Re-lighting the political lamp...
I plan to cover a lot of bases here, from the state of the military (and why democrats refuse to talk about it) to America's remaining claim to the moral high ground... all the way to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell..."
But first -- I used to be skeptical of those who claimed that Hillary Clinton is deliberately inducing fratricide -- a civil war within the Democratic Party. But one of you wrote in with a theory that seems increasingly plausible. “She knows she can't win the nomination this year, so she intends to make sure no Democrat does, leaving herself one more shot in 2012.”
No, it makes no logical sense. But can anyone now picture her actually kissing and making up, now? Or spending 16 hour days rallying her followers back into the fold for November? Like Achilles, she will sulk in her tent... hoping that, like Achilles, she will be begged to come back and lead the dems to victory.
Oh, but then there is the heel. That famous heel.
No, I prefer hope. So I’ll see the bright side. She really is testing BHO... hard. Maybe the GOP attack machine will look tired and lame. And he’ll look seasoned.
Americans are more dissatisfied with the country’s direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s, according to the latest poll. In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed that “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,” up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2003.
Hat you have yet to hear is a new refrain... from decent conservatives CALLING for a span of time in the wilderness, to re-evaluate and re invent conservatism. Ideally, a version that does not reject science, professionalism, accountability, reasoned argument, fiscal responsibility and the telling of truths.
Sometimes Honor Is Wrong -- The Problem With John McCain, by Frank Schaeffer (Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of "Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back" )
Says Schaeffer: The question is this: will America sacrifice herself to vindicate the personal sense of honor of one man? If there were no war, Senator McCain might be a good president. With the Iraq war going on, however, there is an overriding reason to vote against McCain in 2008. I say this as a former McCain supporter. The reason to vote against McCain, paradoxically, is McCain's military experience. I'm not referring to his experience with military affairs, but the personal military experiences that shaped him. (Disclosure: In the 2000 Republican primary season I went on numerous conservative and religious radio talk shows to argue for McCain against the Bush crowd and against the Republican right. McCain returned the favor by writing a great endorsement of my book AWOL-The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes From Military Service, And How It Hurts Our Country. It makes me sad I can't support McCain now.)
The problem is that McCain doesn't see himself as a civilian. He was, is and will always be defined in his own mind by the code of military service. This would be a great quality in a general or perhaps in a peacetime president, but will be disastrous in wartime. There is a reason our founders wanted America's military to have dispassionate civilian leadership. ... Simply put, McCain does not want to be the president that presides over today's Iraqi equivalent of the mass exit from the rooftop of Saigon's American embassy.
Check out this study of attitudes towards cultural and religious homogeneity in various countries:
This quote is particularly interesting: By contrast, the United States appears distinct in its greater tolerance of cultural and religious diversity.With regard to religious homogeneity, the United States and France are more opposed to this ideal than nearly every other country in the sample. With regard to cultural homogeneity, the United States is less supportive than every European country in the sample. It appears that the long history of ethnic and religious diversity in the United States has produced a distinctive, and more favorable, orientation toward cultural heterogeneity. Note, also, that the US absorbs over half of the legal immigrants in the world... and over half of the illegal immigrants. And yet, our anti immigrant movements are relatively mild compare to those in most countries. And, along with Canada, the US remains among the few nations where legal immigrants have a near automatic or easy route to full citizenship in the first generation.
This is a fundamental position from which the US could reclaim the moral high ground, very swiftly, almost the moment our present leadership caste of monstrous (fill in either unfathomable morons or outright traitors) were replaced by intelligent and principled men and women, seriously interested in earning back America’s position of consensual leadership in the world.
More crimes against the military. The Department of Defense reports that sailors and Air Force members are carrying out many different missions in Iraq, from traditional duties in the air and sea to construction jobs, medical operations, civil affairs, custom inspection, security and detention operations. Most are promised non-combative roles in Iraq, but many have found themselves to be in harms way once they arrive. In 2007 the Navy sent roughly 2,200 “individual augmentees”, as the service calls them, to handle combat-related duties with Marine and Army units stationed in Iraq. As of early April, 2008, 92 Navy and 46 Air Force personnel had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, with those numbers sure to rise as the U.S. troop surge continues into its second year.
And the number of felons they are letting into the army is approaching Blackwater levels. But there’s nooooo problem. Why are the dems complicit, by not making the state of the Army (and reserves) an issue? Clinton left every US Army brigade in a state of combat readiness. Bush is leaving us none. Zero. Use that!
All right... you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. Start buying canned goods.Gen. David Petraeus, who has commanded United States troops in Iraq for the past year, will be nominated to head the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations across a wide swath of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced on Wednesday. I predicted a year ago... whenever you see the Navy ascendant, have hope. When Administration yes men start filling all the top slots... watch out.
And is it true that the Sierra Club has bitten the bullet and come out in favor of negotiations to carefully allow new fission power plants in the US? Somebody report on this rumor? Stewart Brand is amazing.
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Here’s a little puzzler: Guess Who Now Loves “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
If you guessed Conservatives, you’d be right. Yes, the very same policy that was decried as “destructive of armed forces morale and discipline” and a surefire road to ruin... is now the utter-darling of the right, while the left, which once championed the policy, now views it as outdated and ripe for replacement by a ratcheted next-step in tolerance.
Of course, this is not the first time that conservatism has done this, showing a kind of mental agility that is seldom properly credited or (to be frank) emulated on the left. (See above, re the much belated and obstinately too-slow shift of environmentalism toward nuclear power.) Indeed, conservatives often show an agility (plus convenient amnesia) that sometimes seems borderline delusional. Just count the number of GOP politicians over age fifty who have pictures of Martin Luther King on their walls and swear they never opposed him! Or those under fifty who imply that MLK was a closet Republican, all along.
The same legerdemain is being shown now, over the vital issue of global warming, with the same individuals sometimes shifting and dodging several times in one day. First claiming that climate change isn’t happening at all, then (at another venue) avowing that it isn’t caused by humans, then (across town) admitting human causation but (vaguely) calling the economic costs of remediation too high, and finally (when cornered) admitting it’s a crisis, but naming the oil companies as the ones who are truly wise enough to solve it. Or else contending “it’s already too late.” (Doubt this? The administration (and friends) posed ALL of these positions, at various times and places, within the last year alone. And with a straight face, yet.
Did I say conservatives display mental agility? Are they alone in the dance of polemical distraction and rationalization? Certainly the left has its crazies and troglodytes and rationalizers. Only, most of the time their theme is utter and relentless stubbornness, clinging to standard dogmas (like opposing nuclear power) long past their relevance or usefulness. In this respect, they are certainly much less interesting or entertaining!
But back to conservatives, what I find most impressive -- even a little charming -- is their blithe unwillingness to accept that being wrong in the past has any relevance to today. Wrong about civil rights, womens’ rights and preserving the environment. Wrong about isolationism (remember Lindbergh... and then Vandenberg and Taft?) Wrong about de-funding science and wrong to have supported Saddam Hussein for decades. Wrong to have left him in power in 1991. Wrong (if not damned liars) about “weapons of mass destruction” and Iraqi terror links. Wrong about wild CEO bonuses and fantasy financial “instruments” that severed banking from any of its roots in sound lending practices.
And yet, what’s the response? - “All of that is dwelling on the past.”
But oh, shouldn’t it affect your credibility? Even if America does find it necessary to stay in Iraq a while, in order to clean up the mess you neocons made, that doesn’t mean you were right. Ever. What it means is that we need other people, grownups, to take over our tiller of state.
As for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” clearly that policy was an intermediate step in the direction of trust-building. (The sort of intermediate step that Hillary could have tried re health care, back in 1993, simply by insuring all kids first - if she had any sense. Talk about a credibility-demolishing episode!) Many in the military thought that allowing gays to serve quietly would devastate morale, but that precious intangible actually increased, and most servicemen and women learned to accept “discreetly gay” service colleagues with growing enthusiasm. Now, with many of them serving as reliable - even irreplaceable - comrades, the borderline of conservative ideology has shifted from tolerating ANY gays in the military to desperately preserving the present status quo -- seeking to preserve that “discreet” word. While liberals - always pushing the tolerance horizons a bit - consider DADT old-fashioned and inherently bigoted.
To be fair, the DADT debate is not a perfect analog to civilian processes. The military inherently needs top-down control, with very limited look back sousveillance. Their kind of conservatism -- very different than the insane neocons and loony dogmatists -- is the kind we should all respect and listen to, with some humility!
Still, the fact that people relaxed their fears and allowed a steady expansion of tolerance, even in this conservative setting, illustrates some validity to what I have been saying all along, that horizon expansion is a natural process, if it is promoted steadily, naturally, insistently but organically, at a pace that doesn’t freak people out. Moreover, take note. While DADT ostensibly reduced the military’s ability to spy and coerce and peer into service members’ lives... in fact, the effect of DADT was not an overall reduction in transparency! Indeed, it helped to end a potential security-breach methodology and ensure thousands of serving Americans are safe from blackmail.