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August 30, 2009

The Club Is All Their Law, To Keep All Men in Awe
Posted by Patrick at 08:45 PM *

The AP reports:

Bush daughter Jenna Hager becomes ‘Today’ reporter

NBC’s “Today” show has hired someone with White House experience as a new correspondent—former first daughter Jenna Hager, the daughter of former President George W. Bush….She “just sort of popped to us as a natural presence, comfortable” on the air, [Executive Producer Jim] Bell said. Hager will work out of NBC’s Washington bureau.

Glenn Greenwald observes:
They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it’s really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from.
Read the whole thing (it’s short and deadly). Our children and grandchildren will remember these strutting second- and third-generation media peacocks they way we look back at the White Russian officer corps—as examples of astonishing decadence. They will wonder how these people, out of all those who could be discussing the day’s events, were the ones chosen to be on television, day after day, as the world careened toward ruin.
Comments on The Club Is All Their Law, To Keep All Men in Awe:
#1 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 08:51 PM:

This is where I insert the LOLcat poster of "Oh Hell NO", right?

While Luke Russert actually put in some time working behind the scenes at ESPN, I cannot imagine Jenna Hager knows anything about broadcast journalism.

I must be missing something here.

#2 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 08:52 PM:

I am dumbfounded. Maybe the emphasis is on the word 'dumb.'

WTF? Because she is the daughter of a president she is more qualified than someone who has been educated to be a journalist and may be able to report more effectively? She appears to be educated as a teacher. Why does this make her qualified to be a reporter?

WTF? Teh stoopid, it burns!

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 08:54 PM:

Oh, so that's why they're forever talking about access -- they mean they're pulling the ladder up behind them as they climb.

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 09:03 PM:

Why does this make her qualified to be a reporter?

Genqvgvbanyyl (gung vf, va gur zbivrf), ercbegref ner n uneq-qevaxvat ybg. Fur'f zber guna dhnyvsvrq.

#5 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 09:07 PM:

The Satirists & Surrealists Union has collectively thrown up its hands and gone off to slug brick walls. Hurts less.

#6 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 09:21 PM:

D, I think you've just won my "croak of the day" award.

See also Simon Johnson's posts on the two-track economy. The USA is (re?) building a class system, it seems.

#7 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 09:21 PM:

I'm taking exception to your description of Greenwald as deadly. That's blatant redundancy. I've read Greenwald daily for ... well, forever, just to get my daily dose of deadly.

As to Jenna Bush Whatsername being "a natural presence, comfortable" on the air, they said the same thing about her dad. They mean, presumably, "as fucking stupid as we are and therefore not intimidating."

#8 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 09:24 PM:

Holy, schemoley, if you haven't read his Update #1, do so right now, if you're after deadly. That's some pretty high-grade deadly. I mean, "shrill."

#9 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 09:26 PM:

I, think, there was one too many, commas, there in that last, post.

#10 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 09:45 PM:

We got rid of Bush. Next, the Senate and the Media.


#11 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:02 PM:

And only this morning I was thinking that if Lynn Cheney is qualified to be on the Talking Head programs, complaining about People Not Understanding her father and his actions, then at least one of the Bush daughters would be qualified to show up and explain that People Don't Understand him.

It makes me glad I don't have a TV. And I don't want to watch children of former Big Names talking about their parents and how misunderstood they were, either.

#12 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:10 PM:

If she (or whoever else is appearing on air with her) doesn't directly or indirectly reference her being a Bush daughter at least once every thirty minutes, I'll eat my hat.

My money's on her on-screen title being "Jenna Bush Hager".

#13 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:17 PM:

Michael Roberts @8

Have you ever tried to be sarcastic in a shrill tone of voice? It doesn't work. Next time you're hanging out with your friends, try it. You'll find that you've totally hit the mark on the, "unconsidered pejorative for progressive speech," but kinda fell short of, "things that form effective symbols in the real world."

#14 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:21 PM:

It's not good, but it also hasn't been news since John Quincy Adams.

In almost any given field, being on close terms either through kinship or friendship, with someone on the inside will give you a leg up.

It's because of things as everyday as chosen subjects of dinner table conversation. Or introductions. Or who your parents hang out with. Or what your parents feel comfortable with.

My family worried about my choice of career. They didn't know anyone who'd made a living as an artist. Even so, if you go back through my resume, there's an appalling number of jobs that although I was really good at them, I got a little 'lift' through who I knew. The people who hired me had met me other places, or worked with me somewhere else, and felt comfortable with me.

I expect that some of what went into some of those hirings was also an expectation of future favors - higher ratings for Today from people who liked Bush, for instance. Someone to point at and say, "See, we're not just a bunch of liberals."

I think it would be good if merit were more of a weight when someone was hired. But I also think humans will keep on being human.

#15 ::: Michael C ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:42 PM:

Two days ago my 15 year old television died. I have been shopping for a new one. After reading about Hager's ascension to to the telepantheon, I believe that I will wait until I can find a model that has a "the stupid--it burns!" digital filter.

#16 ::: Michael C ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:44 PM:

Of course, if I did find such a television, I'd probably find that my choice of programming was seriously restricted. . . .

#17 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:57 PM:

#14, Margaret Organ-Kean: "It's not good, but it also hasn't been news since John Quincy Adams."

No, I think it's worse than it's been in a while, if not necessarily worse than ever.

I don't think it's always extraordinary when someone goes into the same line of work as a close relative. Sometimes, in fact, the results are excellent. But I do think we're seeing an unusual number of obviously unqualified "legacy hires" taking up seats on the commanding heights these last few years.

#18 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 11:00 PM:

Margaret, #14, pnh, #17: this isn't simply the advantage that connections confer; it's direct control of the media (and Senate) by an organized political faction, placing its own into positions of influence.

#19 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 11:01 PM:

My first thought was relief that she wasn't being hired to do political commentary. I realize that, "will contribute stories about once a month on issues like education" does inevitably connect with modern politics, but it's still a plausible thing for a teacher to do. It doesn't seem like being the public face of the news (like Katie Couric or Maria Shriver), or doing extensive political commentary like Megan McCain or Liz Cheney.

#20 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 11:04 PM:

Television news ceased to be journalism some years ago. I don't give a rat's ass who they hire.

#21 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 11:06 PM:

The Raven, #18: I am more sympathetic to that outlook than I once was.

#22 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 11:18 PM:

Raven @ 18

You're right, of course.

I expect it's as blatant as when the President appointed his brother as Attorney General, and their family leaned on the governor to appoint a family friend to the suddenly empty Senate seat so that it could be 'held' for the youngest brother.

Or when the ex-President's wife is elected Senator and then appointed Secretary of State. I have no problems with Ms. Clinton, btw. But I bet that it was easier for her on some levels than it would have been for someone not named Clinton.

In other words, this sort of thing happens and I don't think you could stop it from happening short of re-wiring humans. I think what's needed is to make sure it's not automatic; that it's not enshrined by law.

I think the interesting difference here and now, is that girls can play too.

#23 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 11:29 PM:

I was never a fan of Kennedy or Clinton dynasticism, either. My admiration for the recently-deceased Senator Kennedy has a lot to do with the way he managed to transcend his assigned role in the family saga.

Also, Greenwald's central point wasn't "dynasties are bad," it was the screaming hypocrisy of all these legacy hires constantly congratulating themselves on America's splendid meritocracy.

#24 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 11:51 PM:

Getting the job through (or because of) your connections is not as bad as keeping it because of your connections.

#25 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 11:53 PM:

I'm sure the executive producer, and whoever else hires, were extremely skeptical, and all like, "why is an elementary school teacher with 2 years' experience or whatever qualified to be a national reporter, and we are definitely not going to hire her, this is a meritocracy" until, of course, she demonstrated her superhuman reportorial competence, which is evidenced by how she "sort of popped" as a screen presence. I'm sure she popped.

#26 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:13 AM:

Margaret Organ-Kean, #22: but the Obama administration hasn't attempted to place younger relatives in the media, with the apparent intent of defending past abuses and controlling the media in the future. Off the top of my head, I can't think of historical precedents in the USA, though perhaps there are some.

pnh, #21: so am I. With Paulson/Geithner/Summers banking plan and the the links between the corporate wealth and the anti-health care activists some of the leaders of the faction are at long last becoming visible. And what shall we do? Libertarians argue for a rigid adherence to Constitution and small government as defenses, but these defenses have failed; large businesses turn out to be as capable of oppression as governments. The left is nearly powerless, and the leftist media is scarcely read. If we are to react, the reaction is going to be a matter of at least a generation, and the world will not stand still for that time.

#27 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:15 AM:

Raven @ 10, I think the media is close to getting rid of itself. As for the Senate - sorry, I just don't believe it. I'm from Indiana. Evan Bayh isn't going anywhere, and neither is Dick Lugar. (Until the latter dies, anyway.)

And as for getting rid of Bush - the man, yeah. The policies? Not so much.

Scott @ 13 - I'm sorry, I don't even understand that. Was it sarcastic, or shrill? C: both A and B? D: none of the above? I think maybe I should go away, finish up today's work, and go to bed.

#28 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:20 AM:

Generally agreeing with the point made here, but seeing the list of people he imagines on the panel I actually feel good about Meghan McCain, judging by what I read about her. Perhaps she deserves not to be bitten as hard by the biting satire as the rest of the mess. Give her credit for standing up to some of the things that are wrong with today's broadcast viciousness. If only more Republicans were like that.

#29 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:24 AM:

I suppose it's better than her going "Spung", rm.

#30 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:53 AM:

I think they but seek to maintain such a law, that they some television saw.

#31 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 01:50 AM:

Michael Roberts, #27: unless policies change, by 2012, the country is going to be in an uproar. Some seemingly safe conservative seats are going to fall. On the other hand, Sarah Palin may become president.

#32 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 02:03 AM:

If she pops on-screen for the viewing public, will there be as many complaints to the FCC as there were for Janet Jackson?

#33 ::: Russell Coker ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 06:26 AM:

The Australian journalist Sam Varghese wrote an amusing polemic about rugby reporting. He makes some interesting points about the ability of former rugby players to give quality commentary.

It seems that the problem of hiring and keeping people in journalistic jobs who have no relevant skills other than previously being in the spotlight is not restricted to politics or the US.

The difference is the stakes. It really doesn't matter much if Australian rugby commentators barrack for Australia and give biased reporting on the quality of the umpire's work. But political journalists have the ability to manipulate the political process.

#34 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 07:33 AM:


While I agree with the general tenet of the article that professional footballers don't necessarily make great commentators, this particular piece is heavy-handed and full of picky little details. I won't defend the abysmal Chris Handy, but Gordon Bray is an excellent commentator who never played rugby at senior state level let alone internationals. Which kind of demolishes the premise of the entire rant.

#35 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 09:35 AM:

Like laws and consequences, the need to advance through hard work and sacrifice is also for the little people, not the important people. And I loved Greenwald's contrast with the reaction of lots of the mouthpieces of the right[1] to Sotomayor's benefitting from AA in college admission.

[1] These guys make up a source of unbiased information that rivals the old Soviet-era Pravda.

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:23 PM:

albatross, 'pravda' means "truth" in Russian, while 'izvestia' means "news." The Soviet-era saying was 'In Pravda there is no news, and in Izvestia there is no truth.'

Western capitalism has improved on this, and now we have a single news source (Faux News) which is devoid of either.

#37 ::: Del Cotter ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:26 PM:

In related news, this year's MacTaggart lecture, part of the Edinburgh TV Festival, criticised the BBC, "describing the corporation's size and ambitions as "chilling" and accusing it of mounting a "land grab" in a beleaguered media market."

The speaker was James Murdoch, son and heir of Rupert Murdoch, whose fortune describes as "inherited and growing" and estimates at $9 billion.

#38 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:37 PM:

Del Cotter, #37: too big to fail.

#39 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 01:11 PM:

Albatross and Xopher at 35,36

In the fairness there is no balance and in the balance there is no fairness?

#40 ::: Sam Varghese ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 01:25 PM:

Chris @#34
Gordon Bray played rugby for NSW Combined High Schools and Eastern Suburbs, and at the Ettamogah Pub Sevens, Hong Kong Tens and the World Classics.

The piece is written for rugby followers and contains details to substantiate the opinions advanced, It is not meant for a general reader.

#41 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 01:57 PM:

Lurker de-lurking.

Re Del Cotter at 37: The Guardian piece mentions Daddy Murdoch's MacTaggart lecture in '89, with which Clive James was not at all pleased at the time (the very fact that Murdoch had been invited to give it at all was the first objection). Reading the Clive James piece again stirs odd memories of the British TV world of 1989, when Sky was a not very successful venture and the franchise bids for ITV were about to wreck terrestrial television in the most dreadful way possible. (CJ is sniffy about American TV in this article, but more recent articles on his site contain paeans of praise for lots of the recent US dramas that blow the pathetic British competition out of the water...)

#42 ::: Anandakos ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 03:27 PM:

Margaret @22,

Statistically Democrats do the dynastic thing more frequently than do Republicans. I think that's mostly a result of sheer self-interest: there are lots of Republicans who are wealthy enough to believe that controlling the government is a direct personal benefit. There are relatively fewer Democrats who do, because Democrats are relatively poorer.

The overall upshot is that there are fewer dynasties on the Republican side than the Democratic, because there is more competition in the primaries.

#43 ::: jre ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 03:38 PM:

I think Jonah Goldberg said it best:

Va Anmv Treznal, lbh pbhyqa’g chyy lbhefrys hc ol lbhe bja obbgfgencf ol univat lbhe zbz xabj
fbzrbar jub xarj fbzrbar jub fhpxrq Pyvagba’f pbpx, cneynl guvf vagb inevbhf ab-jbex “wbof” shaqrq ol
gur vaurevgnaprf bs rira zber sbeghangr cevapryvatf, naq riraghnyyl gb n erthyne tvt ng n znwbe zrgebcbyvgna
arjfcncre naq n ovt obbx qrny. (Abgr: guvf flfgrz vf pnyyrq “gur serr znexrg”.)

(courtesy: The Editors)

#44 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 03:58 PM:

Ana #42:

Do you have a citation to any evidence of this? I have no intuition at all about the answer, though the explanation doesn't make any sense at all to me. (The Democrats and Republicans in politics are overwhelmingly wealthier and more powerful than their rank-and-file members.)

I think the specific incident we're talking about here is less about aristocracy than about back-scratching and the incestuous relationship between big money, big government, and big media. I suspect that there is an underlying cause which partly explains both folks like Liz Cheney and Jenna Bush getting media jobs, and also explains the remarkable uniformity of respectable media coverage on the financial crisis, and similarly the remarkable uniformity of respectable media coverage on the Iraq war.

The decisionmakers and reporters and sources and media owners largely know each other socially. They trade in favors back and forth, they go to each others' parties, they mostly adhere to a similar view of the world and share a great many interests.

#45 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 04:12 PM:

Anandakos@42: Statistically Democrats do the dynastic thing more frequently than do Republicans.

I'd like to see these statistics, since it isn't Chelsea Clinton who got a big fat media job based solely on the inertia created by having a father and grandfather who were both president of the United States. And what's Amy Carter doing these days?

#46 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 06:59 PM:

Congratulations on being picked up by the Times:

#47 ::: Chris Couch ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 07:00 PM:

Congratulations on being picked up by the Times:

#48 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 07:27 PM:

Yikes, if we are being read From The Outside, I want to make it clear I did not intend the double-entendre about Jenna, above. I'd like the world to knock if off with the jokes about presidential kids, and am sorry I started one.

What I am is appalled, horrified, disgusted with the exec producer's stupid rationalization. What does he mean by this jargon that a performance "pops"? -- I guess, we all sit around and agree we are going to like something with no good reason, so we can rationalize a transparently corrupt hire that we've been ordered to make.

Years ago, I had a friend who got his start producing local TV news. He said he threw up every night in disgust at himself. It seems to me that those who thrive in that moral atmosphere go on to produce "Today" and its ilk.

I don't know if we can have a democracy with this media.

#49 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 07:33 PM:

I started to read the comment thread at the Times site, to see if anyone had mentioned that Patrick is not "Patrick Hayden," as they misname him in the article, but quickly got bogged down.

I noticed, however, that while the liberal commenters said "you forgot so and so" and "yes, it's disgusting, and by the way here are more examples," the conservative ones kept saying "what about the Kennedys" over and over. Oh, and Maria Shriver (oh, wait, she's a Kennedy too). That's all they can come up with. One family.

#50 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 08:53 PM:

Hrmm. I doubt she lasts long. Once the hubbub about her hiring dies down, she spends a couple months bunting softballs and is quietly let go. I mean, Joe the Plumber isn't still on TV, is he? He was going to be an Iraq war correspondent, though what beyond name-recognition motivated that, I'll never know.

#51 ::: Ja Feito ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 08:53 PM:

Wha wrong wif popping?

#52 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 09:35 PM:

Patrick @ 17: "...the screaming hypocrisy of all these legacy hires constantly congratulating themselves on America's splendid meritocracy."

Rather like "the signal" in John Carpenter's They Live.

#53 ::: Lee sees possible spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 09:38 PM:

@ 51; I could be wrong, but I really don't want to look at that video.

#54 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 10:02 PM:

"it was the screaming hypocrisy of all these legacy hires constantly congratulating themselves on America's splendid meritocracy."

All of them? I'm not clear on the rationale for the folks chosen on the interviewees list in Greenwald's piece. Why, for instance, Bayh and Casey rather than, say (to use some non-Kennedy examples), Dodd and Gore? The former legacies might not be as liberal as the latter legacies, but as far as I know they all have voted and spoken in support of affirmative action, for instance.

Moreover, unlike Dodd, both Bayh and Casey succeeded the opposing party in their senate seat, Casey even unseating a two-term Republican incumbent, which is nothing to sneeze at as an accomplishment in US politics. All the names I've mentioned have had advantages from their family legacies, but they've also had to do well on their own merits to win their seats.

#55 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 10:42 PM:

Lee #53 re #51:

It's the Isley Brothers singing "Pop That Thang" (1972). As of this hour it's only had 307 views.

#56 ::: mef ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 11:58 PM:

"we look back at the White Russian officer corps"

And how many US residents--nepotists, or otherwise--understand the import of the last two phrases, let alone the analogy?

What you point at is merely one symptom, and the general disease is everyone's fault.

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 06:33 AM:

Lee #53: Especially when the poster's name is "Already done" in Portuguese.

#58 ::: Nick ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 09:48 AM:

Darth Paradox @12
My money's on her on-screen title being "Jenna Bush Hager".

That would neither surprise or disturb me. As far as I can tell, it is increasingly common for women to use their original surname that way. Among my married female friends, roughly 1/3 use their husband's surname, 1/3 use their original surname, and 1/3 use the original surname-husband's name combination, with or without hyphenation. A smaller percentage of the men use the combination, and none have adopted their wife's maiden name alone.

#59 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 11:47 AM:

This reminds me of the payments of up to $2 million that went to that piece of taxpayer-scamming (taxpayer rapist financially might be a better description, recall the Savings and Loan disaster of his Daddy's confication of the US Presidency....)slimy excrement, Neil Bush, from corporations, with nothing stated as the basis for why he was being paid by corporations doing business with the US Government and particularly with the Department of Defense... that came out in the divorce proceedings, states were divorce records and financial records involved in the divorce proceedings are public records, there is lots of interesting reading available.... the financial misdeeds records included the records of his sex trips to Thailand....

#60 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 12:11 PM:

#42 Anandakos

There have been Republican political dynasties--the Jefford family in Vermont, which got disenfranchised by the fascist theocrats who took control of the Republican Party, was firmly Republican from the founding of the Republican Party until a handful of years ago, when the current Sen Jefford (descendant of ancestors of the same title) said, "I [am not leaving] the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me," became an independent.

#61 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 12:45 PM:

Speaking personally, I got nothing against political dynasties. It's natural that a child growing up in a politically powerful family will understand the business, just as my kids understand computers, math, and foreign language and travel a lot.

The problem is where to judge the line of corruption, and how far the child in question then sees themselves as entitled, and acts to hold down the non-privileged. I don't see Al Gore doing that, even if he grew up a politician's son. I don't see Evan Bayh doing it, either. And to be honest, I don't see many actual legacy politicians doing that. It's the punditry that are the problem.


#62 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 06:01 PM:

The Raven @ 31:
On the other hand, Sarah Palin may become president.

Of a Balkanized Alaska, perhaps (1/3 secedes, 1/3 joins Canada in disgust, 1/3 stays with the US and tries to starve out the seceding part by closing the roads and preventing tourism). I can't see Palin being elected as other than the casus belli that starts the next American Civil War.

#63 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 06:24 PM:

Bruce Cohen, #62: Don't underestimate the power of a good Mary-Sue. Coming soon to an election near you: "Sarah Palin, Barbarian Heroine!"

#64 ::: Antonia T Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 06:29 PM:

Sarah Palin as the Pirate Queen of Alaska?

Well, until she runs into the Anarcho-Syndicalist Navy of the Rain Coast. They have a tendency to over-react to pirates.

#65 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 06:48 PM:

The Raven @ 63:

The proverbial Woman on Horseback!

Antonia Tiger @ 64:

The Wobblie Navy? Finally, a force to take on the WTO. Or did you mean the Weeblies Navy, responsible for the Downfall of the Toys?

#66 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 07:27 PM:

...aaaaaaand it's 29 comments until the female object of scorn is overtly sexualized. That's, like, 27 comments more than the average Youtube thread. Way to go, team!

#67 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 09:53 PM:

Which one of the Faux ravers are you nominating for The Bloody Baron?

#68 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2009, 08:20 AM:

I feel guilty for #29 because it follows my #25, which totally reads like I was going after her on looks. That's not what I wanted to say, as I explained in #48; however, I know enough about the intentional fallacy to know I can't protest if someone acts on the obvious reading of what I wrote.

And, now I have a new vocabulary word from #29, thanks to the Urban Dictionary. What is this, Unfogged?

#69 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 07:42 AM:

sara @67, that Wikipedia entry seriously underestimates the barkingness of Ungern-Sternberg. It also whitewashes him, somewhat: between late 1917 and 1919 he was effectively the commandant of a White Russian death camp -- they shipped him trainloads of captured red prisoners, and he saw to it that they died. (Obligatory reading: "The Bloody White Baron", by James Palmer.) Allegedly he liked to sleep out under the stars on a hillside in summer -- surrounded by the rotting carcases of quartered, bayoneted, and hanged victims.

I don't think even Dick Cheney has gone that far ... yet.

#70 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 08:17 AM:

Michael @ 61: The problem is where to judge the line of corruption, and how far the child in question then sees themselves as entitled, and acts to hold down the non-privileged. I don't see Al Gore doing that, even if he grew up a politician's son.
The Gore corruption is far more insidious (and slightly backward). His daughter Kristin, though nothing but talent and hard work, landed a job writing for Futurama so her daddy can get endless guest spots to mercilessly mock himself and his cause. Have they no shame? Have they no respect for the dignity of the Vice-Presidency??? Have they no sympathy others born into wealth and power who might also be pushed into working to make a living?

#71 ::: Paul the ex-poet ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2009, 10:01 PM:

I think both the Kennedys and Bushes are good examples of political families being a bad idea. Sure, it worked for the Adams, with Adams the Younger being muli-lingual and generally over educated, but when JFK rode into the House White on his father's political machine, he did more harm than good, just as Bush II did.

#72 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 03:20 AM:

Paul @71:
when JFK rode into the House White on his father's political machine, he did more harm than good, just as Bush II did.

Elaborate? Explain? List examples?

#73 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 07:49 AM:

abi @ 72... Maybe it's a reference to the Bay of Pigs, or to the Vietnam War. If so, the dubious implication would seem to be that, if anybody other than JFK had been the President, neither the Bay of Pigs nor the Vietnam War would have occurred. Of course I'm building hypotheses on top of assumptions here. (Or maybe it's the other way around.)

#74 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 09:46 AM:

Not that I'm in favor of political dynasties in what is claimed to be a democracy, but I don't think that all the Kennedys put together have done anything near as much harm to this country as George and Jeb have done.

#75 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 10:21 AM:

PJ #74:

It's hard to argue counterfactuals, but ISTM that the stakes were much higher with Kennedy. Under Kennedy, we arguably came very close to a civilization-ending war that would likely have killed two billion or so people. W simply didn't have such disasters within his reach.

Also, I think you could make a lot of the same arguments w.r.t. Bush as with Kennedy. Under Gore, we'd have surely invaded Afghanistan, passed the Patriot Act, and started the DHS, because those all had massive bipartisan support after 9/11. I like to think we'd have avoided Iraq, at least, though it's hard to know that for sure. I suspect we'd have gotten the same wiretapping scandals, but probably not the same level of torture scandals[1]. But again, it's hard to say, and the Democrats sure as hell didn't cover themselves with glory opposing that stuff when the war fever was burning the hottest in the US. I'd really like to think that post-9/11, we could have gotten big enough disaster response improvements to have softened the Katrina disaster, but I doubt it. Would Gore have pushed tougher financial regulations that prevented the global financial meltdown? Again, it's possible, but I have my doubts, since Democrats with any power are way more inclined to talk about tough regulation of the financial industry than they are to pass such regulation[2].

[1] I suspect we'd have seen some torture/abuse scandals, but not as formal policy, just as specific soldiers and spies trying to beat answers out of captives while their superiors unofficially looked the other way. We've had a certain willingness to condone torture while keeping our hands clean for some little time now.

[2] This is approximately the mirror image of Republicans whose love for free markets is so strong in words, but whose love for corporate welfare and special goodies for their campaign contributors turns out to be stronger when it comes to deeds.

#76 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 10:33 AM:

albatross, assuming we had a 9/11 - I don't think we'd have had Iraq with Gore, and Afghanistan would have been more focused. The rest: probably not, because it wouldn't have been Rumsfeld at the DoD and Cheney as VP, and I think they were pushing a lot of the stuff that Shrub did.

(I remember the 1960s just fine, thank you. I was almost as scared under Reagan.)

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 10:53 AM:

Under Gore, we most likely wouldn't have had 8 years where Science was trumped by Ideology.

#78 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2009, 11:57 AM:

I think the most certain and important benefit to a Gore presidency from 2001-2008 would have been at the level of appointments. Not just to the Supreme Court (Bush got two of those, remember), but all of the various low-level appointments that, under Bush, went to doctrinaire right-wing Republicans. Consider how Monica Goodling staffed the Justice Department with her buddies from Pat Robertson's Regent University who pledged personal fealty to George W Bush. We're stuck with those guys now, probably for decades.

#79 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:40 AM:

Avram #78:

This seems right to me. I am less concerned with ideological differences in appointments, than with differences in competence and knowledge and willingness to put ideology above all else. I expect different sorts of appointees from a Democrat or Republican, and likewise, from a moderate vs. conservative Republican or a moderate vs. liberal Democrat. But the Bush administration had what seemed to me to be an amazing laser-like focus on winning the current battle at all costs, even at the cost of losing everything long-term. From press reports (for whatever they're worth) it looked like several agencies were practically paralyzed by the ideological changes being imposed on them under the Bush administration--particularly Justice and the CDC and the Defense Dept.

One thing I'm not so clear on is how much of this was Bush specifically, vs. Republicans more generally. I have the sense that McCain would also have been a less disastrous president in 2000-2004, but maybe that's just wishful thinking.

#80 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 04:31 PM:

P J Evans @ 76:
(I remember the 1960s just fine, thank you. I was almost as scared under Reagan.)

Me too. It wasn't Kennedy who said in public, ""My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.""

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:04 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 80... Is this a sound check?

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:12 PM:

No, it was his idea of a joke.

(I'm convinced that he never had a clue what nukes actually do when they go fwoosh and turn night into day. I think he believed they were just like high explosives, only more so.)

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:22 PM:

PJ Evans @ 82... I am under the impression that Ronnie Raygun believed that, should it turn out to be a false alarm, he could recall the missiles. He can't have been that stupid, can he?

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:22 PM:

PJ Evans @ 82... I am under the impression that Ronnie Raygun believed that, should it turn out to be a false alarm, he could recall the missiles. He can't have been that stupid, can he?

#85 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:23 PM:

PJ Evans @ 82... I am under the impression that Ronnie Raygun believed that, should it turn out to be a false alarm, he could recall the missiles. He can't have been that stupid, can he?

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:25 PM:

"Moscow in flames, missiles headed toward New York. Film at eleven."
- a newscaster in The Kentucky Fried Movie

#87 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:25 PM:

Serge, I think he probably was that stupid, even before the Alzheimer's got him. He had really good PR people, though.

#88 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:40 PM:

I agree, P J, but I also think he had Alzheimer's much earlier than they admit. It's always been vigorously denied that he had it while in office; I don't believe it.

#89 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:41 PM:

PJ Evans... I wonder if it was illegal of them to pass him off as mentally competent. True, incompetents pretending to be competent happens a lot in the corporate world, but they don't usually have access to the Big Red Button.

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:59 PM:

I'm sure it began before he became President, but it wasn't really noticeable until the second term. (I figured something was up when the news reports on his annual health exam said only 'excellent physical health'. Reading between the lines they're not saying?)

#91 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 06:23 PM:

albatross @ 75: I'm with P J on this one; a lot of the things you suspect would have been the same under President Gore boiled forth from the inky hellwell of Cheney's diseased mind.

While it is true that the Democratic caucus in Congress by and large went along with the use of force authorization for Iraq, the Patriot Act and formation of the DHS, that was not out of any true belief, but out of a deplorable spinelessness. The administration demanded those things, and Congressional Democrats were deathly afraid of being branded traitors by the right wing and the mass media that had rolled over and completely abdicated their function of keeping the government honest. Without the Cheney shadow-presidency pushing its agenda, bills like the obscenely named Patriot Act would not have been introduced. We might even have had - say it quietly now - Congressional oversight.

You are probably closer to correct in supposing that the regulatory failures leading to the current economic meltdown would still have happened, but there again, with a more focused and likely more quickly concluded war in Afghanistan and no second front in Iraq posing less of a drain on our domestic resources and a more constructive, cooperative approach to foreign policy, even that might have looked different.

#92 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 06:25 PM:

I've heard that even in his first term, Ronnie had a habit of tuning out boring Cabinet meetings by turning off his hearing aid. Which may explain his level of ignoranceexpertise about the world in general and his own job in particular.

#93 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 07:24 PM:

On Ronnie and his hearing aid: There's a story of him not recognizing his own son at a school graduation, where parents went down a line shaking the graduates' hands.

This story makes more sense when you read that he was half-blind and mostly deaf, and refused to use glasses or hearing aids much of the time. Mr. Magoo was the president.

This also brings up the problem of blaming particular administrations on the particular craziness of Nixon, Reagan, Cheney, and Bush. If it were only the dark insanity of the leader, you wouldn't see what and who we see coming back again and again like political zombies. They would have changed course with each new leader.

#94 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 09:18 PM:

One of my favorite bits of black political comedy is the paperback There He Goes Again: Ronald Reagan's Reign of Error, by Mark Green and Gail McColl Jarrett. This was a collection of quotes by Ronald Reagan on various topics, collected from his speeches, radio adresses, and press releases; and contradicted by later statements by his aides and advisors, miscellaneous experts, and by later statements by the man himself (frequently denying he said what he was on record saying).

I could not find a good Amazon link (for some reason, they do not acknowledge Mark Green's co-author), but the book is referenced here and here.

#95 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 09:47 PM:

albatross@75: Kennedy may have had more room for disaster -- but the Bay of Pigs, and possibly the setup for the missile crisis, did not happen on his watch; on the latter, he had the sense (and the charisma) to make macho noises to the U.S. public while reaching a sensible agreement. And even if you believe Gore wouldn't have pushed stiffer regulations, do you think the attitude in the agencies would have been as pro-business? (Yesterday's news included the story of someone who was fired in 2004 for trying to make public the fact that Madoff's numbers didn't add up; Madoff was quoted as saying that he thought it was all over after said person's site visit.)

and re your followup@79: IMO, Bush's biggest problem was that he was trying to prove that his dick was bigger than his daddy's; McCain strikes me as less likely to have that problem. That's also just a guess at this point; where's the Paratime Patrol when we need them?

#96 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 10:42 PM:

Bruce #92:

Yeah, I think one of the really interesting and disturbing, yet basically unexamined stories of recent US history was how Reagan's advisors ruled in his place and used him as a figurehead, as the Alzheimers set in. My not-too-informed impression is that he was still pretty sharp in his first term, but that sometime around the start of his second term, the Alzheimers started taking a serious and fairly visible (to close advisors) toll. The only acceptable thing for his advisors to do at that point was to try to get him to resign, or to have him removed. But it was more convenient to rule in his name, while he fumbled about not quite clear on what was happening, providing a kind of cover (everything was done in his name). It's like something you read about in a history book, or like Grima ruling for Theoden in LOTR.

#97 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 11:10 PM:

Chip #95:

Well, Kennedy was president when the invasion went forward, he had the responsibility to decide whether to launch it. Had it been successful, he'd have claimed credit for the victory. Since it was a disaster, he took the blame, correctly. Also, the invasion was, as far my lame understanding of US history goes, in keeping with his political stance and ideas--he was an unrepentant cold warrior, who decided to commit us to fighting in Vietnam, and who campaigned partly on a promise to close the (nonexistent, as it turned out) missile gap.

#98 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 11:25 PM:

albatross, #97: you are wrong about Kennedy; he was the one, personally, who made the decision not to attack Cuba during the missile crisis (and then his staff took credit.) The man who sent the troops to 'nam was LBJ, as part of a deal with the Senate hawks that got his "Great Society" programs passed.

#99 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 11:38 PM:

Kennedy did send 'advisers' to Nam, though. Then (after he died, I think) 'mission creep' set in, and advisers who brought in the domino theory, and we ended up in a mess within two years of his death.

#100 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:03 AM:

Mark #91:

While it is true that the Democratic caucus in Congress by and large went along with the use of force authorization for Iraq, the Patriot Act and formation of the DHS, that was not out of any true belief, but out of a deplorable spinelessness

I see. But under a Democratic president, with the Republicans breathing down their necks, of course, they'd have behaved very differently, right? The evidence for this is the way the Democrats bravely cut funding for the Iraq war once they had a majority in Congress--right before they impeached the president over the disappearing and torture of Jose Padilla, rejected immunity for telecom companies, repealed the Patriot Act, brought the architects and perpitrators of our torture policy to justice, and disbanded the DHS. (Or maybe they waited till they had a majority in Congress and a new Democratic president. I forget. When did all that happen, again?)

Without the Cheney shadow-presidency pushing its agenda, bills like the obscenely named Patriot Act would not have been introduced. We might even have had - say it quietly now - Congressional oversight.

The Democrats in the House voted 145/62 in favor of passing the Patriot Act. In the Senate, with (I think) a 51/49 Democratic majority, there was one (Democratic) no vote. It was passed about a month and a half after 9/11, and I remember the feeling of those times very damned well.

The Clinton administration had been very friendly to the intelligence agencies who wanted to increase eavesdropping powers. (The Patriot act was largely a collection of wishlists from the FBI, NSA, and others that had been being requested for years.) Google for Clipper and CALEA for a few starting points. (You could also look up the FBI File Scandal.)

I don't think you even have sensible wishful thinking on your side here. The Democrats are indeed less awful than the Republicans on these issues, but that's basically all that can be said for them. Obama is proposing formalizing an executive branch power of preventative detention. Both parties have made damned sure that there will be no public airing or oversight of the massive eavesdropping machinery which has been turned on the American people. (Oh, wait. Democrats would never allow such things to happen. That's why they voted against telecom immunity, right?) We've probably stopped doing officially allowed and supported torture ourselves, and gone back to the older technique of handing prisoners over to less scrupulous regimes to do the dirty work for us. And that was the best we could get, out of two elections in which we voted about as many of the bastards out as we could manage.

How would this be different under Gore, again?

#101 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 06:40 AM:

excellent physical health

Compare the Soviet leaders at the same time; physically decrepit and held together by the best doctors available in the Soviet Union and indeed the best doctors anywhere money could buy*, but I think looking back it's never been suggested that any of them were Alzheimer's cases in office.

I mean, suggested with the degree of seriousness and plausibility that it has been for Reagan, and excluding the nationalist woofing on both sides.

* A relative of my partner, a highly respected French professor of surgery, was summoned to Moscow in the 70s to operate on Leonid Brezhnev, thus extending detente by x years where x>0. Thanks!

#102 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 09:32 AM:

albatross @ 100... The Democrats are indeed less awful than the Republicans on these issues, but that's basically all that can be said for them.

That beats the alternative of having the more awful people in charge. Oh, and yes the spinelessness of the Democrats, even though they have the upper hand, doesn't particularly impress me. Maybe it's those 8 years of being on the receiving hand of the non-stop slapping that has them acting that way. Or maybe my Party simply is run by chicken-shit cowards.

#103 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 11:19 AM:

Serge #102: I was saying even before the election that the Dems are showing the classic signs of a political "battered-wife syndrome".

Remember too that the Rethuglican Revolution continued straight through the Clinton administration, via Newt Gingrich and his cabal. That's a helluva lot of time they've had to undermine the system's checks and balances!

#104 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 11:54 AM:

albatross @ 100, how about reading what I wrote and responding to that, instead of what you think I said? I'm not arguing that the Democratic caucus are on the side of the angels, only that they caved in to pressure from others rather than initiating the actions you described. The "wish list" for the FBI and NSA that became the Patriot Act, for example, may have been compiled years before, but it took Bush and Cheney to actually propose the legislation at a time when the nation perceived itself to be under extreme duress.

The right wing's manipulation of the media has been a particularly vexing problem - and whether a Gore administration could get better control of the terms and tone of the debate to keep the Overton window from shifting so far to the right is not an easy question. It is not wishful thinking, however, to say that much of what the Democratic caucus went along with in the past eight years was out of fear of being pilloried for treason in the media.

Battered wife syndrome indeed, as David Harmon diagnosed. And now the abusive husband is carrying guns around the house, and everyone's OK with that.

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:35 PM:

"Why doesn't the government do something, that's what I'd like to know."
"What can they do, they're only people just like us."
"People my foot, they're Democrats."
- two people scared of an alien invasion in The Day the Earth Stood Still

#106 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 01:36 PM:

Mark #104:

I read what you said. I just disagree with your conclusion that we would not have had the Patriot Act or the DHS (or some very similar things) under Gore. Several pieces of evidence suggest that the Democrats were about as comfortable with that stuff as the Republicans:

a. The long Clinton administration support for eavesdropping, for fulfilling the wishes of NSA and FBI on these issues, etc.

b. The overwhelming support of Democrats for the Patriot act and Homeland Security act.

c. The fact that, having come to power, the Democrats took no real action to get rid of these things.

Taken together, these three show Democratic approval of this sort of measure before, during, and after the Bush administration held power. Even assuming that the Democrats only went along because the media were all out to get them and the cruel right wing attack dogs were taking bites out of their asses[1], why would that have been different in a Gore administration? Wouldn't the right have had an even stronger case that the attacks were all the fault of weak and ineffectual Democrats? Wouldn't the biases of the media have been about the same?

[1] Why do I feel like I've heard almost exactly this song, from the other side, after Republicans decided to abandon their alleged principles and vote the popular way on something?

#107 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:21 PM:

"I am under the impression that"; "I've heard that"; "There's a story of"; these phrases do not give me a sense of confidence. If you believe the Tower Commission, Reagan was not a hands-on, "I want to know what my minions are up to" kind of guy.

And Mark, I'm sorry, but I just don't buy your theory about the Patriot Act. Just look at your synopsis of the act: a "'wish list' for the FBI and NSA". I think that characterization is entirely correct, but it's not something that ever changed about those two agencies from administration to administration. Those types of agencies always want those powers. I have some belief that Gore would not have proposed caving in to their lusts, and perhaps if Congress took it out of his hands, he might have vetoed the bill. Nevertheless, I don't think it was right-wing media manipulation which was primarily responsible for its passage. Perhaps after eight years the memories have faded of how pissed the country was. For example, a bill "To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States" passed the House on Sept. 14 with one "nay". It passed the Senate unanimously, with two absences. People in general, not to mention congressmen, weren't thinking with their constitutions, but with the footage of a plane disappearing into the side of the South Tower in a ball of flaming jet fuel. The media didn't have to do anything to rile people up that day but show live footage. The ideologues-- libertarians, civil liberties crusaders, a few paleocons, and Izzy Stone-- were easy to ignore in the way that ideologues always are, especially when they happen to be right. The few pragmatists who saw that the attacks were a once-in-history unrepeatable plot were apparently insufficiently security-minded to be heeded.

It seems to me that there's a substantial gap between the parties over certain economic and social issues. On national security the difference isn't so severe.

#108 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2009, 02:34 AM:

albatross: There is a substantive difference between the willingness of the Clinton adminstration to give the NSA more to do; while passing it through the FISA court, and the Bush Administration going to AT&T, etc., an saying, "Do this for us."

If you are arguing a Gore adminstration would have done such a thing, a stonger support than conjecture about what would have happened because of different things Clinton did is in order, esp. as that is precisely the sort of logic you are catigating the people who disagree with you for using.

#109 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2009, 03:16 AM:

I'd like to think a Gore administration would have taken the spook wish list and gone to the EFF, the ACLU and Amnesty International and asked, "could you help us talk them out of this paranoid crap?" Then, of course, the spooks would still do whatever the hell they wanted to, and wait out the duration of the administration until some other FNG takes the Oval Office.

I figure some of the power the spooks have over a new administration involves omfg horror show briefings. It looks like Obama is already getting more gray hairs. The Presidency does that to people.

#110 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2009, 04:10 AM:

Remember the files that J. Edgar Hoover had.

It's not crazy to think that the modern-day spook outfits have potential blackmail material on a politician.

#111 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2009, 09:39 AM:


We'll never really know the answer, and it's certainly possible that a Gore administration would have resisted the push towards a surveillance state. It's also possible that a McCain administration would have done so.

I've laid out reasons why, at first glance, I don't think a hypothetical Gore administration would have avoided some Patriot Act like legislation right after 9/11. Given the overwhelming vote of his party in favor of the Patriot Act, and his party's continuing willingness to keep the surveillance running (the real point of telecom immunity), asserting that it would have been different under Gore seems to me to be something of a leap of faith. Similarly, Gore was VP in an administration that was very friendly to surveillance and antiterrorism laws. The Clinton administration helped build the huge mechanisms for domestic surveillance that Bush turned on the American people. (They were surely already turned on the American people to some extent, but hopefully more restricted by the law.)

Now, maybe, Gore would have suddenly been hit by a wave of insight about this, and changed direction. Maybe he'd have somehow cajoled his party into resisting the push for giving the NSA and FBI everything on their wishlist. Maybe, in office and remembering the first attack, he'd have said "no" when someone from the NSA came to him and said "we need to exceed our legal powers if you really want us to prevent the next attack." But honestly, this seems like wishful thinking.

I mean, perhaps under a McCain administration, we'd have avoided those things, too. But given the performance of McCain and his party at other times, there's some reason to doubt this. (Under either man, I think we'd have avoided a formal policy of torture, and likely have avoided invading Iraq. We kinda hit the jackpot with W.)

FWIW, I don't think Obama would have resisted this push either. I strongly suspect that, if we ever see details of surveillance under the Obama administration, it's going to look good in a civil liberties sense only in comparison with the Bush administration's actions. There isn't a major party in the US which opposes our slide to a surveillance state. I wish to God there were, I hope there one day will be, but there isn't one right now.

#112 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2009, 10:19 AM:

All this is assuming that 9/11 would have happened in the same way and to the same degree no matter who was president. Which I'm not at all sure of.
I don't think Gore would have ignored the warnings the way Bush and Cheney did, and I don't think he would have been agreed to attack Iraq. Not only that, he would have had different advisors and a different cabinet, and those people are part of the problem.

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