Maureen Dowd on Bush Running to Daddy

Maureen Dowd notes that Bush has had to move more in the direction of his father (who opposed going into Iraq to begin with) and is now making u-turns. Flip flops might have been a better description:

“They had to bring in someone from the old gang,” said someone from the old gang. “That has to make Junior uneasy. With Bob, the door is opened again to 41 and Baker and Brent.”

W. had no choice but to make an Oedipal U-turn. He couldn’t let Nancy Pelosi subpoena the cranky Rummy for hearings on Iraq. “He’s not exactly Mr. Charming or Mr. Truthful, and he’d be on TV saying something stupid,” said a Bush 41 official. “Bob can just go up to the Hill and say: ‘I don’t know. I wasn’t there when that happened.’ ”

Bob Gates, his friends say, had been worried about the belligerent, arrogant, ideological style of Rummy & Cheney from the start. He fretted at the way W.’s so-called foreign policy “dream team” — including his old staffer and fellow Soviet expert Condi — made it up as they went along, even though that had been their complaint about the Clinton foreign policy team. A realpolitik advocate like his mentor, General Scowcroft, he was critical of a linear, moralizing style that disdained nuance, demoted diplomacy and inflated villains. In 2004, he publicly questioned the administration’s approach to Iran.

While Vice went off to a corner to lick his wounds, W. was forced to do his best imitation of his dad yesterday, talking about “bipartisan outreach,” “people have spoken,” blah-blah-blah — after he’d been out on the trail saying that electing Democrats would mean that “the terrorists win and America loses.”

“I share a large part of the responsibility” for the “thumpin’ ” of Republicans, he told reporters. Actually, he gets full responsibility.

W. has stopped talking about democracy as a standard of success in Iraq; yesterday, he said that Iraq had to “govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself.”

Throughout his business career, W repeatedly needed his daddy’s cronies to bail him out. Hopefully, for the good of the country, they can get Boy George out of Iraq.
More Maureen Dowd at Liberal Values.

Remembering Hillary Care and the Democratic Loss of Congress

George Will reminds us of why Hillary Clinton should not be the Democratic nominee as he notes that Iraq is the GOP’s Health Care Disaster:

But last Tuesday’s election results were fresh evidence that two events which profoundly shaped American politics during the last two presidencies were episodes of irrational exuberance unrelated to economic behavior.

The Democratic episode was the Clintons’ attempt to radically restructure and semi-socialize the 16 percent of the economy that is the health-care sector. The Republican episode was — is — Iraq.

The Clintons’ health plan never even came to a vote in a Congress their party controlled. Two years later, President Clinton was silly to say that “the era of big government is over,” but a different era was over. It was the era of confidently comprehensive, continentwide attempts to reform complex social systems.

Ten weeks before the 1994 elections, Martha Derthick of the University of Virginia wrote of the plan produced by Hillary Clinton’s 500-person task force: “In many years of studying American social policy, I have never read an official document that seemed so suffused with coercion and political naivete … with its drastic prescriptions for controlling the conduct of state governments, employers, drug manufacturers, doctors, hospitals and you and me.”

The Clintons’ health care plan validated the perception that their party was gripped by both intellectual hubris and intellectual sloth — meaning, it was still in a New Deal and Great Society frame of mind. This perception contributed to the 1994 election in which Republicans gained 52 House seats (and soon five more from party switchers) — ending 40 years of Democratic control of the House — and eight Senate seats (plus two party switchers).

The Democrats deserved to be thrown out for developing a proposal as awful as Hillary’s heath care plan. The country, however, did not deserve the Republicans who replaced them. To choose Hillary Clinton to lead the Democrats would be like, should the Democrats screw up while in power, returning to George Bush’s policies in response.

In 2004 John Kerry showed he understood the faults in Clinton’s health care proposals by coming up with an excellent plan which, despite the GOP smears that it was a “government take over of health care,” preserved choice and limited government intrusion. John Kerry showed that, regardless of whether he can tell a joke, he knows the direction which the country should go in, being neither the direction of George Bush or Hillary Clinton.

So Much For Henry Waxman to Investigate

Henry Waxman faces a problem. There has been so much corruption since Bush came to office that he can’t decide where to start investigating:

The Democratic congressman who will investigate the Bush administration’s running of the government says there are so many areas of possible wrongdoing, his biggest problem will be deciding which ones to pursue.

There’s the response to Hurricane Katrina, government contracting in Iraq and on homeland security, political interference in regulatory decisions by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, and allegations of war profiteering, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m going to have an interesting time because the Government Reform Committee has jurisdiction over everything,” Waxman said Friday, three days after his party’s capture of Congress put him in line to chair the panel. “The most difficult thing will be to pick and choose.”

Waxman, who’s in his 16th term representing West Los Angeles, had plenty of experience leading congressional investigations before the Democrats lost control of the House to Republicans in 1994.

That was the year when, as chairman of an Energy and Commerce subcommittee, he presided over dramatic hearings he convened where the heads of leading tobacco companies testified that they didn’t believe nicotine was addictive…

Waxman complained that Republicans, while in power, shut Democrats out of decision-making and abdicated oversight responsibilities, focusing only on maintaining their own power.

In contrast to the many investigations the GOP launched of the Clinton administration, “when Bush came into power there wasn’t a scandal too big for them to ignore,” Waxman said.

Among the issues that should have been investigated but weren’t, Waxman contended, were the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, the controversy over the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name, and the pre-Iraq war use of intelligence.

He said Congress must restore accountability and function as an independent branch of government. “It’s our obligation not to be repeating with the Republicans have done,” Waxman said.

Sci Fi Friday: Ron Moore on Religion vs. Humanism in Star Trek and BSG

Interviews with Ron Moore are almost becoming a regular part of SciFi Friday. This week I have some excerpts from an interview conducted by Harlan Ellison:

Ellison: The parallels to current events are obvious; in particular, I think that the analogies to the Iraqi War are very clear. Did the parallels come from you or from some Sci-Fi [Channel] exec?

Moore: Fundamentally, they came from me. I felt, in that first week of thinking about it, that, okay, this is going to deal with 9-11 and a lot of the things we were going through as a society at that moment. It was just part of the premise. It was always going to be in the show, and once we were on that path, it just felt like we were going to keep doing this and we’re going to deal with things that are happening in our contemporary reality, but we were going to view them through a different prism.

The show was never going to be a direct allegory; Laura Roslin was not going to be George W. Bush, and the Cylons were not going to be al-Qaeda. But they were going to share elements. And part of the opportunity of doing a show like this was the opportunity to sort of move the pieces around the game board a little bit and say: “Well, we’ve all experienced this set of events. What if I move this piece over here, and put you over there? How would you feel about it then?”
There was a Sci-Fi [Channel] exec that had a key impact on the show, surprisingly enough. His name is Michael Jackson (no relation to the singer.) He worked for the network, and while I was working on the script for the miniseries, he read a line from Number Six, the blonde Cylon played by Tricia Helfer. She had a conversation with Baltar, and at one point she says, “God is love.” It was just something that I found on the page as I was writing it. And I wrote, and I was struck by it because it’s an odd thing for a robot to say. I liked it, but didn’t really know what it meant, and it wasn’t a focal point of the script.

But when Michael read the script, one of his notes was: “That’s fascinating. You already have elements of al-Qaeda and religious fanaticism hovering around the edges of what you’re doing. Why don’t you embrace that and go for that element because they don’t typically do that in Sci-Fi.” And my first reaction was: “Oh my God! Nobody ever gives you that kind of note, especially not an executive.”

So I just ran with it, and it became one of foundational elements of the show: the religious conflict between the two civilizations; the monotheism of the Cylons and the polytheism of the Colonials; what is God, what is human, and what does it mean to be alive. All of these metaphysical ideas and religious concepts sort of groove from that one line in the teleplay.

Ellison: My next question is about religion. The Cylons are the monotheists; they believe in God and are good Christian folk. And the crew, who are our heroes, are polytheists like the ancient Egyptians or Greeks. It was always interesting, but until recently there was never a third element; now the venue has changed and there’s a supernatural quality. A spiritual force is at work. Can you codify that?

Moore: I sort of felt that as the religious aspects of the show were becoming more common and started to dominate plot lines and certain character attributes, you sort of had to make a choice at some level about whether that was all bullshit or not. Does it mean something? Is all this worship just about talk and about made up religions that don’t mean anything? Or is there the possibility of something greater? These are the existential questions. Is this all that I am? Is there something more? Why am I here?

If all the characters on the show are asking themselves those questions, I felt that on some level I wanted to give a hint that maybe they’re not all fools. That maybe there’s some greater truth that they’re all struggling toward, that none of them can see perfectly. So I started to feather in ideas that could not be explained by rational means. While never really coming out and saying that God is behind the curtain, I wanted to have elements of it.

One of the things that I had noticed working on Star Trek, and in science fiction in general, was that mainstream science fiction tended to shy away from this as a subject. Gene Roddenberry felt very strongly that in the future of Star Trek, religions were all gone; that in 300 to 400 years mankind had evolved beyond it; that religions were all superstitions and were things of the past. It was a very secular humanist idea, which I don’t have a problem with philosophically, but I didn’t believe as a storyteller that in just a few centuries we would discard this fundamental thing that had informed our societies for so long.

So, I just felt that in this world in Galactica, which had nomenclature like Apollo and Athena and all these names of the Greek gods, it beggared the imagination to say that they didn’t really believe in it. And if they did believe it in, I wanted to give it some validity and show that there is something out there.

Variety reports that Battlestar Galactica executive producer David Eick is wroking on Them, an SF alien-invasion series for Fox Apparently if Fox News has been unsuccessful in leadilng the Republican invasion of Earth, their entertainment division will turn to a fictional invasion.The Spider-Man 3 trailer is available here. If you prefer DC to Marvel, the sequel to Superman Returns is expected for 2009.

By now most Lost fans are aware that they have to wait until next year for the season to pick up again and find out how the cliff hanger is resolved. Will Jack really ignore the Hippocratic Oath and allow Ben to die? Will his gamble work and allow all three of those captured by the others to escape? Fans of Jericho are about to be faced with a similar cliff hanger. The first half of Jericho‘s season will end November 29 with a cliffhanger, to be continued February 14. One good thing about this plan, for someone such as myself who hasn’t watched yet, is that this gives me time to watch the season to date on line and then follow when it returns. Having ways to catch missed shows is an excellent idea. The networks are learning that they must make some changes in how they present shows if they are to reduce their declining viewership.

The Screaming over Howard Dean

I’ve had mixed feelings about Howard Dean for quite a while. I got involved in blogs back in 2003 when supporting Dean was almost synonymous with being anti-Bush and ant-war. In the fall of 2003, when the various candidates for the nomination fought it out, I took a closer look at the individuals and decided that, while Dean was certainly right on Bush and right on Iraq, Dean was not the right man to be the nominee. Now there is controversy over whether he is right to lead the DNC. James Carville, who has screamed publicly far more than Howard Dean, appears to be a leading opponent of keeping Dean on. Ryan Lizza writes:

Some big name Democrats want to oust DNC Chairman Howard Dean, arguing that his stubborn commitment to the 50-state strategy and his stinginess with funds for House races cost the Democrats several pickup opportunities.

The candidate being floated to replace Dean? Harold Ford.

Says James Carville, one of the anti-Deaniacs, “Suppose Harold Ford became chairman of the DNC? How much more money do you think we could raise? Just think of the difference it could make in one day. Now probably Harold Ford wants to stay in Tennessee. I just appointed myself his campaign manager.”

Not surprisingly, Kos and some at MyDD, both early Dean supporters, are quite upset with this idea and are threatening war. Digby warns that “The establishment is going to have to grow up and learn to live with the netroots and the grassroots activists who back Dean. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but we aren’t going anywhere.”

I’m not sure where Carville is coming from. Harold Ford? He hardly represents the aspects of the Democratic Party I have interest in. Granted the DNC Chairmanship is more an on organizational and fund raising position than one of setting policy so it may not matter, but if people like Carville really see people like Ford as the ideological future of the Democratic Party, then I have no use for the party. If Harold Ford were the future of the Democratic Party, then I’d take a second look at the Republicans, siding with the more libertarian elements of the party in the likely civil war with the social conservatives.

Fortunately Ford’s views are not really representative of many Democrats and hopefully Carville’s support is really over fund raising ability. In theory, if Ford really could raise more money, and this money continued to be used to elect more socially liberal Democrats, then perhaps this would be a consideration. Still, before convincing me that Ford rather than Dean would be better chairing the party, I’d need to see an awfully good argument that Ford could really do a better job, and that this would not mean a change in the philosophy of the party. As Steve Benan notes, “we’re talking about a congressman who ran to the far-right on social issues, voted for torture, and blew a lead to lose a closely-watched Senate race. He’s a talented pol, and I hope he stays around, but DNC chair? Ousting the current chair after a wildly successful cycle?” Joe Conason presents a strong defense of Dean: (more…)

Republican County Chair Blasts “Christian Fascists”

The Sioux City (Iowa) Journal quotes a Republican County Chairman in Iowa as blasting the religious right, describing them as “Christian fascists.” I’m not surprised that the GOP thumpin’ this week is leading some Republicans to question their association with the religions right. You cannot simultaneously claim to be the party of small government and individual liberty while promoting the use of government to intervene in intimate details of individual’s lives. County Chairman Steve Salem had the following to say:

A day after the Democratic sweep of the midterm elections, Woodbury County Republican Chairman Steve Salem had harsh words for his own party, lambasting the influence of the conservative Christian right wing.

Salem said he coined a new phase: “You’ve heard of IslamaFascists — I think we now have Christian fascists. What is the definition of a fascist? Not only do they want to beat you, but they want to destroy you in the process.”

Salem said “if things keep going the way things are going locally and statewide, it is going to be more and more difficult for Republicans to recruit candidates. We have elements of the party who are moral absolutists, who take the approach that if you don’t take my position every step of the way, not only will I not support you, but I will destroy you.” [snip]

Salem said he’s going public with his views in order to ultimately help the party.

Said Salem, “I think that the Republican Party needs to do a huge self-analysis and determine if we are going to learn from our mistakes or if we are going to repeat the same mistakes, which, if we do, we are going to continue to lose elections. … Personally, I don’t know how we could have done much worse in this election cycle. That should be a wake-up call to this party.”

Big Time Changes in Science Policy

Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, writes about The New Congress on Science, believing that science policy is going to change “big time.” He notes that “one reason the Reagan administration never messed with science as much as the current administration was because the Democratic Congress helped keep it in line.” Among the changes, hearings on global warming won’t be centered around those outside of the mainstream who do not believe in global warming. People like Henry Waxman will be chairing committees with subpoena power to find out what is really going on in federal agencies.

I especially wonder how this will impact the federal ban on embryonic stem cell research. The Republican Congress already passed a bill supporting stem cell research but could not over ride Bush’s veto. Between the change in the new Congress and surviving Republicans fearing they could be next, I wonder if next time funding for stem cell research will pass with a veto-proof margin. In looking ahead to the 2008 horse race, action by Congess on global warming may make Al Gore appear prescient.