Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays

I'll be away from the intertubes for the next couple of weeks, so here is wishing each and every one who may read this a safe and happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

American Society And Torture.

I recall as a boy reading about the treatment received by American POW's in Vietnam. I had a book on the war, and one of the pictures in that book was a drawing of an American man on his knees, his arms draped over a pole which ran across his upper back. He was leaned forward, and the position looked very uncomfortable. At the time, I knew full well that this was an illustration of torture. But in modern day society that very same picture would be termed a "stress technique", and there are many who would hotly defend the use of such methods against detainees in the war on terror.

You may be asking yourself, "self... why has friky started getting all philosophical about the attitude of society as a whole on what is or isn't torture". The answer may be found in this story on MSNBC titled 'Staff fired over prank-call shock treatments'.

Here is the gist of the story. The Judge Rotenberg Education Center is some sort of institution that caters to "troubled" youths. One of their charges was released, and called the center pretending to be a supervisor who was ordering two teens be punished for supposed offenses committed earlier in the day. The punishment which the "supervisor" imposed upon these teens (one 16, the other 19) was shock treatment with one boy being given 29 shocks and the other boy 77. We have this blurb from the MSNBC article about this technique.
The center is believed to be the only school in the United States that uses two-second skin-shock punishments to change destructive behavior. The center says the treatments are used in a minority of cases and only with parental, medical, psychiatric and court approval.
In other words the shocks are being used by this institution to break difficult patients. As far as I'm concerned they are torturing patients into submission, evidently with the hearty thumbs up by the parents and the courts.

No where in this article is the word torture mentioned. The following blurb comes the closest:
The center has survived two attempts by the state to close it over allegations that its unorthodox methods amount to abuse.
Hello?! Abuse?!! Try TORTURE! Those unorthodox methods do not "amount to" torture, they define that ghastly word. Yet somehow the state has not been able to close the facility which means that some authority out there is just fine with having troubled teens being broken by torture.

Who knows how long this has been going on. I know full well that the evil and brutality of various institutions through out the history of America has been a very badly kept secret. But I am really outraged that such treatment would somehow be acceptable in modern day America. This isn't something that happened behind closed doors with a secret to be kept by those involved. This was official policy which went off the tracks because some patient who had been released took advantage of the system in order to mete out punishment to two undeserving boys. To me the outrage here is not that the system was flummoxed by an out patient. The outrage is that we allow a system which, as a remedy for 'destructive behavior' saw those teens be repeatedly shocked until they were broken.

It makes me wonder about our nations moral bearing. This is fundamental to our basic understanding of what is good and evil, regardless of what religion or sect you belong to. We have television shows glorifying the most heinous forms of torture as a way to save our cities, Americans using the very techniques once used against us which we decried as torture, and a school which uses electric shock to correct "destructive behavior" with the blessings of a judge and the parents. Far from endeavoring to guide our nation by the light of human rights and equality, our nation seems to be determined to tread path of societies which embrace torture and humiliation of those who are considered problems or less worthy than the rest of us. I just thank my lucky stars that when I was acting out in my teenage years that I didn't live in Massachusetts.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Pentagon Throws Petraeus Under The Bus.

Check out these conflicting stories about the Turkish military bombing the Kurds in northern Iraq.

First, The Guardian reports that General Petraeus first learned about the attacks as they were happening:
State Department and Defense Department officials in Washington and Baghdad said top U.S. commanders in Iraq didn't know about the incursion until the first of two waves of Turkish planes were already on their way - either crossing the border or already over it.

The Turkish military did not inform the American military as quickly as had been agreed. That meant the U.S. had to rush to clear air space for the incursion, two defense officials and a State Department official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

One Washington official said the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, was angered by the development. Another said American diplomats complained to the Turks about it.
There may well be a fine reason that General Petraeus was not warned about the coming incursion: The Iraqi government would freak out at having Turkey invading Iraqi territory, and General Petraeus has to work with those folks to try to get this quagmire on firmer ground. If Petraeus could come out expressing shock and dismay at the Turkish incursion it would make his job a lot easier... IF it is really true that Turkey just hauled off and went to battle without telling us. Which, as it turns out, is a mighty big if. Check out this article by Raw Story:
Turkey informed the United States well in advance before launching weekend air raids into northern Iraq against Kurdish rebel bases, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

"We had ample notification of the air strikes by the Turkish Air Force against PKK (Kurdish separatist group) positions in northern Iraq," spokesman Geoff Morrell said, confirming for the first time that Washington knew of Ankara's plans.

"It was communicated to us through the Ankara coordination center, this has been opened for some months now, in which you have Turkish personnel along with US military personnel working to share intelligence."

He told reporters the coordination had been "adequate" and said the Pentagon had nothing to complain about.
So we have two possibilities. Petraeus was warned. He was just acting like he was caught by surprise in order to maintain a better relationship with the locals. I don't like this particular possibility because of the lessons learned by us fevered liberals during the moveon N.Y. Times ad debacle. General Petraeus' motives and outstanding integrity must needs lead to the ultimate conclusion that he was entirely honest in this instance, lest in questioning his motives we open ourselves to condemnation as un-American dimwits and loudmouthed louts.

Which leads to the other possibility, which must be true if Petraeus' honor is to be maintained. The Pentagon was notified but did not forward that information to their Iraqi commander.

I tend to believe this possibility, and not just in a liberal knee jerk reaction to stop a moveon ad debacle repeat. But because this explanation would be so symbolic of the way things in Iraq have been handled since day one of the invasion. The thought that the top commander in Iraq would be kept out of the loop on the military incursion of Iraq by Turkey just boggles the mind. What sort of inane idiocy, what hapless cronyism, what bumbling moron brought this latest embarrassment to the fore? Exactly who is responsible for making sure that our forces in Iraq do not get into a hot shooting war with our Nato allies from Turkey? How could they have overlooked giving this crucial piece of information to the top American General in Iraq? They thought it would be a good idea if Petraeus were awakened by some breathless aide in the middle of the night with tales of radar blips descending from Turkey in an unannounced campaign into Iraq?

Once the person responsible for this bumbling affair is brought to light, the President will almost certainly give them a medal and a promotion.

By letting this happen the Pentagon really threw Petraeus under the proverbial bus. He is sputtering about proper notification and anger at the provocation... and then the Pentagon tells the world that they were notified. It makes Petraeus seem like he's out of the loop at the very least and can not help but weaken his position with the locals.

I eagerly await the honorable defense of General Petraeus by the same loud mouthed right wing koolaid drinkers who so loudly decried Move On about the Times ad. I have the feeling the I will be eagerly awaiting for quite a while.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We've Already Had This Debate!

I've been watching Morning Joe on MSNBC a bit recently, and Joe Scarbororough has come out full bore defending waterboarding against his guest host, Mika Brzezinski and roving reporter David Shuster.

I have yet to locate video or the transcript from this mornings show, but in watching it live I found myself a bit flustered at one of the mutually agreed upon determinations by the protagonists. It seems that everyone agrees that it is a good thing that we as a nation are having this debate about whether or not we should employ torture in order to gain intelligence. To which I say poppycock!

The thought that we as a nation have been brought to the point of parsing what is or is not torture, and debating whether or not our national policy should allow for this or that technique is disturbing from my point of view for several reasons.

America has already had this debate. We settled this when our forefathers instituted safeguards insuring the basic human rights for people who are imprisoned by the federal government. It was settled when the founding fathers saw fit to bind our government to international treaties, and America signed the Geneva conventions. It was settled when the founding fathers gave constitutional authority to the Congress to determine the treatment of captured enemies, and Congress then wrote into law, on several occassions, statutes expressly prohibiting the ill treatment of captives. This debate was settled when the founding fathers set the standard for the care of prisoners passed from them to the Clinton administration, and overturned by the Bush administration.

It is instructive that at no point from the founding of this nation til the current administration has there been any significant portion of society who have argued for torturing captives. Simply because modern day neocons have outlandish theories and outlooks on the power of the President, who in turn can be counted upon to take the wrong headed point of view on a case by case basis, does not mean they have the right to open a debate long settled by the nation. It has always been fundamentally un-American to torture captives, period.

To now say it is a good thing to debate torturing prisoners is to take a massive step in the wrong direction, no matter how the debate is settled. This debate is closed, and anyone who thinks it should be open is frankly advocating an un-American viewpoint, no matter what their superficial logic is in wanting to debate the issue.

The fact that we are now telling the world that we find this a debatable issue takes away our right to influence the same debate in other nations. Who are we to maintain the possible right to torture our prisoners, and then call upon other nations to treat their prisoners humanely. Just yesterday we were witness to the chief legal counsel from Guantanamo Bay being unable to cogently answer whether or not he believed Iran would violate the Geneva conventions if they were to waterboard Americans. This just a couple of months after the chief legal advisor for the State Department echoed that sentiment by refusing to speculate on whether a foriegn nation waterboarding American citizens would be in violation of the Geneva conventions. This administration has removed the ability of our own government to insist upon the humane treatment of our own citizenry abroad.

With the stated inability of this administration to protect citizens who are taken captive by other nations, and the fact that the Military Commissions Act which passed Congress last year applies to American citizens, it is absolutely breathtaking to consider that under this one administration the rights of American citizens to be treated humanely have been stripped both domestically and internationally.

Let me touch upon the oft stated contention by Scarborough and other torture apologists that waterboarding is not torture. One interrogation technique widely accepted as torture are feigned executions. Now there may be some out there who believe holding a gun to someones head and pulling the trigger on an empty chamber is an acceptable technique, but that is widely acknowleged to be a form of torture. Waterboarding is no different, and in fact is even more traumatic both psychologically and physically. Victims of waterboarding tell of not being able to take showers, or being terrified if they are caught in a rain storm. The purpose of waterboarding is to make a person believe they are being drowned to death, and thus it is a form of feigned execution which, in turn, is beyond all doubt a form of torture.

Finally, a word on the efficacy of torture. I was amazed while watching David Shuster on Morning Joe finally get badgered by Joe into conceding that if torture did lead to information which would save innocent lives that he would be willing to allow for the practice. Now I may well be in the minority on this, but I say no to this slippery slope. Because if torture works for us, it works for them. And the chances of me or you being blown up by some freaky terrorists as opposed to the chance of the average citizen of the middle east being blown up by a piece of American ordinance is absurdly miniscule. If we are going to allow it to save our lives, we are hypocrites if we expect them to behave like Americans used to, and by our own logic to take casualties as a result. We might as well just chuck the notion that led America to sign the Geneva conventions. I'm not willing to do that.

Also, as noted in my last post, if we are to concede that torturing people leads to intelligence that may save lives, we are left wondering why it is that the founding fathers and every generation following them until ours forbade the policy. I contend that the emergencies face by several of those generations posed a far greater threat to the very existence of the nation and it's citizenry at the time. Just look at the sacrifices of the various generations with food rationing, military drafts and so on, compared to the sacrifice of our generation in being called upon to do our part by shopping more! We are the ones so threatened that we have to toss aside the fundamental principles regarding the treatment of captives? It is just ridiculous to even concieve... but somehow it is good that we are having this debate.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Selling Our Souls For Dross

The evidence that this administration officially sanctioned the torture of suspects affiliated with Al Qaeda is simply irrefutable. The latest confirmation comes from John Kiriakou, the CIA officer who interrogated Abu Zubaydah.

Kiriakou says that waterboarding Zubaydah broke him in 35 seconds, after which he freely admitted to scores of plots and provided reams of extremely valuable intelligence. Kiriakou says that waterboarding is torture, and he thinks torturing detainees may have been necessary after 9/11: "What happens if we don't waterboard a person, and we don't get that nugget of information, and there's an attack," Kiriakou said. "I would have trouble forgiving myself."

This is the crux of the pro torture logic. The ends justify the means if the ends is to save innocent life from the terrorists. In fact, when considering the torture issue from that neoconnish us vs them, good/evil, black/white outlook, the sense of torturing Al Qaeda suspects isn't really even debatable. Of course the evildoers who want to kill us should be tortured in order to save innocent lives!

But it seems to me that that same logic may be used by all people throughout the course of human kind. In fact Andrew Sullivan's exposure of the Nazi justifications for torturing partisans (even to the point of calling it "enhanced interrogation") follow the modern day pro torture arguments precisely. Those partisans were captured out of uniform, plotting to kill indiscriminately far removed from any front line, resulting in random acts of violence which had to be stopped in the name of saving lives. Those arguments did not win the day at Nuremburg and the fact that the Bush administration is echoing the wrong side of those war crimes is beyond appalling.

In fact Kiriakou takes note of the example passed to us from the "greatest generation", and how they handled their intelligence gathering at the time. Yet rather than learning from that example, Kiriakou dismisses those old fashioned notions thusly:
I had heard stories of-- of captured German prisoners from the Second World War playing chess with their interrogators. And over the course of many weeks and months of playing chess they develop a rapport, and the German ended up giving information. Al Qaeda is not like a World War Two German POW. It's a different world.

These guys hate us more than they love life. And so they're not-- you're not gonna convince them that because you're a nice guy and they can trust you and they have a rapport with you that they're going to confess and-- and give you their operations. It's-- it's different. It's a different world.
Reading this, I don't think Kiriakou is well schooled in the attitudes of the generation which fought WWII. They were fed the most vitriolic propaganda instilling racism and hatred for the enemy. There can be no doubt as to the certain knowledge of that generation that the enemy at that time wanted every one of us dead, and that we were in a fight to bitter end... it was either us or them. It was ok with that generation to firebomb the enemies population centers for goodness sakes! The perception of modern day interrogators that the enemy we face today is particularly vicious and deadly is hardly a new found conviction only applicable to our generation.

Frankly, the truth of the matter is the WWII generation actually had a far greater reason to fear their enemy than we do to fear terrorists. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a four year war with the Axis. The death toll in the 6 year war on terror has not yet approached 10k. They were fighting the national superpowers of their ages, with huge war machines bent on world domination. We are fighting a backwards sect of religious fundamentalist cave dwelling freakazoids who are bent on world domination. Where are the stories of Axis prisoners being waterboarded in order to root out plots and stratagems which actually cost lives by the thousands in that war? Claiming that the modern threat to Americans is such that we are called upon to forsake the principles which our fathers and their fathers through the generations established is simply nonsensical. It really makes no sense, and yet that is how the torture apologists want us to think as they call upon you to be afraid and let that fear guide you in deciding whether or not to cast off the principles that make us American.

Past generations of Americans faced with mortal danger never responded to the crisis of their times by lowering themselves to the depths which the Bush administration has taken us to. They never officially condoned torture in order to save their own lives. Lives which they gave willingly in order to pass along fundamental ideals which guided America for over 230 years, but which ideals the Bush administration allowed to be subverted out of fear. I am just appalled that this happened with my generation... on our watch!

The Bush administration has cheapened the sacrifice, lives and suffering of past generations of patriots... and in the course of doing so we are telling history that our forefathers had it wrong. They should have broken their prisoners to save themselves. George Washington, facing the definition of worst threat to the nation while founding America by revolting against the world superpower of the day, was wrong to not break British prisoners in order to get intelligence. Roosevelt was wrong to not waterboard Axis prisoners and use the intelligence we would have gotten to save allied lives by the thousands.

There is no doubt in my mind on this simple fact. It is not our forefathers who were wrong to hold American ideals which found the mistreatment of prisoners unacceptable. It is this abominable President who is wrong.

The title of this post was coined by the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, describing the wests reliance upon intelligence gained by the most hideous forms of torture used by the tyrant of Tashkent as selling our souls for dross. If you link around enough, you can see that evidence for yourself, and it is particularly gruesome. The Uzbeki government barely attempts to conceal the awful truth. By way of graphic example they contend that two brothers whose bodies actually had water lines burned into them from being dipped alive into boiling water had died after engaging in a tea fight. I'm certain there were many plots and terrorists exposed in the final moments of those brothers existence, and the thought that our intelligence services would actually use such evidence should shock the conscience. Shame!

We may not be boiling people alive, but our allies are. And it seems to me it's harder for America to call upon the rest of the world to toe the line on humanitarian concerns when it is clear that the President of the United States authorized the torture of prisoners. We sell our souls for dross and impugn the past sacrifices of those patriots who handed down American ideals rather than allowing fear of the threats they faced to forsake those principles by allowing this President and his cronies to get away with this. There really has to be an accounting for this. A war crime in 1946 must still be a war crime in 2001 and beyond.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

On Faith And Freedom

John Kennedy, Sept 12 1960 at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute"
Mitt Romney today at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."
Comparing the above quotes brings to mind a paraphrase of the classic Lloyd Bentsen take down of little Danny Quayle: "[Governor], I served with Jack Kennedy: I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. [Governor], you're no Jack Kennedy"

The Romney quote above is one of the most absurd assertions ever uttered in the history of political platitudity. (Hah! A new word!) Jesus Christ, who by Romneys own testimony "is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind" walked the Earth and spread his message founding the Christian faith in a land brutally occupied by the Romans. In fact one may argue that if not for the absolutely pathological outlook by the Romans on their subjects (which led them to do things like publicly torture and crucify common criminals as an example to the local populace) that Jesus would never have been offered as the sacrifice for mankind, which happening is integral to the Christian faith.

Jesus' disciples then spread the gospel in lands far and wide, and every single kingdom they visited suffered under various forms of brutal tyranny. They all died at the hands of brutal tyrants in the course of spreading their message and building one of the worlds great religions. If Romney were actually correct in asserting that "freedom and faith endure together or perish alone" Christianity would have died in the cradle, a forgotten cult based upon a cannabalistic off shoot of Judaism.

There are a myriad of examples of strong churches, amazing tales of faith and spirituality in the face of institutional oppression. In fact repression is one of the greatest reasons that any given populace turns to spirituality. Just look at the example of the early American slaves. Consider the foundations which led to the mythic status of the "Negro Spiritual", emblematic of inspirational faith and spiritual fortitude in the face of hopeless generational bondage. Now tell me that faith and freedom must live together or perish alone.

The message Romney is really trying to sell here is that religion should be influenced by the political system, as religion should also influence the system. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that overt spirituality is quite often the very foundation of tyranny and oppression. Romney rails against "radical violent Islam" in this very speech. Consider the governments which are founded upon a radical interpretation of that faith, and you are witness to some of the most backwards, illiberal and repressive regimes in human history. The Holy Catholic Church spent most of the middle ages brutally repressing various subcultures and other sects and religions based upon a warped mingling of faith and government. I contend that faith and freedom may certainly coexist with each other, but one is not neccessary in order to have the other. In fact intertwaining faith and freedom may lead to the death of one or the other... or both.

The evangelical audience Romney was reaching out to with this speech may appreciate the sentiment that insists freedom and religion endure together. But I'm not certain that they will be happy, understanding that their sectarian beliefs are not the guiding principles of the faith which influences our freedom.

Beyond that evangelical audience, people who are paying attention to this speech must be given pause at the expressed will of Romney at incorporating faith with freedom.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Majority Of the 24%'ers

One of the enduring mysteries in modern politics is how President Bush, with approval ratings in the low 20 percentile range, is able to have any effectiveness in forwarding his agenda.

I believe this is the answer: Republicans know for a certainty that the rabid supporters who make up the right wing of their party can be counted to show up on election day. If only half the populace votes, suddenly the 24% of rabid koolaid drinkers who make a point of showing up at the polls is about half of the electorate that matters on election day.

If the right wingers can carve off a percentile here or there by vote caging, under servicing left leaning geographical areas on election day, and making hundreds of thousands of voters in those same areas cast provisional ballots that most likely will not be counted... suddenly 24% of the general populace is a slim majority on election day.

If worse comes to worse and the election is razor edge close, even if the Democrat holds a slight lead... the Supremes have proven willing to narrowly decide that the Republican should be declared the winner.

I am convinced that Bush would hold a pittance of the influence he wields in Washington if the bloc of the electorate who disagreed with Bush's policies, otherwise known as the 70%'ers, were as motivated to vote as the 24%'ers.

In fact Paul Weyrich, a founding member of modern day conservatism, and co founder of the Heritage foundation expressed it this way, from a decidedly right wing point of view: (here's video @ Crooks and Liars):
“Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome — good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
This may be one reason there is growing panic from the right about their field of candidates this year. A large segment of the die hard righties are evangelicals. If they are not as motivated to turn out in the coming election as they were in 2004 the Republicans are looking at impending electoral disaster. The Republicans may be about to ask their fundamentalist brethren in politics to cast their votes for a candidate who is a cross dressing, thrice married, serial cheating, flip flopping former proud social liberal. Giuliani actually makes Clinton family values look traditional by comparison. If the fundamentalist right loses motivation to vote for the Republican candidate, suddenly 24% of the general population is going to start looking like 24% of the voting electorate.

That will be the end of the majority of the 24%'ers, and good riddance to them.

Then again, I admit that I've always been a dud when it comes to math... so maybe I need to stop crunching numbers and just chalk up the continued legislative successes of Mr. 24% to gutless pols who won't take a stand.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Praying Podheretz Pans imProper Peacenik Plot

Norman Podheretz wrote a column last May in which he prayed that America would bomb Iran. With yesterday's bombshell revelation that our intelligence services have determined that Iran halted it's nuclear weapons program in 2003, sane people would expect Podheretz to be thankful that war with Iran had been avoided with American goals satisfied. But sane people, being sane and all, would be mistaken.

Rather than welcoming good news, Podheretz takes a shot at writing fiction, penning a column which ascribes political motives to a conspiracy by the CIA in order to make the President (and Poheretz, to be sure) look bad. I expect the next Podheretz column to be filled with black helicopters and maybe some invading space aliens. Even the title of today's Podheretz fiction is conspiratorial: "Dark Suspicions about the NIE". After a rehash of outdated and cherry picked proof to determine that Iran needed bombing in the first place Podheretz writes:
"I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations."
Gee... the notion that the NIE findings are just what they appear to be is not acceptable if you are a raving madman who prays for needless war. It's hard to twist the facts when the all the NIE findings are released. It was much easier to start an unnecessary war when they let out selective parts of the Iraq NIE in the fall of 2002. If they can not manipulate the intelligence and narrative, by putting out the parts which most suit the Cheney goals, it is proof that the intelligence community is out to get Bush.

Actually, come to think of it, Podheretz may actually be right but for the wrong reasons. By releasing all of the findings of this NIE and stopping a needless war in Iran the intelligence agencies HAVE thwarted Bush. Not from defending America and acting in our best interests as the Podheretz gang have been loudly proclaiming an attack on Iraq would be, but from starting another bloody, costly needless war and handing the mess off to the next President. Stopping this President from spawning another disaster is a good thing, unless you take the perspective of a nutty neocon. Podheretz might think thats a bad outcome, but all you need to know about his thought process is that he actually prays for war! I can't even begin to imagine the thought process that goes into an actual supplication to God that people die and nations go to war as a result of your prayer.

We can almost see the spattered tear stains on the original copy of this editorial when Podheretz pens:
"If this is what lies behind the release of the new NIE, its authors can take satisfaction in the response it has elicited from the White House. Quoth Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush’s National Security Adviser: 'The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically—without the use of force—as the administration has been trying to do."
Podheretz' despair at the prospect of peace is nearly palpable. Just remember, he is currently advising Rudy Giuliani on foreign policy.

Go Out And Earn It

I've long resisted the sundry denunciations of Senator Clinton and her campaign for projecting an air of inevitability in her march to the Democratic nomination. I've been willing to chalk a lot of the anti Clinton talk up to reflexive Clinton haters. I am convinced that much of the heat she is taking is from people who have no particular reason to be so vindictive against Clinton, other than the fact that she is Clinton. I've even told myself that to run for President means that you believe you will win. Are we expecting Clinton to start hemming and hawing about her chances?

My perceptions on Clinton have started turning of late. Today David Corn reports on first hand experience with "Clintonites" recently which reflects very poorly upon Senator Clinton's campaign. To be sure, the following words are not from Senator Clinton herself, but she would be well served to disassociate herself from them or risk further alienating undecideds, like myself, in the Democratic primaries.
"When talking to Clintonites in recent days, I've noticed that they've come to despise Obama. I suppose that may be natural in the final weeks of a competitive campaign when much is at stake. But these people don't need any prompting in private conversations to decry Obama as a dishonest poser. They're not spinning for strategic purposes. They truly believe it. And other Democrats in Washington report encountering the same when speaking with Clinton campaign people. "They really, really hate Obama," one Democratic operative unaffiliated with any campaign, tells me. "They can't stand him. They talk about him as if he's worse than Bush." What do they hate about him? After all, there aren't a lot of deep policy differences between the two, and he hasn't gone for the jugular during the campaign. "It's his presumptuousness," this operative says. "That he thinks he can deny her the nomination. Who is he to try to do that?" You mean, he's, uh, uppity? "Yes." A senior House Democratic aide notes, "The Clinton people are going nuts in how much they hate him."
President Clinton may be very popular amongst Democrats, but that does not mean that members of his family are entitled to any post they seek within the party. This story, if accurate, mirrors the criticisms leveled at Hillary on her sense of entitlement and is very troubling. We should not be asking ourselves just who Barack Obama thinks he is to challenge Hillary for the nomination. Unless Hillary takes immediate steps to separate herself from this sentiment, we should be asking just who Hillary Clinton thinks she is... expecting a march to coronation at the Democratic convention, and having a temper tantrum when that march gets interrupted.

This sense of entitlement, and outrage at being challenged in the process that defines our participation as citizens in who it is that will lead this nation, is reminiscent of royal families. I have previously resisted criticisms of Clinton/Bush political dynasties. (I happen to believe that it is unfair to the Clintons to unfairly tar them with linkage to the Bush's when the two families are actually very different with the Bush's stewardship being far more damaging to the nation than Clintons.) But for all the world, Corns report makes it appear that the Clintonites are pining for the days of royalty, with a succession of leaders being determined by family lineage and anyone who would dare challenge that succession being ground into ashes as an example for any others who would have the temerity to follow the unfortunate example. Democrats might appreciate the overall leadership of the Clinton's in national affairs, but this certainly does not mean they have any God given right to Democratic office. They have to go out and earn it, and freaking out because they have not reached exalted leaders status in Democratic circles does not sit well.

I say all this as one of Senator Clintons defenders against the drumbeat of criticizm: see here, here and here. In fact I still find myself pulling for her... hoping she pulls out of this funk and wins it all. But what I've seen lately has taken me from leaning for Clinton to more undecided than ever. I'm lucky that Oregon isn't one of those early primary states!

Frankly, as one who calls for a tough Democrat who will do what it takes to get elected, I find the Clinton campaigns approach to Obama of late to be overwrought and not very effective. Yesterday the Clintonites made themselves laughing stocks around the nation, claiming that Obama lied for saying that he did not have a long term ambition to run for President, as proven by a kindergarten paper in which Obama wrote that when he grew up he wanted to be President. Democrats need to be able run a tough campaign, but we need them to be smart about it as well. Criticizing a kindergartner for wanting to be President is just ridiculously dumb. Lately the Clinton camp is coming across as reflexive and slightly hysterical.

Let me wrap this up by saying that it should be a goal for the next President and Congress to reform the national primary system. Why Iowa and New Hampshire have been bequeathed with the sanctified role they have makes no sense from my perspective, with all due apologies to possible readers from those states. Maybe we could rotate the opening primaries and/or caucuses around. Campaigns starting immediately after the midterm elections is just silly. America is not being well served by the current system and there has to be a better way. In fact it seems to me that both parties should be able to get together on this to make repairing the nomination process a bipartisan endeavor.

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