November 25, 2005

Are the Democrats Fox Crazy?

Donald Sensing provides one of the best arguments for an increasingly popular theory about the recent Democrat political machinations. He thinks there's method in their madness:

So, knowing that the plan was to redeploy troops beginning next year, the Democrats decided to get in front of the wave: Demand the troops be sent home NOW and then when the Pentagon announces the plan to redeploy, take credit for it.

The two prongs of the attack serve two purposes. The "Bush lied us into war" wing satisfies the huge numbers of the party's base suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome. The "declare victory and go home" attack preserves, however weakly, the party's appeal to traditionally patriotic Democratic voters, of which there are also huge numbers. Doubtless the Dem leadership sees the attacks as a two-fer.

The appeals to both wings are intended to garner huge dividends in November 2006.

With any president but George W. Bush, they'd be wrong. But GWB is the easiest president to blind side that I have seen in my life.

The lynchpin of Rev. Sensing's theory is the observation (accurate in my view) that the Bush administration is composed of politically inept strategists and tacticians (more the latter than the former). So, if that's all it takes to give substance to his theory then he's home free. But there are a couple of nagging doubts:

1. For the Dems to have planned and strategized this dramaturge they'd have had to have the same opinion of the Bush political team as Donald and I. I just don't think that's the case. They've, for instance, expended huge portions of their political capital over the Plame case just to take out Rove, whom they regard as an evil genius with nearly invincible political acumen. And they, if anything, have lost ground as a result (thanks especially to Bob Woodward). And with such an overblown respect for the Rove "machine" they simply would never have considered the rope-a-dope script feasible.

2. It'd be easy to deflect such a strategy by simply observing, loudly and repeatedly, that what the President preserved was our discretion, in case conditions demanded a different draw-down rate. Yes, he always intended to draw down. He just wanted to keep our options open, as would any good Commander in Chief. Therefore a fixed draw-down wasn't a bad plan because the rate was either too fast or too slow, but because it was fixed: non-modifiable.

The Dems might, however, attempt to exploit the situation Rev. Sensing describes. it's true that their opinion of the typical American voter is so low that they don't believe voters capable of the nuance suggested in "2" above. But when it gets right down to it I just don't think they're right. The distinction between putting on blinders and keeping the blinders off isn't that hard to grasp. Besides I'd rather bet otherwise... because if the Dems are right about the voters we'll lose no matter how good the plan happens to be.

No, I think VDH is right. The smart Democrats haven't invested in the "Bush-lied-so-get-out-now" rhetoric, because the opposition's hand is far too strong and there's too much to lose.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

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November 22, 2005

Two Children of the Thirties

Long ago I decided that the fellow who deserves to be remembered for his interpretation of "The Sixties" was this guy, not this unmitigated sausage.

Swing low, sweet chariot.

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November 19, 2005

Hurricane Murtha and the Coming Deluge (Updated)

The flap over last night's vote in the Congress on a version of Murtha's proposal (or at least the way the "Arab Street," as well as our dedicated enemies, see it) reminded me of a theme I worked on for a short time last year. That theme concerned the extinction of the Democratic Party. The notion I had was that the Democrats would become so short-sightedly self-serving that they'd self-destruct, leaving the US a single-party coalition of sub-factions for the remainder of the Terror War. As I recall, I felt the denouement could be pushed out to the 2008 election, but Dan Darling (now with Winds of Change) felt it might hit sooner. Well, my updated impression is that either the Democrats or the nation itself will self-destruct some time between now and November, 2008. Ultimately there aren't two sides to history. If you're standing in the wrong place when the storm hits, you won't last long.

As I listened to Susan Estrich debate Gordon Liddy on FOX last night it occurred to me that the Democrats really don't get it. The vote recommending withdrawal of troops "immediately" was defeated 403 to 3. It was a brilliant play that might easily have been just as effective had it been introduced by a Democrat, but to hear them talk they bitterly resented being manipulated into sending Al Qaeda a message of opposition, and the Iraqis a message of support and succor (to say nothing of reassurance to our troops). Why wouldn't they be overjoyed? And by grumbling and adopting an accusational stance the message they're sending the American people is that their tightly negative agenda is more important to them than the interests of the country or the fortunes of democracy. Have they gone nuts? Essentially the Democrats have been captured by "bad philosophy": a bad philosophy of war and a bad philosophy of politics. They've simply lost the knack of governance and become the captive of a sophomoric and californicated "Marxisantism" that will be their undoing. (h/t Pat Conlon for the term.) And if the voters ever get a clear image of that situation then Dan and I will be proved right.

But it doesn't end there. Playing into that partisan dynamic is a clear bid for power by conventional media. If they can manage, by carefully avoiding reportage that attributes either success, or even a rational strategy, to our actions in Iraq, they will have demonstrated enough dominance for their ability to control the message to secure their status for at least a few more years. The gamble is huge. They've constructed a meme of "imminent failure," referenced numerous times by Congressman Murtha, that bears an ironic resemblance to their continued and oblivious promotion of the meme that Bush rested his case for invasion of Iraq on an "imminent threat." (I've lost count how many times this has been debunked.) Only this time the threat really is imminent, for if the levee they've built against the truth finally breaks The Deluge will follow.

Update: Fair notice: I'm a Democrat, or have been most of my life. I currently don't identify with a political party, but I'm not likely to ever identify with the Democrats again after this abysmal and ongoing display of bad judgment. My take is that the issues (though not the policy prescriptions) usually identified with the Democrats won't disappear, but will have champions within a much broader Republican Party, at least for the time being.

The Democrats escaped irrelevance in the wake of the Civil War, but just barely. And I think their time may have finally come to go the way of the Whigs. I've been waiting to see some sign that the Democrats were going to awaken, but most of coherent voices within that party are either moving in the direction of Michael Moore and or they're getting the heck out. It's clear at this point that they've been captured. And this could be the final stage in the McGovernization of the party that took place during the Vietnam era.

Well, we'll see if a hawk (relatively speaking) can win the nomination without groveling to the Marxisant wing. Clinton didn't say word one about Murtha, so she knows enough to keep her head down. But just how much do those candidates have in common with the rest of the party, since Murtha re-defined it as the "defeat is inevitable" faction. If there were a dominant Democrat who sees the logic of our foreign policy and defined it the way Newt has defined "The Long War" that person could play a role similar to Lincoln, establishing a third party that eclipses one of the majors. Not, mind you, that I think there is such a person in the Democrat ranks. There isn't. And there is already a party that champions democracy-expansion and nation-building, so we don't another. That is, unless the Republicans abandon the project at some point.

So the only thing that keeps the Democrats relevant at all is the set of social issues that the Republicans have, so far, failed to resolve. (Poverty and education being the main ones.) If a branch of the Republicans becomes "progressive" in the sense that it promotes an effective "ownership society" program then the last toehold of the Democrats will be gone. So far there are not many signs that the Republicans are willing to pay these issues much more than lip service, but the potential exists. (Think "Newt.") And once that happens the Dems will come crashing to earth with a bang.

Most people think a Hillary-Condee race would be interesting for its novelty, but the one I'd like to see is a Hillary-Newt race. That would have the potential to change the political landscape for generations. The race would be decided in the center, and odds are the Dems would not survive as an effective party.

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November 17, 2005

Vapid Points Memo

I don't often read Josh Marshall, but he had a reputation for being a reasonably objective lefty (was willing to point out that the Rathergate memos were, well... not really evidence of anything negative about GWB) so I decided to see what he has to say about the Democrats' "that bad man tricked us, mommy" meme. Alas, there isn't even a mustard seed of objectivity now. To whit:

There's one point that's important to remember about the White House's pushback to cover up its collective dishonesty about Iraq. We've noted before that in scandals or political nominations the decisive issue is not the number of opponents, the intensity of their opposition or even the quality of their arguments. The decisive issue is most often whether the scandalee or the nominee has some committed base of support, even if it only amounts to a distinct minority.

So, if you were thinking some semblance of objective truth has any relevance, well just grow the heck up you impossible romantic. Because even though Joe Wilson's CIA debrief said the opposite of his NYT piece, we know what he meant, right? Because within the boundaries of the hermeneutic circle the phrase "the Iraqis were seeking uranium in Niger" means the same as "the Iraqis were not seeking uranium in Niger." Nobody's counting anyway. Do you see anybody counting? I don't see anybody counting. Relatively speaking...

A parallel dynamic is in play with respect to what the White House is trying to accomplish with this current pushback.

Isn't this a misuse of the term "parallel?" I mean, isn't he saying that the decisive issue is whether or not Bush has a committed base of support? Which, strictly speaking, would be the same, rather than a parallel dynamic... right? But maybe he means something else?

Virtually all of the arguments the White House is now advancing are transparently ridiculous on their face to anyone who has closely followed this evolving debate over the last three years.

But that doesn't matter. The White House doesn't need to win any debates. What they need is for their core supporters to have something to say. Anything. And to be able to say it loudly. The one thing that would be fatal for the White House from its defenders would be silence.

Nope, that's pretty much what I thought he meant:

1. The President's "push back" is transparently so ridiculous that we needn't even reiterate its content here... because it's so ridiculous... and just silly... and not worth our time at all. No way, no how!

2. And all of those arguments we can't hear through the flesh and bones of our thumbs might as well be a chorus of airhorns at a football game, because we're not even listening... na na na na... can't hear... na na na na... a word... na na na... just noise... na na na... to impress... na na na... the evil Bushitlerburton's base... na na na na na na!

Not circular reasoning. It's really not. With two centroids it's more like... elliptical. Yeah, definitely not circular.

I don't say this as a counsel of pessimism or futility. It's just important to understand, to know what they're trying to achieve. The good news is that most Americans have already figured this out. Clear majorities of the public now believe this president misled them about Iraq. And they'll certainly grow. The key is to press these on the specifics, why they said these things they knew weren't true.

You mean, specifics like these, Josh? Yeah, somebody's being transparently ridiculed alright. Don't take out any bank loans based on that projected "growing majority," because sticking your thumbs firmly in your ears won't make those unfamiliar oppositional words any less meaningful. That's why they call it "pushback."

Posted by Demosophist at 12:25 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 15, 2005

Questioning Their Patriotism: Between a Rock and...

From David Adesnik, on Oxblog "Are the Democrats Lying?":

"IF THE DEMOCRATS ARE LYING, THEN THEY REALLY ARE UNPATRIOTIC": That is the basic argument that Glenn makes here, and that Tom Maguire has aptly summed up by observing that

I believe there is a substantial difference between "Your false charges are undermining the troops" and "Your criticism is undermining our troops".

I agree with this argument in the abstract, although I don't think that it justifies what George Bush said. For Bush to be in the right, it should be transparently clear that his opponents are lying. I would argue that while the Democrats may not be telling the truth, it is not intentional. Instead, they have succumbed to confusion, short-sightedness, and unthinking resentment of the President.

Which, when you think about it, are ideal qualities to have in a political opponent, aren't they? Not just because an opponent with impaired judgment is easy to outmaneuver, but because they're a little less endearing to folks making up their minds about who ought to be governing them.

Update: David says, later:

It is wrong and offensive to argue that simply changing one's opinion is unpatriotic, regardless of the motive.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that most Democrats have come out against the invasion only because of the polls. This fact may demonstrate that the Democrats have no ideas of their own about foreign policy, but it isn't immoral.

Which raises an interesting question. Is there an essential difference between being unpatriotic and being ineptly or inadequately patriotic? Does the quality of patriotism matter, and if so how much? Implied in Glenn's criticism is the observation that the Democrats allowed proximate advantage to overrule or eclipse long term or broader advantage for the nation. While that may not be unpatriotic, it does suggest a deficient patriotism. I'd argue that quality definitely matters, and that the quality of patriotism that Michael Yon is documenting with brilliance (of non-Americans in this case), and that Ernie Pyle documented in a former age, is what's making the difference between winning and losing.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

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November 14, 2005

The Long Shadow of Marienthal

In the 1930s two great pioneers of modern political sociology published an extensive "ethnographic study" of a small town in Austria. What Paul Lazarsfeld and Marie Jahoda found, in Marienthal: The Sociography of an Unemployed Community would not reasure those ready to stick their heads back in the sand now that the riots in Paris are "over." (h/t: Roger Simon) The combination of unemployment and "the dole" created a social vacuum into which National Socialism was about to arrive as a savior, so this little book about small-town Austria constitutes what amounts to an early warning that could have prevented a holocaust, had anyone been prepared to read the signs.

But what is really frightening now is that National Socialism had to be largely invented before it could (as Jerrold Post puts it) "fit into German society like a key in a lock." Islamism, which has one parent in common with National Socialism, and is therefore a "half-sibling," has been gestating now for generations. The key doesn't need to be invented. It's ready and waiting. And unless Europe can figure out some way to both get their economic engine running productively, and integrate/assimilate this brooding population, then these riots are merely the prelude to a coming storm.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

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November 10, 2005

The Politics of Identity and the Birth of a Meme

Max Boot has about the best analysis of the French riots, and their underlying causes, that I've seen. (h/t: Instapundit) It incorporates insights like those of Gabriel Gonzolez at Winds of Change without leaving the false impression that multiculturalism has been vindicated. But it isn't quite clear enough, for my taste, about why multiculturalism is bound to be a failed experiment.

The false account that is emerging is this: France has had a legacy of "assimilation" that derives from its history of colonialism, and in that view all assimilated peoples, of whatever race or religion, are "French." The argument is that this "assimilation paradigm" leaves no place for an independent ethnic identity, so its attempts to force everyone into a single category are bound to fail. Stating the problem this way leads to the conclusion that France simply hasn't been sufficiently multicultural. It's a convenient way of looking at the problem if one wants to avoid the obvious criticism that multiculturalism might be the problem, rather than the solution.

The flaw in this perspective is that it ought to be obvious to even the casual observer that the problem isn't that France has assimilated all of its colonial aspirants into the single "idea" of Gaulic Nationhood, but that it has utterly failed to do so. And the reason, as Boot points out, is also rather obvious: It's easier for an individual from an ethnic or religious minority to think of himself as American than French, because being American isn't a matter of ethnicity, while being French... is. The problem is one of identity.

Or stated another way, it's a matter of factionalization. According to James Madison in the Federalist Papers the failure of Europe's experimentation with representative forms of government was that the natural ethnic and religious faultlines in society were reinforced by socio-economic faultlines, creating factions whose battle for supremacy had a habit of sinking the ship that was supposed to be everyone's refuge. In a contest to set the form of the society, the society is sliced and diced to a bloody pulp. Recognize anything?

Once, as I was sitting in a hotel lobby with Martin Lipset, he explained this Madisonian concept of "cross-cutting alliances" that de-factionalized the American experiment in democracy, allowing it to succeed where all earlier experiments had failed. At the time I didn't quite understand why the adjective "cross-cutting" was used to modify "alliances." Strictly speaking "alliances" ought to have knit the factions together, and "cutting" just didn't seem very therapeutic. Ironically this therapeutic system would have been (had it existed) the fulfillment of the notion of multiculturalism, because it would have accommodated and even reinforced group sovereignty, weaving the "multicultural tapestry" that advocates of the notion say ought to be the ideal. But, in fact, it is precisely these factions that are shredded and neutered by the pragmatic alliances that Madison argued are the essence of a proper federalism. This version of liberalism is not kind to identity politics. The factions, rather than the society, are sliced and diced, pulverized, and pushed out of the long trends of history's highways and trade routes... leaving them open to commerce and comity.

The process of building such a society, therefore, bears a peculiar and not-entirely-incidental resemblance to the process of destroying a parasitic terrorist insurgency, fascinatingly described here by The Belmont Club. In this view American forces, who (due to their superior training and technology) can move freely in both the river valley and desert environments, have an advantage that allows them to "push" the insurgents continuously out of their stealth element by "cross-cutting" those same river valley routes. Similarly, in Madison's paradigm we gain an advantage by utilizing additional dimensions created by cooperation and open/fair competition that the culturally-bound one dimensional politics of identity seems to lack. In such a liberal society we are not only less bound by our ethnicities, but they are gradually de-weaponized and shredded.

Lipset documents, in Jews and the New American Scene the fact that successive waves of Jewish emigrants to the US lost a sense of their ethnic heritage over time, not because it was suppressed but because Americanism was a powerful substitute... providing an identity that didn't reference ethnicity. For the Jews, finding a place where they could relax about their heritage was like finding the Promised Land. It turns out that gaining this extra-dimensionality by going outside identity politics is what it's all about. And those able to achieve such a dimensional advantage will be able to prosper in all environments. The alliances do, indeed, cut the serpent into pieces, each of which tends to lack the critical mass to sustain a threatening life of its own. They wither....

This is the ultimate "push back" against identity politics.

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November 07, 2005

Rockefeller, Levin and Feinstein on Truth and Method

The aim stated by Senators Rockefeller, Feinstein and Levin, for the second phase of the work by the Committee to Investigate Pre-Iraq Intelligence is to "assess" whether the intelligence "justified" the public statements made by the Bush Administration. It presumes that the members of this committee can, and will, apply some consistent unbiased standard to the correspondence between the certainty and uncertainty about what we knew and what administration officials said. They're apparently going to close the gap between natural and scientific language that Habermas and Gadamer left open. That'll be fun.

But, why do we need a Senate Intelligence Committee to go through these kinds of heuristic deliberations? What makes their rule of thumb better than my rule of thumb, as a citizen, concerning the public statements of our officials? Doesn't their hubris imply a whopping condescension toward those of us in the Peanut Gallery? Why is Carl Levin's opinion about the President's Niger statement better than mine? Will he take into account the fact that Wilson's own debrief with the CIA supported concerns that Iraq was interested in buying uranium, and that the intelligence agencies of the UK and France still maintain that Iraq was seeking such a buy? Or will he just gauge the statement against the common meme that Wilson was truthful in his NYT dispatch, and that he has adequately debunked that whole yellow-cake myth by sipping a little sweet tea in Africa? Anyone taking bets?

And doesn't the urgency placed on this report by the unprecedented grandstanding of the Democrats also imply a profoundly statist deference toward the black-box hermeneutic/analytic skills of a group of high-placed non-experts? Next thing we know they'll be proposing to re-write the New Testament in order to make it more "accurate." They could sure help us out by "assessing" the extent to which the certainties and uncertainties about the Resurrection justify the many public statements about it by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. About time they got around to that, dontcha think?

And how much is this Report from Mount Olympus going to cost us, anyway? Couldn't we just siphon that to the victims of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma? Frankly I'd rather have a comprehensive audit of FEMA. That would make some sense.

Posted by Demosophist at 11:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 02, 2005

Wearing Blinders in the Fast Lane

Yeah, that's just what the Democratic Party needed: an isomorphic (one to one) correspondence between the party and the nightmarish conspiracy theories of the Chomsky/Moveon Left about how Bushitlerburton conspired to lead us into war for the sake of all this deucedly cheap oil we're getting. This, while managing to completely ignore the cynical trading of oil for food by some of the most prominent members of the "international establishment," that not only kept Iraqis starving and oppressed, but gave Saddam access to the Sears Build-Your-Own-WMD-Arsenal catalogue, should he like... ever get the itch. (Which we know he wouldn't because Joe Wilson says so... most of the time.)

Now just how is a reasonable person supposed to be unoffended by this obvious, and foolishly self-destructive, clamor for attention? On one side you've got the nomination of a brilliant and qualified conservative to the Supreme Court (who Michael Barone thinks won't be seriously opposed), the launch of a campaign to make ready for the next Influenza Pandemic (a move that Moveon criticized Bush for not having made earlier), a UN investigation of Syrian thuggery exposing a political assassination in Lebanon, and findings that will lead to indictments against prominent members of the "peace movement" who got rich acting as Saddamite conduits. On the other side the Gang That Can't Shoot Straight claims that these are all distractions, and that even though nearly everyone on the planet was certain Saddam was seeking WMD the whole thing was somehow a clever deception arranged by the Bush Administration. Yeah, that's a winner. Keep it up. We really need to vote you guys back into office.

Never saw that one coming...

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

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