Ya Gotta Be Kidding Me, Chuck

This made me laugh out loud:

His Republican colleagues regard him warily. The White House barely speaks to him. He is reviled by his party’s conservative base.

Looks as though Sen. Chuck Hagel is on a roll.

Both parties have their Iraq war contrarians. For the Democrats, it is Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, whose steadfast support for President Bush nearly cost him his seat last year and forced him to run as an independent. The Republican version is Hagel, a career maverick from Nebraska and the only GOP senator to call for an end to the war.

Hagel’s sharp criticism of the war has placed him squarely in the mainstream of public opinion on Iraq and revived long-dormant speculation about his presidential ambitions. Hagel has been eclipsed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading contender for his party’s presidential nomination who has vigorously endorsed the president’s war policies.

Chuck Hagel, if he ran, would not win one primary. Hell, he couldn’t even beat McCain in South Carolina, and the base hates McCain for a number of reasons (not to mention half of South Carolina still thinks he has a black baby).

One of the most amusing (depressing) aspects of the GOP’s descent into lunacy (I can say that now that I am officially a moonbat! Do I get a certificate in the mail, Misha?) the past few years has been listening to the rhetoric of the 28%er’s, who faced with the fact that their ideas (and that is a charitable name for the babble they spew) are rejected by the majority of the country and a sizable portion of the party, are now focussed on purges within the party. I was only half-joking yesterday when I wrote the silly pledge should actually read “Follow Bush over a cliff or we will make sure that we are a Southern regional religionist party with 12 seats in the Senate!” That is what some of them want. Enter Dean Barnett:

2) What is the purpose of the pledge?

It is not a loyalty oath. Nothing like it. The pledge rests on the premise that Republicans who are supporting the anti-surge resolution are doing so as a craven political play. The pledge is merely a way of showing them that it is an extremely poor political play. And since political advantage is the coin of their realm, we think it may serve to change their hearts and minds.

3) But isn’t it somehow unseemly to demand that these people sign a petition to show their loyalty to the White House?

Again, as is so often the case, you completely miss the point. We’re not asking the Senators to sign the pledge. We’re asking people who will move any Republican who votes for the resolution to the head of their s**t list to sign the petition. The pledge is merely a way for the grassroots to communicate their feelings to the Republican Party.

All well and good, but bullshit. The point of the pledge is to stop Senators from being Senators, and continue to be lackeys for this administration. The point is to stifle any dissent. What would Barnett do if they cut off funding from the troops? Aside from having an aneurysm, they would immediately fire up the stab-in-the back machine they have been warming up for months, and then work to get all these folks unelected anyway.

But cutting off funding for the troops would be irresponsible. We all know that. So what is one to do, as a Senator, if you deeply oppose this piddling surge because your recognize the futility and underwhelming nature of it, yet do not want to fully cut off the troops. Particularly when you are dealing with an extremely obstinate President and an administration in full-fledged spin mode? An administration who has screwed up EVERYTHING they have touched over the course of the past few years, and who listens to no one?

You do the only thing you can. You signal your displeasure with the current plan through a non-binding resolution. And EVEN that is too much for the authoritarians on the right, because any dissent from the Decider is not to be had. Hell, his choice of personnel was just unanimously confirmed, and even THAT pissed off the knuckledraggers:

General David Petraeus has been confirmed by the Senate. He received 81 votes. No, he didn’t get 19 ‘no’ votes. Senator Tim Johnson is in the hospital, still. But 18 others just did not bother to show up and vote.

The United States Senate cares so much about retreating from the battlefield that we’re going round and round over a negotiated non-binding surrender resolution. They care so little about prosecuting the war that 18 of them could not be bothered to show up and cast a vote for or against the general who will lead our soldiers in Iraq — for or against the general who said he needs more troops to get the job done.

Not only are they pissed that Petraeus didn’t get all 100 votes, but they are snippy because people had the unmitigated gall to vote for the non-binding resolution saying the current surge is a bad idea, but for Petraeus:

John Warner is reportedly authoring a resolution that essentially mirrors the recommendations of the bipartisanly disregarded Iraq Study Group report while disapproving of the ongoing increase of US troops in Iraq.

Yet during Petraeus’ confirmation hearing he was unabashedly in favor of the troop surge ordered by the President.

The dichotomy here is simply bonejarring. On the one hand a clear majority of this panel will vote that sending additional troops to Iraq is not in the national interest. This is an extremely strong statement, one that approaches alleging treason on the part of the president and which would clearly constitute an impeachable offense. On the other hand the panel voted unanimously to confirm as military commander in Iraq a man who supports the deployment of those troops to Iraq. In essence, the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed to four-star rank and to the command of the most critical military effort of the United States a man who is openly not acting in the best interests of the nation.

Senators possessing even a modicum of integrity would have the moral obligation to vote against David Petraeus if for no other reason than to force the president to send a nominee who does not support the troop surge. It they are truly serious about their beliefs it is hard to see how they could act otherwise.

Make sure you read the comments in that last link. The commenters patiently tried, repeatedly, to explain to Streiff that it is possible to signal your displeasure with the current surge plan while still believing a President has a right to his personnel, but he was having none of it. Nuance, as we know, is for pussies.

And back we go to Chuck Hagel, who, as you see, has no chance at ever being President. He has committed the greatest sin- he thought for himself. Hugh Hewitt, Dean Barnett, and Red State will make sure he is punished.

The Credibility Gap

Via Protein Wisdom, this NY Sun piece titled “Turnaround in Baghdad”:

What needs to be understood is the central role that Al Qaeda — or more accurately its successor organization, a group called the Islamic State of Iraq — is playing on these fronts and the diminishing role of all the other insurgent groups.

The wider Sunni insurgency — the groups beyond Al Qaeda — is being slowly, and surely, defeated. The average insurgent today feels demoralized, disillusioned, and hunted. Those who have not been captured yet are opting for a quieter life outside of Iraq. Al Qaeda continues to grow for the time being as it cannibalizes the other insurgent groups and absorbs their most radical and hardcore fringes into its fold. The Baathists, who had been critical in spurring the initial insurgency, are becoming less and less relevant, and are drifting without a clear purpose following the hanging of their idol, Saddam Hussein. Rounding out this changing landscape is that Al Qaeda itself is getting a serious beating as the Americans improve in intelligence gathering and partner with more reliable Iraqi forces.

Hooray. Huzzah! Yippee! We’ve turned another corner!

Greats news, if you can believe it. Except as much as I would like to, I don’t. Hilzoy, writing about the SOTU address the other day, nailed it:

It was, instead, a speech that might have impressed me if I had just beamed in from Jupiter. It was well-written and well-delivered. The beginning, about Nancy Pelosi, was quite gracious. Even the parts about earmark reform and energy policy might have impressed me if I didn’t know anything about Bush’s record on these issues.

The problem, of course, is that I do know about Bush’s record. Bush is in a situation in which no speech he can give can really do the job. He has lost the confidence of the American people. People don’t really trust him at all. He says that he has a plan to win the war; he has said that any number of times before. He says he’s concerned about energy independence; Jim Webb claims that this is the seventh time Bush has mentioned energy independence in a state of the union message, and while I haven’t gone back and checked, that sounds right.

When no one trusts you, more words will not alter that fact. You need to win their trust back, and no speech on earth can do that. You need action. And nothing I’ve seen from Bush to date suggests that he has the wisdom and leadership to get it right in Iraq, or the bare minimum of interest needed to do something good in domestic policy.

And such it is with Iraq, the surge supporters, and this administration. I would love to believe that we really are ‘winning’ or making progress, but there is ample evidence that we are not, and the word of the surge supporters and this administration is no good.

How many milestones have we passed? How many corners have we turned? How many insurgent #2’s have we killed (so many that the administration no longer refers them to the #2 man, but instead call them ‘top aides’)? How many times were we told that Padilla was the greatest threat to mankind, only to watch an administration now afraid to even try him without venue shopping. How many times were we told that extra-legal surveillance was absolutely necessary, only to learn last week it really isn’t. How many times were we told the abuses at Abu Gharaib and elsewhere was the work of a few bad apples, only to learn that torture is the policy of this administration. Hell, they even went farther and legalized it after they couldn’t deny it anymore. How many times have we been told everything is great in Iraq and that it is only the liberal media and biased statistics that are misleading us?

I would love for this article to be true. Hell, if it is, let’s declare victory and GTFO now. But simple common sense and the mountain of contrary evidence keeps me from believing we are close to the elusive and ill-defined victory we all want.

And oh, by the way. The author of that NY Sun piece is the former Director of Research for Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (Check under scholars for his bio). Yes. That Ahmed Chalabi.

Welcome to the Stillers

With everything going on, I forgot to post about this:

Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin accepted the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching job Sunday night and was working out a four-year contract he hoped to complete Monday, people close to the search told The Associated Press.

They requested anonymity because the Steelers have asked all parties involved in the search to not speak to reporters until they can make the announcement, which could come Monday or Tuesday.

Tomlin is expected to make around $2.5 million per year, the going rate of late for first-time NFL coaching hires. Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher resigned Jan. 5 following 15 seasons after apparently rejecting a $6 million per year contract extension offer earlier this year.

Tomlin’s hiring completed a frantic 2 1/2-week search in which he was initially viewed as an unlikely choice behind perceived front-runners Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, only to land the job after impressing the Steelers with his motivation, intensity, knowledge of defense and enthusiasm.

Welcome aboard, Mike.

Obama For Universal Healthcare

This is seriously good news. Obviously having another influential Dem politician behind the idea brings it that much closer to happening, and it would be nice to see the Obama campaign settle on a signature issue or two. But to me this is interesting because Obama may have the right combination of qualities to exploit the growing tension between the American insurance industry and basically everybody else. Relative to our competitors with more sensible healthcare plans (that is, virtually every other developed nation) American industry is suffocating under the financial burdens of our employer-provided healthcare system.

It might seem insensitive to set aside the concerns of citizens who can’t afford private healthcare, employees whose coverage nickels and dimes them to death (sometimes literally) and the entire categories of Americans who cannot buy health insurance at any price, and I suppose that’s true. The problem is that outside of AARP, which has Medicare, no specific organization speaks for healthcare consumers. Every politician has to answer to the voters, sure, but come election time they answer with lobbyists’ money. To get attention on Capitol hill you need money and organization. Consumers can’t do it (though it might be wrong to write off the grassroots/netroots just yet). However, if one lumps together the American industries that would quickly come off life support when a single-payer plan is sensibly implemented (auto, airlines, service, etc) it would become seriously difficult even for the insurers’ titanic K street operation to compete.

Needless to say, tossing together American industry behind universal healthcare isn’t beginner chess. Somebody will have to overcome business leaders’ instinctive mistrust of socialist-sounding ideas and Democrats in general. Then we can even start talking about problems like institutional inertia. For that reason it seems unlikely that John Edwards, career trial lawyer, will make much headway. Fairly or unfairly Hillarycare gives me shudders. Obama, though, has a knack for making unlikely friends, a pragmatic tendency to look for common ground and little to no skeletons to get in the way. The idea of marshaling American industry against American insurance may be a fool’s errand for any pol, but I have an odd feeling that Barrack Obama may have what it takes to pull it off.


To add, finding one encouraging quality in a candidate does not a full endorsement make. In my view every credible candidate in the Democratic field would make an fine president. I also have no doubt that if current trends continue any one of them will slaughter whoever the GOP eventually puts forward.


Color Kevin Drum underwhelmed. Maybe I’m guilty of projecting what I want to see. It’s hard to say, he hasn’t proposed anything yet.

This Is Interesting

Bob Novak points out something I missed:

Webb’s astringent comments contrasted sharply with Bush’s tone, which indicated he still has not shed illusions that he carried from Austin to Washington in 2001. Congressional Democrats are nothing like the tame Democrats in the Texas Legislature whom Bush dealt with as governor. On Tuesday night, Bush ignored issues dear to the conservative base such as embryonic stem cell research, abortion and same-sex marriage. Delivering his State of the Union on the day after the annual March for Life on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Bush did not see fit to mention the abortion issue, which is important to so many of his supporters.

Instead, the president talked about goals, though not methods, dear to Democratic hearts: expanded health insurance, energy independence and federal aid for local education. Bush was reminiscent of President Bill Clinton in sprinkling his speech with small proposals that might be popular. Yet Democrats immediately indicated that all such Bush plans have no chance of passage.

When was the last State of the Union address that did not mention abortion? When was the last SOTU by a Republican that did not mention abortion?

Post SOTU Thoughts and the Idiotic and Bizarre Pledge

The Belgravia Dispatch pretty much sums up my opinion about the SOTU address (and I sorry for the delay posting this, but I have been busy):

This SOTU felt like something of a requiem. It was almost painful to watch. Like, say, Jacques Chirac, the President seemed a dead man walking. The domestic policy part, despite some initiatives of arguable import (energy conservation, health insurance), reeked of half-hearted delivery, a sense that little of it would come to fruition, in short, that is was mere filler/prologue. Put simply, Bush’s heart wasn’t in the domestic policy section (and Cheney even mischievously winked to the gallery during one of the reduction in energy usage parts). None of it was truly convincing, in the least.

Then Bush transitioned to foreign policy (after the obligatory homeland security boiler-plate), the linch-pin of his Presidency, and how his legacy will largely be determined. And of this section, what can one say? His tactical political goal was clear, stop the hemorrhaging in support of Republicans on the Hill. Might he have swayed a Norm Coleman, say, to stay on the reservation and support Plus-Up? Maybe, but it was weak fare, a recitation of much that had been said before, and nothing I heard tonight gave any additional faith that injection of 17,500 troops into a raging civil war in the capital city of Iraq will change the direction of the conflict absent massive crisis management with all the key neighbors via a diplomatic offensive led by a chief diplomat of real caliber (if one were available).

On the domestic issues, I heard a political version of the Peanuts teacher- “Waah wah wah Health care wah wah wah oil consumption waha wah wah.” My eyes just glazed over. I know none of that isgoing to happen. You know none of that is going to happen. The people applauding in the chamber know it is not going to happen. Bush and his speechwriters knew it was not going to happen. It was silliness, and even if the policies have merit and should happen, do you really trust this band of imbeciles to implement them? I sure as hell don’t, and Belgravia nailed it (although minor quibble- the title of his post should have been Dead Man Talking).

As to the foreign policy stuff, meh. The usual lofty rhetoric was present (although I didn’t see any axis of evil stuff):

In the sixth year since our nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers have ended. They have not. And so it remains the policy of this government to use every lawful and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies, and to protect the American people.

This war is more than a clash of arms — it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and come to kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom — societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates, reformers, and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security … we must.

Blah blah blah. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Most silly of all is that his rhetoric about the severity and importance of this struggle does not even have any internal consistency, for a little bit later we learn:

One of the first steps we can take together is to add to the ranks of our military — so that the American Armed Forces are ready for all the challenges ahead. Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years. A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. And it would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.

Six years in to the greatest threat to our society EVAH, and the decider has chosen now is the time, over the course of five years, to increase the military by 92,000 men. That isn’t even enough to handle what is needed to address our losing affair in Iraq and our mission in Afghanistan, and those won’t be ready for five years.

Q: How serious is this struggle if we don’t have any sense of urgency about it?


A: About as serious as Hugh Hewitt and the Bush dead enders, I presume. Faced with the prospect of actual dissent and treason within the Republican ranks after Hagel’s well-deserved and passionate speech yesterday, brave bloggers worldwide created a bizarre and troubling pledge for everyone to ‘sign.’ The pledge:

If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.

The current signatories include serious military thinkers such as Hugh “HARRIET MIERS IS THE BOMB” Hewitt and Dan “God hates fags” Riehl, and, of course Red State, which used to be conservative but now is little more than a sad exercise in Rovian doublespeak (but they hate Democrats, so that counts for something!). The whole list of signatories can be found here. It is hard to describe how creepy and, well, authoritarian this nonsense is, but Glenn Greenwald does an able job of it.

I tried to think of some other pledges to take the place of this exercise in lunacy, and this is what I came up with for all these Bush diehards:

“Follow Bush over a cliff or we will make sure that we are a Southern regional religionist party with 12 seats in the Senate!”

Not only is supporting Bush with this piddling surge a terrible idea for Iraq and for our troops, it is politically stupid. The deep thinkers on the Bush diehard right have decided, however, to double down. Now not only will the GOP be under assault in 2008 externally for their hideous decision-making, horrible leadership, and sickening fealty to the rotting Bush regime, but now we can set up some internecine warfare to boot. Sounds like a plan, guys.

And that is where we are. Iraq is a disaster, our military is strained, the administration is drained, under assault, worried about the Libby trial, and devoid of leadership and bereft of ideas. If that wasn’t clear before the State of the Union, it sure as hell should be now. It would be premature to call the Bush Presidency dead, as we still have two years of watching them slowly rot while spreading further their cancer into the body politic. Personally, I am going to hold my nose and try to pretend it is not partially my fault we are in this mess.

Egregiously Simple Questions Answered Simply

In a post about marriage trends, Ezra asks:

This may seem naive, and I’m sure there’s an obvious statistical explanation for it, but how are fewer women than men married? Presumably, they’re mostly married to each other, no?

There are more women than men in America. This kind of surprises me since Ezra knows more than I do about a lot of stuff.

The rest of the post merits a read. I don’t know whether there’s anything significant to pick up from the observation that people tend to marry people similar to themselves, except as a reminder that opportunities for class mobility are especially important during the pre-marriage years. Quality public education and access to universities should top pretty much anyone’s list, but I would add at least two more. Fair wages for the lowest tier of the workforce and universal healthcare play a key role since the children of families which lack either face dramatic roadblocks that privileged children do not. Stepping back into the realm of party politics, it is hardly an accident that the GOP stands against virtually everything that increases social mobility and the Dems in favor. Feature, not a bug.


Thanks to the thousands of readers who have not pointed out what a complete pedant I am. But as long as I’m pedanting away, Ezra corrected in an update. Now I feel slightly dirty for using good blog space to snag low-hanging fruit rather than insanity like this.


About that link (yes, this is more or less an open thread) – does Hugh Hewitt serve any purpose other than to confirm Glenn Greenwald’s thesis about insane authoritarian rightwingers? Discuss.