Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gone fishin'

World Headquarters for the DWSUWF Blog is once again being temporarily relocated to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a couple of weeks. We'll be getting in the last licks of the fishing season, closing the family camp, and enjoying the fall color. We will also be taking this opportunity kick off a long delayed, non-blog related writing project and do a little blog housecleaning. The blog will be active, but at a slower pace as bass, bluegill, pike, and brookies will have a higher priority than new posts and moderating comments.

Posting between now and October 15 will depend on weather and how the fish are biting.

Don't forget that Blog articles may be submitted for the carnival of divided government using the carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

UPDATED: October 5, 2007
Well, the fishing is better, the Cubs are worse, and the posting is slower than I anticipated. Added links to mobile blog.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday Flotsam (Saturday morning edition)

We wrap up the week by cleaning up some of the flotsam that washed ashore on the small beach serving as a metaphor for our little island of rationality in the great blogospheric ocean.

Yeah, yeah - I know it is Saturday, I just like the Friday Flotsam alliteration.

The Week that Was
It was not a week to be proud of our government and media. The Senate failed to restore the great writ Habeas Corpus by a vote of 56 For - 43 Against. This was shortly after failing to pass The Webb Amendment to limit the amount of time soldiers can be deployed in Iraq without down time at home. The measure was co-sponsored by Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel, the only two combat ground troop veterans in the Senate. It failed by a vote of 52 For - 47 Against. The week finished with the failure of the Reid - Levin Amendment 47 For - 47 Against which sought to change the mission of the troops in Iraq, set a timetable and begin their withdrawal. All these measures failed with a minority in opposition, because a sixty vote plurality is required to overcome a filibuster and pass these measures in the Senate.

While this was going on, the media was consumed by O.J. Simpson's arrest in Las Vegas, and a sophomoric newspaper ad by the MoveOn.org Political Action Committee. Well, at least we in the blogosphere can hold our collective head high, knowing we were able to maintain some perspective, kepp our priorities right, and attention firmly focused on what was really important:

nevermind.

The Senate Moves On
The Senate did somehow manage to pass something - a measure to condemn the MoveOn NYT newspaper ad. In the context of the other votes this week, it is particularly galling that this is what the Senate considered a priority. My opinion of the Ad is in the left sidebar, but I will amplify a bit here. The MoveOn Ad was pure political masturbation. It may have felt good to the left-handed rosy palmed players, but as it persuaded exactly no one, there was no political intercourse. Something that MoveOn might have noticed if they could tear themselves away from the mirror and the "object" of their affection. The Senate vote was an equivalent exercise in political masturbation by right-handed self abusers. It is perfectly understandable why Republicans seized on the Ad as an issue. It was certainly a great deal more fun for Republicans and the right wing to play with themselves condemning a meaningless Ad, rather that deal with the majority of Americans that oppose this war. They would have to be completely delusional or believe that Americans are stupid to think that attacking this Advertisement drove any support for continuing this war. In fact, the additional focus on the ad fueled by the Republican's cynical outrage, apparently did succeed in driving another million dollars or so of contributions to Move-On. Money that will probably be used for more effective advertising against Republicans in 2008.

Nevertheless, the week is being hailed by right of center blogs and pundits as a victory for the Right and Republicans. If so, it was a pyrrhic victory. Through their actions, the minority Republicans in the Senate continue to tie the party's 2008 electoral hopes to a wildly unpopular President, and a wildly unpopular war. Minority votes can carry the day in the Senate. But minority votes do not carry elections. We are a representative Democracy. That Republican Senate minority is representative of a comparable minority in the US electorate. The wish of the majority of the electorate in the United States is being frustrated by the votes of the minority in the Senate. Here is a thought experiment to consider:

Which scenario do you think is more likely in 2008?
A frustrated majority electorate suddenly deciding to support minority candidates who ignored their policy preference?
- or -

A frustrated majority electorate taking out their frustration on an obstructionist minority party that ignored their policy preference?
No need to answer. It's a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious. The 2006 midterms were instructive in that regard.

The Republican right minority has become so ingrown, so incestuous, and so used to talking only to itself, that it can't seem to escape the delusion that a majority of Americans will support continuing this war or this President's policies. Newt Gingrich's warning to the Republican party should not go unheeded. Mitt Romney is the only top tier Republican candidate that appears to be getting the message. Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate that understands it perfectly.

For any readers stumbling on this post who are not regulars, let me be clear about my electoral preference - I vote for the restrained spending, better governance, and the effective oversight that is only obtained with divided government. The Dems will maintain their majority in the House, and the only suspense in the Senate outcome will be whether the Dems achieve a 60 vote plurality. My best guess is they just fall short, but it is not a sure thing. As a consequence, I will vote for whoever the Republicans nominate for President regardless of who the Democrats nominate for President. This is purely a practical consideration, as the only hope of re-electing a divided government in 2008 is to elect a Republican president. Unless the Republican party wakes up and starts to ignore the vocal minority on the right, I will not be optimistic.

Carnivalinkus
I have been remiss in calling attention to some fine Carnivals and blog compilations posted over the last few weeks, Coincidently these compilations have seen fit to include some DWSUWF posts in their fine collections. Check them out.
Finally, let me call your attention to what promises to be an interesting and fun compilation as Jon Swift takes charge of the "Blog Round Up" at Crooks & Liars beginning this Sunday, September 23, 2007. If you are familiar with Jon Swift's modest efforts on his blog, you have some idea what to expect when he collides with the oh so earnest readership of Crooks & Liars. If not, just check it out. It is sure to be entertaining.

The beach is clear. One more reminder. Blog articles may be submitted for the next edition of the carnival of divided government (to be posted on or about Halloween) using the carnival submission form. Submitted posts must use include the words and/or concept of "divided government" to be considered. Past posts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

UPDATE (Saturday evening / Sunday morning):
Corrected typos. Added graphic. Turd polished. Added Ohio Jill per Pho comment. Added links.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jack Murtha called up to the major leagues

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released their third annual list [pdf] of the most corrupt politicians in Washington. The list identifies the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the All Star players in the major league of political corruption. Last year CREW scouted the minor leagues and identified Jack "My Way" Murtha as a player to watch. This year they called him up to the "bigs" naming him as one of the most corrupt players in Congress. This is no small accomplishment for a Democrat. Of the the 22 most corrupt players named by CREW, only four Democrats made the starting line-up. After six years dominating the political game in Washington, the Republicans had a virtual stranglehold leading every major corruption statistic. With a team looking like a dynasty, managed by Karl "permanent majority" Rove and fielding a powerhouse lineup of corruption and greed All Stars like Delay, Abramoff, Hastert, Cunningham, and Ney there was no room in the lineup for a minor league player like Murtha. And with players like that, there just really wasn't much more than crumbs left on the table for any one else. But this year, Murtha got his big break. The Democrats won Congress, and like all the great ones - Murtha grabbed the opportunity with both hands, swinging for the fences at every opportunity. Let's run the Murtha highlight reel from CREW:
"PMA Group
Paul Magliocchetti worked with Rep. Murtha as a senior staffer on the Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense for 10 years. After leaving the committee, Mr. Magliocchetti founded the PMA Group, which has become one of the most prominent Washington, D.C. defense lobbying firms. In the 2006 campaign cycle, the PMA Group and eleven of the firm’s clients ranked in the top 20 contributors to Rep. Murtha, having made campaign contributions totaling $274,649. In the 2004 and 2002 cycles, PMA and nine of the firm’s clients ranked in the top twenty contributors having given $236,799 in contributions $279,074 respectively. In turn, many of PMA’s clients have benefited significantly from Rep. Murtha’s earmarks. In the 2006 Defense appropriations bill, PMA clients received at least 60 earmarks, totaling $95.1 million. In the 2008 election cycle, the PMA group and its clients have contributed $106,000 to Rep. Murtha’s campaign committee and PAC.

Concurrent Technologies Corporation
In 2007, Rep. Murtha inserted into the Energy and Water Appropriations bill a $1 million earmark to establish the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure - a subsidiary of Concurrent Technologies Corporation, (CTC) a non-profit technology innovation center in Rep. Murtha’s district that has received hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks in recent years. Contrary to Rep. Murtha claims, the Department of Energy has denied supporting the request for the earmark. CTC is a large non-profit that in 2005 received over $212 million in government grants. Since 2002, CTC’s employees and employees’ family members have donated over $115,000 to Rep. Murtha’s political committees and leadership PAC. By earmarking funds for companies represented by the PMA group and CTC in return for campaign contributions, Rep. Murtha may have accepted bribes or illegal gratuities, committed honest services fraud and violated House rules prohibiting members from dispensing special favors.

Threat to Deny Spending Projects
After Rep. Mike Rogers offered a motion in May of 2007 that would have stripped a $23 million earmark inserted by Rep. Murtha, Rep. Murtha approached Rep. Rogers on the House floor and stated, “I hope you don’t have any earmarks in the defense appropriations bills because they are gone, and you will not get any earmarks now and forever.” Rep. Rogers replied, “This is not the way we do things here,” and, “is that supposed to make me afraid of you?” Rep. Murtha retorted, “That’s the way I do it.” Rep. Rogers declined to file a former ethics complaint and a resolution aimed at reprimanding Rep. Murtha was permanently tabled. Earlier in May, Rep. Murtha had threatened Rep. Todd Tiahrt for voting in committee in favor of Rep. Rogers’ motion to strip the earmark. Rep. Murtha approached Rep. Tiahrt on the House floor and unleashed a tirade, during which he [Rep. Murtha] threatened to withdraw his support from a defense project in Rep. Tiahrt’s district. Asked about the issue later, Rep. Tiahrt claimed, “It was a little misunderstanding,” and refused to discuss the matter. After his conversation with Rep. Murtha, Rep. Tiahrt apparently changed his position regarding the earmark and despite having voted for Rep. Rogers’ amendment in committee, he voted against it on the House floor."
The Democrats still have a long way to go to match the record of corruption set by six years of single party Republican control. But with Democrats like Jack Murtha showing the way, and a likely single party Democratic control in 2008, the Democrats are well positioned to challenge the Republican's lofty record of corruption.

It won't be easy. Like the Sports Illustrated "jinx", the CREW Most Corrupt List has derailed promising corrupt politicians in the past. Last year Denny Hastert (like Jack Murtha) was named to the CREW watch list, a recognition we featured here at DWSUWF. Since then, he helped his party lose the majority, was consequently removed from the Speaker role, declined to serve as minority party leadership, announced his intention to retire, and is not expected to complete his term.

Still, with Democrats like Murtha making up for lost time, the recently passed ethics bill falling far short of Democratic promises in January, and a probable single party Democratic government in 2008 fueling the unique hubris that infects politicians in power, the stage is set for a Republican resurgence in 2010.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

You call this a war protest?

Apparently there was a protest against the war in Washington D.C. on Saturday, along with the requisite counter-protest.

USA Today (AP):
"Several thousand anti-war demonstrators marched through downtown Washington on Saturday, clashing with police at the foot of the Capitol steps where more than 190 protesters were arrested.The group marched from the White House to the Capitol to demand an end to the Iraq war. Their numbers stretched for blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue, and they held banners and signs and chanted, "What do we want? Troops out. When do we want it? Now."
DoorFrame took a few pictures of the event and posted them at RumorsDaily.com :



Whatever. Now I know I am going to sound like an old fart reminiscing about the good old days ( which frankly were not all that good), but a paraphrased line from Crocodile Dundee seems apropos - "That's not a war protest... this is a war protest:"

Peter Wilson posted these pictures from the November 16,1969 Washington War Mobilization protest at his website emystic.com:


Some perspective from the BBC:
"One month after the 'Moratorium', on 15 November, 1969, the 'Mobilization' peace demonstration in Washington DC had a crowd estimated at from 250,000 to 500,000. This event remains the largest single anti-war protest in US history."
You've got to admit that, by comparison, Saturday's protest was rather pathetic.

There are a lot of angles we could examine comparing and contrasting these 1969 and 2007 events. Everything from crowd size, to generational attitudes, fashions, weather conditions or even comparing digital vs. film snapshot photography. I'll leave it to others to sort it all out.

Apparently, these days we prefer to do our protesting from the comfort of our homes, in front of a glowing screen, and with a cold beer in reach. I know I do.

Mark Fisher at the Washington Post:
"Anti- or pro-war, journalist, blogger or reader, we can probably agree that news coverage of events such as yesterday's rallies along the Mall routinely reveals a strong media bias toward covering crowds of people doing stuff outdoors, especially on a day featuring crisp air and brilliant sunshine... People at the pro-war, pro-surge Gathering of Eagles rally on the Mall and at the much larger antiwar, anti-Bush march from Lafayette Square to the Capitol had one thing in common: They were frustrated, both by smaller-than-expected crowds and by their inability to get their messages across, either in the media or to their elected officials."
UPDATE:
Jonn at "It Ain't Hell, but you can see it from here" attended and has more pictures. It looks like everybody on both sides had a really good time in the bright sunshine, and why not, it was a perfect day for a picnic and a walk in the park war protest. Jonn thinks DWSUWF is a "leftist" pining for the "good ol' days." I was unaware I had become a leftist, but I guess if you are sitting way up in the far right bleachers, everybody on the field looks like a leftist to you. Just sayin' Jonn. For our final words of wisdom on the protest, we'll defer to the sage Yogi Berra who may or may not have said - "Everything looks the same, only different. Of course, things in the past are never as they used to be."

Special note to Jonn:
I see you also got to meet your "secret love." Between you and me, I don't get it. You can do better.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A good death.

If there is a lesson to be learned from 9/11 that transcends considerations of how to secure airports and borders, assess risk, protect property and lives, play politics or fight terrorists, it is a lesson that Rick Rescorla taught us that day. A lesson on how to live and how to die.

On the occasion of the six year anniversary of 9/11, a digression from the politics of the day and a short meditation on the death and remarkable life of Rick Rescorla. Much has been said about Rick Rescorla, by authors, journalists, film makers, friends and family. It is through those voices and because of 9/11 that I learned about Rick. It is through his voice and the voices of those that knew him best, that I find meaning in the tragic events of six years ago.

His best friend and comrade in arms, Daniel Hill:

"I have vowed to never again to cry over Rick Rescorla and his death. It was not an event to weep over. It was a noble ending for a noble man. I choose to rejoice in that. I will continue to cheer."
From a conversation with Dan Hill - April 2001:
"God, look at us .. We should have died performing some great deed -- go out in a blaze of glory, not end up with somebody spoon-feeding us and changing our nappies." - Rick Rescorla
From an e-mail to friend Bill Shucart - September 5, 2001
"I have accepted the fact that there will never be a kairos moment for me, just an uneventful Miltonian plow-the-fields discipline . . . a few more cups of mocha grande at Starbucks, each one losing a little bit more of its flavor" - Rick Rescorla
Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam - November 14, 1965
Rick Rescorla at Ia Drang"... during the periods of silence he encouraged talk between the foxholes to ease the tension. When all else failed, Rescorla sang "Wild Colonial Boy" and a Cornish favorite, "Going Up Camborne Hill" - slow and steady tunes, which were answered by shouts of "Hard Corps!" and "Garry Owen!" that told him his men were standing firm.... Rescorla directed his men to dig foxholes and establish a defense perimeter. Exploring the hilly terrain beyond the perimeter, he came under enemy fire. After nightfall, he and his men endured waves of assault. To keep morale up, Rescorla led the men in military cheers and Cornish songs throughout the night... Rescorla knew war. His men did not, yet. To steady them, to break their concentration away from the fear that may grip a man when he realizes there are hundreds of men very close by who want to kill him, Rescorla sang. Mostly he sang dirty songs that would make a sailor blush. Interspersed with the lyrics was the voice of command: "Fix bayonets. - on liiiiine reaaaa-dy - forward." - We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young, Joseph Galloway and Harold Moore
Hayle, Cornwall - May, 2001
"When Rescorla returned to Hayle to visit his mother, he always called on a lonely blind man named Stanley Sullivan at the town's nursing home. Sullivan loved his pint, and Rescorla always brought him cans of Guinness. Then they would sing Cornish oldies like "The White Rose" into the night, tears streaming down their faces... In some ways, Rescorla seemed more Cornish than his friends who had stayed in Hayle. He knew all the old Cornish songs and the local history. He'd invite people to the pub, throw open the bar, and have them all singing. Rescorla never seemed to forget anyone in the village." - James B. Stewart, "The Real Heroes Are Dead," The New Yorker, February 11, 2002
Morristown, New Jersey - September 11, 2001
"...he rose as usual at 4:30 A.M. on the eleventh, and headed into the shower. Susan could hear him in there, singing an English music-hall tune. He sang in the shower almost every morning... When he came out of the shower that morning, he continued singing and broke into a dance routine. Then he launched into an impression of the actor Anthony Hopkins. "I've never felt better in my life," he told Susan. He grabbed her around the waist for a few dance steps before he kissed her goodbye. "I love you so," he said, and then left for the train station." James B. Stewart, "The Real Heroes Are Dead," The New Yorker, February 11, 2002
Stairwell, South Tower, WTC, New York - September 11, 2001
Rick Rescorla in the South tower of WTC minutes before it collapsed"Hill hurried downstairs, and then the phone rang. It was Rescorla, calling from his cell phone... Hill could hear Rescorla issuing orders through the bullhorn. He was calm and collected, never raising his voice. Then Hill heard him break into song... Rescorla came back on the phone. "...the Port Authority was telling him not to evacuate and to order people to stay at their desks. "What'd you say?" Hill asked." I said, 'Piss off, you son of a bitch,' " Rescorla replied. "Everything above where that plane hit is going to collapse, and it's going to take the whole building with it. I'm getting my people the fuck out of here. .. and he sang the defiant Men of Harlech, just as he’d done when the 7th Cavalry was surrounded in the Ia Drang Valley..." - Michael Grunwald, Washington Post, 10/28/01
Defiant Men of Harlech
Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can't you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors' pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!
"You see, for Rick Rescorla, this was a natural death. People like Rick, they don't die old men. They aren't destined for that and it isn't right for them to do so. It just isn't right, by God, for them to become feeble, old, and helpless sons of bitches. There are certain men born in this world, and they're supposed to die setting an example for the rest of the weak bastards we're surrounded with." - Dan Hill
"One who is to be a warrior considers it his foremost concern to keep death in mind at all times, every day and every night, from the morning of New Year's Day, through the night of New Year's Eve. As long as you keep death in mind at all times, you will also fulfill the ways of loyalty and familial duty ... your character will improve and your virtue will grow... if you realize that life is here today and is not certain on the morrow, then when you take your orders from your employer, and when you look in on your parents, you will have the sense that this may be the last time - so you cannot fail to become truly attentive to your employer and your parents. that is why I say you also fulfill the paths of loyalty and familial duty when you keep death in mind." - Bushido Shoshinshu - The Code of the Samurai, The Way of the Warrior.
Rick Rescorla 1998 interview from a 2003 film by Robert Edwards:
Rick Rescorla interviewed in 1998, from 'The Voice of the Prophet'"Terrorist forces can tie up conventional forces, they can bring them to their knees...military power is completely secondary to national will and national morality... The whole of the world would get behind the idea that individual freedoms are important... but they will not get behind actions like Nicaragua often, where we are backing the wrong people, supporting dictators for the thought of economic stability, so foreign and domestic corporations can do business... the residue of hatred this is creating in these foreign countries... we're doing these things and we are thinking there won't any repercussions... Things will come home to roost, and they may be 20 years later, of cavalier actions we are taking now out there. And who is directing these cavalier actions? People in command and control that have never seen a shot fired in anger in their life, except hearing a round fired near the White House where someone is mugging a tourist outside. We can't even straighten out our capital, in terms of crime, and we think we can go out there and be World's top cop, It's impossible." - Rick Rescorla - from 1998 interview in 2003 Short Film "The Voice of the Prophet"
Nine years after this interview was filmed, we can still learn from Rick Rescorla's warning.

Edited and reposted from a five year anniversary tribute posted last year.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.
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Monday, September 10, 2007

Carnival of Divided Government Sextus Decimus - Special Procrastination Edition


Welcome to the September 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Divided Government Sextus Decimus- Special Labor Day Procrastination Day Edition. This the latest in a continuing series of irregularly scheduled compilations of divided government writing from around the blogosphere.

The first Wednesday of September is Fight Procrastination Day, (aka Do It Day!) followed appropriately by National Procrastination Day (aka Be Late for Something Day!) on or about Thursday September 6. Apparently no one has ever gotten around to firmly assigning a date for this important holiday. No matter, t
he beauty of posting a Carnival of Divided Government with this theme should be obvious. Whenever DWSUWF gets around to it, is in perfect keeping of the theme, even if we are a few days late.

Continuing this theme, DWSUWF notes
that after dithering and hinting for months, our preferred presidential hopeful Chuck Hagel chose today to announce his retirement from the Senate at the end of this term. While he left himself a little wiggle room with his phrasing ".., nor do I intend to be a candidate in 2008," DWSUWF will be updating, adjusting and sadly dropping him from our presidential hopeful stack ranking. We'll also be replacing the featured video in the sidebar, which highlights the senator. This will definitely get done whenever I get around to it. Which should be Real Soon Now.

Introduction

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration in order to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this edition, as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions. Without wasting any additional time, the top 10 divided government selections (and two interesting arguably off-topic time and space fillers).

Ten Divided Government Posts worthy of your time and effort.

Mark Silva quotes Robert Tuttle, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K, while writing "Lessons in Democracy: Part Three" at the Chicago Tribunes Washington blog The Swamp:
"Divided government, a situation in which one political party controls at least one chamber of Congress while the president is a representative of the other party, is common and something with which Americans are comfortable, Tuttle said, adding that since 1950 there have been more years with divided government than years without it. 'The record shows that during those years of divided government some of our more productive pieces of legislation were passed by the Congress and signed by the president,' Tuttle said."
It remains to be seen whether that "comfort" with divided government will survive the election in 2008, when the only way to maintain it will be to vote for a Republican for president.

Aahz
presents Applied Anarchy: Why Anarchists Should Vote For Ron Paul posted at Philaahzophy, saying:
"Few rational individuals (even amongst the anarchy lovin’ crowd) endorse the idea of instant removal of government... What we need to do is ease our way towards anarchy and the first step in doing that is slowing the growth of government... Keeping the executive and legislative branches in opposing hands slows government growth in some pretty obvious ways... Enter Ron Paul. As a Libertarian in Republican Clothing he’s the perfect vessel for change in Washington. If he can secure the Republican nomination the older “Republican Guard” will have no choice but to vote for him in order to keep the Democrats out of office. Meanwhile, his Libertarian views will siphon off a large percentage of the young people who traditionally vote Democrat, nearly ensuring victory. Of course, those Dems who do “cross over” to vote their principles will still be voting Democrat in the Senate and Congressional races, thus furthering the cause of gridlock. Add Paul’s reputation as “Dr. No” to the mix and we could very well see the fewest number of bills passed during any Presidential term in the last century. His Congressional colleagues call him “Dr. No” because he consistently votes no on any bill that will expand government."
Well I don't put myself in the anarchist camp, nor do I think that Ron Paul has a snowball's chance of getting elected, but we do know divided government works to limit the growth of Leviathan. To continue divided government in 2009 we will need a Republican President. Problem being, with Hagel out, I cannot get excited by any alternative other than Ron Paul, who is unelectable. So until the Republicans figure out who they are going to nominate, I'll just take Aahz's advice, and ride with Ron Paul for as long as he is in the race. Let's just see what happens.

David Larison reminds us of the importance of maintaining a divided government and the risks inherent in bipartisanship while critiquing a David Broder column in "Broderism Remains" posted at Eunomia:
"After four years of war in Iraq–a war approved on a bipartisan basis–we might reconsider the virtues of bipartisan collaboration and unity. If we had a more fierce opposition party, divided government might even at some point produce more sane policy decisions rather than mere stalemate. The last thing we need is more tame opposition to the majority, or more deference of the legislature to the executive. We have a government of divided powers and an adversarial party system, so we might as well try to use them for their proper purposes of checking power and preventing usurpation. "
Exactly so. This is the way our government was designed. As excess of unified partisan power across the executive and legislative branch undermines the checks and balances the founders intended.

Bro Robin picks up the same theme, quoting from The Future of Freedom Foundation in "Declaring & Waging War: The U.S. Constitution" posted at Faciumus!:
"Why did the Founders implement such a weak, divided government? One big reason: they clearly understood that historically the greatest threat to the freedom and well-being of a people comes not from foreign enemies but instead from their own government officials, even democratically elected ones. And they understood that that threat to the citizenry was always greatest during war."
Moving from the realm of the political to the economic, Andrew Perrault agrees with Clive Crook's conclusion in a National Review column, but takes issues with the form of his argument in "Starving the Beast Only Makes it Angrier" presented at Divided Intelligence saying:
"Crook then veers into kind of strange territory by wondering if GOP fiscal recklessness is a calculated attempt to take advantage of Democrats' prudence. Cut taxes now and force the opposition to cut spending--the ideal political strategy. He cites Clinton's tenure as an example of this phenomenon, but weirdly neglects to mention that Clinton presided over a sharply divided government. Frankly, the blessings of gridlock seem a lot more likely for the slowed government growth during that period than Democrats' naturally spendthrift natures."
For some additional scholarship on the "Starve the Beast" hypothesis, check out our post "Divided Government, Statistics and War" where we cover pro and con statistical arguments by economists William Niskanen and Mark Thomas.

In a presidential election year anything that New Hampshire voters think, is of vital interest. Geordie Wilson wonders "Is Clinton Asking too much?" at New Hampshire Vote:
"But in times of uncertainty, Americans seem to like divided government. Asking for the presidency is no small thing itself. Demanding a Democratic Congress, too, may just seem presumptuous."
He is responding to a Hillary Clinton interview, where the candidate suggests that America send her to the White House with a Democratic Congress. The problem with Geordie's formulation, is that The Democratic Congress is unavoidable in 2009. For any who truly seeks to maintain our happily divided government, the only practical way of assuring it, is to elect a Republican President in 2008.

Ryan P. Christiano contributing at Eric Dondero's Libertarian Republican blog, is also concerned about the 2008 election and makes the case why in his post "Libertarians and Republicans need each other going into 2008":
"It seemed to Americans, and analysts alike, that the American people were secure in the cradling arms of Republican governance for the foreseeable future. There was no divided government for the Republicans to be concerned about. They had the House, the Senate, and even The White House in 2000. Dawn has broken over a very different Republican Party. The gains achieved since the 1990’s were for all intensive purposes washed away by the Democrat Tsunami of 2006. I left the Republican Party when the party of limited government and fiscal responsibility began increasing the government’s scope and spending like the clichĂ© “drunken sailor”. ...In a political climate such as the one we find ourselves in now, where approval ratings are remarkably low for both major parties, this would seem to be the opportunity that Libertarians should seize to raise the prominence of the nation’s third largest political party, and welcome a disheartened electorate... The Republican Party needs libertarians more now than ever, and perhaps libertarians need the Republican Party if they are ever to find a successful vehicle in which to advance their ideals. Republicans can no longer afford to take Independents for granted, nor dismiss libertarians and their strongly held beliefs. If both chambers of Congress are to be taken back by Republicans, they will need the full-fledged support of the libertarian movement within the Republican Party. Moreover, if the Republican Party wishes to hold the White House in the upcoming Presidential Election, it can do so only by nurturing and cultivating its alliance with libertarians."
I have been unkind in a past post about Eric Dondero, mostly because he richly deserved it. Nevertheless - simply because Ryan is posting at Eric's blog, does not detract from the merit of Ryan's ideas. Hey, even Eric Dondero has some good ideas. Ryan is certainly correct that the Republicans will need libertarians in 2008 in order to avoid complete disaster. He also has managed in this post to avoid Eric's particularly virulent "Republican Uber Alles" form of libertarianism, declaring himself an independent. I can only add that the argument for maintaining divided government, and avoiding single party Democratic control in 2009, may be the only meme that can keep libertarians in the Republican camp in 2008. No promises for 2010 though.

Bruce Bartlett's post on divided government electoral tactics while blog-sitting at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish continued to stir up feedback since we noted it in the last CODGOV carnival. James Joyner responded to Bruce with the "Virtues of Divided Government" posted at Outside the Beltway:
"It’s true that gridlock has been the norm in recent decades, with Democrats usually controlling at least one House of Congress and Republicans usually winning the presidency. This, however, almost certainly reflects the vagaries of our electoral system rather than some conscious choice for divided government."
While certainly true, it does not have to stay that way. In fact, promoting the "Virtues of Divided Government" and raising the concept of voting for divided government to a conscious level may be the only thing that can prevent single party Democratic control with a supermajority in the Senate in 2008.

Stephen Heersink at The Gay Species also weighs in on the Bartlett post with "Divided Government: A Liberal's Strategy":
"I'm not advocating a Republican Congress with a Democratic Executive, but I would if Hilary or Richardson were elected or installed as executive, and certainly vice versa if any of the Republican clowns became an executive. Rather, I am advocating divided government. Divided Government is no longer just a fail safe, a "checkmate" against abusive power, but rather it has evolved into a political necessity, lest the hegemony of special interests and economic power brokers corrupt all political branches. We are no longer "governed," but "ruled." Diffuse the power of the ruling-class."
Amen, Amen, Amen.

Jon Basil Utley, a conservative writing at Antiwar.com, finds a justification for Republicans to support impeaching Dick Cheney in order to head off electoral disaster in 2008. From his column: "What to do with Cheney":
"As conservatives, even though we oppose the welfare-warfare-earmark Republican leadership, we want Republicans to remain viable. We will never again trust them with the Constitution, but a total Democratic sweep would also be threatening. Without limited government, our freedoms can only be safe with divided government. Impeaching Cheney could at least save the Republicans 41 seats in the Senate, and it might even help them regain control, thus thwarting a total Democratic sweep."
Ross Kaminsky writing at Human Events and blogging at Rossputin analyzes the consequences of a potential single party government in 2009 in "The Real Potential Cost of the Iraq War":
"The potential damage from a Democrat-controlled Congress is currently limited by a Republican president, even one who misplaced his veto pen for most of his career. Most Americans realize that, which is why we have divided government so frequently. But if out of frustration with the Iraq War the American people vote in a Democrat as our next president (and I assume the Democrats will retain control of both houses of Congress at least until 2010), it will turn out that the war will have cost us far more than we ever imagined it could."

Two marginally on-topic post.

Finally, although we generally keep our time and energy focused on specific divided government related posts, we traditionally include one off topic post as a grudging acknowledgment and symbolic proxy for the many off-topic time-wasting posts submitted. This month we instead offer two posts, while not squarely on-topic or directly using the words "divided government" nevertheless provide thoughtful commentary on divided government issues:

Doug Ragan presents Can We Do This BEFORE The Democrats Figure It Out? posted at I'm A Pundit Too, saying:
"Bipartisan stupidity. That is the best way to describe the past several years. I am absolutely convinced that our government is in a contest to see which party can become the most hated. Republicans lost control of Congress because they were incredibly stupid. Democrats took power, promising change, only to have Congressional approval ratings at an all time low."
AllAboutVoting presents Some proposed reforms to the problems of gerrymandering posted at All About Voting, saying:
"A number of my posts discuss the nature of how government is divided. Specifically they discuss how a bunch of (gerrymandered) single winner districts are used to select reps. The specific post I submitted discusses reforms to gerrymandering including the split line algorithm - on how to divide the populace that selects representatives in districts."
Interesting stuff.



Miscellany

With that we conclude this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). The next edition will be the Carnival of Divided Government Septimus Decimus- Special Halloween Edition, to be posted on or about October 31st, 2007. Blog articles may be submitted for the carnival of divided government using the carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Is Iraq like Vietnam? Lessons learned.

Colin Powell in VietnamThis is the last of three posts to examine the question "Is Iraq like Vietnam?" The catalyst for the series was the President's recent speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, where he invoked this historical analogy:
" ... one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens, whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields'"
He explicitly asserts that the lesson to be learned from Vietnam is that the U.S. withdrawal precipitated a bloodbath, chaos, and massacres for the Vietnamese and Cambodian people, and we should now apply that lesson to Iraq. In the first post of this series we conclude it is the wrong question to ask about future steps in Iraq. The second post questioned the historical basis for the President's claim. In this post we turn back to the question of legacy and "lessons learned."

There were indeed important lessons to be learned from Vietnam. We don't have to speculate about those lessons. There is no more committed "learning organization" than the United States Military. Every battle, every decision in every conflict is parsed and analyzed to extract lessons that can be applied to making our fighting forces more effective. You don't need to read all of the military and historical scholarship to glean the real lessons of Vietnam. That task has already been done.

The lessons of Vietnam were distilled into a doctrine by the Secretary of Defense, refined by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accepted and embraced by the Commander in Chief. The SECDEF was Caspar Weinberger. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was General Colin Powell. The President that accepted and acted on the distilled lessons of Vietnam, was George Bush - George Herbert Walker Bush. Republicans one and all. The distilled wisdom of the United States military on the lessons learned from Vietnam, became known as the Weinberger Doctrine, and the Powell Doctrine.

The Powell doctrine was informed by Colin Powell's experience in two tours of duty in Vietnam. These quotes from his 1995 memoir My American Journey resonate eerily today, and foreshadow the true lessons of Vietnam. From chapters 4,5,6 entitled "It'll take half a million men to succeed", "Coming home", "Back to Vietnam":
The powers that be seemed to believe that by manipulating words, we could change the truth. We had lost touch with reality. We were also deluded by technology. The enemy was primitive, and we were the most technologically advanced nation on earth. It therefore should be no contest.” P145

“In the years between my first and second tours, the logic of Captain Hieu’s explanation - the base is here to protect the airstrip, which is here to supply the base - had not changed, only widened. We’re here because we’re here…
War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support; we should mobilize the country’s resources to fulfill that mission and then go in to win. In Vietnam, we had entered into a a halfhearted half-war, with much of the nation opposed or indifferent, while a small fraction carried the burden.”
“I came to reexamine my feeling about the war … We accepted that we had been set to pursue a policy that had become bankrupt. Our political leaders had led us into a war for the one-size-fits-all rationale of anticommunism, which was only a partial fit for in Vietnam, where the war had its own historical roots in nationalism, anticolonialism, and civil strife beyond the east-west conflict. Our senior officers knew the war was going badly. Yet they bowed to groupthink pressure and kept up pretenses … the military failed to talk straight to its political superiors or to it itself. The tip leadership never went to the Secretary of Defense or the President and said, “The war is unwinnable the way we are fighting it.”
Last year DWSUWF was prompted by this book to write General Powell an open letter and ask a few questions:
"General Powell, How different is this Vietnam rationale, than the current rationale for our continued presence in Iraq as articulated by the President – We’re there now because it will be worse if we leave? Does the war in Iraq have the understanding and support of the American people? Have the country’s resources been adequately mobilized? Has anyone been asked to pay the price, beside the military and their families? Have our political leaders led us into a war in Iraq for the one-size-fits-all rationale of anti-terrorism, which is only a partial fit for Iraq?” Is the Iraq war “unwinnable” the way we are fighting it?"
All rhetorical questions, of course. We never received a reply, nor did we expect one, but one must wonder whether the answers could have and should have been found by this administration before we went to war in Iraq, by simply reviewing the distilled lessons of the Vietnam War:

From Wikipedia:
The Powell Doctrine, is a journalist created neologism, named after General Colin Powell in the run up to the 1990-1991 Gulf War. It is based in large part on the Weinberger Doctrine, devised by Caspar Weinberger, former Secretary of Defense and Powell's former boss.

The questions posed by the Powell Doctrine, which should be answered affirmatively before military action, are:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?
How difficult would it be to apply these questions to Vietnam, the Gulf War, Afganistan and Iraq?

My assessment (Self imposed rule - no "maybe's" allowed - must be yes or no answers):

Weinberger/Powell Doctrine Vietnam 1968 Gulf War 1990 Afgan. 2002 Iraq 2003 Iraq 2007
1. national security threat? Yes Yes Yes Yes/No* Yes
2. clear attainable objective? No Yes Yes Yes No
3. risks/costs fully analyzed? No Yes Yes No No
4. non-violent policy tried? No No Yes No No
5. plausible exit strategy? No Yes Yes No No
6. consequences considered? No Yes Yes No No
7. American people support? No Yes Yes Yes No
8. wide international support? No Yes Yes No No

* It depends. If Saddam had WMD's, then there was a real security threat. Nevertheless, by mid 2003, the "attainable objectives" of eliminating that threat and effecting regime change had been attained. Unattainable objectives ("Democratize the Middle East") were then added. Reasonable minds can disagree with my evaluation. I'll be happy to defend my choices in the comments.

Heh. Looking over the chart, it is apparent the President is right. Iraq really is like Vietnam. A final exercise is let to the reader - On the topic of lessons learned from Vietnam - Compare and Contrast:

The George Bush speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention on August 22, 2007 quoted at the top of this post, invoking the "legacy of Vietnam" while ignoring the distilled lessons of Vietnam.

Vs.

The George Bush speaking at the "8th Annual Reunion of Our Victory in the Desert" Feb. 28, 1999:
It was only after all peaceful means failed, he said, "that we had to fight..."I'll never forget," he said, when Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell "came over and said it was time to end the fighting -- mission accomplished. I said, 'Do [Gen. Norman] Schwarzkopf and the commanders agree.'" Bush said that within 30 seconds Powell had Schwarzkopf on the phone assuring him that the mission had been accomplished. "I don't believe in mission creep," he continued. "Had we gone into Baghdad -- we could have done it, you guys could have done it, you could have been there in 48 hours -- and then what? "Which sergeant, which private, whose life would be at stake in perhaps a fruitless hunt in an urban guerilla war to find the most-secure dictator in the world? "Whose life would be on my hands as the commander-in-chief because I, unilaterally, went beyond the international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we're going to show our macho?" he asked. "We're going into Baghdad. We're going to be an occupying power -- America in an Arab land -- with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous." Bush said, "We don't gain the size of our victory by how many innocent kids running away -- even though they're bad guys -- that we can slaughter. ... We're American soldiers; we don't do business that way." ... Bush said his memory of Vietnam influenced his thinking during the Gulf War. He recalled that politicians during the Vietnam War kept changing the conditions under which U.S. forces fought -- bombing halts and cease-fires... We didn't want any man or woman put into harm's way," Bush said. "We worked hard to form an international coalition..." - George H.W. Bush

There were indeed lessons to be learned from Vietnam.

One George Bush heeded those lessons.

One did not.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.