Not ready to make nice

4 05 2017

So this is floating around Twitter as an example of Dem perfidy:

Interpretation? Pelosi could have stopped it, but instead she chose to let Trumpcare sail on through just so she’d be able to increase the chances for a Dem takeover of the House in 2018.

That House Dems, following the vote, taunted their Republican colleagues (in the same way GOPpers taunted them in 1993, after they voted in favor of tax increases) with a round of na-na hey-hey goodbye seems to confirm this view: they’re singing over people losing health care because they think it’ll benefit them!

Such horseshit.

One, there’s nothing Pelosi or the House Democrats could have done to have prevented the vote. Unlike those of the Senate, the procedural rules of the House give the minority no power to stop the majority. It might have been possible to delay matters for a bit (which Pelosi, thinking this would give the Republican leadership a better chance to round up those last few votes, declined to pursue), but if the leadership wanted the vote, they were going to get it.

So: stop bitching about Pelosi’s unwillingness to stop a vote she was in fact unable to prevent.

Two, talk of punishing Republicans for this vote is exactly what Pelosi and other House Dems should be doing.

Corey Robin, for his part, seems to think the idea of looking to punish Republicans for bad policy  is the exact same thing as encouraging bad policy, that seeking an advantage after a shitstorm is the same thing as whipping up that shitstorm.

No.

In fact, the Dems should be absolutely fucking ruthless about all of this. I and many others—including Robin—bitch about their tendency to collapse in a heap whenever they’re accused of not being nice; well, Pelosi don’t care about nice.

She stood on the floor of the House and warned Republicans against this vote, telling them “you have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one. So don’t walk the plank unnecessarily.”

And when that failed, she came back and reiterated

Well, let me just say that they have this vote tattooed on them.  This is a scar they will carry.  It’s their vote.  It’s not the Senate vote.  It’s their vote they are taking.

So that is really a poor choice, cowardly choice, I might add.  Why would they vote for it if they don’t think it’s worthy of support, but because the Senate will change it?  From what I hear the Republican Senators saying, they don’t have any interest in passing this bill as is.

And by the way, whatever happens down the road, the Members of the House Republican Caucus will be forever identified with the worst aspects of the bill they passed.

She didn’t encourage a vote in favor in order to heighten the contradictions, she didn’t say “vote for this terrible bill to help Democrats”; she said “Don’t do this, because if you do we will make you pay.”

And yes, make them pay with their House seats. Elect Democrats in place of Republicans.

How is this anything other than common sense?

But no, the puritans among us would have us believe that looking to unseat Republicans is evidence of a sell-out, and Pelosi’s unwillingness to commit seppuku, bad faith.

The only knives we on the left are allowed, apparently, are those we are willing to wield against each other.

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Did you hear the falling bombs

17 10 2013

Yet another genius pundit:

If he can split the Republicans in the House, essentially, he regains control of the two houses of Congress and he might be able to enact his agenda. I think that’s what he’s up to,” Krauthammer said.

He added, “I think Obama’s long game has always been, if he’s going to pass his agenda in the second term, where he doesn’t control the House, he has to fracture the Republicans in the House and by rubbing it in or by antagonizing conservatives, he’s going to help in doing that.”

To which I can only say: if only.

President Obama is a smart and able president, and one who certainly thinks beyond the electoral cycle (see: his work regarding nuclear weapons proliferation), but Krauthammer’s glowering take on Obama’s “long game” should be treated with the exact same seriousness as the Sully-dream of him as “eleventh-dimensional chess-master”, i.e., not at all.

What also should not be taken seriously: that the GOP will disappear and/or a nationally-viable third party will emerge in the next decade. Republicans continue to do well at the state level, and the Tea Party, while damaging in some ways at the national level, are unlikely either to get stronger (and thus more damaging) or to leave the Grand Old Party altogether (and if they would, that would likely mean the end of the TPers rather than the GOPpers). Insofar as they turn off independents from the party, they add a few bumps to the 2016 presidential electoral road, but to a deft politician (i.e., not Ted Cruz), they are merely bumps.

Republican puritans make politics more difficult—to say no negotiation, ever, is to repudiate a central function of politics—and thus inflict real harm on the country, but given that they’re unlikely to wreck the GOP, they’re certainly not going to wreck the US of A.

Which is why I have no problem encouraging ruthlessness on the part of the Dems. Politics does benefit from some degree of generosity, but when you know the other guy if given half a chance would stab you in the face, you’d be foolish to hand him a knife.

No, go ahead and twist your own blade. They can take it.





‘Cause I told you once, you son of a bitch

1 05 2013

The Dems need some sons-of-bitches.

I’ve been mulling this ever since the presidents-are-assholes post (which, honestly, was the wrong word to use. I was thinking arrogant asshole when I wrote asshole, but since asshole is now more associated with thoughtlessness and jerkish behavior than an annoying overflow of self-confidence, I should have pulled another term out of the ol’ noggin. Prick, perhaps: presidents-are-pricks. Yes, that works, doesn’t it? And it has a minor alliterative bit going for it as well.). . .  and, um, yeah.

Okay, sons-of-bitches. Since US presidents have to appeal to citizens, there are limits as to how ruthless they may appear to be. I’m of the opinion that to become president you have to be one of the most ruthless people on the planet, but while you can—must—offer flashes of ruthlessness, you cannot be only ruthless.

Hence the need for sons-of-bitches.

Machiavelli is, unsurprisingly, my touchstone for this. Not everything he advises for would-be princes holds up in a democratic system, but even back in the day he recognized the value of a good hatchet man:

When he [Cesare Borgia] took Romagna, . . . the province was a prey to robbery, assaults, and every kind of disorder. He, therefore, judged it necessary to give them a good government in order to make them peaceful and obedient to his rule. For this purpose he appointed Messer Remirro de Orco, a cruel and able man, to whom he gave the fullest authority. This man, in a short time, was highly successful in rendering the country orderly and united, whereupon the duke, not deeming such excessive authority expedient, lest it should become hateful, appoint a civil court of justice in the centre of the province. . . .

Of course, Borgia was himself a son-of-a-bitch:

And as he knew the harshness of the past had engendered some amount of hatred, in order to purge the minds of the people and to win them over completely, he resolved to show that if any cruelty had taken place it was not by his orders, but through the harsh disposition of his minister [de Orco]. And having found the opportunity he had him cut in half and placed one morning in the public square at Cesena with a piece of wood and blood-stained knife by his side. The ferocity of this spectacle caused the people both satisfaction and amazement.

(My favorite part of this anecdote? He ends by saying “But to return where we left off.”)

No, I don’t recommend public body-choppings, but Machiavelli’s basic admonition holds:

a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which make him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them.

Note that such faithlessness has less to do with the people than with other rulers and political actors.

Not that he has much respect for the people:

to possess [virtue] and always observe them is dangerous, but to appear to possess them is useful. Thus it is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious, and also to be so; but you must have the mind so disposed that when it is needful to be otherwise you may be able to change to the opposite qualities. . . .

The people want to be well-ruled and to think well of those who rule them, so if you have to be faithless to maintain good order and lie about such faithlessness to maintain your reputation, well, that’s what effective leadership requires.

Given my antipathy toward moral consequentialism—the ends justify the means—you’d think I’d be appalled by Machiavelli, who is a consequentialist par excellence. And yet I am not, because the morality (if you will) of politics is not that of ethics; what is required for good governance of a state is distinct from that of good governance of a soul.

Anyway, the president-as-son-of-a-bitch wouldn’t work in contemporary American politics, not just because we want—Odin forbid—a “likable” president, but because he almost certainly couldn’t conceal his bad acts. No fingerprints, and all that.

Consider Nixon, a son-of-a-bitch if there ever was one, who was nonetheless dwarfed in his SOB-ness by his advisers. He could have survived Watergate had he been able to offload the responsibility on the execrable pack of hounds around him, but he couldn’t keep his beetle-brow out of it.

Compare that to Reagan. Does anyone truly believe that he knew nothing about the arms-for-hostages Iran-Contra clusterfuck? Sure, he was nodding off by the end of his term, but he wasn’t completely out of it when his henchmen were sending cakes to the ayatollah and offloading weapons to a scrum of fascists and opportunists camped in the hills of Nicaragua. His SOBs were colossally delusional, but they at least kept their duke out of it.

This is all getting away from me, isn’t it? “But to return where we left off.”

The Democrats need some sons-of-bitches because they are dealing with an opposition which leadership is itself too cowed to beat back the howling horde of feral paranoiacs which have overrun their party. The Dems—the Democratic president—needs their/his own pack of hounds (execrable or not) who are not only willing but positively gleeful at the thought of handcuffing the Republican party to the dead weight of the nutters and conspiracists, the young-Earthers and old birthers, the contraceptive-grabbers and ammo-clingers, and dragging the whole lot of them into the metaphorical sea. Only then will those Republicans who retain some faint memory of the necessity of good governance be scared into gnawing off their arms to preserve themselves and prevent their entire party from drowning in a roiling mass of incoherence and stupidity.

There’s another reason besides likability and  deniability to cultivate some SOBs: punishing the GOP will take time and real effort, and the president has his own shit to do. I always thought Rahm Emmanuel was overrated as an SOB—swearing a lot is no substitute for a well-cultivated ruthlessness—and while Anthony Weiner was a fine SOB in his own right, he had his own liabilities (besides the obvious ones) within his own caucus, and, in any case, couldn’t do it all by himself.

There are dangers to SOBs, of course, chief among them running off their leashes—which is why the president must himself retain his own ruthless streak and be willing either to yank them back into line or put ’em (metaphorically) down.

But he must appear sincerely humane in doing so.





Slice it up

12 07 2010

Yes, this is a kill-your-darling situation.

I re-read (for the nth time) Unexpected People, and, well, nothing like a serious consideration that I’d put this out there for me to detach myself from the piece.

If it’s going to live, it can’t be my darling anymore.

I think the basic set-up is okay, but jeez louise the dialog is too much. So slice and dice and chop and sand and I think it could be okay.

It’s funny that only now can I see a way to edit this. When I made initial inquiries to agents back in 2007, I knew it was flawed but thought that an editor could help me figure out how to fix it; I hung back, I think, because of this, not engaging my customary editorial ruthlessness. But now, now that this will all be on me, I’ve snapped out of it, and I’ve begun sharpening my knives.

It won’t be a masterpiece, regardless, but it could be better.

And so it will be.

Once again, stay tuned.