Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day

Today is the day we remember those we fought and sacrificed (limbs, lives, time) to defend their country. We must separate the people from the policy and honor them. Doing so has been relegated to the placing of magnets on cars, but I hope people understand honoring them is not just thinking about them once or twice a year, but also to not take our freedoms for granted. I also hope that our leaders will no longer dishonor their sacrifices by sending them to war unnecessarily or by using them as political tools. Nor by forgetting them when they come home, which I hope will be soon and safe.

Related reading: Here, here, here, here, and here.

Spinning the Democratic Majority

In my post on Thursday, I tried to do my best to cut through all the spin/conventional wisdom being formed around the Democratic victory this week. Far too many who have insulted or dismissed that party for years now insist on giving the party 'advice' and explaining to them what their victory means... For instance, a nonsensical NY Daily News editorial yesterday instructed the Democrats not to think they have some sort of mandate to do anything and also was quite insistent that they not start talking about timetables for withdrawals in Iraq (when in fact voters made it very clear this is what they wanted). Even conservative Tony Blankley noted on yesterday's 'Left, Right, and Center' on KCRW that President Bush didn't really win the 2000 election (Blankley called it a tie), but claimed a mandate anyway. So why don't the Democrats have a mandate after what even the President acknowledged was a "thumpin'"? I hope the Democrats are smart enough to know that they got this far by not listening to the conventional wisdom of DC insiders and the media. People gave them a mandate for change, not just in Iraq, but to hold people accountable for the mistakes of the past six years, and for a change in the legislative direction of this country in a more forward-thinking manner.

One of the media narratives being played out is that the Democrats only won because of 'conservative' Democrats. This is just not true. While it is true the Democrats are a more diverse party than the opposition, and have always represented the true center of the country in my opinion, the new Democratic majority is no less progressive than before. Yes, there are more 'red state' Democrats now, but that is a sign of Democrats expanding beyond their traditional terrorities, not of an ideological realignment, per se. Jim Webb is hardly George Allen.

One example of a 'conservative' Democrat that is brought up is Montana's Senator-elect Jon Tester. Blogger Atrios looks at the 'conservative' agenda of Mr. Tester-
  • Supporting renewable and alternative energy sources
  • Raising automobile mileage
  • Pro-choice
  • Protecting public lands
  • Country of origin labels for food imports
  • Affordable health care
  • Enforcing immigration laws for immigrants and employers
  • gun rights
  • A plan to end the war in Iraq
  • Increasing the minimum wage
  • Repealing the Patriot Act
  • Changing Medicare D to allow price negotiation with drug companies
  • No to social security privatization
  • Pro stem cell research
  • Middle class tax relief

With the sole exception of the gun rights issue (and the immigration one, to a lesser extent, but I think enforcing immigration laws is not an ideological position), this seems like an incredibly progressive, positive agenda to me. The Senator he ousted- Conrad Burns- would probably have a mental breakdown if even half of this list got accomplished. So why is he called 'conservative'? Because, as Josh Marshall points out, he is a farmer from Montana with a buzz-cut hairdo and therefore must be conservative. The media is neither conservative nor liberal, they are just intellectually lazy.

Atrios notes elsewhere that "There was a time when the 'political center' had some actual meaning and some genuine relationship to voter preference, but it's now a concept which has been redefined to be equated with the elite consensus... The truth is any agenda that the Democrats are likely to work on is entirely mainstream, and this would probably be true even if they had an 80 seat majority in the House and a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Whether or not this mainstream agenda will be judged as 'centrist' by the sensible people who make such determinations I have no idea."

Or, as Alex Koppelman stated, "Five antiabortion congressmen does not a revolution make."

If you listened to the concerned rhetoric about 'extreme' Democrats, you'd think this was their agenda.

Moving on to intra-party Democratic dynamics, there is a rumor, mostly false I hope (and started by a jealous James Carville), that some people inside the party leadership would like to see Howard Dean replaced as party chairman (the suggestion of Harold Ford-- who lost his race on Tuesday-- as a potential replacement is an odd addition to that rumor). I wanted to laugh that off, and also give Dean his due. Howard Dean, along with many others, helped architect the new Democratic majority. He should be celebrated alongside Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer, not talked about behind his back as if he were some sort of problem. If we note that the Democratic victory hinged on the election of many Democrats in traditionally Republican states, then Mr. Dean deserves double credit for the win, because it was his '50 state strategy' that accomplished that. Dean said last year (and many in the party leadership didn't want to hear it) that the reason the party hadn't been as successful as they should be was that they ignored every state that wasn't labeled 'blue' or 'swing'. They had taken Democrats, liberals, and independents in the 'red' states for granted and Dean noted that those states could be competitive if they simply went there and ran real races and didn't ignore those voters. He was proven correct. Democrats made their case in every state in the country and have expanded their base in the process. Swing states like Pennsylvania are bluer than ever, and traditionally red states like Montana and Virginia and Missouri, etc., could now be considered in the 'swing' category. This is a major achievement (and in only two years!) that not only won for 2006, but has major potential for expanding the base in the future. If people like Carville don't appreciate the scope of that, it is they who should be shunned by the party, not Howard Dean.

Over in the U.K., however, Labour Party leaders have drafted Dean to advise them on campaign strategy.

[PS- The new Democratic victory portends major changes on responding to global warming and tax policy, among other issues. January should be an interesting month as these issues got honestly debated for the first time in years.]

Not His Week

Vice President Cheney's BFF is not having a very good week...

Time magazine: Exclusive: Charges Sought Against Rumsfeld Over Prison Abuse--
A lawsuit in Germany will seek a criminal prosecution of the outgoing Defense Secretary and other U.S. officials for their alleged role in abuses at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo

Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba...

Something tells me Mr. Rumsfeld won't be taking any European vacations anytime soon.

2008 Watch: McCain To Shock Nation By Announcing Candidacy

ABC News reports that an official decision on Sen. McCain's presidential run should come around the end of the year and that "A presidential exploratory committee is expected to be set up this month" to weigh the decision. Is the suspense killing you too?

Also, for those concerned, Sen. McCain is not believed to be on suicide watch.

Finally, for those wondering who the hardcore conservative base is eyeing as their 2008 candidate, it appears to be former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, whose claim to fame with said base is his strong anti-gay-marriage stance... you know, the important issues facing our nation in a ever-shrinking world! For a look at what we're in for, read- here and here.

Conservative Pundits All Agree...

...We're huge liars and phonies.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Saying Goodbye

It's Friday evening and my brain's all tired. Will do some more blogging later or tomorrow, following up on some of the things I wrote on earlier (the media's bizarre conventional wisdom on the new Democratic majority, the direction the war debate needs to go, etc). In the meantime-- I know you wait with bated breath-- enjoy some fun with YouTube. This week's clip: Stephen Colbert says goodbye to the outgoing Republican majority.

Adios, fellas.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mehlman To Step Down From RNC, Spend More Time With His Closet

From the AP, the latest post-election casualty: "Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, whose party lost both chambers of Congress in the midterm elections, will step down from his post when his two-year term ends in January, GOP officials said Thursday."

His replacement? A guy who lost an election on Tuesday, even after dirty tricks. Hey, why not.

(This comes one day after CNN censored Bill Maher's outing of our favorite hypocrite)

Quote of the Day

"I can only hope for the sake of us, for the sake of all of us in America, that this culture of hatred that's hovered over Washington throughout the years-- throughout the Bork and Thomas nominations, throughout the Clinton presidency, throughout impeachment, the 2000 recount, the Bush presidency, and this stupid terrible war-- will be finally be resolved and soon. For God's sake, people, you're know we're not Republicans, we're not Democrats, we are Americans. It is time that our leaders in Washington stopped yelling at each other and it's time they start rolling up their sleeves to work together to save our country. It's not too late."
--Joe Scarborough, on MSNBC last night

I agree with Mr. Scarborough (and nice of him to admit that Clinton didn't get the free ride conservatives used to claim he did), but my gut tells me that this is somewhat disingenuous. After 12 years of fostering the most divisive political environment in modern history, I find it impossible to believe that the Republicans are ready to play nice... not that the Democrats shouldn't try to make Scarborough's words reality as best they can. A return to pragmatism and results-oriented government will be appreciated and will give Democrats a chance to keep their majority in 2008 and beyond.

Moreover, though, I sense a less-than-subtle theme at work here, which has been reiterated by much of the media coverage and stuff I've read on conservative blogs. The plan seems to be to concede defeat gracefully while also lamenting the nasty tone of politics (as if it's some arbitrary factor), and calling for a kinder, gentler Washington. The purpose of this would be to preemptively go on the offensive, so that when Democrats inevitably convene necessary investigations and hearings and start asking the hard questions on the war (etc), the Republicans will cry-- particularly closer to 2008-- "Ohh the Democrats came in to change Washington, and we asked them to be nice, but then they went and starting making accusations and asking mean questions. They can't be trusted anymore, they proved they're not grownups like us who know just to let things be." Etc etc; you know how it goes.

I'll happily eat crow if I am proven wrong here, but so far my cynical track record is solid.

In addition, some of the stuff that I am hearing/reading is suggesting to the Democrats that they would do well not to get all progressive on Americans and do some conservative stuff instead (the lesson the GOP has learned seems to be to go more conservative, when this was a victory for the centrists and also progressives). This is part of the DC post-election conventional wisdom-- false, I'd argue-- that Democrats only won because of conservative candidates (similar to how it became conventional wisdom in 2004 that Bush won because of 'moral values').

This "we lost, but our positions didn't" attitude was evident when the President said yesterday in his press conference that while he acknowleded voter discontent on the war, he still knows that voters share his vision for proceeding in Iraq (polls overwhelming refute this) and that therefore Democrats shouldn't get all 'exit strategy' on us. Now no one is advocating going from one extreme to the other here, but the fact remains that the issues that the winning Democrats campaigned on (Tester against the Patriot Act, Webb against the war), and won, show that voters rejected the overall agenda, not just the prosecution of it. Cautious Democrats, like Harold Ford, ultimately came up short.

Voters didn't just reject Sec. Rumsfeld or a specific aspect of current policy, they rejected the war all together (as for the talking point that Lieberman's win disproves that-- BS; Lieberman won on name recognition and by distancing himself from the war after the primary). Americans don't want to continue to let the President wait out the remainder of his term waiting for a solution to magically appear. The polls show the majority know this war was a mistake and their patience has long expired. They want out, though they understand this is easier said than done. They selected Democrats not because they have the perfect plan to win waiting in a file drawer somewhere, but because they know the Democrats are at least searching for a way out, which puts them way ahead of the President and his party. Vice President Cheney promised "full speed ahead" on the war even if the Democrats won. Voters said 'no, thank you'. The Democrats should make sure the world, and the White House, knows that... no matter how hard the establishment attempts to dissuade them.

Democrats should work together with the opposition party in every way possible (something Republicans never did-- literally turning off the lights on Democrats who tried to hold hearings, etc), to remind Americans that divided government doesn't have to mean divisive government. At the same time, though, they should not allow themselves to be browbeaten by the beltway/media conventional wisdom being formed here that that "bipartisanship" means acquiesing to Republican demands and shying away from the progressive positions that won them their first national election in ten years (we'll add an asterick to 2000, of course). The voters gave them a mandate to change the debate in Washington, to enact a new legislative direction for the country, and to, yes, hold the President and others accountable for the mistakes of the last six years.

The Democrats won, they should continue to act like it. And we must be there to keep them honest.

[As for investigations, here's a good place to start: Startling findings in Tillman probe (AP)]

Debating The War

The President today says that he is "open to any idea or suggestion" on how to proceed in Iraq. We'll see; maybe he'll be more open to some withdrawals once James Baker and his commission gives him the all-clear sign. I don't expect any immediate action by anyone, because there will be much debating the issue.

Of course, the article also notes that his immediate priority is to... get the lameduck GOP congress to rubberstamp warrantless wiretapping, a number of spending bills, and other issues. I have to hold onto hope that the wiretapping bill will fail, but I know I'm being naive there after the way the torture/detainee bill was rushed through. Democrats- ask the real questions on this issue. As for the all conservatives who are promising to get back to real conservative principles, we're watching you on this one.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, leaders there are debating how a Democratic congress will affect them, in terms of troop support and funding. There is a lot of uncertainty there over how the Democrats will proceed or if any radical changes are coming. Opinions are mixed.

As for our committment in Afghanistan, no major changes in policy are expected.

[PS- As for the new Secretary of Defense, if Tom Delay hates him, I'll take that as an encouraging sign.]

Ed Bradley Passes Away

The veteran "60 Minutes" reporter died today of leukemia. In an age where punditry and personality outweighs journalism, people like Bradley will be sorely missed. Rest in piece, Ed. The Washington Post has the details-

Ed Bradley of '60 Minutes' Dies at 65

John Bolton: The Next To Fall?

The President's recess-appointed U.N. ambassador is expected to be the next casuality of the electoral change.

Can't say he'll be missed either.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

AP: Webb Wins Virginia; Democrats Control The Senate As Well

For what it's worth, the Associated Press is calling the election-
Democrats wrested control of the Senate from Republicans Wednesday with an upset victory in Virginia, giving the party complete domination of Capitol Hill for the first time since 1994.

Jim Webb's squeaker win over incumbent Sen. George Allen gave Democrats their 51st seat in the Senate, an astonishing turnabout at the hands of voters unhappy with Republican scandal and unabated violence in Iraq. Allen was the sixth Republican incumbent senator defeated in Tuesday's elections...

No official word from the Allen campaign, but the AP says this-
An adviser to Allen, speaking on condition of anonymity because his boss had not formally decided to end the campaign, said the senator wanted to wait until most of canvassing was completed before announcing his decision, possibly as early as Thursday evening.

The adviser said that Allen was disinclined to request a recount if the final vote spread was similar to that of election night.

Republicans are said to be pressuring Sen. Macaca Allen to concede the race.

That's where we stand. If you'll excuse me, I have a happy dance to do.

UPDATE (11/9): It's official!!! Sen. Allen has officially conceded the election.

Rummy, You Won't Be Missed

A reminder of why no one will miss Donald Rumsfeld, senile king of the neocons-
In brief remarks, Rumsfeld described the Iraq conflict as a "little understood, unfamiliar war" that is "complex for people to comprehend."

As Dick Cheney once said, "go fuck yourself". Ohh, and good riddance.

But what about Robert Gates, the new Secretary of Defense (pending confirmation, natch)? Is this a major change or just a cosmetic change only? Let's see-
Gates, a former CIA chief, was a member of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel that is making recommendations to Bush on how to proceed in Iraq.

Gates traveled with the panel to Iraq earlier this year, an experience, Bush said, that will enable Gates to come up with "new ideas on how America can achieve our goals in Iraq."

This is the encouraging part.

For those out of the loop, the Iraq Study Group is the one run by James Baker, which according to the NY Sun, "has ruled out the prospect of victory for America" and "is considering two option papers, 'Stability First' and 'Redeploy and Contain,' both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term...'Stability First' argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents... The 'Redeploy and Contain' option calls for the phased withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq." That ain't perfect, but it's far more reality-based than Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.

(He has also advocated direct talks with Iran, rather than the neocon 'blow 'em all up' plan)

The less than encouraging stuff (besides, you know, the Iran-Contra connections)? Well-
Bush heralded Gates' time as deputy director of central intelligence in the Reagan administration, when "he helped lead America's efforts to drive Soviet forces from Afghanistan."

Translation: He helped train Osama bin Laden and his muhjadeen fighters. Not so cool. We are basically trading the guy who helped arm Saddam for the guy who helped arm Osama. Not exactly the change I had hoped for when we called for Rumsfeld's head.

We're all happy over the election, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking the President's position has radically changed. Yes, he was forced to sacrifice Rumsfeld (four years too late for thousands of troops and Iraqis), and yes he has lost his rubberstamp Congress, but the political battle over the war is just beginning. The debate has changed (for the better), but it isn't over.

Government Looking More Like Its People

Another positive sign from the election results-
It's no secret that Congress is too white, too male, too Christian, and too straight.

The U.S. is a big country, a diverse country, a country which wouldn't be hurt by having representatives in government who more accurately reflect all of us.

This election cycle, some cool firsts give me a bit of hope that we're inching -- inching -- toward that.

First woman to serve as Speaker of the House: Nancy Pelosi

First Muslim elected to U.S. Congress: Keith Ellison

First Democratic Socialist elected to U.S. Congress: Bernie Sanders

First Jewish governor of New York: Eliot Spitzer

First African-American governor of Massachusetts: Deval Patrick

And, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, 67 openly gay candidates were elected to state and local offices (more than ever before).

Democrats Win, But What Does That Mean?

Lot of boneheaded media analysis (but admittedly less so than usual) on what the Democratic victory means... For starters, no one on TV that I have seen is using the "mandate" word (heck, did even Pelosi use it?), when they couldn't throw it at the President quick enough two years ago. Heck, even I said it then. The Democrats swept the House beyond what most expected, took the Senate (which wasn't expected by most), and did not lose a single incumbent seat. Not one. If that's not a mandate to legislatively lead the nation I don't know what is.

Even the President understands (though he'll never say it directly) that they won the political battle over the war, choosing not to delay the inevitable on Rumsfeld. Yes, this election was for the larger part a rejection and repudiation of the Bush/GOP agenda (as it should be), but the Democrats wouldn't have gotten this far unless they had gotten their act together, which they did to the surprise of even many liberals like myself. They're a party again.

The other media spin/line of debate is trying to say that this isn't a loss for conservatives, because it was the conservative Democrats who won it for the party. After all, says the liberal media, liberals aren't mainstream and America hates them!! Progressives are quick to point out that the biggest takes of the night came from liberal Democrats. I agree more with that position, but the real answer is that it's both. The Democrats are the real big tent party-- liberals and conservatives welcome. The bitter teeth-gnashing I read today on sites like National Review and Michelle Malkin and Powerline prove to me that the Republicans are the party of the arch-conservatives only. They're not taking the loss well. Americablog has the bigger picture-
I don't think the election was a victory for conservative Democrats or liberal Democrats. It was a victory for Democrats across the board, and a repudiation of Republicans and conservativism.

Conservative Dems, like Bob Casey in PA, won. Conservative Dems like Harold Ford in TN lost. Liberal Dems like Sherrod Brown in OH won. Liberal Dems like Ned Lamont in CT lost. There was no absolute pattern, in my view, as to liberal Dems winning or losing or conservative Dems winning or losing. Democrats ran a variety of candidates, from left to right, and some won and some didn't. And that's the way it should be. I don't think you can win by only running conservative candidates (good luck in SF), or only running liberal candidates (good luck in much of the south). You need to run a bit of a rainbow, and that makes sense - America isn't left or right, at least not exclusively.

Having said that, think about Angie Paccione (D-CO), who got 43% of the vote in Colorado as compared to her Republican opponent, Marilyn Musgrave, who got 46%. Now, pay attention to who these two women are. Paccione is openly in favor of gay marriage. Musgrave is the religious right's top ally in the House, the author of the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment to the US Constitution. The race was in conservative Colorado. Yet, what happened? Paccione, the lady in favor of gay marriage, got seriously close to unseating Musgrave, the religious right bat from hell.

Let me repeat that. A Democrat openly in favor of gay marriage almost won in the heart of religious right America against the #1 religious right poster girl. That not only shows the diversity of Democratic candidates running, but it also shows the acceptance of diversity that exists even in the heart of conservative America. America is not black and white, red or blue. And I don't think our party should be either.

Now, that doesn't mean that I'm not going to push for Democrats to adopt positions that I hold dear. I will. And sometimes I'll agree with conservative Dems, and a lot of times I'll agree with liberal Dems. But my point is that Democrats won yesterday - not liberal Dems, not conservative Dems, but Dems.

The rather liberal Nancy Pelosi will be the next House Speaker. The rather conservative Harry Reid will be the next Senate Majority Leader. We are now a party that truly represents the diversity of America. And just as Harry Reid as Minority Leader is a mainstream Democrat, Nancy Pelosi as Speaker will be a mainstream Democrat. And don't let anyone, liberal or conservative, claim otherwise.

What he said.

They're too humble to say so, but Democrats do have a mandate. Pray they use it wisely.

Finally, the Associated Press has a good primer on the planned Democratic priorities in Congress: minimum wage increase, implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations, widen the scope of terrorist intelligence along with greater oversight of it, more oversight in general (ie. detainee treatment), more funding for veterans, allow the Medicare program to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower prices, stem cell research, close the tax gap, work on alternative energy sources, etc etc... hard to argue with any of that. We'll see how much they can done, of course. The minimum wage hike is a done deal, though.

And Ivo Daalder looks at the foreign policy changes that Democrats should be demanding.

[PS- A final point... the Democrats INCREASED their base last night. They won back the meat-and-potatoes voters that once made up their base. Blue states got bluer, red states got more purple. The Republicans base has been pushed back to Dixie territory. Can they come back in 2008 or later? Of course. But it will only happen if they never again let the extremists control their party (this still needs work) and realize that issues will ultimately trump ideology.]

BREAKING: Donald Rumsfeld Resigns; President Addresses Nation

Wow! This accountability stuff works quicker than expected!

AP: GOP says Rumsfeld is stepping down
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, architect of an unpopular war in Iraq, intends to resign after six stormy years at the Pentagon, Republican officials said Wednesday.

Word came a day after the Democratic gains in the election, in which Rumsfeld was a focus of much of the criticism of the Iraq war. Officials said Robert Gates, former head of the CIA, would replace Rumsfeld...

...In the days leading up to the election, President Bush said he wanted Rumsfeld to stay on as defense chief until the end of Bush's second term...

He probably didn't like the thought of congressional oversight hearings. So he cuts and runs.

The President is addressing the nation now. It's the speech that you'd expect-- he congratulates the Democrats on their victory and promises to work together with them in the next two years. Color me massively skeptical on that one; this man does not play well with others. He also said he is all about 'changing the tone' in Washington, ignoring his responsibility for the deplorable fear-mongering, partisan tone that has surrounded it. A reporter did mention to him his previous rhetoric that his critics appeased the terrorists; Bush dodged the question. He reiterated his promise to work with members of Congress.

He thanks Rumsfeld for his service to this country (mission accomplished) and says that Rumsfeld's departure does not mean any change in policy on Iraq. He said that we can't change course in Iraq because then America will be 'less safe'. When a reporter mentioned that the majority of voters wanted the troops to come home, he said he does too but that it ain't happening with 'victory'... He says that this change is merely about a "fresh perspective". And we should not forget that fresh perspective had to be forced on the President via a massive electoral loss. We held his feet to the fire and we won.

I must add that I am not sure that the new Secretary- Robert Gates- will be any better than Rumsfeld, but I'll wait and see. Some quick Googling confirmed my suspicion that he's an old Reagan/Bush Sr. hand. He was a top CIA guy, who was first nominated to head the agency in 1987, but withdrew that nomination because of his connection to Iran-Contra. He was successfully renominated for CIA chief in 1991. Does he share the neocon philosophy of Cheney and Rumsfeld? Does he share the same disdain for transparency and accountability as them? Let's hope no and no on both counts... This buys Bush time on Iraq (and got him to mention Afghanistan too!), but he can't stop the inevitable in that war. It's a lateral move.

(UPDATE: An interesting thought via my friend Bill... Bush likely nominated Gates now so he can be confirmed quickly by the lame-duck Republican Senate before their term expires.)

This press conference does show a President who's been humbled, as I hoped. He is talking about the war on terror, and says that he knows that the Democrats are as strong as he is on wanting to defeat terrorism and keep America safe. He said they support our troops... a long way after telling people just last week that if the Democrats won, then the "terrorists win and America loses". It is still obvious that he remains delusional on the reality of the Iraq war, but his bubble is popped and his rubberstamp in Congress is gone. That's encouraging.

We shouldn't fall into a false sense of political complacency, of course. But we proved in this election that even The Decider is answerable to the people of this country. This is a good day for democracy. I'm all smiles here. This may go down as the most signifcant midterm election ever.

The Morning After: As Goes Virginia, So Goes The Nation?

Where we stand is, well, pretty much where we stood last night.

The Democrats control the House of Representatives, with a significant majority. The Senate is tied right now, with final control depending on the outcome of the race in Virginia, which may not be decided for weeks. All signs indicate that Sen. Allen and the GOP are not going down without a fight. Expect them to throw the Democrats' 2000 status back at us-- calls for recounts, claims of voter fraud, etc... Talking Points Memo reader 'DH', however, brings up a good point as to why a recount battle might not be what the Republicans want-
The Republicans have backed themselves into a corner in Virginia. If you're going to go to the mat with dirty tricks and voter suppression, your counting on staying under the rader and that once the election is over, folks will move on. If Allen contests the results of the election it changes the election from a single day event into a 3 or 4 week event, plenty of time to chase down those callerid numbers and phone bank contractors. Virginia isn't Ohio. It doesn't have Ken Blackwell to cover up the GOP shenanigans, and the state has already requested the FBI to look into them. The Allen campaign is going to have to make the choice of whether contesting the results is worth the chance of exposing criminal activity. Let's hope they choose to contest. It's our best hope of fully exposing the shenanigans of the GOP to the light of day and getting the mechanisms in place to prevent their use in the next election cycle.

A good point. Bottom line- Jim Webb has the majority of the votes and the uncounted votes are supposedly a lock for him (via no less a source than the National Review). I don't wanna jinx it, but the Senate is in the bag.

Sen. Allen, just save yourself what little dignity you have left. Concede already.

It's my birthday, I demand it.

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

Well I think it's finally time for me to go to bed. It's been a long day- 20 hours since I pulled that big metal lever of democracy. Hopefully by the time I wake up in the late morning (and hopefully by the time you are reading this), the results will be finalized and we will see that a President and his Congress who worked to divide Americans and kept democracy in the shadows were rejected by the American people. It also turns out- gosh!- that voters are turned off by pervasive, widespread corruption. The system our founders created for us still works. We stood up to our failed leaders, we made our voices heard, and we threw the bums out.

So where do we stand now?

In the House of Representatives: The Democrats won big here, with a gain of around 30-35 seats. Many, many incumbents lost what were assumed to be safe seats. Nancy Pelosi will be the first female Speaker of the House, with a mandate to enact her 100 Hours plan for domestic policy. This is the big blowout victory of the night.

In the Senate: I don't want to jinx this, but it does appear that the Democrats have won this house of Congress as well (at worst, it's a tie). The three closest races- Montana, Missouri, Virginia- all moved toward the Democratic candidates when the final numbers came in. In Montana, John Tester ended with a decisive lead and has likely won. In Missouri, Claire McCaskill has won the election with a solid lead after some nail-biting earlier on (her opponent has conceded). The contest of the night was Virginia- incumbent George Allen v. Jim Webb. The final numbers have Webb ahead with a good lead and he has declared victory. Sen. Allen has not conceded yet and a recount is said to be expected from his campaign. The results of that will determine control of the Senate, but it doesn't look good for the Republicans.

What a night.

On the big issue of the election- Iraq- we have a clear mandate (or demand) for change. The people have rejected this President and his war. The President and Karl Rove and the rest for years have said opposing his war is tantamount to supporting/appeasing terrorism. Surprise-- the majority of Americans told him to shove it. Stubborn as he is, even he must be made to realize this. MSNBC had a poll tonight on what voters says we should do in Iraq (send more troops, change nothing, withdraw some, withdrawal all)... 'withdraw all troops' was the majority. That may not happen, but it is clear that the neo-neoconservative position held by people like McCain that the 'change' people want in Iraq is to escalate our way to victory (whatever victory means at this point), rather than preparing an exit strategy and deescalation, is false. This war was a mistake; the patience of Americans is officially worn out. We need to find a way out and start on the long road to getting our foreign policy back on track.

Domestically, we will likely see a lot of populist issues being fought for (minimum wage increase, etc) and a general return to fiscal sanity, but no big ideas (ie. universal healthcare) until at least after the 2008 election. Oversight, accountability, and a return to checks and balances will also help get Congress back to its intended functions.

Enjoy this moment. Savor it. We won. I'd forgotten what that felt like.

[PS- The President will give a news conference at 1pm EST today. I hope to see a humbled Commander-in-Chief addressing his nation. Expect to see the lesser Republicans, though, spend the rest of the week cannibalizing each other, trying to pass blame in every direction but their own for why they lost, as always happens in a race like this.]

Ballot Measures: The Good and Bad

First- the bad: Four states ban gay marriage (AP)

And the good: Abortion ban opponents maintain sizable lead (ArgusLeader)

UPDATE: The full ballot results, including a win in Missouri for stem cell research- here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Matt Drudge Braces For Impact

No siren, but Drudge prepares for his worst nightmare-

I was blogging some of the earlier results- here.

TPMCafe has been continuously updating with live results- here.

MSNBC and CNN have officially called/projected a Democratic House takeover. It's a significant margin, too. I believe the gain was between 30 and 35 seats. The Senate is not expected to turn, but no one is calling it... it's too close. No news from Missouri yet. In Virginia, the race is insanely close, with talks of an automatic recount if the race closes tight. It will be in the AM hours here on the east coast before we know for sure whether voters chose to stay the course for the Senate.

My friend Bill is upset because he thinks a House win isn't enough. It's Senate or bust, he says. Simply losing the House, he says, will be blamed tomorrow by GOP spinners on the scandals in that branch this past year... and not as a repudiation of the Bush/Republican agenda. The Senate is needed to seal that. It's hard to disagree with that.

That's why I'm (naively?) holding onto hope. The world needs to know that we said 'enough'.

Meanwhile, In The Middle East...

Well since we all know now that this election has indeed been a referendum on Iraq (among other important domestic issues), let's not get so into the electoral analysis tonight that we forget that said war is still going on. While we count the votes here, people are dying there. The AP reports-
As of Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006, at least 2,837 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,275 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers...

Sobering numbers.

Some more headlines:
-Reuters: Iraq charges 100 over prison torture
-AFP: Hundreds of US soldiers call for Iraq withdrawal in petition
-AP: U.S. envoy to Iraq likely quitting post

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is on MSNBC talking about staying the course in Iraq... he keeps saying over and over "If Iraq becomes another Afghanistan..." and not once has Chris Matthews or anyone else stop him and say "Ummm, Ken, you do remember that we went to war (and are still at war) in Afghanistan after 9/11, right?". Does everyone in Washington have amnesia about that war?!

If I were on MSNBC, I would've replied to Mehlman thusly- "Ken, maybe we should make sure Afghanistan doesn't become another Afghanistan before you start patting yourself on the back over your party's failed foreign policy. If you want to stand here and defend the debacle that was your war of choice in Iraq, that's your business, but the fact that you don't seem to remember or care that we are still engaged in Afghanistan- which is also on the verge of collapse- tells me that your party is not one we should taking advice from on these matters."

Democrats may win tonight because of Iraq, but it's time they really stood up on the issue.

It Begins...

Well, the first polls are starting to close on the east coast and the nail-biting begins...

The first exit polls are slowly coming out. So far, no major surprises (except maybe Independent Bernie Sanders winning the Senate seat held by Independent Jeffords in Vermont, keeping that seat indie for another six years). Keep in mind the polls are still open in most places. Most of these races are still tight, so vote, vote, VOTE if you still have time.

Worth noting: CNN's polling shows the most important issue to voters was... corruption (followed by terrorism, the economy, and Iraq). Sounds good to me- at least we won't have to hear about some 'moral values' mandate now. National issues overwhelmingly outweighed local ones by 2-to-1, of course, so that disproves the GOP spin that this wouldn't be a national referendum. The polls from ABC News show (again, no surprise) that Iraq weighed heavily on voters' minds.

Turnout was near-presidential levels. Impressive. Youth turnout was particularly strong.

UPDATE (9:30pm): House races are going as expected, with solid gains. In the Senate, too close to call. Democrats have big early wins (in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida), but Virginia may yet go to Allen (?!) and Tennessee seems a lost cause. In Connecticut, it's been called for Connecticut for Lieberman candidate Joe Lieberman (making it an even two indie votes in the Senate). Seeing Sen. Santorum go down is proof that karma does exist, though... It may all hinge on Missouri now (where the GOP used an anti-stem-cell ballot measure to drive up turnout by the religious right). Let's hope common sense overcomes ideology there-- Help us Obi-Wan McCaskill, you're our only hope.

UPDATE #2 (10:30pm): No big changes since the last update. Lincoln Chaffee went down hard to the Dem candidate in Rhode Island (a shame- Chaffee was a good guy; voted against the war). Webb v. Allen in Virginia remains too close to call, but the numbers so far indicate Sen. Macaca is ahead. No news from Missouri. House numbers remain good for the Dems, but it's clear now that it won't be a huge wave. Joe Scarborough on MSNBC says that we shouldn't judge the night so far because only the blue east-coast numbers in; wait until the heartland numbers come in to judge how the Dems will do. He's right. And so we wait.

TPMCafe will be updating with live results- here.

[AP: Scandals, Iraq hurt GOP, exit polls say]

Your Post-Election Analysis... Today!

Via Salon's Tim Grieve, the NY Times' Adam Nagourney pre-spins the election aftermath-
When George W. Bush won reelection in 2004, the New York Times' Adam Nagourney wrote of a "decisive national election" that "rocked the political landscape in Washington" and represented a "striking turn in fortunes for the nation's 43rd president."

Can you imagine what Nagourney will say tomorrow about the Democrats?

Actually, you don't have to. Nagourney has a preview today, and the headline says it all: "For Democrats, Even a Gain May Feel Like a Failure."

Nagourney says that the Bush White House "would no doubt relish trying to weaken its new Congressional foes by portraying a small Democratic edge as a loss." Nagourney seems to be standing by to help: By his way of thinking, the Democrats will suffer a sorry plight pretty much no matter how well they end up doing tonight.

"The obvious best outcome for Democrats would be to win control of both houses, allowing them to claim a public mandate," Nagourney writes. "But unless they somehow control 60 votes in the Senate -- which, not to be setting any expectations here, is not going to happen -- they will have to work with Republicans to pass legislation. If they win the House by a large margin but do not get the Senate, they will also no doubt claim something of a mandate, though that would seem to be a recipe for gridlock."

To be fair to Nagourney, he's right about one thing: The expectations for Democrats are so high now that it will be easy enough for the White House and the press to spin anything less than control of both houses as a loss. The press will quickly forget that Ken Mehlman, Karl Rove, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have all predicted unequivocally that Republicans will hold on to both houses of Congress. They'll remember what Nagourney calls the "galloping optimism by Democratic leaders and bloggers."

"Galloping optimism"? We haven't been tracking the projections from "Democratic leaders," but we've got a pretty good sense of what this side of the blogosphere is predicting. MyDD's Chris Bowers: Democrats pick up 23-29 seats in the House, five in the Senate. Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas Zúniga: Democrats pick up 24 seats in the House -- 36 if there's a wave -- and six in the Senate. Booman Tribune: Democrats pick up 30-36 seats in the House, five in the Senate. Atrios: Democrats pick up 18 seats in the House, four in the Senate. War Room: We've predicted that the Democrats will pick up between three and five seats in the Senate; we'll go with something like a 20-seat pickup in the House.

The rough average of these bloggy prognostications: Democrats pick up about 24 seats in the House and five in the Senate. Is that "galloping optimism" by crazy liberal bloggers? Not so much, apparently. Nagourney himself says that the "rough consensus among officials in both parties" is that the Democrats "would win the House but come just short of capturing the six seats they needed in the Senate."

Remember- it's only a mandate when Republicans win.

And who has MSNBC selected as its resident lawyer for its Election Day coverage today? Why, it is Republican lawyer Ben Ginsberg (former Bush/Cheney campaign counsel in 2000 and 2004, who resigned from the '04 campaign after it was revealed he had ties to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth). Darn that liberal media!

My advice? Ignore all this nonsense. Go vote, stay away from cable news, and relax.

[PS- Talking Points Memo continues to update with stories from across the country of all sorts of voting problems and suppression. It's a mess. Not surprisingly, top Republicans like Ken Mehlman and Bob Novak are choosing a paper ballot over the electronic machines. It is a disgrace that these problems were not preemptively solved.]

Quote of the Day II

"No one can really know until after the polls close, but November 7 has taken on the shape and feel of a fateful election. We hope the results add up to repudiation--the beginning of the end of the disastrous, corrupt reign of George W. Bush. If Democrats fail to recapture at least a working share of Congressional power, they and their party will rightly be cast into disrepute, too, and distressed citizens may reasonably begin looking for other options.

But hope is good, a whole lot better than perennial gloom. If the Democrats do succeed in winning a majority in the House of Representatives and possibly even in the Senate, then the country has a chance to begin the fundamental task of restoring democracy and the constitutional order that Bush & Co. did so much to desecrate.

We emphasize the 'country' because this challenge is too profound to leave to wobbly politicians in Washington who acquiesced so easily to Bush's extremes and to the powerful interests that rule the status quo. Americans who want a restored democracy and rehabilitated Constitution will have to fight for it, starting now."
--The lead editorial this past week in The Nation

Did you vote yet? If not, what the fuck are you doing reading this? Go!

Vote Democrat. Vote as straight a ticket as you can. Send a message to the White House- it's time for a change.

Smooth Sailing All The... Oh Shit!

It wouldn't be a 21st century U.S. election without fuckups and problems at polling places.

Wait, it's what century again?

Crooks and Liars: 9:00 am Eastern Time And Already Problems Being Reported (Plus How To Make Sure Your Vote Counts)

Talking Points Memo: Reporting from Summit County (OH)...

And here's a handy resource-
Election Incident Reporting System

[UPDATE (11:30am): Here's some more...

MSNBC: FBI looking into possible Va. voter intimidation

KDKA (Pennsylvania): Voters Experiencing Difficulty With New Machines

Think Progress: Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) has trouble voting.

AP: New rules, machines frazzle poll workers

And much, much more from Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, and Colorado.]

It's not even 9am yet... and the stories are already piling up. A cynical man might assume these problems were done on purpose to discourage potential voters, but I don't even know if I can be that cynical. More likely, it is just the gross incompetence which now seems to be an American value to our government.

These incidents may seem isolated, and they also occur in the most crucial states (how odd!) and therefore they shouldn't be easily dismissed. I will update with more horror stories later in the day. What a fucking mess our system is. Are we proud? We have had months- years- to prepare for this and nothing is ready. Is this the democratic example we want the world to follow?

Please go vote, though. Someone has to.

[UPDATE #2: Worse than this is hearing of Republicans laughing these concerns off... Michelle Malkin is writing all of these reports off as 'moonbat' nonsense and radio host Laura Ingraham is instructing callers to prank the Dem Voter protection hotline. This is an election and they are treating it like a game. Pathetic. These people need are disgusting and need to be stopped.]

National Throw The Bums Out Day

Go vote.

To entertain you afterward, enjoy this Daily Show cartoon explaining midterm elections-

Of course, everyone agrees this year is different. This time it matters... or so we hope.

Find out where to vote in your area!

UPDATE: Well, I voted... polling place was empty (the guy at the main desk was asleep), but it is early here on the east coast. The usual elderly poll workers were all there; it's somewhat nice to be signed in by people old enough to have voted for FDR- the first time around. And given all the horrors we have seen thus far from the electronic voting machines, it was also refreshing to use the old clunky metal machines with the big lever. God bless my beat up old district! I don't think I need to tell you which candidates I voted for (though in the Senate race I voted for the Libertarian candidate as a preemptive protest vote against Hillary's '08 ambitions, not that it matters). I hope that some of my friends who live in less-safe districts will get out today and throw these elephant bums out. Stop reading this; just go vote.

[AP: GOP control of Congress is on the line]

Quote of the Day

"It is television that has turned election night into the political equivalent of the Superbowl, where the Democrats and Republicans will battle it out for four hours or so and then a winner will be handed the trophy by a beaming TV announcer. For those four hours, they want us on the couch eating Doritoes, not surfing the web for exit poll data.

You wonder though. If all the money the networks pour into exit polling went instead into political reporting, actual political reporting, wearing out the shoe leather about who's doing what and where during the last hours of the campaigns and on election day, whether the result might be more informative for the electorate. Maybe, for instance, the networks would have caught on to the NRCC's nationwide robocall scam first, instead of the blogs.

The networks closing themselves off in sealed rooms with no connections to the outside world for five hours in the middle of Election Day is, in many ways, the perfect metaphor for what is wrong with the mainstream media."
--Talking Points Memo contributor DK, on the masturbatory farce that is cable news election coverage.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vote Early, Vote Often

Two years to the day after being foolish enough to give President Bush a second chance (based on the naive belief that he'd want to salvage his legacy-- when his second term may very well end up being worse than the first), I officially have nothing else to say that hasn't been said already since that time.

We all know what's at stake in this election. We all know the issues. We all understand the importance of stopping one of the most disastrous political majorities in U.S. history. Nothing to do now but tell you all to go out and vote tomorrow. It's quick, it's easy, it's important.

No excuses. Just vote.

'Twas The Night Before Midterms

A little Election Eve poem, via Digby-
'Twas the night before midterms
And all through the House
Speaker Hastert was ranting
The filthy old louse

"Tomorrow they choose, and the future is clear.
We'll be handed our asses by the voters this year!"
'Coach' Hastert was rattled, his confidence lost
For Nancy Pelosi would soon be his boss!

And Bill Frist with his scalpel, and a VERY scared cat
Wondered why all the public thought him such an asshat.
An irate America arose with such clatter
That even Chris Matthews gave up his weak blather!

Away to the polls we all flew like a flash,
And showed Dub the meaning of a voter backlash
The results were disputed by spinmeister Snow
But America just said "the bastards must go!"

When who should to my wondering eyes should appear
But a feisty Jack Murtha with a case of cold beer.
Wes Clark on his left flank, Charlie Rangle his right,
I knew in a moment, it would be a long night!

Their losses now certain, our future so bright...
It's time to pay up KKKKarl, starting next Tuesday night

Gone Chafee, Santorum, Jim Talent and Burns...
Plus Kyle and Dewine, 'cause America learns
Gone Hayworth and Northrup and Christopher Shays.
they'll all lose their house seats in a matter of days!

And Nancy and Harry, they'll go straight to their work
Of fighting George Dubya, the pustular jerk!
Bush, laying a finger upside of his nose
Took a huge snort of..... well, you know how it goes...

Bush sprang to Dick Cheney, when 'Darth' gave Dub a whistle
As the Democrats swamped them both like a 'nucular' missile!

And I heard Cheney growl as Bush cringed at his side
"Be prepared you dumb asshole for a real nasty ride..."

God bless us, everyone!

Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt

Fox News: 'New Fox News Polls Shows One Party With A Solid Lead'...

...but we can't bring ourselves to say the name of that party.

[PS- Meanwhile, Atrios has a prediction on what to expect from Drudge tomorrow.]

Quote of the Day II

Do no read if you suffer from high blood pressure-
"The meaning of evangelical leader Ted Haggard’s downfall needs to be well understood by religious conservatives, lest the tragedy be compounded. The pain that has befallen the man — now resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals — along with his family and church is the consequence of his poor decisions.

What would be worse than his personal destruction, however, is if the side of the culture war that Haggard ably fought against in his public life were allowed to define his sins as a final proof that religious conservatism itself is cruel, stupid, and morally corrupt. On the contrary, the Haggard story confirms some truths of the worldview he defended...

...The conservative case against redefining marriage is based on the observation of human vulnerability to temptation. Haggard confirms what we’ve said all along. It is pervasive moral weakness that makes such things necessary.

If everyone were in control of his appetites, there would be no need for the government to be involved in endorsing some sexual relationships while withholding endorsement from others. The more society undermines ancient standards of moral conduct, the harder it becomes to withstand temptation. This is why gay marriage threatens heterosexual marriage. When the awe in which people once held matrimony is diluted, by treating it as a man-made and thus amendable institution rather than a divinely determined one, heterosexuals find sexual sins of all sorts harder to resist.

So the experience of Ted Haggard strengthens the case for legally constituted social institutions like traditional marriage. Did the acceptability of gay love in today’s culture hasten Haggard’s fall? No doubt it did. It’s possible that the same man in a better time and place would have been beset by no such temptation.

But if even Haggard, this Christian fighter against homosexual culture, succumbed, doesn’t that prove that gay identity is natural, inborn, and therefore normal? Well, yes, in a way it does. But all temptations are natural, many are inborn, and to be called to fight against them in ourselves, according to a religious view, is the most normal thing in the world...

...In the Ted Haggard affair, then, we are confronted with questions not only of right and wrong but, more fundamentally, of moral responsibility versus biological determinism. Conservatives, not only religious ones, need to be very clear where we come down on this."

--David Klinghoffer, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, instructing conservatives not to take the 'wrong' lesson from Rev. Haggard's downfall.

Rather than seeing the revelations of Haggard's actions as a symbol of the larger hypocrisy of cultural conservative scolds (see also: Limbaugh and drugs, O'Reilly and sexual harassment, Bennett and gambling, Foley and child predators, etc) and realizing that maybe conservatives should not base their entire domestic agenda on trying to legislate their 'morality' until America goes back to being the Rockwell painting it never was... Klinghoffer sees all this as even more reason to keep up the fight and stop the gay demons from destroying God's country. After all, if even a true believer like Haggard could be tempted by the gay demons inside him, then the enemy is more powerful than they thought and efforts must be doubled to stop the gay!!!

Klinghoffer instructs gay Christians to repress their evil temptations, comparing it to the way a Jewish person who keeps kosher must avoid pepperoni pizza (the guys I have dated would be surprised to learn that they are merely the equivalent of a slice of pizza to the religious right). He also calls homosexuality the most 'extreme' of temptations, stating "another thing that makes a homosexual temptation difficult to resist is that, at least until the advent of AIDS, it produced no physical ravages". Thank God for AIDS, for now the sinners know the price of their weakness.

These people are delusional and they need help. They also need to be booted out of politics forever. Please realize that they currently are in control of a large chunk of our country's political discourse. This article, for instance, is published in the National Review, the top conservative magazine in the country. To me, this is the equivalent if The Nation ran editorials by 9/11 conspiracy theorists. But they don't. Because those people are crazy. As are these cultural conservatives... except these are the people who currently control the Republican party (note that the one Senator the National Review's cover spotlights as the top conservative in America is Rick "man on dog" Santorum).

People like Klinghoffer are the cultural version of the neoconservatives. The lesson the neocons learned from the Iraq debacle was not that the war was a mistake in both principle and execution-- a reputiation of their philosophy of preemptive war and American military dominance in every corner of the world. No, the lesson they chose to learn was that the President was a wimp who didn't fight the war as hard as he was supposed to (a frightening notion). They hope that they will get it right in the future (with President McCain?) with more wars.

It seems almost too easy and cheap to say that our national politics are controlled by people who are insane. But here we are. Our foreign policy has been controlled by people who view war as the norm and diplomacy as sign of weakness. Our domestic policy has been controlled by religious charlatans who preach hate and intolerance, even after their own hypocrisy is exposed. That so much of this is under-the-radar type stuff is how people have quietly accepted it as political reality. But it should not be. We have a duty to take our country back from these people.

Or I could just not pay attention, like everyone else seems to. But then people like Klinghoffer win. No thanks.

Conservatives: 'Please Stop Us Before It's Too Late'

The American Conservative magazine has an editorial out. The title? "GOP Must Go"-
Next week Americans will vote for candidates who have spent much of their campaigns addressing state and local issues. But no future historian will linger over the ideas put forth for improving schools or directing funds to highway projects.

The meaning of this election will be interpreted in one of two ways: the American people endorsed the Bush presidency or they did what they could to repudiate it. Such an interpretation will be simplistic, even unfairly so. Nevertheless, the fact that will matter is the raw number of Republicans and Democrats elected to the House and Senate.

It should surprise few readers that we think a vote that is seen—in America and the world at large—as a decisive “No” vote on the Bush presidency is the best outcome. We need not dwell on George W. Bush’s failed effort to jam a poorly disguised amnesty for illegal aliens through Congress or the assaults on the Constitution carried out under the pretext of fighting terrorism or his administration’s endorsement of torture. Faced on Sept. 11, 2001 with a great challenge, President Bush made little effort to understand who had attacked us and why—thus ignoring the prerequisite for crafting an effective response. He seemingly did not want to find out, and he had staffed his national-security team with people who either did not want to know or were committed to a prefabricated answer.

As a consequence, he rushed America into a war against Iraq, a war we are now losing and cannot win, one that has done far more to strengthen Islamist terrorists than anything they could possibly have done for themselves. Bush’s decision to seize Iraq will almost surely leave behind a broken state divided into warring ethnic enclaves, with hundreds of thousands killed and maimed and thousands more thirsting for revenge against the country that crossed the ocean to attack them. The invasion failed at every level: if securing Israel was part of the administration’s calculation—as the record suggests it was for several of his top aides—the result is also clear: the strengthening of Iran’s hand in the Persian Gulf, with a reach up to Israel’s northern border, and the elimination of the most powerful Arab state that might stem Iranian regional hegemony.

The war will continue as long as Bush is in office, for no other reason than the feckless president can’t face the embarrassment of admitting defeat. The chain of events is not complete: Bush, having learned little from his mistakes, may yet seek to embroil America in new wars against Iran and Syria.

Meanwhile, America’s image in the world, its capacity to persuade others that its interests are common interests, is lower than it has been in memory. All over the world people look at Bush and yearn for this country—which once symbolized hope and justice—to be humbled. The professionals in the Bush administration (and there are some) realize the damage his presidency has done to American prestige and diplomacy. But there is not much they can do.

There may be little Americans can do to atone for this presidency, which will stain our country’s reputation for a long time. But the process of recovering our good name must begin somewhere, and the logical place is in the voting booth this Nov. 7. If we are fortunate, we can produce a result that is seen—in Washington, in Peoria, and in world capitals from Prague to Kuala Lumpur—as a repudiation of George W. Bush and the war of aggression he launched against Iraq...

...On Nov. 7, the world will be watching as we go to the polls, seeking to ascertain whether the American people have the wisdom to try to correct a disastrous course. Posterity will note too if their collective decision is one that captured the attention of historians—that of a people voting, again and again, to endorse a leader taking a country in a catastrophic direction. The choice is in our hands.

Hard to find too much to disagree with there.

Quote of the Day

"You know what? I just found out nothing about Democratic values. But I learned a hell of a lot more about Republican ones."
--Andrew Sullivan, looking at a flyer being distributed by the New York State Republican party, which depicts a closeup of a white woman's scared face as a darker-skinned man puts a hand over her mouth. The text of this flyer? 'Family Values Are Under Attack... If Democrats Gain Control of Congress Our Values Will Be Destroyed!'.

And don't miss this flyer from Rep. Doolittle (R-CA). Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican party.

Meanwhile, more and more reports of voter confusion/suppression efforts today, particularly the infamous robo-calling scam so well known now that even my friend Steve who isn't voting IM'ed me to ask about it. Stay ahead of the scams, read up-

Firedoglake: Rove’s Dirty Little Surprise

TPM Muckraker: NRCC Robo Calls Hitting 20 Districts

AP: N.H. makes GOP stop some automated calls

TPM Muckraker: Among NM Dems, Growing Complaints of GOP Phone Calls

But most importantly- VOTE tomorrow. Don't get discouraged. Don't be like Steve. VOTE.

Meanwhile, In Afghanistan...

With the election focus on Iraq, a reminder that in the first war, things aren't so hot either-
A recent Central Intelligence Agency assessment found that the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, had been significantly weakened by rising popular frustration with his American-backed government, American officials say.

The assessment found that Mr. Karzai’s government and security forces continued to struggle to exert authority beyond Kabul, said a senior American official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. The assessment also found that increasing numbers of Afghans viewed Mr. Karzai’s government as corrupt, failing to deliver promised reconstruction and too weak to protect the country from rising Taliban attacks...

...Ronald E. Neumann, the American ambassador in Kabul, said in a recent interview that the United States faced “stark choices” in Afghanistan. Averting failure, he said, would take “multiple years” and “multiple billions.”

“We’re going to have to stay at it,” he said. “Or we’re going to fail and the country will fall apart again.”...

...While that [National Security Council] review has not been completed, officials said it was expected to include a request for additional financing. Over the past year, the Bush administration reduced financing for Afghanistan by 30 percent and proposed the withdrawal of up to 3,000 American troops. At least 143 American and NATO troops have been killed in the Taliban resurgence this year, 55 more than died in all of 2005, and the planned withdrawal was canceled...

This is the war that, maybe even more so than Iraq, that the Republicans want you to forget. After all, they're at least mentioning Iraq when they downplay what is happening there. When was the last time you heard a major Republican leader (let alone the President) bring up Afghanistan, or the Taliban, or bin Laden? You knows, besides when Bill Frist suggesting just letting the Taliban back into the government so we could move on. Months? A year? More? Either way, voters should keep in mind- and sad that the Democrats have only been slight vocal on this- that the incumbent party which is running on its supposed national security credentials (a dubious boast at best) could care less about the war that people actually supported. They launched a justifiable war in one country and gave up when it got boring. They launched a second, mistake of a war in another country for political reasons and are fighting it with the only weapon they have left- spin. They have played games with matters of life and death. There is no scandal greater than this.

Tomorrow- hold them accountable for every life lost and every opportunity missed.

[Related reading:
-AFP: NGOs in Afghanistan fear backlash over NATO's humanitarian role
-Kyodo News: Pakistan says willing to fence border with Afghanistan]

Where We Stand, Pt. II

A look at where we stand from political analyst Charlie Cook (via Talking Points Memo)-
The latest from Charlie Cook, who thinks the House goes to the Democrats, the only question being by how many seats:
The Senate is a very different situation and there are some very strange things going on.
In Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum is gone. While the margin in Ohio is not nearly as wide, it's very hard to see how Mike DeWine makes it back either.

The strange ones are Conrad Burns and Lincoln Chafee in Montana and Rhode Island, respectively. Both races are basically even, pretty remarkable considering how dismal their prospects looked just a couple weeks ago. While even is a bad place for a Republican to be going into Election Day in this kind of environment, both have some momentum at this point.

Conversely, George Allen and Jim Talent, are dead even as well, but with no momentum, and that is very, very dangerous under these circumstances. Talent/Republicans have a fabulous field organization in Missouri, if Talent pulls it out, it might be the ground game that does it, but this is very tough for both.

In Tennessee, while Democrats are boasting of a very strong African-American early voting program, this race really does appear to have slipped away from Democrats. I'd be surprised to see Corker lose to Ford now.

As he noted, the Tennessee race seems to have slipped away from Harold Ford. The sad part about that is that the infamous ad aired by the GOP (the one they had to pull amid concerns of race-baiting) appears to have turned many swing voters against him. What a sad indictment of the voting public. Can the Democrats take the Senate without this one? I am skeptical, but we'll find out tomorrow.

Meanwhile, political analyst Stu Rothenberg is even more optimistic. On the Senate-
While Senate control is in doubt, with Democrats most likely to win from 5 to 7 seats, we do not think the two sides have an equal chance of winning a majority in the Senate. Instead, we believe that state and national dynamics favor Democrats netting six seats and winning control of the United States Senate.

On the House-
Going into the final days before the 2006 midterm elections, we believe the most likely outcome in the House of Representatives is a Democratic gain of 34 to 40 seats, with slightly larger gains not impossible. This would put Democrats at between 237 and 243 seats, if not a handful more, giving them a majority in the next House that is slightly larger than the one the Republicans currently hold. If these numbers are generally correct, we would expect a period of GOP finger-pointing and self-flagellation after the elections, followed by a considerable number of Republican House retirements over the next two years.

Enjoy these predictions, which could all be wrong, though I hope not.

I, personally, am not counting my chickens. Voter apathy and GOP dirty tricks are the real swing vote in this election. The fact that any of these elections are within the margin of error today speaks volumes about the complacency of the voters of this country. It's been a long time since we've seen such disastrous, backwards governing in this country, and yet here we are struggling just to throw enough bums out to turn around control of Congress. This is pretty pathetic.

At this point I would describe myself as guardedly optimistic, though. I feel the wave, but I am not going to delude myself into believing that popular opinion and anger and hope translate correctly at the voting booth. But I am holding onto hope, because without that my brain wouldly implode upon itself after all of this.

1 more day, 1 more day...

Would a New Democratic Majority Go Left... or Right?

An excellent discussion from KCRW's 'To The Point'.

Turn off the TV and listen to public radio instead. Trust me, it'll do wonders for your sanity.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What's At Stake

Are we a democracy or some banana republic?

That is one thing that is at stake in Tuesday's election. This administration believes that they are above the law, above Congress, and above the courts. We have seen this in everything from the secrets they have kept about the war, from the illegal warrantless spying program, from their detainee/torture policies, from the closed-door Cheney meeting that created our nation's energy policies, from the stifling/dismissal of reports and government officers who refuse to toe the White House line on everything from global warming to where our $$ in Iraq has gone, and countless other examples. And they have gotten away with it for several examples (not the least of which is media disinterest), the most important being that the Congress has acted as their surrogate in all of this, rather than a body meant to check and balance the executive's actions. To call this a rubberstamp Congress is being polite.

Today, we see new examples of the Bush administration's undemocratic views on these issues... rejecting calls for change from the military they claim to listen to, and insisting that not even a new Congress will be able to hold them to account for their actions. Read it and weep for your country-

Think Progress: Cheney: I Would ‘Probably Not’ Testify Before Congress, Even If Subpoenaed

Editor & Publisher: White House Calls Editorials Urging Rumsfeld Exit 'Shabby'

They believe they're above accountability. They're not. Let them know that on Tuesday.

2 more days, 2 more days...

Watch The Vote

For those interested in the issues of voting (voter suppression, voting fraud, dirty tricks, etc), I cannot recommend enough reading Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo over the next few days. He has been getting in reports from all over the country and will be continuing to do so over the next week. It's pretty frightening stuff, but par for the course at this point. But, thanks to the internet, it's a lot harder now to pull off secretly.

Some recent examples- here, here, and here.

Saddam Hussein Sentenced To Death

The verdict is in- the Iraqi High Tribunal has sentenced Hussein to death by hanging-
Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced Sunday to hang for crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town, as the ousted leader, trembling and defiant, shouted "God is great!"

As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, Saddam yelled out, "Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!" Later, his lawyer said the former dictator had called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and refrain from revenge against U.S. forces...

...Some feared the court decision could exacerbate the sectarian violence that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war, after a trial that stretched over nine months in 39 sessions and ended nearly 3 1/2 months ago. The verdict came two days before midterm elections in the United States widely seen as a referendum on the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials have denied the timing was deliberate...

Iraq remains locked down, with some celebrating, while violence breaks out elsewhere.

I am choosing to ignore media coverage of the aftermath (beyond what I saw this morning, which was actually pretty decent coverage, though ignoring some inconvenient facts), because I doubt anyone will enjoy watching embattled incumbents rushing to the cameras to attempt to use this for political gain. Will it change U.S. voters' minds? I personally think people are too cynical now for this and are seeing the bigger picture.

UPDATE: New questions pop up about the timing of this verdict.

[Time magazine: Saddam is Sentenced to Death, and Iraq Shrugs-
The verdict against the former dictator, which the U.S. originally hoped would help the country exorcise its demons, won't make a difference to Iraqis' violence-filled lives

Weekend Funnies: The 'What Really Matters' Edition

Quote of the day from Salon editor-in-chief Joan Walsh-
"One of the last soothing Republican election platitudes perished Wednesday night, when the New York Times published its final poll before Tuesday's reckoning. Nearly 75 percent of those surveyed said they believe Democrats will scale back or end the U.S. military commitment in Iraq if they take back Congress, and not coincidentally, they favor Democrats over Republicans in the election 52-33 percent.

That yanked away even the threadbare security blanket some Republicans have been clutching in the closing weeks of the campaign -- the notion that a Democratic win isn't a mandate for change, because the Democrats haven't put out a coherent platform, on the war or anything else...

...The fabled 'Democratic disarray' is actually overstated on this issue. It's true there's no single Democratic position on Iraq; it's true there's plenty of intraparty debate. But it's also true that most congressional Democrats favor a timeline for troop reduction and a disengagement plan. Even the cautious Nancy Pelosi, who has worked hard not to let the GOP make the election about 'San Francisco Democrats,' recently released a six-point post-election action plan that puts the party behind 'the phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2006.' It's an easy contrast with President Bush, who's been preaching only "stay the course" -- even if in late October, at the end of the bloodiest month for American troops all year, he tried to lie about it. Even in the final days of the campaign, Bush continues to embrace the despised architect of the botched war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, making the stakes in Tuesday's election even more clear, and the comparison with Democrats more stark...

...On the eve of what looks as though it might be the biggest Democratic victory since 1992, I'm feeling a little bit somber. Because on Nov. 8, it will be time to figure out how to get out of Iraq, and it won't involve victory, for anyone.

Still, I'd rather have Democrats in control of Congress as we begin that awful task. Long after all the votes are tallied, the election-spending totaled up, the ads rated, the exit polls examined, I think we'll find that the most crucial election-season event this year was the publication of Bob Woodward's 'State of Denial.'...

...Reading 'State of Denial' was unexpectedly disturbing for me. It made me realize that the only thing worse than my angry liberal bubble (in which I'd assumed that Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice either didn't know or didn't care about the chaos in Iraq) was learning that in fact some of them did know, a few of them even cared -- and they still couldn't make a difference in stabilizing the country or fighting the insurgency. Watching Powell and Richard Armitage, and then to a lesser degree Rice and Stephen Hadley, try to challenge Rumsfeld's iron grip on Iraq, and on Bush's perception of it, was incredibly depressing. It was another Hurricane Katrina moment -- if Katrina showed their incompetence domestically, 'State of Denial' documented it in Iraq, and the consequences have been even deadlier. This week brought even more confirmation that victory, or even 'peace with honor,' is virtually impossible in Iraq, with the news that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered U.S. troops out of Sadr City, where they were seeking a missing U.S. soldier. It puts the lie to Bush's simplistic formulation 'As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.' Maliki is standing up, the United States is having to stand down while its soldiers are still in danger, and the odds are looking good that in the end we'll find that we exchanged a Sunni tyrant for a Shiite.

There are plenty of reasons, besides the war, that Republicans seem headed for an epochal defeat on Tuesday: the Mark Foley scandal, Jack Abramoff and all he touched, even, belatedly, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and how it exposed our homeland insecurity. After years of Republican dominance in Washington, we learned once again that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Powerful Republicans gamed the system to get money, sex and power, even as they tried to tell their evangelical Christian base they're different. Thursday brought a new Republican sex scandal: Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and founder and leader of the Colorado Springs-based New Life Church, resigned his post after a male prostitute claimed he'd had a three-year relationship with the Christian right leader (although Haggard denies the affair).

I'll confess to enjoying that spectacle: watching a party that's built a base on gay-bashing come undone over gay sex scandals? Justice is rarely so swift or sweet. But the chaos in Iraq that's contributed to the Democrats' likely victory on Tuesday is a different story. They have a mandate, all right, but it's a sobering one."

Amen on that last point.

[Related reading:
AP: Iraq urges calm ahead of Saddam verdict
-ABC News: Cheney: 'Full Speed Ahead' on Iraq
-Editor & Publisher: 4 Leading Military Papers: 'Rumsfeld Must Go'
-Washington Post: Possible Iraq Deployments Would Stretch Reserve Force]