Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's Security, Stupid.

EJ Dionne pens a clear-headed, brilliant WaPo column explaining why the Dems have never listened to or reacted to Karl Rove as they should- and how they'd better do so this time, or risk losing another election:

"What Democrats should have learned [from Rove] is that they cannot evade the security debate. They must challenge the terms under which Rove and Bush would conduct it. Imagine, for example, directly taking on that line about Sept. 11. Does having a "post-9/11 worldview" mean allowing Bush to do absolutely anything he wants, any time he wants, without having to answer to the courts, Congress or the public? Most Americans -- including a lot of libertarian-leaning Republicans -- reject such an anti-constitutional view of presidential power. If Democrats aren't willing to take on this issue, what's the point of being an opposition party?
Democrats want to fight this election on the issue of Republican corruption. But corruption is about the abuse of power. If smart political consultants can't figure out how to link the petty misuses of power with its larger abuses, they are not earning their big paychecks.

And, yes, the core questions must be asked: Are we really safer now than we were five years ago? Has the Iraq war, as organized and prosecuted by the administration, made us stronger or weaker? Do we feel more secure knowing the heck of a job our government did during Hurricane Katrina? Do we have any confidence that the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies will clean up their act if Washington remains under the sway of one-party government?"

The answers? No... hella weaker... heck NO... HELLS NO!

C'mon, Dems. Get your shit together. If you lose 2006, you may lose me.*

*Of course I don't really mean that- where would I go? But it sounded... threatening.


At 12:30 AM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

I don't know American politics as well as you do, but I like that idea of linking small corruptions with large corruptions. That seems a winner.

At 6:19 PM, Blogger wunelle said...

That's brilliantly written. It's depressing how Democrats have never had a wider opening and yet are failing to step up to the plate. At least in any systematic way. I don't think of myself as allied with the Democratic Party tho I can think of only a single Republican I ever voted for (15 years ago) so, as you point out, it's really the only game in town.

God knows W et al could not be getting things more egregiously wrong than they are, and yet we all seem unable to funnel our rage into an effective, proactive movement.

At 7:38 AM, Blogger ctn said...

i can't say that the dems are doing the right thing, but at the same time, i can understand why it turned out this way. and it's not necessarily complete gutlessness. it's easy being a lawyer, i think, b/c you know your position and just advocate for it. it's harder to be a decisionmaker, where you have to take complete ownership in the outcome. when you advocate, you assume that a neutral decisionmaker will weigh the issues and dcide one way of the other -- hence, sometimes you can get away w/ stretching the envelope. so when it comes to nat'l scurity issues, where the stakes are massive and information is incomplete, it's easy to be risk averse and try to hedge your bets. but thta's not to say that gutlessness isn't part of the story.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

Good points all- CTN- I agree that we as lawyers can count on a neutral arbiter to decide the merits of our argument- but I think in a way political decision making is similar, because they are still looking to a final arbiter to approve their actions, aren't they? And, in a perfect political world, that arbiter would be the voting public, right? But following that analogy, it seems like the the Dems are hoping that the judge is discerning enough to look at the facts (the GOP is corrupt, they've actually got a crap record on security, etc) and make the correct decision, whereas the GOP figures that if they yell loudly enough, pander to the judge's visceral fears and repeat the same nonsensical talking points over and over, the judge will side with them whatever the merits of the opposition's case.
So I would say that the Dems have the better case, but that the Republicans are the more successful, if morally less admirable, lawyers. We've got to get better at our lawyering.

But I digress- the thing is, re: the point you were actually making- true that the Dems are right to be hesitant and thoughtful when it comes to national security; but right now, when we're the minority party, and the GOP is being ANYTHING but hesitant and thoughtful, and they're getting away with it vis-a-vis the public- aren't we better off beating them at their own game? Being vociferous and hammering home the fact that we're NOT better off with these assholes? What I'm saying- poorly- is that I understand why we hesitate, but right now the slimy lawyers are monopolizing the judge's attention and we may need to play their game to get the focus back on us.

At 4:27 PM, Blogger ctn said...

well, yeah -when it comes to running an election / presenting their position to the public, dems need to be . . . less reasonable. paint things in more black and white. less nuance and hedging. i think dems should do this despite general worries about losing the moral highground and potential retaliations in the house / senate.

still, there'll be issues where it's going to be hard -- i.e.: nat'l security. the admin's wild card is always "we have top secret information, which you don't have. and based on this top secret information, we have determined that we must [insert civil liberty deprivation / name of country to be attacked]." how do you argue w/ that? you could fiddle at the margin and maybe try to improve the protocol by which information gets labeled "top secret" or who gets access to it. but ultimately, i'm not sure there's a way to counter that arg

on a side note, if dems could be convinced that the public is paying attention to them, and that a ruthless approach would yield political gain, they'd become more "vociferous." example -- kerry and kennedy led an attempt to filibuster the alito vote today. before doing so, however, they sent out an e-mail to democratic supporters asking everyon to sign a petition. only if public outpour was adequately strong would they filibuster. some might point to this and say that it proves gutlessness b/c dems should have had enough of a backbone to filibuster w/o a public survey. they'd probably have a point, though i don't think being risk averse is quite the same as being gutless.

but yes. i think the dems can afford to be more daring w/o losing their base.

At 5:26 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

I totally see your point re: top secret info as the trump card. Nothing much to be done there. But I'm thinking about the NSA thing. Understandable that there's top secret info that even members of congress can't be privy to (I guess). But we've set up a structure- FISA- to allow for wiretapping with some oversight by another governmental branch. I guess my counterargument to the secrecy thing would be: ok, in a post-9/11 world, there is top-secret intelligence gathering that needs to take place, and we can't have an open dialogue about it b/c that would "embolden the enemy." But this idea of unchecked executive power in time of war has never been allowed in the past (has it? I'm thinking about the Japanese WWII camps but also about that tire factory case or whatever it was during the Korean War or whatever- ah, how quickly we forget!)- and in the NSA spying case the intent of Congress when they passed the FISA law was damn clear in that the executive can't go around spying domestically without some oversight in the form of a warrant.

So the Dems need to force the public to take a hard look at just HOW much power we want the executive to have in a post-9/11 world, esp. when 2 of the 3 branches of gov't have proven themselves far less than reliable or trustworthy (Katrina, Abramoff). We don't mind domestic spying in our post 9/11 world, but SOME oversight needs to be required. We don't mind allowing CIA and the military more flexibility in interrogating prisoners, but bottom-line safeguards against torture, esp. in the light of the Geneva Conventions which we've ratified, must be put in place. We don't mind the idea of Guantanamo, but a process must be developed that allows these people access to lawyers. Dems need to make the point that we are VERY tough on security, but that you CAN and SHOULD be very tough while still allowing ALL branches of government to check and balance, which is the whole point of this damn republic in the first place. And moreover, they need to point out that allowing the GOP to power-grab in the wake of 9/11 is not necessarily going to keep us safe (cronyism/Katrina), and the idea of "trusting them" to do what's in our best interest has been discredited (Abramoff).

As far as the filibuster, I actually am happy about that, and wish he hadn't actually done the whole signature thing. I mean, what's Bush's mantra? "I do the right thing, even if it isn't the popular thing." I was looking at a poll today that said that, despite everything and despite generally sagging numbers, Bush is still looked upon as a "strong leader" who is "tough on terror" and doing a good job fighting the war on terrorism. This is despite concrete facts to the contrary. And although he's admitted to some "mistakes" lately, generally he just forges ahead with his crap and people seem to admire that. It seems to resonate with the public when a leader "sticks to his guns" regardless of what they are. So I think Kerry, in filibustering Alito, could be seen as sticking to his guns and making a principled, even if not politically popular move, and that might strike a chord with people.


At 6:24 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

This NYTimes editorial makes the point much better than I have:

At 12:48 PM, Blogger ctn said...

yeah -- no, i totally hear you. dems are starting, but it's going slowly. i think as they understand more that this is what the public wants and would get disaffected people to come back out and vote, it would happen.

the state of the union tonight is going to be frustrating, and the minority response will likely be very disappointing.


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