Saturday, May 21, 2005

B After The Fact --- Greatest Hits -- 2004

I am posting my own version of my Greatest Hits of 2004 (with bonus tracks)

As someone in the music business, I know of my contractual obligation to deliver something new for the colection, and here it is:

Bush's Era of Good Feelings

In reading through my blog entries, I noticed that after writing voluminously on the election, I said nothing on the site about the election after it was over. In fact, I have hardly spoken about politics at all -- some history, some baseball, a lot of museums and movies, and some weight control issues. I have even set up another blogsite Time After Surgery which I may or may not be posting to.

I don't think that the Bush-Kerry election was winnable by anyone that the Democratic Party might have put up. The fact that Kerry came as close as he did only shows that Kerry wanted it badly enough and was willing to say anything to get it.

In the end, Kerry handled the Swift Boat controversy properly -- he understood his own relationship to the Vietnam War better than any of his advisors, both paid and in the blogosphere. No other candidate could have handled his weakest point -- and I am sure Karl Rove was keeping a list --- as well as Kerry handled his. After all, Kerry has been defending his Vietnam record for a long, long time.

When people say they would have voted for Kerry, but for the Swift Boat, I believe they are lying to themselves. If it wasn't the Swift Boat, it would have been the $87 billion, if it wasn't the $87 billion, it would have been Teresa, if it wasn't Teresa, it would have been Massachusetts. But these people would have all held their noses, and voted for W-.

In retrospect, if Al Gore had refused to accept the result of the 2000 election, and kept running, he might be President today. I think John Kerry feels the same way about himself. I think that if Kerry keeps running, running into 2008, the only state he'll carry is the State of Confusion.

The fact is that most people trust that W- will, all-in-all, do the right thing. I believe that the trust is misplaced, but my viewpoint lost the election. I think the trust is based, in part, on the fact that people still see this as a liberal government, a high-tax welfare state, a Gomorrah surrounded by two oceans, and that the Republican Party is just a corrective, a pruning against excesses, until the "FemiNazis" return.

But ---

From the time of FDRs election to LBJ's election --- 9 elections. 7 Democratic victories, 2 victories for a Republican (Eisenhower) who wasn't really a Republican.

From the time of Nixon's election to the time of Bush's re-election --- 10 elections, 7 Republican victories, 3 victories for Democrats (Carter, Clinton) who were Democrats in name only.

Any real opposition to anything Bush will do between now and Labor Day 2006, when the Congressional elections kick in, and Bush will become a lame duck, will have to be made by Republicans. This is Bush's Era of Good Feeling, and no amount of pointing at the liberal media can disguise the fact that the liberal media has not influenced an election in a very, very, very, very, very long time.

In the meantime, Democrats have to assist those Republicans who believe in the Constitution. I get a lot of flak when I say that Republicans do not believe in the Constitution. They think I am using code-words. I am not. I know that Republicans believe in freedom. However, as I have said many times before, it is my contention that a critical mass of conservatives, the movement conservatives that are in charge of the government and will be in full power over the next 21 months, do not believe that the Constitution is the single, most important vehicle for preserving that freedom. They are dead-in-their-tracks wrong.

To the extent that they believe in the Constitution at all, they believe in the slave-owners Constitution that died at Gettysburg, or they believe in the factory-owners Constitution that died on Black Friday. These new leaders believe that the clock should be turned back --- that the old days were better days, that they were more God-fearing days. They are wrong on every single count, including the notion that people in those times were more moral or more God-fearing than they are today. Because these people are in power, other people, including the sons and daughters of those currently in power, will live shorter, less prosperous, and less healthy lives.

It is the job of Democrats, short-term, to help those Republicans who believe in the importance of the living Constitution and the right to pray to the living God -- to insure that the United States preserves them both, and keeps damage from the political tsunami to follow to a minimum.

It is the job of Democrats, long-term, to ignore those who say that it is passe to support a Democratic Party whose primary purpose is to help working Americans work in dignity, and to help more-and-more people realize the American Dream.

If the Republican Party is stuck in 1863, if it stuck in 1929, the Democratic Party can surely be stuck in 1964.

My own wrinkle, and there is nothing new to it, although it is rare in today's Democratic Party, and which comes across more clearly in the selections below, is that the American promise of freedom, as set forth in the Constitution, in the Declaration of Independence, in the Gettysburg Address, in the Four Freedoms, is exceptional.

Freedom is, as George Bush likes to say, God's gift to everyone.

American Freedom, as set forth in the Constitution, and lived in this New Jerusalem, is not. It takes muscle to preserve it, and people living elsewhere simply do not get it, and cannot get it unless they are living here. A Democratic Party that is not taking its cues from the American Experience, and the American Experience only, a Democratic Party that turns a blind-eye to the nature of American Exceptionalism, the American Exceptionalism has a radically liberal view of the freedom of the working person to speak, read, pray, travel, and yes, to defend their own property, and maintain their own privacy, as he or she chooses, is going to find that America will turn a blind eye to it.

Thanks for reading, those of you who read all the time, and those of you who read once in a while. Pass it on if you can.

Happy New Year.

From August 8, 2003

"When people talk about limiting the government to its smallest possible level, I get the sense that they are not trying to make me more free, but are trying to switch the power to the church, the moneyed interests, or they're simply trying to starve me to death.

"All-in-all, here in the United States, allowing government to be the dominant actor gives us a better chance for freedom than the church, the corporation or starvation does. Of course, the government has to be pared back from time to time, but that does not mean that a power vacuum should be created that is filled by one of the other three horsemen. The ministers and the landlords and the CEOs and their major stockholders have less freedom than they would otherwise, but I can't be so worried about them. Set up any game you want to play, and they still come out ahead.

This New Deal/ Great Society government has been so successful that it has raised a generation so well-fed and so free that it cannot imagine why the government had to become so large in the first place. One of the biggest losers of the New Deal sits in the Oval Office. Without the New Deal, his family would have so much more money, and we would have so much less opportunity"

From the March 21 entry:

"1. I am in favor of the war against Iraq. I hope we can stay the course.

"2. I don't really care if the Europeans like the Americans or not. Our families all had very good reasons to leave Europe. Everytime a European politician opens his mouth, those reasons are simply reinforced. I think that Kerry is in a too-liberal bubble if he thinks that the American public as a whole will vote for him because people around the world don't like us.

"3. As a general rule, it is ridiculous to assume that the United Nations can be entrusted in a long-term mission to spread democracy. Although, I guess, it is possible that the U.N., as an institution, can grow into it if they were asked to do it.

"4. I believe in the vast right-wing conspiracy. As a matter of domestic policy, the Bushies were looking for a war, any war, as a vehicle to clamp down on what they saw as too much freedom at home. Like a lot of dictatorships in the Middle East, it is easy to say that (i) you are in favor of the rights of people far away, like the Palestinians or the Iraqis, and that (ii) their lack of freedom is causing such a grave crisis that you have no choice but to clamp down on freedom at home.

"5. One piece of proof is that the PATRIOT Act was all typed up and ready to go minutes after September 11. Another piece of proof is the constant refusal of this Administration to take actions, even symbolic actions, that will engage the American public as a whole in the war-effort. They are looking to create a ruling class and a warrior class and a subject class.

"6. And it is because of this systematic and unneccessary clamp-down of freedom at home that Bush has to go."

From May 7

"You cannot be surprised that when George Bush finally decided to apologize for the Iraqi prison abuses, that he would apologize to the King of Jordan. Bush seems to feel that people are not his peers, and he does not owe them apologies. Kings, however …

"I thought I read everything about it, every obvious point that could be said, but how systematic do the abuses have to be, how upside down does the culture have to be, to have GIs pose for those pictures? I don’t see a lot of Kodak moments of smiling guards at the Gulag or Auschwitz.


"This is like that moron juror – with a law degree, natch --- who said that Dennis Kozlowski can not be convicted of a crime because despite the fact that he managed to become the CEO of a major corporation, he did not have the moral compass TO UNDERSTAND THAT TAKING WHAT DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU IS A CRIME.

"Interrogating prisoners of war is a core military function. It is not, to paraphrase the other Donald, wussy little social work. If you do not have enough soldiers to do interrogation, then you do not have a military. If you do not have a military. you do not need a Secretary of Defense, and this one should go. The Department of Commerce should take over.

"A more paranoid notion would be this: the Military is a function of the United States government of the people, by the people and for the people. The current mess in Iraq is, in large measure, the work of independent contractors, whose only loyalties are to the crown. Rumsfeld probably knows too much to be released before he wants to go."

From August 27, 2004

"Obama’s speech was not televised by the networks. The conventions are no longer deemed worthy of the full attention of the networks because the nomination being a foregone conclusion, the conventions are no longer sporting events, and therefore no longer newsworthy.

"This attitude is a tragic mistake. Network television spends hours of prime-time broadcasting events where the conclusion is already known to viewers – the hero will survive to next week’s episode.

"Moreover, the final result of the convention, the final pageant, is completely about the horse race and completely about relative power, two things television professes to love. The outcome of the convention, the bland speech by Senator Jones from 8:43 to 8:49, is the product of intricate power plays of who gets to speak, who doesn’t get to speak, who gets the best time slot, how much they get to speak. The speech itself shows whether or not the speaker benefits, whether or not the candidate benefits, whether or not the party benefits, and whether or not the public benefits.

"If the networks would cover this – the convention as a fight over television face time --- they would have both their horse-race analysis and something highly relevant to say about what the political parties believe themselves to be, and how much of that they choose to show the voters. The Democrats tried to limit Al Sharpton to 6 minutes. Did not happen. They tried to censor Jimmy Carter’s remarks. Did not happen. They wanted, and got, Max Cleland in at 10:00 prime-time pick-up to introduce the President. I say Kerry would have been better off at 10:00 p.m. if his daughter was telling the hamster story."

Rudy Guliani -- Madison Square Garden --- August 30, 2004

(This is what we music types call a "cover": What follows is an edited version of Rudy's speech at the Republican National Convention. It further explains how I can support this war, even when I am so opposed to this President. It has been edited to delete pandering praise of you know who)

“Terrorism didn’t start on Sept. 11, 2001. It started a long time ago and it had been festering for many years. And the world had created a response to it that allowed it to succeed.

“The attack on the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics was in 1972. That’s a long time ago, that’s not yesterday. And the pattern began early. The three surviving terrorists were arrested and then within just three months the terrorists who slaughtered the Israeli athletes were released by the German government. Set free. Action like this became the rule, not the exception. Terrorists came to learn time after time that they could attack, that they could slaughter innocent people and not face any consequences.

“In 1985, terrorists attacked the Achille Lauro and they murdered an American citizen who was in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer. They marked him for murder solely because he was Jewish. Some of those terrorist were released and some of the remaining terrorists, they were allowed to escape by the Italian government because of fear of reprisals from the terrorists.

“So terrorists learned they could intimidate the world community and too often the response, particularly in Europe, would be accommodation, appeasement and compromise. And worse, and worse they also learned that their cause would be taken more seriously, almost in direct proportion to the horror of their attack.

“Terrorist acts became like a ticket to the international bargaining table. How else to explain Yasser Arafat winning the Nobel Peace Prize while he was supporting a plague of terrorism in the Middle East and undermining any chance of peace?

“Before Sept. 11, we were living with an unrealistic view of our world much like observing Europe appease Hitler or trying to accommodate the Soviet Union through the use of mutually assured destruction.

“[W]e could no longer just be on defense against global terrorism we must also be on offense …"

From the October 14 entry:

"Bush all but admitted that he would raise taxes (or seek revenue enhancements, benefit cuts, or whatever euphemism will be used) to cover the gaps that will be created when Bush shifts social security over to an "ownership system." Who gets this money, which will promptly go into a deep hole never to be seen or heard from again --- fund managers. The kinds of people who looted the savings and loan system during Daddy's administration (a crime so big, and so impossible to get your arms around, that they basically got away with it) will be back for a second meal of eating your social security money. That's the rationale, that is the only rationale for a Republican restructuring the Social Security system. Do not trust these people with your money."

From the October 14th entry

"Abortion, gay rights, prayer in public schools, contraception, stem cells, cloning, euthenasia, the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage, separation of church and state, and why (in my opinion) the church benefits more from the separation of church and state than the state does. In this talky internet world, we lack the vocabulary to discuss these issues. We need new words to discuss these new issues. When we use old words, we drag in old baggage, and wind up engaging in old arguments that are besides the point.

"Because of the limited vocabulary we have, all issues about a woman's right to choose wind up being entwined with whether or not God made the sexes equal, and whether or not the state can alter that result. Because of the limited vocabulary we have, all issues about gay rights wind up being a sewer of code words about our views on sexual deviance, and our notions about what is and is not appropriate behavior to display in front of a child. We can't separate out these issues, even if we wanted to, we don't have the proper vocabulary to communicate honestly (as opposed to a politician asking for your vote). We are not used to talking about these matters to people who might have other opinions, and it shows.

"I keep looking for people like Rick Santorum (I wish I could think of anyone from my side of the aisle) to find the vocabulary to bridge the gap, to frame the argument in a way where we can all agree on what we agree on, and make intelligent choices about what we disagree on, but Santorum keeps sliding down the slope. When W-speaks about a "culture of life," he is clearly rallying his base, but he is telling the people outside his base, "silent, barefoot, pregnant, dependant." I know he doesn't believe that, but he is certainly saying it. If you trust W- you make allowances for him, and if you don't, you can't.

"Great spiritual leaders are needed in this country, people who can make modern responses to modern science, people who can show from a spiritual, religious, moral basis, how free God wants us to be. Those people may be able to bring the discussion along. I don't know. It is not for politicians to be spiritual leaders. It is for politicians to make sure that the traffic lights work, and that the terrorists don't. In this society, our spiritual leaders are politicians and talk show hosts. It's depraved."

From the October 15 entry

"States rights is not a philosophy, its a tool. When your guy controls the White House, you don't need states rights. That's why there has been massive Federal involvement in areas like education and family arrangements and so-called faith-based initiatives, which have typically been the domain of the states. Whether the power brokers in individual states, mostly conservatives, will complain in a second term, when they see the cumulative effect of having their perogatives (and their control of the purse strings) diminished, remains to be seen.

"There are no governmental checks and balances on the Bushies.

"The right-wing says that there are checks and balances coming from Ted Kennedy and the left-wing media. There is only one Ted Kennedy, and he gets older and fatter every year."

From the Election Day post:

"The failure to find WMDs does not disturb me at all. Those of us who supported the war, but not the stated rationale behind it, had an obligation to explain ourselves more publicly, to force the Bush Administration to state publicly whether it agreed with our goals, and more importantly to engage the American people in a discussion of these goals. If the American people were opposed, after a fair hearing, that opposition should have been factored in.

"Our goal -- democracy in the Middle East, or at least a system in the Middle East where democracy will not be disturbed elsewhere --- will take at least 90 years or more to achieve. It took 45 years to fight and win the Cold War, and that was among people who shared our religious traditions, and saw democracy and freedom in the same way we did. Many of the Europeans had experienced some degree of freedom, and were merely trying to get back what they lost.

"So as a loose rule of thumb, I am saying that it will take at least twice as long for democracy to root and hold in the Middle East, where the traditions are different, where there is absolutely no experience with any sort of freedom. That 90-year estimate is based on the notion that the United States maintain a presence in the Middle East that entire time. Those of us who believe this to be true did not state this agenda openly. We were hoping that the truth would become apparent along the way. Perhaps they might still. We have only been in the Middle East for a few weeks, especially when compared to the 90-year committment we are going to need to make.

"Perhaps I am all alone out here in my analysis, but I doubt it. Anyway, the failure to state this goal openly, to see if it would respond to a thorough scrubbing, will make it almost impossible to accomplish our goal. Now the goal is being attacked by the left because the President is a conservative. Once the President is a liberal, it will be attacked from the right as a breach of American isolationism. People are saying that already, but after a liberal President is elected, those voices will be encouraged. The failure to accomplish the goal in the Middle East, once we set out on the path in Iraq, will come back to kill us.

"I am terribly afraid of what John Kerry might mean to the security of Israel, and by extension to Jews everywhere. I am sensitive to the opinions of people like Charles Krauthammer and William Safire. They warn that if Kerry seeks a world consensus to solving the situation in Iraq, then the consensus solution will be to destroy Israel. Given the dynamics of the situation, the destruction of Israel will mean the destruction of a great many, if not most, Jews worldwide.

"However, 80% of the Jews will continue to vote Democratic. In the end, the response to people like William Safire and Charles Krauthammer must be: If you feel that strongly about Israel, you should go and live there. If you believe that you have more influence over the future of Israel by staying in the United States and attempting to increase the influence of Jews and pro-Jewish thinking in the United States, that is more than wrong thinking. That is a death wish."

Another cut from the Election Day post:

"An important part of freedom is honest and open discussion of what America needs to do next. Contrary to what John Kerry says, that is not a discussion that Europeans are qualified to have. Contrary to what Orrin Hatch says, that is not a discussion that Arnold Schwarznegger or some soon to be determined Arab Prince should someday be qualified to lead. That is a conversation that only Americans are qualified to have and only Americans are qualified to lead.

"If the Old World was not a sewer, most of our ancestors would not have made such a treacherous trip over here in the first place. I'm certainly not going to escape from hell, and then call the Devil up for advice."

"I have said this since the day he announced his candidacy. Bush is not a Republican, and Bush is not a Democrat. Bush is a Bush."

From an Election Day e-mail the inestimable A Red Mind In A Blue State

"You say that Kerry is a "liberal, squeamish, dithering" candidate.

"I have mentioned before that Kerry is not that liberal. If he is the most liberal Senator, it is only because someone has to be the most liberal Senator. He is not liberal by any standards except 2004. Paul Wellstone, may he rest in peace, was a truly liberal Senator. If you make a careful comparison between Wellstone and Kerry, you will see what I mean.

"Kerry is neither squeamish nor dithering. Whatever the result tonight (or whenever), none of us who held our noses and voted for Kerry in the primary simply on "electability" has any right to feel disappointed.

"No one could have held up to the "Swift Boat" machine the way Kerry did. Kerry, despite what we all thought in August, wanted it badly enough, and just like Bush, is willing to say and do anything to get it.

"The only way to beat back a Bush or a Gingrich or a Delay is to understand that you are playing a game with no rules. Kerry understood that. No other Democrat who understood that had the stomach to make the run.

"Kerry is the best candidate the Democrats could have offered. If Kerry only gets 3 electoral votes today, I am very comfortable in the knowledge that no Democrat, besides perhaps Clinton (either one), could have run in these times and gotten more."

From the November 6 post --- "The Civil War Must Be Refought In Every Generation" (originally written in 1996)

"The very notion of a “Contract With America,” the very choice of the words “Contract With America.” no matter what its contents, implies that the government is not of the people, by the people, and for the people. The very notion of a Contract “with” America implies that government is an outside alien entity that needs to enter a contract with the American people (whatever that means) to be legitimate.

"That, however, was not the result of the Civil War. The result of the Civil War was that there is no Contract with America. There is a contract of, by and for America. It is called the Constitution. It is made among people with American citizenship, which is a privilege that comes with being born on the land, or comes by meeting certain minimal citizenship requirements. I hold these truths to be self-evident. Pat Buchanan does not.

"The people who wish to defend the Constitution better wake up and go to war to defend it. The people against the Constitution have been wide awake for a very long time."