Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election 2006 Post-Mortem


Finally, the consequences of the Bush Administration's mishandling of the war have come home to roost. But color me apprehensive, because I'm still not totally convinced that the Democratic leadership isn't totally eaten up with the galloping stupids. A few quick, day-after observations follow:

Numero Uno: Christian conservatives, realizing that Rove has been selling them a bill of goods, took their ball and bat and went home. I've been expecting this for a couple of years now. What finally tore it, I think, was the Miers nomination. Once it finally became crystal-clear that no one in Bush-land was really, truly serious about overturning Roe v. Wade, well, what else was there? They've had a year and change to chew on that, and we've seen part of the pay-out.

Numero Two-O: Middle America is still in the War on Terror, but they'd really prefer it was waged more competently. This was an obvious, stinging rebuke to the Bush Administration's handling of the war. SecDef Rumsfeld is resigning today in response. While that is a good start, the changes need to go farther. I'm not entirely sure how much farther, or what the changes should be. James Baker and company ought to serve up their report pretty soon now. Hopefully they'll make some helpful suggestions. More on that later.

Numero Three-O: Divided government is a good thing. We always seem to do best when the branches of government aren't all in one party's hands. So, I'm guardedly optimistic: we won the Cold War with a Republican President and Democrat Congress, after all.

Numero Four-O: But is Pelosi eaten up with the galloping stupids? I'm not sure yet. We'll see, come January, if she starts baying for investigation after investigation, and stumping up the fires for impeachment. If that happens, we're screwed. America has no interest in that sort of spectacle. Yes, there ought to be some investigation into how we got into this mess. But that's the work of a long afternoon. There was some misleading going on, but the deceived was Bush, and the deceiver is set to dance his last waltz at the end of a rope. Chewed bone, guys. Let's spend our energy figuring out how to go forward from here. But is Pelosi smart enough to know that? We'll see.

Numero Five-O: That the Republicans have lost Congress doesn't mean that we've lost the War on Terror. It means that we're liable to have to do some re-focusing. This may be a good thing.

You see, the fundamental truth is now just as it was when Lincoln first said it: there is not a Power on Earth that can so much as take a sip of the Ohio River without our leave. There's no way they can get here in Army-level strength unless we provide them with visas and transportation. They can harass, but they cannot conquer. Not without our help and consent, anyway.

And we've done some good work. Hussein's regime is toast. We booted the Taliban out of Afghanistan -- but we might have to put another push together to make sure that sticks. And, perhaps most importantly, we've put paid to one of the myths Al-Qaeda goes to sleep by: the myth that we'll run screaming from our first blood. Their playbook was based on our behavior after Vietnam, and especially Somalia. We've shown them now that, if the stakes are high enough for us, we'll come and fight them on their own turf. And beat them.

So ... one probable result of all this is that we're going to do some sort of re-structuring of forces, reducing the number of troops in Iraq. That's fine, it's the Iraqis' fight anyway at this point. We can't win it for them, they'll have to win it themselves. We might want to send some of those guys over to Afghanistan, to put the beat-down on the Taliban. Again.

But the main thing is that we've come to the point where we simply have to admit that some mistakes have been made, and that we need to have a frank and open discussion about what needs to be done next. That was never going to happen until the Republicans were dealt some kind of beating at the ballot box. Now, nursing a few lumps on their heads, they have to ask themselves how they came to this.

And now, we all need to be alert, and participate in the discussions to come. There are three main questions. I don't think they've been seriously discussed yet.

One: Who are we? What is America in this new world we find ourselves in? For fifty years, we were the chief opponent of international Communism, the arsenal of Democracy. What's our role now? And knowing that role, how best do we fulfil it?

Two: How do we deal with the threat posed by Islamic extremism? How do we continue to wage war against Al-Qaeda and its adjuncts?

Three: How do we help our friends and allies abroad to deal with that self-same threat? They're more aware of it than they were five years ago, that's for sure. And this threat's big enough that we all need to pitch in together, or we'll be torn up piecemeal.

But those conversations can, at least, take place now.

Despair is a sin. Remember, this enemy can only win if we lose our nerve.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember, Remember...

It's Guy Fawkes Day. Call me a sucker for any holiday that involves bonfires and explosions.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November,
Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot.
We know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

In other news, the verdict is in for Saddam Hussein in the Dujail massacre case, and it's no surprise: he's been sentenced to dance the hempen necktie jig. Appeals to follow, of course, but I'll raise a glass come the day. He was a thoroughly bad man, and won't be missed.

I would be less than astonished to find that the Fifth of November becomes a celebrated anniversary in Iraq, as well...

Saturday, November 04, 2006


I realized not too long ago that I've been in denial for several years. The thing that finally led me to that realization was stumbling across the World's Smallest Political Quiz.

I had always thought of myself as a centrist, more or less. And as a sanity check on the test itself, I asked a few friends to take it and let me know what it said. No surprises there. One came up Liberal (which he's always claimed), one came up dead-center Centrist, another scored Centrist leaning towards Libertarian.

Me? My scores came out 80/70, clearly Libertarian.

Which explains why I'm not entirely comfortable with the direction that either major national party has taken. Those of you who've followed along since the beginning know that I've identified myself as a Democrat. Despite that, I haven't been happy with a lot of the things happening in the party at the national level. There doesn't seem to be any movement in a positive direction, except that, just maybe, they're getting over their anti-military bias. (Kerry excluded, natch. Why on Earth did we have to run Herman Munster in 2004?)

And I'd still like to see them shed some of their baggage, so that they might actually become a viable opposition party to the Republicans again.

But, they're liable to have to do that without me. I'm done voting against people. I'm done with choosing the lesser evil. From now on, I'm only voting for candidates that I can actually agree with on matters of substance. And if that candidate isn't Democrat or Republican, so be it.

So, going forward, this white boy's voting Libertarian, unless someone gives him a real convincing reason not to.

And if the main thing you want from your Government is for them to leave you the Hell alone, you ought to come on over, too.

UPDATE: Orson Scott Card weighs in, over at Ornery American. Money quote:

"To all intents and purposes, when the Democratic Party jettisoned Joseph Lieberman over the issue of his support of this war, they kicked me out as well. The party of Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- the party I joined back in the 1970s -- is dead. Of suicide."

Which, really, just about captures my feelings on the matter. The party that I once respected is dead and gone, replaced by a bizarre freakshow. The freakshow must end, if the American people are ever to trust that lot again with the Sword of the State. I'm not holding my breath.

Mind you, I'm not quite on board with OSC in re: voting Republican in this election cycle. I'm just a bit torqued off about the egregious incompetence with which the Republicans have run this war. We deserve better. And maybe, if they get a sharp rap on the nose, they'll deliver.

Election 2006: Governor? Texas has a Governor?

One of the most entertaining contests in all of politics is entering its last few days. The race for Governor of Texas is usually a pretty fun contest to watch for several reasons, not the least of which is because at least one of the poor saps inolved is under the delusion that he's running for a serious office.

You have to understand: the Governor of Texas has just about enough authority to choose his own toilet paper, provided that he can get the Lieutenant Governor to counter-sign for it. The way the Texas government runs day-to-day, the Lieutenant Governor actually swings more pipe. If you need something ram-rodded through the Legislature, the LG's your man. The Guv, he's just a moving target, drawing fire from the LG while he gets the work done. The awful truth is that you could shave an ape, sew him into a Brooks Brothers suit, and it might be months before anyone noticed the difference.

This tends to confuse most immigrants from states that have real Governors. Our constitution, you see, was written with the primary goal of infuriating Yankees. Hardly anything actually works the way you'd expect it to. And that's just how we like it. Some of us are of the opinion that inefficiency in government is a feature, not a bug.

Anyhow, here's the official TTS analysis of the candidates for Governor of Texas, in descending order of preference:

Kinky Friedman has, by far, provided the most entertainment. Not only that, his immigration proposal ("Five Mexican Generals") smacks of pure genius. Not for its details (which might have, um, most untidy side effects), but for the general idea that as long as illegal immigration isn't a problem for Mexico, they'll do nothing to curb it. Make it at least partly their problem, and they might pitch in to do something about it. As his official campaign slogan says, "Why the hell not?" I'm voting for Kinky.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn has a campaign slogan that says that she wants to "shake Austin up." That ain't what she's about. Not really. For some reason that escapes me, she absolutely hates Rick Perry. No, Strayhorn's real goal in running for Governor is to poke a sharp stick in Rick Perry's eye. And you know what? I can respect that. If Friedman weren't running, I might vote for Strayhorn.

Rick Perry does nothing for me. He's the kind of blandly handsome politician that's all too common these days, dull as dust. And what's with those commercials? Earth to Perry: you're running for Governor of Texas, not autitioning for a Land's End catalog photo shoot. But hey, if I ever need a model for outdoor wear, I know who to call. The sad and pitiful thing is, this dope's liable to win. But that's not the saddest thing.

Chris Bell is. The guys who actually looked at this chump and thought, "Hey, we've got a Governor here" should never be allowed within shouting distance of the political process ever again as long as they live. Not that anybody actually knows who Chris Bell is. You remember those old American Express commercials? The ones where some schlub that nobody ever heard of asks you if you know who he is? But that it's somehow all right now, because he's got this square of green platic with his name on it, embossed with silver letters and everything? They should have run that guy, but they didn't. Don't leave home without it, Chris.

And that's about it for Election 2006 here in Texas. Vote early, and vote often!