Towards A Good Samaritan World

Monday, November 06, 2006


Howard Dean's election manifesto, as it were, at USA Today.

Tuesday, Americans have a choice between staying the course and a new direction for our country. After six years of Republican leadership, some Americans may be considering doing something they haven't done in a long time. Vote for a Democrat.

No points for guessing that. A lot of conservative pundits at places like the Cato Institute, the National Review, and Tech Central are openly rooting for the Democrats. But it's because they're ticked off with Republicans, not because they are attracted to the Democrats or have much confidence in them. It would be SO nice if some Democrat would acknowledge that.

If you vote for a Democrat on Tuesday, we will honor the trust you put in us with a new direction for America.

Is voting for a Democrat the same as putting our trust in Democrats? Not necessarily. It might be a strategic choice: we don't like you, but under the circumstances you might do less damage in government than in opposition, and the Republicans might do more good in opposition than in government. Also maybe you'll learn something through the experience of being in power and quit being such dopes. It's worth a shot.

Isn't it time for a new direction in Iraq?

The American people deserve political leaders who will ask the tough questions and make smart decisions about our foreign policy and homeland security, not just tough talk around election time. Sixteen intelligence agencies agree that the Bush administration's failed Iraq policy is increasing terrorism around the world. Our brave troops have become occupiers caught in a civil war. Democrats are united behind a strategy of phased redeployment and benchmarks that make it clear to the Iraqis that they must take responsibility for the future of their country.

"Phased redeployment" is a pretty non-transparent campaign promise. Non-transparent, and surely no different from what Bush is offering, indeed from what the strategy has been all along. We'll stand down as the Iraqis stand up. Etcetera. But hey, I agree, I guess. The message could be more cut-and-run than that.

Fighting terrorism

Isn't it time for a new direction in fighting the war on terror?

Osama bin Laden is still on the loose, and al-Qaeda has moved to a new location in northwest Pakistan.

So what are you saying? Invade Pakistan?

Afghanistan has seen a resurgence of the Taliban. Democrats want to increase the size of our Special Forces to destroy bin Laden and terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda. We want to ensure that our troops and agencies have the tools to stop future attacks.

Unless he's going to invade Pakistan, I think Dean was just kidding about the new direction in the war on terror. And no, it's not time for a new direction in fighting the war on terror. The war on terror outside Iraq is going pretty well. And maybe it would be apropos at this point to mention that there hasn't been an attack in five years. How about "we'll build on the Bush administration's success?"

And we won't take our eyes off of the growing threats in Iran and North Korea.

Uh... okay... What are you going to do about the growing threats in Iran and North Korea? Why not just say, "We don't have a clue what to do about Iran and North Korea?" The honesty of a statement like that would give me the first positive reason to vote for a Democrat.

We also need to keep our streets and communities at home safe. We will enact the bipartisan 9/11 Commission recommendations because it's time to inspect all cargo and lock down loose nuclear material and ensure our nation is prepared for disasters such as Hurricane Katrina — and the aftermath. We will ensure we properly equip our National Guard and first responders.

So this is all over the map. About the streets and communities, crime rates have already fallen a lot in the past decade. Safe from what? I don't like the "inspect all cargo" line: it sounds like protectionism in the name of national security. And is Dean trying to use rhetorical sleight of hand to make people think Hurricane Katrina was somehow a nuclear disaster? Or what?

Isn't it time for a new direction for our economy and the middle class?

No, no, no. The economy is booming. The economy is going up, so a new direction could only be-- down. And it's deeply sinister that the Democrats are trying to cultivate a victim complex in the American middle class. People who think they are victims do nasty things. The Germans felt like victims after World War I. The American middle class are not victims; they're among the most affluent people in the history of the world. Dean is a wicked man to say these things.

The harmful policies of the GOP have failed hard-working Americans. Republicans have waged a war on the family.

The old rhetoric of class warfare, framed in weird quasi-social-conservative garb. Ugly thinking.

The Bush economy has failed 80% of Americans, benefiting only the top 1%.


For most Americans, wages and incomes have slowed;

They've "slowed?" You mean, grown more slowly? Or what?

health care costs and personal debt have increased.

What are you going to do about health care costs, eh? Deregulation? Personal debt-- that's our affair, not the government's. My personal debt has certainly soared since Bush took office. By my own consent.

Home mortgage foreclosures are up; college tuition has skyrocketed.

Those greedy professors! And you know what-- most of them are liberal!

Control spending

We will end Republicans' deficit spending and restore pay-as-you-go discipline. We will restore the Republican cuts to Pell grants and other programs that make it easier for our kids to afford to go to college. We will protect, not privatize, Social Security.

Fuzzy math alert: Dean says he'll "end deficit spending" and then offers new spending, including ever-increasing handouts to affluent retirees. But the promise to "end deficit spending" is interesting nonetheless. Deficits aren't such a serious problem at the moment. The deficit is less than GDP growth, so national debt is decreasing as a share of GDP. Entitlement programs are still on track to break the bank in the long run... or maybe not, if productivity growth keeps the pace of recent years. Dean is taking an arch-fiscal-conservative position here that is out of step with his party's history. I like it if it's sincere.

Democrats respect hard-working families and the work it takes to make ends meet.

So do we all.

We believe that strengthening the middle class is essential for a thriving economy that rewards work, opens the door of opportunity to all, and makes it easier for parents to devote time to their families. We will ease the burdens on middle-class Americans with middle-class tax fairness, increase the minimum wage and reverse Republican health care cuts.

"Middle-class tax fairness?" These are bully-words (we're "fair" they're not) but otherwise meaningless. Raising the minimum wage is stupid: people should be able to work for very low wages if they want to, or if that's all they can find.

We want to make a down payment in ensuring affordable health care for every American, and fix the Medicare prescription drug program.

Socialized medicine, or not? Amidst the obfuscation, it's impossible to tell.

We will protect Social Security so that every senior is ensured a retirement in dignity.

The idea that government welfare checks can provide "dignity" is a travesty. Have you gone to some of America's thousands of nursing homes, Dean, and seen old people babbling and drooling, forgotten by their families? Do they have "dignity" just because the government puts a check in the mail with their name on it every month?

We will enact real ethics reform in Congress.

Isn't it time for responsible, competent leadership and an end to the politics of deficits, divisiveness and deceit?

Our nation has become more divided and polarized with rhetoric and campaign tactics designed to drive wedges rather than find common ground.

I should be used to it by now, but it still amazes me that Howard Dean, of all people, has the nerve to complain about polarizing rhetoric. Can he possibly imagine that the polarizing rhetoric is all coming from the other side and he is innocent of it?

If the Republicans do make a last-minute comeback, as some polls say they might, one reason will be their relentless negativism against Republicans and in particular against Bush. This should have been really obvious. 60 million Americans voted for Bush in 2004. Yes, he's less popular now, but there's now benefit from attacking him. It just makes past Bush-supporters feel like you're attacking them. "Bush did some things right, and we'll build on his successes, and work with him to find solutions. We think we'd be more effective partners with him than the Republican Congress has been lately..." How could that not be a more effective campaign strategy than ongoing Deaniac hate-mongering?

The irony is that Dean offers very little real differences from Bush here. He doesn't propose a tax hike. The spending he offers is limited. His "phased redeployment" phrase doesn't make it clear that Democrats would do anything different in Iraq than what Bush and Co. are likely to do. He'll fight the Taliban; we already are. Yet even if he is unable to craft policy alternatives, Dean is set apart by his theological conviction that Republicans are sub-human.


  • Somehow I got on the People for the American Way and DNC mailing lists. Though I am well to Finn's left and fantastically more hostile toward the (modern) GOP than he, I still find the PWAF/DNC e-mails repugnantly partisan and one-sided. Of course, I find, say, freerepublic even more repugnantly partisan, but at the end of the day, Dems like Dean make me like Dems like Clinton more and more. Scratch that - let's say it makes me more and more willing to hold my nose and support her.

    Who would I *not* have to hold my nose about? Barack Obama, of course, and perhaps Powell, Giuliani and Specter (imagine that!). Unfortunately, moderate Republicans have been so badly marginalized that I don't think they could get nominated, and even if they were, I am so leery of the far right's predominance that I'd avoid voting for them for the same reason many would-be switchers are reconsidering voting for conservative Democrats in the fear that they would elect Pelosi as Speaker.

    In any case, it's a messy political world in which I pretty much expect the rhetoric coming from party leadership to be totally unreasonable even when broadly correct. In the rare exceptions to this rule (like when Clinton took a fairly bold stand against the more radical anti-war elements of the Democratic party, or Specter refused to rubber-stamp appointees) I get excited. Generally briefly because it doesn't last, but you know, hope springs eternal and all.

    By Blogger Nato, at 8:12 AM  

  • I agree. I would vote for Specter in an instant... well, if he weren't Republican. I was a Republican in the 90's, but at this point, I can't imagine ever voting for them again, no matter who they trot out there. I just can't support what the party has become. I mean, at this point, it would almost be as bad as voting for the KKK candidate in my eyes (that's obvious hyperbole, so don't get bent out of shape, Lance (haha, don't get bent out of shape *Lance*, haha)). But really, now that I think about it, almost all of the groups I find morally repugnant are die-hard Republican supporters. The enviro-terrorists are Dems, but I can't really think of another immoral Democratic group off the top of my head. Help me out, Lance. You must have a list of them somewhere in your head.

    By Blogger Thomas Reasoner, at 5:36 AM  

  • Um, yeah... the KKK comparison isn't hyperbole, it's just plain nuts. If you think there's any resemblance between the modern-- firmly anti-racist-- Republican Party and a secretive terrorist group dedicated to oppressing blacks, it's a bit hard to imagine how the disconnect between your worldview and reality can be bridged.

    I agree that the anti-immigration right and the paleocons are immoral. I'd say that there's no one on the left as immoral as them, except that these days Lou Dobbs-style populist themes are starting to appear more and more on the left.

    As far as your mainstream liberal, I'd say he's not so much immoral as honorable but misguided. Just because they're not evil doesn't mean they couldn't screw the country up a whole lot if they came to power. Although they do tend to have a certain superiority complex which can sometimes get ugly. (Howard Dean, for example, is basically a bigot, only against Republicans instead of blacks.)

    I agree that the freerepublic commenters are pretty nasty, but you can't call them "die-hard Republican supporters," for the simple reason that they don't support the Republican leadership (e.g. Bush, Frist, McCain, etc.). What they're partisans of can't be identified with the Republican coalition as a whole, though they are, unfortunately, part of it. Certainly not with Bush.

    By Blogger Lancelot, at 6:00 AM  

  • Immoral Dems: Protectionists.

    By Blogger Lancelot, at 6:14 AM  

  • I will grant that agrigultural protectionism is one of the worst things the first world does to the third world. It seems to me that protectionists are all over the political map these days. Are there really that many more protectionist Democrats than protectionist GOP any more?

    One thing I think Dems are clearly worse about is unions, but it seems to me that that's largely a case of letting the working class poke itself in the eye.

    By Blogger Nato, at 9:20 AM  

  • I voted for Arnold, by the way. As much as I want the GOP to suffer an utterly crushing defeat that forces a complete re-evaluation of what "Republican" means (until even Tom can consider voting for them again), I think that 1) Angelides is generally the worst form of Dem - see comment on labor unions above and 2) he's exactly the sort of Republican that I would hope to seize control of the Grand Old Party and steer it back to something reasonable.

    By Blogger Nato, at 9:45 AM  

  • Here here! Down with protectionism! That's as noble a goal as open borders. The protectionist rhetoric coming from the Dems after the Dubai-ports fiasco was reprehensible (though, to be fair, there was an ample percentage of Republicans in chorus with them).

    No, I don't think the Republican platform is racist, just that racists tend to vote Republican. I don't actually have any data to support that assertion, just anecdotes and intuition. Let's just say I would be very surprised if the obverse turned out to be true.

    By Blogger Thomas Reasoner, at 6:33 PM  

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