to the ascent of Tom Delay).

The big difference here is 1) Newt led a shutdown of the WHOLE GOVERNMENT. We're not aiming for that, we're looking to just get crap passed as well as try and hit the brakes on a runaway war. 2) Newt was more bashed for his reasons for shutting it down than the actual action of it. That made the conflict seem petty and ended up costing him

How is it defensive to create a massive voting record for Republicans to have to go out and defend? They're now on record as having voted against a one year in Iraq, one year home break for the troops, against a timetable for withdrawal, against SCHIP, against benchmarks and against increased VA benefits. Every single thing the Democrats have tried to do I support completely--they sent those bills to the floor and the Republicans blocked them. Why would I blame a Democrat for something a Republican blocked?

You might not blame them, but the media has. They've hung each and every bill failure on the Democrats, for the express reason that Democrats have failed to make the issue about the Repubilcans' obstruction. How many bills have gotten 50+ votes and then FAILED because of the THREAT of filibuster? Not even actually invoking a real filibuster, but just invoking the threat to force a cloture vote?

This Republican minority is obstructionist in nature, and they can be crippled by that. It requires patiently forcing them to vote against good bills and it requires putting them in a box they can't get out of. As more and more of them retire, and as fewer and fewer Republicans decide to run, it sets up a perfect storm for 2008 that will sweep the obstructionists out of power. Right now, they CANNOT RAISE MONEY. They are broke. That means they know they're going to lose and no one is backing their dead horse. All they have is obstructionism. What they're counting on is misplaced blame. If people blame the Democrats for their obstructionism, they win. I refuse to take the bait. They're the problem, not the Democrats.

And it's working, because again, the story has never been the Republican obstructionism. It's been about Congress' failures. Democrats have failed to make these issues albatrosses around Bush and his cronies' necks, with the result that THEY shoulder the blame, and they look weak for not getting anything through. It gives the image of Congressional failings AND Democratic weakness in a way that is so easily fixed, were it not for the weak-kneed bemoaning of 'oh, we can't do anything with such a slim majority'. The only reason that 'slim majority' doesn't hold in most cases is because the Majority Leadership LETS the REpublicans pull out these fauxlibusters, and block everything, in a way that if Democrats tried it, we'd be run out of town on a rail. Why are we letting them get away with these again? The problem IS the Democrats, because they've failed to make the problem the Republicans' instead. They either give up, or don't fight in the first place.

Now, if the Democrats get 60 votes in the Senate and still can't get anything done, start firing them and replace them with people who can get something done.

It seems a little pissy and immature to complain about the people who at least tried to do the right thing when the evidence is clear--the people who want to do the wrong thing are the obstructionists.

Thing is, it's NOT clear they're doing the right thing, because they're not FIGHTING for the right thing. They're letting the Repubs fight for the wrong thing, throw up their hands and say 'oh well, we tried, but they're just too strong'.

Posted by: Kryptik on October 25, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

If a party is seen to repeatedly back down, this makes it appear weaker on national security, because you don't trust spineless people to defend you. So a) is correct; a candidate doesn't help him/herself by doing what the President wants in the hope of gaining immunity from attack. Quite the opposite.

Bill Clinton said that in politics it is better to be "strong and wrong" than "weak and right". There's an even worse alternative, and that's to be "weak and wrong".

But b) is also correct, though not applicable in this case: it is a moral duty to oppose presidential dictatorship and to honor one's oath of office. I say that it's not applicable in this case because no one's going to lose his/her seat for opposing a wildly unpopular president. First off, incumbents have a huge advantage just by being incumbents. Second, people will vote for you even if they disagree with some of your votes, if they respect you overall.

Posted by: Joe Buck on October 25, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad to see that the liberal blogosphere is agreed that "[i]deological straitjackets don't build majorities."

Not.

Too bad.

Losers in 2000 and 2004 due to ideological straightjacketing; losers in 2008 for the same reasons.

Posted by: anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

But, hey, pat yourselves on the back for "doing the right thing" and being arrogant enough to believe that you always know what the "right thing" is.

Posted by: anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Heh. What an anonymous jerk!

Pale Rider and RonZ get it.

Posted by: NAAJ on October 25, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

All politics is local. Too many of you are thinking global based on what is local for you.

Posted by: NAAJ on October 25, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Pat yourselves on the back for "doing the right thing" and being arrogant enough to believe that you always know what the "right thing" is.

Lose in 2008.

Then cry and whine about 8 years of Giuliani.

LOL.

Posted by: anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

But, hey, pat yourselves on the back for "doing the right thing" and being arrogant enough to believe that you always know what the "right thing" is.

Fuck yeah! Me and "anonymous" here, my old compadre in Tejas state government, are sick of having the Constitution thrown in our faces. It's just a goddamned piece of paper.

Posted by: George W. Bush on October 25, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

The approval rating for Congress is supposed to be low. People are supposed to dislike the overall concept of a "Congress."

Bingo. All congresscritters are polecats. They are vermin. And I should be on my knees thanking my wonderful public servant of a congressman for his service and apologizing to him for repeatedly sending him to that snakepit where he has to rub shoulders with the likes of your congressman, who everyone knows should be indicted and imprisoned.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on October 25, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: anonymous

I wish Joke Line would stop posting here.

Posted by: Disputo on October 25, 2007 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Apples and Oranges.

Perhaps. Instead of shutting down the government in 1995, Democrats are being asked to de-fund a war and leave the DoD with insufficient funds. This is far more tricky. Are you for the troops, they'll say? Are you going to cut and run? Leave an American Army overseas without a ticket home? Cut off their supply of Mine Resistant Vehicles?

I think the next bill to go to the floor should be a draft--the Charlie Rangle bill. It has to be driven home that this is far more serious than shutting down a few agencies.

As you say, Newt was hubris personified. He didn't go after Clinton with some higher purpose in mind -- he went after him as a pure power play, because he could, and the public sided with Clinton against such a naked display of politics.

I think pure, unadulterated hatred was the reason. They hated Clinton for being articulate, capable and popular. Clinton had no insecurities, and they hated him for it. Clinton was smarter than all of them put together, and they hated him for it.

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 25, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky said:

Watch the scene in the last episode of /Lonesome Dove/ where Captain Call tries to hand over leadership of the group to his bastard son Newt. The biggest, nastiest, stupidest dude in the group challenges Newt to a fistfight. Newt _immediately_ charges in with both fists swinging - and gets his butt kicked. At which point the group picks up Newt, says "good fight", and rides off under his leadership - leaving the big guy spluttering "bu bu bu but I WON the fight".

Yeah, that's the archetype. But just as nobody actually can intimidate with Clint's icy blue gaze, and just as Rambo can't actually take over Vietnam with a headband and a couple of automatic rifles, even if he has GREAT pecs, the fact that it's in a movie (or even in a great book; thanks for reminding me that I should re-read that book) doesn't actually make it, uhm, true.

Look, I think we by and large agree. I was trying to make a more subtle, and I think more accurate, argument for this being electorally smart. I think the Dems are afraid of the wrong thing. The turning tide means that they get some leeway, and I don't think they recognize that yet. But I also want to note that it's risky, and it might not work. And the real world points to that possibility.

In the real world, attacks like the Swift Boat Vets and the attack on Cleland worked. In Larry McMurtry's imagination, people want to side with the little, plucky guy. In 2002 and 2004, they sided with the fear mongering idiots. Which means that the attack will happen again. Perhaps we can beat it this time. I'd like to think we are getting smarter.

But drawing conclusions from art, even great art (never saw the series, but loved the book), is a bad plan. McMurtry's a novelist with a marvelous talent for dialogue, not a political seer. Part of being a proud member of the reality based community is, well, dealing in reality. My point was simply that, if you think that Kevin was right in "a", that this is smart electoral politics, you need to overcome an awfully good objection from Max Cleland, John Kerry and some of the other veterans of the smear campaign. And Lonesome Dove ain't that argument.

Posted by: RonZ on October 25, 2007 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Me and "anonymous" here, my old compadre in Tejas state government, are sick of having the Constitution thrown in our faces.

Now you know why you've lost moderates during the last two presidential elections.

If they don't bow down to your moral superiority and constitutional self-righteousness, then obviously they hate the Constitution and approve of GWB.

KMA, f*ckwad.

People like you have done more to undermine our constitutional form of government than Bush himself by putting your own demands for ideological purity and hatred of political pragmatism above the overall good of the country and thus allowing Bush to be elected twice.

But, hey, I'm sure Nader or Dean will get elected this time around.

Just clap really, really hard!

Posted by: anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

> In the real world, attacks like the Swift Boat
> Vets and the attack on Cleland worked. In Larry
> McMurtry's imagination, people want to side with
> the little, plucky guy. In 2002 and 2004, they
> sided with the fear mongering idiots.

I wouldn't want to accuse you of not knowing the difference between "a movie" and an archetype. But assuming you do know the difference then I can't help but notice you elided it. Stories don't become archetypes unless they resonate with a substantial fraction of the population over a long period of time.

In any case I can't see how your examples apply because (a) Kerry didn't fight back against the swiftboaters (b) Cleland tried to fight back but was not supported by the larger Democratic Party. So in neither case was fighting even tried.

Now you can reply that Cleland received no support from the Republican-controlled traditional media, and I will admit there is some truth to that. But then I will ask - what is the Democratic Party doing to break the Radical Right's hold on the media? Oh, I see: stabbing Edwards in the back whenever he mentions it and (Hillary) sucking up to Murdoch and Drudge. Yup, lotsa fight there.

By the way, my family and I took some actual risks to support 2006 Democratic candidates in the our purple state. Not big ones, but real given the size of this town. I am seriously asking myself why I should do that in 2008 if the Dems won't fight on the clear issues.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 25, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

In the real world, attacks like the Swift Boat Vets and the attack on Cleland worked. In Larry McMurtry's imagination, people want to side with the little, plucky guy. In 2002 and 2004, they sided with the fear mongering idiots.

You're spending so much time castigating Cranky's use of a metaphor to explain his pt that you are not even seeing how your example underscores it.

Kerry wasn't plucky. He rolled over and played dead, and people will vote for the fear-mongering idiot over the wimpy loser every time.

Which is precisely the pt Cranky was making.

Posted by: Disputo on October 25, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

In any case RonZ where exactly is this horrible downside in killing telecom immunity? AT&T and Verizon are two of the most hated entities in the United States, with approval ratings lower than Dick Cheney's. If the Democrats can't figure out how to frame that battle then they should all resign.

Unless of course the core members of the Democratic Party actually agree with Cheney, Lieberman, and PNAC. Hmmmm.... now there's a thought.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 25, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

What's the point of having Democrats win the Congress/Presidency and then have them act the same as the previously ruling Republicans?

There's gotta be a reason for a two party system. Or is it just the "ins" vs. the "outs?"

Posted by: Dr WU-the last of the big time thinkers on October 25, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

where exactly is this horrible downside in killing telecom immunity? AT&T and Verizon are two of the most hated entities in the United States, with approval ratings lower than Dick Cheney's. If the Democrats can't figure out how to frame that battle then they should all resign.

Actually, there's a good reason why we should all celebrate--and that's Chris Dodd. He's placed a hold on the immunity and is pushing back against Rockefeller, who should lose his chairmanship and retire.

No immunity for lawbreakers and no bailout for what they've done. It's clear to me that what was going on was not a "national security" issue but was, in fact, wholesale spying on the political enemies of the Republican Party. You cannot look at the victories in 2002 and 2004 and conclude that it was a level playing field. By using our intelligence agencies against the Democratic Party, they've tipped their hand to what immunity is really all about.

When it became apparent that eavesdropping wasn't enough, they had to resort to politicizing the Justice Department in 2005 and in using the US Attorney's to go after people.

Game's up, bitches. What the Republicans have done won't fully be understood for years. But I love how this misplaced anger plays out. You order a pizza, and the Democrats sorta get the order right. They make you a pizza that ain't bad. On the way to bringing it to your house, a sex pervert Republican jumps out of a tree, hits the Democrat with a Taser and seizes the pizza. The Republican tells everyone that al Qaeda has invented the exploding death pizza and then has sex with it while wrapped in a soiled copy of the Constitution.

People here then blame the Democrat for being Tasered and ignore what the Republican did. Amazing.

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 25, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Mostly (a) the centrists are wrong; they could keep their seats in marginal districts even if they toed the progressive line on national security issues.

It's all how you spin it. If you argue you are standing up for Freedom and our constitution, and refuse to apologize for doing so....and even tell people to vote for the other guy if you beoieve in shredding the constitution.

Honest and conscientious people will not vote against someone who stands on principles like that. Especially in the face of supposed unpopularity.

Posted by: Hesiod on October 25, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

People here then blame the Democrat for being Tasered and ignore what the Republican did.

Uh huh.... that's what we're all about here... ignoring what the Republicans have done....

*sheesh*

It's easy to tell when you don't even buy your own arguments anymore -- you start lashing out at everyone.

Posted by: Disputo on October 25, 2007 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

It's easy to tell when you don't even buy your own arguments anymore -- you start lashing out at everyone.

Pardon me--I see a lot of vitriol directed towards people who are trying to do the right thing.

You can rail about the lack of guts on the part of Democrats all you want but it just plays into the hands of people who want to take Congress away from the Democrats and who want to give the White House to Rudy Guiliani.

I mean, let's be clear--what self-centered people with misplaced anger don't understand is that a Republican Congress and Rudy Guiliani in the White House is your only other option if you reject what the Democrats are trying to do. There is no third way.

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 25, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

What's the point of having Democrats win the Congress/Presidency and then have them act the same as the previously ruling Republicans?

Democrats aren't "acting the same [as Republicans]" simply by not going far enough for you.

If that were the case, then Bush wouldn't be threatening vetoes and the GOP would be using blocking tactics with unprecedented frequency.

This is simply a shameful lie told by the ideologically intolerant and self-righteously arrogant.

This blatant falsehood that centrist-acting Dems are the same as the Bush administration is simply and pathetically defamatory.

Hesiod: Honest and conscientious people will not vote against someone who stands on principles like that.

Someone who is not a student of history and doomed to repeat the defeats of 2000 and 2004.


Posted by: anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

> I mean, let's be clear--what self-centered people
> with misplaced anger don't understand is that a
> Republican Congress and Rudy Guiliani in the White
> House is your only other option if you reject
> what the Democrats are trying to do. There is no
> third way.

I admit to being more than a bit confused by this statement. Do you seriously think that if Hillary wins in 2008 and the Democrats take a few more House and Senate seats that they will immediately get to work undoing what Cheney has accomplished over the last 8 years?

Or is it more likely that that Congress will make a few ineffectual symbolic gestures and then back down in the face of Republican opposition (Democrats can't fight ya know - that would be misplaced anger), while President Hillary would make a few symbolic gestures and retain all the unconstitutional powers of the Unitary Executive for her own? Leaving President Jeb to pick up in 2012 where W/Cheney left off?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 25, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Repubs got their chance. They cried Congress was not Republican enough in '02 and got their control of both houses, with diebold playing in, and they shit America's overalls.

Repubs made this mess and refuse to let it be cleaned or even addressed because Emporer Pantaloons W. Bush might use a veto(made possible with their help).

Those slimy shit-covered republicans.

Posted by: Mr.Murder on October 25, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

> This blatant falsehood that centrist-acting
> Dems are the same as the Bush administration is
> simply and pathetically defamatory.

I am anxiously awaiting your explanations of the July and October FISA actions. Previously the Republican-controlled Congress rammed through any unconstitutional spying-on-citizens bill that W requested. In July (and apparently again in October) the Democratic-controlled Congress kicked a bit, was growled at by Cheney/Rove, and then meekly passed the unconstitutional spying-on-citizens bill that W "required" of them.

Meanwhile the Democratic-led investigation committees have issued document requests, been ignored, issued a few meek subpoenas, had those ignored to, and..... gone into hiding.

Some pig.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 25, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Do you seriously think that if Hillary wins in 2008 and the Democrats take a few more House and Senate seats that they will immediately get to work undoing what Cheney has accomplished over the last 8 years?

Yes.

And they've given no reason to make you think otherwise.

You are simply being dishonest about the way that events have transpired by equating "not going far enough" with "not doing anything."

Or is it more likely that that Congress will make a few ineffectual symbolic gestures . . .

This is exactly what you are arguing for "ineffectual symbolic gestures": do the right thing, even if it is ineffective in winning elections and thus a symbolic victory only.

The truth is the Dems have lost because of a veto threat that will not exist with Clinton at the helm.

Your refusal to acknowledge that speaks volumes about the dishonesty of your position.

Clinton has already repudiated the Bush administration's grab for power and indicated that she would ratchet back executive power, but of course that isn't good enough for you because it doesn't go far enough: in your world, Clinton must consistently vote in symbolic futile ineffectual gestures for legislation that won't pass or won't withstand a veto.

You can't even see your own hypocrisy.

Posted by: anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

. . . the Democratic-controlled Congress kicked a bit, was growled at by Cheney/Rove, and then meekly passed the unconstitutional spying-on-citizens bill that W "required" of them.

Under the threat of sustainable vetoes and GOP obstructionist tactics which cannot be overcome except by gutting, like the GOP, congressional rules of procedure.

Somehow you always seem to leave out these pertinent facts.

Leaving out relevant facts is misrepresentation; it is dishonest and so is your argument.

Posted by: anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Because they're wrong. Every time Dems have caved on security issues, it has driven their approval broadly downward. The war is broadly unpopular. Warrentless wiretapping is broadly unpopular. Retroactive immunity for law-breaking among telecommunications companies is very broadly unpopular.

Now, to be sure, if Democrats want to make hay they need to do more than vote, they need to punch back with the message that they're actually doing what's right to protect their constituents values and security. This has the rhetorical benefit of being the truth, and is a stronger message in either case than a triangulation off the GOP's communication around security (which, again, is not broadly popular anyway).

The point is: if we fight, we will win elections and accomplish good things. If we do not, we will lose elections, and accomplish bad things. Citizens was GD results. Let's bring home the bacon.

Posted by: josh koenig on October 25, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

> Under the threat of sustainable vetoes and GOP
> obstructionist tactics which cannot be overcome
> except by gutting, like the GOP, congressional
> rules of procedure.
>
> Somehow you always seem to leave out these
> pertinent facts.

Somehow you seem to have left out FISA's sunset provision... Which meant that Bush had no veto lever. Funny about that omission.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 25, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

> Your refusal to acknowledge that speaks volumes
> about the dishonesty of your position.
>
> Clinton has already repudiated the Bush
> administration's grab for power and indicated
> that she would ratchet back executive power, but
> of course that isn't good enough for you because
> it doesn't go far enough: in your world, Clinton
> must consistently vote in symbolic futile
> ineffectual gestures for legislation that won't
> pass or won't withstand a veto.

Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein both analyzed that statement in some depth and came to the same conclusion: Hillary promised very little, but what she did promise was to reject any power of the unitary executive that she thought inappropriate. That is a far, far distance from repudiation of the power or the unitary executive theory in general.

I actually can't remember Hillary "repuidating" _anything_ in her entire political career, but maybe there is some small example out there.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 25, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

a Republican Congress and Rudy Guiliani in the White House is your only other option if you reject what the Democrats are trying to do. There is no third way.

I think this conversation is suffering from a conflation of some very separate issues. (I'll skip the biggest conflation, anonymous' psycho screams of "Nader!" every time someone brings up disappointment with the Democratic caucus.) Defunding the war is not the same as standing against telecom immunity, especially as it relates to political risk and the possibility of formulating and disseminating a clear message that the majority of Americans already fucking agree with. Speaking strictly from the perspective of winning elections (which is not the only way I view these issues, so no need to admonish me), the former will cost us big at the polls. The latter absolutely will not.

And the inability to muster 60-plus votes should not be confused with continually fucking up the message; the reality of the former is not an excuse for the latter. As many of us are pointing out every day, there is zero reason to submit to a hardass minority without yelling and screaming about who exactly is doing the obstructing (the war, for example) and what Constitutional principles are at stake (wiretapping) and how many laws this administration is breaking and trying to break (telecom amnesty).

The corporate media is not a sufficient excuse--yes, the Wurlitzer makes it harder to get the message out, but the Dem leadership and caucus members blow opportunities every day at press conferences, on their own websites, in their own speeches. If we can't have the leadership we want on the floor because we don't have the numbers, we damn well deserve to get it in these people's public statements. I wish to god these folks would take a page from Chris Dodd's book and act like fucking leaders when they speak.

We sure as hell don't need 60 votes for that.

Posted by: shortstop on October 25, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

(a)

The Dems lost in 2004 precisely because we went with the middling John Kerry, whom we were unable to distinguish successfully from George Bush and who was absolutely uninspiring. (And I sent him money, dutifully, after the primary was over . . . might as well have flushed it down the toilet)

We were unable to build a compelling narrative and thus were pummeled by a lazy, sycophantic press.

The press may have hated Dean, but they couldn't have shut him up, and he would have brought a compelling message to the stump.

People want a real choice, real contrast, and a clear message. Give them those, and we will win. Play it cautious, and we will lose . . . it plays right into the "see, Democrats are weak" bullshit theme the GOP propagates relentlessly.

Posted by: Gary on October 25, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

SPEAKING of "having the votes", here's some essential reading on the state of "democracy" in Amerika:

Will the GOP Election Theft Machine Do It Again in 2008?
By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman [The Free Press]

With record low approval ratings for the Bush/Cheney regime and the albatross of an unpopular war hanging from the GOP's neck, do you think that a Democratic presidential candidate will win the White House, get us out of Iraq, and end our long national nightmare?

Think again - the mighty election theft machine Karl Rove used to steal the US presidency in 2000 and 2004 may be under attack, but it is still in place for the upcoming 2008 election.

With his usual devious mastery, Rove has seized upon the national outrage sparked by his electoral larceny and used it as smokescreen while he makes the American electoral system even MORE unfair, and even EASIER to rig. Thus the administration has fired federal attorneys when they would not participate in a nationwide campaign to deny minorities and the poor their access to the polls. It has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to install electronic voting machines that can be "flipped" with a few keystrokes. And under the guise of "reforming" our busted electoral system, it is setting us up for another presidential theft in 2008. ...
__________

To think!: Once upon a time the saying was "My vote cancels yours." Now it's simply "Your vote is subject to cancelation."
Posted by: Poilu

I'm glad to see that leftist nutball ravings haven't gone out of style around here.

Posted by: Brian on October 25, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

I admit to being more than a bit confused by this statement. Do you seriously think that if Hillary wins in 2008 and the Democrats take a few more House and Senate seats that they will immediately get to work undoing what Cheney has accomplished over the last 8 years?

You can take one thing to the bank--Republican hypocrisy.

They will scream bloody murder until Habeus is restored, that every American's privacy rights are complete and unassailed by any entity, and that the power currently enjoyed by Bush/Cheney is pared away almost to nothing.

They will scream until they can't scream anymore if a Democratic President issues so much as one "signing statement" or "executive order" that enhances, sustains or expands Presidential authority. They have the Supreme Court, after all, and in 2009, Republicans will counter a Democratically controlled Congress and Executive by suddenly finding Jesus and by taking Jesus up to sit on Antonin Scalia's abundant lap.

Count on hypocrisy; it's a sure winner.

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 25, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

by taking Jesus up to sit on Antonin Scalia's abundant lap.

Now that's just too gross to visualize.

And I'm not even a believer. In either guy.

Posted by: shortstop on October 25, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Now that's just too gross to visualize.

And, because we're talking about Republicans, this Jesus is a double jointed, hairless acrobat from Mexico City who does the donkey show for them, three times on Fridays.

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 25, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

> You can take one thing to the bank--Republican
> hypocrisy.
>
> They will scream bloody murder until Habeus is
> restored, that every American's privacy rights are
> complete and unassailed by any entity, and that
> the power currently enjoyed by Bush/Cheney is
> pared away almost to nothing.

I understand your point but I don't think that is where the Radical Right's hypocrisy will be be deployed. The will beat up Hillary on Iraq starting November 5th, with an extra portion of dolstchosslegende and a side helping of heath care. And they will be unmerciful in this beating. But they will leave the unitary executive alone because they want that available for their next favored son in 2012.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 25, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican extremists have

1) stolen the 2000 election

2) created a gigantic WMD hoax that propagandized much of the population

3) used the WMD hoax to launch a disastrous war that has harmed our national security

4) Killed ONE MILLION Iraqis. ONE MILLION. Do you read?

5) Tortured people in violation of U.S. law and treaties

6) Eliminated Habeas Corpus

7) Flagrantly broke the FISA law and spied on Americans without warrants

And much more. This is a world-historical CRISIS, not a short-term little flap.

Anyone who triangulates under these conditions is a soulless piece of shit.

The calculations are easy. Stand up for your country and for right over wrong. End of story. End of calculations.

Posted by: Junius Brutus on October 25, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

The will beat up Hillary on Iraq starting November 5th, with an extra portion of dolstchosslegende and a side helping of heath care. And they will be unmerciful in this beating. But they will leave the unitary executive alone because they want that available for their next favored son in 2012.

So they'll be really, really mean to Hillary but the one thing they won't do is try to use a Supreme Court that they control to limit her Presidential authority and power so they can maybe use it themselves one day? They'll say mean things about her butt while turning a blind eye to the fact that she has the authority to throw them in an Egyptian prison and have them tortured while reading their e-mail, listening to their phone conversations, and ignoring the laws they might get passed?

Who's being ridiculous now?

Posted by: Pale Rider on October 25, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican extremists couldn't care less if Hillary or any other Democrat has the power to torture, imprison, eavesdrop, etc. for the simple reason that they know the Democrats won't do that kind of illegal and immoral crap.

They're perfectly willing to leave the martial law rules in Hillary's hands. They know that if there is a terrorist attack in the U.S. while a Democrat is president, the Democrat will not institute a dictatorship disguised as a reaction to terror.

The unitary execeutive is a single-edged, death-to-democracy sword.

Posted by: Junius Brutus on October 25, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

> So they'll be really, really mean to Hillary but
> the one thing they won't do is try to use a
> Supreme Court that they control to limit her
> Presidential authority and power so they can
> maybe use it themselves one day? They'll say
> mean things about her butt while turning a blind
> eye to the fact that she has the authority to
> throw them in an Egyptian prison and have them
>
> tortured while reading their e-mail, listening
> to their phone conversations, and ignoring the
> laws they might get passed?
>
> Who's being ridiculous now?

No, actually I don't see them creating a controlling legal authority that would restrict President Jeb's (or maybe President Mary [Cheney]) powers in 2012. They know that none of Democratic candidates will actually tap their e-mail or phones (as I suspect Karl Rove did do to the Democrats) and none but Kucinich would sue himself to establish a precedent limiting her own power. So if the Radicals keep quiet they are in no actual danger from the magical unitary executive powers but can preserve them for the next favored son nationwreaker.

What they are going to do to Hillary is going to be far worse than saying mean things about her cleavage; they are going to hang the ENTIRE failure in Iraq on her and maybe a good portion of the blame for Vietnam too.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on October 25, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Emphatically A, but it's A because of B.

Posted by: jrcjr on October 25, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

To summarize:
1) The Democratic leadership needs to concentrate on specific themes and charges - Republican obstructionism, defending the Constitution (personally, I like the idea of challenging the voter with the statement "Are we going to let some guy in a cave scare us?").
2) The Democratic leadership needs to act as if it really is the majority party - moving/not moving legislation to the floor, quit worrying about "bi-partisanship" requirements for legislation, limiting the use of the "whip" (but when it is used, enforce it).
3) The Democratic leadership should recognize that the media cannot be won over by "acting nice" with the Republicans; when the media gets a story wrong, hold them accountable. Raise a big stink until whatever was incorrectly reported is corrected - preferably on the same page as the erroneous story. It's a shame that politicians should have to teach journalists their job, but if that is what it takes... This is not urging Democrats to copy the Republican hissy fits used as a political diversionary tactic.
4) The Democratic leadership needs to act like leaders and lead!
That last is the probably the scariest part for politicians as too many appear to only worry about what will affect their re-election chances. I really do understand that there can be worse people elected than some of the present-day Democrats (DeLay, Cunningham,...), but I fail to understand how any Democrat can take an oath to defend the Constitution and then justify to themselves that their failure to actually defend the Constitution is alright, simply because someone else might be worse!
Hope this makes sense.

Posted by: Doug on October 25, 2007 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a key fact to keep in mind whenever someone starts crying about the Democrats not having the votes they need:

The Democrats have a larger margin in the House right now than the Republicans ever had between 1996-2006.

Posted by: Junius Brutus on October 25, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

The answer is "b."

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