Friday, September 14, 2007

"People Should Not Vote For Any Republican"

There's an excerpt from John Dean at Salon that deserves reading. His new book is called "Broken Government," and it details how the GOP has changed beyond anything he recognizes.

As I was writing this closing section an old friend from the Nixon White House called. Now retired, he is a lifelong Republican who told me that he voted for Bush and Cheney twice, because he knows them both personally. He asked how my new book was coming, and when I told him the title, he remarked, "I'll say the government's broken." After we discussed it, he asked how I planned to end the book, since the election was still a good distance away. I told him I was contemplating ending midsentence and immediately fading to black -- the way HBO did in the final episode of the Sopranos, but that I would settle for a nice quote from him, on the record. He explained that he constantly has to bite his tongue, and the reason he does not speak out more is because one of his sons is in an important (nonpolitical) government post, and we both know that Republicans will seek revenge wherever they can find it. How about an off-the-record comment? I asked. That he agreed to.

"Just tell your readers that you have a source who knows a lot about the Republican party from long experience, that he knows all the key movers and shakers, and he has a bit of advice: People should not vote for any Republican, because they're dangerous, dishonest and self-serving. While I once believed that Governor George Wallace had it right, that there was not a dime's worth of difference in the parties; that is not longer true. I have come to realize the Democrats really do care about people who most need help from government; Republicans care most about those who will only get richer because of government help. The government is truly broken, particularly in dealing with national security, and another four years, and heaven forbid not eight years, under the Republicans, and our grandchildren will have to build a new government, because the one we have will be unrecognizable and unworkable."

Go read the article. Then go read Altemeyer.

Greenwald on the endless war

Greenwald once again calls it like it is:

As much as our political class disgraced itself with its obsequious support for the invasion itself, and further disgraced itself with its complicity in the endless claims (including from the General Whose Credibility Must Not Be Questioned) that things were going well when the opposite was true, their behavior over the last twelve months -- when even they admit that the war is a failure and keep promising to support withdrawal only never to do so -- is the undeniable evidence of how corrupt and worthless they really are.

Endless war....

I haven't had much to say about the Petraeus report because others are saying quite a bit about it, about its mind-numbing bogosity, and about how the only plan the regime has is endless war, drawing troops down to where they were before the so-called 'surge' and calling it a reduction instead of more of the same. Sullivan can feel pity for Bush; I don't. It's been a disaster, it's hurt our position in the world, and the only way out involves the Democrats suddenly finding a spine, which, alas, doesn't seem likely. And speculation that it's all a setup for going after Iran is just more sickening.

This has to end. I actually agree with Camille Paglia:

Words and more words -- what's new? Just get our troops the hell out of there -- now! A phased withdrawal, requiring the removal of massive amounts of supplies and equipment, will take months. But there isn't the sketchiest plan because Bush is dug in to the bitter end and will toss this hot potato to the incoming president -- who (no matter which party wins) won't dare to act. And of course Iraq needs to remain neutralized when American or Israeli bombs start dropping on Iran, which I have little doubt they will do by next year. Bush-Cheney, lacking a clear record of achievement, want to go out with a bang.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Identity politics. Literally.

Interesting post over at Daily Kos arguing that the right's obsession with abortion, homosexuality, and creationism isn't so much because of deeply-held values or religious consistency, as much as it is a way of marking one's identity, of defining one's tribe. Much the same is true of any litmus-test issue, of course... If you're going to be one of us, then you MUST believe X, Y, and Z.

Tribalism in the modern era still depends on its sense of persecution and isolation. Because Christians are the majority, Dominionists must create an enemy to unite them. And so they take an approach opposite to Christ's inclusiveness, peeking through windows and looking for minorities to persecute. The Anti Abortion/Evolution/Homosexuality tribe goes to absurd lengths to prove that it is a persecuted and isolated group that must struggle to protect the safety of its members in a hostile world.

In the absence of real enemies, a tribe will readily create imaginary enemies to unite them, and without concrete evidence of persecution, the tribe must often create an enemy with supernatural powers.
Part of why this resonated so much is that I just recently finished Altemeyer's The Authoritarians, which laid out the degree of tribalism inherent in the authoritarian mind-set, and the way in which identification with the group becomes the most important thing.

Oh yes it IS hypocrisy.

John Cloud at Time has an essay suggesting that Larry Craig isn't guilty of hypocrisy, just weakness.

Assume for a moment that Craig and Haggard actually believed what they said--that homosexuality is sin. They spent most of their lives fighting for the conservative cause. But in Craig's case, the Idaho Statesman has published allegations that there were at least three other slipups involving men, beginning in 1967. What if, like the radio host who gets fat but commits to losing weight, the moralizers were trying through their "pro-family" endeavors to expiate their lustful sins? You may think they are wrong about homosexuality (I do), but that doesn't make them hypocrites.
But this is an explanation, not an excuse. And it doesn't excuse the right-wing anti-gay positions Craig has made such a proud part of his record.

Yes, Craig deserves pity. Watching the self-destruction of a career is never pretty, and the pain is only increased when it happens in public. And despite the bravado of Craig's press releases about getting the verdict reversed, his public career is almost certainly over.

And if he had simply been living a quietly closeted life and got outed, that would be one thing. But these incidents have apparently been going on for years. Cloud makes something of a big deal about how important sequencing is--that if you claim you're going to lose weight, then eat pizza every day for a week and gain 5 pounds, you're a hypocrite. But if you eat pizza and gain weight, then announce you're going on a fitness plan, you're virtuous. Fine. By that criterion, Craig's a hypocrite.

Craig deserves pity. But he also deserves a measure of contempt. Not only for the lie he lived, but for the effect his rhetoric and his policies and his votes on the Senate floor had on people who were living with far more integrity than he. He got far too much mileage out of the "family values" (i.e. anti-gay) meme to deserve sympathy for being exposed.

How much pity, how much contempt? Hard to say. There is a certain amount of self-deception in the closet, and Craig appears to have had more of than most. Cloud describes a series of psychology experiments in which people adjusted their beliefs to match their behavior, no matter what the cost:
They had crossed over from hypocrisy to something more pathetic: self-deception. In this light, getting married, having kids and advancing conservatism looks more like a heartfelt, doomed effort to change sexuality than a hypocritical ploy.
Well, I suppose. Though Craig didn't have kids, he acquired the entire family ready-made when he married. (The kids are his wife's, from her previous marriage.) (Hmmm, 'previous marriage,' how did that come to be acceptable for the 'family values' crowd?) And his votes weren't just on tax cuts. Craig never missed a chance to posture himself as the guardian of society from the Homosexual Menace. Yes, the self-loathing driving that behavior must have been awful. But the fact that he bore it, rather than standing up and admitting what he was doing--or bringing his behavior under control--shows a remarkable lack of integrity.

Cloud gets one thing right, though:
Because their decision making is usually more diffuse, institutions aren't as susceptible to cognitive dissonance. Corporations and political parties routinely say one thing (the GOP is the party of strict values) and do another (the party let Louisiana Senator David Vitter, who unlike Craig holds a swing-state seat, get off with a simple apology after he was linked to a female prostitution ring). The GOP's moralizers deserve some pity. The party itself, not so much.
Craig deserves some pity. The GOP leaders helping run him out of town, none at all. Particularly if the rumors swirling about some of them turn out to be true.

It just keeps getting stranger.

I know I should let this case go, as others are covering it in more detail etc. But just when I think it can't get more bizarre....

Craig was arrested, IIRC, in June. He entered a guilty plea in August. Call it six weeks or so. Now he's saying he didn't really understand what he was doing because he was in a panic about being hounded by the media:

Persuading a judge to withdraw a guilty plea is difficult but Craig will argue that he was under too much stress to knowingly plead guilty, Martin said.

"He was under tremendous pressure," Martin said in a telephone interview.

In particular, Martin cited pressure from Craig's hometown newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, which spent months investigating whether Craig engaged in homosexual encounters.

Craig, who has denied such suggestions and accused the newspaper of conducting a "witch hunt," was so concerned about that investigation, he quickly pleaded guilty when arrested in the bathroom sex sting, Martin said. Craig did not consult with a lawyer or appear in court.

So.... given a month with a court date hanging over him, he didn't consult a lawyer? Even knowing that discussions with a lawyer are privileged? Amazingly enough, I find myself agreeing with Arlen Specter:

Minnesota law is that a guilty plea may be withdrawn if it was not intelligently made "and what Sen. Craig did was by no means intelligent," said Specter.

I'm not sure "intelligently made" has the same meaning Specter's applying here... Yes, entering a guilty plea without consulting with an attorney is certainly foolish. But I wonder if that's grounds for overturning a plea. I somehow doubt it.