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Monday, October 31, 2005
Alito, Blah Blah Blah, Alito
Well, it happened. Bush went ahead and picked Samuel Alito to replace Harriet Miers (er, I mean Sandra Day O'Connor) for the Supreme Court. It is interesting that Bush not only gave Miers the hook as the wingers requested, but he replaced her with their #1 must-have candidate. He did not nominate someone like Alberto Gonzales in order to underline his independence. It would seem that independence is a luxury that this embattled President can no longer afford.

Both the Powerline kids and the Kossacks are thrilled. The wingnuts get the lunatic they've been praying for, while the Kossacks (frustrated by the dull-as-dishwater Roberts "fight") get someone they can really push against.

But this is a fight I can't get excited about. Already I miss the hapless Harriet Miers. She seemed so bewildered I felt sure she couldn't cause any trouble. Bewildered, pleasant, no strong opinions, sends thank-you notes. Had she been in a jury pool, she would've gotten picked immediately. To me, that made her the ideal nominee. She also seemed nice, and was therefore so hated by the right-wing that I was starting to like her.

But I'm not going to like Sam Alito. There's no question about it. He's a creep and nutter of the first magnitude.

The wingnuts are already shouting about how wonderful he is. In fact, Confirmthem actually broke into song -- "O frabjous day! Caloo, calay!" -- which sounds like it was written by Dr. Seuss, though in fact it was written by Dr. Dodgson.

I find these eye-gouging wrestling matches for the Supreme Court to be extremely discouraging, as is the continual confusion between Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll. Somewhere there must be qualified people for the Supreme Court who aren't insane, right? Stands to reason. But the WWF-ization of our culture is seeping into everything; everything is hyper-politicized, everything from Christmas to Star Wars movies and TV sitcoms are being cavity-searched for political content.

And everyone is climbing into the ring, trying to smack somebody down. And nobody cares about the people they are supposedly fighting for; nobody remembers what the fight was about to begin with. And everyone will be shocked and horrified at the eventual outcome.

Thursday, October 27, 2005
A Slight Sting

Now the night of the fight, you may
feel a slight sting, that's pride
fuckin' wit ya. Fuck pride! Pride
only hurts, it never helps.

MARSELLUS, in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction"

The wingers who have been gleefully mocking Harriet Miers and buying up TV ad time to attack her are today relieved and happy, but also a bit sheepish. Well, they're saying, what a decent, classy lady Harriet Miers is. She has done the right thing and we all owe her a debt of thanks. For them, it's a bit awkward. But it is not so bad for them because in the end they got what they wanted; and they know that in a few months Harriet Miers will be all but forgotten, the way Clement Haynesworth and Douglas Ginsberg are forgotten.

But oh, the sting of pride that Hugh Hewitt and James Dobson and the bellowing pygmies at Powerline must be feeling now. They went to the mat for their President, they sang Miers' praises, they got branded as sycophants, suck-ups, sell-outs, fools -- and now Miers has been airbrushed off the White House Christmas cards and these guys ended up holding the bag. Hewitt's response to the Miers withdrawal was terse:

I think Ms. Miers has been unfairly treated by many who have for years urged fair treatment of judicial nominees.

She deserves great thanks for her significant service to the country. She and the president deserved much better from his allies.

The clowns at Powerline, of course, couldn't surrender fast enough:

Miers deserves great credit for pulling out and preventing the train wreck. If Bush will nominate a high quality conservative, and if Senate Republicans will push that nominee through, then this will prove to be, on balance, a great news week regardless of what happens on Friday. Scandals, real and imagined, come and go; the Supreme Court is for keeps.

But the Marshal Petain award for most dizzying capitulation has to go to Dobson, who said:

I believe the president has made a wise decision in accepting Harriet Miers' withdrawal as a nominee to the Supreme Court. In recent days I have grown increasingly concerned about her conservative credentials, and I was dismayed to learn this week about her speech in 1993, in which she sounded pro-abortion themes, and expressed so much praise for left-wing feminist leaders.

He's a Rock of Gibralter, that Dr. Dobson.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Right-Wing Paranoia, But Were Afraid To Ask

Take my hand, Senator -- and we will rule Hell together! Mwa-ha-ha!!

In Woody Allen's 1972 movie Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask, Woody meets up with the sex-obsessed mad scientist Dr. Bernardo, played by John Carradine. "I built a diaphragm that is twenty feet in diameter!" Carradine proclaims.

Woody cringes in fear and revulsion. "Why?!?" he asks.

Why indeed? Anyone who would build a diaphragm twenty feet in diameter would have to be insane, right?

I was thinking about that scene while reading the saga of Condi Rice's devil eyes.

Apparently, USA Today's website featured a photograph of Condi Rice that made her eyes seem weird. This caused the right wing to go berserk. No one in the Bush administration should have a photograph that makes their eyes seem weird. It was, the wingers opined, a plot on the part of the liberals to make them look bad.

USA Today put a correction on their web site, saying that it was an error with a photo-sharpening tool, and that the image was correctly rendered in the dead-tree edition of the paper. But not surprisingly, the explanation was shouted down with self-righteous hoots or derision.

This isn't the first time wingers have leveled this charge. Last month we heard a similar charge from Katherine Harris, former Florida election-fixer and now hapless candidate for Ben Nelson's seat in the U.S. Senate. Katherine, you may remember, is convinced that the "liberal media" is publishing photos of her that make her look like she's wearing too much makeup (so insidious is this plot that they've managed to alter her images on videotape, as well as in live appearances).

Insidious? Yes. But, like Dr. Bernardo's 20-foot diaphragm, utterly pointless. Why would the mainstream media alter an image of Condi Rice to make her eyes look weird? If they wanted to make her look bad, wouldn't they just pick an unflattering photo?

But the logic of paranoia is entirely internal. Wingers control the entire government, but they still inhabit a black-and-white world of political melodrama. Things go wrong, the center does not hold, plans fail, the wheels come off the wagon. It cannot be incompetence or poor planning or bad luck. There must be some powerful person, somewhere, pulling the strings, making things go wrong.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005
How The Grinch Stole Fitzmas
Call me a grinch. Call me no fun. Call me a stick in the mud.

But I'm getting impatient with some of the talk on the Daily Kos and Atrios sites.

I'm talking, of course, about the gleeful references to "Fitzmas", the day that Independent Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald may -- or may not -- hand down indictments of Bush administration officials.

To give you a feel for it, here are a couple of today's posts on Atrios:

Place Your Bets

How many sparkly ponies will Fitzgerald leave under your tree?


Today or Tomorrow

So, it sounds like Fitz might drop off our presents today but that we won't get to open them until tomorrow. Bummer.

Now, we ought to feel glad that the outing of a covert CIA agent for political purposes might just have some consequences attached to it. And we ought to feel glad that it seems -- although we don't know for sure -- that at least some members of the administration aren't quite as untouchable as they believed they were.

But it's important to remember that Rove and Libby and Cheney are in hot water right now because they believed that politics was a game, and that winning the game was all that mattered.

That idea is wrong. And it's just as wrong for the left as it is for the right.

If the wingnuts want to act like spoiled children, good for them. But that makes it more important, not less important, that we act like grown-ups.

It's also important to remember that other people might be indicted than the ones currently being named, or even that there might not be indictments at all.

Kind of silly for Kos and Atrios to get excited about "Fitzmas" -- especially when they might just get a lump of coal in their stockings.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Irony, Thy Name Is Kay Bailey Hutchinson
Looking like the sinister housewife in a touring production of The Handmaid's Tale, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) insisted on the Sunday morning chat shows that perjury and obstruction of justice are silly crimes and shouldn't be prosecuted:

I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation were not a waste of time and dollars.
Oh, but things were quite different on Friday, February 12, 1998 -- the day Sen. Hutchinson stood in the well of the Senate and cast her votes against Bill Clinton on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice:

The false testimony complained of in Article I of the Articles of Impeachment relates to testimony before the grand jury, and only indirectly to the testimony in the Arkansas case. The Federal grand jury was investigating broad issues and many persons at the time the President gave false and misleading testimony before it.

Willful, corrupt, and false sworn testimony before a Federal grand jury is a separate and distinct crime under applicable law and is material and perjurious if it is `capable' of influencing the grand jury in any matter before it, including any collateral matters that it may consider. See, Title 18, Section 1623, U.S. Code, and Federal court cases interpreting that Section.

The President's testimony before the Federal grand jury was fully capable of influencing the grand jury's investigation and was clearly perjurious.

On that first charge -- perjury -- Senator Hutchinson voted to convict.

Then came the vote on the charge of obstruction of justice:

The attempt to obstruct and cover-up grew, expanded, and developed a life of its own. It overpowered the underlying offense itself. A new strategy was required, fast: The President was advised: `Admit the sex, but never the lies.' Shift the blame; change the subject. Blame it on the plaintiff in the Arkansas case. Blame it on her lawyers. Blame it on the Independent Counsel. Blame it on partisanship. Blame it on the majority members of the House Judiciary Committee. Blame it on the process.

The blame belongs to the President of the United States. This juror has concluded that the President is guilty of obstructing justice beyond a reasonable doubt, as alleged in Article II of the Articles of Impeachment in this proceeding.

Senator Hutchinson voted to convict on the obstruction charge as well.

She concluded her address to her Senate colleagues with these stirring words:

But we should all be thankful that our Constitution is there, and we should take pride in our right and duty to enforce it. A hundred years from now, when history looks back to this moment, we can hope for a conclusion that our Constitution has been applied fairly and survives, that we have come to principled judgments about matters of national importance, and that the rule of law in American has been sustained.

The Senate stenographer -- apparently misty-eyed from hearing this soaring bit of rhetoric -- inadvertently failed to record the final word of her speech: IOKIYAR.

Monday, October 24, 2005
George F: George W's Worst Nightmare
Wingnuts across America have lately been cheering on George F. Will. The bow-tied, bespectacled champion of old-timey conservativism has been lambasting the Harriet Miers nomination and the wingnuts can't get enough.

Of course, the Bush administration has been glad to have shouting midgets like Hugh Hewitt and the mouth-breathers at Powerline on their side, but their support was a given. To have a major-league player like Will in their corner was far more important. That Will is now one of Miers' most vocal critics must seem nightmarish; and I expect it's causing a lot of sleepless nights in D.C.

Here's a bit of Will's most recent anti-Miers screed:

Miers must begin with 22 Democratic votes against her. Surely no Democrat can retain a shred of self-respect if, having voted against John Roberts, he or she then declares Miers fit for the court. All Democrats who so declare will forfeit a right and an issue -- their right to criticize the administration's cronyism.

And Democrats, with their zest for gender politics, need this reminder: To give a woman a seat on a crowded bus because she is a woman is gallantry. To give a woman a seat on the Supreme Court because she is a woman is a dereliction of senatorial duty. It also is an affront to mature feminism, which may bridle at gallantry but should recoil from condescension.

As for Republicans, any who vote for Miers will thereafter be ineligible to argue that it is important to elect Republicans because they are conscientious conservers of the judicial branch's invaluable dignity. Finally, any Republican senator who supinely acquiesces in President Bush's reckless abuse of presidential discretion -- or who does not recognize the Miers nomination as such -- can never be considered presidential material.

George Will, of course, was an acolyte of William F. Buckley. He has mastered the Buckleyesque trick of using ten-dollar words and flowery language to convey a false sense of rhetorical precision. You only need to examine the underlying arguments to discover how flimsy they are. Look at this sentence: Any who vote for Miers will thereafter be ineligible to argue that it is important to elect Republicans because they are conscientious conservers of the judicial branch's invaluable dignity. Translation: If you vote for Miers, me and my boys are gonna run you out of town on a rail.

That's not an argument, it's a terroristic threat.

And what are we to make of Will's loony admonition to Democrats? Miers must begin with 22 Democratic votes against her. Surely no Democrat can retain a shred of self-respect if, having voted against John Roberts, he or she then declares Miers fit for the court.

This would be a somewhat bizarre assertion, even assuming that Democrats hold the same judicial philosophy as George F. Will. I'm guessing they don't.

Will has always regarded Democrats as hand-wringing weak sisters at best and America-hating fifth columnists at worst, so his sudden concern for their self-respect seems less than sincere. Should Democrats vote for Miers based on Will's definition of ideological purity, so that a proven right-wing lunatic can take her place on the court?

I found the Roberts nomination almost hypnotically boring, but I will say this: had I been a Democratic senator on the Judiciary Committee, I would have voted in favor of his confirmation.

I would have had two reasons for my vote.

1. Roberts was eminently qualified; and

2. Roberts did not appear to be a right-wing lunatic.

It's really not any more complicated than that. And in the current political climate, that's the best we can hope for.

Saturday, October 22, 2005
A First-Class List From A Second-Class Magazine
Back in the fall of 1999, there were two kinds of people: those who were hiding in their basements with a rifle across their knees, waiting for the Millenium Bug to destroy civilization, and those who were compiling "best-of" lists.

You decide which faction was more idiotic.

In '99 we saw a number of best-books-of-the-millenium lists, but they were usually too erudite, too expansive or too dumbed-down to be of any use.

But Time Magazine recently published a best-books-published-since-1923 list (1923 being the year Time Magazine began). I was ready with a hoot of derisive laughter. But I have to say, the list is not bad.

As an old English major I find these kind of lists interesting because they say a lot more about the individuals compiling them than they do the actual books selected.

And the Time list did not disappoint in this regard. It is a list remarkable for its utter middlebrow self-consciousness. There are the inarguably great books the compilers knew had to be on the list (The Sun Also Rises, Beloved, 1984, Light In August. Invisible Man, The Great Gatsby); there are overrated potboilers that were apparently included because they'd been made into smashing movies (Gone With The Wind, I Claudius, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold); and at least one truly bad book that no one seems to have caught on to yet (Infinite Jest).

But credit where credit is due: there were some surprises on the list, and good ones, too. Roth's brilliant American Pastoral made the list, as did Murdoch's quirky Under the Net, Gibson's Neuromancer, Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, Stephenson's Snow Crash, Ford's The Sportswriter, and even Philip K. Dick's goofball masterpiece Ubik .

Best-of lists are most interesting when they surprise us; they are a way of looking at our own society, a way of looking at the things we value. And it's remarkable that a low-to-middlebrow magazine has compiled a list as witty and interesting as this one. Check it out.

Friday, October 21, 2005
Par For The Course
Check out Echidne's post about Ellen Sauerbrey, another Bush administration appointee with some "special" qualifications for the job. And by "special", I mean short-bus special:

Sauerbrey is Bush's nominee for Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. The job of the assistant secretary is to oversee the U.S. refugee assistance and admission programs. Sauerbrey is an interesting choice for this position as she is largely known as an avid anti-abortion voice in the United Nations where she is the current U.S. Ambassador to the Commission on the Status of Women. Her experience with the problems of managing refugees appears to be roughly zero.

This is actually a very smart strategy. Unlike highly-qualified people, political cronies are plentiful. They're easy to find, easy to recruit, and they work cheap.

Thursday, October 20, 2005
Much Ado About Nadagate
Like a long-necked priest with a hickey, the wingers are starting to sweat. The things they have done in secret will not be secret for long. Sooner or later the whole sordid Valerie Plame affair is going to come out into the open. And it won't be pretty.

Denying that it ever happened will no longer work; now the strategy is to convince the public that it's much ado about nothing.

John Tierney at the New York Times predicts that the Republic itself will be threatened if Rove and / or Libby is indicted over what he glibly calls "Nadagate":

The lesson for the public would be: Stop appointing special prosecutors. The job can turn a reasonable lawyer into an inquisitor with the zeal of Captain Ahab - even more zeal, actually, because he'll keep hunting even after he learns there's no whale. He'll settle for anything else he can scare up.

He's right! For example, if a special prosecutor was appointed to look into allegations that you were involved in, say, a crooked Arkansas land deal, but he couldn't find anything but ended indicting you for lying about getting a blowjob at work....well, that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?

This case, if you can remember that far back....
Thanks, John, I can remember back two years. You can remember back a lot farther -- I know that because you're still blaming the Clinton administration for all of America's problems.

....began with accusations that White House officials violated a law protecting undercover agents who could be harmed or killed if their identities were revealed. But it now seems doubtful that there was a violation of that law, much less any danger to the outed agent, Valerie Plame.

So now the original justifications for the investigation have vanished, which is why I think of this as the Nadagate scandal. But the prosecutor has kept at it for two years. Besides switching to the vague law against disclosing classified information, he might indict Libby or Rove for perjury or obstruction of justice - crimes that occurred only because of the investigation.

That's right, America. Patrick Fitzgerald forced Rove and Libby to perjure themselves and to obstruct justice.

I wonder if John Tierney believes that Bill Clinton was impeached for nothing. He certainly didn't say so at the time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Revisionist History
Captain Ed weighs in on the increasingly public squabbling within the conservative movement -- and reaches a startling conclusion:

No one has ever thought that Bush represented the conservative wing of the GOP. He didn't even run for election as a conservative in 2000; that was McCain's role. Bush selected Dick Cheney in main part to get conservative backing for his candidacy. The fiscal conservatives especially mistrusted Bush because of his father's weak performance, and apart from the tax cuts, have found little to cheer in this presidency.

This is revisionist history of truly staggering proportions. In what universe was John McCain the conservative darling of the 2000 primaries? McCain was pilloried by conservatives as a mush-mouthed centrist. He was trounced by Bush in South Carolina largely because of Bush's speech to the fundamentalist wingnuts at Bob Jones University.

Ed knows better. There has never been clearer evidence: the Bush ship is sinking. And the rats are running for their lives.

Friday, October 14, 2005
When Uncle Mike Is President
Here's a question the bloggers and the mainstream media are desperately trying to wrap their heads around: does the racial, ethnic and / or gender makeup of the Supreme Court matter?

To many conservatives, the answer is a resounding "no"; to insist that women or minorities ought to sit on the court is "identity politics". At the National Review, they found a woman -- assuming "K-Lo" really is a woman -- to carry that argument forward:

Identity politics is a dangerous thing. It's all about the soft bigotry of low expectations. For the sake of having female role models on the Court — or whatever your "No Boys Allowed" reasoning or goal is — you say, A woman is not going to make it on her own. She won't rise to the top. She can't compete with the guys.It's unfair to all involved.

Whew -- talk about low expectations! What pretzel logic -- to nominate a woman for the Supreme Court is "identity politics", which is insulting to women; therefore the only way to treat women equally is to only nominate men!

K-Lo seems to be arguing that the nine people most qualified to sit on the Supreme Court would inevitably happen to be men.

But we shouldn't fret if all nine justices on the Supreme Court are all guys, right? After all, no one is named to the court in order to represent a specific consituency; they're there to determine whether a particular law is compatible with the Constitution.

And of course, that's logical. That's rational. In a perfect world, it might even be right. But my feeling is that it isn't right.

Let's close our eyes for a moment, and imagine a perfect world. A world of peace and justice. A world where wisdom is valued. A world where our natural resources are used wisely, and our endangered species are protected. A world where school districts fight over the most talented teachers (a little shout-out to Lost Citizen Sarita). A world where the Minnesota Twins are a World Series dynasty. A world where the Godzilla Channel is a favorite destination on cable boxes all over America. And a world where Uncle Mike is President.

Ah! Imagine! A smart, compassionate visionary in the White House! America would be won over by my sincerity, my hard work, my zeal, my determination, my disarming sense of humor, and (let's face it!) my smoldering sexuality.

The lovely Mrs. Uncle Mike would be the most popular First Lady since Jackie Kennedy, and Life magazine would come back into existence just to cover the antics of Ellie -- America's Favorite Kid.

Now, it just happens that over my two terms in office (I was re-elected in a landslide, obviously) I'll have had to fill nine Supreme Court vacancies. And it did not escape the notice of the media that I ended up with nine women on the court.

When the National Review howls about this (and boy, will they howl), I will simply reply: who says that men have a God-given right to be on the Supreme Court? Where is that written?

All of my nine nominees were highly qualified. That's why I chose them; it just turned out that none of the best candidates were males.

To pick a man for the court just to "even things out" would be the soft bigotry of low expectations. I can't pick some unqualified guy just to fill in a quota.

The National Review will gibber, "But, come on! There must have been highly qualified men for the court -- why didn't you at least consider one of them?"

And I will just smile and shake my head. "You don't understand," I will say patiently. "To throw a man's name into the hopper just because I want to give him an equal chance is insulting. It sends the message 'you men just can't compete with women on an equal playing field'".

We don't want to send the message that a man can't make it on his own, do we?

Thursday, October 13, 2005
Put Up Or Shut Up
It must be wearying to be one of the beautiful minds at the National Review. Every day it's the same routine: set up straw man, knock it down. Set up straw man again, knock it down again.

It's a formula that has sold a lot of magazines over the years. It's as comforting to the wingers as a pint of Chunky Monkey.

Perhaps that explains why NR is hosting yet another panel discussion in Los Angeles this week called “Finding the Future of Public Television”. In advance of the discussion, National Review's Peter Robinson queried a number of Big Right-Wing Thinkers on what the ideal future of public television ought to be.

I wonder what they'll say?

Robinson was thrilled to get an email response from Milton Friedman:

Re my view on PBS, I believe the government has no business running a propaganda mill, by radio, TV, or in print. I would completely privatize PBS. Because of history, perhaps gradually --cut funding by 1/3 for each of three years….

By "history", Saint Milton seems to be referring to the unhappy events of 1995, when Newt Gingrich and his hot-and-heavy cohorts made some unwelcome advances on public broadcasting. Newt didn't succeed in having his way with it, but his busy fingers did make his intentions clear. The public reaction was visceral and overwhelmingly negative.

Milton's comments seem to be the only acknowledgement that such a move would be, if not political suicide, then at least political self-mutilation.

Of course, it would take more to kill PBS than simply zeroing out its funding (government funding of public broadcasting is only about 10%). It would also be necessary to seize all public radio and TV broadcast frequencies and auction them off to private entities. This would be even more controversial than zeroing out government funding, which is why the wingers rarely speak of it, even to each other.

But wait! Don't speak! Robinson wants us to read another response he received, this time from a citizen of -- ugh! -- Canada, who is looking forward to moving to the sane and sensible United States!

What is the government's role? This sums it up well: to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. I just don't see government support of the arts in there. I am willing however to make an exception for the Marine Corps Band.
Cute. I don't see anything in there about subsidizing the crooks and chiselers at Halliburton, either, but there seems to be plenty of right-wing enthusiasm for that.

The truth is, the crackpots at National Review have been beating this drum for so long, they don't know when to stop. I guess nobody told these guys that their own party now controls all the levers of government.

Note to Peter Robinson: the time for writing snarky articles and holding panel discussions on this issue is over -- long over. It's time to stop using public broadcasting as a rhetorical pinata and start putting your money where your mouth is. Want to eliminate public broadcasting? Go ahead. What's stopping you? What are you waiting for?

Call your favorite right-wing congressman (you must know lots of them) and get the public broadcasting line-item eliminated from the next budget

But don't stop there. Get that same Congressman to sponsor a bill to auction all public broadcast frequencies to the highest bidder.

Surely the Congress would pass such a bill. If this Congress doesn't, who will?

And this President just threw a party at the White House feting the geniuses at NR. If he doesn't sign the bill into law, who will?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Strange Days
You know things are getting weird out there when the mainstream media -- which never used to question the wisdom or intentions of Our Dear President -- is now openly questioning every little thing he does.

On Monday, the Today Show's Matt Lauer was given an exclusive interview with Dubya. The President just happened to be busy hammering together a Habitat For Humanity house on the Gulf coast.

Lauer accused the President of engaging in a photo-op, and that led to a rather tense exchange on live national television.

This morning, the Post's Dana Milbank published a rather bizarre column in which he analyzed Bush's body language during the interview. And it wasn't a flattering analysis.

The fidgeting clearly corresponded to the questioning. When Lauer asked if Bush, after a slow response to Katrina, was "trying to get a second chance to make a good first impression," Bush blinked 24 times in his answer. When asked why Gulf Coast residents would have to pay back funds but Iraqis would not, Bush blinked 23 times and hitched his trousers up by the belt.

When the questioning turned to Miers, Bush blinked 37 times in a single answer -- along with a lick of the lips, three weight shifts and some serious foot jiggling.

Maybe he was blinking out a message in Morse code: "C-A-N-N-O-T... G-O-V-E-R-N....S-E-N-D... H-E-L-P"

Laura Bush, by contrast, delivered only three blinks and stood still through her entire answer about encouraging volunteerism.

Perhaps the set itself made Bush uncomfortable. He and his wife stood in casual attire, wearing tool belts, in front of a wall frame and some Habitat for Humanity volunteers in hard hats. ABC News noted cheekily of its rival network's exclusive: "He did allow himself to be shown hammering purposefully, with a jejune combination of cowboy swagger and yuppie self-consciousness."

When the hell did ABC News start using words like "jejune"? See how crazy things are getting?

Monday, October 10, 2005
An Elegant Theory...Too Bad It's Wrong
Andrew Sullivan tries to make a little lemonade out of the citrus-scented Miers nomination controversy. Maybe, Andrew reasons, Harriet Miers will redeem herself in the confirmation hearings. Maybe she'll come across as a flinty, fun and folksy gal from Texas -- like Ross Perot in size six shoes!

A little lady from Texas versus hair-transplanted blowhard from Delaware? No contest. Bush will play the populist card, while playing the evangelical card to the base beyond his base. "See," he'll say. "She's just what I said and all you pointy-headed neocon intellectuals don't run the country. I do." It would not be hard for her to exceed expectations at this point; and every comment I have ever heard about her from within the White House is tinged with a mixture of fear and wonder. There is something we don't yet know about Miers - and it's what she's actually like as a person on television. That could well alter the dynamic of everything.

WHAT IT SAYS: Of course, assuming that this tactic works, and I'm just hypothesizing, it says something less about conservatism or Miers or the Senate, than about Bush. In the matter of the Supreme Court, Bush's fundamental motives are sticking a finger in the eye of his intellectual supporters, and keeping a crony so close to him that his executive running of the war on terror will never be subject to real Congressional oversight. (Miers is insurance for the executive-branch-worshipping Roberts).

Hmmm. Yes....interesting. Of course, Andrew is making a really big assumption here. He is assuming that Bush actually had a coherent motive in nominating Harriet Miers.

Frankly, this gives Dear Leader too much credit. Bush wasn't sending a message to evangelical Christians or to conservative intellectuals; he wasn't sending a message at all. Bush likes to give important jobs in his administration to people he likes; and he likes Miers. There's really nothing more to it than that.

But conservatives really don't want to believe it because if they do, their heads explode. And no one wants his or her head to explode.

That's human nature.

The National Review: 50 Years Of Moral Superiority
Over the weekend the White House feted William F. Buckley and the other brownshirts at the National Review for making the 21st century safe for 12th-century values.

Here in the Lost City we're more than happy to let people know what tune the Devil is playing. In that spirit, here's a sample of NR wingnuttery from 1957 (via Atrios):

The central question that emerges--and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by meerely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal--is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes--the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced ace. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists. The question, as far as the White community is concerned, is whether the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage. The British believe they do, and acted accordingly, in Kenya, where the choice was dramatically one between civilization and barbarism, and elsewhere; the South, where the conflict is byno means dramatic, as in Kenya, nevertheless perceives important qualitative differences between its culture and the Negroes', and intends to assert its own.

National Review believes that the South's premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.

Ha. Here's to 50 years of oh-so-civilized commentary.

Saturday, October 08, 2005
The Fourth-Biggest Problem In America
Yesterday the new CBS News poll came out, and the numbers looked bleak for Dubya. Bush's approval rating now stands at 37% -- a record low for him. Only 29% of independents approve of the job he's doing. The only reason Bush's poll numbers haven't completely collapsed is because 80% of Republicans still back him.

The crucial right track / wrong track numbers are also bad. 67% of Americans now think the country is on the wrong track, down six points from last month.

But here is the most amazing part of the poll: when respondents were asked to name the most important issue the country was facing right now, it broke down like this:

War in Iraq: 18%

Economy and Jobs: 16%

Gas / Oil Crisis: 5%

President Bush: 5%

Terrorism: 4%

The American people now believe that George W. Bush is a bigger problem than terrorism. It's safe to say that this guy has lost the confidence of the American people. And it will be hard for him to get it back.

Thursday, October 06, 2005
I'll Bet I'm Not The Only One....
....who thinks there's something awfully damned fishy about the subway terror threat that's supposedly been linked to Iraq.

Especially since this threat just happened to be trumpeted the same day that Bush made a "major policy speech" in which he tried to boost support for the Iraq war by - wait for it -- linking it to terror threats.

A few years ago, if someone had tried to tell me that any presidential administration would concoct a fake terrorist threat in order to sell its policies, I would have laughed and recommended a trip to detox.

But not anymore. Not in Bush's Amazing Right-Wing Funhouse, which bears a sinister resemblance to the America I grew up in. I would like to think the news media would dig into this and ask some tough questions. But they won't. They'll fall in line, as usual.

And I thought Watergate made us cynical. Sweet Jesus, how much of our country will be left when these people leave office?

Hey, Is This Guy Making Sense, Or Is It Me?

Turns out it's me.

I was listening to the President's "major policy address" on the radio this morning, and found myself nodding in agreement:

Evil men obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience must be taken very seriously, and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.

Defeating a militant network is difficult because it thrives like a parasite on the suffering and frustration of others.

The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution.

But then I realized he wasn't actually talking about the Republican party.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Eyes Are The Mirrors To The Soul
A day after the Miers Meltdown, the right has finally managed to right itself. Conservative bloggers are lauding themselves for their self-restraint. There is still grousing and grumbling out there, but wingers have stopped threatening to tear the Bush-Cheney bumper stickers off their SUVs and join the Constitution party.

But the achy-breaky hearts of the right wing are still smarting. Whenever a conservative blogger or a talk-show host resolves to give Bush the benefit of the doubt on Miers, someone always pipes up: with Republicans holding a 5-seat majority in the Senate, why is that necessary? Why did Bush pick this particular person? Why not Luttig, why not Alito, why not Owens, why not someone with a known appetite for extreme wingnuttery?

Why not indeed? There seem to be so few compelling reasons for Bush to have picked Miers that people are guessing at all kinds of complicated motives. Maybe it's because Bush is more moderate than we suspected, say some. Maybe Bush is too weakened politically to withstand a knock-down drag-out. But I suspect these views are wrong.

Bush is no moderate; he's made that clear enough. And a politicial fight would have energized his base, which is all Bush has right now.

People often talk about Bush's zeal for loyal followers. But loyalty is only part of the picture.

Bush suffers from an odd delusion: he believes that he has an unerring ability to make an immediate and accurate assessment of a person's character. He honestly believes that he can look someone in the eye and "know their heart", tell whether they're a good person or a bad person, his kind of person or no, just by chatting with them.

(We all have the same amazing ability, by the way --it's called liking someone or not liking them. But most of us don't regard it as a superpower.)

Coupled with Bush's other major (and widely publicized) delusion -- that he has overcome impossible odds to pull himself up to the White House by his bootstraps -- and it becomes clear that Bush not only has a badly distorted view of reality, but actually believes that he has powers beyond those of mortal men.

Well, we already knew he was crazy, right? But consider this: when Bush says he knows Miers -- knows what she thinks and what she values -- I suspect he's completely wrong. Miers was by all accounts a bobblehead, a yes-woman, who agreed with everything her boss said and who told others that he was the "most brilliant man" she'd ever met.

Bush thinks he had a window to her soul, but it was really a mirror. No one knows what Harriet Miers believes because no one ever asked her. Bush knows what he himself believes. For him, that's enough.

Klobuchar Over Kennedy?
In a new Zogby state-by-state poll, (via Kos) there are a number of interesting results for hypothetical Senate races -- including this one from Minnesota:

Klobuchar (D) 49
Kennedy (R) 43

Surprising to me, because Amy Klobuchar is known primarily as the Hennepin County attorney, and doesn't have a statewide rep. Kennedy, by contrast, serves in the 6th Congressional District, which cuts across the northern exurban frontier of the Twin Cities.

It's early, but a poll like this shows great promise for Klobuchar -- though the poll result may speak more to Kennedy's weakness as a Senate candidate.

Monday, October 03, 2005
NEWSFLASH! Right-Wing Bush Sycophants Oppose Nomination of Right-Wing Bush Sycophant
John Hawkins at Right Wing News is frothing at the mouth over the Miers pick:

Miers is a Bush crony with no real conservative credentials, who leapfrogged legions of more deserving judges just because she was Bush's pal. She used to be Bush's staff secretary for God's sake and now she's going to the Supreme Court while people like Michael Luttig, Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown & Emilio Garza are being left on the sidelines.

To merely describe Miers as a terrible pick is to underestimate her sheer awfulness as a selection[...]

You want a candidate who has "Souter" written all over her? You want a candidate who can't be trusted to overturn Roe v. Wade? Well, her name is Harriet Miers.

This is undoubtedly the worst decision of Bush's entire presidency so far.

Come on now, John, trying to pick Bush's "worst decision" is like being in the buffet line at the Jolly Troll.

Wolf! WOLF!!
This morning President Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Sandra Day O'Connor.

Conservative bloggers love Miers. (UPDATE: As it turned out, no they don't. They simply smiled a lot when her name came up, because they never seriously thought she'd be the pick -- U.M.) She throws phrases like "strict constructionist" around like hand grenades. But over the last couple of weeks the wingnuts had convinced themselves that Meiers wouldn't be chosen. This was because Miers' chief qualification for the Court is that she's really, really loyal to Bush. You may remember that loyalty was Brownie's main qualification to be head of FEMA, and remains the most important quality Bush looks for in his appointments (amount contributed to the Bush campaign is second, knee-jerk right wing ideology is third).

After the Brownie debacle, the wingers believed that Bush would dial down his mania for appointing cocker spaniels to important posts -- at least temporarily -- and put a premium on well-qualified nominees

Apparently they don't know Bush the way we know him.

Now, Kos and Atrios and the other lefty bloggers, who were shouting from the rooftops about John Roberts for the last few months, are about to look downright silly. Roberts -- whatever legal briefs he might have written 25 years ago -- was eminently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. He comes off as a conservative but not as a nut. Yet the liberal blogosphere has been shouting wolf, wolf! Russ Feingold, who voted to confirm Roberts, has been painted as a simpering toady of the Bush administration. Good luck with that, guys.

What good did the hyperbole against Roberts do? What good were the threats against the "traitors" who voted to confirm Roberts? Now there is a wolf at the door, kids; a real one. Now you'll start shouting again, but no one's going to listen. And it's too bad, because politics isn't a game, even though it often resembles a game. It's real, and it has a real effect on people's lives. As we are all -- unfortunately -- about to find out.

UPDATE: Sigh. Frequnt visitors to the Lost City know that your old Uncle Mike -- charming, affable, wise and devilishly handsome though he is -- has dangerously unreliable powers of precognition. The reaction among hard-core wingers is surprisingly angry and vitriolic. Apparently they endured John Roberts on the assumption that Bush's second pick would be a right-wing tub-thumper. Not just a winger, but an insane winger. And Miers just isn't insane enough to satisfy them. The comment below is quite typical, one of hundreds like it:

This is disgusting. To choose someone with absolutely no credentials at all is just moronic. I can’t stand this. What a total waste!


See the meltdown here.

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