Bill O’Reilly is Ultimately Un-American

Bill O’Reilly writes that the recent move, The Bourne Ultimatum, is ultimately un-American. Those who haven’t seen the movie yet might want to avoid these spoilers as I look at what happens in the movie which conservatives such as O’Reilly find to be un-American.

The Bourne Ultimatum is the most political of the three movies. If Jack Bauer is the hero to conservatives, Jason Bourne becomes a hero to those who hold liberal values. Jack Bower tortures at the drop of a hat. Jason Bourne questions killing then it becomes clear that those being ordered killed might not be guilty of any crimes.

Bill O’Reilly protests the presence of water boarding in the movie. I wish instead that Bill O’Reilly would protest water boarding in real life

Ultimately the heroes of the movie, both Jason Bourne and Pam Landy, expose a criminal conspiracy within the CIA to kill perceived enemies without oversight. On this point O’Reilly is correct that The Bourne Ultimatum is unrealistic. In The Bourne Ultimatum the criminals are brought to justice. In the real world similar crimes are allowed to succeed.

There was a time when the bad guys being punished at the end of the movie would be seen as a happy ending to all. To conservatives such as Bill O’Reilly seeing justice served is an unhappy ending. This, and not anything portrayed in The Bourne Ultimatum is the attitude which is ultimately un-American.

The Edwards: Dividers, Not Uniters

Elizabeth Edwards previously appeared to be a strong asset for her husband’s campaign, but she has now made a second major gaffe. Not long after pondering whether John is at a disadvantage for being a white male, Elizabeth is now expanding on her husband’s divisive theme. I’ve already commented on my feelings about the inherent message of class warfare in the Two American’s theme, most recently here. Now I find that Elizabeth Edwards is talking about two Democratic Parties.

The Progressive: Is there a split between “new Democrats” and progressives, or what Paul Wellstone used to call “the Democratic wing of the Democratic party?”

Elizabeth Edwards: John gave a speech at the DNC meeting saying we don’t need to reinvent our party; we just need to remember who we are. And who we are is the party of working people, including people who want to work and can’t, [and] people who have worked and are trying to retire. That’s who we are and have always been. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

It’s easy to get misled with the DLC mantra “love the worker, love the employer.” The employers can pretty much take care of themselves. So as a party our job is to give voice to those people who don’t have a powerful voice. Unless that translates into votes or contributions, it turns out a lot of Democrats just ignore these people. They use language about working class people, but they are not out there with them. They use language about the immorality of poverty, but they are not out there. …

And so the difference, it seems to me, is not between old and new Democrats but between actual Democrats and rhetorical Democrats. Sometimes it seems we have these beliefs but it turns out it’s like a Hollywood set: It’s all facade and there’s no guts behind it.

Sure, Elizabeth can look towards her version of pure Democrats. That excludes a lot of Democrats, and sure excludes independents such as myself. It also excludes all the “Starbucks Republicans,” “South Park Republicans,” and affluent suburbanites who helped give the Democrats their victory in 2006. We’ve had enough of this attitude from the Republicans of the far right and we certainly have no use for a Democratic Party which adopts the same divisive tactics. Their attitude helps explain why John Edwards polls so poorly among independents who vote Democratic, while supposedly fake Democrats like Bill Richardson lead.

If Elizabeth Edwards wants to create litmus tests of Democratic purity, many of us who have voted Democratic in the recent past will not consider ourselves one of her “actual” Democrats. Should John somehow win the nomination, don’t count on our votes in November 2008 and see just how far John can go.

Maybe we do have Two Americas. There’s the American of John Edwards and his supporters, and there’s the other American of Independents, Republicans, and a growing number of Democrats who find Edwards a political hack and phony who has no place on a national ticket.

Washington Post Magazine on Barack Obama

The Washington Post Magazine has a lenghty article on Barack Obama. I’ll present one section which deals with Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. I previously posted the text of the speech here.

In early summer of 2004, organizers of the Democratic presidential convention were faced with some challenges, chief among them the fact that no Bush-bashing would be allowed among convention speakers. The Kerry campaign didn’t want to alienate swing voters by speaking ill of Republicans. So the convention needed speakers who could present an upbeat message and still sound compelling.

There were some givens. Bill Clinton would be the prime time speaker Monday night; the third and fourth nights would feature John Edwards and John Kerry, respectively. On Tuesday they wanted a keynote speaker in the tradition of the great keynoters of the past: Barbara Jordan, Mario Cuomo, Ann Richards, “people who inspired hope,” as Donna Brazile puts it, “and not only inspired hope, but laid a framework for the party.”

There were a number of criteria as planners began proposing candidates. Youth was desirable, and freshness, and diversity. “We were trying to think creatively of the next generation of leaders,” says one campaign official. They came up with a list of Democratic governors that included Mark Warner of Virginia, Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Tom Vilsack of Iowa: solid choices, but a list that, as the official put it, “didn’t get us where we wanted to go.” Jennifer Granholm, the photogenic new governor of Michigan, was also on the list. And Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, who had read some of the coverage following Obama’s primary victory, proposed Obama.

It was an appealing idea. Obama was known to be a speaker who could get a crowd going. He was a Midwesterner from a major industrial state, providing a demographic complement to Southerner Edwards and Northerner Kerry. But these things were also true of Granholm.


Huckabee Given Chance to Compete Following Iowa Straw Poll

My initial impression to the news of the Iowa straw poll results was that it was a victory for Mike Huckabee, an insufficient victory for Mitt Romney, and a serious loss for Ron Paul’s supporters who believe the campaign’s goal is victory as opposed to spreading a message. Other bloggers have shared this view that Mike Huckabee, as opposed to Mitt Romney, may have come out of the straw poll with the victory.

TNR writes:

Whatever the case, it’s hard to overstate the significance of Huckabee’s performance here. Combined, Huckabee and Brownback–the field’s two leading social conservatives–outpolled Mitt Romney today 33 to 31.5. If, as the results suggest, Huckabee emerges as the lone standard bearer for this group, he’ll probably end up with a block of support to rival Romney’s. (Most “Brownbackers” I spoke to would feel extremely comfortable throwing their support behind the Arkansan.) But, of course, just combining Brownback’s and Huckabee’s numbers actually way understates Huckabee’s potential ceiling. For one thing, he’s come this far running on fumes. It will be interesting to see what he can do with the fundraising boost he’ll enjoy after today. On top of that, there seem to be a lot of social conservatives currently supporting Romney because he’s running as the most conservative of the top-tier candidates. Now that Huckabee has demonstrated his viability, it’s not hard to imagine him peeling off a decent number of Romney’s conservative backers.

A final thought: The political press is absolutely head over heels for Huckabee. (There were high-fives all around when it became clear he’d finish second.) He’s a genuinely endearing guy who can banter with the best of them–watching him with reporters brings to mind the old black and white footage of Babe Ruth jawboning with sportswriters. When you add that to the political media’s general affinity for underdogs, you can see how Huckabee’s about to enjoy some serious media afterglow, which will only further boost his profile. With Romney suddenly vulnerable among conservatives and McCain and Giuliani both languishing here–last Sunday’s Washington Post poll had McCain at 8 percent and Giuliani at 14, compared with Romney’s 26–you may well have just met your 2008 Iowa caucus winner.

Captain Ed writes:

Mike Huckabee showed surprising strength in Iowa. Despite not buying any advertising at all in the state, he managed to capture more than half of Romney’s total simply by his appearance at Ames. Huckabee was the most likely second-place finisher in Iowa anyway, simply because of the roster of the people who took the time to appear — but his strength, and the relative strength of the nonentities that have been Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo in this primary campaign show a real problem for Romney in Iowa.

Romney had the opportunity to bury the rest of the field in Iowa. Not only did all three people ahead of him in the national polls bow out for various reasons, but Romney has owned the airwaves in Iowa. Given the low national polling numbers for the GOP second tier — they score roughly 22% combined, if No Opinion gets included — Romney should have at least won somewhere upwards of 40% in Ames, and probably a majority.

The Debate Link writes:

What took many people by surprise (all but the most insightful political observers) was a strong second place showing by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. With his “back against the wall”, Huckabee received a healthy 18% of the vote, well behind Mitt Romney’s total, but also comfortably ahead of third-place finisher and bitter rival Senator Sam Brownback (KS). More importantly, Huckabee achieved his total without the benefits of a huge Iowa operation, all the more impressive when his main competition for the social conservative bloc, Brownback, was heavily invested in Iowa and apparently had 60-100 buses shipping in volunteers from all across the state.

So what’s the overall effect? Well, Huckabee is in a really strong position. I mean, really strong. The primary barrier to his campaign was a lack of money and the perception that he was getting no traction. Well, guess what: he just got the latter, and I suspect the former will follow. Once he’s established as a real player, a whole mess of the support from the social conservative base of the party are natural targets to be poached by his campaign. Does anybody think they’re seriously happy with Romney, Thompson, McCain, or (shudder) Giuliani? Huckabee is the evangelicals’ choice candidate now, and I suspect he’s ready to start converting folks.

Boorman Tribune points out many of Huckabee’s far right positions. However this could be said about all the Republican candidates, including maverick Ron Paul who opposes abortion rights and does not believe that separation of church and state was one of the principles held by the Founding Fathers and an intention of the First Amendment. When compared to the other far right candidates, sometimes he appears to be the most rational Republican running, such as when talking about school prayer. The attack ads from the Club For Growth show that he sometimes varies from Republican orthodoxy on economic issues. However I did lose some confidence in him when he expressed his disbelief in evolution.

The question now is whether Huckabee can capitalize on this victory. His will only have a meaningful victory if his second place finish leads to a significant increase in contributions to his campaign and increased media coverage. He remains a long shot, but there is plenty of time if this allows him become competitive with the first tier candidates in fund raising, considering how soft the support for the top tier candidates is.

Shifting Needed Resources from Afghanistan to Iraq

The New York Times has a lengthy article on how the war in Afghanistan went bad. This is one section from the article on shifting of resources from Afghanistan to Iraq:

In October 2002, Robert Grenier, a former director of the C.I.A.’s counterintelligence center, visited the new Kuwait City headquarters of Lt. Gen David McKiernan, who was already planning the Iraq invasion. Meeting in a sheet metal warehouse, Mr. Grenier asked General McKiernan what his intelligence needs would be in Iraq. The answer was simple. “They wanted as much as they could get,” Mr. Grenier said.Throughout late 2002 and early 2003, Mr. Grenier said in an interview, “the best experienced, most qualified people who we had been using in Afghanistan shifted over to Iraq,” including the agency’s most skilled counterterrorism specialists and Middle East and paramilitary operatives.

That reduced the United States’ influence over powerful Afghan warlords who were refusing to turn over to the central government tens of millions of dollars they had collected as customs payments at border crossings.

While the C.I.A. replaced officers shifted to Iraq, Mr. Grenier said, it did so with younger agents, who lacked the knowledge and influence of the veterans. “I think we could have done a lot more on the Afghan side if we had more experienced folks,” he said.