Further Evidence Of The Insanity Dominating The Republican Party

Bradley Byrne is running for the Republican nomination for governor in Alabama but is not conservative enough for those responsible for the above attack ad. Byrne is being attacked and even mocked for supporting teaching evolution in the schools and for saying “there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not.”

Byrne is being attacked for views which would be rather sane coming from a Republican. Rather than defending such views Byrne insists he is as big a kook as those attacking him:

As a Christian and as a public servant, I have never wavered in my belief that this world and everything in it is a masterpiece created by the hands of God. As a member of the Alabama Board of Education, the record clearly shows that I fought to ensure the teaching of creationism in our school textbooks. Those who attack me have distorted, twisted and misrepresented my comments and are spewing utter lies to the people of this state.

A Non-Ideological Argument For Kagan

There are other ways to look at the nomination of Elena Kagan beyond the ideological questions. While I might have preferred someone with a stronger track record on civil liberties issues, Ezra Klein does make a compelling argument in her favor:

When Obama announced Kagan’s nomination, he praised “her temperament, her openness to a broad array of viewpoints; her habit, to borrow a phrase from Justice Stevens, ‘of understanding before disagreeing’; her fair-mindedness and skill as a consensus-builder.” This sentence echoes countless assessments of Obama himself.

Obama is cool. He makes a show of processing the other side’s viewpoint. He’s more interested in the fruits of consensus than the clarification of conflict. In fact, just as Kagan is praised for giving conservative scholars a hearing at Harvard’s Law School, Obama was praised for giving conservative scholars a hearing on the Harvard Law Review. “The things that frustrate people about Obama will frustrate people about Kagan,” says one prominent Democrat who’s worked with both of them.

Understanding this is the key to understanding the Kagan pick: Obama’s theory of negotiations is that extending an open hand makes it easier for people to see if the other side has made a fist. It both increases the likelihood of a deal and increases your chances of winning the PR war if a deal falls apart.

This is a theory that frustrates many liberals who want to see a more confrontational tone from the president, but it’s core to Obama’s theory of winning a negotiation. And the need to win negotiations is core to Obama’s — and everyone’s — theory of the Supreme Court. With four liberals, four conservatives and one center-right justice who’s willing to play the swing vote, a skilled legal negotiator who can put together a majority is more important than a sharp legal thinker whose blistering dissents can cure liberals of their Scalia envy.

It remains to be seen whether Kagan is able to negotiate better outcomes. It also remains to be seen what her views are on the court. We might be either disappointed or pleasantly surprised.

Battles On The Left Over Kagan

While I’m not exactly excited by the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, I do not see this decision as worth the amount of controversy on the left as it has been receiving. The two major sources attacking the nomination have been Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald. After the health care debate I’ve given up reading anything coming from Hamsher after seeing how she engages in exactly the same type of distortions as Glenn Beck and other right wing pundits. Greenwald has done enough worthwhile work for me to continue to take him seriously, and much of his criticism of Obama is valid, even if he sometimes loses perspective. He does lose me when he breaks into nonsense comparing Obama to Bush. Both have some things in common, including both being featherless bipeds, but it is their major differences which are far more significant.

Glenn Greenwald and Lawrence Lessig are engaged in quite a dispute over the Kagan nomination and each other’s integrity. The links on each of their name presents their side of the dispute while McJoan at Daily Kos has a play by play analysis. Personally I think that the fine points of this debate will soon be forgotten as we are faced with the various arguments coming from the right wing noise machine as to why Kagan is the most liberal person to have ever been nominated to the Supreme Court. I agree with Steve M. on this:

Part of my frustration with Firebagging in general is that progressives simply lack the muscle to drag not just the administration but Congress and the country all that far to the left by sheer force of will, and Firebaggers don’t seem to understand that. Unlike the teabaggers, we don’t have a multimedia news organization at our disposal that’s endlessly fed money by hit Hollywood movies. We haven’t had a Wurlitzer in operation for thirty years persuading the mainstream press that attention must be paid to us because we’re the really really authentic Americans. Our propagandists don’t dominate AM radio on every square mile of U.S. territory. We haven’t even begun the work of persuading — not hectoring, but persuading — heartland swing voters that our ideas aren’t scary, aren’t hostile to American values, and in fact are in sync with their values. We certainly haven’t persuaded enough to heartland voters to make heartland members of the House and Senate sit up and take notice, the way they carefully notice whether they’re protecting their right flanks.

We’ve got a lot of work to do to get our message across. We’re not going to get there by regularly joining right-wingers in Obama pile-ons.

So yeah, regarding the administration, I’ll keep grumbling. But I’m not going to support any move that dilutes what little power we have (and I’m not joking when I say “little power,” because even with huge congressional majorities and the White House, too much of the country is still under a Reagan/Limbaugh/Murdoch spell, and too many congressional Democrats are cowardly as a result). If you know how to get big leftward shifts to happen, really, go for it. If all you know how to do is demand them, I might take your point, but I’m going to object that you don’t have a plan.