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December 9, 2007

Matthew Dowd: Dead center in the false middle
Posted by Teresa at 10:01 PM * 49 comments

The mighty Julia, now blogging at Firedoglake, has got the goods on Matthew Dowd, an unprincipled electoral technician who’s spent most of his career in the thick of things with Bush and Rove. Now that that position is about to be overrun, Dowd—the architect of Bush’s polarization strategy—has announced he’s had a change of heart.* Even more cynically, ABC is planning to foist him on us as a penitent centrist.

Julia knows better:

After a whirlwind highly-qualified-contrition* tour of the media, the man who credits himself with convincing Karl Rove to move all the way to the right because the center no longer exists has landed at ABC News. Predictably, he’s going to be providing us with his bipartisan view from the center.

Also predictably, from the first word quite a bit of it is, to put it charitably, less than thoroughly frank. To put it less charitably, it’s a mess of spin and bullshit.

Do have a look. It’s a solid piece of ass-kicking that left me wondering philosophically which has the least credibility: Matthew Dowd, or ABC.
Comments on Matthew Dowd: Dead center in the false middle:
#1 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:58 PM:

Warning: when I clicked on the link at the asterisk my virus scanner immediately popped up to let me know there was a trojan (SWFPoP?) on that site.

#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:24 PM:

Where is the link to the actual Julia-article?

#3 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:24 PM:

Teresa, it looked like you forgot to add a link to the actual Firedoglake article. I've added it.

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:34 PM:

a whirlwind highly-qualified-contrition tour

Or is that a hurl-wind highly-liquefied-digestion tour?

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 12:03 AM:

Thank you, Avram. I blame Ralph Nader.

Suzanne, are you sure? That's the Huffington Post.

#6 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 12:45 AM:

The warning about the trojan popped up the moment that page opened, but I'm not seeing it when I load the page again. I didn't have anything else open in my browser that was active. So either it was there and is gone now (could it have been attached to a banner ad that's rotated out?) or it came through some other way and the timing just happened to be exactly coincident with that page loading.

MacAfee has very little useful to say about it (link) so I don't have any good info about how it propagates and/or is distributed or what it does.

All of which means I'm not sure and that there's no real way to tell now, but with the timing so precise I figured it best to warn people just in case.

#7 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 12:58 AM:

It is just eerie. Dowd writes "I don't hate the guy. I don't think he's evil or bad." Name of the gods, why not? I don't think quite as ill of Dowd as you do, Teresa. It sounds like he's had a sincere conversion, is genuinely ashamed, and is still somewhat enmeshed. (Although, let's see how his penance goes.) How do Bush-Cheney do this to people? Something is badly wrong, and it's not just Bush-Cheney. Why were so many people vulnerable to this outburst of authoritarianism? Bush-Cheney-Rove-Dowd-and-all intensified and took advantage of the vulnerability, but also all the defenses seem to have shut down; it is as if--as if--as if enough of our intellectual and social leaders somehow wanted this enough to make it real. How did this happen?

Or maybe it's black magic.

#8 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:08 AM:

Randolph Fitz @ #7, "How did this happen?"

Fear and CYA syndrome. "I'm gonna do anything I can to keep anything from happening that I might get blamed for."

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 04:19 AM:

Suzanne, you were quite right to warn us. I was just startled at the source.

Randolph, what that reaction tells me is that if you jumped the fence and made such a retraction, you'd be telling the truth.

If they used black magic, Matthew Dowd was one of the people chalking & chanting; and his repentance comes just at the point where Bush & Co.'s fortunes are ebbing away.

We're going to be seeing more of these in the months to come. There's a lot of strange territory over on the other side of the line: strange territory, and specialized environments that've bred all manner of creatures, all of whom are used to getting paid. If Bush & Co. take as bad a fall as we're hoping, there'll be no way the right can keep making their payroll. They'll run out of welfare for wingnuts. That's when you'll see strange rightwing-native critters stalking over the borderline, looking for the money and power they used to have. And mark my words: the national media will be helping them do it.

#10 ::: GiacomoL ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 05:27 AM:

Looking at his record, this guy was never a Democrat; he consistently voted for and supported Republicans, while he worked for Democrats in an extremely conservative district like Texas... and only because at that time they called the shots.

But hey, if white supremacists like Ron Paul are "the right", and security hawks like Hillary are "the left", this guy is "the centre" all right. Just another day in the unreality-based mainstream press circus...

#11 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 06:21 AM:

Sigh. Rats, sinking ship, etc.

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:18 AM:

What this makes clear is that the 2008 election is the Democrats' to lose (or win). With rats like this abandoning the ship, with veteran pols deciding that this is a good opportunity to spend more time with their families, and with what may be a generational shift on key cultural issues beginning to be felt this may be time for the Republicans to try to figure out what went wrong.

#13 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:16 AM:

Fragano #12:

Perhaps I could offer them a helpful hint: Find someone smart and dedicated and well-informed enough for the job next time, and don't surround him with ideologically blinded fools. Or, appeal to the soccer-moms-with-guns-who-fear-Islamofacism vote. Whichever works.

#14 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:48 AM:

Teresa @ 9

Are you saying Dowd is Lucius Malfoy? That's the first thing that popped into my head as we extend this metaphor further. Actually, the more I think about it, the deeper the Deatheater metaphor works.

There are a lot of conservatives who are coming out and saying "It wasn't me! It wasn't my fault! Imperious curse! Deception!"

But if He Who Shall Not Be Named came back somehow, they'd scramble back for their old power, slightly afraid, slightly annoyed, and very greedy for power. The problem, as Randolph indicated, is finding out who really was befuddled and who was complicit. I'd say it's probably safe to assume that most were complicit in at least some way. We don't actually have the imperius curse here, as far as I know.

#15 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 10:09 AM:

"In the White House, the mighty White House, the liar sleeps tonight..."

It's a catchy little ditty by Brian Bauers and the WMDs. They also did a version with Christine Lavin; it's the "hidden bonus track" on her latest CD, Happydance of the Xenophobe. Googling also turns up what appears to be a video version, though I don't have Flash installed to view it.

#16 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 10:36 AM:

Leah Miller (#14): The metaphor works well enough for this; I've seen "Republicans for Voldemort" bumper stickers around town. ("Town" is, admittedly, the People's Republic of Cambridge; in the 2000 election, Bush placed third.)

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 12:42 PM:

albatross #13: That approach may have passed its sell-by date. I hope it has.

More likely we will be getting some version of the Islamic-Hispanics are coming.

#18 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 12:59 PM:

GiacomoL, it's the phenomenon of moving averages. Almost all of the current American political environment is to the right of Richard Nixon- who was everything anyone every accused him of, but who also founded the EPA and promoted national health insurance. John Lindsey and Daniel J. Evans would be on the most liberal edge of the Democratic party if they were active now. Dowd can call himself a centrist because the range of political expression has moved so far right that the center is about where Goldwater was in 1964.

#19 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:04 PM:

Fragano #17:

!A nadie se espera la inquisicion islamohispanica!

#20 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:32 PM:

JESR:

I think the left/right spectrum has just massively changed meaning all around. That's mostly because one dimension is way too little to distinguish ideas, especially over time.

Also, the differences between left and right are *way* bigger in rhetoric than in practice. For example, the right broadly is alleged to stand for smaller government and balanced budgets, but I don't think you could prove that with budget numbers under Democrat and Republican congresses/presidents. The left is broadly alleged to stand for individual rights and civil liberties, but I'm not sure you could make a convincing case for that based on the votes on measures taken during the war on terror, or on the basis of the legislation supported and the actions taken by the Clinton administration.

But even beyond that, in 1950 we faced the possibility of a civilization-ending war or (as it turned out) a grinding several-decade struggle over domination of the globe with the USSR. We had active Jim Crow laws and school segregation and widespread belief to back them up. Popular opinion was such that womens rights (I mean, like, women being able to work and run their own lives) were kind of controversial (remember the debate about the ERA?) and gay rights were pretty much off the table even for discussion in public. The world was so different, that relevant political issues and sensible positions were simply very different than they are now.

#21 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:46 PM:

One thing to bear in mind is that while while someone who reads blogs might think that an American left exists, there is no left to speak of in American national politics. There are far-right conservatives, staunch conservatives, center-rightists, and old-style centrists. Go back to news reports from the 70s to see what liberal American politicians were like. (And go back to 60s rhetoric to see what the real left thought of liberals.)

One reason that it appears there isn't much difference between left and right politicians is that a lot of the politicians who are called left aren't.

#22 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 03:07 PM:

Isn't "progressive" the current safe word for that position in the political spectrum?

#23 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 03:11 PM:

Matt @ 21

I'd say rather that the left is not represented well in American politics: it still exists, but is generally treated by the parties and the major media as if it were invisible (or as if it were the relative who must be kept out of sight and hearing when company comes).

#24 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 03:56 PM:

albratross @ 19... "Cardinal Fang, bring out the... comfy chair!"

#25 ::: Larry Lennhoff ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 04:32 PM:

P J @23:

Love me, I'm a liberal

#26 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:18 PM:

Then again, ABC is the outfit that hired Clinton flack George Stephanopolous, so this kind of hire is 'their bag'.

(Though I suspect George was somewhat less of malign agent provocateur than Dowd will almost certainly be.)

#27 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:20 PM:

"Isn't "progressive" the current safe word for that position in the political spectrum?"

I dunno, "progressive" often seems to be the term used to self-describe by people who probably think that what this campaign season really needs is more Nader.

My impression could be malformed, I admit.

#28 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:25 PM:

tnh wrote: "If they used black magic, Matthew Dowd was one of the people chalking & chanting"

Hm. Who would have been the naked human altar?

Powell? Condi?

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:39 PM:

Jon H @ 28... Who would have been the naked human altar?

Rove?

#30 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:13 PM:

Serge #29:

Eew. Just Eew.

#31 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:17 PM:

Serge at 29: some things do not bear imagining!

#32 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:41 PM:

#22 Earl: I don't know, let's see....

"Oh darling, whip me, make me nationalize healthcare, make me limit CEO pay....oh, oh, OW, PROGRESSIVE PROGRESSIVE !!!"

It does have a certain ring.

#33 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:14 AM:

Jon H #27: That seems to be in keeping with the fact that neither party is going to offer a really progressive candidate as their nominee, in the same way that nobody with any interest in limiting the size and power of government will be the nominee on the Republican side.

You can get a candidate you actually like and agree with, but not running as the nominee for either major party. We are often reassured that voting for a third party is on a par with giving your kids lead-painted teething rings, and that "if you want to send a message, use the mail" and all that. The translation of this seems to be that we can all shut the hell up and vote for one of the folks the two big parties nominate. Of course, that nomination will be all sewn up by the time more than about 25% of the voters have had a chance to express their views, and it will mostly be determined by money and media coverage. And one of the two parties appears to have been possessed by devils or taken over by madmen over the last eight years, reducing our choice to one anointee.

I think (I'm not progressive myself, in the sense I think is meant above) that a progressive would wish there were people with Nader's views with a reasonable chance at the party nomination.

#34 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:20 AM:

The phrase I remember is "beat me, whip me, call me Walter Mondale". It must have been from a political cartoon, but I don't remember anything more specific about it than that.

I think of Progressives as socialists not quite radical enough to romanticize the thought of going to jail for treason. That's kind of a non-scientific way to position them in the political spectrum, though, I suppose. Oh, drat, I guess I've probably offended some progressives with that gaffe. heh.

#35 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:40 AM:

#29: "Rove?"

Nah, he played the human toilet. A new role he came up with, not a traditional black mass role.

#36 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:54 PM:

A sewer rat that has to relocate because the cloaca's being dug into and the piping changed, is still a rat....


#20 ::: albatross :::

But even beyond that, in 1950 we faced the possibility of a civilization-ending war or (as it turned out) a grinding several-decade struggle over domination of the globe with the USSR. We had active Jim Crow laws

As opposed to Jim Crow sentencing and nooses being left in or near the offices of people with dark skin...

and school segregation and widespread belief to back them up. Popular opinion was such that womens rights (I mean, like, women being able to work and run their own lives) were kind of controversial

Have you been to the Southern Baptist Convention website lately to look at their "what we believe" statements?" "The wife is submissive to the husband her master" -type stuff doesn't look to ME like acceptanc of "women being able to run their own lives" and relegating women to the women's auxillary as regards religious roles and positions, and promoting stay at home housewifery and motherhood as the appropriate best life path from women....


(remember the debate about the ERA?)
And remember that it FAILED, and has never come back, and the recent obscenity of a Supreme Court decision saying that a woman who for decades was paid less than any male of years LESS experience doing the same work she was doing, who had only found out very recently about the systematic salary inequity, was SOL because she had "waited too long" to file a discrimination suit? She had only just found out, she didn't have access to any actual hard information and proof all the previous years... and those (perjorative deleted) named Anton Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Judge Roberts, the other new Supreme Court justice who gives fascists a good name, and merely 75% (perjorative) Kennedy, think that that is JUSTICE?

and gay rights were pretty much off the table even for discussion in public.

gay rights.... yeah, I live in Massachusetts and went to a wedding of two women at at UU church. Meanwhile, Rev. Phelps and his pack of hatemongers from the Westboro Baptist Churchin in Kansas keep coming here and picketing with their hatemongering slogans and signs and intolerance. And look at Colorado Springs, over the weekend someone from there told me that there are over FIFTY intolerant rightwing religious organizations promoting sectarian bigotry and restrictions of the lifepaths and self=determination of women, and preaching probably also the damnation of anyone who's not a married heterosexual with the husband the lord and master of the family and the wife "submissive."

The world was so different, that relevant political issues and sensible positions were simply very different than they are now.

I find today much more polarized, but the words more mealymouthed generally... the rightwing extremists have gotten lots of encouragement from the Oval Orifice since the fascist junta committed their takeover coup....

James Dobson have free run of the White House. I'd give him a cell with sackcloth and ashes and a daily ration of barley if he believes in Christian extremist piety.... let him live the life of a pious vow-of-poverty Christian monk!

#37 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:01 PM:

"gay rights.... yeah, I live in Massachusetts and went to a wedding of two women at at UU church. Meanwhile, Rev. Phelps and his pack of hatemongers from the Westboro Baptist Churchin in Kansas keep coming here and picketing with their hatemongering slogans and signs and intolerance"

I don't really see what point you think you're making by bringing up a globally unwelcome inbred family cult of bigots who are pretty much hated by everyone and aren't even representative of their home town in Kansas, let alone the nation as a whole.

#38 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:11 PM:

Paula: Are you really saying the situation w.r.t. civil rights for blacks, women and gays is as bad or worse now than in 1950?

The world changes, widespread views change, technology, the balance of power in society, the economy, demographics, all change. Politics change with those other changes. Left and right change meaning, and Democrats and Republicans are almost unrecognizeably different. That's a good thing. One of the worst bits of the reign of W has been an attempt to return to a cold war mentality against a mostly imaginary foe. (AQ isn't imaginary, but the Vast Armies of Islamofacism preparing to take over Christendom exist only in the imaginations of the neocons.)

#39 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:13 PM:

Jon H @ 26 - true, but they hired Stephanopolous after he'd announced that Clinton disgusted him, and he's been reliably conventionally wise since.

As for the rest, I can't say I think that society's in good shape, or even going in a good direction, but I do believe that the worst elements have been unnaturally privileged and presented as normal the past eight (or by some reckonings 27) years, and increasingly people who've been horribly disserved by the educational system and the people who are supposed to be giving them the news are recognizing it.

You might as well let the hope out of the box. Everything else is out there already.

As for third parties, all of this was done by a very small fringe of the Republican party who got busy and organized on the local level and then worked up. I haven't seen a case study for a third party making that kind of difference (and I vote Working Family in local elections all the time, New York's unusual laws allowing for it to affect the outcome).

I'm not really a shutting up kind of person, but I also think it's really important to cancel some Republican's vote, if I can't do anything else.

It's not for nothing that Nader's major source of funds last presidential election was Bush donors.

#40 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 11:14 AM:

Jon@27: Ann Coulter.

Paula: the SBC is considered a little strange by most of the country, if not as much as those who snicker at Phelps (as Jon notes). Your perspective may be suspect; how did Leominster MA look on women working? (I grew up in Maryland, near DC, where we were considered somewhat declasse' because my mother worked.) When we were young, \most/ of the U.S. believed in Pleasantville / Ozzie & Harriet / ... , even if they didn't all practice it.

#41 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:03 PM:

Re: the SBC, I mostly find it notable that Jimmy Carter abandoned it some time ago....

Regarding the changes in the political spectrum, I wouldn't call it a "shift". The neocons, on their way into power and since, have been methodically targeting the true liberals, and doing their level best to eliminate them from the field. What we have now is the result after several decades of that... where the Democratic establishment is quite aware that any true liberalism will be punished.

Outsiders, of course, don't get to play regardless -- anyone unblest by the Powers That Be is automatically declared a fringe candidate, who only gets media coverage when they slip up.

#42 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 09:43 AM:

David #41: But how did the neocons manage that? What made the true liberals vulnerable? I think a lot of it was changes in widespread beliefs and conditions, and commitment to some policies that didn't really work out all that well when tried, or that lots of people had very bad experiences with.

#43 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 12:01 PM:

Albatross at #42: But how did the neocons manage that? What made the true liberals vulnerable?

Briefly, they just got together behind the scenes (this is where PNAC comes in) and quietly started bringing figurative guns to the knife-fights. Originally, we did have a sense of "the loyal opposition", where even both the dominant and the underdog parties recognized that they were both serving the same country, under a common set of laws.

The neocons' "innovation" was simply that they would do anything it took to take and keep power, with no quarter given, and devil take the hindmost. From "standard' dirty politics through domestic espionage (think Watergate), and moving on to media control, character assassination, gerrymandering, and voting fraud. None of those were new, but I don't think most of the tactics had ever been organized and coordinated on a national level before, certainly not all together, or so aggressively.

I think a lot of it was changes in widespread beliefs and conditions, and commitment to some policies that didn't really work out all that well when tried, or that lots of people had very bad experiences with.

I doubt the neocons have even that much legitimacy. Their overall methodology has been to force their most dangerous opponents off the field entirely, bully the rest into submission, and treat the public like mushrooms or worse. And just what policies were those which "didn't work out all that well", before they got sabotaged from the top?

#44 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2007, 12:32 AM:

A bit of an update on the virus thingy, which I've come to the conclusion was indeed real: since I first commented, I have now encountered that same exploit (swfpop) on another site, also reputable (si.com). I came back here and clicked the solo-asterisk link and once again received an immediate warning of that particular exploit being blocked by my virus scanner. In both cases the warning appeared just as a popup ad was opening.

There is a (very) little bit more info about this exploit here and googling brings up a few heated and largely worthless discussions that are more flame war than useful info, but the basic jist of what I've read is that the exploit seems to spread via old, unpatched versions of flash player through pop-up ads. I don't know what else it does other than propagate, so either that hasn't been determined yet or my google-fu is insufficient today to find that answer.

My impression is that this is spreading and everyone may want to strongly consider both making sure that their browser and their version of flash player are up to date and also that they are running the latest definitions in their virus scan and spyware programs.

FWIW, I couldn't find anything about this particular exploit on the Symantec website, so I have no idea if they have it under a different name or if they don't have a def for it yet. (I happen to run MacAfee on this system.)

-Suzanne

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2007, 02:04 AM:

Suzanne, #44: Or you can just be a Luddite like me and refuse to install Flash at all due to the security risks.

Tangentially related: my partner happened to mention yesterday that the Kaspersky website has some less-than-complimentary things to say about many versions of mIRC. The current version isn't cited, but you don't have to go back very far to find several that are noted as having major exploitable security problems.

#46 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2007, 02:19 AM:

#37. Now they've lost a suit for mumblty-mumph amount of mega $$$, one has to wonder where they get the dough to get to do so much traveling. I know the WBC is not very big (I think it's Mr. P's family..). Maybe someone needs to ask the IRS to do an iquiry.

Frd phlps and his evil spawn piss me off even more then Bsh, Chny and their ilk. The Bcwhatever are venial. the Phlps crowd are evil incarnate.

#47 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Lee #45: That works too. Normally I only go near the internet with my linux machine, but it's having problems right now and I just haven't had the time or energy to sit down and fix it. So I'm cruising on windows, and it feels an awful lot like standing tippy-toe on the wing of an aircraft in flight with no parachute and a sudden urge to try a backflip.

My experience is that there's very little out there that isn't full of holes and exploits (particularly when first released) and it's really a matter of how fast the vendor patches the holes that makes all the difference. The thing about the pop-ups that gets me is that you can get it from visiting legimitate sites, so those users who are careful about the sites they visit are for once not any better off than those users sitting at their desks surfing for naughty pictures all day*. And that offends my sense of justice in some small but special way. (-:

--
* which if you want to do that at home, fine. I have no problem with that. But when your poor IT person has to come to your office to clean the gazillion viruses off your desktop for the umpteenth time this semester and gets assailed with your 20GB of oh-so-special saved material, you've crossed a line...

#48 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2007, 10:56 PM:

Paula Helm Murray, #46, they've appealed, so they haven't given the money yet. I'd be surprised if they don't have methods to keep from giving the money, too.

#49 ::: Debbie sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2012, 04:42 AM:

At least it's polite.

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