Sunday, December 19, 2004

Reponse to Novak

(Now with updates!)

So "Novakula", a man who compares unfavorably with the man from whom that moniker was fashioned, wrote a column about Howard Dean.

Seeing as how i'm a shiftless college student with a weblog i feel it's only fair that i dismantle it.

Let's get started...

WASHINGTON (Creators Syndicate) -- Practical Democratic politicians, intent on reversing a decade of decline, feel trapped in a bad dream with Howard Dean as the most prominent prospect to be the party's national chairman.

This may as well read "Spineless DLC losers (in the most literal sense of the word) fear the loss of political power represented by Dean's rise within the party". I could even be more cynical if i wanted, but let's not go there.

The mere thought of picking the 2004 presidential candidate who campaigned furthest to the left and was soundly repudiated by Democratic voters suggests inability to cope with political reality.

Wait, this is an article on Dennis Kucinich now? C'mon, Novak. Stay on topic. We're talking Dean, not Kucinich. Also: Kucinich isn't running for party Chairman, last i checked. Get your facts straight, yo!

Dean has toned himself down, no longer resembling the screamer in Des Moines or the radical populist on the campaign trail.

Considering the first image was never reality, but was instead entirely invented by the so-called Liberal Media, i'm not surprised that you might think Dean has "toned himself down". But that's a discussion for a different time.

And as far as the second description: since when did he stop being a populist? Radical no, but again: he was never radical. Some of his followers were certainly radical. Also: some of George Bush's followers are kard-karrying members of the KKK. Does Novak really want to play that game? Dean himself is a "centrist"/"moderate" and has a record over a decade long of public service in this mold. I'm sure Novak knows all of these things, but it's surely convenient for him to ignore them when writing his column.

His Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" was so polite that it instantly was labeled the "unscream." Nevertheless, Dean as national chairman would identify Democrats as the party of the Left, more interested in purity than victory.

Uh, hello? Novak? This is reality speaking, can I talk to Bob Novak? He's not in? Can I leave a message? Yes? Tell Mr. Novak "Dude, the Democrats are the 'party of the left'! By definition! Where have you been the last two hundred years?"

And more interested in purity than victory? Since when was it a choice between the two?

The DLC has tried to choose victory over purity for a long time and, as we can see, has really ended up with neither. Dean isn't "purity over victory" but rather "victory through embracing the values shared by Liberals/Democrats/Leftists/whatever and the majority of the United States". The DLC's "ten state strategy", or whatever you want to call it, has consistently failed. Dean might not be a sure bet, but at least he's a change.

Many Democrats I contacted entirely agree with me, but not publicly. Only former Sen. Bob Kerrey, out of office and virtually out of politics, states openly that Dean as Democratic National Committee chairman could be disastrous.

I find this amusing. "Many Democrats agree". You mean some don't? Considering the kind of Democrats who i suspect are willing to talk with Bob "Plame's a spy!" Novak that quite honestly surprises me.

And as far as disastrous, you wanna know what else could be disastrous? Four more years of Bush. Yet here we are, walking into Disaster City.

I mean, is this guy living on the same planet? You want to know what "disaster" is? How about a President who swears to bring the full force of American military might, the unchallenged primarch of military power on this planet, around on a single man who is still delivering his fanatical ramblings through TV three years later. That sounds like disaster.

But oh, it gets worse! Not only that, but this same President leads us into war with faults so obvious and numerous i'm not even going to bother describing them. He does this while listening to Rumsfeld, who i now suspect had to be taking LSD while drawing up the plans for Iraq, and ignoring the advice of various people with actual military knowledge.

Oh yeah, and did you hear about the US Dollar's value going all to hell? Yeah.

But Dean being a candidate for chairman of the Democratic Party? Oh, that "could be disastrous". Uh huh. Let's get some perspective, here. Dean is an experienced and capable politician. He, or his campaign at least, basically invented the way political campaigns make use of the internet. But Iowa voted for Kerry so now everything Dean says is valueless?

By the way, Iowa voted Bush over Kerry. Just so you (and i'm talking to the DLC, here) know.

Others do not want to offend Dean's legions, hoping a white knight will lead the party of Jefferson and Jackson.

And this is just bizarre. Apparently some shiftless college students (or soccer moms or [insert "Dean legions" here]) are now some sort of fascist lynch mob? Sorry, but i'm not buying it. They can keep on hoping, too. Or maybe they can step up to the plate themselves. But the fact of the matter is that unless they put a better candidate up for the office then they're going to get the best man who ran. (In theory, of course...)

I'm hard on the DLC and friends? You're damn right i am. I mean, i'm not going to start suggesting that Novak is just writing this column as some sort of cynical political ploy (that may or may not be the truth, but it isn't very interesting to discuss) but really. Part of the reason these people get no respect from me is because they're afraid of me. It isn't about their politics. If i were voting based on which politics most represented my position i'd have to run for President myself or just not vote. It's about the Democrats being a legitimate opposition party. Part of being an "opposition party" is the opposition. I'm not the only one who believes this...

If these Democrats are afraid of opinions that contradict their own, and i'm seeing nothing out of the Dean camp that goes beyond that even if some of it is strong opinions, then do you want to know what i think is also potentially disastrous? Those people getting chairmanship.

If they're not willing to stand up for their beliefs then why the hell would we want them in a leadership position? But i guess everyone wants to use the "Rumsfeld/Cheney/Bush" definition of "leadership" these days...

It's almost as if, after George McGovern carried but one state as 1972 Democratic nominee for president, he started running for national chairman...

Obligatory, vaguely related, reference to McGovern's failed 1972 Presidential run: Check.

Can't write a column about Howard Dean without referencing McGovern, can you?

And from there on the column dissolves from normal-level Novak rambling into totally incoherent Newspeak that, as near as i can tell, has no meaning whatsoever. Let's take a look, just for the hell of it:

Speaking in Washington last week, Dean sounded more like a candidate for president than chairman. Under the rubric of "reform," he proposed greatly expanded governmental activity. "We are what we believe, and the American people know it," he declared.

Just take it backward for a minute: "We are what we believe..." equates to "reform". "We are what we believe..." equates to a proposal for "greatly expanded governmental activity". "We are what we believe..." sounds "more like a candidate for president than chairman". (How can he tell? "Novak-brand magical mind reading fine grain white powder"?)

I agree that saying "We are what we believe, and the American people know it" is a bit radical in politics and it's probably a statement with some reform hinted in it. But... seriously. "He proposed greatly expanded governmental activity"? I bet if you gave Novak a Rorschach test he'd be all "Evil Liberal demons", "Evil Liberals in my houseplants", "Evil Liberal government", etc.

Of course, Dean may have actually done one or more of those things Novak referenced. (Or he may not have: see the Wellstone memorial service and how it was hijacked by Republican (let me emphasize that so nobody gets confused: Republican) politicians with their own personal axes to grind.) But if so, Novak doesn't discuss it here.

It's sort of like Novak wanted to write a column about Dean "failing the Russert test", then deciding Dean didn't really "fail the Russert test", then decided the "Russert test" itself sucked, and then forgetting he wrote any of that and just writing about how Dean is Das Uber Liberal.

Let's see... what else...

Rumsfeld doesn't sign letters to the families of soldiers killed in Iraq, which i'm sure comes as a shock to everyone. Right. Anyway.

But Bush chief of staff Andrew Card said Rumsfeld enjoys the president's confidence, and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Rumsfeld's dismissal would be "a gift to the jihadists and the insurgents" in Iraq.

Catch that? "If Bush fires Rumsfeld then the terrorists will have won!"

Actual defense of Rumsfeld or his actions in office over the last four years: missing from that quote.

And hey, again, i'm not the only one who feels that way. Let's take a look at an article that got sent to me by my father, a dedicated Republican of something like 30+ years (who has been switching over under the Bush administration) which was sent to him by another life-long Republican Lieutenant Colonel of the US Army who attends my father's church.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
December 9, 2004

Rumsfeld Can't Wriggle Off The Hook

By Jay Bookman

After the Atlanta Falcons were humiliated 27-0 last week by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Falcons coach Jim Mora reacted like a true leader: He took the blame himself so that none would fall on his players, attributing the loss to his own inexperience in preparing teams for Sunday in the NFL.

"What the heck," he told a news conference. "I'm a rookie head coach, man."

Mora also declined an invitation to identify specific players who contributed to the embarrassing defeat.

"Let's just say that we don't air our dirty laundry in public," he said. "It does happen [privately], but it doesn't happen for everyone to see because it doesn't need to."

The contrast between that stand-up leadership style and that of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could not be more stark.

It has become crystal clear to all but the willfully blind that the failure to commit enough troops to the occupation of Iraq contributed significantly to the rising chaos in that country. However things turn out, history will record that decision as a fundamental mistake that endangered the success of the mission and led to increased casualties.

But in recent interviews, Rumsfeld has tried to wash his hands of any responsibility for that mistake.

"The big debate about the number of troops is one of those things that's really out of my control," Rumsfeld said recently. "I mean, everyone likes to assign responsibility to the top person, and I guess that's fine. But the number of troops we had for the invasion was the number of troops that General [Tommy] Franks and General [John] Abizaid wanted, the number of troops we have had every day since has been the number of troops that the field commander thought appropriate."

In other words, Rumsfeld's defense is that he was just following orders . . . from his subordinates.

That's reprehensible, for a couple of reasons. First, a good leader does not dump public blame on those who have no opportunity or, in the case of uniformed officers, even the right to defend themselves. That's particularly true when the people involved are soldiers in the field watching their own subordinates fight and die.

But the worst thing about Rumsfeld's denial of responsibility is that it is a blatant lie. He was without doubt the driving force behind the decision to keep the invading and occupying forces as lean as possible, and any effort to dump that responsibility on others amounts to cowardice on his part.

According to the former head of U.S. Central Command, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, the Pentagon plan for invading and occupying Iraq when Rumsfeld took office had just been updated in 2000 and called for a force of roughly 400,000 troops. It was Rumsfeld, enamored with the possibility of using technology to do more with less, who ordered that plan redrawn time and again to dramatically reduce the number of troops involved.

A month before the invasion, when Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki was asked by Congress how many troops it would take to occupy Iraq, he told the truth: hundreds of thousands of troops. Almost immediately, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz memorably proclaimed that estimate "wildly off the mark," with Rumsfeld concurring it was "far off the mark." The two made it clear that Shinseki had disgraced himself, a point driven home when Army Secretary Thomas White was forced from office after coming to Shinseki's defense.

By those actions, Rumsfeld made it as clear as possible to officers down the line that he did not want to hear a word about needing more troops and that to argue otherwise would affect careers. In fact, in the months before the invasion and in the immediate afterglow of its success, Rumsfeld basked in his role as architect of the remarkably small force that took Iraq, dismissing concern about the resulting chaos as "henny-penny the sky is falling . . . just unbelievable."

Rumsfeld and his colleagues should have been fired long ago for incompetence and bad judgment. He should be fired now for poor leadership. The fact that he has been asked to stay on bodes poorly for the second Bush administration --- and for the country.

Jay Bookman is the deputy editorial page editor. His column appears Thursdays and Mondays.

Dean and the Democratic Party isn't the only thing changing.


Media Matters has your hookup:

Sinclair admits it's a Republican mouthpiece, still pretends otherwise to The Public.

Bill O'Reilly is a coward. Really.

Congresswoman Lowey responds to some other comments by O'Reilly.

O'Reilly says "you don't see prominent conservatives cursing out Democratic members of Congress". Silly, untrue. MMFA says "Oh really?"

Swift Boat Vets say they're going away and not going away on the same day. It is, after all, their modus operandi.

Lou Dobbs, of all people, jumps on the "anyone with less than gushing praise for Chrismas is an evil atheist baby eater" bandwagon. Just for the record, Santa Claus is a "pagan" (read: non-Christian) part of "Christmas". Maybe i'm splitting hairs, but anyway...

The Bush administration provides a helpful definition of "Nepotism".

Media Matters catches something that's worth pointing out. Specifically: in certain media groups trying to pretend they've been hard on Rumsfeld for being a total fuckup. Sounds like the seven stages of grieving, or whatever.

Rationalization ("Rumsfeld was right, honest!"), then denial ("We're not spineless Republican mouthpieces, honest!"), then what comes next? Bargaining?

Hannity lies (basically) about the political orientation of James Madison WRT religion. Not that Republicans haven't been trying to co-opt the "founding fathers" especially on this issue since... basically forever.

I love the argument along this line that goes "See, the only religion there was back then was Christianity so by definition, 'freedom of religion' means 'freedom to be Christian'. The amendment says you're free to be as Christian as you want, but anything else isn't okay." Or the argument that goes "Freedom of religion, not freedom from religion!" when people are trying to attack atheists. Great stuff, guys. Hopefully it'll get used in an "Introduction to Logic" or "Ethics 101" class some day down the road.

Tax rate grossly over-stated by Brit Hume guest, rest of world unsurprised by overstatement.


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