THE BLOG

Pre-Election Potpourri

I've got a new "Think Again" column here, called "Portraying an Electoral Victory."

A liberal manifesto
: Well done, Bruce and Todd. I would have liked to quibble with a little of the language -- as well as its Judt-centrism -- but overall, it is beautifully stated and badly needed, why is why I was happy to sign it. You can too. Here's how it begins:

We Answer to the Name of Liberals

As right-wing politicians and pundits call us stooges for Osama bin Laden, Tony Judt charges, in a widely discussed and heatedly debated essay in the London Review of Books, that American liberals -- without distinction -- have "acquiesced in President Bush's catastrophic foreign policy." Both claims are nonsense on stilts.

Clearly this is a moment for liberals to define ourselves. The important truth is that most liberals, including the undersigned, have stayed our course throughout these grim five years. We have consistently and publicly repudiated the ruinous policies of the Bush administration, and our diagnosis, alas, has been vindicated by events. The Bush debacle is a direct consequence of its repudiation of liberal principles. And if the country is to recover, we should begin by restating these principles.

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We have all opposed the Iraq war as illegal, unwise, and destructive of America's moral standing. This war fueled, and continues to fuel, jihadis whose commitment to horrific, unjustifiable violence was amply demonstrated by the September 11 attacks as well as the massacres in Spain, Indonesia, Tunisia, Great Britain, and elsewhere. Rather than making us safer, the Iraq war has endangered the common security of Americans and our allies.

We believe that the state of Israel has the fundamental right to exist, free of military assault, within secure borders close to those of 1967, and that the U.S. government has a special responsibility toward achieving a lasting Middle East peace. But the Bush administration has defaulted. It has failed to pursue a steady and constructive course. It has discouraged the prospects for an honorable Israeli-Palestinian settlement. It has encouraged Israel's disproportionate attacks in Lebanon after the Hezbollah incursions, resulting in vast destruction of civilian life and property.

Make no mistake: We believe that the use of force can, at times, be justified. We supported the use of American force, together with our allies, in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. But war must remain a last resort. The Bush administration's emphatic reliance on military intervention is illegitimate and counterproductive. It creates unnecessary enemies, degrades the national defense, distracts from actual dangers, and ignores the imperative necessity of building an international order that peacefully addresses the aspirations of rising powers in Asia and Latin America.

The misapplication of military power also imperils American freedom at home. The president claims authority, as commander in chief, to throw American citizens into military prison for years on end without any hearing, civil or military, that would allow them to confront the charges against them. He claims the power to wiretap Americans' conversations without warrants, in direct violation of congressional commands. These usurpations presage what are likely to be even more drastic measures if another attack takes place on American soil.

At the same time, the president is unconstitutionally seizing power on other fronts. He seeks to liberate himself from the rule of law by issuing hundreds of "signing statements" asserting, with unprecedented sweep and aggressiveness, his right to ignore congressional control. Such contempt for the people's representatives verges on monarchical pretension.

You can add your name here, at the bottom.

"Studio 60 Was Better When It First Came Out," here. (Thanks, Petey.)

Actually, did you notice that both SNL shows used the same tired gag about the performer who is "still miked" in the same week? Shouldn't that be someone's job, or has NBC already fired that guy too? ($)

And hello, NBC News: National polls don't matter worth a damn. It's as if you were purposely misleading people. Why do I have to keep explaining this?

Speaking of misleading
: Back when Ken Silverstein was still learning his trade from his mentor and role model, Alexander Cockburn, he wrote an incompetent hit job on yours truly for the Village Voice that contained not a single named quote, if my memory serves. Now he's done a less sloppy, but perhaps more foolish hit job on Barack Obama for Harper's (which is not online). Still, I guess that's an undeniable improvement. In rewriting much of what David Sirota argued -- also wrongheadedly, in my opinion -- in The Nation months ago, Silverstein comes up with the idea that Obama may be considered for um, vice president. That's right, vice president, not president, which as every sentient, politically aware individual knows, is the decision that lays before Barack right now. I don't know what the worst humiliation that can befall any journalist is, but I would guess that being made to look like a chump by both Joe Klein and David Brooks ($) in the same week ranks pretty high. Nice to see you again, bub. And Brooks's column is quite good, by the way; a sad reminder of what he could be if Bill Kristol ever lost his email address.

All hail John Maine, the greatest athlete named after a state ...

Log-rolling -- to put it awfully politely -- in our time:

Mark Halperin on Jake Weisberg: "Weisberg, a writer's writer and proud member of the Conde Nast family, paints Obama a bit more poet than pol in this must-read look at the Democratic superstar." Here.

Jake Weisberg on Mark Halperin (via Mark Halperin): "Jacob Weisberg says The Way to Win is 'a new book that anyone seriously interested in the mechanics of contemporary politics ought to read.' " Here.

Read the whole Altercation here.