Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Not Ready to Make Nice

In his new digs at Obsidian Wings, in a post about the recent Marcotte/Edwards to-do, Publius wrote the following:
The issue is that Edwards would give the appearance of caving in to right-wing pressure. And in the Age of Rove, that's a deadly sin for a Democratic candidate in the primary. In this sense, the Marcotte controversy has nothing to do with her, it has to do with the larger underlying currents underneath. And what's underneath is the Clinton Wars, Bush v. Gore, Iraq, and Swift Boats - and a determination not to bend to these attacks anymore. That's why Howard Dean was so popular - people were craving someone who would not be bullied. This sentiment still runs strong, even to the point of causing foolish decisions (e.g., Feingold opposing the Levin resolution - they're not mutually exclusive options). But these scars are still raw, and you can't be seen as weak on that front.
The importance of this feeling -- that we can't bloody well let them do this any more -- is, I agree, crucial. (And Publius is right to go on to note that this is one of the problems with Hillary Clinton's Iraq stance, although obviously not the main one, which is that she voted to enable this horrific war.)

I think that every liberal -- probably even every moderate and sane conservative (all of whom are, by definition, fiercely opposed to the Bush administration) -- had a moment when they began to get angry: angry at what this vicious and malevolent movement has done and is doing to our country. (Liberals will tend to see the conservative movement, broadly, at fault; sane conservatives, presumably, will tend to see the Bush administration as traducing the conservative movement, whether through abandonment of principles or sheer incompetence and corruption. (I think the liberals are clearly right on this; but then, I would think so -- I'm a liberal.)) For some people it will have been the decision to start an aggressive war based on manifest falsehoods; for some people it will have been the torture, or the attacks on our constitution. For some people it began even earlier, with the farcical impeachment of President Clinton. It depends on who you are, and where you're coming from.

For me, I think, it began with the theft of the 2000 election. Oh, don't get me wrong, I was passionate about politics before -- I've felt strongly about it since childhood, really. And certainly I was strongly opposed to the impeachment circus when it was happening.

But I still sort of had a sense of humor about it -- it seemed as surreal as it did foul. What a thing to have our country focused on! And of course, Clinton was a liar and an adulterer, even if he clearly hadn't done anything impeachment worthy; he had committed many acts of political cowardice, from "don't ask, don't tell" on, that made me feel quite ambivalently about him. So while I thought the impeachment was wrong, even dangerous, I also thought the entire thing was silly, and the man behind it worthy of a certain amount of scorn, if not anything like what he got. So I took the whole thing with a sort of black humor that still had some actual humor in it.

But 2000 was something else. 2000 is when they stole the election -- stole it, really, a few times over, with a series of illegitimate and illegal acts the omission of any one of which would have given the rightful winner, Gore, the Presidency. And then, of course, having lost the popular vote, having won one of the single most illegitimate victories in American political history (certainly the most illegitimate since 1876), Bush threw off his moderate pretenses from the election and governed hard right.


That's why I never trusted him, even after 9/11, when I thought not, "we've got to trust him," but rather, "woe on us that we have this lying, illegitimate nonentity as our President at this time of trial". He might have won points if he had used 9/11 as an excuse to move to the center, unify the country around this new threat, and confront it responsibly. But of course he did the opposite.

So yeah, I'm angry. I'm not over it; I'll never be over it -- not until Bush and Cheney and all the rest are rotting in prison for crimes against humanity, where they belong: and possibly not even then.

In fact, I'm still angry, still unable-to-get-past-it angry, at all his enablers too. I'm angry at Gore (much as I love him for the stances he's taken since the run-up to the Iraq war) for not putting up more of a fight in 2000. I'm angry at Lieberman. I'm angry at Hilary Clinton for her immoral and cowardly vote to give Bush a blank check for aggressive war -- a vote which will cause me to support, in the primary, whichever candidate I think can best beat her (i.e. most likely Edwards or Obama at this point, unless Gore decides to jump in).

And I'm angry at Nader. Nader, who did not simply run to try and push Gore left or build a strong left; Nader, who ran a campaign specifically targeted at making Gore loose. And, hence, at making Bush win.

Nader, whose hands are covered with the blood of more than half a million Iraqis (and thousands of Americans), just as Bush's are; Nader, whose hands are covered with the blood of our tortured constitution; Nader, whose hands are black with the smog that Bush has grinned at as it gets pumped into our poor atmosphere.

So when I read this review of the new movie on Nader by Robert Kuttner (whose work I generally like a lot) -- a movie I haven't seen, I should emphasize -- and read his plea that Nader's record should be reconsidered -- my instant reaction was: no. No, it shouldn't. Certainly, for my part, I can't and won't reconsider it. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

Yeah, as a historian, I can study and understand the importance of Nader's work in the 60's and 70's, just as I can study the history of the conservative movement to analyze its nature and effects. I'm able (I think; certainly I try) to separate it in my mind from the issue of the present day, put it in a separate box and think about it in its own context. Fine.

But once the present leaks through -- no. A thousand times no.

To think of Nader as primarily a fighter for public interest legislation is like thinking of O. J. Simpson primarily as a football player. Sure, if you're focus is clear -- if you're studying history from the mid-70's, say -- then if you're talking public interest law you'll talk Nader, and positively, just as if you're talking football you'll talk Simpson, and positively -- with, in each case, only the occasional (if utterly necessary) glance at the blood that would later drip from their hands.

But overall? No. Simpson is a murderer, who did some things before. And Nader is one of Bush's key supporters, an accomplice to the destruction of Iraq, the terrible wounding of our Constitution, and so very much more.

As the Dixie Chicks said in a different context: It's too late to make it right; probably wouldn't if I could; I'm still mad as hell and I don't have time to do what it is you think I should.


...which brings me to the future, and to future mistakes, and returns me to a different post of Publius.

The single most important thing we have to do, politically, right now, is to prevent Bush from waging yet another aggressive war, this time on Iran. The consequences of such a move would be to horrible to contemplate.

So I for one second Publius's call here:
Instead, I’d like to see the netsroots -- and then the bigger Democratic interest groups (particularly unions) -- lay down the following challenge to wobbly-kneed elected Democrats: Any Democrat who supports military action against Iran gets a primary challenger. Any presidential candidate who supports military action against Iran loses primary support. Period. No exceptions. Call it a united front against the new war.

One of Publius's new co-bloggers, Von, dissents from Publius's call as follows:
I do not believe that an attack on Iran is justified, but this approach to foreign policy is profoundly unwise. It will hobble this Administration and the next in its dealings with Iran -- and the next Administration may very well be Democratic. There are better ways to make one's opposition to an attack on Iran known. ... It is a huge mistake to remove the threat of military action from the table, however -- as Publius urges. The possibility of attack is significant.
But the reply to this is crystal-clear, and has already been well made by James Fallows in The Atlantic:
If we could trust the Administration’s ability to judge America’s rational self-interest, there would be no need to constrain its threatening gestures toward Iran. Everyone would understand that this was part of the negotiation process; no one would worry that the Administration would finally take a step as self-destructive as beginning or inviting a war. But no one can any longer trust the Administration to recognize and defend America’s rational self-interest... What the Congress can do is draw the line. It can say that war with Iran is anathema to the interests of the United States and contrary to the will of its elected representatives. And it should do that now.
Given that they show every sign of trying to start yet another disastrous war, it is a thousand times more dangerous to give Bush any wiggle room than to take this (foolish and immoral) option "off the table". In fact, I would agree with Arthur Silber on this one: Congress should draw up impeachment resolutions now, and make it absolutely clear that any waging of war without the Constitutionally mandated declaration by Congress will result in an immediate impeachment.

This is the next mistake -- the next crime. We can't let them do the next thing that we will simply have to, once again, refuse to forgive them for. This time we might not survive to show scorn.

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