July 10, 2006

"The media glare is not something I crave.”

Kos, protesting too much, quoted in New York Magazine.

Let's read the whole big article. Some excerpts:
The sudden Democratic obeisance to the Netroots fills many in the party’s centrist cadres with despair bordering on panic—for they see the likes of Stoller and Moulitsas as “McGovernites with modems,” in the choice phrase of Marshall Wittman, a Republican apostate now ensconced at the Democratic Leadership Council.
Typical nitwit Democratic attempt at a catchy phrase. I'm putting this on my list with "Stay and pay."
More than a few leading GOP lights agree, happily foreseeing the liberal bloggers’ leading the opposition down (okay, further down) the primrose path into lefty irrelevance. As Newt Gingrich put it bluntly in Newsweek, “I think the Republican Party has few allies more effective than the Daily Kos.”
I've quoted that one before myself. It's the meme. Is it true?
[Many observers point out] that Kos and his allies see themselves not as ideologues but as pragmatists, aspiring players. And, indeed, time and again, Kos has declared that his main interest is in regaining power, by whatever means necessary. In his keynote at his Las Vegas convocation, he declared, “Republicans have failed us because they can’t govern; Democrats have failed us because they can’t get elected.” His mantra on other occasions has been “I’m just all about winning.”
So Kos just wants to be the mechanism by which Democrats obtain power? There's no substantive content, just trust in this party?
[There is] utter disarray on display over money in the Democratic Party’s upper echelons. A little more than a month ago, a meeting between party chair Howard Dean and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rahm Emanuel broke out into a yelling match. The dispute centered on Dean’s insistence on a “50-state strategy,” with resources being invested broadly and with an eye beyond 2006, and Emanuel’s belief that cash should be funneled predominantly into races where Democrats stand the best chance of making gains. (Democrats must pick up fifteen seats in the House and six in the Senate to retake control of Congress.) The two men haven’t spoken since.

As confused and conflicted as the Democrats appear on matters pecuniary, they are even worse when it comes to formulating a coherent governing agenda. For more than a year, there was talk on Capitol Hill of the need to devise some Democratic version of Gingrich’s famous Contract With America. Then, last month, the document emerged at last. On the plus side, the party had abandoned its previous slogan: the syntactically challenged “Together, America Can Do Better.”
Yeah, that goes on my list too. I never had a problem with that syntax though. I thought it was like get it together, man. You can say that to one guy. See, I'm sticking up for Democrats. Give me some credit!
On the minus side, the replacement was an object lesson in vacuity—“New Direction for America”—and the contents it framed turned out to be a shopworn list of vaguely stated Democratic goals—lowering the cost of college, lowering gas prices, restoring fiscal responsibility, blah blah blah—without any coherent vision, never mind firm programmatic commitments, to animate or back them up.
Oh, they are so dismally uninspiring. Note the absence of national security substance in that. That's something Kos and others notice:
Observing that in recent polls 75 percent of Democrats say they favor withdrawing some or all of the troops now stationed in Iraq, [Matt Stoller at MyDD] wrote, “When the Democratic ‘leadership’ holds positions in contrast to the vast majority of self-identified Democrats, then what we have is not a division. That is, instead, a dislocation.”

More than any other single factor, that dislocation has created the context in which Kos and his allies have found their traction.... Though they often pay a degree of lip service to a panoply of left-bent concerns, they are essentially single- (or, being generous, double-) issue activists: more than happy to wage the 2006 campaign as a referendum on the Iraq war—and on a generalized indictment of the Bush administration’s incompetence and mendacity. Their populist impulses are real enough, but they are wedded to no overarching set of policies, let alone an encompassing philosophy. They no more have a fully elaborated or articulated vision of what a 21st-century Democratic Party should stand for than do the hated members of the Washington hierarchy.
So depressing.

44 comments:

Adam said...

So, wait, the complaint now is that the Democratic netroots aren't a good policy shop?

Ann Althouse said...

I think the complaint, if there is one in this post, is about the lameness of the party in power. The whole thing is depressing to me.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam said...

The problem is that what many Dems see as the responsible course for Iraq just isn't that exciting, though it may be correct.

What unifies the Dem netroots isn't ideology, save a shared belief that waging this war was a tragic mistake, but rather an attitude: they want a more pugnacious party, and that's what makes Lieberman so frustrating.

(But they're also realists -- witness the support of Ben Nelson and Bob Casey. The anti-Casey primary candidates gained no traction online.)

Henry said...

"Mcgovernites with Modems"

With modems???

* * *

Probably the most depressing Democratic "goal" for me is the idea of lowering gasoline prices. It is simply incoherent to call for new energy policies and an end to foreign oil dependecy while proposing low gas prices.

The current higher gas prices have already contributed (who knows by how much) to increased consumer interest in more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Of course, lowering gasoline prices is a Democratic goal only because it is an opportunity to stick it to the current administration. It is a way to win at all costs, as Kos would have it, principles be damned.

Palladian said...

"They want a more pugnacious party, and that's what makes Lieberman so frustrating."

The last thing I want is people in government whose primary goal is to be "pugnacious".

Actually, check that. I would like a party that was "eager or quick to argue, quarrel, or fight" with Islamists and other foreign enemies- not with their fellow Americans or each other. The Democratic party, "Netroots" or otherwise, doesn't seem to be that party.

It's also telling that the best political metaphor for Kos they could come up with was McGovern; for Christ's sake, can't they leave that stinking period of history behind for once?

Noumenon said...

the contents it framed turned out to be a shopworn list of vaguely stated Democratic goals—lowering the cost of college, lowering gas prices, restoring fiscal responsibility, blah blah blah—

I seem to remember a return to Paygo being on there. That was nice and specific, and badly needed for the deficit.

DaveG said...

Observing that in recent polls 75 percent of Democrats say they favor withdrawing some or all of the troops now stationed in Iraq,

Oh, come on. Everyone wants that. The only difference is the Kos Krowd wants it done in a manner that can be spun as a Bush defeat, despite the long-term costs to US credibility. They truly are willing to pay any price to regain leadership, even if it means there's nothing left to lead.

HaloJonesFan said...

Apparently nobody in the Democratic National Committee remembers 'Airplane'.

"Together, America Can Do Better." Everyone in the room replies "America Can Do Better"...

Bruce Hayden said...

The problem with "paygo" is that it is somewhat disingenuous. As pointed out recently here, there are three big things that pushed the budget out of balance: the War on Terror (and, in particular, Iraq); the prescription drug benefit; and huricane relief.

The second two are essentially off the table for the Democrats. That leaves the first one, plus raising taxes. But both of these have their own problems. Cutting the WoT costs implies drasticallly cutting the costs of the war in Iraq, and that, in turn, requires cutting-and-running. And raising taxes has the problems that: 1) it is unpopular; 2) there aren't a lot of people who really trust the Democrats to really spend this money just to reduce the deficit and not to use it to expand the government in other directions; and 3) the Laffer Curve, etc.

What must be remembered is that a big part of how Clinton essentially balanced the budget was via the "Peace Dividend". During his term in office, we drastically cut the military, including, for example, cutting in half the number of active Army divisions. While some might buy into doing more of this, the vast majority of Americans, regardless of Iraq, are not about to buy into it, in light of our other international problems today, such as Iran and North Korea. With the nuclear aspirations of both of the countries, cutting the defense budget further is a non-starter, and most elected Democrats know this.

Adam said...

Palladian, the person who made the McGovern comment is Marshall Wittman, formerly of the Heritage Foundation and Christian Coalition, and one of the biggest opponents of the netroots. Hardly an ally.

And I doubt you'll find much evidence on sites like DailyKos to the Afghanistan invasion or to combatting Islamofascism generally -- just that removing Saddam Hussein was not really part of that war.

Buddy Larsen said...

Ms Pelosi's "A New Direction for America" was supposed to be better than the "Together...better" slogan...but it's being lampooned as "A Nude Erection for America". This might help with the elderly vote, but it doesn't do much to zip up the Clinton jokes. Oh well, back to the old drawing bored.

Thorley Winston said...

And raising taxes has the problems that: 1) it is unpopular; 2) there aren't a lot of people who really trust the Democrats to really spend this money just to reduce the deficit and not to use it to expand the government in other directions; and 3) the Laffer Curve, etc.

I agree with you about not trusting Democrats to not spend more when given the chance. During the 2004 election, Senator Kerry’s new spending proposals were about $2.76 Trillion more than what Bush was spending and even after taking his proposed tax hikes into account would have increased the deficit by at about $900 above of what they were under Bush.

It’s also worth nothing (contrary to what proponents of “divided government” would like for you to believe) that Senate Democrats have successfully used their clout (including the threat of a filibuster) to get higher levels of spending for things like the Medicare drug benefit (which was originally about $300 Billion before the final version became $749 and even then the alternative offered by Senate Democrats was about $900 Billion) and during the (thankfully) short period where they outright ran the Senate, Tom Harkin’s farm bill and Ted Kennedy’s education spending were consistently higher than the versions supported by the GOP-controlled House when it went to conference committee. Also in the few instances when there have been attempts at reigning in earmark abuse or trying to make at least some reductions in the rate of growth for programs like Medicaid, it’s generally been a majority of Democrats who have voted against it.

Bruce Hayden said...

I can't help thinking that a new slogan isn't what it takes for the Democrats to become the majority party again. They may be able to share at running the country through short run gains, but the momentum is running the other way.

At present, all we are really hearing, besides the attempts at various new slogans, is that the Democrats would run the government better. But why should anyone believe them? They had 60 years, and a lot of our fiscal mess is a result of that. Why should the American People believe that they have finally gotten religion here.

Besides, there is no indication from their proposals that they truly understand yet the law of unintended consequences, that, for example, gave us massive illegitimacy and its consequential results in pursuit of the War on Poverty. Poverty hasn't really dropped since then, despite spending over a trillion dollars, but far more kids are being raised without fathers.

The Republican's Contract with America was significantly more concrete than what we have seen yet from the Democrats. It laid out specific bills and reforms, and, to some extent, the Republicans in the House have followed it.

dklittl said...

Bruce,

You can't be serious in blaming the Democrats for the current fiscal mess? After 6 years of near total party control, and its the Democrats fault. And before those 6 years, we had a budget surplus!

Then, you've praised the Republican Contract for America as if the Republicans didn't shred that document in their quest for power. I'm not saying that Democrats are any cure all, but Republicans have shown themselves to be hideously incompetent in their running of the government.

Thorley Winston said...

The Republican's Contract with America was significantly more concrete than what we have seen yet from the Democrats. It laid out specific bills and reforms, and, to some extent, the Republicans in the House have followed it.

I disagree on the “to some extent” qualifier. I think for those who actually read the Contract with America, it’s clear that they followed it to the letter having made the first eight rule changes and having brought the other ten items up for a v0te as promised.

Buddy Larsen said...

dklit, "Republicans have shown themselves to be hideously incompetent in their running of the government" begs "compared to what?"

Henry said...

What must be remembered is that a big part of how Clinton essentially balanced the budget was via the "Peace Dividend".

And the other big part of it was the tech-stock bubble. Remember when Ted Turner "gave" the U.N a billion dollars out of his capital gains profits?

However, I agree with DK to this extent. The Republicans have sold out on the budget issue.

The problem with the Kos crowd using the budget as a talking point isn't that the Dems "woulda spent more" than the current congressional majority. The problem is that credit for the balanced budget (on the Democratic side) goes to a pro-free-trade DLC centrist. Clinton. Exactly the kind of democrat they despise.

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't think that the Democrats, esp. in the Senate, are blameless, as to the state of the budget. After all, as another poster has pointed out, they are still bringing home the bacon, though, at a slightly lesser level. For example, Byrd still brings home a lot of money, but not as much as when he was titled "Senator Pork".

The problem is that the same people are in the Democratic leadership in Congress that have been for a long time. Does anyone seriously believe that Ted Kennedy or Bob Byrd have gotten finally gotten religion here? The Democrats in their 60 years of Congressional control were the main proponents of tax and spend deficit government. Why should we believe that they all finally got religion here? Remember, it was only when the Republicans got control of Congress, after being out of power for most of the previous 60 years, that the budget was finally balanced for a very short time.

No, it comes across as a sound bite. And advertising gimmick.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let's be a little more accurate here - it was a DLC budget moderate combined with a Republican Congress that gave us the balanced budget.

Buddy Larsen said...

Boghie, down near the bottom of Ann's "Long-Term Prognosis" thread from Saturday, compiled a nice, easy to read, comparison of the current budget vs Clinton's last.

It's just the headers, but valuable; shows at a glance where the big changes have been.

amba said...

It should just hasten the long-overdue final demise of the zombie Dead-o-Cratic Party.

DaveG said...

You can't be serious in blaming the Democrats for the current fiscal mess?

I blame whoever coined the word "entitlement" as referring to a government handout. Once "entitled," how can it be taken away? Everything else is, as they say, history.

Very few things can be partioned into handy four-year segments, and government overspending is assuredly not one of them.

dklittl said...

Bruce,

Again you are obscuring the issue. Of course, the Democrats aren't blameless. But the main culprit of our current budget fiasco are REPUBLICANS WHO CONTROL ALL 3 BRANCHES OF GOVERMENT FOR OVER 4 YEARS. And for your issue over earmarks, look at the numbers. They have EXPLODED, and that might be a bit of an understatement, since 2001. Pork has always been a byproduct of our Legislative body, but Republicans have doled it out like its going out of style.

The problem, is that Republicans like yourself just are so determined to say "Democrats bad" that you refuse to look at the likely source of some of our countries problems. Are the Democrats necessarily the solution? Even I'm hesitatnt to say yes, but we already know that a Republican controlled government is a big part of the problem.

SippicanCottage said...

c'mon Bruce, it must be true. Part of it is typed in all capitals, after all.

Buddy Larsen said...

dklittl, did you happen to catch the last State of the Union speech? When the pres mentioned his failed attempt to reform SocSec, and the entire Dem side of the aisle stood up and cheered?

Buddy Larsen said...

I could never figure out, were they cheering for pride of power, or were they cheering for beggaring the younger generation?

Mr. Snitch said...

Marcos likes the spotlight just fine, regardless of what he says. What he doesn't like is not controlling the message. His blog is all about controlling the message, and he's frustrated because, once he starts speaking to the media, he loses that control.

And without spin, he's got nothing. Oops.

Thorley Winston said...

Again you are obscuring the issue. Of course, the Democrats aren't blameless. But the main culprit of our current budget fiasco are REPUBLICANS WHO CONTROL ALL 3 BRANCHES OF GOVERMENT FOR OVER 4 YEARS.

Not quite. If you look at the spending increases, the double-digit increases for non-defense/homeland security spending actually occurred in 2001-2002 when we had a Democratic Senate. Prior to that all discretionary spending was increasing at less than the rate of inflation. Since the GOP took back the Senate in 2002, the rate of growth for non-defense/homeland security discretionary spending has actually decreased although it is still too high for my tastes.

But that’s all chickenfeed compared to the real problem: entitlement spending specifically Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security which have exploded in recent years and only stand to get worse once the baby boom generation begins retiring. Right now there is only one party that has shown any interest in reforming these programs in a way that reduces spending (or at least meaningfully slows down the rate of growth) and that has been Republicans. If the price for getting pro-entitlement reform legislators (re)elected is that earmarks are overused, then it’s a small price to pay to avert a larger budgetary disaster.

Bruce Hayden said...

I will agree that the Republicans have not been very fiscally responsible since they got control over the Executive and Legislative branches not quite four years ago. But that doesn't mean that the Democrats are likely to benefit from this.

I think that you may be looking at this backwards. Is this a place where the Democrats can make a credible claim for doing better? Not just doing as well, but better? And I would suggest that a lot of people would buy into an argument that the Republicans inherited a lot of their problems from the Democrats, who had 60 years to institutionalize their view of big government. This isn't a question of the Democrats being not any worse than the Republicans, but rather, that they would have to convince the American People that they would be better - and four years of earmarks is not going to convince them in the face of 60 years of embedding entitlements.

Besides, we know that they aren't serious about fiscal restraint. There is every reason to believe that they would be just as bad, if not worse, if they regained power.

Contrast this with the Contract that the Republicans utilized to gain control of the House 11 years ago. They were obviously serious about it, as they tried to implement every single item in it.

What the Democrats would have to do to be credible on the budget would be to lay out, specifically, exactly what cuts in spending they would make, where, and what taxes they would raise, when. Talking about fiscal responsiblity without that is just blowing hot air - which is why it isn't going to sell.

This is just like the item above about reducing gasoline prices at the pump. What concrete proposals are they making? The problem is that the minute that they get specific, they are in trouble with some constituancy or another. Raising CAFE standards? That means no SUVs or big trucks. More exploration? Environmental implications that they can't answer. Subsidies? Robbing Peter to pay Paul, esp. when Peter and Paul live next door to each other.

Buddy Larsen said...

Gasoline--that's another thing--Dems pillorying the oil companies isn't going to do a damn thing about the supply/demand equation. Nationalize the oil industry if you want, tax it unto death if you want, but it ain't gonna create one more drop of oil. Dem leaders know this--they have staffs of hundreds of smart people--yet they feed our lowest misconceptions for a moment's boost in the polls. Why? What in the end do they think will come of all the baloney?

TallDave said...

Frankly, I find Kos' "tactical, not ideological" claim both disturbingly vacuous and (0-19) laughably incompetent. Someone who just wants to win (but never does) and doesn't care why is either dangerously narcissistic or unserious -- and Kos is deadly serious.

So his "not about me" comments ring hollow. If it wasn't about him, it wouldn't be called "DailyKos" (esp since it's a community he moderates, not his blog) or YearlyKos and he wouldn't be cashing in on the community's behalf with blogads and influence peddling.

Methinks the blogger doth protest too much. Far, far too much.

Ann Althouse said...

Sippican: Your "breast" comment got this post an Instapundit link.

Robert Schwartz said...

All of you who are bent out of shape about the budget deficit better hurry up before it disappears.

July 9, 2006
Surprising Jump in Tax Revenues Is Curbing Deficit
By EDMUND L. ANDREWS


WASHINGTON, July 8 — An unexpectedly steep rise in tax revenues from corporations and the wealthy is driving down the projected budget deficit this year, even though spending has climbed sharply because of the war in Iraq and the cost of hurricane relief.

On Tuesday, White House officials are expected to announce that the tax receipts will be about $250 billion above last year's levels and that the deficit will be about $100 billion less than what they projected six months ago. The rising tide in tax payments has been building for months, but the increased scale is surprising even seasoned budget analysts and making it easier for both the administration and Congress to finesse the big run-up in spending over the past year.

Tax revenues are climbing twice as fast as the administration predicted in February, so fast that the budget deficit could actually decline this year.

The main reason is a big spike in corporate tax receipts, which have nearly tripled since 2003, as well as what appears to be a big increase in individual taxes on stock market profits and executive bonuses.

On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that corporate tax receipts for the nine months ending in June hit $250 billion — nearly 26 percent higher than the same time last year — and that overall revenues were $206 billion higher than at this point in 2005.

Congressional analysts say the surprise windfall could shrink the deficit this year to $300 billion, from $318 billion in 2005 and an all-time high of $412 billion in 2004.

Bruce Hayden said...

Maybe Congress could cut another couple of billion from the deficit by eliminating, or at least greatly curtailing earmarks.

I am not taking away from the fact that the yearly deficit is shrinking, but rather am trying to point out that in a time of deficit spending, many of the earmarks look very questionable.

Buddy Larsen said...

Ex-treasury sec Paul O'Neil was a guest on CNBC this morning, complaining about various things which are dragging the economy. He said something along the lines of "$400 bbl/yr go uncollected because of our ridiculously complex, unfair, incomprehensible ten-thousand-page tax code".

Pappy O'Dan'l needs him some o that ree-form.

jravin said...

Hey, guys: repeat after me: the last time the USGov't had a surplus was 1960, not under Clinton. That was "achieved" by counting SS surpluses and ignoring the IOUs (Treasuries) put in the SS "account" instead of the cash. This is (was) Enron-type accounting, which (apparently) everyone has been suckered by!
I wonder if Ken Lay is smiling, wherever he is.

Mickslam said...

Talldave,

Pretty sure that Kos is playing a much longer game than a few years of elections. I think he is like the anti-tax wing of the republican party, where in the 70s it was simply a non-factor, now its mandatory to be a republican. It took 25 years, but they held their ground, and today, its every republicans bread and butter.

DK has had incredible success in moving the debate to their terms. I am a Kossak, and I find the people there to be much more intelligent and open minded than portrayed.

Essentally, we're just tired of people who can't stand up for what they believe in, and people who dont understand the difference between true friends and temporary allies. Harry Reid gets big, big props from most the Kos community, because he understands this difference.

Buddy Larsen said...

If you're an example, mickslam, maybe there's some hope. You don't sound like a nutcase. Hope I don't, either. Never sure.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TallDave said...

Sure, there are some very insightful bloggers on DKos. My issue was just with those two particular statements by Kos (one of which contradicts your own point).

Frankly, I think you guys would be better off without Kos and Armstrong's astrology-based "tactical" leadership, which imho mainly serves to enrich them at your expense (it's your influence he's selling, after all).

Conservatives built an intellectual movement first, then set about refining and selling those ideas (converting people like Ronald Reagan), and only then worried about winning elections. Kos' selfish to need to prove he's a player by skipping all that hard work (and pocketing the proceeds of others' work) speaks to his essential narcissism, and it will be the left's downfall. Instead of carefully considered arguments, you get Townhouse talking points with a double shot of vitriol. The results are predictable: good for Kos, bad for the Left.

Mickslam said...

Winning is a very subjective experience it appears. Losing 19 times in a row must be very discouraging, and I would wonder why Kos would say something like "I am just about winning." and proceed to back 19 losers in a row. Its possible the battle that you think he is fighting and the one he is fighting are two different battles.

If he were only interested in backing winners, he would back many shoo-in candidates and some squeakers. But, he doesn't. He backs people with large uphill battles, and hes lost everyone.

What is he trying to win? Well elections, and he believes strongly in fighting in all 50 states. I am sure he considers many of the losses to be worthwhile, as for the first time in at least a decade, the republicans have been forced to expend effort in these races.

Its not tactics, its strategy. And Kos like many liberals, doesn't feel we lack for ideas. He feels that far too few liberals stand up for those ideas.

Additionally, we liberals don't feel we need to replicate the litmus test based thinking of the right, as per the tax cut litmus test that all republicans must follow.

thanks for the kind comments, I am much less reasonable than I seem. But, aren't we all?

Scott A. Edwards said...
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Scott A. Edwards said...
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