Friday, April 21, 2006

E.J. Dionne on Rove's new mission

Today's Washington Post has a column by E. J. Dionne, Jr. that argues Rove has not been demoted, but rather focused on the only thing that matters to Bush right now: holding on to Congress. The Bush policy agenda is dead. If the Dems take control of either branch of Congress, here come the subpoenas.

Unanswered in all this: if Rove's job is now politics, am I and my fellow tax-payers still paying his salary? Or has he moved off the U.S. payroll and on to the Republican Party's?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Headline of the Week

"Apple Calls Meeting After Making Little Girl Cry" (AppleInsider) A 9=year-old girl gets a rude peek at the cold, corporate, legal machinery behind the happy, fluffy, warm, and friendly brand image when she offers Steve Jobs some suggestions for improving the iPod. Brand vs Lawyers at Apple. Did she blog about it? Nah. Straight to TV. MSM isn't out of the game yet, me hearties!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Kos: "local activists hate Sen. Maria Cantwell"

On tour to promote his book, Crashing the Gate, Kos has been summarizing local buzz for Democratic candidates. He has a glowing report from Washington on strong support for Darcy Burner's challenge to Republican Dave Reichert in my neighboring WA-08 district.

But then he drops this bombshell:
Meanwhile, it was quite shocking to see just how much local activists hate Sen. Maria Cantwell. It isn't that they're disappointed in her positions on issues like Iraq in an effort to appear "moderate" or "centrist", it's that she won't even talk to them about those issues. The dislike was near universal and truly based on that lack of communication.
So, according to Kos, it's not the Senator's position on the war, but her lack of communication with progressives that's the problem.

Well, on that there's news: Last week, Cantwell met with a delegation of eight organizations to discuss Iraq. As reported by Lietta Ruger on Washblog, it took six months to obtain this meeting. Six months?! But a dialog has started.

Since the dialog, it's hard to detect any shift in Cantwell's Iraq position. It remains essentially the same that she articulated in December 2006: "This year must be a year of transition. In 2006 we must get the Iraqi people back on their feet and bring our troops home."

Today's Seattle-Times covers the Cantwell-McGavick race under the headline "a contrast of moderates." Cantwell has a comfortable, but not commanding 10-point lead in the polls. Nevertheless, the Republicans consider her seat potentially vulnerable--especially since she won it by a slim 2,229-vote margin.

McGavick is still pretty much an unknown. Serious money has yet to be spent.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pesach, Roosevelt, and us

This year, the anniversary of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt coincided with the first night of Pesach. It's a timely coincidence because there are parallel messages for us today from both Roosevelt and the Haggadah (the text that Jews recite in retelling the Pesach story each year).

Democrats searching for language to make the case against Bush would do well to study the 1936 acceptance speech of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the Democratic Convention.
Rhetorically, Roosevelt (or his writers) understood much that today's mealy-mouthed consultants have lost track of. Tell a story. Lift hope. Don't fear strong rhetoric. And don't let them make "class warfare" a dirty word. To give it all legitimacy, embrace the revolutionary origins of the nation. If you listen to the speech, you'll even hear the word "overthrow." How about this one: "Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise."

Pesach celebrates, in particular, the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. But more generally, it encourages our continuing journeys from servitude to freedom, from darkness to light. We're asked to find parallels in other lands and times and in our personal struggles toward liberation from habits, self-deceptions and unwanted limitations to fulfilling our highest aspirations. The memory of the exodus from Egypt--literally and metaphorically--is one of the core engines of the Jewish spiritual journey. We celebrate the divine liberation that happened. And we yearn for its completion. Liberation past. And liberation future.

Flashback. It's 1936. The president has been renominated. His acceptance speech is very Haggadah-like. He goes back to tell the founding liberation of the country. And then to find a contemporary parellel. You have only to omit a few specific references to the depression to have a speech that works today.

As you can see below. Or you can read the whole speech here or listen to it in Roosevelt's ringing, patrician tenor here.
Philadelphia is a good city in which to write American history. This is fitting ground on which to reaffirm the faith of our fathers; to pledge ourselves to restore to the people a wider freedom; to give to 1936 as the founders gave to 1776 - an American way of life.

That very word freedom, in itself and of necessity, suggests freedom from some restraining power. In 1776 we sought freedom from the tyranny of a political autocracy - from the eighteenth-century royalists who held special privileges from the crown. It was to perpetuate their privilege that they governed without the consent of the governed; that they denied the right of free assembly and free speech; that they restricted the worship of God; that they put the average man's property and the average man's life in pawn to the mercenaries of dynastic power; that they regimented the people.

And so it was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought. That victory gave the business of governing into the hands of the average man, who won the right with his neighbors to make and order his own destiny through his own government. Political tyranny was wiped out at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

Since that struggle, however, man's inventive genius released new forces in our land which reordered the lives of our people. The age of machinery, of railroads; of steam and electricity; the telegraph and the radio; mass production, mass distribution - all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free.

For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital - all undreamed of by the Fathers - the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small-businessmen and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor - these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small-businessmen, the investments set aside for old age - other people's money - these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities.

Throughout the nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise. . . .

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.

Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.

The brave and clear platform adopted by this convention, to which I heartily subscribe, sets forth that government in a modern civilization has certain inescapable obligations to its citizens, among which are protection of the family and the home, the establishment of a democracy of opportunity, and aid to those overtaken by disaster.

But the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them. . . .

We are poor indeed if this nation cannot afford to lift from every recess of American life the dread fear of the unemployed that they are not needed in the world. We cannot afford to accumulate a deficit in the books of human fortitude.
. . .

There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny. . . .

I believe in my heart that only our success can stir their ancient hope. They begin to know that here in America we are waging a great and successful war. It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.

I accept the commission you have tendered me. I join with you. I am enlisted for the duration of the war

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

In appreciation of Scott McClellan

Michael Wolff in Vanity Fair has a deep consideration of the inadvertant comedy stylings of White House press punching-bag, Scott McClellan. Not since Baghdad Bob has there been a government spokes-idiot who generates more scorn, disdain, and general eye-rolling. McClellan performs in an affectless, robotic recitation of a small repertoire of dodges and non-answers. No wit. No banter. No rapport. No information. Just a spasmodic spew of stammer, stonewall, and sweat. Other than serving as yet another example of the Bush penchant for appointing incompetent cronies from the Texas old-boys-and-girls network, what does McClellan tell us about the administration's view of people, press, and language? Wolff makes a case for upgrading the weaponry of the press gaggle with that greatest of smokescreens in all modern obfuscation: PowerPoint. But that would only give the camera another target and would diminish the comedy and entertainment value of watching a human attempt to impersonate a robot. Keep the camera on Scott. He's doin' a heckuva job.

What to do with your extra bribe money

I pass this along from Russ Daggatt. (He didn't list his source):
As one commentator I read noted, DeLay’s lawyers probably had a sit-down talk with him and suggested that he focus on not spending most of the rest of his life in prison instead of on re-election. And, as it turns out, he can legally take all those corporate donations in his re-election campaign treasury and use them for his legal defense. Is it a GREAT system, or what? You can use the bribes themselves to defend yourself against accusations of bribery.
But, of course, he's going to start a defense fund. I wonder where that money will go?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Without further DeLay

You've read it everywhere by now. But it was Mike Allen of Time who broke the news. Definitely not too legit to quit, Tom Delay stands down. If he stays out of jail, he'll do quite well on the lecture circuit. Meanwhile, it is not inappropriate affect to be grinning as broadly as his mugshot. He is unrepentent. "I'm not ashamed of anything I've done. I've never done anything in my political career for my own personal gain." I guess it was all in the name of public disservice.