Monday, March 24, 2008

W for Wrong

I watch The Daily Show/Colbert Report religiously (true to my racial* preferences), but today I couldn't change the channel because of Frontline's "Bush's War." It's really surreal to imagine that there are some Boalties now who were not even in college when this War started. But more than a refresher, it's borderline unbelievable to see just how completely wrong this Administration has been about well everything.

Relatedly, Prof. Yoo had an op/ed in the WSJ yesterday. I really don't understand why he writes these pieces. Cherry-picking quotes from the Constitutional Convention to tar and feather the Democratic Party's use of super delegates? Really? That's undemocratic? How about we concentrate on quotes that, you know, thought it was dangerous to leave the power to make war in the hands of a single person.

* It is with great regret that I report yet another speeding citation. They marked my race "O" yet again (scroll down to update). Bastards.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick here.

Just popping in from my escape from The Mother Country to check my email, etc., and find this post is funny.

Two nights ago I somehow ended up in a drinking contest with three Guatemalan dudes and their girlfriends. (Well, actually, I know exactly how it happened: I bought a round of beers early on and then some kind of machismo thing kicked in. Their girlfriends were freaking beautiful, and in hindsight that was the whole problem.)

Anyway. Sometime between when I accidentally kicked off the alcoholic shit show, and when I peeled myself from the floor under the table, one of these dudes started talking US politics to me. It turns out that McCain's most devoted fan lives in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The guy, "Johnny," who is super nice and cool, also happens to be a die-hard right-wing nut-job: "The problem with your country is that you don't kick people to the curb when they don't perform, etc." He admires our country, but wishes we would start trimming the fat, turn the economy loose, flexing our muscle globally, and so forth. The homeless? They choose their fate. Healthcare? You deserve what you can afford, and you afford what you deserve (a logically convenient position, I guess). Iraq? Stay the course, of course.

What's funny is that he is also little more than a privileged latin dude who honestly thinks he is white (which was the subject of another, even funnier conversation) and a believer in the whole "W" package because he was born privileged enough to enjoy it, . . . not because he has earned anything through the application of his purported values.

This point of view is everywhere. (And the debate is everywhere, too -- his friends kept rolling their eyes and telling him to shut the hell up already). Not just the W administration, or the front of my Con Law class, or even just in America. We are exporting a particular brand of ideological bullshit hand over fist, and people like this fellow are swallowing it up with glee. It's borderline religious. It's freaky. It's depressing.

It's also a good drinking conversation, I guess.

"Viva la Reagan Revolución"

3/25/2008 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think we can blame the US for "exporting" that viewpoint. The idea that people are rich because they deserve to be seems essentially monarchial. Monarchic. Whatever, European.

In a related story, fuck John Yoo. In the pantaloons. He was a crappy Con Law professor and remains a determined reactionary lickspittle.

3/25/2008 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Yoo was my favorite professor at Boalt. He's a nice guy and a good teacher. And he didn't assign much reading and we were only on call once and we knew in advance which day it would be.

3/25/2008 2:36 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

Armen, I'm not really sure what your problem is with Yoo's op-ed. I think he adds an interesting historical twist/understanding to the current discussion about superdelegates, which frankly, has started to repeat itself. I don't think that the fact that Yoo has espoused somewhat undemocratic ideas in the past disqualifies him from ever weighing in on such issues. Clearly the Framers themselves thought different degrees of "democracy" were appropriate for different aspects of the federal government (e.g., Senators initially chosen by state legislatures, even though that method was rejected for the President).

Not that I can claim to think along many of the same lines as Yoo . . . but perhaps he would say that the Framers' insistence on direct election of the President is the very reason it's "ok" to lodge unilateral war-making powers in him/her.

3/25/2008 2:38 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Casey, the framers rejected direct election of the President. And as you are aware, to this date, we do not have the direct election of President. That's only one of many "bait and switches" in the piece. But just as undemocratic nature of the Electoral college surfaces very infrequently, the same goes for the undemocratic nature of a party selecting its nominee. I'll offer a more point by point criticism of the piece when I have a bit of time.

3/25/2008 2:49 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

Sorry I was a bit imprecise. I was thinking direct *relative to* to the original method for selecting senators.

3/25/2008 2:55 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Well "relative" the original method of selecting a party's nominee, then giving 20% of the vote to super delegates isn't undemocratic either. In fact, it's only a concern because of two "democratic" elements present in the current contest:

(a) the historic contest of an African-American and a female vying to be the first non-white male nominee of a major ticket (what's more democratic than that I'd ask?)

(b) the Democratic Party rules in various states of dividing delegates proportionally. Had the Democrats adopted the GOP method of winner-take-all (less democratic), then the super-delegates would again not matter.

Again, cherry-picking quotes and the historical record to claim that the use of super delegates is undemocratic creates, at the very least, the impression of partisan hackery. Maybe that was his goal, not sure.

3/25/2008 3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Letting senior officials be 20% of the delegates and be completely untethered to the electorate's votes isn't "democratic" in the normal sense of that word. Whatever you think of Yoo on other matters, he's right to call out my party on that. The fact that way back in the day there were even less democratic methods being used isn't germane to whether the super delegates are "democratic."

3/25/2008 4:53 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

I partly agree with you. But your argument is not the one advanced by Yoo. In a nutshell, his argument is "this is undemocratic" see, e.g., constitutional convention. I think that's historically disingenuous.

As for the larger point, well yeah, by definition letting those who are not accountable to voters make binding political decisions isn't democratic. But you can't ignore the REASONS why the 20% super delegates matter in this particular contest (whereas they have not mattered in all previous races during the 20+ years since their creation). So yeah, it's fair to criticize the use of super-delegates, but do it with a proper historical understanding of candidate selection...not simply to paint broad strokes of "Democrats are boo boo."

3/25/2008 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The story I've heard about the super delegate process is that the Dems wanted to avoid a break-away popular candidate who was unelectable. Is that true? If so, then they were specifically designed to be non-democratic. If there was another reason, I'd be curious to hear it.

3/25/2008 8:45 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

My vague recall of intro poli sci seems to be in line with that. Yoo repeats the claim. I won't contradict it, but it doesn't make all that much sense. The 20% is not even close to preventing a SINGLE popular candidate from claiming the nomination. The problem arises when there are two (or more) compelling candidates.

Conversely, if the motive isn't to rein in a popular candidate, why have super delegates at all? Either way, it's a fair criticism.

3/25/2008 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Total speculation here, but I wonder if it isn't just to give the insiders something to do at the convention, especially since everybody knows that the nomination no longer has any chance whatsoever of being undecided by the end of March. None whatsoever. In fact, that's so impossible, why don't we just teach two major states a lesson and disenfranchise their delegates. It won't have any effect because we always know who the nominee is.

3/25/2008 9:05 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

That's absolutely correct as it applies to the current primary. "Hey Michigan and Florida, we just won't count your delegates" *wink wink nod nod.* The front-loading of the primaries magnifies that. I have to double check my dates (won't, but have to), but I think California didn't move back its primary date to Super Tuesday until fairly recently. I know it used to be in June, then we moved it to March, and finally to Super Tuesday.

And this helpful summary of modern primaries suggests that only 1976 and 1992 were even remotely competitive, and they were resolved before the convention.

But here's a greater point I want to throw out there. I've noted in a comment before a theory that political scientists had put forth arguing that the primaries/caucuses are rubber stamps of the nominee that party leaders rally around. That candidate raises the most money and waltzes through the primary. They predicted Kerry in 04 with Edwards having an outside chance.

The more I think about this theory, the more I think it is right, but obsolete. Internet fundraising has altered the landscape. Dean in 04 was the first to fully embrace the medium. Wait until early April when Q1 08 numbers are released for the Obama and Clinton campaigns. You'll see what I mean. And that is the reason why we have this mess. For the first time, a candidate without the support of the party establishment is winning the people's votes. What the hell do we do?

3/25/2008 9:27 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

Isn't this the first year California voted on Super Tuesday?

3/25/2008 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This thread is dead by now, but anyway. The primary system--for both parties--is inherently undemocratic because the states vote on drastically different schedules. Only the first one or two primaries involve all the original candidates--even by Super Tuesday there were very few options left. As usual, 37 hicks in New Hampshire (no offense!) got to be kingmakers. On the other hand, the people who voted early on for the soon-to-be extinct candidates essentially had their input ignored, and they get no say in the Hillary vs. Barack matchup. Either way, Yoo's argument about superdelegates is essentially irrelevant. They're the least of the problem with the primary system.

3/26/2008 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should primaries be democratic? And why should we expect primaries to fit within our constitutional structure? Political parties are unelected, non-governmental organizations, not contemplated by the Founders, and have every right to sponsor the candidate they wish for office.

But that's not what Yoo is up to. Rather, he is trying to advance his argument that our executive is too weak and his complaint is that the Democratic primary enhances Congressional power. As evidence he cites the War of 1812. Yoo, why don't you talk about the origins of our current disastrous war? Does anyone believe that the mess in Iraq is a result of a too-weak executive? We could discuss Vietnam while we're at it.

Why the fuck does this guy have such a love affair with a powerful presidency?

3/26/2008 1:29 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Hey, Armen.

. . . . sitting here in Advanced Legal Research, KVH just showed us a library book entitled "Fight Your Own Ticket, And Win."

4/09/2008 9:48 AM  

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