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August 07, 2007


A few weeks ago I was embroiled in some idiocy at DKos, and kaleidoscope asked me why I was wasting my time bickering over there when there was a whole coterie of adults over here.

It was the one of the better questions posed to me in recent months.

If Biden and the other Democrats in Congress were actually paying attention, they'd have noticed that the Republicans who talk big about things that would mean breaking from the party line rarely (if ever) actually follow up on that talk and put their votes where their mouths are. WINOs.

An excellent post, as usual. The problem with Biden and the others like him may be that they are immersed in the day to day trivia of Washington and fail to have seen the steady shift from democracy to empire over the past 25 years. On the other hand, to the netroots the trend is obvious and disturbing.

40 years ago LBJ and Everett Derksen and Chaley Halleck could cut bipartisan deals. It would be nice to get back to those days but that can only happen if the present Republican party is completely driven from power and office. This might sound like a far-fetched scenario now, but if there's ever an honest election it might happen in the near future. But, alas, the more likely scenarios are much bleaker.

Well said. It's a wonder that so few Dems have figured out the rules of the game.

There is plenty of dopey talk about bi-partisanship, and I agree with a lot in the post, but politically you are wrong, and Biden -- dope that he is -- is correct.

I doubt that any significant in-roads can be made in a short time frame (even 10 years) with die-hard Republicans, but Dems have to make common cause with the broad group of various sorts who consider themselves Independents. In general, this group is eclectic and inconsistent on policy, and tends to worship pols who "stick to their beliefs" even if those beliefs are at odds with their own. The second thing that the Independents worship is bipartisanship. Independents tend to think about partisanship as "bickering" and 'not getting the job done."

Frustrating, thoughtless attitudes, but baked in pretty deep.

Tough, meaningful action is needed, but gentle talk. Otherwise, the Independents will run away from their real interests and beliefs, and follow radical rightwing ideologues with folksy manners.

Interesting observations on independents. I definitely agree that independents value a straight talker, but I don't think "gentle talk" is the answer. Honest talk is the answer (although a little diplomacy doesn't hurt).

Biden is "correct" in the sense that some "independent" voters want bipartisanship, or say they do, but what they really want is the APPEARANCE of bipartisanship--i.e., everyone to 'play nice'--while simultaneously, in some magical but unexplained way, the nation's work gets done. AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN. Nothing about Republicanism as it will be practiced for the foreseeable future will ever reward bipartisanship, and the spectacle of Democrats advocating bipartisanship makes me sick. The Democratic Party has just "bipartisanshipped" the Fourth Amendment into oblivion, and polls will show that America's "independents" don't care about the loss of their own civil liberties anyhow. What did we win exactly? This is where real leadership matters, and this is where Democrats fall down over and over, scrambling to establish a public image that admits "bipartisanship" while undercutting the principles they (we) claim to stand for.

You're watching the Democratic Party pander, sap its principles, lose its momentum, do serious and lasting damage to the Constitution,and STILL get slammed by the the Republican press, and look like a bunch of losers in the bargain. If the effort to appeal to "independents" is worth THIS, then let me off the boat NOW.

Finally, I know some "independents." I'll tell you who they are (and I know 2 data points don't make a statistic, but let me get this said.) "Independents" are the Fox News-watching, disconnected-from-facts yokels that voted for George Bush TWICE, and are now stepping away from the car wreck they created and piously claiming the status of "independent" as a way of distancing themselves from the consequences of their own votes. Trashing the principles and programs we all believe in to attract those people is just ridiculous, a real fool's errand. And if you're gonna come back at me and say, "Well, I don't mean TRASHING, I mean...being bipartisan...somehow...without selling our principles down the river" then you're gonna have to show me exactly what you mean by that.


Exactly right. I almost spewed my beverage when Biden trotted that crap out. I have pretty low expectations for Biden, but that was lame even for him. For the last 6 years, we've been on this drunken walk towards an authoritarian state and the Dems in DC seem to think that bipartisanship means regretting the fact that they vote for the authoritarian measures.

What we need is real bipartisanship among those of us who believe in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. I'm ready to work with anybody who will stand against torture, gutting of our constitutional rights, politicization of justice, and endless wars of aggression. I'm ready to oppose, in a bipartisan fashion, anybody who won't stand against the forces of evil (and I mean that quite literally) who rule our country.

Welcome back to your own place.

Excellent column. Monday's PBS NewsHour discussion about the FISA amendments illustrates your point perfectly. Judy Woodruff was, as is now routine, in over her head. The format was another Talking Heads debate, this time, between Kate Martin and Bryan Cunningham. Woodruff allowed the radical Cunningham to dominate the presentation, which exemplifies the problem she and PBS share with Biden and the Dems.

Kate Martin showed up ready to talk about the FISA amendments and the dire implications they posed for civil liberties. Cunningham galloped in, sabre and tongue rattling, to defend Bush.

Martin's analysis was correct. Cunningham called her a liar anyway. Despite Martin's acknowledged expertise, Cunningham claimed that he was the only one with the facts and a hold on reality. He accurately focused on the legislation's "directed at gathering foreign intelligence" language, then simply elided the legislation's concurrent power to sweep up vast amounts of data concerning communications with US persons.

Martin brought a pencil to a knife fight. Judy Woodruff sat there like a cricket umpire at a street brawl; she was as speechless as Martin.

This scenario is played out daily. In prosecutions such as those of Don Siegelman in Alabama. Between professional careerists and Bush loyalists in govt agencies. On Capitol Hill. And between soldiers like Beauchamp, who think they're in a shooting war, and the Army's army of anonymous briefers, who are defending their commanders and the president.

I think it was Jane or Christy who said the Democrats needed to start listening to the advice Sean Connery's character gave in the Untouchables: if they bring a knife, you bring a gun; if they put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue. Figuratively, but only just; as the Siegelman case points out, these Republicans are literally quite happy to destroy families and careers to get their way. Failing to recognize the radicalism and ruthless methods of the opposition, only makes their methods more effective and yours hopeless.

I didn't hear Biden's answer so I'm in the dark. As long as republicans consider democrats their enemy, bipartisan coalitions in practical terms should last for the duration of the vote on the issue. Why would you ever take someone into your confidence who you cannot trust? Comity should be a value in evidence in the debate of policy, but not necessarilly the policitics of winning the vote or even framing the issue in public discourse. There is much at stake and democrats have been getting their asses handed to them by a political machine with a lot of power. You don't beat an opponent without learning how they win. Winning one policy battle after the next is what counts.

I have a slightly different take on the NewsHour dustup: I thought Kate Martin did quite well, on substance. She called Cunningham on his quoting the statute that DIDN'T get passed, instead of the much more destructive one that did, and for the briefest moment he was genuinely flummoxed and checking his notes: 'omigod, did they really give me the wrong paper here?'. But only for the briefest moment. After that, he was off and running again, breezily quoting from the rejected statute, or was he misquoting the one that passed (I couldn't tell which), as if Ms. Martin had said nothing at all, with that patented Republican air of assurance and absolute certainty that reminds me of nothing so much as the AIDS virus: it keeps coming back and coming back no matter what you do to it.
And Woodruff? She clearly had no idea WHAT the statute said, and was caught predictably flat-footed. What a useless "moderator," what a wet kleenex.

We get to see this dynamic played out in California in all its glory. We have no state budget because it takes a two-thirds vote to pass one, but the Dems are 2 short and Arnold can't deliver the Reps even though he has promised them pretty much everything they want by way of a line-item veto. California Republicans have gone completely over the edge and are self-destructing in the right wing abyss -- but they like it! There is no middle for these people -- they aren't interested in governing -- they want their temper tantrum.

Not surprisingly, people find all this unbelievable, but old habits of assuming there is someone there to deal with die hard.

Ahhh, come on.

Sure there are problems but to say just the other side is guilty is first wrong, and second a sure way to continue the problems.

Jodi, I'm afraid you are too young to remember the days when there was true bipartisanship. DH is exactly correct in his analysis. The Dems and the R's played by an arcane but defined set of rules for a couple of generations. Jesse Helms IMHO was the one who first began to use bitter partisanship, even before Gingrich. But a generation of GOP activist-leaders like Gingrich and Norquist and Rove, understanding that their ideas were not going to be acceptable to a majority (because, as you often say, they aren't truly conservative ideas, but, as DH says, radical ideas), decided to change the rules. They (not the Dems) began practicing a brand of take-no-prisoners partisanship where they did not consult the Dems on anything and indeed tried to pass votes with the minimum number of Dems possible, even if that meant making them really bad laws that served only the already very wealthy. And they have all taken some sort of blood oath to follow Bush even if it means electoral disaster in 2008 (which is one reason I fear they have a Plan B).

Biden has been in politics forever, as he also endlessly reminded people during the debate. Just as people form their brand loyalties in their youth and young adulthood, I think the same is true of political understanding. I think his ways got set under the old more-or-less bipartisan regime and he just can't put forth the effort to see how it has changed and change accordingly. These folks just seem to believe against all evidence that somehow Bush/Cheney will treat them fairly. Hard to understand, given how they get screwed over and over.

Very glad to see you around these parts, DH. Come and entertain us with war stories now that you've hit the big time.

DH thanks for the great post and the very kind comment you left as well. I certainly value the discussions here a great deal.

I really think you hit the nail on the head in your post, but I also think the Joe Biden's bipartisanship is also an oblique reference to the club that includes elected representatives, lobbyists, the whole DC culture that spends every minute of every day swimming in their own self interest. I think it is easy to forget inside the beltway, who they are supposed to represent. We have Joe to thank in large measure for the banckruptcy bill and for permissive credit legislation that is a boon to credit card companies, while it is crippling a large fraction of voters.

Joe does not hail from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. His interests are not our own. So his fond reminiscence of getting along with Republicans in the club has nothing whatsoever to do with resolving any of the crises brought down on our heads by Bush/Cheney.

And by the way, for those of you painting independents as mouth breathing knuckle draggers, allow me to expand your horizons a bit. I am an independent, with a fierce progressive activist lefty streak. The Democrats have been breaking my heart for 25 years as they have continually failed to live up to my expectations. I find it useful to remain independent to remind Dems that they need to earn my vote and not take it for granted. I put my country and faith in the Constitution first before any party considerations. And it is because the Republicans have so unremittingly attacked the Constitution that I will not as a matter of principle vote for them in the forseeable future. That said, incumbent Dems had better watch their backs, because I won't tolerate their snivelling spineless groveling to King George either.

Unless the Dems impeach Bush and Cheney, I'm all about supporting progressive challengers in Rethug and recalcitrant Dem districts alike. Neither party represents the voters any more and it is high time we took both parties to the woodshed and got our country back.

wake up and smell the coffee...

for those of us who have been raised from infancy on the special place that the united states occupies in the world and the unique responsibility it has for respecting human dignity and for keeping the torch of freedom alive, it is a bitter pill to swallow when we finally accept that the elites control BOTH of our political parties, and that BOTH of those parties have been EQUALLY complicit in dismantling the very principles our parents and teachers, with all of the honesty and sincerity they could muster, swore were true... to indulge in any naive illusion that the democrats will somehow see the light and save the day is nothing but a sad waste of time and energy...

the united states is facing and has been facing the most serious threat to its standing as a constitutionally-based republic ever since the scotus decision of 12 december 2000... we must remember that the bush administration signaled back in october, BEFORE the elections, that they would not, under any circumstances, back down from their claims of unfettered executive power under the bogus unitary executive theory, executive privilege and the aumf... today, leahy extended the subpoena response time from the already-passed july 18 to august 20, in yet another craven knuckling under to fred fielding... our nation hasn't a moment to lose... each and every day that bush and his fellow criminals continue to occupy the white house is another day our country edges closer to full-blown fascism...


Biden has his heart in the right place: he wants to unite the country after the savagery Bush laid on us.

But, as several posts have already indicated, you can't negotiate with people who have no give.

What we have to do is keep the majorities, create great legislation which is so insanely great (to quote Steve Jobs) that even the Repubs wouldn't go back later and muck with it. It has to be so beneficial to the public that any Repub mucking around would rebound very badly on them.

I'd like to see attempts at bipartisanship on health care reform, retirement funds protection reform, credit crunch fixes and the like. But, if they won't come along, then we'll just hit 'em over the head with it in the next election campaign.

It's the long-term things which need the most bipartisanship and Biden mentioned health care reform, foreign policy and environmental protection. I think he's a smart guy and just didn't get it right in this particular moment.

OTOH, Hillary and Barack are really brawling. Ain't it fun to watch!

I agree with one thing Hillary said (about Obama) -- it's great to talk about big ideas, but you have to be careful about how you say it since there are people listening. Edwards should heed that same advice.

MarkH -- Bipartisan health care reform would probably end up being even worse than what we have now. We need Universal Health Care and we need it badly no matter how much health insurers and big pharma wail and gnash their teeth.

I agree with DH that bipartisanship will not get us anywhere we need to go.

Bipartisan health care is like Medicare Part D.

Health care reform won't come until we have the WH as well as Congress, and it has to be comprehensive.

Just as the reinsurance companies had to come around before we get action on global cliomate collapse, the big employers have to sign on for heath care reform, but that's as bipartisan as it gets. The health insurers will get out when the profit is removed, and that is what needs to happen, through community risk pricing and offering better gov't and non-profit plans.

There is so darn much corruption, which has caused a near total meltdown of the Justice Dept, and other agencies tasked with responsibilities for oversight, case development leading to Justice Dept. prosecution (which isn't happening), such as the FBI, DSS, FAA, and most of the OIG (Office of Attorney General's) of most of those agencies, we are a rudderless ship.

Some immediate and severe cleaning house is needed! This is not political. It is not just one party or the other. The mess is bipartisan, and the cleanup must be as well!

G. Florence Scott

Interested in the pattern of Boeing Wrongdoing?

Waxman's committee is investigating more than one serious group of allegations now, though only one of them is publicly listed at the present time.

I've just posted morepast and present info about this at http://whistleblowersupporter.typepad.com.

I invite all of you to visit the site. I add to this site often.

G. Florence Scott (Flyover_27)

Maybe that's why Richardson suggested Bidden would make a good
Sec. of State. Keep him on the road. ;>)
As far as bipartisan? Well, FDR, Lincoln, and others have done it but as for what kind of Republican? Maybe McCain could put his views in for consideration, but Gee, I can't think of any others right now. Are there any? Neo-Cons not allowed of course since bipartisan with them should be the same bipartisanship shown the Dems. Bulldozership is more like it.

As for the Bipartisan-Dems who voted for warrantless wiretaps:

Holding Hands

Holding Hands
Dancing the Voodoo Dance
To protect Our Freedoms
With the Emperor
Who Wears No Clothes

If the Republicans had real common sense then bipartisanship could work in many cases. It has in the distant past. But most bipartisanship now days is:
"Holding Hands Dancing a Voodoo Dance With the Emperor"

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