Friday, September 29, 2006

The double-bind

The passage of the Detainee Trial Bill by the Senate, 65-34, together with a House vote to authorize warrantless wiretapping 232-191 added to the Senate cloture vote on the Secure Fence Act (71-28) has some commentators, like Jack Balkin, accusing the Democratic Party of spinelessness.  How else to explain the rout? How else to account for the stunning margins?

If the Democrats do not stand up to the President on this bill, if they refuse to filibuster it or even threaten to filibuster it, they do not deserve to win any additional seats in the House or in the Senate. They will have delivered a grievous blow to our system of checks and balances, stained America's reputation around the world, and allowed an obscenity to disfigure the American system of law and justice. Far worse than a misguided zealot is the moral coward who says nothing and allows that zealotry to do real harm.

But I think the real problem is subtly different from that. One commenter at Balkinization came near to identifying the real cause of the Democrat's troubles.

Your complaints highlight the double bind all of our elected officials are in: Either they are denounced as soft and weak by their opponents for not marching lock-step behind the administration's "war" on terror, or they are called soft and weak by everyone else for going along with the majority party.

The reason the Republican Party can impose the double-bind on its political opponents is because the Democratic Party has never really articulated a plausible counter-strategy against the terrorist threat. The party has positions, to be sure. But they mostly consist of reactions to or modifications of the Bush administration's strategy. Calls to "bring home the boys from Iraq by a date certain" or a pledge to "work more closely with our allies to pursue the real terrorists" were perceived for what they were: attempts to present the negation of policy as policy. For example, on the subject of the detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects Democrats focused on the dangers to liberty and the possible inhumanity the bill presented without providing a plausible alternative path to how terrorists could be effectively questioned or put away. This was a psychological nonstarter. Answering that "waterboarding" was cruel to the question how do you get information to protect the public was to miss the point. You can tell a man about to jump from a plane his parachute is defective, but unless you offer another he'll jump with the defective rather than none at all.

A position largely based on negation has no depth. The Supreme Court's Hamdan decision was a stroke of political luck for the Bush administration and a disguised curse for the Democratic Party because it  moved the onus of detainee policy from the White House to the Legislature. It was no longer enough to criticize what the President wanted. The legislators had to specify what they wanted; and that turned out to be a harder problem altogether. One which in the end, the Democratic Party was not prepared to fully answer.

The cost of abdicating the strategy of the War on Terror to one party because its prosecution was unthinkable to the antiwar faction of the other was that it reduced the public choice to that of the brake versus the accelerator. Given that choice the public would inevitably opt to lurch forward,  rather than do nothing at all. This was the double-bind which Balkin's commenter said bound the Democrats. And the ropes were tightened by those on its Left who did not appreciate that many Bush critics were in opposition not because they were anti-war so much as desirous of winning the war; that their doubts were driven not by pacifism as by skepticism as to the means employed. What the Netroots achieved by bludgeoning Hillary into silence and tarring Joe Lieberman was to make the Bush war policy the only game in town.

That allowed the President to survive any number of mistakes which would otherwise have proved politically fatal. Because whatever else President Bush was -- and he made certain everyone knew it -- he was manifestly committed to winning the War on Terror. And with of the yawning absence of a Democratic war strategy, the more tightly he clung to his policies in the face of the brickbats thrown at him, the more committed to victory he seemed.  It's an axiom in politics that you can't beat something with nothing. And its not enough to trip up the point man on the squad. It is necessary to shoulder your way to the front. And because that didn't happen a nation which deserves an intelligent choice on defense policy meant that they too were gripped by the double-bind.


Blogger 49erDweet said...

Absolutely spot on! When the 'crats' chose to carp instead of lead, they also chose to 'lose instead of choose'.

9/29/2006 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

It's fascinating to see how paralyzed the left still is by the collapse of communism in 1989. Only now does it become apparent how comprehensively their faith was built on the belief that somebody somewhere was building a system different from our own, powered by better intentions, which would one day prove to be better than ours.

They needed this psychological prop, and it had to be in a remote location, tightly secured from a free flow of information. As long as the place where all the good stuff was supposedly happening was 'over there', with the sordid details hidden from public view, their ideas and policy prescriptions never had to survive critical scrutiny in the domestic arena. Americans were supposed to accept whatever flaws might be found in their proposals, in the interest of 'the cause', the 'greater good', etc.

Now that this dodge is no longer available they are stuck as you say in negative mode, because the policy prescriptions they would like to advance, evaluated solely as to whether they are in the interest of Americans, usually (as in this case) can't pass the laugh test.

9/29/2006 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I'm wondering if citizens in England, Canada, Germany and France were also forced to VOTE on America's War on Terror vs. a liberal peacenik policy of "do nothing/pre 9-11", whether the moonbats in those countries would also be routed.

Certainly Germany and Canada have voted in more conservative governments, and Australia seems to be percolating along just fine with Howard which would seem to me to indicate a concern by the publics in those countries about uncontrolled immigration and a desire to enforce the current social mores and laws at a minimum.

I can't figure out why England is kicking out Blair though, when from this side of the ocean it would appear that England's Muslim problem is second only to France's and they should be getting meaner rather than softening up. Unless kicking out Blair means that England is tired of playing UN games and *does* want to have some stern and on-going talks with their Muslim population.

9/29/2006 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

The Dems are firmly rooted in the belief that Bush was lucky that it was his shift that 911 happened and that his competent handling of events thereafter reflected well on his governance, and therefore was a gimmie. They remain ever so resentful of that windfall.

World War II morphed into the Cold War and the Cold War morphed into the present state of affairs. Who are we to blame really?

9/29/2006 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Meme chose said...


Good point about how a sense of responsibility would emerge if Europeans had a meaningful security role to play. But they don't, and nor do they believe they can afford it. From our point of view their irresponsibility is the flip side of our possession of absolute military superiority, so it's not all bad.

The UK doesn't have fixed Prime Ministerial terms, as the US does with the 8 year maximum for a President. Blair has been in power for nearly 10 years (and his powers over the state as Prime Minister exceed those of a President in many ways, mitigated only by the fact that the UK is now a decidedly second rate power internationally). All Prime Ministers succumb eventually to the voters becoming ready for a different personality. Blair is no different. If there was a Blair clone on offer, in political terms, he or she would probably win, but there isn't. It's not clear yet what his retirement will mean politically.

9/29/2006 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...

All incumbent Democratic Senators up for re-election voted with the Republicans to pass the bill.

That's a shellacking.

9/29/2006 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Florida said...

I think the base of the Republican party is the knew loyal opposition (think Meirs, Dubai, border fence). Republicans such as McCain and Chaffee are more disliked by the Republican base than the most liberal Dem.

Strange times.

9/29/2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Florida said...


9/29/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Does anyone else find this to be funny?
Zawahri calls Bush a failure over war on terror

26 minutes ago

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri called
President Bush a "lying failure" for saying progress had been made in the war on terror, according to a video posted on the Internet on Friday.

"Bush you are a lying failure and a charlatan. It has been three and-a-half years (since the arrests) ... What happened to us? We have gained more strength and we are more insistent on martyrdom," the Egyptian militant leader said.

9/29/2006 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

More sad than funny, Charles, because I hear the same thing from way too many people here at home.

9/29/2006 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

Granted that Democrat policy statements since 9/11 fit social-pathology rather than political-program models, their paralytic Leftism reflects a deeper frustration. To wit: Despite their foolish rhetoric, their inane moral pretensions, Democrats exhibit a pronounced passive-ist tendency.

Absent realistic assessment of prevailing circumstance, requiring context and perspective, instincts hint to them that any action they attempt will crater badly. In the case of Iraq, after three and a half years, Democrat opposition remains mired in slander and vituperation. This after eight years of the first personally corrupt President in U.S. history. (Grant, Harding were misled by associates, but remained honorable men. Clinton with his Riady payoffs and pardons-for-cash [among much else] was a blackmailer, extortionist, and thief.)

If there was a viable Leftist alternative to Bush's stand on Islamofascist terrorism, we do believe the (few) well-intentioned Democrat incumbents would articulate it. But murderous jihadi nihilism cannot be combated with mere words.
Feminized, craven and ineffectual, Democrats have "lost the name of action". Clinton and Howard Dean increasingly resemble Punchinello in a Comedia scripted by their treacherous media enablers.

Who wouldn't be frustrated, if by nature you can't do anything, when something manifestly must be done? Only consolation is, the Boomer Generation peaked in 2004 (36 years past 1968), and henceforth will pollute diminishing proportions of the political stream. By 2040, when these creeps have finally sunk back to the collectivist Statist sewers whence they came, maybe we'll see some decent political dialogue again.

9/29/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"...the public would inevitably opt to lurch forward, rather than do nothing at all."

The do-nothing-at-all approach was tried in the '90's, it didn't work! 9-11 was a huge testament to the foolishness of do-nothing.

Reflecting on "there's a better solution out of sight if we just get out of the way" concept, isn't that the concept through which 2 million Cambodians lost their lives? The public is aware of that Democrat foreign policy failure, too.

9/29/2006 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger SFLaw said...

Sadly that is probably the best argument the right has in favor of the pro-torture bill - that lots of them voted for it. That's about all you have to defend an action that is fundamentally opposed to our notions of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.

9/29/2006 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

The Democrats dilemma has been playing out for a generation, or more. In the 1940s, the hard left was pushed out of the power structure. This was celebrated by Peter Beinart in his recent book. The Vietnam war and the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s led to the counter-coup by the left and the famous San Francisco convention. Their victory, which Ricard Nixon was too paranoid to accept as a gift, led first to Ronald Reagan's reign and then to the collapse of the democrats decades long grip on the Congress.

The left is now a major factor in the Democrat party. They want the US to loose the war in Iraq, because they believe the United States is the source of all evil in the world. They are the ones who defeated Lieberman. They oppose the bills passed today, because they want to cripple the war effort.

The other factions in the party are becoming weaker. The unions have almost disappeared from the private sector.

The Jewish vote once a solid factor in the north-east, is aging, and being harassed by the left. Lieberman was only the first of many blows. The left will do to the Jews, what they did to white Southerners.

This leaves the left only with racial minorities. My guess is that they will not be a firm foundation for the Democrat party. At some point, blacks will discover that their interests and those of Hispanics are opposed. At that point the Democrats will turn openly anti-immigration or one of those groups will walk out of the party.

9/29/2006 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger trainer said...

We are all the worse off for it. Makes me almost wish for a Democrat in the White House in 08.

Even the most rabid RightWingDeathBeast like me could live with a decent Democrat in the WhiteHouse. What I wouldn't like to see is the legislature taken over by the likes of Pelosi, Rangel, Boxer, Feinstein, Kennedy, and the rest.

It's not just the WOT these people are clueless on. They are also perceived to be the party of collectivist economics, open borders, anti-religion, pro alternative lifestyles, and anti-marriage - none of which are big sellers to the American people.

A prediction - the stupid party keeps the house and senate, and the evil party learns nothing from it yet again.

9/29/2006 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger gumshoe said...

"Clinton and Howard Dean increasingly resemble Punchinello in a Comedia scripted by their treacherous media enablers."

hadda look it up:

Pulcinella - wiki

"He usually wears a black mask and long white coat, and has loose and straggly hair. According to Duchartre, his traditional temperment is to be mean, vicious, and crafty: his main mode of defense is to pretend to be too stupid to know what's going on, and his secondary mode is to physically beat people."

9/30/2006 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

Greetings all!

Some wonderful comments. Obviously the commenters on this blog are seasoned observers of the American political scene. These comments are precious. It is amazing that the Dems have such a political blind spot that they can't even read this and understand. It is being handed to them on a silver platter and if one of them were to read this they would probably not even know what I'm talking about.

Base human nature is ... what??? Insane, stupid, evil?? All three at once in ascending intensity. This is not good for America. No one should take pleasure at their collapsing like the World Trade Center towers. This is Greek tragedy stuff like the woman who cooks her own children and eats them.

At the root of their dilemma it seems that they have set God aside hard. Now they only lust for power to fill that void of unbelief.

It is so comforting to see that other people have witnessed the same events I have seen these last fifty years or so and have come to the same or complimentary conclusions about it. And you write it out as a witness. What can a person do against the truth? After all the shouting the truth is still there.

Napoleon's honor guard preferred to die rather than surrender and they were accomodated.

I hope as the Far Left Dems go down they don't take America with them.

9/30/2006 09:55:00 PM  

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