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The Problem With Civility

The problem with civility is not the civility, it is the whining about civility.

This type of comment galls me no end:

Civility, to me, does *not* mean being ‘nice-nice’.  No.  If you see me posting something you disagree with, well… go for it!  Tell me you disagree, tell me why, and I will try to justify my position.
Civility, rather, means treating one another with respect.  Civility means knowing that, as LBJ said “When two people agree on everything, one of them is doing all the thinking”

Civility means being polite; it does not mean being silent.

Civility means assuming that other people are of good will, even if they disagree with you.

Civility means being willing to entertain the idea that you are wrong.  (well, except me, of course.  I’m never wrong).

“How could you think that you ignorant baboon!” is not civil.

“F*ck you” is not civil.

“Only a Republican could think that” is, given the nature of this site, not civil.

“I disagree, because I think XXXXX” is civil.

Civility does not shut down debate, it opens it up. It allows people to venture unpopular positions, knowing that they will not be shot down.  It allows people to disagree without risking friendship.  It encourages those who are usually quiet to speak up. 

Let’s disagree.  But let’s not be disagreeable.

The problem with this is that the folks who write this type of comment will wield “civility” like a club in an attempt to stifle debate. I know it. I lived it. I came here because I felt confident we would not buy into this faux bullshit. Based on the reaction to the comment, I think I may very likely be wrong. More

The Problem With The Netroots Strategy On Iraq

The Netroots has this year focused its fire on Iraq on “moderate” Republicans and what they term Bush Dog Democrats. Move On’s Tom Matzzie “masterminded” a brilliant plan that Move On has implemented this spring and summer of running ads against “moderate” Republicans like Jim Walsh and it worked, Walsh will now favor a toothless “change the course” strategy that Democrats will offer as a “bipartisan” plan. Move On and the Dems have concocted a political position that will give “moderate” Republicans cover on the Iraq issue in 2008 while doing nothing to change the course of the Debacle. Brilliant!

Similarly, the Bush Dog Democrat plan, which threatens to run Netroots-inspired primaries against people like Mississippi Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS) (because I am sure Mississippi Democrats will rise up once some Mississippi progressive is anointed as the Netroots candidate in such a primary), will no doubt make a big dent in Bush’s Iraq policy. Not.

Meanwhile, erstwhile Netroots Dem Joe Sestak (D-PA), once a supporter of a date certain for withdrawal, no longer supports a firm timeline:

Sestak said, Democratic leaders should set aside their demands for immediate withdrawal “and begin to help author a comprehensive regional security plan that accepts the necessity for a deliberate redeployment.” . . . Sestak has been among those Democrats who think that setting a “date certain” for withdrawal is the best way to force Iraqis to assume more responsibility. But he now believes the length of time needed to redeploy, and the potential for the entire Army to “unravel” unless troops are redeployed, require a compromise. . . .

This is indicative of all that was wrong with the progressive activist strategy on Iraq in 2007. Instead of concentrating on growing and holding the group of Dems, once 171 strong in the House, in favor of no funding without timelines, some decided they could pressure Republicans and conservative Dems like Gene Taylor. And we are where we are today in no small measure because of these miscalculations. I repeat, one more time, that it will take pressure on Dems, MAINSTREAM and PROGRESSIVE Dems, to hold the line on no funding without timelines. We need to work for more pledges like this one:

Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to inform you that we will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of all our troops out of Iraq before you leave office.

More than 3,600 of our brave soldiers have died in Iraq. More than 26,000 have been seriously wounded. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or injured in the hostilities and more than 4 million have been displaced from their homes. Furthermore, this conflict has degenerated into a sectarian civil war and U.S. taxpayers have paid more than $500 billion, despite assurances that you and your key advisors gave our nation at the time you ordered the invasion in March, 2003 that this military intervention would cost far less and be paid from Iraqi oil revenues.

We agree with a clear and growing majority of the American people who are opposed to continued, open-ended U.S. military operations in Iraq, and believe it is unwise and unacceptable for you to continue to unilaterally impose these staggering costs and the soaring debt on Americans currently and for generations to come. . .

The pledge made in this letter should have been the focal point of our activism. Sadly, it was not.

A Test of Leadership

This is a post on behalf of the Presidential candidacy of Senator Chris Dodd. I am not connected to the campaign.

The Washington Post reports:

Democratic leaders in Congress have decided to shift course and pursue modest bipartisan measures to alter U.S. military strategy in Iraq, hoping to use incremental changes instead of aggressive legislation to break the grip Republicans have held over the direction of war policy.

. . . “We’re reaching out to the Republicans to allow them to fulfill their word,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said yesterday. “A number of them are quoted significantly saying that come September that there would have to be a change of the course in the war in Iraq.”

Let me be blunt, the Democratic leadership is either being extremely foolish or extremely cynical. They should know that accomodating Senate Republicans will do nothing to change course in Iraq, much less end the Iraq Debacle. If they do not they are being foolish. If they do, then they are being cynical. And foolishly cynical as no political or policy aim can be met by accommodating Senate Republicans.

Democratic Presidential candidates who are in the Congress have, not only an opportunity, but a duty to lead the Democrats in Congress away from this disastrous course and to an approach that can end the Iraq Debacle and make clear which political party wants to end the Debacle and which one wants to continue it.

In an interview last night with Keith Olbermann, Senator Chris Dodd eloquently explained what the stakes are in this Congressional Iraq Debate:

I urge you to watch this segment as Dodd demonstrates the qualities that will make him a great Democratic President, with a deep understanding of the true source of America’s greatness – our values. Of special note is Dodd’s discussion of his new book, Letters From Nuremberg, a collection of letters from his father, Senator Thomas Dodd, who worked with Justice Robert Jackson at the Nuremberg trials, which he describes as “epistles to this generation.”

Pragmatists and Idealists: A Word About John Kerry

The nomination of John Kerry in 2004 was an act of “pragmatism” (to be sure, misguided pragmatism, I mean, seriously, a Massachusetts Senator as the pragmatic choice?) by the Democratic electorate. While most Democrats liked Kerry on the issues (except the big one Iraq, of course) voting for John Kerry was largely a collective act of pragmatism imo.

It’s interesting that Kerry was the pragmatic choice for the Democratic electorate as he behaved as a “pragmatic” politician in the run up to the 2004 campaign, and for too long in the general election campaign. It was a mistake for the Democratic electorate and a mistake for Kerry.

Of course after he lost, John Kerry became a brave politician. And credit to him for that. I will always have great respect for John Kerry now for one reason especially, his willingness to lead a filibuster fight against Sam Alito. Kerry and the many “idealists” at Daily Kos shamed me into joining what remains, in my estimation, the Netroots’ finest moment – leadership from the bottom up that led to a principled and WISE fight against Sam Alito’s confirmation. The interesting result of that fight, in the face of predictions of political doom, was an invigorated Democratic base and a Democratic Establishment that learned in 2006 that the sky would not fall if they ignored the DC Establishment and stood for something.

Does this have lessons for us as Democrats and activists? I think it does. I’ll explain on the flip.

The Move On Ad

I have not been shy about the need to demythologize General Petraeus as the “honest broker” who will provide an independent assessment of the Surge. I wrote:

[T]his is not meant to doubt General Petraeus' integrity or competence. It is meant to treat him for what he is – not an infallible disinterested observer, but a soldier who believes he can accomplish an impossible mission and will view events in a manner that most favors that belief. This is to be expected from ALL human beings

What I must condemn is the use of the phrase “General Betrayus” by Move On in its ad today in the New York Times. This inexcusable use of the detestable Republican tactic of labelling those who disagree with you as “traitors,” something I have long objected to and I must, in good conscience, strongly condemn Move On's use of this deplorable tactic. Moreover, not only was this morally contemptible, it was political idiocy as the coverage of the ad clearly demonstrated. There is a way to take on the Petraeus myth. Glenn Greenwald demonstrated how to do it. And he is featured here showing how again:

Open Left has a petition you should sign.

The Meaning Of Petraeus

At Talk Left, I wrote a piece describing what I believe would be the most effective manner for Democrats to deal with the Petraeus Show coming to a Congress near you this week. I’ll post the text on the flip.

But I wanted to make a point first. To wit, Petraeus and his Surge is nothing but bullshit. I assume we all know this but we have seen and will see a lot of “serious” discussion about it. Let’s be clear, there is no hope for a good ending for the United States in Iraq. It is a Debacle and there is nothing that will change that, short of, perhaps, a reconquering of Iraq, conscription of a million Americans and World War III in the Middle East. Of course such an approach would not only be lunacy, it will never happen (just as war with Iran UNCONNECTED to Iraq will never happen).

So all this “serious” talk is unserious and ridiculous in the extreme. Take for instance, via Yglesias, this discussion by two of the more foolish “serious” people we encounter in these discussions, Packer and Dodge:

Dodge’s grim vision does not make an irrefutable case for staying in Iraq. But it’s a reminder that the illusions and na├»ve hopes with which America started the war shouldn’t accompany its end. [WTF? We should persist in illusions and naive hopes as a basis for foreign policy? Quintessential idiocy from Packer.]

. . . This doesn’t mean keeping large numbers of troops in Iraq indefinitely; that has become impossible. David Kilcullen argued that next summer, when the surge is scheduled to end, American forces could be reduced to a level-say, eighty thousand-that might allow most of the core interests to be protected. . . . [W]hen the surge ends, there will have to be a strategic turn, away from Americans in the lead. An indefinite war in Iraq “costs us moral authority across the world,” Kilcullen said. The occupation of Iraq remains hugely unpopular with America’s democratic allies and throughout the Arab and Muslim world. “We need that moral authority as ammunition in the fight against Al Qaeda,” he added. “If we’re not down to fifty thousand troops in three to five years, we’ve lost the war on terror.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Can you believe this shit? Can you believe these idiot “serious” people make a claim for the US having moral authority in the war on terror? After torture, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and the the rest? These are the elites of this country we are told. If you wonder how we came to this end, just think of WHAT THESE PEOPLE SAY NOW!! If we can not defeat these “elites” politically, we are simply fucked as a country.


On Iraq: Richardson’s Selfish Op-Ed

WaPo has a deceptive title on Bill Richardson’s Op Ed piece. They call it “Why We Should Leave Iraq Now.” It should be called “Watch Richardson Try TO Exploit ‘Differences’ on 2009 Iraq Policy and NOT Talk About Leaving Iraq Now.” Read the first three grafs of the piece:

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have suggested that there is little difference among us on Iraq. This is not true: I am the only leading Democratic candidate committed to getting all our troops out and doing so quickly.

In the most recent debate, I asked the other candidates how many troops they would leave in Iraq and for what purposes. I got no answers. The American people need answers. If we elect a president who thinks that troops should stay in Iraq for years, they will stay for years — a tragic mistake.

Clinton, Obama and Edwards reflect the inside-the-Beltway thinking that a complete withdrawal of all American forces somehow would be “irresponsible.” On the contrary, the facts suggest that a rapid, complete withdrawal — not a drawn-out, Vietnam-like process — would be the most responsible and effective course of action.

The fact that there is a Congressional debate in Congress NOW on Iraq does not enter Richardson’s thinking in the least. I do not know about you, but I truly detest what Richardson is doing here, selfishly trying to make political hay for himself at the expense of the real issue NOW – the Congressional debate on Iraq. Richardson is my least favorite candidate right now.

Durbin Takes The Iraq Pledge: No Funding Without End Date For the Debacle


The No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate said on Friday he could no longer vote for funding the war in Iraq unless restrictions were attached that would begin winding down American involvement there.

“This Congress can't give President (George W.) Bush another blank check for Iraq,” said Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, who has always opposed the war but until now voted to fund it.

“I can't support an open-ended appropriation which allows this president to continue this failed policy,” he said in a speech at the left-leaning Center for National Policy.

Where's Obama?

Not Funding The Iraq Debacle – Tell The Senate

Chris Dodd has set up a simple way to send the Senate your view on the proposed Dem capitulation. Matt Browner-Hamlin of the Dodd campaign (I am a Dodd supporter) writes:

Earlier this afternoon, my colleague Tim Tagaris sent an email to the campaign email list asking Dodd’s supporters to contact their Senators and ask them to join Senator Dodd in publicly rejecting any Iraq legislation that does not include enforceable deadlines for withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. Instead, Tim asked that people lobby their Senators to support the Dodd amendment, the best option for immediately withdrawing American troops from Iraq and ensuring there is a firm deadline tied to funding for the redeployment of our troops out of Iraq.

. . . Already over 1,000 emails have been sent to the Senate in the first few of hours of this push, asking our Senators to vote “YES” on the Dodd amendment and “NO” on any legislation without hard deadlines.

Just say no to funding the Iraq Debacle.

Bush Derangement Syndrome

I was going to do a Matt Yglesias imitation and consider the argument (implicit I think) presented by Megan McCardle about whether  Paul Krugman is too well, anti-Bush. For us of course this is a silly argument. But Krugman is a New York Times columnist. Should he start his discussions of Bush policies from a more measured point and then argue why Bush is wrong?

It reminded me of Brad DeLong’s longrunning series of “serious” people who became “shrill.” And of course Krugman was the original “Shrill One.” Which THEN reminded me of a post I wrote at Daily Kos where I explained my own evolution on viewing the Bush Administration. I’ll reprint it on the flip.

Stalin the Statesman

Via Yglesias, comes a review by Andrew Bacevich of a revisonist history of Stalin. I find the review to be brilliant. I am curious to see what others here will think. Here is a piece:

Not Funding The Iraq Debacle

Direct from the The Great Orange Satan:

Heck, I'd be happy if just the Democrats would follow their words with action this Magical September. We don't need Republicans to follow suit.

Republicans need 60 votes in the Senate to pass any funding bills, while Democrats can single-handedly squash any efforts in the House. If Republicans don't compromise on a withdrawal timetable, there's no impetus to pass a funding bill.

And without funding, there's no war.

Way to make me look dumb, Kos. And shut me up quick. I thank you for it.


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