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“The House That Scalia Built”: The Bitter Beginning Of The 21st Century That Scalia And The Bush Dynasty Gave Us

Two waves broke this week: a pair of deaths on our national shore that changed everything. They are inseparable in the annals of our time. Goodbye to all that a Supreme Court Justice wrought, and the House of Bush brought.

If only it were that simple.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is dead at 79, the Dickensian, most opinionated character on the bench. Friends — many of whom knew him as an operagoer, a city denizen, and an avid socializer — called the father of nine children Nino. His burial is Saturday.

The “master of invective,” as one put it, Scalia was considered brilliant, and was often callous in withering dissents on, for example, gay marriage. Taking a dim view of President Obama’s lead in the delicate Paris Agreement on climate change, his last vote was to immobilize the emissions standards. How nice of five Republican men to disrespect the Democratic president in the world’s eyes. As it happens, the Folger Shakespeare Library is staging “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — fitting, considering Titania’s haunting lines that warn of global warming.

Nobody on the creamy marble Court was more polarizing since the Civil War. The unabashed carrier of the conservative cross, Scalia seldom let up on his pounding force and lashings, even in victory.

On “60 Minutes,” Scalia scolded half the American people, saying: “Get over it!” He referred to the infamous 2000 Supreme Court decision that swung the presidency from Al Gore to George W. Bush by one vote. He had a chance to be civil; he didn’t take it.

Meanwhile, the Bush dynasty hangs onto its last breath with Jeb Bush’s floundering presidential campaign. His brother, former President George W. Bush, left Texas to campaign, but the magic was missing. The 43rd president looked aged. Jeb has a penchant for saying their father, Bush senior, is the “greatest man alive,” or some such.

Here’s the double knell: The House of Bush is the House that Scalia built. At least, he was an architect. Now a tragic link ties those names together.

Their historical cadence will join other follies. “Sophocles long ago/Heard it on the Aegean,” English poet Matthew Arnold wrote in “Dover Beach.” Now I know what Arnold meant when he saw an elegiac sadness in ages and armies.

All we need to do is go back to 2000 — when our known world ended — when five Republican Supreme Court justices gave new meaning to “one man, one vote.” The deciding votes were out of the citizens’ hands; nine officials voted 5-to-4 — freezing a close vote count in Florida to determine the true winner. They shut democracy down.

That rude decision changed the course of the 21st century. George W. Bush swerved into war in Iraq, giving rise to ISIS today. Remind me: What were we fighting for? Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, were the pretext to war, when 19 men (15 Saudis) were hijackers in a clever plot. The unprepared U.S. Army and the American viceroy, Paul Bremer, destroyed civil society in Iraq. What a mess.

The Court outrage for the ages must not be forgot in Scalia’s dramatic death, political to the end. The decision is full of rich contradictions. Scalia, who often mocked “nine unelected lawyers” in democracy, sprang into action by stopping vote counting in Florida. The governor of Florida then was Jeb Bush. In unseemly partisanship, Scalia departed from his so-called “originalist doctrine” to strongly urge the Court to stop counting. He also abandoned his emphasis on states having a say in governance by shortchanging the Florida Supreme Court. Hs loyal colleague, Clarence Thomas, followed him every step — Thomas who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Justice Scalia died on a West Texas luxury ranch during a hunting trip. His death was apt, given his pugilistic style in upholding gun rights and every conservative cause in creation. Washington can’t get over that he’s gone, friends and foes alike. The senior sitting justice loomed large as the fiercest player, in every word he spoke and wrote. The vacancy gives President Obama one more try to work his will on a hostile Senate.

It will take time for the country to heal from the bitter beginning of the 21st century that Scalia and the Bush dynasty gave us. And for the record, I will never get over it.


By: Jamie Stiehm, The National Memo, February 19, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Antonin Scalia, Bush Family, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Dumb Do We Have To Be?”: Should We Listen To Those Who Were Wrong On Iraq In 2002?

Last week, I wrote a post over at the Washington Post expressing amazement that so many of the people who were so spectacularly wrong on Iraq in 2002 are now returning to tell us what we should do about Iraq in 2014. While it went out under the headline “On Iraq, let’s ignore those who got it all wrong,” I didn’t actually argue specifically that they should be ignored, just that we shouldn’t forget their track records when we hear them now (although I did allow that seeking out John McCain’s opinion on Iraq is like getting lost and deciding that Mr. Magoo is the person you need to ask for directions). Then yesterday, after Dick Cheney popped up with a predictably tendentious criticism of Barack Obama, I wrote another post on the topic of our former vice president, and here I did get a little more explicit about how his opinions should be greeted, after running through some of his more appalling howlers:

There is not a single person in America — not Bill Kristol, not Paul Wolfowitz, not Don Rumsfeld, no pundit, not even President Bush himself — who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney.

And now, as the cascade of misery and death and chaos he did so much to unleash rages anew, Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it’s all someone else’s fault, and if we would only listen to him then we could keep America safe forever. How dumb would we have to be to listen?

Is there a bit of over-enthusiasm with which people like me are attacking the return of the Iraq War caucus? Maybe. Part of it comes from the fact that a decade ago, those of us who were right about the whole thing were practically called traitors because we doubted that Iraq would turn out to be a splendid little war. And part of it comes from the fact that the band of morons who sold and executed the worst foreign policy disaster in American history not only didn’t receive the opprobrium they deserved, they all did quite well for themselves. Paul Wolfowitz became president of the World Bank. Paul Bremer, Tommy Franks, and George Tenet—a trio of incompetents to rival the Three Stooges—each got the Medal of Freedom in honor of their stellar performance. Bill Kristol was rewarded with the single most prestigious perch in the American media, a column in the New York Times. (The drivel he turned out was so appallingly weak that they axed him after a year.) The rest of the war cheerleaders in the media retained their honored positions in the nation’s newspapers and on our TV screens. The worst thing that happened to any of them was getting a cushy sinecure at a conservative think tank.

But Jonathan Chait sounds a note of dissent on the idea that all these people should simply be ignored, and I think he probably has a point:

When you’re trying to set the terms for a debate, you have to do it in a fair way. Demanding accountability for failed predictions is fair. Insisting that only your ideological opponents be held accountable is not fair. Nor is it easy to see what purpose is served by insisting certain people ought to be ignored. The way arguments are supposed to work is that the argument itself, not the identity of the arguer, makes the case. We shouldn’t disregard Dick Cheney’s arguments about Iraq because he’s Dick Cheney. We should disregard them because they’re stupid.

In my Cheney post I did make some attempt to address his argument about Iraq, but it was rather hard to find, because like most conservatives, he (and daughter Liz, with whom he co-wrote that op-ed) are silent on what they would actually do that Barack Obama is not doing. But when it comes to the war brigade, we can do both: We should keep recalling their past blunders, and look thoroughly at what they’re saying now. They can and should be accountable for both their past and their present. The latter is showing no greater promise than the former did.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, June 19, 2014

June 20, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Iraq War | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They Have Earned The Right Not To Be Listened To”: All They’re Doing Is Embarrassing Themselves And Annoying The Rest Of Us

In mid-January 2002, the Weekly Standard published a piece from Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol on the need for a U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. The headline read, “What to do about Iraq.”

Yesterday, the exact same publication published a piece from the exact same authors with a headline that was almost exactly the same: “What to do in Iraq.”

James Fallows mocked the discredited conservatives, highlighting their consistency “in attitude as well as typography and headline writing and page layout,” before lowering the boom.

Am I sounding a little testy here? You bet. We all make mistakes. But we are talking about people in public life – writers, politicians, academics – who got the biggest strategic call in many decades completely wrong. Wrong as a matter of analysis, wrong as a matter of planning, wrong as a matter of execution, wrong in conceiving American interests in the broadest sense.

None of these people did that intentionally, and many of them have honestly reflected and learned. But we now live with (and many, many people have died because of) the consequences of their gross misjudgments a dozen years ago. In the circumstances, they might have the decency to shut the hell up on this particular topic for a while. They helped create the disaster Iraqis and others are now dealing with. They have earned the right not to be listened to.

And yet, listening to them has become harder than avoiding them. As Rachel noted on the show last night, the very same people who were “disastrously wrong about what it would mean for the United States to toss a match into the tinderbox of the Middle East by toppling Saddam, all those guys who were so wrong, they either never went away in the first place or they have recently been dug back up over the last few weeks, simply for the purpose of arguing that we ought to invade Iraq again.”

I’ve seen some suggest that those who got U.S. policy in Iraq completely wrong in 2002 and 2003 need not wear a permanent scar. It’s not an entirely unreasonable point – some sensible people fell for a con job. They know better now and want to contribute to a constructive conversation about U.S. foreign policy more than a decade later. It’s hardly ridiculous to think some of them should have a voice in the discussion.

But that’s not quite what’s happening here.

When we see Kristol, Kagan, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Paul Bremer, Ken Pollack and their cohorts all over the print and broadcast media, their chosen task is not to be the target of rotten vegetables. Rather, these men still choose to present themselves as experts whose advice has merit.

It would be challenging in its own right if, say, Paul Wolfowitz showed up on a Sunday show to declare, “Look, my buddies and I may have flubbed U.S. policy in Iraq the last time around, but we’re totally right this time.” But neither he nor his pals are saying anything of the kind – the usual suspects still think they were right in 2002 and 2003, and can’t imagine why their words of wisdom would be ignored now.

Accountability may seem like a quaint, almost antiquated, concept in today’s political discourse, but that’s a shame. When life and death decisions are being made, here’s hoping accountability can still make a comeback, forcing the discredited voices among us towards obscurity.

I’m not arguing that everyone who was wrong about Iraq 11 years ago must remain silent now. I am saying that those who were wrong then but remain convinced of their own self-righteous credibility now, certain that the 2003 invasion was wise and that Iraq’s deterioration should be blamed on that rascally President Obama, all they are doing is embarrassing themselves – and annoying the rest of us.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 17, 2014

June 19, 2014 Posted by | Iraq, Iraq War, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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