Democrats & Liberals Archives

Advise and Consent, or Prepare To Cripple Yourselves.

Simple question, you geniuses on the Right: Do you really want to set the precedent of requiring a sixty vote majority for your future Republican Presidential appointees?

In the end, the Republicans only hand the justification to grind their own future power to a halt to the Democrats.

For the time being, Democrats remain less ideological than Republicans, less willing to push filibusters when they are in the minority, less willing to limit the actions of the minority, in case they should find their way back there. That is my primary guess as to why Harry Reid was cautious on the filibuster as he was.

But if you succeed in humiliating enough Democrats, then Democrats will be selected for by their voters who will come around and return the favor in kind. This is the way it ultimately works out. What goes around comes around.

You can be smart, and end the cycle. That way, both sides get to exercise power when the voters give it to them. It's a nice incentive to win elections, to be the kind of center-based, non-extremist voters tend to like.

Or you can be stupid, and set precedents that cripple your nominations, your Presidents, your legislatures, even when you nominally have the power.

Power in this country comes from the mutual recognition of the right of those the voters have chosen to lead. When we remove that acceptance, that concession of the mandate of the voters, when what we are left with is the dysfunctional scramble for power by any means.

I don't know about you, but I don't want this to be one of those things that only little kids with faith that adults have their heads screwed on straight believe. I want my democracy, my republic to work, to function, even if I don't like the people in charge.

We're in this together. If you chose to make this about who can compete most viciously, you will pay the price. You cannot escape a bad precedent, nor whatever you pent up trying to get power you haven't grown the consensus to deserve.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at February 14, 2013 12:41 PM
Comment #361688

The comments in the TPM link say it all, IMO…

They are rightfully upset with Harry Reid for allowing this to occur when he could have changed it, but one comment stuck out more than any other…

“Everyone’s ganging up on Reid over this. I don’t see his move as a failure as everyone else does. I think he’s letting Republicans dig their own grave. Look at how their approval ratings have plummeted. That is in large part because of their unprecedented obstructionism. If Reid took away that tool, the filibuster, the greatest obstructionist tool there is, then we live with two years of Republicans saying they’re getting run over without any representation. We all know how they love to play the victim, and that works with their base. But if he lets them keep that tool and allows them to use it for good or ill, then America gets to see them continue to obstruct themselves into obscurity. I think this was a long view move.”

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 14, 2013 2:15 PM
Comment #361690

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

I don’t mind the GOP doing this at all. It makes them look really, really bad, and I see no reason why a Democratic nominee can’t be just as good as Hagel would have been in the position anyway.

Keep in mind, the 2014 Senate math is once again against the Democrats, even more so than 2012. The Democrats picked up two seats in 2012 despite the odds, but in 2014, they will once again have to defend more 21 seats, while the GOP only has to defend 14; this time, most of the GOP seats are in solid red states, while the Democrat seats are in swing states, so the Democrats will be very hard put to repeat 2012.

This is exactly the kind of thing that blackens the GOP reputation. In this Senate, 22 Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women bill, and 36 voted against Hurricane Sandy relief. They just can’t help themselves. The House is so fractured, Boehner can’t lead without relying on Democrats to join 45 - 50 Republicans in order to pass even the most basic legislation.

Posted by: phx8 at February 14, 2013 2:29 PM
Comment #361695

“minority leader Harry Reid conceded the move signaled the “first filibuster of the year.” The Democrats claimed that key documents regarding John Bolton and his career at the Department of State were being withheld by the Bush administration. Scott McClellan, White House press secretary, responded by saying, “Just 72 hours after all the good will and bipartisanship (over a deal on judicial nominees), it’s disappointing to see the Democratic leadership resort back to such a partisan approach.”

And this is different from Hegel how? Because you like Hegel and not Bolton is not a good answer, BTW.

Posted by: C&J at February 14, 2013 4:00 PM
Comment #361703

John Bolton was not up for Secretary of State, but UN ambassador. This is a filibuster of the Secretary of Defense.

Ah, but if you dislike it so much, why don’t you join me in agreement on the need for filibuster reform? Both sides have sinned, we could say, but let us forgive each other and work together for the good of all!

Could you agree to something like that? If not, then you’re just defeating your own point. Hypocrisy goes both ways here. Didn’t your side threaten the nuclear option, that is no filibusters at all, over Democrats using the option far, far fewer times, for far fewer candidates?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 14, 2013 5:36 PM
Comment #361706

And really, answer the basic question, C&J: do you want sixty votes as the threshold your next cabinet officials have to surmount?

The GOP is basically screwing its own future to screw the Democrat’s present. It’s setting down precedents that will haunt the next Republican President.

I mean, really, do you want the next Republican President to be able to appoint a real conservative, or do you want to have to watch while, using your precedent, they basically take down anybody who isn’t a centrist?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 14, 2013 5:47 PM
Comment #361708


So it is okay to filibuster one but not the other. Presumably Secretary Defense is more important and more important to get it right.

Re filibuster in general - I think it needs to be reformed but not ended. I believe this in 2005 and will believe it in 2015. You, however, will change your mind as soon as Republicans get a majority again.

Re sixty votes for a cabinet post - I don’t like the idea. I didn’t like it when “your people” blocked Bolton and don’t like it now. In both cases, however, I think it was good to slow the process until all questions were answered.

Posted by: C&J at February 14, 2013 6:00 PM
Comment #361710

I can think of a few Republican candidates for the Supreme Court, well qualified people, that the dems demonized and prevented from consideration by the full senate.

Off subject but an interesting observation. When we hear some political leader bragging about reducing the national debt I have to laugh.

A proposal to reduce the debt by $500 billion is announced and is hailed as bold and meaningful. Then, we find the debt reduction will be achieved (perhaps, but not likely) over ten years; or a mere $50 billion per year.

Assuming a debt of $17 Trillion, and using this same formula for reduction, it will take 340 years to eliminate.

Fairy dust anyone?

Posted by: Royal Flush at February 14, 2013 7:28 PM
Comment #361712

I’m a little ticked off at Harry Ried for doing nothing most likely to keep the filibuster rules in place to preserve the Dems right to payback the GOP for their wildly wreckless and irresponsible use of the process since Obama got elected. This latest use to the filibuster for the first time ever to try to stop Chuck Hagel’s nomination is disgraceful. It’s hard to argue that Hagel is some sort of radical pick as Bolton was. They seem to be holding things up to ask more stupid questions about the post Benghazi statements. Ted Cruz is proving why freshman senators should keep their mouths shut and try to get some work done instead of popping off and accusing a war hero of being an agent for Iran.

I hoped that the Dems in the senate would behave a little more maturely than the GOP who have been wielding the filibuster like a three year-old with a squirt gun but alas they are reserving their right to act childish the next time we have a Republican president. Sigh.

Posted by: tcsned at February 14, 2013 11:52 PM
Comment #361720


Watch Hegel’s testimony and tell me if you think he really would be a good pick. Senators who know him very well have little confidence in his abilities. Guys like McCain or Lindsay Graham are honorable men who have reasonable doubts.

Posted by: C&J at February 15, 2013 4:51 AM
Comment #361722

C&J - i’m pretty sure it was a strategy to not engage in the stupidity with which he was confronted. It looked bad, i agree but that was abcalculated trade off to not deal with the moronic behavior of most of the senators more interested in listening to themselves speak than getting actual answers. Even from John McCain who is usually an honorable man. He seemed to be re-arguing the Iraq war. Trying to get Hagel to say that his criticism of the surge was wrong. When I think Hagel was right to say that it’s more complicated than right or wrong. That tactic may have played a part in the stabilization that occurred but was certainly not the only factor. The strategy was disastrous that the surge was a part of and the long term effect on the region was not good. Hagel is not a neo-con and I think that’s a healthy thing. He was McCain’s own choice for the position when he ran in 2000. I don’t think anyone can make a logical argument that Hagel is the least qualified person to ever come up for this post and deserving of the only filibuster in US history of that job post. He’s not a neo-con. He’s in line with the president’s foreign policy ideas, and the GOP lost the election and their chance to get their guy in that post. He’s qualified. He would be the first enlisted man to ever hold that post and I think his reasoned caution about using troops is what we need. He used to be a Republican and has parted ways with the GOPs foreign policy thinking and he was very critical of George Bush. That has a lot more to do with this childish behavior than anything else.

Lindsay Graham used to be an honorable man but is not acting like one anymore probably out of fear of a primary challenge from the lunatic fringe of his own party.

Posted by: tcsned at February 15, 2013 6:13 AM
Comment #361727

Let me get this straight: you ask me whether it’s okay to filibuster Bolton for UN Secretary, with your people having just blocked cloture on Hagel for Secretary of Defense?

You’ve answered your own question! Yes, it is okay, by your own standards! Since you have made it a legitimate political tactic to filibuster the Secretary of Defense, you have no business whatsoever challenge anybody on any of the filibusters that Democrats have done of anybody else. And if you take back the senate in 2014, and you want to pass laws, then by your own standards, it will be absolutely okay to block every mother****ing bill you try to push through.

Because you made it that way!

That’s the problem with using a tu quoque argument, don’t ya know. You can say, but you have done this as well! But you know what? You’ve done much more than us, so you have set the precedent for gridlock to overtake your own people, when and if they get back into power.

But you know what? That just seems to me to be an absolutely ****ty way of running things. So, as much as I might lose the ability to obstruct your people, when and if my people go into the minority, I want whoever’s in charge to be able to carry out their constitutional duties. If I don’t want somebody to be appointed, I’ll have to convince a majority of the Senate to oppose them. That’s what the framers wanted, why not adhere to that?

The question is, do you have enough vision and foresight to see the necessity of this reform, or are you blind to the risks you’re taking with your party’s future ability to govern?

(Oh, by the way, I only changed my mind after the Republicans decided to use the filibuster as a substitute for winning an election, in order to prevent Democrats from changing policy. My bet is, you will be front and center to support the Republicans doing away with the filibuster the minute it becomes a threat to your power. The question is, do you have the willingness, as I do, to disarm this weapon, and do away with the filibuster, so our future elections will actually mean something, regardless of who’s in charge?)

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 15, 2013 10:21 AM
Comment #361736

Comparing Bolton to Hagel is also a pretty false comparison. A UN ambassador that doesn’t believe in the existence of the UN is a lot worse than a guy they seem to be opposing for personal reasons.

Ted Cruz is acting like a total noob too. I hope he doesn’t plan on asking for anything for Texas. Not ready for prime time.

Posted by: tcsned at February 15, 2013 3:18 PM
Comment #361739


Republicans and many Democrats fear Hagel doesn’t believe in a strong defense. He opposed the surge, which saved us in Iraq. I understand that it was unclear at the time and reasonable people differed. But now we know the history and in direct questioning he refused to acknowledge his serious mistake when asked about it directly. This says something about the man.


If it was okay to filibuster Bolton, it is okay to do it to Hagel. I was not challenging the thing with Bolton, but merely showing you why you have not ground to stand on to complain about Hagel.

You seem to have some trouble with timelines and causality. Democratic anger over Hagel could not have caused them to filibuster Bolton seven years earlier.

BTW - we still have a good Secretary of State working. It is not true that Hagel’s confirmation is urgent. Personally, I think the longer we can keep Panetta on the job, the better.

Posted by: C&J at February 15, 2013 4:07 PM
Comment #361760

I listened to some of the questions put to, and answered by, Hagel by the Senate committee. This man does not instill my confidence and his answers were sometimes dismal. Many fear that he would just be a hack for obama and the dems. The SecDef needs to be his own man and own a “pair”.

Posted by: Royal Flush at February 16, 2013 3:52 PM
Comment #361772

Tell me what you would do if you gained full Control of Congress and the White House, and fell short of sixty votes in the Senate. What would prevent Democrats from doing to you what you did to them?

You keep on engaging this in adversarial terms. But you fail to see that this is really a system built for fellow citizens, and your positions have put you in a situation where if the reverse does occur, your party’s victory would work out to be as meaningless as that of the party you defeated.

You can’t even count on the same votes you once could among the Democrats, since your people poached many of those seats to take away the Democrat’s more robust majority.

So what’s your plan?

I acknowlege we haven’t been angels, C&J. I’m not asking you to support anything like this because my side has the license of perfection to lecture your side on behaving well on this subjection. No, this is an appeal to common sense here. Nobody’s going to accept a disadvantage forever, and as turnover shifts things towards less charitable souls, folks who’ve felt their careers in the senate stymied by your obstruction, You’re going to find a greater and greater risk that any success in taking back the senate or White House will be muted by obstruction.

If you want a system that works, we need to end the filibuster as we know it, or at least end your side’s abuse of it.

Royal Flush-
If you guys had a pair, you’d be dealing with votes on a roll call level instead of hiding behind the filibuster.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2013 8:33 PM
Comment #361773

Stephen, If the filibuster is ended as we know it or republicans end their abuse, YOUR SIDE when they get the chance will abuse it to so “Quit your bitchin” and don’t give me the crap that YOUR SIDE won’t. YOUR PEOPLE aren’t the angels you make them out to be. YOUR SIDE hasn’t showed any willingness to compromise, Harrfy tables anything that comes from the house and Obama threatens to veto if the senate does pass anything that the house passed.

Posted by: KAP at February 16, 2013 9:09 PM
Comment #361775


It is likely that Hagel will be confirmed. It is just good to know more.

What Republicans controlled congress and the WH, Harry Reid filibustered Bolton, who never got confirmed. This is not the first time this has happened.

What prevented Democrats from doing that? Nothing. Why won’t Reid stop the filibuster now? Because he knows Democrats will want to do the same thing in the future.

You supported the power of the minority in 2004. I copied and pasted your exact words. You will support it again if/when Republicans take power again. You are very flexible about these principles. I, however, tend to be more consistent. I suppose that is why you get more easily outraged. I have principles to fall back on.

Posted by: C&J at February 16, 2013 9:22 PM
Comment #361777

Stock responses do not change a critical fact, and this is what you’d better start thinking about: precedent set this way has a nasty way of coming back. Isn’t that your point?

What makes you think a) You’re immune, and b) that you’re going to avoid the consequences of your precedent.

I know you think that you’re more clever than me, but you don’t seem to be too wise. You seem intent on justifying the Republican’s move, but you don’t acknowledge the blowback this could inflict on you.

Why? Are you going to change the rules, just as you did the last time, when you threatened the first so-called nuclear option? You can gloat about what your minority can do now, but what about what our minority might do later? What happens if, and when, Harry Reid gets the chance to inflict revenge with that filibuster he’s protecting?

I haven’t been able to get one forward-thinking word out of you about this. No consideration of what the future might bring on account of the precedent you’ve sent.

Yes, I’m flexible. But not in an unprincipled way. I believe that there are many choices as to how we express the core of an idea, and some are better than others. I think the Republicans have, in the name of keeping their hard-right base, limited their choices drasticly.

It’s pretty much why you obstruct, rather than let things sort out as the numbers would have them. Your side won’t accept that its lost power, that it’s no longer entitled to control things.

What you fail to register is that I have had the experience of dealing with years of obstruction. While you gloat about how much of an advantage that gives you, you don’t even begin to register, it seems, what a position this puts you in if you win what you want to win!

You might be comfortable now with a stalemate, but I guarantee you, when you’re the one trying to get things passed through Congress, you will be the one screaming bloody murder, just as folks like you were screaming when we had the controversy over filibusters.

Only this time, it won’t simply be five judges, or a UN ambassador, but otherwise few obstructions. It will be the wholesale campaign of obstruction you employed that you’ll be at risk for. I don’t want this kind of voter nullification going on, and I suspect you won’t want this either, when the time comes, and it’s your power at stake.

Now, you can agree with me, and push with me together for further reform, so both sides can run things smoothly, or you can reap the whirlwind, pay the consequences of having manuevered Democrats into a procedural stalemate.

Long story short, you have a choice between having nominal power you can’t use without making yourself out to be a big hypocrite, or you and I can both agree that Americans want their government functional, and that our respective presidents should be able to hire and appoint who they want to fill positions, as they are empowered to under the constitution. A rule of Congress should not overrule the law of the Constitution.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2013 10:45 PM
Comment #361779


I regret that you see repeating the truth as a “stock response”. In your own words, I have shown how you change your core principles based on who is in power. The story of Bolton is remarkably similar to the story of Hagel. In both cases, the minority in the Senate held up a nomination because they didn’t like the nominee and they wanted more information from the an administration that was stonewalling on important issues.

You see these situations as completely different only because you are convinced that what is good when Democrats do it is bad when Republicans do the same.

I can even use your most recent words - “What makes you think a) You’re immune, and b) that you’re going to avoid the consequences of your precedent?” Your precedent in Bolton.

Re being more clever than you are - what else can I say? Personally, I dislike political maneuvering. Politics is a necessary evil that replaces more dangerous conflict. But we have politics. Your side used it exactly the same way and will again.

My wisdom that I would share with you is that most people see their own actions as driven by circumstances and defense of principle, while they see those of their opponents as results of calculated willful malice or maybe stupidity. This is rarely true, although more often in politics than elsewhere.

This is something you cannot seem to understand. You have the Democrat = good; Republican = bad idea.

How about this - President Bush nominates for Secretary a former banker who go a million dollar bonus from his bank when it was bailed out by taxpayers. This man also has bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. When asked why, he said he simply does not know. How do you feel about this?

Or this - President Bush nominates a Secretary who Democrats consider incompetent and possible misguided. President Bush has been dodging questions about a particular security fiasco. Bush says it just doesn’t matter, but Democrats disagree. In any case, they are filibustering the nominee until they get more answers. What do you think of this?

In the above cases, do you think Bush did the right thing and/or would you consider Democrats reasonable?

Democrats/Republicans will use the power they possess in order to play the politics they think useful. I suppose the only difference when Democrats do it is that you will say that it is payback.

Re government to be functional - Americans want this, but rarely get it. Read one of the recent biographies of Lyndon Johnson about the Senate in the 1950s and 1960s. I am just finishing John Meecham’s book re Thomas Jefferson. Read that too.

I am working on a biography of Calvin Coolidge by Amity Shalaes. It might interest you to read that book too. The interesting thing you will find is that government worked fairly smoothly during his tenure.

Wisdom comes from experience, but it doesn’t have to be all your own. I think you need to do a little more reading of biographies and stop with that fantasy stuff you are into.

Posted by: C&J at February 17, 2013 7:17 AM
Comment #361782

Royal Flush-
If you guys had a pair, you’d be dealing with votes on a roll call level instead of hiding behind the filibuster.
Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2013 8:33 PM

The reason that the filibuster is so effective is because not only is the Senate divided, in such a way as to allow it to work, but also that the country is divided nearly equally on many contentious issues.

Should a party present legislation that has broad public appeal, the filibuster will not be nearly as effective. Don’t forget that elected politicians are swayed by a majority public opinion that voices its concern actively. I recall a few times that both the Senate and House were bombarded with all manner of communication against certain proposed legislation and it worked.

Both parties are weakened by attracting nearly the same number of voters on both sides of an issue. It is better that such issues not be decided until a greater majority of voters (not legislators) come to a consensus. That makes for better law and better results.

Posted by: Royal Flush at February 17, 2013 3:00 PM
Comment #361787

Royal Flush-
But that’s just the thing. The vote on Hagel wasn’t some 50/50 proposition. 58 votes for. Reagan was re-elected by a Landslide with just a little over that.

The framers set up the Senate. They gave the Senate advise and consent authority on Presidential appointments. They gave ratification of treaties to the Senate as well. With those Ratifications, though, they set a two-thirds margin.

In one case, they chose to make treaties more difficult to ratify. Apparently they felt if they made it too easy, there wouldn’t be enough agreement on those for most Americans, most states of the union to be comfortable with the obligations we were taking on.

But they did not bother to set any such limits on the power of appointment, and for over two hundred years, you just needed more than half the Senate to advise and consent.

Here’s the thing: we have a ten seat majority. When you had a ten seat majority, the same numbers caucusing together with you, after 2004, you put up one holy hell of a fight, and did not at all feel that the filibuster power was worth preserving. This, because five of your picks were filibustered.

Since then, you’ve blocked hundreds of Obama’s picks. You’ve blocked a vast majority of the bills of a Congress that had sixty votes given to it by the voters, along with a substantial majority of the house.

If things were as you allege, you would have conceded matters back in 2008. Instead, you decided to overrule the verdict of the voters.

Why? Because you consider them second class citizens. Dupes. Incapable of thinking wisely for themselves. They’ve thrown their lot in with this LIBERAL! And you hate them for it. So, you believe it’s for the best to force them to accept that things aren’t going to change. Gut hope, gut alternatives, force goverment to become smaller, force spending cuts and the virtual end of programs like Social Security and Medicare, before it’s all too late.

You don’t seem to have enough time to do things the right way, so you’re going to force things, and if you have to trash the constitution a little to save the country, so what, that’s what you signed up for when you worked on Bush’s behalf.

But you know what? Our government was put together in order to frustrate people like you, who think they know what’s best for everybody else, but won’t let everybody else have their say on the matter.

History is full of governments who believed that doing all kinds of thing to their people, from torturing suspects to arresting political rivals was for the best. They looked at their opposition and saw subversives, saw counter-revolutionaries.

What has spared this country from that awful fate is the lucky combination of competing interests, and folks willing to negotiate with one another for the sake of the nation as a whole. What they created, largely by accident, was a nation where, instead of having this revolution, which once finished, had to be defended, we instead created a system with checks and feedbacks that prevented single factions from taking over.

This, in turn, prevented the chaotic result of many of those post colonial governments, as the people cut out of power rebelled and tried to force their way back in by military means.

You think you’re saving us? Well, many of the people won’t appreciate your opinion on that count. They believe that you’re instead just grabbing power for yourself, for your own sake, and they will fight you harder because you won’t give it up. And then your people will fight harder because the morons who have lead you have forced a generation’s worth of insane conspiracy theories down their throats, theories that paint people like me as being close to Bond villains, wanting to destroy the country.

What I talk about here is letting the American people take responsibility for themselves. If they come to the conclusion that our policies were a mistake, they can switch back to your people or somebody else. That was what the Framers decided on.

Why is that not good enough for you, if you think them so wise? You can get more mileage out of real mistakes than you can out of fantasy conspiracy theories. There’s going to come a point (we may be past it already, if the elections are any indication) where people are more interested in getting things done, than in indulging further abstract scaremongering by your side.

Your stock response is to repeat a case which I’ve already told you you’ve set a worse precedent than.

Put simply, you have no moral high ground, not on the number of filibusters, not on the number of appointees blocked, nor on the level of the cabinet officials that have been blocked. Put simply, you’ve far exceeded anything we ever did, especially what we were discussing in 2005-2006.

I opposed wholesale blockage, in favor of simply winning the elections. I felt that the best we could do was create a stalemate, and more to the point, it would be a destructive precedent to set, because then, when we gained power, it would be done to us.

But it seems like I was wrong to believe that your side would concede power in a mature fashion. Instead, you’ve never stopped impeding the function of our government.

And you know what? Slowly but surely, despite your best efforts to keep this matter behind the closed doors of Congress where the people’s dislike for esoterica scares them off, they’ve still managed to get the impression that Republicans are more obstructionist, more unwilling to bargain, so on and so forth.

If a crisis occurs, who do you think has the advantage, the man who has built a reputation for trying to get things done, or the ones who have built a reputation for getting in the way? And if folks condition their continued loyalty on you continuing to block their way, what are your good choices?

You mention Calvin Coolidge. Funny guy to mention. Now, Hoover’s name is forever associated with the Great Depression, but he sort of suffers the disadvantage of having gotten into office just to get hit by a financial crisis of unprecedented magnitude. Coolidge, though, was President during the period leading up to that catastrophic event.

These events don’t just happen, they build up over time. So, whatever you believe about Coolidge’s steady leadership is undermined by the fact that the changes and problems that created the Great Depression were developing under his nose.

He most likely wanted to keep the world the same, but the world, and the consequences of the actions of the capitalists he supported made that impossible. Hoover tried his best to split the difference, relying mostly on the old fashioned economic theory that the poor should be helped by charity, while the rich made whatever adjustments were necessary to get through the downturn, but he had no progress whatsoever, as evidenced by the continued worsening of the downturn, which was what got him kicked out of the White House.

You think the outcomes and the blame totally unfair, but here’s what I think: the Republicans have been trying since the days of FDR to make believe that they did the right things, that all that was needed was more time to carry them out. More austerity, more belt-tightening, etc.

Unfortunately, that’s not how we got out. And the theories on what happened generally avoid one critical conclusion: that you can’t run a consumer society without consumers to support it. There’s a limit to the burdens you can place on average people, the expertise and whatever they can summon to avoid being cheated.

Republicans have wrestled the Democrats into a stalemate, but a losing one for themselves. Either the Democrats win a critical tactical victory somewhere, or events, as they always do, provide some opening for the Democrats to exploit.

Look at what your people are doing right now. Look at the sequester. Look at the debt ceiling, which we still have to deal with in May. Already, your people have manipulated themselves into some serious screw-ups. At what point will business leaders begin question the Republican brand?

At what point does all the strain necessary to keep individual members from breaking ranks, to keep those filibusters coming, and so on and so forth just start wearing your party down, so some incident can come and put the final straw on the camel’s back?

Like I said in my last entry, you’re really just at a stalemate at this point. Nothing you do can’t be undone, and people will have a great deal of motivation to undo it, over time.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 17, 2013 8:39 PM
Comment #361790

Royal Flush,

I thought that you were a big believer in the Constitution?

Well, if that were the case then you should be outraged by the use of procedural rules that effectively require a super majority to pass legislation and in this case approval of a cabinet appointment. As Stephen has pointed out, that is not what the framers intended. Clearly, they considered this issue because they provided for passage on simple majority for virtually all legislation and dictated super majorities for only a very limited number of important issues, e.g., overriding veto, etc.

In addition, your desire that only legislation that achieves a kind of super majority support among the public be passed is also contrary to not only the letter of the Constitution but its spirit. We are a constitutional republic not a pure democracy.

Posted by: Rich at February 17, 2013 10:37 PM
Comment #361799

Hagel was just exactly right when he insisted too the surly McCain that giving a yes or no answer to the surge was not possible. First, most experts agree that the increase in troops was not a major factor in the lessening of violence in the region. The change in on the ground tactics that accompanied the troop increase did, the actual extra boots on the ground, not so much. Violence was already trending down at the time of the surge in large part due to ethnic cleansing in mixed neighborhoods of Sunni Iraqis. There was a growing discontent among Sunnis with the Al Qaeda activist and they began to turn them in for cash. Plus, it saved us for what? To consolidate Shiite power in a region that already has a huge, belligerent Shiite country. We seemed to have just created an ally for Iran. That isn’t especially helpful for long term stability in the region. So no, it’s not that simple.

I’m not defending Hagel’s performance. It wasn’t good. Somewhat intentionally so but that doesn’t fully excuse the deer in the headlights performance that he turned in. But there were few questions from the GOP that addressed matters of importance for our foreign policy future. They were hung up on their belief that there was some huge conspiracy surrounding Benghazi despite no real evidence and a war that is over and didn’t focus enough on our future challenges including the war were are still engaged in. I don’t even want to get into Ted Cruz accusing a decorated war hero of being an agent for Iran.

It would be nice to see every future nominee from both parties to not engage any senator who is more interested in grandstanding and listening to themselves speak to force some actual inquiry that is helpful to the country. I would extend this to any congressional testimony because I haven’t heard a relevant question in a long time from any of these jackasses.

Posted by: tcsned at February 18, 2013 6:29 AM
Comment #361800


My stock answer happens simply to be the truth. Democrats filibustered a cabinet level appointment in very similar circumstances. Your stock answer is that it is different because it was Democrats.

In the case of Secretary of Defense - we still got a good one working. It is simply not urgent that we replace the better Panneta with the inferior Hagel any faster than we need to.

Re Coolidge - don’t believe those simplistic ideas you learned in HS. The 1920s were a time of great progress. They handled a big downturn in the early 1920s that did not turn into a great depression partly because of good policies. Hoover, in fact, intervened in the economy more than any president had before him.

If you understand the problems that caused the Great Depression, perhaps you should write a book, since you are the only one who does. But what problems do you think were “developing under his nose” that caused the Depression?

You won’t be able to answer that question, BTW, because no serious person actually believes it. Rather it is the half remembered morality play that the 1920s led to the problems of the 1930s. But you have been able to spout that half-educated answer your whole life w/o anybody asking you why. Is that right?

I suggest you really read the book. But I know you won’t. I will have to keep on explaining it to you and you will complain about “stock answers”.

Posted by: C&J at February 18, 2013 6:40 AM
Comment #361806

Oh? First, a whole bunch of people were buying stocks they didn’t have the money to actually take the losses on.

Second, a lot of banks were mismanaging people’s money, and even the ones that weren’t got run on when people started to panic.

Third, income inequality meant that the “roaring twenties” were living on borrowed time, because at some point, people weren’t going to be able to finance things simply on what they earned. In that time, people saved, but savings won’t do you much good if your account gets drained by your banker, or your neighbor’s taking out all their money while your money has gone out to pay for somebody’s house.

Restrictive money supply policies were another part of it, as were attempts during Hoover’s administration to restore confidence in the markets by austerity.

It’s not one problem alone, it’s dozens of problems, dozens of convenient fictions punctured, often by a few key events that compound each other.

We solved many of those problems. I mean, though the big banks were on the verge of collapse, we didn’t see a run on the small banks when they went down because we had the FDIC insuring deposits. We once had laws keeping bankers out of the insurance and stockbrokering business, and laws that limited the market share of banks. We had a lot of rules in place, and though things were kind of boring in certain sectors, we didn’t see the institutions we depended upon self-destructing when we had recessions.

We do now. Derivatives, Junk bonds, S&Ls. The Too Big To Fail Banks, the Financial sector where all the different kinds of organizations cooperated together in cutting their own throats with derivatives-based financial trickery that entangled everybody in a bloody mess.

I have seen one failure after another in the course of my life, and the really ****ed up thing about it, is I can look back to what happened before the Great Depression, and see something similar occuring. The stacking of one asset on top of another in a speculative heap. The secretive trade in those assets, rather than on open exchanges. A boom in the economy dependent on on some real efficiency gains or market expansion, but based on speculative overheating in one market or another.

And really, the victimization of the average consumer, to the point where their finances are crippled through no fault of their own, or because they were simply doing what financial experts with much better education on the subject than they had advised.

You talk about Coolidge. Well, it’s not a matter of stock answers, just logic. Hoover might have made the depression worse, but he couldn’t have presided over the entire necessary sequences of failures. Coolidge was President for most of the 1920s, so the failures of that time had to occur on his watch.

I’m not saying he did everything wrong, or that any one policy of his caused it. But when I hear you say, essentially, that he did everything right, the results self-evidently deny that conclusion. The system failed in some way, and he was clearly part of that system, and he clearly favored the laissez faire approach as presidency. “Thin to the point of invisibility” is how his regulatory regime was described.

You can talk about what a serious person believes, and we can both converse on the subject of what constitutes a true Scotsman. But really, though, the Crash of 1929 did not simply spring from the economy like Athena from the head of Zeus!

I just get the impression, as time goes on, that you seem to dismiss the failures that reflect poorly on your party as being just incidental, or our fault. Fannie and Freddie get the blame, even as their market share declines in the face of competition by more ruthless and less regulated competitors. Frank and Dodd get the blame, even though one made the mistake you’re accusing him of when your people had an unquestioned majority, and the other event occured after the market had already peaked.

That sort of poses a problem, by the way, because a lot of the problem with toxic assets comes from the housing crash. effect cannot precede cause, not unless we’re talking some exotic physics.

You don’t want to admit you’ve got a problem. You want to bury your head in glowing biographies of the quintessentially pure conservative, by the author of the person who helped rehash the old “forgotten man” argument.

Meanwhile, all the things you said wouldn’t occur did. It’s funny that your side goes back to this revisionist history of the figure who lead America before the Great Depression, who presided over the majority of the Roaring Twenties, in order to defend the man who presided over the lead up to the Great Recession and the political philosophy that your leaders employed.

But however much you succeed in trying to force everybody to believe you’re right, I’ve seen enough situations where what you promised wouldn’t happen did happen anyways to be profoundly doubtful about your claims. My whole life, from the Junk Bond collapse to the failure of the markets in 2008 has been filled with counterexamples to your claims.

Deregulation, or business-friendly regulation doesn’t seem to encourage these people to behave properly. It seems to allow them to take the short cuts and engage in the abuses that the rules were meant to prevent in the first place.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 18, 2013 8:23 AM
Comment #361809
The system failed in some way, and he was clearly part of that system, and he clearly favored the laissez faire approach as presidency. “Thin to the point of invisibility” is how his regulatory regime was described.

Interesting, when you consider this:

Did Hoover really subscribe to a “hands-off-the-economy,” free-market philosophy? His opponent in the 1932 election, Franklin Roosevelt, didn’t think so. During the campaign, Roosevelt blasted Hoover for spending and taxing too much, boosting the national debt, choking off trade, and putting millions on the dole. He accused the president of “reckless and extravagant” spending, of thinking “that we ought to center control of everything in Washington as rapidly as possible,” and of presiding over “the greatest spending administration in peacetime in all of history.” Roosevelt’s running mate, John Nance Garner, charged that Hoover was “leading the country down the path of socialism.”
Posted by: Rhinehold at February 18, 2013 10:04 AM
Comment #361810

“But what problems do you think were “developing under his nose” that caused the Depression?”


Private sector debt. While public debt was tame during the period of Coolidge, private sector debt exploded. The “prosperity” of the 20s was fueled by consumer debt. It reached an unprecedented 240% of GDP in the year preceding the Great Depression. It should be noted that private sector debt once again exploded in the late 2000s reaching 310% of GDP in the year preceding the Great Recession of 2008. The significance of private sector debt in severe recessions and depressions is becoming increasingly apparent to economists.

Posted by: Rich at February 18, 2013 10:16 AM
Comment #361812

It is interesting to consider the contrast between what people promise and say on the campaign trail, and what they do when they get into power.

Personally, I’m more interested in people who do successful things, than people who say successful things. Good rhetoric is an artform that can be employed with much less concern for results. Good policymaking, though, isn’t so fortunate as to depend upon people simply rewriting reality. Good policymaking has to survive reality, which in its complexities, people rarely fully imagine, if ever.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 18, 2013 11:59 AM
Comment #361813


yeah, you got the junior HS version of events down very well. You repeat it with the same certainty that I suppose your social studies teacher did.

But let’s just take your first one. Did the stock market crash cause the depression? But why didn’t the largest one-day loss of −22.61% cause a depression in 1987?

Re banks mismanagement - not worse in 1929. What about the bigger banking runs in 1907 and the panic in 1921 caused the biggest price deflation in the history of the U.S.

Restrictive money supplies - indeed the Fed should have expanded the money supply. That was not a Hoover and certainly not a Coolidge policy that caused the Fed not to act, as you and Milton Friedman thought they should.

Anyway - I don’t dismiss the failures of my own party. Republicans suck. The only thing is that they tend to suck less than Democrats. Most decisions should be kept out of the political sphere because neither Democrats nor Republicans can be trusted to take care of them.

Re saying this will/will not happen. You guys predicted unemployment in the 5% range by now. Obama promised to cut the deficit in half by now. Obamacare was not supposed to add a dime to the cost of health care. I is very hard to figure out economics. Politicians tend to do a poor job. That is why we need them not to go all in on any particular strategy.

Posted by: C&J at February 18, 2013 12:37 PM
Comment #361816


It’s also interesting how some people just can’t accept it when their rhetoric has been challenged by facts…

Hoover, a globally experienced engineer, believed strongly in the Efficiency Movement, which held that the government and the economy were riddled with inefficiency and waste, and could be improved by experts who could identify the problems and solve them. When the Wall Street Crash of 1929 struck less than eight months after he took office, Hoover tried to combat the ensuing Great Depression with government enforced efforts, public works projects such as the Hoover Dam, tariffs such as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, an increase in the top tax bracket from 25% to 63% and increases in corporate taxes.

It was these acts, especially the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, that did the damage that sent us into a depression, not to mention increasing the top tax bracket…

The spending during the 1924-1933 was:

1924 2,908
1925 2,924
1926 2,930
1927 2,857
1028 2,961
1929 3,127
1930 3,320
1931 3,577
1932 4,659
1933 4,598

So, where was the ‘austerity’ you mention? You also mention ‘deregulation’, where was that?

Again, show your work.

Remember, the stock market was making corrections and had pretty much made back the losses of the ‘crash’ in 29 until the day that Smoot-Hawley was passed…

Foreign companies and their workers were flattened by Smoot-Hawley’s steep tariff rates and foreign governments soon retaliated with trade barriers of their own. With their ability to sell in the American market severely hampered, they curtailed their purchases of American goods. American agriculture was particularly hard hit. With a stroke of the presidential pen, farmers in this country lost nearly a third of their markets. Farm prices plummeted and tens of thousands of farmers went bankrupt. A bushel of wheat that sold for $1 in 1929 was selling for a mere 30 cents by 1932.

With the collapse of agriculture, rural banks failed in record numbers, dragging down hundreds of thousands of their customers. Nine thousand banks closed their doors in the United States between 1930 and 1933. The stock market, which had regained much of the ground it had lost since the previous October, tumbled 20 points on the day Hoover signed Smoot-Hawley into law, and fell almost without respite for the next two years. (The market’s high, as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, was set on Sept. 3, 1929, at 381. It hit its 1929 low of 198 on Nov. 13, then rebounded to 294 by April 1930. It declined again as the tariff bill made its way toward Hoover’s desk in June and did not bottom out until it reached a mere 41 two years later. It would be a quarter-century before the Dow would climb to 381 again.)

The shrinkage in world trade brought on by the tariff wars helped set the stage for World War II a few years later. In 1929, the rest of the world owed American citizens $30 billion. Germany’s Weimar Republic was struggling to pay the enormous reparations bill imposed by the disastrous Treaty of Versailles. When tariffs made it nearly impossible for foreign businessmen to sell their goods in American markets, the burden of their debts became massively heavier and emboldened demagogues like Adolf Hitler. “When goods don’t cross frontiers, armies will,” warns an old but painfully true maxim.

Smoot-Hawley by itself should lay to rest the myth that Hoover was a free market practitioner, but there is even more to the story of his administration’s interventionist mistakes. Within a month of the stock market crash, he convened conferences of business leaders for the purpose of jawboning them into keeping wages artificially high even though both profits and prices were falling. Consumer prices plunged almost 25 percent between 1929 and 1933 while nominal wages on average decreased only 15 percent - translating into a substantial increase in wages in real terms, a major component of the cost of doing business. As economist Richard Ebeling notes, “The ‘high-wage’ policy of the Hoover administration and the trade unions … succeeded only in pricing workers out of the labor market, generating an increasing circle of unemployment.”

Hoover dramatically increased government spending for subsidy and relief schemes. In the space of one year alone, from 1930 to 1931, the federal government’s share of GNP soared from 16.4 percent to 21.5 percent. Hoover’s agricultural bureaucracy doled out hundreds of millions of dollars to wheat and cotton farmers even as the new tariffs wiped out their markets. His Reconstruction Finance Corporation ladled out billions more in business subsidies. Commenting decades later on Hoover’s administration, Rexford Guy Tugwell, one of the architects of Franklin Roosevelt’s policies of the 1930s, explained, “We didn’t admit it at the time, but practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started.”

Though Hoover at first did lower taxes for the poorest of Americans, Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen in their sweeping “A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror” stress that he “offered no incentives to the wealthy to invest in new plants to stimulate hiring.” He even taxed bank checks, “which accelerated the decline in the availability of money by penalizing people for writing checks.”

In September 1931, with the money supply tumbling and the economy reeling from the impact of Smoot-Hawley, the Fed imposed the biggest hike in its discount rate in history. Bank deposits fell 15 percent within four months and sizable, deflationary declines in the nation’s money supply persisted through the first half of 1932.

Compounding the error of high tariffs, huge subsidies and deflationary monetary policy, Congress then passed and Hoover signed the Revenue Act of 1932. The largest tax increase in peacetime history, it doubled the income tax. The top bracket actually more than doubled, soaring from 24 percent to 63 percent. Exemptions were lowered; the earned income credit was abolished; corporate and estate taxes were raised; new gift, gasoline and auto taxes were imposed; and postal rates were sharply hiked.

Can any serious scholar observe the Hoover administration’s massive economic intervention and, with a straight face, pronounce the inevitably deleterious effects as the fault of free markets? Schweikart and Allen survey some of the wreckage:

By 1933, the numbers produced by this comedy of errors were staggering: national unemployment rates reached 25 percent, but within some individual cities, the statistics seemed beyond comprehension. Cleveland reported that 50 percent of its labor force was unemployed; Toledo, 80 percent; and some states even averaged over 40 percent. Because of the dual-edged sword of declining revenues and increasing welfare demands, the burden on the cities pushed many municipalities to the brink. Schools in New York shut down, and teachers in Chicago were owed some $20 million. Private schools, in many cases, failed completely. One government study found that by 1933 some fifteen hundred colleges had gone belly-up, and book sales plummeted. Chicago’s library system did not purchase a single book in a year-long period.
Posted by: Rhinehold at February 18, 2013 1:20 PM
Comment #361820

Doughboy writes; “What I talk about here is letting the American people take responsibility for themselves. If they come to the conclusion that our policies were a mistake, they can switch back to your people or somebody else. That was what the Framers decided on.”

Once again, the same juvenile, delusional, comic-script thinking.

Mistakes are so easily corrected thinks Daugherty…just a pencil eraser will do the job. Put your eraser to the nearly $17 Trillion debt that burdens every single American and tell us how quickly your liberal policies can erase it.

Military mistakes cost lives and if extreme enough, can cost a nation its life.

Posted by: Royal Flush at February 18, 2013 2:13 PM
Comment #361823

You don’t check your facts all that well. I never said the stock market crash all by itself was to blame, though it likely didn’t do the economy any favors.

I think what kept 1987 from being as major a problem for the economy in general was that the law by that time had contained most losses to Wall Street. It wasn’t a great day for brokers and traders, but for most other Americans, it didn’t cause a major headache, because it didn’t crash the banks or undermine their ability to finance things.

As for 1921? 1921 is seen by many to be a correction on the Wartime economy. In that, it could be much like the rather severe percentage loss in 1947, which itself didn’t do much damage.

**** happens. The question is, how are the stresses from those events redistributed or contained?

Rather than invest myself in ideological theories, mine is more a theory of interactions.

On one level, you have bad habits on the consumer level, then on the business level. Stuff that is short-term profitable, but which weakens the bottom lines of individuals and corporations, in respect to economic shocks.

This can get particularly bad if we’re talking about financing that keeps people employed, or keeps consumers spending.

On another level, you have problems of interconnection, where businesses that are intended to be low-risk supports for the economy, like depository banks, pension funds, charities, etc, get tied into high risk enterprises that almost as a law of nature tend to faceplant from time to time.

You also get problems when banks and other institutions develop whole layers worth of obligations and counter obligations, where when one risks destruction, all the rest risk destruction with it. It was one of the reasons that Lehman Brothers was such a panic-inducing bankruptcy.

You’re thinking on the level of correction and countercorrection. But this wasn’t simply a massive correction for the Housing bubble. If it were merely a correction, housing prices would have rebounded quicker.

No, what happened was more structural. On one side, you had the credit freeze, and on the other, you had the difficulties in determining the worth of assets being used to support the banks.

The question then becomes why the housing crisis started this. The answer is, real estate was merely a foundational layer for whole layers of derived assets, and it’s that market that both enabled the housing market to get that out of sync with financial reality, and which endangered the economy as a whole, with all the big banks and investment houses just stuck together in a web of debts, bets, and expected payoffs that the collapse of credit for different companies, like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, threw into doubt.

The simple fact of the matter is that people do stupid things to make money, and often get away with it, if they’re quick and ruthless enough. The competitive pressures take these bad ideas and make them market norms, until event come to a head and force the correction. Because economic exchanges are largely symbolic, systems as complex as ours are vulnerable to essentially being reprogrammed by market-manipulative practices to allow some really foolish, but short-term profitable things to go on.

With a symbolic economy like ours, it’s impossible to avoid the ups and downs, the booms and busts, but it is possible to confine the problems with high-risk competitive speculative fields, and to make sure that both investors and company owners are made aware of the full extent of their business’s exposure.

The key thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want the system jumping on to bad trends and making them worse, and this is where the problem with austerity in these markets comes up. It’s also where you get in to trouble with letting the markets become so interconnected and in the dark in the first place.

This is what makes 1987 different from 1929. Your banks aren’t compromised by the stock drop, so the economic trouble stays largely confined to the risk takers.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 18, 2013 5:45 PM
Comment #361824


I am not so much arguing about the causes of the Depression. Nobody really knows these things. I am mostly trying to explain that to you. You make the assumptions about the causes of the depression that are not supported by facts. It is the same myth I learned in HS. It is simplistic to the point of being pernicious.

The big arrogance of Americans is to not consider the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles and the massive reparations and debt the Germans were paying. This reparations problem was the major international challenge of the 1920s and was one of the reasons so much gold was sitting in the NY Fed.

One of our economic problems is the rapid rise of China and how to adjust to the rapid change. We look at small potato regulations while ignoring the dragon in the room. One of the reasons why Obama has been unsuccessful is that he does not have control of all the tools.

You are a moralist. I am pragmatic. We see the world differently. I can understand you, but I doubt you understand me. Your world has villains and heroes. Mine has them too, but more important is usually the overall system. The crash of 1929 was not caused by greedy individuals, at least not directly. It was caused by lots of people making what looked like rational decisions. The same was true in 2008.

You have to look to the points of leverage. You talk about austerity. Nobody really wants austerity, but there is sometimes not much money. You cannot spend your way to prosperity.

Posted by: C&J at February 18, 2013 6:16 PM
Comment #361830

Re filbustering nominees, I just found this from Joe Biden as he voted to filibuster Bolton.

“The vote we are about to take … is about whether the Senate will allow the President to dictate to a co-equal branch of government how … to fulfill our constitutional responsibility under the advice and consent clause. It is that basic. I believe it is totally unacceptable for the President of the United States, Democrat or Republican—and both have tried—to dictate to the Senate how he, the president, thinks we should proceed.”

Posted by: C&J at February 18, 2013 9:14 PM
Comment #361846

Want to see Chinese hackers in action? Check out this video from techcrunch:

Posted by: BZA at February 19, 2013 1:36 PM
Comment #361848

I never said I was in favor of filibustering Bolton. There was, however, a little more grounds for it as he was completely hostile to the body where he was sent to to represent our interests. Hagel was once the choice for the position he is up for now by of one of the Republicans who is currently filibustering him. Plus, if you look at the history of this group of republicans in the senate and how many times they used the filibuster it has become a “boy who cried wolf” scenario. They have lost all credibility by filibustering just about eveything they could.

This is personal and sour grapes on the GOP’s part. They’re not going to get a neo-con in that post nor are they gonna get someone who agrees with them and their idiotic foreign policy ideas.

Posted by: tcsned at February 19, 2013 3:56 PM
Comment #361854


The people considering filibustering Hagel think they are justified too.

I am not talking sour grapes. I give the Bolton example simple to - once again - show Stephen that he is being silly when he talks about Republicans being so different.

As you know, Hagel has not been filibustered. Reid should call the bluff if he wants to make a big deal.

Posted by: C&J at February 19, 2013 5:36 PM
Comment #361861

I’d agree that the difference between the two instances isn’t great. I would say, however, Hagel’s foreign policy positions haven’t changed since 2000 when McCain suggested that Hagel would be his pick for SecDef and was his campaign co-chair. It has been the GOP that has changed to this insane neo-con position that is just an uglier and dumber version of what I didn’t like about traditional Democratic foreign policy pre-Clinton. Though it’s hard to tell what any of these clowns in the senate believe other than they hate everything Obama does no matter what it is. These guys would have a little more ground to stand no had they asked some serious questions about the foreign policy challenges that we currently face rather than grandstanding and posturing or using his nomination to float bizarre conspiracy theories about Benghazi which he had nothing to do with and has no more information than they do.

Would you also agree that the GOP has abused the filibuster in the last 4 years?

Posted by: tcsned at February 19, 2013 7:38 PM
Comment #361864


Hagel changed remarkably around 2006. That is when he had the falling out with his erstwhile Republican allies. He opposed the surge and still refuses to recognize that history showed him to be in error.

But we are not debating the relative merits of Hagel v Bolton. The relevant factor is that the minority party in both cases opposed the president’s pick and acted in almost exactly the same way both times.

Re Libya - I wrote before that I do not blame President Obama for the actual attack. It is a dangerous business. But I think he sent Susan Rice to lie about it not being a terror attack. I mean, it was amazingly stupid or dishonest that she said all those things on the talk shows. IMO, the administration should have been honest or said nothing.

Posted by: C&J at February 19, 2013 8:13 PM
Comment #361875

History is not so cut and dry. There were other issues already trending before the surge such as the Sunnis being paid to turn in Al Qaeda operatives plus getting generally sick of being targets for US military because of the insurgents in their midsts. Plus, we have pretty much traded one bad situation for a less than ideal Shiite power block in the region. This story is not done and saying that one tactical move in an otherwise disastrous decision was good or wise is incomplete at best. This same group of senators seem to be itching for a war with Iran and see Hagel as an impediment to their unwise plans ignoring the fact that the president at this point ain’t buying what they’re selling.

I also think its really misplaced to be focused on whether or not the administration made a political calculation to try to downplay the terrorist attack in Benghazi and not focusing on protecting our diplomats in the field and what to do to give them the best chances for this not to happen again is just political posturing on their part too. Do I doubt that the Obama admin did this, not really. Am I surprised or that upset, not really. Did it either hurt or help the people in that annex who were killed, no. I don’t think they’ve proven anything in their months of hand wringing. Also, coming from the crew that used bogus aluminum tubes to whip up fear of a mushroom cloud to help get us into a less than wise war in Iraq now being upset that someone would play politics with foreign policy is disingenuous. If they had focused on the actual failures in security, which their own cuts to embassy security budgets were a part, then they would be focused where they should rather than being booty hurt for getting out-politicked by the Obama admin.

To my earlier question, do you agree that the GOP senators have abused the filibuster in the last 4 years? Or do you think this should be they way the senate does business even when the GOP retakes it in the future? 60 votes for everything?

Posted by: tcsned at February 20, 2013 6:23 AM
Comment #361879

“There were other issues already trending before the surge such as the Sunnis being paid to turn in Al Qaeda operatives..”

Exactly. The native Iraqi Sunnis recognized that they were on the verge of destruction without a peace agreement with the US. Their Baathist insurgency had been compromised by their foreign al-Qaeda Sunni allies. The Shiites were pushing them out of Baghdad. They were engaged not only in a fight with the US occupation but also internal struggles with al-Qaeda which had also ignited a vicious civil war with the Shiites.

So, they made a deal with the US. They would cease their insurgency against the US and cooperate in eradicating al-Qaeda in Iraq. In exchange, the US would protect their interests in Baghdad, arm their militias in the Sunni Triangle for operations against al_Qaeda and reverse some of the anti-Baathist decrees enacted at the end of the war.

This agreement set the stage for the “surge.” Additional US troops were deployed principally to Baghdad to suppress Shiite militias and protect the Sunni population which was now cooperative in anti-al-Qaeda operations. The “surge” operations were not about fighting the “insurgency” but rather about suppressing a civil war in which one of the parties (Sunnis) had agreed to cease fire. The surge was more a political victory than a military.

Posted by: Rich at February 20, 2013 9:53 AM
Comment #361891

Tcsned & Rich

The Sunni awakening was necessary but not sufficient to defeat AQI. The surge was also necessary but not sufficient. Without the presence of the “strongest tribe” i.e. the USMC, AQI would have beheaded most of the resistance as well as their children. One of my most unpleasant memories is that of a man and his 11 year old son beheaded by AQI for the crime of selling rice and vegetables.

RE Obama obfuscation – I don’t think any administration should openly lie for political reasons or be that stupid. Those are the two choices.

RE Filibusters – the sides are very continuous. I believe in reforming the filibuster so that the guy really has to do it, al la Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Democrats rejected that reform, evidently since they plan to use the tool in future.


I don’t know about all of Iraq. I spent my year in Western Anbar as part of the surge. My job was to engage tribes, build stuff and calm tempers. I know that many of the former fighters against us came to our side. I am reasonably certain that I shared meals with men who would have and perhaps actually did try to kill me a short time before. These were insurgents, not AQI. They fought honorably and sometimes well. They could not have changed their minds w/o our protection. The bad guys were trying to kill anyone who even talked moderation. I heard the same story over in different places and over standing on the once bloody ground. I am morally certain that the surge saved at least Western Iraq from becoming and Al Qaeda stronghold. We physically eliminated thousands of terrorists, who came from all over the Middle East to fight us. This is not a story I heard; it is something I saw. We saved many lives because of the surge and made the situation better for many more.

Looking back with the luxury of hindsight, I doubt the wisdom of the invasion in 2003 and certainly how it was executed after. But we came around to a workable counter insurgency strategy in 2006, which was executed over the next two years. We did what they said could not be done. We defeated an Islamic insurgency on its home ground on the battlefield of its choosing. We gave the region a chance. Whether or not it takes it, I don’t know. That is beyond my expertise.

Many Iraqis risked their lives to protect mine and I am grateful to them. But they were risking their lives to protect their own country and families too. Their bravery certainly exceeds mine. I was there among them in their desert and in some danger, but my family was always safe and I would not have to stay there forever. They had to live with the reality of the greater risk.One of our good friends was murdered only a few months ago.It still is not over. I question the wisdom of leaving as quickly as we did, but that too is something beyond my pay grade.

When it comes to Iraq, I determined that I would tell what I saw and felt, but not speculate about the big questions about which I had no personal experience. I was in Anbar province 2007-8. I saw the war going on and I saw that we won. I saw peace and a start of prosperity return to that benighted country. I saw people able to express themselves for the first time in their lives

I agree that the surge was a political victory. But I learned for sure that there is no political victory unless you can establish basic security. Physical security, always and everywhere comes before anything else. We did it.

Posted by: C&J at February 20, 2013 6:32 PM
Comment #361897

Is it too late to abort Andrew Cuomo?

Posted by: BZA at February 20, 2013 8:08 PM
Comment #361899


Don’t disagree about the role of the USMC in not only taking on the most difficult military assignment in Iraq, Anbar Province in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, but having the political skill to negotiate a cease fire with the Baathist insurgents and arming and protecting them against their erstwhile allies, the foreign Sunni al-Qaeda.

For all the discussion about the surge, very little credit is given to the almost silent victory over the Baathist Sunni insurgents. It preceded the surge itself which was almost exclusively focused in Baghdad and directed at the Shiite militias which were threatening genocide against the minority Sunni population.

I find questionable though your assertion that we defeated an Islamic insurgency on its home grounds. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was a foreign Sunni group that attached itself to the mostly secular Baathist Sunni insurgency. Useful in the early days of the insurgency as an adjunct fighting force but disasterous in the long run as they gained control of the decimated insurgency. Particularly disasterous as they initiated a religious civil war with the Shiites. In my opinion, it was the native Sunni leadership that eventually recognized that their survival and way of life was threatened by al-Qaeda in Iraq. They eventually threw their lot with the US. It was the native Sunni population that was key in defeating al-Qaeda. In essence, al-Qaeda in Iraq defeated itself with its excesses and fundamentalism. That is probably a good sign for the future of fundamentalism in the Middle East.

Posted by: Rich at February 20, 2013 8:29 PM
Comment #361902

It seems his main problem, for you, is that he disagreed with the Surge. Thus, all that wisdom and knowledge you imputed to him before had to be just an illusion.

But if you look at what most people thought of the surge then, and then notice that even now people have a low opinion of our extended wars, the question becomes why haven’t our Secretaries of Defense gotten with the program?

The whole point of civilian control is to keep control of the military in the hands of elected officials, and by that, keep the military accountable to the people. We can pump up a bunch of jingoistic fervor about it, but the truth is, we don’t want our military in charge of our government.

America thought the Iraq war would be Gulf War II, complete with a nice, clean victory that kept America’s casualties low. But your people ignored the warning signs of the insurgency, and then decided to A) poke the stick in the hornet’s nest, then B) Leave that buzzing hornets nest to create further havoc for six months, while playing terrorist whack-a-mole.

We wasted a lot of lives, a lot of money, and a lot of prestige in the name of a policy ****-up.

And what did your people do? Well, I think it would suffice to say that your folks depended upon an approach that focused mainly on the media, and getting people to support the war despite its problems. Homefront morale, rather than a proper military strategy, was judged the historic weakpoint, your lesson learned from Vietnam.

The real trouble with Vietnam, though, was that people at the top weren’t honest with themselves, or all that willing to listen to anybody else, about what was going on. Especially in the Bush White House. The case for war wasn’t so systematically wrong, I believe, because folks were intentionally lying on every bit, but because folks took the cause of going to war against Saddam to be more important than scruples about the quality of the evidence, or the testing of one’s pet theories to be anything else than an attack, a collaboration with the enemy.

It didn’t pay to contradict the theory until it was too late. And then it all became about justifying the war by either not admitting the case was faulty, or by identifying the war with the popular cause of fighting terrorism, despite the fact that it seemed our presence brought in more terrorists than it killed.

I didn’t complain when Iraq became less violent, and the deaths of our servicemembers became less frequent. After all, that’s what I wanted in the first place. The problem was, it was all too little, too late. We should have either avoided the war, or cut the insurgency off at the pass in the first place.

The egotism that let that unfold, the unwillingness to consider that they were wrong still haunts the GOP, and until it moves past it, it will be part of why I don’t trust the GOP to lead.

As for Benghazi, you haven’t just beat a dead horse on that subject, you’ve taken an M249 and emptied a drum magazine worth of ammo into it.

What we have here is a GOP politician who got a little too opportunistic, and decided to scapegoat the President even while events were unfolding. To cover for that blunder, Republicans have decided to treat the thing like a coverup, though I can’t see for the life of me what was really being covered up. Sure it merited investigation, but as anybody who has followed a developing news story knows, first impressions are often wrong and misleading.

All the information I have says that She and Obama passed on what was the professional opinion of the CIA at that point, as to what happened, and did so in good faith. There’s no crime, there’s no obvious distinction worth being a difference, and since Libya hasn’t descended into utter chaos, whatever pattern the GOP thought to imply was under way didn’t happen.

What this really is, is an after the fact justification of criticism that was stupid to begin with. Romney had to justify essentially calling the President an appeaser on this matter, a matter that later came back to bite Romney on the ass in the infamous “Please Proceed Governor” episode in that debate.

And you morons are still doing it. You’re still wasting taxpayer dollars perpetuating an effort to make a defeated candidate look like he didn’t stick his foot in his mouth.

And this after Iraq. In one case, we responded to a humanitarian crisis by getting involved in Libya, an effort that successfully deposed a tyrant without getting tens, hundreds, or even thousands of Americans killed. Four people die, and your folks are ringing the bells of defeatism over the whole policy, using Benghazi as if it were an omen of dark things to come. You wanted to make this into the Hostage Crisis in Teheran, because, among other things, the Romney campaign was aiming to replicate what Reagan and his friends did to get elected.

Only trouble is, if we’re comparing blunders, Bush’s is far worse, and Obama’s problem in Benghazi just wasn’t bloodsoaked or sustained enough to invite the appearance of weakness, as opposed to the Republicans just beating people over the head with the idea in the vain hopes that people outside the Republican circles would take on the idea.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 20, 2013 11:26 PM
Comment #361921


We didn’t so much defeat the Baathists as co-opt them.

We made a big mistake in the start, IMO, by wanted to be too completely w/o the former Baathists. After WWII we worked with former Nazis. After the fall of communism we worked with former communists.


The surge worked. What did “MY” people do?. I volunteered to go to Anbar province, at that time the deadliest theater of the war. What did you do to support what you believed? I shared with you ground truth about the surge. I don’t suppose a kid like you can understand the world of men.

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Comment #363111

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