Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bush Against the Wall

George and His Constitution. Yesterday, President Bush emphasized that he is the decision-maker on troop levels in Iraq. At this point in his failing Presidency, the only real authority held by President Bush holds is that granted specifically to him by the Constitution--his role as commander-in-chief of the military, his appointment powers, and his veto power. No longer the central media figure, party leader, agenda setter, or the symbolic embodiment of the nation, Bush's presidency hangs by the thread of Constitutional protections for the institution of the President and he is fortunate that the rest of the nation has much more respect for the Constitution than his government. He is also fortunate that the nation is optimistically shifting its focus toward the next administration.

To Be or Not to Be a Public Servant. At Unclaimed Territory, Glenn Greenwald slugs away at the rhetoric of the Bush administration, the conservative media machine, and right-wing bloggers with a lot of passion and effectiveness. In today's post, Greenwald addresses the Bush administration's fetishizing the term "commander-in-chief," stressing that a President is only "commander-in-chief" of the military and that he or she is a public servant in relation to the rest of government and society. In fact, the mirror image of the Bush administration's emphasis on being "commander-in-chief" is their contempt for being "public service." The Bush administration and the right-wing in general have never had any respect for the idea of "serving the public." For the right, public service is an exercise in unmanliness, weakness, and effeminacy. From their point of view, the only reason to occupy government office is to hold power and dominate their opponents. Just as it was for slaveholders and segregationists, domination is core of morality for the right. That's why the Bush administration has sought out opportunities to transgress the law and the Constitution, revels in the sadism of the rendition system, kidnapping and torture, and loves the destructiveness of negative campaigning, smearing their opponents, and lying at every chance. Doing these things shows how tough they are.

It's also why the Bush administration is so cavalier about the details of administration and why almost everything they've done has turned out so poorly. The core of Bush ineptitude is the belief that only "pussies" pay attention.

Bush Should Resign. Several polls show that opposition to the surge is in the 60-70% range. The reason is that the broader population has lost faith in George Bush and his administration. Given that the U. S. is in a state of war and that a large chunk of the American military is fighting in Iraq, both George Bush and Dick Cheney should resign in order to give Americans a more credible government in a dangerous time. I saw this idea in posts on Slate's Fray by Ducadmo and Ellen and believe that it deserves serious discussion. With the Bush administration in office, American government no longer has the public support needed to address the current difficulties. If the Bush administration has any concern for the public welfare, they should simply resign and give another team a chance. Ducadmo argues that a Republican should be put in charge of a caretaker government. Perhaps Ducadmo has somebody like James Baker or Tom Kean of New Jersey in mind. However, I believe that any resignation by Bush and Cheney should allow Nancy Pelosi to take office. As Speaker of the House, Pelosi is third in line for the presidency and she's now actively involved in Iraq policy. Moreover, it is evident from the 2006 election and recent polling that the public has more respect for the ability of the Democrats to govern. For the good of the country, Bush should fall on his political sword and resign.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Chuck Schumer Doesn't Get It

Sometimes I wonder if the Democratic leadership is ever going to get it. Today, there's a report via Matthew Yglesias that Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York thinks that the Iraq War won't be as important in 2008 as it was in 2006. Pushing his new book, Schumer says "I think the surge will fail and the president will have no choice but to begin removing troops" which will then open the way for bread and butter issues like "cereal prices, discount air fares and tuition tax credits."

I wonder what kind of mushrooms Schumer is eating. The Bush administration has responded to all its failures in Iraq by either "staying the course" or "escalating." Why would Schumer think that Bush would ever withdraw from Iraq? That would be admitting that the war is a failure and that his presidency has been a failure.

Shumer shows a lack of understanding about the war on terror. The war on terror is going to remain central as long as there is organized global terrorism. Every administration after this is going to be measured first by it's ability to prevent another 9-11 and is going to have to make fighting terrorism its top priority. The Democrats won't be able to make the bread and butter issues their top priority for the forseeable future.

Finally, Sen. Schumer does not understand the historical opportunity which the failure of the Bush administration presents to the Democrats. Bush has shown that the right-wing can neither conduct a war nor manage American society in the case of Catrina and New Orleans. In 2008, dissatisfaction with the Bush administration, the war, and the surge is going to be particularly intense, giving the Democrats a shot at both a big landslide victory and a governing mandate.

Instead of talking about discount air fares, the Democrats need to pounce on this opportunity and work out their approach to governing. That's because they may actually be governing for the next 10-15 years.

The First Woman Shadow President

It looks like a Democratic shadow government is forming in the House in an attempt to fill some of the vacuum created by the failure of the Bush administration. Today, Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic foreign policy leadership in the House are on a fact-finding trip to Iraq.

What's significant is that it's a House Democratic trip not a House of Representatives trip. No Republicans were invited. That makes Nancy Pelosi into a kind of shadow president.

Of course, Pelosi is not the first shadow president. Thomas Jefferson was the president in waiting during the Adams administration while Newt Gingrich functioned as a shadow president from the 1994 election to the government shut-down in 1995.

But Pelosi is the first woman shadow president.

Color-blind Race Baiting

Last semester, I had a couple of virulently racist white guys in one of my classes. But their racism was never expressed directly. Saying things like "why do we have to study blacks instead of the working class" or "criticizing racism is what causes racism," these guys stayed within the bounds of color-blind language as they were engaged in race-baiting. In fact, color-blind language is used to justify police shootings of blacks, the kind of mob violence against blacks that occurred on Long Island in the eighties, the exclusion of blacks from stores, and racial profiling. In The Alchemy of Race and Rights, Patricia Williams, an African-American law professor, provides a detailed personal account of the wrenching humiliation that color-blind racism created for her as an African-American.

I'm beginning to wonder if the Democratic victory in 2006 isn't sparking another wave of race-baiting from the right. The right-wing race baiting campaign against Obama has already begun. When the right baits Barack Obama over his name or circulates lies about Obama's schooling, what they're trying to do is create suspicion over Obama's race--whether he's really like "us" or whether he can really be "trusted." The fact that Obama's black and a liberal makes him even more of an enemy to the right than Osama bin Laden. While the Republicans were on top, the right-wing seemed to take a break from race-baiting in the name of cementing a Republican majority. Now that the Republicans are in the minority again, the right seems to be returning to its racist roots.

Anti-immigrant zealot Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado is joining the race-baiting fun. According to today's Denver Post, Tancredo is calling for the disbanding of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-Pacific minority caucuses to be disbanded in the name of color-blindness, claiming that the minority caucuses equal "racial segregation." What Tancredo is trying to do is to use the pseudo-liberal language of color-blindness (pseudo-liberal because it "sounds" liberal even though it was invented by conservatives for conservative political purposes) to forbid blacks and other racial minorities from associating together to further their interests. For Tancredo, business is a legitimate interest, abortion is a legitimate interest, and opposition to immigration is a legitimate interest, but blacks, hispanics, and Asian-Americans can have no legitimate group interests. It's just a subtle way to exclude racial minorities from political life.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Locating the State of the Union

George Driving Around the Washington Baghdad. The problem with the last build-up in Baghdad was that American troops were not only not able to suppress the sectarian strife, they were not even relevant to the conflict. They ended up DAB, driving around Baghdad, with no particular place to go. With the State of the Union address, George Bush shows a similar problem. Sandwiched between Hillary Clinton's announcement of her presidential candidacy and the Senate resolution against the surge, President Bush only commanded the headlines for twenty-four hours.

Not Moving the Kool-Aid. President Bush was probably hoping that no one would watch the State of the Union. Support for the surge actually dropped after President Bush's address a couple of weeks ago and it dropped the most among people who watched Bush's speech. Public hostility to the President has risen to the extent that President Bush is no longer an effective spokesman for his own policies. It's not like Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol, Joe Lieberman or any of the other war advocates have any credibility either. Today, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin referred to Dick Cheney as "delusional." The Bush administration can no longer sell its Kool-Aid to the public.

Where the Action is. Surprisingly enough, the immediate fate of the Bush administration is being decided in the Republican Senate caucus as John McCain and John Warner engage in a duel to determine whether a Senate resolution against the surge will be a partisan Democratic effort or a bi-partisan expression of the will of the people. If McCain succeeds in limiting Republican support for the resolution to 2 or 3 Senators, President Bush may have a little breathing room to determine if the surge is workable. If Warner wins and the anti-surge resolution gets more than 60 votes, it will be the equivalent of a no confidence vote on the Bush administration. The surge will become a renegade military operation.

Will the Right-wing Survive. Back in 2002 and 2003, I used to wonder if the Bush administration would end up destroying conservative government all over the world. After all, John Poindexter and William Bennett were talking openly about overthrowing traditional governments in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Now it looks like the Bush administration is destroying American conservatism. The right-wing has been the driving organizational, ideological, and financial force in the Republican Party since the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. However, the Iraq War is the right-wing's war and the elections of 2006 were not only a repudiation of George Bush, they were a repudiation of the Republican Right. Given that the surge is another idea emerging from the right, will the failure of the surge condemn the right-wing even further in the eyes of the public? That's one of the reasons why ultra-conservatives like Sam Brownback are cool towards the war. They don't want to see the entire right-wing agenda sink with the Bush administration.

School's Out (It Seems Like) Forever

My two kids are off from school again today. Yesterday's half inch of snow iced up last night, making things dangerous for school buses in my part of Kentucky. Originally coming from upstate New York, part of me laughs when I think of the local schools cancelling on half an inch of snow. But country roads are narrow and windy, nobody knows how to drive in icy conditions (including me anymore) and I'd just as soon everybody lived through the experience.

I have to admire the kids. The snow didn't even cover the ground completely, but they had all the winter paraphernalia out just like they lived in Montana. After a winter without snow last year, the kids were determined to take advantage of every snowflake for this year's first snow. It looked like the snow perked up some of my classes as well.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dick Cheney Warm-Ups for Blitzer Interview

Vice-President Dick Cheney was on CNN's "The Situation Room Today" responding to Wolf Blitzer's questions about Iraq, Hillary Clinton, and Mary Cheney's babies. Cheney told a couple of huge, whopping lies during the interview. The biggest whopper was that Saddam Hussein and the Iranians would be in a nuclear arms race now if we hadn't invaded Iraq. But he almost topped that when he implied that U. S. failure to stay in Afghanistan after the departure of the Soviet Union led to 9-11.

How does Cheney do it? How does he lie with such gusto? Such brio? Is this kind of lying a talent or is it a skill that has to be cultivated? What about when Cheney leaves the studio? Does he go cold turkey and start telling the truth or does he habitually lie to his wife, his staff, his secret service protection and everybody else in his life? Personally, I imagine that Cheney doesn't spend all his time telling lies to the people and that he limits his lying to his speeches, his contacts with the media, and his personal conversations with the president.

But how does he make the transition from truth-telling to lying? I'm sure he knows that wrenching emotional transitions like his transitions from truth-telling to lying and back again could cause heart attacks in people his age. So, Cheney must have some sort of warm-up for his exercises in lying or some sort of mantra that he says as he prepares for important "truth-distorting occasions" like interviews with Blitzer. Given that Cheney's not a Buddhist (if he's telling the truth about his religious views), I suspect that he must have some sort of warm-up exercises. Perhaps he starts with some easy lies about his personal appearance. I think "Yes, Wolf, I've always had blonde hair" would be a good start. Then he could rattle off some quick lies about himself as he worked himself up to lying about politics--for example: "Yes, Wolf I have lost thirty pounds recently;" "No, I've never had a heart attack;" "I really wanted to serve in Vietnam;" "I marched with Martin Luther King in Birmingham and Selma;" "Did you know that I was faster than O.J. Simpson."

Once Dick started to get his groove on, he could punch the air of the CNN Green Room with some real whoppers. How about "Did you know Wolf that that was me on the moon, not Neil Armstrong, that George Bush invented hip-hop, that Mary Cheney gave up her career in opera to work on his campaigns, or that the finest wines were made outside Caspar, Wyoming rather than California or France?" After riffing off about ten more lines like this, Cheney would know that he was master of his domain and that he's just about there.

One final lie: "America is lucky to have me as its Vice-President"--and he 's ready to go on.

Back to Blogging

RSI has been down for the last day and a half as my computer lost its internet connection. The back-up systems at my University weren't very helpful either. My technical staff will do better in the future.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"Hillary:" The Big Dog In More Ways Than One

There's been some objection over the internet that addressing Hillary Clinton as "Hillary" is sexist. Given that everybody political is going to be talking and writing endlessly about Hillary, I'm somewhat glad that she can be called by several names--Hillary,Sen. Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Hillary Clinton, the junior senator from New York, and HRC among others.

But "Hillary is the big dog among Hillary names.

Mostly it's because that's how Hillary Clinton's campaign wants you to think of her. There are many reasons why this is the case.

1. "Hillary" has a connotation of familiarity and ease that HRC wants to promote as a substitute for Bill Clinton's or Barack Obama's charisma.

2. "Hillary" allows Hillary Clinton to pose herself as a political figure independent of her husband and former president Bill Clinton. Given that Hillary Clinton has achieved this independence the hard way by going through the Lewinsky scandal, running for the New York Senate seat, and slogging through eight hard years of Republican domination, I think she deserves to have that independence recognized throught the Hillary brand (as Dick Morris calls it).

3. Hillary has always been somewhat suspicious of adapting her husband's last name and only gave in after Bill lost a run for re-election in Arkansas. "Hillary" allows her to escape this indignity to her womanhood.

4. Like "Arnold" Schwarzenegger, "Hillary" reflects Hillary Clinton's status as a celebrity as well as a politician. Given that her celebrity status is one of her political assets, using "Hillary" as her name is a way to acknowledge her strength as a politician.

5. "Hillary" also fits the natural informality of internet writing.

"Hillary" would be sexist if it demeaned her accomplishments and dignity or reduced her to her attractiveness. But most of what Hillary does is convey a sense of comfortable leadership. Given that Hillary is the favorite, the name is doing its job.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hooray for Roe v Wade

Today is the 34th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision overturning state laws against abortion.

Roe v Wade is one of the great turning points in the efforts of women to achieve full equality in human civilization. The right to legal abortion meant that women became like men in having full possession over their own bodies, their own lives, and their own being. Laws against abortion meant that state governments had legal possession over women's bodies to the extent that they could dictate how women dispossed of their bodies in relation to sex, pregnancy, and parenthood. As long as state governments mandated that the threat of pregnancy hang over every act of heterosexual sexual intercourse, women could not live as free beings and could not live their bodies in any kind of mature way.

The impact of Roe on women is incalculable. Because women have a right to abortions, they have much more freedom in their sexual lives and their bodies more generally. Because women have much more freedom, they are able to complete educations, get physical training, carry on careers, and plan their children.

Given the pervasive violence and discrimination they face, women are far from being completely free. Likewise, the religious right's campaigns against abortion rights, contraception, and sex outside marriage continually threaten the freedoms made possible by Roe v Wade.

Still, Roe v Wade was a huge step forward.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

There is Some Justice

Manning Beats the Forces of Evil. I was super-glad to see the Colts beat the Patriots. Peyton Manning finally got the "can't win the big one" monkey off his back while New England's evil "we don't give a crap about the players" management got what was coming to them.

Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy Beat the Stereotypes. The NFL is definitely not "High School Musical." Nasty racial stereotyping has dogged the heels of black athletes and coaches every step of the process of integration. First, blacks weren't supposed to be smart enough to play guard, then center, and finally quarterback with the stereotypes only retreating after great black players like Gene Upshaw and Warren Moon thoroughly disproved them. When black guys finally got the opportunity to work as head coaches, the idea that black coaches were great "disciplinarians" (as opposed to football geniuses) quickly took hold. What was good about Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith winning is that they're both known as smart guys who proved themselves today against two of the reigning "geniuses" of the coaching world--Bill Belichick of New England and Sean Payton of the Saints. Perhaps the NFL will look a little more like "High School Musical" when Dungy and Smith are acknowledge are also acknowledged as geniuses.

A Couple of New Race Cards

The Disney Template. An item that "Hannah Montana" had sold out the Houston Rodeo Show within half an hour reminded me about the special power of the Disney Race Template. Building on their television shows, movies like "High School Musical" represent schools as integrated places where the star white basketball player dates a hispanic "genius girl," the head of the "brainiacs" was black and female, and the ending was a black guy finally getting the white drama queen to go out with him. "High School Musical" starts with an integrated premise and become more integrated as the various story lines are worked out. It's a sweet model of fictional reality that a lot of kids take as being the real world. As a result, college students at my almost all-white university can be surprised both at the extent of white racism and surprised that blacks are highly aware and resentful of racism.

John Edwards: The Last Viable White Man in America. There's an interesting anomoly in the latest Newsweek polling about the presidential race. Even though John Edwards is polling at 12-14% among Democrats, Newsweek has him doing better in head to head matchups with John McCain and Rudy Giuliani than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. That John Edwards does well against McCain and Giuliani is evidence for RSI's idea that the Dems could win with a potted plant in 2008. That Edwards does better than Hillary and Obama in the head-to-heads with Republicans even though he trails well behind them among Democrats is interesting because it raises the spectre of gender and race in the presidential race. Where Edwards scores better than the two more popular candidates is among Democrats and Independents. The 5% boost that Edwards has over Obama among Democrats and 4% margin over Obama among independents might be a measure of who is not going to be willing to vote for a black candidate in 2008. The same to a lesser extent with gender in relation to Edwards' 4% margin over Hillary against McCain and 3% against Giuliani. I think that their association with President Bush and the Iraq War is going to eat away at support for McCain and that Giuliani is not a serious candidate. John Edwards might be the last viable white candidate in America.