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« They Should Do Better Than That | Main | Anachronism? »

Conventional Unwisdom

I know that this is conventional reporting wisdom, particularly at the WaPo, but I think that there were many other reasons for the Republicans losing the Congress last fall:

Swept into power by voters clamoring for an end to the war, Democrats have seen their efforts stymied under realities more complicated than they found on the campaign trail.

Emphasis mine. In fact, if that were the case, the Dems wouldn't be having so much dissension in the ranks, and difficulty in coming up with a politically palatable position. If the voters really wanted to simply end the war, then the Dems could simply defund it. But despite reporter Julie Davis' breezy assertion, the Republicans lost for lots of reasons, some of them war related, some not, and it's politically perilous to make such assumptions about what the voters wanted, other than that they were tired of Republicans.

The Donks' problem was in fact nailed by the President in the State of the Union, in which he noted that while he wasn't sure what the voters had voted for, he was confident that they weren't voting for failure. Yet that is exactly what the Dems seem to want, or at least accept as a fait accompli.

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 27, 2007 08:32 AM
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Oh no! Bleeding links! (everything after the third word is one monster link in IE)

Posted by John Breen III at February 27, 2007 08:36 AM

...Democratic leaders struggle to form party consensus on how to move forward.

They aren't trying to move forward. Forward would be to kill the enemy and secure the peace. Leaving soon, sooner, soonest is moving backward. It would simply return the country to a different murdering thug, Al-Sadr most likely. I doubt if the people to be tortured will care if it's Saddam's or Al-Sadr's secret police beating them with the hot poker.

Pain is pain, and the Dumbocrats give me one where I sit.

Posted by Steve at February 27, 2007 09:19 AM

More to the point, Congress only rarely changes hands because of any national-level issue. In most seasons, individual legislators keep or lose their seats for purely local reasons. That is, traditionally, fairly few people vote for or against their local Congressman because of what the national party is doing. It's more important what he's doing, and what he's like. Is he visible, does he bring home the bacon, does he seem like a nice guy, et cetera? Whether he writes an R or D after his name is a pretty secondary issue.

So generally when Congress (or at least the House) switches hands, it's the result of at least a dozen unrelated reasons in the dozen key districts that switched hands. It would be the actions of a sophomoric narcissist to see some grand national tocsin for a Back To Those Glorious 60s in this, but then "sophomoric narcissist" is the operational definition of "journalist" or even "Democratic Party leader" these days, unfortunately.

Posted by Carl Pham at February 27, 2007 09:44 AM

Carl-
It does not seem unreasonable to assume that the war has a lot to do with congress changing hands. when in every poll people cite the war as their top concern, and they also place a lot of blame on congress for not doing their job in connection to the war, when the congress is then turned over, it would seem to imply that the war has a lot to do with it. and in this case, that means anger at republicans. i know it's hard for you to believe this, but it doesn't make it not true.

Posted by jerk at February 27, 2007 11:29 AM

I think that a clear majority of Americans would agree that spending four years, billions of dollars, thousands of American lives and killing tens of thousands of Iraqi innocents to accomplish essentially nothing is a pretty good definition of "failure". Failure we've got.

But you're right, it isn't just the war in Iraq that resulted in the GOP getting their asses handed to them in the last election. There are any number of domestic issues that the Republicans screwed up, too. Good catch.

Posted by Reluctant Republican at February 27, 2007 11:32 AM

Young Republicans, enlist!! Your country is under attack and you are needed in the U. S. Army. Call your local recruiter today!

Posted by doubledave27 at February 27, 2007 11:54 AM

Problem is that all the folks in Washington make a boatload of money off the misery and death of the poor - so they all, Democrats and Publicans alike, vote for war and death.

The American people (except for the rich, of course) detest the notion of profiting by killing.

You, as a Publican, make it clear that you enjoy death, get your sexual kicks from torture (just like George and Laura) and hate anyone who isn't just like you.

Posted by fiskhus jim at February 27, 2007 12:05 PM

...four years, billions of dollars, thousands of American lives and killing tens of thousands of Iraqi innocents to accomplish essentially nothing is a pretty good definition of "failure".

"Essentially nothing"?

Saddam removed, Kurds freed, many Al Qaeda dead, two elections, any threat of WMD from Iraq ended, Iran pinned between hostile forces on two sides...

There have been some bad outcomes, but that doesn't mean that there have been no good ones.

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 27, 2007 12:11 PM

You, as a Publican, make it clear that you enjoy death, get your sexual kicks from torture (just like George and Laura) and hate anyone who isn't just like you.

If you're referring to me, I'm not a Republican, you moron. And I don't know anyone who "gets sexual kicks from torture." Do your parents know that you're writing stupid things on the computer?

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 27, 2007 12:14 PM

You must be a Publican, you moron, because you advocate death and war as the ideal ways to waste our tax dollars. Even if you don't call yourself that, since that's how you vote, that's what you are.

And, yes, all the good evangelicals on the Publican side of the aisle commit blasphemy, commit treason and get their sexual kicks from torture. How else can Cheney get it upo for that lying slag he's married to?

Posted by fiskhus jim at February 27, 2007 12:17 PM

You must be a Publican, you moron, because you advocate death and war as the ideal ways to waste our tax dollars. Even if you don't call yourself that, since that's how you vote, that's what you are.

And, yes, all the good evangelicals on the Publican side of the aisle commit blasphemy, commit treason and get their sexual kicks from torture. How else can Cheney get it upo for that lying slag he's married to?

Posted by fiskhus jim at February 27, 2007 12:17 PM

You must be a Publican, you moron, because you advocate death and war as the ideal ways to waste our tax dollars. Even if you don't call yourself that, since that's how you vote, that's what you are.

And, yes, all the good evangelicals on the Publican side of the aisle commit blasphemy, commit treason and get their sexual kicks from torture. How else can Cheney get it upo for that lying slag he's married to?

Posted by fiskhus jim at February 27, 2007 12:17 PM

"Saddam removed, Kurds freed, many Al Qaeda dead, two elections, any threat of WMD from Iraq ended, Iran pinned between hostile forces on two sides..."

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!!!

Rand, seriously-
what you are implying by that post is almost too stupid to bother even replying to. but i'm a jerk, so...

Posted by jerk at February 27, 2007 12:20 PM

Even if you don't call yourself that, since that's how you vote, that's what you are.

It's not how I vote, you moron. You lead a very rich fantasy life.

I guess we have a new troll.

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 27, 2007 12:24 PM

Throw the troll in the sewer with the rest of his thoughts and ideas.

Posted by Ban Him at February 27, 2007 12:28 PM

Answer to home page.

You know dear home page I was one of the voters that voted to get Republicans out of power. Now I don't know if you are confused, or are simply beeing disingenuous but I like many others voted for a) accountability from the WHite House, b) a real policy that could take us out of Iraq, not further in and c) a back to basics for what used to be Republican Conservative ideas. Remember them?

So for Bush to say that he was not sure what the voters had voted for but he was sure they did not vote for failure..... The man as usual is B.S.ing ... In fact that's about the only thing he is good at.

Why do I say this ? Because he understood perfectly that the American people was against his policies in Iraq by an overwhelming margin, and he understood perfectly that the American people was looking for a way out.... Not a new set of excuses to go deeper into chaos.

You see my confused friend. Getting out does not equal defeat... Because no one has proposed that. You have been drinking Bush's Kool-Ais too long. No one is getting out all together, that's not even on the table. No one is proposing defeat as the alternative to Bush's failed policies, and no one is buying your argument, and Bush's.

You and Bush misrepresent what the options are. Or maibe in Bush's dumb world there is just the stay in or get out immediately options.
So please stop pretending will you?

Posted by gil at February 27, 2007 01:15 PM

No wonder Gil can't hold down a steady job, he is dumber than me and I voted for Kaiser Wilhelm.

Even a senile old man can see Ol Gil's a retard!

Posted by Grandpa Simpson at February 27, 2007 01:21 PM

I like many others voted for a) accountability from the WHite House, b) a real policy that could take us out of Iraq, not further in and c) a back to basics for what used to be Republican Conservative ideas.

You may know why you voted Democrat, but there's no justification to extrapolate that to others. I had lots of reasons to be unhappy with Bush and the Republicans, but if Iraq was one of them, it was because they weren't winning it, not because they weren't retreating.

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 27, 2007 01:34 PM

The only people who voted for failure were the people who voted for George W. Bush in 2000.

There were less of them than voted for Gore.

Posted by Novin at February 27, 2007 02:19 PM

Really?

There wre more votes in the Electoral College for Bush.

Those are the only votes that count as per our Constution.

Apparently the only ones who voted for Gore were retards who never read it.

Novin is calling more than half the US in CY 2000 retards.

Posted by Thomas Jefferson at February 27, 2007 02:23 PM

The problem with what you Rand, Steve etc. advocate is that you just don't define what success means (very specifically) in Iraq. I've never seen someone define exactly what that means. As long as that remains vague and undefined it makes no sense to say that pulling out of Iraq is tantamount to failure. This whole thing boils down to a major lack of definition and clarity of purpose. It's an argument where no one knows exactly what we are arguing for.

Why do we think things will get worse if we leave? We were wrong in everything else we've claimed would happen in Iraq, so maybe we are wrong in this assumption as well. We can't make the Shia and Sunni like each other. This surge is a waste. Unless the plan is just to stay in Iraq with our bases etc. If that's the case, let's call it what it is, I mean the Brits did it too, Colonialism: The native can't possibly run their country themselves, so we have to hang around to show them how to save themselves ;-)

Posted by Toast_n_Tea at February 27, 2007 04:06 PM

The President was dead wrong in the SOTUS. America did vote for failure (in 2004), and got more of it.

To Steve: "kill the enemy", you say? You wouldn't know one if you saw one shooting at you, which is highly unlikely in your case. You need a refresher on guerilla wars, civil wars, and the difference. It's really easy to be for the "war on terror" or "win in Iraq" if you have no idea what that means, down on the ground, in the real world. Read a book, regardless of what Colbert says...

Posted by HighPlainsJoker at February 27, 2007 05:41 PM

It does not seem unreasonable to assume that the war has a lot to do with congress changing hands. when in every poll people cite the war as their top concern

You think? Then I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you, son.

Relying on the answers to polls to deduce the real reasons people do things is an awfully naive position for someone in the "reality-based" community to take. Maybe you should try the following experiment: go around to your friends and family who are tad overweight and ask them what they plan to have for dinner tonight. Then compare with what they actually eat. Hopefully you're not so young that the result will surprise you.

Posted by Carl Pham at February 27, 2007 05:42 PM

This whole thing boils down to a major lack of definition and clarity of purpose.

Don't be naive. I don't need to know my new address before I decide to move to Boston. I don't need to know exactly what I'll order before I go into the restaraunt. I don't need to know exactly where I'll buy gas when I get off the freeway to tank up. Et cetera.

There are plenty of situations where knowing where you're going is important, and plenty of others where trying to get too detailed about your destination is just a pointless exercise in mental masturbation.

Indeed, often enough -- and, I suspect, for the Democrat heel-draggers in this case -- demanding an overly detailed description of the final goal is merely a way to prevent forward motion, a way to procrastinate while looking busy. You make long, detailed checklists, not as a precursor to taking action, but instead of taking action. That way you can look decisive and busy, but not run the risks of actually deciding and doing things.

Posted by at February 27, 2007 05:48 PM

Oops, sorry, that last comment was mine. God forbid I should be mistaken for some anonymous asshat (if that isn't oxymoronic by this point).

Posted by Carl Pham at February 27, 2007 05:50 PM

Toast-n-Tea,
I'll define it now, again, as I have before, here on this very blog I do believe.

My idea of success is simple. Chase the insurgents out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Make the military in both countries strong enough to keep them out. Keep enough of our troops / trainers in there long enough to ensure that the democratic form of government can take hold. If it takes it kill Sadr and his 15,000 thugs. Build strong enough schools with western style teachings included so that the kids have a chance to make a difference in their own lives. If it looks like it's going to cost too much, move troops OUT of Europe and Japan, where they just sit on their asses. (don't argue, I've been there and seen it) Let them help in Iraq and Afghanistan like troops did in Germany and Japan and South Korea.

That's my answer. We re-institute the Marshall Plan. We stop the money we now give to Egypt, Syria, Jordan and France, for instance, countries that say they hate us. Countries that sneer at us at the United Nations don't get anymore money. We take that money and we pour it into these two countries so that it MIGHT be used to overcome their problems. We should pour it in there by the effing bucketfull, and give them a chance.

If these other countries complain about being cut off, show them the records of things said about us by them at the U.N. If they want to hate us, lets give them a reason.

What will they do because we cut off the gravy, blow up our embassies, blow up a Navy ship, hijack then fly planes into our office buildings?

I know my ideas are too simplistic for the modern age. I know it would never really work. I know that these people aren't ready for self rule, democratic governments and self teaching. Mostly I know that all these objections, and more, I keep hearing are the same ones stated about fixing Germany and Japan after WWII and Korea after the cease fire. And what a dismal failure those countries are now.

Your turn Tea-n-Toast.

Posted by Steve at February 27, 2007 06:46 PM

Steve, I appreciate your thoughts. There is no comparison to Germany or Japan. I see nothing that binds the Sunni and Shia, the Kurd and the Iraqi. I don't see a great unifying civilization held in common that can bind them together. That is unless we can be the great reconciler that heals the rift between the Sunni and Shia. Even American optimism must have its limits.

In addition, I see nothing in what Bush or other Republicans say that sees the end state you visualize constructed with the means you define. You are logical in what it takes to do this, they are not. So, while your end state is very desirable, it is not in the realm of the possible. If there was any hope of going where you want to go, this surge can hardly do it. We may have had our chance in 2003 but if so we blew it.

That's why you need a rational plan B. I don't know quite what it is, but I know we need one.

Posted by Toast_n_Tea at February 27, 2007 07:04 PM

I know it would never really work.

No, you don't know, but you should. The fundamental point is that Iraq is a lot less ready for Western enlightenment now than it was before the invasion. If Western-style education is what you want in that country, the invasion was the world's most spectacular "own goal". Even though Saddam Hussein was despotic, he was a lot more Western than any serious leader there now.

This is with the exception of Kurdistan. Kurdistan is a success only to the extent that it is a separate country.

Assassinating Sadr is a very bad idea, given that he has 80% approval among Iraqi Shiites. It would go over about as well as if Shiites had assassinated Ronald Reagan.

Posted by Jim Harris at February 27, 2007 11:15 PM

Wow! If there were ever to be an example of how to reject reality and substitute one's own.

Reading some of these comments shows the consequences of long term psychological denial. Here we get the sense that everything would be fine only if there were no wars perpetuated by the evil Americans. Problem is that our enemies are at war with us whether we like it or not. This denial of military threat serves to undermine our national security interests.

This type of denial serves as a means to protect oneself from painful choices and redirect those feelings and behaviors to a far less threatening object or person. These less threatening objects could take on the form of Bush, Rand's blog, or the monolithically ambiguous entity known at "Publicans".

This continued denial is needed to maintain the pretense that everything would be fine if only 'this or that' would happen. However, this type of compromise will eventually lead down the path of paranoia, delusion, and conspiracy. This long term denial will only serve to distort reality and produce a environment where serious problems will continued to be ignored and an ever evolving number of bad decisions will be made.

A good starting point to begin the return to reality is to look in the mirror and come to the realization that people make the wrong choices from time to time no matter how well intentioned. Last I checked no single human being was perfect. Once grounded back into reality then I believe the proper decisions can once again be attained.

Posted by Josh Reiter at February 27, 2007 11:39 PM

Toast-n-Tea says,

Even American optimism must have its limits.

This may undoubtedly be the defining statement of the 21st Century for many Americans. I keep hearing this kind of thing from TV talking heads, news paper columnists, and regular citizens. Limiting our optimism is almost a proven fact for many of us. We hear talk about our lack of will, loss of vision, end of "empire", loss of (enter your fears here). Doom and gloom, film at 11!

I have honestly no counter for any of that TnT. It just saddens me.

What truly concerns me about my country is this. I have 5 grandsons who are growing up in this country. How will limiting American optimism affect their lives? Will they be able to get ahead? Will they grow up caring if they get ahead? Or will they, are they. growing up in a culture that is constantly telling them, "...don't try, because nothing really matters anyway."

I'm an information junky, I read everyday. But I still can't uncover the roots of the malaise. How did we get to this? What has happened, that as a nation of thinking adults, in 162 years we've gone from Manifest Destiny, to seeing a need for limiting American Optimism?

Toastie, I think you're wrong about our national optimism. But my fear is that I'm in the minority, with respect to that optimism.

Posted by Steve at February 28, 2007 07:21 AM

I understand that comparing Japan to Iraq is not a good idea. However, post WWII Germany and Iraq is fairly close or is TNT prepared to suggest that the Catholics, Lutherans, and Jews all got along.

American optimisim should have limits. We shouldn't believe the dot com boom will last forever. But its not a great leap to believe that Iraq can become as stable and less a threat to the US as Jordan, Egypt, or Turkey.

Much of Iraq is stable. More and more evidence comes out daily showing that the destabilizing forces near Baghdad are supported externally by entities that would benefit greatly from a weak Iraq and a disgraced US. Iraq is not in a civil war as the Democrats tried to portray in the Fall. Iraq insurgency is getting weaker. The only thing growing in Iraq is Iranian influence in destablization of the region (It's kind of like Soviet efforts to degrade Germany's recovery after WWII, the defeat loving folks thought Germany was a lost cause up until it wasn't in the 1990s).

Posted by Leland at February 28, 2007 11:05 AM

LeLand,
Thank God for your words. I felt like I was the only one out here thinking it was possible to win this fight.

It was scary.

Posted by Steve at February 28, 2007 11:31 AM

It occurred to me that there is a much greater reason for me to not set a limit on my optimism.

My faith.

My faith tells me NOT to hide my light under a bushel basket. It tells me to be a GOOD and FAITHFUL servant. It tells me to be the Good Samaritan. I am told to lay down my life for my fellow man, EVEN if he is Muslim.

Do we suppose that everyone in Europe that was saved from Nazism, was a Christian? We know better. But how many American soldiers died on D-Day alone? My faith tells me that was not a waste. There was a time when American History books and teachers said so too.

That is why I am called to optimism, and my optimism cannot stop at my front door, or at the edge of my neighborhood, or in my town, state or at my countries borders. I'm not advocating religious conversion of Muslims in Iraq or Afghanistan. But I think they can be converted from warring tribes, to valued members of the world AND partners for us in the future. If nothing else we can't allow them to retreat into barbarism because it spills over into our laps.

I know this kind of overt, honest religious talk is a rasp to the ass of many who comment here. (oh no, he said he's religious then he said ASS!! yeah I did) But to the people who comment here who have even slight religious beliefs, our faith is as real us as rain or sunshine to us. It is our guide. I admit that it's so real to me that I left it out of my previous blurbs. I discounted it from my opining and that was wrong.

We used to truly be "One Nation under God", regardless of who that God was. But no more, we're so secular it's strangling us. I think John Adams is dead right,

"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.

We can be a nation only if we hold some beliefs in our hearts. None of us can be governed from the outside, we can only be governed from the inside. And my governance tells me to be optimistic in the face of adversity and pain and persecution.

And kids, look around you, 'cause I think we're there.

Posted by Steve at March 1, 2007 03:20 AM

Steve, I like some of what what you say, even though I can't see how given the way things are being run right now. Faith is important, especially as articulated by you, where Faith tries to make things better with Love rather than a vicious hatred. As much as I disagree with Bush, I do believe he shares this viewpoint. I wish he had tried to draw the nation together better after 9/11; he had such an incredible opportunity.

Posted by Toast_n_Tea at March 1, 2007 05:56 PM

I wish he had tried to draw the nation together better after 9/11; he had such an incredible opportunity.

Bush did draw the nation together. The division began when some die-hard revolutionist professor at CUNY wondered allowed why she couldn't still blame America for all the ills of the world without losing her freedom. She, of course, remains free today, along with the many people who find her comments to resonate in their pathetic lives.

Then Bush dared suggest we remove from power a dictator that had declared war against the US and was actively shooting at US forces despite international agreements that he would not. Those who illegally received money from Saddam Hussein couldn't allow the US to end the gravy train, so they tut-tutted that Saddam had no WMD, while also refusing to remove the gravy train by ending the UN money for support (oops, I mean oil for food) program.

Yea Toast, President Bush really worked hard to divide the country.

Posted by Leland at March 2, 2007 07:57 AM


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