September 30, 2005

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH...THE CONSTITUTION?:

Dangers of a Drunk Dubya (DOUG THOMPSON, Sep 24, 2005, Capitol Hill Blue)

In normal times, such a story in a tabloid like the Enquirer would be dismissed as just another fantasy for the newspaper that normally devotes its front page to gossip about celebrity divorces. But an America with Bush as President is anything but normal and too many warning signs point to the sad fact that Dubya the drunk is back on the bottle. Plus we reported the same thing in a story about Bush’s temper tirades on August 25.

Like the President, I’m a recovering alcoholic. Unlike him, I’ve been sober for 11 years, three months and 16 days. Bush says he quit drinking without help from any organized program. I had a lot of help – from family, friends and Alcoholics Anonymous. As an alcoholic, I can say without hesitation that available evidence tells me that Bush is drinking and drinking heavily.


One underanalyzed aspect of such hysteria is its egocentricity. Bush Derangement Syndrome stems in large part from the sufferer's conviction that he lives in extraordinary times--i.e. the moment that fascism finally descends on the United States.

This brings us to Off Center : The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, which is sure to be a hit with the Looney Left. It's kind of the inevitable sequel to What's the Matter with Kansas--starting from the assumption that the election of Republicans to run Washington is an obvious error it goes on to the logical next step and argues that the exercise of power by those "elected" officials is per se illegitimate and ways must be found to stop them. That's funny enough, but the authors try to scare up support by demonstrating that the modern GOP, including George W. Bush, is not just conservative but so radically to the Right as to be a unique occurrence in the history of our politics. All this requires them to ignore is that the overall set of policies that makes up compassionate conservatism is also being implemented by John Howard and Tony Blair and that if you picked up any newspaper or magazine in the West over the last month or so you'd find that everyone realizes that the same reforms must be undertaken in such places as Japan and Germany. The simple truth is that if George W. Bush didn't exist our political system would have raised up someone rather similar to him, as it is doing throughout the developed world.

The personal hatred that folks harbor towards President Bush blinds them to the entirely orthodox nature of his politics. This is not healthy for them for reasons that are readily apparent. However, if we continue with the logic of such folk the third volume in their trilogy is likely to hold that since the elections of Republicans are illegitimate and governance by Republicans is illegitimate then the laws they pass and the republic itself are illegitimate. The authors of Off Center give us a preview of this line when they get to a hilarious discussion of the "Four Great Obstacles" to reforming the American system so that Republicans won't have power:

(1) "The You Can't Get There From Here" Obstacle--here they acknowledge with no little chagrin that the Constitution of the United States sets up the very procedures of governance that produced the results they despise.

(2) The "Fox Guarding the Henhouse" Obstacle--here they acknowledge that Republicans, having won so many popular elections and control of so much of government, are hardly likely to figure out ways to put their opponents in control instead.

(3) The "Nobody Cares" Obstacle--here they acknowledge that rather little of the American public shares their hysteria so there's no meaningful constituency for reform.

(4) The "Half a Loaf is Worse than None" Obstacle--here they acknowledge that what reforms might be enacted in such a political climate could well benefit Republicans instead of Democrats and so should not be advocated by the Left. Rather convincingly, if unintentionally showing that they aren't pro-reform, just anti-GOP.

In short, what they see as obstacles to the kind of America they want to live in are: the American political system; the American people; and the elected government of America. Dangerous territory this, for it reveals such an estrangement from the realities of the nation -- and, as suggested above, of the sort of Third Way policies that are de riguer throughout the West -- that they may not be capable of reconciling themselves to the End of History. The other group of people that suffers such an extreme derangement is the Islamicists, with whom we are currently at war. Political bitching is one of our birthrights, but when it begins to cross over into such open antagonism for the democratic majority and the choices they make the end results are seldom pretty. Rather than attack the Republic root and main, the Left ought to be developing the next generation of ideas and leaders that may appeal to a majority of the American people and thereby win elections. One suspects that if they did actually manage this feat they'd rather quickly adjust to the notion that those who win elections get to wield power.

MORE:

    -Jacob S. Hacker (Peter Strauss Family Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Yale University)

    -BOOK SITE: Off Center: The Republican Revolution & the Erosion of American Democracy.
By Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson


    -New America Foundation : Bio - Jacob Hacker

    -ESSAY:The Dispensable Man (Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, September 30, 2005, Washington Post)

    -ESSAY: ‘Economic risk has shifted from the government and corporations to workers and their families’ (Jacob S. Hacker, September/October 2005, Boston Review)

    -ESSAY: Bigger and Better: When it comes to providing broad-based social-insurance programs, it’s the government that’s rational and the market that’s dumb. (Jacob S. Hacker, 05.06.05, American Prospect)

    -ESSAY: Popular Fiction (Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson, 11.08.04, New Republic)

    -ESSAY: Good Medicine: Medicare does need changes. But its expansion is the key to eventual universal coverage. (Jacob S. Hacker and Mark Schlesinger, 10.01.04, American Prospect)

    -ESSAY: Bradley Does Healthcare (Jacob S. Hacker, October 7, 1999, The Nation)

    -ARCHIVES: Jacob S. Hacker (New Republic)

    -ARCHIVES: Jacob S. Hacker (American Prospect)

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2005 9:14 AM
Comments

Here's a good long-term guessing game -- try to figure out the political figure, business figure or celebrity who in the future will be the Republican president of the United States who is demonized by Democrats to the point they whistfully pine for the resturn to the era of responsible GOP governing like under George W. Bush.

That's pretty much inevitable, since today's Democrats demonize Bush while wishing the American public would wake up and realize Bush is evil and in no way like that nice Mr. Reagan (they're disingenuious about that, of course, but they do realize continuing their feverish rants from the 1980s about Reagan today would be self-defeating, so only the hardest core on the left still trot out the old playbook from when Reagan took office, when he was supposed to be more evil than Nixon and would certainly blow up the world).

Posted by: John at September 30, 2005 9:33 AM

Excellent essay.

Lurking around the seamier lefty sites, I can see them inching their way towards the realization that democracy is illegitimate because it keeps throwing up results that they disagree with. The stakes now being so large -- the oppression of the masses, the coming theocracy, the very survival of the planet -- it would be irresponsible of them to continue to work within an illegitimate system.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 30, 2005 9:49 AM

David --

The only thing that's held many of them off so far is the realization that, post-Sept. 11, a nostalgic return to the Weather Undreground tactics of the late 1960s and early 1970s wouldn't be the way to turn much of anyone to their side, even the usual radical chique cultists. But as their already-foggy memories of 9/11 fade further and further from that day, you may see a few of them decide they want to be the Bernardine Dohrns or Bill Ayers of their generation.

Posted by: John at September 30, 2005 10:04 AM

John:
The 80's was when Nixon became the distinguished elder statesman, right?

Mr. Cohen:
I'm actually a little nervous that these people are going to try to have their own revolution, with guns and bombs and suchforth. Sure, it's doomed to failure but how many will they take with them? I suppose I can take solace in the ignominious downfall of the Weather Underground.

Posted by: Governor Breck at September 30, 2005 10:05 AM

Seems to rely too much on the Dead Zone; Greg Stillson, nuclear holocaust; rage in the film, not
the book or the series, which seems to partake
of the same paranoia

Posted by: narciso at September 30, 2005 10:11 AM

Pacienza.

Don't forget these are people who like nothing more than to talk, talk, talk. Remember the all night bull sessions at the Clinton White House where they solved all the problems of the world. When they woke up, they forgot all about it and continued their muddling through without any positive actions.

The doers from the 60's are long gone and even this kind of talk will be coming to an end pretty soon because the boomers, the most self-absorbed generation ever to be born, are coming to a place where they'll be worrying about their retirement income, deteriorating bodies, cosmetic surgery, failing eyesight and hearing, etc. just like the rest of us geezers.

To the post boomer younger generations, the 60's might just as well be the 1860's for all the relevance to them. At least eight more and hopefully twelve more years of conservatives in the White House and we'll be well past the danger of even books about this dreary subject.

Posted by: erp at September 30, 2005 10:46 AM

Well done, Orrin. Are you drunk, too?

Posted by: Melissa at September 30, 2005 11:02 AM

Capitol Hill Blue is a one-man band, and this Doug Thompson character has been peddling variants of this same story for well over a year. Witness "Bush's Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides," published on June 4, 2004:

President George W. Bushs increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express growing concern over their leaders state of mind.

See also here.

The only thing that puzzles me is why the MSM hasn't latched on to this. The ideological distance between Doug Thompson and Pinch Sulzburger is measured in milimeters (go look at the headlines in his archive).

Posted by: Mike Morley at September 30, 2005 11:15 AM

Mike: I agree that this guy's nuts. And the denizens of DU are nuts. And the WWP Trotskyites are nuts. And almost no one who posts anything on the web is ever going to go out and do anything. But it's still disturbing to watch them inch their way towards at least theoretical revolution.

And when the most radical colonists started writing the pamphlets that ended up in Bailyn's Ideological Origins, nobody took them seriously, either.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 30, 2005 11:25 AM

Interested in hearing a Rick Perlstein comment on this essay.

Posted by: rds at September 30, 2005 11:43 AM

And almost no one who posts anything on the web is ever going to go out and do anything.

Hey !

That hurts.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 30, 2005 11:48 AM

Nice essay OJ. Maybe edit it up for TCS?

Posted by: Shelton at September 30, 2005 11:57 AM

rds:

You'll not be shocked to hear that Brother Perlstein wrote one of the cover blurbs.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2005 12:01 PM

Melissa:

By Thompson's standards I am, a former binge drinker who grew up.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2005 12:04 PM

Ugh. Still interested in how he would answer your critique.

I was halfway through reading his book on Goldwater, which was worthwhile, and then I inadvertently lost it when I moved into a new house about 15 months ago.

Posted by: rds at September 30, 2005 1:15 PM

OJ:
No, actually I am not shocked that Mr. Perlstein did that.

The continuous erosion of the left's political power in Washington, D.C. has driven them insane. They fail to realize that it is a cyclical event. At some point in the future, usually decades as these cycles work their way around, the Republicans will lose power and the Democrats will gain.

They have suffered the loss of a loved one, Power and have been in Denial (1994-2000), and are now into Anger (2000-200?). Next will come Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

Posted by: Mikey at September 30, 2005 1:23 PM

Damn. I'm raring to go, but the "t" on my keyboard is broken so I have to do a cut-and-paste time I arrive at that essential level.

Can you restart the thread when I get my new keyboard?

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 30, 2005 1:23 PM

"I'm actually a little nervous that these people are going to try to have their own revolution, with guns and bombs and suchforth."

Fortunately they have spent so many years avoiding the gun culture that they would undoubtedly do more harm to theirselves than they would to anybody else.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 30, 2005 1:29 PM

Rick: Jus7 7ype a "7" when you need a "t". We're already prac7iced a7 decoding your commen7s.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 30, 2005 1:34 PM

hey Rick, don't bother.

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at September 30, 2005 1:42 PM

Not reading DU is a real problem. I had missed the Bush is drinking meme. I surfed around came up with this gem:

"But what's striking is that this is the first time any mention of the President's reported return to the bottle has surfaced in the Big Media, eighteen months after it became common Washington gossip. Even a fairly circumstantial, though unsourced, National Enquirer story -- picked up by Randi Rhodes -- wasn't enough to surmount whatever invisible barrier lies between gossip and what passes for mainstream journalism these days."

Well, there you have it. Washington Gossip, the National Enquirer, and Randi Rhodes. Now there is a tri-fecta.

Oh well, back to sleep.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 30, 2005 2:02 PM

Bush displays greater mental acuity now than he did in the past. I suspect stress effects his verbal ability, and so after being re-elected he's relaxed and therefore speaks better. And if part of the reason he's more relaxed is that he's had a few, that's fine with me.

"he displayed little emotion or compassion when confronted with the horrors along the Gulf Coast."

When did crying during a crisis become an indication of sobriety?

Posted by: carter at September 30, 2005 2:15 PM

The guy's name is Hacker! Brilliant. Could this be a performance art on a genius level by some insanely talented conservative writer?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 30, 2005 2:20 PM

Interesting essay. I haven't seen Off Center yet, but I shall read it as soon as the Free Library gets a copy. Paying money for books like that would be like buying Soviet war bonds.

The theme that the emerged Republican majority is the product of the American constitution and the American spirit and people is worth looking at. The hard left people whom I have encountered over the years do think that way, which is why they are properly denominated enemies and traitors.

We should settle back and take a look as just how sick and dangerous these people are. They rave about killing parents, or they used to, and about shooting military officers, and "offing the pigs," and such-like.

I agree with erp and others who have posted above that times they are a changin', and that this sort of thing is fading rapidly. Without the draft it never would have gotten as far as it did. The hard left isn't worth the cost of a bullet in the side of the head. Their main effect is to provide a kind of ongoing theater of the value of American spirit and power--if they did not exist, we should have to invent them.

As to W's recovery from alchohlism, we recall that he did not do so without help--he has acknowledged the help he received, and that is a large part of why those people hate him so much.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 30, 2005 2:30 PM

Lou:

I've always found it interesting that the same people who deride W for having an addiction and beating it (with help from family, friends, and faith) seem to be almost worshipful toward those who had an addiction and self-destructed: e.g. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Belushi.

That seems to be one of those factoids that is profoundly significant; unfortunately, I don't quite know what it tells us.

Posted by: Mike Morley at September 30, 2005 2:53 PM

Mike:

Growing up makes them hate you.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2005 2:57 PM

Right OJ, but I think some folks paint the Boomers with too broad a brush. GWB is a Boomer too. Not all are ex-hippies. Some actually grew up. Anyway, we tried.

Posted by: jdkelly at September 30, 2005 6:39 PM

jd, if the shoe doesn't fit, don't try to wear it. Of course all boomers aren't hippies.

Posted by: erp at September 30, 2005 7:21 PM

And everyone in FLA isn't retired. (:}

Posted by: jdkelly at September 30, 2005 7:59 PM

d'Accord.

Posted by: erp at September 30, 2005 9:52 PM

Super essay. And David is right that it ultimately comes down to an attack on democracy. The left thinks history must move in one direction and, boy, do they get nasty when anyone suggests a detour.

Lou may be right that the wacky, Chomsky-mouthing left is marginalizing itself, but I'm far more concerned about how successful they are in taking issues out of the realm of polite conversation among the basically decent Volvo/soccer mom crowd. More and more I'm noticing how expressing any conservative opinion on such things as religion, global warming, sexual mores, George Bush and lots of others is met more with embarassment, impatience or even anger than any interest in debate, as if one were arguing for trial by ordeal or white supremacy. They just can't abide the fact that these issues have not been settled for all time. Just try to enliven a typical suburban barbeque party by suggesting you question darwinism.

Up here in Liberal Central, the Conservatives have become petrified of social issues because they know if they even raise the mildest of concerns about things like family cohesion or porn (never mind abortion), tens of thousands of ordinary Boomer women will hear: "We are going to take away your shoes." It's not that many of them have analysed the issues or that they come by their opinions honestly. Often they share the same impulses as conservatives, but the left has been so successful in demonizing its opponents by this kind of personal attack, that they fear to follow their instincts and common sense and just blather out the tired old party line that plays at the tennis club. They are much politer than the trolls we see around here who think they have scored big points by calling us stupid or evil, but in the end it's the same thing.

The greatest threat to democracy today is that the elites have come to see ordinary folk much like the Roman aristocracy saw the mob in late imperial times. Elites have always been snobbish and exclusionist, but the modern kind aren't motivated by protecting themselves and their families from the rough edges of common life. They want to protect themselves and their families from ideas.

Posted by: Peter B at October 1, 2005 7:37 AM

Peter: So far, in the states, we've more or less managed to be ruled by the mob and have locked up the elite in academia.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 1, 2005 10:10 AM

For the deranged left to even think about a revolution, it is going to have to figure out where the 'hard' targets are - power plants, armories, transportation hubs, substations, vital communications, and stuff like that.

Unfortunately for them, they fit Deng Tsiao-Ping's description to a tee: "they sit all day on the toilet, and they can't even s**t".

Posted by: ratbert at October 1, 2005 10:26 AM

Peter, an excellent analysis of the plight of conservatives living in liberal central, a place less defined by geography than by the inhabitant's casual acceptance of liberal dogma as the norm.

I read the Kos Krazies are openly advocating a bloody war to get back in power. Isn't there something in the Constitution about not plotting the violent overthrow of the government?

Posted by: erp at October 1, 2005 12:04 PM

David:

Good for you, but you should review your security. Quite a few seem to have escaped to run gift shops and craft stores in New England.

Posted by: Peter B at October 1, 2005 12:19 PM

Peter: That's supermax for the really hopeless cases. For those that need the equivalent of death row, there are always antique stores.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 2, 2005 1:15 PM
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