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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Powell vs. Limbaugh: The Choice Should Be Obvious, Dick 
Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 | 11:29 am [commentary, politics]

Lots happened last week while I was fucking off writing about Star Trek. Maine became the second U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriages via act of legislature, and good on them; Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for violating the Major League Baseball drug policy, proving he’s got to be the dumbest non-pro-wrestler in all athletics; and Dick Cheney went on TV and said he would side with radio host Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell in a debate over the future of the Republican party.


He also continued to try and justify his administration’s authorization of torture, but I’ll leave that for another day.


Sensible Republicans — Michael Medved and David Frum chief among them — point out that political parties win elections and thus gain the ability to implement their agendas by growing, not by shrinking. As Frum puts it, shouldn’t conservative Republicans prefer being 60% of a viable major party to being 100% of a permanent political minority? Makes sense to me. But the loudest right-wing voices (also the least thoughtful), with whom Cheney aligns himself, call this a false choice. They claim they can have it both ways, remake the Republicans as a party of total social and fiscal conservatism, disowning their more moderate or liberal members, and start winning elections again. They make this claim in the aftermath of the people of the United States resoundingly electing our most openly liberal president ever.


Strikes me as a tad illogical. A stubborn refusal to accept reality. But what do I know? I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat, either, but I do know this about them: the Democrats don’t usually respond to stinging electoral defeats by eating their own. They regroup and they figure out how to reach out to new constituents in the hope of getting more votes next time. For that is how one wins elections, and winning elections is the primary goal of a political party, is it not?


Voices within the party who suggest broadening the base, like Frum, like Powell, are accused by conservatives like Cheney and Limbaugh (and Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, who spend most of their shows paraphrasing what Limbaugh said a few hours ago) of wanting to abandon core principles in order to win elections. On Face the Nation this past Sunday, Cheney said “The suggestion our Democratic friends always make is somehow, you know, if you Republicans were just more like Democrats, you'd win elections.” That’s a pretty typical response whenever anyone suggests to a conservative that the Republican party might want to consider maybe moderating itself the tiniest bit. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard a serious suggestion from anyone that Republicans need to be more like Democrats in order to get their shit together. I’ve heard David Frum say repeatedly that he thinks his party needs to come up with coherent, relevant policies on the environment, on energy independence, on health care reform, on immigration, and to stop pretending that cutting taxes is the fix for everything. Colin Powell has similarly argued that the party needs to do more to reach out to black and Hispanic voters.


Cheney, Limbaugh and company interpret these suggestions as “be more like Democrats.” What does that say about the strength of their ideas? Can Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh imagine no conservative strategies for preserving the environment, or pursuing renewable energy, or renovating the badly dilapidated American health care system? Listen to Hannity’s radio show for more than a few minutes and you’ll hear him tout expanded domestic oil drilling and coal mining as the solution to the energy problem, and make very general mention of private medical savings accounts as a fix for health care, but there are never any details. Where are the serious proposals? I get my fill of moralizing and empty rhetoric about preserving liberty (odiously implying that opponents of conservatives are conscious enemies of liberty), but no real alternatives to the Democratic way of doing things. It doesn’t move me any closer to being a Democrat, but it does force me to ask, “Why would I ever want to be a Republican?”


Let me move on from conservative political incompetence to something even more telling about Cheney’s choice of Limbaugh over Powell.  Has there been a more brazenly hypocritical political party in American history than the Republican party, in particular these last few months? Conservative Republicans love to tout their support of our military, and never fail to make a big show of recognizing the honorable service of a veteran. Unless that veteran’s political philosophy conflicts with their right-wing ideology, that is. Eugene Robinson puts it this way in today’s Washington Post:


Given a choice between a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state who has given to his nation a lifetime of exemplary public service or an entertainer who brags about how much money he makes from bombast and bluster, Cheney would go with the gasbag.


Republicans claim to love the veterans, but look how conditional that love is, even when the veteran in question is a genuine American hero and one of the great figures in our history. And Colin Powell is not the only one. Remember how conservatives only grudgingly supported John McCain during the last election, and how much more enthusiastic they were over his running mate. Why was a willfully dishonest, race-baiting rube like Sarah Palin acclaimed while a bona fide war hero like McCain was treated like an uninvited guest? Because Palin confessed the proper creed. She was the genuine conservative. Her ideology trumped McCain’s heroism. Look at how Colin Powell, a showpiece of the party during the Clinton years, has been regarded by conservatives ever since he began to express his more moderate views. Cheney, who obtained five draft deferments to escape service in the Vietnam War, declares Rush Limbaugh, a fellow chickenhawk, to be a more authentic Republican than Colin Powell. Why? Because the men and women who serve in the armed forces are only tools to be exploited at the convenience of politicians, and only the dogma really matters.


I doubt Cheney’s choice means very much to Powell. Why should it, other than the fact that it heralds the continued collapse of his party? Who is Dick Cheney compared to Colin Powell? I imagine them running into each other after this, and Powell smiling politely and saying, “You know what, Dick? You’re a former vice president, a former member of Congress. And if you were talking to 99% of the other people on this planet, that would be pretty damn impressive. But you’re talking to me, baby. I’ve not only fought wars, I’ve won wars. I’ve put my money where my mouth is, I’ve served my country from someplace other than behind a desk. So if you ever get something on your résumé that gets you an iota of credibility, let me know. Until then, kiss my four-star ass.”


A nice daydream, ain’t it?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 | 01:13 am (UTC) - You nailed it, Steve
I served under Cheney when he was Secretary of Defense. The sad thing is, he was an excellent Sec Def. After that, he got absolutely fucking nutty and that train has only picked up speed. Alas, W may have been a better president without this very warped man as his puppet master... Powell is a man among men. period.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 | 01:33 pm (UTC) - Re: You nailed it, Steve
I'm glad you brought up Cheney's time as Secretary of Defense. His most notable achievement in that post was presiding over the victory in the first Gulf War alongside a Joint Chiefs Chairman named Colin Powell, was it not? How sad that not only honorable military service, but personal loyalty mean so little to Cheney, that he would speak out in favor of Rush Limbaugh, with whom he shares nothing but ideology, over his old friend and colleague Mr. Powell.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 | 06:17 am (UTC) - Medved, McCain and Powell
Medved repeatedly had members of the Swift Boat smear machine during the 2004 presidential campaign. He's contemptible, not reasonable. He also professes belief in intelligent design, demonic possession and excorcism and global warming denialism.

McCain is not a hero. He suffered physically while held captive. So what? Merely enduring physical suffering, in my opinion, is not heroic. I was afflicted with crippling arthritis at the age of nine and have suffered physically and emotionally, but I don't consider myself heroic. I didn't choose it. I'm a victim of circumstances, as was McCain. He made denunciatory statements about America while in captivity. He treated his first wife miserably, too, after returning to America. What character.

Colin Powell pissed away whatever credibility he had when he sat before the UN and gave a presentation of Bush's fraudulent case for an invasion of Iraq.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 | 01:28 pm (UTC) - Re: Medved, McCain and Powell
I don't like Medved and McCain because I agree with their beliefs; I like them because of how they handle themselves relative to the more zealous conservative elements of their party.

Medved himself can come off as smug, and as you point out a lot of his personal beliefs, especially those encouraged by his religious Judaism, are nuts. But he also hosts the most even-handed talk show on the radio, regularly inviting guests who disagree with them and giving them a chance to speak and treating them with respect. And, despite his personal support for intelligent design and denial of global warming, he also regulary devotes time on his program to ridiculing popular conspiracy theories, particularly the 9/11 Truth Movement, for which I give him great credit.

As for McCain, I call him a war hero because he survived an ordeal which I can only assume would have completely destroyed my life from that point forward, if it didn't kill me. You blame him for making denunciatory statements about America while in captivity? For Christ's sake, "captivity" included beatings and semi-regular arm-breakings for a few years! I might have a few days where I was down on my country, and everyplace else, too. Today, I admire McCain for being a moderate voice in his party. I don't say he's never fucked up -- putting Palin on the ticket, pandering to the evangelical right this past election -- but he is still one of the most sensible Republicans in Washington.

Colin Powell made a mistake in front of the UN, and I think he knows it will haunt him for the rest of his life. He left the administration, and has since spoken out against Bush's handling of the war, and advocated for a broader, more moderate Republican party, which wouldn't be a bad thing for any of us. He's a great man who fucked up, and I see no sense in holding the fuck-up against him when he's done his best to atone for it since.
Thursday, May 14th, 2009 | 12:27 am (UTC) - Re: Medved, McCain and Powell
Colin Powell made a "mistake." Boy, are you forgiving. Colin Powell lent his then considerable credibility to promulgate a fraudulent case for war. An unecessary war that cost us hundreds of billions of dollars, cost Iraqis and US soldiers tens of thousands of lives, caused millions of Iraqis to flee their ruined country, etc.

Powell had a choice. Resign as Secretary of State, tell the truth, and publicly oppose the war before it began. But instead, he likely convinced many people to support the war. He only left after the 2004 election, when it was clear what a lemon the war had turned into.
Since then, he's said some critical things about the conduct of the war, which is merely a dispute over strategy. It's easy to criticize after the fact, when there are no repercussions. He ducked the hard choice when it would have made a crucial difference in people's lives. Pointing out that someone should have kept the barn doors closed after the horses escape requires no courage.
Thursday, May 14th, 2009 | 12:40 pm (UTC) - Re: Medved, McCain and Powell
Colin Powell made a catastrophic mistake. For whatever reason, he accepted the intelligence and agreed to present the case to the world. He seems regretful, he seems willing to atone for it, he has admitted that he did something wrong. Does that mean he is now 100% opposed to the war effort? No. But why should I require him to come around to total agreement with my own position in order to give him some credit for doing the right thing?

Yes, he was a little late; yes, he came out against the Bush administration's running of the war far too late for it to make a difference. But compare Powell these last five years to Bush and Cheney, who still insist that they wouldn't change a thing about how they fought the war, which, as you pointed out, cost tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives.

The point of the article wasn't to argue that Colin Powell is a perfect man. But I think he's sure as hell a better man, a man of greater character and guts than the president he served, and the vice president he served alongside, as secretary of state. And if the Republican Party is looking for a role model to take after, they'd be far better served to follow the example of Powell than Cheney and Rush Limbaugh.
Thursday, May 14th, 2009 | 12:53 am (UTC) - Colin Powell
And so Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was first captured by the US and tortured by CIA surrogates in an Egyptian cell. Apparently, they beat him and put him in a coffin for 17 hours as a mock-burial. To end the severe mental and physical suffering, he confessed that Saddam had trained al Qaeda terrorists in deploying WMDs. This evidence was then cited by Colin Powell as part of the rationale for going to war in Iraq. Bingo! And we wonder why torture is such a temptation. Which politician wouldn't want to be able to manufacture evidence to support what he wants to do anyway? Take that, Valerie Plame!

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 | 02:07 am (UTC) - Re: Colin Powell
It wasn't just Powell that was hoodwinked by bad intelligence- his job is to act (or not) on what is provided- not to dispute the findings of the world's most elaborate intelligence network. Congress, other agencies, and other countries all fell for bad intel. Powell happened to be in the wrong place at the right time- he's still an amazing man who's lifetime of accomplishments bring honor to him, his family, and his country. You want to bash someone? How about our carpet-bagging Secretary of Skank Hillary? Now there's a lifetime of self-serving blow-hardiness that has produced jack-fucking-squat for the country that pays her check. RIP Vince Foster.
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