Mark Warner’s Chocolate Fountain Remorse

Once upon a time in 2006, a dirty fucking hippie blogger had an opportunity to ask aspiring presidential candidate Mark Warner a few questions. Mark Warner had just dedicated part of a speech to talking about how Iran was the biggest WMD threat. So with her questions, the dirty fucking hippie blogger asked Mark Warner how, if the NIE had said Iran was years away from having nukes whereas Pakistan and its al Qaeda favoring Generals and unstable government already had nukes, Iran could be the biggest WMD threat. Warner then listed three reasons why Iran was the biggest WMD threat: its support of Hezbollah and Hamas, its nutty president, and its aspirations for hegemony in the Middle East. “But none of those things are WMD,” the blogger said.

Matt Bai, who observed the entire exchange, would later blame the dirty fucking hippie’s questions (which, after all, proved correct on several counts and served mostly to highlight to Warner how blindly he had embraced a popular talking point) for single-handedly driving nice moderate Mark Warner from the presidential race and with him potentially the ability to succeed as a party.

The dirty fucking hippie blogger took from that exchange the following: 1) Mark Warner doesn’t have the analytic ability to understand what threatens this country 2) Matt Bai tends to spout stupid centrist ideology even when reality proves him wrong.

More than four years have passed since that exchange. In that time, Warner became a centrist Senator. As a Senator, he has been one of those who claimed no one knew the financial crisis was coming. And he was part of a group of centrist Senators that stripped the too-small stimulus bill in early 2009.

In other words, Warner continues to be unable to identify real threats to this country. It’s in that context–and specifically in the context of picking a time of almost 10% unemployment to cut the deficit–that Mark Warner chose to equate the “far left” of his own party with the TeaBaggers.

But the question will be will the super-left on my party – the MoveOn crowd in my party – and the Tea Party crowd on the other party, you know, they don’t compromise, so you know, I for one am…you know, there were too many times I bit my lip in the first year, or bit my tongue…I’m done…


But I think an equal threat to our country’s national security is that we don’t get our balance sheet in order.

Now, Mark Warner and his friends that maintain the deficit as a bigger threat than a stagnant economy are precisely what we dirty fucking hippie bloggers point to as the problem with the last two years. Because these centrists put their own pet theories ahead of real analysis of what our country needed, the legislation they passed failed to do the job. It’s the economy, stupid, and the economy is still so shitty at least partly because deficit scolds like Mark Warner cut the already too-small stimulus package back when it could do some good.

Which is what Matt Bai fails to understand with his piece trying to refute the theory that Democrats failed because they catered to people like Mark Warner.

The theory here, embraced by a lot of the most prominent liberal bloggers and activists, is that centrist Democrats doomed the party when they blocked liberals in Congress from making good on President Obama’s promise of bold change. Specifically, they refused to adopt a more populist stance toward business and opposed greater stimulus spending and a government-run health care plan. As a result, the thinking goes, frustrated voters rejected the party for its timidity.

No, Matt, you misunderstand completely (or simply build another of your favored straw men). The problem is not that “frustrated voters rejected the party for its timidity.” Frustrated voters rejected the party because its watered down legislation didn’t do the job. And the centrists were the ones that watered down that legislation and made it ineffective.

And the biggest problem both Mark Warner and Matt Bai make is in pretending that they’re stuck in an ideology-free zone between two extremist ideologies. Leaving aside the TeaBaggers, whose ideology was very diverse up until the Koch brothers made them a wholy owned but less ideologically consistent subsidiary, this is not about a left ideology and a right ideology and the nice non-ideological centrists in between. Rather, this debate is about progressives who insist that legislation not be compromised by a blindly ideological insistence on things like deficit cutting, all because some think tanker has been paid to claim that issue, like Iran, is a greater threat than millions of Americans losing their jobs and homes. It’s about efficacy versus the flabby centrist ideology that got us into this mess.

What Bai and Warner choose not to understand is that centrism is an ideology even more stubborn than the left or right they love to attack, but an ideology that got us into the mess we’re in now, both fiscally and electorally.

  1. klynn says:

    I cannot even call it centrism. True centrism would investigate all the claims, all the facts and find out where concerns overlap and weight only the real issues. Faux centrist ideology simply acts as propaganda. Bai and Warner are more accurately, faux centrists.

  2. raven333 says:

    It also applies to Obama, I think. He seems a decent enough person with decent impulses. But he does not seem capable of recognizing a policy failure, imagining a policy success, or understanding why policy success might lead to political success.

    Narcissism–the focus on the import of what a pol personally says, rather than what policies are implemented–has long been a part of politics. But I am beginning to think that in this media environment, it may be almost all of politics.

    • BMcGarth says:

      Decent & Obama should not be in the same sentence….Just wait,it’s not long before he starts on the “entitlement programs”,while the military budget is perfectly fine where it is.

      Don’t forget the torture & renditions under Bush….is on going with Obama…decent ? No way,no how.

  3. Mary says:

    “centrism is an ideology even more stubborn than the left or right they love to attack”

    Beautiful, with the added benefit of being true. Centrism has become the refuge for the analytically inept, the intellectually lazy, and the morally bereft. How could it possibly fail? If you put yourself in the center, between ships still afloat and ships that have sunk to the bottom, you still drown.

    • Phoenix Woman says:

      Indeed, Madam, indeed.

      Faith, it admits of but few responses, among the most satisfying being the application of the point of a steel-toed boot to the appropriate spots.

      ~~~Mod Note: Let’s not go any further down this path, please~~~

    • vagreen says:

      Centrism has become the refuge for the analytically inept, the intellectually lazy, and the morally bereft. How could it possibly fail?

      Exactly. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “If the Far Left and the Far Right are both attacking me, then I must be doing something right”, I could easily retire in the next two or three years.

    • Mithras61 says:

      Nice illustration. I always liked if your head is in a furnace, and your feet are in a bucket of ice, ON AVERAGE you are comfortable. Centrism is averaging without consideration of the intent of the legislation and consequence(s) of their watering it down.

      • spocko says:

        Exactly. When Bill Gates walks into the room the average revenue of everyone in the room is higher. It always make me feel richer when that happens.

  4. Rayne says:

    Gee, do I know this dirty fucking hippie?

    I might have to buy her, I mean them, a beer for killing Warner’s prospects over the near term.

  5. radiofreewill says:

    It seems somewhat inevitable, practically destined, that in a framing narrative that features two irrational ideological extremes, Left and Right – that Warner, and Bai, would then champion the irrational ideological Middle, and say that it’s better!

    So, rather than proposing that we meet on principled ground to conduct rational discourse and analysis of the issues in the finest traditions of our Founders – Warner just wants a big group hug, because all this extremism is simply too much to bear.

    This re-positioning effort by Warner and the Dems, imvho, is going to fail because it’s merely reactionary within the prevailing norms – and, it has the ring of Rodney King’s ‘Can’t we all just get along?’ to it, too – it’s weak!

    For what is needed now there is no substitute for tranformative leadership.

    Bush jumped the engine-of-State off the tracks of Reason and the result has been an emotionally driven, decade-long, ideology-first trainwreck.

    Warner is simply proposing more of the same, while continuing to ignore the ageing and increasingly destructive 800lb gorilla in the room – the irrationality of ideology itself.

    Only Obama, as President, is in a position to lead us back onto the tracks of principled Reason in the service of the common good. And, it’s clear from his first two years, that it’s not going to be good enough to just be rhetorically correct – he needs to be boldly active in re-establishing without compromise the principled basis for the functioning of our government.

    We need to go for broke here – it’s either get the train back on the tracks, or watch the cars start to separate and disintegrate…

  6. behindthefall says:

    Trouble is, that whoosh-blur last Tuesday was the Overton window repositioning itself so that today its left edge is where the “moderate middle” used to be.

  7. PJEvans says:

    That continuing move to the center is why people complain about both parties being the same, and why they’re looking at third parties or registering independent. (It’s about the only thing Ralph Effing Nader has gotten right in the last twenty years.)

    Unfortunately, our current president has bought into the idea that centrist is good, and being noticeably different from the opposition party is bad.

  8. bobschacht says:

    Centrism is an ideology? Really? Who knew?
    As near as I can tell, the ideology of “centrism” consists of splitting the difference between Progressives and Conservatives, without adding anything to the mix. It consists merely of watering down the policies of either ideology, until it becomes pablum and becomes an indistinguishable gooey mass of non-controversial ideas.

    If Centrism is really an ideology, what is there about it that is really different from Progressives and Conservatives? Do they really bring anything to the table?

    Bob in AZ

    • radiofreewill says:

      I think the commonality between left-center-and-right as Ideologies is that the basis for action is emotional, and not principled.

      The Ideological center, as posited here, then, is created through emotional compromise – Warner is, in effect, stepping-in between the left and right to break it up…and telling both sides to hug each other, because “fighting is bad.”

      You could say that “fighting is bad” is a call for principle to prevail, but it’s a weak call, at best, asking us to refrain from our lesser natures and ‘have a beer together.’

      We need a better, stronger call to action, and I think EW is right-on – we need effective policies enacted into law that improve our daily lived-life experiences – We need to completely change the game and restore Reason as our guiding light, instead of fighting in the schoolyard like gangs until the centrist Mr. Warner comes along to break it up, again.

    • emptywheel says:


      A serious hawkishness
      An embrace of utterly stupid fiscal hawkishness
      Support for free trade, irrespective of the consequences
      Recognition of climate change mostly as the raison d’etre for a new bubble, not as an existential threat

      There’s more, but on these and a bunch more issues, progressives and TeaBaggers are definitely distinct.

      • bobschacht says:

        It is easy to find differences; but it may be more important to find a common basis for joint action. What ever happened to Jane’s Strange Bedfellows?

        Bob in AZ

  9. fatster says:

    O/T Christie and the DOJ cont’d:

    Caught: Justice Department probes GOP [Christie] governor for lavish spending on cars, hotels


  10. Argonaut says:

    “There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos.” (Jim Hightower)

    Well, now that I’ve dealt with ‘centrism’, let me say I was at that Warner party and enjoyed the chocolate fountain. However, most of us at that party were able to see it as what it was – kissing up to the DFHs and attempting to impress them into lowering their IQ long enough to support Warner. Didn’t work.

  11. msobel says:

    Bai also lies about Emanuel’s recruiting strategy. He fought progressive candidate selections and recruited most of the conservative democrats, who lost just as he went back to spend more time with Chicago.

    • Fractal says:

      Yes! He’s just a blatant liar! Who is he working for? The Times print edition printed Bai’s story on p. 20 next to Jackie Calmes’s “Political Memo” and Carl Hulse’s story on Pelosi’s decision to run for Majority Leader. But Bai’s material wasn’t news and it wasn’t honest opinion, it was just speculation on top of speculation:

      “In the end, perhaps this is why Ms. Pelosi won’t be so quick to marginalize the remaining Blue Dogs if she retains her role as leader — no matter what her liberal supporters would prefer. The departing speaker, as everyone knows, can count votes. And for Ms. Pelosi, now 70, to write off the conservative districts where Democrats just lost could well mean writing off her chance of becoming speaker again.”

    • merlin1963 says:

      Rahm spent over $3 million dollars in 2006 on two Blue Dogs in KY, Lucas and Weaver. Neither was elected. However, Rahm finally got around to sending $320,000 dollars to progressive John Yarmuth’s campaign in the KY-3 in the final weeks. Rahm only did that because Yarmuth had already done the hard work of bringing down then Republican Congresswoman Anne Northup. Basically, Blue Dogs and Conservadems only want to help other Blue Dogs and Conservadems. It is all about fucking over progressives, so I think progressives should return the favor.

    • Mauimom says:

      Matt Bai, who observed the entire exchange, would later blame the dirty fucking hippie’s question

      I was delighted to learn, upon clicking the link, that the hardback edition of Bai’s tome was available for 98 CENTS. That’s the REGULAR price now, not the “bargain basement”/ some available as low as price.

  12. Fractal says:

    Marcy, thank you thank you thank you. I had to put down the Times this morning after running into the fourth or fifth straw man in as many grafs in Bai’s piece. Who edits his shit? I would make him Exhibit A for refutation of the MSM refrain that “at least we edit what we publish, unlike those DFH bloggers who never edit anything.” It was just crock after crock of unsubstantiated undisclosed assumptions combined with irrelevant polling statistics. Combined with outright falsehoods, like this one: “House Republicans have now managed to cobble together a majority that is more or less ideologically cohesive ….” What a waste of space!

  13. jedimsnbcko19 says:

    I did not know that Mark Warner was Obama 1st cousin!

    You know they are both related because they both hate progressives, and they both lack the analytic ability to understand what threatens this country.

    Obama thinks that americans want more Jobs sent off shore

  14. sadlyyes says:

    he also needs to upgrade his clairol dye job ,from rusty brown,avec eye brows to a proffessional job,just sayin

  15. greybeard says:

    Both Senators Warner and Webb are about as progessive as the Commonwealth of Virginia will elect. It is one of them, or Senator Allen, or Senator North, or Senator Cuccinelli – take your pick. We now have 8 republicans in the house, compared to three of ours.

    I live in VA.

    • vagreen says:

      Webb is clearly better than Warner on prison reform, economics, and foreign policy. Check out Glenn Greenwald’s latest:

      ‘Webb’s one of the last FDR Democrats. An economic populist. Liberals also admire the populist Webb. The same cannot be said for the Democratic establishment. Webb has pushed for a onetime windfall profits tax on Wall Street’s record bonuses. He talks about the “unusual circumstances of the bailout,” that the bonuses wouldn’t be there without the bailout.

      “I couldn’t even get a vote,” Webb says. “And it wasn’t because of the Republicans. I mean they obviously weren’t going to vote for it. But I got so much froth from Democrats saying that any vote like that was going to screw up fundraising.

      “People look up say, what’s the difference between these two parties? Neither of them is really going to take on Wall Street. If they don’t have the guts to take them on, and they’ve got all these other programs that exclude me, well to hell with them. I’m going to vote for the other people who can at least satisfy me on other issues, like abortion. Screw you guys. I understand that mindset.”‘

      I don’t want to just accept Warner as the best progressives can do. To me, that seems to remove him from any sort of accountability.

  16. nonpartisanliberal says:

    “Frustrated voters rejected the party because its watered down legislation didn’t do the job.”

    Bulls eye! And financial regulatory NON-reform means more white collar crime to come.

    We do need to get serious about deficit reduction once the economy gets rolling again, though economic growth will automatically reduce the deficit to some extent. That’s a point lost on the deficit hawks.

    One thing we could do now to reduce the deficit without negatively impacting the economy is to end the wars and to dismantle our empire of foreign military bases. Fat chance of that.

  17. mattcarmody says:

    Nice to see the teabaggers called by their original, self-chosen name.
    The Tea Party was an event that shaped our country as a response to tyranny. Letting the GOP or any faction thereof take that name for itself makes it too easy for Americans who are too ignorant to dig into things themselves to associate them with one of our founding myths.

    Nice work, Marcy.

  18. spocko says:

    There are two sides to a balance sheet.

    How do we raise revenues?

    I’ve got an idea. What does the right wing agree is in the constitution and that the government is supposed to do? Defend us.

    What if we ask all the right wing corporation persons to fund defense with something I’ll call Patriot Dues. Who would be against that? It’s in the constitution!

    And how do we get them to pay these Patriot Dues? We go to them and ask them? If they say no we ask them “Do you hate America? Don’t you support the troops?” If they say they do but they already pay taxes we point out “We aren’t asking for taxes! Did I ever even say the word taxes? No! We want you to pay Patriot Dues, your fair share to defend you from terrorists.”

    Now how the government goes about collecting this Patriot Dues is up to them, but you certainly don’t want them to create an other bureaucracy do you? Let’s use the one that is already in charge of collecting revenue.
    And, since you have stated that you hate to pay for other services “or entitlements” as you like to calm we will allow your Patriot Dues to go to paying off the money spend on Defense only.

    Think of it like when you go and eat dinner and put it on your charge card. 23 days later you have to pay for the meal you already ate.

    Now, since you believe in smaller government, believe in defense and don’t want to create a new agency I’ve going to ask my friends and tea partiers to help get these Patriot Dues to the Government. We will look at what your share of Defense is based on how much percent of the government goes to “Defense” (currently 54 percent) then we will ask you to give those Patriot Dues to the government. I’m sure you won’t mind.

  19. spocko says:

    And if the revenue collected in the past wasn’t enough to cover Patriot Dues we will just have to collect the balance. So, say that the IRS collected revenues from you that was 2 percent of your profits. They will need to collect about 33 percent more. Out of that 33 percent about 16 percent is Patriot Dues. So the Patriots in American want you to pay at least 17 percent more, the Socialists want you to pay 16 percent more for roads, fire and police, the court system “entitlements” I know that for the last 40 years you have screamed “We don’t want to pay taxes!” We know that billions have been spent to spread the idea that taxes are terrible for anything other than defense. So now you will have your wish. You will pay Patriot Dues for Defense and taxes for everything else. If you want to fight Patriot Dues I suggest you hire some of those people who have been screaming “No taxes” for decades. They can not scream, “No Patriot Dues! The Military is bad and bloated! They are like an entitlement!”

  20. joanneleon says:


    This sums it up so well. I have not been able to put this into words, or to synthesize it, or something. You just did it for me.

    This is a really important piece. More people need to read this, particularly the ones over at GOS. Please consider posting this there, or if not, let me know and I may excerpt it and post it perhaps tomorrow night.

    Yes, this does sum it up. And the timing is very good, particularly with all the false equivalencies flying around, unfortunately some of them even coming from Jon Stewart.

    Not only is centrism an ideology for those who claim not to be ideologues, it’s damaging, and it’s the dumbass simplistic line and it’s the weasel way of selling us out while purporting to take the high road.

  21. stellacorso says:

    I saw this guy on the senate floor a couple months ago, bragging about his business owner creds. I don’t remember the bill they were discussing, but he was on the wrong side. Iwas surprised when I realized he claims to be dem.
    The status quo are starting to get nervous. They’re putting on a righteous show to prevent any common ground between teapartiers & true left (should join together on the audit the fed meme first).

  22. gmoke says:

    Yeah, but it was a great party with that chocolate fountain and martini bar and I got to ride all the rides high above the skyline of Vegas for free! I never fall in love with politicians but am happy to eat their canapes and drink their liquor. Warner became a Senator and a Governor before that exactly because he does not have any analytic capability. He’s a figurehead and a cheer leader, just like 99.9% of his kind.

    Glad you stuck it to him though.

  23. knowbuddhau says:

    BAM! I loves me some dirty fucking hippie blogger dynamite in the morning. Smells like victory. You go, Sister.

    Couldn’t agree more with you demolition of the ideology-free-zone meme.

    It’s both the oldest political trick in the world and the very model of modern major info ops: pretend to speak godlike from atop the Great Divide Itself. Just doing god’s work, doncha know. Centrists can do no wrong because they’re on a mission from god they disagree with two parties who themselves disagree.

    Trouble is, as the ever so erudite Clinonites should’ve learned by now, is that such triangulation leads precisely No Where.

    Where in the world does our neo-feudal world of pain come from? From our dearly beloved MOTU’s atavistic worldview. Their covert intentions go mostly unspoken, but we can see the cosmogenetic effects plain as day.

    IOW, actions speak louder than words because intentions materialize realities. Paul Jay corrected Yves Smith on this point in his interview with her (posted yesterday as Banks to Cash-In Again on New Fed Plan).

    [YVES SMITH, FOUNDER OF NAKED CAPITALISM:] …So for all the money they spent, it had only a very small impact on interest rates and obviously no impact on the economy. You know, it was Einstein who said, defined insanity as repeating the same behavior and expecting different results.

    JAY: Okay. I’m a great believer that Bernanke and anyone that succeeded on Wall Street is not insane. So if the objective they’re claiming it is is—ain’t going to work, it means there is an objective that is going to work.

    What’s their objective? Crony capitalism, disaster capitalism, neo-feudalism — call it what you will, it’s still about full-spectrum dominance.

    I’d love to see FDL put all the disparate machinations under that one rubric. It’s still our official defense strategy, after all. And when the Pentagon says “full-spectrum” you can bet your ass that means us know-nothing civilians, too.

    As in the unreviewable power to torture, “preventively detain” forever, and even assassinate us US citizens. Compared to that, stealing all our money for generations to come must seem like child’s play.

    Joint Vision 2020 Emphasizes Full-spectrum Dominance

  24. bobschacht says:

    Kevin Spacey promoting his movie, “Casino Jack”, is speaking truth: “We have a selective system of justice in this country.” His point was that our system of justice only selectively goes after the big guys to punish high-flyers like Jack Abramoff and Bernie Madoff as “examples,” rather than cleaning up the system itself, and indicting *all* of the major cases of fraud.

    Bob in AZ