The more things change, the more he stays the same’s “War Room” blog today quotes Donald Rumsfeld as saying, among other things,

We are truly fortunate to have a leader of resolve at a time of war. Through all the challenges, he remains the same man who stood atop the rubble of lower Manhattan, with a bullhorn, vowing to fight back.

…which, apart from being a wackily facile thing to say, reminds me of one of my favorite Homer Simpsonisms:

I haven’t changed at all since high school, and suddenly I’m uncool?!

Bloodletter of the Law

Early 2005 wasn’t that long ago, but in terms of U.S. politics it seems like an eternity. At that time Bush was still untouchable, the GOP was still a monolith of arrogance, and the Democrats were still searching for their asses with both hands and a flashlight. Now the Democrats are taking the offensive more and more, the GOP is scattering like roaches before the light of awakening public opinion, and Bush has been revealed as a scared little bunny rabbit. But just eighteen or so months ago it was nigh impossible to imagine these things coming to pass without being called delusional (at best; more likely, a traitor).

It was at that time that I dreamed up a story that never got past the outline stage. The story began eighteen months in the future — August 2006. Considering that that’s right now, I thought this might be a nice time to publish my abandoned story outline, whose too-clever working title is, “Bloodletter of the Law.”

  • August 2006: While Bush clears brush on vacation in Crawford, numerous senior political operatives are seen coming and going. The liberal blogosphere gets jittery about the new schemes it imagines being cooked up at this summit meeting.
  • Late August: Conservative pundits on talkshows and in other media begin to float the idea of a third Bush term.
  • Democrats are predictably outraged, pointing to the constitutional limit on presidential terms and linking the third-term idea to other instances of Bush flouting inconvenient laws.
  • White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan paints the Democratic response as typically hysterical and shrill. “The President has not announced any plans to seek a third term. The White House is not responsible for the speculations that private citizens make on talk shows or elsewhere.”
  • For a few weeks, newsmagazines are full of articles about the history of the presidential term limit and minutiae of related laws. Franklin Roosevelt’s four consecutive elections are held up for inspection. A talking point emerges that, for those who believe it is necessary to “balance” or roll back the “damage” of the FDR era, three or more Bush terms would not be inappropriate.
  • Early October: Bush announces his plans to seek a third term.
  • The left goes apeshit.
  • Public sentiment is with the side not going apeshit. McClellan calmly clarifies that the Constitution only prohibits being elected to a third term, not campaigning for one. “Technically, if the President wins in 2008, the Constitution would not allow him to take office.”
  • Conservative pundits everywhere finish the thought for McClellan: if Bush wins in 2008, it would be un-American to prevent his taking office and fulfilling the expressed will of the electorate.
  • November: Bush’s announcement having emboldened Republicans and sent Democrats running for the hills, the GOP wins easy victories in the 2006 midterm elections, increasing its margin in Congress.
  • January 2007: Bush’s announcement has cleared the field of other Republican presidential hopefuls.
  • Bill Clinton announces, “I too will seek a third term.” On the left, there is much rejoicing, but not by…
  • Hillary Clinton, whose own presidential campaign is well underway. This new strife in their famously troubled marriage is dissected ad nauseam in the press.
  • A rift forms in the Democratic party between Bill supporters and Hillary supporters.
  • In an attempt to mend the fence, Bill backpedals, explaining that his so-called “run” for a third time was nothing more than a rhetorical device to counter Bush. This is seen akin to “I didn’t inhale” and “what the definition of is is.” Meanwhile, did Hillary know Bill was only kidding? Should she have? The Clintons are ruined, the Democratic party is decimated.
  • November 2008: Bush coasts to an easy electoral victory, although there are numerous reports of voting irregularities.
  • Immediately, those few states that refused to put Bush on the ballot sue to invalidate the election. The case is expedited to the Supreme Court, this time packed with even more Bush partisans…

Having written that, I find it interesting that, just a week or so ago, the news media made a big deal out of one Bush booster’s comment that Bush deserved a third term. I find it even more interesting that he turned out to be a shill


My kids love their pediatrician, Dr. Harris. They are almost as excited to go see him as they are to go to Train Town. They are excited merely to drive past his office. “That’s my Dr. Harris!” Archer exclaims, pointing through the car window. They love him so much that they put on their bravest face when getting painful vaccinations. Archer, age 2, even thanked the nurse after his last one.

Of course Andrea and I love him too. We first met him when he delivered a lecture to the parenting class we took, back when Andrea was pregnant with Jonah. The best advice we got in that whole class came from his lecture: namely, that it’s pointless to obsess over the birth, which after all is just a day out of your life, more or less. Possibly a difficult one, but one when you’re surrounded by a team of professionals. All you really have to do is show up. No, said Dr. Harris, the right thing to obsess about during pregnancy is every day for the rest of your life after the birth, when the development and well-being of a whole new person is your sole responsibility.

Now the disaster: Dr. Harris’ practice, Mill Valley Pediatrics, is about to close. He and one of his partners will be joining the HMO, Kaiser Permanente.

This follows a string of medical retirements and closures that Andrea and I have suffered through in the past 10 or 15 years. First my GP, Dr. Cumming, got out of the biz, although she was yet a young woman. I switched to another doctor at the same practice, but within a couple of years the entire practice folded, scattering to the four winds some eight or ten doctors in all and probably thousands of patients. (My medical records from that practice are still in limbo.)

Halfway through Andrea’s second pregnancy, her OB/GYN, Dr. Toton, who’d delivered Jonah, retired. More recently, my new GP‘s partner, Dr. Cummings (not to be confused with Dr. Cumming above), has had to institute new limitations on her practice. And now this.

I don’t know the reasons for all these events (well, Dr. Toton was of traditional retirement age), but the Marin Independent Journal blames tight-fisted insurance companies for the demise of Mill Valley Pediatrics. Dr. Cummings’ new rules appear designed to improve her bottom line. And shortly before Dr. Cumming retired (back in the days of Hillary Clinton’s abortive health-care reform effort), she once complained to me of the byzantine rules and payment mechanisms of the American health care industry.

We will make every effort to continue seeing Dr. Harris even though we are not Kaiser members. And from now on we will be voting against the health-insurance industry and in favor of anyone with the balls to set up single-payer healthcare.

It’s this simple

Driving to work this morning I found myself behind a car with a striking bumper sticker. In bold black letters it said: “DEMOCRAT.” The background was a narrow, stylized slice of a waving American flag.

That’s all.

I have spent a fair amount of energy over the past few years trying to think of ways to convey pro-Democrat messages succinctly and persuasively. And I tell you, this simple message — “DEMOCRAT” and the flag — did it better than anything else I’ve seen or imagined. Not “Proud Democrat.” Not “Stop the Lies.” Not “No Blood For Oil.” Those clumsy sales pitches sound keening next to “DEMOCRAT” and the flag, which doesn’t persuade, doesn’t plead, doesn’t exhort or extoll. It asserts, simply, boldly, and surely: you can be a Democrat and a patriot. It proclaims: there is an alternative. And it does it in the gut, not the head. I think a lot of us wish that the head is where it counts, but if there’s one true thing the GOP knows that we don’t, it’s that the head follows the gut.

Forget explaining. Forget detailed arguments, footnotes, cross-references. Would you use those when trying to pick up a hottie in a nightclub? Of course not, and this is no different. Job number one is to create an impression in the gut: “I can get with that.” To do it at once, without involving the intellect.

“DEMOCRAT” and the flag. The little black cocktail dress of political speech.

(Cross-posted at