Russell's Blog

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Six weeks left

Posted by Russell on October 03, 2006 at 4:10 p.m.
So let me see if I have this right. The Republicans are going into the midterm elections offering the following things as accomplishments :
  • A bill that allows agents of the executive branch to secretly arrest Americans and hold them, indefinitely, without access to the courts. Recall that the legal term for this practice is "kidnapping." And, since that just isn't tough enough, the bill also grants the executive the power to extract confessions and denouncements under torture.
  • A bill that outlaws online gambling.
  • A failed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
  • A nine billion dollar fence along the border with Mexico.
  • More wiretapping!

And... that's it. I don't see how any of that can really be positive, even for ultra-conservatives. Maybe the fence on the Mexican border might have a sort of appeal to the racist asshole caucus, but the other side of that coin is, "Why should we have to pay for it?" I again remind the reader that this thing is will cost nine billion dollars, an it won't even go the whole way. The rest of the 2006 legislative buffet table is a few platters of pathetic failure and vat after bubbling vat of unmitigated disaster.

There hasn't even been a debate about our plans in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Republican leadership is beginning to consider inviting the Taliban to join the Afghan government. Since the president seems to be obsessed with inappropriate World War II comparisons, this is a bit like halting the Nuremberg trials half way through to allow the surviving Nazi war criminals to resume their posts in government.

QALAT, Afghanistan U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan guerrilla war can never be won militarily and called for efforts to bring the Taliban and their supporters into the Afghan government.

The Tennessee Republican said he had learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated by military means.

"You need to bring them into a more transparent type of government," Frist said during a brief visit to a U.S. and Romanian military base in the southern Taliban stronghold of Qalat. "And if that's accomplished we'll be successful."

We've been in Afghanistan for five years. The fact that we can still refer to the Taliban as an extant political entity represents a grave failure. The president has tried to fight the war in Afghanistan with a few handfuls Special Forces and the occasional air strike. I'm sure they are the best soldiers in the world. We all know that an American soldier is as effective as a whole squad of troops from pretty much anywhere. But why would you send so few if you actually wanted them to succeed? This isn't a movie plot; the situation is not improved if the protagonists must overcome enormous odds. I can understand that in 2001, there probably weren't enough Special Forces to go around, and the Afghanistan conflict probably requires that sort of expertise. But we've had five years. That was plenty of time to train more Special Forces. The Taliban shouldn't be able to find a rock to piss behind without one of our guys popping out from behind it. The president opted for a Hollywood B-movie script instead of a battle plan, and he's sticking to it.

And then there is Iraq. History will probably call it The Unnecessary War. The strategy there seems to be to simply allow the insurgents to slowly kill every last one of our soldiers as they scramble around the country trying to slow down the slide into chaos. As in Afghanistan, there are far too few troops. They were sent in without enough training or proper equipment (has the DoD even managed to buy modern body armor for them yet?). The Army is loosing billions of dollars of equipment, and is scrambling to replace it. It is possible that there weren't enough troops to go around in 2003. But we've had three years, and there hasn't been any significant effort to recruit and train more soldiers. In 2004 or 2005, the president might have been able to withdraw and declare victory. We would be very, very lucky if we could withdraw and declare nothing in particular.

So, this is what the Republicans are offering? The Democrats are notorious for campaigning on fluff and feel-good slogans, but this is running a campaign on rotting offal. They aren't offering any serious policy changes. There are no overtures to improve the economy. There are no calls to change our foreign trade policies. There are no proposals to fix any of the various failing federal programs (there are always a few, imagined or actual). They can't muster the energy to debate our strategy in Iraq or Afghanistan. They still haven't gotten New Orleans up and running, and they aren't even discussing how to get the tens of thousands of refugees to move back. No one even talks about once-lauded Balanced Budget Amendment, one of the most intriguing ideas to come out of conservative movement in my lifetime (which is different from saying it was a good idea, but at least it was an idea). There are no reform proposals to be found. There was a fucking pedophile in their congressional caucus, and they couldn't even muster the wherewithal to toss him out when they found his obscene emails and instant messages. Instead, they opted for the "discreet" approach, evidently modeled on the Catholic Church's wildly successful policy on pedophiles in the priesthood, copying the policy right down to the Catholic Church's inability to distinguish between pedophiles and gay people.

They don't even seem to have the energy to cook up a tax cut.

I think the Conservative Movement has finally run out of steam. They've worked for this moment for 20 years, and now they've tuckered out. Congressional Democrats, who are only just starting to realize that they lost the 1994 congressional elections, are dusting off their old PoliSci notes from their college days and trying to remember how to campaign. This is an interesting thing; no one has bothered to mount a reform-based progressive national campaign since 1932. It hasn't been necessary in all that time. A liberal-minded candidate didn't have to explain why it might be a good idea to have a federal policy for reducing poverty. They could take it for granted that Americans knew the argument, and that the vast majority approved of it in a general sense. It was simply a matter of convincing people that you could figure out the grubby little details, and that you wouldn't fuck it up too badly.

Our national media industry, which seems to specialize mainly in binge-drinking and hawking advertising spots, cannot seem to mention the word "Democrats" without also tossing in phrases like "divided" and "no message." Hopefully by 2008, Democrats will realize that journalists can barely remember what happened this morning, and so it doesn't make any sense to expect them to remember what happened in the 1950s. Democrats have to explain to journalists what liberalism actually means, and that it must be done in the same way one must explain to a person with a very bad hangover how their car ended up at the bottom of the neighbor's pool.

In fact, that's probably a good general rule: If you cannot explain your idea to someone who is falling-down-drunk, then you can't explain it to a journalist.

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