S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How things will change in government in 2007

Readers of S/SW often give me ideas for further exploration. Today's post inspiration came from someone in the UK who used the search terms "psychology legislation rebellion conformity." One could infer that this search might indicate need to understand how British lawmakers might legislate towards more conformity from rebellious citizens. I even suspect this could have something to do with Muslim citizens, though that is a very wild guess. I combined the above search with repeated recent searches on the subject of "leadership." I will take a further look at each of the words, as they pertain to what might happen politically next year:
drives how people in power lead. Leaders are largely unaware of what emotions or unconscious drivers dictate their decisions and governing style. A current Washington Post interview with OCP gives me an opportunity to reflect on the words of the president. In parentheses I have added info on who is speaking, along with a numerical identifier for each of the quotes I'll analyze. The quote begins with a headline,

"25 Minutes in the Oval Office - President Bush on Iraq, Elections and Immigration
Wednesday, December 20, 2006; This 25-minute interview was conducted yesterday in the Oval Office by Washington Post staff writers Peter Baker, Michael A. Fletcher and Michael Abramowitz."

(Interviewer) - So you've not made a decision about Iraq, per se, about what to do -

(OCP-1) - I have not, . . And I'm going to take my time to make sure that the policy, when it comes out, the American people will see that we are -- have got a new way forward to achieve an important objective, which is a country that can govern, sustain and defend itself.

(Interviewer) - Are we winning in Iraq, in your estimation?

(OCP-2) - You know, I think an interesting construct that General [Peter] Pace uses is, "We're not winning, we're not losing." There's been some very positive developments. And you take a step back and look at progress in Iraq, you say, well, it's amazing -- constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East, which is a remarkable development in itself.
I think one of the -- obviously, the real problem we face is the sectarian violence that needs to be dealt with. So part of my policy review is how do we deal with that in a way that then enables the Iraqi people to live in a more secure society so that the government can prove its worth to the people -- saying, we can help you. And one of the main functions of government is to provide security for its people. Our job is to help the Iraqis provide that security. And I'll come forward with a plan that will enable us to achieve that objective.

. . . (Interviewer) - Is Vice President Cheney correct, do you believe that secretary Rumsfeld was the best defense secretary?

(OCP-3) - I think he was one of the finest defense secretaries, and I said that there have been more profound change -- policy change under his leadership than at any time since the formation of the Defense Department.
In my opinion, there are things in the words of OCP that might give clues to his internal psychological processes. Quote 1 is about a policy change that will result in winning or losing, and OCP becomes defensive with, "a new way forward to achieve . . . (reframe = "I win.") This avoids "losing." There will be no policy change. Quote 2 is an elaborate continuation of OCP's being in denial of reality with, "We're not winning, we're not losing." There's been some very positive developments. . ." Neocon non-realistic denial is a stance to which OCP has remained unconsciously drawn for 6 years. Quote 3 borders on delusion with, "I think he was one of the finest defense secretaries. . ." Incredible!

Leadership is sorely needed if democracy in America is to succeed. People voting last month wanted to change what they could to make government actually work. Blogger Jennifer Granick wrote an excellent column today for Wired News about what we should expect. Its headline caught my eye: "The Bush Era Draws to a Close." Her opening and closing paragraphs summarize the unmet leadership challenges of 2006, and what portends for the immediate future. Quote,
2006 will be remembered as the year in which our government imprisoned journalists, embraced kidnap and torture as a "no-brainer," and moved toward implementing an infrastructure for total surveillance of American citizens. Hopefully, it also will be remembered as the year we started to bring these practices to a halt.
In this column, I look back on three civil liberties crises that reached a critical point in 2006. In my next column, my first for 2007, I'll take a more proactive view of what the new year could mean for civil liberty.
. . . What remains to be seen, in 2007 and beyond, is whether we'll choose to implement new laws to regain the zone of privacy we used to be able to take for granted, or not.
Overall, 2006 was not particularly better, nor particularly worse, for civil liberties than other recent years. Many important issues however, from freedom of the press, to the rights of individuals to be free from torture, unreasonable surveillance and invasions of privacy, have moved closer to resolution.
Next year will determine whether we continue down a path of increased government power with decreased oversight and transparency, or whether we're able to harness the power of technology and government in a constructive, democratically responsive way.

Rebellion by voters changed the current face of U. S. politics. It remains to be seen whether our current president (OCP) will significantly change the direction of his administration's war in Iraq. Many of us do not think so. But the almost immediate emergence of a military with an actual voice since DOD Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation is very heartening. Will the current rebellion, resisting "surging" more troops into Iraq, by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon change the mind of OCP? New DOD Secretary Robert Gates' assessment from his current trip to Iraq will be interesting to hear. What do the generals on the ground think? What will Secretary Gates recommend to OCP, and will Mr. Bush listen to him or to the policy review neocon cabal in his own White House? Respected journalists Robin Wright and Peter Baker of the Washington Post wrote about these questions yesterday. To quote,

Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of bigger packages, the officials said.
But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.
The chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.

Legislation is what will force some of the change currently needed in government. And investigation and oversight by Congress is another form of action forcing change. Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee opposes sending more troops to Iraq, according to the Washington Post. To quote from the article,
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, questioned the purpose of sending an additional 20,000 U.S. troops into Baghdad, the surge option being mentioned as one strategy change in Iraq being considered by President Bush.
"What is the military mission?" Skelton asked yesterday during a meeting with reporters. "I don't think it will change a thing," he said, adding: Would the added troops "exacerbate the problem by being more targets? Is there something to go after that we don't know?"

A Reuters story , however, states that the leader in the Senate has a different view. To quote, "Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on Sunday he would support a short-term increase in U.S. troop numbers in Iraq being weighed by President George W. Bush if it is part of a broader withdrawal plan." We need not hold our breath on this. First, many Democrats disagree, and second, there will be no plan for withdrawal. Update@ (3:45 P.M.) - Harry Reid is a blogger! Read Reid's post with his position on this at Huffington Post.
Conformity of those executing laws passed by Congress is mediated through the judicial branch. But even this more conservative Supreme Court has been willing to confront the "Unitary" imperial bent of OCP. When it suits the administration's purpose they comply with the law. For example, Vice President Cheney is quite willing be a defense witness for Scooter Libby at trial next year. The most recent change of direction forced in a court action is the government's withdrawal of a demand that the ACLU hand over all copies of a leaked secret document to a grand jury. The government instead merely declassified the material. This was yet another fencing maneuver where the government makes legal thrusts, and the attempted intimidation is parried by those protected by the Constitution. Reuters has the story:

"U.S. withdraws demand for return of secret memo. Mon Dec 18, 2006"
NEW YORK - The U.S. government withdrew on Monday a demand for the American Civil Liberties Union to hand over a "secret" Washington memo on its policy on photos of enemy prisoners of war and detainees, the rights group said.
The New York-based civil liberties group said the government had asked a federal court judge to withdraw the subpoena demanding "any and all copies" of the memorandum, saying that the document had now been declassified.
"The Bush administration's attempt to suppress information using the grand jury process was truly chilling and is unprecedented in law and in our history as an organization," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement.

At a minimum we know that the dynamics of government have changed since November. The third co-equal branch of U.S. government - Congress - will now be managed by Democrats. And Republican legislators are not all of the same mind as OCP. Officials in the executive branch are nowhere nearly unanimously in support of their President. It will be interesting to see whether our increasingly isolated and unpopular current president will be able to grow psychologically enough to change. I am not holding my breath. But his power seems much less formidable than it did just seven weeks ago. Democracy and its leaders will be sorely tested in 2007, but I am optimistic about the future again.

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My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is about the shuttle mission.

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