Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Historical Revisionism or Historical Ignorance?

As I travel down the political off ramps of the information superhighway (blogs), I often see a lot of misinformation about the history of the Democratic party and many of it's members. In fact, Ed Kilgore over at NewDonkey discussed this very topic recently:

I am continuously struck, from personal experience, at how many very highly educated and politically obsessive young Americans don't know seem to know that much about U.S. or international political history.

This is not an observation based on self-inflated Boomer Nostalgia for the Huge Events of my own lifetime, BTW.

In the throes of the 2000 presidential psychodrama, I wrote a piece for the DLC that in passing compared Ralph Nader to Henry Wallace. A very smart 30ish colleague, who used to teach American history, admitted to me that he had no clue about the identity of Henry Wallace. After I enlightened him about the vice president and Progressive Party leader, he got a little defensive and said: "You have to remember that was before my time." "Believe it or not, it was before my time, too!" I replied rather heatedly. "And you know what? Andrew Jackson was before my time. Don't you read?"

I see this phenomena pop up when discussing Democrats of the past. Often, writers of liberal blogs bestow a little extra "liberalness" on people as time goes on, but are highly critical of modern Democrats for the same policies and actions as their "progressive" heroes.

Now, people who know me know I'm a moderate and therefore don't hold Democrats to the same ideological purity tests as, say, readers of DailyKos. Just the same, I thought it would be fun to give posters at Democratic Underground a couple of tests to see if they could identify a couple of "liberal heroes" based only on information about them.

A few people knew the answers. Most didn't. A few were shocked (shocked, I say!) to learn their identity. So, I'll give you the same tests. You're welcome to leave comments.

Who Am I???

Time Magazine said of me:

A catalog of contradictions: Liberal, moderate, conservative, compassionate, ruthless, soft, tough, a charlatan, a true believer, a defender of the status quo, a populist Hamlet... A Democrat who thinks like a Republican... he also considers himself a fiscal conservative...

Other facts concerning me:

A former State Senator, I was elected Governor by running to the right of the other Democratic candidates. "I was never a liberal," I told state voters that year. "I am and have always been a conservative."

I campaigned against school busing.

A supporter of the Viet Nam war, as Governor I declared "American Fighting Man's Day" in support of Lt. William Calley after his court martial on charges of massacring civilians.

At the 1972 Democratic convention, I was a delegate for Henry "Scoop" Jackson's (said by some to be the father of the DLC) presidential campaign, and I worked with Al From of the DLC on economic issues as well.

One of my campaigns was endorsed by Pat Robertson, who aired a profile of me on the 700 Club.

Think you know who I am?

Moving on to the next one question:

After a major election year loss, I distanced myself from the liberal/progressive wing of the party, declaring, “I’m not a liberal at all... I’m not comfortable with those people.”

My father told a leading national magazine, “How could any son of mine be a god damn liberal? Don’t worry about him being a weak sister. He’ll be tough.”

In a Senate race, I refused to endorse the Democratic candidate and instead endorsed the Republican!

As president-elect, I appointed high level Republicans to prominent cabinet posts!

My most well-known catch phrase was a rebuke of the welfare and a promotion of individual responsibility.

Another phrase was a Woodrow Wilson-like call to arms for “Liberal Internationalism.”

A master of the New Democrat perfected "triangulation," I alienated Labor Unions by not siding with them on a number of issues, believing disputes must be settled with what is best for the public’s interest.

I considered our tax system obsolete and advocated massive tax cuts.

A leading Republican characterized me as “a Democrat by accident of birth; he is more of a pragmatist than a Democrat.”

Congressman John Lewis (D, GA) a civil rights hero, said my civil rights actions were "too little, too late."

Who am I?

Think you Know?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Liberals: Lieberman Is Not The Enemy

Liberals: Lieberman Is Not The Enemy
January 8, 2006
By Peter Beinart

Why are MoveOn, Daily Kos and so many other liberal activists so keen to find a primary challenger against Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman? The more you peel the onion, the stranger the answer becomes.

The common explanation is that Lieberman is a conservative. Or, more specifically, he's a conservative who represents a liberal state - and, therefore, has no excuse.

But according to conventional indexes, Lieberman is not a conservative. His lifetime rating from the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action is 76, six points higher than the man MoveOn and Kos have encouraged to enter the race, former Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr.

In August 2003 (before turning against Lieberman), Kos himself reviewed Lieberman's ADA and American Conservative Union ratings and called the charge that he was a closet Republican "b.s."

So why do so many liberals think Lieberman is a conservative? The obvious answer is his steadfast support for the Iraq war. For many liberals, ADA-style vote tabulations are irrelevant; Iraq is the crucible of our age.

There's a clear historical parallel. In 1968, Hubert Humphrey's support for Vietnam made him a liberal pariah and Eugene McCarthy's opposition made him a liberal hero. Few cared that, overall, during their years in the Senate, Humphrey had been the greater liberal champion.

So Lieberman is a supposed conservative because of his position on Iraq. But here, too, solid footing gives way. To be sure, Lieberman hasn't apologized for voting to authorize the war. But neither have most of the other 28 Senate Democrats who voted the same way.

And, when it comes to withdrawing U.S. troops, Lieberman's position differs from other Democratic heavyweights only slightly. In his now-infamous Nov. 29 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Lieberman wrote, "If all goes well, I believe we can have a much smaller American military presence there [in Iraq] by the end of 2006 or 2007." Compare that with Wesley Clark, who proposes a 30,000-troop drawdown but opposes "a pullout until the job is done." Or John Kerry, who wants to bring the "vast majority of American troops home" in 2006, but only if certain benchmarks are met. Or antiwar crusader Russ Feingold, who aspires to bring all U.S. troops home by the end of 2006, but - again - only if various criteria are fulfilled.

The substantive Iraq divide inside the Democratic Party isn't between Lieberman and everyone else. It's between Lieberman, Clark, Kerry and Feingold on the one hand (who hope to bring troops home quickly, but not if it means all hell breaking loose) and Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha (who want to bring troops home as soon as possible, no matter what).

The rest is rhetorical window dressing: Kerry and Feingold offer aggressively optimistic assumptions about when Iraq's government and military can stand on their own; Lieberman is more cautious.

But, politically, rhetorical differences matter. In fact, they are at the heart of Lieberman hatred. Lieberman's heresy isn't ideological; it's temperamental. He loathes confrontation, he exudes goodwill toward all. He takes it as an article of faith that what binds us together as Americans is more important than what divides us, always. He is chronically happy with American life. During the 2004 campaign, he wanted to be liked by Al Sharpton, and he was. Today, he wants to be liked by George W. Bush, and he is.

Lieberman's problem is that bloggers like Kos aren't very ideological either. Temperament defines them, too. It's just the opposite temperament. For Kos and the other Lieberman haters, liberalism means confrontation, at least in the Bush era. In their view, politics should be guided by the spirit of war. If you don't want to crush conservatives, you are not a liberal.

So Lieberman hatred is really all about style, right? Actually, no - there's one final slice, and it's the most important of all.

Behind Lieberman's obsession with national unity is his deep conviction that the United States is at war - not just in Iraq, but around the world. The war on terrorism is his prism for viewing Bush. And it drains away his anger at the president's misdeeds, because they always pale in comparison to those of America's true enemy. When the Abu Ghraib revelations broke, Lieberman said America should apologize, but then added that "those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, never apologized."

But why should our horror at Sept. 11 mitigate our horror at U.S. torture? Liberals have the right to measure the Bush administration against our vision of America, not merely against the reality of America's enemies. Judging the United States by the standards of al-Qaida - like judging the United States by the standards of the Soviet Union during the Cold War - makes it far too easy to absolve our government's sins. Joseph McCarthy was far better than Josef Stalin, but he was still a menace. Richard Nixon was far better than Leonid Brezhnev, but he still deserved to be impeached.

Yet, if Lieberman's view is one-dimensional, so is that of his critics. If he sees Bush only through the prism of war, they see the war only through the prism of Bush - which is why they can muster so little anger at America's jihadist enemies and so little enthusiasm when Iraqis risk their lives to vote.

Kos and MoveOn have conveniently convinced themselves that the war on terrorism is a mere subset of the struggle against the GOP. Whatever brings Democrats closer to power, ipso facto, makes the United States safer. That would be nice if it were true - but it's clearly not, because, sometimes, Bush is right, and because, to some degree, our safety depends on his success. National security will never be reducible to the interests of the Democratic Party.

What both Lieberman and the Lieberman haters have lost is what the great social democratic critic Irving Howe called "two-sided politics." Liberals are engaged in two different struggles - one against illiberalism at home, the other against an even more profound illiberalism abroad. Both must be fought with passion. Neither can be subsumed. Each must be sometimes compromised for the sake of the other.

It is that moral tension - more than Bush hatred, and more than wartime unity - that defines the liberal spirit. Let's hope both Lieberman and his critics recapture it in the days ahead.

Peter Beinart is the editor of the New Republic. This article appears in the Jan. 5 edition of the magazine.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Blogging Around

Checking out some political rumblings on the net...

NewDonkey has a great analysis of what he terms "liberal activist" candidates from Adlai Stevenson to Gene McCarthy to Howard Dean and how they "struggled, to one degree or another, to attract much support from blue-collar and minority voters" while garnering much of their support from upscale, educated white voters. The lesson to be learned for the Democratic party in regards to these candidates is how to add to FDR's coalition without subtracting from it elsewhere.

SoapBlox/Chicago wades into DLC/Boogeyman conspiratorial territory, wondering if Barack Obama is a "DLC trojan horse" because he is supporting 10 of his Senatorial buddies who happen to be DLC members.

Donkey Rising comments on Jamison Foser's expose of mainstream media's pro-Republican bias as written over at Media Matters, specifically, how the media ignored a Zogby poll that showed the majority of Americans favor impeachment of Bush if he lied about reasons for going to Iraq.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Hillary Clinton, Jerry Springer, and Democratic Underground

I've been watching a thread unwind over at Democratic Underground concerning Hillary Clinton's support for a federal law prohibiting desecration of the American flag in some forms. To be precise, THIS is what the bill Clinton supports would prohibit:

* Destroying a flag with the intent of causing violence;

* Threatening someone by burning a flag;

* Damaging a flag that is federally owned or that belongs to someone else on federal land.

I see no problem with this. But the leftwing wackjobs over at Democrat Underground do. And boy do they have a Hillary hatefest going on! A couple of examples:

"this fascist move is really beyond the pale - of all the things that she wants to appear "moderate" - is to criminalize flag burning."

This is the new definition of 'craven.' Hillary is over as far as I am concerned.

This bill would put burning the flag in the same realm as burning a cross. Don't do it to incite violence. Don't do it to threaten someone. Don't do it if it is Federally owned or privately owned on Federal property. The right to burn a flag should not transcend someone's safety or property rights. To read how the far left is reacting to this makes one wonder if they truly understand the issue.

It isn't as though Clinton is endorsing a Constitutional Amendment banning flag burning. In fact, back in July of this year, Mrs. Clinton said, "I support federal legislation that would outlaw flag desecration, much like laws that currently prohibit the burning of crosses, but I don't believe a constitutional amendment is the answer."

But what of a couple of the left's darlings? What is their take on the issue? Well, Dennis Kucinich once supported a Constitutional Amendment outlawing flag burning. In fact, he flipped flopped, voting for it before he voted against it. How did the Democratic Underground's thread starter take THAT news?

it's hard to believe that he would have done that. And if he did, it's not widely known.

Even after being shown proof, Mr. More Liberal Than Thou didn't really want to believe it.

Wes Clark, who I am a big supporter of but has become somewhat of a hero on the far left, supports a Constitutional Amendment outlawing flag burning. When that was pointed out in the thread, it was largely ignored.

But the most ironic point made there was that Howard Dean (who I support as the DNC chair) indirectly supported a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit flag burning! Although in 2002 Dean said, "I favor protection of the flag, but I do not favor a constitutional amendment," he supported a VT state legislature decision voicing support for protecting the flag and suggesting Congress pass a constitutional amendment as an option in providing such protection. Specifically, the resolution urged Congress to "take whatever legislative action it deems necessary and appropriate to honor and safeguard the United States Flag."

Further, according to liberal writer Joe Conason, "Around that time, Dean rather pompously declared that politicians should declare their positions on the flag issue before voters went to the polls in 2002. That requirement didn't apply to Dean himself, as he "coyly" told the Rutland Herald, because he wasn't on the ballot that year."

That, too, was pretty much ignored. But I'm sure you're not surprised.

Enter Jerry Springer

I've been contemplating this entry to my blog for several days now but I've procrastinated, thinking something else migdevelopope to add a little more substance to it. Thhappenedned today while I was listening to the Jerry Springer show.

Springer brought up Clinton's flag burning position, packaged it with her position on the Iraq war, and asked if Hillary was moving to the right or pandering to the rightwing. I decided to call in and not only mention the positions of Kucinich, Clark, and Dean on the flag issue, but also to remind Springer that Clinton's position on the Iraq war now is in keeping with that of the majority of Americans, i.e., that U.S. troops should be withdrawn only when certain goals are met.

So, I get Springer's call screener on the phone. I tell her about Kucinich, Clark, and Dean. She tells me that Jerry wants to concentrate on the Iraq issue and asked me if I thought Hillary was taking the stance she was because she is a woman and needs to appear "macho." I said, "No, she's taking the position because the majority of Americans feel that."

Click! She hung up on me.

I called back. Click! She hung up before I could say anything.

I waited a few minutes, called back, and said, "Before you hang up, I want you to know I am a Democrat, an officer in my county party, and I hold a vote in my state party. It is obvious you don't want a dissenting opinion on the air, especially from Democrats!"

She said, "you were off topic!" Click! She hung up again.

So there you have it. What more can I say about this topic?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Air America Radio's Missed Opportunity

The Moderate Donkey listens to Air America Radio. I have friends who are involved with Air America Radio. I realize that they have beaten incredible odds to become the success they have become. But Air America Radio has thus far missed a golden opportunity to become what they originally set out to be - a liberal answer to conservative talk radio.

Let me explain.

Air America Radio was created to be the counterpart to the Rush Limbaughs of the world. What they did instead was, with a few exceptions, hire a host of inexperienced leftwingers who often joined Limbaugh, Hannity, and their ilk in attacking the Democratic party.

Let's take the now cancelled show Unfiltered with Rachel Maddow. First, and this is a big pet peeve of mine, they came across as cultural elitists. I cringed whenever they made condescending comments about certain types of music or artists I like, or movies and TV shows I've enjoyed. Were they trying to make their mainstream listeners feel culturally impaired by touting their superior entertainment knowledge or were they just trying to appeal to the 2% or so who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000?

This came across at no better time than on their Friday party machine segment when they played music no mainstream listener had ever heard or would ever hear, music I certainly would never play at my parties unless I wanted everyone to leave. And here I was thinking this was a political talk show!

But the one thing that REALLY turned me off to Unfiltered as well as several other Air American Radio Shows is they were quick to criticize Democrats. Now, I don't feel any Democrat is above criticism - but doing so with literally millions listening won't do anything to build support for the party and get rid of the GOP. Do you ever hear Limbaugh, Hannity, or Savage trashing the Republican party? Plus, it provided fodder for the rightwingers. Maddow really crossed the line on her last day on Unfiltered when she launched into an anti-Bill Clinton diatribe. With millions listening, she explained why the man who saved the Democratic party was really a bad president.

Way to go, Rachel! That's how you convince the fence sitters to vote Democratic! Unfiltered was cancelled because of low ratings. Now you know why the ratings were low.

But Maddow wasn't alone in her disdain for anything that isn't far left simon-pure. Mike Malloy, the Left's answer to rightwing wacko Mike Savage, believes he is a "traditional Democrat" (no, seriously, he believes that) but, as Wikipedia explains, he has basically withdrawn from the Democratic party and is now making overtures to the Green Party - those swell guys who cost Al Gore the election in 2000.

So the ax has fallen at Air America again. Morning Sedition, their unpopular morning show which, coincidently, also has a knack for trashing the Democratic party, has been cancelled. It's being replaced by (drum roll please...) Rachel Maddow!

Some will tell me that you can't argue with success. Afterall, Air America Radio is now on over 80 stations nationwide, and a few are in major markets. But other than liberal strongholds like Seattle, the Air America affiliate stations haven't been a blazing success ratings-wise. They're essentially preaching to the choir. And with the imminent departure of Al Franken to run for the US Senate, one has to wonder if AAR will replace Franken, who is a moderate, with another moderate voice (someone like Ed Schultz) or will they lurch left with another Maddow/Malloy type who will further propagate the myth that there is little difference between the Republican and Democratic parties.

Where I've Been

My last post here was on April 26 but I assure you The Moderate Donkey isn't another orphaned political blog. I have a good reason for being MIA. I was running for a local office - a race that I lost. But still, I'm proud of my effort and here is why.

I ran this race on a shoe string budget - less than $2000.. And considering the constraints of my budget, I believe I had a respectable showing for a first time candidate running as a Democrat against an obviously popular three term Republican opponent in a Republican area. I garnered almost 25% of the vote and I plan to build on this, learn from my mistakes, use my experience in campaigns for other candidates, and yes - I WILL BE BACK AS A CANDIDATE!

I'll always remember this race for several reasons. I've now experienced the democratic process as both a voter and a candidate. I learned that running for office is a lot different than talking politics around the dinner table or in an internet chat room. But most importantly, my first child was born during the campaign, an event that makes everything else seem not nearly as important - even losing.

Speaking of losing, just remember: Bill Clinton lost his first bid for office. So did George W. Bush. Rudolph Giuliani was unsuccessful in his first race. Though Jimmy Carter was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1962, he lost his first campaign for Governor in 1966. Though I have no reason to compare myself to any of these, I do take comfort in knowing that they, among many other public servants, were able to dust themselves off after a loss and try again.

Of course, I had my detractors. One in particular, who belongs to a far left "clique" of sorts and has never forgiven me (or Democrats like me) for not supporting Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential primaries, took my loss as a sign that "DLC-types" can't win anymore. The irony of that statement was it came the morning after DLC member Tim Kaine won the Governor's race in Virginia with the help of Virginia's current governor, DLC member Mark Warner. I pointed this simple truth out to her but it didn't make her real happy. Can't please them all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I Hate Liberals

I hate liberals. Well, no, not really! I am a liberal. Most of my friends are liberals. I just hate the reactionary purists who are trying to hijack the term "liberal" in the same way their rightwing counterparts hijacked "conservative."
I used to believe I was as liberal as they come. (My in-laws still think so!) But then I met the litmus testing reactionary purist-type liberals who, without trying, convinced me I'm a moderate. A moderate liberal, yes. A moderate Democrat, YES! But still a moderate. This blog entry was based on this post by William Pitt at the left's greasy truckstop, Democratic Underground:

I hate liberals

It's funny.

Find me a liberal cause and I'm probably behind it.

Save Social Security? I'm there.

Save ANWR? I'm with you.

Equal rights across the board for tax-paying freedom-loving American citizens who happen to be gay and want to get married just like every other tax-paying freedom-loving American citizen gets to do without a second thought from anyone? I'm there.

Find me a liberal policy initiative and I'm probably behind it. Health care is a right easily attained by each and every single American once health care no longer exists as a for-profit business? Yo.

The military and their sucker-fish defense contractors don't need eight billion gazillion dollars for a missile shield in space that can stop exactly no rogue airplanes in metropolitan airspace while millions go hungry all across the land? Yup.

Public schools need billions of dollars to stop the wretched fact that millions of children gratduate without knowing what the Supreme Court does for a living, to stop the push towards teaching our kids that creationism is the only truth, to stop the creation of stupid people as a matter of policy, said policy holding that stupid people make obedient consumers and compliant workers? Indeed.

Find me a cause, a policy initiative, a white paper, an idea, a belief, a theory or a protest that stems from the liberal philosophy. Chances are huge I'm on your side.

But man. Man o man. I hate liberals.

I agree with so much of what other liberals believe. All day, every day. But it seems like all I do is fight with liberals. I can't have a mildly divergent opinion on a matter of import without being called a Republican, or a Freeper, or a sellout, or a whore. If I'm a Christian, I empower the fundamentalist Right. If I'm an atheist, I'm bashing, period.

Two examples of this happened tonight, though I could give 200 examples if I felt like writing all night. These two will do. Example One: I was honored tonight to introduce Dahr Jamail at a talk in Boston. Jamail, if you don't know, got sick of the corporate news coverage of Iraq and went there himself. He got into Fallujah and let the world know what happened there. He is an amazing human being.

They gave me 15 minutes to say my thing and then introduce him. In my wee speech, I dared to forge beyond the self-righteous boundaries of 'Out Now!' to suggest the bare outlines of a plan on how to get out as soon as possible.

I used Howard Dean as a foil; he recently said we have to stay there, voicing the well-reasoned but argument-I-disagree-with 'Pottery Barn' argument. I think we can get out, we have to get out, but some kind of coherent plan/timeline is needed, because 'Out Now!' makes a good slogan but slogans don't make coherent policy.

I called Dean a hero before I went into this, because he is, but this is more to do with example two, to follow. The point for now is that I called him a hero before I said I disagreed with him. We need to get out of Iraq, I said. As soon as possible.

About halfway through my bare outline - somewhere between getting the Houston contractors out so Iraqis can actually work for pay and invigorate their economy, and get the UN and the Arab League to create a massive mostly-Arab force to take over security/police duty so the Americans can be cycled out en masse and sent home - I met the hecklers.

They were both white, both around my mid-30s age, both with those white-and-black Palestilian militatnt scarves wrapped around their necks. One of them yelled "Shut up with your pro-war bullshit!" Another wadded up the program and threw it at me. They kept this up for a while. As this wasn't my show, but Dahr Jamail's show, I worked through the last two minutes of my introduction of him without starting a shouting match with these two. It galled, yes, but wasn't appropriate to deal with it.

Example number two happened when I went out to have a smoke. A nicely dressed suburban fellow followed me out, and proceeded to scold me. Don't call people heroes, he said with index finger a-wavin'. I had called Dean a hero, you see. I had described the life and death of Marla Ruzicka in my speech, who went to Iraq to count the civilian dead and died there, and called her a hero. When I introduced Jamail, who went to the most dangerous place on earth so we could get the truth, I called him a hero.

Don't call people heroes, he said with index finger a-wavin'. It makes other people feel bad.

Liberals complain. They go to meetings with other liberals and listen to speeches filled with facts they knew before they got there, and complain to the person sitting next to them who already knows what they know and is ready to rock and roll with their own complaining.

All too often, liberals would rather complain and feel good about themselves than choke down the hard stones that sometimes have to be swallowed when seeking a solution that might actually work.

Liberals like to fight. They get into a room, either real or electronic, and wind up in huge, epic arguments about this or that while skating past the fact that the person they are arguing with and insulting agrees with about 90% of what they agree with. They forget the old rule: If you find yourself screaming in rage at someone who agrees with 90% of what you agree with, you might just be a zealot and therefore no good to anyone but yourself.

Conservatives used to be like liberals. They were out of power and fighting amongst themselves, the Birchers v. the Rockefellars v. the Nixonites v. the Reaganites v. the Fundamentalists v. the Internationalists. Somewhere along the line, they figured out how to quell all that, and whoosh! they were in power. I enjoy disliking conservatives and do not enjoy hating liberals, but since they both apparently share so many common characteristics these days, I am helpless before the tide.

I hate liberals. They do not get along, they enjoy disagreement for the sake of disagreement all too often, they are so hard to meld into a coalition that no one has ever, ever, ever managed to meld them into an effective coalition for any significant period of time. Liberals are the reason liberals lose elections nowadays.

I'm a liberal. I believe in the cause, the causes, the policy ideas. We ran the country for years once upon a time while winning World War II and salvaging the national economy by coming up with ways to help the helpless. Imagine it. The things we can do for the good of this country and the world positively boggle the mind.

But I hate liberals, because they won't let that happen. They make me absolutely crazy.