Political Animal

WATERLOGGED….Remember the army chaplain who

WATERLOGGED….Remember the army chaplain who was offering baths to dusty American soldiers in his 500-gallon pool if they agreed to be baptized? Eugene Volokh reprints a letter today indicating that if the facts of the story are correct, Llano’s church condemns his actions.

Good for them. I hope they look into the facts of the matter and take the proper disciplinary action if it’s warranted. And I still want to know what the army thinks of all this.


TIDBITS ABOUT THE WAR….I was poking around in the Washington Post poll vault this afternoon, and while I didn’t find what I was looking for, I did run across a few recent poll questions that I thought were interesting for one reason or another. Here they are:

Question 12. Have the antiwar demonstrations in the United States and other countries made you more likely to (oppose) the war, more likely to (support) the war, or haven’t they changed your opinion of the war one way or another?

   Oppose  Support  No change  No opinion
3/23/03  7   20   71    2

So for what it’s worth, it looks like the demonstrations were actually counterproductive. I don’t suppose that means they shouldn’t have taken place, but it’s too bad there wasn’t a better way to appeal to all those centrists who were uncertain about the war in order to gain support for a more patient, multinational effort.

Question 13. Which better expresses your own opinion – People have a right to demonstrate peacefully against the war and it’s a sign of a healthy democracy when they do so; OR, in wartime it’s better for the country to appear united, so opponents of the war should not hold antiwar demonstrations?

    Right to  Should not   No
   demonstrate  demonstrate  opinion
3/23/03   60    37   3

Question 14. (IF SHOULD NOT DEMONSTRATE) Do you think antiwar demonstrations should or should not be permitted as long as the United States is at war with Iraq?

   Should be  Should not be  No
   permitted  permitted  opinion
3/23/03   53    45    3

If you put these two questions together, it means that 16% of Americans think that anti-war demonstrations should have been illegal while troops were in the field. Crikey.

Question 17. Who do you think should take the leading role in rebuilding Iraq and helping its people set up a new government there after the war – the United States or the United Nations?

   United  United  Neither  Both   No 
   States  Nations  (vol.)  (vol.)  opinion
3/27/03  31   61   3   3   2

That’s interesting. Even given George Bush’s wartime popularity and the generally dim view Americans have of the United Nations, nearly two-thirds still think the UN should lead the rebuilding effort, not the United States.

Question 11. Do you think the United States will be able to justify this war ONLY if it finds weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical or biological weapons, in Iraq; or do you think the United States will be able to justify this war for other reasons, even if it does NOT find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

   Justify only  Justify even  Neither/No   No
   if find WMD  if no WMD  justification  opinion
4/3/03   22    69    6    3
3/20/03   35    53    7    6

Wow. Only about a third of Americans ever cared about the WMD argument in the first place, and in the space of only two weeks that percentage dropped by 13 points ? for no apparent reason except that we weren’t finding any.

I haven’t seen a poll that asked this question, but I wonder what most Americans considered the main reason for going to war with Iraq? If it wasn’t WMDs, what was it? And if it was really just general revulsion with Saddam Hussein’s regime, then getting the public whipped up for another campaign against Iran or Syria or whoever might be alarmingly easy, mightn’t it?

FIGHTING LIBERALS….Michael Tomasky writes in

FIGHTING LIBERALS….Michael Tomasky writes in The American Prospect today about how “reasonable” Democrats helped Rupert Murdoch assemble his grand conservative media empire. Basically, he says that we were so dedicated to being fair and open minded that we let Murdoch do his thing even though it was demonstrably bad for Democrats:

There’s a lesson in this, and in the whole tale, for our side. Tolerance for other views has been part of the very essence of liberalism since John Stuart Mill. Read Lionel Trilling’s brief introduction to The Liberal Imagination: He fretted not that conservatism might one day overtake liberalism (the notion was laughable in 1949) but that conservatism was so weak that liberalism would grow flaccid from its ideas not facing rigorous-enough scrutiny from the other side (which happened, in certain respects).

Well, this isn’t 1949, modern conservatism is not founded on toleration for other points of view, and Mr. Murdoch has an empire that’s just getting up a head of steam (FOX News Europe? FOX News India?) and that’s out to smash everything we believe. We need to quit being so damn reasonable about it.

Now, as it happens, in the same way that I think the ACLU was right to support the Skokie marchers, I think it’s right for Democrats to support tolerance of other viewpoints even if they hurt us. But that’s a quibble, and Tomasky’s overall point is well taken: it’s time for mainstream Democrats to stop being such wallflowers.

This is something that I think got missed in the extremism vs. moderation kerfuffle a couple of weeks ago. My problem is with extremist liberals who seem to go out of their way to alienate Middle America ? highly public vomit-ins, tree spikings, trips to Baghdad ? without ever thinking about what effect this might have on acceptance of the liberal agenda in general. However, I decidedly don’t have a problem with honest partisans who bang the liberal drum loudly and without compromise. That’s why I like Atrios so much, it’s why I like the fact that Democrats are showing some spine by filibustering Miguel Estrada, and it’s why Paul Krugman is my favorite columnist. They aren’t engaged in dumb street theater that accomplishes little except making liberals look scary, but they are loud, cranky, partisan, sometimes obnoxious, and they get under conservatives’ skins. And good for them for being that way.

We should remember that we lost only a couple of Senate seats in the 2002 elections, not exactly a massive repudation of the party’s policies, and poll after poll shows that the American public basically supports moderate Democratic positions on most social and economic issues. There’s no question that the party needs a tougher and more coherent message on national security if it wants to have any chance of winning in 2004, but if we can manage to get our act together on that ? a longshot, I admit ? there’s nothing about the rest of our agenda we need to apologize for or back away from. Americans like fighters and they like winners. Democrats should start acting like both.