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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

January 21, 2005 PERMALINK
Most Dishonest Inaugural Address Ever
(posted Jan. 20 11 PM ET)
(minor edit Jan. 21 11:45 AM ET)

There is not one single thing wrong with this part of Bush’s inaugural address:

… as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny -- prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder -- violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat.

There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion:

The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.

The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

Great stuff. One small problem though:

Bush doesn’t mean one damn word of it.

For example, Bush also said:

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

Support the growth of democratic movements and institutions? Is that what Bush has been doing?

Not quite.

As noted here last July, the Boston Globe reported that taxpayer money designated to promote democracy is actually propping up dictatorships:

The Bush administration, while stating that democracy is the cornerstone of its Mideast policy, has directed more than half of the funds in its key democracy-promotion initiative to assist autocratic regimes in promoting free trade and education.

Only about $3 million of roughly $95 million went for direct funding for local groups promoting democracy or "civil society,"…

Or take this section of Bush’s speech:

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people.

Like how Bush made it clear to Uzbekistan, where he looked away at its boiling of dissidents as he strengthened our ties with the dictatorship.

And how’s this for “making clear”? According to Human Rights Watch:

In July, the U.S. State Department determined that Uzbekistan had failed to make sufficient progress on its human rights commitments as outlined in the U.S.-Uzbek Bilateral Agreement and therefore did not qualify for direct government assistance, cutting U.S. $18 million in aid.

However, in August, the Department of Defense undermined the principled message this decision sent by pledging U.S. $21 million in new military aid.

The U.S. continues to regard Uzbekistan as an important partner in the war on terror.

Is Bush making things clear to Pakistan, which has veto power over our national security, and which also oppresses and tortures its people? From Human Rights Watch:

Pakistan remains heavily dependent on the United States for economic and military aid.

The U.S. has notably failed to press for human rights-related legal reform in the country, in exchange for Pakistan's support in the U.S.-led "war on terror."

Furthermore, was Bush trying to expand freedom and liberty when he executed the coup in Haiti?

Was he trying to expand freedom and liberty when he tried and failed to assist a coup in Venezuela?

Of course not.

Why point out all this hypocrisy and dishonesty?

Bush is stealing liberal rhetoric and grafting liberal ideals on a dangerous right-wing foreign policy.

As disturbing as that is, it does create an opportunity.

Because before Bush, it would be considered hippy-dippy to argue that addressing the root causes of terrorism, such as oppression and disenfranchisement – as opposed to mere brute force -- is the only way to truly and completely defeat our enemies.

Now, it can treated as accepted fact.

At the same time, we must make loud and clear that Bush is refusing to carry out his own so-called “doctrine.”

By propping up oppressive dictators and backing coups, Bush is making it impossible for America to spread freedom and liberty.

Because that destroys America’s credibility as a beacon of freedom.

If all we have is the point of a gun, and no credibility, there is no way that the people of a sovereign nation will trust that we have their interests at heart.

And if we are powerless to spread freedom, if we are seen across the world as an enemy of freedom, terrorist groups will continue to be able to use the perceived threat of America as a tool grow their ranks.

No matter what we do militarily.

We can’t stop Bush from continuing on this dangerous path for the next four years.

But we can, and should, lay the intellectual groundwork for what should be done after his policies fail.

And it is small comfort that Bush’s rhetorical tricks give us an opening to do just that.

January 20, 2005 PERMALINK
On Gonzales, Keep Up The Pressure
(posted Jan. 19 11:15 PM ET)

The Senate Dems have prevented a Judiciary Cmte vote on Alberto Gonzales' nomination until next week.

This does not mean Dems are ready to vote their values and vote “No”.

(Ted Kennedy is the only Dem committee member “leaning” against Gonzales. Barbara Boxer is also leaning against, but she is not on the committee.)

So this is no time to let up on the pressure. The Dems need a grassroots push more than ever.

On the up side, it is very notable that Sen. Dianne Feinstein has added her name to the list of Dems expressing public concern about Gonzales. From Bloomberg:

…Feinstein said she was troubled by Gonzales's answers to questions about torture, even though he said he opposes it.

“You get down to what constitutes torture, he gets into a very legalistic definition,” she said.

She said she is concerned that Gonzales refuses to search his files or provide the committee with classified documents, “when he knows we have access to classified information.”

It “doesn't portend well'' for his cooperation with Congress once he becomes attorney general, Feinstein said.

Feinstein is notorious for breaking ranks to support Republican nominees (she lavishly praised Condi Rice in introducing her to the Foreign Relations Cmte on Tuesday).

So if she moved from concern to outright opposition of Gonzales, the likelihood of a unified Dem “No” vote rises dramatically.

And it’s only with such a vote that Dems will be able to communicate how their values on torture dramatically differ from the GOP, and how implicitly condoning torture hurts our ability to fight terrorism.

Also of note, Bloomberg reported the GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, the new chair of the Judiciary Cmte, is worried about unified Dem opposition:

Specter said he hoped to avoid a party-line vote on Gonzales. He “would be much stronger as attorney general if there is a significant bipartisan aspect to the vote,'' Specter said.

Of course, it’s bunk that Gonzales can’t make an impact without a bipartisan support. 42 Senators voted against John Ashcroft, and he did plenty of damage anyway.

What Specter is really worried about is losing the PR battle over Gonzales, having the party tagged as the pro-torture party (not to mention, failing in his first task as Chair).

And when you got them worried, you should know you’re on to something.

So let’s make sure Dems step it up.

Contact the Dem members of the Judiciary Cmte and tell them to vote their values: “No” on Gonzales.

QUICK HIT

LiberalOasis on XM Today

LiberalOasis will be providing some post-inaugural address commentary on XM Satellite Radio, Channel 133, at around 12:50 PM ET today.

January 19, 2005 PERMALINK
Whither Boxer
(posted Jan. 19 2 AM ET)
(title edited Jan. 19 5 PM ET)

Sen. Barbara Boxer made a strong play for the role of Every Liberal’s Favorite Senator yesterday.

Her pointed questioning of Condi Rice, following her brave challenge of the Ohio presidential electors, amounted to a 1-2 punch.

And Boxer’s principled actions are setting herself apart from her more cautious peers.

So what does that mean for her and the party?

It depends on how Boxer uses her raised profile.

If she continues to throw elbows from time to time, she’ll probably maintain a fan base, build her email list, and raise some coin for her PAC For A Change, which funds Dem candidates.

(Boxer is currently running blog ads to call attention to her PAC’s petition, which is providing some grassroots backing for her questioning of Condi.)

While those confrontations might provide us with some moments of satisfaction, if Boxer continues to be alone in provoking them, that doesn’t do much for the larger cause.

But if she uses the attention she gets with each confrontation to define liberal Democratic views more creatively and effectively, she can have a much bigger impact.

For example, it’s one thing if she votes “No” on Alberto Gonzales and Condi Rice.

It’s another if she follows up with a string of media interviews explaining that if Democrats were in charge, we would never nominate candidates that hurt our efforts to fight terror by sullying our credibility or condoning torture.

That way, her vote is not mere naysaying, but an action that shapes the public’s view of liberal principles.

Basically, Boxer could play a role akin to the SAKAL (Strategist and Ass-Kicker At-Large) role that LiberalOasis envisioned for Howard Dean if he passed on DNC Chair.

Someone that has the freedom to independently push the envelope on messages and tactics, so when they get traction, the rest of the party will be compelled to follow suit.

(Boxer just won a third six-year term quite decisively, so she has a fair amount of freedom.)

David Brooks (and his cheerleaders at ABC’s The Note) are trying to dissuade Dems from pursuing any sort of liberal strategy. Brooks wrote yesterday:

The Democrats … already have all the liberals. What they lack is support from middle-class white families in fast-growing suburbs.

But by copying the Gingrich tactics - or what they think of as the Gingrich tactics - of hyperpartisanship and ruthless oppositionalism, they will only alienate those voters even more.

First off, the Gingrich tactics involved a lot of lying and smearing and hate-mongering, which liberals are not much interested in emulating.

Second, it was Gingrich that alienated the center.

He won Congress in a low-turnout election by rallying his base. (That part we'd be happy to emulate.)

But he was unable to parlay the ’94 congressional victory into a broader ’96 presidential victory.

And when he lost seats in Congress in ’98 following the ill-advised, highly alienating impeachment, he was shown the door.

What Brooks and others don’t understand is liberals are not interested in replicating that performance. They want to do Gingrich one better.

What liberals want from the Democratic Party is more than “hyperpartisanship.”

Being unified is only part of the puzzle.

The second part is to do what Gingrich never did, win the trust of the center.

Mushy centrist rhetoric hasn’t achieved that, because it (rightly) comes across as hollow and pandering.

Granted, stale liberal rhetoric won’t cut it either. Liberal arguments need to be refreshed to resonate with non-liberals.

But to have authenticity, to build trust with the public, the arguments still need to stem from convictions, not from crass political calculations.

Boxer is showing that conviction.

The question is: will she be content with being a liberal fave, or will she aim higher and try to use her convictions to revamp the party?

January 18, 2005 PERMALINK
Breaking The Civil Service
(posted Jan. 18 1 AM ET)

As you may know, both the NY Times and LA Times reported on Sunday that the Social Security Administration, the government agency that runs the program, is spewing out dubious info to help Bush sell his partial privatization agenda.

This is just the latest chapter in the conservative movement’s larger agenda to break the civil service. (See these past LiberalOasis posts.)

They don’t want a government workforce of experienced professionals who inform the public with reliable, objective factual data.

They want a government of political hacks who will put out the (mis)information the president wants.

The Heritage Foundation laid out the conservative vision of the federal workforce when Dubya first came to town, in the report “Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.”

That report sniffed at the “Public Administration Model” of government as “emphasiz[ing] the Progressive ideal--a value-free ‘scientific’ program of government administration.”

Instead, it preferred the “Political Administration Model” which it defines as “providing presidential leadership to committed top political officials…holding them and their subordinates personally accountable for achievement of the President's election-endorsed and value-defined program.”

That may sound nice enough on paper, but we’ve seen what that means in action.

It means pressuring the intelligence community to provide assessments that fit with predetermined Administration objectives.

It means threatening to fire staff that dare try to give Congress accurate cost estimates of Medicare proposals.

It means creating a Homeland Security agency, without civil service protections, that is prone to politicized terror alerts.

It means installing cronies at the head of Cabinet agencies, turning the Cabinet into a Politburo.

In sum, it means a government that is no longer yours, no longer one that serves the broad public, but one that serves a single politician.

So far, the Bushies have been able to bat down this Social Security revelation with little effort.

The day the story came out, top Bush aide Dan Bartlett went on NBC’s Meet The Press, Fox News Sunday and CNN’s Late Edition.

On MTP, when Tim Russert asked if he would “allow” a “propaganda campaign” to happen, Bartlett said:

There's no expectation that career employees would be asked to advocate on behalf of any specific prescription for Social Security.

This was a very blatant and audacious dodge.

The charge isn’t necessarily that the Social Security Administration will explicitly back a detailed privatization proposal, a “specific prescription,” but that it is spreading misinformation which Bush can then cite in pushing such a plan.

But Russert neglected to follow-up.

And neither CNN or Fox bothered to ask him one question about the Social Security Administration propaganda effort.

As a result, on Monday, the NYT practically let Bartlett write the headline: “No Call for Agency to Sell Fix for Social Security, Aide Says”

And the W. Post quietly published Bartlett’s response, without rebuttal.

But Dems should not let this story die.

It not only helps in the short-term to undermine Bush’s attempts to misinform the public on Social Security, but it can set the stage for a larger debate about the Republican view of government.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Rox Populi: Martin Luther King, Jr. Random Reader

Body and Soul flags an interesting excerpt from the W. Post interview of Dubya, regarding Bush's use of the word "privatization"

Baghdad Burning: "It feels like just about everyone who can is going to leave the country before the elections"

TalkLeft: Gonzales vote may be this week

The SEA-EAT Blog has information about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts for victims of the SE Asian tsunami

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