Thursday, November 04, 2004

from the outside looking in.

in the absence of tv news, looking for company, trying to come to grips with this, i'm reading.

johnathan freedland in the guardian:

"those outside america, in the chanceries of europe and beyond, who hoped that this would be a passing phase, like a florida hurricane that wreaks havoc only to blow over, will instead have to adjust to a different reality.

for four years many hoped that the course charted by president bush - a muscular go-it-alone view of a world divided between the forces of darkness and those of light - would prove to be a blip. come november 2, 2004, they wanted to believe, normal service would be resumed. the united states would return to the old way of doing business, in concert with allies and with respect for the international system the us itself had done so much to create. the norms of foreign policy pursued by every president from roosevelt to clinton, including the first george bush, would be revived. senator kerry promised as much.

now that fantasy will be shelved. the white house is not about to ditch the approach of the last four years. why would it? despite the mayhem and murder in iraq, despite the death of more than 1,000 us soldiers and countless (and uncounted) iraqis, despite the absence of weapons of mass destruction, despite abu ghraib, the bush administration won the approval of the american people. if bush had lost the neo-conservative project would have been buried forever. but he won, and the neo-cons will welcome that as sweet vindication.

so it will be full steam ahead. "there are real threats that have to be dealt with," danielle pletka of the impeccably neo-con american enterprise institute told the guardian yesterday. iran would not go away - indeed, ms pletka warned, "force might be the only option" - nor would north korea. "we can't all pretend that the world would be a prettier place if only george w bush was not the president."

there were plenty of people around the globe who used to think precisely that way, hoping that the past four years were a bad dream which would end yesterday. now they have to navigate around a geopolitical landscape in which president bush is the dominant, fixed feature."

pepe escobar at asia times:

"the united states may have gone to the polls as a divided, uncertain, paralyzed-by-fear nation. today it's still a divided, uncertain, paralyzed-by-fear nation, but now with a clear mandate for the state really to rock the geopolitical boat.

the "most important election of a lifetime" has sent a clear message to the whole world: the face of america in the next four years - barring a richard nixon-style impeachment - will be of unilateralism, the "war on terror" possibly progressively escalating into a clash of civilizations. and pay attention to the "axis of evil" hit list - the official and the bootleg. bush ii will attack what it defines as "state terrorism" - iran, syria - instead of the global jihadi network. it will continue to rely on pakistan to "decapitate" the odd "high-value al-qaeda". it won't engage in diplomacy to address the political causes of terrorism. it won't engage in a cultural and ideological effort to try to counteract the global jihad - especially now that osama bin laden and his deputy ayman al-zawahiri have changed the rules of the asymmetrical game from a religious clash to a political struggle against imperialism.

total concentration of right-wing power - legitimized by the popular vote: this is the new neo-conservative dream turned reality. so the road ahead is to flatten the sunni stronghold of fallujah in iraq, bomb iran because of its supposed nuclear aspirations, depose president hafez assad in syria, crush the palestinian resistance, and remodel the middle east by "precision strike" democracy.

there will be serious blowback."

both via kos.

alex pointed me to thomas l.friedman in the new york times:

"well, as grandma used to say, at least i still have my health. ...

i often begin writing columns by interviewing myself. i did that yesterday, asking myself this: why didn't i feel totally depressed after george h. w. bush defeated michael dukakis, or even when george w. bush defeated al gore? why did i wake up feeling deeply troubled yesterday?

answer: whatever differences i felt with the elder bush were over what was the right policy. there was much he ultimately did that i ended up admiring. and when george w. bush was elected four years ago on a platform of compassionate conservatism, after running from the middle, i assumed the same would be true with him. (wrong.) but what troubled me yesterday was my feeling that this election was tipped because of an outpouring of support for george bush by people who don't just favor different policies than i do - they favor a whole different kind of america. we don't just disagree on what america should be doing; we disagree on what america is.
is it a country that does not intrude into people's sexual preferences and the marriage unions they want to make? is it a country that allows a woman to have control over her body? is it a country where the line between church and state bequeathed to us by our founding fathers should be inviolate? is it a country where religion doesn't trump science? and, most important, is it a country whose president mobilizes its deep moral energies to unite us - instead of dividing us from one another and from the world?

at one level this election was about nothing. none of the real problems facing the nation were really discussed. but at another level, without warning, it actually became about everything. partly that happened because so many supreme court seats are at stake, and partly because mr. bush's base is pushing so hard to legislate social issues and extend the boundaries of religion that it felt as if we were rewriting the constitution, not electing a president. i felt as if i registered to vote, but when i showed up the constitutional convention broke out.

the election results reaffirmed that. despite an utterly incompetent war performance in iraq and a stagnant economy, mr. bush held onto the same basic core of states that he won four years ago - as if nothing had happened. it seemed as if people were not voting on his performance. it seemed as if they were voting for what team they were on.

this was not an election. this was station identification. i'd bet anything that if the election ballots hadn't had the names bush and kerry on them but simply asked instead, "do you watch fox tv or read the new york times?" the electoral college would have broken the exact same way.

my problem with the christian fundamentalists supporting mr. bush is not their spiritual energy or the fact that i am of a different faith. it is the way in which he and they have used that religious energy to promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad. i respect that moral energy, but wish that democrats could find a way to tap it for different ends.

"the democrats have ceded to republicans a monopoly on the moral and spiritual sources of american politics," noted the harvard university political theorist michael j. sandel. "they will not recover as a party until they again have candidates who can speak to those moral and spiritual yearnings - but turn them to progressive purposes in domestic policy and foreign affairs."

i've always had a simple motto when it comes to politics: never put yourself in a position where your party wins only if your country fails. this column will absolutely not be rooting for george bush to fail so democrats can make a comeback. if the democrats make a comeback, it must not be by default, because the country has lapsed into a total mess, but because they have nominated a candidate who can win with a positive message that connects with america's heartland.

meanwhile, there is a lot of talk that mr. bush has a mandate for his far right policies. yes, he does have a mandate, but he also has a date - a date with history. if mr. bush can salvage the war in iraq, forge a solution for dealing with our entitlements crisis - which can be done only with a bipartisan approach and a more sane fiscal policy - upgrade america's competitiveness, prevent iran from going nuclear and produce a solution for our energy crunch, history will say that he used his mandate to lead to great effect. if he pushes for still more tax cuts and fails to solve our real problems, his date with history will be a very unpleasant one - no matter what mandate he has."

and the first things to make me laugh since yesterday:

wonkette: liveblogging the kerry concession speech

wonkette: live blogging the bush acceptance speech

the onion headline: "god puts his tool back into office"

the onion: us inspires world with attempt at democratic election