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Home Page --> August 2007

Save The GOP?

Pete Abel rallies the troops at Donklephant:

Although my confidence is regularly shaken when I read comments like Benen's and others', I quickly remind myself that I'm not doing this to save the status quo. I'm doing it to regain the magic and meaning of the Party of 1860 and Lincoln, 1904 and Roosevelt, 1952 and Eisenhower, 1980 and Reagan. In other words, I'm not doing this to save the party of 2007 but refurbish and relaunch the party of 2010 and 2012. I'm doing it because I believe our government is strongest and most effective when there are at least two, vibrant political parties that can check-and-balance each other, much as the various branches of government were designed to do.

What's amazing is that, on my journey to this end, I've discovered something I didn't expect: I'm not alone. Take Dennis Sanders, for instance. Dennis is gay, black, Republican (how's that for cognitive dissonance?), and one of the smartest, most decent, most reasonable people I've met since I've become active in the 'sphere.

Dennis is also the person who encouraged me (a) to reach out to and get active in one of the major moderate Republican groups (I chose the Republican Leadership Council) and (b) to understand that there are indeed moderate Republicans in major offices. Unfortunately, they often fear public displays of moderation because Karl Rove and Crew have convinced them that "the base" is entirely made up of intolerant theocrats.

Dennis' opinion: The GOP will change when its leaders realize that "the base" includes more moderate, reasonable, tolerant, diverse voters than it does voters who mirror the caricature painted by Rove, et. al.

The post Abel references is this one from The Carpetbagger Report.

Under The Radar

We certainly do love the traditional back and forth here between the Netroots and the Rightroots. Bush bashing, Gore bashing and all the like is great, but every once in a while, we would like to highlight certain bloggers who are doing exceptional reporting on a pet policy or issue.

Today, we have three such bloggers. To begin, we have AJ Strata. Strata has been diligently following the aftermath of the Litvinenko radiation poisoning story, and has gone to great lengths to debunk the assassination theory. Today, AJ focuses on the testimony of Boris Berezovsky, the wealthy emigrant and frequent Putin critic. He sees holes in it, and wonders if Berezovsky's math is correct:

Berezovksy again runs into the layman's inability to comprehend the amounts be discussed here. Getting hold of ten millionths of a gram of Po-210 is NOT hard. For assassination this material would be pre-disolved or suspended in a liquid used to deliver the poison. Access to any of the commercial sources of minute amounts of Po-210 available in commercial sensors used for detecting static charge (if memory serves where Po-210 is used) then you can collect enough that way to kill Litvinenko.

But now if you want to collect the necessary amount needed for nuclear trigger, which I assume to be on the order of grams, that would be an amount that would support Berezovsky's comments. Supposedly he is as much in the dark about the lethal dose as everyone else. But he seems to be of the mind the amount surrounding this event was quite large, not the microscopic amounts that killed Litvinenko (and the apparently larger amounts the make up the sum of the Po-210 trail). I think Berezovsky was trying to fib up a story and forgot that smuggling amounts are 10's of thousands (if not millions) of times larger than that which supposedly killed Litvinenko. He may have been thinking in the back of his mind of the amounts he knew about, verses the amount that contaminated Litvinenko. Clearly his testimony is at odds with the cover story - there were no "such amounts" inside Litvinenko.

Elsewhere, we have Ryan Avent's blog The Bellows. Ryan has good stuff on the state of American public transportation, devoting much of his blogging to an often overlooked (albeit important) topic.

And finally, Michael van der Galien continues to be the blogosphere's go-to-guy on Turkish politics and culture. Michael has kept tabs on the Turkish presidential race for us, and has provided frequent and indepth analysis on the matter.

Check 'em out.

Young Democrats?

Here's one reader's feedback on my post about young voters and their seemingly Liberal shift:

I believe that the poll results -- young people favoring the Democrats over Republicans -- are due in part to the way polling questions are structured. My guess, not having seen the questions asked, is that Democrat vs. Republican was the only choice.

The results are unreliable because:

1. The questions apparently omit other possibilities
2. The definitions "Democrat" or "Republican" are hardly definitions of where one falls on the issues - there are positions across the board held by Democrats and Republicans

The first fatal flaw is pre-defining, and therefore limiting possible answers when no legitimate reason exists to do so (unless one's purpose is to help maintain the duopoly of the two major parties).

The second is portraying the results as relating to policy issues. The latter cannot be legitimately done because "Democrats vs. Republicans" on the issues is impossible to define, with the (possible) exception of the Iraq war. One finds Democrats and Republicans all over the place when it comes to issues, willy-nilly.

This is classic "non-think" and it's scary that it's being presented as serious research. It is flawed research that tells us absolutely nothing except that the researchers are cooking up a huge vat of pseudoscientific swill for us, hoping we swallow it, over the next 12 months.


James Fallows brought this to our attention yesterday:

I am sorry to disagree with someone from my home town and someone from my own magazine at the same time, but I think it's silly to complain that David Petraeus's 20-year-old PhD dissertation from Princeton has lots of vapid passages. I'll make this challenge (though I probably won't take the time actually to carry it out): give me any 20-year-old PhD dissertation in the social sciences, and I will show you lots of vapid passages.

The significant points are these: first, the relevant document for which Petraeus can claim credit, if not as author then as supervising editor/publisher/protector, is the new Army/Marine Corps Field Manual 3-24, on counterinsurgency. This is not a vapid or silly piece of work -- certainly not if taken in context with previous Field Manuals.In fact, it's arguably the most scathing indictment of the Administration's entire approach to Iraq, with its discussions about the need to solve political problems politically rather than with brute force, its emphasis on the importance of low-tech human interactions as opposed to reliance on high tech, its calculations of the force presence needed for a successful occupation, etc.

I don't know, maybe this is a healthy direction for us to go in. How might this translate in the blogosphere? Should we maybe require prerequisites for bloggers?

What's next, Brian Beutler's SAT scores?

Rovism And Democracy

The debate kick started by Michael van der Galiën last week continues, as Michael and Pete Abel of Central Sanity have gone back and forth over the past couple of days on the issue. While the two moderate bloggers see eye to eye on many matters of policy and politics, Abel takes up the role of devil's advocate on behalf of the Open Left "Bush Dog" campaign:

I'm not a big fan of Stoller's. Yes, he's intelligent and tireless and all that, and I confess I read some of what he writes; but his politics are so dramatically far left of mine, I just don't see us sitting down anytime soon for a friendly cup o' tea.

However, on this issue, I'm actually going to (respectfully) disagree with Michael and Mr. 42 and defend Stoller and his steamrollers. I do not think what the latter group is doing reflects "totalitarian movements more than they reflect the spirit of liberty and diversity," nor do I think they're guilty of trying to "stifle dissent, debate, and effectively representative government." In fact, just the opposite.

They're fanning the flames of dissent, debate, and representative government. They're exercising a Constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech, and in the spirit of liberty and diversity, they're taking their POV to the street.

Is their effort a tad militant and over-aggressive? Yes. Is it comparable in some ways to what Rove did? Yes. Is it wrong? No. It's democracy. And sometimes, democracy is messy, militant, over-aggressive, even divisive. And the most beautiful part of it all is that we are equally free and full participants in this same democracy, meaning we can take Stoller's and Rove's hype, or we can leave it. We can succumb to it or not; adopt their opinions or stick to our own; join their movements or start different ones.

Michael disagrees, and argues that none of these things are truly indicative of a healthy democracy:

As an outsider I believe that America's political culture is poisoned. It is sometimes truly sickening to see the tone of the debates and the issues people are talking about. A few days ago - I decided not to write about it - there was another 'controversy,' one in many. All bloggers are on top of it; all newspapers spend dozens of articles on it; networks interrupt a show to bring 'the latest controversy,' and all I can think is: but what about the issues? Sadly, it seems to me, that the American people have accepted this to be their new political culture. Notice what the 'issues of the day' are about and notice how next week the issue of today is forgotten and we've got ourselves another controversy on our hands.

But what about the actual political problems? What is done about them? Where are the reasoned debates? Where are the pundits getting on television, not to shout at each other, but to carefully lay out there case, hoping to convince at least some viewers that they are right?

This perhaps leads us to a debate over semantics. Is all fair in love and politics, or can you ever have too much democracy? Pete asks that very question in his follow up at The Moderate Voice.

Guest Bloggers: Good Or Bad?

Simonne at the Reader Appreciation Project posed an interesting question yesterday--Are Readers Going To Kill Guest Blogging? Simonne explains the problem:

I cannot stop thinking that my blog does not contain only premium posts and that I might find out that some guest bloggers have better writing abilities than mine, so their 2nd grade B material will be better than maybe 30% of my writings. Besides, maybe some of them would really give away their best content, knowing that they can create another state-of-the-art article any time, because they are aware how valuable they are and they cannot afford to write B quality stuff.

What do you think? In our rush for readership, are we sometimes involuntarily hurting our readers, making them feel unappreciated, while all we wanted was to show them how much we care? Is guest blogging one of these uninspired moves that chase readers away?

We've seen a lot of this during the summer months over at Andrew Sullivan's blog, and most recently Jules Crittenden's blog.

Bloggers are, after all, merely human. They need to take time off and unplug just like anybody else does. Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be a drop in quality during these blogger vacations. It allows popular bloggers to lend a podium to other talented bloggers, and perhaps shine a little spotlight on their abilities. If they're good, your regular readers will probably appreciate the effort in your absence.

Seems like a win-win, no?

Is Blogging Too Bourgeois?

When asked about the differences between conservatives and liberals, former NY Governor Mario Cuomo once remarked that the former "write their messages with crayons," whereas the latter writes in "fine-point quills." While the analogy managed at the time to boil the blood of his Republican opponents, the observation may be useful in comparing how the two warring sides manage to disseminate their message, influence politics and develop their following.

If one were to pick the two mediums that each has maximized to reach such ends, they would have to be talk radio and blogs. While both sides have without question excelled in both realms, it would seem that conservatives and liberals have each carved their own respective niche using these popular communication tools. Both developed under very similar circumstances, and at least demographically, have very similar followings.

In the 1930's, after his fallout with the White House, Father Charles Coughlin's radio show grew to be one of the most popular program's of all time. His animosity towards President Roosevelt, along with controversial views towards Wall Street and "international bankers," made him a populist mouthpiece heard by millions every week. By the 1990's, conservative talk radio came to ascendancy, fueled by the Clinton Administration and the seeming decline of "genuine" conservatism. Similarly, the rise of the blogosphere came at a time when an increasingly unpopular president had brought the country to war, and increased the stretch and scope of the federal government through measures such as the USA PATRIOT Act. Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid catapulted the so-called Netroots into the limelight, and provided a podium for those Democrats who felt left behind during the Clinton years.

Both came about due to a healthy distrust of government, needing a participatory outlet for them to hear and speak to their concerns with the direction of the country. In the 1980's, Murray Levin conducted a study on talk radio revealing this very idea. According to Levin, the interactive potential held at the time by talk radio could change media as we knew it:

"The democratic potential of talk radio is enhanced by the fact that it is a déclassé enterprise compared to the other media. Talk radio has significantly lower budgets than television, smaller salaries and audiences, lower advertising revenues, less sophisticated equipment, and a more limited broadcasting range. Talk radio is the poor relation of the media, but it is the most participatory. The spontaneity and informality of talk radio free it of the restraints imposed by television's structured panel of experts, where established guests are expected to deserve the protocol of propriety, and where time is limited."

Levin's wide-eyed optimism for talk radio was certainly warranted, although much of the economics of the industry has changed in the twenty years since Levin published his findings. Ironically, one might rewrite Levin's words in a historical game of Mad Libs, replacing talk radio with blogs. According to a 2006 study by the Institute for Politics Democracy & the Internet (IPDI), 8% of all internet users keep a blog, while 39% have at least read a blog. These numbers are likely to grow, as more and more traditional media outlets begin to shift online, and blog publishing programs remain affordable (or free) and user-friendly.

Bloggers may, however, face a dilemma of exclusivity. While both mediums tend to attract white, male and upper-middle class audiences, blogs don't even begin to draw the audience that talk radio in fact does. The same IPDI study found that approximately 57 million Americans have read a blog. Comparatively, the combined weekly audience of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity alone reaches roughly half that number. Part of the problem is money. As our biggest newspaper outlets are learning, the advertising revenue found in print media (and radio) doesn't exist yet online.

This could put bloggers at an interesting crossroad. The ascendance of talk radio didn't necessarily come about due to really smart hosts (although there are a few), nor did it blossom because of its heady and intellectually advanced commentary (although the dialogue is often quite intelligent). It became popular because of what Murray Levin called the "proletarian despair." It provided an affordable outlet to exchange ideas on the pertinent issues of the day. It exposed the audience to a fresh approach to policy debates, and utilized a trick often found in comedy and satire--make yourself look smart, and your audience even smarter.

Bloggers shouldn't necessarily view talk radio as their ideological opposite, but instead, should view themselves as the same logical extension of decentralized media. Today's blogosphere tends to be more partisan, more exclusive, and at times, more vitriolic. Just listen to the Sean Hannity radio program, and despite the partisan nature of his programming, one clearly doesn't sense the same tone and attitude. Perhaps this comes from years of media training on his part, or perhaps from the understanding that without the audience, you have no point to make.

Call it "crayons," as Mario Cuomo did. Whatever the label, it's undeniably effective. There are of course many bloggers who understand this, and have learned how to be effective while not being insulting or elitist. While political blogs continue to grow in size and credibility, they'll have a choice in whether or not their tone and tactics will draw wider and more diverse followings. As Americans gradually make the transition online, will many bloggers grab the torch carried by talk radio all of these years, or will they be content to blog in Cuomo's crayons for smaller audiences?

Senator Tim Johnson Returns

Almost a year after suffering a debilitating stroke, Senator Tim Johnson makes his first public appearance since being hospitalized. See it live at Welcome Back, Tim!

Blogging For Bucks

Amidst the foot canoodling and the AG resignation, this little nugget by Atrios was sort of looked over. The Eschatonian wrote a post on the role of blogs, and what will help them in their quest for legitimacy and respect. According to him, the difference maker is money:

One problem that the "netroots," whatever that is, has is that there's tendency by Democrats to see it as just another player in the interest group checklist politics game. So, sometimes "this will piss off the blogs" is a consideration, and a similar one to "this might piss of NARAL" or "this might piss off the Sierra Club." We're a noisy somewhat influential group to be placated somehow.


All of this a way of getting to the point that money is one way to get respect, and proving that you can deliver it to the right kind of people has a way of encouraging people to come around to your point of view. So, yes, demonstrating that the mighty blogs can pull in $100K over a few days for a House candidate - and not just any House candidate - 14 months out from an election is one way to get a bit of respect. And a way to get people to listen to your concerns... and responding to them.

Yesterday, I asked whether or not there was a new media gap between Democrats and Republicans. Conservatives, once pioneers of innovative campaign tools like direct mail, may indeed be behind in the activist potential of blogs.

But does this blur the line of political efficacy? Echidne Of The Snakes believes political blogs exist to serve as an objective check on the mainstream media. But if the Netroots are to become yet another fundraising tool for Democratic candidates, essentially a cog in said machine, how can they truly remain objective?

Can blogs remain part of the revolution once they become one of the gatekeepers themselves? Can they fight the man while being the man?

And why would money prevent placation? Is NARAL lacking in funds these days?

Blogging Anarchy

In response to the news that Minneapolis Anarchists will be plotting over the Labor Day weekend in preparation for the 2008 RNC, Captain Ed proposes the following argument:

First, let's muse for a moment on the concept of organized anarchists. Isn't anarchy the rejection of any kind of command structure, wherein each person decides for themselves how to act? Anarchy, as defined by Webster, is a "utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government". A real anarchist wouldn't attend strategy sessions conducted by a hierarchical organization.

And what about taking no questions? Isn't that just a little authoritarian?

Betsy joins in on the fun:

The original headline was "Anarchists hold planning meeting" but I guess the irony was just too much. Who knew that anarchists were into planning and organizing these days? But I guess any change is acceptable as part of the greater goal of fighting the man.

Are they correct about Anarchism and organization?

Well, either way, it seems like good fun. Anarchists + Minneapolis bus tours = potentially hilarious Larry David sketch.

Ron Paul Realism

Some have had a hard time explaining the appeal held by long-shot presidential candidate Ron Paul. The Texas congressman has gathered a devoted following, willing to take direct action in the blogosphere to show strong support for their candidate.

It's because of this that we feel slightly remiss for not pointing out the effort being made by Justin Gardner at Donklephant. Justin has been working on a seven-part question and answer series with Ron Paul supporters, giving them the chance to answer and clarify some of the concerns surrounding Paul's candidacy.

Today, Justin poses the following question in the sixth installment of the series:

What about those racist writings in his newsletter? I've heard Paul's response, but I think most of us can agree it's pretty weak. So if Paul does start leading the GOP race, what's the communications strategy when that nugget hits the media?

This is an interesting effort on Justin's part, and the responses are interesting. We recommend that you go back and check it out from the beginning.

Tolerance For Talking Snowmen

A new Democracy Corps sponsored poll finds that there is a large disconnect between young potential voters and the Republican Party.

According to the polling firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, the 18 to 29 age group has undergone a transformation of Reagan era proportions in favor of the Democrats, sweeping the demographic on just about every possible issue:

Young Americans have become so profoundly alienated from Republican ideals on issues including the war in Iraq, global warming, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration that their defections suggest a political setback that could haunt Republicans "for many generations to come," the poll said.

The startling collapse of GOP support among young voters is reflected in the poll's findings that show two-thirds of young voters surveyed believe Democrats do a better job than Republicans of representing their views - even on issues Republicans once owned, such as terrorism and taxes.

And among GOP presidential candidates, only former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani registers with more positive views than negative with young voters, the poll shows.

Tom points out that this is yet another feather in Rudy's cap, once again proving that he has broad appeal in a national election. Justin at Donklephant argues however that this is just common sense--young voters will support more liberal candidates, hence the draw to Giuliani and Schwarzenegger.

But is that truly the case? The relevance of the youth vote has been debated for years now, but should it be assumed that Republicans should just cede the war of ideas to the Democrats? Maybe that's the case, or maybe it has to do with a New Media message gap:

The demands of the state senators, South said, were so far to the right of the average voter that "the Republican brand in California now is so tainted and toxic that the only way you're going to win is to buy yourself out of the brand."

That means wealthy GOP candidates such as Schwarzenegger or Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner must dip into their considerable bank accounts to "spend millions and tell voters why you're different. But if not - you will go down like lambs to the slaughter," South said.

Perhaps Republicans can't win the charisma vote in 2008, but it certainly couldn't have helped their cause when they flinched at the "demeaning" nature of the CNN/YouTube debate. Can conservative ideas resonate with the next generation, and if so, what must they do to get them across? Last week, Patrick Ruffini made the case for a Republican awakening of sorts, one acknowledging the new political realities of the internet age:

In 2004, Republicans conquered New Media 1.0. Hillary Clinton is looking to do the same, and maybe move to New Media 2.0. But this time, the new order is not New Media or Old Media so much as it is No Media -- in the sense of there being no intermediaries between a voter and a potential mass audience. A guy with his cell phone camera can see a candidate make a gaffe at a rally, upload it to YouTube, and see it go global without anyone ever interacting with the press to give the story legs. No campaign, even a grassroots-aware one, is going to wholeheartedly endorse this state of affairs -- but that's irrelevant. The only rule of campaigning in the Internet age is that there are no rules.

This isn't good, or bad, so much as it just is. And we don't have the luxury of making value judgments about talking snowmen or "dignity" of the process, because that bottle has been opened, and the water ain't getting back in. Future elections aren't going to be any less modern or tech savvy or YouTubish than this one. With people's ability to communicate growing exponentially, communications and messaging norms will always be looser today than they were yesterday. This is the new reality. And whether one believes in it or not, everyone is just going to have to deal with it, because the Internet is not going away.

Is the key to the young a more liberal Republican, or a more savvy Republican?

Anyone Better Than Chertoff?

As rumors spread that DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff will replace resigning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, there is split among the online right about whether Chertoff is the right man. Orin Kerr supports a Chertoff nomination, pointing to his experience:


Chertoff would be a strong choice for AG: as a former AUSA, former Assistant AG for the Criminal Division, and former federal judge, he's a much better fit as AG than he was as Secretary of Homeland Security. In a perfect world it would be better to have an outsider come in as AG to let the Department of Justice make more of a fresh start. But then we don't live in a perfect world, and among the realistic options I think Chertoff is the natural choice.


Kathryn Jean Lopez stresses the difficulty of finding a qualified candidate willing to work for an unpopular administration:


As much as my gut feeling makes me ill, that Chertoff rumor from the weekend makes a lot of sense. No surprises, no huge learning curve. As a D.C. politico just said to me :"No one else would want to get on a sinking ship -- so have to get someone already on. And he's respected and will be a much better fit there. Then they would promote the number 2 guy at Homeland --- he's a big White House favorite."


Captain Ed, however, thinks finding someone outside the White House circle is a possibility:


Will the White House nominate Michael Chertoff, as rumored? I tend to think that they'll go for someone less associated with the administration, hopefully learning from the nomination of Robert Gates at Defense that going outside can have its advantages. If they do nominate Chertoff, it promises not one but two bruising confirmation battles, the second to replace Chertoff at DHS. There has to be more quality choices available, even in a lame-duck administration.


And Michelle Malkin still holds Chertoff (aka "lettucehead") in low regard for his advocacy of the immigration bill:


If the administration learned anything at all from the shamnesty debacle, DHS secretary Michael Chertoff would not be the reported leading candidate to replace Gonzales. Looks like they've learned nothing.

Blogging Bread?

Josh Marshall points out (with one little caveat) that the Left and the Right may have finally reached common ground on Iraq:

Finally, unexpectedly, out of the blue even, we appear to have arrived at a grand cross-party consensus on Iraq: it's Nuri al Maliki's fault and he should be fired. Faced with the tough task of biting the bullet one way or another, pols across the partisan divide seem to have arrived at this as the one position they can get behind and push on the Sunday shows.

Which, of course, puts into a rather sharp relief the simple but less and less often spoken fact that Iraq is a country under foreign military occupation

A slighlty backhanded fig leaf, but he may have a point. Judging from the way Allah and Curt of Flopping Aces are celebrating the PR offensive coming from Ayad Allawi, it would appear as if the Right is ready for reform in Iraq. But would they ever concede that the democratic experiment in Iraq is a failure? Quite the contrary, says AllahPundit:

Pay attention to what he says about having good relations with every country in the region except one and later on to his dry aside about the unnamed forces who are funding sectarian propaganda. If the U.S. is serious about rolling back Iranian influence inside Iraq, he's probably their best bet: a Shiite ex-Baathist who's chummy with the Saudis and whose core plank for the past several years has been separation of mosque and state. How he plans to inculcate that value at this stage of the game is mystifying, but better to have someone who's at least trying than someone who isn't.

But while Allah asks whether or not Allawi should be the next Iraqi PM, he neglects to mention exactly how he'll get the job. Other bloggers have pointed out already how Allawi was often perceived as an American puppet in Iraq.

So while it appears that the blogospheric consensus is anti-Maliki, it remains to be seen whether or not the Rightroots will abandon hopes of democracy in Iraq for a strongman like Allawi. Has a page been turned? Might we begin to see less emphasis on democratic nurturing in Iraq, and instead see some agreement on a better "managed" Iraq?

Battling Views: Trashed Troops or Respectful Disagreement?

In light of yesterday's conversation, let's add Joe Klein to the list of "serious" thinkers unnecessarily hitting below the belt. In a post over at Swampland titled "Heroes Trashed," Klein writes:

Well, I suppose it was inevitable that the Weekly Standard would figure out some way to trash the 7 enlisted men from the 82nd Airborne, who wrote the courageous Op-Ed piece about the unreliability of our Iraqi allies in the New York Times last Sunday.
Although Klein concedes that the Op/Ed in question, written by seven Iraq War veterans, had a respectful tone, he doesn't give any explanation for why it "trashed" the seven soldiers of the 82nd. Indeed, he (perhaps inadvertently) implies that any disagreement with the assessment of those soldiers in the 82nd constitutes trashing.

Arguing along Klein's line of thought, Brian Beutler writes:

Clearly aware that writing a response to the seven enlisted men from the 82nd Airborne would look really really bad, The Weekly Standard instead dispatched the task to... seven other enlisted men (an organic effort no doubt from seven men are members of Vets for Freedom).

What exactly is Beutler implying? That the NYT piece is more legitimate because it was more organic (a claim, by the way, he has no evidence for)? Even if Bill Kristol himself drafted the Weekly Standard retort, edited it, and had the Vets sign it, so what? How does that contradict the fact that the published piece represents what those particular veterans believe?

The same standard applies to NYT piece. Personally, I found that piece poignant and persuasive, but I doubt that all seven enlisted soldiers had an equal part in producing it. It seems unlikely that they cramped around a single laptop and took turns at the keyboard. Essays written as such are almost always junk - and the NYT piece certainly was not.

It seems more likely that, at some point, the seven realized they had similar views about what they were seeing in Iraq. Then, one of them (who is obviously a talented writer) took the lead, wrote it and the others subsequently signed on. Granted, this is speculation, but if this is the way the Op/Ed came together, is there anything wrong with that? Would this scenario diminish the beliefs of the other soldiers who did not take part in the actual drafting of the piece? No! Of course not. The published piece, again, reflects what those particular soldiers believe and were willing to lend their names to.

In his response to Klein's post, Ross Douthat points out the more basic problem with this dynamic:

Whatever you think of its arguments, it's a model of respectful disagreement. (No thuggery here!) That Klein takes this as an example of "heroes" being "trashed" is emblematic of the difficulties involved in having soldiers, whether generals or enlisted men, take part in political debates as soldiers - a problem that extends to parents and relatives of military personnel as well, and runs from Cindy Sheehan on the dovish left to these commercials from the hawkish right. In each case, there's an assumption that our soldiers are invested with a unique political as well as moral authority, and that to question this authority is to disrespect (or "trash") their sacrifice.

There were, however, some good questions to come out of this debate. First, the last line of the Weekly Standard piece indicates that it was submitted to but rejected by the New York Times. Conservative bloggers, including Power Line's Scott Johnson, have been quick to ask why the NYT would publish an Op/Ed from one perspective but not the other. It will be interesting to see if the NYT responds.

Second, Klein himself once again asked an interesting question that he's been asking since the NYT Op/Ed appeared. "[W]here on earth are the Democratic politicians on this? Why haven't they embraced the grunts from the 82nd the way the Republicans have embraced the "liberal" Brookings scholars? It's just very frustrating and truly outrageous."

Scrolling though the comments of Klein's post, some of his readers have answers.

The fault of moderate Dems?

Any Dem that takes a strong position is instantly isolated and vulnerable. The reason for this is the existence of the Democratic Blue Dogs (eg: Bush Dogs), the lack of a supporting media environment and, yes, organizations like the DLC that make a habit of scolding Democrats in order to appear bipartisan and serious.

Dem pols fear being Defeatocrats and losing pro-Israel support?

where are the democrats?
1.they know we dont look like losers unless we withdraw. Its Colbert logic. Its not chaos and a full bore genocidal civil war, its "progress amidst sectarian violence"
2 if they force a withdrawal, even if suckered in by Warner, they will (unfairly) own the defeatocrat chaos
3 but if we are mostly there a year from now the Rs get blamed
4 if they withdraw and dont "redeploy" they lose the pro israeli campaign contributions and primary support

And my favorite. Why the heck are you asking us?

You claim to be a reporter. As an employee of ...Time magazine, do you not have access to a phone? Call some Democratic politicians. You're "Joe Klein." Surely they'll take your call?

Dishing VDH: Clean Shots or Low Blows?

Most will agree that Andrew Sullivan and Victor Davis Hanson are serious people. Sullivan, a journalist and a blogger, attended Oxford then Harvard for a PhD, after which he went on to become Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic. Likewise, Victor Davis Hanson is one the most respected academics in his field as well as one the most popular and thoughtful conservative columnists. Surely these two guys are above crippling one timers to the midsection, right?

Well maybe not...

First, from Sullivan responding to Hanson's accusation that, after the Beauchamp revelations, nothing in the The New Republic is believable:

Let me suggest two articles in The New Republic that no one should have believed at the time, two articles that have been debunked by subsequent events, two articles that reveal spectacular misjudgment about the war in Iraq, two articles that should consign the author to irrelevance, unless he has explicitly explained why he was wrong and apologized. The two articles, of course, are by Victor Davis Hanson.


Victor Davis Hanson is right in some respects. Some things that have been published in The New Republic are things that no one should believe. The more ambitious fabulist is not Scott Beauchamp, however. It's Victor Davis Hanson.

And some highlights from VDH's response:

[T]hat apparently has become Sullivan's modus operandi -- in frenzied fashion to toss out slurs and then to grow silent when they are refuted.


I am not sure that Sullivan can read the English language.


I used to think Sullivan was perhaps unstable, but not necessarily dense. But I fear that he is increasingly both-or more still.

Ouch. I don't know who's in the most pain: Sullivan, Hanson or their readers looking for a higher level of discourse?


Is there such a thing? We at RealClearBlogs believe that blogs offer a unique platform for real-time dialogue and debate, and we see it as part of our mission to provide a platform for this. However, mixed in with the back and forth of the more partisan ends of the spectrum there exists an effort to change the tone, posit alternative ideas and provide a voice for centrists.

This is the charge taken up by blogs like The Moderate Voice, Donklephant and Central Sanity. Attempting to serve as the cooling saucer of the blogosphere is a noble idea, but can it truly be done? When President Bush and the Iraq War represent the fuel that makes the machine run, how do you pose a moderate, yet sensible, alternative?

Perhaps it's done by introducing controversial ideas, the kind that go down like bad medicine for both sides. WalkingThinkTank does precisely this in a guest post at TMV--Why I Opposed The War But Support The Surge:

It's only natural for people to reject the course mapped out by those who steered us into a disaster, particularly when it is certain to involve the loss of life and limbs for the heroic members of our military of whom we have asked so much, for so long. No one can defend the way the men and women of our armed forces and their families have been treated. They are paying the price for the horrendous judgment of our Congress and our president, and it is heartbreaking.

Everyone, of course, wants so badly to bring the troops home. So it has been incredibly tempting for those Democrats in Congress who originally supported the war to break with an unpopular president, wash their hands of this conflict and call for troops to begin pulling out of Iraq immediately. And can you really imagine that anybody who rightly voted against authorizing force in Iraq would now support continuing a conflict that is causing so much misery and that the public has turned against?

Well, actually, one such profile in political courage just returned home from a trip to the Middle East. Rep. Brian Baird, a five-term Democrat from Washington state who voted against the war, came home with this message: "We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people and a strategic interest in making this work."

"People may be upset. I wish I didn't have to say this. . . . I know it's going to cost hundreds of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars."

I don't know if the Democrats calling for a withdrawal have been blinded by their understandable hatred of this war and their justifiable distrust of this president, but they are not leveling with the public about the consequences of leaving Iraq in chaos. Baird's fellow Democrats should listen to him, and so should the American people.

This argument will likely receive derision from both sides. Supporting the war effort and dismissing the president in a single breath won't win you many friends around the blogosphere. But perhaps this is the niche that the "Center-sphere" will carve out, if such a thing is to exist. After all, when both sides are screaming at you, you may have done something right (despite Matthew Yglesias's reservations).

Blogger Rules

What is the first thing you should know when dealing with bloggers? According to Natasha of Pacific Views, it would be best not to insult their intelligence:

While, as I've written recently, the structural racism, class bias and sexism of society at large is replicated to some extent in the blogosphere, blogging is also a much more meritocratic subculture than the world at large. You can't just make stuff up or refuse to back up your assertions and expect people to extend you an assumption of credibility based on your title or place of employment. You have to, you know, know something. And if you don't, then you should just admit it. It will be so very much less painful than having your ignorance excruciatingly picked apart in detail and without pity by others.


You may not think that these issues are worth caring about, or even blaming Bush for (I guess a person could make a case,) but they are substantive complaints about policy outcomes and not some eccentric vendetta against bad grammar or compulsive smirking. And because these are my complaints, my concerns, I expect them to be addressed by anyone seeking my support. That includes people who say they're in my party, who are asking to represent me to other members of my government and world leadership.

Scathing On Skube

Ace on Michael Skube and his fellow journalists:

What they are worried about is the decline in their influence as to matters not directly related to data-collection and not even remotely related to reportage. They're worried that they're losing their ability to shape (and mislead) public opinion in ways they find best for the public good. These people did not get into journalism, after all, to report on 3M's quarterly earnings advisory. They got into journalism to change things.

And they're desperately scrabbling to hold on tight to that bit of undeserved, undue influence by leveraging their entirely-unrelated qualifications to collect and disseminate raw information into a role they actually desire and feel they are worthy of-- a certified, credentialed priesthood of general wisdom, weighing in expertly on matters of politics, scientific and technological ethical dilemmas, foreign policy and of course military strategy, etc. They conceive themselves as Generic Universal Omniscient All-In-One Experts Without Portfolio, a highly-trained Vanguard of Information which is especially well-equipped to tell the public not only what the facts are, but which facts are important and which should be ignored entirely due to their capacity to "mislead" less highly-trained citizens, and what the public should think of such facts and what conclusions they should draw from them.


And seriously? Not to harp on this, but really, guys. It's a frigging three semester degree of recent invention and dubious academic rigor. Get over yourselves already, for the love of all that's holy. You're embarrassing yourselves.

You know what you call a guy who couldn't get into med school?


You know what you call a guy who couldn't get into dental school?


Ouch. Jeff touched upon this yesterday, but nothing seems to strike the collective blogo-nerve more than Old Media dissecting New Media. Jay Rosen points out that this debate has already been had with Skube, and sounds very familiar.

But is the notion of "peer editing" a very strong argument for bloggers? We've certainly seen bloggers keep their fellow bloggers in check, however, we've also watched blog discussions devolve into flame wars.

We've seen the editorial effect peer review has had on sites like Wikipedia. While Ace makes a valuable point about the hierarchical nature of the MSM, doesn't turning the news over to the blogosphere ultimately lead to diluted information? Is there anything to be said for exclusive editorializing?

UPDATE: Rick at Blog World Expo wonders if the "bleeding" LA Times might be engaging in link baiting.

Miniter Pulls A Beauchamp?

Richard Miniter has a rather lengthy post today on the scandal revolving around TNR blogger Scott Thomas Beauchamp. In it, Miniter questions the fact-checking staff at the magazine, accuses them of nepotism and even refers to Beauchamp as a possible "sociopath."

What caused TNR to make such an egregious error? Mintier speculates:

The New Republic's fact-checking department may be structurally flawed. At the magazines with the best reputation for fact-checking, The New Yorker and Reader's Digest, fact-checking is a career. At The New Republic, it is an entry level job known as "reporter-researcher." It is a stepping stone, a dues-paying drudgery endured so that one can become a full-time writer. Even the job title is revealing. The "reporter" part comes first. Often the fact-checkers are busy writing items of their own for The Plank, the magazine's weblog, or the magazine itself. (Elspeth Reeve has written a number of pieces; one was about Bob Tyrell's book party at Morton's.) So it would not have taken much for one of the fact-checkers to skim, not scrutinize, Beauchamp's "Baghdad Diarist" pieces.

Maybe they feel sorry for Reeve because they are partly to blame. Beauchamp published three pieces over a six-month period. Odds are each of the fact-checkers had a hand in one of them.

Then there is the role of the magazine's editor. Foer had met Beauchamp, shook his hand and talked to him, according to McGee.

That's the real reason why Foer insisted on correcting his quote in The New York Times about knowing that Beauchamp was a soldier with "near certainty" to "absolute certainty." Some of the blogosphere's speculations look overheated once we know that Foer actually met Beauchamp.

Did the fact-checkers also give Beauchamp a pass because they knew their boss, Foer, met and liked the charming young soldier? Is Foer fighting back so hard because he just can't believe he too was suckered?

McGee, the former assistant to the publisher, thinks so. "They dragged their feet about admitting problems with Beauchamp's articles because he was married to a staff member," McGee told me.

Captain Ed agrees, however he questions whether or not Miniter went too far in calling Beauchamp a "sociopath" based off the statements of the soldier's ex-fiancées. Instaputz is less discreet, slamming Minter for doing precisely what Beauchamp has been accused of:

This is unsourced. Miniter doesn't even attribute this to a "senior editor" or a "staffer." Who would have knowledge of this conversation? (We know that neither Foer nor Wieseltier would speak with Miniter.) Also, there is zero proof that "Wieseltier's initial assessment" is "on target." Or perhaps Miniter has spoken to a doctor that examined Beauchamp and diagnosed him as a sociopath. Miniter doesn't say. But to assert this is beyond irresponsible.

While some bloggers question Miniter's argument, others on the Left suggest that he be careful of glass houses. Scott Lemieux of Lawyers Guns and Money takes the Pajamas Media editor to task, while reminding us all of PM's own embarrassing gaff in predicting the death of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Bloggers as Journalists

To follow up on Jeff's earlier post, John Hawkins of Right Wing News has an exclusive interview with WaPo columnist and conservative pundit Robert Novak. In this fascinating interview, Novak talks about his new book, Plamegate and the role of bloggers in the MSM.

On the latter, Novak had the following exchange with Hawkins:

John Hawkins: Speaking of people on the internet, journalism has obviously changed a lot over the years, in part because of blogging. What do you think of blogging in general and do you think it has had a positive or negative impact on the news business?

Robert Novak: I think it had a hugely negative impact for several reasons. A lot of the bloggers just put out whatever comes to their mind.

While I was promoting this book, I had an interview with NPR in New York City and they quoted something I had said to Keith Olbermann in an interview and I said, "I have never met Keith Olbermann in my life. I have never talked to him. If he asked me to go on his show, I would refuse." And the man said, "Well, I read on the internet that you said this to him."

There's more nonsense on the internet than you can believe. They have lies about me that have no connection with what I really do or what I really am. That's one aspect.

The other aspect is that good, honest reporters are told that it's not enough to do their story for their station or their newspaper, that they have to get out and do a blog on it right away. It puts a high credence on speed, rather than care. A lot of things are said without due diligence being given to how accurate they are and how complete they are.

Despite the diss, Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice argues that by simply agreeing to this interview, Novak is in fact tipping his hat to the significant role played by bloggers. Rusty of The Jawa Report feels differently:

When even carefully crafted and researched pieces are full of errors or bias, than there is something fundamentally wrong with the methodology. At least blogging is an iterative process where we fact check each other. Instead of one or two editors we have an army of editors always ready to pounce when we make the slightest error.

And unlike the MSM none of us are masquerading as 'objective' journalists. Our agendas are clearly known and readers are usually sophisticated enough to tell the differences between our own blustering opinions about the facts and the facts themselves.

Warner for Hillary's VP?

Who would Hillary Clinton select as her VP nominee? Robert Novak ignited the premature speculation today, reporting that some within the Clinton camp have been advocating a southern strategy and thus favor Mark Warner instead of conventional wisdom favorite Barack Obama.

James Joyner of Outside the Beltway points out that if Hillary gets the nomination she will receive substantial pressure to choose Obama, "If the primaries somehow shape up to look like the current national polls -- there's a first time for everything -- it would be awfully difficult for her to snub the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."

While Brian of Liberty Pundit argues that she may choose Warner because of residual tension from the primary between her and Obama, "Just my two cents, but knowing Hillary as we do (or the Clintons in general, for that matter), there's no way she selects Obama as her running mate. There's too much bad blood between them, in my opinion, and I don't think that his numbers could possibly be high enough for her to agree to his being on the same ticket as her."

And Steve from If I Ran The Zoo suggests another Southern Democrat may be her best choice, "I'm not sure Warner is her ideal choice -- her ideal choice would probably be a male WASP Southerner with some foreign policy expertise, but not enough to make her look inexperienced by comparison. Er, Hill -- if you're going to pick a white guy from the South, how 'bout James Webb? Naaah, never happen -- not bland and reassuring enough."

Blogging The Lede

In Sunday's LA Times, Michael Skube, a Pulitzer prize winning critic and journalism professor, penned a column arguing blogging will never replace well-researched, well-edited investigative journalism:

The late Christopher Lasch once wrote that public affairs generally and journalism in particular suffered not from too little information but from entirely too much. What was needed, he argued, was robust debate. Lasch, a historian by training but a cultural critic by inclination, was writing in 1990, when the Internet was not yet a part of everyday life and bloggers did not exist.

Bloggers now are everywhere among us, and no one asks if we don't need more full-throated advocacy on the Internet. The blogosphere is the loudest corner of the Internet, noisy with disputation, manifesto-like postings and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined.


"What democracy requires," Lasch wrote in "The Lost Art of Argument," "is vigorous public debate, not information. Of course, it needs information too, but the kind of information it needs can only be generated by debate. We do not know what we need until we ask the right questions, and we can identify the right questions only by subjecting our own ideas about the world to the test of public controversy."

There was something appealing about this argument -- one that no blogger would reject -- when Lasch advanced it almost two decades ago. But now we have the opportunity to witness it in practice, thanks to the blogosphere, and the results are less than satisfying. One gets the uneasy sense that the blogosphere is a potpourri of opinion and little more. The opinions are occasionally informed, often tiresomely cranky and never in doubt. Skepticism, restraint, a willingness to suspect judgment and to put oneself in the background -- these would not seem to be a blogger's trademarks.

It's always interesting to watch the online firestorms that columns such as this create. Nothing seems to stoke bipartisan blogger fury more than a member of the journalistic elite critizing them by "exposing" their limitations. But before I include some of the reactions to the column, I do want to ask, is there any doubt that, at least some of this, is true? How many bloggers are ever "in doubt" about their opinions? How often, for example, do you see bloggers change their minds?

If only Stube had stopped there. Then, there might have been a more reflective debate about the current state and future direction of blogs. Instead Stube continued with the following passage, which became the object of bloggers' scorn:

In our time, the Washington Post's reporting, in late 2005, of the CIA's secret overseas prisons and its painstaking reports this year on problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- both of which won Pulitzer Prizes -- were not exercises in armchair commentary. The disgrace at Walter Reed, true enough, was first mentioned in a blog, but the full scope of that story could not have been undertaken by a blogger or, for that matter, an Op-Ed columnist, whose interest is in expressing an opinion quickly and pungently. Such a story demanded time, thorough fact-checking and verification and, most of all, perseverance. It's not something one does as a hobby.

The more important the story, the more incidental our opinions become. Something larger is needed: the patient sifting of fact, the acknowledgment that assertion is not evidence and, as the best writers understand, the depiction of real life. Reasoned argument, as well as top-of-the-head comment on the blogosphere, will follow soon enough, and it should. But what lodges in the memory, and sometimes knifes us in the heart, is the fidelity with which a writer observes and tells. The word has lost its luster, but we once called that reporting.

We featured some of the reactions in the Debates & Discussions. Many bloggers argued that Skube undervalues bloggers' role as public editors. Liberal blogger, Matthew Yglesias, who was cited in the column, wrote:

What I recall is that these stories were widely linked to, praised, promoted, circulated, and disseminated. Obviously, Dana Priest's reporting on the "black sites" would have been a big deal no matter what, but what progressive bloggers did was amplify and disseminate that story to a wider audience than The Washington Post ever could have reached.


The widespread availability of a vast sea of armchair analysis and commentary on the internet will, over time, force large, professionalized news organizations to focus on their core, hard-to-duplicate competencies -- and spend less time on the sort of fact-averse punditry Skube's doing right here.

Likewise, conservative blogger JammieWearingFool makes a similar argument pointing to the achievements of conservative blogs:

Michael Skube weighs in on blogs in relation to the MSM today, and clearly hasn't ever read Little Green Footballs, Patterico or myriad other bloggers who've made a name for themselves dissecting and exposing the duplicitous reporting and egregious errors made on a daily basis at the "newspapers of record."

Unlike most other bloggers, Josh Marshall of Talking Point Memo, who was also cited in the column, acknowledged and conceded to one of Skube's points. "Now, fair enough," writes Marshall. "There's certainly no end of blog pontificating fueled by puffed-up self-assertion rather than facts." But even Marshall couldn't resist alleging hypocrisy after he learned that Skube had sited Marshall only on the insistence of an LAT editor and without ever visiting TPM, "And this is from someone who teaches journalism? Perhaps I'm naive. But it surprises me a great deal that a professor of journalism freely admits that he allows to appear under his own name claims about a publication he concedes he's never read."

My Two Dads

Who's the "manlier" man, David Neiwert or Jules Crittenden?

Neiwert has an interesting post over at FDL on what makes a "manly" man. According to him, taking the time to be a stay-at-home dad has in fact made him all the more manly:

Caring for children teaches us patience and generosity -- forces it upon us, really -- and that makes better men, regardless of what John Wayne or Dr. Helen might say. Masculine men (that is, if your notion of maleness is about strength and drive) also bring a groundedness and confidence to the table that I think nurtures children in ways that women often do not.

Encouraging stay-at-home fatherhood makes for a healthier society in a lot of ways. It makes better men of us because it makes us better fathers. That in turn makes for better-rounded children who are going to be better citizens. It also helps women whose goals might extend beyond family-rearing reach those goals. It makes more equal partners out of us, and I think makes for a stronger marriage.

Crittenden takes a more parochial position on the matter:

This guy wants more men to be stay-at-home dads like him so they can grok their nurturing sides and be real men, and introduce a balance of power to their marriages. How's this for a balance of power. If I don't go to work and mow the lawn and do the dishes, cook dinner, do laundry on weekends and do carpentry and plumbing jobs and a bunch of other things, maybe instead just sit around blathering with strangers on the Internet and drinking beer and playing video games and spending too much of our money on stupid stuff, then my wife will get extremely pissed off at me. At least I'm pretty sure she would, because she gets wicked pissed if I even think about that. Then my life becomes miserable. If I don't do stuff with my kids and for my kids, I don't enjoy myself. Also, I lose my self-respect. Because I'm a man, and doing stuff for my family is what I do. Do you think the wife needs a nine-to-five job and a salary to earn my respect? Are you kidding? I know what she does for work, and I'm grateful to be able to escape five days a week. Not only that, I know what she's doing is more important than what I do. I'm just bringing home a paycheck and having a career. Big deal. She not only bore these kids, now she's raising them, doing what she does better than I could hope to. Equalize the balance of power in the relationship? I've got two words for you: "Yes, dear."

Of course, more stay-at-home dads would mean more stay-at-home bloggers, which would be great for RealClearBlogs. Are stay-at-home dads/bloggers "beefy" enough for Chris Matthews, or "muscular" enough for Kos?

Statewide Blog Beat: Ohio

During the last week or so, we have received some e-mails asking us about the changes going on at RealClearBlogs. While we worked on new ways to continue the site's growth, we decided that our new format would in fact allow us the ability to improve our statewide blog coverage, in addition to providing context to debates and discussions going on at the statewide level.

Today, we take a look at Ohio. With its crucial role in the 2004 presidential election, along with the GOP collapse in the state following 2006, the Buckeye state has indeed proven to be a hotbed of American politics and political scandal in recent years.

The progressive bloggers at Buckeye State Blog wonder if NRCC Chairman Tom Cole secretly has his doubts about OH-15. With Rep. Deborah Pryce deciding not to seek reelection next year, and an apparent dearth of likely replacements, Buckeye wonders aloud what the NRCC might be planning:

Cole's statement leads me to two possible conclusions. One is that Cole is simply being cautious about a potential primary. This is the boring conclusion, so for a minute we'll pretend it couldn't possibly be true. The second conclusion is that Cole and the NRCC are less than pleased about Petro's candidacy. After all, Petro is neck deep in coingate and was under investigation by the FBI relating to a possible kick back scheme in the Attorney General's office. In this scenario, Rep. Cole is desperately attempting to get Stivers to reconsider. Stivers is obvious the Republican's best potential candidate. Cole might also look to Rep. Jim Hughes who will be term limited out of the legislature.

Hughes is popular in his district and has good ties with organized labor. Currently, it is rumored that he will attempt to win the Franklin County Commission seat that Mary Jo Kilroy currently holds. However, running as a Republican in Franklin County in a presidential year will be a tough gig. The 15th Congressional District likely offers Hughes a better shot at winning an office in 2008, and Hughes is likely the better Republican candidate. I'd love nothing more than a contested Republican primary in OH-15. No one knows how it will play out, but this is something to think about at least.

In other Ohio happenings, Matthew of Right Angle Blog gives us an update on the race for the 19th state House seat, and Matt Hurley at Weapons of Mass Discussion is keeping tabs on Sen. George Voinovich, or as Matt refers to him, "RINOvich."


What Would the Founders Do?

Shaun Mullen of Kiko's House begs the question regarding Jose Padilla:

Padilla was detained for three years without charges -- or a lawyer -- as a so-called enemy combatant. He then was bumped to the civilian justice system in what legal reporter Dahlia Lithwick calls the administration's "bounce-around strategy" when it became obvious that the courts to which Padilla's lawyers were appealing were looking unfavorably on his harsh treatment and the Supreme Court was about to step in...

...Is this what the Founding Fathers intended?

It looks as if Althouse and Crittenden may have an answer for him.

Chavez and the Netroots

Jeb Koogler of The Moderate Voice has a fascinating post up today on Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. Once a Chavez apologist, the repentant progressive now believes it's time to reconsider El Presidente:

Unfortunately, many of us on the left have been silent on this issue for far too long. While we have been quick to criticize our own administration and other foreign governments (think Vladimir Putin) for undemocratic policies, there has been a tendency to overlook the authoritarian governing styles of leftist regimes like that of Venezuela. For some reason -- probably because these leaders profess the dogma of economic equality and social reform -- many of us on the left have defended these liberal autocrats.

But it's time to wake up and get our priorities straight. We should not be blind to what is going on in Venezuela. We can no longer forgive Chavez's dictatorial tendencies merely because of his avowed commitment to the country's poor. Indeed, it is a grave mistake to overlook tyranny or authoritarianism even when it is couched in the rhetoric of liberal reform and social justice. Ultimately, while Chavez's vision of an end to poverty and the creation of a more equitable society is an honorable and an important one, his way of achieving these goals is not. Upholding democracy is infinitely more important than any of these other aims.

Not surprisingly, conservative bloggers have embraced Koogler's newfound cynicism wholeheartedly.

This will perhaps put some progressive bloggers in an awkward spot. Must the Netroots comment on what may be obvious? According to Koogler, it would be wise. While some on the Left have in the past argued that Chavez is merely a democrat caught in America's crosshairs, others have in fact lumped him in the same category as President Bush.

Will Koogler be the first of many, or just a blip on the radar?

Welcome to the NEW RealClearBlogs!

Four months ago, we launched RealClearBlogs to cover online political commentary in our own unique way. Our goal was to create a clear and concisely organized site that featured links to the best posts from around the blogosphere. To that end, when we started, we believed that there was an undervalued and under-utilized function for a link. Even though the most intriguing use of links connected bloggers on opposing sides of an issue, the vast majority of links connected bloggers on the same side. And so, realizing a potential niche, we decided to focus this space around the idea of grouping bloggers who don't agree rather than those who do.

Or, as Mickey Kaus put it, this is the "blog fight page."

And to this point, we've filled that niche successfully. Our traffic has grown considerably since we launched, and we receive encouraging emails everyday from readers giving us helpful suggestions and, of course, links to quality posts. But in the process of building RealClearBlogs, we've had a couple realizations.

First, a site dedicated to covering blogs should be continuously updated. Accordingly, we scrapped the morning and afternoon editions, and will now be adding Debates and Discussions and other Featured Posts throughout the day.

And second, we couldn't continue to maintain a site about blogs without having a blog ourselves. This problem has been remedied, of course, by what you're reading now. Unlike before, not only will we be able to describe the what and who of a debate, but now we can address why we think it's important.

Having made those changes, we'd like to welcome you back, once again, to our site. Please continue to send us emails when you agree with us, and, in keeping with the theme of RealClearBlogs, especially when you don't.

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