Thursday, July 20, 2006


David Broder is not the stupidest man alive

David Broder will never be regarded as the stupidest man alive. At least as long as Donald Luskin walks the earth, anyway. Atrios has covered this issue in brief, but how many people clicked through to read the Barney Frank speech that Broder references in a recent article? Barney Frank, always the satirist, said that the US was not a dictatorship, it was a banana republic run by a strongman who had won one of his two elections. Broder, in his densely sententious way, figures that that's acceptable for America. Here are two key excerpts from Broder: Frank began by separating himself from the strident voices on the left -- frequent in the world of blogging -- that accuse Bush of subverting American democracy.... A Congress that challenges a president when it thinks he is wrong is not infringing on the rights of the "decider." It is reminding him that the Constitution and American history decree a division of power, with a set of checks and balances that make this a different form of democracy from that of parliamentary systems -- or disguised dictatorships such as those run by Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and Hosni Mubarak. That is why Frank's speech is important. (emphasis added). As a strident left blogger, let me say that Egypt's dictatorship isn't especially well-disguised, except perhaps from the American people. Our own State Department calls it "progress" when in 2005 token opponents to the Mubarak regime are allowed to conduct campaigns. Most observers think that Mubarak's 88% margin was decided in advance of the election. At the other extreme, Chavez has disguised his dictatorship exceptionally well by being elected and reconfirmed in free and fair elections, defeating opponents who controlled the media. But Broder was greatly cheered because liberal Barney Frank compared Bush to Hugo Chavez. Bashing Chavez fits the propaganda script of Pravda on the Potomac, as Lambert calls it and so the rhetorical hook slides right past Broder's jaw. Does Barney Frank really think Hugo Chavez is a threat to democracy in Venezuela? Probably not. He supported him against the Bush coup, criticized him for imperfections in the voting process... and, according to Frank's website, hasn't mentioned him in the last three years. So the Chavez mention is a rhetorical tactic analogous to "hugging the beltbuckle," as Viet vets experienced the Viet Cong military tactic of getting in so close that it's impossible to deliver suppressing fire. Frank is pretending to adopt the worldview of Republicans to insult them by comparing their leader to one of their hate objects. A classic Barney Frank rhetorical prank. And David Broder, slackjawed and snoring, swallowed it. Here is some of what Barney Frank had to say: What we have is a President who won the election in 2004, was declared the winner of the election in 2000, much more dubiously. ... If you assume that Florida was counted 100 percent accurately, a very hard assumption to make, George Bush still fell half a million votes behind Al Gore... But from then on, he took the position that as President, he was, as he later articulated it, the ``decider.'' That is not a word that you find often in American history. ... So we have had a very different kind of American Government. We have had an American Government in which the President gets elected and exercises an extraordinary amount of power. It is democracy, but it is closer to plebiscitary democracy than it is to the traditional democracy of America. Plebiscitary democracy, political scientists use to describe those systems wherein a leader is elected, but once elected has almost all of the power.... We had a debate here a month ago on the floor of this House on the right of the President to ignore legislation passed 30 years ago, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act... What Congress had decided with Presidential approval became irrelevant. ... You know, it is one thing if the President says, well, there is no law here, I have got to do what I need to do. That is dubious and we can get to it. But where the law has been set out in a prescribed constitutional manner as to how you do something, and the President says I am not going to do it that way, I will do it my way, then you are into plebiscitary democracy. Then you are into the democracy that says no checks and balances. No, Congress, I will do what I think necessary. ... . Now some have argued, well, the President can do anything unless he is explicitly told he cannot. Not in this administration. They believe the President can do anything he wants, even if he is told he can't. ... Shutting out the Congress means that you think you are perfect, that you think you can do these things, that you can exercise these extraordinary powers and you don't need anybody to say, wait a minute, maybe you should do it this way or that way. ... One of the things this administration has used more than every other administration in history is the right, when signing a bill, a right that they claim to sign a bill, the Constitution says Congress passes a bill, the President can either veto it or sign it. And they say, okay, here is the deal, we will sign it, but when we sign it, we will say that we are really signing these parts and not the other parts, because we consider some of it unconstitutional, so we will ignore it. That is a wholly unconstitutional approach. The President has a right to say, this is unconstitutional, I don't like it. His job then is to veto the bill. But what he does is he picks and chooses; he thinks the legislation is a supermarket. He walks in, he takes some from here, some from there, he discards what he doesn't like. That is not appropriate. ... What we have again is the assertion that a President gets elected and essentially is the decider in ways that really go contrary to the notion of participation by other segments. Yes, it is true you win an election and you gain some power. This is a very big, very complex country. It really is not a good idea for one individual, even one who was legitimately elected in an election in which there was no contest, and we certainly didn't have that in 2000, to be the decider, to diminish input from others. Now, again, I have to reiterate that this could not have happened without the collaboration of a supine Congress. Never in American history has Congress been so willing to give away its constitutional function. I know people have said, well, what do you expect, it is a Republican President and a Republican Congress. That is what happens. No, the history of the United States is that even when the same party controlled the Presidency and the Congress, Congress did oversight.... So we have seen no oversight. That has played into the hands of the plebiscitary Presidency, into the hands of a President who is allowed more power than is healthy for a society. And I reiterate, I am not charging authoritarianism. It still is a free country, and I encourage people to use that freedom and to be critical and to organize. But we are still talking about a very, very different mode of governance, the mode of governance in which, instead of the checks and balances and the collaboration and the input of a lot of people, you get one man making the decisions.... Now, I understand that democracy can be messy and it is not always neat, but we have not before this had an executive branch that considered it to be more of a nuisance than anything else. ... I acknowledge now that when I told friends over these past couple of years that we should just go policy issue by policy issue and not talk about the overall framework of governance, I was wrong. It is now clear to me there is a pattern to this administration's actions, and it is one that rejects not democracy, but the democracy of checks and balances and participation and cooperation and collaboration that we have long known; and it substitutes the democracy of the plebiscite, the democracy of the strong man who gets elected and is then allowed to go forward without interference. Does anyone have any doubt that Frank was using the term "plebiscitary democracy" as a sarcastic synonym for "banana republic"? Does anyone have any doubt that "plebiscitary democracy" is one man's whim away from dictatorship? Does doubt remain that no trace of conscience or intellect remains in David Broder, that he is merely a mass of grudges and prejudices animated by the habits of a lifetime of being a servant of power?
Broder will never say or do anything that might endanger his standing invitations to Beltway cocktail parties. The stench of rotting bodies, in Iraq or New Orleans, never seems to find its way into his privileged nostrils.
Was he a Katrina denier, PW?

So little time, so many dopes.
He was one of the first to attempt to spin the destruction of New Orleans in Bush's favor. Make of that what you will.
More of an exploiter of sorrow than a denier of it, then.

I hope someday the truth about whether Broder was the one who wrecked Muskie's presidential run comes out. I get the sense this guy is the original operative.
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