Archive for November 2008

What the….?

November 29, 2008

Preznit Bush:

(CNN) — Reflecting on his eight-year presidency, President Bush said above all he would like to be remembered as a commander-in-chief who remained faithful to his values and “did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process.”

In an interview with his younger sister, Doro Bush Koch, the president said he was forced to make several difficult choices during his tenure in the White House, but added “I darn sure wasn’t going to sacrifice [my] values.”

“I came to Washington with a set of values, and I’m leaving with the same set of values,” Bush told Koch in an interview taped earlier this month that aired on National Public Radio Thursday.

You know, when those values lead to things like Iraq, Katrina, the current economic crisis, a concerted effort to undermine global warming science, the illegal and unethical firing of several US Attorneys and the torture of innocent civilians, something is wrong with those values.

Stubbornness is not always a virtue.  Good grief.

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Snap!

November 26, 2008

Greenwald catches Joe Klein rewriting history.  Click the link for the example, but this is the point Greenwald wants to make:

Truly learning from one’s mistakes — as opposed to wet-finger-in-the-air abandoment of  previously revered leaders when they are revealed as failures and lose their power — requires, at the very least, an acknowledgment of one’s own role in what happened.   There have been very few mea culpas from establishment media journalists, many — most — of whom, to this day, think they did nothing wrong (“It was all Judy Miller!“).  As bad as this absence of remorse is, it is simply intolerable to watch those who cheered on many of the worst excesses try now to pretend that they were skeptical, adversarial critics all along.  Journalists with influential platforms have responsibilities, the primary one of which is to be accountable for what they say and do.

Yup.

November 25, 2008

Chris Hayes at The Nation:

Not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive has, as far as I can tell, even been mentioned for a position in the new administration. Not one. Remember this is the movement that was right about Iraq, right about wage stagnation and inequality, right about financial deregulation, right about global warming and right about health care. And I don’t just mean in that in a sectarian way. I mean to say that the emerging establishment consensus on all of these issues came from the left. There’s tons of things the left is right about that aren’t even close to mainstream (taking a hatchet to the national security state and ending the prison industrial complex to name just two), but hopefully we’re moving there.

This, combined with my other posts on the ideological makeup of Obama’s cabinet, brings something to mind:  What’s going on now is a game of political positioning.  Republicans are going to claim Obama’s cabinet is too liberal no matter who he includes; this way, they can always advocate for more conservative policies and people, as well as criticize anything Obama and his cabinet do as being too liberal, having dictated in the public’s mind the ideological position of Obama’s cabinet (never mind the actual ideological position; I’m talking politics and public perception here).

Funny thing is, Hayes is right.  Conservatives may be screaming about Hillary Clinton or the presence of several Clinton-era staffers in th WH, but all of those people are centrists, or, at most, center-left.   There really are no flat-out progressives in Obama’s cabinet thus far – he has been making picks based far more on experience than ideology.  I’m not going to wade into that debate (cabinet head as policymaker vs. administrator), but as Hayes gets at in the second part of that quote, none of the people Obama has selected thus far were pushing the policies that got Obama elected.  Those came from farther left (as they always do):  Grassroots activists, scientists, progressive think thanks, the internet, from abroad, etc.

As Digby notes, Obama’s neoliberal cabinet is going to have to put forth a fairly liberal agenda, at least initially, because the situation demands it:

The only question is if they will be competent at carrying out liberal economic policies,or if they will persist in the current program of badly structured bailouts of badly run companies. Let’s hope it’s the former, because the latter is just more of what Bernanke calls “finger in the dike” economics and they ain’t working.

I’m personally thinking it’s going to be the latter.

Bear in mind, however, that on some level we’re talking about splitting ideological hairs.  The diversity of thought present in the current political elites makes a mockery of both diversity and thought.  Heck, there’s even more evidence that the two-party system is really a one-ideology system with two faces:

A senior Obama campaign official shared with The Washington Note that in July 2008, the McCain and Obama camps began to work secretly behind the scenes to assemble large rosters of potential personnel for the administration that only one of the candidates would lead.

Lists comprised of Democrats and Republicans were assembled, sorted into areas of policy expertise, so that the roster could be called on after the election by either the Obama or McCain transition teams.

When the boundaries of one’s political worldview are the edges of the Democratic and Republican parties, we’re proper fucked.  There’s so much more going on out there than squabbling over the size of the capital gains tax cut.

“Boards gone wild”

November 25, 2008

I stole the title of the post from Dean Dad, but you should really check out the Inside Higher Ed story on this one:

Last week, faculty members and students — the latter with tape over their mouths to symbolize what they say the trustees are doing to their freedoms — flocked to a board meeting to protest the plans that appear to be dividing the college. Not only do the critics say that academic freedom is in danger, but they charge that the board’s policies in some instances would violate state law.

Major changes include adopting Horowitz’s ‘Academic Bill of Rights’ and giving the board control over the student newspaper.  Oh, and trying to claim the authority to set the initial pay of each new faculty hire… while there is a union in place.

This is ugly.

Kevin Drum explains part of the reason I don’t have a lot of respect for the modern Republican Party

November 24, 2008

Do note that while I think there are occasionally differences between the Republican party and the conservative movement, there isn’t much of a difference right now.  The conservative wing has a pretty solid hammerlock on the party leadership.  Anyway, Drum:

Right. The world has changed in the past 20 years but conservatism doesn’t really seem willing to accept it. Take global warming. Here’s the rough conservative reaction to it starting in the early 90s:

  1. It doesn’t exist.
  2. It exists but it isn’t manmade.
  3. It’s manmade, but it’s too expensive to do anything about.

Even this is a generous assessment. A lot of conservatives are still stuck at #2, and sizeable chunk at #1. What this means is that they’re basically shut out of the conversation entirely. Which is too bad, because I’d actually be sort of interested to hear a conservative take on how to address global warming that accepts both its reality and the necessity of doing something about it. If we really are facing a global environmental catastrophe, what shape would a conservative solution take? I don’t think anyone knows. Likewise, conservative reaction to wage stagnation and growing income inequality has gone down a similar road:

  1. It doesn’t exist.
  2. It exists, but consumption inequality is what really matters.
  3. ??

Our current financial meltdown has pretty much wiped out #2 as a plausible explanation, since the stagnating middle class can no longer borrow to keep up their consumption. But what’s #3? Will it be yet another attempt to deny that the problem even exists? Or some kind of interesting conservative take on what to do about it?

Global warming and skyrocketing income inequality are problems that didn’t even exist in 1980, which means there is no “Reaganite” solution to appeal to. There might still be conservative takes on these things, but they won’t do any good until conservatives actually accept that these are real problems that people genuinely care about. That day still seems pretty far off.

I hate pissing contests

November 24, 2008

If Barack Obama has to demonstrate his bipartisanship by appointing Republicans to cabinet-level and other positions, wouldn’t the same apply to GWB?

Tell me – how many liberal Democrats did Bush appoint?  Anyone?  As far as I can tell, the answer is zero.

Why am I posting this?  Because the whole “if Obama doesn’t appoint a bunch of Republicans then he’s a dirty liar” bit is a stupid talking point that was generated in the wake of the election just to weaken Obama.

Prompted by this.

What digby said

November 23, 2008

There’s nothing surprising about this – the reason endangered politicians of both parties start airing populist progressive themes around election time is because they know those themes are popular among rank-and-file voters – they know, in other words, that this is a decidedly center-left country, and when they have to answer to that country come election day, they go left. But once these politicians get into office and are far away from all of us, the unwashed masses, the pressures of money and media – ie. the Establishment – unleashes incredible pressure for them to actually write the details of policy in a way that preserves the conservative status quo.

This is, of course, an almost completely bipartisan issue, in the worst possible way.

I think this Presidency will be a little different than when Clinton pulled this.  The internet was not near as developed then.  Obama, if he so decides, won’t be able to sell center-right policies as center-left and get away with it.  It’s not that there are more people paying attention than in the past so much as it is the greatly increased ability of those paying attention to talk directly with others without being mediated by the national media.

Paired with the fact that Obama’s cabinet isn’t really very liberal at all, and it sure looks like… well, let’s not go there.  Yet.