Monday, November 21, 2005

Application to Be a Community Columnist

I applied to be a "community columnist" at the local urban newspaper. As you can see, I pretty much let it all hang out. I would appreciate comments on both the letter and the sample column.

Editorial Columnists
100 Midland Avenue
Lexington, KY 40508

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to apply to serve as a community columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader for 2006. I am a government professor at Morehead State University in Morehead, KY. Given that I’m male, white, a full professor, and 51 years of age, I would have to say that my gender, race, occupational status, and age are far from under-represented at your paper (or any paper). Being a social democrat however, I am well to the left of the Herald-Leader ideologically. Just to give an example of how I would be farther left than the paper, I am not only critical of the invasion of Iraq, but view the invasion as a strong indication of the dangers which the American right-wing poses for the Middle East, Latin America, and global stability in general. As a columnist, I would also draw on experiences that are unusual for straight, married, white, male and rural college professors. These would include growing up in an abusive family, living for several years in majority black areas of Philadelphia, and working in a gay bar. I should also mention that I am very critical of Christianity as a religion and would devote at least one column to the topic.

I have included a sample column on Dick Cheney below. I have many other column ideas, but will limit myself to the three that you request. My first idea would be to write a column spelling out all the reasons why people should prefer Santa Claus to Jesus during the Christmas season. Every Christmas, there’s an avalanche of complaints about how the Christmas holiday has gotten away from celebrating the birth of Jesus. I would want to turn the theme on its head by arguing that there are many reasons to prefer Santa Claus over Jesus as an object of holiday adoration. A second idea would concern parenting. Being “concerned” and “progressive” parents, my wife and I got rid of our television soon after our oldest daughter was born and have gone without it for ten years. What I would like to write about are my concerns over the ability of my daughters to integrate into “normal” American society without the benefit of four hours of television a day. I’m especially concerned about the yawning “death deficit” (the thousands of beatings and deaths they haven’t seen as a result of not watching television) in their lives and would write about my worries about their abnormal lack of exposure to fictional death. My third idea would be a column about how conservative talk radio has contributed decisively to the fact that Hillary Clinton will be a prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination in 2008. Even at this early date, it is easy to see that right-wing obsessions over Sen. Clinton have done more than anything else to keep her name before the voting public. Likewise, the right-wing focus on Hillary keeps other possible candidates (both Democratic and Republican) from gaining publicity and traction.

As you can see from my column submission and my proposals, I would like to work in both straight-forward and somewhat comic modes. I also have some experience dealing with editors from my academic work and have always found that my writing benefits from active editing. Finally, you can look at other examples of my “occasional” writing at my web log at

Yours Sincerely,

Ric N. Caric

Dick Cheney’s Failed Crusade

For Vice-President Dick Cheney, it’s 1976 and 1992 all over again. Having served in the Gerald Ford administration as it was winding down and the administration of the current president's father as it lost its footing, Vice-President Dick Cheney knows what it's like to be part of a failing political enterprise. The difference this time is that the current Bush administration represents Dick Cheney’s vision of how a Republican White House should act. Therefore, it is Dick Cheney’s own vision of American government that is crumbling in the face of the stymied war in Iraq, the Katrina debacle, and other blunders.

When Dick Cheney assumed the vice-presidency, he made a determined effort to make the Bush administration far more aggressive, secretive, and hierarchical than its post-Watergate predecessors. Cheney sought to centralize power in the White House and Pentagon, neutralize many of the checks and balances in American politics, and wage an aggressive policy of overthrowing regimes like Iraq, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela. In doing so, Vice-President Cheney made his office the driving force in the Bush administration. In many ways, President Bush served more as an inspirational spokesperson for Cheney's initiatives than his boss. During Bush’s first term, Cheney enjoyed a lot of success against Bush administration rivals like Colin Powell and Christine Todd Whitman. Cheney over-ruled Whitman on carbon dioxide emissions and the much more formidable Powell on North Korea, Iraq intelligence, and the treatment of prisoners. However, the many foreign policy failures of "the Cheney doctrine" have gradually shaken Cheney's choke hold on the administrative apparatus. Apart from Saddam Hussein's government, all of the antagonistic governments are stronger now than they were five years ago. Although the Iraq invasion is failing by almost any measure, it is especially failing to bring about the Bush administration's goal of a democratic transformation of the Arab Middle East. Indeed, it's hard to think of an Arab country that is not now a fertile ground for terrorist recruitment and thus a real threat to American security. As a result of the crucial foreign policy failures, Cheney is now the subject of ridicule for his false claims about Iraqi WMD and connections with al-Qaeda. Likewise, he's losing much of his broader clout. Not only is Cheney’s former chief of staff Scooter Libby under indictment for perjury, but effective bureaucratic allies like Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton were either forced to resign or transferred out of the policy loop. As a result, Vice-President Cheney's office does not have nearly its former clout in the State Department or Pentagon.

More importantly, the unpopularity of the war guarantees that the Cheney method of government won't have a legacy beyond 2008. Right now Sen. John McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton are the two heavyweight favorites for party presidential nominations in 2008. If either wins, the first thing either would do is clean Cheney's supporters out of the national security apparatus and wipe out the memory of Cheney's initiatives.

Dick Cheney's current crusade for the right of American forces to torture captured suspects is a strong indication of the extent to which he has been forced on the defensive. Not only has the Senate passed Sen. John McCain's legislation to ban the use of torture, but the State Department and military lawyers in the Pentagon are drawing up their own guidelines for re-affirming Geneva standards for handling prisoners. Cheney and his supporters are using all of the tricks of the bureaucratic trade to resist these initiatives. Cheney himself has been meeting with the Republican caucus in the Senate while his staff has been threatening vetoes of defense legislation, holding meetings without informing rivals like Secretary of State Rice, and holding up final approval for new policy guidelines. Cheney has become a one-man filibuster for torture, but it is clearly Cheney’s opponents who now are setting the agenda and dictating the tempo of policy debate. Indeed, Cheney’s critics have been emboldened to publicly ridicule Cheney’s draft-dodging and refer to him as the “vice-president for torture.”

Given Dick Cheney's influence on President Bush, he won't become just "another guy," but his days as a dominant force in government have passed as the Bush administration lurches from failure to failure.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Oh, Reagan River

Here's an Op-Ed piece I submitted for consideration to the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky.

Oh, Reagan River

Last Friday's poll numbers had surprising news. It turns out that most people have become French. Or is it African-American? Is it Vive le George or my peeps George. Let's see how the numbers work out.George W. Bush's poll numbers have sunk to levels that would have embarrassed even his father. In today's CBS poll, Bush had a disapprove-57%/ approve-35% rating; the Washington Post had it 60%/39%. Even his father never sunk below 38% approval. What makes it interesting is that the Republican base--the Republican faithful who kept pushing for Clinton's impeachment in 1998 and mobilized for Bush in 2004--stands at about 33%. That means that somewhere between 2 and 6 percent of the rest of the population is supporting Bush. Two percent is a significant number. That's how much support Bush has from the African-American population these days. Perhaps the black population serves as a good mirror for Bush's situation with the rest of the non-Republicans in this country. The white part of the non-Republican coalition might not suffer from employment discrimination, redlining, racial profiling, or conservative calls to stop being black. But it still might be coalescing into an African-American nation anyway.But there's a problem with the African-American scenario. The non-Republican part of the population is about 66% divided with rough equality among independents and Democrats. If Bush is getting 39% approval among the whole population, the 6% that he gets from non-Republicans would represent 9.1% of the 66% non-Republican population. Actually, that's more French than African-American. On the eve of the invasion in 2003, 90% of the French population was surveyed as opposing American policy in Iraq. The French were more united than the Spanish, Polish, and Italians (all of whom only achieved 75% disapproval) and even more united than the Turks who were going to have a war on their doorstep. It was a miracle. Single-handedly, President Bush made the French the most single-minded nation in Europe. Emile Durkheim, the French sociologist of the collective conscience, would have been proud.It looks like President Bush is creating the same kind of unity among non-Republicans in the United States. With African-Americans leading the way, non-Republicans have coalesced around a single bright, shining thought. They disapprove of the Bush administration. Actually, the term "disapprove" does not really capture the true state of people’s feeling. David Brooks wrote a couple of weeks ago that Republican congressmen were finding that their constituents found the Bush administration and Bush himself to be "repugnant." United we stand in our revulsion. No doubt the French would be proud of us. As the trailblazers in Bush revulsion, they will be more than happy to welcome us aboard.But we can do better. White Non-Republicans can move from “good” to “great”—from the excellent levels of anti-Bush unity achieved by the French to the greatness of our African-American brothers and sisters. Total unity is within our grasp. We just need the Bush administration to fail even more spectacularly than they're failing now. How hard can that be? Write letters to the President and Kentucky’s two Republican Senators urging them to invade Iran and Syria, re-nominate Robert Bork for the Supreme Court, breathe new life into Social Security privatization, and really promote their scheme to eviscerate mortgage deductions. President Bush WANTS to do all these things. Why not give him more encouragement? Tell them that Bush needs to enact more conservative policies while he still has time. Be innovative. Suggest unpopular ideas that the Bush administration hasn't thought of yet. Does Dick Cheney know there's oil under the Statue of Liberty? How about turning the Secret Service over to Blackwater Security? Speaking of black water, shouldn't the Mississippi River be re-named after Ronald Reagan? "Oh Reagan River, keep on rolling.” With the Bush administration, the potential for failure is unlimited. We just have to point them in the right direction.

Act now before Bush fails without your help.