Monday, February 20, 2006

In Which I Surrender Completely to Pessimism, and Then Go Out for a Tsingtao
How many ways are we completely screwed? Well, today, at least three ways that we know of. First off, John Aravosis at AMERICABlog observes that with the happy compliance of the Republican majority in Congress, America will soon declare that the guys who wrote the Constitution got it wrong, and that George W. Bush has it right, and for that reason we should give him the unchallenged and unchallengeable authority to do whatever he feels is necessary, safe in the knowledge that he would never, ever abuse that power.

So that's one. But, you say, surrender not to pessimism, jb, we'll make it all right at the next election, oh yes we will. Well, before I can discuss the second way we're screwed, here's some backstory: You may have heard that Paul Hackett, the Iraq vet from Ohio who very nearly squeaked out a seat in the House last summer, dropped out of the race for the Democratic nom for the Senate seat currently held by Repug Mike DeWine. Dropped out, but not voluntarily--the national Democratic establishment chose to support current Congressman Sherrod Brown in the race, leaving Hackett up the creek without a paddle. So he huffily stomped out of public life.

I haven't followed this too closely, but from what I've read, Hackett wasn't exactly "betrayed" by the establishment--he was behind 2-1 according to his own polling, and Sherrod Brown has an organization in place, which Hackett does not. The choice of the national party to support Brown was pretty much SOP--and it's not like Brown is a Lieberman Democrat, or has no chance to take DeWine. But many people, some working for Hackett on the inside and many supporting him on the outside, are so personally hurt by this that they'd prefer DeWine win the election. It's the 2006 equivalent of the people from the Dean and Kucinich camps who swore they wouldn't support John Kerry, and who sulked off into apathy. So today comes news that a few of Hackett's staffers have helpfully released all of the opposition research they'd done on Brown so the Republicans can use it.

Shorter version: "I'm gonna hold my breath until I turn blue and die, and then you'll be sorry."

This prompted a post from Atrios, who has identified the second way in which we are screwed: If there's this much hysterical infighting over a Senate primary in Ohio, imagine what will happen when the 2008 presidential race rolls around. Democrats, always eager to form circular firing squads, will do a double-plus-ultra version of what we traditionally do--deliver into the general election campaign a candidate so badly wounded by the nomination fight that he or she is at a disadvantage against a united Republican Party.

Somebody said to me last year that there's no way we can lose the White House in 2008. Wrong. We can. If I had to bet right now, I'd say we will.

Let's leave aside the question, for the moment, of how united the Repugs will be in finding a successor to King George--if King George goes voluntarily in 2008. You heard it here first: If Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress in November, the first order of business for the new Congress will be to take up the resolution, introduced last summer, repealing the 22nd Amendment limiting presidents to two terms. (This would be How We Are Screwed, Reason 2B.) The resolution has been co-sponsored by at least two Democrats, who, in typical Democrat fashion, cite deeply philosophical reasons for repeal, ignoring entirely the grave practical threat it presents by making Bush eligible to be president for life.

The grave practical threat is, primarily, that we'll see more and more decisions like the following, which is the third way in which we are screwed. This particular way in which we are screwed, however, is several quanta above the ways that I have written about so far. This one can only be described as bugfuck insane, and sufficiently bugfuck insane to un-bugfuck anything I've ever characterized as bugfuck insane hitherto: the news late last week that we're handing security operations for six American ports to a Middle Eastern company. How many ways is this crazy? How can a country that's hacked off the entire Middle East, governed by people who generically hate nearly everybody who lives in the Middle East except for the Israelis and a few dozen handpicked Iraqi collaborators, possibly consider putting the safety of these places and the people and goods that pass through them, into the hands of a company based in the Middle East? "We make sure there are assurances in place, in general, sufficient to satisfy us that the deal is appropriate from a national security standpoint," says Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff. But Homeland Security isn't going to oversee the hiring of every single rent-a-cop and stevedore, and the fact is they'll have no idea about or control over who the security company is hiring. But don't worry, because Chertoff says you don't have to.

It's one thing for a government to screw up the big stuff. The big stuff is hard. But these people consistently, continually, repeatedly, screw up the little things, too. They screw up things that a random dude picked off the street could get right. Over and over again, in instance after instance.

Screwed, screwed, screwed. It's no longer a question of whether we're finished, it's a question of when. Our grandchildren will speak Chinese.

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