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August 20, 2005


F--k Hillary. What is she, the heir apparent or something?

Hillary's not anointed. She just happens to be leading the non-definitive polls by a considerable amount and at the same time is acting like a liberal hawk.

Attitudes develop slowly. I'm not asking for, nor do I expect, public breast-beating mea culpas from Kerry, Biden, and the lot. I am also fairly tolerant of strategic reasons for looking at 'the big picture' whatever that is.

But on some issues, wrong is both wrong and dangerous. Johnson and Nixon were wrong about Vietnam, and the hawks are wrong about Iraq. Dems can be right about the economy, health care and SCOTUS, but that's not what 2006 (or at the rate we're going, 2008) will be about.

Just pay attention to where the American people are at on this. As for the front runners, it's not 2008 yet. But/whereas they need to be careful, I fear they're developing a tin ear for what needs to be done... if they are for stem cells, pandemic preparedness, Iraq timetable they will enhance their chances immeasurably. If they attempt to triangulate without Bill's skills, they'll look weak both to their base and to the moderate public that typically wins elections.

Your post raises 2 crucial questions. 1. when will a solid majority definitively oppose the continuation of the war? I'm not sure yet that the majority is willing to accept a withdrawal or a timetable for a gradual withdrawal if the administration paints a worst case scenario of that option. (I'm agnostic on the mood of the public.) It's possible,as some such as Harold Meyerson have suggested, that a Democratic critique of/alternative to the Bush policy might give the administration the chance to change the public mood by smearing the Democrats.

The other question that you raise goes right to the credibility of the Democrats (or more precisely the strategic class.) If the people are willing to have a dialogue now about alternatives, they are doing themselves, the Democratic party and the country a great disservice.

Finally, one question that I have: if Hillary really thinks this war is such a good idea, why doesn't she publicly urge Chelsea to enlist?

Two quick and simple points to consider in any public debate on Iraq from now on:

1. John Kerry in the waning years of Vietnam said:

"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

If we could highly suspect that 10 (or much less really) years from now Iraq will look the same no matter what we do in the next 2 years, well that really brings the question of the best action to actually take now home! How parallel is what is happening now in Irtaq with Vietnam and are we indeed wasting human life as a result!

2. If we are there on false, Bush contrived premises and we stay there still wasting more lives as a further result, will we ever realize this and are real crimes then being committed? Are these deaths a form of political manslaughter, and if so, will the responsible culprits ever be brought to justice?

Berman's article was very good. I noticed he credited a group of "maverick" centrists such as Steve Clemons, of the generally provocative The Washington Note, who led the charge against Bolton, for being willing to say that Iraq was a mess. Also interestingly, at TPM Cafe G. John Ikenberry noted yesterday that the overwhelming majority of academics in the strategic studies area signed a letter opposing the Iraq War before the fact, comparing it to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930, widely credited with being a major factor in precipitating the great Depression, which a huge group of economists opposed before Hoover signed it.

So who are these "security hawks?" They are pundits like Peter Beinart or politicians, for the most part. They don't appear to have either an academic or real-world grounding in international or security studies. They take positions based on outmoded ideas (Biden) or how they think it will play (Clinton). Nancy Pelosi is in this camp too.

The real experts we could listen to aren't in that camp and weren't before the war. I agree that unless someone more than Feingold is willing to call the war a colossal mistake that has made us less safe, the DC Dems threaten to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And, as I keep saying, Bush is going to undercut them by calling for withdrawal sometime early next year if it looks like the war is going to really cost the GOP seats. But with Biden and Clinton and Kerry beating the war drums, maybe he won't have to until early 2008, and that would be the worst outcome of all, because then both Dem sides would be undercut.

And check out the top two stories at DailyKos. The American people aren't going to be thrilled by any candidate who advocates losing more lives to establish an Islamic Republic that takes away the rights that women had under Saddam. No one. Hillary??? Hello???

Mimikatz, they really seem to believe they can just blame Bush's handling of the war and not its roots and raison d'etre. I wonder what they're hearing at home?

Ah, that dKos piece is interesting and the Philly Inquirer piece it's based on is even more interesting:

Bush is politically vulnerable at the moment, but the fractious Democrats are ill-poised to take advantage. The liberal base is out of sync with the most visible contenders for the 2008 presidential nomination (Sens. Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, and John Kerry), all of whom voted for Bush's war, none of whom have embraced the calls for troop withdrawal.

This tension is being exacerbated by some of the newest players in the party: the Internet bloggers who enable grassroots liberals to network more easily and raise money without an OK from Washington. It's even possible that if the war drags on and top Democrats refuse to move leftward, the "net-roots" liberals might try to finance and champion their own presidential candidate - someone like Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, who on Wednesday called for the removal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2006.


A Democratic strategist working with 2006 Senate candidates argued privately that an openly antiwar stance is too risky: "The theme should be, 'We're in Iraq, so we gotta win.' Let's not refight the origins of the war, who was right or wrong. That discussion has run its course. Let's talk about how we can strengthen the troops, accelerate the Iraqi training, and let's keep hitting Bush when he's not being straight with the people."

Ed Kilgore, policy maven at the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (which recently accused war critics of "anti-American bias"), urged caution: "At this sensitive moment in Iraq, there's no position unifying Democrats about what to do next. We need to give it a little bit more time. Troop withdrawal doesn't represent the full range of our party. It doesn't make any political sense."

The party establishment is basically concerned that if Democrats move left and push for withdrawal, the party image will take a major hit. In polls dating back 35 years, Democrats have been generally perceived, fairly or not, as the weaker party on national security. The starting point was Vietnam. Even though most Americans turned against that war in 1968, they didn't endorse the antiwar Democratic stance. Instead, they elected a hawk, Richard Nixon, in 1968 and 1972.

Too risky? Have they really considered all the risks in their current position (which is cross your fingers and hope Juan Cole and the rest of the bloggers are wrong about Iraq? that the Islamic Republic of Iraq doesn't go public with their constitution? that Iran is nice to us until after whatever election you want to win is over?)?

Again, I don't demand anything from them, but what a failure of imagination and analysis! Assuming national security is THE issue, why would anyone want to replace Bush's pre-9/11 failures of same with this?

What are they hearing at home? Biden is hearing from MBNA that all is well, and he's not running anyway. What is he hearing from non-corporate donors around the country, that is the question. What is Hillary hearing at home? She's got no serious opposition. Bayh? Indiana is representative?

What are the two Nelsons hearing? What is Maria Cantwell hearing? Debbie Stabenow? That would be more interesting. i bet it is not the DLC message. What is Chuck Schumer hearing from big donors?

Those are the questions. I agree it makes some sense for people like the Nelsons to be a bit quiet on the issue, and I applaud Feingold for speaking up and wish someone would join him. But it is absolutely beyond the pale to criticize the lefter folks as unAmerican and use the kind of language the DLC uses. This is like the old cold warrior Dems of the '50s who absolutely trashed those who had flirted with socialism or communism in the '30s. This is morally and politically unacceptable.

What I find so dispiriting is that the DC Dems have no flexibility or imagination. They can't see how this time is dfferent from Vietnam. Vietnam was LBJ's war, and this is Bush's war, so it is an internecine battle this time only because the DLCers won't detach themselves from Bush's War. Furthermore, the Left has certainly grasped the lesson not to in any way disparage the troops themselves, only their leaders and the few bad apples among them who condoned torture. So why can't the DLC grasp the lesson that demonizing the left only strengthens the GOP, and not their (broken) wing of the Dem Party?

I still suggest that the building out of a nationally based Peace Movement that is general and flexible enough to attract a large audience, and is not ideological, writing some folk out of the general movement -- is the "strong arm" that will bring H. Clinton and Biden around if they are serious in presenting themselves as leaders. To become leaders they have to convert a few followers -- and if many of the potential followers/supporters are all engaged in talking peace -- where are they going to find what they need?

The thing about a movement, as opposed to a political party, is that it can employ a variety of tactics, and when some don't work -- just back off. A Movement is not essentially engaged in electing candidates and sustaining them in office. It is about more general goals. In the case of Vietnam all sorts of strategies were used -- what finally worked was a campaign against the funding of the war, using the congressional power of the purse to make enlargement and continuation of the war impossible. That argument used by local and state peace groups in elections in 1970 and 72 moved the issue far more than did all the big marches in DC. I am not sure that one would work now -- but no harm in being creative.

These Dem politicians signed on for Bush's Iraq adventure because they made what looked like a bet with pretty good odds: the US would somehow "win." Only a few really knowledgable security academics had any serious doubt about that. The Dems also probably couldn't imagine the sheer incompetence of the Neocons. So supporting the President looked like the only course; somehow Bush would get in and get out and they wouldn't have to deal with the consequences at all. But pols really get hammered by LOSING wars -- and that is what we have in Iraq.

The problem for the Dem security hawks is that the hammerers are mostly in their base at the moment and are approaching a majority. I'll be even more disgusted than I am now if they let Bush pull some phony withdrawal and get Iraq off the front pages next year, ceding the truly vital issue on the table to the guys who fucked us all.

I'm being vigorously recruited to help create some heat on Nancy Pelosi in her home base on the war -- and will probably help. Can't give her a free ride, despite the fact that I think she is doing a pretty good job leading in the House.

Also, was in rural Northern California today, not latte-land at all, more pick-up truck and cattle. There in the town square were a couple of people with anti-war signs, waving at traffic. They do it every Sunday after church. The Beltway folks don't get the depth of this groundswell.

"The theme should be, 'We're in Iraq, so we gotta win.' Let's not refight the origins of the war, who was right or wrong. That discussion has run its course. Let's talk about how we can strengthen the troops, accelerate the Iraqi training, and let's keep hitting Bush when he's not being straight with the people."

CNN ran a pretty good program tonight about how weak the Bush administration's case really was for going into Iraq, but they did not come out and say that the Bush administration doctored the weak intelligence to allow us to go to war. CNN came close to inferring this, but did not say it out sand out.

IMHO, the stage is now set for Dems to come out and carry this inference to the fullest extent. Politically based crimes or at least ethical violations against our society have likely been committed by the Bush adminstration, and justice needs to be metered out as a deterrent against this happening again.

Now why would that be a losing political strategy? Besides, it is the right thing to do!

I am glad that others watched the CNN program tonight. That is a most important program. Among other things, it deals with the degree to which members of Congress were handed CIA and Intelligence NIE material that was fake and false -- but as members they were in no position at the time of the votes to actually disprove it. All too many of the Dem votes, and probably some Republican ones were fashioned around that false material.

In 2002 both of my Senators (Wellstone and Dayton) voted against the war resolution. Both were under mass pressure to go along with the NIE, and support the resolution on the grounds that it backed up the President's efforts to use diplomacy and pressure the UN. But (thank goodness) both resisted. Nonetheless, I think we need to on one hand be "sympathetic" with them that Bush shoved lies down their throats (and should never again be trusted to tell the truth without verification) as the CNN program would sustain as an argument. We are really far better off with the argument that "they trusted the President" and he let them down -- than we are with an act of "trashing them" for not figuring out at that juncture that they were lied too by GWBush.

In a healthy political environment, there is a sense that "word is bond" is the operative value system. And I think a good many of those who supported Bush were working along that line. What we need to attack them for now is not their 2002 vote so much as their inability to figure out how to deal with an out and out liar. Bush fed them false information, and now that we know that all round -- the question is how do you deal with a liar that caused you to vote wrongly.

I realize that this can be interpreted as an excuse, or a way out, but I want to build a movement, and I think it necessary to have models of "wrongly trusting" up front and out there. A lot of people who now oppose the Iraq policy once based their support on "trusting Bush." And that is understandable -- most people want to believe President's tell truth when they make a case for War.

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