Thursday, August 28. 2008
Dennis Perrin: Demver -- Day Three. Looking at Glen Greenwald's blog last night, I noticed that he did a "radio" interview with Dennis Perrin, author of a short book called Savage Mules: The Democrats and Endless War. I can't recommend the interview, which mostly consisted of Greenwald trying to browbeat Perrin into admitting that Obama isn't as bad as McCain, and for that matter Gore wouldn't have been as bad as Bush, and Perrin trying his best to resist. If the art of the interviewer is to make the guest look good, Greenwald has a lot to learn, but Perrin could have made some useful points but didn't. Two probable differences between Bush and Gore are that Gore would have factored more reconstruction into war cost estimates and Gore would have been more realistic about what the US could afford. Bush handwaved the whole postwar expense in order to rig the balance sheet, not that he ever had a clue how to rebuild a country anyway -- indeed, where he got caught was in his administration's failure to handle Hurricane Katrina. Whether those factors would have made much difference in Afghanistan is something one can argue many ways about: Gore would certainly have launched that war; the initial war itself would likely have been the same, given institutional constraints; Gore probably would have made a more concerted rebuilding effort, but many of the reasons "nation building" failed were deeply structured; it's impossible to say whether Gore would have done a better job of handling the critical diplomatic relationships with Pakistan, Iran, India, and Russia. Gore might have done better in Afghanistan if he had been able to defuse the major festering sores in the middle east -- Israel and Iraq -- but his whole past history was aligned with keeping those sores festering. Again, the only good reason for thinking Gore might have done better is how badly Bush actually did. Remember, though, that before Bush invaded Iraq, the sanctions and bombing programs under Clinton-Gore had undermined Iraqi living standards possibly with a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. Doing nothing in that context may have been better than doing what Bush did, but not much. But to do anything else would have required a mindset adjustment and political will that Gore (for instance) had never shown any proclivity towards. (Only by losing did he manage to free himself up to the point where now such a change seems plausible.)
On the other hand, Perrin's convention reporting takes some amusing digs at the Democrats, not least the donkey pics. The times mean that we're all Democrats now, but some sense of critical distance is still necessary. Greenwald kept pressing Perrin to admit that we would have been better off had Gore won over Bush in 2000. The obvious response is that we would have been better off still had Ralph Nader won. I watched the Bush-Gore foreign policy debate in 2000, and the only military intervention they disagreed on was Haiti -- which, by the way, Bush wound up invading to overthrow the president that Clinton had re-installed after a right-wing coup resulted in tens of thousands of refugees heading towards the US. Most of those policies Bush and Gore agreed on were dangerous and despicable and, significantly, were opposed by Nader. In foreign policy, at least, Nader was the only candidate in 2000 who offered an alternative to America's increasingly hapless imperial stance. If Gore really was a "lesser evil" than Bush, he should have made an effort to win back the Nader voters, either by showing some concern and respect for Nader's positions, or by showing that Bush was far worse than anyone imagined. He did neither, preferring to build his majority on the right, against the left. He lost his gamble, then went meekly into retirement, quickly forgetting anything he had said about fighting for his voters.
I don't mean to rub this in, but I don't see much value in backing down either. Clearly we underestimated the Bush threat. Clearly, so did the Democrats. The difference is that most Nader voters recognized what Bush was doing in real time, whereas the Democrats kept playing along, making things worse. Even now they aren't all that sure what happened to them, why, what their role in it was, let alone what to do about it. How pathetic is that? Pathetic enough that they keep blaming the people who were right all along for their half-hearted losses in 2000 and 2004.
Glen Greenwald: What's missing from the Democratic convention? Once again, the Democrats have failed to use their opportunity to educate the electorate to fully take the Republicans to task for "the sheer radicalism and extremism of the last eight years." Greenwald has a list, which starts with the trampling of the very fundamentals of American law and civil liberties that woke him from political apathy and drove him to write his little broadside, How Would a Patriot Act? One could add a long book to that list. Instead, Greenwald provides quotes from Republican speakers back in 2004, showing how pros use their convention to hack to shreds a candidate like John Kerry. The point is especially well taken given how parallel Kerry's and McCain's weaknesses are. As Greenwald points out, the Republicans are unlikely to miss their opportunity to do the same to Obama.
Looks like Gallup is showing about a 6-point bounce for Obama from the convention. Thus far that's netted a 0.7% gain over at FiveThirtyEight, nudging Nevada into Obama's column, while Ohio and Virginia are still narrowly leaning McCain (1.1% and 0.6% respectively).
I hear Al Gore gave a good speech tonight. I remember pundits going on and on about how obsessed Gore is with becoming president -- how if he lost he'd lose all purpose in life. This, of course, was from the same people who told us that Bush was so secure in himself that he'd just shrug off defeat -- the same people who told us that Bush would be a fun guy to have a [non-alcoholic] beer with.
Excerpt: Vicodin abuse. Vicodin.
Tracked: Jun 06, 02:01
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