Thursday, March 29, 2007

There are Storms and then, there are Storms

I tend to like and comprehend the theatrical froth of Political Storms -- the weird little scandals that take off on CNN, like Foley talking dirty to House pages, or even the tedium of Senate hearings where right-wing spin meets desultory attempts to get at "the truth".

The wind of a Great Storm is certainly noisy enough to attract attention, and can do considerable damage -- tear off a roof, or, sometimes, knock a house off its foundation. The Republican Party is a house, being knocked off its foundation -- a political Party pretty clearly headed to several years of minority status, foredoomed to lose the loyalty of a majority of Americans and with it all hope in 2008.

But, the real action, the world historical shifts, take place not in air, but in water, sometimes in shifting bedrock. The deep currents, tidal waves and seismic shifts are made of sterner stuff than rhetorical theatrics and interest group politics. It is still about political and social choice, but at a deeper, more profound level, most hidden from view, beneath the landscape, beneath the waves.

Stirling Newberry, my hero, has a wonderful rant up today, which takes a glance at those deep currents underlying the American economy and the implications of the Iraq War policy for the same. It is scary stuff.

The Storm washes away the beaches

At the right-wing news-site, politico:

Republicans across the country are warning that increasing public discontent toward President Bush, the Iraq war and the GOP brand in general threatens to send the party's 2008 campaign planning into a tailspin.
Already, the problems are having tangible effects. Some of the
party's top recruits in key races from Colorado to Florida are refusing to run for Congress. Business executives -- the financial backbone of the GOP -- are sending more and more money to Democrats. Overall Republican fundraising is down
sharply from the same time frame during the past two presidential elections.
Then there are the voters.
Polling data released this month confirm what GOP officials are picking up anecdotally: Swing voters are swinging away from Republicans at high velocity. Most alarming to GOP strategists is a new survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center that found 50 percent of those interviewed consider themselves a Democrat or leaning that way; only 35 percent tilt Republican.

A political tidal wave is forming out of Bush's manifest and manifold failures, as the country begins to read the narrative of those failures more clearly.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kevin Drum points to an interesting tidbit in a typically snarky, insight-free New Republic article by Eve Fairbanks:

"The impression that we are, by now, witnessing the unfolding of one giant, undifferentiated scandal is compounded by the sense that this is some kind of watershed moment: The U.S. attorneys affair unleashed last Thursday's complaint that Bush partisans meddled with a Justice Department tobacco prosecution, which unleashed Monday's accusation that the General Services Administration was misused for political ends, and on and on."

Kind of the scandal-equivalent of an artic whiteout?

Actually, what we are witnessing is the slow awakening of the complacent morons, who make up our media elite and a significant part of Bush's political support. People, who are fatuous, self-satisfied, and bored with all about them (except their own endlessly fascinating doings). It is the fascism of celebrity gone mad, and they could not be more disinterested in scandal or any constitutional or good governance issues underlying the controversy.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

What's to come . . .

One of the certain elements of a "perfect" political storm is a bad economic climate. The Bush economy has been, to date, a nearly perfect economy from the standpoint of Bush's base: almost all of the gains from the business expansion have gone to Capital, as opposed to Labor. What meager gains Labor appears to have eked out in the statistics are, in fact, being eaten up by rising health insurance costs.

But, in truth, the Democratic takeover of Congress took place in an economy, which was performing adequately -- a very unusual context for a change of party political fortunes.

But, now, apparently, many observors see a recession in the offing. The intrepid Calculated Risk and his faithful banking companion, Tanta, have been explaining why: the great housing boom/bubble is over, and the housing sector(s) will be shedding workers over the next half-year, at least. A great vicious circle of collapse will drive this trend on, and efforts to meliorate liquidity problems in housing may well have unfortunate implications for the international exchange value of the dollar. Nouriel Roubini offers ten points, which will surely frighten. Meanwhile, manufacturing is not doing so well, either; in fact, as James Hamilton summarizes, lots of things appear poised to turn down. Paul Krugman has weighed in with some lurid speculation. Robert Reich, too, was prompted by the tumble in the stock market, to speculate about how bad things could get. Brad DeLong points to some evidence from Technorati, gathered by Menzie Chinn, about how "recession" is the now buzz.

The estimable Stirling Newberry sees where all this is heading. " . . .even if recession does not arrive, it will feel like one to large sections of the economy" and that will add a sense of -- Mr. Newberry says, "urgency" -- to the dissatisfaction people feel with Mr. Bush and his Iraq War.

The various elements of a political storm are lining up: a Democratic Congress is investigating Bush scandals, and finding plenty to investigate -- and dare I say, they have barely begun to scratch the surface. The economy is stalling and will apply to enough pain to focus the attention of people, who have not been paying enough attention.

What else? Bush has played his last card on Iraq, with the "Surge" -- the next round of deterioration there is going to have a very, very heavy price.

Bush's approval ratings are on the 30% floor, below which, is hanging territory.

What else can go wrong? War with Iran? Another hurricane or similar cataclysm of nature poorly met?

Perhaps a corpse will surface to tell its tale: Why did Libby lie? Was it to cover the V-P's role in fabricating the case for the Iraq War?

We live in interesting times.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

If you gave a Storm, and no one heard the wind blow . . .

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

The Bush Administration orchestrated a change in U.S. law, which allows the Attorney General alone -- not the President, with Senate Advice and Consent -- to replace U.S. Attorneys, and then proceeded to fire 8 such U.S. attorneys, including, not incidentally the San Diego U.S. Attorney, Carol Lam, who prosecuted Duke Cunningham.

The Senate and House have begun investigatory hearings on the firings.

ABC and NBC elected not to tell anyone about it.

Who Lost Iraq?

Matthew Yglesias has the answer: No one. We won. This is what winning looks like, when what you win is crap.

The problem in Iraq is that, we won a hollow victory. Defeating Saddam and replacing him with a new regime based around exiled Shiite political parties has a negative impact on America's strategic position in the world. Even were Iraq to grow substantially less chaotic over the next 2-5 years this would continue to be the case. The win-lose frame, while factually wrong, is also politically counterproductive. As Weisberg indicates, voters are reluctant to declare defeat for understandable psychological reasons. But there's no need to do that here. It's the fact of American victory that makes further involvement so untenable -- this is what winning looks like and, frankly, it looks like shit; there's no earthly reason to keep doing this; becoming "more successful" at backing the Maliki government wouldn't accomplish anything.
This may be the most brilliant thing any Democrat to date has said about Iraq.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

"The serious consequences of a pointless Washington scandal"

"The serious consequences of a pointless Washington scandal"

That is the title of an editorial in the Washington Post this morning. This from one of the once-great newspapers, which gave us seven long years of Whitewater.

Since Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor for the Washington Post, is apparently ignorant of the consequences of the Iraq War for American lives, fortunes and honor, let me explain the point of this scandal. Mr. Libby lied to protect the Vice-President, not from the accusation that he disclosed Plame's name, but from exposure of Cheney's role in fabricating the evidence of Iraqi nuclear ambitions as part of the fraudulent campaign by the Bush Administration to invade Iraq.

And, over at the New York Times, the other great progenitor of the great Whitewater non-scandal? Steve Benen points out the front page story on Barack Obama, investing in two companies backed by big donors. Perhaps, the fourth paragraph will sound familiar to those, who remember that the Clintons lost $35,000 on their Whitewater investment: "the senator did not know that he had invested in either company until fall 2005, when he learned of it and decided to sell the stocks. He sold them at a net loss of $13,000."

Oh, and that story about the eight U.S. Attorneys sacked by Bush? Page A14.