The Origins of the Liberal Species: Some Musings Concerning Political Evolution (Part One)
“Not only has the left loudly pressured Democratic nominees into constant courtship, our ideological militants have also limited the Democrats ability to defend themselves from the Republicans…If you are a liberal officeholder, many of your hardest working supporters will tell you that you are “notsaposta” denounce the viciousness of those who commit violent crimes…or that America today continues to be one of the places in the world where political and artistic expression is the freest. In practice, then, the notsaposta is the passionately sincere but grievously mistaken view that acknowledging a troubling truth will weaken a party’s ability to resist the conclusions that its political opponents might draw from those truths"
Without intending to have done so, I now find myself writing what appears to be Part Six of what I’ve decided to call my “Ich Bin Ein DLCer” series. The series is an accidental effort by a Clintonite, Neo-liberal, New Democrat to outline a worldview different from both that of the repugnant Republican right and the newly energized minions of the hard left. This worldview seeks to be both a path to victory and a map of where we go once we achieve it. Of course, Peter Beinart and Bruce Reed (with Rahm Emanuel acting as his beard) have done it earlier and better, but maybe I can run the franchise’s Brooklyn Office. Those seeking further enlightenment concerning my efforts are invited to read the following:
This series has attracted its detractors, most prominently, two bloggers on Daily Gotham, Mole333 and Michael Bouldin. Mole seems to have a problem with the overall worldview connecting these pieces (see, for example, http://dailygotham.com/blog/mole333/the_dour_democrats_fear_of_change_fear_of_success_or_merely_boring); Bouldin’s problem seems not so much with my worldview, but with my insistence on actually applying it when analyzing local elections.
Mole, who has almost literally been begging for acknowledgement in these quarters, appears to be a decent and dedicated fellow, and sometimes displays an ability to differentiate himself from the far left catechism (although not always in appealing ways; he does not, for instance, oppose the death penalty). He is clearly passionate about his Judaism, and this has shaped his less than politically correct views on Israel and Afghanistan, among other topics. Nonetheless, Mole sometimes actively supports “left-progressive” candidates like Chris Owens who take positions seemingly at odds with some of the things he holds most dearly, while those dear things are the constant source of half apologetic rationalizations. It’s not the fact that Mole is a “Michael Moore Democrat” which annoys me, but, rather, the fact that I think he might know better but just hasn’t realized it yet.
Such is the story with many intelligent ideologues, who have not yet allowed their moments of cognitive dissonance to be the occasion for reexamination, re-evaluation and renewal, in a process of thesis/antithesis/synthesis, so that their sometimes contradictory beliefs might have the chance to interact both with each other and their own personal experiences and evolve accordingly into an altered worldview more accurately reflecting how they really think, if they ever really gave it any thought. As such, the received wisdom of the hard left catechism is once again allowed to triumph over a lifetime of hard earned wisdom. I tend to think that left wing received wisdom is like chicken soup; some beliefs could often benefit if subjected to clarification, whereby the useless, albeit tasty, fat is discarded leaving an end product which is far healthier. Like any other species, the Democratic Party must evolve or become extinct.
I am reminded of a very liberal member of the New York City Council who, back in her earlier days as an aide, once forgot herself at an envelope stuffing party, and blurted out that, based upon her considerable experience (selflessly) working to assist the impoverished, she had concluded that it might be a good idea if able-bodied recipients of public assistance had to work for their checks. Immediately apologetic, one would have thought that she had just admitted that she liked to pleasure herself with a bullwhip while watching snuff films. In polite company, one was just not allowed to acknowledge that the “culture of poverty” theory, which we had all dismissed as so much racist claptrap back in college, was not without its points (for proof, spend some time analyzing the impact of the lifestyle choices of impoverished Williamsburg Hasidim). But, what passes for etiquette among polite left and liberal circles (and, I suspect, in polite conservative circles as well) is really an effort to substitute faith for reason. The position of the polite left is embodied in the Biblical injunction that “He who troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind”. But, in this fight, I tend to side with the despicable and hateful elitist H.L. Mencken (and his hired gun Clarence Darrow) against the left-populist Williams Jennings Bryan; it’s time to leave the monkey house and stand on two feet.
These days, hard left Democrats generally define themselves around the war in Iraq, but issues are just not that simple in the real world. I opposed the Iraqi invasion because it was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the time of the invasion, our major concern was militant quasi-fascist Sunni Islamic terror, an ideology to which Saddam Hussein did not subscribe. While the man was an unspeakable monster, his crimes did not threaten our interests, and while his genocidal actions would have justified an invasion, the worst of those actions took place over a decade ago and were accomplished back when he was still on our payroll, in the days when Republican Godfathers like Bob Dole, doing his best imitation of Marlon Brando, were telling him with a nod and a wink that his border disputes with Kuwait were none of our concern, thereby making him feel he could wet his beak in Kuwaiti oil while we turned a blind eye. As a result of the mission we’ve since accomplished, Iran has finally realized its decades old dream of a Shiite state in Iraq, thus freeing itself up for the mischief which has recently manifested itself in Lebanon, while we've bogged ourselves down to the extent that we've forestalled the use of ground troops where they might shortly prove more necessary (Iran might very well prove an example, as could Darfur).
I am not a pacifist, but that does not make me a war monger. I believing in preserving our option to use force, and find those who reject that option in all instances unfit for service in an institution which makes decsions concerning war and peace, but I certainly don't lightly advocate the use of military force; might even be said to be a bit more dovish than average, possibly because I have never served in the military. It is worth noting that "Chicken-hawk"-type accusations were levelled against Bill Clinton when he deployed the military option in Bosnia and Kosovo, and Clinton's anticipation of just such accusations caused him to delay action, costing thousands of innocent lives. If not for military veteran Al Gore and chickenhawk Joe Lieberman, Clinton might never have mustered the fortitude to do what was necessary.
My reasons for opposing this war thus put me into the position of having more in common with those, like Hillary Clinton, who initially supported it, and even those, like Joe Lieberman, who still support it, rather than with those opponents who are pacifists or who feel that any exercise of American strength is always inherently evil, or, to give them the benefit of the doubt, those, like MoveOn.org.(which opposed the Afghan invasion), who always oppose using such strength no matter what the provocation. The war is a big piece of my worldview, but not the only piece. Unfortunately, the same can be said for the agenda of most hard left Democrats. Opposing the war, early or at all, should not be the sole criteria to determine whether someone is praise-worthy. Pat Buchanan opposed the war too. So did Bin Laden. Opposition to the war does not render them into Barney Frank. And, opposition to the war does not render Chris Owens into Barney Frank either, although it may render him into Michael Moore.
I bring up Mr. Owens, because of all the serious candidates running for Congress locally, he bests manifests the foreign policy tendencies (not to mention the domestic policy tendencies) of the hard left (Jonathan Tasini is not serious, while Charles Barron is not a Michael Moore Democrat, he’s a Robert Mugabe Democrat). As such, when discussing what I consider to be a battle for the future of the Democratic Party, it seemed sensible to bring matters home, and that meant linking my points to the most relevant local race in order to affect the outcome. As a result, I’ve gently smacked around Mr. Owens from time to time during this series.
Owens proudly states that “Cindy Sheehan is a courageous person with a strong and clear voice and I support her inspirational efforts to bring the anti-war message home to President Bush and all of us.” Please note that Sheehan’s anti-war message concerns American withdrawal not only from Iraq, but also Afghanistan. And, here is Mr. Owens on terror, “The killing of innocent men, women or children for a political purpose is an abominable and heinous act commonly referred to as "terrorism." Such acts cannot be condoned or supported.” It is emblematic of the milieu from which Chris Owens emanates that he feels he must take the trouble to make this clear. That excerpt also account for about 50% of what he has to say about the subject (he also thinks we should take preventive efforts within “decent” limits), on a site where he dedicates an entire page to rambling on about the procedural reform of the rules governing Brooklyn’s Democratic Party.
A visit to Owens’ website casts further doubt on whether the man is ever capable of supporting any American military action at any place or time for any reason. I raised this point several months ago, without mentioning Israel, and frankly, at the time, I believed that Owens would either join with his opponents in the pro-Likud chorus, or dodge the subject of Israel and avoid saying anything to rock the political boat (his idiotic statements on the topic speak well for his candor and integrity). Clearly, my foreign policy problems with Owens were severe enough to make his stance on Israel almost an irrelevancy; which brings us to Mr. Bouldin.
Bouldin is decidedly not a Michael Moore Democrat. He’s a sample of what he’s had to say about Israel recently: “some on the left reflexively root for the underdog, as the Palestinians surely are; my private theory is that this group of people basically moved over from the anti-Apartheid movement, without realizing that there really is no equivalency between the two. I'd also note that the Palestinians had everything they wanted handed to them on a silver platter with a sprig of parsley at Oslo, and thanks to the execrable leadership they had from Yassir Arafat, threw it all away. Then, of course, they voted out the corrupt supposedly former terrorists of Fatah and replaced them with the less corrupt current terrorists of Hamas. Well done, folks, and what a stirring example of political maturity. All sarcasm aside, my private view is that Israel should build its wall and build it well. This because, based on the evidence at hand, the Palestinian political process will not produce a 'partner for peace' any time soon. It should tell people in this country something, regardless of politics, that the only force in the territories advocating for peace, to the best of my knowledge, is the effing communist party. Yes, it is really that bad. I'd argue that Israel is sometimes too heavy-handed in its treatment of the Palestinians, as with the current conflict and its tenuous legal underpinning of equating Hezbollah with the Lebanese government, but that doesn't change the cold hard fact that neither the Palestinians nor for that matter the Arab governments really want peace. The Ward Churchills of the world can caterwaul all they want to their nationwide audience of dozens, but these are the facts.” Great stuff! I really love this guy!!! By contrast, Mr. Owens states “We know the Palestinian people want peace and prosperity, as do the Israelis”. I believe Mr. Owens also is on record objecting to Israel’s security wall, and I’m sure I could go on for hours with further distinctions between them on this and other subjects.
Despite his differences with Owens, Bouldin is on his campaign payroll while continuing to blog. I do not question here Bouldin’s ethics (Bouldin was blogging on Owens’ behalf long before he was hired, and would have continued to do so regardless; Owens didn’t need to buy this cow to blog; he was already getting the milk for free), only his sense. There is no way that Bouldin has the same worldview as Owens.
Bouldin’s opinions on Israel’s actions in Lebanon (linked in one of the articles above) make clear he does not agree with Owens' public assessment that Israel actions were an unjustifiable disproportionate response to the kidnapping of two soldiers. Talk about tunnel vision. When a fiend wielding a razor keeps coming at you making small, painful, but not too serious slits, you don’t respond proportionately, lest you bleed to death by a series of small cuts.
Bouldin has also been an unrelenting critic of left wing anti-Semitism on the blogs (check out this: http://blogs.nydailynews.com/dailypolitics/archives/2006/07/remainders_kota.php), so his response to my criticisms of Owens is almost unfathomable. He accuses me of disloyalty to my country. He states that I believe that Ehud Olmert should dictate the votes cast by our member of Congress. His source for this assertion is a quote of mine refuting a statement by Ben Smith that Owens differed from the other candidates in the race in that the others supported the position of the Israeli government. I responded “Do Yassky and Andrews really support the Israeli government position, or do they support the Likud position? While in the past few days this distinction has become meaningless, it may yet re-emerge. I wouldn't mind the Congressman from the 11th taking his cues from Ehud Olmert; Dov Hikind is a different matter.” Bouldin, in defending Owens used a portion of this quote without context to compare me to Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who committed treason against his country by spying on behalf of Israel. In the process, he distorted my point completely, almost making it stand for exactly the opposite of what I was asserting. My objection was to candidates kowtowing to rightwing Zionists like Hikind and Abraham Hecht. I am an outspoken supporter of unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, and find every candidate in the 11th lacking in this regard (albeit, in Owens’ case, for radically different reasons than the others; Owens because it doesn't go far enough, and unilateralism is bad, and Israel should instead withdraw to the 47 Partition lines, with a Palestinian right of return elsewhere; the others, because they care more Jewish votes than Jewish lives). I was asking them to support Olmert in his efforts to leave the West Bank; something in which Israel’s interests dovetail nicely with our own. To use this quote to make me into Jonathan Pollard is a radical distortion of where I stand.
Actually, I'm with the Jewish War Veterans on Pollard; he's a traitor to his country, and he can rot in jail his entire life as far as I'm concerned. If he loved Israel so much (1) he shouldn't have taken money for his efforts, and (2) he should have renounced his US citizenship and made aliyah. I've heard convincing evidence that Pollard's sentence was disproportionate, and perhaps an injustice was done, but given his crime, I'm not going to lose any sleep over the fact that some other traitorous scumbag got a shorter sentence than he did; it's maybe #438th on my list of injustices needing righting when I get the time, which I won't. Moreover, I suspect that most of those who do lose sleep over Pollard really believe that he did nothing wrong, which is a concept I find personally repugnant.
Chris, given my sincere respect for Bouldin, I’ll make a deal with you. Let’s stipulate your love for Israel; even if it is a “love pure and chaste from afar”. Now, take a look at all of the Moore quotes unrelated to Israel in the Moore column linked above, and tell me which, if any, you disagree with. As I noted, I’ve asked you previously whether there existed any scenario under which you could support the use of American military force anywhere in the world for any reason (and btw, how did/do you feel about our military action in Afghanistan?); I’m still waiting for an answer. There is a significant constituency in the 11th CD for whom the only acceptable answer is never; you are their candidate; are you entitled to their support, or would you like to be considered by the rest of us?
In the meantime, Mole and Bouldin have accomplished their goal, and I’ve evolved in my position on this race. Previously I’d expressed a mild preference for David Yassky, but stated quite clearly that Owens was preferable to the others, in that, while I disagreed with his worldview, at least he had one. I’ve now revised this assessment. Owens' worldview is so pernicious that electing an empty pants suit flailing to please her constituents, or a dealmaker looking to cut the best bargain, would be far preferable. Someone of that kind might blunder into doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, and when the fate of the world is at stake, that’s far better than doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons. ANYONE BUT OWENS!
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