Good news for Republicans!

I really can’t improve on the title of Bill Kristol’s “quick hit” about how great it is for Republicans to have lost Arlen Specter.

Obviously, the big question is who it helps the most, Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani.

Swine flu politics

Predictably enough, wingers are trying to turn the swine flu outbreak into a way to bash immigrants.

It will be interesting to see if the Village goes into “Obama needs to do something to stop the swine flu” mode. I’m not sure if invading Mexico or torturing people to find out where the swine flu came from is the answer.

But if Obama looks weak to the flu virus, we can expect a lot more flu viruses to attack us. I know that much.

Not surprised

John writes:

I have to admit to being surprised that the right seems to not only have instinctively rushed to defend torture (when, of course, they are not busy insisting that it isn’t torture), but now they are attempting to shift the debate into one in which we discuss the relative merits of torture (look at all the good intel I got while drowning this guy!) while bringing in the lawyers (I guess Andy McCarthy has moved on from Obama’s birth certificate) to make sure that their legal behinds are covered.

I have to admit I’m surprised too — I expected the reaction to be worse, both from the Village and from the right. It’s a given that the right not only likes the idea of torture for “national security” reasons but is also, in all likelihood, sexually aroused by the idea of torture. I expected much more lurid stuff about how great torture is and how Bush saved us from 1000 9/11’s, 9/11’s that will now befall of us because of Obama.

And I’m not surprised that the Village has taken a strong stand against prosecution, but I am surprised that they support the release of the memos at all (Broder):

Obama, to his credit, has ended one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.


Suppose the investigators decide that the country does not want to see the former president and vice president in the dock. Then underlings pay the price while big shots go free. But at some point, if he is at all a man of honor, George W. Bush would feel bound to say: That was my policy. I was the president. If you want to indict anyone for it, indict me.

Is that where we want to go? I don’t think so. Obama can prevent it by sticking to his guns.

It’s a given that the Village sees an affair with an intern as far more serious than violations of human rights. We already knew that. I expected the Village outcry against the release of the memos to be much stronger.

I’m not depressed that our society is half-depraved. I’m pleasantly surprised that it may be half-sane.

Memo To Jay Bybee: We Don’t Remember George Wallace For Recanting

File this under legacy maintenance.

Five years along in his new life as a federal judge, Bybee gathered the lawyers and their dates for a reunion, telling them he was proud of the legal work they had together produced.

And then, according to two of his guests, Bybee added that he wished he could say the same about his previous position.

[…] “I’ve heard him express regret at the contents of the memo,” said a fellow legal scholar and longtime friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity…

Wait. Strike that post title. Comparing this indirect, self-pitying mea culpa to George Wallace is an insult to George Wallace. When Wallace changed his mind he publicly apologized. Wallace dedicated his last term of governor to correcting his earlier mistakes. Unless Bybee plans to dish more thoroughly in the future, this Friday night bombshell deserves to be filed with other empty political non-apology apologies.

Let’s start with the last line above. Bybee “express[es] regret at the contents of the memo.” The contents of the memo should reflect Bybee’s thinking. Does that imply that he regrets what he was thinking at the time? The comment makes more sense if Bybee regrets letting someone else dictate the contents of the memo to him. That is a moment of professional weakness that a sensible person would regret. Naturally that would indict Bybee (for legal malpractice, among other things) rather than exonerate him, but John Amato has hints that this might be the case. Otherwise Bybee should explain what about his inner thought process he finds regrettable.

You might wonder whether Bybee’s non-apology could get any weaker. Oh yes it can.

Says the same friend,

“I’ve heard him express regret that the memo was misused.”

Every interrogator in the US government looked to Bybee’s memo for guidance on what they could and couldn’t do to helpless prisoners. It is not clear how such a document could be misused. If the US grabbed an innocent muslim off the street, locked him in a box with spiders, starved him, froze him, beat his head against walls, shackled him to the ceiling and left him standing for more than a week without sleep then Bybee’s little note would serve exactly the purpose for which it was written.

Nobody with the brains to earn a law degree* could possibly believe that a binding legal opinion authorizing torture by government interrogators would not lead to torture by government interrogators. Bybee feels legitimately anxious because the act of writing his memo, whose legal impact guaranteed abuses that followed it, was perhaps the greatest crime of all.

Maybe Bybee regrets the agents who went farther than his torture guidelines allowed, but that doesn’t make sense either. Those interrogators did not ‘abuse’ the memos; they exceeded their legal guidelines. Ashcroft or Gonzales could have prosecuted them if either of the two did not use their soul to store oily rags. I am not even sure how a series of memos that permissive could be abused. Did they waterboard Jane Harman?

If Jay Bybee regrets what he authorized then he can cooperate with the investigations to come. Until then I will cry a little tear for how uncomfortable he must feel at cocktail parties. I bet it feels like torture.

(*) Regent grads excepted.

Tough Guy, You Think You’re Like The Shaq

It is all politics to these clowns:

New York Republican Rep. Peter King thinks his party needs to go nuke if Bush era officials are prosecuted on torture charges.

King, the outspoken ranking member of the House homeland security committee, said Republicans should “shut down [legislative] activity across the board” if any Bush-era officials are hauled into court.

“We would need to have a scorched-earth policy and use procedural means to bring the place to a halt — go to war,” he told POLITICO.

He added:

“If we have another 2,000 people killed, I want Nancy Pelosi and [liberal philanthropist] George Soros, John Conyers and Pat Leahy to go to the funeral and say, ‘Your son was vaporized because we didn’t want to dump some guy’s head under water for 30 seconds.'”

What the hell does Soros have to do with this? And did Peter King and company have to go apologize for the thousands killed on 9/11?

These people are insane.

I have heard among this clan

Republicans are gaga about the revisionism of Amity Shlaes (via Steve Benen). Dave Weigel a few weeks ago:

The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, published in 2007, has become one of the most influential books of the decade. Republicans and conservative activists have read the book, absorbed its lessons, and deployed them in the current debate over how to tackle the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s. Newt Gingrich has read it. So has Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee. And so has Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), the head of the Senate Republican Policy Committee; according to his spokesman, the senator has also circulated the book among his colleagues.

Shlaes is a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, a former board member of the WSJ, and a columnist for Bloomberg. She has written at least three op-eds in the Washington Post over the past year, one of which proclaimed that “Phil Gramm was right…A recession is two consecutive quarters in which the economy shrinks, and last quarter it grew” (later it was determined that the economy had been in recession for six months at the time of her article and Phil Gramm’s remarks).

And what about her great book, The Forgotten Man? Here’s Jon Chait (h/t Steve Benen again):

Now here is the extremely strange thing about The Forgotten Man: it does not really argue that the New Deal failed. In fact, Shlaes does not make any actual argument at all, though she does venture some bold claims, which she both fails to substantiate and contradicts elsewhere. Reviewing her book in The New York Times, David Leonhardt noted that Shlaes makes her arguments “mostly by implication.” This is putting it kindly. Shlaes introduces the book by asserting her thesis, but she barely even tries to demonstrate it. Instead she chooses to fill nearly four hundred pages with stories that mostly go nowhere. The experience of reading The Forgotten Man is more like talking to an old person who lived through the Depression than it is like reading an actual history of the Depression. Major events get cursory treatment while minor characters, such as an idiosyncratic black preacher or the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, receive lengthy portraits. Having been prepared for a revisionist argument against the New Deal, I kept wondering if I had picked up the wrong book.

Many of Shlaes’s stories do have an ideological point, but the point is usually made in a novelistic way rather than a scholarly one. She tends to depict the New Dealers as vain, confused, or otherwise unsympathetic. She depicts business owners as heroic and noble. It is a kind of revival of the old de haut en bas sort of social history, except this time the tycoons from whose perspective the events are narrated appear as the underappreciated victims, the giants at the bottom of the heap.


“Even if you add in all the work relief jobs, as some economists do,” she has contended, “Roosevelt-era unemployment averages well above 10 percent. That’s a level Obama has referred to once or twice–as a nightmare.” But Roosevelt inherited unemployment that was over 20 percent! Sure, the level to which it fell was high by absolute standards, but it is certainly pertinent that he cut that level by more than half. By Shlaes’s method of reckoning, Thomas Jefferson rates poorly on the scale of territorial acquisition, because on his watch the United States had less than half the square mileage it has today.

That Republicans embrace this kind of silliness is predictable. That the Council on Foreign relations and our leading newspapers promote it is shameful.

The worst argument ever against same sex marriage

From Eva Rodriguez:

It’s a wonder that even supporters of same-sex marriage don’t reconsider their position after hearing the embarrassing, infuriating, self-absorbed rantings of quasi-celebrity Perez Hilton.

A gay man rants about same sex marriage. Ergo, gay people should not be able to get married.

Eva Rodriguez is a member of the Washington Post Editorial Board.