Hillary’s Decent But Imperfect Plan For ISIS

Politics is tough; leadership is tough. Sometimes it’s hard to represent people, especially in their less rational emotions like fears and hopes, without stirring the pot. So, the day after a murderous terrorist attack in Belgium, many Americans are wondering if we will ever be done with attacks like this.

And make no mistake, despite lower body counts than many other events, these attacks truly are terrorism in that they scare us apart from each other, out of our public spaces, and into different ways of life. They are intentional; they are meant to hurt us—this is different than an accidental plane crash, or even a school shooting. Both of these can be reduced in certain ways. But can we ever stop a suicide bomber without losing too much? It’s a tough question.

With those feelings so raw it can be tough to swallow Hillary’s language that we need to not alienate Muslims at home and abroad that might help us. Why should we trust them? Well, in the case of Belgium, it appears that the Batacalan attacker was caught through just such efforts.

We have also had some success at rolling back ISIS with only a handful of advisers on the ground, using mostly local troops.

Leaving to one side Donald Trump’s insane suggestion that we damage our NATO alliance, which Hillary dismissed outright, her plans for ISIS are very conventional. They will not bring about a catharsis and we will only ever watch the problem slowly decrease instead of disappear in shock and awe.

Many people are so frustrated with the crimes of the Bush years that they reflexively want to end or drastically cutback all American intervention abroad both in security and economic matters. If only it were so simple. If only spastic radical changes would reset everything into a brave new world. But such changes would create more losers, more upheval, and more friction.

For one, Obama is showing that we have a lot of work to do in our own hemisphere. As the Castro/Chavez/Morales axis wanes in the region, an America not obsessed with fighting the Cold War needs to responsibly fill the vacuum.

It’s worth preserving the international status quo of the Clinton-Obama years and Hillary is the only candidate standing likely to do that, unless you consider John Kasich to be “standing.”

But it’s obvious that her technocratic approach, while certain to be effective, may not be forceful enough to contain the volcano of discontent spewing from the Middle East. Right now, we have had a better year than last. We have a nuclear deal with Iran and tentative cease fires in Syria and Yemen. But pause too long to exhale and these will only result in more conflict if the underlying dynamics aren’t radically altered.

So, for now, Clinton’s involuntarily trademarked cautious incrementalism is indicated. But if the paradigm shifts due to some external factor, we need to be ready for more dramatic action.


Every time there is a mass shooting at a school, we hear about how there must be gun control. What is striking is that, for the most part, the same folks who want gun control—something I agree with—react to terrorist attacks with the same kind of victim-blaming and dissembling that the NRA people peddle after a mass shooting.

The NRA says #notallguns. The left tends to say #notallrefugees. But in the wake of a tragedy and in the absence of a ready way to figure out which guns and which refugees, the heuristic most people apply to deal with the sadness and fright they feel is to generalize. Is it the highest minded rational thinking? No, probably not.

But what should be clear is that on the other side of the Atlantic, a political philosophy has created a cultural crisis that never would have happened if people had been realistic about the integration challenges they face. This was no surprise to me, since Europeans have been assuming, for example, that inside every Palestinian was a parliamentary democrat trying to get out. But it’s wrong.

On our side of the Atlantic, a belief that guns keep us free is killing us. They’re both ideological blinders to the facts with deadly consequences.

In Defense of Alleged Moderates

Before we get started, we have to define some terms. There are moderates with a record of doing something and those without one. Beyond that, I have to wonder if the moderate really exists. For example, did someone passionately believe that civil unions were the solution to the question of gay marriage or was it someone who believed in gay marriage being tactical? I suspect most so-called moderates are simply choosing different tactics.

Maybe there are really a few people out there who intensely like the death penalty only in cases of terrorism, who don’t see it as either totally OK or not. Maybe there are really a few people who intensely, deeply feel that it makes a big difference whether you have an abortion in the first trimester or the first day of the second.

I suspect, at the end of the day, in the majority of cases, the difference comes down to the person’s relationship with the opposition (and therefore democracy itself) or their examination of the political landscape. It is all too tempting to believe that when a country elects a Democratic president that it’s ready for a massive political revolution. Maybe that’s true on a certain level, but within our constitutional framework, it’s contingent on that support spreading to Congress, like it did in 2006-2008.

The progressives and the revolutionaries in today’s debate seem to think that doing anything half ways is corruption. But when things are accomplished, it helps actual people. When it does so in a way that both sides can grudgingly accept, that’s democracy.

So, the moderate with a record of success deserves our thanks. The one that fails, or who gives up too much ground, however, deserves a critical review.

But the ideologue held to this same standard will likely fail. The Ralph Naders and Bernie Sanders of the world have been good at making people hold progressive ideals. They have been terrible at translating those ideals into progress. Since I am skeptical that many people are “intensely moderate” and most people have up-or-down beliefs about most things, it’s good to get people to those up-or-down beliefs through persuasion the way people who build movements like Sanders can do. Convincing people that health care is a right is great work. Being sad that not every person that holds that belief is headed for the ramparts to get it is not.

The truth is, we need both, but the fill different roles in our politics. The movement leaders change minds; the elected officials have to put those ideals in action. A rare few people have been both.

Martin Luther King lead the movement, but it took a wily political operator like LBJ to get civil rights enacted. Such partnerships are there throughout history if you’re willing to look.

One alleged moderate hated by today’s progressives is Bill Clinton. But when Clinton came to office, he led with two rather revolutionary policy initiatives: gays in the military and universal healthcare. It was the Democratically controlled Congress that stopped both of them. Then, in 1994, when the Republicans came in, it was a miracle he got anything done at all.

Another alleged moderate that today’s progressives are more shy about hating is Barack Obama. But when Obama came to office, he led with a revolution in health care reform that passed by the skin of its teeth through a Democratically controlled Congress and it was in doubt until the very last vote, in doubt until the Supreme Court finally, barely, let it stand. Yet somehow, Obama needed to enact single payer? Then, in 2010, when the Republicans came in, he bargained harder than many give him credit for (including myself at the time) and won substantive improvement for many people’s lives.

I am very inclined to hear arguments that our system has very serious flaws, including far too many veto points (though I imagine myself eating crow on that one if Cruz or Trump are elected) but an argument for systematic change isn’t and can’t be an argument against someone who did what they could in the existing system.

And the reality is, massive Constitutional change isn’t popular at the moment. Maybe someone should start a movement about that.


“Hoonism” and Mitt Romney

Yes, IT can happen here. Indeed, a junior varsity version of IT did happen here during the Bush junta’s Fear Years (September 12, 2001 – September 1, 2005 or 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina) in which many of the American people, but just as importantly, our supposedly moderating institutions were meerily hoodwinked into starting Iraq War II to “keep us safe” and people with the intelligence to not support that disaster were labeled as treasonous. Of course, Generalissimo Bush left office as one of the least popular presidents in American history and 7+ years of “history’s judgment” have not been kind. Still, Bush II did not change from 9/11 to Katrina. We the People did. Enough of us removed the blinders of Bush’s lies and stupidity, proof positive that We the People (or at least way too many of us) allowed them to be put on in the first place.

Anyone dumb enough to think that Mr. T does not know precisely what he is doing in being a KKKonservative Klandidate is also dumb enough to think that he doesn’t mean it. Witness the half-lobotomized vocal cord with shoes Chris Matthews, bloviating on MSNBC that maybe Mr. T talks about infrastructure and building things in the general election ’cause he has built stuff and perhaps we get a “wall and roads” when he is President. Right. Like any politician that needs to be re-elected (assuming we still have elections) will not try to deliver for their base. Make no mistake,  Mr. T’s base is White Nationalism.

What does IT look like in Mr. T’s America? Here’s my guess: Mr. T will attempt to rally support for deporting eleven million illegal immigrants. Congress will reject most of it, but Mr. T can still make plenty of a difference via Executive Orders. If anyone thinks that the same interests that label Obama’s use of Executive Orders as “imperial” will have a problem with Mr. T using EOs to enforce his agenda , all I can say is HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! Where formal ICE agents cannot or will not  deport all eleven million undocumented immigrants heavily armed “Patriot Groups”  will begin outing undocumented immigrants for them. Many people will oppose this, likely disproportionately those of other religious and ethnic minorities who will correctly see themselves as being next. Some in these groups will adhere to the side of “law and order” to keep themselves safe, but I suspect the majority will be motivated to protect and help their fellow humans. Thus other minority groups will likely fall under further suspicion, perhaps with more Patriot Groups doing their Patriotic duties to “out” those sympathetic to undocumented workers. The more this round up tears apart society and, along with the trade wars with China and Mexico, damages the economy the more impetus there will be to get rid of Them to keep Us safe and prosperous.

Last week: enter Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP deserve 99.99% of the blame for Mr. T. They are the ones that have stoked racism as a fundamental political strategy since 1968. They are the ones that sought to oppose Obama at every turn — as though tail chasing delusion was better than governmenting with a black Democrat. As a result, they are the ones that no longer have any ideas for governing, or even acknowledgment of problems like global warming. Romney had no problem with Mr.T’s hammy birther racism in 2012. Yes, Romney’s “self-deportation” nonsense circa 2012 is the non-alcoholic beer to Mr. T’s 2016 nativism. Yes, Romney’s unprecedented opposition to Mr. T overlaps with his own interests to perhaps be the “White Knight” at a brokered convention. Yes, overall, Romney is a venal termite.

And yes, Mitt Romney recognized the unAmerican, authoritarian, violent nightmare of a Mr. T presidency and chose to forcibly speak out against it.

By and large, rather than taking Romney’s denunciation of Mr. T as proof positive of Mr. T’s scary agenda, the Middle and the Left have resorted to the facile comfort of Hoonisms. In this case, the “Hoonism” is the man-bites-dog story of Mr. T beating up “the Establishment” and the easy peasy (and oh so very accurate) hypocrisy charge that Romney is largely guilty of the same resentment-mongering as Mr. T. Witness witless witness Maureen Dowd cheering the “wicked fun” or Mr. T’s candidacy tearing apart said establishment before limply acknowledging its “wickedness.” [For me the “wicked fun” of beating the GOP establishment was electing and re-electing a Democrat, having him enact much of his agenda, and having him “keep America safe” by actually killing Osama bin Laden through a pin point military exercise, rather than missing bin Laden in a pointless full-scale war.] Similarly, Saturday Night Live cut a funny “racists for Trump” fake commercial last Saturday. Their vehemence would stick had the selfsame Mr. T not hosted SNL a few months prior.

Will Willard Mitt Romney be remembered as a smarmy shape-shifting pol that was ultimately hoisted by his own petard by the very backwards elements he sold himself out to? Or, will Romney be recalled as a man whose ambitions silenced his conscious for so long that when he did let his conscious speak not enough people wanted to listen because he was so compromised and his warning was too unpleasant?

The remnant of the respectable Right is being routed. It’s up to those of us of the Left and the Middle to determine the outcome. If we want Mr. T to be a freaky funny footnote to history and for Mittens to remain a punchline, we have to stop Hooning away the warnings from anyone that demands that we contemplate the unwanted dangers of having Mr. T’s stubby fingers using the might of the federal government for an ethnic cleansing campaign in the USA. Even if that anyone includes Mitt Romney.