July 18, 2005

Left, Right, and Center

It’s interesting to see some of the reactions around the blogosphere to the new centrist blog Donklephant I’m contributing to.

Tbogg says we’re all “yoostabee Democrats” even though some of us are, in fact, actual Democrats. Callimachus is the only Republican, and he calls himself a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Tbogg also says the site

lays claim to centrism but comes across more like a gay bar for guys who haven't come out yet (nervous glances, forced smiles, frantic lip licking..."It's my first time here since the party left me. Can I buy you a Zima?")
Roy Edroso over at Alicublog takes things a step further:
[I]t is generally accepted on the site that liberals should be allowed to live. I'll try back in a few months when it goes totally right-wing.
Well, Justin Gardner – the site editor – is a Democrat. Not only did he vote for John Kerry, he originally supported Howard Dean. But whoops! Here’s his crime: He says he doesn’t “agree with either side on everything” and is “turned off by the unquestioning partisan nature of many leading blogs today.” How right-wing of him!

Roy’s comments thread is considerably worse. It’s a perfect example of how the liberal core or “base” has devolved into an exclusive bitchy little high school clique. As Andrew Sullivan put it, “today's right looks for converts whereas today's left looks for heretics.”

Here is what a centrist blog looks like to Roy’s readers:
- the same-old same-old rightwing fucknuttery

- Whoa, flashbacks. Anybody remember 2001, when the Perfesser (and many of his ilk) styled himself as a non-partisan "anti-idiotarian"? This seems like the same sort of "centrism" - 95% bashing the left/liberals/democrats, 5% tepid swipes at the least defensible components of the right (that Fred Phelps just goes too far!), all covered with a thick glaze of self-congratulation about how independent and free-thinking they all are.

- [W]e've seen your type pop up far, far too often in the past decade. You guys aren't actually centrist, and I give y'all three months (probably less) before you start publishing columns by David Horowitz, telling everyone that Rev. Moon ain't that bad, and offering to hold pizza parties for anyone who'll kill non-Bush-worshipping congressmen/columnists/private citizens.

- I suspect (and this probably isn't a new thought) that "centrists" are really just old school conservatives who are too embarrassed to accept they're in the same "big tent" as the neo-cons, evangelists and other post-Reagan freakazoids
Look, kids, the center by definition isn’t right-wing. That’s why it’s the center. How many times do we have to go over this? Do I need to draw you a picture?

Left_Center_Right.JPG

You’ll notice that the center isn’t left, either. There are, generally speaking, at least two kinds of people who argue with the left. Both right-wingers and centrists do it. Not only is that allowed, it’s part of the whole point of being in the middle instead of on the left.

You can’t even stick one little pinky toe outside the left-wing perimeter without being denounced as a right-wing death beast by some people. That exclusive bitchy little high school clique really does subscribe to the whole “you’re either with us or you're against us” mentality. How unnuanced and simplisme.

I will give Roy’s readers credit for unintentional humor.

Robert McClelland sez:
You really have to hand it to the right. They've almost got the entire political spectrum covered with people like Michael "the not-conservative but Libertarian" Totten and Jeff "I really, really, really, really am a liberal" Jarvis. All they need now is for one of them to start up a Marxist blog that spouts conservative rhetoric and they'll have it all sewn up.
Then Smelmoth (lovely name) comes along and breaks the bad news to Robert:
marxist blog that spouts conservative rhetoric anyone? uh, that would be drink soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for War. i wish i could say i was kidding... but i'm not. seriously. no, seriously.
It must really suck being a liberal these days. They’re surrounded by right-wing boogeymen on all sides.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 18, 2005 12:53 AM

Comments

Fantastic post on what I'm dealing with right now. And I plan on posting about this topic tomorrow (today).

I have to say that I am surprised by the vitriol slung by the left-wing, but since they're not in power I understand. Do I want to offer therapy? Absolutely not. But I do want the center to truly be the center, and without moderate-liberal voices it won't be.

But that's the rub. Where are those voices? I've seen some in the comments section that claim they'll give Donklephant a chance.

Let's hope they mean it.

Posted by: Justin Gardner at July 18, 2005 01:48 AM

Justin: I do want the center to truly be the center, and without moderate-liberal voices it won't be. But that's the rub. Where are those voices?

Well, there's you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 18, 2005 02:05 AM

Micaehl;
The whole traditional LEFT/RIGHT model is bogus.

In the traditional model, Left is communist and Right is fascist. But in this model there is NO PLACE FOR ANARCHISM.

This model was developoed to falsely prtray communists as the enemy of fascists and nazis - when in fgact they are so closely related they might as well be brothers.

YES: the Hitler-Stalin relationship ois not unlike the Stalin-Trotsky one: internecine.

In a truthful/accurate model, Statism is on the Left, and Anarchism on the right, and mixed systems in the middle (with the USA right of Center and France, for example, Left of Center.

In an abstract sense, one's position on the so-called GWOT really is unrelated to whether one advocates staism or anarchism or something in between. But in reality, statists are mostly elitists, and also -- these days (these "post-Soviet" days)-- are mostly post-modernist and morally & culturally reltivististic.

This leads most of them to be highly skeptical of any universalism/absolutism and also to tend to favor Third World "underdogs" over ther USA and the "first worlders." This in turn makes them hostile to Bush's efforts to export liberty and democracy and UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Left (statists)agitated for universal human rights all the time. Even arch-liberal FDR was a universalist; heck, so was his wife! Post modernism poisoned the Left, and made the Left anti-West - and essentially anti-progress (as it had been defined in the 20th Century).

I recommend that yuo refrain from using the old vestigial Left-Right Axis/model. It si false and misleading.

On the GWOT the real divide is between (A) folks who believe that all humans everywhere are entitled to their innate - UNIVERSAL - human rights, and that those of us who are free have an obligation to help our brothers and sisters who are not free - BECOME FREE, and (B)folks who think that one nation/culture has no right to interfere with the values of another.

The latter is not only morally relativistsic; it is morally bankrupt.

The Left-wing moral relativists became deranged with anti-Bush anti-War hysteria when Bush courageously portrayed the GWOT as an us or them battle over universal human rights.

The Left saw this as imposing values. The Left saw it as a a superpower IMPOSING its values on less powerful nations/cultures.

I beleive that it makes no sense to be moderately opposed to slavery or honor killings or genocide.

One must take a stand.

Buish has taken a stand. A classical liberal one. Bush is not just Right; he is right. And FDR would be proud.

Posted by: reliapundit at July 18, 2005 04:12 AM

"The latter is not only morally relativistsic; it is morally bankrupt."

Also, they sleep with goats.

Posted by: Undertoad at July 18, 2005 05:19 AM

Well, when you make statements like "The Democratic leaders demand George W. Bush must never mention 9/11 when he speaks about the War in Iraq. " without ONE shred of supporting eidence (who are these Democratic leaders? Quotes anyone?) it is hard to see how you can be considered centrist, because you start out from a defacto position that the Democrats are doing something wrong. If you want to be centrist, start by adopting a NEUTRAL point of view, and deal with objective, sourced facts. Now, that's not so hard, is it?

Posted by: zen_less at July 18, 2005 05:56 AM

Just keep reminding yourself that the population of commenters on blogs is NOT the "population." Of course it must a drag to wake up every day and have to wade through that kind of crap in the comments and e-mail; I'm glad I'm not a blogger! Let's not forget that there are a lot of 15-year-olds out there with a lot of time on their hands; much of that rhetoric has a real adolescent smell to it.

Justin and Michael, keep up the good work.

Posted by: Gene at July 18, 2005 06:03 AM

Anecdotally, most of my friends on the left (which, incidentally, consists of most of my friends) think of themselves as moderates, while most people on the right think of themselves as conservatives.

I can think of several reasons for this kind of self-identification: 'liberal' has been kind of a dirty word since the late 80s; if the media tilts left, then the perception might be that this is where the center is; or, perhaps most likely, a non-normal distribution of political typology.

Has anyone else noticed this, or am I just a freak? (or both)

Posted by: Independent George at July 18, 2005 06:12 AM

Justin,

Look at it this way, if these idiots are throwing mud at you, you must be doing something right.

Here's hoping the site works out well, there aren't many centrist voices out there so any new ones is cause for celebration.

Posted by: sam at July 18, 2005 06:26 AM

Good luck with the new venture. I hope you and your compatriots come up with a comments policy that can wean off the idiots from either side. Perhaps deletion without banning might thin them out a bit - if a comment doesn't address the substance of the topic then it would be subject to deletion by any one of the posting group.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at July 18, 2005 06:31 AM

“Well, Justin Gardner – the site editor – is a Democrat. Not only did he vote for John Kerry, he originally supported Howard Dean. But whoops!”

A John Kerry supporter may be nice to stray dogs and visit the sick and helpless---but they don’t have their act together. Justin Gardner’s actions are undeniably well intentioned. However, there is simply no logical justification in backing the incompetently dangerous Massachusetts senator. At the very best, anyone who voted for Kerry deserves our sympathy. Gardner unwittingly placed our nation in harm’s way.

Posted by: David Thomson at July 18, 2005 06:54 AM

As it's been said, the linear metaphor is, literally, just too one-dimensional to describe politics. Please. It's real handy for describing things like the electromagnetic spectrum, but the "political spectrum" is a grossly over-simplified fictional construct. You can't possibly characterize a person's overall political disposition by trying to place them on a single line.

Nonetheless, I think many hard Left or Right partisans seem to be committed to that bad metaphor. In fact, if they have any problem with it, it seems that one dimension is still one too many for them. They would rather have an absolute, binary, two-team set-up. For them, there is a metaphorical 'fence” that divides everyone into two camps, and, like the man says, "You're either with us or against us," or "One the bus or off the bus."

Partisans will acknowledge that there may be disagreements from time to time on the official position of their side of the fence, but, as Michael points out, they seem to believe these disagreements are best resolved when heretics disavow their apostasy and come back into the fold, or are simply excommunicated to the other side. You might say that partisans hold the utterly, literally, self-centered notion that they, personally, are located at the exact metaphorical center of a fictional team of "the good guys." They believe that there really is a “fence,” and they believe that it runs precisely between all the political positions they hold, and all the ones they do not.

To someone committed to this metaphor, a “centrist” seems to be someone who can't make up his or her mind, or who is trying to start a third team that overlaps both teams, right down the middle. A hardcore partisan doesn't like this so-called “fence-straddling” to begin with, but what they really hate is the idea that someone can describe himself as a “centrist' and not be easily categorized by the one-dimensional metaphor. After all, the “center” implies a kind of “balance” between the binary system. So they keep score. They count up this many lefty opinions versus this many righty, and if the score isn't equal, then they can safely dismiss anything the so-called “centrist” says. To them, a “centrists” is merely a bad guy making insufficient claims towards partial goodness. They see it as a deception, and if no recanting of the heresy is forth-coming, then exile is imminent.

Such partisans are blind to the possibility that the other "team" may have a valid point from time to time, that an intelligent person can consider this point and be persuaded by it, and there is no fence to prohibit them from doing so, that there is no score to keep. They have no interest in a civil argument over such a point, because they dispair of their ability to persuade a 'bad guy” and they have deemed themselves immune from persuasion by one. In short, they are deluded by their playground understanding of a bad metaphor. And they are often really nasty about it.

Take Tbogg. What is "snark" exactly? It seems to me to be bilious, sophomoric ridicule. Don't get me wrong. I occasionally enjoy nice ice-cold snark shooter as much as they next guy. But it's a guilty pleasure. But why would someone need a "daily dose" of it? Maybe it's because, when your self-worth is wrapped up in being at the metaphorically geometric center of the "good guys," you need to constantly reaffirm this by ridiculing any contrary ideas, and anyone who holds them. It becomes really important, in fact, because, in this world view, any political evolution on your part would, by necessity, be in the wrong direction. Also, that little frisson of self-congratulation can be very addictive. There is such a thing as a snarkaholic.

Though I do agree with Tbogg that “donklephant” is an unfortunate name, not merely because it's an ugly word, but because it perpetuates the illusion that (for example) liberal hawks are best described as “centrists,” and that they straddle some imaginary fence, or are obligated to keep their balance on it.

Posted by: Browning Porter at July 18, 2005 06:58 AM

Many Leftists not only accept that they are an embattled minority but also embrace that status, and it's easy to understand why. They want to enforce orthodoxy, and claiming the world is against you is a way to do that w/r/t those who may be wavering. This is a well-known tactic of ideological movements (e.g., Hitler said the Jews controlled everything, environmentalists claim corporate polluters control everything, feminists claim we live in a patrarchial society, extreme conservatives claim liberals control everything, extreme liberals claim conservatives control everything, etc.) who want to show they are separate from (& above) everyone else. In addition, the Left has for many years now put victims in a place of honor - by portraying themselves as victims, they are claiming that place of honor.

The interesting thing is that the hard Left does not seem to understand that the vast majority does not agree with them, and the moderate left has not gotten its extremists under control (as has the right). This is why the Dems have had a hard time winning elections lately (because the extremists run the party show and control the money).

Posted by: Ben at July 18, 2005 07:01 AM

The myth of Liberal tolerance.

Liberalism, like a religion, demands ideological purity. Conservatism does not because most conservatives already have a religion (christianity). But Liberalism has filled the void created by its irreligiosity, so it acts like a religion.

That's what it boils down to.

Posted by: spaniard at July 18, 2005 07:16 AM

To someone committed to this metaphor, a "centrist" seems to be someone who can't make up his or her mind, or who is trying to start a third team that overlaps both teams, right down the middle.

The worst metaphor is the idea of politics as a team sport. Politicians are supposed to serve and represent the people who elected them to office. That's their job. We pay their salaries. In return, our opinions and needs, not the needs of their coach or their team, should take priority. But that's not how it works.

Before 9/11, the Clinton impeachment was one of the worst examples of how politics as a team sport wastes our time and money. Billions of tax dollars were spent on that World Series of Political indulgence. The taxpayers who paid for that pointless charade saw absolutely no benefit.

If politics is going to be a team sport, they should at least sell some potato chips, cars and soap during the games. That's the only way that this colossal waste of time will generate revenues, and it's the only way that politics as a team sport will ever help the country.

Posted by: mary at July 18, 2005 07:17 AM
zen_less
"If you want to be centrist, start by adopting a NEUTRAL point of view, and deal with objective, sourced facts. Now, that's not so hard, is it?"

Of course, the NEUTRAL point-of-view is the logical fallacy that has made the mainstream media what it is today. By turning "neutrality" into a fetish, they've gotten to a point where they don't realize that their cultural conventional wisdom is not, in fact, axiomatically correct (i.e. "neutral").

Personally, I prefer listening to people who've actually thought about and understand their own belief system. People who believe themselves to be perfectly objective and rational scare me.

Oh, and do a quick Google on Bush Politicizing 9/11. I believe a lot of Dems were squaking that line. But thanks for the advice about sourcing.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 07:30 AM

They’re surrounded by right-wing boogeymen on all sides.

These days I revel in being called a wingnut. Ex-Democrat, proud wingnut, that's me.

Posted by: chuck at July 18, 2005 07:49 AM

Spent 5 minutes at Donklephant -- it seems great!

My big concern was that this would be more false advertising of the most common variety: packaging a moderately libertarian, conservative perspective as "centrist." Call a spade a spade: people like Schwartzenegger and Giuliani and the like are not centrists. They're conservatives with a libertarian and secular bent.

Regarding leftist apoplexy, I'd say the two groups that are whining the most are the groups that are losing power ideologically: McGovern Democrats and Falwell/Ashcroft/Santorum Republicans. Though the former have lost a lot more power than the latter. This shift is reflected in the shifting left/center/right continum. What was on the "right" regarding economic/fiscal/regulatory issues thirty years ago is now the center. And what was on the left thirty years ago with social issues is now in the center as well. Foreign policy is different, as far as I can tell: there is less and less of a foreign policy center at all every year.

Posted by: markus rose at July 18, 2005 07:59 AM

Michael:

Focus on hat color, what is america's team, or endless definitions of generalized cubbyholes to more easily isolate some packaged ideaology makes rebuttal and attack easier, but it is a smoke screen that hinders attempts at critical thought.

Posted by: JM at July 18, 2005 08:08 AM

“Call a spade a spade: people like Schwartzenegger and Giuliani and the like are not centrists. They're conservatives with a libertarian and secular bent.”

Yes, they are pro-abortion. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. The siren call for a moderate political agenda is mostly about abortion and the other cultural war issues. If one fails to be honest with themselves---they run the high risk of turning into another Andrew Sullivan. This man is intellectually a total mess. He now comes across as a raving madman. Glenn Reynolds and I both agree that today Sullivan is rarely worthy of our time when the discussion turns to the war on terror.

Posted by: David Thomson at July 18, 2005 08:13 AM

by using "words" such as
UNNUANCED you have
misunderestimated your
readership.

Posted by: webster at July 18, 2005 08:31 AM

Donklephant is trying to find the middle ground. Though I contribute there, I have my own doubts about there being a workable middle ground. I certainly want there to be one; but I don't know how possible it is in the current era.

The comments that Michael mentioned in this post illustrate how difficult it is to identify the middle.

Finding the middle ground isn't about trying to "characterize a person's overall political disposition by trying to place them on a single line." [Browning Porter, above] However, it may appear that way, granted.

Finding the middle ground really is an attempt to find common ground -- a place where we can agree on who we are as a culture. I agree that polarization might be an inaccurate term to use with respect to political stances, which are multidimensional. But I understand 'the center' as strictly metaphorical, not spectral. Donklephant presents a question: How similar are we to each other? The opposite of the centrist's question would be 'How dissimilar are we from each other?' How far we can pull away from each other, into fortified camps? If that were Donklephant's mission, it could be easily achieved. It happens all the time, like on KOS and LGF.

For me, Donklephant is an experiment to see if common ground can be identified in our culture and grown. We shall see what comes of this experiment. I also believe that the right answers and solutions aren't necessarily the middle point of two opposing opinions. Taking a stand matters most, whether it is left, right, or middle. My concern with an obsession for finding middle ground is that too many principles might be compromised for us to be effective in the war against terror. But like I said, Donklephant is an experiment that intends to strengthen our culture, if it's possible. That's laudable.

As a culture, we tend to be blind to the great qualities of our own civilization. Confronting radical ideologies like Islamofascism requires us to believe in our own civilization, flaws and all. We will need to express the power of our culture to others, and why it's something worth living and dying for. Western culture can endure only as long as its citizens can promote and have faith in its ideals, which are many. I hope that what comes out of a centrist experiment like Donklephant is an understanding of Western values and morality, redefined if need be. I hope it isn't just a squabbling forum. There's work to be done.

Posted by: Marcus Cicero at July 18, 2005 08:54 AM

David Thomson -- Your thoughts regarding Sullivan seem to illustrate my above comment that "there is less and less of a foreign policy center at all every year."

Sullivan to me is one of the few centrists around on war/terrorism questions, which is where I remain as well, for the most part. And it gets quite lonely. Particularly when both sides is apt to call you a "raving madman."

Here's his latest column "Still Pro-War Despite the Flaws."

Posted by: markus rose at July 18, 2005 08:58 AM

http://andrewsullivan.com/main_article.php?artnum=20050702

Posted by: markus at July 18, 2005 09:00 AM

First, a general comment: The writer is very simplistic in his talk of 'left, right, and center' as if these are static. When the Bush regime is far to the right of the normal 'right', where does that leave people: do they just move to the 'new center' on the right, or stay and become 'the left'?

If the democrats started pushing near-communism - e.g., nationalize all energy companies to be run by the government, and succeeded in doing so the way the Bush administration has gotten some of their radical policies passed - would near-communism simply be 'the left', and those who are now the left would become 'the center', and those who are now moderate conservatives would become 'radical' the way that moderate democrats historically are now 'radical Howard Dean leftists'?

What nonsense. The Bush regime wants to roll back the clock on the American history for the last 70 years or so in many key areas, and their radical right policies distort the 'center' paradigm.

As for the 'moderate' site, I gave it a fair glance, and saw:

Four articles that appeared 'neutral', generally apparently attempts at humor; and five articles on the right (the one article critical of Bush was to the right of Bush from the Cato institute; an article suggesting it's simply wrong to discuss the errors the administration makes in war policy; an article suggesting the Plame scandal 'doesn't matter'; and an article generally mocking Bush's European opponents).

Certainly 'moderate' in tone compared to they typical right-wing blogs - even a remarkably low-key article from Cato - but 'moderately right' is not 'moderate'.

I think the radical Bush regime has caused some 'normal' republicans to call themselves 'moderates' or even 'democrats', while they are very critical of the real democratic party. They seem to want a sort of traditional, moderate republican party to oppose Bush, namd 'democrats'.

Posted by: Craig at July 18, 2005 09:12 AM

Whoops, in my list of the sampling of articles on donklephant, I left out one critical of Matt Cooper (who has revealed some damaging information on Rove) which I count as an article on the right (for being critical of someone damaging the Bush administration, telling the truth).

Posted by: Craig at July 18, 2005 09:15 AM

Yes, Craig, and you get a gold star and two Brownie points to add to your collection. You have moved into second place in the scorekeeping count off.

Posted by: chuck at July 18, 2005 09:23 AM

The Bush admin far to the right? LOL!! Exactly how is the Bush admin far to the right? Have you been paying attention the past several years?

Posted by: exhelodrvr at July 18, 2005 09:24 AM

Mr. Totten's essay undermines the point he seems to be trying to make. He claims a centrism, and yet his entire post is an attack against the left - attributing to the left exclusivly those foibles that are actually a problem for the less-mature members of all political factions.

It is liberals who are an "exlusive bitchy little high-school clique", as if that werent a fair characterization of many of the right-wing blogs as well. It is the left which looks for heretics, as if the right-wing condemnation of RINOs is not equally as vociferous as the left-wing condemnation of "republican-lites".

Parts (not all) of the included quote strike me as quite accurate. Even on this "centrist" site, there is a predominance of right-wingers whose life's mission seems to be bashing left/liberals/democrats with a few tepid swings at the least defensible components of the right.
Just read today's harvest of comments.

"exclusive bitchy little high school clique really does subscribe to the whole “you’re either with us or you're against us” mentality."

Are you seriously claiming that this mentality is not evident on the right?

I am not trying to hold you to some standard by which you are required to lash out at both sides equally, in every post. But this seems to be some sort of a summary post of the state of play in the current political spectrum, and it doesnt strike me as being very centrist.

Craig writes:
'They seem to want a sort of traditional, moderate republican party to oppose Bush"

Bingo. For the past generation (starting with Rockefeller being booed out of the Goldwater convetion) the urban, socially liberal, fiscally conservative republicans, that used to dominate the party, have been eased or pressured out. These are the closest one comes to "libertarian" republicans - advocating small government in the economic sphere as well as the social sphere. They have very little place in the modern GOP, since that party is now driven by big-government, socially intrusive social conservatives, who also advocate endless tax cuts (especially for the wealthy) with no real restriant on spending.

I wish them well. I hope they retake the Republican party.

Posted by: InvisiblePoster at July 18, 2005 09:50 AM

Maybe it would help to think of the 'center' as a place to meet rather than a place to stand?

I have my own more-or-less demented fring political ideals (market anarchist), but I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to listen to and compare notes with people who disagree with me: communists, Christian conservatives, whatever. (Although I draw the line at fascists.)

Perhaps this is excessively idealistic, I don't know.

Posted by: t.rev at July 18, 2005 11:10 AM

I've noted before, overall the right is far more tolerant of centrists than the left, especially libertarian-leaning centrists.

Yes, invisible, that's exactly what I'm saying: this mentality is not evident on the right. The right may go on the occasional RINO hunt, but they're trying to get them to toe a right-wing line, not alienate them from the Republican party: it's a mission of conversion, not excommunication. They don't display the venomously xenophobic "you're one of them" attitude so often on display at Kos, Atrios, DU, etc.

Posted by: TallDave at July 18, 2005 11:10 AM

Michael, You've come a long way from the days when you'd call yourself a liberal and make excuses for Joe McCarthy. I'm happy that I contributed to your understanding - or at least, your public acknowledgement - of your actual political views.

Now Michael, when a culture excludes from public discourse - or dismisses as unworthy of serious discussion - nearly all commentators to the left of Colin Powell, the perceived "center" is far to the right of the actual center of American politics.

That is what has happened. That is why nutjobs get away with calling Krugman, a textbook example of a center-liberal, a "far-left" ideologue. That is why flaky theocrats like Randall Terry and political extremists like James Dobson can pretend to be simple Christians rather than right wing fanatics.

And that is why the country is in such a gawd-awful mess. The right and the far right fully dominate the media (except for an occasional liberal comedian kept around for yucks) while the center - you can forget the actual left - has virtually no voice and as a consequence a rapidly diminishing ability to occasionally return Bush to what remains of his senses. The acceptable public discourse has become so narrow, so self-involved and often so delusional, it often resembles autism (although to be fair, most autists and Asperberger sufferers I know are more reality-based than, say, Dick Cheney - the "last throes," indeed! ).

As for the lefties and liberals being a bitchy high school clique, hey, it's not my fault I had great, interesting friends in high school (and still have them). Sorry you didn't. But alas, it's true: there are so few of us cool kids and ever so many socially inept Richard Perle wanna-bes. No wonder you envied people like us. (sarcasm).

(For the record, btw, I never called you a rightwing deathbeast, just a Wolfowitz in sheep's clothing. But now that you're no longer pretending to be a liberal and haven't for quite a while, I gather I'll call you what you are: a conservative. You're slightly to the right of the oldstyle Rockefeller Republicans in some things, far to the right about others. Feel free to insert clarifying boilerplate that very few people are totally doctrinaire left or right and that somewhere you still have a few liberal opinions rattling about. But you're a conservative, my friend, even if you don't sport a bowtie yet.)

Posted by: tristero at July 18, 2005 11:11 AM

tristero,

Michael, You've come a long way from the days when you'd call yourself a liberal and make excuses for Joe McCarthy.

Let's see, McCarthy died in 1957, Michael was born about 1973. Hmmm... Bit stuck in the past, aren't you? Hell, the Soviet Union itself is long gone, thank God. But we need details: when exactly did Michael make excuses for McCarthy? I don't recall any myself.

I love the way the Left commentors here prove Michael's point. But I suppose the irony of this is lost on the true believers.

Posted by: chuck at July 18, 2005 11:22 AM

Tristero:

Regardless of whether the Republicans succeed at this one [Patricia Owens' appointment to the Federal bench], however, the restoration of any kind of genuine democracy after the havoc Bush has wreaked on our system will take years to repair, if it happens at all.

That's the Center in this country, all right...

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 11:41 AM

Oh, and Tristero, my problem with Krugman isn't that he's a leftist (as you correctly point out, he isn't really); instead, its that he's transformed himself from a respected economist into a drumbeat partisan hack.

As intellectual self-mutilations go, Krugman is a particularly gruesome sight.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 11:46 AM

Tristero's post is perfectly representative of how anti-empirical the left has become, which I think is why they end up fighting with centrists (i.e., anyone who deviates from their dogma) so much.

Besides the relatively widespread misconception that people making excuses for McCarthy are somehow worse than McCarthy's detractors making excuses for hundreds of traitor Soviet spies working in the U.S. gov't, we have a totally counterfactual assertion the media is "right-wing." This totally ignores the Pew polling that finds the media is 5:1 liberal over conservative by their own description.

And of course there's the obligatory counterfactual America-bashing (which they claim isn't really America-bashing, just bashing what America has become):
"And that is why the country is in such a gawd-awful mess."

Posted by: TallDave at July 18, 2005 11:56 AM

Invisible Poster: Mr. Totten's essay undermines the point he seems to be trying to make. He claims a centrism, and yet his entire post is an attack against the left - attributing to the left exclusivly those foibles that are actually a problem for the less-mature members of all political factions.

That's because only liberal bloggers reacted this way to the site. Conservative bloggers are more comfortable with people who aren't exactly like them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 18, 2005 12:00 PM

Tristero: Michael, You've come a long way from the days when you'd call yourself a liberal and make excuses for Joe McCarthy.

Fuck you. I've never made excuses for Joe McCarthy. You've been libelling me with that all around the Internet for two years. You are banned from this Web site. Get out.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 18, 2005 12:03 PM

But TallDave, members of the Press may think of themselves as Liberal (a la Totten) but that doesn't mean they're really liberal. If they were really Liberal, they'd call the United States what it obviously is; a proto-Fascist state headed by the most dangerous man in history.

Don't you get it? Go to Tristero's site, he explains in detail.

(FWIW, and sarcasm off, I don't think Tristero represents mainstream Leftist thought at all. What is discouraging is that Tristero thinks he does, and the only ones trying to clue him in are us Wingnuts. The Kos Krew are more than willing to embrace him, and Mad Howie is counting on him to get out the vote. Sigh.)

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 12:08 PM

"Before 9/11, the Clinton impeachment was one of the worst examples of how politics as a team sport wastes our time and money. Billions of tax dollars were spent on that World Series of Political indulgence."

I believe 'billions' is an exaggeration by several orders ($40 million is the figure most generally bruted about), but even if it isn't, that episode tied up Congress for months and kept them from spending much more money--as they normally would have--than the impeachment hearings cost. They were cheap at twice the price.

Posted by: Ken Begg at July 18, 2005 12:11 PM

Wow, tristero's blog makes his comments here seem almost moderate and realistic by comparison:

The word is fascism.

As of early this morning, America can no longer maintain the slightest shadow of an illusion that it is a Republic with a flexible and somewhat benign, albeit hegemonic and imperialist, stance towards the world while enjoying a modicum of democratically established liberties for its citizens. Today, my fellow Americans, we woke up in a new United States, a fascist America in which a citizen's rights and liberties are inscribed not in a set of laws but are entirely subject to the whims of the extremists running the Federal legislative and executive branches. A fascist America which barely tries to disguise either its thirst for oil or its demands that all countries must kowtow to its leaders' demands.

Oh, c'mon! They can't DO that, they can't take away our rights without hearings, without extended open discussions, can they? We have laws! They can't just ignore them!

Well guess what? They just can ignore them and they just did.

Hmmmm. When I read that, the word that most comes to mind is: medication.

Posted by: TallDave at July 18, 2005 12:11 PM

InvisiblePoster, thanks for your comments, it's always good to see a community of sanity.

"The Bush admin far to the right? LOL!! Exactly how is the Bush admin far to the right? Have you been paying attention the past several years?"

Why, yes I have, as they have worked to tear down the role of the government in making its citizens lives better in countless ways - including their efforts towards Gorver Norquist's dream to thwart the very ability of the US public to vote for the policies it wants, by cripping the government with such debt that it cannot do much - in his infamous phrase, force down its discretionary spending to the point he can 'drown the government in the bathtub'.

I've noticed as Bush's regime - let's face it, Bush is the salesman, not the guy making the policies - has attacked the 40-hour work week, environmental protections, pretty much every regulatory agency, the house recently voted to end all funding for puclib television (but reversed itself under public pressure); the trillions in transfers in coming years of wealth to the very top of society, including hundreds of billions from the repeal of the estate tax - another FDR-era policy - alone are a hint. It's too big a topic to do justice to in this post.

The fact that someone in our country, with its free press, can be so out of touch with reality and history as to ask whether Bush is on the far right is a real danger.

"...we have a totally counterfactual assertion the media is "right-wing." This totally ignores the Pew polling that finds the media is 5:1 liberal over conservative by their own description.[/quote]

Nice word, counterfactual - why do you assault it so?

You utterly misrepresent the implications of the Pew polling and the issue.

If people want to comment on the topic, perhaps they can read one book at least on the side that the media is right-wing, not left-wing: Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media?"

The politics of the owners of the media have a lot more to do with the politics of the content than how the rank-and-file reporters vote. What does your Pew polling say about the owners' politics?

"And of course there's the obligatory counterfactual America-bashing (which they claim isn't really America-bashing, just bashing what America has become):
"And that is why the country is in such a gawd-awful mess.""

You know, you don't do yourself any credibility favors by applying what's apparently your new favorite word, counterfactual, twice in two points, both - especially the latter, not being about, well, facts.

How is saying the country is a "mess" - an opinion, not a fact - "counterfactual"?

The blame-America-never, no-responsibility crows gets old with their 'blame America first' polemics. The left looks at the truth, and when we have an evil administration, it's a surprise that the people who look at the truth see some evil result? Stop the presses.

Posted by: Craig at July 18, 2005 12:16 PM

"What was on the "right" regarding economic/fiscal/regulatory issues thirty years ago is now the center."

Comments like this seem to miss the point entirely. "Center" is not synonymous with "mainstream." The centre stays the same - it's defined by a set of objective criteria. Just because everyone is standing on the sidewalk doesn't make it the middle of the road.

Posted by: The Tonic at July 18, 2005 12:22 PM

Here's the thing.

You act as if the current bunch in the WH are responsible people with simply normal disagreements going on between them and democrats.

But the problem is, there's a reason why the anti-Bush administration club is called "The Order of the Shrill", as named by Brad DeLong. And the point is -

This administration has been more mendacious, more power hungy, more misleading, more incompetent, more partisan, more corrupt, more arrogant, than any in modern memory.

Starting from the "we can hand out tax cuts AND balance the budget!", falseness, through the mislead up to the Iraq war, through the Iraq war, Halliburton follies, clamping down on scientific evidence that didn't agree with evidence, cozying up with religious fundamentalists, the loss of several billion dollars in Iraq, the uncontested contracts to Halliburton, to the current unpleasantness of outing CIA agents for partisan reasons, to the baldfaced and continuing lies of Dick Cheney (I've never met you (Edwards) before and pictured showed this a lie, the continuing assertions of Saddam looking for nuclear weapons, the "last throes" comment about Iraq of a couple of months ago).

We in the Order of the Shrill, because we are RESPONSIBLE.

And we can't imagine how any level-headed man isn't in the Order of the Shrill, but instead any shrillness is dismissed as "partisan".

So yeah - you can continue to paint us as unreasonable, as "left" - whatever makes you justify your lack of shrillness or alarm.

But everyday brings more and more evidence of the irresponsibility and mendaciousness of this administration - so the only thing we can do is to keep pointing it out, and doing so loudly.

Posted by: JC at July 18, 2005 12:23 PM

Sorry, I kept reading, enthralled by morbid fascination:

Some of the best:

Prediction From Oz: It's Kerry In A Landslide

Later on, things were not so optimistic…

It's become much too hard to be an American.

In my case, I took a break from the middle of a pretty decent career, to add my dissenting voice during what was and remains a national emergency.

But wait, George Bush isn’t just ruining the country, he’s also poisoning Tristero!

While the past year and a half has been in some ways enjoyable, and I've learned a great deal, constant exposure to the toxic nature of George W. Bush and his world has taken a serious toll. In more ways than I care to remember, my health has suffered, as has my emotional well-being.

The irony of this next statement is so great, I fear it may actually warp the very fabric of space-time in its vicinity:

Political extremism and absolutism, of all sorts, revolts me

Indeed. Fortunately, there is a happy ending in sight for all:

Should we move to another country and watch safely from afar as the nation we grew up in and love so much disintegrates before our eyes, as it surely will from the behavior of such extremists?

We can only hope.

Posted by: TallDave at July 18, 2005 12:26 PM

The left looks at the truth, and when we have an evil administration, it's a surprise that the people who look at the truth see some evil result?

Dear God, who dwells on the Left, reveal Thy Truth that I might smite the unbelievers and cast their Evil souls into Hell. Amen.

Posted by: chuck at July 18, 2005 12:29 PM

JC,

Again, counterfactual right from the start. Did you read recent headlines before writing this:

Starting from the "we can hand out tax cuts AND balance the budget!", falseness

No evidence was ever found for through the mislead up to the Iraq war.

Sigh. I could go on, but I doubt there's much point.

Posted by: TallDave at July 18, 2005 12:30 PM

You see, as soon as the word "evil" comes up in a description of a political opponent (assuming that opponent isn't named Hussein or bin Laden) everything else becomes blah-blah-blah.

But...

Removing public funding for PBS is beyond the pale? Mr. Progressive, have you looked at the demographics of PBS's audience? Funding PBS represents a massive subsidy for the well-to-do. Take the money and give it to Head Start. Jeez.

And speaking of cultural awareness, haven't you read about the political leanings of, say Ted Turner or the Sulzberger family? It ain't just the bottom of the Media food chain that pulls Left.

Trillions in transfers. That would be interesting, if I had a clue what you were talking about. (Actually, I have a clue; but I expect you believed the 100,000 civilians killed as quoted in the Lancet, too.)

FWIW, I'm not a fan of Bush's fiscal management. But really, all that becomes superflous once you start talking about Evil Administrations. After that, it's tune-out city. Ciao.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 12:33 PM

So Michael, who exactly to you believe your audience will be at this centrist blog? Don't get me wrong, I think its great, but I must say that the majority of responses here seemed anything but centrist. Indeed, I might say the same about mosbunall blogs I've looked at.

Is there really a centrist audience for blogs, or does the medium simply lend itself to sheeplike bleating?

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at July 18, 2005 12:36 PM

Craig,

I'm sorry, what was the implication of the media self-reporting themselves to be 35% liberal vs. 7% conservative that I missed? I'm really curious to hear what kind of sophistry can be employed to spin that into an argument the media doesn't lean left.

Alterman's book rests on a central flaw: Limbaugh and company aren't journalists. They're pundits. Pundits can lean any which way they want; that's their job. Ironically, righty talk radio's success (and liberal talk radio's failure) is directly attributable to journalistic bias: people are demonstrably hungry for right-leaning viewpoints. It was an under-served market.

Posted by: TallDave at July 18, 2005 12:39 PM

Fuzzy-tailed one, I think a fair number of us like a tussle; I'm hoping that the new site encourages well-reasoned posts that don't (necessarily) adhere to either party line, whether the underpinning logic is left, right, dwarvish, piratical, elven, or ninja-ish.

To my eyes it looks like they've got a good running start at it.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 12:43 PM

Is there really a centrist audience for blogs, or does the medium simply lend itself to sheeplike bleating?

Baaaah.

Posted by: chuck at July 18, 2005 12:47 PM

How is saying the country is a "[gawd-awful]mess" - an opinion, not a fact - "counterfactual"?

Opinions can certainly be counterfactual. If I say "I think the Big Bang theory is hogwash" or "the unemployment situation today is awful" that's a counterfactual opinion.

The Great Depression might have been a "gawd-awful mess," or perhaps Vietnam, or the stgflation of the Carter years. Today's America is not only the richest and most powerful it's ever been, it's also the richest and most powerful country relative to all the others. So yeah, I'd call that counterfactual.

Posted by: TallDave at July 18, 2005 12:47 PM

Tosk: So Michael, who exactly to you believe your audience will be at this centrist blog?

People like you, for starters.

I think its great

See what I mean?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 18, 2005 01:04 PM

Look, I understand the frustrations of the centrist/moderate commentators here. But as a left-leaning moderate, it seems to me that the tilt of the commentary on this site is clearly anti-left, period. Cut out the extremists and this still holds true. That’s not an insult, just an observation. After all, the general sentiment here seems to be that leftwingers push all who deviate away and rightwingers are open and inviting to those who even feint a rightward tilt.

Michael, you would aid your cause by not denouncing the left with such venom. By treating them like a hermetically sealed cult, you take an aggressive stance that in effect seals you off to any or all of them with a "just as I suspected" flourish.

Please understand that I am not accusing you of doing this on purpose -- it just seems to me that you communicate this attitude with the tone of your post. I'm sure you would agree after reading so many shrill responses over the years that the tone of our discourse matters quite a bit. Mother was right...

With good intentions,

C

Posted by: Capper at July 18, 2005 01:11 PM

America is not a mess, but it is clearly less rich and less powerful relative to the world than it was 10 years ago. That seems to me to be undeniable. Some of this is natural - China is now richer and more powerful, that would have happened under any administration. But the US has also lost a lot of its soft power - the power to persuade and set an example. In Russia for example the US was a country people used to aspire to be like 10 years ago, now the model is Germany, the US is widely perceived to be in decline. It did not go unnoticed in the UK that while the rest of Europe was showing symbolic solidarity with the UK over the London bombings Americans held no vigils, no moments of silence. Bush did not even bother to visit. American economic innovation has also been stagnant compared to the 80s and 90s. Most American large companies - Microsoft, GM, the Hollywood movie studios - now seem reactive and scared of rapid change. America still dominates the internet, but not the way it did 10 years ago. America is also rapidly ceding political and economic influence in South America to China and no one in the US seems to care or even notice. The same is happening in Africa. The only plus side on the ledger is that US influnce in India is probably as strong as ever and India is a country of the future. None of these trends have to be permanent, but clearly Bush has made the US relatively weaker not stronger in the eyes of the world.

Posted by: vanya at July 18, 2005 01:14 PM

This administration has been more mendacious, more power hungy,...

Suddenly over the past week Lefties are using this word-- 'mendacious'-- like there's no tommorow. Are you all reading from the same memo?

Posted by: spaniard at July 18, 2005 01:30 PM

Spaniard, I believe the "mendaciousness" memo you are looking for is here.

Posted by: Browning at July 18, 2005 01:41 PM

"You see, as soon as the word "evil" comes up in a description of a political opponent (assuming that opponent isn't named Hussein or bin Laden) everything else becomes blah-blah-blah."

You have a point, but sorry, the constant use of the 'evil' theme for propagandistic purposes by the current regime demands the word be reclaimed - espeically since the regime is, um, evil.

I could go on about the idea, discussing what I mean by 'evil' - in this case, the serving of the needs of a few and undevaluing the costs to not only many Americans but to huge numbers of people worldwide; I could differentiate the degrees of evil (Bush is no Mao); but we all know this.

"Removing public funding for PBS is beyond the pale? Mr. Progressive, have you looked at the demographics of PBS's audience? Funding PBS represents a massive subsidy for the well-to-do. Take the money and give it to Head Start. Jeez."

Not a bad point, but for the facts that having the programs available to the poor and everyone serves a need in my view; and our commercial products are less and less meeting the need, as they are pressured simply by commercial interests.

Just as public libraries play an important role alongside the book insdustry, PBS plays an important role serving the public interest, alongside the commercial media which serves the public appetite. I don't expect we'll agree.

"And speaking of cultural awareness, haven't you read about the political leanings of, say Ted Turner or the Sulzberger family? It ain't just the bottom of the Media food chain that pulls Left."

Exceptions don't prove rules. I ask again, do you know anything of the politics of media owners?

Not "Ted Turner" (who no longer has media, FYI), but the overall breakdown?

"Trillions in transfers. That would be interesting, if I had a clue what you were talking about. (Actually, I have a clue; but I expect you believed the 100,000 civilians killed as quoted in the Lancet, too.)"

Perhaps if you watch more basic math on PBS, it'll help.

When you can't win an argument on facts, get out the straw and start stuffing, hm?

The Lancet used well-intentioned, unreliable methods for its estimates in a difficult situation, in part caused by our own government's propagandistic need not to count casualties to the extent it can practically; I'm dubious of the estimates, and have personally, when discussing the number of civilian casualties in Iraq, used the phrase "tens of thousands", which seems pretty safe. Add your straw man to the casualty list.

"FWIW, I'm not a fan of Bush's fiscal management."

I hear that a lot. It's sort of like a moderate German circa 1942, "FWIW, I'm not a big fan of the Fuhrer's Jewish policy." Ah, glad to hear that (I'm going to break Godwin's law later, so figured why not get it out of the way).

Bush violates such a basic, core 'conserviative' value and all the price he pays is so-called 'moderates' saying they're 'not big fans' of his doing so. Talk about the enablers with faint condemnation. If Preisdent Gore had Bush's deficits - you KNOW what we'd hearing.

"I'm sorry, what was the implication of the media self-reporting themselves to be 35% liberal vs. 7% conservative that I missed? I'm really curious to hear what kind of sophistry can be employed to spin that into an argument the media doesn't lean left."

If you had read the book, you would know why your argument is wrong - which raises the question how you can say what the 'central flaw' the book rests on in the next paragraph, when you don't know the basic content.

But since you're interested, here's a little reading:
The first, Alterman on those very findings:
http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=85317
And a couple others:
http://mediamatters.org/items/200407140006
http://media.eriposte.com/myth.htm#6

"Alterman's book rests on a central flaw: Limbaugh and company aren't journalists. They're pundits. Pundits can lean any which way they want; that's their job. Ironically, righty talk radio's success (and liberal talk radio's failure) is directly attributable to journalistic bias: people are demonstrably hungry for right-leaning viewpoints. It was an under-served market."

That's not the 'central' message of the book, and it was not an under-served market any more than we had an under-served market for pet rocks when they came out: it was a manufactured market, with a media strategy of making white guys angry, and it worked all too well.

Go read the book and then we can talk.

I wrote: "How is saying the country is a "[gawd-awful]mess" - an opinion, not a fact - "counterfactual"?"

Response:
Opinions can certainly be counterfactual. If I say "I think the Big Bang theory is hogwash" or "the unemployment situation today is awful" that's a counterfactual opinion.

Calling opinions counterfactual is the result of an inadequate vocabulary.

First, sneaking in facts to the discussion, as you try to sneak science in with the big bang - or to use a clearer example, "I think the theory that gravity exists is hogwash" - is cheating. You're either discussing facts, or opinions.

Second, what if some has an economic theory - oh, let's call it communism - which calls for 100% employment. To them, today's unemployment rate may well be awful, compared to how they think it should be. You can call them lots of things, but "counterfactual" is not a good choice.

"The Great Depression might have been a "gawd-awful mess," or perhaps Vietnam, or the stgflation of the Carter years. Today's America is not only the richest and most powerful it's ever been, it's also the richest and most powerful country relative to all the others. So yeah, I'd call that counterfactual."

You know, Hitler's Germany was doing a lot better leading up to WWII than it had in recent years (see, I said I'd break Godwin's law). Apparently, your sole measures for how a society is doing are how rich it is - and obviously debt doesn't count with you - and how powerful.

Little things like how the wealth is distributed, how the poor are doing, how political rights and freedoms are doing, how morally the country is behaving, and whether it's created any good music since 1980 are not important - to you, as you didn't list them.

The people who think the country is not doing well make some pretty good points.

Your 'rich and powerful' claims doesn't rebut them.

Is the US better off setting up its average citizens for not doing so well in the future economically (they've already been flat in real terms while the top 0.1% have skyrocketed in the last 25 years)? It the US's 'power' really doing that well as the Neocons move us away from the world having a high opinion of the US and its ability to lead, to relying more and more heavily on the use of solely military power, as we focus on increased bases, the 'pre-emptive' use of war to put friendly regimes in power, the development of new, 'usable' nuclear weapons and the militarization of space, to dominate there and be able to strike globally?

Opinions might differ, regardless of whether either are counterfactual.

But - to revel in Godwin's law now, may as well - had Hitler won, HE'D be considered quite a leader now at having built up the German nation as 'rich and powerful'.

There are difference ideas of what's in American's, and the world's, interest.

Posted by: Craig at July 18, 2005 01:53 PM

Bush = "regime" should be another Godwin's Law.

Posted by: spaniard at July 18, 2005 02:15 PM

Capper: But as a left-leaning moderate, it seems to me that the tilt of the commentary on this site is clearly anti-left, period.

On this site, yes. That's because I write mostly about foreign policy from a hawkish perspective. Donklephant is an entirely different Web site with a different focus.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 18, 2005 02:34 PM

Calling opinions counterfactual is the result of an inadequate vocabulary

Quibbling over semantics and insulting someone's vocabulary is a result of the lack of a serious argument. Let me know when you have a real point.

The people who think the country is not doing well make some pretty good points.

I'm still waiting for one. We're just about the richest, freest, most powerful country in the world. We have one of the lowest unmployment rates, highest GDP per capita, etc...

Posted by: TallDave at July 18, 2005 03:08 PM

Little things like how the wealth is distributed, how the poor are doing, how political rights and freedoms are doing, how morally the country is behaving, and whether it's created any good music since 1980 are not important - to you, as you didn't list them

Well, you'll be happy to know the country is also doing the best it's ever done in all those areas. The gov't is redistributing record amounts of wealth -- and the poor have have been freed from a welfare trap that demeaned and imprisoned them. Even the poorest Americans are well-fed to the point of obesity and most have access to incredible technology few dreamed possible 20 years ago. We just freed 50 million people from horrible regimes and gave them a chance at enjoying the freedoms we do; how's that for morality? Music is not only better, it's far easier to make and enjoy. Most violent crime has fallen precipitously. I could go on for pages and pages...

To call America a "gawd-awful mess" is counterfactual.

Posted by: TallDave at July 18, 2005 03:17 PM

..the US was a country people used to aspire to be like 10 years ago, now the model is Germany

Says who?

There are some nice things about Germany, but, traditionally, Europeans never say anything nice about other European countries. Even Germans don’t have nice things to say about Germany. I don’t know why, but they never do. Most of the rest of the world wants to be the next India or China. So who, exactly, is aspiring to be the next Germany?

Otherwise, if many other countries are catching up with the US economically, that’s great. A rising tide floats all boats.

Posted by: mary at July 18, 2005 03:33 PM

"we can hand out tax cuts AND balance the budget!"

I don't think Bush ever said this, but he might have. And it's obviously true -- just CUT SPENDING, too! But the Dems never want any gov't program cut, except defense. Which is almost the only program (with Fed. Courts) that only the gov't can do. Health, education, welfare, kids, retirement -- why don't middle class folk pay for the services they want directly, instead of trying to get a "free lunch" from the gov't? ['cause they're stupid enough to believe the Dem & Rep politicians who promise them Other People's Money, in return for votes.]

As a small-gov't Lib/conservative, I don't like Bush's deficits -- but they DID avoid a depression after the depression sized dot.com meltdown. Just like Keynes said (and I'm more Friedman & Hayek anti-Keynes).

America: some 68% of the voters are home owners. Where is it better?
some 3% growth. Which G-8 country has more?
some 5.2% unemployment. I think only Japan has lower (but Japan has had very little growth since their own 1989 property bubble pop).
some 40% go to church regularly. Any W. European countries even close? [the Left thinks this is a bad thing!]

Yes, the commies did one thing right. No unemployment. By law -- having no job was illegal. Also no homeless, almost no begging, and streets were extremely safe for the last 15 years (74-89) in Slovakia. At the cost of freedom. Fascism/ police states might have some benefits.

I'm interested in the "center", but almost nothing above explains what it is.
There's a radical pro-Iraq war, force democracy everywhere position; and a radical pacifism that says no war, ever; slightly less radical says war OK but ONLY if UN Sec. Council agrees (including China); a radical Dem position against any war led by a Rep. president.
What's the "centrist" position?

The centrist position on Soc. Security? On schools, and vouchers? On health care reform? Tort reform? Welfare reform/ job training/ prisons?

All this talk about fence sitting, and "positioning" -- but so little about the position on specific issues.

Was firing Karpinski enough (at Abu Ghraib)? If not, why not -- what's the criteria? If yes, why so much continued talk?

OK, back to live wife blogging of Harry Potter 6, and life in Diagon Alley, with the growing fear of murder, disappearance, and betrayal -- prolly a lot like Baghdad.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 18, 2005 04:02 PM

You know, since Craig brought up Hitler, it's interesting to note the parallels between the hysterical rhetoric of those opposed to war with Hitler then and Americans opposed to war with Saddam today. It's eerie; the following could have come right off of Kos' or Atrios' pages...

Fascism is not a force confined to any one nation. We can just as soon get it here as anywhere else. The characteristic markings of Fascism are: curtailment of individual and minority liberties; abolition of private life and private values and substitution of State life and public values (patriotism); external imposition of discipline (militarism); prevalence of mass-values and mass-mentality; falsification of intellectual activity under State pressure. These are all tendencies of present-day Britain...

...The corruption and hollowness revealed in the prosecution of this war are too contemptible for words.... I wont fight in a war to extend that corruption and hollowness.

I am not greatly taken in by Britain's "democracy", particularly as it is gradually vanishing under the pressure of the war. Certainly I would never fight and kill for such a phantasm. I do not greatly admire the part "my country" has played in world events. I consider that spiritually Britain has lost all meaning... I feel identified with my country in a deep sense, and want her to regain her meaning, her soul, if that is possible: but the unloading of a billion tons of bombs on Germany won't help this forward an inch... Whereas the rest of the nation is content with calling down obloquy on Hitler's head, we [pacifists] regard this as superficial. Hitler requires, not condemnation, but understanding. This does not mean that we like, or defend him...we would not lift a finger to help either Britain or Germany to "win"; but there would be a profound justice, I feel, however terrible, in a German victory...

(borrowed from Harry's place)

Posted by: TallDave at July 18, 2005 04:07 PM

You use of the word counterfactual is not only, well, counterfactual, but your content is too.

"Well, you'll be happy to know the country is also doing the best it's ever done in all those areas."

No, it's not, relatively speaking - though I certainly agree that the ongoing progress in technology has broad benefits. Not as many as it would with better government policies, but yes, the situation benefits from technology.

"The gov't is redistributing record amounts of wealth -- and the poor have have been freed from a welfare trap that demeaned and imprisoned them."

I'm sure the people declaring the record number of bankruptcies - most of them caused by catastrophic medical bills would be glad to hear that, or that the people who are have shifted from net saving to net borrowing, following the Great Leader's example as their children pick up ever-increasing debt - debt which you are not terribly approving of even while you support the guy doing it - are happy to know how well off they are, too.

Most Americans held a greater share of the total wealth of American in the past than they do now, and the trends are all in the wrong direction for most Americans in that area.

"Even the poorest Americans are well-fed to the point of obesity and most have access to incredible technology few dreamed possible 20 years ago."

We do have a cheap food policy - well, a cheap bad food policy, which stuffs people with food that indeed does cause record obesity, record diabetes rates and so on (sure, it's 'bad choices', but when you give people financial incentives to make the bad choices, at least in the short term...)

Of course, the government could do more on public education for diet, tax policies to encourage selling healthier food, and so much more, but 'fat' chance under this government.

You choose the ideology of the right and more problems, over pragmatism.

"We just freed 50 million people from horrible regimes and gave them a chance at enjoying the freedoms we do; how's that for morality?"

We just increased our power in yet another region as part of the Neocons' global aggression; it may have some good benefits for Iraqis and Afghans down the road, depending how well or badly we do it, apart from the mistakes already made, apart from the extent to which we're unnecessarily creating terrorists out of a lot of the billion Muslims, apart from our setting up the Iraqi government to possibly become a close fundamentalist ally of Iran with whatever that will cause, apart from moving most of Afghanistan from the tyranny of the Taliban (who we helped put in power, lest you did not know or forgot) to the tyranny of the warlords as they've gone from a far smaller opium problem to the world's #1 supplier, and on and on with unnecessary problems you don't mention...

"Music is not only better, it's far easier to make and enjoy."

Again, technology having virtually nothing to do with the current government (you want to say Bush invented the internet?) is nice, but music better? OK, there's no room for bridging the gap between us.

"Most violent crime has fallen precipitously. I could go on for pages and pages..."

Yes, you could, if you had a more balanced view.

How are the number of terrorist incidents doing (increasing every year)? How has the rate of social progress been changing (stagnating since the liberals left power)? How have individuals' incomes and leisure time and more changed (flat or worse in real terms for most of the bottom 95%)

How has the environment been doing? The respect of the world for America?

You mention freedom: how was the right to information on their government being available to the public been doing under Bush (as he's reduced it by historic proportions)?

How is the corruption of government doing, as regulatory roles are sold wholesale to donors, as K Street is strong-armed, as the revolving door is the worst in memory, as Tom DeLay sits in power, as the hundreds of billions giveaway in the drug bill got taken from the American public?

As campaign costs hit record highs, as the republicans seize power-by-outspending? After all, they think that they defetated the Soviets by outspending on defense (they didn't), so why not try the same with taking more donations than the democrats for campaigns?

There's a lot more.

"To call America a "gawd-awful mess" is counterfactual."

There's good and bad, and the Bush regime is pretty much bad.

Posted by: Craig at July 18, 2005 04:17 PM

Your points on the isolationists in WWII are well taken, TallDave (but a link to the quote would be appreciated). The world was unfamiliar with the threat, and did not react correctly in many cases (Ambassador Joseph Kennedy (who did lose one and nearly two sons in the war, so let's not start that), the former King of England, a majority of the American public (FDR had to run on a 'stay out of the war' platform to win a third term in 1940), and many American companies who kept doing business with Nazis even during the war).

But on the other hand, the lesson is not to treat every situation as if it WERE Hitler.

The right loves to quote Churchill on his strong statements; they never, that I've seen him, quote him on his statements to the US in the 1950's that they were too closed-minded in their dealings with the USSR, as he was very disappointed. And that was Stalin, not Saddam.

Do you know the differences between the threat posed to the US and the world by the two?

It is a fair issue to discuss - but not in a "WWII isolationists were wrong therefore all concerns about Iraq policy are just as wrong" level of oversimplification.

Posted by: Craig at July 18, 2005 04:29 PM

Craig: But on the other hand, the lesson is not to treat every situation as if it WERE Hitler.

Yes, of course. Likewise we shouldn't treat every war (or issue as you say) as if it were Vietnam.

All analogies have their shortcomings. If we thought every anti-American bad guy were Hitler we would invade Iran and Syria right now.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 18, 2005 05:16 PM

It is a fair issue to discuss - but not in a "WWII isolationists were wrong therefore all concerns about Iraq policy are just as wrong" level of oversimplification.

What is fascinating are the similarities in attitudes and argument. Very little seems to have changed, the stasis itself is half the point. There were, of course, more reasonable pacifists in the 30's who had a firmer grasp of reality, Vera Brittain for instance, but they never had the influence of the nuttier variety.

Posted by: chuck at July 18, 2005 05:44 PM

they never, that I've seen him, quote him on his statements to the US in the 1950's that they were too closed-minded in their dealings with the USSR, as he was very disappointed. And that was Stalin, not Saddam.

quote him yourself. The Churchill I know thought we went too easy on the Soviets at Yalta, and I can't think of anything that would have changed his mind after that. Methinks he thought the U.S. was too "close-minded" in our desire for detente.

Posted by: spaniard at July 18, 2005 05:47 PM

the constant use of the 'evil' theme for propagandistic purposes by the current regime demands the word be reclaimed - espeically since the regime is, um, evil.

So. Bush calling Saddam or Osama "evil" is "propaganda." Ergo, calling the Bush "regime" evil is a necessary corrective.

Flawless. The logic is just breath-taking. Slam dunk.

Bonus points for the priceless misuse of academic identity politics jargon -- "reclaiming" the word "evil."

(Actually, that would be pretty amusing: "In other news, Osama bin Laden has just issued a video-taped statement that his organization Al Qaeda will be reclaiming the word "evil." [cut to tape] "This word has long been used as a term of abuse and discrimination by the imperialist West against my terrorist brethren. It's time we took it back and wore it as a badge of honor. Henceforth, I invite all my fellow jihadists to embrace our proud traditions. Say it with me! We're here! We're evil! Get used to it!" )

Points taken away, however, for the gratuitous use of "um."

Posted by: Browning at July 18, 2005 05:53 PM

"Would the invaders consent to hear Lord Beaverbrook's exposition [a peace candidate at that time], or listen to the impassioned appeals of Mr. Lloyd George? Would they agree to meet that famous South African, General Smuts, and have their inferiority complex removed in friendly, reasonable debate? I doubt it. I have borne responsibility for the safety of this country in grievous times. I gravely doubt it.

But even if they did, I am not so sure we should convince them, and persuade them to go back quietly home. They might say, it seems to me:

You are rich; we are poor.
You seem well fed; we are hungry.
You have been victorious; we have been defeated.
You have valuable colonies; we have none.
You have your navy; where is ours?
You have had the past; let us have the future."
Above all, I fear they would say:
"You are weak - and we are strong."

~~Winston Churchill

sound familiar?

Posted by: spaniard at July 18, 2005 05:59 PM

Craig:

I hear that a lot. It's sort of like a moderate German circa 1942, "FWIW, I'm not a big fan of the Fuhrer's Jewish policy." Ah, glad to hear that (I'm going to break Godwin's law later, so figured why not get it out of the way).

And if you can't differentiate differences of opinion about fiscal policy versus differences of opinion about genocide, then we're out of common ground. (Don't you realize how stupid that little sylogism is? Get a grip.)

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 06:59 PM
Craig:
Bush violates such a basic, core 'conserviative' value and all the price he pays is so-called 'moderates' saying they're 'not big fans' of his doing so. Talk about the enablers with faint condemnation. If Preisdent Gore had Bush's deficits - you KNOW what we'd hearing.

Did I ever say I was a conservative? Or moderate? I'm a Libertarian. Bush's domestic fiscal policies strike me as slightly worse than what any moderate Democrat would do. Big woops.

What I AM concerned about is what a fair number of people with a fair amount of firepower say they want to do to Western Civilization as I know it. Bush is adressing the problem in what I think are appropriate ways. His detractors offer nothing but slander. Until I hear a better plan from the contrarians, I'm with Bush.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 07:09 PM

Note: Rev. Phelps is a DEMOCRAT who worked for Al Gore. He also ran for office as a DEMOCRAT.

Posted by: Aaron at July 18, 2005 07:14 PM

And Craig, about those media moguls, I threw some specifics out that you poo-pooed. Care to give counter-examples? That aren't from, say, the PBS list of charitable contributors? (I only ask that Murdoch and Sulzber be treated as nullifying entries in this particular horse race. One's got the Times, one's got Fox, one's got the latte crowd, one's got the NASCAR crowd, etc.)

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 07:35 PM

Mark:

1. I'm open to the first analogy on conservatives praise Bush with faint condemnation of his policies such as the deficit being better rephrased, and rephrase it I did.

Your argument in response - that you are not a conservative but a libertarian - seems irrelevant to me, since I'm more concerned with what the larger groups than with what either of the libertarians or other tiny fringes are doing. The point wasn't (necessarily) about you.

2. Mark, we'll just need to disagree on the real threat level posed by the muslim extremists insofar as the Bush policies making us safer. You need to understand who the policy people of the Bush administration were for the war - people like Wolfowitz and Feith, including people who were advising the Likud government in Israel, recommending they start a massive war in the Middle East, after the first President Bush rejected the radical 'Wolfowitz Doctrine', people who found a home under the current president, who would support their war policies.

I happen to think that other Americans, mainstream Americans rather than the neocon Dr. Strangeloves, would have policies which are far more moral, and more pragmatic, for dealing with the threats.

We do live in a dangerous world - the US in no small part responsible as it has pushed the development of smaller, more powerful, weapons and WMD - but there are better and worse ways to reduce the risks.

The Bush administration, to me, is a combination of Keystone officials and duplicitous agendas.

I don't know whether, for example, the Bush administration doing so little on terrorism before 9/11 was incompetence, or an FDR-like desire for a Pearl Harbor-like attack which would let them launch their plans, but I don't like either option.

To be fair, I do acknowledge that the left has a responsibility to not ONLY insist on "be nice" in its policies, but to deal with the real world as it is, too. However, there is a happy medium, and we're a long, long way from that.

3. Media: Rather than my list media figures - I guess I could begin with William Kristol (also of PNAC infamy), Clear Channel, the WSJ Editorial page, among countless others, I see no reason not to return to my recommendation to read the suggested material, and not give it short shrift.

Browning: odd as it may sound, yes, countering the use of propaganda with similar propaganda can be balancing. Letting one side monopolozie that only they speak for what's good and evil forfeits the debate, unless you can convince the audience, usually correctly, that they're full of hot air.

The latter option has yet to happen with too high a percentage of the American people.

So, I'll stick to not letting them monopolize "evil" until that changes.

Chuck,

"What is fascinating are the similarities in attitudes and argument."

You know, that cuts both ways. Goebbels' famous quotes on manipulating the public opinion to get support for war policies (I'll try to make them less hackneyed by assuming you are aware of them) appear as if written for the current government.

Aaron: Re: Phelps - and David Duke is a republican, what's your point?

Anyone can embarrass a party that way - the question is, how does the party treat them?

We have Zell Miller, republicans have Reverand Moon.

Top republicans sometimes pay homage at Moon events; but Moon hasn't had any duels.

Posted by: Craig at July 18, 2005 08:33 PM

I happen to think that other Americans, mainstream Americans rather than the neocon Dr. Strangeloves, would have policies which are far more moral, and more pragmatic, for dealing with the threats.

Such as?

Posted by: PC^KILLA at July 18, 2005 09:20 PM

"I see no reason not to return to my recommendation to read the suggested material...."

Which was the product of Eric Alterman, if I remember correctly.

"I don't know whether, for example, the Bush administration doing so little on terrorism before 9/11 was incompetence, or an FDR-like desire for a Pearl Harbor-like attack which would let them launch their plans, but I don't like either option."

In which case I'm sure you'd be willing to indict Clinton on the same grounds, since of course the policy was the same.

And as far as I can tell, you STILL haven't addressed the "media ownership" question unless you believe Clear Channel has the pull that, say, CBS or NBC has. The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy stuff is getting Rather old, if you'll pardon the pun.

Craig, the gotcha stuff is ultimately boring. Tell me how not-Bush is going to make the world a safer place and I'll listen. Otherwise, peddle your paranoia to someone else. (BTW, can you give me a link to that "trillions transfered" bit. I have a feeling a little research will make that a handy tool in my VRWC toolkit.)

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 09:30 PM

I have been a lifelong Republican but find myself moving to a center-right position due to reading centrist blogs like this one.

It may be hard to define the center but is seems that most people there are willing to listen and argue, and insist on facts and not tolerate emotional rants.

Posted by: Tom Allan at July 18, 2005 09:41 PM

"If you want to be centrist, start by adopting a NEUTRAL point of view"

The Center is NOT neutral. Centrists have disagreements AND agreements with both the Left and Right on various issues. That does not make them neutral.

Maybe the Center should be called Mongrels.

Posted by: Syl at July 18, 2005 09:58 PM

Woof!

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 18, 2005 10:06 PM

Oh! Poor Michael. He so wants to be loved by everybody!

Posted by: jerry at July 18, 2005 10:20 PM

You need to understand who the policy people of the Bush administration were for the war - people like Wolfowitz and Feith, including people who were advising the Likud government in Israel,

In other words, those neocon Jews are really working for Israel. Is that what you're trying say? Saddam was killing 100,000 Iraqis a year. Why would putting a stop to this be bad for Israel?

Posted by: PC^KILLA at July 18, 2005 10:22 PM

Syl: The Center is NOT neutral.

No kidding. Just look at Christopher Hitchens. He's anything but neutral.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 18, 2005 10:48 PM

"In which case I'm sure you'd be willing to indict Clinton on the same grounds, since of course the policy was the same."

Hardly. Read Richard Clarke, who worked for both men, and who can't say enough about the differences. By the time Clinton figured out the threat level, hwas doing quite a bit - and very late in his presidency he had a war plan against Al Queda developed, which he handed to Bush instead of implementing so as not to hand him a live war. His administration told Bush's Al Queda was the #1 threat, reportedly.

Bush response? Clinton has cooties - in general and on this, 'do what Clinton wouldn't'.

Look at the history: the first NSC meeting agenda had Palastenians (shift policy away from helping them) and Iraq. No terrorism meetings to speak of for those many months. Ashcroft writes a list of top justice priorities, nothing terrorism related on it.

What we did get was of course Condi later misrepresenting the PDB from August 2001.

I'm happy to indict Clinton - for Rwanda inaction, for example, but not say he and Bush are the same.

"And as far as I can tell, you STILL haven't addressed the "media ownership" question unless you believe Clear Channel has the pull that, say, CBS or NBC has. The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy stuff is getting Rather old, if you'll pardon the pun."

As I said, it's beyond the scope perhaps of this post but at least what I feel like typing now to get into long lists - for the third or fourth time, start with Alterman's book to get on a base to start from.

As for the VRWC, it's hardly just media - for a good snapshot of a large part of it, check the attendee list (over 120 last I heard?) at the Grover Norquist meetings Wednesday morning where they hash out the coordinated week's 'message', but there are yet more.

You do know the source of the term, where Hillary got it? She had had a talk with David Brock shortly before the interview she used it in, and he'd laid out for her some of the conspiracy against her husband, such as Richard Mellon Scaife's "Arkansas Project" to digup dirt/lies.

You know about the 'elves', often breaking laws/rules to use the women with Clinton issues to do the maximum political damage to him, resulting in greatly increased damage to him - and our system, such as the Supreme Court's "he won't be distracted by this lawsuit" case...

There really were some commies in the government in the 40's and there really is a VRWC now.

"Craig, the gotcha stuff is ultimately boring. Tell me how not-Bush is going to make the world a safer place and I'll listen. Otherwise, peddle your paranoia to someone else."

I've been thinking about how that can be discussed reasonably, but I can see you are not the audience to try with, with the childish, insulting language you choose.

If others are interested, post or drop me a line.
It's not a trivial topic.

(BTW, can you give me a link to that "trillions transfered" bit. I have a feeling a little research will make that a handy tool in my VRWC toolkit.)

Again, not a small topic - Paul Krugman has written some handy info on the tax cuts and their expected effects; for fun, David Cay Johnston wrote a book about some of the tax system's problems helping the wealthy as well.

Bottom line, look even over this decade at the effects of Bush's tax cuts, including the debt.

Who gained, who lost the government spending that was cut, and who owes the borrowed money.

Posted by: Craig at July 19, 2005 02:00 AM
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