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Friday, June 24, 2011

Are We Really In Libya?

As I have mentioned before, I've been a little squishy about our involvement in Libya because I don't know if the U.S. stamp of approval does much for democratic uprisings in this part of the world. But I must say the rebuke of our Libyan involvement is just disgusting to me. Based on their unwavering and uncritical support of Bush's moral-free invasion of Iraq and our way-past-unwelcome forays in Afghanistan, I just can't believe these people can start preaching to us now about war powers.

To catch folks up, the House voted down a measure authorizing our involvement in Libya. A threat to cut off funding failed. But the words from GOP members who have suddenly found a war operation they don't like was astounding. Here is Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, via HuffPo:

“I think the message from Congress is not only is Libya not authorized, we don’t want to fund it. Period.”

All of this made me ask, just how much involvement do we have in Libya anyhow? We are supporting NATO, meaning we are actually going along with a real "Coalition of the Willing." We are primarily providing air support. We have not sent in an Osama bin Laden-like team of seals to storm Gadaffi's palaces.

In fact, we have yet to see a single American military casualty result in this involvement. Check this list of military deaths reported by the Department of Defense. You will see we are continuing to lose soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq on a regular basis, even though the intended goals of those military operations, meaning the ouster of Saddam Hussein and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, have already been accomplished.

In other words, our involvement in the Libyan conflict is largely symbolic. Certainly, people have died in Libya, but it has mostly been the forced on both sides of this civil war. But we simply haven't paid a major price in American blood.

Compare the rhetoric from the GOP regarding this bloodless war to the caustic attacks against the left when resistance was expressed regarding operations in Iraq, which are still costing lives eight years later. Ann Coulter, who has criticized Libya involvement, thinks our involvement in both Libya and Egypt has been wrong-headed, and thinks the strange thing is that Democrats support these bloodless operations while opposing the incredibly costly attack in Iraq. Back then, she wrote a book called Treason about how unpatriotic it was to oppose a president's military ambitions, ever.

But she is just a pundit. What did officials say back then?

Well, here is Kevin Brady (see above) on President Bush's plans in Iraq, via The Political Guide:

"If our military leaders need the extra troops in Baghdad then Congress needs to back them. I have concerns about where we find the troops to build strength in Iraq because our soldiers and families are stretched awfully thin already.

But there can only be one Commander-in-Chief. If Congress starts interfering in battlefield decisions or refuses to fund our troops this war is lost. The consequences will be tragic."

Pretty funny, huh?

Republicans support war when they control the White House and oppose it when Democrats control the White House.

Republicans support war if it means our soldiers get killed for political reasons in efforts which produce only negative change in the Middle East and hurt our interests abroad, but oppose it when America is part of an internationally-backed effort and when no American lives are placed in danger.

Maybe the problem is that Democrats just aren't as good at jingoism. Honestly, most liberal anti-war groups have maintained opposition to Libya, refusing to succomb to the hypocracy that remains the core value of the modern GOP. Barack Obama has never attacked those who oppose his policies as un-American. We don't have politicians calling for boycotts of pop stars who are critical of the president. We simply haven't deployed the same fear-mongering machine that Bush used to guilt Americans into supporting wrong-headed actions of yore.

I have a feeling the right will get their comeuppance. I won't count on there never being an American soldier killed in the Libyan conflict, but at this rate this will be a much lower casualty conflict that accomplishes regime change much faster. Obama will be able to campaign two years from now on a military success that did not result in innumerable deaths, and did not paper every front page in America with stories of local soldiers whose lives were lost for reasons both distant and unclear.

But regardless of one's feelings on this conflict, it seems quite clear right now that Congressmen like Brady never have cared about the lives of our troops or the reasoning for our wars. They certainly didn't care about executive overreach when a Republican did it, and therefore don't really care at all.

All they care about is disgracing Obama. They disgrace themselves and their offices instead.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Astroturf At Its Worst

This is a sad, sad attempt. It really is. Rick Scott is sending out form letters to supporters to send to newspapers.

For what it is worth, the editorial sections at every newspaper I have worked at toss such letters out when they realize they are form letters. Of course, that would only work if letters were coming en masse. Seeing Scott's popularity numbers right now, maybe he figured that wouldn't be a problem.

Wondering how to counter this? My basic instinct is don't bother. But if people want to write their own letters, emphasis on their own, I am sure it would be easy to collect a litany of complaints much more coherent than this crappy form letter.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Recruiting Against Rivera

I suspect it won't be hard to find a slough of Democrats willing to challenge Rep. David Rivera, a freshman Republican in the 25th and easily the most embarrassing result of Florida's GOP storm in the 2010 elections. I have great admiration for Joe Garcia, and hope he runs again, but apparently some other interesting folks are also getting into the mix, including state Rep. Luis Garcia.

This will be a big race, so people will have to get in early, even though the district lines won't be known until next Spring. But something interesting, it seems as if this district, created 10 years ago so Mario Diaz-Balart could get a cheap ticket to Washington, may get drawn by the GOP Legislature as a more Democrat-leaning district.

From the St. Pete Times:

The Miami-based congressional district held by Republican Rep. David Rivera could get cut at the Collier County line, making the seat a little less Republican, said Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant.

Rivera's district, which is over-populated by nearly 111,000, borders the Fort Myers-based seat held by Rep. Connie Mack, who's mulling a run for U.S. Senate. His seat is overpopulated by about 162,000.

So it's likely, though not guaranteed, that many of those excess Collier and Lee County residents will form the backbone of a new Southwest Florida-based congressional seat, according to Schale.

Since Rep. Connie Mack is running for re-election instead of the Senate, I expect Tallahassee will make his seat a little safer at Rivera's expense. And since Mack doesn;t really live here anyway, he probably doesn't care. (note, I live in Connie Mack's district today. I also live a couple miles from Jeff Kottkamp, who the Times suggests may benefit from redistricting, so that may change)

The question in Tallahassee from a political standpoint is how much the Republicans want to keep this seat. Truth is the seat has been trending blue, enough so that Diaz-Balart high-tailed it out last year. Now that we have one of the most outwardly corrupt freshman in the country representing the district, it seems a ripe choice for flipping in 2012. And by corrupt, I mean was instantly under federal investigation.

But the question is whether is is important to keep the district red, not Rivera. Some Republican leaders are already recuiting challengers for this seat regardless what happens with Rivera. It will be curious to see if the folks in Tallahassee try to hold this area for their team.

The advantage we have, and the one we should leverage, is that this seat is tainted by corruption regardless what it looks lie next year. We should be the housecleaning campaign, regardless who we run, and regardless who they run. If we put a strong enough slate of people out there right now, I think it is more like the GOP won't even put up a fight. They are likely picking up two new seats in Florida this year, and that should be enough for them.

And when this seat moves to our column, we can bask in the irony that a seat blatantly hand-drawn for the Republicans will be in the hands of Democrats a mere 10 years later.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Wrong Inspiration

An interesting political phenomenon of the last 50 years has been the shift of "Support Israel" from being a banner message for the Democratic Party to one for the Republicans. Today, we seem to be at, I hope, a point where blind trust in Israel's good intentions is on the decline within American foreign policy.

But I get very discouraged when I see a message like this from Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Park. Webster went onto Good Life 45 to espouse a belief that continuing foreign aid to Israel guaranteed "God's Hand" would remain on this country. (h/t to Think Progress on this)

Here is YouTube of his appearance:

Webster's talk of how he "doesn't like giving money to our enemies" but "loves giving money to Israel" is problematic in a lot of ways. Of course, the position should not be dismissed out of hand. I, too, dislike how much foreign aid we give to nations which are openly hostile to the United States and which seem unconcerned about funding efforts that threaten our own national interest.

But what makes Israel our great friend? Certainly Benjamin Netanyahu did not seem friendly toward America during his recent meeting with Barack Obama, attacking our president as an ignorant fool in fornt of international press while being hosted at the White House. Israel's media called the get-together tense and cold. And in the midst of that, Bibi mischaracterized Obama's policy on a Palestinian State as a radical departure from past American positions, when it in fact was not. Webster may disagree with Obama's positions on Israel, and that fine, but I think the current friction between our leaders and Israel's leaders shows the nation is not our best friend.

But Webster's logic is what leaves me flabbergasted. He doesn't argue that supporting Israel is in our nation's best interest, or that Israel has been a valuable foreign policy ally. He argues that our nation must act based on religious conviction. Without getting all Church-and-Statey about that, making decisions about providing financial or political support for other nation's based on a particular interpretation of God's will is extraordinarily dangerous and foolish, and should not be considered in important decision-making processes in Washington, D.C. Webster obviously has a friendly audience on this television show, but his constituents as a whole should be appalled by this type of worldview.

Religious views have always played too great a role in American foreign policy in Israel. Whether influential Jews in the Democratic Party or evangelicals in the Republican Party are promoting this, the decision to endorse a foreign power, especially one with a horrendous record on human rights, should not be decided based on a desire to satisfy God.

Personally, I don't think God wants to engage in political gamesmanship. But my own values also conflict with the notion that ethnic segregation of the sort Netanyahu has supported for years would not meet the test of "What Would Jesus Do." I both disagree with Webster's suggestion God will look favorably on our support for a barbaric and detestable administration and in the notion that God's Hand should be the desired goal of any granting in foreign aid. If that makes me radical, then radicals far outnumber the people in this world who think Webster's view is mainstream.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Run a Democrat for Governor!

This seems so extraordinarily obvious, but in deciding who should be the next Democratic nominee for governor of Florida, can we stick to speculating about Democrats? Adam Smith, top politics guy at the St. Pete Times, wrote up a piece about the lineup of people who want to challenge Rick Scott in 2012. Now, I realize he probably didn't write the headline, but titling the piece "Crist for Governor? As a Democrat?" just irks me.

It is no secret I don't hold Charlie Crist in the highest regard. That said, if he actually switches parties and begins helping to organize Democrats in the state, he may be able to earn my respect. But to date, he has not done so, nor hinted he might do so.

I hope the "Democratic leaders" who talked up Crist at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner realize they helped make a registered independent into the most talked about Democrat in Florida, and I hope they some day regret doing so. As I have pointed out before, Charlie Crist had a shot last year to throw in with the Democrats, but instead held a nationally-televised press conference where he said he would rather run as an independent.

He spent the entire campaign cycle last year refusing to say who he would caucus with if elected to the United States Senate. He reportedly told John Morgan he would caucus with Dems, but told Bob Dole he would caucus with Republicans. He spent an enormous amount of effort last year saying both parties were bad, and that he as Senator would save us from partisan politics altogether. Never mind he was happy to engage in partisan politics until the tea party turned his party upside down.

But I do not mean to re-engage in Crist-hating. My problem is that Florida Democrats, looking toward an election more than three years away, need to be cultivating talent within their own ranks, not recruiting defectors from the other side. Who could we run instead of a the effective leader of the Republican Party until a year ago?

Alex Sink came within a hair of winning the election for governor last year, and surely would have if not for a Republican wave that hit Florida especially hard.

Dan Gelber, while having a disappointing showing in the AG race, but is already putting together a strong public relations effort rebuking Scott and has the endurance, I believe, for a long campaign (plus he has produced the lovely stump line "Floridians are retracing their steps to figure out how they woke up with a tiger in their bathroom and Lex Luther as governor.")

Word is Rod Smith wants to run, though he probably won't is Sink, who picked him as running mate last year, gives this another go.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown are all strong leaders who have won high-population constituencies, and all happen to have been preceded by Republicans. Any one of them has demonstrated an ability to win over swing voters and develop a regional brand, and it should not be difficult to expand those brands statewide.

I am sure that countless other Democratic prospects will arise in the next two years as well, so long as the party looks to cultivate its own talent. The Florida Democratic Party has been in shambles for most of the last decade, but is faced with tremendous opportunity to build right now. This opportunity should not be squandered the way so many have been before.

Friday, June 10, 2011

And When You Run Out of Arguments...

Nobody in American politics is willing to admit defeat, especially in the war of ideas, but we do have a long tradition of resorting a certain alternative: personal attacks. Read just such a tactic in Politico regarding Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

From the article:
She’s accused Republicans of wanting to reinstate segregation and of waging a “war on women.” She has asserted, somewhat nonsensically, that the GOP wants to make illegal immigration — by definition against the law — “a crime.” She’s also been mocked for driving a foreign car after pounding Republicans for not supporting the American auto industry.

So for pointing out Republicans' sexist and discriminatory policies, and for apparently purchasing a reliable automobile, DWS is apparently a bad pick to lead the DNC. So obvious.

Let's reverse this argument for a second, just to prove a point. Critics say Wasserman Shultz is too aggressive to be a good party leader, so I guess that means a better chief would be passive. Rather than attacking a lengthy, disturbing record for Republicans of trying to redefine rape, preventing women from getting equal treatment in the workplace and generally backing legislation that is "anti-woman," a good DNC leader would applaud creative legislation which more narrowly defines forcible sex, commend those with the bravery to oppose the Lilly Ledbetter Act and celebrate the continuation of the good ole boy network as a wonderful tradition in politics.

And she would by a car that could not get to 200,000 miles without being traded in.

Yes, that is what a winning message would be for Democrats. To have someone that politely acknowledges bigoted policies as an interesting alternative, and who regularly states that GOP leadership is probably just doing the best they can. That will win elections.

For some reason, Democrats have always been queasy about playing hardball when it comes to politics, never mind that we only win when we defend out ideas. The same things being said now about DSW were said in 2006 about Howard Dean. He had lost the nomination for president because the Democratic establishment was sure America would prefer the nice nap that comes with every John Kerry stump speech over feeling any fire in your belly should a candidate scream too loud. When he took over the DNC the following election cycle, the right rubbed their hands supervillain style over the impending implosion which would result if Democrats stood on principle. Instead, we took back the House and the Senate.

If you look back at elections past, Democrats win when we stand on our ideals and fight for our beliefs. When we get squishy about it, it sends a message to America that we don't really take our own crap seriously, and the voters side with the always-strident GOP.

The people are really scared about with DSW is that she is strong woman who speaks the truth without stuttering. But hesitation always sends the wrong message. Stating beliefs with conviction is not a liability. It is a strength that demonstrates leadership both within our own ranks and to the public at large.

Let's celebrate that for once.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Is This The Best They Got?

When I read other blogs, I wonder if I should be writing more about Mike Haridopolos. His recent disastrous performance on the Ray Junior show has made him the subject of endless political mockery once again. He is hated as much by members of his own party as he is by any other group, and the aspects of corruption with his book deal with Brevard Community College have been overshadowed with the laughable factor the book was so bad it was not broadly released.

Despite all of this, he seems to be the frontrunner against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. Simply amazing.

Sometimes, one wonders what type of magic elixir Bill Nelson consumed as a young lawmaker to make his Senate career so fortuitous. When he ran in 2000, he was blessed when Republican leadership interfered with an interesting primary that year and made sure Bill McCollum got the nod with very little vetting, and subsequently allowed Nelson to sit back and watch a politician with legendary poor charisma brag about the Clinton impeachments. Despite the historically close presidential election results that year, Nelson destroyed McCollum at the polls.

Six years later, Republican interference couldn't stop Katherine Harris from becoming the nominee. The controversial and polarizing candidate was always a longshot to win a general election, but when it became clear 2006 would be a Democratic wave year, it seemed even the strident Harris gave up on the race, doing few events and eventually succumbing to Nelson in that race.

Right now, it seems 2012 is going to end up another easy re-election battle for Nelson. That isn't to say he shouldn't be stocking up for war. Who thought two years out that Ron Klein would lose to Wild Wild West?

But Haridopolos is an utter joke, and if he becomes the nominee, he will be the least serious candidate for U.S. Senate I have seen in my lifetime. Who will stop him? I read that conservatives like Adam Hasner, but a term as Republican leader in the Florida House is neither a great way to build a resume or to develop any significant name recognition statewide. It is a way to get some skeletons in your closet which will come out the second he seems like a serious candidate. For example...

Who else will run? It seems amazing in a state where politics are so incredibly dominated by the GOP that noone wants to challenge Nelson during a presidential year. The GOP National Convention is being held in Tampa next year, and the GOP knows it can only beat Obama if they win in Florida. If they don't have a goos Senate candidate, that will be very hard to do.

There are no other statewide offices up for grabs in 2012, but no Cabinet members seem interested in running. The governor has shown no interest, and probably isn't going to be in a good place to make such a run in 2012 anyhow. So what is it?

I think people know that the next election cycle is going to go our way. They don't say so out loud, but the lackluster list of candidates for President is as good a demonstration as any. Any GOP candidates in Florida with serious ambitions for serving Florida knows they have a better shot at getting stuff done in a state office right now, then considering a run for Washington in the future. All of Florida's Republican Congressman are probably pretty confident the redistricting process will make re-election to the House easy, while running statewide is undeniably hard.

And so, somehow, Sen. Bill Nelson seems likely once again to coast, and Mike Haridopolos seems ready for two years of ridicule.