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November 30, 2003

And how was your Thanksgiving? There’s been something of a rush by liberal bloggers to praise Bush’s visit to the Baghdad airport. Ezra Klein of Pandagon says:
So the message was right on, let’s have no bones about it. The troops are in a hard position and they deserve all the special treatment they can get.
That was my first reaction, too. Sure, it was a stunt, and I don’t for a moment think that George W. Bush really cares about the personal well-being of the average soldier, but like my man La Rochefoucauld says, hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. I’m generally in favor of that tribute being paid.

In that light, though, it’s interesting to see these observations from a former member of the United States Air Force, quoted in Kevin Maroney’s LiveJournal:

First, let me say these little photo opportunities do nothing in raising the morale level. The people who Bush dined with were most assuredly hand selected. Most likely known by their peers as brown-nosers. Here is how it goes. Commander to First Sergeant, “I need five bodies from our unit to dine with a VIP.” First Sergeant goes to the other senior enlisted and selects only those individuals that are as gung-ho enough. Did you hear the “whoops” as Bush was addressing the troops? These people never had low morale to begin with. Most likely, they are selected from career soldiers or people who just reenlisted. Now, did you notice their uniforms? Everyone looked they just got it back from the dry cleaners. Not your average Joe who has been turning a wrench on a Hum-Vee the past 12 hours. Also, everyone had their sleeves pulled down. After all, we want everyone to look the same for the photo. I can’t tell you how many times we had VIPs visit in Las Vegas and we all had to have our sleeves down. It did not matter if it was 120 degrees, and believe me it often was. You also did not see people who looked like they may be pushing their max weight restriction. That does not make for good photos either. Nobody wants the president taking pictures with a big, fat slob.

As the morale for the others who were not selected…not so good. While these folks are eating turkey with Bush, you get something a little less palatable. Since the work does not go away, you have to perform their job too while they are munching away.

Now that you mention it, of course it’s impossible to imagine that Bush’s Thanksgiving-dinner companions weren’t vetted to within an inch of their lives. So much, then, for “the troops are in a hard position and they deserve all the special treatment they can get.” They are and they do, but it’s passingly unlikely that the ones who really deserve a morale booster are the ones who got one.

Said Bush in his Baghdad airport speech: “We did not charge hundreds of miles through the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins.” Of course, as Joshua Micah Marshall reports this morning, retreating before a band of thugs and assassins is exactly what we’re desperately trying to do, and the main thing holding up the Bush administration program of (as Matthew Yglesias put it) “retreat combined with the rhetoric of stay the course” is the fact that we’re being gamed six ways from Sunday by Iraqi political players who know perfectly well that we’re leaving.

Meanwhile, it’s good to know that at least one outfit in Iraq is taking the fight against Islamic fundamentalism to the streets, rather than hunkering down in barricaded compounds. As the Economist reports on this particular group:

It holds coming-out parties for Baghdad girls who shed the veil, and, with reports of women being mugged, it has opened a refuge on the top floor of a Tigris-side bank…A comrade with a huge bush of facial hair proposes Molotov-cocktailing a mosque for each liquor store or cinema torched.
Who are these tough-minded antiterrorists? Well, actually, they’re the Workers’ Communist Party of Iraq. Far away, over the horizon, comes a soft popping sound as several dozen warbloggers’ heads explode. [11:15 AM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on And how was your Thanksgiving?:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 11:17 AM:

(Thanks to Ken MacLeod for the story and links about the WCPI.)

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 11:43 AM:

I managed to be perfectly irritating to my brother-in-law on T-day about this. When he asked "What do you think about Bush's trip?" I responded "Well, I guess they finally decided that the aircraft carrier video wasn't going to play well next year . . . "

I grew up hearing (from a distance) my USAF officer father telling my mother about all the problems that VIP trips caused. Ironically, once he was a short colonel stationed in Europe he ended up being a preferred pilot (gotta keep that flight status) for VIP and courier runs. The senior types like to see some brass on their pilots . . .

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 01:44 PM:

As I said in my own blog, Bush really doesn't give a damn about the troops and their morale. He didn't make this trip until his poll numbers were seriously down and people were asking awkward questions. He didn't do it for them; he did it for him.

MKK

Naomi Libicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 03:37 PM:

Meanwhile, it's good to know that at least one outfit in Iraq is taking the fight against Islamic fundamentalism to the streets . . .
. . .
A comrade with a huge bush of facial hair proposes Molotov-cocktailing a mosque for each liquor store or cinema torched.
. . .
Who are these tough-minded antiterrorists?

I think you've got an extra anti- there. The word for someone who throws Molotov cocktails at a mosque is terrorist.

I mean, I'm pretty sure that you're being ironic, but still, I don't think it follows that because somebody supports the war, that that person supports bombing mosques, whether or not it's being done by Communists.

Dale Crisafulli ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 04:11 PM:

I knew it would be only a matter of hours before the presidents well-meaning and dangerous trip to Iraq on Thanksgiving would be turned around by mean-spirited people, into something other than the act of patriotism that it was. You only see what you want to see, the negative, when it comes to our President, in this case. He and our brave soldiers are fighting so that we can live in a free country, and be safe. Hitler would have never been stopped if people like you had had their way.

Jon ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 04:13 PM:

Shorter Dale Crisafulli:

Patrick, you big meany.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 04:39 PM:

That’s about the level of discourse, all right.

Zizka ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 04:41 PM:

I basically think that if someone else had done it, it would have been a great thing to do. Intrinsically there was nothing wrong with it, but from other things he's done we all know that if Bush had been involved in the Immaculate Conception in some way, he would have fucked it up one way or another.

The way it was done puts the lie to the idea that things are going well in Iraq, though. He snuck in and out of town after dark, like a ten-most-wanted fugitive visiting his beloved mother one last time.

It doesn't seem to have played as well as Rove had hoped, according to a Newsweek poll. That does surprise me. And Matt Yglesias was more militant than me for once.

Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 04:53 PM:
it's passingly unlikely that the ones who really deserve a morale booster are the ones who got one.

It's passing unlikely that the ones who really deserve a morale booster would have gotten one from the opportunity to be gladhanded by GW.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 05:10 PM:

Parties to encourage veil-removal? OK.
Mugging-free havens? Great.
Mosque-torching? Abominable.

Of course, note that the first two are party policy, currently implemented, and the last is the plot of a hotheaded individual. When mosques start getting torched by iraqis, you can damn the ICWP. Until then...

And I will give the pro-war faction this: its nice to see this party, one squarely on the "Kill-in-the-face" list not so long ago, speaking freely in Iraq.

And hey, state/social/worker's ownership of the oil fields is probably a better plan than foreign ownership, anyway.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 05:10 PM:

"It holds coming-out parties for Baghdad girls who shed the veil..."

Patrick, do you think this is going to be effective? I suspect it's making more problems than it's solving.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 05:51 PM:

Why, yes, Randolph, I endorse every initiative of the Workers' Communist Party of Iraq. All hail Iraqi socialism! The people, united, will never be defeated!

Alternately: I am amused to see that the one entity on the ground doing stuff that sounds like something dreamed up on Little Green Footballs is a bunch of commies.

Your task, Randolph, is to guess which of these hypotheses is true. No peeking!

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 05:55 PM:

I'm worried about how many 2004 voters have the mindset expressed by Dale Crisaulli.

Some people will read and reason when directed to unvarnished source material -- others won't. They know that U.S. troops were dispatched to unseat a despicable dictator and that that man is now gone.
They see a man in the White House who professes reverance for God and dedication to their personal safety. How do you show them that:

a) the military campaign against that dictator has/had nothing to do with their personal domestic
security -- and what's more it was sloppily executed and includes a terrible price tag that we'll be paying for many years.

b) the reverent, patriotic servant of God shirked his own military duty, supports legislation that cuts the service benefits to American soldiers and their families, does not attend Church, and prefers furthering the fortunes of already-wealthy families to serving the best interests of the majority of Amerian citizens.

I'm worried about that, and worried about mindsets along the lines of:

"I see lots of problems with Bush, but we *need* the blows his gang strikes for "International security" | "national security," | "moral America under God" | "corporate freedom from health and safety rules" | "vital defense industries" | "gun ownership" (choose one or more).

Or "Bush is awful, but the Democratic opposition is *no good* either. I refuse to sanction the continuance of oppressive government by voting for someone who has not convinced me that he will *change* the system."

If enough voters cast ballots under the shadow of these memes, the overall results may be close enough that the Diebold executives work up their nerve to illegally tip results just another 1 or 2%.

Volunteer work and telephone calls may help defuse these memes -- but I have a degree of pessimism ... that the only way a large number of voters will be swayed is through emotional/rational mass media combinations that generate counter-memes.

"Don't vote for the incompetent Patrician -- he isn't helping/won't help you or your friends."
((besides which he's probably a worse hypocrite, liar, arrogant, unintelligent, human being than the opposition Democrat.))

"Vote for [the Democrat]" You can trust him more than Bush because: "you can look at his voting record and prior experience" | "he makes intelligent statements that show he has better judgment" | "He promises to do x, y, and z, and hasn't yet been shown to be hypocrite who disregards the values of American Democracy while shamelessly appointing sharkey friends to loot and lie to you."

I suppose I should be a bit ashamed of myself for my fear that mass media can degrade the ability of the democratic process to produce competent government -- and that we need new Bruce Springsteens as well as an Atrios and a Paul Krugman to counteract Republican spinmeisters and get better candidates elected.

Nicholas Weininger ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 05:57 PM:

Given the Communist past of many neoconservatives, why exactly is it so surprising to see Communists in Iraq acting neoconnish?

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 06:19 PM:

For some reason I'm reminded of this scene (from The Untouchables:

Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?
Eliot Ness: Anything and everything in my power.
Malone: And THEN what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way because they're not gonna give up the fight until one of you is dead.
Eliot Ness: How do you do it then?
Malone: You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send on of his to the morgue! That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?
Eliot Ness: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.
Malone: Well the Lord hates a coward. Do you know what a blood oath is Mr. Ness?
Eliot Ness: Yes.
Malone: Good, cause you just took one.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 07:06 PM:

Is there anyone at all who thinks that Bush would have gone to Baghdad if Hillary hadn't had a scheduled trip the next day?

Come on, guys, this was just to make sure Hillary didn't get the headlines. The whole point was to get her visit (with Senator Reed of Rhode Island) knocked down to the "in other developments" paragraph at the bottom of the page.

Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 10:17 PM:

Mr. Macdonald: Yes, me. I don't think Ms. Clinton was a factor at all.

As I posted in my LiveJournal, I see the trip as mostly having been a "screw you" from Dubya to his father, who was left cooling his heels on the ranch in Crawford. ("Mom? Dad? You mean, you're still here? No, I wasn't able to make it. I was in Iraq. You know, Dad, the country you couldn't knock over?")

But then, seen this way, I think the trip just confirms my view the whole Iraq operation is just personal therapy for Dubya vis-a-vis his father.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 11:15 PM:

Oh, heck, I've long maintained that invading Iraq was just Georgie-boy's way of proving that his dick is bigger than his dad's.

The timing of this one did seem awful suspicious, and not of ducking out of Thanksgiving with the folks. I think this time around it was him trying to prove that his dick is bigger than Mrs. Clinton's.

Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 11:44 PM:

The woman who wrote the post about Bush's trip that Kevin Maroney quoted is a friend of mine. I like to keep her in mind when the meme that only "conservatives" are in the armed forces and therefore "conservatives" 0wn patriotism gets shoved in my face.

Because, you know, if people like her had their way, Hitler would never have been stopped.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 11:52 PM:

You know, there's material for a whole snarky one-room one-act play what with the Thanksgiving being held in Texas without George, but with Laura, Barbara, George Sr. & the twins.

But for the rest of it, George Bush is a politician. So is Hillary Clinton. Both of them are playing politics by making their visits, though Hillary definitely has more balls than George, since she's doing the full tour and meet-and-greet, while he just played tag in a fortified airport. The comparison does not look flattering to George, and in between the "Mission Accomplished" flight-suit dress-up game and the new game of turkey-tag, he in fact looks more and more like a child.

If he'd already done a tour of Baghdad, a surprise visit to the troops for Turkey Day would have been cute and appropriate. But without the tour, it just looks like a craven publicity stunt, and even a later visit will look like something he's been dared into doing for fear of being thought chicken. Or worse, shown up by a girl.

Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 01:39 AM:

OK, let's try this a different way.

I don't think Ms. Clinton was a consideration at all, because I can't imagine anyone in the White House giving a damn about her.

She's a freshman senator of a minority party. Like Josh Marshall, I don't think she has any opportunities for advancement, not only because of her high negatives in polling, but because senators don't get elected to the White House. (The only senator elected directly to the White House in the 20th Cent. was JFK. Insert your own Bentsen quote here.) (This is also why I called Dean as being the odds-on favorite for the nomination months ago. Go take a look at what percentage of nominees from 1976 onwards have been sitting or former governors.) She's certainly not a factor in 2004, the only election Dubya cares about. If he cares about elections at all.

Honestly, folks... She's not a factor, except to the tin hat winger crowd. (Of either wing.)

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 01:51 AM:

She's a freshman senator of a minority party.

To respectfully disagree-- she's a Famous Name from the only opposition party that counts! She didn't cease to be Hilary Rodham Clinton, with all attendant baggage, when she became the newbie senator from NY.

And the thing we should all know about poll numbers by now is that they change over time. Often quite precipitously and significantly.

I can't say one way or another whether her visit might have spurred on Bush's. But I don't think your points really shoot that possibility down.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 01:54 AM:

" . . . fighting so that we can live in a free country"

Wait a minute, I thought they were fighting so the *Iraqis* could live in a free nation.

Is there some news story I missed? Something about our constitutional rights somehow being revoked by a foreign power, or terrorists enslaving Americans? Was Saddam funding shadowy freedom-hating groups on our shores, like the the Anti Civil Liberties Union, or Swarthy People Against Free Speech?

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 05:13 AM:

What Scott said.

Hillary is recognizable as "Bill's wife" the same way that W. was able to play on being "George's son." And having a name Democrat player upstage him before the election is bad.

Counting elections since 1976 is just a fancy way of saying "In the past seven elections."

New York is also a more significant state in the national eye than Texas.

Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 09:03 AM:

New York is also a more significant state in the national eye than Texas.

I don't know. My guess is that in terms of national and international recognizability, iconic status, and the quality of inspiring strong feelings of either love or hate (but rarely neutrality), the honors are about even between New York and Texas, with California making a third in the category. They all loom larger in the public eye than places like, say, Indiana or North Dakota or Wyoming.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 09:43 AM:

All this 'Hitler would never have been stopped' stuff -- y'know, much as the US did a whole lot toward stopping Hitler, it wouldn't have mattered a damn if a whole bunch of other people who were not Amercians hadn't been fighting and dying in large numbers in many places for three entire years before the US actually got into that war.

Courtesy of a sneak attack by Imperial Japan, and not its own will, despite all that FDR could do.

So the moral impact is somehow lacking in that assertion.

And since the threat is bogus -- no one in the Middle East can go conquering, and the economic threat of turning off the oil could be countered cheaper and faster by developing a less oil-dependent economy -- the assertion starts to look like the last refuge of the nincompoop.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 10:00 AM:

It's true that sitting senators don't tend to get elected President. The last one to do so was JFK in 1960; the only other was Warren G. Harding, forty years earlier.

It's also true that First Ladies don't tend to get elected to the Senate, nor do they top repeated national polls of their party's Presidential preference.

I'm not arguing that Hillary Clinton is ever going to be elected President, or that this would be a good thing. I'm just pointing out that she's a unique figure in American political history, and can't be dismissed as nothing more than "the junior Senator from New York." I don't think this White House seriously worries about her running in 2004, but I think it's a overstatement to claim they're not wary of her as a political force.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 10:01 AM:

My guess is that in terms of national and international recognizability, iconic status, and the quality of inspiring strong feelings of either love or hate (but rarely neutrality), the honors are about even between New York and Texas, with California making a third in the category.

Hawaii? Alaska? Florida?

Not to mention important cities like New York (yay!), LA (boo!), Chicago (hoobah!), Boston (veddy nice, I should think) and San Francisco ([wordless delighted shriek]!). (I'm mostly kidding about the stuff in parentheses.)

Note that none of the nationally important cities is in Texas. (Houston? Sorry, it may THINK it has that level of national importance, but this is a delusion.) New York is both an important state politically and economically, but contains the largest (and clearly, since I live in the area, most interesting) city in the nation. California is in a similar place with TWO important cities, the only state so blessed. Texas? A certain amount of cultural significance, and economically important (as long as we keep protecting the oil industry), yes, but I wouldn't put it on a level with New York and California.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 10:05 AM:

That both...but should be both...and up there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Elric ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 10:06 AM:

Stefan,

The war with Iraq was first sold as being a response to WMDs in the hands of a terrorist state with links to Al Qaeda. And, within two weeks of Dubya's contrite "I can't imagine how people got that idea from what I've said" I heard him link Iraq and Al Qaeda again.

Then there was lip service paid to the UN mandates that Hussein had ignored. We can forget about the attempts being made to comply when the administration lost its patience.

Now the administration seems to be selling the idea that all the nastiness happening in Iraq right now isn't caused by disaffected Iraqis, because there aren't any. There are a few Saddam loyalists, and then there all the hordes of terrorists who have gone to Iraq because George invited them with his "Bring it on" speech.

So, America is not having its civil liberties reduced, or seeing terrorist attacks on every street corner, because all the terrorists are over in Iraq blowing our boys and girls up there! Isn't that nice?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 10:53 AM:

Xopher, with all due respect, your litany of which cities are and aren't "important" seems to me a bit half-baked. I like San Francisco, too, but if there's a city in America with an disproportionately high opinion of its "importance," San Francisco is it.

The San Francisco Bay Area adds up to a world-class urban agglomeration. But San Francisco isn't even the largest city in the Bay Area, and certainly isn't the area's "center" in the way that the cities of New York and Los Angeles rule their respective sprawls.

Doyle's observation was that Texas and New York City are both polarizers; unusually large numbers of people have extreme opinions about them. I'd add California to the list, but I think your reaction kind of proves Debra's point.

Paul ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 11:08 AM:

My first impression of Bush's Baghdad trip was similar to Patrick's--a photo op, obviously, but a nice gesture all the same. Then the next day when I was shopping at a small, local clothing store, I got an earful from the owner--who should be squarely in the Bush demographic (a southern, (SC) older, white businessman)--about that "cynical SOB" using the troops.

That's purely anecdotal evidence, of course, and statistically worthless. But it surprised me and it suggests that efforts like these may cut both ways, even among Bush's expected base.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 12:33 PM:

Patrick, I had to have SF in there, not just because of its initials, but to enable me to finish with a wordless delighted shriek.

Seriously, though, I take your point. And perhaps San Francisco and New York seem like the two most important cities in the country to me because they were my dream escapes when I was growing up gay in the 1970s in Okemos, Michigan.

I left out Washington DC too. That might be considered an important US city by some, I suspect.

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 12:57 PM:

Although to be fair, Patrick, SF is second only to San Jose in population, and in terms of relative regional importance -- and I live in San Jose, by the way -- it gets as much attention as Santa Clara county as a whole. (Which, for those of you playing the home game, contains San Jose.)

However, in terms of national importance... I would have to agree. SF has less than a million people. San Jose does, too, but is closer. Santa Clara County (which includes San Jose and a large chunk of the peninsula) as a whole is maybe 1.7 million people; add in SF and you're still under 3 million. Once you add in San Mateo and Marin counties, you get a fairly large metro area, but it's an awfully spread-out one, the demographics are a little strange compared to other metro areas, and it's not a data point I'd consider even remotely typical.

It's just that we're VERY LOUD out here that makes people think otherwise. :)

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 01:23 PM:

"Where the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name won't SHUT UP!!!" -I forget.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 02:33 PM:

Actually, the nice thing about San Francisco is that the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name is relaxed enought to occasionally talk about other stuff.

I agree, however, with Xopher on the list of cities, simply going on the basis of iconic status and long history. I'd add New Orleans to the list, and note that more Texans are running across the border to party in New Orleans than folk in Louisiana are running over to check out Houston.

Also, aside from famous world-class tourist-destination cities, there's also the matter of iconic monuments: New York has the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, and while I've never actually seen them, I could draw you a picture of them, same as any child.

Iconic monuments from Texas? Apart from the state having a highly distinctive and entertaining shape, making it the first piece put in place in any map-of-the-fifty-states puzzle, I can't think of any. Doubtless there are some that the locals are fond of, but they don't rise to the level of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sydney Opera House or the Eiffel Tower.

About the only thing Texas has going for it on the iconographic end is that it's the only state in the union to have an internationally recognizable national costume.

Jon ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 02:46 PM:

Kevin, have you already forgotten the Alamo, or should we ask again after the movie comes out?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 03:12 PM:

To say nothing of the grassy knoll.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 03:28 PM:

The way I see it, monuments need not so much to be historically significant as architechturally distinctive. I don't know how you'd quickly tell the difference between the Alamo and Mission San Juan Batista.

Remembering the Alamo is like remembering the Gunpowder Plot--entertaining for locals, not of much significance for the rest of the world.

The icon also has to make a nice keychain or paperweight, preferably a snowglobe.

If they have one of those for the grassy noll, I want one.

Jon ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 03:48 PM:

Well, it is Texas, so how about a belt buckle, straight from the source? Altho' I have seen Alamo snowglobes, but not pictured anywhere convenient.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 04:40 PM:

It was right for George Bush to address the troops on Thanksgiving, but that doesn't erase all the other things he's done wrong, or make me swoon and turn into a Bush supporter.

I mean, when the stopped clock is right, you don't decide that it isn't broken after all.

Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 04:42 PM:

NYC, LA, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Washington DC, New Orleans... As someone who has spent at least some time in all of these cities proposed for iconic status (huh, and I'm not even American), I'd agree with all of them, except, hmmm... I'm squinting a little at Chicago, there. Maybe... Iffy.

It's not size of population, and it's not having a lot of fine people (or else Minneapolis, still my very favorite American city, would belong on the list -- and it doesn't.) The quality I'm thinking of as "iconic" is first, the sense that as a city you know exactly who you are, and then, the ability to project that sense to even a casual visitor. Snow-globe-worthy architectural monuments are one way of doing this, but some cities manage it without; consider Las Vegas.

Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 05:51 PM:

To the best of my knowledge, petrol-bombing mosques - whatever the provocation - would be as repugnant to the WCPI as it is to anyone here. If everything I've said over a beer, or otherwise to friends who know it's not seriously meant, or in a bitter moment, were to be reported in The Economist my reputation would be a tad fiercer than it is.

I hopoe to be blogging some more about this interesting organization soon, by the way.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 06:17 PM:

When I lived in Germany (mumble mumble) years ago there was a very common poster that I later found out had nearly identical versions in Britain, France and Italy. Similar to the New Yorker view of the rest of the country, it was a map of the US (as seen by Europeans) with only six states distorted and stretched to cover the entire country: New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, California, and Hawaii. The District of Columbia was on the border between Florida and New York (which climactically is about right). The only cities you ever saw on those maps were New York, Washington, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. These days I would guess you could also find Seattle.

Both my wife and I have familiy in Texas, and there really isn't a city there we would care to live in, save Austin for a few months in spring and fall. IMO, no Texas city can be considered world class unless you are referring to humidity, air pollution, and cosmically bad urban planning (Houston comes in behind to Mexico City, and Sao Paulo, and few other cities on that.)

But Texas is an iconic part of America for the rest of the world. This was particularly true in Germany -- there are lots of Texans with relatives in Germany.

As for San Francisco, Patrick, while there are other parts of the Bay Area that are more important economically, around here we still call it The City. It was the first city of any size west of St Louis and San Antonio, and remained the largest city in the West until after WWI. And until after WWII there was no cultural center in the West to rival it -- and in LA a lot of that dates from the 70's and later.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 06:23 PM:

I don't think that Karl Rove is afraid of Hillary running. I think they are deeply afraid of the amount of press she can get just by opening her mouth. Whenever she wants to be, Hillary is the voice of the people who voted for Al Gore, who outnumber the people who voted for George Bush--and Rove never forgets that.

Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 07:21 PM:

I will admit that Ms. Clinton is the first former First Lady to be elected to the Senate. And in that, she's unique.

Then again, she's the first one to have run.

Compare that to the dozens of senators who have run, and failed, for the Presidency.

If Ms. Clinton is more powerful than she appears, one should be able to name legislation she's sponsored, or bills that hung on her vote, or particularly fine speeches in the Senate, or... something, anything, that shows she does anything.

It's not like the difference in seniority between her and Chuck Schumer is all that great, but the difference in results is night and day.

Getting press is not the same as having either influence or power.

Pete Domenici has always been a pivotal senator, but contrast the ink he gets vs. what Jesse Helms used to. Or consider that no Republican senator gets equivalent coverage, even thought they have a majority in the chamber.

Hillary's a great fund-raiser. She's a spokesperson for a particular kind of True Believer. She has great name recognition. She's also become the Ted Kennedy of a new generation of conversatives -- the liberal they love to hate.

But that's about the limit of her impact.

Like Teddy, or like Joe Biden, I think she can become a power in the Senate itself.

But as far as this White House is concerned, she's pretty much a Non Player Character. Any real influence she's going to have will be years from now. This White House has shown, time and again, that they have an event horizon of 15 minutes or less.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 07:53 PM:

Over at CounterPunch, Wayne Madsden points out that Bush served that turkey at 6:00 am in the morning, Baghdad time:

http://counterpunch.org/madsen11282003.html

Kind of early for dinner, just in time for the evening news back home.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 08:01 PM:

Yeah, I'd have to say SF is iconic. Has an iconic building too. The Transamerica Pyramid is every bit as recognizable as the Chrysler building, though nowhere near as pretty. (I just took my Chrysler building Christmas ornament out of its box and hung it on the garland on the stairs. Sigh.)

MKK

mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 08:21 PM:

Yay Stefan, I'd been going to point out that bit about the reality of time zones but am still in training for the Olympic Procrastination Team.

How could anyone in the USA believe that it was dinnertime in the Middle East at the same time as it was in the USA? That's like thinking Christmas in Australia is in midwinter.

This was a specially fudged-up live-broadcast, they'd even put a false family US dinner-date on the schedule to keep the media/public surprise.

Much as I dislike the current US Administration, it's not altogether unlikely a Democrat leader in similar circumstances would do something similar, such is the descent of politics & leadership into smoke, mirrors, showmanship, "bread & circuses" (pace the example of H Rodham Clinton).

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 08:40 PM:

No question about it Mary Kay, the Chrysler Building is in the running for the most beautiful building of the 20th century while the Transamerica is not even close. But the icon for the Bay Area can only be the Golden Gate Bridge . . .

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 08:57 PM:

Hal O'Brien - Hillary is sui generis, she is a unique creature in the entire history of the United States. You CANNOT compare her record to any other senator in an attempt to predict her political future, you cannot look to history to attempt to predict her political future -- because she is unique, there is no other figure to compare her to.

I'm not saying she's going to be elected president when she chooses to run. She may not even prove to be a strong contender. Indeed, one lesson we CAN draw from history is that early front-runners tend to fizzle out -- and Hillary is setting records as a front-runner, she's the front-runner for a presidential election that's five years away. (Yes, I know ... now I'm looking to historical precedent when I just said not to.)

No other First Lady save for Eleanor Roosevelt has attempted to forge a career for herself separate from her husband's career -- and even Eleanor Roosevelt did not run for elective office, and she did not have her career until after her husband was dead.

Also, I believe that Hillary may have an "in" of some kind with a man who is arguably the most powerful figure behind the scenes in the Democratic Party organization -- a fella named Bill.

When I attempt to figure out Hillary's political future by looking for similar figures, the person who seems most similar to me is George W. Bush. Both of them had limited resumes, but get a boost from having an immediate family member who was already President.

And, I mean, sheesh, if you're going to say that Hillary won't be elected because she hasn't accomplished anything in her career, how do you explain Bush, who was certainly a do-nothing for most of his adult life.

(Oh, yeah, I forgot -- W wasn't elected either.)

So now I'm rereading this message and I see that I've found not one but TWO figures to compare Hillary to, after saying she was completely unique. What the heck, I'll click "Post" now anyway.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 09:14 PM:

Sylvia, not a fan of jazz (Chicago Hot) or pizza (Chicago Style), I take it? Or gangster movies.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 09:37 PM:

Then again, she's the first one to have run.

Well, that whole "Women's Suffrage" thing, or absence thereof, probably kept a whole bunch of First Ladies from running for public office. Dolly Madison would have likely been quite good at it.

But since Women's Suffrage? Edith Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt could have, though in Edith's case, it would have been a step down--after you're the 28th & 1/2 President, there really isn't anything left but the Presidency.

If Ms. Clinton is more powerful than she appears, one should be able to name legislation she's sponsored, or bills that hung on her vote, or particularly fine speeches in the Senate, or... something, anything, that shows she does anything.

The roles of kingmaker, powerbroker and pundit require none of these, and in the case of Hillary, look at her job qualifications: a talented lawyer given eight years in DC plus keys to the White House to forge alliances and deals, plus with a two-term former President at her disposal to give advice and pull strings when she needs it.

Hillary doesn't need to make a highflown speech to get things done.

Republicans looking at Hillary hate her because she's the second head of the Clinton dragon, which has only begun to bite.

But as far as this White House is concerned, she's pretty much a Non Player Character. Any real influence she's going to have will be years from now. This White House has shown, time and again, that they have an event horizon of 15 minutes or less.

Sadly true, though they count on the US public having an attention span of the same time limit.

The election race next year is going to be interesting to watch. Stressful, but interesting.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 10:28 PM:

BSD writes: "Parties to encourage veil-removal? OK.
Mugging-free havens? Great.
Mosque-torching? Abominable.

Of course, note that the first two are party policy, currently implemented, and the last is the plot of a hotheaded individual. When mosques start getting torched by iraqis, you can damn the ICWP. Until then..."

Note that the mosque-torching was proposed as a response to firebombings of theaters and other secular establishments, not as a first strike against Muslims.

If you're dealing with extremists willing to use that kind of force to impose their religious rules on others, a willingness to fight fire with fire, literally, might be more effective than, say, a sit-in.

Of course, it'd be best if the mosque that were firebombed would be involved with the first firebombing, and not just a randomly chosen, possibly innocent, mosque.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 11:38 PM:

Or, to add to your excellent list, Xopher, consider architecture, where Chicago really is a standout. I got to stay in a recently renovated Art Deco hotel in the Loop several years ago when attending GraphExpo and got gobsmacked one night walking back to the hotel when I looked down LaSalle to the Chicago Board of Trade building (the closing shot of The Untouchables). The next morning I spent a half hour just looking over the ironwork on the face of the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co. department store.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 12:00 AM:

"I knew it would be only a matter of hours before the presidents well-meaning and dangerous trip to Iraq on Thanksgiving would be turned around by mean-spirited people, into something other than the act of patriotism that it was. You only see what you want to see, the negative, when it comes to our President, in this case. He and our brave soldiers are fighting so that we can live in a free country, and be safe. Hitler would have never been stopped if people like you had had their way."

Dale Crisafulli

Nice to know I'm a mean spirited guy (as evidenced by my quoting Mr. Crisafulli).

My first reaction was incredulity... "He went to Baghdad? WTF?" Then it was disappointment... because it was going to be touted as a bold and noble gesture.

Well, as one who was there, and who knows a lot of people who were/are still there, his visit doesn't mean much to me.

Practically, he NEVER should have gone. His place is NOT in harm's way, because, if anyone is, he is not expendable.

I was. My friends are. That is the sad fact of life in a war zone, but George W. Bush, as President of the United States, isn't.

And playing John Wayne and zipping into Iraq, (so he can wear another piece of military clothing he hasn't the real right to wear. He may be my Commander in Chief, but he is not in the Army, and that sort of false comaraderie I find insulting) to get a photo-op (how many people did he see? How many, who wanted to, got to see him? How much did he disrupt other aspects of the day?

If he wants to improve my morale, have him come up with a plan to 1: make the place stable, so 2: my guys can come home.

And just pulling out, and declaring victory because a constitution has been written and an election we oversaw happened ain't it.

(melodramatic language coming)

I have dead comrades, I have friends who are still there, and more who are going. I will have students who leave my classroom to go to Iraq.

Some of them will get injured, some of them may get killed and I'll be damned before I say pulling out and leaving a filthy mess behind was worth that.

We fucked up and Iraq is worse off than it was before, but damn it we paid blood, and we have an obligation to those who did the bleeding to see to it that we don't leave a festering sore behind.

So this warm-fuzzy people are getting about him eating his turkey in Baghdad is about as attractive as that turkey was the next day.

Terry K.

Lis ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 12:09 AM:

And now it's turning out that another of the anecdotes of the trip -- that they nearly turned back after a British Airways pilot radioed them -- was also false.

Any idea why the Bush folks made that up? It just doesn't seem logical. Why lie about something so easily disproven? How did they benefit (or think they'd benefit) from that story? It doesn't make sense to me.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 12:29 AM:

"Getting press is not the same as having either influence or power."

"Getting press" is one of the several varieties of influence and power.

Thus our disagreement.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 12:52 AM:

In direct response to Hal, I believe that Hillary has been one of the major forces behind the series of procedural motions which have prevented four Republican judicial nominees from reaching a floor vote. That both requires and gives clout.

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 01:08 AM:

I was scratching my head at my natal city being referred to as not iconic, or not having a sense of identity.

Yes, that'd be Chicago I meant.

But I see others have gotten there first, as usual, so I'll just add a couple things to the list, sans links as I'm feeling a little lazy:

In terms of architecture, let's not forget the Sears Tower, which for many years was the tallest building in the world; the distinctive Chicago skyline includes that and the Hancock building, and they're very recognizable. There's also the Watertower (type in 'watertower chicago' to google images sometime; it's a gorgeous site).

There's the museums, and the zoo, which we're justifiably proud of. There's the extremely large Polish population -- second largest Polish city in the world, don't forget -- and the heavy Catholic influence that and the Irish southsiders bring. There's the way that even now -- though far less so than when I was a kid, or when my father was in particular -- there are the classic ethnic neighborhoods: Greektown, the once Swedish and Germanic area on the north side, Ukranian Village, the large Polish concentration down near Belmont and Milwaukee, and others. There's the late lamented stockyards. There's -- and this is especially appropriate in this thread -- "The Chicago Way", and "The Chicago Democrat", two sets of political images that maintain to this day. And of course there's the Daley Empire.

So, er. I guess I had quite a bit to add, actually. But, Chicago iffy? Not if you're paying attention.

Darn it. Now y'all are making me homesick again. Someone pull the economy out of the toilet so I can go back to the Midwest, eh?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 01:28 AM:

Tina, if it helps any, I adore Chicago. My earliest consistent memories are of living in Chicago. (1960-63.) I think Chicago is one of the jewels of American urban life.

I also want a Chicago hot dog (otherwise known as "a hot dog dragged through a salad") right now.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 01:41 AM:

Maybe Hillary isn't important as a senator, but I get email almost every day of the "send this to everyone you know!" kind, bashing Hillary. Of the other 99 senators currently serving, I hear nothing at all.

Why do you suppose this might be?

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 02:31 AM:

Jon H.: Note that the mosque-torching was proposed as a response to firebombings of theaters and other secular establishments, not as a first strike against Muslims.

If you're dealing with extremists willing to use that kind of force to impose their religious rules on others, a willingness to fight fire with fire, literally, might be more effective than, say, a sit-in.

Of course, it'd be best if the mosque that were firebombed would be involved with the first firebombing, and not just a randomly chosen, possibly innocent, mosque.

Jon, what you appear to be saying here is that ALL Moslems should be made to pay for the actions of a few violent extremists. You appear to be saying that, if terrorists are affiliated with a mosque, then it is justifiable to firebomb that mosque, and if there are innocent civlians in that mosque who are, say, praying or something, well that's not the best outcome, but it's reasonable.

Now, explain to me why that sort of logic is OK when we apply it to Moslems, but not OK when we apply it to Americans?

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 02:37 AM:

A factual note:

I've found two sites--the LA Times and the Gulf News--that note that Bush's visit was in the PM hours, not the AM, and given that Baghdad is 11 hours ahead of San Jose, that fits about right with when I saw it. I assumed it was a tape the network had got.

Did anyone see it being done as a live feed or something?

The Gulf News in particular slammed Bush:

http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/opinion.asp?ArticleID=104150

but their letters to the editor

http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/opinion.asp?ArticleID=104341

adds a rather painstaking note after a letter about the idea of a morning dinner:

Dinner time
From Mr. D. Mullings, Dubai
Perfectly timed for when most Americans would be enjoying their Thanksgiving dinner, I saw President Bush on television carrying a large, golden roast. Hmm.

Air Force One touched down at around 5.20am Baghdad time and Bush was in Iraq for two-and-a-half hours.

I wonder if the troops were "shocked and awed" when ordered to get up before sunrise to down turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and drinks, instead of having to wait a few hours for egg on toast.

Editor's note:
The publicised time of Bush's arrival in Baghdad was 14:31 GMT (Baghdad time: 5.31 pm). He left Iraq at 17:00 GMT (Baghdad time: 8 pm) - a good time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 03:00 AM:

Mitch Wagner writes: "Jon, what you appear to be saying here is that ALL Moslems should be made to pay for the actions of a few violent extremists. You appear to be saying that, if terrorists are affiliated with a mosque, then it is justifiable to firebomb that mosque, and if there are innocent civlians in that mosque who are, say, praying or something, well that's not the best outcome, but it's reasonable.

Now, explain to me why that sort of logic is OK when we apply it to Moslems, but not OK when we apply it to Americans?"

I'm saying that Iraqis have the right to defend their freedoms against authoritarian Iraqis seeking to impose their religious standards through violence.

Firebombing doesn't necessarily imply that it be done when the building is full.

Of course, if there were a functional criminal justice system in Iraq, which could investigate and prosecute attacks by specific hardliners, there wouldn't be any need for vigilante sectarian retributive strikes against mosques.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 03:22 AM:

I'm saying that Iraqis have the right to defend their freedoms against authoritarian Iraqis seeking to impose their religious standards through violence.

So it's okay to impose secular standards through violence?

Firebombing doesn't necessarily imply that it be done when the building is full.

I've yet to hear of an arsonist who thoroughly checked a building to make certain it was unoccupied before torching it.

Of course, if there were a functional criminal justice system in Iraq, which could investigate and prosecute attacks by specific hardliners, there wouldn't be any need for vigilante sectarian retributive strikes against mosques.

Yes, sad there isn't one. There used to be.

Whose fault is that, I wonder?

Isn't there something in the Geneva Convention about invaders/occupiers/liberators/people-who-come-across-the-border-with-tanks-and-guns being responsible for providing stuff like order and justice until a new government is set up to provide them?

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 09:47 AM:

To paraphrase Leona Helmsley, Geneva Conventions are for little countries.

Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 10:32 AM:

"Were the French happy under the Nazis? It's the same thing here."

--Ismail Mahmoud Mohammed, U.S.-appointed police chief of Samarra

xian ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 12:17 PM:

Tina, in your analysis of the SF Bay Area you left out the East Bay, including my hometown, Oakland.

SF definitely has a bit of a complex about its importance, and I say this as a transplant from New York, the capital of the world.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 04:54 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy writes: "Whose fault is that, I wonder?

Isn't there something in the Geneva Convention about invaders/occupiers/liberators/people-who-come-across-the-border-with-tanks-and-guns being responsible for providing stuff like order and justice until a new government is set up to provide them?"

Are you under the impression that I supported the war?

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 07:22 PM:

Well, if you support one variety of secular firebombing, why not another?

Cheering on communists for attacking religious fanatics and those unfortunate enough to be standing next to them sounds suspiciously like cheering on capitalists for attacking unpleasant despots and anyone unfortunate enough to be standing next to them.

The trouble with burning mosques is that even if you don't kill any people, you destroy a building that has a much longer history than the wackjob who recently took over the pulpit. For a parallel, there are many who would be rather upset if someone firebombed the White House, even if we really don't care for the current occupant.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 08:12 PM:

I trust we're all clear that Electrolite stands foursquare against firebombing of mosques, and other varieties of punishing the many for the actions of the few.

yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 11:52 PM:

"Over at CounterPunch, Wayne Madsden points out that Bush served that turkey at 6:00 am in the morning, Baghdad time:"

This has been debunked rather thoroughly. Madsden didn't fact check. The dinner was at the normal time for Thanksgiving dinner.

yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 12:27 AM:

http://www.drudgereport.com/flashbb.htm
Bush's visit.

Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 06:08 AM:

OK, I guess there's some equivalent of color-blindness going on here. Because I'm just not seeing what you guys are seeing.

See... When I hear something like the idea that Bush took this trip to take away the media spotlight from Hillary Clinton, and then I compare it to what I think I know about politics... it doesn't even stir a laugh in me. No, more than that, it sounds as silly as the whole "the Clintons are behind everything evil, they murdered Vince Foster" kind of thing. Both positions are a kind of conspiracy theory, and I've hardly ever found such theories to be true.

So I assess things in a way I think is objective -- what has she done, what can she do, why would the White House give a damn -- and I just don't see a justification for thinking that way. (Admittedly, I don't seem to see things the same way the White House does on damned near anything, either, as Ulrika reminds me... but still.)

Now, along come youse guys, and you're throwing around terms like "Clinton hydra", and how the filibustering on judicial nominees is somehow driven by her (even though she's not on the Judiciary committee, or in the party leadership), and polls about elections 5 years out mean something even though all the data we have suggest the electorate hardly ever makes up its mind more than 3 weeks out...

And I just don't get it. To my ear, you're sounding like some of you believe there are grains of truth to the various winger conspiracy nuts -- by which term, you may guess, I don't.

Maybe I've been inside the bubble so long I just don't see the bubble (as a metaphor, it's not like I'm in any privileged position)... But the world you're describing doesn't match the one I observe at all.

I'm not saying that's good or bad, I'm just noting my perception.

Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 06:16 AM:

"Maybe Hillary isn't important as a senator, but I get email almost every day of the "send this to everyone you know!" kind, bashing Hillary. Of the other 99 senators currently serving, I hear nothing at all.

Why do you suppose this might be?"

For the same reason that 10-15 years ago, probably the only senator you ever heard about -- certainly from the right -- was Teddy Kennedy. Bogeymen are scary, bogeymen are useful, and if Karl "Pavlov" Rove can send out an e-mail villifying Ms. Clinton for things over which she has no interest or control... How much the better.

It's not unlike, say, insisting a regime disarm when you already know in advance they're not armed. Nothing they can do can fix the problem.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 08:36 AM:

I dunno, Hal, maybe it's possible to think all the following things simultaneously:

  • Some wingers are nuttily fixated on Hillary Clinton as the Source of All Evil
  • Fear and loathing of Hillary Clinton is a useful fund-raising tool for the modern right
  • Hillary Clinton has a broad base of national support, far larger than the average freshman Senator
  • This means the Bush administration regards her warily and goes to some trouble to keep her in check
I would say it's even possible to think all of those things without being either a big supporter of Hillary Clinton or a subscriber to the Hillary Ate Vince Foster's Brain theory of modern history.

As to whether this White House's political operation would trouble themselves to do something as petty as stepping on Ms. Clinton's press, well, if the past three years haven't convinced you this is exactly how this White House operates, I'm not sure what would. This isn't exactly an unusual observation, nor a paranoid one. You can dismiss "polls about elections 5 years out" all you want, but you can't convince me that the Administration's political strategists do. I suspect you can't see how they think because their turn of mind is genuinely alien to you.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 12:52 AM:

Jim Macdonald: "Maybe Hillary isn't important as a senator, but I get email almost every day of the "send this to everyone you know!" kind, bashing Hillary. Of the other 99 senators currently serving, I hear nothing at all.

Hal O'Brien: "Why do you suppose this might be?"

For the same reason that 10-15 years ago, probably the only senator you ever heard about -- certainly from the right -- was Teddy Kennedy. Bogeymen are scary, bogeymen are useful, and if Karl "Pavlov" Rove can send out an e-mail villifying Ms. Clinton for things over which she has no interest or control... How much the better.

Ted Kennedy is evidence against your argument, not for it -- Kennedy was considered a credible presidential candidate during SEVERAL elections. I don't know why he never ran, but the reason that was discussed at the time was that he didn't want to give the assassins a chance at a hat trick.

Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 04:06 AM:

Ted Kennedy is evidence against your argument, not for it -- Kennedy was considered a credible presidential candidate during SEVERAL elections.

Where "several" = 2 -- 1976 and 1980.

I don't know why he never ran...

He did run. In 1980. And got creamed. Which is why he was never "credible" again.

...but the reason that was discussed at the time was that he didn't want to give the assassins a chance at a hat trick.

That was certainly the kind of joke stockbrokers would tell, yes.

I'm reasonbly sure Kennedy himself never said so, including during his campaign.

The point is that wingers -- again, both left and right, by the look of it -- kept treating Ted like a serious contender years after it was obvious he was nothing but a senator. A strong, senior senator, yes, but still.

Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 04:33 AM:

Hey, Chicago fans, I wasn't dissing your favorite city. I hoped I made it clear that I didn't equate this nebulous 'iconic' quality with being a good city to live in, or an interesting one to visit. No, what I'm talking about is an ability to wrap up a distinctive identity and hurl it at... a visitor, or even someone on the other side of the world who just hears about it. Impact. Image.

Texas as a state has it, though none of its cities do. Las Vegas has it. New Orleans has it. New York has it. Newark doesn't.

Chicago... well. Prohibition-era violence, speakeasys, Al Capone, the St. Valentine's Day massacre. Sure, that's a plus, having a past that sparked a TV series, but do people go to Chicago just to relive The Untouchables? Some, I suppose.

The Sears Tower? No. It's tall boxes. Functional. Utilitarian. The Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building aren't icons because they're tall. They're icons because they were built tall when skyscrapers were romantic exciting symbols of optimism about the future.

The Watertower is beautiful, but then... most cities can boast architecturally interesting monuments. The Museum of Science and Industry, now, that's a claim to fame.

Okay, and there's a poet. "Hog butcher to the world." Chicago is still that -- a hub of American commerce. One of the reasons I said "iffy" instead of striking it altogether is a vivid memory of trying to drive past Chicago at 3 in the morning, and being caught in a slow-moving traffic jam on an umpteen-lane superhighway (construction) that felt like it was 100% 18-wheelers for miles in every direction, except for little old us dwarfed in our passenger car. It was awe-inspiring, all those huge trucks, blood pumping through America's heart. But that was a personal, idiosyncratic experience. I don't imagine a lot of people have shared it. Not enough of them to have it count towards iconic, anyway.

Pizza? Nah. Pizza isn't Chicago, it's ubiquitous. Who doesn't have pizza? And jazz? Well, Chicago has some reputation there, but in terms of leveraging that into an image -- whoa, not in the same league with New Orleans.

What's that? The Chicago fire...? Okay, so a lot of people have heard about the cow -- but still, that's reaching. I mean, Rome burned, and it was the symbolic end of an empire. Chicago burned, and... went on to become a huge modern city.

In the end, I think Chicago is like Toronto. Big, very important, but too involved in just living to bother about projecting its image.

Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 04:37 AM:

Some wingers are nuttily fixated on Hillary Clinton as the Source of All Evil

And some wingers from the other side of the aisle are nuttily fixated on Hillary Clinton as the Source of All Good.

Fear and loathing of Hillary Clinton is a useful fund-raising tool for the modern right

Agreed, and already mentioned by me.

Hillary Clinton has a broad base of national support, far larger than the average freshman Senator

No, she has name recognition, and some fundraising ability.

Look... Say I'm a senator in Nevada. Democratic, even. If Hillary comes up to me and says, "If you don't vote the way I want, I'll make sure you won't get X many votes next election..." Sorry. It's laughable. She just doesn't have that strong a hold on anyone. If she were to flip it, and say she would deliver those votes if I went her way -- same thing. She really can't cut off any of my funds. Maybe something like Emily's List, but I'll bet not -- if I'm a Democratic woman senator in Nevada, I'll bet that would trump any misgivings Hillary might have. About the only thing Hillary can offer is money that she's raised on her own stick -- thus, the fundraising.

What about in the chamber? Take the Medicare vote. Here's the roll call sliced a few different ways. 11 Democratic senators broke ranks and voted Yea for Medicare reform, even though Hillary voted Nay. If she had genuine power, she would either have been able to persuade those 11 senators to vote with her, and/or would be able to punish or reward them accordingly. She can't do that. Compare this with Feinstein. My take is that Landrieu, Breaux, and Wyden all flipped when Feinstein did. Baucus and Miller are virtually crypto-Repubs, anyway.

But look over the roll. Which senators do you think vote the way they do not because they're Democrats, but because they specifically want to support Hillary? Name names.

She votes like a freshman, she has the lack of influence of a freshman, she has the lack of reach outside the chamber of a freshman, she quacks and waddles like a freshman.

This means the Bush administration regards her warily and goes to some trouble to keep her in check

OK, I got that.

And, like so many other things about the White House, it doesn't mean it's accurate.

Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 10:31 AM:

Re: Chicago -- most people are unaware just how big Chicago looms in acting, improv, and theater. Second City, ImprovOlympics, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Organic, Mamet-- incredibily influential.

Architecture: I can't believe no one's mentioned Frank Lloyd Wright yet, and the chance to rebuild the city after the fire.

Politics: does no one remember 1968? Or the Daley machines?

All this is off the top of my head and I've never even been there.

(And then there's the other reasons why NYC is world known; the UN, the NYSE, the WTC...)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 10:41 AM:

Hal O'Brien posted:

Some wingers are nuttily fixated on Hillary Clinton as the Source of All Evil
And some wingers from the other side of the aisle are nuttily fixated on Hillary Clinton as the Source of All Good.
How does this connect with your argument? Are you suggesting this is the view of anybody in this discussion? Certainly not me. I'm all for Hillary Clinton insofar as she's a sometimes-effective fighter for New York State, which (like most blue states) pays a lot more in Federal taxes than it gets back. But on innumerable issues she's way to the right of me, and on a bunch more she shows a creepy "communitarian" streak of which I'm gravely suspicious. So don't go sticking me with that.

So far as I can tell, what we've established is that Hillary Clinton is a politician with considerable national popularity and very high negatives among her opposition, whose institutional position is that of a freshman Senator, with all the limitations that entails.

You seem to be doggedly insisting the the instutional rules entailed in the "freshman Senator" part is all that matters when considering how the Bush Administration treats her. This seems to me a really literal-minded, civics-class approach to figuring out the behavior of politicians. You're certainly right that Hillary Clinton is nowhere near as powerful as right-wing fund-raising letters suggest she is. But I don't think you're factoring in the natural tendency of people to drink their own Kool-Aid. If you spend two days out of seven screaming about the dark evil that is "Hitlery," eventually you're going to wind up half believing it, at the very least.

Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2003, 09:45 PM:

So far as I can tell, what we've established is that Hillary Clinton is a politician with considerable national popularity and very high negatives among her opposition, whose institutional position is that of a freshman Senator, with all the limitations that entails.

No, what we've established is that I'm a terrible writer. Because I've now outlined five or six reasons why she doesn't have genuinely national popularity, to which the response has been, "Does so." I'm mostly chalking it up to my Sir Humphrey-ish way of understating things, and assuming people can connect the dots.

This seems to me a really literal-minded, civics-class approach to figuring out the behavior of politicians.

Many of my hypotheticals have been of the form, "Vote my way, or your ass is on the street next election."

My district never got the textbooks that said that's how the senate works.

As may be... I think I'm now off to take remedial writing, or something.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 07:40 PM:

Hal O'Brien - All I'm saying here is that Hillary has a name that opens doors for her, and which allows her to command the attention of the national media. That's POWER, although she may, as you note, lack OTHER forms of power. It makes her someone to be taken seriously as a future presidential candidate.

Sure, as you note, there are many obstacles between her and the White House (or, rather, her return to the White House, with her name on the lease this time). Moreover, it's a thousand miles away. Still, when you sit down and think about who might be running for President in 2008, and might have a serious shot at it, her name has to be on the list, along with Jeb Bush's for that matter. Probably John Edwards too, off the top of my head.

Now, you may respond once again with a laundry list of the ways that Hillary DOESN'T have power. To which I'll respond, most likey: yes, you're absolutely right. But those OTHER factors make a credible run for President at least a possibility: her relationship with Bill, the fact that she's a Senator from a big state, her ability to command the attention of the national media.

And people are intrigued by her. We've never had a former First Lady as President; what would that be like? What would it be like to have a former President of the United States as a male First Lady?

Just that amount of power alone makes her a threat to the White House, that's why they want to step on her. I don't think that they did the Thanksgiving visit solely to squash Hillary but I do think it was one of the reasons.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 11:49 PM:

Hillary also, with Bill as her husband, solves one of the the (admittedly sexist, but with bearing on an election) big conundrum about having a female President: Wouldn't the First Gentleman find his unelected ceremonial post kind of, well, wussy?

Since America never knows what to do with its former Presidents anyway, and Bill's already doing philanthropic stuff which is what First Ladies have traditionally done, it sews everything up neatly as an added bonus to the ticket.

George W. Bush played on his name. So did Ronald Reagan. Hillary Clinton had a good eight years in the national eye as First Lady, and has kept that spotlight by becoming a Senator for a major state. That fame makes her a major player in the presidential arena.

Karen Underwood ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 12:44 PM:

If Texas is iconic, it has nothing to do with having major cities and everything to do with the mystique of *rural* America, cowboys and "wide open spaces." This is a major reason why the Bushes moved there in the first place--to do an end run around the East and the Beltway and appeal to those who, for whatever reasons, dislike or distrust urban/liberal values. It was a makeover worthy of Madonna--and it worked well for them.

Stefan "spam in this thread" Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 07:40 PM:

Ugh. Countermeasures breached.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 07:52 PM:

And deleted, with a remarkably few mouse clicks. All hail MT-Blacklist.