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This is What Democracy Looks Like?

Today's Note From a Madman

Friday-Sunday, February 23-25, 2007


A Photo-Op, of Sorts

The most uncomfortable handshake I have ever seen. There's an Associate Press photo of Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf shaking hands with US Vice President Dick Cheney in a staged photo-op the likes of which we may never see again.

First, it's evident that these two men, in their whole meeting, must have avoided looking one another in the eye. The look of mutual contempt present on the two faces underlies any feeling of mutual respect which they were attempting to present. Next, the handshake grip was more like two men about to have their hands tied in some kind of death match where the winner gets to cut off the loser's hand at the wrist after his victory.

Cheney, dressed in a blue suit and a shocking pink tie had has his Cheney-esque smirk, of course, while Musharraf had a crooked smile of his own.

While Musharraf looks directly into the camera, Cheney does not. Personally, I believe he can not. He probably feels that, if you look into the lens, the devil will steal your soul. Isn't it too late for him on that point anyway?

As al-Qaeda regroups into pre-911 readiness, most Americans want to know how we could have ignored Osama bin-Laden and his bands of terrorists to allow it. Today, Pakistan allows these terrorists safe haven in Waziristan where they can set up camps and train a new generation of American-hating Jihadists. And that's exactly what's going on there. This area, which borders Afghanistan, will no doubt create an open door for the religious zealots whose first job is to kill Americans.

Looking past the fact (and, yes, it is a fact) that we let bin-Laden escape his Tora Bora caves right after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 is what the Bush administration wishes us to do. And, in fact, we have largely done that, with the major media outlets being the worst of the offenders.

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,"
-Philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952)

And we are repeating it. Make no mistake that when Cheney used to state that a new terrorist attack isn't a matter of "if", but "when", he is right. We have seen terror attacks in Great Britain, Spain, India and elsewhere around the world, not to mention the daily assaults which take the lives of dozens of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as our troops watch almost helplessly, their hands tied by the ineptitude of the Bush administration.

"Cheney expressed U.S. apprehensions of regrouping of al-Qaeda in the tribal areas and called for concerted efforts in countering the threat,"
-A faxed statement from the White House

Cheney made a photo-op appearance that will lead to nothing. Does anyone really think this guy cares?

-Noah Greenberg

New Senate Vote

News reports that the Senate Democrats will introduce legislation repealing the infamous 02 enabling act as early as next week.

The legislation repealing Bush's authority to conduct combat operations in Iraq will be crafted to permit US forces tactical discretion while disengaging from combat and will permit continued training of Iraqi forces and protection of such immoveable assets as the Green zone.

We are finally able to see what a phased withdrawal will look like. As I recall the news, the measure will attached as an amendment to appropriations measures for other military spending.

The Senate Democratic leadership has entered into a very complex and high stakes chess match with the Administration and the GOP Senate leadership.

In my view, the biggest imponderable in this contest will be whether the anti-war coalition that elected this thin Democratic majority will continue to support the legislative process needed to authorize our forces disengagement from combat.

I am very pessimistic that this will be the case. Jonathan Tasini and others are in Manhattan this weekend agitating for their impeachment sideshow. Efforts such as this, as emotionally satisfying as they might be, raise the level of public expectation and induce discouragement when they fail, as they inevitably do.

Impeachment will fail because it is substantively flawed. As morally and politically reprehensible as the Iraq invasion and other Bush policies are, the GOP Congressional majority has been careful to cross all legal t's and dot all legal i's. Impeachment will simply not have sufficiently weighty legal standing to be invoked.

The Senate action is the best option for gaining withdrawal as it actually begins the process. The Senators supporting this measure can be expected to be steadfast in their support. Some of them will be taking career altering political risks in doing so.

In my view it is imperative that activist support be strong, vocal and disciplined. A large upwelling of support for the Senate measure will demonstrate to the wavering GOP Senators that there is sufficient political will and discipline in the anti-war movement to dramatically change the political landscape.

-Robert Chapman

Is It That Obvious?

"Two things are now abundantly clear about the future of U.S. policy toward Iraq. First, majorities in both houses of Congress have lost faith in President Bush's approach to the war. Second, the president will do all he can to resist changing his strategy by trying to split his critics into ineffectual factions."
-E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post (2/20/07)

I noticed this trend as well. Why get worked up on the escalation when the real goal is to end the war? We need to get on the same page. If we want to end the war, it must be defunded. That may mean rejecting a budget and shutting the government down as Gingrich did. It's time to up the anty and really oppose the war.

-Robert Scardapane

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

In the wild, some animals attack and kill their young or other weak members of their herds. In America, politically speaking, Democrats do the same thing.
In the wild, this otherwise aberrant behavior culls the herd from within, ensuring survival of the herd against outsiders. Among Democrats, the behavior creates chaos within the party, ensuring that Republicans remain in power and set the agenda for everyone.

This week a skirmish between the Hillary Clinton camp and the Barack Obama camp revealed that behavior is still–regrettably–the signal flaw in the Democratic Party.

The fight was spurred by the despicable and self-aggrandizing New York Times reporter, Maureen Dowd, who if she is not being paid by Karl Rove, certainly gives the appearance of it. When Obama announced his candidacy she trashed him in her column. When Obama was feted by some Hollywood moguls, she trashed Hillary Clinton in her column.

The easy thing to do would be to ignore Maureen Dowd. Most of us with any clarity of thought already do. But Dowd’s uncanny flair for displaying the basest aspects of American politics indicates that the seeming substance of that display cannot be ignored, for even if the entire flurry of name-calling was incited by her, the flame can’t catch without the tinder to burn.

David Geffen, a Hollywood mogul who used to favor the Clintons when Bill was president and who was a hefty contributor to his campaigns, has decided to dump Hillary for the relatively unknown Obama. But Geffen, being a mogul, wants to make a case for his pet candidate. And so he took Dowd aside and told her what he thought of the Clintons, to whom he had previously donated millions and with whom he had been photographed numerous times as if he were a close friend.

Most of us have witnessed bad break ups among our friends and family. Nasty things get said. Geffen apparently had a bad break up with the Clintons, thus everything he said to Dowd was nasty. Very nasty. And linked as it was to the Obama fundraiser, it very much appeared as if he were speaking for the candidate.
He wasn’t, but appearances do matter in politics.

Hillary Clinton responded by calling on all candidates to eschew the “politics of personal destruction.”

A nice idea, but this is Democratic politics, baby–Democrats are known for eating their own. And Geffen took the first hearty bite.

Here’s what Geffen should have said to Dowd: “After seven years of arguably the most corrupt administration in U.S. history, and after having been dragged into an unwinnable war by an arrogant liar of a President who himself supports torture, I want to take a stand by supporting a fresh face for President.”

Had Geffen said *that* it would have bolstered his support for Obama, while putting the blame for the domestic and foreign messes the U.S. has become mired in where the blame belongs: *on the Bush Administration.*

But, being a Democrat, Geffen put the onus on another Democrat and let the Republicans weasel away, seemingly blameless.

Dowd’s column fairly salivates with her glee at this, unwitting (or not) fundraiser for the Republican Party that she is. (Given the New York Times’ track record with the Bush Administration, we would not be surprised–after the Judith Miller scandal, Miller’s time in jail and Miller’s subsequent forced resignation–to discover that Dowd, too, is working in concert with the Bush team.)

Unlike previous candidates, Hillary Clinton has clearly determined that she will not back down from a fight. Her slogan that she’s “in to win” applies to her fellow candidates as well as her Republican opponents. She appealed to Obama to reject Geffen’s comments. He refused, took the money and ran.

Obama has made his own decisions. While touting his “audacity of hope” mantra, behind the scenes Obama has hired the sleaziest of the campaign managers out there: Robert Gibbs.

For those who don’t know who Gibbs is, he’s one of the team who devised the ad in which a photo of Osama bin Laden was overlaid with former presidential candidate Howard Dean. The not-so-subliminal message was that Dean’s lack of knowledge of foreign affairs coupled with his anti-war message (yes, Dean was ahead of the pack there) would threaten U.S. security. According to sources, Gibbs got the funding from former New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli, who was indicted for election fraud.

So Obama has also decided he’s in to win–and with Gibbs as his campaign manager, he’s also bound to lower his standards from the audacity of hope to perhaps just audacity. Gibbs is known for smear campaigns. Against Democrats.

Gibbs never denounced the anti-Dean ad, which was critical in shifting the polls from Dean, who was way out in front of other candidates, to the far less audacious and visionary but militarily connected John Kerry. And Gibbs’ ad was used as a proto-type for other, similar ads, during the 2006 campaign, including one used by former Sen. Rick Santorum against Bob Casey, Jr.

Who and what sets the tone in a presidential campaign? Thus far almost nothing has been heard about the Republicans running for president in 2008–in part because they seem woefully unable to devise a platform, but also because they are the party in power. It’s therefore incumbent–no pun intended–upon the Democrats to re-set the agenda and shift the balance of power.

So far, it’s not happening. Democrats as a whole are doing exactly what Geffen did: trashing the Democratic candidates rather than the Republicans who created the horror that is Iraq. It is, after all, the Republicans who, as recently as the February 24th meeting between Vice President Dick Cheney, the Bush Administration’s hatchet man, and Australian President John Howard, clarified that war was still an option with regard to Iran.

In November 2006, Americans voted overwhelmingly to oust the Republicans from their stranglehold over Washington. But the Republicans either haven’t gotten the message or don’t care to listen, willing to let Democrats fight it out among themselves while they continue to do damage here and abroad. Sen. John McCain, the leading Republican presidential contender, was so arrogant in his dismissal of the American voter, that he refused to even appear to for the Senate’s vote to censure the President regarding the Iraq troop surge.

Yet Iraq remains the overwhelming concern of most Americans.

Thus, even though the Republican Party has proven itself to be utterly out of touch with what Americans want and the Vice President dismissed his and President Bush’s perilously low approval ratings as “irrelevant to history,” the Republicans, despite their diminished voting power in Congress, remain in control of the political agenda.


The only Democrat to actually win a presidential election in the past 30 years was Bill Clinton. Many believe this is because Clinton didn’t allow Republicans to set the agenda, nor did he allow other Democrats to dictate his visions for the country.

But with nearly 11 months remaining until the first presidential primary, Republicans remain in control of the national agenda and it seems likely that they will continue to do so right up until that first primary.

All of which begs the question, can Democrats win against themselves?

Hillary Clinton appears to have made decisions about how to fight the trash and burn politics of campaigning. She responds immediately to every attack with an answer.

In 2004, John Kerry was viscously attacked by Karl Rove’s “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” campaign. Like Gibbs on Dean, Rove decided to assault Kerry on his service in Vietnam by claiming it was minor instead of major. (Kerry was awarded several medals for his tours of duty.) This was to deflect attention away from Bush, who never served at all.

Kerry chose to ignore the ads, which claimed that Kerry wasn’t even in a firefight. Some–myself included–believe this is what lost him the election. Kerry thought his military service–a matter of public record--was sufficient answer to the base and baseless ads and asserted that he wasn’t going to “crawl around in the mud with these guys.”

But what Kerry miscalculated was that the ads and his lack of response to them added up to a majority of voters believing the ads were true and that Kerry wasn’t able to fight–either in Vietnam or in Washington. In a campaign predicated solely on the war on terror, that rang a bad note for many.

Sen. Clinton is, in the words of former Clinton campaign manager James Carville, “not about to be swiftboated.”

Of course the same pundits–Democrats--who were outraged at Kerry for not fighting back against the swift boat liars are now equally outraged with Sen. Clinton for her refusal to ignore the Geffen attack.

To paraphrase Kermit the frog, it’s not easy being a Democrat.

This should have been a golden week for the Democrats. British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced he was pulling out half of Britain’s 7,000 troops in Iraq by summer’s end. (This in itself is an almost laughable issue, were it not so painful. Britain has the most troops in Iraq after the U.S.–a full 7,000 to America’s current 170,000; so much for the “coalition of the willing.”) Killing is up dramatically in Iraq after a respite of a weekend. It was revealed that Walter Reed Medical Center, where the most critically injured American soldiers are sent, was infested with rats and roaches, the walls oozing mold and veterans being kept in appalling conditions worse than if they were in a hospital in Iraq itself. Russian President Vladimir Putin, once a Bush ally, accused the U. S. of imposing its economic, political, cultural and educational policies on other nations. Putin noted, “And, of course, this is extremely dangerous. It leads to a situation in which no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this -- no one feels safe! Because no one can take shelter behind international law as they would behind a stonewall. Of course, such a policy stimulates an arms race. The predominance of force inevitably encourages a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction.”

As I said, it should have been gold for the Democrats. Instead, Geffen (who is after all, just another Hollywood producer, not exactly a head of state), with a huge assist from the sleaze-mongering Dowd–set the agenda and the candidates followed in lock step.

This has to stop. There is a war on–a bad, unpopular and increasingly dangerous and unwinnable war. The possibility of an attack on Iran also looms. Everyone who is sentient knows that the Bush Administration doesn’t believe in diplomacy, and Cheney’s comments to Howard were telling: “We worked with the European community and the United Nations to put together a set of policies to persuade the Iranians to give up their aspirations [of nuclear capability] and resolve the matter peacefully, and that is still our preference," Cheney said. "But I've also made the point, and the President has made the point, that all options are on the table."

Sound familiar? It’s exactly what Cheney said about Iraq in 2002. The door is open on another war and the Democrats need to listen up. This administration is the most arrogant since the Nixon Administration and has shown time and again that it will do whatever Bush and Cheney want, regardless of what the American people want or even what they vote for.

Sen. Clinton remains the front runner by many points. Obama is a distant second. They are the only candidates receiving mention in the press at present, but the focus is not on their speeches on the issues, but on their infighting.

That must change. The likelihood is these two candidates will be on the same ticket come November 2008. They need to stop fighting each other–particularly as they have almost exactly the same politics and all that separates them so far is that Clinton has far more political experience and Obama has a more vicious campaign strategist.

The real enemy for the Democrats *should* be the Bush Administration and the way it has savaged the nation and the world in the past seven years, making it–by it’s own terrorism task force’s statistics–a far more dangerous place than it was previously.

Each Democratic candidate and each left-leaning voter needs to have one mantra throughout this race: The Republicans have savaged the country. We have to repeat that fact over and over. And stop trying to eviscerate each other, instead of attacking the jackals laughing on the sidelines, waiting to make the kill–and take yet another election.

Since the 2000 election pundits have referred to Democratic candidates as grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s time to end the self-fulfilling prophecies of failure. Look at the competition: a thrice-married pseudo mobster, Rudy Giuliani; a near-psychotically out-of-control warmonger, John McCain, who is sadly still fighting another war, Vietnam; and Mitt Romney, the cravenly opportunistic Mormon liberal-turned-conservative who was pro-choice and pro-gay rights to win the gubernatorial election in Massachusetts and now is suddenly anti-abortion and anti-gay rights to garner the Republican nomination.

If Clinton and Obama can’t outwit this pack of liars and losers, they deserve defeat. Alas, they will take the rest of us with them. And America really cannot afford another four years of what Republicans call leadership. We can barely recognize our nation as it is. And it shouldn’t take a Russian president to tell us what we already know.

Clinton and Obama need to pay attention to the dynamic no-nonsense, get-things-done Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi is attempting to redirect the agenda in Washington and stop the squabbling. Perhaps she can take Clinton and Obama in hand before the Rovians and Dowds funnel this election down the tubes like they did–with the help of the Democrats–ine 2000 and 2004.

On the Bush (League's) Health Care Proposal

The president's plan is for "every individual on their own," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "He does nothing to control costs and he does nothing to expand the number of insured. Other than that, it is incredibly helpful."

I think that President Moron should just shut his yap up the next two years.

He's caused enough harm already.


-Robert Scardapane

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-Noah Greenberg