Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Mythology That Backs Bad Policy

If you ask me, the reason most people think torture works is that many screenwriters aren’t good enough to write realistic, compelling interrogations that don’t involve somebody bending the rules. It’s a pity. A good interrogation scene would likely be a joy to watch. But instead, we get people beating confessions out of people, hanging them out of windows, and so on and so forth. There’s definitely something cathartic about seeing a character do this to the bad guys, but screenwriters have the luxury of knowing in advance who is good and bad.

Let's try this particular bit of information on for size:

I know the counter-argument well -- that we need the rough stuff for the truly hard cases, such as battle-hardened core leaders of al-Qaeda, not just run-of-the-mill Iraqi insurgents. But that's not always true: We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, "I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate."

The problem with torture is not that you will never get good information. The problem is not being able to tell the difference. It's not like hacking a computer, Matrix interrogation scene notwithstanding. All interrogation breaks down the inhibition against revealing secrets. The trick is to leave the inhibition against telling lies intact, or strengthen it.

But we didn't really torture, did we? We only used Enhanced Interrogation, right? Unfortunately, we borrowed more than our term for these kinds of methods from our enemies. We borrowed the techniques themselves. Ironically enough, the roots of this brand of interrogation, as we practice it, was reverse engineered from a program we reverse engineered from our enemy's interrogation methods to train our soldiers to hold up better under torture. Torture is what it is.

Note who used these techniques: Communist Chinese in the Korean War, the Nazis, the Soviets, and others like them. Many of these techniques were applied to POWs in Vietnam. What do these governments have in common? Well, they're the bad guys, right? The enemies of freedom. If we want to start at a simplistic level, we've been using the methods of the enemy.

Oh, but isn't that justified to defeat the enemy?

Only, it hasn't defeated our enemies. It gave them a rather big shot in the arm. Recruits, acceptance by moderates; the whole thing set back the cause in Iraq immeasureably. It's cowardly to whine that this wouldn't have been a problem if the media hadn't let the world about it, because, God help us, someone would have found out about it sooner or later, at the rate we were going. The blowback was severely negative, and the author of the first article I link to is even so blunt as to state outright that half the deaths in Iraq may be attributeable to the blowback from Abu Ghraib's revelation.

The purpose and allure of many of those methods is control of prisoners. The people who have been shooting at you. Resisting your other methods of control. It's no accident that we find these techniques coming out of the playbook of these authoritarian regimes with imperial ambitions. You want the prisoners to say what you want them to say. You want the word to spread that you're not to be messed with. You want people to just simply shut up and go along with your aims.

The major difference between us and them, is that we have a reputation that runs counter to this, or at least that we wish would. We want to believe our own press, because these reflect beliefs about what makes us superior. We weren't the people who stuck even our worst enemies down deep dark holes without hope of release. We didn't starve or abuse our prisoners. We didn't line them up over trenches, shoot them, and have the next folks to be executed bury their dead friends.

America won many wars where we refused to go to the dark side like this, where we refused to institutionalize such human rights abuses. Getting people to talk without this mistreatment is not as hard as some would make it out to be, even for the hardest of hard cases. People are not these perfect machines who can be programmed to be impenetrable bank vaults for information. People are often masses of conflicting loyalties, emotions, and motivations. Some people you get to talk by deceptions, both big and small. Some you get to talk by being reasonable. You can often keep people off balance by immediately countering their lies with the truth.

There are advantages to not making torture a policy, not the least of which is that it reduces the nasty surprises in the press. What we don't institutionalize, we need not rationalize.

The push to use such "aggressive", or "enhanced", or otherwise euphemized methods is clear on the right. The trouble in Abu Ghraib was ridiculed by many Republican pundits as being no worse than a Frat Party. Even if we might consider that true on our grounds, the public in Iraq most decidedly did not see things that way. Nor did much of the world. But they say that should not matter. They're ready to take on the world, show how strong and tough they are. America is not going to be dictated to on its national security. It's not going to ask permission to defend itself, so on and so forth.

This is the party of McCarthy, more or less.. The point is not to find the best policy, but to claim the best policy and enshrine the pushing of boundaries and the unsubtle use of the American Government's power, here and at home, by conflating aggression in the preservation of American values, interests, and sovereignty with commitment to the same. The Republicans are invested in being the ones who take the lead on suggesting that we abandon our ethics and our obligations, our humane treatment of enemies and our support of civil liberties at home in the name of defeating those who hate America and what America stands for. This is seen as being realistic. This is seen as being patriotic. This is seen as being tough on and against the enemy.

How many times and in how many ways has the belittling message been sent?

For example, let's try this one: If you want terrorists to enjoy the same rights as any other person accused in our courts, you sympathize with them.

I don't. First, I don't think every person who will be referred to us as a terrorist will actually be one. No good comes of falsely imprisoning and punishing one of those people when we can go after a real terrorist in their place. No good can come of a system that destroys accountability for those who job is to find the actual terrorists.

Second, I believe that terrorists are not magically resistant to interrogation, not religiously stoked supermen who can defy all earthly temptations, attachments, or ruses.

Third, I believe our integrity makes us better than them, and helps provide a defense against them. What do you think would do us more harm: the revelation that we're getting confessions through clever interrogations, or that we're getting them by torture? That we're treating all our prisoners with dignity and respect, or that we're abusing and defiling them? I believe America should lead by example, should do all it can to validate and prove the integrity and strength of its system, as opposed to the more tyrannical, more pernicious, more arbitrary systems we oppose.

Fourth, I want as little argument as possible out there as to whether the people we put behind bars belong there. I want American evidence on Terrorists being tried elsewhere to be taken at face value, not picked apart for evidence of coerced confessions. I want the people who want to kill Americans and destroy modern civilization nailed unquestionably in a court of law that represents the values of both. By cheating on either count, we end up demonstrating what could be perceived as a weakness in both.

When we called for limits and restrictions on the use of warrantless wiretapping, Republicans accused us of wanting to deny surveillance on terrorists overseas. As before, their critique centered on the notion that if you weren't prepared to go all the way, that you were being weak, providing aid and comfort to the enemy.

But that wasn't the point at all.

First, our point with FISA was to safeguard the rights of Americans on those lines. Legally, foreign nationals were never forbidden. Americans, though, enjoy the right to have private communications that the government can only snoop on if they have good cause to believe that a crime is being committed, and we're involved in a material fashion.

Second, the real question was whether those given the power to do this by the President or by their administrators in the intelligence community were actually looking at the terrorists. The whole point of a warrant was to keep the police and agents of our intelligence agencies honest about what they were doing with our power. Without such warrants, how could anybody determine whether somebody really had cause to suspect something, or whether the investigation was really germane to the situation at hand?

Third, such investigations take up time and resources, manpower and administrative attention. Part of the point of our system has been to optimize the use of all four towards the actual goal. It is not being easy on terrorists to make sure that actual terrorists are the targets. The line always given for justifying such sweeping and unbound searches is that we need to look everywhere, under every nook and cranny for the terrorists. Leave no stone unturned, no suspicion un-entertained. In theory, perhaps that would be best, but in practice, it leads to a glut of irrelevant information. It's like automatically ransacking every room in your house looking for your keys, when you could logically exclude much of your residence, and concentrate your attentions on the more likely places.

Terrorists don't just pop up anywhere. They need support, supplies, and all kinds of other stuff. One could easily justify investigating those who seem to be caught up in the plots. Unfortunately, some people want to do things the hard way, just to prove they're willing to go that far.

I've given these explanations before, and seen many responses that are just the sort of overheated, politicized rhetoric that I've described, and it frustrates me. When I talked about increasing troop levels, something Republicans just love to death now, back when it mattered the most, I was told we should stay the course, or that I was just trying to undermine the President politically. It just mystified me to no end that Republicans were not concerned about the ability of the military to sustain, much less increase troop levels. They just automatically deferred to Rumsfeld, Bush, and the "Commanders on the Ground" that those two pretended to defer to. Never mind the terrorist whack-a-mole game, never mind the always increasing violence and instability, never mind the inability at the very start to lay down the law on the looters (Which was the incident that got me concerned about troop levels. How could we control a country if we couldn't impose basic martial law on our newly conquered territory?).

The Bush Administration represents to me the point at which the Republican's self-reinforcement finally swallowed it's own tail. At no other time in recent American history were the checks and balances against them getting what they wanted so disabled. The Republicans could finally push their policies as hard as they wanted.

The recent elections, and the disasters that precede them and run contemporary to them demonstrate the results: an almost complete reversal of fortune. This was no accident, no simple expression of star-crossed fate. Republicans sent a message loud and clear: as long as they held power, held majorities, they would push their policies. This was a message they sent strongly, vividly, with great passion and conviction.

It wasn't that they still fell short. It's just that at the end of the day, fewer people liked what they heard. Many Republicans still don't want to accept that. They don't want to believe that they were wrong on policy, or wrong on politics. They want to believe that this, like the economy some would deny was in a recession, is just a temporary, shallow downturn.

They have become victims of their own mythology, unable to believe the narratives that don't correspond to it. Americans have come to believe that they are so enslaved to it that they are incapable of seeing policy issues with a clear, practical eye, at least in a timely, responsible fashion.

People have been telling the Republicans what to do since the losses of the election. Should they become more liberal? I don't know. More modern? Perhaps, but I don't fault people for at least being somewhat committed to traditions and eternal verities. More tolerant? God yes, but not really it.

What I'd really suggest is for them to dump the cocoon, the shell, the mythology. Quit trying to hold yourselves apart, quit relying on purpose built party-supported information outlets. The Republicans have sunk themselves in a morass of media which has a conflict of interest in being honest with them, and a vested interest in keeping them safe from ideas outside the dogma.

They have inflicted all kinds of pain and suffering on themselves by insisting on a media whose job is to flatter their sensibilities. How many tales are there of leaders undone by flatterers, undone by those who stoke the ego in order to inflame their patrons to cater to their interests?

There is nothing wrong with remaining Republicans and Conservative in these times, but the Republicans, if they want to recover, they must drop this cultivated dislike of and antagonism towards liberals. For the last six decades, the Republicans have defined themselves in part by not being like different classes of liberals. Unfortunately for them, Republicans are not always so different from Democrats as they think, so they found plenty of grist for their own mill among their ranks. It is perfectly possible that every Republican could faithfully observe their notion of what being a Republican is and still have reason to consider that some other faction has failed the cause. These are the wages of pandering to political antagonisms instead of emphasizing true commonalities.

The Republicans also need to become more pragmatic, less of button-pushers, less radical. Conservative didn't use to mean you pushed your religion on someone else. Barry Goldwater didn't think much of that. Republican and Progressive have not always been mutually exclusive. Being a Republican also use to mean that you did your best to avoid running large deficits, rather than doing your damned best to ensure them. And even Saint Reagan of the Supply Side was willing to raise taxes to head off runaway deficits. Being Republican didn't use to mean being stubbornly resistant to doing things any other way than your way.

The way I figure it, Republicans have to let themselves become mere mortals. They have to remember that they too must be persuasive, they too must get their hands dirty in governing, and sacrifice their wishlists and agendas for the sake of keeping the country on track. They have to stop treating the rivalry between them and Democrats as some sort of deathmatch for the future of the country, and start realizing that they can disagree without being disagreeable. Hearing that somebody is a Democrat should not be the moment your estimation of a person drops like a millstone into the deep. For far too long, politics has been a justification in this country for obnoxious behavior, both in manner and in consequence. It's time to make politics boring once again, and good policy the highest interest of both parties. While we were amusing ourselves and each other with our partisan antics, the country slid down into the toilet. The focus of our politics should be the negotiation of a commonly acceptable direction for the country, rather than a vicious, no-holds barred feud to be the last party standing to determine its destiny.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at December 1, 2008 11:09 AM
Comment #271358


Yeah,…for several decades that’s what thought elections were for…now I find, through Jeb Bush, that elections are trash to circumvent at the first opportunity.

Torture, eaves-dropping, wire tapping, rendition, invasion without proper justification, and elections that somehow become meaningless. I don’t remember conservatism being quite so blind. The only change that I can relate this change to is the infusion of Christian fundamentalists into the Republican party.

How did the ‘Grand Ol’ Party’ allow this to happen?

Posted by: Marysdude at December 2, 2008 10:32 PM
Comment #271368

I think if you look at the history of this, you’ll see that the beginning of this movement plays upon, but does not begin or even mostly depend on the religious angle.

If you take things from the point of view of a McCarthyism fueled political strategy, the religious angle, then as now, figures in as one of a number of motivating causes exploited to gain votes.

We kind of conflate the pieces of the puzzle with the whole thing when we assign any one group the conspiratorial crown. Republican politics here was no more and no less a game of coalition building than any other. They built their coalition, though, on increasing tensions, agitations. and widening cultural disagreements to the point where they became all out fights for the country’s destiny in the eyes of certain voters.

The problem here, I think, is that the dog that was chasing the car finally caught it. The Liberals were defeated, The hawks got to prevent the liberals from exiting a war that was going questionably, The Theocons got political power at the very top, the Wall Street types got financial and environmental regulations slashed, the Club for Growth types got their tax cuts ad infinitum.

And unfortunately for them everything they wanted turned out to be a hollow victory. The Liberals defeated, the Republicans only had themselves to blame, at least if they wanted to be taken seriously. The questionable war the Hawks got to continue was questionable for a reason, and by not facing up to what made the war so problematic, they ensured they’d repeat the mistakes that lost Vietnam, plus some new ones. The Theocons tied their fortunes and their out front political Christianity to a party and a president who then immediately proceeded to make the other two-thirds plus part of the country hate them. And the Wall Street and Club for Growth people saw their policies misfire so catastrophically, that within the space of just half a term, the political center shifted from absolute free markets to OMG we’re all going to die unless you bail us out.

The big problem for the Republicans is that they didn’t think functionally. They assumed in so many places that the systems would naturally reach a favorable equilibrium given time, provided they got their way. Well they got their way, and the equilibrium was not favorable to most people. Thus, the Republicans had no real idea of how to get us out of this mess. Which is why we’re being called in.

The fight we have now is not with the Republicans, but with a system that has become so warped and disjointed by years of politicized policy making that it must be rebuilt in large part. We really have no choice unless we want America to descend back to its position in the world at the dawning of the last century.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 3, 2008 7:55 AM
Comment #271384

>The fight we have now is not with the Republicans, but with a system that has become so warped and disjointed by years of politicized policy making that it must be rebuilt in large part.
Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 3, 2008 07:55 AM


Actually, there is one more thing to consider…Democrats are certainly NOT in lockstep, and we tend to disagree with each other about as much as we do with Republicans. That majority may very well bite us in the butt.

Can an attitude change in the White House carry over to Congress? We can only hope and encourage…

Posted by: Marysdude at December 3, 2008 12:53 PM
Comment #271393

We do not need Democrats in lockstep. What we need is material progress and the building of a decent record of accomplishment.

It will help not to be too insistent on agreement, but instead work out compromises and systems of compromises. If I want Obama to do anything, it’s to set the standards by which those compromises become acceptable, or unacceptable.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 3, 2008 2:21 PM
Comment #271421

Good Article.

The movie ‘Rendition’ covers the whole torture issue pretty completely, from the U.S. vantage point.

I think Democrats were helped by Chambliss’ victory yesterday. Not having a filibuster proof Senate puts the Republicans in the position of being spoilers of progress if they filibuster too much or the wrong legislation which has popular support.

Had Chambliss and Franken won, Democrats would have been vulnerable to attacked in 2010 as being solely responsible for all failures and inefficiencies going forward. It seems now to behoove both parties to seek consensus with each other on as many problem solving bills as possible, and that will only require a couple of moderate or centrist Republicans in the Senate of which there are a handful or more depending on how one delineates them.

If however, there are few filibusters, Republicans can, in 2010 state they cooperated for the sake of the nation, but, Democratic leadership has failed on this or those issues. Will be interesting to see how they work together and then compete against each other in 2010.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 4, 2008 2:45 AM
Comment #271423


A Chambliss win is a loss no matter how it is sliced or spun. Chambliss is about as mean spirited as a man can be and still draw breath. His access to the halls of power, and to the monied few he caters to, is an insult to America.

I don’t know much about Jim Martin, whom Chambliss beat, but from what I do understand, Martin is something of a spoiler, i.e., against the bail-out, etc., so am not sure if he’d have helped Obama much, but he’d certainly been a better choice, all the way around than Chambliss.

Chambliss has built quite a friendship with some pretty powerful lobbyists…it will surprise me if he isn’t indicted within the next six years…we really don’t need more of that in this country right now…we need to concentrate on the business of recovery.

Posted by: Marysdude at December 4, 2008 3:39 AM
Comment #271424

David R. Remer-
My sentiment, for the most part, is that I don’t like to play these mindgames unless I’ve got a solid position to play them from. Call it a healthy autism spectrum distrust of vague guesses about other folk’s state of mind.

Sixty would have been technically filibuster proof, and symbolically is a better position than 58 (or 59 if Franken pulls a squeaker), but there is one critical difference when it comes to the situation as it was in the 110th Congress as opposed to the upcoming 111th: President Barack Obama.

The Republicans had a President and Vice President before who would back their plays. Now, the leader of their party no longer has such control. Certainly, they will attempt filibusters. But they’ll attempt them with an administration that is capable and willing of doing an end-run around their schemes.

Plus, I think that after two devastating elections, there will be at least some Republicans who will look at such cloture votes and decide that it’s just not worth it. There are plenty of Republicans, I imagine, who don’t look at 2010 with great expectations of victory. At least a few, even if they don’t publically admit it, will acknowledge that the Republican stonewall tactics will do precisely zip to improve their prospects for re-election.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 4, 2008 8:46 AM
Comment #271425

If Obama keeps his campaign promises and proceeds to change this country into something it was not meant to be and the Republicans do nothing to “stonewall” that destruction, their prospects for re-election are below zip.

Posted by: kctim at December 4, 2008 9:13 AM
Comment #271427

It’s not just mind boggling…it’s mind numbing…but if Republicans don’t pick their fights wisely they’ll go down in smoke as obstructionists. America is already leary of their motives, and wary of their honesty. Stonewall if they must, but they’d better be selective about it. That idiot Chambliss is already strutting his stuff because he just won a swing vote…talking about what Obama is NOT going to get. Negative, right now, might not be his best bet.

Posted by: Marysdude at December 4, 2008 9:44 AM
Comment #271430

The Dems did everything they could to discredit, obstruct and sabotage Bush before he was even sworn in, and continued doing so for 8 years. They also did away with choosing the most qualified candidate and went with the best chance to win candidate. They played their cards masterfully and won.
Now, while the Republicans will not be as disgraceful and ruthless as the Dems were, they most definetely will be playing to win in 2010 and 2012. They know their voters will not tolerate them just sitting back and doing nothing while Obama and a liberal house and senate reshapes the country according to their views, so they will do what it takes to make their voters believe they are fighting for them and their rights. If they don’t, they won’t win.

Unless the right just rolls over, it’s going to get real ugly my friend.

Posted by: kctim at December 4, 2008 10:36 AM
Comment #271436

>Unless the right just rolls over, it’s going to get real ugly my friend.
Posted by: kctim at December 4, 2008 10:36 AM


The right is ugly already, tim, Rove has made sure of that. 2010 and 2012 should be a shoo-in for Dems, if the right doesn’t quit this trashing of opponents and begin to talk issues. Ugly is as ugly does.

Posted by: Marysdude at December 4, 2008 12:12 PM
Comment #271456


If Obama keeps his campaign promises and proceeds to change this country into something it was not meant to be and the Republicans do nothing to “stonewall” that destruction, their prospects for re-election are below zip.

I’m sure some Republicans will pay a heavy price for supporting Obama, if they do, but if you’ll notice, the Republicans have already paid a devastating political price for their unwillingness to change the country to what you perjoratively term “something it was not meant to be”

What this country was meant to be is a Democrat Republic with legally ensured civil liberties. Neither you or I, nor anybody like us is meant to take up the final and arbitrary position of deciding for everybody what the country is supposed to be. This country was meant to be free to chart it’s own destiny, interpret the law for itself. Some consistency with that law of the land set down by the Framers is of course desirable. But the Framers did not give us a country, ultimately where we were to forever be bound to look at the organizing principles of our government and our society through the lens of their own experience and opinions alone. They built in change and the ability to reconsider the way we govern into the system they passed on to later generations.

They did not think of everything, nor would we want them doing all the thinking for us. They knew their own time, their own interests, not ours. I doubt most of them, dropped into our situation in the 21st Century would be able to make heads or tails out of it. And it wouldn’t be for lack of native intelligence; the framers are a product of their time. One would wonder, indeed, what Thomas Jefferson would make of his party’s current leader!

We need to do some of our thinking, legislating, and judging of the law for ourselves. More than that, as citizens of this Democratic Republic, we are entitled to those rights.

There is obviously a disagreement here on constitutional principle here, but I think it would be helpful here to make the distinction between the claim and the reality of unconstitutionality. Anybody can claim a law is unconstitutional. But we have a court which has the duty and role of making that determination. You might say that you personally are of the opinion that something is unconstitutional, should be be unconsitutional, and/or was not meant to be. But we have a court that settles the disputes on that count, and sets out what the law of the land is in practical terms.

One last note on the question of constitutionality. I believe that many times people appeal to the constitution as a way of pre-empting argument, rather than as a substantive, well-researched argument.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 4, 2008 2:47 PM
Comment #271461

Republicans paid a political price because the economy tanked. You can pretend it was because everybody wants universal healthcare, redistribution of wealth, gay-marriage, more gun control, more regulation, anytime abortion or whatever, but you are only fooling yourself and I can only hope Obama is not so naive.

What this country was meant to be is a Constitutional Republic with Constitutionally protected rights and freedoms. And neither you, I nor a court were given the power to change those rights and freedoms to suit our own personal beliefs.

Of course the founders did not think of everything, but what they did think of, they thought enough of them to put them on paper and make them the founding principles of our country and harder than hell to get rid of.
Sadly, agenda driven people have learned its easier to just re-interpret those rights and freedoms away.

The court may settle Constitutional disputes and determine what the law of the land is, but they were not meant to do so at the expense of the right or freedom in question.

“I believe that many times people appeal to the constitution as a way of pre-empting argument, rather than as a substantive, well-researched argument”

Thats interesting. I believe people dismiss parts of the Constitution as a way of pre-empting argument, rather than face those parts with intellectual honesty.

Posted by: kctim at December 4, 2008 3:49 PM
Comment #271470

The advantage of talking about what the framers wanted any time you voice your own opinion about what the constitution does and does not allow, what it does and does not provide for, is that every single person who wrote these documents is dead and unable to speak for themselves, much less examine the current situation to offer an informed opinion.

The best we can do is examine the evidence they left behind, and then consider that evidence in its real context.

Even then, we are often left with issues to which they cannot speak. The Framers cannot speak to much past the bill of rights. How do consult their opinion on the 14th Amendment? How about the 16th? Both parts of the constitution there deal with issues past the time that the framers knew and understood. There we have no choice but to consider things apart from their wisdom.

But let’s take a moment to deal with what I consider the most pernicious undertone to your argument. Contrary to what you believe, most liberals believe in interpreting the constitution according to consistent principles. That we call it a living document doesn’t mean we consider it one that can be re-written at our convenience.

In my decade or so of persistent political debate, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some arguments that are used not because they are factual, or valid constructions of logic, but because they are compelling constructions in their own right.

Which is to say, the argument is easy enough to voice and founded enough on unprovable sentiments about the target that good arguments can’t knock them down.

I could say: I believe in consistent and non-arbitrary interpretations of the constitution. You would respond that by merit of my political sentiments, I don’t. That’s not a solvable difference of opinion, at least not presented in that way, with those premises.

This kind of impasse underlies much of the logic that people like yourself use to portray us; you don’t consider our interpretation an alternative which you happen to reject on certain grounds. No, you consider it an abject heresy.

Why are these arguments so common on the right? It’s pretty simple: they function to wedge people apart and prevent civil discourse. You speak differently to a person who believes an alternative than you do to somebody who opposes what you hold most dear. Certain people would rather folks not come to compromise on their government.

What better way to get people painted into a political corner and bitterly opposed to leaving it? Unfortunately for people like you, it’s lessened your voice, not amplified it to have the discourse become more strident and less practical.

One way the argument is given this harder, less forgiving edge is to appeal to unapproachable, uninterrogateable, unquestionable authority to drive home that argument. Take your pick: God. The bible. The Market. The Constitution. The wishes of the long dead founding fathers/framers, cast in a unified, vastly oversimplified manner that fails to portray the founders of this nation in their full, interactive glory.

We are paying the price right now for unquestioned assumptions on several levels now. The economic troubles would not have been so devastating of a problem if it seemed like Republicans had the situation in hand. But the difficulties of keeping that situation in hand would have been more sympathized with, if it didn’t seem that this kind of failure had shown up just about everywhere.

The Republican’s failure is an overall failure of policy, results-wise. They didn’t prove open to admitting their mistakes, much less taking care of them. Unfortunately for them, there was a significant amount of the population who lost faith in their claims, their dogmas.

But I wouldn’t claim that was everybody, that suddenly every issue goes straight liberal. No, I think that some people still believe in certain stands on the issues, but those stands are no longer enough to justify alliance with the GOP and the right. Others still harbor little ideologically sympathy for the Democrats, but are so appalled by the state of policy and policy execution that they’ve put their country first and voted for those who they believe can take care of things.

I do not look at the situation and believe that Democrats can simply run wild. But I do look at it and see good opportunities to neuter long held beliefs by some that givent he chance to lead we just screw things up. I do see more people open to at least letting us try out our policies, or better yet, being persuadeable to our line of thinking.

You misunderstand my position and that of many Democrats if you assume we think we suddenly have free rein to do whatever we want. But I think there’s reasonable evidence, like the last two elections, to suggest that people are not interested in continuing the conservative experiment.

The strange thing here is that the moderate liberalism that would not see strange to a President like Eisenhower would so quickly draw your ire. The strange thing is how suddenly you get to tell the rest of us what the constitution means. I can comment on that too, but I am not so ambitious in my interpretation that I don’t feel I have rely on sources and sentiments beyond my non-professional experience.

I think people would do themselves a ton of favors if they stopped thinking of communication as mere expression of a personal point of view. The question is not what you believe, but why others should believe it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 4, 2008 5:32 PM
Comment #271479

>The question is not what you believe, but why others should believe it.
Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 4, 2008 05:32 PM


The same mindset as those who believe the Bible to be the actual ‘word of God’, and will not open their minds to those who believe the same thing, in a different way, or who do not believe even that to be true. Dogma, whether political or religious, by any other name, would smell as rancid.

Posted by: Marysdude at December 5, 2008 1:45 AM
Comment #271488

Stephen D. couldn’t agree with you more concerning your reply to me. That is one reason why Chambliss’ victory and its rejection of future claims that Democrats had a filibuster proof Senate, is actually a positive condition for Democrats. First it forces more Democrats to hang together in moving legislation precisely because they lack a filibuster proof Senate. Second, the absence of a filibuster proof Senate actually opens the door for moderate Republicans to establish a record of bipartisanship and getting behind solutions as insurance of reelection in future cycles.

What I am saying is, Chambliss’ victory actually could provide Democrats with a more filibuster proof Senate than if Chambliss had lost and Franken won. Collins, Snowe, and a couple other Republicans who are moderates on most issues will for personal reelection reasons, cross over to support Democratic solutions, providing a defacto filibuster proof Senate.

There will be no Bush Administration or Tom Delay to ‘hammer’ Republican moderates for acting to solve problems in a bi-partisan way.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 5, 2008 7:30 AM
Comment #271495

I don’t think it’s quite as cut and dried as that. I think people are entitled to come to a firm conclusion as to what they believe, if that’s what they believe. The alternate question, of course, is what they do based on that belief, and there’s the tension.

The best possible solution, when one is possible at all, and one which my earlier phrasing was insufficient to convey, is to try and persuade people on their terms, rather than trying to force them to agree on yours, which they don’t share anyways.

I am a religious person, and do believe the bible to be the word of God, though I don’t believe God’s message has gotten through perfectly through human hands.

I know you mean well in what you say, and probably only mean to target fundamentalists and others who believe it the literal, exact word of God. Let me tell you: there are plenty of nice, good people who believe that way.

Will you change their minds? Probably not. They’ll feel that you’re setting yourself up as an adversary, and they’ll approach you as such. Slam the brakes on for whatever you were hoping to convince them of.

I think the better approach is to concede their personal religious belief, concede their stubbornness on that count, and instead deal with them issue to issue. Here’s what I believe: on many issues, those people will be willing to concede or entertain alternatives on the smaller issues that they might not be willing to on the overall issues.

But going further, I think that if we approach things like this over time, if we convince them that our respective groups are not absolutely separated, which they aren’t, the pernicious effects of religious dogma will be considerably reduced.

The way Republicans ultimately exploited religious divides in America was to convince many of the devout that other people didn’t share values with them. We sort of helped them by playing the other side in that sad farce, reacting to the intolerance of Religious and political leaders with our own intolerance.

When I went to Baylor, I was surprised to find that in that place, I could find professors that openly proclaimed their faith, but at the same time were opposed to things like creationism and intelligent design. These people were not lacking in sophistication, and lacked self awareness of their own flaws no more than your average person. A person could be religious and rational.

I think what I said to kctim can easily be applied on a non-partisan basis to anyone. This emphasis on argument simply being self-expression misses the point. The arguer should be trying to get somebody to go from point A to point B. A person could berate somebody on a perpetual basis, and get nowhere, because ultimately agreement is a choice.

We can make that choice hard or easy. I know the current fashion in politics is to overwhelm your opponent, to put them on the bad side of a good vs. evil divide, but that’s some of the most useless arguing there is when you’re trying to really persuade people. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that all the big victories start with small ones.

kctim assumes that the reason the Republicans lost so big in the last election was that the economic crisis knocked the stuffing out of them. Granted, it was a big problem, but I don’t think it really was the killer. After all, Ohio went for Bush in 2004, and the collosal failure of 2001’s market, even apart from Enron, didn’t prevent that re-election. Rather, the economic crisis was the snapping force on a scored piece of glass already weakened otherwise.

Iraq and this current financial crisis are both stakes through the heart of issues that the Republicans used to be considered the experts on, but they simply broke a party that had largely become separated from the public in its sentiments. It’s not going to get better, really. Republicans might gain back something in 2010 or ‘12, but not enough to compensate for losses, and probably not enough to stave off their long term problem with a decidedly more liberal new generation. They lost the small arguments on culture with America’s latest generation, and thereby will lose the large ones.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 5, 2008 11:10 AM
Comment #271501

As none of the founders can no longer speak for themselves, we must allow the words they wrote to speak for them. To dismiss or discount their words because of the “times,” is to relegate the founders themselves to being nothing more than an afterthought and we cannot do that if we wish to stay the same country, with the same principles, they fought so hard for.
Those words are their sentiments and they are very provable. It is only when we attempt to alter those sentiments to fit a certain agenda that they become questionable and unprovable.

“Why are these arguments so common on the right? It’s pretty simple: they function to wedge people apart and prevent civil discourse.”

Wrong Stephen. As with most issues, you guys on the left waste too much time on the how and what, and not enough time on the why. You all identify something you believe to be a problem and then say this is how you believe it will be fixed, end of story. You don’t care why people disagree because us peons have no idea whats best for ourselves.
That is what wedges people apart and prevents civil discourse.

“The wishes of the long dead founding fathers/framers, cast in a unified, vastly oversimplified manner that fails to portray the founders of this nation in their full, interactive glory”

Stephen, I am sorry you disagree with such an “oversimplified” view, but if “every single person who wrote these documents is dead and unable to speak for themselves,” then we can only go by the words they signed and left behind as to being what they intended. Since we cannot ask their input, is it not best to honor those words and signatures? Or are we better off by over analyzing those words until we think what they really meant so they fit a particular belief? That is the difference between left and right.

“But I think there’s reasonable evidence, like the last two elections, to suggest that people are not interested in continuing the conservative experiment”

There is evidence to suggest that a few million more people don’t want to, but, as was shown to you guys in the 90s, that in no way means they will happily embrace another liberal experiment either. Hopefully, a liberal President, liberal senate and liberal house will remember that.

“The strange thing is how suddenly you get to tell the rest of us what the constitution means”

Is it not just as strange for you to suddenly get to tell the rest of us what the Constitution doesn’t mean? Sure you guys know better than to come right out and say that and instead try to dance around the subject, but is that not what you are essentially saying when we dare question one of the laws you push which take away rights and freedoms we once had?

“The question is not what you believe, but why others should believe it”

And dismissing their belief (their personal point of view) under the guise of bad communication technique or simply because it runs contrary to your own belief, is the answer?

Posted by: kctim at December 5, 2008 12:29 PM
Comment #271514


Do you have any idea why the Fourteenth Amendment was thought necessary?

The other ammendments? All after the tenth, came along because times had changed. As folks grow and form a more mature culture, it requires adjustments to our founding law. Some have a harder time growing and adjusting…

Posted by: Marysdude at December 5, 2008 2:43 PM
Comment #271524

I understand that times change and that folks and cultures mature. But wouldn’t it be better if we “adjusted our founding laws” properly, instead of just redefining them to fit a particular agenda, in the process of that change?

As far as the 14th, how much of it takes away individual rights and freedoms granted by 1 thru 13 and how much of it has given more individual rights and freedoms?
For the most part, people don’t have a problem with being given more individual rights and freedoms, they have a problem with taking them away. Especially as they mature.

Posted by: kctim at December 5, 2008 3:53 PM
Comment #271540

My point was that change has not destroyed our Constitution. The basic document still guides and rules our lives, and the founders were wise beyond words, but adjustments are inevitable. The SC is there to protect us from misinterpretations, and occasionally they step a little over the line, but for the most part it is still safe from permanent damage.

Posted by: Marysdude at December 5, 2008 10:22 PM
Comment #271554


As none of the founders can no longer speak for themselves, we must allow the words they wrote to speak for them. To dismiss or discount their words because of the “times,” is to relegate the founders themselves to being nothing more than an afterthought and we cannot do that if we wish to stay the same country, with the same principles, they fought so hard for.

There’s a great deal of difference between dismissing or discounting their words because of their times, and using the context of their times to figure out what they really meant.

When others have discussed Article V, in particular the convention clause, I’ve rolled out the Federalist to argue for what I believe the Framers of the constitution meant. One could do the same in, say, a Fourth Amendment argument to indicate that an overly literal argument that tries to exclude electronic communication from the requirements of warranted search and seizure under probable cause violates the spirit of the amendment

The Fourth Amendment is a good example of why we can’t just interpret things word by literal word in the constitution. Read this, and tell me where you find telecommunications:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The fantasy of some is that we can reduce all the clutter and complexity of the law and prevent errancy from the constitution by insisting on a strict construction of it all.

The problem is that the constitution was not written like modern laws to be an airtight work of legal jurisprudence. It was written to be read in plain language to the average person of the late 1700s, to be understood by people who were not lawyers. As such, the courts play an important role in clearing up conflicts between different parts of the constitution and subordinate law.

The Right has often sought to take the judgment out of judging, in the spirit of preventing judges from making decisions they don’t like. But because we’re not some Napoleonic Code country (Although Louisiana uses that model), the law must be interpreted beyond just the letter of the law. The question of what the law was intended to do, what it in essence provides for, is an important question. In the case of the Fourth Amendment, we understand that protection against the interception and surveillance of communications is part of the heart of what the amendment was meant to do.

The founding fathers are no longer around to clarify their intent, especially where it concerns new laws and new situations in our society, technological and social.

One more thing on this point: If you really look at the text of the constitution, you’ll find many places where interpretation and flexibility are built in, places like the Necessary and Proper Clause, where the drafters of the document essentially admit that they can’t anticipate every concern, address every issue.

We all have our agendas. If you read what Madison had to say on the issue, you’ll find he expected people to seek after their agendas. The function of the constitution is to moderate those agendas, and it seems like the right hasn’t taken kindly to moderation over the past few decades. How many folks like yourselves defend an interpretation of George W. Bush’s CINC powers to essentially give him the authority of a military dictator? Republicans and Right Wingers have all too often failed to take no for an answer.

I fully expect and hope that the courts will moderate our plans and our efforts where the Democrats cross the line. I may not like the result, but overall, I want the system to keep us all honest.

Wrong Stephen. As with most issues, you guys on the left waste too much time on the how and what, and not enough time on the why. You all identify something you believe to be a problem and then say this is how you believe it will be fixed, end of story. You don’t care why people disagree because us peons have no idea whats best for ourselves. That is what wedges people apart and prevents civil discourse.

I don’t see why Democrats should have to represent Republican interests for them. The why’s should be obvious. Failure to pay attention to the how and the what is what brought us to these dire straits. You sound like you’re beating up on us for actually putting forward plans. Well, damn, man, put forward some plans of your own! Nothing prevents you from doing that, or appealling to the rest of the public on those subjects. Nothing prevents you folks from formulating alternatives and offering them.

The notion that we are doing something wrong by having our own firm opinion about what should be done is ludicrous.

The real key is not to argue and think about everything on the ultimately unsolvable level of political partisanship, but rather in the nuts and bolts of how things are done.

Stephen, I am sorry you disagree with such an “oversimplified” view, but if “every single person who wrote these documents is dead and unable to speak for themselves,” then we can only go by the words they signed and left behind as to being what they intended. Since we cannot ask their input, is it not best to honor those words and signatures? Or are we better off by over analyzing those words until we think what they really meant so they fit a particular belief? That is the difference between left and right.

Look, whose input? The founding fathers left behind a great deal of correspondence, writings, legislation, and recorded history of their actions. But they aren’t all of the same opinion. Some were very religious, some not religious at all. Some believed in strong central government, some did not. Some saw slavery as right, some wrong, some inconvenient to their interests. Some wanted one chamber of Congress, some wanted two. Some wanted strong executives, some wanted mere figureheads.

Point being, anybody appealing to the wisdom of the founding fathers could probably find their particular “wisdom” there if they looked hard enough. But here’s something they did do in their wisdom: they compromised. More to the point, they compromised in such a fashion as to give us a system which would let everybody have their say, give everybody certain protections, and then let the majority decide what would be law and who would write and execute that law for them.

The thing is, you keep on putting your own beliefs in this privileged place, not bothering to examine where you might, in your fallibility, have overanalyzed things, taken things beyond their intended meaning.

You’re entitled to do this. But I’m entitled to tell you that nobody is without an opinion, and if all we argue about is this kind of hairsplitting theory, nothing of value will be done Form must be for function’s sake, not merely its own.

There is evidence to suggest that a few million more people don’t want to, but, as was shown to you guys in the 90s, that in no way means they will happily embrace another liberal experiment either. Hopefully, a liberal President, liberal senate and liberal house will remember that.

I think what they want is a government that works, and works for them. What should be clear is that people are rejecting the laissez faire system outright, and are willing to see the government come to their aid in a number of areas. I will make no claim to some grand liberal experiment, but at the very least, Americans want a moderation of years of government neglect and radical right wing policy.

The mistake of the Right Wing in this country is to follow its fringe in believing that their policies need not be explained nor work out as promised, that people must simple trust things to work out, trust that Republican policy is the best of all policy. After almost a decade worth of abject failures, only a small minority of Americans are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt any longer.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 6, 2008 9:41 AM
Comment #271564


I don’t know how interested you all are in such as this, but, since I have been somewhat involved in ‘O’s campaign, I receive little notes like this on a regular basis. I’ve door to door’d for other office seekers in the past, but this is a welcome ‘first’ for me. No other seeker, or winner, for that matter, has ever let me know how open things were intended to be…I see a bright light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Dear David,

Everyday, we meet with organizations that present ideas for the Transition and the incoming Obama-Biden Administration. In past transitions, meetings like this have been held behind closed doors.

Not anymore. Today, every Obama-Biden Transition staff member received a memo outlining the “Seat at the Table” Transparency Policy. I’ve included a copy of it below.

The policy is pretty simple: the people and groups we’re meeting with, the subjects of the meetings, and any documents shared in the meetings will now be made available on Most importantly, the American public can weigh in with comments or their own materials.

Read the memo and watch our “Seat at the Table” video:

Watch the Video

This is our latest step toward a more transparent and accessible Transition. We look forward to benefitting from the many more voices that will now be a part of the decision-making process.

Thank you,


John D. Podesta
The Obama-Biden Transition Project

From: John Podesta
To: All Obama-Biden Transition Project Staff
Date: December 4, 2008
Re: “Seat at the Table” Transparency Policy — EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

As an extension of the unprecedented ethics guidelines already in place for the Obama-Biden Transition Project, we take another significant step towards transparency of our efforts for the American people. Every day, we meet with organizations who present ideas for the Transition and the Administration, both orally and in writing. We want to ensure that we give the American people a “seat at the table” and that we receive the benefit of their feedback.

Accordingly, any documents from official meetings with outside organizations will be posted on our website for people to review and comment on. In addition to presenting ideas as individuals at, the American people deserve a “seat at the table” as we receive input from organizations and make decisions. In the interest of protecting the personal privacy of individuals, this policy does not apply to personnel matters and hiring recommendations.

The following information will be posted on our website:
1. Documents: All policy documents1 and written policy recommendations from official meetings2 with outside organizations.
2. Meetings: The date and organizations represented at official meetings in the Transition headquarters or agency offices, with any documents presented as noted above.

This scope is a floor, not a ceiling, and all staff are strongly encouraged to include additional materials. Such materials could include documents (recommendations, press releases, etc.) presented in smaller meetings or materials or made public by the outside organization without a connection to an official meeting.

If you have any questions as to whether documents should be included, please email [REDACTED].

Prior to an official meeting with an outside organization or organizations, Obama-Biden Transition Project staff members will inform attendees that any documents provided will be posted on our “Seat at the Table” website found at Suggested language for email invitations is: “By presenting or submitting any document at a meeting with the Obama-Biden Transition Project, you agree to allow the document to be made public and posted on” At the completion of each meeting or upon receipt of such documents, Transition staff will provide the documents to [REDACTED] with the date of the meeting, a list of the organizations in attendance, and the topic of the meeting.

1) This policy does not apply to non-public or classified information acquired from the Agency Review Process and internal memorandum.
2) An “official meeting” is defined as a meeting with outside organizations or representatives of those organizations to which three or more outside participants attend.

Posted by: Marysdude at December 6, 2008 12:55 PM
Comment #271565


I was thinking of those meetings between Cheney and the energy corporations CEOs when they wrote out Bush’s energy policies, and Hillary’s health care meetings when she was trying to prepare a health care policy for Bill. What a breath of fresh air this is…

Posted by: Marysdude at December 6, 2008 12:59 PM
Comment #271647

I believe political and personal beliefs are what now “guides and rules our lives,” and that basic document has become nothing more than something that should be worked around for the “betterment of society” as a whole.

Our biggest problem is that our personal beliefs are now used to explain “the context of their times to figure out what they really meant,” and we changing in accordance to those beliefs and not what was written.
IMO, we should change how they told us to instead of changing by redefining what they said. Thats not an overly strict interpretation to me.

“You sound like you’re beating up on us for actually putting forward plans”

My fault for not being clearer. The “why” I am refering to is “why do people not agree with our plan.” I’m not “beating you up” for actually putting forward plans, I persist because you discount the individual for what you see as best for the group. For people such as myself, the rights and freedoms of the individual are the foundation of our group and it is what makes us different than other groups. That is why we don’t accept “but it works in other country’s” as a justified excuse for change.

“More to the point, they compromised in such a fashion as to give us a system which would let everybody have their say, give everybody certain protections, and then let the majority decide what would be law and who would write and execute that law for them”

I agree. But one of those “certain protections” was that of protecting the minority from the majority. That is why the Constitution limits govt the way it does and why it is heavy in individual rights and freedoms.
We aren’t fighting change, we are fighting giving up what they gave us, in the name of change.

All of us want a govt that works, Stephen. But things won’t change for the better until you guys on the left understand that some of us want govt to run govt, not lives.

Posted by: kctim at December 8, 2008 11:16 AM
Comment #271689

What are you selling in the name of individual rights and freedom, though, and are people buying?

We’ve seen the deregulation and tax cuts done in the names of such freedom more or less gut the economy. To say that people were given too much freedom would be patronizing and wrong. Too say that people were left free to do wrong and dishonest things would be more accurate.

Let people do some things, and the price of their freedom maybe a curtailment of somebody else’s life, liberty, or happiness.

Let a polluter pollute, and people will die before their times, sink into miserable health problems, and will see their fortunes decline as illness closes off their options.

Let a Wall Street banker play fast and lose with people’s money and with their own advice, and watch the negative effects ripple through society. How much more crime will we see as prosperity falls into the economic sinkhole? What interventions will we simply be unable to afford, what fixes?

Maybe I understand what you’re after, and simply believe that you’re wrong, that you haven’t shown your approach as a viable or necessary alternative.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 9, 2008 12:00 PM
Comment #271709

All I am “after” is for you to respect my rights the same as I respect yours. We can’t keep redefining our rights for political agendas to suit our version of the “change,” if we ever expect to heal the divide which now greatly separates us.
If you can’t see that as being a viable approach, then we as a country truly are doomed.

Posted by: kctim at December 9, 2008 1:59 PM
Comment #271742

Different generations will see those rights differently, or will face different challenges in terms of expressing and protecting those rights.

But we’re ahead of ourselves here. Beyond a vague sense that you don’t like the way we liberals do things, I don’t think you’ve made much of a solid case for what you think those rights are.

You keep on arguing with me as if I don’t understand that respect. I do. I have no problem with Obama. Or keeping your people in the loop and in the negotations.

The question is whether you’ll happy with anything less than running the show. If you’re not, then we have a problem.

The Right Wing has been told for the last two generations that it is uniquely fitted and qualified to lead the country. It has been told that the other side’s approach is no even constitutional. It has been ingrained in far too many people’s heads than anything less than their people’s dominance on the political stage is our civilization and way of life at risk.

Some folks on the Right find that even this mere extention of government power, is somehow catastrophic. But history has seen much more invasive federal governments and much more extensive spending. I think you lack perspective on just what your relative position to the abyss of political oblivion is. You are better off at this point than you think. You just got to relax.

Trust me when I say that the concerns of those who want to keep government to a minimum will be heard. But they have had their chance to run things, and are trying to block any alternatives We need better conservatives than that. We need moderation, not futile attempts to drag things back to the radical extreme that got us into this mess.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 9, 2008 10:57 PM
Comment #271763

I understand how different generations will see their rights differently, it is inevitable. But, to me at least, I think it would be better for our country if we changed them properly, instead of just redefining them.

You don’t believe I have made a solid case because we see individual rights and freedoms differently. I believe govt is limited by them, while you believe they are limited by govt. Our two mindsets can work together though.

Obama is not the President, so he has done nothing as President, for me to have a problem with.
I don’t care who is “running the show,” just as long as they respect my rights and freedoms I have left, so your question is moot. Believing our concerns are nothing but partisan rhetoric and not about policy, will lead to problems though.

I hate to burst your bubble Stephen, but you have no idea why people disagree so much with you guys. We don’t care who is in control as long as you leave us and our rights and freedoms alone and let us live our own lives. Like it or not, we cherish our way of life and the sooner you guys realize that difference, the sooner we will get along. It is no harder than that Stephen. Policy should not be pushed onto the whole country just because places like Cali want a nanny state or are afraid of the 2nd Amendment.

The concerns of those who want minimum govt have not been heard for decades and to think that will change is very naive. IF the left wants cooperation and to stay in control, then quit pushing things on us and pissing us off. Again, it really is that simple.

Quit blaming our partisanship and start looking at your policy and you guys could have another long run.
That is not extreme, that is reality.

Look, other than those who have already made up their mind and will dislike Obama no matter what and those who are sickeningly gushing over him and think all will be better just because he is a liberal, most people I know are taking a wait and see stance. I hope you guys take advantage of that, I really do.

Posted by: kctim at December 10, 2008 10:42 AM
Comment #271786


I think I’ve read wherein you advocated abortion, and even perhaps gay marriage…you did so under the ‘individual rights’ policies you expound on…that is good, but the folks who think gay marriage is an abomination and who feel that abortion is nothing short of murder will disagree with you, and perhaps plant a pipe bomb in your mailbox as a message regarding that disagreement.

Individual rights, while laid out fairly well in the Amendments, will never satisfy all parties. The SC has to handle those issues as they surface, and we have to accept that occasionally the justices will get it wrong, or at least not the right we would choose. By just lambasting everyone on this one issue, you limit and deminish your own cause.

Posted by: Marysdude at December 10, 2008 2:15 PM
Comment #271802

I would be careful telling me what I believe.

Here’s what I believe: Government moderates the poeple. People moderate the government.

Why do you think I emphasize feedback so much? Awareness, acknowledgement and humility on the part of governing officials, for those who govern?

I’m not looking for the government to run roughshod over Americans. I believe in the constitution, am sincerely interested in seeing our country stick to what’s constitutional, and not stretching its principles too far.

The trick is, do we need a new constitution as things change, or do we just need to interpret things relative to those changes. Do we need to trash the Fourth Amendment and start over, or do we reduce the Fourth Amendment to its essential basics and then reinterpret it so that those essential basics can be expressed in the new world, in this case, one with electronic voice and data communications.

There are limits that should be observed, of course. There was a good reason the income tax, popular election of Senators, and term limits for the President required constitutional amendment to pass. Somethings can be reinterpreted to suit the times. Other things say essentially the same thing regardless of the times.

Sometimes people repeat things so often that it just seems to be the truth. Folks on the Right have insisted that Democrats don’t give a crap about the constitution. It’s a nice, difficult to knock down piece of perjorative rhetoric. How do you defend against it? The unspoken premise is that you don’t really believe in the constitution if you hold such and such a view. And how do you disprove it? You’re essentially arguing against that other person’s personal notion of what’s constitutional.

I have to tell you that I find such arguments pointless. They’re more about bullying somebody with the spectre of being an abuser of the constitution than actually convincing people of something on the merits. Like I said before, the constitution is all too often used to pre-empt others arguments in the place of actual discussion.

I think you underestimate just how burnt out people are with conservatives and conservative policies. Yes, you folks might get angry and vocally so at the thought of our party pushing our agenda, which it could be argued we have a decent size mandate for, but are as many people taking that anger seriously, or viewing it sympathetically?

I think you need to take a cold, hard look at just how much credence and patience is being lent to the right. Here’s what I believe: folks think your people have had too much influence on policy. They don’t think you haven’t had enough.

In that case, you have two choices: further alienate people by trying the hard sell on a product they really don’t want to buy, or learn how to relate to others as equals. You are not holding the cards. You don’t have enough power anymore to get high-handed on the politics. You have to convince people of your policy positions on the merits, because defaulting to the Republicans is no longer all that popular of an approach.

We could provoke a backlash by pushing our politics too hard. I think Obama’s cabinet selections and his policy proposal reflects that recognition. But you need to realize that your people pushed your politics to hard, and that the backlash is ongoing and widespread. The Right hasn’t lost two elections in a row because people have some resentment to work off. They really don’t think much of continued Republican government.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 10, 2008 5:12 PM
Comment #271805

You are correct, I advocate individual rights and freedoms on all issues and engage in debates with people from both sides of the aisle over them all the time.
Maybe you right and people don’t want to hear about them and that I should give it up. I will give it some thought.

Posted by: kctim at December 10, 2008 5:59 PM
Comment #271824

Govt moderates people by limiting and dictating what they can do. What I think you believe and what you said you believe are not that much different.

Here is what I believe: Our Constitution protects the people and moderates govt. to accomplish that.

We will just have to disagree on reinterpreting our rights to suit the times. That is nothing but redefining them to fit political agendas in my view.

“Folks on the Right have insisted that Democrats don’t give a crap about the constitution”

Do you know or even care why? If not, you should. It would open up a workable channel that could help bring us back together as a nation.
Stop dismissing their concerns as rhetoric and work together for what is best for all, instead of what you think is best for all.

“I think you underestimate just how burnt out people are with conservatives and conservative policies”

People are burnt out with the current party and have decided to give the other party a shot. That does not mean they want to throw away all conservative policies in favor of liberal policies and if you think a difference of a few million votes gives you guys a mandate to push your agenda and do so, you may be in for a surprise.

You guys tried to push a liberal govt onto the people and the people booted you out. The right, to a lesser extent, tried and were also booted out. That tells me that the people want a more moderate govt.
Will we get that with a very liberal President, Congress and House? Only time will tell.

Posted by: kctim at December 11, 2008 9:53 AM
Comment #272260


I’m sorry, but the ‘people’ don’t want a conservative government or a liberal government or a centrest government or a moderate government…the ‘people’ want a government that works. They keep fishing around, but they havn’t found one yet.

This time…perhaps…??? We can only hope…

Posted by: Marysdude at December 17, 2008 9:47 PM
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