When The Levee Breaks

The first crack in the neoconservative facade appeared tonight just after 11:00pm Eastern time, when Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman conceded his state’s Democratic primary to millionaire challenger Ned Lamont. Just three months ago polls showed the three-time incumbent senator held a commanding lead over his little-known opponent. With but three months before this year’s mid-term elections, conservatives everywhere must be feeling less secure than they have in quite some time.

Political pundits will undoubtedly paint Mr. Lamont’s stunning victory as one of an “antiwar” candidate over the “pro-war” senator, who stood resolutely by President George W. Bush from the outset of the so-called War on Terror, through its unraveling, and despite the exposure of its mismanagement and ineffective prosecution. The result of the Connecticut primary will be touted as a proxy for every race in which a “pro-war” incumbent stands for re-election in November.

But such a view is both short-sighted and poor strategy for achieving any real change in the status quo come next January.

At this writing, Senator Lieberman has promised to make good on his quixotic threat to remain in the race, running as an Independent in the November general election against Mr. Lamont and the Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger. The Democratic party faces a difficult test of its unity with competing calls to rally around the “people’s choice” in Mr. Lamont, and to find a graceful exit for Mr. Lieberman, the party’s Vice Presidential candidate in 2000 and a candidate for President in 2004.

The best way for Mr. Lamont — and for any Democrat challenging the neoconservative stranglehold on political power — to ensure victory come November lies not in a simplistic adoption of an “anti-war” platform. Rather, the gross mismanagement, craven corruption, and remorseless mendacity of the Bush administration and its supporters must be the focus of the debate.

Mr. Lamont and his fellow Democrats nationwide have to begin to articulate strategies for effective, alternative solutions to not only the rapidly devolving chaos in the Middle East, but also to people’s real concerns about social security, health care, education, and immigration. It’s not going to be enough to say “I’m anti-war,” especially in the light of many Democrats’ “pro-war” leanings.

Democrats need to show how the neoconservative approach to war and to the allocation of our national resources harms our long-term security interests and decreases the prospects for our collective prosperity.

Republicans have handed them a grand opportunity through years of widespread corruption and glaring incompetence with control of both the Executive and Legislative branches of government, but little will change unless Democrats like Mr. Lamont can explain why and how they will be any better at the task.


  1. Butler Crittenden - August 8, 2006 @ 11:43 pm

    Good news indeed. The first significant sign that George’s impeachment is a possiblity, that Americans are awakening, and that the Dems must address reality if they want to win in November. Sadly many don’t want the changes Lamont represents, so we’ll have to wait and see how many other Leibermans fall out of the cracks. While not an anti-Israel vote, Lieberman’s defeat shows a twinge of backlash about the crisis in Lebanon. Perhaps Lamont’s victory will contribute to serious negotiations and hamper the neocons’ plan for “war” with Iran.

  2. Tam O’Tellico - August 9, 2006 @ 8:57 am

    L: “Democrats need to show how the neoconservative approach to war and to the allocation of our national resources harms our long-term security interests and decreases the prospects for our collective prosperity.”

    While in theory the NeoCon ideal makes sense and is certainly more than palatable to the vast majority of Americans, in reality, as proven far too dramatically in Iraq, it ain’t gonna work where the rubber meets the root.

    As intellectuals, at least by reputation, the NeoCons should have been aware that what they were advocating had already been tried and failed about a thousand years ago. Unfortunately, hubris and high-tech weaponry blinded this bunch to history and reality.

    Given that the people have been reminded of this lesson even if the Prez and the NeoCons are yet to get the message, there is NO public support for Adventures in nIran except among the radical Armageddonistas. Absent another 9-11, there will be no war with Iran because nobody will go.

    Even the military, despite public posturing, has gotten the message.
    We aren’t smart enough or strong enough or rich enough to figure out what nobody has figured out in at least 4,000 years of human history:

    How to bring peace to those who love war more than they love their own children.

  3. Mike - August 9, 2006 @ 11:17 am

    Its been said before, but bears repeating in these times, “War is not healthy for children and other living things”. Clinton put it another way in his first bid, “Its the economy, stupid”. In other words Americans can be predicted to vote with their pocketbooks and will as soon as someone makes the convincing argument that this war is indeed disasterous for our own interests.


  4. JanFran - August 9, 2006 @ 6:22 pm

    Nice one, babe!

  5. Tam O’Tellico - August 10, 2006 @ 7:25 pm

    M:”Americans can be predicted to vote with their pocketbooks and will as soon as someone makes the convincing argument that this war is indeed disasterous for our own interests.”

    Of course Americans will vote their pocketbooks now that a great many someones have made very convincing arguments that this war is indeed disastrous and contrary to our own interests – including a number of our own generals. So what else would you expect reasonable people to do?

    Aren’t we entitled to re-examine the job this administration is doing three years after we were told “mission accomplished”? Oh, and weren’t we promised this war was not going to cost us anything, since the mere $72 billion would be paid back out of Iraqi oil revenues?

    Armchair Warriors like Bush, Cheney and Rove can rant about traitors all they like, but the fact is, many of us believe the real traitors are the leaders who mismanaged this war, threw our money at their friends, and made us less safe in the process. Damn right, I object!

    I vehemently object to spending huge sums of money to fight a suspect war with suspect tactics, with a substantial portion of that money going to suspect companies doing suspect work and billing for suspect charges. No-bid contracts and no questions asked blind loyalty given to those who don’t deserve it should always be objected to.

    It makes no more sense to throw good money after bad in a bad war than it does to throw good money after bad in a bad welfare system. What the hell’s the difference if your money is wasted on weapons or welfare? If only the fans of Bush howled as loudly about ineptitude in Iraq as they howl about ineptitude in Social Services. Wonder why they don’t? Maybe it’s because they’re making big money off war and weapons.

    I also object to the costs of this war being disproportionately dumped on ordinary Americans like me while fat cats who profit most from this war are given huge tax cuts. If Bush wants to impress me with the worth of his cause, he will start asking everybody to sacrifice – including his rich friends. He might start with a war tax derived from an excess profits tax on Big Oil and Big Pharma.

    But all we’re likely to get from this administration is more Rovian rhetoric.

  6. lonbud - August 10, 2006 @ 9:29 pm

    Exactly the point of the post: the argument must be framed convincingly that not only has BushCo completely mishandled the task at hand — ample evidence of which is strewn about like so much collateral damage — but that there are different ways to approach the economic and cultural imbalances rampant in the world today.

    Should the Iraqi’s Civil War be something that just plays itself out? What is the US military’s function there now? Can we handle guerrilla theaters in Afghanistan, Iraq, AND Iran?

    There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear…

  7. Michael Herdegen - August 16, 2006 @ 12:33 am

    A Time exit poll of those primary voters showed that 80% oppose the Iraqi pacification, and 60% “strongly” oppose it.
    Yet Lamont got only 52% of the vote.

    So lonbud’s point is correct, simply being anti-war isn’t a winning national strategy – although it might be a strong supporting pillar of such a strategy.

    I also agree with Tam that there won’t be a ground war in Iran, although we might bomb them a bit.

  8. Tam O’Tellico - August 16, 2006 @ 9:03 pm

    At the rate at which the fool who would be king is alienating ordinary citizens and generals, this could well be the realization of that long ago fantasy “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” Short of a serious terrorist attack in this counrty, we won’t even bomb Iran.

    I must also add that after watching Iran’s president parry Mike Wallace rather ably on Sixty Minutes, I was left with the inescapable conclusion that while he may dress like Ralph Kramden, this supposed madman is certainly no fool. One cannot help but wonder if that appelation is being tossed at the wrong President.

  9. Michael Herdegen - August 18, 2006 @ 5:54 am

    Right – because he’s articulate and learned, he just can’t be either crazy or dangerous. No doubt he also likes jazz and long romantic walks in the soft summer rain.

  10. Tam O’Tellico - August 18, 2006 @ 5:56 am

    When does a levee become a levy? Here’s more on the unshining example of so-called disaster relief provided by this so-called administration. So much for so-called Free-Market forces.


  11. Tam O’Tellico - August 18, 2006 @ 6:04 am

    Wrong – I’m not saying I want him for a next door neighbor, let alone my President; I’m saying we would be wise to understand that this man is no fool. Unfortunately, the press – I’m sure encouraged by this administration – seems to go to great pains to portray this man as an idiot figurehead propped up by the ayatollahs, and I’m saying that is no more than a half-truth at best. I’m saying that to know one’s enemy is far better that to misunderestimate him – as even Bush and Rummy should have learned by now. I’m saying that from what I’ve seen of the titular leaders of Iran and the US, the latter appears to be far more a fool than the former.

  12. lonbud - August 18, 2006 @ 4:55 pm

    It’s debatable who’s more crazy and dangerous, w or Ahmadinejad. It’s no contest as to who’s more articulate and learned.

  13. Michael Herdegen - August 18, 2006 @ 11:52 pm

    Well, I have no opinion about whether Ahmadinejad is a fool, but he’s playing a dangerous game. On the one hand, a lot of what he says is for domestic consumption, but he’s also committed to attempting to build Iranian influence regionally, to take over where Iraq after Saddam, and Syria after the Cedar Revolution, have retreated.
    If he plays it right, he’s a big hero. If he drastically overreaches – Israel or America bombs his ace-in-the-hole.

    So far, I don’t see any reason to believe that he’s commandingly skillful at international intrigue. The Iranian-funded Hizbollah just used up $ 25 million worth of Iranian arms, equipment, and supplies to kill 41 civilians – 23 Israeli Jews and 18 Arabs. And that costly debacle did nothing to delay the UN Security Council from resolving to implement sanctions against Iran if Iran won’t give up their nuclear weapons programme.

    Where’s the win for Iran in that ?

  14. Tam O’Tellico - August 19, 2006 @ 5:43 pm

    I for one am scared shitless – and it ain’t about terrorists. Even two more years of the fool who would be king and his svengali crooked dick and we will have a lot more to worry about than terrorism – like eating for instance. If these “Free-Market Conservatives” continue to disperse the national treasury to their free-loading friends like Halliburton, we’ll all be begging in the streets.

    Bush’s accountants must moonlight for Ford. Unlike the administration’s usual exercise in imaginary numbers, check out these from the CBO:

    “Today, the Congressional Budget Office released its budget projections, estimating the deficit will rise to $286 billion in fiscal 2007, up from this year’s $260 billion projected deficit. Moreover, the long-term outlook remains bleak; total deficits over the next decade are estimated at $1.7 trillion.

    According to CBO estimates, a phased withdrawal would save $416 billion on the deficit over the next four years and $1.28 trillion over the next decade. On the other hand, a strategy of “stay the course” will increase the deficit by $313 billion over the next four years and $1.3 trillion over the next decade.”

    Now that’s Shock and Awe – especially since we were told this war was over three years ago and that it wouldn’t cost us a dime – in fact, we’d make money on the deal. No doubt, somebody made money on this war, but it wasn’t you and me.

    Bush’s solution to deficits? Make massive tax cuts for the rich permanent and get rid of estate taxes, the so-called “Death Tax”. I got news for these clowns, the only people I know who are paying a Death Tax are the soldiers fighting and dying in this ill-begotten, ill-managed war.

    If someone want to do something about the deficit, how about a 100% obscene profits tax on Halliburton’s Iraq/Katrina booty? How about eliminating tax concessions to Big Oil?

  15. Michael Herdegen - August 20, 2006 @ 12:41 am

    Well, Tam, take heart. The CBO’s fiscal 2006 Federal budget deficit estimate was too high by one hundred billion dollars, or 30%.
    There’s no reason to believe that their fiscal 2007 estimate will be any better.

    Even the White House issued a too-high mid-year fiscal 2006 Federal budget deficit estimate, and that was six months after the CBO’s.

    The CBO’s estimate of what the Federal budget deficit might be over the course of a decade is complete garbage. No one, and I mean NO ONE, has ever correctly predicted such a thing a decade out. There are too many variables. If you’re ever reading something, and it includes a prediction for anything but top-line growth, such as how much business investment there will be over the next decade, or how much the government will collect in taxes over the next decade, you can safely discard every bit of info except the trend line.
    All ten-year derivitive projections tell us is which way the trend is heading.

    Which the CBO has right. No matter what happens in Iraq, whether we instantly withdraw all troops or not, the deficit will be bigger in ten years.
    The Boomer retirement and SS bankruptcy guarantees it.

    But that’s not necessarily a scary thing. If the economy keeps growing, a little extra debt isn’t going to be a back-breaker. For instance, if the economy keeps growing at the average rate since WW II, in ten years’ time the GNP will be around $ 18 trillion – and that’s allowing for one two-year-long recession. If we somehow avoid a recession for another ten years, then $ 18.5 trillion.
    So if we really did add another $ 1.3 trillion in debt, that’d only be 30% of GNP top-line growth, which ain’t bad.

  16. lonbud - August 20, 2006 @ 10:53 am

    Right. All is well. Nothing to see here, move along now.

  17. Michael Herdegen - August 21, 2006 @ 2:25 am

    It’s not the best that it could be, but until and unless we reform SS, it’s the best that it’s going to be.

  18. lonbud - August 21, 2006 @ 8:16 pm

    I’d say the reform ought more likely come through an overhaul of tax policy in general, and not just to SS administration. If we are going to pin the hopes of our way of life on a system rooted in consumption, we ought to tax it less and incentivize it more. A greater tax on those who enjoy the juicy fruits of the consumer economy would ensure broader satisfaction throughout the economy.

  19. Michael Herdegen - August 22, 2006 @ 9:25 pm

    The problem with directly taxing consumption less, and business profit more, is that the latter is also a partial tax on consumption, since businesses pass on all or part of their increased costs to their consumers, and it’s a partial tax on employment, since fewer businesses will be created if profit margins are lower.

    Federal corporate tax rates are already higher than Federal personal income tax rates, and there are no automatic exclusions, so large businesses pay more taxes per dollar of net income than do individual consumers.

    Finally, if we were to enact such a scheme, it would hurt Wal~Mart’s competitors more than Wal~Mart, thus further strengthening their dominance over the American consumer, which I find hard to believe that you’d be happy about.

  20. lonbud - August 22, 2006 @ 11:11 pm


    Corporate Tax payments as a percentage of GDP (one of your favorite measuring sticks, Michael) were at record lows, a mere 1.2% in 2003 — the lowest level (save for 1983 in the Reagan salad days) since 1937. While they poked back over 2% in 2005, that was due to a temporary rollback in corporate welfare and near record corporate profits, at over 12% of GDP.

    Only three times have corporate profits been higher in the post-WWII period, never since 1965, and when they were, corporate taxes as a percent of GDP were 65% higher than they are today.

  21. Michael Herdegen - August 24, 2006 @ 4:53 am

    Of course corporate taxes make up only a small amount of tax receipts – the vast bulk of income in America is personal wages. Workers take home a MASSIVELY larger share of the pie than do the companies that they work for.

    At my small company, wages are equal to about 50% of revenues, and operating profits are under 10%.

  22. lonbud - August 24, 2006 @ 9:55 pm


    You speak of “workers” as some kind of monolithic drain on GDP, when in fact, as a whole, workers are generally responsible for the production of far more than 50% of revenues. In addition, their slice of the pie is split among exponetially larger numbers of hungry mouths than is the slice that goes to those who receive the operating profits.

    Your answer completely ignores the historical imbalance in the ratio of corporate profits/GDP to corporate taxes/GDP that exists today. A similar imbalance in the ratio of wages/GDP to personal payroll+sales+income taxes/GDP exists, and until those two ratios are brought back to their historical norms this country will be f*cked.

  23. Michael Herdegen - August 25, 2006 @ 3:38 am

    [W]orkers are generally responsible for the production of far more than 50% of revenues.

    Since workers are responsible for the production of 100% of revenues, I agree with your statement. However, workers need many supporting preconditions to be met before they can be productive, all of which cost money or effort, and so they cannot claim all of the revenues, or they’d swiftly be out of a job. Kill the Golden Goose, as it were.

    In addition, their slice of the pie is split among exponetially larger numbers of hungry mouths than is the slice that goes to those who receive the operating profits.

    In the first place, you don’t know that. You’re simply regurgitating some hoary Marxist cliche about the oppressed teeming proletariat and the scheming, bloodless bourgeoisie.
    There may well have been a time when there was some truth to those characterizations, but no longer. Now business owners and corporate shareholders are just as likely to have families as are the workers.

    If we’re simply comparing gross numbers of workers to business owners/shareholders, then we should recognize that there’s a considerable overlap between the two groups. Over half of all American households hold stock, and most business owners start out as workers.

    In the second place, so what? Profits are a much smaller slice of the pie than are wages, and corporate profits are taxed at much higher rates, so it seems as though there’s already been accommodation for the “hungry mouths”.

    …until those two ratios are brought back to their historical norms this country will be f*cked.

    Yeah, what with the low unemployment and growing economy, this is truly the worst of all possible worlds, eh ?

    Besides, as it happens, history didn’t begin with your birth. For the vast majority of human history, there was no separation of taxation for businesses and individuals. Therefore, to go back to the “historical norm”, we’d have to lower business taxes. Or raise personal taxes.

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