Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Choice, the Cycle, and the Gathering Storm

I think TMcD makes several nice points in this post. I just want to add that the civil libertarians here (and I know many who share their views) are really asking the impossible.

Obama has a choice: He can either pursue his own agenda (health care, climate change, the "New Foundation"), OR he can clean up after the Bush administration--airing the dirty laundry, pursuing malefactors, etc. He can't do both. American politics doesn't permit that ambitious an agenda. And pursuing criminal investigations--even IF warranted--would consume all his political capital ASAP. He wouldn't have any mojo left for any of his own agenda.

A good friend of mine, when forced to choose (by me), recently told me he would go for "the rule of law," his words, over health care, etc. I think that that represents a very sheltered and privileged set of priorities. It's likely, for example, that a failure on health care in the next two years dooms us to fifteen or twenty years of the status quo, more or less. I'm all for "the rule of law," but reality forces us to recognize trade-offs.

I think that this was what was behind the pull back on releasing the torture photos. There was simply NO WAY that those photos could be released AND the administration could continue to defer, demur, and avoid further investigations. It was a choice: release the photos and get dragged into a truth commission, or not release them. I really don't buy the "didn't want to put US military into harm's way" argument. You don't send 1000s of new troops to Afghanistan unless you're willing to do that.

That was a decision based on domestic politics.

As for the GOP, I was surprised tonite on NPR (et tu?) that the story was "congressional GOP has a good week"--based on the Gitmo vote and the concealed carry in national parks amendment in the credit card bill. These were largely symbolic victories. Neither will matter to any substantial bloc of voters come 2010--or 2012--and neither stands for a policy agenda.

It's important to remember that the news media needs a new story (it is "news," after all). I wouldn't be surprised at all if the news media "invents" a GOP comeback in the next few months. They have certainly been on the look out for Obama stumbles. (Air Force One, anyone?)

The GOP's biggest stumbling block, of course, is Dick Cheney. As long as he stays on the stage, they will have a hard time turning the page. But my guess is that his time is nearing its end. He's gotten just about as much coverage as one can get. We've heard his piece. The tide must ebb.

The wild card going forward is the Supreme Court confirmation fight. I am curious to see how that plays out. Both sides have to be concerned that they will be judged by the voters on their conduct of that fight. But exactly which set of voters they are concerned about--that is the question. If Senate GOPpers see this as an opportunity to rally the base--and that only--then it will be incredibly ugly. That's rather obvious, of course, but beyond that, time will tell.


At 11:57 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Very nicely said, 3. As important as the rule of law is, the policy agenda is a much greater immediate concern, since waiting = death. You can band-aid the law issues, however, especially if you've already stopped the illegal practices in question. Not releasing the photos was obviously about politics and conservation of capital, and I have no problem with that whatsoever.

As for the media, they're still wired for GOP success, all evidence to the contrary. On Hardball, Chris Cilizza went on about how Cheney won the week. WTF? Only in the most short term way imaginable: that he got news coverage for dickish behavior while momentarily sharing a stage with Obama. But every second he's on TV is a huge loss for the GOP. And the pro-torture argument is a long-term loser. It is simply indefensible, legally, politically, morally. Ask the "Mancow." If Cheney were smart, he'd recognize that Oba has no interest in prosecution, and he would shut the fuck up. "Bygones!" As it is, he's pushing the Dems to the point where they may not be able to avoid setting up a truth commission. You really can't just allow guys like Cheney to run around trumpeting their contempt for the law.


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