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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Dana Milbanks And False Equivalences

Update: It isn't just me. Tran Sient's Watch gave this one a good strong fisking. End Update.

I just read quite a remarkable article by Dana Milbanks in The Washington Post. Entitled "Democrats Conflicted On Playing Rough", it purports to depict Democrats as not having the political will to harshly criticize Republican policies or figures:
The decision by the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America to pull an incendiary ad attacking President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court has produced a fresh round of recriminations within the Democratic Party and a return to a nagging question: Has the opposition lost its nerve?

When conservatives complained about the ad -- which suggested that nominee John G. Roberts Jr. condoned violence against abortion clinics -- a number of prominent liberals joined in the criticism and elected Democrats ran for cover rather than defend the ad, which was dropped....

"Republicans don't mind running an ad that's entirely false, but Democrats have never learned, and I'm not sure many of them want to learn, how to play that kind of politics," said Robert Shrum, an adviser to several Democratic presidential campaigns. NARAL had to pull the ad, he said, because "they weren't getting support from any substantial quarter."...
Shrum's comment is a ridiculous effort at spin control, and the entire column seems largely aimed at drawing a false equivalence between Republican criticisms of Democrats and a blatant lie aimed at this particular nominee.

The issue of the Swift boat ads comes up. Well, that was hardly the mainstream party, but nonetheless John Kerry did testify before Congress and say that our servicemen were committing atrocities over there. You expect people to forget that? It's not a made-up allegation. John Kerry did meet with the opposing government while we were at war. It's not a dead issue to many of the American people.

Rove's comment about the liberals wanting "therapy and understanding for our attackers" is brought up. He was quoting Michael Moore. Yes, that Michael Moore. The Michael Moore who figured prominently in the last campaign. The Michael Moore who got rich off of that campaign, and gutshot the Democratic party in the process. The Michael Moore who claimed "there is no terrorist threat".

There's one person in the article who's speaking the truth:
A number of Democrats still say the party's best hopes are on the high road. "We have to define the reckless left of our party and differentiate ourselves," said former Clinton aide Lanny Davis, who denounced the NARAL ad. He said such "smear and innuendo" has caused his party to lose recent elections.
Yes, that's exactly what the Democratic party must do. It has to lose the intense rhetoric and build a serious agenda with which to appeal to the American party, and it can't do that by a furious campaign of lies and rage. It's the lies and rage that are preventing the Democratic party from building a workable agenda. Criticism is totally valid, but it must be tied to truths and lead into what the Democratic party plans to do differently to deal with problems. You can't just claim you could have brought down Saddam Hussein's statue more cheaply (as if that were ever the goal); you have to say how. And once you do that, you will then have to explain why you didn't advocate that plan or strategy before a war started.

Chis Lehane is quoted in the article as approving heartily of the NARAL ad. Chris Lehane was one of the people who engaged in defending Michael Moore's film. That film created a space-time portal to the galaxy of rabid moonbattery and sucked a portion of the Democratic party into it. From watching Howard Dean I have learned there is no escape, so now there remains only the choice to those left behind.

The Democratic party can be the party of barking moonbats, in which case it will soon be a very small party, or it can return to being an actual political party. It's a war to the death between the Pelosi/Hinchey/Biden/Dean Galloway-admiring contingent and the core of the Democratic party.

Over at Sigmund, Carl and Alfred's a discussion is going on about how we create more representation for the people, and I'll leave you with a comment by Boomr I thought was excellent:
Here's what I propose: A centrist party with a general platform, but that has as part of its central tenets the built-in tolerance for party members who disagree with the platform on particular issues.
I agree. There shouldn't be penalties for party members who have different outlooks on various issues, and in all too many cases today there are. This is why I am a member of the Coalition of the Chilling (see the sidebar) There has to be the possibility of compromise without the accusation of being a heretic. I don't think we necessarily need a viable third party, but we do need to permit third parties and alternative candidates to participate in the process. The political strategists of both parties want to force the American public into a situation of choosing between the two candidates and therefore allowing both parties to avoid difficult issues, rather than allowing the American public to place its issues upon the political table.

Tom Carter made a good observation about the new spate of Hollywood leftist movies:
Adults who live in the real world no longer expect anything better from Hollywood. But there's danger here for the Democratic Party. As these leftist, anti-American Hollywood cow patties hit the theaters, Democrats would be well advised to put as much distance between themselves and the box office as possible. It's just these kinds of extremist, paranoid ideas that Democrats, especially those on the far left, have become associated with.

If Democratic leaders are prominent at the premiers of these idiotic movies, then rush to the nearest camera for some face time and a soundbite, voters are likely to remember come the next election. That can't be good for Democrats, given the vast gulf between the thinking of Hollywood airheads and most Americans.
Americans aren't going to change. A huge percentage of them are moderates, and the people of the US don't share in the radicalization of the political class. See this excellent post by the Radical Centrist on that point.


Comments:
with a general platform, but that has as part of its central tenets the built-in tolerance for party members who disagree with the platform on particular issues.

That really is a good guideline for any party.

The problem some of the left is having right now is that they have begun to believe that they have exclusive possession of of the truth and the moral high ground. That leads them to believe anything said that doesn't support their cause is blatantly false, regardless of any supporting evidence to the contrary. So to them there really is no difference between what they are doing and the ads you mentioned.

Faith based politics, and I'm not talking religion.
 
Tommy - yes. That's exactly it. Politics is now all about winning, and then if you do something magically wonderful is supposed to happen, no need to worry about the details now.

But nothing magically wonderful can ever happen in politics.... It's all about compromise and getting things done.
 
"The problem some of the left is having right now is that they have begun to believe that they have exclusive possession of of the truth and the moral high ground."

That's just as much a problem of the right -- or do you not agree that the right often brings "morality" into the debate?

That's why a centrist party is necessary, to chill the voices of single-minded "morality" on both sides, and actually get something done.
 
It's the exclusivity that's the problem. Democrats aren't evil and Republicans aren't evil, and no party can end human sorrow or misfortune.

It's the treating politics like there is some Holy Grail answer that's so harmful.
 
That Post article was sickening. Caught my attention as well.
 
For balance I should have mentioned the right does that too.

I don't think having a third party would change much. The people in the center are already there, if they decided to demand to be heard they would be. The problem is most of them for one reason or another are content with the system the way it is. We get the government we collectively want, even when it's hard to believe that is what we meant.
 
I was surprised when Bob Beckel (sic) came down on the NY Times and just as surprised that Lanny Davis landed with both feet on NARAL. I may be reading things into things, but I think this is a move by the Democratic center to at least seem to demand integrity in their campaigns against Republicans. If these two big time guys represent more than just a few old guys, we may be seeing something happen.
 
I think you put your finger on it, Howard. This is exactly what they are trying to do. One faction of the party is trying to back off from the angry elements and the other faction is fighting against that move. DU rings with reproaches for the moderates. This is why the DLC is getting such flack.
 
"The people in the center are already there, if they decided to demand to be heard they would be. The problem is most of them for one reason or another are content with the system the way it is."

No, the problem is those centrist voters only get two choices in the matter: Dem or Rep. There is no centrist candidate, so it's a choice of the lesser of two evils. And in these days, when the Dems and Reps look substantially similar, the choice is pretty much up in the air. Those two choices are also beholden to their parties for monetary and campaign support, so eventually will swing to the political extreme to satisfy the big-money donors.

What a third party would do is offer another choice in candidates, something that currently is only offered by small, one- or two-issue parties like the Greens.

"We get the government we collectively want, even when it's hard to believe that is what we meant."

I'm not sure I agree. We get the government we collectively choose out of the limited multiple-choice test given to us. We don't have a "none of the above" option to throw away the two candidates nominated by the parties to ask for another two whom we might like better. "None of the above" is simply not voting, which only reduces the margin by which one of the two parties' candidates will win. Thus, only 40% of voters turn out for elections, and only a slight majority (or even just a plurality) of that chooses who's in office, which means that 20% (or less) of the voting public decides an election.

Is this really how democracy is supposed to work?
 
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