Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dick Cheney's abuse of secrecy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

NYT: "Cheney Is Linked to Concealment of C.I.A. Project."

The project, which current CIA director Leon Panetta "ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23," remains secret:

Intelligence and Congressional officials have said the unidentified program did not involve the C.I.A. interrogation program and did not involve domestic intelligence activities. They have said the program was started by the counterterrorism center at the C.I.A. shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but never became fully operational, involving planning and some training that took place off and on from 2001 until this year.

What is important here, though, is not what it was -- and one can only imagine -- but that Cheney kept it from Congress. But, in so doing, did he break the law?

The law requires the president to make sure the intelligence committees "are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity." But the language of the statute, the amended National Security Act of 1947, leaves some leeway for judgment, saying such briefings should be done "to the extent consistent with due regard for the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters."

In addition, for covert action programs, a particularly secret category in which the role of the United States is hidden, the law says that briefings can be limited to the so-called Gang of Eight, consisting of the Republican and Democratic leaders of both houses of Congress and of their intelligence committees.

So, yes, it's certainly possible that the program was so covert that Cheney acted within the law in keeping it secret. But did the "Gang of Eight" know about it? If not, what was the justification for that? That it was super-covert -- so much so that even the leadership was kept in the dark?

Maybe, and I do respect the need for secrecy, but, given Cheney's track record, we are right to be skeptical:

The disclosure about Mr. Cheney's role in the unidentified C.I.A. program comes a day after an inspector general's report underscored the central role of the former vice president's office in restricting to a small circle of officials knowledge of the National Security Agency's program of eavesdropping without warrants, a degree of secrecy that the report concluded hurt the effectiveness of the counterterrorism surveillance effort.

And there was so much more, of course: "In the eight years of his vice presidency, Mr. Cheney was the Bush administration's most vehement defender of the secrecy of government activities, particularly in the intelligence arena."

Cheney knew what he was doing. And regardless of whatever lame justifications he may have used to defend his actions, he abused the need for secrecy throughout the Bush presidency. As more and more comes out, including this, it is more and more troubling what Bush and Cheney and their various minions authorized in conducting their so-called war on terror.

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Top Ten Cloves: Things about new Google Chrome Operating System

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: Google developing a PC operating system that would compete with Windows

10. Based on one specific inquiry, Google Chrome OS will work in Argentina

9. Google tried to develop Sarah Palin version, but the OS kept quitting on them

8. May be a delay, in getting your computer to "invite" you to use operating system

7. Other users of Google Chrome OS can use Google Earth to read your computer screen

6. Google Chrome OS will be Twitter-Friendly, so Gmail on it limited to 140 characters, per email

5. Some super application is bound to make its way into the vernacular -- "Can suck the chrome off a Google Operating System"

4. Google Chrome OS is so promising, Senator John Ensign's mother is going to buy it and give to his ex-mistress as a gift

3. With built-in Google Flu Tracker, Chrome OS let's you know when you are sick

2. New feature on boot-up: "I'm Feeling Lucky"

1. To gain market-share, Google issuing a special edition Michael Jackson Chrome OS that will run endlessly and come with automated Diprivan dispenser

Bonus Links

Elise Ackerman: Google's Chrome OS a direct shot across Microsoft's bow

Michael Arrington - Google Chrome: Redefining The Operating System

Joe Trippi: Google announces netbook OS. What next?

MG Siegler: Google Drops A Nuclear Bomb On Microsoft. And It’s Made of Chrome

Google: Introducing the Google Chrome OS

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Another version of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

By Mustang Bobby

You still can't be openly gay and serve in the United States armed forces, but according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, if you're a white supremacist, no problem.

Evidence continues to mount that current Pentagon policies are inadequate to prevent racial extremists from joining and serving in the armed forces. In recent months, we have found dozens of personal profiles listing “military” as an occupation on a neo-Nazi website. Because the presence of extremists in the armed forces is a serious threat to the safety of the American public, we believe Congressional action is warranted.

This isn't new; as long ago as 2005 the Department of Defense knew that because of low volunteer rates, they had to scrape the bottom of the barrel in order to fill the ranks.

Additionally, as seen in Appendix A, the relatively larger number of message board postings warning new recruits from revealing their extremist group associations exemplifies the presence of both military policy and action to disallow such activities in the Armed Forces. Effectively, the military has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy pertaining to extremism. If individuals can perform satisfactorily, without making their extremist opinions overt through words or actions that violate policy, reflect poorly on the Armed Forces, or disrupt the effectiveness and order of their units, they are likely to be able to complete their contracts.

As Amanda Terkel points out at Think Progress, "the right wing was apoplectic over the recent Department of Homeland Security report that warned extremists may 'attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans.' This doesn’t mean that all members of the military are racist or likely to sign up with extremist groups. But with more than 12,500 valuable service members discharged since 1994 for nothing more than their sexual orientation, it seems that the military is kicking out the wrong people."

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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"United Breaks Guitars"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'll let Dave Carroll, one (fraternal) half of the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based band Sons of Maxwell, explain what happened (click on the link for a more detailed recap):

In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn't deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say "no" to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United: Song 1 is the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written and video production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I promise.

Well, here's #1. It's been a huge success. And deservedly so. (It's a great song/video, and United certainly deserves the bad publicity.)


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Friday, July 10, 2009

The Reaction in Review (July 10, 2009)

By Carol Gee

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look,
or: "How Sarah made most all the headlines"


By J. Thomas Duffy: "Retro Garlic: A doozy ... David Brooks gets creepier" -- There's no easy way to put it folks; David Brooks says a Republican Senator groped his thigh at dinner. See also Michael's "A tale of love, loneliness, and David Brooks's inner thigh."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Defending DeMint (sort of, or maybe not -- what he said about pre-war Germany was still incredibly stupid)" -- Michael joins others in an examination of Sen. Jim DeMint's extreme comments about the Obama administration that echo others on the right that "puncture the historical record [of Germany] with their crass partisan propaganda."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Smartest Republican of the Day: Mike Murphy" -- Michael is pleased to give credit where due to GOP strategist, Mike Murphy for his Daily News piece on Sarah Palin.


By Carol Gee: "The old "he said, she said" again huh? -- This post explores the CIA Director's admission to Congress that it was repeatedly misled, or not told about the intelligence agency's full range of operations. See also, Creature's "Dems press Panetts on CIA's lies."

By Capt. Fogg: "No, Mr. Bond -- I expect you to lie" -- Fogg gives Senator Kit Bond's criticism of President Obama's trip to Moscow the scorn it deserves as a "new and even more precious way to denounce him. . . for not being a messiah."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "
Inside Jeb: Is the smarter Bush brother in line to take over the GOP?" -- Michael reacts to Tucker Carlson's interview of Jeb Bush saying, ". . . Jeb remains a formidable political figure. . . This should concern Democrats, I think -- it certainly concerns me. . ."


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Palin still popular ... but only with Republicans" -- Michael thinks that Repiublicans should definitely, "Go with Palin. She's your future. Have a nice time in perpetual oblivion."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Forget bipartisanship. Democrats need to do what is right on health-care reform." -- Michael's valuable post is an analysis of Sen. Harry Reid's exercise of leadership regarding a public option, and the futility of Democrats continuing to seek bipartisanship at any cost. In the same vein Creature declares, "Today looks a bit brighter."

By Carl: "Sub-burpin' sprawl" -- Carl's beautifully written piece shares the philosophy he's developed over time, in which he contrasts living as a "black hole" with living as a "Flatlander."


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "What the world needs now is not more Sarah Palin; or, how her right-wing admirere are falling all over themselves trying to love her up" -- Michael's written an excellent roundup of "what a few conservatives have said about [Palin] in recent days," adding his own ideas.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "It's time for America, a nation of immigrants, to tell Joe the Plumber to fuck off" -- Michael wrote a great post against bigotry, saying, "Americans should tell Joe the Plumber that he's not one of them and that his views are un-American.

By Carl: "Fear is the mindkiller" -- Carl begins, "Rigid thinking and black and white solutions are the mark of children, the small-minded and Republicans," and goes on with a very thought-provoking exploration of unreasoning fears.

By Mustang Bobby: "It's her own fault" -- This great post is a must read, if you want to understand what the real deal is with Sarah Palin. Kudos from all around!

Creature's Money Features -- "Groundhog Day," "Quote of the Day," "Not too big to plan for failure"

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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A tale of love, loneliness, and David Brooks's inner thigh

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Okay, so David Brooks -- you know, the big-shot NYT columnist -- was on MSNBC with Norah O'Donnell and John Harwood earlier today. They were talking about "the dignity code" in Washington, which in a column earlier in the week Brooks wrote has been "completely obliterated," and, among other things, he said this:

You know, all three of us spend a lot of time covering politicians and I don't know about you guys, but in my view, they're all emotional freaks of one sort or another. They're guaranteed to invade your personal space, touch you. I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner and he had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time. I was like, ehh, get me out of here.

Yeah... what the fuck, right?

Harwood was taken aback and O'Donnell asked who it was. To which Brooks replied:

I'm not telling you, I'm not telling you. But so, a lot of them spend so much time needing people's love and yet they are shooting upwards their whole life, they're not that great in normal human relationships. And so, they're like freaks, they don't know how to, they're lonely. They reach out.

Apparently, they reach out for David Brooks's inner thigh.

Brooks went on to bring up "sloppy women who are licking their aides" -- women in Congress, that is, but he couldn't think of any examples.

His remarks were so bizarre that O'Donnell asked if he'd had "a couple drinks at lunch." "No,: replied, Brooks, he was just "trying not to be too dignified and stuffy."

Okay, but he just revealed publicly that a Republican senator... what? Made a pass at him? Tried to get fresh with him? Hit on him? Near-molested him?

One suspects that this senator doesn't much care for homosexuals and is moralistically anti-gay -- Republicans are like that, after all. And yet he still, uh, warmed up to Brooks. Or was he just being... friendly?

I don't know many men (straight or gay, but certainly not the former) who get friendly by becoming acquainted with another man's inner thigh. Actually, such, uh, familiarity is hardly accepted at all in polite society.

Brooks apparently found the experience uncomforable, and who wouldn't? But imagine a man doing this to a woman. What is harrassment and what isn't? Being a freak, or being lonely, is hardly an acceptable excuse.

Watch the exchange below. It's not something you hear every day. It makes you wonder not just about what's going on up on Capitol Hill but about what's bouncing around in David Brooks's head. (He didn't make it up, did he? No, surely not. But, then, is this sort of thing common?)

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Retro Garlic: A doozy ... David Brooks gets creepier

By J. Thomas Duffy

Oh man, this could only have happened on a Friday.

If the Sanford, Ensign, Palin, and Jackson circuses weren't enough for you, than enter, stage right, David Brooks, Rightwing Freak Show columnist for the NYT, seemingly (more on this below), with a bit of a buzz on, being interviewed on cable news.

David Brooks says a Republican senator groped his thigh at a dinner party


A Republican Senator with his hand on David Brooks' inner thigh?

Now, with that specific identification, one name that jumps out first is Larry Craig.

I mean, you can put together little, milquetoast, Wally Cox-like Brooks, either being intimidated, or, perhaps, excited, by big, burly, Larry "Wide-Stance" Craig feeling him up, maybe fantasizing hearing (later, of course) "You bad boy ... You naughty, boy ... You nasty, bad, naughty boy."

John Cole, at Balloon Juice, is hoping that it is "John Kyl or John Cornyn," while Libby Spencer, at her The Impolitic, is having a hard time containing herself -- "It would be irresponsible not to speculate."

And doesn't Brooks seem a bit too giddy?

Even host Nora O'Donnell sensed something amiss:

O’DONNELL: Can I ask one other question David? Do you think, what about female or women politicians? Are they dignified and are there examples of when they have not? Or does it tend to be the men who less dignified?

BROOKS: Yeah, I think that’s mostly a matter of genetics. I do think that…I do think there’s loneliness.

O’DONNELL: That was just a softball, David, and you really hit it very well.

BROOKS: Yeah, I wish I could think of sort of St. Bernards, sloppy women who are licking their aides, but but no, I can’t think of any.

HARWOOD: I’m not going there.

O’DONNELL: Did you have a couple drinks at lunch, David? I mean, this is clearly.

BROOKS: No, you’ve hit me…I’m trying not to be too dignified and stuffy.

Brooks not trying to be "dignified and stuffy" is like Bernie Madoff not trying to hustle clients -- doesn't happen!

And, as you will see, there may be much more to this, as The Garlic had the name "David Brooks" and "creepy" tied together some time ago.

The Retro Part

PBS's Lehrer Admits Brooks "Body Language" Skills "Creeps Me Out" ... Reveals Uncomfortable With Columnist "Staring At Me" On-Set; Alludes "Toe-Tapping" Also Involved

Hmmm ...

Fascination with "body language" ... Another man's hand on his inner thigh ...

I don't know ...

Pretty creepy, there, David Brooks ...

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Defending DeMint (sort of, or maybe not -- what he said about pre-war Germany was still incredibly stupid)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

On Tuesday, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, one of the more extreme of Congressional Republicans, said this at the National Press Club:

They understand socialism. They understand tyrants. But none of us have ever had it here. We don't even know what it looks like. Part of what we're trying to do in Saving Freedom [his book] is just show that where we are, we're about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy.

Now, what did he mean by that? To me, it's pretty clear: He was referring not to Nazi Germany but to Weimar Germany, to the socialism before the national socialism. On this, I agree with Ed Kilgore.

Others, however, have not been so generous. Jon Chait, for example, thinks DeMint was comparing Obama's America to Hitler's Germany. So does Chris Orr. And Steve Benen. (Three bloggers I admire a great deal.) In contrast, Matt Yglesias thinks that DeMint is confusing Germany's Nazis and Social Democrats (who opposed the Nazis before the war).

But I don't want to be overly generous myself. I suspect that DeMint knows very little German history, perhaps none at all, and he may just have been mixing everything up. The Obama-is-a-socialist and socialism-is-fascism (and hence Obama-is-a-fascist) memes are big on the right, and DeMint was obviously riffing off that ridiculous connection.

But what I think he was saying -- or, at least, it's how it reads to me -- is that social democracy is a precursor to fascism, just as Nazi Germany replaced Weimar Germany. In this sense, Obama isn't a Nazi but a pre-Nazi -- or something like that.

Of course, this is just as stupid as saying directly that Obama is a fascist. Yglesias is quite right, after all, that the social democrats were not the precursors to but the opponents of Nazism, and they suffered greatly under Hitler. Just because social democracy preceded national socialism, it does not follow that the one became the other, or at least that the one made the other possible. Nazism was not an extension of social democracy but a reaction to it, a rejection of it.

But let's come back to 2009 America.

It is similarly stupid to assert -- and this is currently a popular line on the right -- that Obama is a socialist, or that his agenda amounts to socialism, that, if left unchecked, he and the Democrats will shortly replace capitalism with socialism. If anything, Obama is, like FDR before him, seeking to rescue capitalism from its own excesses, and it will, if he succeeds, emerge stronger for it. If anything, Obama has been too much of a pragmatist and not enough of a reformer. If he has disappointed, it has been because, thus far, he hasn't been nearly progressive enough, not because he has overturned the capitalist order. He sought market solutions to the economic crisis, after all, saving the banks by bailing them out, not by taking them over. Yes, there's General Motors, but the plan there is not for the state to run the auto industry but for the auto industry to pull itself out of the mess it created for itself while the state prevents an all-out collapse. This isn't nationalization, it's a safety net for industry -- even for industries that hardly deserve one.

But no matter. The right -- DeMint et al. -- will continue to puncture the historical record with their crass partisan propaganda. And that means comparing Obama to Hitler, in one way or another.

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Good news for Dems: Burris is done

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that corrupt and possibly illegitimate Illinois Senator Roland Burris "has decided NOT to seek election to the seat he fought the government to keep":

Sen. Burris is planning to announce his decision [today] by issuing a statement to the press. But he's reportedly not planning to field any questions from the press.

The decision by Burris was based on his inability to raise campaign funds; campaign disclosures with the Federal Election Commission are expected to be filed next week... and he has reportedly only raised approximately $20,000.

The relief I feel is matched only by my loathing for Burris himself, the Blago appointee who is a personification of a mockery of the democratic system of government. (Put that on your atrocious mausoleum, "Senator.")

Good riddance.

(For our previous Burris coverage, see here.)

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Nice parents you've got there, John Ensign

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Sen. John Ensign's parents shelled out big bucks to pay off their son's mistress, the latest twist in an unfolding scandal that has upended the political career of the one-time rising GOP star.


On Thursday, Ensign's attorney said that the senator's parents gave Doug Hampton, Cynthia Hampton and their two children gifts worth $96,000 in the form of a check. The attorney, Paul Coggins, said that each gift was limited to $12,000 and "complied with tax rules governing gifts."

Meanwhile, Roll Call:

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Thursday said he would not testify in court or before the Ethics Committee about any advice he gave Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) on how to handle his affair with a former staffer, citing constitutional protections for communications during religious counseling, as well as the patient confidentiality privilege.

"I was counseling him as a physician and as an ordained deacon... That is privileged communication that I will never reveal to anybody. Not to the Ethics Committee, not to a court of law, not to anybody," Coburn said.

Coburn repeatedly denied allegations that he urged Ensign to pay Doug Hampton, the husband of his mistress Cynthia, millions in hush money following a confrontation with Hampton. "I categorically deny everything he said," Coburn said.

Good times in the densely populated world of Republican scandal, corruption, and hypocrisy. (And that includes Coburn's bullshit excuse. Yeah, sure he was providing Ensign with medical and religious counsel.)

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Smartest Republican of the Day: Mike Murphy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Sometimes, just sometimes, a Republican says something smart or otherwise does something that is worthy of positive comment, even here at this liberal blog.

So let's start a Smartest Republican of the Day series. There surely won't be as many entries as there are in our Craziest Republican of the Day series, but I think it's only fair to give credit where credit is due.

And, today, I am pleased to say, credit is due to GOP strategist and long-time McCainiac Mike Murphy, who wrote this for the New York Daily News:

Gov. Sarah Palin is the political train wreck that keeps on giving. First, she was an awful choice last year as John McCain's running mate. I came to this conclusion with regret -- I am one of McCain's biggest admirers.

But facts are facts. An inexperienced governor of a small state, she lacked the experience to be President and brought nothing to the ticket except a surefire knack for exciting voters who were already reliably Republican. It was a strategically awful choice, and I said so -- both on and off microphone -- at the time. Most pundits thought I was wrong. Look at the crowds she can draw, I was told. She "excites the base."

Phooey. Every presidential election year brings forth some new nugget of conventional wisdom from the media elite that totally misses the real picture. Last year, the big wrong idea was this notion that base voters have somehow become the new swing voters. We are now told the party base -- those voters who will vote for a bag of cement if it has an R or D attached to it -- must be carefully appealed to, romanced and appeased.

Under that funhouse reasoning, Palin was an inspired pick.

Unfortunately for McCain, the actual swing voters, the independents who do determine the winner of the election, didn't buy into this fantasy at all. After a three-week sniff, most couldn't run away from Palin fast enough.


Other politicians are more reliable conservatives; Palin ran for governor on a set of populist issues usually linked to Alaska Democrats. She lacks any real accomplishment - no military or private-sector career of note, no academic achievement beyond a frenetic bounce between five colleges, including a sun 'n' surf-oriented outfit in Hawaii. She has served only two years as governor of a small and uniquely easy-to-govern state (other governors pine for Alaska's small population and billions of dollars in easy revenue from oil production), a job she has now abandoned.

And so on. The title of the op-ed says it all: "To go forward, GOP must snap out of its Sarah Palin spell."

That's good advice, from a Republican perspective.

As for me, though, I welcome as much Sarah Palin as the Republican Party can handle. The more the merrier. In fact, I encourage Republicans to hitch their "funhouse" wagon to this "train wreck."

Why? Because Murphy is right: "She'll lose, of course, almost certainly the Republican primaries and certainly the general election."

The Republican Party is indeed "demoralized." What could demoralize it more than the annihilation it would suffer with Palin at the helm?

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Obama, the media, and the polls

By Creature

DougJ, over at Balloon Juice, makes a point I've been meaning to make:

But it’s strange to me that the same people who insisted Bush was a popular wartime president even when his approval rating was in the 40s are now concern-trolling Obama’s 55-60 percent approval rating. Note that while many media types say that the country only turned on Bush after Katrina, the reality is that his approval ratings were consistently well-below 50 percent starting a four or five months before Katrina. [...]

I can’t escape the feeling that many in the media are fixated on puncturing the Obama image in a way they never were with Bush. From 2001—2005, reporters boasted about the nicknames Bush gave them, now they boast about having asked Obama a “tough question”. What changed?

As Doug's commenters point out, it's the "D" after Obama's name that makes the difference. With the media geared toward internalizing GOP talking points, it can be no other way. It's either chip away at Obama's ratings or get yelled at by their Republican overlords. Since they fear Republicans more, it's a no-brainier.

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The old "he said, she said" again, huh?

By Carol Gee

The feud between Congress and the CIA is back in the news. Today the House will take up an intelligence authorization bill that would do away with the administration's right to dictate the terms of how Congress is briefed on intelligence matters. Predictably, President Obama has threatened to veto a bill in that form.

Panetta vs. Congressional Oversight of Intel Community -- On June 24, CIA Director Leon Panetta testified before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Sylvestre Reyes (D-TX). According to CQ Politics (7/9/09), a couple of days later 7 Democrats on the Committee wrote a letter to Panetta asking him to " “correct” his statement from May 15 that “it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress.” The article quoted a CIA spokesman who said "Panetta stood by his May remarks and believes Congress must be kept fully informed."

Dems vs Repubs -- Rep. Reyes wrote a letter on Wednesday to the Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), telling him, to quote Politico (7/8/09):

. . . that he had obtained information that there were serious problems with the CIA’s briefing of lawmakers and that the CIA “affirmatively lied to” lawmakers.

“These notifications have led me to conclude this committee has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one occasion) was affirmatively lied to,” Reyes wrote in his letter.

. . . Later, Reyes issued a more conciliatory statement that framed Panetta's alleged admission as an attempt to reform the agency, beginning:

“I appreciate Director Panetta’s recent efforts to bring issues to the Committee’s attention that, for some reason, had not been previously conveyed, and to make certain that the Committee is fully and currently briefed on all intelligence activities. I understand his direction to be that the Agency does not and will not lie to Congress, and he has set a high standard for truth in reporting to Congress."

The authorization bill that expands its oversight of the intelligence community, including the National Security Agency and the ODNI, was reported out of committee on June 18. Certain lesser officials would be subject to Senate confirmation, and would require videotaping of arrested detainees. According to the Washington Post (6/20/09), to quote:

The bill also would end the statutory authority of the executive branch to limit briefings on classified, covert action to the "Gang of Eight," the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the House and Senate senior leadership.

Together these measures, Democrats say, represent an attempt to make the intelligence agencies more accountable to Congress. In recent years, controversies including disclosures of the NSA's warrantless surveillance program and the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques have led to calls for greater oversight.

Bonus Backgrounders:

Stay tuned, folks, because there will certainly be a lot more conversation about these thorny separation of powers questions.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Democracy is beautiful

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's our Photo of the Day, from the BBC: "A tribesman casts his ballot at a polling station in Papua province, Indonesia."

(Indonesia held its presidential election yesterday. Final results are expected early next month. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a run-off election will be held on Sept. 8.)

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Dems press Panetta on CIA's lies

By Creature
“We wouldn’t be doing this over a trivial matter.” -- Representative Rush D. Holt (D-NJ)

I would like to give credit to Panetta for coming clean to Congress about his agency's lies over the past eight years, but I can't. I need accountability, not admissions. From day one President Obama promised the CIA he would protect them. President Obama believes it's good enough to draw bright lines between themselves and the past and that will be enough. It's not. Bright lines are not a deterrent.

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Another Palin lie (this time, on why she quit)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Greg Sargent:

One of the chief reasons Sarah Palin has given for resigning as Governor of Alaska is that her state's taxpayers are being forced to spend money defending her government against ethics complaints that would otherwise fund teachers, cops, and road repair.

But in response to our questions, a spokesperson for the Alaska governor's office just gave us new information that casts serious doubt on this assertion. The revelation makes the resignation episode even stranger, and raises fresh questions about the real reasons for her abrupt departure.

Given how much she lies -- again, check out Andrew Sullivan's list -- it's hard to believe anything Palin says, and this is no exception.

We still don't know why she decided to resign. Presenting herself both as a victim (of elites out to get her) and as a defender of the taxpayer (from elites out to get them) was part of the spin, not the reality, and it played directly to the Republican base that loves her (and that hates those coastal elites that it imagines to be, in its Manichaean fantasies, its ever-so-threatening arch-enemy).

It's hardly any wonder her story is unravelling.

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No, Mr. Bond -- I expect you to lie

By Capt. Fogg

Aboard Blue Moon, Port Salerno, FL.

The only creativity coming out of the Republican tribe these days seems to center around new and ever more precious ways to denounce Barack Obama. Still sweating from the effort it took to convince themselves that Obama Supporters see him as the second coming, they're mocking him for not being a messiah.

Take Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), for instance. Hoping you won't remember George Bush's pathetic swoons about looking into Vladimir Putin's eyes and seeing a soulmate, Bond told reporters yesterday that the president's trip to Moscow was a huge pile of shit because nothing was accomplished but an agreement to reduce the huge pile of nukes. Obama should, says Bond, have stopped the repression of the Russian media and commanded them to sanction North Korea if he were a president worth his salt. Obama has simply failed, in one magical moment, to make Russia an obedient, American client-state -- as John McCain and Sarah Palin surely would have done with a great flourish of bluster, threat, and bravado -- and at a lower cost. George Bush? Who?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Groundhog day

By Creature

Ahhh, the magic of AAA:

Morgan Stanley plans to repackage a downgraded collateralized debt obligation backed by leveraged loans into new securities with AAA ratings in the first transaction of its kind, said two people familiar with the sale.

Morgan Stanley is selling $87.1 million of securities that it expects to receive top AAA ratings and $42.9 million of notes graded Baa2, the second-lowest investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, according to marketing documents obtained by Bloomberg News.

I don't blame Morgan Stanley for trying to resell their crap, I blame the rating agencies for allowing it. Crap, backed by crap, is still crap (no matter how many magical AAAs Moody's uses to try and cover the stench).

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Inside Jeb: Is the smarter Bush brother in line to take over the GOP?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So Jeb Bush, according to Tucker Carlson, may be, whether he knows it or not, the future of the Republican Party.

That's right, as if two Bushes haven't been more than enough, another -- this time the smart one, at least when compared to his more famous brother, Obama's predecessor -- may be on the way to presidential politics. If, that is, he can find a way back to high-level elected politics at all.

You can read the Jeb-Tucker interview here. It was published just yesterday at Esquire, but it took place way back in April, presumably, just days before Arlen Specter's aisle-hop to the Dems.

There really isn't much new here. It's pretty much just Jeb commenting on the sad state of the Republican Party and of a possible (in his view, likely) conservative resurgence. What it does show, I think, is that Jeb remains a formidable political figure (with a fairly formidable mind, especially by Republican standards) even out of office, and one only imagines how things would have been different had he, and not Dubya, been elected in 2000, had, that is, the GOP gone with the right Bush boy. What we also find is a deeply curious and engaged man, again in stark contrast to his brother. At the start, he's talking about his Kindle, and about how he subscribed to HuffPo, "just to see how the forces of evil are conspiring." One assumes that that is intended hyperbole.

Evidently, too, Jeb is a Republican who thinks seriously about his party and a conservative who thinks seriously about his preferred political ideology and the movement to which he belongs. This should concern Democrats, I think -- it certainly concerns me (Americans have elected two Bushes, so why not a third) -- which is why they ought to take him seriously well ahead of a future run for the Oval Office (or, perhaps, for the Senate, though, in Florida, there may not soon be an open seat for him). And it is what makes this interview rather interesting, and well worth the read.

Let me just address a few points:

1) On Limbaugh: "I feel happy for Rush to get all this attention. He's one part of a mosaic of people and thought in the conservative movement." I'm not sure the Dear Leader of the conservative base of the GOP is just part of a mosaic, or that he actually considers himself just another tile in a pattern of diversity. And how is conservatism, in its present form as an increasingly absolutist movement, just some sort of "mosaic"? Jeb may want it to be that, but it is not. It's not a mosaic, it's a white-out.

2) On Republican unpopularity and the Democratic gains: "I don't think there's any seismic shift. The Democrats have won on tactics. Barack Obama would not have gotten elected if he'd let us in on his secret plan prior to the election." First, the Democrats may have won on tactics, but they also, and more importantly, won on substance. American voters didn't reject Republicans because they didn't campaign effectively but because their ideas are a black hole of failure. Simply put, Americans, while not fully behind Democratic policies (obviously, the country is still polarized), trust the Democrats on issues like national security and the war on terror (as well as the Iraq War, a specific Bush failure), the environment and global warming, health care, and the economy. Second, what is this "secret plan"? The scope of the economic downturn was not fully known during the campaign, but Obama spoke to the need to address the crisis in a meaningful way (and not just through those old Republican stand-bys of tax cuts and deregulation). As well, he spoke to the need to address the climate crisis. There's nothing "secret" about his agenda.

3) On Obama's popularity: "First of all, who cares? His popularity is no greater -- in fact it's less -- than what my brother's was during the beginning of his tenure, in a time of unbelievable friction, if you think about it, because of the 2000 election. His approval ratings were higher than Barack Obama's during his first one hundred days." This is silly. It was a different time -- there was nothing remotely like the current economic crisis, 9/11 was still months away, the Democrats weren't nearly as negative and obstructionist as the Republicans are now, and there wasn't a liberal anti-Bush campaign to rival the concerted conservative smear campaign against Obama today. Although there were some who questioned Bush's legitimacy, what conservatives are doing to Obama is much more nasty and much more ugly.

4) On global warming: "I'm a skeptic." He may not be an Inhofe-like denialist, but he seems to buy into industry-manufactured denialist propaganda. Yes, he's a good Bushie.

5) On the leaders of the GOP: "Newt is fantastic." Okay, that's enough. I can't take anymore. Just read it, if you have the stomach for it.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Palin still popular... but only with Republicans

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A new poll shows that Palin is not just still popular with Republicans but even more popular with them since her oh-so-shocking resignation announcement.

Which is pretty much as expected.

She was all about the GOP mob during the campaign last year, and she has, since then, spun herself as a victim of all that the mob loathes: liberals, the media, elites on both coasts. And she went so far as to spin her impending resignation as a firm stand against her various enemies.

Republicans -- the hard-core extremists in the base, at least -- eat up that sort of self-victimization, and, to them, Palin is, at the moment, the martyr to end all martyrs, their hope for a future in which they rule once again. Some Republicans, to be sure, are less than enamored of her, but there is no denying her standing on the far right -- or, actually, at the very core of -- the Republican Party.

But all does not look so bright for Palin and her political ambitions. Other than Republicans, most Americans are rather less supportive:

Independents by 55%-34% would prefer she leave the national stage.

The findings underscore how polarized opinions of Palin were even before Friday's surprise announcement. Seven in 10 polled say their views weren't affected by her decision. Among those whose opinions shifted, Democrats by a 4-1 ratio and independents by 2-to-1 view her less favorably. Republicans are somewhat inclined to see her more favorably.

Sounds about right. Among other things, Palin is a deeply polarizing figure. But a polarizing figure who turns off not just Democrats but independents (as well as many of the more sensible Republicans out there, though there aren't all that many of them) is pretty much a dead end as "a major national political figure," which is what most Republicans want her to be.

So, as one who is not a Republican, I say to Republicans: Go with Palin. She's your future. Have a nice time in perpetual oblivion.

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"So the status quo remains: banks with bad assets, a Treasury program to fix it that isn't operational and isn't expected to yield much once it is, and an economy stuck in quicksand in part because of it." -- Kevin G. Hall of McClatchy Newspapers reporting on our zombie banks, their toxic assets and the failure of all parties to face up to or do anything concrete about it.

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Forget bipartisanship. Democrats need to do what is right on health-care reform.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Roll Call:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday strongly urged Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.

Reid, whose leadership is considered crucial if President Barack Obama is to deliver on his promise of enacting health care reform this year, offered the directive to Baucus through an intermediary after consulting with Senate Democratic leaders during Tuesday morning’s regularly scheduled leadership meeting. Baucus met with Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday afternoon to relay the information.

According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus that several in the Conference had serious concerns and that it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans.

This is certainly reassuring -- not least because it's coming from Reid, with whom many of the more liberal Democrats have had their problems in the past.

The whole 60-vote thing is being overblown, of course, as it's unlikely that the Democrats will be able to secure unanimity on something as controversial as health-care reform, but I do think it's time for the Democrats to stop trying to win over Republican support. The fact is, Republicans aren't serious about reform, or at least not in the sort of reform that the American people actually need, which is a robust public system, and it boggles the mind why a majority party with 60 votes should need to kowtow before an obstructionist, ideologically rigid minority party that has no interest in real change. Republicans wouldn't do it, so why should Democrats?

Let the Republicans come out against a public option that would fill the gap to ensure coverage for all Americans. Let them run on that.

It's time for the Democrats, long past time, to do what needs to be done. Republicans aren't into bipartisanship -- and Democrats should just move on.


Reid's push is also reassuring given the ongoing questions surrounding the White House's commitment to a public option. Rahm Emanuel opened the door the other day to the possibility of dropping it, whereupon Obama may or may not have pushed back the other way.

Open Left's Adam Green thinks that Emanuel "just went with his natural gut instinct -- to be weak, and cave to Republicans," and that the subsequent comment from Obama was "a great step."

Actually, though, Emanuel's comment may have been not so much instinctual as planned, allowing Obama to look like the good guy to pro-reform liberals and progresives. Slate's John Dickerson notes that Obama's rebuttal was vague enough to allow him to go either way on the public option depending on the circumstances down the road. It's an Obama-Emanuel good-cop-bad-cop routine that we've seen before.

While I think that Obama himself would prefer a robust public option, I'm just not sure how committed he is to it, given his pragmatism and apparent lack of unwavering principle. And that's where the worry comes in: Will Obama compromise to the point where, in order to achieve reform, a reform bill is actually more Republican than Democratic?

Or is this just Obama being Obama, pushing compromise and conciliation (just as he does diplomacy with Iran), only to take a harder line (as he likely will with Iran) when bipartisan outreach fails, turning the other side's refusal to negotiate or compromise in good faith against it, using that refusal to secure even greater popular support? Here's hoping.

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Today looks a bit brighter

By Creature

With the tough talk coming from Harry Reid in the Senate and the progressives in the House about not compromising with Republicans on a health care bill things do look a bit brighter this morning. The Republicans should be abandoned. The idea that they (and the conservative Democrats) would support any legislation that was true reform, that contained a strong public option, that didn't hand our health to the insurance lobby was ludicrous to begin with. So, bravo to progressives for drawing a line in the sand (something the White House still refuses to do). Now let's see if they can hold that line until passage. There's still a long way to go.

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Department of Law

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Hey, Sarah Palin, what's a "department of law"?

It's our Quote of the Day (from ABC News, via The Plank):

I think on a national level, your department of law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we've been charged with and automatically throw them out.

Yes, Palin thinks that a White House "Department of Law," something apparently unavailable to her in Alaska, would shield her from ethics-violation allegations -- presumably, in good Nixonian fashion, by covering up the violations and going after the allegers with vindictive malice. (ABC News helpfully reminds us that there is no Department of Law in the White House. Thanks.)

Yes, she's that arrogant -- and that clueless.

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Sub-burpin' sprawl

By Carl

I am a black hole.

I'll get back to that in a minute. Let me do the set up first.

I would argue that, while perhaps not an overwhelming number, a pretty big segment of society is pretty shallow, perhaps even a majority.

Psychic space being a finite element if you look in two dimensions, part of the reason we end up in conflict with each other is that your sprawl ends up butting against my sprawl, because each of us is trying to get more sprawl.

I'd wager this large segment of society are always busy doing, well, something: Running out to meet friends, working too hard at a job, jetting off to the next vacation. They need the trappings of a "good life", the condo on the beach, the car, fine wines.

They expand sideways because they can't know there's a depth to life, too.

I call these people "
Flatlanders". In the guise of "expanding themselves," adding sides (to extend the metaphor), they gain no third dimension. They buy this trinket or that souvenir and proudly display them on their shelves to boast of their travels.

They claim understanding of the world around them, but in truth, this is a false logic.

For how can you truly relate to the world if you do not relate to yourself? How can you understand someone else and have compassion for their plight if you don't understand yourself and extend that compassion to yourself?

How can you love if you have no love to give?

Love is a commitment, and commitments always demand faith. You can only have faith by delving deep into those parts of you that lie covered in darkness, shrouded by the sprawl of your flatlandedness.

Faith is not based on logic or hunches. Indeed, faith is that thing that keeps us tied to what we love when "evidence" suggests it might be time to let go.

I put "evidence" in quotes because none of us can ever really know a truth outside of ourselves. our eyes deceive us. Our ears hear distant noises that emanate from within us.

Our minds lie to us for...what? Fear? Our protection? Freud was not far off, I fear, when he spoke of the id, the ego, and the superego. Many people you'll meet have a champion superego, but no id.

Well, that's not completely true. That id shows up in the weirdest ways and those are the behaviors we look at and wonder what the hell were they (or we) thinking?

Faith comes from belief. Faith is a never-ending well to draw from.

I am a black hole.

Spending my adult life extending my self-knowledge, I have been able to give love completely.

Love does not necessarily mean another person at all times. One can love yourself, for example, or find love in the smallest acts of kindness and in the roughest, bleakest landscape.

I express this love through my art: my photography, my acting and performing, and especially my writing. By opening my heart to what goes on around me, by drinking in from the fountain of the world, I can absorb that which I see and express how it affects me.

This is something that Flatlanders never get: it's not about seeing the temples at Angkor Wat or the pyramids or Mount Everest, taking a snapshot, buying a trinket, and bragging about it later, maybe saying how you "soaked up" the local culture with a beer and some local food at a boîte.

It's about how these affect you. I probably have fewer pictures of more places in the world that I've been than anyone else. And I'd wager I have a deeper understanding of anyplace I've been than a million other tourists.

Let's say five people, including me, see a house on a high cliff and take pictures of it.

Most people will center on the house, and the good ones will get enough of the cliff to allow for the precarious position of the building.

I will take that same picture and focus on the cliff: the striations of layers of history building, year after year, one on top of the other, the roots breaking out into the air, the grass overhanging the lip.

Oh, I'll include the house, to show it as the burden the cliff must bear until it can no longer bear it, to highlight the foolish transient nature of people who build on land that is ultimately destined to fall.

To highlight the Flatlanders.

I take that picture that way because I understand the precarious nature of life, how tomorrow, we might all be gone. Or more to the point, how tomorrow I might be gone.

So I want to leave a piece of me in these places. Many people talk about leaving their heart, but for me, I've shredded little bits of my soul and left them behind. Places don't steal my heart. I steal places' hearts.

I am a black hole. I leave a small footprint on the surface, but once you've peeked into the abyss, you realize there's a lot more down there than up here.

The trouble with Flatlanders is, they insist on painting on the surface what they want me to be, to define me somehow. But you cannot define that which you cannot understand.

And then they get frustrated that I no longer fit the definition they gave me in the first place.

I am a being, not a doing. I don't worry that I've held the same job for eleven years, because while I don't enjoy it much, I know that it's comfortable for me, and as many places as I've worked, this is pretty sweet and stable.

Some may jump jobs every other year and believe they are improving their lot, but they collect nothing but a paycheck and a too-long resume. Like children with french fries, they are grabbing for the next one before they're finished chewing the first one.

Further, I understand that my discomfort there has to do with boredom, the terrible mind draining tedium of having conquered all I can on this employment.

My faith tells me this. I am enough, and my needs beyond the space to explore my space are few. I don't need to be "seen" in a hot exotic restaurant with friends who I can only truly stand when I'm drunk, but my influence is felt none the less.

I am a black hole. By knowing myself, I know everything I encounter. No, I might not know every single fact about everything...altho most people will swear I do...but I have a deep comprehension of the truth of it.

It is that truth that gets expressed, like the radiation bursts out of the black hole.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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HuffPo 1, WaPo -1

By Michael J.W. Stickings

When it comes to Dan Froomkin, WaPo's loss (i.e., firing) is HuffPo's gain (i.e., hiring).

Read Greenwald for more.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Liars, damned liars, and Sarah Palin

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We already have two posts up on Palin today -- one from me, one from Carl -- so let's make it three with this one.


Over at The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan has done us an extremely useful service, posting a round-up of Palin's many "odd lies." And by many I mean 32 in all. (And they've all been re-fact-checked.)

I don't think they're at all "odd," though. Palin is a liar. It's as simple as that. And, as Andrew rightly asks: "After you have read these, ask yourself: what wouldn't Sarah Palin lie about if she felt she had to?"

The answer is pretty clear.

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Palin comparison

By Carl

Poor Sarah Palin:

The Alaska governor spoke in taped interviews on ABC, NBC and CNN broadcast Tuesday morning.

She told CNN that "all options are on the table" for her future.

But told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she recognizes she might not have political staying power after her surprise resignation Friday, which came just as she had been expected to elevate her national profile ahead of a possible 2012 GOP presidential run.

"I said before ... 'You know, politically speaking, if I die, I die. So be it,'" she said.

Speaking in fishing waders from the town of Dillingham, Gov. Palin said her administration has been paralyzed by fending off frivolous lawsuits.

So let me get this straight: You're frustrated by your inability to win a fight in your administration because your administration has been under investigation for possible corruption... and leaving is somehow fighting?

I might be wrong, but "fighting" to me means throwing a few haymakers back. Anything else is quitting.

Cute touch with the fishing waders and the whole "family fishing business" thing. Most people in the lower 48 will assume it's like the Gloustermen of The Perfect Storm, you know, weeks on a boat, reeking of bait and a lone shower, the things real men do.

I'm betting that "fishing business" means hiring boats to go out and do the dirty work for you.

Imagine, if you will, what would happen if, say, she somehow got caught in the Oval Office with her pants down and Congress launched an investigation that lasted six years and culminated in an impeachment trial.

Think she'd quit? I do, based on this silly little girl's tale here.

Personally, I don't think she's going to run. Between the campaign jokes made about her, the recent kerfuffle with David Letterman and this obvious grandstand ploy, she's come to the realization that, goshdarnit, people really don't like her very much.

Yes, she has immense support from the conservative wing of the Republican party, but other conservatives in the party are balking mightily at the fact she seems to be dividing the party up, perhaps to create her own ("Dominionist"?) third party.

It's hard to predict where this is really going to end up. On the one hand, a Palin party would both destroy and save the Republican party from itself. It would attract the John Birchers and the fringe members of the media and, with the help of Rush Limbaugh et al., would establish a legitimate national party.

For a while. See, moving the inmates out of the asylum doesn't make the inmates sane, but it makes the asylum safer.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)


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What the world needs now is not more Sarah Palin; or, how her right-wing admirers are falling all over themselves trying to love her up

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Whether we like it or not, we're being bombarded with all things Sarah Palin, more so now pre-resignation than at any time since last year's campaign. And, honestly, it was driving me nuts over the weekend.

But the right loves her, and continues not just to apologize for her, not just to cheerlead for her, but to pump her up out of all justifiable proportion. Which is fine, when you think about it, because the simple fact is, she's not -- and is not close to being -- a credible national political figure. And that's putting it nicely. I'd say she's a joke, an appalling caricature of phony, mock-outraged populism, a caricature of herself, actually, though I'm not sure the caricature is any different than the real thing, so entwined is she with her own manufactured persona.


Let's take a look at what a few conservatives have said about her in recent days:

1) Ross Douthat -- One of the more thoughtful conservatives around, to be sure, with a perch at the NYT, one of the key media organizations of the coastal elite that Palin claims to loathe, and against which she directs much of her silly resentment. I was going to comment earlier on his ridiculous juxtaposition of "Palin and Her Enemies," but I don't have much to add to Mustang Bobby's terrific post from yesterday afternoon.

While Douthat is certainly right that Palin has "tarnished" her own "ideal," and that she remains popular, "beloved by millions," it is ridiculous to suggest, as Douthat does, that Palin represents "the democratic ideal" -- in contrast to Obama, who supposedly represents "the meritocratic ideal" -- simply because she has shown "that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard." I had no idea that going to an Ivy makes you somehow un-democratic, but this is the sort of populism that Palin spins, the sort that her story, and her political celebrity, has inspired on the right, including among elitist coastal newspaper columnists who are hardly Heartland material.

As Mustang Bobby puts it, Palin's problems were her own fault, not the media's, not the political commentariat's, not liberals' or Democrats'. Douthat claims that the attacks on Palin "had everything to do with Palin's gender and her social class." No, they had everything to do with Palin herself. And they weren't attacks, they were justifiable criticisms of a self-absorbed dimwit who was in way over her head but who nonetheless managed to arouse the GOP mob.


2) Fred Barnes -- Kristol's pal at TWS and an unabashed partisan (and Palin booster). For Barnes, who can't seem to keep it in his pants, Palin is "the most exciting Republican figure to emerge in decades." But, alas. While she has "a super-abundance of charisma," she also has "shortcomings in experience and knowledge" -- which is just another way of saying she has a nice personality, but...

And so Barnes, after tracing the history of Republican presidential nominees since WWII, looks ahead, a long, long way ahead: "By itself, two months on the Republican ticket won't propel her to the presidential nomination. But there is a way: win Alaska's lone House seat in 2012 and oust Democratic senator Mark Begich in 2014. A term in the House and another in the Senate -- nothing would do more to groom her for the White House than this and transform her into the best Republican candidate for the presidency in, say, 2020, when she'd be 56."

Woo-hoo! Palin 2020!

Actually, it's not so unreasonable, given that Palin has a much brighter future in Alaska than nationally, and she may just be able to do what Barnes suggests. But her bright future has dimmed even in Alaska, and I wonder if her career path to 2020 is as clear as this. Obviously, we shall see. What I do think is that we haven't heard the last of Palin the politician.

But back to Barnes. Despite the fact that Palin has glaring "shortcomings" and "limitations," he still things she was a brilliant veep pick for McCain. He even claims she won the debate with Biden, which is insane. He apparently was watching a different debate than the rest of us, perhaps one firing off in the recesses of his imagination. And he claims that "she could have taken Joe Biden apart while demonstrating her own knowledge and brainpower had she known more about national issues," which is also insane. The fact is, she didn't have any knowledge or brainpower to demonstrate, and she didn't know anything about national issues beyond the facile talking points that had been fed to her. Her "personality and likeability" in that debate just came across as smarmy arrogance. And yet Barnes still wanted her to be, as they say, a heartbeat away from the presidency? How irresponsible is that?


3) Jim Prevor -- Also at TWS, Prevor puts even Barnes to shame with respect to Palin-boosting, as there is apparently no end to what Palin can accomplish if she just puts her mind to it:

Will she write a thoughtful book? Become a syndicated columnist whose ideas make her a "must read" for everyone? Will she found an important new think tank? An important journal? Spearhead an effort to help the unemployed? Decide to launch a business? Or maybe she will start a new political party?


Maybe Sarah Palin thinks she can change the world without becoming president. Maybe she is deeply and authentically conservative and isn't certain that aiming to change the world is such a good idea.

Maybe plumes of white smoke will herald her election from atop the Vatican.

Maybe she'll win back-to-back Nobels, if not for literature, maybe for peace and chemistry, or for whatever areas she wishes to tackle upon her return to private life.

Maybe she'll hit .400.

Who knows? Who can say?

As TNR's Chris Orr notes, it's rather curious that Prevor put quotation marks around "must read." Are we to take it that Prevor is being ironic, that there's no way Palin would ever be a legitimate "must read"? No, surely not, but I think Chris is quite right that the passage reads better if you put quotation marks around "thoughtful," "ideas," "important" (twice), "effort," and "business" as well. I'm quoting more than Chris here, so I'd also put them around "change the world" and "deeply and authentically conservative."

Seriously, though, does anyone other than her mindless admirers at TWS actually think that Palin might found a think tank or journal, or "help the unemployed"?

I've had enough of Sarah Palin, yes, but thankfully her fan club keeps me entertained with its stupidity. At a time like this, we can at least be thankful for that.

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