Posted by Brad @ 2:24 pm on September 26th 2012

Conor Friedersdorf on Why He Refuses to Vote Obama

Even a lengthy pull quote doesn’t do it justice, so read it here. I agree with literally every word, and he basically just wrote my own 2012 endorsement for me. In particular, his handling of the argument “…but…but…Romney sucks!” is masterful.

Sometimes a policy is so reckless or immoral that supporting its backer as “the lesser of two evils” is unacceptable. If enough people start refusing to support any candidate who needlessly terrorizes innocents, perpetrates radical assaults on civil liberties, goes to war without Congress, or persecutes whistleblowers, among other misdeeds, post-9/11 excesses will be reined in.

If not?

So long as voters let the bipartisan consensus on these questions stand, we keep going farther down this road.

The Romney argument is entirely unpersuasive to me as well. We have an incumbent president who has established an extra-judicial kill list for American citizens and a standing policy of sending out drones to countries we are not at war with and wantonly terrorize and kill the people there (and please read up on the Atlantic’s coverage of that this week, which is incredibly eye-opening)—neither of those two things being subject to democratic or judicial processes.

These two things alone are, I believe, more dangerous precedents than even anything George W. Bush ever did, and they speak to the most fundamental, the most core values of our republic—the most basic premise of our entire American enterprise. I can literally not even conceive of anything more worthy of being a complete deal-breaker. Tax rates? Medicare? Whatever outrage-of-the-week riles you up regarding science, race, gender, lack of economic empathy, whatever? Those are big issues, no doubt. But, compared to the three fundamental things Conor puts up that rest squarely on Obama’s shoulders – and yours, when you vote for him – they rate as mere distractions to the core violations of the American enterprise under Obama’s watch. And as Conor asks, if those things aren’t enough to put you off casting a ballot for the man…what would be?

39 Comments »

  1. Enthusiastically seconded.

    Comment by Rojas — 9/26/2012 @ 3:20 pm

  2. Often ignored or at least unarticulated in the “Romney would be worse” counterargument is any acknowledgement that the Democratic Party must experience negative consequences for abandoning civil liberties. Unless civil libertarians want to be the eternal patsies of the party supposedly representing their interests, forever pinching their noses to vote Dem while smugly condemning the naive ACLU-loving puritans and endlessly holding up the specter of Nader, then they will eventually need to stop mindlessly pulling the lever for any candidate with a “D” after their names or foolishly projecting their own values onto a President and Party that clearly do not share them.

    Comment by Jack — 9/26/2012 @ 5:49 pm

  3. What’s ironic too is the same people who are going to pull the lever for Obama after spending the Bush years railing about this stuff are often the same people who loved to rail on Republicans for hypocrisy for abandoning their core principles when it was Bush in charge (in evidence in particular during the Tea Party year, the debt ceiling debate, etc.).

    It’s almost dizzying to watch, and a tailor made case study in how partisanship goes from being an at least roughly organized expression of ideology to mere tribalism in the blink of an eye. (one exhibit)

    And of course the end result is that the things abandoned by each opposition party when they become the ruling party quickly and completely fall off the table entirely in terms of what the “centrist” or “moderate” or “bipartisan” ground of accepted political debate is. And the scary thing is, that stuff is hard to get back – because neither partisan base is particularly interested in revisiting their own hypocrisy, people are disinclined to address the cognitive dissonance and reverse themselves, and every partisan, come election time, views any criticism of their own leaders as akin to votes of support for their opposition. It just becomes basically settled and “walked past” and we’re left with a country where the executive office grants itself the power to execute American citizens without trial—and it’s not even a DEBATE. Where, literally things that A CYCLE AGO would have seemed outrageous, unheard of, and unfathomable, are now mundane and let pass uncommented on. I remember how, around the time the Jose Padilla thing became known, Adam saying something to the effect of “If, ten years ago, you had told me the United States of America would soon be taking American citizens and detaining them indefinitely without charge, I would not have believed you – I’d have thought you mad”. How far we’ve come since even that comment.

    That is the mission creep of government, folks – what seemed ridiculous hyperbole becomes basic and uncontroversial MO in less than a decade. If you’re talking to someone about potential abuses of power and your first impulse is to think “oh come on, that would never happen…”, maybe take a second to force yourself to reflect.

    Comment by Brad — 9/26/2012 @ 6:09 pm

  4. Way to bring me down Brad. I thought you were going to blog about Meghan McCain more.

    This is why we need a multi-party system, so we can vote “those bums” out without returning “those other bums” to power. And it would ensure that “those folks who aren’t bums we’ve had in power recently” actually had a reasonable shot at winning, or at least being heard.

    Conor’s voting for Gary Johnson, and I’m assuming you as well. I don’t think anyone who genuinely cares about civil liberties is advocating a vote for Mitt Romney, at least publicly. But some of the libertarians who backed Ron Paul and are waiting for Rand Paul, seem to be very silent about their views of this Romney-Obama race. Just my observation.

    If there’s anyone who wants to make the case that Obama should go, because of civil liberties, and therefore you must vote for Romney, I’d love to hear it. I doubt that’s an argument here from anyone.

    Your point, Brad, about the hypocrisy aspect. Outside of his Honorable Andrew Sullivan (D-Newsweek), I think you’d be hard pressed to find a loud, proud, and unapologetic Democrat casting his or her vote for Obama who was a leading critic of the Bush Administration’s policies in civil liberties and the so-called “War on Terror” and is willing to defend his or her Obama-backing vote on civil liberties grounds. More likely they’ll cast their eyes to the ground, shuffle their feet uncomfortably, and try to change the subject to why Mitt Romney is bad on gay rights, or how he would invade Iran, or how, well, you can’t always get what you want.

    Those that have flipped, opposing Bush to supporting Obama, are not the types that would be willing to engage in that debate, or anything that would admit that we have not always been at war with Eurasia.

    Remember, there wasn’t united Democratic opposition to Bush on the Patriot Act (one example: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2006/roll020.xml), or his approach to the War on Terror. Remember the FISA vote in 2008? Obama voted for that.

    Somewhere between a third and a half of Democrats in Congress supported aspects of Bush’s policies that have been continued and expanded under Obama. Somewhere between a half and a third of Democrats in Congress have been surprisingly consistent, but more recently extremely silent, in opposing those same policies, under both Presidents. I’m willing to believe that somewhere between a third, overall, have been opportunistic partisans. That’s a frustrating breakdown.

    Not to defend Obama, but to defend those Democrats who have remained consistent, their size is larger than any Republican bloc that’s resisted by Bush and Obama on the same issues, and also larger than any Republican bloc that tried to resist Bush when he went off the rails fiscally.

    What does one do with this information? I don’t know. Why hasn’t this faction been more vocal in opposing the President? Partisan politics, mostly. What can members of Congress do against a President popular among the party base? Almost nothing.

    I wasn’t really aware of all the factors that contributed to Nader’s semi-popular run in 2000, but I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t similar factors heading into 2016. Obama looks likely to be reelected. And in four years what will civil libertarians within the party have to show for it?

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/26/2012 @ 8:16 pm

  5. Will there be civil libertarians within the party?

    I don’t mean that glibly.

    Frankly, the best hope is for a Tea Party style grassroots effort to hold those establishment Democrats you mentioned accountable, even if it means losing seats or knocking off “moderates” for the sake of left-wing wingnuts. Say what you will about blocs, but at the very least, on fiscal issues, there was indeed some hell to pay for heterodox Republicans on the matter once Bush was out – and see how they lock step now.

    Be nice to think Democrats had that level of gumption.

    As to your larger point – no, of course, civil liberties in this sense has no home in the mainstream GOP – although there are some that deserve credit (such as Rand Paul, who may well replace Russ Feingold on this front). That’s part of the point. You are principled dissent, in opposition, when you govern differently on the spectrum of things you objected to when you were in power. When you don’t, the issue is lost. And it strongly indicates you’re not interested in ideology – you’re interested in tribalism, pure and simple. Your team winning is more important than the game they play.

    In that sense, whether you vote for Romney or Johnson or whoever is almost immaterial. I am not sure that WHOEVER Obama’s opponent is figures into the calculus. There are PLENTY of compromises, in voting in a two party system, that one has to make. Perfect is not the enemy of the good.

    But unless you’re purely a partisan strategist, there has to be some lines that your vote won’t cross, and some factors that you simply won’t pull the lever to even tacitly endorse. For most people it seems to be things like abortion or evolution or religion or cultural totems or a whole host of other things that serve to break people into camps despite the fact that their actual impact, from election to election, is hazy at best.

    For whatever reason, things like whether the President has to follow the law or whether our government can just up and kill people if it feels like it isn’t one of those kinds of issues. Let’s fight over confederate flags!

    It’s kind of like what Meghan McCain once said.

    I mean, I’m sure she said something applicable at some point.

    Comment by Brad — 9/26/2012 @ 8:55 pm

  6. I’m pretty sure she’s drinking a Bud Light in that picture, what do you think? Just based off my expert knowledge of beer products and their labels.

    But seriously. Trying to learn from this situation and move on in a productive way.

    Can you remind me what “hell to pay” there was for Republicans who went fiscally crazy during the Bush era?

    Because I’m not seeing it. I’m seeing Eric Cantor, who backed the bailout, in leadership. I’m seeing Paul Ryan, who supported the auto bailout too, as the VP Candidate. Yes, Republicans are timid in supporting the signature achievements of Obama, such as the stimulus and health care, and a few who were willing to cross that line (or express their disdain for Glenn Beck’s lack of civility) have been defeated. But what I see is Republicans being punished for failure to hold the party line in opposing Obama, not failure for being fiscal conservatives under Bush.

    And I’m tempted to say “Your mileage may vary” to keep an open discussion, but I really don’t think there can be a reasonable discussion on the other point unless we resolve this issue.

    Republicans have been partisan. It’s nice to talk about the Tea Party helping purge the party of its Bush era indecencies, but that’s largely not what happened.

    Now, for some sort of Tea Party movement to arise and hold the flip-floppers on civil liberties within the Democratic Party accountable, well, I’m waiting. You’d think after Joe Lieberman the online left would have established some sort of hard line within the Democratic Party. But I think the online left during the 2004-2008 era got distracted once Obama was elected. Shiny objects? Or the difficulties in challenging your party’s incumbents while your own party’s president is also bad on the issues that you want to challenge incumbents over?

    Even if you argue that the Tea Party held some bad Republicans accountable, you have to argue it didn’t take place until after Bush left office. So does that delay the purging of the anti-civil libertarians from the Democratic Party until 2018? Depressing …

    So I’m asking for the next step. You vote against Obama. And then what? Is voting against Obama sufficient? Or is there a long term plan? For 2014, 2016, and beyond?

    I’m looking both for a long term plan dealing with the civil liberties aspect (is this voting for a third party every presidential cycle?) and what else to do in the mean time.

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/26/2012 @ 10:43 pm

  7. For some reason, left-leaning folks never seem to recognize that the primary target of the Tea Party was not Obama, but rather was Republicans who were deemed as insufficiently “radical” if you will on fiscal issues. The data points are staring you right in the face.

    Look at the primaries, primarily in 2010 at the Tea Party height, in KT, UT, DE, MO, TX, FL, NE, NV..it’s a rather long list, and causalities include Dick Lugar, Lisa Murkowski, Bob Bennett, Charlie Crist, Connie Mack, Rick Lazio, Mike Castle, Jane Norton, John Sullivan, Jon Bruning, Tommy Thompson, and, from all that, include Senators as disparate as Scott Brown, Rand Paul, and likely Ted Cruz. And those are just the national or marquee races.

    You can nit-pick a race here or there, but honestly, it’s impossible to deny that the main electoral effect and INTENT of the Tea Party was intra-GOP. Of course we all remember Christine O’Donnell and the crazy ones like that, but that’s part of the point – the Tea Party was willing to take down establishment incumbents EVEN AT THE RISK OF LOSING THE SEAT.

    The left’s narrative is “crazy grassroots (or astro-turf effort is SO anti-Obama that they nominated a bunch of crazy people!” but that’s rather missing the point. The Tea Party BEGAN as a reaction to bailouts, remember—and not necessarily focalized on Obama—and for the life of the movement, roughly the mid-term period, concerned themselves overwhelmingly with taking out Republicans. Again, even when so doing was inarguable bad for the PARTY—they simply refused to play that game whatsoever, and refused to let themselves be talked down by concerns about electability or party service or whatever. If they set their sights on an establishment Republican—almost ALWAYS on fiscal grounds—that candidate was going to have a real, real hard time.

    And yes, it was not a total housecleaning, and there are PLENTY of incumbents who exist still who were there enabling Bush. BUT, take a look at your example of Paul Ryan, and chart his behavior and even his stated reversals from that same period. Look at things like the debt ceiling debate or other such fiscal votes—even where leadership tries to corral a “bipartisan consensus” in the circa 2006 style (hold your noses and vote).

    The left tends to see in the Tea Party what they want to see, but the truth is that during the Bush years many Republicans were squishy on fundamental fiscal issues—the second Bush left office, an insurgent force flared up within the GOP that sought, first and foremost, to punish squishy Republicans and put forward hardliners, even at the expense of electability or respectability (in the Beltway “this is not a serious candidate” sense). Suddenly, Republicans got a lot less squishy on fiscal issues. Like I said, after the 2008-2011 intra-party roiling, look how they lockstep now.

    There is of course overlap with Obama in all this, which greatly facilitated particularly the mainstream GOP’s move to intransigent. And, by now, “Tea Party” has just become shorthand for rabble rousing Republican base voters of all kind. And of course you can hone in on any single Tea Party backed candidate (Akin comes to mind) to try and and show that they were also, say, very socially conservative so AH-HA it is a social conservative movement (the truth is, demagogues on fiscal issues also tend to be disproportionally demagogues on social issues, and Republican incumbents squishy on fiscal issues also tend to be squishy on social ones, but we certainly have cases of social moderates getting Tea Party backing and social conservatives getting ousted in cases where the fiscal/social don’t line up). But that basic narrative I put up above is, I think, undeniable, and staring us right in the face.

    And, incidentally, this doesn’t foreclose on criticism of the Tea Party, nor is it even really a moral judgement on their “goodness” (which is those partisan tendencies again, wherein even saying “this happened” becomes loaded if it doesn’t fit into certain narratives). I’m just stating the fact of it.

    Occupy Wall Street tried to do something similar, kinda of, in terms of corporatism on the left – again, trying to punish insufficient radicalism (this time from the left) on economic issues. But that didn’t really amount to anything because it never really tried to enter the realm of the political/electoral, unlike the Tea Party which went right there and started hammering away.

    In any event, I bring it up because the Tea Party is, I think, an example of how an intra-party insurgency on a certain issue spectrum can work (and where your mileage can vary is if you think, in the Tea Party’s case, that was ultimately good for the country—you probably don’t; I do). But it only works if it is unafraid and can’t be corralled by threats of partisan disadvantage or “strategic” compromise voting. For the Tea Party, for a cycle or two anyway, the ISSUE was more important than the immediate outcome of any given election. They were more concerned with defeating heterodox Republicans even at the possible expense of losing the seat to a (presumably much worse) Democrat (as in, say, Delaware, where they took a complete flier on Christine O’Donnell to upset Mike Castle and made a competitive seat an easy pickup for Democrats). And the second that political calculus was upset, the second nobody was safe because they couldn’t rely on fencing in voters through partisanship alone, you could almost hear the wooshing noise in Washington as Republican politicians everywhere jumped to toe the new line.

    Did it work? Well, to use your example, listen to what Cantor and Ryan and nearly every other Republican who supported bailouts or Medicare Part D or individual mandates are saying now.

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 9:40 am

  8. I have to nitpick, but there’s a reason for it.

    You can’t just lump all of those defeated Republicans together and claim that it’s about focusing on Republicans who weren’t radical/conservative enough on fiscal issues. That may have been PART OF the story, but it’s not THE WHOLE story. And it may not even have been the BIGGEST part.

    Also, note how many of them were establishment candidates defeated in open primaries, not incumbents who actually were responsible for the Bush era problems being defeated for renomination. That’s the point I’m trying to make and the contrast with civil libertarians on the left. See below.

    You cannot compare, say, the defeat of a long established fixture in Delaware politics (Mike Castle) because he was not only fiscally liberal but, well, LIBERAL (voted for cap and trade!) to the continuation of the Palin-Murkowski family feud in Alaska. Is Murkowski really a fiscal liberal? Or just smart? And not a Palin supporter. But I repeat myself …

    In 2010, there was a significant outsider-establishment split in many of the races you highlight. That’s not the same as saying one candidate was more fiscally conservative/radical as another.

    Additionally, many of the major issues in those primaries were about support for/affiliation with Obama and a willingness to be bipartisan, not an explicit holding members accountable for their fiscal failures DURING THE BUSH ERA.

    I’m seeing the Tea Party holding Republicans for not opposing Obama (on all issues, fiscal and otherwise). I’m seeing the Tea Party favoring outsiders over establishment figures (regardless of the issues). Yeah, I’ll give you that favoring fiscal radicalism (Audit the Fed, Gold Standard) has also been a factor, but I think it has taken a backseat to the first two trends I’ve pointed out.

    The reason this matters is how it can be applied to civil liberties and the Democratic Party. You seem to be saying that if Obama were out of the picture and Democrats, for the most part, go back to preaching the same message from the Bush years that you’d be satisfied. Because you’re generally satisfied by Republicans changing their tune, sacrificing some establishment candidates, etc.

    In 2006, civil libertarians and anti-war leftists managed to knock off an INCUMBENT Democratic Senator who had been the party’s VP nominee six years earlier!

    The left also won Democratic primaries across the nation (Virginia, Montana) to back candidates who were critical of the party’s go along approach with Bush on civil liberties and foreign affairs.

    And then two years later they defeated the candidate who was directly linked to a very popular Democratic President. And a large part of that involved differences between the two major candidates on Iraq and civil liberties.

    And after all THAT, THIS is where we are on civil liberties.

    On the right, the Tea Party couldn’t even defeat the guy who invented Obamacare.

    So I ask you, do you really believe the Tea Party would be successful in changing the behavior of Republicans EVEN if Mitt Romney becomes President, or would things go back to the Bush era? My money is on the latter.

    And if you think the Tea Party would be successful, where the anti-war/progressive/civil libertarian left was not successful, WHY? Are there any lessons to be learned?

    Not that this REALLY matters because I think Obama will win.

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/27/2012 @ 10:45 am

  9. As to the Tea Party stuff, you’re doing exactly what I meant in terms of reading in what you want to see. As I said, you can overlay a lot of other issues to any given race – no race is ever about a single thing (including, certainly, Lieberman etc., who one could argue was punished much more for perceived party disloyalty than for ideology). And you can go through each race, surely, and find whatever tea leaves you want. It is very easy to get lost in the trees, which is what always seems to happen when I argue this with liberals very invested in the idea that the thrust of the Tea Party is just screechy anti-Obamaism—despite the simple counter-point that their targets are almost entirely Republicans (one would think, if your sole goal was hurting Obama, the target would be retaking Congress ala the GOP’s goal in 2002 (to punish liberals) or Democrats in 2006 (to punish conservatives). The Tea Party activism was of a different kind than both of those waves, in that it was primarily an INTRA-PARTY movement—on a much different scale than the select Democratic targeting you mention.

    You are correct that a huge part of what was being targeted was the notion of bipartisan compromise, but that’s part of the point—what was being agitated for was holding the line, and that line was ideological, not partisan. Fealty to the ideology was deemed more important than the # of Rs and Ds in office—the notion that they would rather have 41 hardline fiscal hawks in the Senate than 51 Dick Lugars.

    And it was certainly an insider-outsider split, but the qualifying consideration for any outsider was that they be able to demonstrate less of a willingness to compromise on fiscal issues than the insider. And plenty of insiders were able to stave off challenges after demonstrating sufficient fealty or at least that they are now willing to march to the beat of the drum. But what you’re not seeing is that kind of fealty on any other issue spectrum. You did not hear about any insider-outsider challenges on the grounds of insufficient social conservatism, say, or on foreign policy questions. The Tea Party was perfectly willing to get behind guys like Scott Brown or Rand Paul, where guys like Chris Christie and Paul Ryan are the rising stars while cultural warriors and neocons are largely takijng a back seat. There is a throughline, and as I said you can always go as deep into the trees on any given race as you want, but there are ample data points here that show a very clear trend.

    And certainly, as I said, opposition to Obama is an organizing principle, but again, the Tea Party has largely not materialized as an electioneering force in R vs. D. Their strength, and their passion, has been R vs. R, which is kind of a funny way to organize if partisan advantage or simple anti-President feelings is the banner you fly under.

    I was with you, at the time, on VA, CT, and MT. But honestly, that’s about all there was there. At the time, I wrote CONSTANTLY about how those races might signal a new backlash against compromise on civil liberties, but sadly that petered more with a whisper than a bang. Why? Because an election was coming up, and PARTISANSHIP rather than ideology became just more dang important to frontline Dems. Which is my entire point on how compromising on that line winds up meaning you accomplish nothing. Whereas, even if Republicans lost in 2008 and again in 2012, the makeup of the caucus has fundamentally changed – and the primary way it has changed it towards an inflexibility on fiscal issues.

    Again, you can say that’s at the determent of the country, or that that inflexibility is even at the expense of the common sense or common good. Completely separate arguments. But it exists, in my point—and I find it real hard to believe that that’s a coincidence, given that we just spent three years living through an intra-party insurgency targeting party members who were deemed most likely to be flexible on these issues. There’s a pretty clear line here, and you have to get too cute by half to define it way with nit-picking.

    As to fiscal activism under a President Romney, that is certainly an open question. But I think it can certainly be said that the Republican caucus today is far more hardline on fiscal questions—and that movement has been more significant by far than movement along any other issue spectrum—than it was pre-Tea Party.

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 11:11 am

  10. Oh, and to this:

    “And if you think the Tea Party would be successful, where the anti-war/progressive/civil libertarian left was not successful, WHY?”

    The answer to the question is basically the comparison I’m devoting all these words too. Namely, you have to have a movement willing to target incumbents EVEN AT THE EXPENSE OF PERCEIVED PARTISAN ADVANTAGE. Even where the “other guy” may well be much worse than either of the two “your guy” options. The Tea Party was unafraid to throw out some incumbents that were very well positioned to keep their seats—and presumably would still have been preferable to their opponents. You have to have a movement willing to, say, vote against a President Obama EVEN IF THAT MEANS you run more of a risk of a President Romney.

    Otherwise, if you sell your vote, reliably, based on partisan grounds, you lose your leverage. If all it takes for a Democrat to win your vote is to be up against a Republican, on the grounds that even if the Democrat is bad he’s still 1% better than the Republican, then the incentivization is there for incumbent Democrats to only be 1% better than Republicans. And as the relative difference shrinks the gross impact shrinks as well – if your entire calculus is relative, than there is no minimum threshold for acceptability. So you go from a situation where candidates are 80% good on civil liberties while their opponents are 20% good, to a situation where it’s more like 11%/10%. And the issue is effectively lost.

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 11:18 am

  11. >At the time, I wrote CONSTANTLY about how those races might signal a new backlash against compromise on civil liberties, but sadly that petered more with a whisper than a bang. Why? Because an election was coming up, and PARTISANSHIP rather than ideology became just more dang important to frontline Dems.

    I’m not sure I get you. Are we talking about 2006, 2008, or 2010? Or 2012?

    >The answer to the question is basically the comparison I’m devoting all these words too. Namely, you have to have a movement willing to target incumbents EVEN AT THE EXPENSE OF PERCEIVED PARTISAN ADVANTAGE.

    Well, we’ve had the Tea Party willing to take on Dick Lugar. Remind me of the other incumbents who were taken on even at the expense of perceived partisan advantage? I’ll give you Castle in Delaware too, obviously. But the rest you listed aren’t incumbents, and you yourself said incumbents.

    And that doesn’t get to the deeper question as to why the Tea Party seems to focus more on purity than winning. Or if they even focus more on purity over winning, or if you could argue that the Tea Party believes winning comes from purity.

    I personally have a hard time seeing a theme of the Tea Party willingly embracing a candidate who can’t win in order to defeat a Republican in a primary. Because they didn’t have the evidence yet in 2010 that they were actually backing riskier candidate, given the media buzz at the time. After the fact we can say so, but we’ve also see the Tea Party pull up and back away from attacking any and all establishment Republicans.

    Perhaps the difference is that the Tea Party movement lives in enough of a bubble to believe that its purity is a winning strategy, while the leftists we’re talking about a far, far more insecure when it comes to civil liberties and foreign affairs?

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/27/2012 @ 12:37 pm

  12. Oh, and P.S.

    When the anti-war liberals/civil libertarians were backing the unexperienced black Senator from Illinois who had the funny Kenyan name, were they meeting your requirements of risking perceived partisan advantage?

    My point is that I think you can make the case that both movements were willing to take risks, were willing to favor purity over electoral advantage. And yet we ended up here with civil liberties.

    So moving forward, what’s the next step?

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/27/2012 @ 12:49 pm

  13. I’m not sure I get you. Are we talking about 2006, 2008, or 2010? Or 2012?

    I was referring to the MT, CT, and VA races that you mentioned, roughly 2006.

    Well, we’ve had the Tea Party willing to take on Dick Lugar. Remind me of the other incumbents who were taken on even at the expense of perceived partisan advantage? I’ll give you Castle in Delaware too, obviously. But the rest you listed aren’t incumbents, and you yourself said incumbents.

    Let me rephrase that then – “establishment” candidate. Jack Conway, Connie Mack, Charlie Crist, Bob Bennett, Dick Lugar, Lisa Murkowski – I mean really, just go over my list again, and if I really hit Google I could name you a dozen more (and that’s actual primary defeats – not even going to get into moderate Senators who retired or passed on races rather than face the likely heat). All either actual incumbents or clear “establishment” guys, in almost all cases facing either near-total unknowns or completely untested candidates (the Conway-Paul race in Kentucky is fairly emblematic, as is the Bennett challenge).

    And of course you’re right – taken individually, you can nitpick any one as you (rightly) can the Alaska fight or many others. There is of course a galaxy of issues in any given race.

    But taken together, it represents a very clear trend.

    And you’re also right that there was a very strong insider-outsider dynamic too, but that’s sort of tomato-tomatoe. Challenging the establishment because of failure to toe the line sort of by definition entails a strong insider-outsider dynamic. So ON WHAT GROUNDS were they challenging the establishment, is the question. And the clear throughline is they wanted a caucus that was inflexible in regards to fiscal hawkisness—and they got it. So to with your conflating it with Obama opposition—sort of by definition, agitating for that kind of caucus would entail torpedoing anyone likely to compromise with the President on fiscal grounds.

    You’re starting to split hairs on this stuff and, again, getting a bit too cute by half. You COULD start making jumps saying “well, maybe they thought they could win by being purer, so REALLY their intent was actually winning…” but at that point you’re just spitballing. Nobody primarily interested in winning a race for their party ousts guys like Bennett, Lugar, Conway, Castle, etc. The very fact that they were targeting “safe” seats, while leaving other contested races basically alone, is a counter-point to your assumptions. Contrast that to Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy and the Democratic grassroots in the 2006 races, which WAS about partisan advantage even if the D’s selected weren’t liberal. That is a clear different between a strategy that was for partisan advantage vs. one that was ideological in nature. Dean was willing to get illiberal candidates elected if it added a D. The Tea Party was willing to LOSE an R if if that was the price to pay to hound out a perceived unreliable fiscal conservative.

    At every turn, all those so-called self-inflicted wounds were, after a fashion, by design. I don’t know that there was anybody who would have argued EVEN AT THE TIME that O’Donnell, Paul, whoever, weren’t riskier candidates – and frankly did you EVER hear Tea Party agitation couched solely in terms of adding Rs to seat totals (as you did the waves in 2002 and 2006)? or, for that matter, have you heard any remorse expressed in that quarter for losing a seat by torpedoing the establishment candidate in the primary?

    Again, I think the case I’m making is pretty plain on its face, whereas yours requires one, two, three different steps down the assumption hole (TM) and a lot of assumptions about possible hidden motives etc. I’m just pointing to the facts of what happened and why the actors involved explicitly SAID they were doing what they were doing.

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 1:44 pm

  14. I’m going to try to summarize in order to move on to what might be more meaningful.

    Talking about incumbent vs. establishment isn’t nitpicking. Incumbents don’t lose elections. Establishment candidates, even in good times, can be defeated. That’s a fundamental difference. That the Tea Party managed to defeat some establishment candidates isn’t nearly as amazing as you want to make it out to be.

    I know you think this is a minor difference, but it isn’t. It’s not tomato-tomatoe.

    If you were trying to understand, at a real level, what was going on with the Tea Party and not just a superficial media narrative, you’d want to look at things like rates of incumbents being defeated in other cycles and rates of establishment candidates being defeated in other cycles. And then you’d look at what happened in 2010. I question if you’d be fundamentally surprised by the difference.

    And on what divided the outsiders and insiders, for the most part the establishment candidates you listed weren’t campaigning on working with Obama. They, and the Republican Congress, were all in lock step opposition. And that’s the point I’m making to you. THAT is meaningful.

    “Challenging the establishment because of failure to toe the line sort of by definition entails a strong insider-outsider dynamic.”

    There’s NO SIGN that the establishment was failing to toe the line. They were united against Obama.

    You want to argue that they were holding the establishment accountable, finally in 2010, for failing to toe the line under Bush? Then you’re the one making multiple steps down the assumption hole, requiring us to assume that the Tea Party movement in 2010 was expressing support for outsider candidates against establishment candidates in open elections (no Republican incumbents) despite the fact that it wasn’t the establishment candidate but incumbents elsewhere who were responsible for the bailouts, for Medicare Part D, for the first stimulus programs under Bush, etc.

    To pivot to something meaningful, at the end of the day, one major difference appears to have been that Republicans in power, in Congress, were far more willing to adopt, universally, the Tea Party talking points and framing of the issues.

    Which I argue is surprising. Consider:

    Part A was united behind a certain set of economic policies under a President from its party. Then, under a new President from Party B, they shift in being united against. The leadership in Party A works closely with a grassroots movement that supports this shift.

    Part B was divided over a certain set of foreign policies and civil liberties under a President from the opposing Party A. Then, under a new President from Party B who campaigned in opposition to Party A’s policies, the party continues to be divided as the new President continues and expands the policies of the previous President. No major grassroots movement arises out of this situation (yet).

    Doesn’t that seem odd?

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/27/2012 @ 2:15 pm

  15. I’m really not sure the incumbent/establishment difference is germane to my point, but fine:

    Incumbents defeated:

    Senator Bob Bennett
    Senator Lisa Murkowski
    Senator Dick Lugar
    Rep. Jean Schmidt
    Rep. John Sullivan
    Rep. Cliff Stearns

    Off the top of my head – dollars to donuts I’m forgetting some.

    Establishment candidates defeated:

    Charlie Crist
    Tommy Thompson
    KY Sec of State Trey Grayson
    Paul Thurmond (son of Strom)
    Carroll Campbell (son of Gov)
    Sue Lowden
    Rep. Mike Castle
    Rick Lazio
    Lt. Governor Jane Norton
    NE Attorney General Jon Bruning
    NE State Treasurer Don Stenberg
    David Dewhurst

    And that list certainly goes on and on. These are people with high name ID, lots of money, and for the most part the support of their state and in some cases national party. In most cycles, the “gimmes” in primary contests.

    I am not arguing that the primary purpose here was “accountability” – clearly the Tea Party was not primarily interested in righting the wrongs of the Bush administration in a Black List sense (provided bad actors disavowed or entirely moved on from their previous actions in the Bush administration, as Ryan and most others did). Rather, it was a REACTION to it, an “I’m fed up and not going to take it anymore” response. And, across the nation, beginning in 2007-2008, that reaction trained its guns on Republicans seen as not sufficiently pledged to fiscal fealty. That the Republicans took the message in 2009-2010 and jumped into full-on opposition mode on all things fiscal is the effect part of cause and effect—and note that it also coincided with the Tea Party agitation dying down considerably. I get what you’re saying, and the overlap with Obama being in office is surely significant (and made it a lot easier to jump to hawkishness). But again, their fire was not trained on Obama, at least in terms of their electoral agitation. It was trained intra-party. And, very quickly, they got the message.

    Incidentally, is your argument that the Democrats are currently divided on foreign policy and civil liberties under Obama? There is no more meaningful opposition on that front than there was in economic policies under Bush (which is to say some, but in an “exceptions to the rule” sense with no real impact on policy). If this is “divided”, what the hell does unification look like?

    In any case, the whole point of the Tea Party example is that politicians operate on incentives. When they see a base of voters willing to turn their votes against them, they operate accordingly. When, on the other hand, they see a base of voters placated into “settling”, they also operate accordingly. If one is interested in setting ideology, but are unwilling to divest yourself of partisanship, you get what you pay for.

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 3:27 pm

  16. Man, I always seem to get sucked into discussions about the Tea Party and Ron Paul. This is my fault.

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 4:19 pm

  17. “Incidentally, is your argument that the Democrats are currently divided on foreign policy and civil liberties under Obama? There is no more meaningful opposition on that front than there was in economic policies under Bush (which is to say some, but in an “exceptions to the rule” sense with no real impact on policy). If this is “divided”, what the hell does unification look like?”

    Looking at the votes in Congress, it’s clear that Congressional Democrats are divided (maybe not 50-50, but there’s a split) on foreign policy and civil liberties under Obama. That’s just a fact. You can’t say the same thing, even close, about economic policies under Bush, in terms of voting.

    What appears to be missing is the grassroots component. That, at least, is my best effort at trying to explain the contrast. Do you have thoughts? You seem to be saying the same thing, that the GOP got the message BECAUSE of the grassroots campaigns that defeated the candidates you list.

    (Suggestion, don’t list Cliff Stearns, John Sullivan, or Jean Schmidt, they weaken your argument that it was about fiscal conservatism instead of the establishment-outsider narrative I’m arguing. Also, Tommy Thompson is the nominee in Wisconsin, that’s a little confusing.)

    So if we’ve reached the conclusion that it’s grassroots that matter, we also have the conclusion that it’s easier to get a grassroots movement to to push fiscal conservatism (in your argument) than it is to get a grassroots movement to push civil liberties?

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/27/2012 @ 4:23 pm

  18. Looking at the votes in Congress, it’s clear that Congressional Democrats are divided (maybe not 50-50, but there’s a split) on foreign policy and civil liberties under Obama. That’s just a fact.

    I’m really interested in what votes you’re talking about? Most of the things I object to aren’t subject to votes, of course, and you almost NEVER heard mainstream Democrats mentioning drone strikes, kill lists, etc. let alone calling for action. I’m honestly fascinating to hear what you’re seeing.

    The only three I can think of, in terms of Senate votes:

    —National Defense Authorization Act – 7 Dems against, out of 51 in the caucus (for reference, 8 Republicans voted against Medicare D, also out of 51).

    —Reauthorizing Patriot Act – 5 Democrats against, again out of 51 (for reference, the bailout vote under Bush was 34-15 among Republicans).

    —Prohibiting the closing of Gitmo – 6 Democrats opposed (passed with 90 aye votes).

    And, it must be said, all Democratic leadership that I can think of, certainly Congressional, were on board with Obama (or, in the case of Gitmo, not) and worked mightily towards passage.

    But seriously, what are you referring to? To my mind, it looks almost identical.

    And I can’t even begin to think of any prominent Democrat politicians who are actually pounding away on this rhetorically or demanding that the be allowed to vote on all the stuff Obama has deemed off-limits for Congress.

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 5:05 pm

  19. Now we’re getting somewhere Brad!

    First vote to extend Patriot Act provisions in the House (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll026.xml): 67 Democrats for, 122 against.

    Second vote to extend Patriot Act provisions in the House (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll036.xml): 65 Democrats for, 117 against.

    Third vote to extend Patriot Act provisions in the House (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll066.xml): 68 Democrats for, 117 against.

    FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 in the House (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll569.xml): 74 Democrats for, 111 against.

    Smith-Amash Amendment to NDAA to stop indefinitely detaining terror “suspects” on US soil (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll270.xml): 163 Democrats for, 19 against.

    Even some of the tougher issues some division:

    Kucinich resolution calling for the removal of US forces from Libya (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll412.xml): 61 Democrats for (the “good” position), 121 against.

    So what are we dealing with? Brainstorm:

    – The House is irrelevant, only the Senate matters.

    – The Senate’s bias toward white, rural states influences the voting record of the Democratic caucus.

    – There’s something else wrong with Senate Democrats. [Insert theory here]

    Did the Tea Party need prominent Republican politicians in order to get itself rolling? Maybe, maybe not. A good question to mull over.

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/27/2012 @ 5:57 pm

  20. I have to leave, but I should point out, if we’re going this route:

    First House vote on Bush bailout: 65-133 among Republicans (bill failed 205–228).

    Second, passing vote: 108 to 91 against, among Republicans (bill passed 263-171).

    Senate vote (following second house): 34-15 among Republicans (bill passed 74–25).

    Would it be fair to say it’s clear that Congressional Republicans were divided (maybe not 50-50, but there’s a split) on economics in Bush’s second term? I believe you said it wasn’t even close, in terms of voting.

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 6:18 pm

  21. Go, have a life, see if I care! :P

    I’ll be fair, if we want to focus on the bailout, I was wrong, it’s not “not even close.” I was focusing more on things like Medicare Part D and the other big spending projects over the 8 years. Point taken.

    So we’re with Republicans divided under Bush on economics, united when Obama and the Tea Party unfolds.

    And Democrats divided under Bush and Obama on civil liberties, but no similar movement like the Tea Party.

    So is the problem Democratic leadership, or the lack of real organizing among civil libertarians?

    Worrisome.

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/27/2012 @ 6:23 pm

  22. I can largely accept Brad’s argument that the Tea Party movement is internally (i.e. GOP) aimed, while also thinking you are giving short shrift to the impact of Obama by relegating him to merely an organizing principle. Given that pre-2008 there was no Tea Party movement, only a base of Ron Paul fans combined with fringe element tax protestors, I would contend that without the election of Obama the TP movement would have petered out far faster if it developed nationally at all. Obama is more than an organizing principle, he is a fundamental catalyzing element to the TP. This also answers what is missing from the civil liberties left movement within the Democrats: no fundamental object to rally against. The successful knock offs of the movement in 2006 had that in Bush, the lost it two years later. I doubt McCain would have served well in this role, you would need a Santorum type; someone hostile to civil liberties in nearly every respect.

    Comment by Jack — 9/27/2012 @ 6:31 pm

  23. I would just like to point out that reposting this article on my Facebook wall caused one of the biggest crapstorms I’ve ever been involved in. It was quite something.

    Comment by Talarohk — 9/27/2012 @ 7:59 pm

  24. I don’t have a facebook account, but would enjoy reading that crapstorm.

    Comment by Jack — 9/27/2012 @ 9:19 pm

  25. So we’re with Republicans divided under Bush on economics, united when Obama and the Tea Party unfolds.

    And Democrats divided under Bush and Obama on civil liberties, but no similar movement like the Tea Party.

    Actually, I was pointing out the bailout vote more for demonstration purposes. I think, in practical terms, BOTH that Republicans were united around glossing over economic infidelity under Bush AND that Democrats are united around glossing over civil liberty infidelity under Obama. If you want an acid test, go find a civil libertarian who voted Obama in 2008, and ask them directly about it. You said it perfectly yourself – eye averting and feet shuffling.

    As to your point Jack – I really don’t mean to give short shrift to the organizing principle of Other Guy being in office. That is absolutely a huge factor here – I don’t deny that at all. My Tea Party chronology probably starts a bit earlier than y’all, just because I spent most of 2007 surrounded by weirdos showing up in tri-corner hats complaining about fiscal recklessness and Republicans selling out on spending issues. But just the same, it’s impossible to know if everybody else would have grown a pair had it been…well, I was going to say President McCain, but they probably would have in that event. President Generic Republican.

    So I don’t mean to overstate it – my argumentation here is about emphasis, not dismissal. Everything you say, Jack, is true enough.

    That said, there were roughly three mid-term waves in the oughts.

    In 2002, the Republican base, animated by national security and foreign policy, took to electioneering – aimed at knocking off even safe Democrats to add more Republicans to Congress.

    In 2006, the Democratic base, animated also by national security and foreign policy (and general Bush assholery)(TM), took to electioneering – aimed at knocking off even safe Republicans to add more Democrats to Congress.

    In 2010, the Republican base (specifically the Tea Party), animated by economic issues, took to electioneering – aimed at…

    I fill in that blank with “forcing ideological purity, seemingly without regard to which party the party belonged to and seemingly unconcerned with adding more Republicans to Congress.” But I’d be interested in hearing your own versions.

    In any case, my basic argument is that that is a difference in kind between just plain old fashioned “F the guy from the other party in power!” partisan agitation.

    You are absolutely right that they used Obama as the boogeyman.

    But the key is, by and large, in the first few years they didn’t do that primarily to flip D seats R.

    They did it to make R seats R-er.

    That’s the difference, and what separates a movement based on ideological accountability from one based just on garden variety and cheap partisanship. And that’s the (unfavorable) comparison I’m drawing to liberal civil libertarians.

    And final thought, because I don’t mean to be glib when I talk about selective memory – I really do feel like we backdate our narratives to overwrite our memories on some of this stuff.

    Remember those health care townhalls in August 2009 where people started getting up and laying into congressmen and Senators for even thinking about supporting President Obama’s desire to reform health care? Not the earliest incidences, certainly – about six months after the Santelli rant – but a well-remembered touchpoint.

    Anybody happen to remember who it was getting heckled?

    Rep Bob Inglis (R-SC)
    Senator Arlen Spector (D-PA)

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 10:28 pm

  26. But FD has, very nobly, kept trying to return to the appropriate subject and I keep derailing myself in every post.

    So is the problem Democratic leadership, or the lack of real organizing among civil libertarians?

    Worrisome.

    The leadership question, to me, is a canard. “Democratic leadership” are just elected officials that other elected officials in their party election. Politics is transactional, in precisely the same way that business is. They run on votes just as business runs on money. And, just like in business, the actors don’t generally make a habit of making decisions that lose them money. Nor do they tend to NOT make decision that lose them nothing but stand to make them money. (weirdly, the NFL / ref lockout example comes to mind – nobody liked it, but Goodell knew damn well nobody was going to stop watching football because of it, so whatever. No loss in revenue, stand to gain by paying refs less – why WOULD he cave? Until that dynamic suddenly seemed imperiled, at which point…)

    It’s the same with democracy. If tacking to the left on civil liberties opens Obama up to more enthusiastic Republican voters or potential independents and blue dog liberals perceiving him as weak on terror, and NOT tacking to the left doesn’t lose him anything because those Bush era civil libertarians in the party can be kept in line simply because he’s facing a Republican, why WOULD he tack left? If his supporters belief in civil liberties is so cheap that the mere fact that he is in a two-party election buys them for him, why the hell would he entertain the notion of going above and beyond?

    Like I said, the Tea Party had this (roughly) figured out. They went after Republicans on economic infidelity, and those Republicans had a completely rational and CORRECT argument that doing so might flip seats to Democrats and wouldn’t that be even worse?

    And the Tea Party responded: F you.

    And that scared them shitless, and, like I said, see how they lock step now.

    The solution? I don’t know the answer to that in a macro sense. But for the individual voter who really believes in these issues, the solution is rather simple. Don’t let your lines in the sand be forever relative. Don’t be so cheap a date as to be disposable. Support the candidates who meet your standards even at the expense of “strategic voting.” If a candidate doesn’t meet the minimum standards of acceptability, don’t vote for them – even if their opponent is worse. I’m not asking for litmus testing on every issue you care about. I’m just saying – ask yourself if this is a 1% for you (and some are). If it’s not, asking yourself what your minimum percentage is. And if a candidate doesn’t meet it, don’t vote for them.

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 10:49 pm

  27. Finally: yes, that is absolutely Bud Light Meghan McCain is drinking. Would know it anywhere.

    Comment by Brad — 9/27/2012 @ 10:59 pm

  28. Agreed, mostly. The answer is:

    A willingness of Democratic Civil Libertarians to enforce adherance rather than lip service to their principles, to do so via wide spread primary challenges against those incumbants/party leaders that have not, even at the risk of losing seats to Republicans, and thereby leverage politicians’ self preservation instincts through electoral fear into a wide spread Democratic Party endorsement of Civil Liberties. (deep breath, my addition:) Such a vast movement is not possible unless and until the Democratic Party is forced to reassess basic principles in the wake of cataclysmic eletoral losses like those suffered by the GOP in 2008, and even then will not coalesce unless their is a sufficiently polarizing Republican President whose percieved views, policies and actions are so anthema to Democrats of all stripes that they are willing to rally around abandoned yet formerly central Democratic principles.

    Comment by Jack — 9/28/2012 @ 8:57 am

  29. >Anybody happen to remember who it was getting heckled?

    It happened to Democrats too, just the media is always more interested in Republican on Republican criticism. Same with Democrat on Democrat. Just look at Artur Davis.

    I’m with Brad and Jack on the big picture, but I also wonder if it’s just fundamentally more difficult to organize around civil liberties.

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/28/2012 @ 9:50 am

  30. >but I also wonder if it’s just fundamentally more difficult to organize around civil liberties.

    I would contend not. We have a century of demonstrable evidence resulting in profound changes. What it takes is not merely someone to rally behind, but some definable, tangible, possibly personal force to rally against. Isn’t that Alynski 101 or something?

    Comment by Jack — 9/28/2012 @ 10:01 am

  31. The problem here, not enough talk of moon colonies.

    https://twitter.com/McCainBlogette/status/251675533774036992

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/28/2012 @ 10:13 am

  32. Do we have a century of progress on civil liberties, or more of a random walk back and forth?

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — 9/28/2012 @ 10:14 am

  33. In order to further derail this discussion: I’ve read the source material for Gingrich’s proposal related to a permanent presence on the moon. I don’t favor it, but it’s FAR from the dumbest thing he’s advocated; there is a legitimate case to be made based on the utility of having a launch site with a reduced gravity well and the mining of Helium-3.

    It is, if nothing else, a legitimate example of thinking outside the box to solve environmental and energy problems, and I wish it hadn’t been demonized to the extent it was.

    Comment by Rojas — 10/1/2012 @ 3:43 pm

  34. Actually, I agree about that. While it was a bit out of nowhere, it was about the only thing he said which I actually sort of liked.

    Comment by Talarohk — 10/1/2012 @ 4:28 pm

  35. OH come on! He did merely discuss the possible usefulness of a moon base, he promised it would be fully operations (self aware?) by 2020. he promised that it would be a Gingrich administration priority. he compared himself to Lincoln on counsel bluffs and the Wright brothers at Kittyhawk. It’s not just that Gingrich has but a few good ideas buried amidst a hundred ludicrous ones, it’s that even his potentially useful ideas are wrapped in megalomaniacal grandiosity. But at least we have libertarians to defend this massive government project, a project which will not doubt be free of all the massive overruns and failures that you might normally point out as downsides to federal adventures.

    Comment by Jack — 10/1/2012 @ 5:46 pm

  36. I…see. So the next time I compare one of Newt Gingrich’s policy proposals to Newt Gingrich’s other policy proposals, I should presumably demonstrate my bona fides by first posting a gif of the man ritually disemboweling himself?

    Or would it be sufficient for me to put the words “I don’t favor it” in bold caps next time?

    Newt Gingrich had many Big Dumb Ideas. This one became the iconic BDI for the wrong reasons–too much time spent on B, and no real effort to prove D. I think that it’s worth examining whether we’re rejecting bad candidates for the wrong reasons; if nothing else, it might prevent us from rejecting good candidates for the wrong reasons later on.

    Derailing accomplished, at any rate.

    Comment by Rojas — 10/2/2012 @ 11:39 am

  37. I am not sure I understand your objection. I think you conflated the source material, which I will stipulate as possibly reasonable, with Gingrich’s actual statements, which involved a far more expansive, foolishly prioritized, and deeply self aggrandizing proposition. Why is it at all wrong to point out the significant disparity between the idea you are indirectly defending and Gringrich’s actual words? So let me try your construct:
    I…see. So the next time I say something incredibly stupid that demonstrates obvious political pandering, a misunderstanding of economic realities, and do so in a manner that maximizes my own inflated and fragile ego, you should presume that as long as there is a kernal of respectability buried in the source material from which I am riffing then you should defend my statements.

    Other than that, I will grudgingly grant that given how many incredibly stupid things Newt has said, this may have gotten more attention than it deserved. I suspect this is partly because of the weight of accumulated absurdity, and this became not The Dumbest Thing Evar but rather merely emblematic of Newt’s Dumb Things Said.

    Comment by Jack — 10/3/2012 @ 10:40 am

  38. Also, Ron Paul newsletters.

    Comment by Brad — 10/3/2012 @ 12:56 pm

  39. Snort. You’re on a roll with that.

    Comment by Jack — 10/3/2012 @ 4:12 pm

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