“Could I offer one piece of serious advice?…Start thinking now about you want your legacy to be.” Having made peace with The Queen, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen once more) now contends with President Bill and First Lady Hillary Clinton (Dennis Quaid and Hope Davis respectively) in this brief teaser for Richard Loncraine’s The Special Relationship, written by Peter Morgan. (This is the fifth Morgan/Sheen collaboration after The Deal, The Queen, Frost/Nixon, and The Damned United.) With this, Treme, The Pacific, Song of Ice and Fire, and Boardwalk Empire, the reasons for re-subscribing to HBO seem to be mounting.
Do you remember the Iraq War of 2003? Remember those heady days of euphoria when it ended two months later, with only 139 American lives lost? Journey back with me — TIME-LIFE style, if you will — to the scene of our triumph: “Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a ‘hero’ and boomed, ‘He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.’ PBS’ Gwen Ifill said Bush was ‘part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.’ On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, ‘The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a — on a carrier landing. This must be very meaningful to the United States military.’“
Well, today marks the five-year anniversary of our glorious victory, the day that “splendid little war” came to a close. Among those honoring the day, and the remarkable achievement of our Commander-in-Chief:
Are the Clinton 2008 team taking their toys and going home? With financial backing from George Soros, Clinton lieutenant Harold Ickes announces he’s kicking off a private Dem-data mining firm, which will amass information on left-leaning voters and, theoretically, sell it to interest groups and campaigns that get the Clinton stamp of approval. “Officials at the Democratic National Committee think that creating a modern database is their job, and they say that a competing for-profit entity could divert energy and money that should instead be invested with the national party. Ickes and others involved in the effort acknowledge that their activities are in part a vote of no confidence that the DNC under Chairman Howard Dean is ready to compete with Republicans on the technological front.“
Well, I’d like to know more about the supposed deficiencies of the DNC’s voter outreach system, but this sounds like a troubling development all around. A house divided against itself cannot stand, particularly one as divided as the Democrats these days. (And, given how lackluster many Dems feel about a prospective Clinton candidacy anyway, a seeming attempt to put her own 2008 prospects before the good of the party is, to my mind, probably going to redound badly.)
“Even a criminal like myself is shocked that millions are not able to get health insurance and cannot pay for basic surgery. Who are these power brokers that allow the pigpen to become wormy and filthy? I demand your very lives, but I am not such an imbecile as to institutionalize suffering and poverty. You have my assurance that this shall change swiftly.” Three years to go and the 2008 slate is already filling up. For the Dems: Hillary, Biden, Bayh, Warner, and Feingold. For the GOP: Frist, McCain, and Brownback. And, although Chris Walken first seemed to have the Indy vote locked up (let’s face it, Cthulhu‘s missed His shot), word is the inimitable General Zod is now coming on strong. Hmmm. I could definitely see him pulling a Stockdale at some point in the debate. (By way of LinkMachineGo.)
“When my party retakes the White House, there may very well be a Democratic John Roberts nominated to the Court, a man or woman with outstanding qualifications, highly respected by virtually everyone in the legal community, and perhaps with a paper trail of political experience or service on the progressive side of the ideological spectrum. When that day comes, and it will, that will be the test for this Committee and the Senate. And, in the end, it is one of the central reasons I will vote to confirm Judge John Roberts to be perhaps the last Chief Justice of the United States in my lifetime.”
By a vote of 13-5, John Roberts is approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee — with Dems Patrick Leahy, Herb Kohl, and Russ Feingold joining the Republican majority — and will no doubt become the Court’s next Chief Justice. The Dems — and particularly Sen. Feingold — are already getting flak for their Yes votes from People for the American Way and other liberal groups. (For their part, Hillary and Joe Biden have decided to keep the 2008 primary voters happy.) Well, just as I think Feingold was right to vote yes on Ashcroft in 2001, I think he made the correct decision here, both in terms of principle and politics.
In terms of principle, I think Feingold’s statement above is exactly correct. We could go through 1000 nominees, and Dubya would never pick anyone who comes remotely close to being a progressive — Sadly, the conservative tinge of the Supreme Court was decided last November, with Dubya’s re-election. The question before the Senate was whether Roberts was (a) competent enough to fill the position of Chief and (b) whether he adhered to the broad mainstream (albeit conservative mainstream) of American legal thought. I watched almost all of the Roberts hearings and, although he dodged and weaved past way too many important questions, he was clearly (a) hyper-competent and (b) more respectful of existing legal precedent than many other conservative freakshows Dubya could have appointed (and might still.) Roberts said a number of times that he believed in a constitutional right to privacy, that Griswold was good and settled law, and that (although most agree on this anyway, Janice Rogers Brown notwithstanding) the Lochner Court was not an appropriate or worthwhile historical role model for today’s judiciary. Perhaps he’s lying, but it’s no small business to lie before the Senate. I think Feingold was right to take his word at face value and vote yes, with reservations.
Voting for or against a 50-year-old Chief Justice is not a decision to be taken lightly, and I’m sure Dems on both sides of the vote chose their stance on principle. But, to be base for a moment and consider the politics of the situation, the Yes voters allowed themselves wiggle-room on the next nominee that most Dems have basically wasted on a sure thing. Roberts is replacing Rehnquist, a conservative for a conservative. The real battle lies ahead, when Dubya appoints a justice to take O’Connor’s swing-vote position. Where are the Dems who voted no on Roberts going to go? Chances are the next candidate for justice will be less competent and more conservative, in the scary-fundy sense, than Roberts, but the no-voting Dems have lost all pull by not keeping their powder dry. Had the Dems acceded to Roberts’ nomination, they would have easier recourse to a possible filibuster in Round 2, particularly with the fair-play-minded Gang of 14. Now, not so much.
At any rate, I’ll admit to being already something of a Feingold groupie — More than any other Dem, except perhaps the late Paul Wellstone, I view him as my Senator in Congress, the closest thing to a true progressive out there. (For what it’s worth, I also thought he did a better job than any other Dem in his questioning of Roberts, with the possible exception of Dick Durbin.) Still, I think he made the right decision in this vote, and I hope very much that groups on the left who disagreed with his choice here keep an eye on the big picture and don’t start calling for his head.
And Roberts? Well, I’m never going to agree with the guy on a lot of issues, that’s for sure. But, in the hearings, I thought he came across as conservative in the old and best sense of the term — cautious, restrained, not inclined to break tradition — and not as a frothing, fundamentalist reactionary like any number of judges Dubya has appointed to the bench. Let’s hope, for all our sakes, that this turns out to be the case.
“The disturbing material in Grand Theft Auto and other games like it is stealing the innocence of our children and it’s making the difficult job of being a parent even harder.” It’s Dem Mods v. dem mods as Senators Hillary Clinton and (surprise, surprise) Joe Lieberman decide to sic the FTC on Rockstar Games for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, namely for the “Hot Coffee” PC mod which may or may not have been included in the original source code. (FYI, you can see the controversial game-clip here — It’s not safe for work, but it’s basically two pixellated characters having explicit sex in various positions, a la the puppets in Team America.)
As with most PMRC, V-Chip, and/or anti-Hollywood-style scapegoating for easy moderate bonus points, I don’t particularly think this type of sophomoric tomfoolery in an M-rated (17 and over) game is the central reason for the Decline and Fall of America’s Wayward Children. (And several wry Slashdotters have already pointed out the ridiculousness of the argument being made about GTA here: “I don’t care if my child carjacks a senior…[or] if he takes a golf club and starts clubbing to death pedestrians. But he may never, over my dead body, have adult on adult, consensual sex!“) But Sen. Clinton’s proposed remedy — adding teeth to the ratings system by potentially fining stores who sell M or AO-games to minors — doesn’t sound like the end of the world either. Update: Rockstar fesses up. Update 2: “Maybe she’d be wiser to focus on issues that matter to these people — say, the fighting and dying in Iraq — than on the fighting and the dying in the fake, fun world of ‘Grand Theft Auto.’” Slate‘s Farhad Manjoo calls out Clinton.
“The president gazed intently at poll data and then turned to his wife. ‘Women,’ he announced, ‘want to know why you stayed with me.’ There was an awkward pause among the group of political operatives. But Hillary Clinton did not seem embarrassed. Instead, a half-smile crossed her face. ‘Yes,’ she responded, ‘I’ve been wondering that myself.’” John Harris plugs his new book on the Clinton White House with an excerpt on Hillary’s lessons learned — and possible strategy — for 2008.
“I know it’s a bit of an odd-fellow, or odd-woman, mix,’ she said. ‘But the speaker and I have been talking about health care and national security now for several years, and I find that he and I have a lot in common in the way we see the problem.’” As a testament to politics making strange bedfellows, Hillary and Newt make the rounds. But will this type of bipartisan rapprochement seem antiquated after we enter the Nuclear Age next week?
“It is not quite the ‘right wing conspiracy’ that Hillary Clinton described, but it is an impressive organization built consciously, carefully and single-mindedly. The Ann Coulters and Grover Norquists don’t want to be candidates for anything or cabinet officers for anyone. They know their roles and execute them because they’re paid well and believe, I think, in what they’re saying.” By way of Blotter Spotter and The Late Adopter, Bill Bradley emerges from hiding to dissect the organizational problems of the Democratic Party. “If Democrats are serious about preparing for the next election or the next election after that, some influential Democrats will have to resist entrusting their dreams to individual candidates and instead make a commitment to build a stable pyramid from the base up. It will take at least a decade’s commitment, and it won’t come cheap. But there really is no other choice.” I agree wholeheartedly…but to help build this pyramid, Senator Bradley, we need to hear much more from you more often.
In a nod to her husband’s V-Chip triangulation strategy of 1996, Senator Hillary Clinton joins perennial bluenoses Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Rick Santorum (R-PA) in calling for a new ratings system for television, video games, and the like. Ok, fine, if this helps Sen. Clinton gain cred with Bush-leaning soccer moms, so be it…a uniform ratings system isn’t the end of the world. But I’d be more heartened if Hillary spent less time trying on the moralistic protective camouflage of the GOP and more time articulating the differences between the Democratic and GOP conceptions of “moral values.”
For example, Republicans love to throw the Bible around. Well, last I checked, the New Testament has more to say about compassion, tolerance, the hypocrisy of self-appointed moral arbiters, and the excesses of the wealthy than it does to recommend the small-minded bigotry and pro-corporate, devil-take-the-hindmost avarice of today’s Republican party. The Dems would do well in 2006 and beyond to draw attention to these huge shortfalls in GOP “values,” rather than rush to appropriate their shallow, scapegoating dramaturgy. (In fact, perhaps they should take a page from groups like the surging evangelical-environmental movement.)
Election 2008 Round-Up: While Joe Biden is most concerned about Hillary Clinton as his possible primary competition, several of the nation’s governors aim to prove him wrong, and have started a-schmoozin’ to that effect.
“If you think you have seen this movie before — ‘Dean Against the Machine’, you have…Then, as now, Dean inspired an outside-the-Beltway, Net-based crusade whose shock troops adored his social progressivism and his fearless opposition to war in Iraq. Then, as now, a party establishment — based in Congress, governors’ mansions and Georgetown salons — viewed him as a loudmouthed lefty whose visibility would ruin the Democratic brand in Red States.” Writing in breathless hyperbole mode as usual, Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman surveys the consensus anti-Dean reaction among DNC poobahs (purportedly being led by the 2008-conscious Clintons.)
I remained pretty agnostic about Dean’s candidacy last winter – when he seemed he had the big mo, I was all for the party getting behind him. But, I can’t say I was heartbroken by any means after the Iowa collapse. (In retrospect, of course, it’s hard to think of a single state that Kerry won that Dean also wouldn’t have carried.) That being said, to my mind Dean as DNC chair makes for a much better fit. The job of DNC chair is to fire up the grass roots and get Dems elected, and Dean has already shown a marked ability to achieve the former. Plus, it was the protective-camouflage, middle-of-the-road DNC’ers that foisted Terry McAuliffe on us, and he was an out-and-out embarrassment from start to finish. (Don’t agree? Go look at the November results again.)
As many others have noted, Dean isn’t nearly as lefty as he’s being made out to be — He’s a fiscally conservative governor. As such, the reaction he has fostered among the insider crowd has very little to do with governing ideology and a lot to do with one faction desperate to maintain controlling power over the party. Dean or no, if the DNC chairmanship is filled by another unenterprising flunky along the lines of McAuliffe, we’ve already started down the road to more of the same in 2008, right down to the losing.
As we Dems still mull over November’s ignominy, Newsweek releases the details of an 11/9 interview with John Kerry in order to flog their upcoming election book. “He never quite came out and said it, but Kerry sounded very much like a man who was running for president again…Some of Kerry’s followers are already plotting how Kerry can defeat Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses in 2008.” Hmmm…I really think we need a lot more intraparty soul-searching before we pin our 2008 hopes on those two candidates…at this point, that sounds like a recipe for disaster.
So, that’s that, then…the Idiot Wind blows anew. The American electorate has spoken and — despite all the shadiness and incompetence of the past four years — has given Dubya and his cronies the imprimatur to go hog-wild. 51-48%…this is pretty much a mandate, folks. (Big of those Red Staters to ensure that we will be woefully unprepared for the next terrorist attack on a Blue State.) Y’know, H.L. Mencken‘s whole Tyranny of the Booboisie schtick has always grated on my lefty sensibilities, but at this point I have to admit he may have been on to something.
Ugh. I’m too young to remember 1984 very well, but I’m curious as to how last night and this morning compared for America’s Left. (I’ve since been reminded by several people I trust that 1968 and 1972 were much more grievous blows.) Thing is, 2004 started out with such promise over here. But, right around the time I ended up on crutches in May, events personal and political took a nasty turn, and the past few months have been some of the most dismal I can remember. Now, it seems, I may just look back on this time as relatively calm and worry-free.
But, ok, enough wallowing…let’s start taking it frame-by-frame. Given the war, the economy, and Dubya’s obvious incompetence, how on Earth did we lose this election? Well, give credit where credit is due…all this exit-talk of “moral values” proves that Karl Rove pulled off his gambit: He got the extra 4 million evangelical votes he was targeting, partly, it seems, by judiciously invoking rampant anti-gay hysteria. Yet, for some reason or another — a lousy ground game, perhaps? — the Dems inexplicably didn’t counter with extra votes of our own.
Where do we go from here? The Dems are facing an ugly Rule of Four…We lost four seats in the Senate, at least four seats in the House, and likely four seats in the Supreme Court. Whatsmore, we now appear officially dead in the water in the South and Midwest. And, with Kerry and Daschle gone, our standard-bearers now appear to be Hillary Clinton (about whom the country has already made up its mind), John Edwards (whom I still admire, but he couldn’t carry his home state), and Barack Obama (who’s probably too inexperienced to make much headway in 2008.)
Obviously, it’s now well past time for the serious party overhaul we should’ve began last cycle, when Al Gore had an election stolen from him that he should have won hands down. Daschle & Gephardt are already in the dustbin of history, and Terry McAuliffe should probably follow them there. I for one don’t think Howard Dean was or is the answer, but he’s one of the only people injecting new blood and enthusiasm into the party right now, so he should have a seat at the table. Right now, I think Edwardsian populism is our strongest ideological card, but as I said, it didn’t seem to make much headway last night.
Silver lining? Yeah, right. Well, as this Washington Monthly forum noted in September, second terms are notoriously scandal-prone (Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica), partly out of press boredom, and Dubya’s ilk seem particularly scandal-worthy…perhaps we’ll finally hear a little more about Halliburton. I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of horrifying policy decisions emanating from this administration that’ll keep lefty blogs like this one in business. And, on a purely selfish note, my likely dissertation topic on the fortunes of progressivism in the twenties is now seeming much more sexy in the wake of last night’s 1928-like cultural divide. Of course, none of these are really any consolation at all.
At any rate, I generally believe that America tends to get the president it deserves. So, God help us, we’ve brought this upon ourselves. And now, for we 48%, the hard work begins…we have to lick our wounds, get our act together, and figure out how we can best combat the rightward drift that’s afflicting our nation. Alas, I fear Dubya will do much of the heavy lifting for us, by running the nation further into the ground over the next four years. Still, we gotta keep on keeping on, y’all. I do not believe this darkness will endure.
Surprisingly, it seems President and Senator Clinton are now quietly backing H. Carl McCall over former Clinton Cabinet official (and Gore hack) Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary for NY Governor. Is this residual fallout from the much-rumored Clinton-Gore rift in 2000, or just a savvy political move to set up for 2008?
With the Dem slate in 2004 already eliciting yawns from all but the Gore faithful, the Hillary in 2008 movement is growing louder. Well, that would explain why she was so eager to find a way around McCain-Feingold.
Lieberman, Hillary, and the Ghost of Gore…is this really what the Dems have to look forward to? I still might vote Kerrey, Edwards, Daschle, or Dean, but right now this DLC affair is definitely turning me off.
TNR explores how Dubya’s using your money to re-elect his brother (and keep the Florida machine greased for 2004.) Amazing how little we’ve heard about this considering all the treatment the FALN clemency story got during Hillary’s run. (Speaking of Hillary, my respect for her diminished further — it was already pretty low after the “somebody should kill Nader” bit on election night — when she got in a shouting match with Russ Feingold over campaign finance reform last week. Apparently, she’s already trying to find ways around the ban.)