Sunday, October 26, 2008

The circular firing squad draws ever tighter

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) holds a campaign rally in Woodbridge, Virginia.
Oh boy. In typical "rats leaving the sinking ship" fashion, former Bush speechwriter David Frum has launched a major broadside against John McCain's current tactics - while at the same time warning his readers of the dire consequences of a Democratically-controlled White House, Senate and Congress. Sorry, Senator. Let's Salvage What We Can.

There are many ways to lose a presidential election. John McCain is losing in a way that threatens to take the entire Republican Party down with him...

...The very same campaign strategy that has belatedly mobilized the Republican core has alienated and offended the great national middle, which was the only place where the 2008 election could have been won.

McCain's awful campaign is having awful consequences down the ballot. I spoke a little while ago to a senior Republican House member. "There is not a safe Republican seat in the country," he warned. "I don't mean that we're going to lose all of them. But we could lose any of them."

Deary me. Not looking too good as far as Frum is concerned, is it? Well, he's hardly the only Republican to have either crossed over or joined the circular firing squad over the past few weeks - but he is a fairly high-profile one...

In these last days before the vote, Republicans need to face some strategic realities. Our resources are limited, and our message is failing. We cannot fight on all fronts. We are cannibalizing races that we must win and probably can win in order to help a national campaign that is almost certainly lost. In these final 10 days, our goal should be: senators first.

Frum's basic argument is that McCain is losing - badly - and he's dragging the rest of the Republicans up for election down with him. Not a difficult conclusion to draw, but I have to say it's quite refreshing to see it drawn with such clarity by such a high-profile Republican.

His article concludes with two pieces of advice for the McCain campaign. Firstly, that all spare cash should now go into helping GOP senators survive in their races, rather than to shore up the dying McCain campaign itself, and secondly that this week's message should be an acknowlegement that Obama's gonna win - combined with dire warnings of the horrors of "one-party, left-wing government."

It's what he writes in between in terms of those 'dire warnings' that is quite outrageous. This is what Frum imagines will happen in America if the Democrats win everything. He sees two "unique dangers":
First, with the financial meltdown, the federal government is now acquiring a huge ownership stake in the nation's financial system. It will be immensely tempting to officeholders in Washington to use that stake for political ends -- to reward friends and punish enemies. One-party government, of course, will intensify those temptations.

Second, the political culture of the Democratic Party has changed over the past decade. There's a fierce new anger among many liberal Democrats, a more militant style and an angry intolerance of dissent and criticism. This is the culture of the left-wing blogosphere and MSNBC's evening line-up -- and soon, it will be the culture of important political institutions in Washington.

Unchecked, this angry new wing of the Democratic Party will seek to stifle opposition by changing the rules of the political game. Some will want to silence conservative talk radio by tightening regulation of the airwaves via the misleadingly named "fairness doctrine"; others may seek to police the activities of right-leaning think tanks by a stricter interpretation of what is tax-deductible and what is not.

Wow. Projection, much, Mr Frum?

What David Frum is terrified of is that the Democratic party - should they gain control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate - will turn around and start behaving EXACTLY as the Republicans behaved in the six out of eight Bush years when they ruled everything. Except of course I don't recall him shrieking in horror at the unfairness of it all when that was the case.

to reward friends and punish enemies - what - you mean like Blackwater, Halliburton, Big Oil, lobbyists, the Department of Justice and Hurricane Katrina "heckuva job" Brownie?

The comments following Frum's missive are extremely enlightning. Seems I'm not the only one who sees Frum as being in the throes of an uncontrollably Freudian defence mechanism. Here are a few picked at random:

gdtrfb wrote:
I can't speak for anybody else, but if the republican party would like to salvage my vote - either at the top of the ticket, or down the ballot - they need to offer something more than 'We think the democrats are going to do what we did' as justification.

EGB1 wrote:
Politics is indeed remarkable. Mr. Frum is already whining about (imaginary) suppression of dissent by Democrats; this from one who is an echo chamber for an administration and its underlying mob that have specialized in dishonesty and the suppression of dissent: the firing of federal prosecutors for political reasons, the near-violent shouting down of opposition in the Murdoch media whose job it is to stir up the right-wing street bullies of their foreign master who regrettably washed up on American shores, the relegation of Christopher Buckley for exercising his conscience, the outing of Valerie Plame and so much more.

Mr. Frum, your crowd has taken this country as far as I (at age 63) have ever seen it dragged from its founding principles. Torture. Domestic spying. Integration of church and state. These have been a frightening eight years.

Now you march in step with Davis, Rove and Schmidt - the power-at-all-cost crew - to foment fear of an administration as yet unelected for what you imagine it will do. I would say "shame," except I have seen in this campaign that the word has no meaning to your cohorts.

The bankrupt, incorrect and naive economic policies of your ideologues have brought us to the brink of ruin. Have the decency to put your country first and encourage others to do so. Show some courage.

lee18 wrote:
Dear Mr. Frumm,
It is encouraging to read of a Republican who attempts to tell the truth, but you have not yet seen, or admitted all of the facts. John McCain threatens to take down the Republican Party, and seems willing to divide the US irreconcilably as he does it. He is not putting country first, but last, after his political ambitions. McCain is beyond Palinizing his campaign; it now offers only lies, distractions and incitement that can only be described as despicable.

One has to reach to the Watergate era to see GOP numbers so bad, but the Republicans have wrought more damage in that last 8 years than did Nixon. The danger and damage to the US has come from Republicans, the Bush administration, wielding extraordinary and dangerous power, in defiance of our own constitution and our international agreements.

You are afraid that the Democratic Party will seek to stifle opposition by changing the rules of the political game? Where were you for the first 6 years of Bush, when Republicans acknowledged and practiced these very objectives? Could the “fierce new anger among Democrats” be in reaction to the militant style and an angry intolerance of the Republicans over the last 16 years?

Republicans are afraid that Obama will increase taxes? Bush taxed us all indirectly by reducing the value of the dollar, our homes, our investments and our retirement savings. McCain, and the Republicans, know that the Bush deficits cannot be continued, but both rant on about Obama raising taxes. The only way out is to restore fiscal responsibility and the last president to do so was a Democrat, achieved with Republican cooperation.

McCain, and the Republicans, know we need to work together to address the problems bestowed on us by Bush, but that is not the role you propose a role for your party. The role of the Republicans is not, as you propose, to control enough seats for a filibuster, or offer false incitements against repairing health, education and retirement programs("the dangers of left-wing government", Obama is a socialist, etc.), but to work with the incoming administration to the benefit of the United States. Perhaps you will be able to rebuild the Republican Party when it acknowledges the damage it has done, contributes to repair the damage, and really does put Country First.

bobx2 wrote:
I believe Mr. Frum could have made the point more succinctly by simply saying, "Dear God, I hope the Democrats don't treat us as shabbily as we have treated them in the past thirty years." (Christian Republicans see The Holy Bible, New Testament, ref. "The Golden Rule").

Those of us who read newspapers are quite aware, Mr. Frum's list of concerns reads right out of the Republican party playbook, and the maniacal scribblings of the likes of Rove, Gingrich and Abramoff.

Given the consistently atrocious, incompetent and mean-spirited behavior of the Republican party - and the author's professional career of promoting it - perhaps the best place for Mr. Frum to begin his long and arduous path to redemption is for him to lie awake at night, preferably in a pool of his own sweat, and fear some guilt-induced illusion of the "evil" Democrats thinking up ways to send Mr. Frum, and his friends, on an all-expense paid trip to some secret neocon torture facility.

Relax, Mr. Frum. Democrats have never been as you have painted them - no matter how well paid you were to do so.

ubicomp wrote:
Oh, this is rich. A member of the political party solely responsible for the utter polarization of politics over the past 10-15 years (read: Republicans) is warning of the extreme left wing domination of the Democratic Party. If anything, the Democratic party has jogged toward to middle. How does that metaphor about people in glass houses go??

I think Republicans at this point should be doing some soul searching about how good the religious right is to your cause, and what sort of blatant hypocrisy it introduces to your party's platform. Your ideals of conservatism are being bastardized by religious zealots, and you all don't really seem to care because the alliance with them gets you a bloc of votes. It's a rather unholy alliance, if you ask me. Less government, eh? Not when it comes to social issues... then you're more than happy to champion discriminatory legislation. The alliance with the religious right warps and undermines the entire definition of what conservatism is supposed to be.

dmls2000 wrote:
David, you reap what you sow.

hoeya wrote:
How dare you accuse Democrats of being angry when that's been the sole basis for Republicans for more than a decade. Who do the Democrats have who are as angry as Limbaugh, Hannity, or O'Reilly? Are you upset that Democrats are sick of being called anti-American? Hey, go read the Constitution. Disagreeing with the ruling party or our president is a right. I'm not the one subverting the Constitution; your boys Bush and Cheney, supported by a Republican Congress have been doing that for years, so, yeah, I'm angry. I'm angry at seeing the basis for our democracy obliterated by the politics of fear; I'm angry at being called anti-American when, from where I stand, the truly anti-Americans are members in good standing of the Republican party.

B2O2 wrote:
It's a reasonable piece in general, and even as a liberal I can concede his point about the value of having some voice in Washington to keep the dominant party in check. But I wonder if anyone noticed the following flat-out INCREDIBLE sentence?

"There's a fierce new anger among many liberal Democrats, a more militant style and an angry intolerance of dissent and criticism."

An "angry intolerance of dissent and criticism". I am holding that statement up and just marveling at all the ways that the light of truth glints off of its delusional irony. How Mr. Frum can utter this statement with anything approaching a straight face after the last eight years is simply dumbfounding. For the past crucial eight years of our history, anyone who questioned ANY of George Bush's thousand awful, ignorant, arrogant, ill-informed, crony-serving, flat-out genocidal and just basically DISASTROUS decisions had their patriotism questioned, and were called "friends of Saddam" or Al Qaida sympathisers. We were told by the angry Hitlerian-putsch mob of Bush supporters to "go to Europe" if we didn't like the way things were being run here. We were told we didn't support the troops because we didn't support the way they were being abused. We were told we were anti-American because we objected to becoming citizens of a torture state. We were chastized for not supporting a president who by international standards has committed war crimes. Intolerance of dissent, Mr. Frum? YOU are daring to tell me something about that?

Mr. Frum needs his head examined, and he may want to have someone take a look at his soul while he's in the shop. Perhaps he doesn't yet have an inkling of what has happened during the last eight years. THAT, Mr. Frum is the first step in rehabilitating your discredited party. You might work on THAT before worrying about the relatively minor issue of how your campaign money is spread around.

sellio4291 wrote:
Irony thy name is David Frum.

In related news...

The Telegraph in the UK reports that Republican fears of historic Obama landslide unleash civil war for the future of the party:
The prospect of an electoral rout has unleashed a bitter bout of recriminations both within the McCain campaign and the wider conservative movement, over who is to blame and what should be done to salvage the party's future...

...The prospect of defeat has unleashed what insiders describe as an "every man for himself" culture within the McCain campaign, with aides in a "circular firing squad" as blame is assigned...

...Other Republicans have jumped ship completely. Ken Adelman, a Pentagon adviser on the Iraq war, Matthew Dowd, who was Mr Bush's chief re-election strategist, and Scott McClellan, Mr Bush's former press secretary, have all endorsed Mr Obama.

The Republican presidential candidate John McCain is upset with the way some of his supporters appear to have conceded defeat. The Telegraph also has a piece entitled John McCain loses temper with defeatist aides as he vows to fight to the last - which doesn't bode well for Frum's suggestion that he give all his campaign money to his senators:
In heated exchanges the Republican presidential candidate made clear that he will not tolerate the blame game that some of his aides have engaged in over the last week as Barack Obama retains a comfortable lead in national and swing state polls.

Mr McCain's aides have been labelled "incontinent" for leaks last week that revealed falling morale in his inner circle and mutual recriminations about his lacklustre campaign.

The Observer in the UK says Republicans fear long exile in the wilderness:
Some Republicans believe John McCain should adopt a more positive approach to campaigning. The flipside of that [a Democratic landslide] is a potentially devastating Republican loss. If current polling holds true, the party may be reduced to its core support in the solid red heartland that runs through Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia and other southern and western states. That would trigger a profound crisis for a party that just three years ago was basking in the afterglow of a convincing presidential win and dreaming of creating a 'permanent majority'.

Now that same Republican party could face a prolonged period in the political wilderness, working out how to appeal to an American public that seems prepared to send a pro-life, black senator from Chicago to the White House and reject a conservative Republican war hero.

...while E J Dionne Jr in the Washington Post speaks of Civil War on the Right:
These conservatives deserve credit for acknowledging how ill-suited Palin is for high office. But what we see here is a deep split between parts of the conservative elite and much of the rank and file.

For years, many of the elite conservatives were happy to harvest the votes of devout Christians and gun owners by waging a phony class war against "liberal elitists" and "leftist intellectuals." Suddenly, the conservative writers are discovering that the very anti-intellectualism their side courted and encouraged has begun to consume their movement.

Mind you, I'm guessing McCain can't be too happy at the moment anyway - what with all the reports of Sarah Palin "going rogue" on him...

McCain and Palin embrace awkwardly at a campaign rally.

CNN - Palin's 'going rogue,' McCain aide says:
With 10 days until Election Day, long-brewing tensions between GOP vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin and key aides to Sen. John McCain have become so intense, they are spilling out in public, sources say.

Several McCain advisers have suggested to CNN that they have become increasingly frustrated with what one aide described as Palin "going rogue."

A Palin associate, however, said the candidate is simply trying to "bust free" of what she believes was a damaging and mismanaged roll-out.

Politico - Palin allies report rising camp tension:
Even as John McCain and Sarah Palin scramble to close the gap in the final days of the 2008 election, stirrings of a Palin insurgency are complicating the campaign's already-tense internal dynamics.

Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain's camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain's decline.

And now, to add insult to injury, The Anchorage Daily News has endorsed Barack Obama, saying of their own Sarah Palin:
Yet despite her formidable gifts, few who have worked closely with the governor would argue she is truly ready to assume command of the most important, powerful nation on earth. To step in and juggle the demands of an economic meltdown, two deadly wars and a deteriorating climate crisis would stretch the governor beyond her range. Like picking Sen. McCain for president, putting her one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world is just too risky at this time.

The two largest papers in McCain's home state - the Arizona Republic and the Arizona Daily Star - have yet to announce who they're endorsing. They must be thinking really hard...

Editor & Publisher is keeping a running tally of newspaper endorsements - so far Obama has been endorsed by 134 daily newspapers, with more than 15 million daily circulation total, while McCain has 52 daily newspapers, with more than 4,139,700 daily circulation total. At least 32 papers have now switched to Obama from Bush in 2004, with just four flipping to McCain.

There's a lovely interactive map showing Newspaper Endorsements in the 2008 US Presidential Election - nice work, infochimps! They have a blog post about it too.

It must really suck being John McCain or Sarah Palin these days.

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