Re: Hillary Is Asked

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I normally yield to nobody in my derision of the media, but it appears I have to yield to ogged here. I think Clinton's response was handled pretty responsibly by the Post:

The campaign said later that the excised language stated that "it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran," and "to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including ... military instruments, with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Now if this phrase isn't factually accurate, then we've got a problem. But I assume that it's correct.

Ogged has previously proposed that whipping up anti-Iran hysteria is generally a bad idea - and Hillary is certainly guilty of abetting Bush's pandering to that hysteria. But she appears to have made a substantive answer to the question she was asked, and the Post has done a reasonable job of reporting it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 9:38 PM
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The real question doesn't seem to be so much the wording of the resolution but the context in which such a resolution arrives. Within the Global War on Terror, this malevolent nitwit President of ours interprets Congressional resolutions as he pleases. Analysing the ramifications of this exchange is going to end up in the metaphysics of legal theory and political posturing, I'm afraid.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 9:40 PM
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Yes, they reported the Clinton campaign's press release, but was that really a key passage, such that the rest of the resolution is unobjectionable? That's what we don't know.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 9:41 PM
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3: Again, I'll carry the Post's water on this one.

Rolph interpreted that measure as giving Bush authority to use military action against the Iranians.

The resolution evidently does not do so. Edwards has argued - entirely correctly, in my view - that this resolution helps Bush bang the war drum, and advances his aim of waging war against Iran, but that wasn't Rolph's question.

The Clinton campaign helpfully points out that Hillary was asked to vote on something much more belligerent, and declined. Assuming the facts, as reported, are corrrect, I think the Post got this one right.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 9:55 PM
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Well, this goes to judgment again. Could Bush use the designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a pretext for war? Very likely, yes. What's Clinton going to say if that happens? "That's not what we explicitly authorized"? Does she not see that possibility? And did Rolph mean explicit authority, or did he mean "authority" in the way the Bush means it, which is about pretext and usurpation? Anyway, I take your point, the piece isn't quite so horrible, but the reporter doesn't do any interpretive work or research, which would have really helped.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:01 PM
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Just what politicalfootball quoted could very easily be interpreted as sufficient justification for some pretty massive "cross-border raids." You know, maybe like with airplanes.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:06 PM
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And Hillary does exactly this same goddamned dance with her war vote. "I wanted the [whoever] Amendment, the one that forced the President to come back to Congress after the UN diplomacy had run its course." Well, she didn't get the [Byrd?] Amendment, but she did manage to look hawkish to the mushy middle.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:09 PM
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You know, the texts before and after amendment are out there. I'm pretty disappointed that both my senators voted for this trash.

The comparison of this resolution to the AUMF in 2002 is pretty silly. And I don't think it's enough to get you within the AUMF from 2001. Comparison to the 1998 Iraq resolution is more valid, and OK, I wish they'd voted no on that one too. But anyone saying that the 1998 resolution meant a goddam thing is in need of recalibration, imo.

The real danger here isn't that Congress accidently (or "accidently") gives Bush the power to start a war with Iran. It's that a Gulf of Tonkin incident gets cooked up, or spins out of control, just as the Administration needs it.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:16 PM
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What Bush actually got was less than he originally asked for, but it might well be enough for his purposes. It was a step toward war with Iran. (Unless I'm mistaken, the Revolutionary Guard is the main Iranian military force). Now that the RG has been officially designated by Congress as a terrorist force, all W has to do is claim that the RG was behind some bombing in Iraq to justify an attack, and if Congress complains he will say "You already understood that they were terrorists, and now they've killed Americans, and you want to tie our hands."

Hillary has been very forthright about her intention of ignoring the people whom she (following Rove) thinks of as doves, and liberal hawks should support her in the primaries. (Note that a lot of conservatives are starting to say that she's not really so bad.) But Democrats who are not liberal hawks should not support her in the primaries. And no one (except liberal hawks, natch) should cooperate with her attempts to fudge the question.

The question of whether the RG is a terrorist organization tends to get lost. It isn't. It's a national army. Lie. End of story.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:17 PM
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Just to underline my subtle point, Bush may have gotten everything he hoped for simply by throwing in some extra stuff that people could feel good about cutting out.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:19 PM
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The paragraphs added on the next page -- page 9 -- of the version I linked above are germane too. I still wish they'd voted no, but this thing just isn't comparable to the AUMF.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:20 PM
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this thing just isn't comparable to the AUMF

Isn't that something of a red herring, Charley? There seems to be consensus at the moment that if Iran is attacked, it will be as a result of a cooked-up "incident," just like John says in the first paragraph of 9. So maybe Hillary didn't vote for explicit authorization, but what she voted for might be quite enough.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:23 PM
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The Pasdaran is distinct from the Army.

The resolution is not a designation by Congress of anything. It's sense of the Senate.

The President already has all the authority he might want to designate terrorist organizations for purposes of the immigration and sanctions laws. IEEPA is dangerous -- albeit better than what came before -- but still too deferential.

What Bush got was a propaganda victory. Which he would also have gotten had the thing been defeated. I blame the leadership for not preventing it from coming up, but they apparently just don't have the votes to stop this kind of non-binding Iran Sucks bloviation.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:27 PM
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12 -- Og, I don't think this legislation makes even the tiniest bit of difference with respect to what Bush can/will do. When (not if) a Gulf of Tonkin moment arrives, this thing will have meant nothing. It doesn't authorize anything, and the amendment shows it isn't supposed to be an authorization.

I'm not disagreeing with John about the coming GOT incident. I just don't think there's anything that can be done about short of impeachment (for which the votes are still substantially short) or an explicit revocation/denial of authority, for which the votes are also short, for obvious reasons.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:32 PM
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13 is right. Many of those who voted for the AUMF disingenously denied that they voted for the Iraq war - but a big part of the disingenousness of that vote was that they all went out and bragged at the time that they were authorizing war. What the AUMF did was provide crucial cover for Bush, and those who voted for it were witting participants.

So this time Hillary is coming out and saying that she doesn't mean to be authorizing war - and that's good. But Edwards (and commenters here) are, of course, right that she has helped Bush take a step in that direction.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:33 PM
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I see we've been outflanked.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:33 PM
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Charley, the problem isn't whether they could have stopped this. It also isn't whether the resolution is really meaningful or not, or whether the Revolutionary Guard is the National Army. (My mistake, but it's a formal Iranian national military force, no?).

The point is that it's now going to be very difficult for **any** Democrat to oppose anything that Bush does which he claims is directed against the RG. The Democrats have bought in.

Bush will be able to say "In the Senate a majority even of Democrats (or almost?) support me on this". And if the Yea votes stand up after the fact and say "hey, that's not what I meant", no one will listen, and why should they?

Hillary is a sincere hawk, and this war will be cool with her. She's not buying votes, she means what she's saying. But let's not pretend.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:36 PM
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The Pasdaran may not be the Army, but it's an armed and part of the government. I think of its relationship to the Army as resembling that between the SS and Wehrmacht, but this is a poorly informed, and less than half thought through comparison.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:37 PM
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Charley, what would be the harm of a futile effort to oppose this resolution? If it's a meaningless resolution, why not oppose it? At least the Democrats would set themselves up for future opposition, instead of crippling themselves as they've done.

My position is that at some point the Democrats will have to take some chances, and as far as I know, the official Democratic position is that they should never oppose Bush excpet when they're absolutely sure that they can win. I compeltely understand the Republicans' (and the voters') contempt for the Democrats. The Democrats are playing a strong hand like a weak one.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:42 PM
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17 -- I'm not sure Hillary is across the Rubicon on the Iran war. In fact, I'm sure that if you could read her mind, you'd find that she'd prefer that the war not start before the election, for political reasons, if nothing else.

Otherwise, I'm in agreement with 17. This one, like the last one (another long recitation of factual statement, with conclusions that look innocuous) should've been strangled in the cradle. Reid ought to be stalling these things until more important legislation is passed (and even the declaration of National Pickle Week is more important).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:42 PM
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Let's say that the Democrats had voted down the resolution, and then Bush cooks up a Gulf of Tonkin incident involving the RG. Doesn't he still get the same propaganda victory? "I warned the Democrats that the RG were terrorists, but they didn't listen. Now look what's happened."

Not to say that the Democrats shouldn't have killed the thing, just on the general principle that everything the administration says is a lie, including "and" and "the".


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:46 PM
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John, it's late, and my day is over. I'm going to have to protest, again, the use of the term "the Democrats" with verbs that show intentionality or consciousness. It's not now, wasn't in Will Rogers' day, and likely has never been that kind of organization.

22 Dems did the right thing, and 27 didn't. You can be happy that yours voted right. Maybe she even made a speech about it. I'm sorry to see that mine went wrong -- especially disappointed because they both voted right in 2002.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:46 PM
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Make that 19 and 30. Ugh.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:47 PM
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She might as well be across the Rubicon, because she won't oppose the war, and Bush has a year to make it happen, and Cheney wants the war desperately. Democrats seem incapable of leadership or decisions. That's the Republican smear, but it's far too true.

Decades ago someone explained to me that Leon Blum failed in France (before WWII) because he was a standard practical politician and was using the methods of practical politics -- since he wasn't dealing with normal politics, he had to fail.

To me, inevitable failure is not practical. But Democratic practical politicians seem intent on using strategy and tactics which would have worked almost any other time but now.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 10:52 PM
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The Republicans can do things. At one time, the Democrats could (from 1932 on). Saying "Ha ha! There's really no 'Democratic Party', sucker!" is not a zippy comeback to someone wondering whether Bush is going to succeed in starting another war unopposed.

And a lot of this is about Hillary. She is making a point of not really opposing this war, while making feeble gestures of opposition. Hillary has intentionality, and will most likely be our next President, and people want me to support her for some reason even though she's wrong or useless on what I see as the biggest issue.

Walt, Democrats have to think about more than just the immediate vote. They have to have a strategy. And they have to define themselves to the voters. And they haven't done either, and probably won't.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 11:01 PM
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FDR isn't "the Democrats."

Night all.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 11:04 PM
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Fine, you've convinced me, Charley. It's hopeless. And there's no use suggesting anything different, because there's no there there, and never was. And Hillary will be Bush's heir, and she thinks that's a good thing. And I can suck on that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 11:08 PM
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I don't disagree with that. The Democrats are the same cautious technocrats they've always been. Fortunately for them, they are going to luck into the greatest electoral victory in American history in 2008, which means they won't learn any of the lessons history has been anxiously trying to teach them.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 11:08 PM
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24: She might as well be across the Rubicon, because she won't oppose the war

This is where the Naderism of false equivalence leads you to incorrect conclusions. Yes, Hillary gave Bush a blank check last time and we know this because she said so at the time. This time, she says she ain't, and she is participating in the public campaign to keep this vote from being interpreted as an authorization.

In addition, Hillary's support for the Iraq war (and Edwards' support for that war) don't tell us anything about whether they would have dreamed up that war on their own. I am very comfortable with the idea that they, in fact, would not have invaded had they been in charge.

If Bush's term runs out without an Iran war, and a Democrat is elected, then there won't be an Iran war. This is one place where there is a real difference between the Democrats and Republicans.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 11:13 PM
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It seems like it's every night that I come on here and denounce Hillary at 2 AM, and I think that suggests a slightly greater antipathy towards her than I in fact have. I think she'd probably be an acceptable president, with a slight chance of horrible, which is more than I can say for most of the pricks in question. But there was a definite point in the long '08 campaign when she became my last (D) choice: in explaining her Iraq vote, she said something along the lines of (extremely loosely paraphrased): "It would have been intellectually dishonest of me to vote against a president exercising the powers I would expect if I were Commander in Chief". A caveat: it is likely that she never said anything of the sort. This is only how I remember my interpretation, hypersensitive as I was and am to any suggestion of a unitary executive. Given that she's running in a primary, I expect her to benefit politically from declining to foment war. Given that benefit, I suspect her of a damning sincerity.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10- 7-07 11:40 PM
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29. "Yes, Hillary gave Bush a blank check last time and we know this because she said so at the time."

She said at the time that the evidence didn't justify an invasion - she said before the invasion it would be a bad idea, and after said it had set a bad precedent: I don't see "support" except for the "the troops" variety. I don't think she wanted us to invade Iraq any more than Kerry did, namely not at all.


30. Her position as I understand it was she felt obliged to give the president the tools to do the right thing after having denounced the Rs for not doing the same for Bill. I knew and perhaps she knew that Bush was likely to do whatever the opposite of the right thing was, but I suspect or hope her calculation was that she didn't have political standing to make the argument, "Bush will lie us into war and steer for the ditch". And I guess she figured her vote reflected her constituents' mood, that a No could greatly hurt her if any WMDs at all were found, and a Yes wouldn't make the war measurably more likely.


I can't imagine us attacking Iran - I don't think the voters would stand for it, and I think the Rs must realize that.


Posted by: rilkefan | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 1:09 AM
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I don't think the voters would stand for it

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that Bush doesn't give a flying fuck what the voters think. So what if he bombs Iran? Who's going to do anything? The Democrats going to impeach?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 1:13 AM
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31: I guess she figured her vote reflected her constituents' mood, that a No could greatly hurt her if any WMDs at all were found, and a Yes wouldn't make the war measurably more likely.

Well, yeah, she, and every other politician in America. It wasn't her vote that disturbed me, it was her justification of it.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 1:29 AM
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"This is where the Naderism of false equivalence leads you to incorrect conclusions. Yes, Hillary gave Bush a blank check last time and we know this because she said so at the time. This time, she says she ain't, and she is participating in the public campaign to keep this vote from being interpreted as an authorization."

So last time she did the wrong thing and this time she again does the wrong thing, while saying she did the right thing. And this makes her better than Bush, how?

If you're an antiwar Democratic supporter you need to realise that the leadership of your party was, is and will be in favour of the War on Iraq and needs little to be convinced from going after Iran too. The Democratic Party hasn't been ineffective in opposition to this war because they're incompetent, or afraid of the Republicans, but because they like the war, like the fact bush gets the blame for them and very much like the fact that it will hand them victory in 2008 without them having to much more than provide some symbolic opposition.

The Democratic strategy from at least the 2002 midterm elections has been not to oppose Bush on foreign matters, but to concentrate on domestic matters and retrench until the political situation turns in their favour; basically handing Bush the rope to hang himself. What with the victories in 2006 and the projected Democratic victory in the '08 presidential elections it seems that strategy has worked as well, at the cost of some million Iraqi lives of course.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 4:17 AM
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27 -- What you want is hopeless, imo. Your choice is to be disappointed, or want something else.

34 -- I don't think you can fairly say that "the Democrats" like the war. That they don't know how to end it in a politically safe manner, though, is clear enough. Charging them with the lives lost since 2003 is a little much; even with the lives lost in 2007: failure to do what one cannot do doesn't confer responsibility.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 5:25 AM
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If Bush's term runs out without an Iran war ....

A very big if, since Democrats have chosen not to fight at all.

....and a Democrat is elected, then there won't be an Iran war.

A second big if. Hillary has given us no reason to believe that. She has been adamant about giving no reassurances at all to "doves".

This is where the Naderism of false equivalence leads you to incorrect conclusions.

If you think you can win an argument by saying "Nader", go to hell.

She is participating in the public campaign to keep this vote from being interpreted as an authorization.

She's trying to have it both ways. There was no good reason for her to vote the way she did, and she knew at the time why Bush wanted the vote. A purely symbolic vote supposedly isn't much, but it's infinitely more meaningful than after-the-fact verbal quibbles about a purely symbolic vote.

Failure to do what one cannot do doesn't confer responsibility.

Failure to even try because there might be some risk does, especially because given the probability that there are a lot of crypto-Liebermans in the party. It's not just a one-time thing. A substantial part of the party has an absolute rule of never opposing any military adventure for fear of being called a McGovernite.

Your choice is to be disappointed, or want something else.

There's some point at which the lesser evil strategy stops making any sense at all. To me, the permanent occupation of Iraq is that point. The majority of the people of the world have been reduced to helplessly watching America do what it does, often in horror, and that will be my fate.

As far as the "agency" of "the Democrats" goes: the closer someone is to the powers of the Democratic party, the less capable someone comes of opposing American militarism.



Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 6:34 AM
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If you think you can win an argument by saying "Nader", go to hell.

We can only agree on a Nader variant for Godwin's law when we agree about Nader's pernicious influence on American politics. We don't seem to agree on that.

As for my phrase "Naderism of false equivalence," I think it describes something quite specific. I think it describes this:

There's some point at which the lesser evil strategy stops making any sense at all. To me, the permanent occupation of Iraq is that point.

There is an enormous difference between the enablers of war criminals and the war criminals themselves. The Dems, as a group, have been weak, cowardly and opportunistic, but they didn't invent the current situation, nor would they invent a casus belli with Iran.

It is a painful thing to be obliged to think about these distinctions, but we are where we are. Things are not so bad in the U.S. and world that they can't get a lot, lot worse.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 8:54 AM
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nor would they invent a casus belli with Iran.

Cause Tonkin happened under a Republican administration?


Posted by: keatssycamore | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 9:02 AM
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So, now the Iranian Ambassador to Iraq is a terrorist, right?

Remember that other time the Iranian ambassador was a terrorist?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 9:03 AM
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I suggest you are being insufficiently cynical, John. Let's suppose you are right, and the Democratic leadership is as hawkish as the neocons. What happens when the US Army is still in Iraq in 2010? 2012? 2014? Each passing day moves the American people further to the left. My neighbor here in Red America is ever-so-slightly to the left of the average swing voter. He usually votes Republican, but in 2000 and 2004 he voted, with incredible reluctance, for the Democratic candidate for President. Three months ago he told me how much he hated Hillary, and how he was going to vote for the Republican. The war runs on for three more months, and now he's eager for Hillary to be President. The war runs on until 2012, he'd probably be ready to vote for Kucinich. If we actually got into a war with Iran, he's be out there burning shit down.

If the war drags on, it will be the greatest political opportunity for the left since the Great Depression. We are slowly but inexorably moving to the conditions of Russia in October 1917. The train is pulling into the Finland station.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 9:17 AM
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From the way you talk, you first heard of Nader in 2000.

War has been an issue for me since 1965, so I'm very realistic about the Democrats as the second war party. It may be that it's not possible for it to be anything else, in which case I lose. Likewise, it may be that it's not possible for the Democrats to be anything other than corporate errand boys, in which case I also lose. You're basically telling me to quit thinking about those issues, take what I get, and like it.

I am not able to tell to what extent you're actually being prudent and cagy and realistic, and to what extent you're using realistic arguments to defend something you actually support substantively.

Hillary is sending me very clear signals that she will not be responsive to my opinion, and she's doing so sincerely, at a time when more voters agree with me on the war than with her.

I did not say that I would not vote for Hillary and I did not say that she's the same as Bush. You guys keep repeating the anti-third-party argument whenever possible, just as a way to to drag in your anti-Nader demagoguery. What I've been saying is that for me the nomination of Hillary will be an enormous defeat. I think that we need an actual change in military-political strategy, not just better execution. Of the Democratic candidates, Hillary is the one who will try the hardest to preserve Bush's foreign policy legacy in Iraq, and for that reason conservatives have been starting to make friendly noises about her.

This isn't about what Hillary would have done, but about what she will do. I am not at all confident that she won't take aggressive action against Iran, and I see no reason why I should be.

I think that anyone who share my concerns will feel about as I do. I am aware that a lot of Democrats. especially at the highest levels, don't share my concerns or prioritize other issues.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 9:24 AM
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Walt, I don't think it will work that way. That sounds like a version of Nader's "the worse the better" argument, BTW.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 9:26 AM
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Hasn't Nader's "the worse the better" argument been proven true? The country moved steadily right from the late 70s until 2003, and now it's moving in the other direction. The problem with Nader's argument is not that it's wrong, but that it's not worth the cost.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 9:38 AM
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I am not able to tell to what extent you're actually being prudent and cagy and realistic, and to what extent you're using realistic arguments to defend something you actually support substantively.

Hmm - perhaps accusing me of being "prudent, cagy and realistic" is an appropriate retaliation for my invoking Nader, but I do find that characterization both incorrect and a bit defamatory.

Hillary remains no higher than my third choice as a Dem candidate, although the other two front-runners appear to be in a race to the bottom with her. Hillary would make a pretty depressing nominee.

My only point is that there is a huge, huge difference between, say, Hillary and Rudy, and that attempts to minimize that difference are, well, Nader-ly.

As for you, Walt: "Heightening the contradictions" may be a good strategy for some political elites, but I am hard-pressed to think of a time when it was good for actual human beings.

That said, don't let Emerson tar you with that Nader slur.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 9:59 AM
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I'm invoking heightening the contradictions not as strategy, but as prophecy. If "the left" (if I may use John as a stand-in for the left) is right, then they will have been proven right to the satisfaction of their countrymen. All illusions as to the nature of the system will have been stripped away. We will know where we stand. Political elites can continue unpopular wars, but they cannot continue unpopular wars forever without consequence. If the Democrats do not stop the war, then the American people will stop it for them.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 10:05 AM
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The country is not moving left. Public opinion is moving left, but institutionally, fiscally, in foreign policy, in civil liberties, etc., the country has moved far right, and I doubt that it can move all the way back. Bush has left a lot of faits accomplis.

OK, start over again. There's been a steady authoritarian-militaristic slide since 1968 or so. Stopping and reversing it is my goal. the Democrats haven't been much help, but they've normally nominated a less-bad candidate for me to vote for. This slows the slide somewhat, but that's all. Once I give up and decide that sliding slower is the best we can get, I'll like the Democrats, sort of. Though frankly, mostly I'll just forget about politics and live out my remaining years, or move to a country where I can involve myself in non-American politics and let America go its way without me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 10:10 AM
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If the left is right the right is left.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 8-07 10:14 AM
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