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Why we’re liberals — an impeachment altercation

Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 20th, 2008

Politics & Prose is quite possibly the best bookstore in the country, and I’ve seen some good ones. We went there again last night, ostensibly to pick up a birthday present for Maddie’s friend, in reality to feed our family’s book addictions, and just to go to one of our favorite places.

The hook for me: “Eric Alterman will be there, you want to go?” I would have gone anyway, but that made it better: the acute observer of modern media and politics, the pioneering big-time blogger (“Altercation,” currently ensconced at Media Matters), the prolific author (“What Liberal Media?”, “Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy”), the American historian made good — I didn’t even know what his latest book was and I wanted to go.

Turns out it’s “Why We’re Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America.” From an online blurb:

Alterman examines liberalism’s development and demonstrates how its partisans have come to represent not just the mainstream, but also the majority of Americans today. In a crisply argued though extensively documented counterattack on right-wing spin and misinformation, Alterman briskly disposes of such canards as Liberals Hate God and Liberals Are Soft on Terrorism, reclaiming liberalism from the false definitions foisted upon it by the right and repeated everywhere else.

The book looks good — there’s a cover by Tom Tomorrow displaying the pantheon of liberalism — FDR, Teddy Kennedy, Tom Paine, you name it, with Mr. Alterman in the middle of the crowd. Alterman didn’t read from it, but described it to the audience in an entertaining, if somewhat rambling way.

Alterman’s point, as I take it, is straightforward: Americans are liberal, by and large, judging by opinion poll majorities or trends pointing to acceptance of liberal goals like health care, ending the war, even gay marriage. But they’re reluctant to apply the label to themselves, due to a successful propaganda campaign to make the word and the concept distasteful. American political liberalism in Alterman’s view is less a philosophy than a pragmatic outlook; “government might help with this problem; if not, we’ll try something else.”

The word “handbook” is apt: after a tour of liberalism’s antecedents, philosophy, history, and recent retreats in Part I, the book gets down to brass tacks in Part II with a kind of “how to” compendium of 10 to 15 page chapterlets with tongue-in-cheek titles in the form of questions, such as “Why Do Liberals Love Hollywood Smut Peddlers?”, “Why Are Liberals Educating Our Children to be Perverts?”, or “Why Do Liberals Hate Religion?” It looks to be an entertaining, yet well built set of polemics, or anti-polemics if you will, ready to be used at a moment’s notice by those who master its arguments.

“Principles are a form of moral vanity
My point, however, will not be to shower praise on what looks to be a perfectly serviceable book, but to question its author. In the question and answer session, Alterman was asked about impeachment — and he kind of went off on the guy, comparing impeachment advocates to Nader supporters in 2000, allegedly blind to the consequences of their actions, indirectly complicit in the disasters that followed.*

So I joined the short line of questioners, and wound up being the last one. I asked where he saw the rule of law and adherence to the Constitution in his definition of liberalism; in the tension between adhering to principles and focusing on winning the next election, where were the bright lines Alterman was willing to draw to say “this far and no further”, regardless of the cost? Because, I told him, his answer to the first questioner had me thinking, ‘maybe I’m not a liberal after all.’

This tacitly conceded what I shouldn’t have — that impeachment, even a failed impeachment effort, was all political cost and no gain. But the strong form of the question remains, since as I suggested to Eric, “the rap on liberals can be that they have no bright lines”, no principles they’ll go to the mat for and risk losing elections for — that they’re moral relativists, triangulators, etc., more interested in attaining or keeping power than in speaking truth to it.

Interestingly, Alterman had recounted an example of just the opposite in his remarks: LBJ noting that the Civil Rights Act he’d worked so hard for would cost Democrats the South for years to come. So when he sort of squared up and said that to him principles were a form of moral vanity, what I think he meant was that my principles were that kind of vanity, in the face of the looming election, in the face of people who were struggling to make ends meet. (I paraphrase, but not by much; and the “principles [are] moral vanity” were his words.)

That’s funny, though, because to me that particular principle — rule of law, or “playing by the rules” in 90s Democratic vernacular — is a core liberal value and is not some kind of luxury item we can do without in tough times. Without it, the little guy has no recourse against the high and mighty, whether they’re government officials or CEOs. To me liberalism, plainly put, is saying the little guy should always have a chance to get his grievance heard and to be made whole, and that there’s a public sphere where the big guy with lawyers, guns and money can’t expect to win.

And it seems self-evident to me that that credo starts at the top; the measure of a country isn’t just how it treats its weakest members, but the standards it applies to its most powerful ones. We are plainly failing both tests; I think it’s a single test, and that those failures go hand in hand.

I certainly didn’t set out to embarrass Mr. Alterman last night — but I also somewhat worry that I didn’t. By now I’m somewhat resigned to the fact that my opinions about impeachment seem to be a minority opinion within the cognoscenti and silverbacks of the Democratic Party; it’s not just Alterman, it’s commenters at Obsidian Wings, it’s the largely silent liberal wing of the legal profession and academia, it’s Harold Meyerson, it’s Van Hollen, it’s Pelosi, it’s Conyers.

And it seems shortsighted to me, even — indeed especially — by Alterman’s own “damn straight I’m a liberal” lights. At the time, I was nonplussed by Alterman’s protestations that he wasn’t advocating euthanasia or something — where the heck did that come from, I wondered. But I think he was pre-emptively answering the objection that occurred to me later — the old saw that “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll go for anything.”

I’ll stipulate that Alterman hasn’t gone for anything — but the presumably liberal Democratic Party arguably has. It has to all appearances been running a two year stall, a political “four corners” drill running out the clock to an anticipated win in 2008 — a strategy that may not be as clever as its authors thought. Late feints notwithstanding, it has effectively stood by — both before and after 2006 — and let the corruption of the Justice Department go unpunished; it has allowed the Bush administration to play semantic games about the meaning of torture and whether waterboarding fits the definition; it’s doing its level best to find as much as possible about warrantless surveillance to be legal after all — and it’s done nothing meaningful whatsoever to get out of a war built on lies that a majority of us (and a vast majority of self-described liberals) considers to be a disastrous mistake. If that’s liberalism, I want off.

I don’t think that has to be liberalism — but the evidence is against me. As it stands, liberalism as practiced by its leaders — and as hobbled by Alterman with his disappointing “moral vanity” remark — is in deserved disrepute. Impeachment proceedings would have let the word go forth that these things were crimes, crimes against the people of the United States, and that we weren’t afraid to say so and stand for who we are. That word has not gone forth — and we are thus lessened not just by our foes, but by ourselves and our friends as well, however well-meaning we may be. And people notice; they line up with those who fight, and avoid helping those who won’t.

Alterman claims to know “Why We’re Liberals.” I guess by now I question the premise. I just don’t know where that leaves me.

=====
* I wasn’t taking notes, and I don’t have a recording; however, one may be available in the near future. If so, I’ll let you know, especially if it contradicts my account here.

UPDATE, 3/23: I’ve transcribed Alterman’s impeachment-related comments (and the questions by myself and another audience member) from an audio recording prepared by Politics & Prose. The transcript bears out my account above.
UPDATE, 3/24: WorldWideWeber and Mick Arran write about my encounter with Alterman — and with rather different points. At the risk of oversimplifying their excellent posts — which you should read — WWW identifies support for Bush and Cheney’s impeachment as true conservatism, while Arran sees Alterman confirming that the Democratic Party isn’t in fact liberal. Thanks to both for their thought-provoking reactions. For my part, I retell the story at American Street — with crisp, fresh new arguments!
UPDATE, 3/26: Another post by Mick Arran on this subject, taking up comments by Nell and Paul here.
UPDATE, 4/1: eRobin takes up the idealism vs. pragmatism elements of the post and the comments about it in “Hardcore Idealism.”
EDIT, 7/12/10: “Principles are a form of moral vanity” subheading added.

19 Responses to “Why we’re liberals — an impeachment altercation”

  1. Nell Says:

    It appears that drawing some bright lines wrt to the Fourth Amendment, torture, and the rule of law now counts with the Eric Altermans of the world as radicalism, not liberalism.
    And I’m okay with that, because in his terms, I am a radical, and I’ve been one long enough not to be ashamed of it or defensive about it. (History, you might say, has absolved me by confirming some of my most pessimistic predictions.)
    Decades ago, it was something of a fashion for activists to mutter “Liberals!” in a tone of scorn. Eric Alterman dismissing your concerns as moral vanity is going to bring that right back into fashion.

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Thanks so much for reading all the way through this and commenting, Nell.
    I feel terrible myself — I think Alterman is an ally who’s great at skewering the right, and who’s earned a lot of respect over the years. He’s not who Tom Tomorrow has in mind as that Mr. Moderate Liberal guy with the glasses; I’m know I’m not who anyone has in mind as Mr. Radical. (I guess I am defensive about it, because I don’t live up to it.) So I wish/hope this is a case of painting himself into a corner he’s uncomfortable with in the long run, one that he’ll find a way out of.
    But I felt he smacked down the first guy, and I felt smacked down myself. So I wrote what I wrote.

  3. Nell Says:

    Well, he was meaning to smack you down, and it makes me freaking furious. Tom Tomorrow appreciated the work, I’m sure, but he’d cringe if he read your story (IMO you should email him a link to the post).
    This is a fundamental divide, and not a new one. We can work together in a tactical alliance, like the 2008 election, but the Eric Altermans of this world won’t be with us when the chips are down.
    I’m know I’m not who anyone has in mind as Mr. Radical. (I guess I am defensive about it, because I don’t live up to it.)
    You’re not, really; you’re just principled and decent. It’s the scale of the recent assault on the most fundamental principles of this country, and the inadequacy of the un-principled Democratic Party response, that has put you in this position.

  4. Paul Says:

    Thomas, I think you’ve happened upon the tension that occurs between the idealist and the pragmatist.
    Alterman is a political opportunist. He’s more concerned with helping his Party obtain more power and influence than achieving goals based on ideals or principles. You may find he and his kind distasteful (as do I on more than a few occasions), but they are a necessary component of the system.
    You are an idealist, who believes that the Party should use its power to push through social justice programs for the betterment of the country.
    If you look at the history of this country, you’ll find it’s not the idealists (or radicals) who actually implement change or progress, at least successfully. They provide the initial impetus, groundwork, and rhetoric to highlight their cause, but because they are often uncompromising and want it all now, they aren’t suited to the task of working through the system and playing the political game. It’s up to the pragmatists and political opportunists to incrementally change things if they perceive it to be to their advantage.
    The idealists and pragmatists have always used each other to further their own ends throughout this country’s history, with the end result being a relatively trouble-free existence for most of our country’s history. In fact, our country’s greatest tragedies and travails only seem to occur when the radicals manage to push through their agenda unimpeded by the pragmatists. The Civil War is the most glaring example of a group of radicals getting their way, seceding from the Union and launching the bloodiest war in our history. Our current mess, to a lesser extent, is a direct result of letting the radicals take the reigns.
    Does President Bush merit impeachment? By every legal and moral standard, yes. Is it politically wise to do so? No. There’s a Presidential election occurring right now that focuses on the future and what kind of country we’re going to be. Democratic faces and messages are on the news every night. There will be a general election for the President eight months from now.
    Is it politically wise to impeach the current President, with the attending media circus and focus on the proceedings, along with the non-stop talking heads all discussing Bush 24/7, in the middle of a Presidential Election you are trying to win? That’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
    The Republicans would have a field day with an impeachment. First, the media focus would suddenly swing to them, after having been ignored for months. They would use the attention to push their message, as well as use it as a bludgeon to attack Democrats and play the victim card. This would have a noticeable impact on the election. McCain would be able to exploit it as a national security issue and pound home the “Democrats as defeatists and traitors” meme.
    The entire fiasco wouldn’t even end with Bush being evicted from his seat, as the vote would fall right down party lines, so the Democrats wouldn’t have the numbers needed to kick him out of office.
    At the end of it Bush would still be in office, the Republicans would be emboldened and strengthened, the Democrats would look ineffectual — yet again — and their Presidential candidate would be weakened as a result. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from impeaching Bush, and if not impeaching him allows a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress to come about, then that’s what’s going to happen.

  5. Thomas Nephew Says:

    There is absolutely nothing to be gained from impeaching Bush
    First, thanks for taking the time to read the post, and draft your customary thoughtful reply. Now to reply to it:
    Throughout what you say you treat predictions (“would have a field day”, “would have a noticeable impact”, etc.) as facts to support your hypothesis. But they are hypotheses, too. People were just as leery of initiating impeachment proceedings against Nixon back in the day. As the hearings went on, and the situation was laid out to representatives and TV viewers, that changed. Eventually, the unthinkable happened — Nixon choppered out of DC, the Democrats won in landslides in 1974, and won the presidency 2 years later. Put differently, I think the rewards of standing on principle were underestimated by Pelosi et al, and the costs were overestimated.

    if not impeaching Bush allows a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress to come about, then that’s what’s going to happen.
    That’s one assumption among many in what you write, and what Alterman said. The timidity of the Democratic opposition will lead many — those who don’t pay close attention, but still show up to vote — to think there isn’t much to choose between Obama-or-Clinton and McCain, and/or the parties they head up. They’ll have a point. Even if you do pay close attention, as you and I do, I’ve got to think you’re left wondering what the Democratic/liberal bottom line is. “Winning the next election” doesn’t match up to “standing on principle” — and it will arguably be the GOP that could claim the latter, even if the ‘principles’ involved are ‘stay the course in Iraq, preserve tax cuts for the wealthy, fight against socialist healthcare’.

    I know you’ve occasionally been among the observers who were disappointed with the lack of real opposition to “King George” (your tag, IIRC); I could hunt through your own archives for the links. So I don’t think you completely give that problem short shrift. For my part, I’d like people to acknowledge the costs of inaction, not just the possible costs of action. At least one of those costs is that we’ve made impeachment itself a dead letter; by not availing ourselves of it for an administration that was essentially daring us to do it, we’re pretending it’s so awful and radioactive we’ll never use it. If not now, when? The answer is never. I think that’s a terrible mistake, because there are more where Cheney, Addington, and Yoo came from.

  6. Nell Says:

    Paul, you’re oversimplifying to the point of condescension about idealists and pragmatists. And you’re also underestimating Thomas’ pragmatism, which his response and many past posts demonstrate.

  7. Lisa Moscatiello Says:

    Alterman obviously wasn’t standing in front of the National Archives with us on John Nirenberg’s impeachment walk when people kept approaching us and saying “thank you.” It was like the munchkins after the Wicked Witch of the West melted. Still afraid, but hoping maybe there’s hope.

  8. mick Says:

    You really started something with this.

  9. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Mick, thanks for writing about this. I’ve added an update about it in the post for readers who don’t get this far.
    Lisa, thanks for reminding me of that. I had let the accumulated frictions of that day bug me too much; there was a lot of good spirit for us and John that day as well, including from passersby.

  10. Paul Says:

    Paul, you’re oversimplifying to the point of condescension about idealists and pragmatists. And you’re also underestimating Thomas’ pragmatism, which his response and many past posts demonstrate.
    Blame it on the inherent limitations of the form. There’s only so much nuance you can work into a comments post without having to generalize or over-simplify something.
    Thomas, I think you’re comparison to Nixon is mistaken for two reasons:
    1. There isn’t any shocking or new information being released that will suddenly sway Congressmen or public opinion. The litany of Bush abuses is long, exhaustive and known. We know what Bush has done and he makes no bones about doing it.
    2. Politics has changed considerably since then. Starting in the mid-’90s, Party identity among Republicans started assuming more importance than conservative ideology or Branch affiliation. It used to be that Congressmen, no matter their Party, were protective of their turf and power, even if the President was of the same Party.
    This is no longer the case. Witness the unprecedented walkout of Congressional Republicans in protest of a Congressional vote to hold Executive Branch members in contempt for refusing to submit to Congressional subpoenas. Does this strike you as the actions of people who consider themselves to be in an independent and co-equal branch of government, or merely party members protecting their own? Do you think they consider themselves Congressmen of Republicans first?
    Were impeachment proceedings to go forth, not only would they be futile, but the hoped-for “Republican Switch” would never happen, mainly for the reasons described.
    I’d say the Clinton impeachment would be far more instructive in this case, as it more closely reflects the political and party system existing today, rather than the one of 35 years ago.

  11. mick Says:

    Paul:
    1. Your logic escapes me. Shouldn’t the fact that it’s out in the open make impeachment easier rather than more difficult? In a sane world, it would.
    2. To some extent, you’re talking apples and oranges. Thomas and I are concerned about the legal and Constitutional issues behind the Bush/Cheney lawlessness. There were no such issues around Clinton. Legally, it was a tempest in a teapot.
    To the extent that you’re not, I agree that the political parallels might be much closer to the brutal partisanship of the Clinton impeachment if the Dems stooped to the level of the Pubs. The chances are far greater, however, that, being New Democrats, they would side with the Pubs and do little more than make a Big Wind that ended by doing nothing except making the base happy.
    I have been of 2 minds about impeachment ever since I began to realize how thoroughly the Dem character had changed since Nixon. On one hand, Bush NEEDS to be impeached if only to establish the parameters of presidential power and reinforce the power of the Congress. OTOH, I have little or no conviction that the corporate Donkeys would do anything more than yell for a while before refusing to impeach, thus actually ending up endorsing in a backhanded way everything they should be condemning.
    It’s this sort of paradox that makes the New Dems unworkable for any liberal and maddening to any progressive.

  12. Paul Says:

    Your logic escapes me.
    1 – People were just as leery of initiating impeachment proceedings against Nixon back in the day. As the hearings went on, and the situation was laid out to representatives and TV viewers, that changed. – Thomas.
    This statement implies a gradual release of information relating to Nixon’s abuses, leading to his resignation before impeachment proceedings could begin. As everyone knows, it was the support of many Republicans for impeachment that directly led to Nixon’s decision to resign.
    2. There isn’t any shocking or new information being released that will suddenly sway Congressmen or public opinion. The litany of Bush abuses is long, exhaustive and known. We know what Bush has done and he makes no bones about doing it. – Me.
    As this is a direct response to the points Thomas brought up, it attempts to refute the notion that there will somehow be a constant stream of disturbing revelations that will lead to Republican support of impeachment.
    ———
    Thomas and I are concerned about the legal and Constitutional issues behind the Bush/Cheney lawlessness. There were no such issues around Clinton. Legally, it was a tempest in a teapot.
    Both Presidential impeachments in American history were political power plays meant to enhance the power of the initiators than to enforce Constitutional fidelity. The next one, if and when it happens, will be for the same reasons. No American President has ever been impeached for real Constitutional abuses, because the Legislative branch has traditionally exercised its ability to serve as a check on the Executive, instead of rolling over and serving as one of his Cabinet Departments.
    On one hand, Bush NEEDS to be impeached if only to establish the parameters of presidential power and reinforce the power of the Congress.
    How exactly would impeaching Bush accomplish this? You impeach him. So what? He’s acquitted in the Senate and he finishes the very short remainder of his term just as Clinton did. Congress’ power isn’t any more reinforced than it was after Clinton was impeached and the Republicans get a great PR boost from the proceedings during an election year.
    There is absolutely no benefit to impeaching Bush. It would stop nothing, it would prove nothing, it would do nothing.
    It would be a feel-good exercise in futility, instead of taking substantial action by exercising the power of the purse, rescinding the War Powers Act, and refusing to confirm Executive appointees and Supreme Court justices. Those are just a few things this Congress could have done that would’ve had a real, substantive, and meaningful impact in curbing the Imperial Presidency than engaging in a show trial whose verdict is already known from the outset and thus accomplishes nothing except to prove, yet again, the powerlessness of the Congress in the face of a strong Executive.
    Simply put, impeachment would have the exact opposite effect you intend, especially coming only ten years after the last unsuccessful impeachment of the President.

  13. Paul Says:

    Kids, that’s what happens when you forget to close a tag.

  14. mick Says:

    This statement implies a gradual release of information relating to Nixon’s abuses…
    You seem to be equating the shocking surprises of the Watergate hearings with impeachment hearings on Bush. Actually, by the time the Nixon Impeachment hearings began, there were very few surprises. They began, in fact, because the evidence laid out in the Watergate hearings was so damning and so conclusive.
    IAC, the effect might be the same: impeaching Bush would require the evidence to be laid out in a forum which people would HAVE to pay attention to. The sad fact is that far too many Americans are either unaware of what Bush has been doing or, in the case of a friend of mine, for instance, are FoxNews viewers and refuse to believe it. The latter might well remain obdurate but the former would almost certainly be deeply disturbed by the totality of what’s been going on while they’ve been looking the other way.
    As for the Pubs, I agree they’re unlikely to bend, making a successful impeachment all but impossible. That’s one of the reasons I’ve cooled off from advocating it. OTOH, the Bush depredations badly need the light of day and careful, coherent exposure. At this point, it seems to me that only impeachment hearings could do that. What other forum is there that could bring everything in and tie it all together?
    How exactly would impeaching Bush accomplish this?
    Part of the answer is above. The rest is in the consequences of bringing all this shit together: if the totality of the Bush/Cheney lawlessness were to be laid out in a single forum and seen to be connected (which it is) to a worldview that is contrary to the very meaning of being an American, even if Bush escaped actually be thrown out of office, the whole mad, near fascism of the far right would be unwelcome in the public sphere for decades. Neoconservatism would be equated with failure, greed, arrogance, and authoritarianism, as it should be.
    This may sound strange coming from a critic and a well-known cynic/pessimist but I think you’re underestimating the power of our inherent American identity. We are still people who don’t like despots and “elites” telling us what to do. So far, the Bushies under Rove have been good at hiding their true agenda with tricks like Friday announcements of the stuff they know we wouldn’t like.
    An impeachment proceeding, properly handled, would make wholesale deception impossible, primarily because the kind the Bushies practice requires inattention and assumes that the press can be used to slip things over on us when we’re not looking. If the impeachment articles were sufficiently red-meat, the days of inattention would be over. Period.
    Those are just a few things this Congress could have done that would’ve had a real, substantive, and meaningful impact in curbing the Imperial Presidency….
    Agreed. I would have preferred that route myself, and it is their failure to do those things that has brought us to this sad pass.
    Still, an impeachment would happen in the House where the Blue Dogs’ control is tenuous at best and where people like George Miller and Henry Waxman would be boring in, undeterred by Senate polity. Even tho I agree that the Senate is lost to compromise, cowardice, and corruption on both sides, the House is too discursive for easy control by the leadership, especially once this all starts coming out and people begin to react – as I believe they would.

  15. Paul Says:

    IAC, the effect might be the same: impeaching Bush would require the evidence to be laid out in a forum which people would HAVE to pay attention to. The sad fact is that far too many Americans are either unaware of what Bush has been doing or, in the case of a friend of mine, for instance, are FoxNews viewers and refuse to believe it. The latter might well remain obdurate but the former would almost certainly be deeply disturbed by the totality of what’s been going on while they’ve been looking the other way.
    I think that’s a very good point, but I think it boils down to whether the way politics operates today would actually serve as a roadblock to a successful airing of abuses or if the proceedings would actually play out as you hope. Politics — and by this I mean the politicians, pundits, major media, and partisan media — is focused on something other than serving the American people. I don’t know what that something is, but it sure as hell isn’t the citizenry.
    Also, I don’t want you to think I’m dismissing your points. They are valid and in a different and perhaps more honorable world, I think an impeachment would be a good thing to do. I just don’t think it would play out they way you think it would. I see a lot of drawbacks to an impeachment and very little tangible benefit.
    If this were 2006, my opinion would probably be more in line with yours, but given the political reality we face right now, I think it’s more important to keep another Bush-type person out of the Oval Office and reign in the Executive than to start a politically costly battle that you can’t win. I think a better course of action is to elect the right Democrat into the White House who is committed to repealing Bush’s tyrannical garbage, and who will work with Congress to fashion laws preventing this stuff from ever happening again.

  16. mick Says:

    I think a better course of action is to elect the right Democrat into the White House who is committed to repealing Bush’s tyrannical garbage, and who will work with Congress to fashion laws preventing this stuff from ever happening again.
    Yes but we don’t have such a person. Clinton and Obama have been making populist noises for campaign purposes but neither of them has committed to “repealing Bush’s tyrannical garbage”. Neither has come out against, for example, the telecom immunity bill, let alone promised not to sign it if it doesn’t reach the Pres’ desk before Jan.
    And if you want to talk hypocrisy, Obama just had the nerve, after supporting and voting for both the Panama and Peru trade deals, to make a speech claiming he wants to make it tougher for companies to do their business overseas.
    I understand your wanting to protect the country from another Bush but my personal analysis is that no matter which of the 3 wins, dat train done lef’ da station. McCain (depending on how much of his campaign rhetoric he’s serious about) might be worse than either Dem, but it’s a judgment call as to whether he’d be worse enough to justify spending energy to support someone nearly as bad.
    I tend to believe it won’t much matter in the end.
    I don’t want you to think I’m dismissing your points.
    I don’t. Clearly, you’re debating them but nothing about your arguments strikes me as being dismissive of mine. Quite the contrary. Your points are serious and well-taken for the most part, and – as I think I said somewhere – nicely sum up one side of the debate.
    I will add that I wish the discussion we’re having was the discussion the lib/prog community was having. I think too many people, angry at Bush, have jumped into supporting the Dem candidate without really looking at who and what they’re supporting. I wrote when I started the “Dump the Dems” series that I didn’t think anybody was going to pay attention to any of this until after the election. With the exception of Thomas and yourself, that prediction seems to be accurate.
    I don’t know what that something is, but it sure as hell isn’t the citizenry.
    I have an idea but that discussion will have to wait for another time.

  17. mick Says:

    In the above, the sentence I muffed ought to read “move their business overseas”. And I proofread it, too. Sheesh.

  18. Thomas Nephew Says:

    I took the liberty of inserting a missing [/i] tag in Paul’s 3/28 post above — hope that’s OK.
    I think you’ve both laid out many of the arguments and counterarguments, so I’ll be brief with my response. As Mick writes, I think that impeachment proceedings would create (or would have created) their own political climate, one in which people would have to stand and be counted on the articles of impeachment. I think that’s what happened with the Nixon impeachment process; some new facts were uncovered by the House, but it was their presentation and continued lawlessness by the Nixon administration that swayed a handful of GOP representatives.
    I’ll just add that to me, impeachment proceedings would not need (would not have needed) to lead to successful impeachment or conviction to have value and merit. I’m also seeking a redefinition of the Democratic Party — or of some superior party arising from it — as a congressional party that will militantly pursue impeachment when warranted, rather than a mere “presidential farm team party” waiting for its turn in the White House. Just a majority of Democrats in the House would suffice to identify a core group for that purpose.
    That is, I recognize the changed and lesser nature of political parties since the 70s and before — and I see impeachment as medicine for that as well.

  19. newsrackblog.com » Blog Archive » Moral authority is for a**holes, not players Says:

    […] a sad one for me: Eric Alterman’s recent remark, at a book reading I attended, that “principles are a form of moral vanity.” Alterman might well argue that opposing impeachment as inopportune and impolitic is not the […]

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