Topic: Couldn't be so...
Choose Your Poison: The Array from Tuesday, November 15
Choice One: Empty Gestures
As the day opened Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senator John Warner were pushing a proposal that would call on the president to lay out a plan for ending the war in Iraq, but not really. They basically took the proposal from the Democrats - set a timetable for getting out, to force the Iraqis to develop the ability to keep their own country stable - and edited it. Their special version doesn't have anything to do with setting dates for the gradual withdrawal of troops. It demands paperwork.
And they passed that. The Democrats' version just wasn't going to fly.
As the New York Times explains here -
Well, it's something. Is it progress? The demand is non-binding, as they say. They may get the reports, and they may not.
So while the president was in Japan, the first stop on the Asia tour that ends in Mongolia, his own party, out of "anxiety" or something, suddenly demands they be let in on what's going on. Scan the general reaction on the right - these backstabbers in his own party are saying they don't trust the guy, who really shouldn't have to explain anything to anybody. Faithless cowards! Scan the reaction on the left - even the man's own supporters know enough is enough and we all deserve to know what's going on.
And the most obvious thing everyone knows, and many say - with sixty percent of the public now saying this war hasn't been worth the cost, and with a clear majority now saying the president obviously misled us into this war, these guys were trapped. They, unlike the president, will be up for reelection. They had do something that looked like the were players in this game, something that gave the appearance they had some control, that they were doing the "oversight" part of their actual job.
So they said they'd like a status report now and then. Are we making progress? Are any more Iraqi battalions anywhere near ready to do anything at all this quarter? What's up?
You can imagine each "regular report," should they get one now and then, will be a highly structured set of variations on the familiar theme: "Things are fine; trust me on that."
That will do for the president's party. And so it goes. It's cover. They're losing control of the situation and now playing defense. Very odd for the majority here.
But there's a bit more.
As you recall, last week there was this: Senate Approves Limiting Rights of U.S. Detainees - "The Senate voted Thursday to strip captured 'enemy combatants' at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of the principal legal tool given to them last year by the Supreme Court when it allowed them to challenge their detentions in United States courts."
This was covered in these pages in some detail here last weekend.
There was no end to the controversy this created - see this for links to Monday's editorials suggesting habeas corpus is a good thing, and giving one man the power to lock up anyone he decided was bad, without proof, and with specific charges, without communication, forever, with no way to appeal what was happening to him or to explain to anyone - no trial at all - was maybe something we ought not to grant this president, or anyone. here three hundred fifty of the top law professors in America say this is madness, but carefully. My high-powered Wall Street attorney friend forwarded me the letter from Michael Greco, the president of the American Bar Association, saying much the same:
Such comments seem endless, and on the other side you hear stuff like this, defending unlimited detention and even torture:
That's the core counterargument - "it is an affront to morality and decency" to treat such people with "humanity."
Choose your side of the argument. A web search will give you thousands folks agreeing with you, with supporting documentary stuff, whichever way you choose.
The senate had to vote on this, and came up with a compromise, seriously detailed here and here. Basically Senator Graham proposed an amendment to his own amendment, co-sponsored by Carl Levin and John Kyl (text here) - this still denies habeas corpus to these folks but allows a bit more judicial review than the version that Graham attached the appropriations bill last week. Senator Bingaman proposed a different amendment (text here) - and that allowed habeas, but it cut off lawsuits challenging the conditions of confinement. The Bingaman version got voted sown 44-54, and the Graham-Levin thing passed 84-14, so in short, this would, like the original, eliminate habeas for Guantánamo detainees, overturn the previous ruling these guys had rights (Rasul), and more than likely prevent the Supreme Court from ruling on the merits of the Hamdan case now under review.
So? Half a loaf is better than none? The bottom line is you get to have your say if you're in for ten years or set to be executed. Otherwise you're shit out of luck.
As in this in the Washington Post, some comments from an attorney representing a curious detainee at Guantánamo. As noted here, "When senators complain that 'terrorists' shouldn't be entitled to habeas corpus review of their detentions, they're missing the point. It isn't enough for the administration to claim someone is a terrorist."
This "terrorist" named Adel, and his attorney notes this -
No problem? Not exactly. -
Oh well. To treat such people with "humanity" is "an affront to morality and decency," after all.
Yes, the military admits many of those held at Guantánamo are guilty of nothing, and have little or no useful "intelligence' for us, to match their admission that perhaps ninety percent of those held at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad were just caught up in sweeps and were just unlucky. But it's war. You just can let people go. It looks bad.
Everyone is posturing. The unlucky disappear or die.
Oh yeah, the McCain amendment, saying we will follow our own rules and not torture folks, is still alive, attached to the bill in question.
Will Bush veto the bill, as he says he will, to block the McCain "restrictions" on his rights as president? To get this restriction on detainee appeals that the administration wants, he may have to sign the anti-torture provision Vice President Cheney opposes and has been trying to stop, or modify to allow the CIA to torture at will. Sending a silly report every few months is not a problem. This McCain stuff is.
We'll see what happens after Mongolia.
Choice Two: Bad Polls
Late Monday the 14th -' from a CNN and US Today and Gallup poll here - Americans say they trust George W. Bush less than they trusted Bill Clinton, by a pretty big margin. About fifty percent of people polled said they disliked Bush, and six percent claimed to hate him. Overall approval - thirty-seven percent. Do folks trust Bush more than they did Clinton? Forty-eight percent said they trusted Bush less, while only thirty-six percent said they trusted him more. Yipes! Fifteen percent called it a tie - a pox on both their houses.
Also of note, approval rating exactly four years ago of eighty-seven percent, and now thirty-seven, percent, with now majority disapproval how things are handled on all issues - the economy, immigration, federal spending, Iraq, terrorism in general. Doesn't matter. Take your pick. For the first time in these Gallup polls, a majority of Americans - 52 to 46 percent - say the guy is neither honest nor trustworthy.
And that Clinton thing just has to hurt.
So now what?
If you watch Fox News and such you hear, endlessly, the story of how Reagan recovered from low numbers after Iran-Contra and all that, and "ended the cold war" (single-handedly, we're told), so Bush will do the same. He'll do something spectacular that will make him a universally loved and respected leader like Reagan (yes, yes, some disagree on that).
But what rabbit will he pull out of his hat? He cannot go to Berlin and say, "Pull Down this wall!" No wall now. No one to say it to - no Soviet Union or anything like it.
Trapped by a lack of a good opportunity!
And he may not have the personality for such gestures.
The Washington Times notes this -
Matt Drudge reports this -
Comment here -
They shouldn't have asked that poll question about Clinton.
Choice Three: Uppity Foreigners
Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, has been sending email on this.
Spain announced it will "probe allegations" that our CIA used one of their airports, somewhere near Mallorca, to transfer our "ghost detainees" we send to our overseas "interrogation facilities" where there are no rules. Reuters here:
Ric in Paris -
Oh my. This is not good.
But later, Tuesday, November 15, by 7:30 in the evening out here in Hollywood, Google News showed 175 stories - the New York Times here, ABC News here, and Associated Press here. Of course the story hit Europe first.
Oh heck, a number of probes are underway in Europe over covert CIA operations there. The Italian and German governments are both investigating allegations that the CIA has kidnapped individuals within their borders. Italy is now working on the extradition of twenty-two CIA agents for their involvement in one of these kidnappings.
This is all over the European press, but doesn't get much coverage here.
Are these "intolerable deeds because they break the basic rules of treating people in a democratic legal and political system?"
Maybe, but we don't care. See "Choice One" above.
Rules are for the other guys.
Choice Four: Why Bother?
Monday the Washington Post reported something curious over at the Department of Justice, in the Civil Rights Division - career attorneys are leaving at a rate nearly double that of prior administrations. Why? It seems the agenda has changed a bit. The Post reports this -
What to make of this?
One attorney here - "I'd be embarrassed to work there, too. A Civil Rights Division working against civil rights follows the Administration's plan. If War=Peace and Clean Air Initiative=No Clean Air, then Civil Rights=Less Civil Rights. It must keep minorities from voting because they likely will vote Democratic. It all follows."
Choice Five: The Big Debate
The New York Times publishes a startling editorial, Tuesday, November 15, that opens with this -
There a big section in the middle with proof of what was bit true, and they end with this -
Well, some of it happened because the Times printed story after story from Judy Miller, planting there what the administration wanted her to plant, and the Times was unwilling to question her or her sources. But she's gone now. This is the new Times, it seems.
And by the way, the president is not only saying that asking questions is irresponsible, he is saying asking questions undermines our troops and gives aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war. You know those words. They're from the statute that defines treason. That's punishable by death.
These guys need to be careful.
Anyway, the White House has issued a point-by-point response here. They didn't used to do such things. They were believed. Times have changed. Like the Nixon, "I am not a crook" business, the new line is, "We did not mislead." (And there's a corollary many point out - the full argument they're making is "We did not mislead, you misfollowed.")
But here's something cool, Matthew Yglesias saying the whole argument is on the wrong topic, with this (emphases added) -
Ah yes, true, but the bigger is sort of... what were they thinking?