Saturday, May 15, 2004

STUNNING

I don't even have the words to comment on this devastating article.

Apparently, Bush had three opportunities, long before the war, to destroy a terrorist camp in northern Iraq run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al-Qaida associate who recently cut off the head of Nicholas Berg. But the White House decided not to carry out the attack because, as the story puts it:

[T]he administration feared [that] destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
The implications of this are more shocking, in their way, than the news from Abu Ghraib. Bush promoted the invasion of Iraq as a vital battle in the war on terrorism, a continuation of our response to 9/11. Here was a chance to wipe out a high-ranking terrorist. And Bush didn't take advantage of it because doing so might also wipe out a rationale for invasion.
We must fight, fight, fight to get that man out of office.
Wrong in so many ways

Speaking of the veep sweepstakes, I fail to understand why so many Democrats are beating the drum for John McCain to be Kerry's running mate.

Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist who once worked for Mr. Kerry, said such a ticket "would be the political equivalent of the Yankees signing A-Rod," referring to Alex Rodriguez, the team's star third baseman.

Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, "continues to be interested in" Mr. McCain, a fellow Vietnam veteran whom Kerry aides describe as the candidate's best friend in the Senate, as a running mate, said one longtime Democratic official who works for the Kerry campaign.
Now, I admire McCain as a principled guy. He's more willing than the average senator to stand up for what he believes in, and he's willing to go against his party in doing it.

The problem is that too many of his principles are... conservative! News flash: The guy is a Republican. He's a Republican, even though he may admirably support a few liberal issues now and again. The problem with the Democratic party is that it has drifted too far to the right -- and we're going to fix that with a Republican vice-president? Just the fact that the Kerry campaign is even considering McCain makes me uneasy. Not because they might actually choose McCain (thankfully, he's stated repeatedly that he won't do it), but because of what it says about the Kerry campaign's thinking. It says that they believe the way to win in November is to shift even further to the right.

And another thing: Even if Kerry offered and McCain accepted the job, McCain would not be the silver bullet people believe. Too many people (like yours truly) would be upset about it. Left-wing voters might be dissuaded from coming to the polls. Bush could hammer Kerry with the hypocracy thing. "Kerry believes in Republican values so much he picked a Republican running mate. Vote for Bush, the REAL Republican!"

Now, Colin Powell might be a silver bullet. (It's still not too late to switch parties, Colin!) But McCain? No.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Veep Sweepstakes

Summer is fast approaching; only 10 weeks remain until the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Which means that it won't be too long until John Kerry picks a vice-presidential running mate. It's an important pick -- the election may very well come down to the wire, and the VP candidate could be the difference between sending Bush back to Texas or keeping him in Washington for four more years of... oh, I can't bear to think of it.

I've read talk that because Iraq and the state of the American military will be such a big factor in the election, Kerry should pick someone with strong national security bona fides -- someone like Wesley Clark. I don't agree with this line of logic. Kerry, thrice wounded in Vietnam, has plenty of military-man credentials. And having Clark in the race might make Iraq too much of an issue.

Let me explain. Kerry needs to hammer on Bush's failures in Iraq as much as possible. But Clark has a history of foreign intervention and nation-building and the like. So with Clark in the race, Karl Rove will be able to deflect the debate away from Bush's record as a commander, and focus on Clark's record as a commander. Rove will have the GOPers continually asking, "Well, maybe things haven't gone perfectly in Iraq, but they didn't go perfectly in the Balkans, did they, now? A lot of people died in Bosnia, didn't they?" Republicans will be able downplay Bush's performance by comparing it with Clark's. Kerry will have the maximum political advantage (to be perfectly blunt about it) if he can critize Bush's performance with Iraq without offering a specific alternative of his own. With a military commander such as Clark as his running mate, Kerry will be expected to offer specific plans.

My feeling: the VP candidate should probably be John Edwards. The guy really is the anti-Kerry all the right ways. He's young, he's good looking, he's charismatic, he has a relatively short history in Washington, and he's from the South. Edwards wasn't my horse in the race for the presidential nomination, but he's tailor-made for VP.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Lame Duck Bush

lame duck
n.

An elected officeholder or group continuing in office during the period between failure to win an election and the inauguration of a successor.
An officeholder who has chosen not to run for reelection or is ineligible for reelection.
An ineffective person; a weakling.


True, the election may be six months away, but when it comes to foreign policy, the Bush administration is definitely lame. For some reason, the media don't appear to appreciate the significance of the latest evidence:


NATO Balking at Iraq Mission
Amid rising violence and public opposition to the occupation, allies want to delay a major commitment until after the U.S. election.

By Paul Richter, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration's hopes for a major NATO military presence in Iraq this year appear doomed, interviews with allied defense officials and diplomats show.

The Western military alliance had expected to announce at a June summit that it would accept a role in the country, perhaps by leading the international division now patrolling south-central Iraq. But amid continuing bloodshed and strong public opposition to the occupation in many nations, allies want to delay any major commitment until after the U.S. presidential election in November, officials say.



What's clear from this is that Europeans are ready and willing to help the United States in Iraq. What is also clear is that they have recognized the gross incompetence with which the Bush administration has handled the Iraq situation every step of the way, and while they are willing to help the U.S. out, they are not going to make the safety of their troops incumbent upon the judgment of George W. Bush.

So while the Bush administration has clearly cost the United States a great deal of credibility and respect around the globe, much of that could be immediately regained should he be replaced come November. And for Americans who don't like Bush, but are unsure how Kerry would do about handling Iraq, the choice is crystal clear: with Bush, the U.S. can continue to shoulder the increasing burden of Iraq alone, with no strategy for victory, or with Kerry, many of our recently estranged long time allies will return to our side, and help extricate us from this mess.

That NATO members have taken this approach is truly extraordinary. Imagine if NATO had said to Clinton, we want to wait to make a decision on whether to support you in Yugoslavia until after the impeachment process is complete. It would have been perceived as an extraordinary rebuke of Clinton. NATO didn't do that because its members had great confidence in Clinton's foreign policy handling and confidence.

There are still six months till the election, so Bush may not be a lame duck by traditional political standards. However, as the NATO example shows, he is a lame duck internationally. The United States has lost a great deal of respect, and a great deal of power, thanks to his incompetence. And unless Kerry wins, we're not getting it back.

Shouldn't Kerry be campaigning on this stuff?
Go get 'em, Tommy!

Thomas Friedman finally gets it:

There is something even more important to the Bush crowd than getting Iraq right, and that's getting re-elected and staying loyal to the conservative base to do so. It has always been more important for the Bush folks to defeat liberals at home than Baathists abroad. That's why they spent more time studying U.S. polls than Iraqi history. That is why, I'll bet, Karl Rove has had more sway over this war than Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Bill Burns. Mr. Burns knew only what would play in the Middle East. Mr. Rove knew what would play in the Middle West.
Slowly but surely, those who have given Bush the benefit of the doubt are starting to realize he was not deserving of it.
I'm outraged

I'm getting really tired of hearing partisan Republicans try to justify the recent events which have occurred in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Folks such as Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh have made clear that their partisan political hackery knows no limits. At a time when serious criminal offenses have been perpetrated by US, likely with encouragement from the highest levels of government, is causing many in the U.S. to question the humanity of their nation, and many across the world to reach their final verdict about what the United States represents, these guys minimize the significance of the incidents, and suggest that the problem is not the methods and practices of the United States armed forces, but the fact this information reached Americans in the first place.

Add to this club James Inhofe, an undistinguished Senator from Oklahoma.

As others condemned the reported abuse of Iraqi prisoners, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe expressed outrage at the outcry over the scandal and took aim at "humanitarian do-gooders" investigating American troops.

But Sen. John McCain, himself a former prisoner of war, said such humanitarian involvement distinguished the United States from its enemies.

"I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and an outspoken conservative, told a U.S. Senate hearing probing the case.

In heated remarks at odds with others on the Senate Armed Services Committee (news - web sites) who criticized the U.S. military's handling of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, Inhofe said American sympathies should lie with U.S. troops.

"I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons looking for human rights violations, while our troops, our heroes are fighting and dying," he said.

"These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations," said Inhofe, whose senatorial Web site describes him as an advocate of "Oklahoma values."


Questions about Oklahoma values aside, evidently, Inhofe in his role as a member of the Senate Armed Services committee was not aware that around 70 to 90 percent of detainees were detained by mistake. But there is a bigger issue here.

Please, does anyone remember anything about history, about Nazi Germany? Germany didn't bear responsibility for some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind because its people were evil. It did so because its government operated with the consent of a large portion of its population, of whom many believed that whatever the government was doing, it was doing it in the best interests of the country. I would be willing to bet that as the German war machine revved up prior to WWII, and Germans began to be aware of at least some aspects of the brutality of their own government, the Nazi propogandists used the rational that their country was only working to accomplish what was best and fairest for its people, and that its actions were inherently good. And enough people bought it, or didn't question it, to allow things to get much, much worse.

There are other interesting things about Nazi Germany. When one asks how a modern, Westernized democracy can degenerate into a country with no democracy, where war and cruelty are the dominant themes, one must place events in their historical context.

Why did a great deal of Germans not strongly oppose Adolf Hitler? Because he kept the country in a state of fear. Germany was in danger. Foreigners posed a threat. Foreigners were evil. Germany was working for the good of the German people. It was also under attack by terrorists.


Hitler used the 1933 burning of the Reichstag (Parliament) building by a deranged Dutchman to declare a “war on terrorism,” establish his legitimacy as a leader (even though he hadn’t won a majority in the previous election).

You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history,” he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. “This fire,” he said, his voice trembling with emotion, “is the beginning.” He used the occasion – “a sign from God,” he called it – to declare an all-out war on terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their “evil” deeds in their religion.



Of course Germans were not inherently evil. They were a people dominated by fear who allowed it to overcome their bests instincts. They were a people whose democratic system, whose institutions, crumbled in the face of a leader who had no qualms about using fear to consolidate his grip on power and accomplish his dark dreams.

The United States has a history rich with the triumph of human rights, and humanity, over our darker instincts. However, there is no guarantee that our system will endure. We must fight to protect it, and fight hard, and be very outraged when, as here, the ideals for which our country has long stood are so thoroughly dishonored.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Kerry in a landslide

Chuck Todd of Washington Monthly offers a heartening prediction of the 2004 presidential election: Bush is probably toast.

Elections that feature a sitting president tend to be referendums on the incumbent--and in recent elections, the incumbent has either won or lost by large electoral margins. If you look at key indicators beyond the neck-and-neck support for the two candidates in the polls--such as high turnout in the early Democratic primaries and the likelihood of a high turnout in November--it seems improbable that Bush will win big. More likely, it's going to be Kerry in a rout.
Many months ago, I started telling people that 2004 was going to be a repeat of 1992 -- that Bush II would go down in flames just like his daddy. Granted, I started believing it back when I thought Howard Dean was going to be the nominee. And granted, some days even a slim Kerry victory seems too much to even hope for, much less a blowout. But Bush cannot help shooting himself in the foot. He's barreling down the road to hell and won't even pause to consider whether he might not be on the right path. His aw-shucks pal-o-mine frat-boy demeanor will wear on people when the economy is down, people are jobless, and American soldiers keep coming home in coffins.

By no means is the election a done deal -- and by no means should liberals do anything less than everything possible to defeat Bush in November -- but we really can win this thing and boot his ass back to Texas.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Hell, no, Rummy won't go

Donald Rumsfeld got the official Bush seal of approval today. "Great job, Rummy! Don't worry about the pictures -- aw, shucks, I can just imagine what would happen if pictures from my hard-partying, coke-snorting days got out! I'm just glad I got sober before the age of digital cameras!"

Maureen Dowd succinctly points out why Rumsfeld isn't getting the boot from the defense department:

After all, George Tenet is still running the C.I.A. after the biggest intelligence failures since some Trojan ignored Cassandra's chatter and said, "Roll the horse in." Colin Powell is still around after trash-talking to Bob Woodward about his catfights with the Bushworld "Mean Girls" — Rummy, Cheney, Wolfie and Doug Feith. The vice president still rules after promoting a smashmouth foreign policy that is more Jack Palance than Shane. And the president still edges out John Kerry in polls, even though Mr. Bush observed with no irony to Al Arabiya TV: "Iraqis are sick of foreign people coming in their country and trying to destabilize their country, and we will help them rid Iraq of these killers."

The only people who have been pushed aside in this administration are the truth tellers who warned about policies on taxes (Paul O'Neill); war costs (Larry Lindsey); occupation troop levels (Gen. Eric Shinseki); and how Iraq would divert from catching the ubiquitous Osama (Richard Clarke).
And Josh Marshall points out another reason why Rummy is staying -- namely, if he left, Bush would have to replace him:

Let's say Rumsfeld resigns on Friday. The election is still six months away. And the nation is at war. So a new Defense Secretary would be needed more or less immediately. That would open up a very uncomfortable prospect for the administration.

Confirmation hearings for a new Sec Def would, I think, inevitably turn into a national forum for discussing the management of the Pentagon, the planning for the war and the lack of planning for the occupation. The new nominee would be drawn into all sorts of uncomfortble public second-guessing of what's happened up until this point. Sure, that's stuff under Rumsfeld. But, really, it's stuff under Bush -- the civilian head of the United States military.

That, I have to imagine, is something the White House would like to avoid at any cost.