Saturday, December 09, 2006

Temper Tantrum

Anyone who believed that the election results had humbled President Bush or forced him back to the center was naive and deluded. He is still in his bubble and still as childish and deluded as ever. The President met with top Democrats yesterday to discuss the Iraq Study Group report. It, ummm, didn't go well-
...[S]ome Democrats came away unconvinced that major changes were coming.

"I just didn't feel there today, the president in his words or his demeanor, that he is going to do anything right away to change things drastically," Senate Majority Leader-elect Harry Reid, D-Nev., said following the Oval Office meeting. "He is tepid in what he talks about doing. Someone has to get the message to this man that there have to be significant changes."

Instead, Bush began his talk by comparing himself to President Harry S Truman, who launched the Truman Doctrine to fight communism, got bogged down in the Korean War and left office unpopular.

Bush said that "in years to come they realized he was right and then his doctrine became the standard for America," recalled Senate Majority Whip-elect Richard Durbin, D-Ill. "He's trying to position himself in history and to justify those who continue to stand by him, saying sometimes if you're right you're unpopular, and be prepared for criticism."

Durbin said he challenged Bush's analogy, reminding him that Truman had the NATO alliance behind him and negotiated with his enemies at the United Nations. Durbin said that's what the Iraq Study Group is recommending that Bush do now - work more with allies and negotiate with adversaries on Iraq.

Bush, Durbin said, "reacted very strongly. He got very animated in his response" and emphasized that he is "the commander in chief."...

It doesn't look like The Decider is going to play well with others when the new Congress comes into session.

Reminder: Still 772 days left of this...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Quote of the Day II

"I'm glad they got a study group together, but you know what? The test was three years ago."
--Jon Stewart, on last night's 'Daily Show'

[Related reading:
-Glenn Greenwald: The principal sin of the Baker-Hamilton Report
-TPMCafe: The ISG’s False Hope
-AP: Poll: Americans see no easy Iraq exit]

Happy Last Day of The 109th Congress!

Today is the final day of the 109th Congress, and the final day of the Republican majority. This country will never forget their dedication to patriotically perpetuating failing military strategies, doing away with that bothersome surplus, keeping stress levels down with light work loads, keeping American sufficiently afraid at all times, making sure millionaires were not denied their constitutionally-mandated tax cuts, ending the free reign for the environment, defending marriage from teh gays, protecting America from 'secular' jihadists, stopping those two flag-burners from destroying America, keeping Jack Abramoff in business, saving electricity by turning the lights off on Democratic meetings, saving women from their abortion addictions, helping to ensure the Schiavo family didn't grieve alone, and other great causes. We salute you. Yesterday, the leaders said goodbye-
...There was significant pomp as Mr. Frist made his goodbye, and potent symbolism as well. He was preceded into the chamber by Vice President Dick Cheney, representing the White House that helped install him in the leadership job in 2002 and was seen as holding strong influence over him. Then came Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, the leader of the House, where corruption and gridlock helped spell the end of Republican control...

ThinkProgress looks at Sen. Frist's farewell rant against partisanship.

The San Francisco Chronicle reminds us that the outgoing Congress "is packing its bags for good and leaving town today without enacting nine of the 11 appropriations bills that pay for the federal government. It's a development that has infuriated Democrats, who will have to carry the additional burden of enacting the spending bills when they take control in January, and has left Republicans red-faced."

Elsehwhere, TPMmuckraker says goodbye to the 109th as well.

But what about the 110th? Sidney Blumenthal has a detailed writeup in Salon on the makeup and breakdown of the new Democratic majority. He notes that the new Democratic lineup "reflects a more politically cohesive national majority than any previous one". The piece is an excellent analysis of the elections in all states to look at the new political trends. In regards to how they will run the Congress, Blumental predicts-
The overriding strategic imperatives for the Democratic Congress, besides restoring the constitutional obligation of oversight of the executive branch, are several-fold. The leaders of the new Congress plan to pass legislation that addresses working- and middle-class economic insecurity. If Bush vetoes it, he will be defined as their antagonist. On domestic policy, therefore, casting Bush as rejectionist works to the Democrats' advantage. On foreign policy, it's more complicated, even treacherous.

In their enthusiasm at finally attaining a measure of power, Democrats have not yet clarified that congressional power is inherently limited in foreign policy. By offering alternative tactics for Iraq that are overly precise, the Democrats may assume a share of the blame for a debacle that properly and solely belongs to Bush. Nonetheless, they can use their powers to illustrate the heedlessness of the president.

That sounds about right.

From a collection of articles I came across in the past few days, here's a quick roundup of some Democratic plans... Leaders have "promised to make ethics reform their first order of business when they take control in January, [including] an independent office to investigate ethics complaints against members of Congress." On the economic front, "Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the party's leaders, had notified Republicans they will try to add the anti-[congressional]-pay-raise provision to a bill that provides funds for most government agencies"; they said the congressional raise will be blocked until a federal minimum wage increase is passed. On the issue of electoral dysfunction, "voters around the country are likely to see sweeping changes in how they cast their ballots and how those ballots are counted, including an end to the use of most electronic voting machines without a paper trail." Moving to concerns over detainee treatment and constitutional issues, "The incoming and outgoing Chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Pat Leahy and Arlen Specter, yesterday jointly introduced legislation to repeal the portion of the Military Commissions Act which purports to eliminate habeas corpus rights for detainees and strip federal courts of jurisdiction to adjudicate detainee claims." That issue is sure to prove a difficult one, even in the new Congress. Finally, on the return to oversight front, "Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said he plans to hold a series of hearings on Iraq soon after becoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee next month when Democrats take control of Congress, and he said he is prepared to use subpoenas to get relevant documents from the Pentagon."

We'll see how much gets done, but for now parting is not such sweet sorrow after all.

Quote of the Day

"You don't snap your fingers and have the Arabic speakers you need overnight."
--White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, on the ISG report lamenting our lack of Arabic speakers.

Five years after 9/11 is overnight, Tony? Thanks for making us miss Scott McClellan.

(Oh, and you really should stop firing the ones you have because they're gay.)


As you may have read, Mary Cheney is pregnant. Yes, the Vice President's daughter and her longtime girlfriend have arranged for her to have a baby. The Vice President and his wife are, of course, very happy that they will soon be grandparents. While I would love to share in their joy, I am instead filled with anger at the hypocrisy of this happy family which rules a party that has dedicated great political energy to outright demonizing this type of family and has worked to make already tough lives even tougher for gay people all across America. They don't deserve this happiness.

The only upside to this news would be if seeing one of their leaders celebrating the birth of a child created from artificial semination into a same-sex relationship forced the far-right to rethink their radical stances. Don't hold your breath-
...Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America described the pregnancy as "unconscionable."

"It's very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father," said Crouse, a senior fellow at the group's think tank. "They are encouraging people who don't have the advantages they have."

Crouse said there was no doubt that the news would, in conservatives' eyes, be damaging to the Bush administration, which already has been chided by some leaders on the right for what they felt was halfhearted commitment to anti-abortion and anti-gay-rights causes in this year's general election...

Of course, it might be nice to see the Vice President defend his daughter against these attacks and stand up to his party's base and tell them to wake up and smell the 21st century, but he will not. His party needs these radical elements to win elections, even though most party leaders don't privately share their beliefs. Cheney is happy to sell families like his own down the river if it means getting some extra votes. None of this will change until at least 2009.

I like this point of view better-
Family Pride, which advocates on behalf of gay and lesbian families, noted that Virginia last month became one of 27 states with a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage...

...The couple "will quickly face the reality that no matter how loved their child will be. ... he or she will never have the same protections that other children born to heterosexual couples enjoy," Chrisler said. "Grandfather Cheney will no doubt face a lifetime of sleepless nights as he reflects on the irreparable harm he and his administration have done to the millions of American gay and lesbian parents and their children."...

In semi-related hypocrisy news, this week begins the 'rehabilitation' of disgraced reverend Ted Haggard. He will be "expected to use prayer and Bible study to help [himself] resist the temptation to sin". It may take weeks to pray away the amount of gay in the reverend.

Finally, more encouraging news from the NY Times: "The highest legal body in Conservative Judaism, the centrist movement in worldwide Jewry, voted yesterday to allow the ordination of gay rabbis and the celebration of same-sex commitment ceremonies." The article adds that "the committee left it up to individual synagogues to decide whether to accept or reject gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies, saying that either course is justified according to Jewish law."

Okay, the Jews are down. Christians, it's your move (I won't hold my breath on Muslims).

Mess O' Potamia

We've already read reports in the last year or so that forces inside Iran may be funding some Shiite groups within Iraq. But who's funding the Sunni groups? Let's see...

AP: Saudis Reportedly Funding Iraqi Sunnis

I don't think the word 'clusterfuck' is strong enough to describe this mess.

(Some non-Iraq blog posts coming later today, I promise)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Why None Of It Matters

All the suggestions, discussion, delaying... it's all bullshit as long as this man is President.

From today's press conference-
George W. Bush, speaking today on the Iraq Study Group report: "The truth is a lot of reports in Washington aren't read by anybody. To show you how important this report is, I read it."

{*brain explodes*}

Asked whether he's still in "denial" about Iraq, Bush shot back: "It's bad in Iraq. That help?"

Not really.

Elsewhere, U.S. troops (remember them?) react to all of this-
American troops in one of the most dangerous corners of Iraq welcomed plans for change Wednesday as the Pentagon prepared for a new chief and a bipartisan commission urged a new war strategy.

But many of the soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment were skeptical they'll be going home anytime soon, despite a high-level U.S. panel's recommendation that most combat troops leave Iraq by early 2008.

"There's no way we're leaving in two years no matter what any recommendation says," Spc. Eisenhower Atuatasi, 26, of Westminster, Calif., said. He thought 2012 was more realistic.

Sgt. Christopher Wiacik, 28, of Lavonia, Mich., also was pessimistic.

"It's just a study group. It's not really going to affect the president. I don't see any major changes happening until presidential elections start," Wiacik said. "I think both sides will promise to get troops out and give timelines then, but not before."...

...1st Lt. Gerard Dow said he agreed with the commission's assessment that the situation in Iraq was "grave and disappointing."

"In Iraq, we try to win the hearts and minds of population," said Dow, 32, of Chicago. "They want Americans out of here. They blame us for all their problems. They look at us as the terrorists and then they turn around and help the terrorists who are trying to kill us."...

..."We're just sitting around not making any progress. It's annoying. You're not motivated to help anybody," [Wiacik] said, adding his contract was up in 2008 and he did not plan to re-enlist.

"I don't want to live my life like this," he said.

Should these people have to risk life and limb so that politicians can save face?

[PS- Andrew Sullivan posts insightful reader emails. ThinkProgress has a McCain flashback.]

Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman Hold Press Conference...

...To discuss videogame violence.

Well, ummm, glad to see that these two have their priorities straight. Good luck in '08, Hil!

[PS- Meanwhile, at this morning's other press conference, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair discussed that Iraq report thing. Was interesting if a fan of watching a lame duck eat crow, but was good for nothing else. Signs of intellectual life in our President still seem hard to come by. Only time will tell if this week's news will end up as even a footnote on the story of the war.]

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Baker/Hamilton Group Acknowledges Reality, Avoids Hard Decisions

If anyone here is interested in reading what James Baker and his merry band of consensus-makers have to say on Iraq, the following item has a detailed summary of today's news...

AP: Panel: Bush Iraq policy 'not working' (Full, official report- here.)

On the issue most readers of this site probably care about the most (when are we getting out?), the report is hardly bold, rather just suggesting "withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops" by- surprise!- early 2008. Of course, it adds that should be "subject to unexpected developments in the security situation". Like what, a war? Good grief.

Other suggestions were as expected-- talk with Iran and Syria, express to Iraqi government that our help is conditional on their actions, no open-ended committment with tons of permanent bases, but don't leave yet, broaden efforts to work towards larger Mideast peace (Israel/Palestine), etc.

Two general things can be agreed upon about this report... a) Given the media hype, it's too underwhelming and noncommittal, and b) The President will continue to do whatever he wanted anyway, if merely using cherry-picked morsels from the report to justify his predetermined goal of dragging the war out until he is out of office. There's no policy here; like the President, it's a lot of talk. Unlike the President, however, it's at least intelligent talk, but it lacks the focus on 'how' and 'when' and the forcefulness we need.

The third thing that can be said is that none of their findings (ie. that the administration policy is "not working") are shocking revelations. The results of last month's elections show that the American people didn't need the Bush family 'consigliere' to tell them that. As AJ at Americablog notes, "all this does is catch up Official Washington Consensus Opinion with the rest of the country". Sen. Feingold has a similar sentiment in a letter about the report, adding that (in neglecting to see the effect Iraq has had on our broader national security strategies) it is another "regrettable example of 'official Washington' missing the point". People didn't vote last month for more platitudes; they voted for an exit strategy and some real actual change.

All of their recommendations are based on the assumption that there is still some way to salvage this mess (if only a little). I don't think any of the members-- not even the Democratic ones-- considered the possibility that we have lost and that the mess is beyond repair (on our end)... because that would mean making some hard decisions on how to proceed from there.

I hope/pray the new Democratic majority will be bolder than the Iraq Study Group.

The real plus of the report: It will continue to move the war debate away from White House talking points.

Ultimately, I think Salon's Tim Grieve sums up my feelings on all of this when he notes that the "vague mishmash" of recommendations in the report are "probably not the fault of the group's members; they're not the ones who decided to launch a war of choice with no real plan for winning it. We are where we are now, and there is no good way for this story to end."

Finally, while we in America discussed this today, 10 more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq.

[PS- Just to note that the Bush cultists are still sailing down denial, conservative blogger extraordinare Glenn 'Instapundit' Reynolds is holding a 'blogger symposium' so that the 101st Fighting Keyboardists can make their own findings. Their recommendations? More wars and take over the Middle East. Sounds like the NY Post editorial page to me. Elsewhere, one satirist chronicles Mr. Reynold's statements over the years on Iraq. It'd be pretty amusing to read if so many people didn't take them seriously.

UPDATE: The Senate has confirmed Robert Gates; Sens. Santorum (R-Pa)- ! - and Bunning (R-Ky) voted against.

UPDATE #2: Was prescient about the NY Post- see Wednesday's cover. Cultists 'til the end.]

Meanwhile, In The Rest of the World...

Busy week politically here in the US and A. What of the rest of the world? Here's a snapshot-

AP: Ex-spy's death to be treated as murder

AFP: Lebanon opposition vows to step up protests

AFP: Despite NATO, Afghan opium cultivation grows 61 percent

Reuters: Taliban resist British assault in south Afghanistan

AP: Pakistan willing to drop Kashmir claim

TechWeb: Iran Blocks YouTube, N.Y. Times

Reuters: Mexico's Calderon takes power, faces fierce protest

AFP: Venezuela's Chavez celebrates re-election, promises 'revolutionary democracy'

AFP: Brazil creates world's biggest forest preserve

Democrats To Republicans: Working Hard Or Hardly Working?

The veterans of the current do-nothing Congress are in for a rude awakening come January-
Forget the minimum wage. Or outsourcing jobs overseas. The labor issue most on the minds of members of Congress yesterday was their own: They will have to work five days a week starting in January.

The horror.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who will become House majority leader and is writing the schedule for the next Congress, said members should expect longer hours than the brief week they have grown accustomed to...

...Hoyer and other Democratic leaders say they are trying to repair the image of Congress, which was so anemic this year it could not meet a basic duty: to approve spending bills that fund government. By the time the gavel comes down on the 109th Congress on Friday, members will have worked a total of 103 days. That's seven days fewer than the infamous "Do-Nothing Congress" of 1948...

...He said members need to spend more time in the Capitol to pass laws and oversee federal agencies. "We are going to meet sufficient times, so the committees can do their jobs on behalf of the American people," he said...

..."Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."...
Somebody call the waaahhhhh-mbulance.

Remember: Rich crybabies like Kingston are the ones who've been blocking a minimum wage increase for years.

[PS- Soon-to-be former members of Congress attended today a career advice panel called "Life After Congress."

And those patriotic Republicans are hard at work preemptively sabotaging the new Congress, "planting legislative land mines to make it harder for Democrats to govern", making us remember why they so deserved to be removed from power in the first place. Where are the liberal media 'bipartisanship' police on this one?]

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Now Is Not The Time For Forced Politeness

Atrios notes that David Gergen, Republican political advisor and part-time cable news contributor, admitted on CNN yesterday what many have been saying for years... that the media abdicated their journalistic responsibilities in the run-up to war, silenced dissent, and enthusiastically cheered on the invasion without asking many questions.

Said Gergen on the program-
"There was a sense, in the lead-up to the war, in which the press, I think, was guilty of cheerleading. We were waving the flags and it was almost unpatriotic to question the possibility of war with Iraq. And then during the time of the invasion itself, when the reporters were embedded, you know, many of them fell in love with the military and I think they reported very accurately.

But there was no question that they were swayed by what they had seen. But since they have been there, I do think the press has been on the cutting edge, been the leading indicator of saying it's not going as well as the administration says. And for those that think that the press is being too harsh, we now have the leak of the Hadley memo this week, which shows, within the administration itself, there's a real difference between what they're telling each other internally and what they're saying publicly.

The internal reporting inside the administration is much grimmer and much more similar to what the press says than what the administration has officially been saying."

History, I believe, will note all of this and shake their heads in disbelief.

Of course, besides being more realistic now in their war reporting, few in the media will openly challenge the White House. After all, they don't want Rush Limbaugh to start foaming at the mouth with rants of 'bias', etc. Keith Olbermann is a notable exception here (his predecessor, Phil Donahue, was fired in early 2003 by MSNBC because they were uncomfortable with his anti-war viewpoint)... Now, this doesn't mean turning nightly newscasts into rants against the current administration (that's going too far in ther other direction), but rather just calling a spade a spade as they turn up. It's not biased to call bullshit when you see it.

In his latest NY Times column (hidden behind their ridiculous subscriber firewall), Paul Krugman uses the recent exchange between the President and Sen.-elect Webb as a lesson for how to stand up to our Bully-in-Chief. He also sums up my feeling on how the Baker commission appears to have caved-- big time. He writes-
...You can understand, if not condone, the way the political and media establishment let itself be browbeaten by Mr. Bush in his post-9/11 political prime. What is amazing is the extent to which insiders still cringe before a lame duck with a 60 percent disapproval rating.

Look at what seems to have happened to the Iraq Study Group, whose mission statement says that it would provide an "independent assessment." If press reports are correct, the group did nothing of the sort. Instead, it watered down its conclusions and recommendations, trying to come up with something Mr. Bush wouldn't reject out of hand.

In particular, says Newsweek, the report "will set no timetables or call for any troop reductions." All it will do is "suggest that the president could, not should, begin to withdraw forces in the vaguely defined future."...

...Even now, it seems, the wise men of Washington can't bring themselves to face up to two glaringly obvious truths.

The first is that Americans are fighting and dying in Iraq for no reason.

It's true that terrible things will happen when U.S. forces withdraw. Mr. Bush was attacking a straw man when he mocked those who think we can make a 'graceful exit' from Iraq .... But nobody -- not even Donald Rumsfeld, it turns out -- thinks we're making progress in Iraq. So the same terrible things that would happen if we withdraw soon will still happen if we delay that withdrawal for two, three, or more years. The only difference is that we'll sacrifice many more Americans along the way.

The second truth is that the war will go on all the same, unless something or someone forces Mr. Bush to change course...

...Does that mean that we're doomed to at least two more years of bloody futility? Not necessarily. Last month the public delivered a huge vote of no confidence in Mr. Bush and his war. He's still the commander-in-chief, but the new majority in Congress can put a lot of pressure on him to at least begin a withdrawal.

I'm worried, however, that Democrats may have counted on the Iraq Study Group to provide them with political cover. Now that the study group has apparently wimped out, will the Democrats do the same?

Well here's a question for those who might be tempted, yet again, to shy away from a confrontation with Mr. Bush over Iraq: How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a bully's ego?

What he said. We cannot keep repeating this cycle over and over again (but we will).

[PS- Confirmation hearings for Robert Gates are today. Asked by Sen. Levin whether the U.S. is winning in Iraq, Gates replied, "No, sir" (but not losing, he had to add!). He also agreed an attack on Syria or Iran-- long desired by the neocons-- was a bad idea. He further stated his belief that bin Laden will be apprehended eventually, but reliable intel on him has been hard to get. It doesn't seem clear to me what his Iraq policy is exactly (or what his policy on anything is), but at least it appears we are dealing with someone sane. I suppose that's the best we can ask for now from this administration at this point.

UPDATE: Conservative blogger John Cole wonders what Gates' remarks will do to Bush cultist denial.]

Odds and Ends

More miscellaneous news on this busy day...

But first I wanted to add some thoughts on the resignation of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador. All the newspaper editorial boards seem to be shedding some real tears over the news. The conventional wisdom seems to also blame the Democrats for this. Two problems with this. #1- who cares? #2- That's total BS. This is spin, pure and simple. The Republicans have controlled the Senate. If the President couldn't even get Bolton voted out of committee with his rubberstamp congress, how popular could he have been? And it was outgoing Republican senator Chafee who did more to stop Bolton than any Democrat did. The guy was not a popular nominee; the Senate blocked his confirmation. That's how the system works. It's called checks and balances... The other thing all the editorials are saying is that this is bad because the U.N. needs a reformer-- someone who will go in there and really shake shit up, and force the old U.N. guard out of complacency. I fully agree with that. But John Bolton was not that person. The man was not shy about openly loathing the institution itself. You don't send an arsonist to reform the Fire Department. Just my two or three cents.

Moving on... Arianna Huffington has a message for Sen. Clinton who is realizing now her sure-thing candidacy is anything but: 'Obama happens'. I doubt Obama will be the nominee either, but any alternatives to Hillary are welcome. Talking Points Memo readers also share their thoughts on the misguided Clinton candidacy.

Over on the GOP side, the media loves it when John McCain lies to them. He's a maverick, you know.

Democratic congressional leaders prepare for a return to oversight in January. Rep. John Dingel (D-Mich), incoming chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called the GOP approach "nothing more than Kabuki theater." Says Barbara Boxer, "Since his first day in office, President Bush has worked to roll back more than 350 laws and regulations that protect our public health and the environment. Any one of these rollbacks should be cause for a hearing in the Congress, should be a cause for consternation among the people. And I have to tell you, this has got to stop." And fellow California Senator Dianna Feinstein, slated to become Chairperson of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, plans to introduce legislation requiring paper trails for all electronic voting as well as audits.

Amnesty or not amnesty? Semantics will engulf congressional plans for immigration legislation.

ABC News has this from Brazil: "A swath of Amazon rain forest the size of Alabama was placed under government protection Monday in a region infamous for violent conflicts among loggers, ranchers and environmentalists."

Meanwhile in New Orleans, levee work has significantly slowed down.

Why does the religious right hate our Constitution?

Finally, what exactly is the Supreme Court about to do on school desegregation?


...It's for Democrats only.

Republicans can, of course, continue to do and say whatever the fuck they want.

Worst. President. Ever.

With the President now as lame a duck as one can get, more and more scholars are finding it safe to dump him in the "worst President ever" slot (or, at best, in the bottom five).

If anyone is interested, I laid out my case for why he is the worst ever in the comments section of a blog entry this past April. It was a pretty detailed case by blog standards. Basically, I noted that with other 'worst ever' candidates (Hoover, Nixon) you can surely find some successes overshadowed by their larger failings, whereas President Bush has no actual accomplishments to point to. Lyndon Johnson may have started the Vietnam war, but at least he had the Great Society. Richard Nixon may have continued that war and committed constitutional crimes, but at least his record shows many domestic achievements and that historic trip to China. Etc etc.

What does George W. Bush have? A couple of questionable tax cuts? What a legacy. All he has is Iraq, Katrina, a botched war on terror, Big Brother and other constitutional affronts, a middle class in shambles, religious fanaticism triumphing over scientific progress, a divided populace, and more than can be written in this space. President Buchanan may have failed to prevent a civil war, but I bet he wouldn't have treated Terri Schiavo with more urgency than he does matters of war.

In addition, I noted that our most popular leaders (Lincoln, FDR) have inherited bad situations and made the country remarkably better in their wake. Mr. Bush inherited a semi-divided country and made it worse, creating numerous new problems for his successors to clean up in his wake. His presidency has been a failure on every measurable level. The fact is that we have an empty shell for a leader; a man guided more by ideology than by any discernible policies.

Now, as I noted, more people are making these same arguments (it's not just liberal bloggers and Rolling Stone anymore). Salon's Tim Grieve has a sampling of where some are placing George W. Bush on the rankings of U.S. Presidents...
Historian Douglas Brinkley: "Though Bush may be viewed as a laughingstock, he won't have the zero-integrity factors that have kept Nixon and Harding at the bottom in the presidential sweepstakes. Oddly, the president whom Bush most reminds me of is Herbert Hoover, whose name is synonymous with failure to respond to the Great Depression. When the stock market collapsed, Hoover, for ideological reasons, did too little. When 9/11 happened, Bush did too much, attacking the wrong country at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. He has joined Hoover as a case study on how not to be president."

Rutgers professor David Greenberg: "As the now-flourishing reputations of Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan attest, the antipathy a president elicits from his contemporaries usually fades over time. And as Nixon's still-dismal reputation also attests, in the contest for the dubious title of 'worst president,' Bush faces stiff competition ... Bush has two years left in his presidency and we don't know what they'll hold. They may be as dismal as the first six. Future investigations may bear out many people's worst fears about this administration's violations of civil liberties. And it's conceivable that the consequences of the invasion of Iraq may prove more destructive than those of Nixon's stubborn continuation of the Vietnam War. Should those things happen, Bush will be able to lay a claim to the mantle of U.S. history's worst president. For now, though, I'm sticking with Dick."

New America Foundation senior fellow Michael Lind:"It's unfair to claim that George W. Bush is the worst president of all time. He's merely the fifth worst ... Andrew Jackson's victory in the Battle of New Orleans (waged two weeks after the United States and Britain, unknown to Jackson, had signed a peace treaty) helped Americans pretend that the War of 1812 was something other than a total wipe-out. By contrast, George W. Bush has inadvertently destroyed only Baghdad, not Washington, and the costs of the Iraq war in blood and treasure are far less than those of Korea and Vietnam ... The fact that Bush followed the invasion of Afghanistan, which had sheltered al-Qaeda, with the toppling of Saddam Hussein, will puzzle historians for centuries. It is as though, after Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor, FDR had asked Congress to declare war on Argentina."

University of Massachusetts professor Vincent J. Cannato: "Much of Bush's legacy will rest on the future trajectory of the fight against terrorism, the nation's continued security and the evolving direction of the Middle East. Things may look grim today, but that doesn't ensure a grim future ... But history should at least teach us humility. Time will cool today's political passions. As years pass, more documents will be released, more insights gleaned and the broader picture of this era will be painted. Only then will we begin to see how George W. Bush fares in the pantheon of U.S. presidents."

The only saving grace here for Bush seems to be summarized as 'The fallout from his gross incompetence, stupidity, and failure couldn've been a lot, lot worse'. Touche, historians, touche. And I think that could make a nice subtitle for his biography.

Only 776 days left...

Quizzing Robert Gates

The NY Times asked six defense and foreign-policy experts (former Defense Secretaries, national security advisors, etc) to tell them what questions Senators should ask of Mr. Gates at his confirmation hearings.

The responses make for good reading.

[PS- GOP Senator John Warner tells the President there's a "moral obligation" to seek Democratic advise.]

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rummy and the Leak

The big news out of the weekend was a leaked Rumsfeld memo (written right before the election-- and his resignation/firing) to the NY Times. This, of course, follows last week's leak of a White House memo expressing concern over the Iraqi prime minister. The memo shows a Rumsfeld genuinely concerned about the state of the war and making a number of suggestions that conservatives would have labeled "defeatist" just weeks ago! These revelations prove that, not only is a broken clock right twice a day, but also that George W. Bush may be the last person on Earth who has faith in his strategy for the war (or, rather, absence of strategy).

NY Times: Rumsfeld Memo Proposed ‘Major Adjustment’ in Iraq
Two days before he resigned as defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld submitted a classified memo to the White House that acknowledged that the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq was not working and called for a major course correction.

In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”

Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course, he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations.

"Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis," he wrote. "This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’"

“Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist,” he added. The memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House’s sharpest Democratic critics....

Text of the memo- here.

As I noted at the beginning, many of the proposals that Rumsfeld makes in this memo (troop withdrawals, redeploying some forces to border areas, closing down U.S. bases in Iraq throughout 2007, setting up timetables to force Iraqi gov't to respond, etc) are the same-- but less bold-- than those that have been proposed by Democrats for over a year and have dismissed by conservatives (like, say, Donald Rumsfeld) as "defeatist" and "cut and run". If anything good comes out of this leak, it may be that those on the right will have to stop discussing the war in such insane, black and white terms.

But lest we forget his true nature, here's some vintage Rummy in the memo-
The memorandum sometimes has a finger-wagging tone, as Mr. Rumsfeld says that the Iraqis must “pull up their socks,” and suggests that reconstruction aid should be withheld in violent areas to avoid rewarding “bad behavior.”

Bad Iraqis! No reconstruction for you!!! The military contractors will just have to pocket that money instead!

The memo leak had the White House on the defensive. "We have not failed in Iraq," Stephen Hadley said. Of course not, Stephen. You haven't all-out failed because the war is still ongoing... right now you are merely failing. When this war is over, then you will have failed.

Hadley reiterated, though, they wouldn't rule out any suggestions... if made by Republicans.

Another question is who leaked this memo. Andrew Sullivan wonders if the leaker was Rumsfeld himself, as revenge for his ousting. Or maybe he just doesn't want to be the scapegoat (for the war that was his idea).

Another possibility would be close Rumsfeld ally at the Department of Defense, Stephen Cambone, who just resigned this past Friday. Cambone may be best known for his notes from a meeting Rumsfeld held on the afternoon of 9/11. The notes showed Rumsfeld instructing his crew to try to tie 9/11 to Iraq. "Go massive... Sweep it all up. Things related and not," Rummy instructed. Among other instructions Cambone wrote down in these notes were to "get info fast" to "judge whether [we can] hit SH [Saddam Hussein] at the same time" and "not only UBL [Usama bin Laden]". And the rest is history.

On a related note, I wonder if we'll hear the rabid cries for criminal investigations from the right we have heard surrounding previous Times stories from leaks. Michelle Malkin, as always, can be counted on for hysteria, stating that the Times "splashed it all over its front page for all the world and America's enemies to read." Yes, now that our enemies know that some degree of intelligent debate and disagreement has been occuring within the famously sheltered, stubborn White House, they will conquer the world in no time. Perhaps threats of criminal investigations are only reserved for stories that reveal criminal/unconstitutional actions by the White House.

Finally, Talking Point Memo's Josh Marshall notes that if the 2006 election was supposed to be an intervention for the President, it has been a failed one thus far. "And this is the guy running the country?", Marshall asks. A frightening and sobering thought.

Minimum Wage

From Bob Geiger:
Another unfortunate milestone in the reign of George W. Bush and the recently-deposed Republican Congress was reached on Saturday when the federal minimum wage set a new record for the longest period without a raise since its establishment in 1938. As of December 2, the $5.15-per-hour wage rate has remained unchanged for nine years and three months.

More statistics/info- here.

Nancy Pelosi has reiterated that this will be the first priority of the Democratic congress.

I always hear that the conservative opposition to this... that a wage increase will actually undermine workers because businesses (to compensate for the extra cost) will either have to hire less workers and/or raise prices. I am no economist, but this to me comes off as the most backwards, nasty argument. "Why, this business may only make an $11 million profit this year instead of $16 million!!! Fuck you, socialists!!!".

First off, I seriously doubt that any business owner will go out of business by this move. Most small businesses I would bet are already paying their workers more than the minimum. The businesses that this will really affect are chain stores and/or restaurants which make such obscene profits that their CEOs should be punched for even thinking of complaining. These are also the companies that already undermine our economy through outsourcing and worker exploitation. If a company chooses to hire less people and/or raise prices because Congress forces them to treat their workers humanely, than it is the company who is at fault, not the Congress and not the workers. That's not anti-capitalism; that's just basic human dignity. It is sad that 'compassionate' conservatives would debate this.

Furthermore, raising the minimum wage has been proven to help local economies.

Secondly, if you did buy this argument, then you could never raise the minimum wage. Because the argument would always be true and you'd paying people $5.15/hour forever to avoid inflation or hiring freezes. Which is just impossible for people to live on that in 2006, let alone 2007 and beyond. Hell, even the $7.25/hour the Democrats have proposed is only marginally better for many families (but is better than no increase).

How supporting corporations over people became a conservative value, I will never know.

Heckuva Job

The administration's promises to the Gulf Coast continue to be proven hollow...

From Talking Points Memo:
Citing the status of the rebuilding of the levee system, the largest commercial insurer in Louisiana, St. Paul Travelers, has announced it will cancel all commercial property insurance policies it has underwritten in the New Orleans area next year as existing policies come up for renewal.

What does this mean? For a region struggling to resurrect its economic base, it's a huge impediment to commerce.

They wonder if the White House press corps will ask the Bush administration about this news and how it affects their long-forgotten promises to rebuild New Orleans. Don't hold your breath. Even Anderson Cooper seems to have stopped caring about this story.

President Bush Abandons Bid To Keep Bolton At U.N.

Sign of the times...

AP: Bush accepts Bolton's U.N. resignation
Unable to win Senate confirmation, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment expires within weeks, the White House said Monday...

...Critics have questioned Bolton's brusque style and whether he could be an effective public servant who could help bring reform to the U.N...

...Bush planned to meet with Bolton and his wife later Monday in the Oval Office.

Bush said he accepted Bolton's decision with deep regret...

...In a letter to Bush, dated last Friday, Bolton offered no reason for his decision. "After careful consideration, I have concluded that my service in your administration should end when the current recess appoint expires," Bolton wrote.

It's gonna be a busy week, I bet.

[PS- The National Review recommends as his replacement... Rick Santorum. You can't make this shit up.]

What She Said

An Iraqi homemaker, responding to news of the summit meeting between al-Maliki and Bush:
"Is that all? Was that even worth the fuel consumed by their airplanes?"


America's Sickest Home Videos

The NY Times describes a video tape that gives a look into the detention of accused 'dirty bomber' Jose Padilla (though, at this point, who even knows what the government is accusing him of exactly; the actual indictment the Supreme Court forced them to give was vague). The video "offers the first concrete glimpse inside the secretive military incarceration of an American citizen whose detention without charges became a test case of President Bush’s powers in the fight against terror."

Newsweek has more on how videotapes will play a role in the case

And Glenn Greenwald has more thoughts and history on Padilla's detention.

Monday Bonus YouTube Theatre

Was away from the computer most of the weekend and now I must go to bed. I will be back to blogging this afternoon with some thoughts on the Rumsfeld memo, 'bipartisanship', and a certain worst President ever.

In the meantime, enjoy this video I found linked on Andrew Sullivan's blog. He describes it thusly: "An animated gem, narrated by Orson Welles, on the need for vigilance in protecting our precious liberties. Its message has rarely been as timely. " But it's more than that... it's a parable for what our complacency has allowed to happen to our country. Its message is more timely now than when this cartoon was made.

Enjoy it.

Running Out The Clock

The Republican Congress is heading into their last week today before they go out of session. They are planning to spend their last few days as a majority party by continuing their agenda... doing absolutely nothing of significance or of help to anyone (who isn't a fetus or a millionaire).

From the Washington Post-
...Congress will convene on Tuesday for what some fear will be the lamest of lame-duck sessions, and GOP leaders have decided to take a minimalist approach before turning over the reins of power to the Democrats. Rather than a final surge of legislative activity, Congress will probably wrap up things after a single, short week of work. They have even decided to punt decisions on annual government spending measures to the Democrats next year.

"There is a lot of battle fatigue among members, probably on both sides of the aisle," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), usually a reliable conservative firebrand. "Contrary to popular belief, members of Congress are human beings. They have a certain shelf life and a certain amount of energy to be drawn on. We're tired."...

I can imagine. Screwing up an entire country is very exhausting work.

How very grateful we all should be that voters allowed these overworked patriots to get the rest they need.