March 11, 2005

So long... and thanks

March 11, 1952 - May 11, 2001

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:00 AM

March 10, 2005

...Aaaaaand toss

Ezra wrote a post in response to Blad Plumer's response to Matt Yglesias' post about foreign policy. In it, he alludes to the ever-frequented concept of 9/11 in a parellel universe where Bush was not President during it:

The only way for a party to build that mystique is to have one of their members in the Oval Office during a time of national crisis. George W. Bush, for instance, was not considered a particularly good choice on foreign policy until that fateful day he spent reading "My Pet Goat". In fact, Gore led in foreign policy throughout the campaign, with the final poll showing that Americans trusted Al more than George, 50%-36%. And, if not for Gore's lackluster performance and the shenanigans in Florida, he would have occupied the White House on 9/11, and Democrats would have benefitted from one of their own proving himself a strong and capable commander-in-chief presiding during a national crisis.

In fact, and I hate to say this, Democrats were extraordinarily unlucky not to have a foreign policy crisis occur during Clinton's presidency. There was no Kuwait (Bosnia/Kosovo was a humanitarian crisis, which is a bit different), no Cuban Missile Crisis, no Cold War treaties, and certainly no 9/11. And that meant no opportunity to undo the party's lackluster image on national security. In fact, the only crisis a "recently" elected Democrat has presided over was the Iranian hostage crisis, which saw our arms tied and our rescue mission downed via mechanical malfunctions (and if you think Reagan could have done better on that one, please go read up on your Iran-Contra). Moreover, Democrats are less likely to respond to foreign provocation with invasions and overwhelming displays of force when unnecessary. There's no doubt in my mind that Bush 43 would have invaded Somalia in the aftermath of Mogadishu, accomplishing nothing but proving America's masculinity by sacrificing a few score of its young, and likely boosting his poll numbers in the process. We don't do that, and so we don't get to improve our public perception by implementing destructive and idiotic policies.

So the reason that it's important to take national security off the table and get a Democrat into the Oval Office is precisely so, if another crisis does hit, a member of our party is in place to deal with it, thus proving Democratic competence and strength. If Al Gore had been in office during 9/11, not only would he have sailed to reelection, but he'd likely be passing universal health care with the political capital he didn't squander on Iraq. And any future Democrat elected to the presidency, even if he gets there on domestic issues (as Bush did), will be in place to remake the image of his party in the event that a crisis does occur.

While it's one of the better examples of futures that could have been, I'm going to have to address the numerous ways I think some of Ezra's suggestions are implausible.

Instead of addressing the hypothetical Gore-during-9/11 case, let's look at something we can base just slightly more in the realm of historical fact. What if, instead of the date now symonimous with its name, we instead experienced the tragedy earlier, during the Clinton presidency? Or, to be specific: what if, on December 27, 1998- just after Christmas during a massive holiday travel period, and a scant eight days after the impeachment of Bill Clinton- al Qaeda performed its heinous act?

That Clinton could have benefitted politically from that tragedy is nearly laughable. The same reaction as in our real world would have commenced, with a week of non-stop news coverage, silenced opinions, and knee-jerk demands for war. Clinton would, like Bush, have been presented with the most difficult and important decisions of his career and his life.

And then three days later the Republican leadership would have appeared on the news demanding that Clinton step down for the sake of the country.

They would have brought up Waco, clearly making subtle allusions that Clinton had faced previous failures in combating hostile anti-governmental militias. They would have screamed that Clinton had allowed terrorists to attack the same building twice during his presidency. And they most certainly would have suggested that the attacks were a result of the missle strikes on Sudan a year earlier, which he clearly only ordered to Wag the Dog on the Lewinsky testimony. That an embattled Clinton- who was even higher in the polls than Bush was on 9/10/01- would have faced equal complacency from the opposition Senate leadership- is fantasy.

The fact is that Republicans are not better in any way than Democrats at the handling of foreign policy. They are, without a doubt, simply better at delivering it. Republicans used 9/11 as evidence of Republican leadership. They would have equally used 9/11 as evidence of Democratic failures. Jesus- the most extreme right-wingers blame Clinton for the attacks now.

As far as Ezra's suggestion goes that W. would have invaded Mogadishu, I have to disagree there too. Mogadishu was a result of U.S. intervention in Somalia. Frankly, Bush has already proven he has no interest in even beginning intervention anywhere in Africa- despite the fact that Darfur is rapidly becoming the worst humanitarian crisis in human history since the Holocaust.

In the real world, for all his faults Clinton managed to succeed in the not-yet-named War on Terror far more than Bush has, and probably ever will. Clinton brokered steps in the Mideast peace process that failed from the actions of Sharon and Arafat, as well as Rabin's murderers, but certainly not at the fault of Clinton himself. He oversaw the FBI's arrest and conviction of terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center- again, an unequivocable accomplishment over the currrent Commander-in-Chief. And his actions in Kosovo, the arbitrary bombings horrific (and deserving of scorn toward him) as they were, resulted in the same electoral-shift-cum-change-in-power similar to what has recently started in Lebanon- with, of course, the slight difference in not needing two wars to invoke it, the solidifying of multinational support rather than dissolving it, and the complete lack of loss of American soldiers' lives. If choosing between thankless success and self-serving failures, I'll take the "incompetent" foreign policy of Bill Clinton anyday.

Ezra's fallacy lies in the claim that Democrats never had a "foreign policy crisis." They had several. They just A. handled it better and B. didn't create new ones. Had Bush acted even remotely the way Clinton did during any of his several moments of foreign policy truth, we might actually have a unified country now. Perhaps that unity may lie in a country unified behind Republicans, but at least there would have been electoral victories based on actual victories, rather than electoral victories based on the fear that now divides this country.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:21 PM

Ah. Must have just been a flash mob.

Okay, this is kinda pathetic:

Was the Hezbollah Rally Staged?

When 500,000 pro-Syrian protesters hit a central Beirut square Tuesday to chant anti-American slogans, the first question that popped to mind was--was this staged?

At least one opposition leader said the pro-Syrian government pressured people to turn out Tuesday and some reports said Syria bused in people from across the border. At least one? That was the question of the day.

Now World Net Daily's Aaron Klein is citing former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun who believes the protest was actually was a staged hoax with non-Lebanese citizens, Syrian workers, students and municipal employees coerced into joining the protest.

The rally in question attracted 500,000 people. In other words, a handful of right-wing bloggers are suggesting that the pro-Syrian Lebanese government coerced and organized half a million people- equal to roughly 12 or so percent of the entire population of Lebanon- into a massive rally. In three days. Now that, my friends, is infrastructure.

You know, I'm not celebrating the influence Syria has anywhere in the world, Lebanon included, but if this wildly insane belief is even remotely possible, shouldn't the right-wingers be just as scared of a a group that could do something like that?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:22 PM

March 9, 2005

Laying down

Not to start some inter-blog fued or anything like that, but I'm going to have to agree with Atrios on this one:

Kos mounts a half-hearted defense of House Democrats who are supporting a Bill which is going to pass anyway. From an individual House member's perspective it's absolutely correct.

But, from the point of view of the party as a whole, it's completely and utterly wrong. When more than a few members are peeled off, suddenly it's a "bipartisan bill." In 2006, Nancy Pelosi won't be able to make the bankruptcy bill part of a national issue because too many members supported it LOUDLY AND PROUDLY. And, if we don't nationalize the congressional race in 2006 we will lose once again.

Until the party begins to take disciplined stands against these things, they don't stand for anything.

There's no arguing with history here. Bill Clinton signed a tax package that didn't get a single Republican vote. As a result, Gingrich took the anti-Clinton GOP to the most massive political victory in a generation. We're still suffering today. Democrats are officially going to make the best opportunity to defeat the GOP into a bipartisan affair.

To be perfectly honest, it's Kos' updated response that pisses me off more than his original defense. Frankly, I'm officially sick of hearing that everything's great just because Howard Dean is DNC chairman. I'm sick of hearing how his election shows how everything is going to change. We learned today that nothing is going to change, and Kos is apparently approving of it. What good is Dean then?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:00 PM

March 8, 2005

Kung-Fu Hustle!

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Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:35 PM

March 7, 2005

Newest comic - "Class Warfare: the series"

I know I've complained about this before, but it just seems to be getting worse and worse to me. It's obvious we're a nation that glorifies the wealthy- that's hardly something new. But I'm amazed at how our current society is one that not only reveres the rich, but willingly gives them the authority to treat everyone else like shit.

I think the crown might finally have been taken from The Swan for the title of "worst thing to ever put on television-" and keep in mind that I'm talking about a show where depressed women are made to compete over who gets the best plastic surgery. No, MTV took the new top prize the other day when I viewed, for the first time ever, a show called "My Super Sweet 16."

The show, in a nutshell, is MTV's famous documentary style used to glorify rich girls' birthday parties. I find it interesting how in a time when groups are whining on a daily basis that MTV corrupts our children with overt sexual content, there seems to be less, if any, concern over the impression they might be making on young girls- who clearly, are in no way at a point in their life where they would be the most self-conscious they could ever be- by airing a show in which the moral of every episode is that girls with money have more friends and are better than you.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:53 AM