Friday, October 12, 2007

OSTRICH HUNTING: The Bill Clinton Gambit

If Democrats simply want to win the next election, they may play it safe. Keep riding the GOP’s self-made spiral of unpopularity, hoping that nothing dramatic will happen to mobilize the Republican base. Keep it about “left vs right.” Chip away at the middle-fringe of Karl Rove’s coalition. That seems to be the game plan.

If - on the other hand - our aim is to save America and our civilization, then we have to be more ambitious. Any Democratic presidency in 2009 will almost worthless, if it stays mired in endless “culture war.”

The only way to solve that is to completely repudiate neoconservatism. This monstrous, mutant version of conservatism should not be left in charge of one of America’s major parties, licking its wounds and preparing for a comeback in 2012.

For America’s sake, the next election has to be a blow-out.

* OSTRICH AMMO: Hypocrisy is the Zinger

Top priority must go to shattering Rove’s Big Tent Coalition - by rousing twenty million “Ostrich Republicans.” Like your mostly-decent uncle, who stays glued to Fox News, desperately seeking reassurance that his side has not gone insane. Burying his head in denial, trying not to think about what conservatism has become.

If each of us managed to shake-awake just one or two “ostriches” - to realize their movement has been hijacked by a fanatics and thieves - their anger against the neocons might sear Rove’s Red Alliance down to ashes, ensuring that the next version of conservatism (and there will be one) may be more like Bob Dole and less Joseph Goebbels.

But how does one rouse a stubborn ostrich? As I discuss elsewhere, they are psychologically well-armored and Fox provides rationalizations to mask every individual Bushite travesty. Hence, you’ll need persistence, plus willingness to empathize! Instead of screaming at a strawman image, show your ostriches that you understand their better values - prudence, independence, honesty, fiscal responsibility, real patriotism - and then show forcefully how the neocon/Bush cabal has betrayed them all.

It also helps to shake up their perspective! Make them take a fresh angle. So here’s an approach. Try asking ”What happened to the moral outrage that you once fulminated towards Bill Clinton?”

And then start going down a very long list of thought experiments.


... sent twelve billion dollars of taxpayer money into a war zone -- as a raw cash, unsupervised slush fund -- and then somehow managed to lose nine billions of it...

(HOW do you “lose” 270 tons of one hundred dollar bills? That’s ninety million $100 bills, or the average monthly mortgage payments of TEN million Americans.)...

...including almost a billion dollars that were “misplaced” by the side of an Iraqi road?

Would you have let Bill Clinton get away with something like that, without a single head rolling, or even a decent explanation?

Self-check: Remember how mad you were over “Whitewater corruption,” amounting to (at most) $80,000? In contrast, are you even curious why George Bush won’t even try to account for TEN THOUSAND times as much?


...made US taxpayers subsidize a huge, private, mercenary army, controlled by one of his closest liberal-democrat supporters?

...then signed documents making those mercenaries immune from any law, American or foreign?

...then let those mercenaries exonerate themselves from cold-blooded murder, by ghost-writing a “report” under US diplomatic letterhead?

...while also privatizing many more secret groups to perform intelligence-gathering, interrogation, kidnapping and international “operations” without even a figleaf of supervision by the CIA?

...then ruined the effectiveness of one of the best of those groups, by leaking its methods, simply to make a minor political point?

Would you have shrugged all that off, if Bill Clinton had done such things? You, who relished ornate conspiracy theories over the suicide of poor Vince Foster -- how would you have reacted if the Clintons used your taxes to create vast private armies led by fanatic democrats?

You would have let that slide? As “necessary,” just because Commander-in-Chief Clinton said so? Really?

Now substitue “Bush” for “Clinton” and tell us the same.


...canceled the rules requiring that government contracts be awarded by competitive bidding -- (it’s called capitalism) -- and instead granted multibillion dollar sweetheart deals directly to Clinton family friends, free of supervision or auditing?

...used the words “emergency” and “top secret” to conceal those crooked deals?

...hid the fact that each private contractor costs five to ten times as much as a soldier or civil servant, while doing astonishingly shoddy work?

...then appointed “inspectors” to many cabinet departments and Iraq reconstruction agencies, who have no professional qualifications other than longtime political loyalty to Bill Clinton?

(Meanwhile, our troops go without. And regular Iraqis starve.)

...then managed to lose, waste or “misplace” more Iraqi oil each and every day than the UN “Oil For Food Program” did in its entire history? If Clinton had done these things, would you have ignored and excused it all, the way you have for Bush?

* Yes, this is confrontational stuff!

Indeed, it would be a mistake to simply print this out and shove it under an ostrich's nose. They won't read. They'll go ostrich on you!

The most effective approach? Sitting him or her down and reading it to them aloud! Be fair. Listen to replies and defenses. Don’t sneer. Be willing to learn!

But don’t let go. The most persuasive thing about this list is its relentless length! Every rationalization will look thinner and thinner, as you lay down one crime after another.

... Onward to Part II.

(* Added links welcome along with comments.)


Anonymous said...

I agree with if the don't win big you might as weill stick a fork in America because it will be done. We are really close now.

Sidereus said...

Another retired general blasts Bush and this time it is Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12— In a sweeping indictment of the four-year effort in Iraq, the former top American commander called the Bush administration’s handling of the war incompetent and warned that the United States was “living a nightmare with no end in sight.”

In one of his first major public speeches since leaving the Army in late 2006, retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez blamed the administration for a “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan” and denounced the current “surge” strategy as a “desperate” move that will not achieve long-term stability.

David Brin said...

Dang, wow. Sanchez.

Meanwhile, folks have a look at:

seriously. He's not my dream candidate. I'm not at all sure he ever really hungered to be president. Nevertheless, he has huge stature. And he's not a senator (phew). And he was the best assistant president ever. And his very nerdiness protects him from the extremes of hatred that the far right would otherwise pour at H or B.

Any of you care to help with links as I go along in this series?

Also, please drop in on my cross-postings at Daily Kos and help ratings over there!

Anonymous said...

''while some warn victory some downfall private reasons great or small can be seen in the eyes of those that call to make all that should be killed to crawl while others say dont hate nothing at all except hatred
and tho the masters,make the rules for the wise men and the fools,I got nothing Ma,to live up to''
Bob Dylan

harry potter5 said...

You may already be aware of this, Dr. Brin. Last week on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart listed the errors of the current president, then asked: "How would Republicans feel if Bill Clinton had done these things? Oh, never mind. They probably couldn't get past the blow job."

Alex Tolley said...

Brin: 'Try asking ”What happened to the moral outrage that you once fulminated towards Bill Clinton?” '

The problem is that this outrage was trumped up in the first place. Trying to get it going again is just pandering to the idea that "ostrich republicans" should be manipulated by their extreme emotions.

I agree with you that showing republicans that their traditional values have been betrayed needs to be done, but I think your suggested method is wrong. Cognitive dissonance is very hard to overcome. Just look at the rationalizations on both left and right over abortion and the death penalty. Arguably pro-abortion anti-death penalty is as irrational as pro-life, pro death penalty. I've argued against both sides and the rationalizations for the positions are so ingrained, that one cannot get through to discussing the issues at all. I don't think anyone even listens any more to arguments.

I haven't listened to the pres. candidate debates, but it is pretty clear from teh commentaries that little of substance is being said of either group. Arguably the republicans are saying even less than the democrats. The whole format doesn't even make sense, because the party candidate is just shouting into an echo chamber. issues and policies are not being aired or challenged in any meaningful way. Indeed, even when the the 2 candidates eventually face each other, this will be substantially the same. Bush was never challenged on his 'policies'. Even as president this was still true until very recently.

So to get back to why instilling moral outrage won't work, all the republican spin machine has to do is stir up some new outrage over the democratic candidate or party. Hillary with be painted with Whitewater, the travel agency scandal, the 93 health care mess, voting for Iraq War now 'against' it. Democratic candidates will be painted with "soft on terror" and "tax and spend" slogans, which the republican candidates will never have to repudiate, nor justify their positions. In fact I will make a prediction that the successful democratic candidate will be trying to neutralize the "soft on terror" slogan by trying to show how "strong on terror" they are. In other words, a a red herring argument shaped by the framing of the arguments.

And don't kid yourself that this won't be the argument. Sometime next year, Iran will be ginned up for an attack. "Proof" of Iran's nuclear terror aims will be shown and an attack mounted. All the focus will be back on the war with Islam, terror etc, falling nicely into the prepared rhetoric of Giulliani, and eclipsing all other economic and social issues that sorely need addressing.

Jumper said...

Ever heard the hoary defense of hypocrisy? You know how it goes (quoting Jeremy Lott): "It is definitely a force for social good. It does help create and maintain certain standards. Parents have to practice a good deal of hypocrisy around their children at certain times in order to model things to them."

I could go on with that, but lately I have reduced my own thoughts about hypocrisy to one simple idea: hypocrites lose credibility. And have no one to blame but themselves if no one believes a single flipping thing they say. None of it.

But don't underestimate it.

Secondly, don't underestimate those people who vote pretty much 100% for their pocketbooks, humanity be damned. I believe there was a little thing called the slave trade which even now still rears its head in various ways and forms. Simply one example.

I don't know what to do with much of this. I have in the past mentioned to conservatives how wonderful it is that modern game theory has proved that "Jesus was right." I usually add that game theory has demolished much of Karl Marx and Adam Smith also. This opens a dialogue about cooperative behavior. (I ought to note that I truly believe these statements.)

Alex Tolley said...

jumper: "modern game theory has proved that "Jesus was right.""

If you are referring to 'turning the other cheek', then I am not aware of this as being shown correct by game theory. Behaviorally, game theory has shown that 'tit for tat' strategies work best in most situations, where cooperation is offered first.

But perhaps you were referring to some other instruction[s]?

David Brin said...

Please all go to

and give a recommend click in the 1st comment (mine). That's called a "tip jar."

Prove that I am being heard. Or else Cheryl will make me go back to writing novels.

Jumper said...

No, I wasn't specificlly referring to "turn the other cheek." It was more "love thy neighbor" I was thinking. The whole cooperative gestalt of peace and its win-win payoff.

I am aware of the various contradictions involved. I still have found the ensuing dialogues that resulted have been quite good. That's all.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why, but it wouldn't let me recommend in the tip jar... for whatever reason, the option to recommend only showed up in a couple of comments :(

Lorraine said...

I'm not convinced that left vs. right is not the way to go. The most conspicuous bias of the media these days is the assertive insistence on framing public debate in right vs. center terms. NBC's Tim Russert is one of the most aggressive practitioners of this editorial policy, but it pervades all main$tream media. Ever since the Reagan revolution, the conventional wisdom (established largely, I'm convinced, by sheer repetition) is that American public opinion is starkly conservative relative to (1) mid-20th century American public opinion and (2) "first world" public opinion. We have been told for three decades now, very repeatedly, that Social Security is the only major political issue majority public opinion is on the (nominally) left side of. It's equally common knowledge that civil liberties are box office poison, as their constituency includes only artists and intellectuals--no more than 1% of the electorate, to be sure. And if I had a nickel for each time the M$M repeated the mantra about "the Democrats not being able to win with a non-southerner atop the ticket..."

The groundswell of populist progressive sentiment hasn't been lost on the M$M, but they still aggressively frame the debate, depicting the populist voter as one who cares about job security and health care, but is either apathetic or conservative about foreign policy or legal controversies.

If America can go through a generation-long period characterized by doctrinaire Republicans and finger-in-the-wind Democrats, it seems reasonable that a mirror image of this scenario should be possible. If it were not possible, the rational thing for Democratic politicians to do would be to switch sides. It's more important to me that the left's answer to the Reagan revolution happens during my lifetime than that some Democrat, any Democrat, wins the next election cycle. Democrats simply have to stop being so afraid of losing. Reagan didn't become the most (electorally) successful politician in my lifetime by playing to the center. Thatcher famously said something unkind about the middle of the road, but since (being a vagrant netizen) I compose offline, I don't do quotations. :-) There are definite signs of a 'pendulum swing' underway. Opportunity comes to those who strike the iron when it is hot.

I do, BTW, agree with outreach on the part of the Democrats to the principled conservatives. In keeping with the mirror image analogy, there most be the analog of "Reagan Democrats," plausibly the most anti-anti-intellectual elements in the Republican base. Keep an eyeball on the Huckabee-Paul spectrum. The M$M will of course tell you until they're blue in the face that the Huckabee Republicans are most within the Democrats' reach.