25 November, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Looks like the Bush regime's got itself stuck between a rack and a thumbscrew:

The Wall Street Journal reports today that the White House “isn’t inclined to grant sweeping pardons for former administration officials involved in harsh interrogations and detentions of terror suspects.” White House officials believe that the Justice Department’s torture memos make such pardons “unnecessary”:

Some Republicans have been pushing for President George W. Bush to grant pre-emptive clemency to officials who fear being investigated by Democratic critics. White House officials have countered that such pardons are unnecessary, these people say. The officials point to Justice Department legal opinions that supported the administration’s methods of detaining and interrogating terror suspects. […]

Some former Bush administration officials have argued against a blanket pardon for post-9/11 activities, saying it would be tantamount to an admission that the Bush policies weren’t legal.

So. They can't pardon the people who tortured detainees because to do so would admit that their paper figleaf is a fiction. This leaves the way open for prosecutions later. While Obama doesn't seem interested in pursuing criminal charges, at least we know that option will be open if we can convince him otherwise.

And he does indeed respond to pressure from bloggers:

A number of bloggers -- most notably Glenn Greenwald, Digby, and Andrew Sullivan -- have raised serious concerns about intelligence official John Brennan, who's been rumored to be a possible candidate for either the CIA director or the Director of National Intelligence in the Obama administration.
Brennan's critics accused him of supporting some of the Bush administration's most offensive intelligence-gathering policies, including rendition and "enhanced interrogation techniques." Obama, they said, even if he intended to move far away from those policies, should not make room for Brennan in his administration.
The criticism seems to have had the desired effect. Brennan has withdrawn from consideration for any intelligence post in the Obama administration.


As for the broader context, Brennan's withdrawal appears to be the direct result of blog coverage. For those who believe bloggers' concerns are inconsequential, this is clear evidence to the contrary.
Most excellent. Brennan wasn't the most outrageous choice Obama could have made, but he was, nevertheless, an apologist for the Bush regime and has no place in the next administration. I'm glad our objections made a difference.

It's also good to see some folks on teevee using our time-tested strategy of point-and-laugh:

On CNBC this morning, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist claimed that the current financial crisis facing America is rooted in the fact that Democrats took control of the House and Senate in 2006. “The economy’s in the present state because when the Democrats took the House and Senate in 2006, you knew that those tax increases were going to come in 2010,” said Norquist.

According to Norquist, the stock market collapsed because “we’re in the middle of responding” to tax increases that haven’t actually happened yet:

NORQUIST: Well, the economy’s in the present state because when the Democrats took the House and Senate in 2006, you knew that those tax increases were going to come in 2010. The stock market began to collapse as soon as you recognized that those old tax rates were coming back. So, we’re in the middle of responding to those tax increases.

David Sirota, who was on the CNBC show as well, notes that Norquist’s absurd argument was laughed at and immediately rejected by the host and the other guests on the show. The Financial Times’ Chrystia Freeland pointed out that “the stock market is collapsing because the U.S. and global financial system is in crisis.”

This, I think, should be the ongoing method for dealing with far-right fuckwits. Especially when the arguments are this egregiously stupid.

I guess Norquist won't be tapped as one of the conservative bloggers meant to elevate the discourse of the "rightroots:"

The Washington Post ran an interesting, 2,300-word item today on conservative blogs and their future within (alongside?) the Republican Party. As far as leading conservative activists -- online and off -- are concerned, the right is far behind the left when it comes to online presence, and there's apparently a renewed push to do something about it.

As that process begins in earnest, I'd encourage them to consider this fine post from Outside the Beltway's James Joyner. He argued the other day that, despite his conservative beliefs, he finds "most of the best analytical blogs are on the center-left," and fleshed out his reasoning yesterday.

Part of the reason I'm drawn to the center-left blogs, including those cited above, Kevin Drum, Steve Benen, and others despite disagreeing with them while finding it increasingly difficult to find center-right blogs worth my time is that the former are much more likely to get beyond the debates of the 1980 election. There's almost no serious analysis of health care reform, urban planning, education, and many other issues that regularly crop up on the best lefty blogs on their conservative counterparts. If we read about those issues at all, they're framed as if Ronald Reagan were still aspiring to high office: Say No to socialism! Abolish the Department of Education! Government IS the problem!


So, where are the right-of-center counterparts to Yglesias, Klein, and company?

I've long wondered the same thing. For more than two years, I was the editor for Salon' "Blog Report," featuring posts from the left and right. It led me to read dozens of conservative blogs every day, and I quickly realized that when it came to depth and seriousness of thought, the two sides weren't close. (James Joyner, who is both thoughtful and knowledgeable, is a noticeable exception.)

Indeed, to help drive the point home, earlier this year, Erick Erickson, RedState's editor, acknowledged that the "netroots" have an advantage over the "rightroots," but attributed it to an asymmetry in free time, since conservatives "have families because we don't abort our kids, and we have jobs because we believe in capitalism."

This is largely the kind of thinking that dominates on conservative blogs. They can't quite get to policy disputes or serious analysis, because they're too busy mulling over the implications of liberals joining forces with Islamofascists, the United Nations, and Mexican immigrants to execute some kind of nefarious plot.

It's going to be a long while before poor Mr. Joyner can stop reading Steve Benen et al, I'm afraid.

And it's going to be even longer before we get any sort of acknowledgement of reality from their current grand poobahs:

Last night on Hannity and Colmes, Karl Rove vigorously defended his role in the White House as the Bush administration’s political guru. “The politics and policy are constantly banging into each other in decisions that are made inside the White House. That’s just the way it is,” he said. When Colmes asked him if that presented a “conflict of interest,” Rove insisted that, under Bush, “policy won out” over politics:

COLMES: Is that a conflict of interest though? The intersection of politics and policy? I know you’ve been criticized in the past of combining the two, as if when one conflicts with the other, maybe the country suffers, and it should be about policy regardless of the politics involved.

ROVE: Well, at least in the White House I was in, policy won out, but you had to be aware of the political fallout of what you were going to do in order to contain it and deal with it. You bet. But to — but first and foremost if — the president I worked for, George W. Bush said, you know what, let’s do right, and the politics will take care of itself. It didn’t mean you were blind to it, but it didn’t mean that you needed to focus first and foremost on what you thought was in the right interest of the country.

Needless to say, it didn't take Think Progress and Steve Benen to pop that little balloon.

You know, it would be nice, just for a change of pace, to have political adversaries that were just a wee bit less ridiculous.


Cujo359 said...

Certainly, one of the reasons that the lefty blogs took off was that we have no other forum to speak of. That doesn't explain all the difference in the rhetorical quality of the two sides, but it does explain some of it, I think. Not having power also has contributed to it. The right's answer to everything lately has been that we have to do things their way, with little or no explanation. Having no power to change things would probably make them more interested in being persuasive. But we aren't there yet.

Meanwhile, I'm just as glad they aren't involved in the health care debate. Calling anything they don't like "socialism" isn't a rhetorical strategy I'd find persuasive.

Good news about Brennan, too. At least, it will be as long as they find someone better. Brennan's letter showed no signs of understanding what we were on about, let alone any contrition. Let's hope that's just because he's bitter at being left out by the Obama team.

Cujo359 said...

On the subject of pardons for all those "enhanced" interrogations, I will just remind everyone of the guiding principle of the Bush Administration - what's good for George W. Bush is what will happen. If the lawyers agree that pardoning those guys leaves W. swinging, then they don't get pardons. Count on it.

There's no honor among Republicans these days.

Woozle said...

Re blogging: It would be nice to have some numbers, though, wouldn't it... Counting myself as a blogger (technically I'm not since I don't yet have a blog): I help my hypertwin take care of three kids (which she was essentially conned into by an ex-husband, but that's another story), one of whom is autistic and nonverbal. This consumes an enormous amount of time, but I do my blogging-equivalent anyway because George W. Bush pissed me off and something needed to be done.

And incidentally -- because of the way NC's mental health system got screwed up in the past half-decade or so by pseudo-capitalist/conservative efforts to privatize it, we haven't yet been able to get proper services for the aforementioned autistic boy -- which means I can't get a proper job because I never know when I'll be needed to help control him.

In other words: the Republican H8 for social services essentially undermines capitalism by taking a lot of people who could be contributing to the economy and the tax base and instead making them provide their own social services at a loss.

And since when have conservatives not had enough free time? Who is it we find out playing golf, taking holiday cruises, attending corporate parties? I call BS.

In order to be inclined to blog, you have to actually give a damn about something. A conservative looks at blogging and says "Where's the money in this?" (ask me how I know!) -- which might explain why so many conservative bloggers seem to be little more than shills for conservative think-tanks or corporate interests.