January 06, 2004

Purging as Damage Control

Ideological lockdown is a symptom of a movement in decline.

Witness:

Jeff Jarvis mentions in passing that he is a Democrat, and out came the witch-hunters saying he isn't actually a liberal at all.

Oliver Willis says in the comments

Seriously, stop presenting yourself as a "liberal" by any stretch of the imagination Jeff.
Jeff answers him further down.
Who the hell made you the holder of the definition of liberal?

And how dare you put yourself above to decree who and who isn't liberal? That's really quite haughty. Very unliberal, I'd say.

Want to hear what I say about health insurance... abortion... gun control... welfare... and, most importantly, human rights (even the rights of Iraqis).

Hell, I'll bet on many scales I'm more liberal than Howard Dean.

You don't know what you're talking about because what you're talking about is me. So don't presume to label me, mister. I find that insulting and offensive.

Jeffís detractors are annoyed that he isn't a party-line team player. But you know, folks, politics isn't a game of football, nor is it war. It is okay if you think the other side is right once in a while (most people do, after all), and it's also okay for a writer, any writer, to focus on whichever topics he or she chooses. Just because Jeff would rather write about new media and foreign policy instead of conventional liberal domestic issues doesn't mean he doesn't hold liberal views on those questions he puts in second or third place.

Regular readers of this site know that I can relate to Jeffís experience and frustration. And the end result of all this has been for me to finally agree and say to heck with it, I'm not one of you after all. I'm an Independent now. And despite the fact that I still hold several liberal opinions, I no longer feel any sense of loyalty or affection for the Democratic Party.

Purging non-conformists might make you feel good, but it doesn't help your side an iota.

I canít help but think the intended audience for public heretic-banishing isnít the target him or herself. Itís the heretic-banisherís comrades. People on the losing side of political arguments know their support is bleeding away, so dissidents are furiously denounced as an object lesson for anyone else who might waver. Itís a form of damage control, which is why they donít care if the tactic doesnít make them any new friends.


UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has more here, and he's not very happy about it.

UPDATE: Armed Liberal jumps in, too. He asks the heretic-banishers to read George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, one of the best books ever written about the left by a leftist. What does Orwell's book have to do with this political scrap? (Hint: It's about left-wing anti-fascists, the Spanish Civil War, and the purge of dissident leftists by Josef Stalin.)

UPDATE: Photodude (who takes and posts better pictures than I probably ever will) joins the fray as well. He once invited me to join his Fence Party, and I accepted because the people in the middle make the most sense to me. At least for now.

UPDATE: Jeff at Caerdroia also prefers the middle. Unlike me, he was driven to the center by the excesses of the right.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2004 06:22 PM
Comments

Whenever I hear these sorts of stories (about Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians or whomever) I am reminded of the recurring theme in Monty Python's Life of Brian:

BRIAN: Are you the Judean People's Front?
REG: Fuck off!
BRIAN: What?
REG: Judean People's Front. We're the People's Front of Judea! Judean People's Front. Cawk.
FRANCIS: Wankers.

Posted by: steve at January 6, 2004 06:35 PM

Enh. Care about Oliver Willis (or me) or don't, but don't pretend that either of us have significant influence or power.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 6, 2004 06:39 PM

Michael, I'm not trying to banish you from anything. I look at the evidence at hand and call it as I see it. Based on your writing, I would even dispute you being an Independent - since that would imply giving both sides an equal shake.

Posted by: Oliver Willis at January 6, 2004 07:03 PM

Help help I'm being repressed!

Posted by: anne.elk at January 6, 2004 07:09 PM

Michael,

I can relate to it oh so well. At first I was a rabid Bush hater like the rest of my family and most of my friends (as recent as one year ago). Then I just merely defended the rationale for Bush's policies on the War on Terror especially after the outcome and fall of Baghdad, never with any intention of voting for Bush. I guess this drove my brother nuts. It was soon after that he accused me of being a Bush hack as well as a Neo-Con traitor, others also piled on. I put up with it for about six months until I finally wrote an 18 page letter titled "Why I'm a Neo-Con" by a formerly stubborn liberal man, I started to write it out tongue in cheek, but as I did some deep research on the subject I realized how misinformed I had been about a lot of things. I wrote it and then refused to talk politics with him and other people until they proved to me they had read it, understood it, and would discuss it. They just don't listen and their sense of losing is driving them nuts. My mother in law went ballistic over the holidays just because I, one voice out of eight, had the audacity to hold a different (unpopular) perspective. I told her she needed to go back as a college professor where shutting down free speech was the norm, but not in my house (that pissed her off). I’ll tell you it does have a hardening affect. I guess my next letter will be titled “Why I’m a Former Liberal” by a currently stubborn neo-conservative man.

Posted by: Samuel at January 6, 2004 07:17 PM

Here's how I can tell these people are full of beans, MT:

I'm a pro-welfare, pro-gay marriage, atheistic guy with my multi-culti credentials up to snuff and I say YOU'RE MUCH TOO LIBERAL! I mean, you're not as bad as the lefties I can see peeping out of my wife's blouse [Python ref.], but MT, wise up and cut the liberal crap! ;)

Posted by: Jim at January 6, 2004 07:56 PM

Michael,
Another reason for excommunicating heretics is to say, "we would be winning if it weren't for traitors like you".

Posted by: Hei Lun Chan at January 6, 2004 08:06 PM

You are a liberal Michael. Liberals don't follow a party line. As a liberal reading you I sometimes wish that there would show a slight sadness on your part to having to vote for George Bush. Sure you can argue the point of view that's important to you, but at lease share our sense of disgust at some of the Bush administrations other policies.

I like the Justice Department, it's just sad when so many lawyers get pulled out of the civil rights division when Republicans come into power. It's sad when they weaken workers rights, try to take away overtime via fiat or lessen the rules on the environment. Their lack of seriousness about following up on Clinton's small business zones for low income people is also sad. Regressive tax rates, etc. It's just that sometimes it feels like I'm reading a well written version of LGF and not the site of a thoughtful liberal hawk. We know what's making you vote for Bush (though most of us would disagree with you), why not understand out disgust a bit in words too.

Posted by: Pecky Progressive at January 6, 2004 08:17 PM

Michael: "And despite the fact that I still hold several liberal opinions, I no longer feel any sense of loyalty or affection for the Democratic Party."

So Michael, I just reread this, and well you strike me as funny. Is this intentional parody?



Several

adj.

1. Being of a number more than two or three but not many: several miles away.

pron. (used with a pl. verb)

An indefinite but small number; some or a few: Several of the workers went home sick.

You confess to holding several liberal opinions and no more and yet somehow blogoland is to blame for your feeling no sense of loyalty to the Democratic Party?

Several? Wow dude, I think Zell Miller still holds more than that!

Posted by: anne.elk at January 6, 2004 08:18 PM

ugggh..the anti-war liberals and the lefties are just so lost right now. and so lonely. poor eggs. poor poor eggs.

Posted by: Glenn at January 6, 2004 08:25 PM

Anne,

You are glomming onto one of the least significant words in the entire piece and making Mt. Everest out of it.

I have a few conservative opinions. Feel free to parse that sentence.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2004 08:27 PM

Anne, please, don't do this kind of thing. You shame yourself. I was recently heartened by some good posts of yours elsewhere. But you slide back into the hole again.

Posted by: Jim at January 6, 2004 08:30 PM

Michael,

The Democratic Party elite may well think of their actions as damage control, but they are only damaging themselves. I have been a life-long Democrat, but I fear that part of my life is ending because of the apparent refusal of many of my party's members to process facts and maybe, just maybe, admit that their cherished notions were incorrect.

Like Samuel, I started out believing that W was some sort of doofus anti-jeebus. Everything changed on 9/11, when the President finally showed up on TV (I thought, AHA!, this will be good!), and I watched him struggle with his anger and emotions -- trying valiantly, I realized, NOT to say what he was REALLY thinking.

It actually hurt ("like pulling teeth") to realize how wrong I was about him, but I'm feeling much better now.

I haven't gone so far as to register with "the party of people who want all the money" (probably for lack of a third alternative), but I find Republicans interesting and often agree with them on various issues.

If people like Oliver Willis et al want to purge loyal Democrats like us from The Body, they should be careful what they wish for.

Posted by: SLO Jim at January 6, 2004 08:46 PM

When I lived in the Bay Area, my favorite radio station was the Progressive/liberal KPFA (94.1). They had great music shows, but it was there other, political, shows that were the best. What struck me the most though, was that they attacked liberal heretics almost as much as they did conservatives, only with more fire. What needs to be remembered is that Progressivisim is a direct line decendant from the puritan tradition.
I myself have become consistently more liberal since I graduated highschool, yet I would be labeled a neocon were I a democrat. While there are certainly conservative circles that talk about 'liberals' like they are always plotting [i.e. Rush Limbaugh types], they are at least willing to engage. Where as many a self-proffessed liberal has shown me nothing but contempt.
Overall, I found the Bay Area one of the most intelectually close-minded, parochial places I have ever lived.

Posted by: Scott at January 6, 2004 08:47 PM

"I'm left on a lot of things. If two gay guys want to get married, I could care less. If a nut case from overseas wants to blow up their wedding, that's when I'm right." -- Dennis Miller

Posted by: Jim Treacher at January 6, 2004 08:50 PM

I agree entirely with you, Michael. I tend to be libertarian in my views, but I don't provide labels to people in order to describe myself. I talk issues. This can be especially hard in my field, Clinical Psychology, where labels (unfortunately) are often the norm, and many of my collegues believe that because they are decent therapists, they can analyze every friggin celebrity and politician based on reading two or three columns in the paper (and I would guess 8 out of 10 -- at least -- would describe themselves as Bush-Hating Liberals. But what I find amusing is that these colleagues can't pigeon-hole me. I tend towards hawkishness on foreign policy, I'm very libertarian on social issues, etc., but I'm not their stereotype of the angry, selfish, rich Republican. Their confusion and inability to lump me in with everybody else they despise provides endless entertainment, especially because most of these individuals simply parrot the standard lines, rarely read blogs, articles etc. (and we're talking M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s here). Don't let it get you down -- they have the problem, not you.

Posted by: Jerry at January 6, 2004 10:00 PM

Michael,

Alright, man. I know what you're goin' through. I'm going through the same shit for being a liberal and at the same time sticking up to the Far Left at my college (I've started a "Bleeding Hearts for Bush" club, in fact). Much like yourself, I'll be voting for both Dubya and a Democratic Congress. Much like yourself, my heroes are Truman and Kennedy...not McGovern and Nader. We essentially believe in 99% of the same things and fall somewhere left of center. We're the true liberals...why shy away from that?

Domestically (on economic and cultural issues) we're liberals and therefore line up with the Democratic Party. On Defense and Foreign Policy we're liberals, too...fighting for freedom, justice, and human rights...out to make the world safe for democracy...which means we line up with the Republicans. It's a weird turn of events for sure but, at least on foreign policy, the Republicans are now more liberal than the supposedly "liberal" Democrats.

My point is simply this: The spineless "realism" and neo-isolationism of the modern Left IS NOT LIBERAL. Part ways with today's "Left", but don't part ways with liberalism. Wear your principles on your sleeves and stick to your guns. Liberalism is what it is and always will be. Woodrow Wilson knew a true liberalism. FDR knew a true liberalism. Truman knew a true liberalism. And John F. Kennedy knew a true liberalism. So do you.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at January 6, 2004 10:22 PM

I find it a bit ironic when people who run some of these "I'm a born-again neocon" weblogs who claim to be liberal on many issues but choose to spend 80% of the text they write on how great the new Bush doctrine of pre-emtion is. Simply put, action speaks louder than words. If the actions are to devote nearly all blogging time to promote neo-con causes, I don't care how many times you SAY you are liberal or have liberal views it is irrelevant. You can probably even substitute independent for liberal in the previous sentence.

When Michael writes comments about Bush such as "He also stood between Osama bin Laden and the rest of us." it cannot be more clear to me that Michael has completely and irrevocably been lost to "the other side". I should also note, Michael that Bush did not stand between us and Osama otherwise had he done so 3000+ Americans would still be around after 9/11. Instead Bush flew around in Air Force 1 like a scared bunny. How many days after did he show up in NYC? Two, Three?

It is unfortunate that some of these bloggers are making a name for themselves with the "turncoat" strategy. Turncoat strategy being ..."I used to be a liberal, but then I saw the light ... and George W Bush was standing in that light." C'mon! It's ludicrous actually. While the current administration is distracting the public with the triple threat of Terror, Osama and Saddam, we're being setup for the sucker punch later on. That sucker punch is going to come in the form of economic disaster caused by expanding federal deficits, trade deficits and sagging dollar. But hey, the stock's up! Whoo Hoo! But how much are you making off that action my friend? Probably not much since if you're like me you don't have much cash to invest these days.

My other comment is, if one is going to follow the "Turncoat strategy", shouldn't one have some REAL, legitimate liberal credentials first? At least Christopher Hitchens had some real liberal credentials (The Trial of Henry Kissinger to name one) and THEN made his sharp turn to the right to flog Gulf War II. I'm talking about real Liberal credentials, not fake ones like believing in marijuana decriminalization or supporting a gay cousin or whatever.

I guess it can all be summed up with the action speaks louder than words comments. I for one would like to see more discussion of these alleged liberal beliefs and less on "The War on Terror". Yeah, I know it's not as sexy or shiny but in the end domestic policy probably has more of an impact on our day to day lives.

Posted by: Graham at January 6, 2004 11:59 PM

Graham: I for one would like to see more discussion of these alleged liberal beliefs and less on "The War on Terror".

Read someone else's blog then. I write what I want to write and you read what you want to read. It's work out best that way.

You want my former liberal credentials? For twelve years I voted for no one but Democrats with two exceptions. I voted for one liberal Republican, and I voted twice for Ralph Nader. I found both Gore and Lieberman to be conservative bores, and my opinion of Joseph Lieberman hasn't changed.

Anyway, now that I've answered your question, I want you to answer mine.

Tell me, please, what evidence you have that I am a "turncoat" just to get attention.

(Just so you know, it is exceptionally difficult to get a political writing job if you don't fit into somebody's neat little category. My ambition to write political commentary clashes tremendously with the opinions I have at this time. If I was motivated solely by "strategy," I would repent and return to the left, or I would declare myself a Republican. If you can't understand that, well, I guess you don't understand the writing market.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2004 12:15 AM

Michael, it's not purging, it's calling things by their name. I don't think anyone took Jarvis to task for claiming to be a Democrat. He claimed to be a liberal, which has a narrower meaning. You're allowed to be a conservative Democrat. Just don't blow smoke up my ass and tell me you're a liberal who just happens to brook absolutely no criticism of Bush on foreign policy.

Posted by: Mithras at January 7, 2004 12:59 AM

Tell me, please, what evidence you have that I am a "turncoat" just to get attention.

I guess that's a two parter really. One, does the word turncoat fit? Well, actually it is a bit of an offensive word and I don't use it to offend. A really offensive word would be traitor and that is something Ann Coulter might say ... not me. Further the word traitor doesn't fit. Turncoat is actually harsher than I want to be but I don't have a thesaurus handy. So I will stick with that word to describe the phenomenon of people formerly somewhat liberal, mostly against Republican/conservative/theocratic ideals now gushing about G.Dubya the second he topples some tin-pot dictator. I cite formerly liberal, formerly funny, comedian Dennis Miller as evidence of that. Now Miller pals around with Bush and thinks that Pat Robertson isn't such a bad guy. Remember Dennis in the late 80's, early 90's.

The second part is whether it is intentional. I guess I sort of implied intent by using the word strategy... perhaps I overstepped my boundary there. I don't know if it is calculated or not. I shouldn't have even hinted that it might be.

Whether strategic or not, the phenomenon still irks me because of the damage I believe it does to any sort of liberal movement. (As if there were just one) Imagine guys on FreeRepublic.com forums shrieking about how "... even libruls love our Dubya." I guess I shouldn't care since most Freepers seem to be, uh how to put this delicately, intellectually challanged?

OK, well, all this shouldn't surprise me since my favorite line from the movie "Swimming with Sharks" is "If you're not a liberal in your 20's you got not heart, but if you're not conservative in your 40's, you got no brains."

You're right, I know piss about the writing market.

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 12:59 AM

Alright, Graham, that's much more reasonable now.

Whether strategic or not, the phenomenon still irks me because of the damage I believe it does to any sort of liberal movement.

I can sympathize with this, really I can. The liberal movement, such as it was, is broken. I'm sorry it happened, I really am. I was depressed about it for a while, but it doesn't bother me as much as it used to.

9/11 caused a lot of damage, and the liberal movement is one of the casualties. I didn't want it this way, you didn't want it this way, but here we are all the same.

Politics is nasty. But it isn't war, and no hard feelings are necessary.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2004 01:24 AM

Mithras: You're allowed to be a conservative Democrat.

Says who? Is there a Central Committee somewhere that decides these things?

What if I said that you're allowed to be a Communist?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2004 01:26 AM

Scott, that must have been a few years ago. Pacifica is now a monoculture wasteland.

It's a result of a really stupid fight I'd rather not have to describe... The board (in volation of it's charter) shut down the democratic aspect of Pacifica in the late 60's and by 1998 a purely self selecting board slipped into the hands of people who despised the hippy/pacifist culture at the stations. That might not have been so bad, but they started firing people, intimidating people and talking about selling the stations.

It turned into a court room battle (I donated money to the hippy side myself)... Well the stations won, but so much damage had been done in the process that the resulting station is unlistenably shrill. I don't listen anymore, but I don't think they have interesting music programs, art, theater or far out commentators anymore - just a chorus of identical shrill progressives. But perhaps that's what the entire left has tranformed itself into as a result of the necessity of supporting evil people like Saddam.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at January 7, 2004 02:15 AM

Quick note on Arafat's thugs in the PA killing/ intimidating anybody who disagrees. Palis do not have a free press, they are not allowed to criticize Arafat or the current PA policies. This is the same "PC" sentiment, in a less liberal expression, as that of Oliver Willis.

The PC Angry Left is trying the same 'heretic bashing' with words, that the PA terrorists do with thugs. (if I call them thought nazis I lose the argument)(nice phrase, Michael, not scare qs)

And, with memories of the Spanish Inquisition (nobody expects! ...), it was a mistake when the Church did it hundreds of years ago.

((I'll have to check to see if you answered my question about Left - Liberal diffs on religion))

Posted by: Tom Grey at January 7, 2004 03:26 AM

Michael:

I'm living in the art world, and there's a heavy, heavy penalty for being apostate here. Pretty rough.

Posted by: Dennis at January 7, 2004 04:43 AM

At least Christopher Hitchens had some real liberal credentials (The Trial of Henry Kissinger to name one) and THEN made his sharp turn to the right to flog Gulf War II.

So removing dictators from power is a policy of the right? I thought the argument was they put them in place?

Although in the UK we have a left-wing (more left-wing than your democrat party) government, they managed to support the war. I admit there is a similar split in the left in the UK, but I think the fact they are in power, and actually responsible for security, has prevented them going into freefall madness like the Democrats.

I know it is a "what if", but if Gore had won the last election I the liberals would not be having this debate - well, not at this visceral level.

There is something extremely strange about the anti-Bush rhetoric which seems to exclude rational analysis of his policies. I can't help thinking if Bush spoke out in favour of apple pie and motherhood then he would be criticised. When all is said and done, Bush has been defending the very environment that allows liberalism to exist, while some liberals have effectively been marching to keep a fascist in power.

Posted by: Anthony at January 7, 2004 04:49 AM

I can't add anything. Well said, well argued with verve, passion and you are absolutely correct. Way to go Cowboy and I mean that in the kindest sense.

Posted by: gmroper at January 7, 2004 05:16 AM

Michael, I see you noted how difficult the religion, belief question is with respect to politics. (Missed at first in the 116 comments).

I have read before that church going, or not, is the single best predictor of many political views by Americans. I’m pretty sure that you don’t hang out with many church-going believers, despite America being the most church-going society of the countries in the G-8, and among the most in the OECD. (I think). Had 9/11 not occurred, I’m certain that Bush’s belief would be the biggest single target of Bush Hatred.

The “change” aspect that is so troubling Leftists is that social engineering, like gov’t schools, has now been tried. With poor results for poor black kids, some 56% or more of whom graduate without really being able to read. And continued failure after throwing more gov’t tax money and gov’t regulations at the problem in 1976; and failure after 1980 & 84 & more money; & failure after 88 & more money; & after 92 & 96. And still not success after 2000. When does youthful idealism that man can be educated by the state give way to recognition that gov’t schools have failed poor Afro Americans? And that vouchers should at least be tried, even if some money goes to nuns who teach? Bush wants to change the current, failed, “liberal”, gov’t school system, and the Left fights that improvement -- but NEVER by trying the two systems and comparing results. This seems an important world view difference.

Your Donald Sensing link, a fine Protestant minister, links to http://zonitics.blogspot.com/2003_05_01_zonitics_archive.html#94693184
“What separates the right and the left? (or conservatives and liberals, if you prefer less aggressive terms). Perhaps it is their differing views on a very ancient theological topic: original sin. … All of us, simply by being human, have inherited this flaw, in the sense that we are all innately sinners in one way or another. …

By and large, conservatives believe this, or to put it another way, they believe that there is evil in the world. Not evil in the sense that it is a "thing" but in the sense that any one of us is in some circumstances capable of doing evil deeds. They believe this is true regardless of the nature of the society in which we find ourselves. … It is therefore sensible for a society to devise ways in which various individual acts of evil can be discouraged, constrained or punished….

Liberals, on the other hand, do not believe in original sin. Their views are … that man was basically good and did have control of his own eternal destiny. Pelagius held that our nature is not only perfectible, we can perfect ourselves here and now.”

Posted by: Tom Grey at January 7, 2004 05:17 AM

You know, to hell with these people: Oliver, Kos, the whole lot rooting out heretics, who think they're bravely speaking uncomfortable truths and/or calling it like they see it or whatever. Two basic reasons:

First, the fundamental reason they appear to be attacking the heretics is because Michael, Jeff, A.L., etc. are foreign policy hawks; it's the same reason they harp on how the New Republic "isn't liberal." "Write about something liberal," they demand. The thing they don't seem to get is that for many of us who are liberal hawks, foreign policy is far and away the most important issue today, dwarfing all else to a significant extent. So of course it'll get the most play, and this will exacerbate the appearance of disagreement between liberal hawks and doves. But beyond appearances, if I agree with Howard Dean on 90% of the issues, but that 10% is much more important to me than the 90%, then I may not vote for him.

Second, if I was a libertarian conservative in the halcyon days of the Christian Coalition, I for one would have been hell bent of claiming my party from the lunatics. By the same token, being a liberal, I'm watching my party and movement being driven by lefties (and a significant percentage of former Nader types) that I consider wrong in very important ways on crucial issues. So you're goddamn right I'm going to speak up against you.

Oliver, Anne, Graham, etc. etc.: these guys are pro-gay rights, pro-progressive taxation, and so forth. THEY ARE LIBERALS. Grow up and learn to tolerate disagreement within the ranks. If you think it's important to kick people like this out of the party because they're hawks, you'll never win another election, thank God. And my own suspicion is that you'll start the self-immolation by nominating Dean to get beaten like a rented donkey in 2004. Good luck with that.

Posted by: bonk at January 7, 2004 05:23 AM

For Anne:

You can always tell when someone has NOTHING useful to say...they quote from a dictionary.

Pathetic.

Posted by: politica obscura at January 7, 2004 05:29 AM

::Shrug::

Its a bad year for liberals and the left. They have tried for three years to destroy Bush - and it keeps blowing up in their faces.

Each other is all they have left to attack. And each other are the only people that will still listen to them.

Posted by: Roark at January 7, 2004 05:44 AM

A few thoughts from across the atlantic (Sweden to be precise...):

1.) I've always considered myself a liberal, at the very least in a US context. (This has changed somewhat during recent years, but that's another story...) I.e, atheism/secularism, Anti Death Penalty, pro-choice, pro church/state separation, progressive income tax, not very touchy about gun control, etc. What Graham fails to grasp is that in politics - especially in a two-party system, you have to choose what opinions are the most important to you at the moment. Currently, reproductive rights, etc. are rather far down on my, and most likely Mr. Totten's list of priorities - this most likey explains the lack of liberal screeds on this page.

What troubles me the most about contemporary US liberalism is not merely the fact that many liberals opposed the Iraq war - a very reasonable position in itself. Rather, it was the fact that a large chunk of US grass-roots liberalism after 9/11 turned out to be very open indeed to the lovable socialists and communists who reside (and yield considerable influence...) on this side of the pond. Having witnessed the antics of this group close up, and especially being put off by its fundamental hostility towards western bourgeois democracy, I have a hard time supporting those who tap into this strain of politics, with a decidedly ugly recent past.

Furthermore, the extemely alienated reaction of many US liberals went so far as to put their basic loyalties to their country in question - something I also consider very alarming, as it fits into the broader worldwide pattern involving the strong alienation of what I like to call the "priest caste" of western society.

2.) To clarify my current political leanings, I no longer refer to myself as a "liberal". Due to group dynamics, once you are alienated from your own side, the "other side's" arguments no longer appear as bad as they once did. (This is why Graham's critique probably has some merit - Mr. Totten is now a far more likely candidate for abandoning the liberal ship completely.)

I still hold most of the beliefs cited above, plus probably some stronger concerns regarding income inequality. Still, I now prefer to place them in a more 'right-wing' context, and identify more easily with Right-wingers, etc. - thus I am most likely now completely lapsed.

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

Posted by: DŲbeln at January 7, 2004 05:56 AM

I say we give Oliver Willis a big ol' sack of burgers and send him on his chubby way.

Posted by: tired of ollie's bull at January 7, 2004 05:56 AM

"As the Democratic party gets smaller, it gets more angry, more shrill and more leftist. As it gets more angry, more shrill and more leftist, it gets smaller." Ed Gilespie RNC I haven't seen a more apt description of recent events than that.

Posted by: megapotamus at January 7, 2004 06:04 AM

Commerade Totten, Commerade Bonk, you have failed to issue criticism of the American imperialist. Your membership in The Party is hereby revoked. Please do not say that I do this just because I want my views to dominate The Party's line without my having to give sufficient argument that they should. This would be a lie, and the vocal demand for justification of every Party position is considered betrayal of The Party and counterrevolutionary subversion. By any means necessary, commerades. By any means necessary.

Posted by: The Judge at January 7, 2004 06:06 AM

Graham writes:

When Michael writes comments about Bush such as "He also stood between Osama bin Laden and the rest of us." it cannot be more clear to me that Michael has completely and irrevocably been lost to "the other side".

The other side? This is a war, not a game of Pictionary. The other side is the people who want to kill as many Americans as possible. I'll grant that the other side has allies here in the U.S., but Michael isn't one of them.

The other side's allies are (1) Americans who want the U.S. to lose the war, and are doing everything in their power to make that happen, and (2) Americans who don't give a damn about the war, and are perfectly content to have us lose it as long as the Democratic Party wins the next election.

Posted by: Pat at January 7, 2004 06:17 AM

"But you know, folks, politics isn't a game of football, nor is it war."

Rubbish. Politics in America is war by other means.

Anyone who doesn't realize that also has no earthly idea what's really going on.

This ain't no disco.

Posted by: Billy Beck at January 7, 2004 06:21 AM

The irony of this debate is that those that want to deny you the liberal label would gladly welcome you back into the fold if you simply expressed your hatred for Bush. Hatred=Liberalism?

The best thing that could happen for all of us would be to drop all these labels anyway. It drives me crazy when a friend clings to a position simply because thier party holds it. We all need to issues individually.

Posted by: bbridges at January 7, 2004 06:31 AM

"Individuality" is always the cry of the facist, the capitalist murdering native americans, the greedy rape of the lands of people of color.

I am glad to see you "liberals" expose yourselves for what you are - traitors, and not in the sense the Shrubbie Neocons use the term (as they lock us true Leftists in camps).

We one the Left don't need you. Go kiss Chimpy's ass for your Repug-corporate handout while fight the real fight for social justic. You right-wingers will get what you deserve in 2004 and beyond.

Posted by: SanFran at January 7, 2004 06:37 AM

I love this discussion. Wait. Since this is obviously important to many, I'm a Conservative Republican. But, more than that, I'm someone who is really sick of these labels and all the time and energy that are spent arguing over who belongs in what camp.

It seems that one's label is becoming more and more of an issue as the quality of education in this country declines. Labels provide a way of simplifying decisions. Rather than weigh the merits of welfare, gun control, abortion (sorry ... reproductive freedom ... I forgot where I was), tax structure, and various economic, military and diplomatic policies; it's easier to simply figure out where the liberals and conservatives stand and line up with your team.

This is how you get people crying over the capture of Saddam because of its effects on an election that is nearly a year away. This is how you get people comparing Bush to Hitler. No context. No background. Just one simple, undeveloped thought drives them: Bush bad.

On my side of the fence this problem was never more apparent than during the recall election. Conservatives were in a quandry because Arnold was the standard-bearer and yet he didn't look much like a conservative when you get down to social issues. What to do, what to do. Simple. You do what you should always do. Look at the candidates, figure out which one is most compatible with your world view, factor in the likelihood that the person can or will accomplish what they say (step one of which is getting elected in the first place), and cast your vote. Same for any issue. Do a little digging, measure it against your presuppositions, and figure out what you believe and why.

And that brings us to the surest way to stop the majority of people running their mouths these days. Simply ask, "Why?" "Why do you believe that?" "Why are you on that side?" Most of the time you'll get one of two things. 1. Some other opinion-maker's party line, or 2. A lot of nonsensical babbling.

The principle hasn't changed. You can build your ideology on stone or sand. By embracing a label rather than a set of core beliefs, one commits to a lifetime of inconsistency as they ebb and flow with the flavor of the month.

In short, Michael, it seems that you are an intelligent, articulate man. Hopefully you've figured out that those who want to fight this particular battle aren't worth the effort. Even if you could persuade them today, someone else will take them in a different direction tomorrow.

Posted by: Brian Besaw at January 7, 2004 06:43 AM

Brian makes an excellent point. The question is what do YOU think is right and just? Check your premises, keep learning, develop an open mind.

Is your loyalty to YOUR beliefs or to a LABEL?

Careful though, when you start thinking for yourself it becomes very difficult to join any collectives or espouse dogma. Individual opinions are TOUGH, far easier to just repeat the Party Line.

Posted by: Ryan at January 7, 2004 06:48 AM

Well spoken, Commerade SanFran! Individuality like liberty, is a construct of the capitalist machine. In the future it will be eradicated by in a more organic social regime, in which "ownership" or "self," terms of hatred and death, have been consigned to the dustbin of history. Those like MT who stand in the way will get what they deserve. They hate colored people. All business executives are evil. Bush knew. He stole the election. Skeeza.

We needn't give arguments for these views. Amerika is evil and must be subverted. Just as our dear Commerade Lenin fought for Russia's defeat during the Great War, we can hope that Amerika gets what it deserves in the present conflict. It will cost a great many American lives, but they are not individuals. They are meat.

Posted by: The Jundge at January 7, 2004 06:51 AM

since when, exactly, did being a liberal mean that you could only have one possible policy idea on everything. people here are saying that Mike, Jeff, et al. are not liberals because of their foreign policy. Well guess what. They're still bloody socialist twits on domestic policy.

There are neo-cons, paleo-cons, social-cons, etc. But there's only one way to be a liberal? These guys still want to destroy the american economy and the american way of life with higher taxes and higher regulations. They are still liberals, and should be kept out of all positions of power and influence (public or private).

But keep on self destructing... And please, nominate Howard Dean!!!

Posted by: hey at January 7, 2004 07:00 AM

I am not rich, I am a minority, I believe religion and sexuality are personal and private, I voted for Bush and will vote for him again, AND I believe in fighting for "liberal" causes. I want to help the the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden; I want to educate the children and protect our environment as much as any so-called liberal.

Over the years I have come to learn there is another path towards achieving my "liberal" goals. For so long, I was indoctrinated to the idea that "liberal" causes could only be achieved by Democrats, the idea of regulating the people to rely on the government to care for them would achieve the desired effect, yet all that has been accomplished was a path towards socialism instead of liberalism, restriction instead of liberation, conformation instead of toleration.

What changed my path was learning that the liberal "truths" I was told were the ONLY way to believe and that everything else was "anti-liberal" were misguided.

One example, Racheal Carson's book "The Silent Spring" was written for the benefit of the environment, it also set the stage in the early 70's for the now powerful and misguided Green movement, yet thirty years later we have learned that her facts were based on junk-science and has actually done more damage to the environment than the environmentalists are willing to believe. I can cite many examples of misguided environmental policies now in place.

I am female, one of the many minority groups who have been oppressed over the years. I believe that "affirmitave action" has done damage to feminism, that being, I have been forced to exist in a group, because I am a female, that believes the only way I can be liberated is to conform to the liberal stance that I am too uneducated, poor, and worthless that I MUST have a government take care of me. I have learned I can take care of myself, my community, my environment and I do not need my life to be regulated by those who think they can do better no matter how noble they believe their cause.

Over the years I learned the value of responsibility and accountability for my own actions and I will not allow "Big Brother" to take my power away from me by forcing me to conform to it's misguided ideology.

I have also learned that I will be condemned for speaking against and not conforming to Big Brother's "status-quo" liberal ideology.
So have at it, crucify me.

Posted by: syn at January 7, 2004 07:07 AM

Has anybody noted the similarity of this discussion and the recent one concerning "True Christians"? With both groups trying to deny the label to those that dare venture beyond some artificial boundaries.

When I was a kid, I was constantly annoyed by self proclaimed christians who felt it their duty to point out and correct all of my shortcomings. As the years passed, it seems self proclaimed liberals have taken up that torch.

It seems that somebody always wants to save me from poor, pitiful, self-destructive me.

Posted by: bbridges at January 7, 2004 07:27 AM

I have learned I can take care of myself, my community, my environment and I do not need my life to be regulated by those who think they can do better....

When did they get to you, Comrade Syn? When did they get to you?! Do you not see the plain truth Comrade SanFran has spoken: that you now favor murdering people of color? Confess! Confess!! Well, you will confess at your trial.

Posted by: The Judge at January 7, 2004 07:28 AM

While we're on Monty Python bits, Anne's "several" tirade reminded me a lot of the Holy Handgrenade sketch.

Oh, and picking on OW's avoirdupois is nasty and unnecessary. Just a thought. There's plenty of other things about him to argue, without getting personal. Not that he wants or needs me to defend him.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at January 7, 2004 07:33 AM

Perhaps the Left has forgotten an important lesson: Constructive criticism is good. It filters out the weaker or less correct ideas and policies by identifying and challenging their weaknesses. Any organization, party, movement, etc. that bans criticism is sowing the seeds of its own destruction. By refusing to allow criticism of the core set of ideas, the Left has greatly limited its ability to adapt and set in motion an ossification that can only lead to a bad end for the movement.

One of the principal strengths of democracy is its ability to adapt. Adaptation occurs as a result of constructive criticism. Dictatorships are more brittle because that lack flexibility. They lack flexibility because they do not allow criticism. The same principle applies to political parties, organizations and movements.

Posted by: Ben at January 7, 2004 07:34 AM

Precisely, Ben. When Willis et al bleat that MJT and company aren't liberal enough because they don't talk about liberal issues enough, they miss an extremely important point. Self-criticism can be a powerful tool for positive change. I'm betting that MJT doesn't spend a lot of energy criticising the right precisely BECAUSE he doesn't care about them, and because he DOES care about liberal issues. By helping to expose the weaknesses of the liberal movement, he provides it with an opportunity to strengthen itself.

Posted by: Phil Smith at January 7, 2004 07:52 AM

bbridges:
One HUGE difference is that Christians have a real, physical Bible to compare others' actions against. If you're doing something that doesn't line up with the Scriptures, then it's safe to say that you're outside of the parameters of Christian behavior (which doesn't necessarily mean that you're not a Christian; rather, you've got some issues to work out).

The matter of whether you're a Christian or not is soley an issue between you and God. This doesn't except you from being held accountable for sinful behavior by your Christian brothers and sisters.

Posted by: Doug Stewart at January 7, 2004 07:59 AM

Doug,

Liberals have their bibles as well, they just aren't called the Holy Scriptures. That difference you speak of is minimal with all due respect. The similarities are more important to me. That is the attitude that you have the truth for all and will force others to accept that truth if it kills them.

Some of us simply wan tthe freedom to live our productive and satisfying lives without anybody imposing whatever beliefs they may have.

At this point in time I don't really experience that kind of nosey invasive prosletyzing (sp?) from religious types as I experienced in my childhood. It all seems to come from the left.

Have you ever lived with evangelical vegans?

Posted by: bbridges at January 7, 2004 08:22 AM

bbridges:
I've been proselytized by many a psuedo/poseur Vegan. I've written it off, just as I wrote off their previous triple-X-hardcore "no drugs, no booze" proselytizing that made way for their unending stream of hip-to-be-against-the-Man, flavo[u]r-of-the-month fads. I haven't been railed against by any long-term, highly comitted Vegans.

I think there are people who still view their Christianity in a Torquemada-esque fashion, but, for the most part, I and those in the Christian circles that I've been a part of tend to believe that 1) we live in a sinful world where people do bad things 2) there is a right way to do things 3) forcing people to adhere to that right way is not a way to get genuine adherents.

Here's my question for you: does the fact that I may think that certain of your behaviors are wrong denote "imposition" of my beliefs on you? If I say that I think you're wrong, does that equate to imposition?

Posted by: Doug Stewart at January 7, 2004 08:37 AM

These guys [me and Jeff Jarvis] still want to destroy the american economy and the american way of life [because we're] socialist twits.

In the last update to my post, I said the people in the middle make the most sense. Here is an example of why I said that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2004 09:00 AM

Doug wrote:

"Here's my question for you: does the fact that I may think that certain of your behaviors are wrong denote "imposition" of my beliefs on you? If I say that I think you're wrong, does that equate to imposition?"

Actually Doug no. As I've said in another discussion, I know that people that care a great deal about me disapprove of my life or worry for my soul. I actually appreciate that they care. But they understand that I do not want to hear it. And they respect that. So what you may think of me really (and I really mean this) is of no concern.

Now, if you take it upon yourself to point out to me what you perceive as my shortcomings, then that is another story. I would probably be annoyed and ask that you cease your observations. And if my request wasn't honored, then I would probably become more that annoyed and suggest where you could put your opinions. And that would be when I felt you were imposing yourself and your morality.

I happen to think the brilliance of our country is the ability to hold our individual beliefs and respect those that think differently.

By the way, although I am agnostic, my favorite response to vegans when they begin preaching about my sin of eating flesh is to ask "Have I told you about Jesus?" It initially confuses them and then faced with the prospect that I will begin preaching to them, they shut up.

Posted by: bbridges at January 7, 2004 09:17 AM

The link to the "people in the middle" is broken.

And somehow, in this discussion, that seems fitting.

Posted by: PhotoDude at January 7, 2004 09:18 AM

Syn,

> I am female, one of the many minority groups
> who have been oppressed over the years.

Where do you live? I ask because, unless you live in someplace with repressive birth policies like China, you as a female are part of a majority group.

Posted by: Kirk Parker at January 7, 2004 09:19 AM

The link to the "people in the middle" is broken.

Fixed.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2004 09:23 AM

Doug,

Actually, I have to fess up. Of course it matters to me if others disapprove of me. It's part of my makeup and constant, pathetic need for approval (I'm sure that years and years of therapy will allow me to overcome this within oh, 30-40 years.). So my remark that what you think is of no concern is a slight lie.

But I still don't want to hear it.

And by the way Michael, good luck on the writing career. I see Glenn is doing his part.

Posted by: bbridges at January 7, 2004 09:33 AM

bbridges:
Heh. No amount of therapy can ever help with a need for approval, unless we're talking about approving charges to your credit card in order to pay for your therapy.

grin

Posted by: Doug Stewart at January 7, 2004 09:55 AM

When the hell did Dennis Miller say "Pat Robertson isn't such a bad guy."

Posted by: EBG at January 7, 2004 10:16 AM

I have been folowing with interest the discussion on this and other blogs about what is left of liberalism. It's interesting to me that NOT ONE post has even so much as mentioned abortion, the elephant in the parlor of the Democratic Party.

Abortion "rights" is the issue that first taught Democrats the absolutist, Manichaean theology that has gone on to infect its approach to all other issues. Basically, liberalism stopped being liberal in 1973, though that truth has been slow to dawn on many liberals. From advocacy of abortion has flowed all the PC rigidity that is shifting the mainstream populace to the Republicans.

I believe the Dean candidacy (and defeat) will be the last gasp of the '60's True Believers who currently seem to be driving the party and busily excommunicating heretics. After that, like the Republican Party after the Goldwater defeat, the Democratic Party will have an opportunity to begin the long, slow process of redefining and reorienting itself. But it will never do that as long as its support of abortion, first, last and always, is allowed to remain the ultimate litmus test.

Posted by: Gypsy Boots at January 7, 2004 10:30 AM

Totten-
Says who? Is there a Central Committee somewhere that decides these things?

What if I said that you're allowed to be a Communist?

Don't get all sensitive. When I said "allowed," I meant that there are such people as conservative and centrist Democrats. As opposed to liberal Democrats. Why is it exclusionary to talk about what the definitions of those terms are?

If you want to say I'm a communist, then we can talk about what my beliefs are and then decide if that set of beliefs falls under the heading of "communist." But, of course, Jarvis is unwilling to discuss what he believes. He says he doesn't owe anyone an explanation. You can't just go around asserting "I'm a liberal" or "I'm a conservative" or whatever, and then get all pissy when someone asks you what it is you're liberal or conservative about.

Posted by: Mithras at January 7, 2004 10:30 AM

Gypsy:
As James Taranto has repeatedly mentioned on Best of the Web, the net effect of abortion is that those inclined to have/support abortions are more likely to abort their children, making it a near mathematical certainty that the post-Roe populace will have a far more conservative view of abortion, simply becase abortion advocates will have done a great job of killing off those who would most likely (by way of nurture education) support their policies.

Posted by: Doug Stewart at January 7, 2004 10:37 AM

Woah, check the merging of the postmodernism and existentialism whining!

"I say I'm a liberal, so I am! You can't define me!"

Total bunk. Words do mean things, people. There are certain positions that are "liberal." Certain that aren't. Once you take enough positions that aren't, then neither are you. You can try to claim you have enough liberal positions left... but that seems sort of weak.

Posted by: Dan at January 7, 2004 10:55 AM

This debate reminds me of something I wrote about last week, asking these questions: Where's the test? Is it essay or multiple choice? What score does one need to pass as a 'real Democrat'? Who writes the questions? Who is the gatekeeper? Why does one segment of the party have the right to claim authenticity over another segment?

Posted by: Bird Dog at January 7, 2004 11:19 AM

Bird Dog-
shrug Of course it's a matter of opinion. But we Democrats are particularly fired up right now because we (by and large) are sick of accomodationists in our national leadership who have been playing nice-nice with Bush and getting screwed in return. Perhaps that's why we're going through a bit of introspection and asking the question of what it means to be liberal.

Posted by: Mithras at January 7, 2004 11:41 AM

Yeah, Michael, I hear you. I used to be an atheist until I heard some atheist bashing the Pope. The next day, I completey abandoned all belief in science and rationality and enrolled in the seminary. Boy was I ever wrong! Whew. Thank you Jesus!

Posted by: j at January 7, 2004 11:46 AM

I don't know why I come over here, but maybe its like watching a car wreck. If Mr. Totten, and most of his posters, are commmitted to the idea that the democratic party has a) no adherents, b)no principles that could be called liberal and c) no hope of every running sucessful candidates again in this country and yet also d) pose a threat to the greatness of our current president, his re-election, his triumphant rise and domination of the world stage well, those two things seem at odds in a basic, numerical sort of way. Lots of people identify themselves, still, as Democrats. I believe the numbers, at least according to recent statements by Karl Rove, are roughly equal with people identifying themselves with, or expected to vote with, the republicans. So who are all these people? Are they all crazy? Are they all communist stooges? Are they all single, gay, latte drinking or whatever? Well, obviously, no. They are just regular people, who happen to have some legitimate differences of opinion with the current regime. The problem people have with Mr. Totten, if they have a problem, is that he spends all his time bleating about how alone he feels as a liberal when one can not locate any serious liberal principles in his writing. He spends a lot of time complaining about how the democratic party has "lost him" and seems to think that if it "lost him" it lost the last reasonable person in the world and that what is left must be unreasonable.If he wants to vote for bush, he s hould feel free to do so. There are certainly legitimate reasons to support some of Bush's positions. I, for one of many, find that I can't swallow the whole package of bush policies. I'd love a strong foreign policy, but I don't want to gut my children's future with deficit spending. I'd love to "fix medicare" or "social security" but I'd like to actually fix it not drown government in a bathtub. Does that make me "the left?" I couldn't tell from Mr. Totten's moronic and insulting post on that topic. I'm pretty sure however he labels me, I"m not alone in my concerns, interests, or politics.

Mr. Totten's problem seems to be that he doesn't agree with the Democratic party or lots of its members on much anymore, but he seems reluctant to identify himself as a republican tout court. That's his problem, not ours. I believe we can have our principles, vote our principles, take back this country and run it sucessfully (as, indeed, we have in the past). We won't need Mr. Totten's vote, and I'm sure his new friends do.

aimai

Posted by: aimai at January 7, 2004 11:50 AM

Hm. I believe you just drew a parallel, albeit an oblique one, between Oliver Willis and Josef Stalin. I think Willis, and the republic, will survive--but I wish people who rightly kvetch about idiotic Bush-Hitler parallels would be a tad more conscientious about this sort of thing.

Posted by: Katherine at January 7, 2004 11:50 AM

But we Democrats are particularly fired up right now because we (by and large) are sick of accomodationists in our national leadership who have been playing nice-nice with Bush and getting screwed in return.

With Dean the presumptive nominee, you'll be getting your wish, Mithras.

Posted by: Bird Dog at January 7, 2004 11:58 AM

If a person "disagrees" with a political candidate on 80 to 90 percent of "the issues", but that person still votes for that candidate, then if I were someone who had the same views as that person but voted against that candidate, I would tend to question that person's choice.

I might view the support for that candidate as either opportunism or a big case of self-preservation. In this case I view support for Bush by "liberals" or "democrats" stems mostly from the belief that there is (or was) a massive threat to this county and Bush's War policies are the only aggressive answer to that threat.

The breakdown on the validity (or severity) of the "threat" is what people disagree on. It has become emotional for some. This emotionalism is the source of a sense of betrayal in the minds of doves or a sense of devolution on the left in minds of hawks.

Posted by: Brian Griffin at January 7, 2004 11:59 AM

But beyond appearances, if I agree with Howard Dean on 90% of the issues, but that 10% is much more important to me than the 90%, then I may not vote for him

This is exactly the "sucker punch" I am talking about. Get people excited about the 10% and distract with that and the other 90% will be forgotten and undebated. As wicked and evil as terrorism is, it can be managed by a Democratic president or Republican. In the end, it works in the favor of Bush because people are willing to look the other way on domestic issues all the while thinking the most important thing is terrorism. It is not. Unless we want to live in a society like Israel has gone through where everything is suspect and everyone gets searched we will always need to live with (not tolerate) some amount of terrorism. I have heard some pundits and government officials say the "War on Terror" could last 20 years. Does that mean we should have Republican presidents for the next 20 years? Maybe we should just cancel presidential elections for the next 20 years since everyone seems to take it for granted that Republicans will do a better job. Maybe not. Because we still have a country to run, we still have an economy that needs fixing, we still have deficits that will end up making the US an unattractive investment for foreign money. Yes, admittedly, these are not "cool" topics or "sexy" policy decisions but it is what has been badly neglected for the last few years. So to the people that say they will ignore the 90% that really matters to focus on the 10% that doesn't I say, open your eyes and wake up. You are falling into the tiger trap that was set just for you.

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 12:00 PM

I say we give Oliver Willis a big ol' sack of burgers and send him on his chubby way. -- by a@b.com

Wow, that took both courage and intellect to write that. You should be proud!

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 12:02 PM

Once you take enough positions that aren't, then neither are you. You can try to claim you have enough liberal positions left... but that seems sort of weak.

I think we ought to legalize pot. I also think that what people do in their own bedroom, providing they're consenting adults, is none of the government's goddamned business. Do I now need to hang up my VRWC official jackboots?

Posted by: Slartibartfast at January 7, 2004 12:05 PM

"We won't need Mr. Totten's vote, and I'm sure his new friends do"

Yep, if you can just round up all the people who pass the Liberal Litmus Test, that's all the votes you need to elect a President. Centrists, disaffected Republicans, or those who are otherwise deemed "impure" won't be needed to defeat Bush.

Enjoy that little pipedream as much as you can, while you can. Because it won't last much more than ten months.

Posted by: PhotoDude at January 7, 2004 12:08 PM

I think we ought to legalize pot. I also think that what people do in their own bedroom, providing they're consenting adults, is none of the government's goddamned business.

This is another one of my criticisms of the "lipstick liberals". A play on lipstick lesbians. I don't really mean to pick on anyone in particular but slartibartfast may be a great leader of liberal causes. I don't know. But in general, I say that most people hold these liberal beliefs and SAY they are liberal but when the rubber meets the road what do they DO about these issues? Are you writing your congresspeople about these issues? Are you donating money to help make liberal issues the forefront of political discussion? Are you donating time? Again, ACTION speaks louder than WORDS. What I see (you can say I'm full of horseshit if you want> is a lot of people SAYING "I'm liberal, I'm liberal" and then devoting most of their time to support and defend one of the most non-liberal presidents I can remember.

About the pot issue... I'm not even as liberal as that. I think we ought to decriminalize its use, fine it and use the funds to help addicts get unaddicted. The prison systems are filled with people who are not violent but serving long jail sentences for possession which costs taxpayers in the long run.

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 12:25 PM

I'm awfully sympathetic to Michael's plight because I'm a pro-life, pro-same-sex marriage, anti-war conservative Republican and I'm appalled at how corrupt and dishonest this administration has been.

Posted by: Paul at January 7, 2004 12:27 PM

pro-life

Um, that should be pro-choice. You see, you ... you ..., you're driving me out of the party!

Posted by: Paul at January 7, 2004 12:31 PM

Michael wrote:

I can sympathize with this, really I can. The liberal movement, such as it was, is broken. I'm sorry it happened, I really am. I was depressed about it for a while, but it doesn't bother me as much as it used to.

9/11 caused a lot of damage, and the liberal movement is one of the casualties.

It doesn't have to be that way. The liberal movement is NOT a casualty. Some damage was done but the same issues that were there prior to 9/11 are still there if not more so. When the distraction of war and terror and the "War on Terror" fade to the background ... liberal causes and issues will resume. I think the strategy for Bush now is to keep the foreign policy and war issues in the forefront of everyone's minds. Keep us at Orange alert until November. Keep security tight. Then with all the distraction we'll forget that we're drowning in a sea of debt, losing healthcare benefits and jobs to overseas and going backward on environmental protection.

I would not mind Bush and his "War on Terror" if at least he were somewhat non-partisan and cooperative on domestic issues. However, he has shown himself as president to be the opposite of what he was as a candidate. He even went so far as to call himself a "uniter, not a divider". Can anyone recall this statement without laughing?

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 12:54 PM

Aimai

I agreed with much of what you wrote but the end where you say:
We won't need Mr. Totten's vote, and I'm sure his new friends do.

I disagree with this. As in many elections the battleground is not with the die-hard party members on either side. The battleground is with the fence-sitting independents. The people whose vote is actually up for grabs. Conservative Christians and granola crunching Californians (stereotype alert) already know who they're voting for (or against).

The independents haven't made up their minds yet. We need the independents vote. It is a tough uphill battle trying to convince a lot of people that the most important issue isn't terrorism but actually domestic issues. It is made especially hard when there is day to day news about terror alerts, flight cancellations because of hijack fears and those ever pesky WMDs that still haven't been found. Personally, I think Dean or Clark make a better president on the domestic policy issues and I would be quite satisfied with their continuation of the war on terror which they will have to wage whether they want to or not. I just don't think they would wage the war on terror with quite the zeal as Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney/Wolfowitz but that's OK with me.

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 01:09 PM

" I think the strategy for Bush now is to keep the foreign policy and war issues in the forefront of everyone's minds. "

Exactly! No way it could be the opposite.

Posted by: Leftie at January 7, 2004 01:17 PM

Dan, this has nothing to do with postmodern subjectivism. A straightforwardly factual question is at issue: What are Michael Totten's political views?

Can you believe it? His opponents are telling him that he's a liar when he says he has certain liberal political views. Their premise is that he supports Bush's war on terror. Let's do a syllogism:

MT supports Bush's war on terror.
Therefore, MT is lying when he says he has liberal views.

The fallacy in the syllogism is non sequitur, the most embarrassing one in the book. Support for Bush's WoT is not demonstrably anti-liberal. And even if it were, it would not follow that MT does not have liberal views on a host of other issues.

Posted by: Jim at January 7, 2004 01:28 PM

MT supports Bush's war on terror.
Therefore, MT is lying when he says he has liberal views.

I think this comment represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what has been written so far. WHo has said that MT lies about his liberal beliefs? The argument is that he doesn't devote any time to those liberal beliefs so it is actually hard to attack since there is not much body of work to attack. That is the problem at least I have with the writing if not others. WHy even say, "I'm a liberal, but I support Bush in his War on Terror"? Why not just say, "I support Bush on his war on Terror"?

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 01:37 PM

Graham,

Of course, the war is a "mere distraction" from more important things. Yes, national security is the red herring of political philosophy. Brilliant! Existential threats? What existential threats?

This is why you will lose in '04. Most people do not agree with this assessment of priorities. You are woefully out of touch.

Posted by: JB at January 7, 2004 01:43 PM

Graham,

It has been some time now since I have called myself a liberal, so we don't need to rehash that.

I do, however, defend the right of Jeff Jarvis to describe himself any way he pleases, especially because he, more than anyone else, is an expert on what his own views are. Only a bona-fide mind-reader has a chance to win that argument with him.

Leftie: " I think the strategy for Bush now is to keep the foreign policy and war issues in the forefront of everyone's minds." Exactly! No way it could be the opposite.

No one, especially not George Bush, tells me what I think is important. I tell me what I think is important. Bush isn't "distracting" me with war.

What struck me as particularly silly is when during the mid-term elections, Tom Daschle ran on a platform of free pills for old people during war time. Talk about a distraction. Jeez, man.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2004 01:46 PM

JB writes...
This is why you will lose in '04

I'm not actually running for any office in '04. SO I probably won't lose anything.

In the grand scheme of things, the current issues of national security are dimished compared with national security issues of the past (cuban missile crisis, cold war, WW1, WW2, Vietnam). However, national security/war gets more media coverage than anything else these days and more blog time for that matter. I guess guys just like shit getting blown up.

In contrast, the fact that the number of home foreclosures is at record levels over the past year hardly makes a blip on the media radar. Now for the average person, what do you think is more important? Orange alert or having a home? Orange alert, home? You make the call. I call that a no-brainer.

Now, what was the red herring again? Is worrying about whether I have a job/home really that out of touch? I think it is you that is out of touch.

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 02:00 PM

Overall, I found the Bay Area one of the most intelectually close-minded, parochial places I have ever lived.

Obviously you've never lived in Texas. I've lived in the Bay Area and Texas. Both suffer from closed minded parochialism of different extremes, but Texas has a much worse case.

Posted by: Pug at January 7, 2004 02:02 PM

"In the grand scheme of things, the current issues of national security are dimished compared with national security issues of the past"

yeah, what's a nuked US city or two? As long as the terrrorist blow up a city in a red state, I am cool wit it.

Posted by: Bimmitt at January 7, 2004 02:04 PM

Pug: I've lived in the Bay Area and Texas. Both suffer from closed minded parochialism of different extremes, but Texas has a much worse case.

My father is a conservative, he lived in Texas, and he would agree with that statement.

I have never even been to Texas, and I know it makes a difference where in Texas is being compared to the Bay Area (I imagine Austin compares rather well), but there is a case to be made for what Pug is saying, and it isn't only a left-wing thing.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2004 02:10 PM

Bimmett wrote:
yeah, what's a nuked US city or two?

Iraq didn't have them despite what Powell/Bush said. DOn't give me crap about we just haven't found them yet. If we haven't found it by now then they aren't in Iraq. The other arguments from the war supporters are that Saddam gave them away fearing they would be lost in the war. Ok, now THAT sounds like a great argument against war.

Another thing is that Bush's recent budgets have reduced funding for the purchase of enriched uranium from the former soviet states. This means that more uranium is OUT THERE. Not too smart if you plan to fight a war on terror where you think you might get nuked.

Now North Korea... They have nukes. They have missile delivery technology and what is done about it? Little to nothing.

As long as the terrrorist blow up a city in a red state, I am cool wit it.

Texas would be fine... :-)

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 02:19 PM

yes I am sure it was all Clinton's doing that N. Korea is backing down, Libya is turning in the WMDs and India/Pakistan are talking. Couldn't be because we defeated Saddam, who BTW was a mass murdering dictator....

forest...trees...thanks for showing me yet again that conservative warmongers are the ones that are shallowminded idiots...

don't fret. houston will probably blow up and the left will cheer.

Posted by: Bimmitt at January 7, 2004 02:22 PM

"When the distraction of war and terror and the "War on Terror" fade to the background ... liberal causes and issues will resume."

Here is the problem of some people in a nutshell. The first and most important responsibility of government is national security. Right thinking liberals, conservatives, furries, etc. understand that simple fact. People who see national security as simply a distraction just don't get it and I doubt if they ever will.

Posted by: bbridges at January 7, 2004 02:43 PM

Graham,

I agree with you that we need "swing voters" and that we, any political party, needs lots of voters. My rather curt comment that "we dont' need his vote and his new friends do" reflected my feeling that there are lots of people switching sides. Mr. Totten isn't the only one. My republican sister in law will be voting democratic, for the first time ever, because she is so disgusted with Bush for a variety of reasons. I think Bush is "Going to need every vote" because I believe, though of course I don't "know" that the more his policies are exposed for the sham they are the more even the people who are frightened into supporting him now will, eventually, reject him in the poll booth.

As for Totten's manly "nobody tells me what to think!" Well, goody for him. Is he under the impression that the rest of us receive our information from some central liberal drop site? We all lived through 9-11, with varying degrees of closeness and grief and fear. And we've all come more or less independently to a decision about how the country as a whole could best protect itself from another such act of terrorism. I, like many people (Graham, for instance) came to different conclusions than Bush and his people and I stand by them. I think we could be just as safe, or safer, without having gone to war with Iraq. I think we could have spent that money, and the years between sept 11th and now, forging a new inernational consensus, securing our ports, working on new methods of intelligence gathering and a better patriot act, eradicating poverty and hunger and the things that send kids to maddrassahs instead of secular schools...but that would have been in an alternate reality. If it turns out that by some miracle Bush's war turns out to bring world peace, wow! I'll definitely say I'm sorry to have given him such a hard time. But that won't stop me from voting democratic this time, and next time too, because (frankly) I think we could have gotten to world peace in lots of ways if we had wanted to get there. Going to war with iraq was not the most efficient, just the one that took the least mental effort.

aimai

Posted by: aimai at January 7, 2004 02:57 PM

BBridges,

Don't make inferences that are not there to make. You are taking a specific statement and turning it into a general statement. I said that current national security issues are not the worst of our problems. National security has often been the most important part of our government policy. Just not now. Imagine for a second that 9/11 and the Iraq war didn't happen. What sort of record would Bush have to run on then? Cut taxes? I'm actually paying more taxes than last year due to uncreases in property/local taxes.

If you don't have anything else to run on, run on a tough national security strategy. How long can that last before the reality of a bad domestic policy encroaches?

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 03:00 PM

Graham,

It has been some time now since I have called myself a liberal, so we don't need to rehash that.

You sould correct Mr. Simon's testimonial where he calls you "A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly" :-)

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 03:15 PM

Graham,

Of course you know that your property taxes are not federal so you would probably want to take that up with the local authorities.

We can have a discussion about an alternative universe in which 9/11 didn't happen. Rainbows and unicorns are scattered out my back door. But 9/11 did happen and an appropriate, continuing response is critical.

Since I voted Democrat in the last three presidential elections, it would be easy to expect me to do the same again. But it looks like the nominee will be somebody who either doesn't understand the need for our recent actions or is cynically taking a position simply for political advantage.

I don't agree with everything Bush has done but the left has simply gone simple in the attacks on him. Conspiracies are great for Oliver Stone and the John Birchers but I really want to ground my vote in reality.

One more thing, although I didn't vote for Bush originally, I do remember a discussion I had with a friend a good year before the election. We both agreed that the economy was about to tank and whoever was in office would be hammered. It was coming long before Bush came on the scene.

Posted by: bbridges at January 7, 2004 05:11 PM

"Purging" just seems a tad, well, hysterical.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at January 7, 2004 06:03 PM

If 9/11 had not occurred the Democrats would be facing....another electoral thumping! Why? Because in the arena of ideas you have lost. The trend to Republican dominance in govenorships, state legislatures, Congress, and the presidency began long before OBL popped up on screen. And now you hasten your own downfall with inexplicable opposition to the removal of a mass murderer, hysterical comparisons of Bush to Hitler, and open contempt and bigotry for over half of the population of this country.
Your only hope is to embrace the first true "liberal", Jesus Christ. Too bad you kicked Him out of the party. He's a great coalition builder. By the way I don't belong to any church, I oppose the death penalty, and I support gay marriage. What am I?

Posted by: Mike Mangan at January 7, 2004 06:07 PM

bbriges wrote:
We can have a discussion about an alternative universe in which 9/11 didn't happen. Rainbows and unicorns are scattered out my back door. But 9/11 did happen and an appropriate

Nice dodge of the question. Perhaps the point was missed on you. The point being, other than topple a tin-pot dictatator, what has Bush done? Perhaps that way of asking won't elicit the sarcasm. Now, if say Wesley Clark was nominated, would he treat the war on terror differently? Probably, would his difference in philosophy significantly impact national security in a negative way? I personally don't think it would. And we might end up with someone with better domestic policy.

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 06:41 PM

Graham,

The problem I have with Wesley Clark is that he says he would let France veto our foreign policy. And since France's foreign policy is to explicity contradict ours (the "hyperpuissance" must be tied down for the sake of the world), Wesley Clark would paint the US into a corner.

Now, he's a smart enough fellow, and I have a feeling he would grow in office and figure out what the French are up to. But, like I said, I only have a feeling this is the case. I can't prove it to myself or anyone else. I could be wrong and giving him too much credit, and so I don't want to chance it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2004 06:50 PM

The left can never be truly anti-fascist and liberal until it gives up the idea of using government to force change or collect for charity.

Nothing can be more ill-liberal than using men with guns (government) to get the changes or charitable contributions you want.

The most liberal government is limited government.

Posted by: M. Simon at January 7, 2004 07:27 PM

Bush said he was "a uniter, not a divider" while campaigning. What's your point?

I think the way you have phrased it, you have oversimplified what exactly Clark said. Furthermore, leadership is about influence, convincing and diplomacy. Any idiot can disregard world opinion and do things his own way if he has a big army. But eventually that will have negative consequences in some very tangible ways.

I also think you oversimplified French foreign policy. If what you said were true, explain French approval of UN security council resolution 1378 condemning and helping to eradicate the Taliban in Afghanistan. The French can be reasonable on things and even agree with us on occasion. However, this kneejerk reaction to find any reason to attack the French seems quite immature. Like any country they have their good and bad.

Posted by: Graham at January 7, 2004 07:37 PM

Shortly after the Civil War, private organizations began to arise which were large and powerful enough to massively impinge on the personal freedoms of those affected by them.

Since then, the Progressive movement, of which the liberal, progressive, and various leftist movements are ideological descendents, has championed a carefully monitored government as a counterweight to the unfettered power of private organization. This is the liberal commitment to the empowerment and liberty of the individual, reinterpreted to handle today's economic realities.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 7, 2004 07:37 PM

"Nice dodge of the question."

I didn't dodge the question. The question is obviously unanswerable. Unless of course I invoke my amazing powers of "what if".

I would be happy to listen to and discuss the failings of the Bush administration but the arguments I hear involve Iraq, conspiracies, etc. When you say that national security is not the most imporant issue right now, please tell me what is. And then tell me why that excludes national security.

Clark is a nuevo democrat who praised Bush and company before launching his campaign. He was fired as NATO commander. Accusations against him by other commanders are damning and yet to be fully explored. He is a military man who has an amazingly teeny number of ex-military showing support for him. He is given to silly comments that don't indicate maturity and wisdom. And he evidently is the pawn in a power struggle within the democratic party.

Would he have treated the war differently? Yeah. He said he would have caught Osama! Gee, he's real, real, real smart. Too bad the rest of the military isn't.

I have a question for you. Do you believe that Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Madeline Albright and company all lied about Iraq and the threat it posed? I'm sure you are familiar with all their (and so many others from their party) many compelling statements about the threat of Iraq. Your dismissal of the Iraq threat indicates that you do.

Posted by: bbridges at January 7, 2004 08:17 PM

I love to see the Left cannibalize itself. At times like this, I just stay out of it.

Enjoy.

Posted by: David at January 7, 2004 10:02 PM

A yes Kimmit. There is always a reason based on new circumstances to get men with guns (government) to creat the world you want.

You can call it liberal all you want. In any other place and time it would be called tyrrany.

Getting men with guns to force your will on others other than for breaches of the peace would be in any other day a form of tyrrany.

Calling such a system liberal in the name of anti-corporatism does not make it so.

Posted by: M. Simon at January 7, 2004 11:54 PM

Kimmit wrote: that progressives (Leftists) have "championed a carefully monitored government as a counterweight to the unfettered power of private organization."

Hah! Part of the Angry Left fuel is that, yes, they have been supporting Big Gov't since FDR (Michael, too). And now Bush, whose party's ideology has been mildly anti-big gov't, is using the Big Gov't to help his rich friends. What a surprise! Just like all the other kleptocracies, corrupt democracies throughout the world. And Bush is no real friend to private, peaceful, voluntary orgs -- he, too, wants more gov't/ force based orgs.

Kimmit, a "carefully monitored" gov't would not have accepted Roe vs. Wade -- there is no privacy in the US constitution (read it!). Abortion should have been made legal through amendment, or not; or state by state (like the 9th amendment implies); 7 had it legal in 1973. In Nevada, prostitution is legal (except not in Las Vegas or Reno!) -- the US could have survived with different abortion laws in different states. [There are no more innocent humans than unborn fetuses; killing them for the 3-8 month preg - termination convenience of non-responsible mothers is morally abhorrent. Using gov't force against the mothers is also questionable; a tough issue. Future reduced problem when pro-life forces really focus on adoption rather than abortion, and more public support for young mothers, with & without husbands (eg child care credits; tax credits to corps who give longer maternity leave, etc.).] No Democrat candidate today can be pro-life. But a Rep (Ahhnold) can be pro-choice, still, barely.

Bush has given up on carefully monitoring gov't; just as Clinton did little against Fed agencies for the Waco fiasco, Bush does nada about Fed mistakes prior to 9/11 -- and maybe even makes it tougher to be a whistleblower.

But Dems don't want better gov't ... schools. Monitoring implies testing & performance evals, Dems oppose. Dems want a big gov't, that they control. And the control freakism is what PC and heretic purging is all about. But lots of folks are getting mighty tired of PC thought control tendencies.

Posted by: Tom Grey at January 8, 2004 01:48 AM

Tom Grey:

there might be no "right to privacy" in the constitution but abortion was legal, or at any rate not illegal, in both england and the nascent US before and after the revolution. The founders did'nt give the fetus a vote, count the fetus for the purposes of enumeration, or write the fetus into the document at all. Try again.

aimai

Totten's idiotic post about Clark as too pro french has been nicely skewered over on tbogg, so enough has been said about that. I hope I've learned enough about self-hating liberals and their enabling conservative friends by coming over here.

Posted by: aimai at January 8, 2004 05:28 AM

Aimai, what did Clark mean in saying that "In contrast to the Bush administration, his would "give the right of first refusal" to the our European allies? Now, he cannot have meant just that (in Bainbridge's words) "we promise to consult with [them] and negotiate in good faith." For the Bush administration consulted and debated with our allies in good faith before the war. So, what did Clark mean? I think you need to show exactly what he meant before we can conclude that "right of first refusal" does not give power over U.S. foreign policy to the French.

Posted by: Jim at January 8, 2004 06:22 AM

Michael:

I think the problem that most of we liberal purifiers have with your repeated agonizing about how the democratic party has left you, and how the anti-war constituency of the party are somehow marginalizing it out of existence, is that the party is not drifting leftward in any significant way, and that most mainstream opposition to the war, from respected members of both parties, was quite sound. Really, it strikes many of us as contrived, and is especially annoying by virtue of the fact that it is a conservative dictum of debate to claim that this grand old party is controlled by its most radical elements, which is not even close to the truth. Democrats so hate to be told what we're thinking--remember, we're not the party of dittoheads--because we've been having the same crap attributed to us for so long, and your views unfortunately ring the same way.

Look at how Howard Dean is getting the treatment. Sure, he's for universal health care, homosexual unions and would undo Bush's tax cuts, but none of these is particularly beyond the pale or without rational basis. On most other issues, he's by no means an extremist, and even appears to agree with mainstream conservatism in places. He endorses the fiscal sanity in balanced budgets (and tell me, where has either party abandoned it's traditional position more radically than the republicans have here?); he is defender of gun rights; and he showed himself as governor to be no foe of business interests. Like so many of us, though, here and around the world, Dean doesn't cotton to being lectured on evil and patriotism, especially by a pack of liars like this administration.

I appreciate that 9/11 did change things for a good many liberals. Guys like Jeff Jarvis, Armed Liberal and yourself have reacted by elevating a hyper-aggressive foreign policy above all other things. But you do see that it's not the democratic party that has changed, it's you. And those of us who don't see GWB as the sole bulwark between us and ruin are not necessarily being ridiculous. (Hell, I can't believe how ridiculous it is even to have to insert that last sentence.)

Unlike the elimination of the Taliban, the invasion of Iraq was not a self-evident response to 9/11. Many of Bush's supporters even appear to recognize this by casting it in terms of heroic risk and bold vision. Indeed, whether it was the proper strategy may well require years to determine. So those of us who perceive it to be a squandering of assets--human, economic & diplomatic--are not so demonstrably wrong as to deserve heaps of pity & scorn. So, please, knock it off. Or, at least, trying training that critical eye on yourself once in a while.

Posted by: Bloggerhead at January 8, 2004 07:36 AM

Graham? I believe you took my last comment to mean the exact opposite of what I said. I consider myself a conservative who thinks pot should be legal, and that whatever two people of voting age do to each other behind closed doors (with consent, of course) is none of my business. These viewpoints are at odds with the conservative stereotype, but for some strange reason nearly every conservative I know agrees with me (on those two points, at least). 'Cept a few hardliners that'd likely insist that no matter how much I insist that I'm a conservative, those couple of viewpoints place me solidly in liberal territory.

So I'm thinking that Michael being rejected by liberals isn't going to win him automatic, global acceptance under the conservative tent. Not that I care; I'd be happy to both buy him a pitcher of beer and help him drink it.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at January 8, 2004 07:56 AM

bloggerhead: say what you mean. micheal is the dittohead here, since he isn't in line with true liberalism and the democratic party. he just repeats what the neocons and karl rove tell him what to say. liberals and democrats do the opposite. we can be blunt about this fact.

Posted by: bimmitt at January 8, 2004 08:06 AM

I consider myself a conservative who thinks pot should be legal, and that whatever two people of voting age do to each other behind closed doors (with consent, of course) is none of my business.

With all due respect, people who think these two things really are not conservatives -- they are libertarians or liberals, depending on their economic views. Conservatism necessarily includes a social element; that is what differentiates it from libertarianism.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 8, 2004 11:07 AM

Yeah, but, Kimmitt, one could be conservative on a lot of social issues other than those. I am.

Posted by: Jim at January 8, 2004 11:16 AM

Bloggerhead: But you do see that it's not the democratic party that has changed, it's you.

The Democratic Party was not born in 1968, and Jimmy Carter was the only Democratic peacenik to ever be elected.

Militant anti-fascism has always been liberal and left. Left-wing isolationism is brand new to the world - it is younger than George W. Bush's presidency.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 8, 2004 11:29 AM

With all due respect, people who think these two things really are not conservatives -- they are libertarians or liberals, depending on their economic views. Conservatism necessarily includes a social element; that is what differentiates it from libertarianism.

Crap. There go the VRWC oak leaves.

On second thought, it matters not a bit to me how others label me. I yam what I yam.

But I disagree with you, Kimmitt. If you can find some sort of conservative formalism that demands toeing the line on these specific issues, I might be inclined to agree. But I doubt you'll find such an animal. But, again, it matters not how you want to classify me. Specialization is for insects.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at January 8, 2004 11:38 AM

Graham:

"Now North Korea... They have nukes. They have missile delivery technology and what is done about it? Little to nothing."

Gee. That would be the "rogue state" that (presumably you were among those) were sneering 2 or so years ago that would never fire a missile at us, would prefer to use a cargo ship, so that ending the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty and starting work on that system was idiotic, stupid, absurd, and moronic, as well a huge waste of money?

So, going to war in Iraq is wrong. (Unless, again presumably, Clinton does it, since you don't seem to cary that our armed forces over there were in a continual low-level war for almost 12 years). But going to war in North Korea (who might just get the Chinese in on their side again), would be, presumably right. Unless we unilaterially do something. Or. Um. Something.

NK is being handled masterfully. We've cut off our supplies that they bargained for with Carter. We've forced the Chinese to realise that they Do Not Want Us To Deal With It. (Likely, that that dealing with would require dispensing of nukes to Japan, SK, and .... Taiwan.)

But of course, you're just looking to attack Bush. Which is part of the point of this whole thread. You cannot look at the successes in the Bush administration (to which right now I count the handling of NK). Lots is being done there. If you were bothering to pay attention - which you're not.

You just want to see Bush fail, for any reason at all. And anybody who agrees with what he's done, who gives him credit when due, who doesn't blame everything on him - forget the rest of of what we want.. we're "the enemy". (Not Saddam, not NK...)

Posted by: Addison at January 8, 2004 11:47 AM

Michael:

Please. So you're saying that you cut your teeth (apparantly, literally) in the pre-Vietnam era democratic party? Or was it the anti-fascist democrats of the WWII era? Judging from your picture, you've made a pact with the devil, my man.

To my mind, the democratic party has not dramatically changed its national security orientation--and certainly not leftward--for a couple of decades at least. You seem to agree with that assertion. If you are the age you appear to be, you entered the process and the party after the Vietnam re-orientation was complete. Again, it's you who left the party, not the other way around.

Isolationism? Who's said anything about that? (sigh) Anyway, one might argue, perhaps glibly, that it's the current administration's policies that have isolated us from much more of the world than we need to be. Do you seriously discern (or rather, counter-intuit) isolationist tendencies in a party that uniformly urged--whether individual members supported or opposed the Iraq war--the GWBulwark administration to thoroughly engage all of our allies and the UN? Please.

Posted by: Bloggerhead at January 8, 2004 01:04 PM

Bloggerhead,

I recall less than four years ago the United States, backed to the hilt by the Democratic Party, stomping ethnofacsism in Eastern Europe while Republicans (with the honorable exception of neoconservatives) trotted out hoary old 1930s isolationist leftovers. The UN did not approve of this conflict (it wasn't even given the option to veto), and I don't recall any liberals complaining about that then. I certainly didn't complain. The UN was in the way and refused to put its foot down on ethnic cleansing. The status quo was fine with them.

I am 33 years old. I don't have to back to World War II in a time machine to see militant liberal internationalism in action.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 8, 2004 02:04 PM

When the US intervened in Kosovo, the President of the United States did not do this polity the foul disservice of lying to us as to what was likely in Kosovo and why we were going there.

Further, this country had not recently suffered a massive terrorist attack from which the intervention in Kosovo was not a major distraction.

Finally, the President in question could be trusted to have thought for fifteen minutes as to what the probable aftermath of the intervention might be and put into place structures to deal with its challenges.

There are a number of important differences, and the belief that support for invading Iraq right then that second under this President defines isolationism as versus interventionism (when, in fact, it defines sensible risk analysis as versus adventurism) is absurd.

This is thoroughly evidenced by the fact that the frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination supported the intervention in Afghanistan. At that point, what we're talking about is when and how much to intervene, not this forced Manicheanism.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 8, 2004 02:59 PM

KImmitt,

You have eloquently stated a statement that I frankly find impossible to follow. I do admire your grasp of the lexicon but tell me, beyond your personal distrust of Bush and your evident complete trust of Clinton, why do you defend the Kosovo conflict while attacking the Iraq action?

So far you have only used reasons that are all based on your instincts.

Posted by: bbridges at January 8, 2004 10:55 PM

Four reasons:

1) We did not at the time of the Kosovo conflict realize that we had a global security threat in the form of Al Qaeda to deal with.

2) The costs of the Kosovo campaign, in terms of both money and manpower, were miniscule in comparison to Iraq; our troops stationed there have no significant effect on our capacity to handle other threats. This is not true for Iraq; our decision to intervene there was definitely detrimental to our capacity to deal with Afghanistan and bin Laden.

3) Clinton made clear that the only reason for intervention was the humanitarian one; other considerations, such as geopolitical stability, were nice but ultimately not the deciding factor. He was, in a word, honest.

4) While I do not trust Clinton implicitly, I do believe him to be someone who is basically committed to the values of democracy and good governance. I do not believe President George W. Bush to be a person who has the same commitment. Thus, I trust Clinton to do as good a job as can be done of managing the aftermath of a conflict, while I do not trust Bush to do so.

I held a variant on this opinion a year ago, and I still hold it.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 9, 2004 12:08 AM

Kimmitt,

in response:

1. I don't understand that point. Who were we flying those million dollar minutemen towards?

2. Are you saying that you would have supported the Iraq action with a smaller commitment of troops? Do you prefer high altitude bombings with higher civilian casuaties than troops on the ground?

3. Do you honestly believe that the concerns of Europe over the proximity of Kosovo didn't have a major impact on the willingness to intervene?
4. OK, we are back to who you trust.

So I notice you didn't bring up the fact that the UN not only did not approve but was not even consulted about Kosovo. You evidently have no concerns that we still have troops stationed there with continuing conflict. You didn't address the fact that this action was taken with no threat, implied or imminent, facing the US.

Posted by: bbridges at January 9, 2004 05:37 AM

1. I don't understand that point. Who were we flying those million dollar minutemen towards?

A guy we were pretty sure got a lucky shot off at one of our destroyers, not the head of a worldwide organization which has killed tens of thousands of civilians as part of an orchestrated asymmetrical campaign against us. The situation was different, or at least we believed it to be different at the time.

2. Are you saying that you would have supported the Iraq action with a smaller commitment of troops? Do you prefer high altitude bombings with higher civilian casuaties than troops on the ground?

I would have been more supportive of the Iraq action if it had required a smaller number of troops to do well. Cost/benefit analysis, that sort of thing.

3. Do you honestly believe that the concerns of Europe over the proximity of Kosovo didn't have a major impact on the willingness to intervene?

I don't think that's a big deal, because our NATO partners were extremely eager to assist in Afghanistan, which is just as remote to them as Iraq.

4. OK, we are back to who you trust.

That is definitely a major factor. Possibly the single largest.

So I notice you didn't bring up the fact that the UN not only did not approve but was not even consulted about Kosovo. You evidently have no concerns that we still have troops stationed there with continuing conflict. You didn't address the fact that this action was taken with no threat, implied or imminent, facing the US.

Right. I don't believe that an imminent threat is necessary for US action on humanitarian grounds. I do believe, however, that if a President says or implies that a threat is essentially imminent (yes, yes, he didn't use the words, but his meaning was quite clear) that it should actually be such. I did bring up the continuing US commitment; that commitment in Kosovo is so small as to be irrelevant to the US's capacity to take action in other arenas. This is an important point -- it means that the long-term security cost of intervention in Kosovo (as versus, of course, the straightforward money cost) is nearly zero.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 9, 2004 11:13 AM

I'll disagree with your description of the Al Qaeda threat before 9/11. The many bombings around the world attributed to them as well as many attributed to their brothers in arms were many and horrific long before 9/11.

I think a cost/benefit analysis will prove the Iraq action to be well worth the effort and money. We are looking at a future with no troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi government that is actually cracking down on terrorists, Libya offering to dismantle their weapons programs, Syria making noise that they want to talk, Iran allowing nuclear inspections, N Korea hinting at the same (of course that means nothing when you are dealing with that nut). All of that comes out of our intervention in Iraq. I believe we are seeing a fundamental shift in the region that will result in the gradual diminishing and crushing of Islamic terrorism.

Afghanistan was a completely different ball game than Iraq, most obvious being the investments that France, Germany, Russia had in Iraq. But you should check into the Kosovo issue a little more I think.

Now I would like to address humanitarian issues. I won't bring up humanitarian issues as the reason to invade iraq because they never were the stated reasons for the invasion. BUT, I have to wonder how people who are concerned about humanitarian issues, don't see the horrific conditions Iraqis were suffering under Saddam and the value of bringing him down.

Finally, my only complaint with Clinton and Kosovo was that in my opinion we wringed our hands too long and allowed too many to die before we did what was needed.

I also have to say that the UN finally lost all credibility with me when they allowed the 1 million people in Rwanda to be hacked to death as the blue helmets stood by the side. I find that inaction to be, well, evil. Since then I know that the UN can never be depended on to do the right thing.

Posted by: bbridges at January 9, 2004 12:43 PM

We are looking at a future with no troops stationed in Saudi Arabia,

...because they are stationed in Iraq, instead. The thing is, I don't see an independent, democratic Iraq necessarily being thrilled with the idea of housing US troops there.

a Saudi government that is actually cracking down on terrorists,

I don't think this has anything to do with Iraq, but I could be wrong. It seems to me more like the Wahabbists got tired of being bought off and decided to actively work against the House of Sa'ud, which forced their hand.

Libya offering to dismantle their weapons programs, Syria making noise that they want to talk,

I agree that Libya's decision was influenced by Iraq and Syria's was more or less a direct consequence.

Iran allowing nuclear inspections,

I have to think that they're buying time. Iran needs nuclear weapons to satisfy its security needs, given its conflicting interests with Israel, the US, and Iraq. They're not going to give them up easily.

N Korea hinting at the same (of course that means nothing when you are dealing with that nut).

Too true. Though we really ought to be making deals with him, given the proliferation risk he presents.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 9, 2004 02:27 PM



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