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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Thursday, 5 October 2006
Taking Personal Responsibility
Topic: Political Theory
Taking Personal Responsibility
Okay, the Republicans are the party of personal responsibility. Everyone should take personal responsibility for his or her own life and stop whining. We're all optimistic "can do" folks who create our own lives and create wealth and are independent, not relying or some mommy-government keep us out of trouble, or we should be. It's called character. People should have character.

This was starkly argued in the whole business about Social Security reform back in 2005 - the new idea there being people should be given a framework in which to create their own safety net to keep them from starving when they retire, or fall on hard times. That would be government sponsored investment plans - we'd all, on our own, deal with an investment house and the feds would make sure they were reputable and playing by a few basic rules. As noted early in 2005, conservatives had long argued that any pooling of resources for the common good, especially when it is not voluntary (some never wanted to join Social Security) does more harm than good - it strips away any sense of personal responsibility people should have. It is just bad for the country. Of course the program has done some good, but the cost to the nation's character is far too high. FDR was evil - his plan corrupted America. A thirty-five percent poverty rate for folks over sixty-five, we on the other side argued, is bad for the country, and we wanted, if anything, to just improve the existing program. And we argued the nation's "character" is also shown by everyone chipping in and making sure old folks don't starve in the streets - that's too high of a cost the other way. But then people will, we were told, think of themselves as victims, and think they're entitled to freeload off those who work hard and take care of their own families. That turned out with no change to what we had, and a lot of large investment houses disappointed - with no glut of new clients.

But the idea persists. The party in power, and the Bush administration, are not whiners like the Democrats. They have character - they say what the mean and mean what they say, and are never swayed by the opinions of others, or by what others say are the facts. And they take responsibility for their actions. They role-model for the rest of us what we should be, challenging us to stand up for ourselves. And it is, of course, a great sales pitch. Who wouldn't want to be so self-assured and independent?

The role-modeling is the problem. There were no WMD in Iraq, and ridding the world of Iraq's WMD was the prime reason for the War? We're told "but everyone thought there were" and too that "the CIA messed up" - so it wasn't their fault it all worked out as it did. Everyone made the same mistake - so you cannot blame them, really. The Blix inspections and the intelligence agencies of our allies said otherwise, but we are supposed to forget that, and most do - the well-established concept of them doing the bold and responsible thing overriding the facts of the matter. And the 9/11 attacks - Condoleezza Rice says no one could have imagined terrorists would fly airplanes into buildings (even if there are documents on file that she had that said that might well happen), and no one could see this coming (even with that Presidential Daily Briefing a few week before the attacks, "Ben Laden Determined to Attack Within America"), and no one warned her (the meeting about that she said never happened did, as her own folks pointed out), so it's hardly her fault. The Hurricane Katrina business - the president said no one thought the levees would fail (then the videotape of him being briefed that they would, where he says not a word), so it's not his fault the response was late and inadequate.

But those who admire the President persist - Bush and his party are the people who have character, and take personal responsibility. Whatever went wrong is somehow, in the end, Bill Clinton's fault - he may have been smart as a whip and known the details of all this issues he faced, and all the implications of what he did and said, but he had no character. Character matters.

Thursday, October 5, we got another cycle of this, at the congressional level. House Speaker Dennis Hastert finally made his definitive statement on the fact that that congressman who resigned, Mark Foley, had been hitting on the sixteen-year-old House pages for years and nothing had been done about it, until it got so damned public. Hastert stood up and said he took full responsibility for the screw up, except he hadn't really known about it, and it all happened because of the new-fangled internet and instant messages, and maybe George Soros and the Democrats were behind it - but he was a real man, so he'd take responsibility and there'd be investigations. So it wasn't his fault at all, AND he was taking personal responsibility. And he certainly won't resign, no matter who says he should. What a guy!

Actually, it was a bit unusual. Michael O'Hare at "Same Facts" lays out the usual steps involved -
(1) Search up the hierarchy of command until you reach the level at which the affair in question is a small enough part of someone's overall duties that that particular failure does not justify resignation. If necessary, keep going up to the top.

(2) Trot that person out to wring hands, "accept full responsibility" and say "the buck stops here". Take care, however, to suppress any inference that the current disaster says anything about the boss', or the organization's overall performance or competence; he can bear any number of "last straws" as long as they arrive one by one and fall off his back quickly.

(3) Make it clear that at this level, accepting responsibility for this (relatively) small matter obviously doesn't entail any actual action by, or consequences for, the official. At lower levels, of course, consequences don't apply because the top guy has vacuumed up all responsibility (see (1) above).

(4) Throw one junior player over the rail so the sharks have something to eat. If someone is already at the rail, pop a geolocator in his pocket to guide the sharks. Blow smoke from the "thorough investigation" machine.

(5) (Bush administration refinement) Give an intermediate level player who has completely botched the operation a "heckuva job" medal. Remarkably, this can actually be the same person used in (4) with careful timing.
It didn't work out exactly like that, but it came close enough -
The House ethics committee approved nearly four dozen subpoenas Thursday as its investigation of a page sex scandal sprang to life with a promise by its leaders to go "wherever the evidence leads us."

Speaker Dennis Hastert said he accepted responsibility for any earlier failures to investigate complaints of inappropriate behavior by Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record) toward teenage male pages. But he resisted pressure to step down.

"Ultimately ... the buck stops here," the Republican speaker said, borrowing the famous phrase of a Democratic president, Harry Truman.

Hastert held to his assertion that he did not know about Foley's e-mails and instant messages to former pages until the scandal broke last week. In the past several days, several Republican lawmakers and staff members said they were aware of the messages. Democrats were not notified.
The ethics committee promised to finish its investigation in weeks, not months, but it was unclear whether that would happen before the election a month away. Most cynically think this just delays things until after everyone votes - then we'll know what really happened, and who knew what and who hid what to save Republican seats, and whatever bad stuff comes out will be harmless.

That evening President Bush called Hastert and expressed his support. White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino explained - "The president thanked him for going out and making a clear public statement that said the House leadership takes responsibility and is accountable. He said he appreciated that when they got the information, they swiftly took action making clear that Rep. Foley should step down and promptly requested a Department of Justice investigation. And he expressed his support for the speaker."

Hastert had made himself clear - "Could we have done it better? Could the page board have handled it better? In retrospect, probably yes. But at the time what we knew and what we acted upon was what we had."

That's expressing regret for not knowing much as taking personal responsibility. It seems that will have to do. The president is satisfied.

So the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct - the ethics committee - is investigating potential violations of House rules, and the Justice Department starts its criminal investigation. The fellow who told reporters that he had talked three years ago with top aides to Hastert about Foley's conduct with pages had already met with the FBI. The AP item in the ink above has the details of who gets a subpoena. There are lots of folks who will. This will take time. And the ethics committee will have no outsiders - the House can handle investigating itself quite nicely, thank you.

The snark site Wonkette offers this summary of the Hastert press conference - "You'll pry the speaker's gavel from my cold, dead fat hands."

Josh Marshall offers this -
One of the many funny things about Denny Hastert's silly lies about Democrats being responsible for his scandal is this: is this really their position? If the Democrats would have just focused on the real issues instead of blowing the whistle on our caucus pedophilia, we could have gone back to the real business of passing laws and molesting teenagers! Let's focus on the people's business! Oh, and also our funny business. If it weren't for George Soros I could be cranking out a few good IMs right now!
The personal responsibility thing is being met with skepticism, in spite of the president's enthusiasm.

And the polling on the matter was dismal, in spite of the president's enthusiasm. It seems here (Rasmussen), sixty-one percent of Americans believe that House Republican leaders have been protecting Foley for "several years." Only twenty-one percent believe that they learned of his problems only last week. So this looks bad. Then there was the generic congressional ballot question - would you prefer to vote for a Democrat or a Republican in November - and forty-seven percent said "Democrat" and only thirty-four percent said "Republican." That's a thirteen point spread - in August eight percentage points.

Nice words from the president may not help much. After the "State of Denial" book from Bob Woodward hitting the street the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had his approval rating down three points to thirty-nine percent, and new polls from AP-Ipsos and Pew had him at a steady and dismal thirty-eight and thirty-seven percent, respectively. (Those polls are here and here.) He can say what he wants. It might not matter.

And this seems to be a bit larger problem than it seemed, as reported here -
Three more former congressional pages have come forward to reveal what they call "sexual approaches" over the Internet from former Congressman Mark Foley.

The pages served in the classes of 1998, 2000 and 2002. They independently approached ABC News after the Foley resignation through the Brian Ross & the Investigative Team's tip line on ABCNews.com. None wanted their names used because of the sensitive nature of the communications.

"I was seventeen years old and just returned to [my home state] when Foley began to e-mail me, asking if I had ever seen my page roommates naked and how big their penises were," said the page in the 2002 class.

The former page also said Foley told him that if he happened to be in Washington, D.C., he could stay at Foley's home if he "would engage in oral sex" with Foley.
So more pages, and far too much information. Hastert didn't close this out with his Truman buck-stop-here news conference. But it was a nice try.

Andrew Sullivan, the disgruntled gay conservative writer, says this -
Three other pages describe Foley's online predation. The GOP is going to have to find another angle to deflect this. They've tried blaming the MSM [mainstream media]; they've tried blaming Clinton; they've tried to turn all the victims into pranksters. It's been a worthy display. But in the end they may have to take ... responsibility. Remember that? It used to be a conservative value.
It still is a conservative value. It's just more a theoretical or ideal value. They're working on implementation, but it's hard work.

As for the prank business that Sullivan mentions, that was the big scoop Matt Drudge came up with Thursday, October 5, here - "According to two people close to former congressional page Jordan Edmund, the now famous lurid AOL Instant Message exchanges that led to the resignation of Mark Foley were part of an online prank that by mistake got into the hands of…" - and so on and so forth.

Well, Drudge is the man who broke the Monica Lewinsky story, so he was once right for all the pasta he throws at the wall, but no one is buying this. But he did try, and it was immediately picked up on all the right-wing blogs. And that led to this -
The FBI is investigating a possible threat against the north Louisiana teenager who was on the receiving end of suggestive e-mails from disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley, a Louisiana congressman said Tuesday.

Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said Tuesday that the young man's life wasn't threatened, "but close to it."

"There are people out there who feel like he is the one who (accused) Foley," Alexander said. "There are some bloggers out there who sent him some ugly stuff."
The Christian values people are playing hardball. Folks should shut up, if they know what's good for them. Pages shouldn't mess with the party of God.

But even if you can threaten and intimidate any other pages from saying anything about what happened to them, you have this -
As the scandal over former congressman Mark Foley entered its sixth day, one Republican warned that there may even be further disclosures involving other politicians. "People are very, very concerned," said Representative Ray LaHood, an Illinois Republican. "They think there are going to be more disclosures."
Other politicians, not other pages? This is not looking good.

And Fox News reports here on an internal Republican poll - they know they will now lose an additional ten seats in the House over this, and could, if their figures are right, lose fifty seats. The poll is based on the decision that Hastert does not resign as Speaker - that he stays, as seems to be the party decision, and doesn't just quit.

Sullivan, again, comments here -
And if he quits? Maybe they didn't ask that question. One aspect of this is worth further noting. The base of the GOP has been fed homophobia and gay-baiting for years now. It was partly how Rove won Ohio and the presidency. Gay-hating is integral to their machine. Now, the very homophobia these people stoked and used is suddenly turning back on them.

Part of me is distressed that the GOP could lose not because of spending recklessness, corruption, torture, big government, pork, and a hideously botched war ... but because of a sex scandal which doesn't even have (so far as we know) any actual sex. But part of me also sees the karmic payback here. They rode this tiger; now it's turning on them. And it's dinner time.
But there's a twist - the evangelical fundamentalist Republican strategist Tony Perkins has a new line - the Foley cover up was perpetrated by a secret cabal of gay GOP House members and staffers, or so he said on CBS here. Josh Marsall had already assumed this was the plan Karl Rove had - fire up the base by letting them decide it was a gay conspiracy.

David Corn, the Washington editor of The Nation and co-author of Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, says he has already been given a copy of a list that's circulating in Washington, but he's not going to play that Rove game.

But there's something there, as Bill Montgomery explains in The Lavender Bund -
In my day (the '80s) we didn't have a list, but the gay GOP underground in DC did have a name, one that as far as I know the members invented for themselves: the Lavender Bund. That ironic sensibility, you know.

It was common knowledge, at least among the journalists I drank with, that certain mid-level Reagan appointees were bundists, as were some of the rising young studs in Gingrich's House insurgent movement, and a rather larger number of the conservative foot soldiers in the think tanks and on K Street. Some of the names have since appeared in print, some haven't. On the whole, though, the bund has been fairly successful at keeping the closet door closed. When the Washington Times (which wasn't exactly butch central itself) started poking around in the political and sexual dealings of lobbyist Craig Spence in the summer of 1989, the episode was hushed up fairly quickly - making it something of a role model for the strange story of Jeff/Jim Gannon/Guckert. If it wasn't for the gay press, which decided a few years ago that it was OK, or even obligatory, to out gay GOP politicians who vote against the community's interests, the closet would probably be even more crowded than it currently is.

I didn't hang with religious conservatives when I was in Washington, and I certainly don't today, but it was definitely my impression that the poobahs of the fundamentalist movement were just as aware as us reporters that the Lavender Bund existed, but tacitly, if uncomfortably, accepted it as one of the unfortunate realities of coalition politics -- or, as it's now called, "transactional lobbying."

But here's the thing: Their Biblically literate (and literal) followers don't know it, and probably aren't too happy to learn that GOP actually stands for Gays Obscured but Protected. I think that's one reason why another post-Foley conservative talking point - that the House leadership didn't crack down on him because it was afraid of appearing homophobic - was quickly recalled. Sensitivity on that score isn't exactly a Christian fundamentalist selling point.

Which is also why claiming there is some kind of secret gay cabal within the Republican Party that successfully protected Foley and sabotaged any effort to "clean up" the House is about the worst GOP defense I can possibly imagine. The fact that Perkins is trying to peddle the theory himself is more likely a sign that the fundamentalist high command realizes its own credibility is in mortal danger. Like everybody else involved, they need a scapegoat.

Of course, that doesn't mean some individual GOP politicos aren't also spreading the story to try to save their own worthless hides. But I can't believe the party propaganda machine itself would run with it. They're not that stupid.

On the other hand, if I were the ruthless, Machiavellian leader I wish the Democrats had, I'd be doing my best to subtly spread the meme far and wide. Because while the conspiracy angle is pure bunkum (unless trying to survive in an officially homophobic party qualifies as a conspiracy, in which case Anne Frank was also a conspirator), the Lavender Bund's existence is obviously real. And the longer this story goes on, and the more that comes to light about the delicate compromise that has allowed the bund and the American Taliban to coexist on Capitol Hill for going on three decades now, the more likely it is that the Republican Party, or the Christian fundamentalist movement, or both, will be turned into pillars of salt come November.
Who'd have guessed? They need these guys, which won't go down well with the base.

In any event, Hastert had taken responsibility. Poor guy. Luckily, like the rest of them, he just not any good at it.

Oh, and the same day that Hastert took personal responsibility, Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Baghdad, and told the leaders of that shaky government there that the whole thing was a mess, and it certainly wasn't our fault, so they'd better get their act together. See this clip of Wolf Blitzer and Michael Ware (in Baghdad) discussing this on CNN's Situation Room here -
Blitzer: At this point, she comes in for a few hours, a day or whatever. Into Iraq, she immediately goes to the very secure green zone. Does she really see what's happening inside Iraq? Does she leave there with a better appreciation of either the sectarian violence or the insurgency?

Ware: Of course not, Wolf. I mean you could just imagine the umbrella of security that encases someone like the Secretary of State. But I mean going to from the airport which is its own self-contained little bubble. To the green zone which is the ultimate bubble here in Iraq, I mean, U.S. Officials and contractors and all manner of people will come into six to twelve months in Iraq. But never leave the green zone. They don't know even what it's like to walk an Iraqi street. Certainly not without the shroud of heavily-armed American soldiers about them. They don't know what it's like to go to someone's home and sit and talk with them. To shop in the markets. To have blackouts. To not have water. To have the queue for benzene. Secretary Rice is so far from that reality that she couldn't possibly hope to understand it. Certainly not from fleeting visits to an artificial bubble like the green zone, Wolf?
But she tells them their country, or some reason or other, is a mess and they need to fix it NOW. They needed to take personal responsibility for this. They were no doubt too polite to argue who was responsible for what, really.

The set-up of this very public visit was obvious - when this is really gone and cannot be recovered, it won't be OUR fault. It will be their fault.

She's not much good at the responsibility thing either. But she does know it's important.

Somehow it's only important for the other folks. It's kind of an inside joke, or so it would seem.

Posted by Alan at 22:56 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006 06:25 PDT home

Wednesday, 4 October 2006
Getting Serious - Deciding Which Farce Matters More
Topic: Perspective
Getting Serious - Deciding Which Farce Matters More
Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - it's just a spot in time. The Republican train wreck got even worse -
House Speaker Dennis Hastert's political support showed signs of cracking on Wednesday as Republicans fled an election-year scandal spawned by steamy computer messages from former Rep. Mark Foley to teenage male pages.

At the same time, Foley's former chief of staff said in an Associated Press interview that he first warned Hastert's aides more than three years ago that Foley's behavior toward pages was troublesome. That was long before GOP leaders acknowledged learning of the problem.

Kirk Fordham, who was Foley's top aide until January 2004, said he had "more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene" several years ago.

Fordham resigned Wednesday as staff chief for another lawmaker caught up in the scandal, New York Rep. Thomas Reynolds, the House GOP campaign chief who says he alerted Hastert to concerns about Foley last spring.

The aide's claim drew a swift, unequivocal denial from Hastert's chief of staff. "What Kirk Fordham said did not happen," Scott Palmer said through a spokesman.
Okay, then. This Kirk Fordham fellow was the same guy who told ABC's Brian Ross - the man who does the legwork and broke the story - that if Ross would keep the really nasty IM messages secret he'd give Ross an exclusive on the Foley resignation. The seat could be saved. The election mattered. Ross said no.

Fordham worked for Thomas Reynolds, the fellow who held his press conference surrounded by cute children so no one could ask "adult" questions (discussed here), and Fordham used to work for Foley. Reynolds line was he did what he was supposed to do - "I told my supervisor about the problem" - so it wasn't his fault. And he fired Fordham for trying to keep ABC from reporting what it had, which Fordham says now he never did. And Hastert said that Reynolds may actually have told him about the problem, but he didn't really remember.

Fordham looked like the bad guy. And now this - Fordham flat-out says he told he told Hastert and his staff there was a problem, and he didn't tell them a year ago, but three years ago. Hastert says he's lying.

It's hard to keep it all straight. It's kind of like a Three Stooges skit. But the concept is easy. There was a problem - a congressman hitting on the young male pages - and nothing was done about it. Two guys - Reynolds and Fordham - say they told the guy who was supposed to handle it, Hastert, all about it. But those two now are at odds. Hastert said the be that as it may, he really didn't know how serious it all was - he didn't know about the IM messages - and anyway, he had one of his staff tell Foley to cut it out with the friendly letters. It wasn't his fault. He only had some suspicious letters and he really did have his people tell the fellow to stop that nonsense. He assumed the nonsense had stopped. That's logical. You see someone doing something really suspicious, so you have your people tell them to stop, so they obviously stop. He feels "duped" and wronged, and doesn't think anyone should be picking on him, of all people. And anyway, the kid's parents had told him to keep it quiet. As a thoughtful guy, what else could he do? (Anyone who has ever been in management is rolling their eyes right here.)

And all day Wednesday came tales of pages as far back as 1995 being warned about the ominously friendly Foley.

Hastert thus looks foolish - out of everything, unaware of his surroundings, or perhaps complicit.

The defenders of Hastert trotted out their arguments - it's the kids fault, they're oversexed these days (Matt Drudge), it's Bill Clinton's fault with the example Clinton set with Monica Lewinsky (Sean Hannity saying we should remember Lewinsky herself was just nineteen when she first met Clinton, even if the record shows she was twenty-two), the Wall Street Journal saying the problem is gay men, they're all like that, and what was Hastert to do? Joe Lieberman, who broke with his party over the Lewinsky business and excoriated Clinton on the floor of the Senate, said Hastert should not be forced to resign - this is not the time for partisan bickering. It's not that big a deal. (If Rumsfeld goes everyone says Lieberman is next in line for Secretary of Defense, and he's no dummy.)

But the Three Stooges skit rolled on, sucking in more players, just like the old short films with their pie fights. Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri, third-ranking House leader, "pointedly" (AP's word) told reporters he would have handled the matter differently than the speaker, had he known of it - "I think I could have given some good advice here, which is, you have to be curious, you have to ask all the questions you can think of. You absolutely can't decide not to look into activities because one individual's parents don't want you to."

Republican congressman Ron Lewis of Kentucky, in a tight re-election race, suddenly canceled an invitation for Hastert to join him at a fundraiser the following week - ""I'm taking the speaker's words at face value. I have no reason to doubt him. But until this is cleared up, I want to know the facts. If anyone in our leadership has done anything wrong, then I will be the first in line to condemn it."

Ron Bonjean, Hastert's spokesman, said everyone should relax - the entire issue had been referred to the House ethics committee - "We fully expect that the bipartisan panel will do what it needs to do to investigate this matter and protect the integrity of the House." House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said fine - Hastert and the rest of the GOP leadership should be "immediately questioned under oath." She thinks "the children, their parents, the public, and our colleagues deserve answers, and those who covered up Mark Foley's behavior must be held accountable."

Congresswoman Deborah Pryce - chair of the House Republican caucus - asked the House clerk and to investigate rumors that Foley, while intoxicated, had once tried to enter the page residence hall but was stopped by Capitol Police. One of the officials in the House clerk's office, who spoke "on condition of anonymity," said the clerk's office had long ago forwarded complaints about Foley to Foley's staff.

The Justice Department ordered House officials to "preserve all records" related to Foley's electronic correspondence with teenagers, and one law enforcement official said FBI agents have begun interviewing participants in the House page program. Of course such a request for "record preservation" is often followed by search warrants and subpoenas, followed by a criminal investigation. Separately, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had fired up a preliminary inquiry.

By the end of this one day Hastert was still saying he would not resign, not at all. If he did that then the terrorists would have won, as he had explained to Rush Limbaugh.

So maybe it moved from the Three Stooges into Feydeau territory, from slapstick to farce. Heck, maybe the late Joe Orton somehow wrote this farce, in the manner of his famous farce - "What the Butler Saw." Orton was gay, after all.

The high-powered Wall Street attorney who sometimes contributes to these pages (like here) called that Wednesday on his way out of Manhattan. All his diehard Republican friends, the Bush supporters (there are many of those on Wall Street and in the corporate executive suites), were in despair - come November the party that had made things so good for them would lose the House and Senate. This may be a farce, but it just wasn't funny. These clowns had ruined everything. At least that was the water cooler talk - but these are not the types to hang around water coolers, so you have to imagine a quite different setting. Think fine scotch.

But what's not really funny is something else entirely. It's a different farce. And it's not really funny at all.

At the same time the new Three Stooges were poking each other in the eyes, you'd find stories like this -
An entire police brigade in Baghdad has been suspended and its commander placed under arrest on charges of aiding sectarian death squads that have carried out mass kidnappings.

The Eighth Brigade of the 2nd National Police Battalion, which has more than 800 uniformed officers in western Baghdad, was stepped down a day after armed men in official uniforms herded off 14 shopkeepers from central Baghdad, and two days after 24 workers were abducted from a meat processing plant in the capital.

"The brigade's past performance does not demonstrate the level of professionalism sought by the Ministry of the Interior," Major General William Caldwell said. "It was realized that removing them would, in fact, enhance security.

… "The forces in the unit have not put their full allegiance to the Government of Iraq and gave their allegiance to others."
So the "stay the course" and "as they stand up we'll stand down" seems to be a bit of a farce too.

Watch this clip - Michael Ware on CNN reporting from Baghdad. There are independent death squads, sectarian death squads, death squads supported by various government ministries, ministries that rent their uniforms for the evening to the highest bidding death squad - every man for himself. Which death squads do we fight, and which do we let slide as those we support in power are using them to take care of other bad guys, and keep in power in all the chaos? We need to be very careful. And matters seem to be getting worse.

And this is just depressing -
The morgue itself is believed to be controlled by the same Shiite militia blamed for many of the killings: the Mahdi Army, founded and led by anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The takeover began after the last election in December when Sadr's political faction was given control of the Ministry of Health. The U.S. military has documented how Sadr's Mahdi Army has turned morgues and hospitals into places where death squads operate freely.

The chilling details are spelled out in an intelligence report seen by CBS News. Among some of the details of the report are:
  • Sunni patients are being murdered; some are dragged from their beds.
  • The militia is keeping hostages inside some hospitals, where they are tortured and executed.
  • They're using ambulances to transport hostages and illegal weapons, and even to help their fighters escape from U.S. forces.
… More than 80 percent of the original doctors and staff where she works are gone, replaced by Shia supporters of the Mahdi Army.
And we made things better? Well, Saddam is gone.

But there was that famous Pottery Barn Rule - you break it, you own it - even if the Pottery Barn people say they don’t really have such a rule. That was what former Secretary of State Colin Powell said to George Bush before we invaded and occupied Iraq. He may have been onto something, even if they laughed at him and eventually fired him.

The same Wednesday during a lecture in Minneapolis he finally stopped being the good soldier, keeping quiet and not weighing in on what was above his pay grade. He's out of that whole system now anyway, and he spoke up -
In Iraq, "staying the course isn't good enough because a course has to have an end," Powell said. In the U.S. today, a challenge the war poses is a question of whether an essential "bond of trust that must exist within a nation... has been shaken," he said. The extent of the damage to trust will be measured in the November elections, he said.
In short, the United States and allies cannot resolve the current sectarian violence in Iraq, and everyone knows it. And they'll vote on that knowledge. The administration has forfeited our trust.

Maybe, or maybe not. Much can happen in the next four weeks.

Bet there is the evidence, as it were, as reported here in the Los Angeles Times -
Two months after a security crackdown began in the capital, U.S. military deaths appear to be rising, even as fatalities among Iraqi security forces have fallen, U.S. military sources and analysts said.

The U.S. military Tuesday revised to eight its count of American deaths in the capital on Monday, the highest daily toll in a month. In September, 74 U.S. troops died nationwide, about a third of them in Baghdad, according to the military.
We lost twenty-one soldiers Saturday to Tuesday, but that's understandable - "Observers also noted recent statements by Al Qaeda in Iraq that reveal a strategy to redirect its attacks from Iraqi troops to U.S. forces."

But it's not just them, and there is death everywhere -
... although Al Qaeda is the most virulently anti-American insurgent force in the country, it is by no means the only one. The Sunni Arab insurgency is composed of many elements, including former members of Saddam Hussein's toppled regime. Iraq's national security advisor, Mowaffak Rubaie, said last month that 80% of the insurgency was made up of local fighters.

The latest casualties come as the U.S. military's focus has shifted from a broad, national counterinsurgency effort to suppressing sectarian fighting in Baghdad.

The rising number of U.S. fatalities is dwarfed by the tally of violent Iraqi deaths, which in July and August reached the highest point since 2003: more than 5,000 in Baghdad alone, according to the United Nations. The Iraqi government is planning to release September's death toll this week.

The high number of slain civilians, many of whom were Sunni Arab victims of Shiite death squads, suggests that U.S. forces eventually may have to take on Shiite militias as vigorously as they have fought insurgents - a prospect that probably would lead to even more American deaths.

"As long as they are fighting the Sunni insurgents, you don't have a problem with the Shiites," said Anthony Cordesman, a Washington-based military analyst. "But the minute they try to deal with the overall sectarian violence - you can't do that without coming into occasional conflict with sectarian and ethnic elements who are not insurgents and not terrorists. These are things that don't offer easy choices to make."

The U.S. military has not released data on the number of attacks against Americans by Shiite fighters, but anecdotal evidence suggests that they may be rising.

"We've seen attacks by various groups of extremists on both sides of the equation," Army spokesman Johnson said.

A senior U.S. military official said last month that Shiite militias were obtaining high-quality bombs from Iran that were occasionally used against U.S. and British troops.

U.S. forces have been met with heavy resistance during occasional raids on Shiite militia strongholds such as Sadr City, a poor Baghdad neighborhood named for the father of anti-U.S. cleric and Al Mahdi militia founder Muqtada Sadr. On Sunday, U.S. forces engaged in a shootout with militiamen as they attempted to detain a suspected death-squad leader.

U.S. officials have complained that Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite, has blocked a more concerted effort to combat militias in Shiite neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, U.S. military sources said that U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which has operational control of ground forces in Baghdad, canceled a planned raid on a national police station. The predominantly Shiite police brigade is suspected of kidnapping 26 Sunni Arabs from a Baghdad meat processing plant Sunday. Most of the abductees have been found dead.

Mohammed Daini, a Sunni Arab legislator, said that warrants were issued Tuesday for 15 members of the police brigade but that 12 of them fled before they could be detained.

Meanwhile, police said they found 15 bodies in Baghdad on Tuesday, most of them bearing bullet wounds and signs of torture. Attacks killed at least 12 Iraqis in the capital, and two in Kirkuk.
So we may have to fight them all, while they work on killing each other, and us. Great.

One appropriate reaction might be this from Digby at Hullabaloo, who originally pointed to these news items -
Jesus oh Jesus. What are we doing in the middle of that hell? (Why did Bush create that hell?) Every day, they find piles of dead bodies that have been tortured and beheaded!

This is a nightmare.

I'm firmly in favor of beating the shit out of the Republicans with this disgusting Foley thing or Woodward's book or whatever. This world desperately needs someone to put some brakes on Bush and Cheney. But, really, no matter what happens now, what they have done to Iraq is so huge, so horrible, so fundamentally immoral I don't know what the United States can ever do to make it right. We invaded a country that was under political repression and turned it into a chaotic bloodbath in which neighbor is killing and torturing neighbor.
So it's a matter of picking your farces - some are on a whole different level.

The contention here is that we had no need to invade Iraq - these guys just wanted to prove their manhood. And at the center is Cheney -
In "A World Transformed," the memoir that he and Bush senior published in 1998, [Brent] Scowcroft makes it clear that while all Bush senior's top advisers had different perspectives, the fundamental division lay between Defense Secretary Richard Cheney and everyone else. By his account, and by those of others in the administration, Cheney never trusted Gorbachev. In 1989 Cheney maintained that Gorbachev's reforms were largely cosmetic and that, rather than engage with the Soviet leader, the US should stand firm and keep up cold war pressures. In September 1991 Cheney argued that the administration should take measures to speed the breakup of the Soviet Union - even at the risk of encouraging violence and incurring long-term Russian hostility. He opposed the idea, which originated with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, that the US should withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and South Korea. As a part of the preparations for the Gulf War he asked Powell for a study on how small nuclear weapons might be used against Iraqi troops in the desert.
Well, he's in charge.

And elsewhere Digby says this -
I'm really beginning to resent all those people who say Bush really is smart, he's just incurious. No. He's clearly an idiot and an arrogant, immature idiot at that. He's been manipulated by a bunch of wily, evil men with competing agendas creating lawlessness, chaos and incoherence in our government.

Over the last six years when we watched Bush shift uncomfortably and babble incomprehensibly in response to complicated questions, when we saw him lash out at anyone who dared to question his judgment or his authority, when we observed him humiliating those around him, we weren't hallucinating and it wasn't an act. This intellectually deficient, petulant man-child was exactly what he appeared to be - and his inept, arrogant administration is a perfect reflection of him.

What you see is what you get. And here's another shocking revelation from Woodward's book:
One of the more troubling subplots running through "State of Denial" involves Prince Bandar, the long-time Saudi ambassador to the United States. By Woodward's account, when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush decided to run for president, his worried father enlisted Bandar, an old family friend, to tutor the son on foreign policy. When Bandar arrived in Austin, the younger Bush blithely observed that while he had lots of ideas about domestic policies he didn't have a clue about foreign affairs. The Saudi took him under his wing, but he proved a trying pupil, who addressed his mentor as "asshole" and "smart aleck." (Perhaps this is how hereditary princelings affectionately address each other?) At one point, the younger Bush peevishly demanded to know why he needed "to care about North Korea." Bandar pointed out that, if he became president, he would have 35,000 American troops sitting on the DMZ.

Oh, right....

Later, with a Bush back in the White House, Bandar bullied the president into explicitly endorsing a two-state solution to the Israeli-conflict by threatening a total cutoff of Saudi support for U.S. policies. (Bush may never have played poker, but Bandar obviously has.) In another instance, the Saudi prince imperiously demanded - and, worse, obtained - two CIA officials to accompany him on a wild goose chase to Pakistan, where he hoped to kill Bin Laden. During a meeting in the Oval Office, according to Woodward, Bush personally thanked Bandar because the Saudis had flooded the world oil market and kept prices down in the run-up to the 2004 general election.

You don't have to be Michael Moore to find all this unsettling. Equally disquieting, Woodward's source for all this has to be Bandar or one of his intimates, acting at the Saudi's behest. What that suggests is that, after decades of arduously cultivating the Bush family, one of the shrewdest operators on the world stage has written off George W. Bush.
Yes, I do find it somewhat disquieting to know that our president needed to be told why he should care about North Korea. But then, we all pretty much knew he wasn't exactly well informed on world affairs before he was elected, didn't we? He was quizzed on that radio show and mumbled and sputtered like a 6th grader, showing that he didn't even have rudimentary knowledge of foreign affairs. But everyone said it was snobbish to complain, that it wasn't necessary for a president to have none 'o that book smarts because he would have all these grown-up around him. Like these: "Vice President Cheney is described as a man so determined to find proof that his claim about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was accurate that, in the summer of 2003, his aides were calling the chief weapons inspector, David Kay, with specific satellite coordinates as the sites of possible caches. None resulted in any finds."

… That well-known kook was the grey eminence who was supposed to wisely guide Junior through the difficult decisions he would have to make as president. (We also thought Daddy Bush would be a prominent advisor, but Junior couldn't take the competition. Nutballs only needed apply.)

As for the Bandar stuff, I also have to admit that it's a little unsettling that dimwit Junior was being tutored in foreign affairs by the ambassador of Saudi Arabia in the first place. It's even more disconcerting that the little princelings were concocting harebrained schemes to sneak Bandar into Pakistan to get bin Laden when the administration had already shown they had no particular interest in doing it. But then terrorism has never really been taken seriously by this administration. They wanted a war like Uncle Dick Nixon's or Daddy's, only they'd do it much, much better than those old poops ever did.

Honestly, when all the smoke has cleared (if it ever does) I think the overriding lesson we can take from all this is that when someone looks and acts incredibly stupid or incredibly crazy they probably shouldn't be elected president and vice president of the United States. Perhaps this is the insight that could heal the red-blue divide once and for all.
Well, that's a matter of learning from experience versus not admitting you goofed. Voters are funny about such things.

And while all eyes are on the Foley business Iraq is going down the tubes, we had lost nineteen soldiers in Iraq this month, and it was only the fourth day of the month, and the Iraqi government had to pull a brigade of around seven hundred policemen that have possible ties to death squads.

More CNN video of Michael Ware in Baghdad, later the same Wednesday, on the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, saying this -
Listen, Wolf, this is the way to put it in a nutshell. If the U.S. continues its policy and operations as they are now, the situation will worsen and the enemies of the U.S., Principally al Qaeda and Iran will continue to strengthen. There are a number of options that are presented to Washington at the moment. They are the do this or they don't do this. They either need to get serious about the battle here on the ground. Physically against al Qaeda or in the insurgency. And commit the troops that the commanders need. Or they need to look for alternative solutions. At the end of the day, what they are fighting is potential by most of this country to be consumed bay Shi'a led government with other parts of the government left as western al Qaeda desert training camps and facilities. To avoid that, something radical has to be done. That's the consensus. So Colin Powell is right. Staying the course will only further strengthen America's enemies, Wolf?"
Yeah, like Wolf Blitzer can say anything to that?

Well, we will either follow the Republican motto - "Stay the Course" - or double-down, as they say in Las Vegas.

That would be this, as Arthur Silber sees it -
We should always remember one further fact: those in the administration who drive our foreign policy have always wanted and intended to attack Iran. That was the big target from the very beginning. The question of timing is a separate one. From their perspective, and if they think such an attack would ensure continuing Republican control of Congress, why not do it in the next month? Two for the price of one, and all that… and never mind the possibly tens or hundreds of thousands dead, and possibly even more if the mayhem rapidly spirals out of control. Never mind that the United States would forever brand itself as one of most destructive, contemptible, damnable nations in history, engaging in murderous, aggressive war whenever the whim strikes it.
Well, it would end all the talk about Foley and Iraq. One nuclear war to take care of evil folk trumps two farces.

You just have to decide which topic here deserves the most consideration.

Posted by Alan at 22:26 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2006 09:35 PDT home

Tuesday, 3 October 2006
Choose Your Motivation - Anger, Hate, Grumpiness or Other
Topic: Perspective
Choose Your Motivation -
Anger, Hate, Grumpiness or Other
The ever-whimsical and always clever Garrison Keillor seems to have decided to discuss the Miracle Drug of Anger - "Raging against Republican hypocrisy is the tonic that keeps us old liberals forever young."

Is that so?

Of course you have to understand what lies at the base of this. As he writes from Missoula -
Twice in my life I have lived in rural paradises like Montana and I learned that contentment only goes so far and what I thrive on is irritation and dread. You need the city for that. 1) A guy walks down the avenue with his baseball cap backward on his head and you want to shake him until his contacts fall out. He is in his early 30s but still thinks of himself as an 8-year-old. He is Narcissus in sneakers. 2) People who, instead of saying, "That is so cool," say, "How cool is that?" A way of expressing enthusiasm without sounding enthusiastic. How dumb is that? 3) The man in the airport who is yelling to himself like an escaped lunatic and then I notice the dangly cellphone hanging off him. 4) Shrieky women in restaurants. You sit down and look at the menu and suddenly you're in a National Geographic special about orangutans, but it's not, it's just Girlfriends' Night Out, and they've had their first glass of merlot and gotten nice and loosened up and every 30 seconds there is an outburst of screeching. The alpha female shrieks and then they all do. 5) When I say "Thank you" to a younger person and he says, "No problem." That's a brushoff, not an acknowledgement. He is supposed to smile and say, "You're welcome." Or he could say, "It was my pleasure." A thank-you should not be brushed away like a housefly. You could be lying unconscious on the floor, your arms and legs twitching uncontrollably, and a paramedic puts the paddles on your chest (Stand back!!) and saves your life and you say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, a thousand thank-yous," and he says, "No problem." How inappropriate is that?
Amusing. But the vivid examples overwhelm the main point. Perhaps it is true that many of us thrive on irritation and dread. It may be the curse of political junkies and policy wonks. Some things just get to you. Others shrug at the same news.

Here's Keillor -
Pick up a newspaper and read about Congress and you will find yourself yelling at walls and terrifying the cat. Last week, Congress moved to suspend habeas corpus, one thing that distinguishes a civil society from a police state. Reaction was muted.

Then the Party of Family Values was revealed to have protected a sexual predator in its midst until finally a reporter asked some pointed questions and the honorable gentleman resigned and ran off to recovery camp. This level of hypocrisy takes a person's breath away. You thought that Abramoff, Norquist, Reed and DeLay had established new lows, but the elevator is still descending.
Yeah, so it is. So what? Look at the great middle of us all - no one much seems to be that very bothered by it all. Go to work, pay the bills, get the kids off to school…

But he asks us to look at the bright side of the few thriving on irritation and dread -
The power of righteous vexation is what keeps so many old Democrats hanging on in nursing homes long past the time they should have kicked off. Ancient crones from FDR's time are still walking the halls, kept alive by anger at what has been done to our country. Old conservationists, feminists, grizzled veterans of the civil rights era fight off melanoma, emphysema, Montezuma, thanks to the miracle drug of anger.
That of course falls under the heading of cold comfort. It's no way to live. But then it is motivation of sorts. Keillor says it's time "to clean some clocks" and kick some butt.

That's easy to say, but what exactly are you going to do, write a letter to the editor of your local paper? He paraphrases Robert Frost - "The woods are lovely, dark and thick. But I have many butts to kick and some to poke and just one stick." Just having one stick seems to be the problem. The population of the United States just reached three hundred million. Like you matter?

So you take a representative day in the current implosion of those in power - say Tuesday, October 3 - and look at some of the news and try to figure out what anyone can do about any of it.

One -
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft received the same CIA briefing about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target that was given to the White House two months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The State Department's disclosure Monday that the pair was briefed within a week after then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was told about the threat on July 10, 2001, raised new questions about what the Bush administration did in response, and about why so many officials have claimed they never received or don't remember the warning.

One official who helped to prepare the briefing, which included a PowerPoint presentation, described it as a "10 on a scale of 1 to 10" that "connected the dots" in earlier intelligence reports to present a stark warning that al-Qaida, which had already killed Americans in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and East Africa, was poised to strike again.
Analysis -
Richard Clarke was at the July 10, 2001 meeting.

It's confirmed now. Condi was warned. She ignored it.

Some people just have an instinct about danger, military matters and a need to pull the trigger. Some don't. Condi doesn't, yet she was our national security adviser, now secretary of state. Few people have been less qualified for such exalted situations. Blood is on her hands, though that blood is splattered across the Bush administration, with most of it resting on Bush himself.
Well, she said the administration never got any transition plan from the Clinton administration on dealing with terrorism generally and al Qaeda specifically. The 9/11 Commission says she got the plan, and it's on file - thirteen dense single-spaced pages. Copies are on file. She still maintains it never existed and doesn't exist. And her own records confirm the July 10, 2001 meeting - her office says so. The commission now says they were briefed on the meeting, they just forgot to put a note in the report about it. But they have Tenet's testimony about the meeting on file, and his PowerPoint slides. She still says there was no meeting - she would have remembered it. It's a bit bizarre. There's documentation, and there are her assertions. She seems to think you ought to believe her, not the available record. This seems to be a "faith-based" thing - if you believe in the administration and what it's doing the you believe her. It's a test of faith, and you don't want to be found wanting in faith, as they say. Or what you see here is The Triumph of Will, as in the famous film of the same name.

Two -
President Bush, on a campaign swing in the West, is arguing the Democratic Party is weak-kneed on national security and shouldn't be trusted to hold the reins of Congress.

"If you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party, it sounds like - it sounds like - they think the best way to protect the American people is, wait until we're attacked again," Bush said Monday at a $360,000 fundraiser in Reno, Nevada, for state Secretary of State Dean Heller's congressional campaign.

Bush delivered the administration's oft-repeated claims about the Democrats as it struggles with persistent questions about a recent intelligence report that suggests the Iraq war has helped recruit more terrorists, and a new book, "State of Denial," by journalist Bob Woodward that contends Bush misled the country about the war.
The Democrats shouldn't be trusted to hold the reins of Congress comes under the general heading of "brass balls." One Democratic staffer said this - "The Republicans chose to protect Foley instead of those kids." One angry Republican, John Cole, said this - "Maybe if Foley had been hitting on a fetus, these folks would get it." The Republican congress is hardly in good shape at the moment. They look either useless, or rather evil. Take your pick. Trust, indeed. And yes, all sixteen of his sixteen intelligence agencies agreed the president's war of choice made things worse, not better. They are brass.

Three -
In the fine tradition of George W. Bush standing under the "Mission Accomplished" sign, or any one of the Katrina backdrops (where no expense was spared to bring power to an area for a photo op, and then just as quickly cut off), we now have the head of the NRCC, Tom Reynolds, using small prop children as set decoration in a press conference devoted to the topic of…yes, predatory online sexual solicitation of minors.
Tom Reynolds, the head of the National Republican Campaign Committee, one of the first to be told of what Mark Foley might have been up to with the sixteen-year-old male House pages, held a press conference about it in Buffalo, New York. His statement was clear - he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert about it so he did what he was supposed to do. Nothing was his fault. And he was more than willing to take questions, but the problem for reporters was that he held the press conference at a day care center, on stage surrounded by lots of little kids. The reporters asked him if the kids could leave, so they could ask question about the substance of the issues. He said no, they were his constituents, and they stayed, so ask your questions. The reporters were frustrated. You can read about it here at "Buffalo Geek" -
Reporter: Congressman, do you mind asking the children to leave the room so we can have a frank discussion of this, because it's an adult topic. It just doesn't seem appropriate to me.

Reynolds: I'll take your questions, but I'm not going to ask any of my supporters to leave.

Reporter: Who are the children, Congressman? Who are these children?

Reynolds: Pardon me?

Reporter: Who are these children?

Reynolds: Well, a number of them are from the community. There are several of the "thirty-something" set that are here and, uh, I've known them and I've known their children as they were born.

Reporter: Do you think it's appropriate for them to be listening to the subject matter though?

Reynolds: Sir, I'll be happy to answer your questions, I'm still, uh…
It was very clever. And it gives a news meaning to the term "human shields" of course. He did say the spare campaign money he received from Foley - the hundred thousand dollars - was clean money and he certainly wasn't going to donate to any charity like one that aided victims of child abuse. The money was for the Republican campaigns. And that was that. He's a very cool customer.

Could this make anyone angry?

See Richard Einhorn here -
Dear Democratic candidate for Congress,

If your consultants don't take this story [1] and combine it with this one [2], then add numerous references to this unbelievably outrageous stunt [3] and urge you to flay the Republicans over their dangerous incompetence, their sheer inability to perceive reality, their malicious lies, and their unparalleled moral hypocrisy... If instead, your consultants insist that in the next month you ignore all these genuine gifts so you can re-emphasize prescription drugs or concerns over the economy, fire them immediately, sue them for fraud, then grab them by their throats, stick 'em in an empty room and force them to listen to the complete recorded works of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Over and over. For a week. No. Make it two weeks.
Well, along with being a political commentator, Einhorn is noted composer. You have to forgive him the Andrew Lloyd Webber crack, although as a nation we have now legalized torture, so it may be permissible. The score from "Cats" or "Phantom of the Opera" will do nicely.

But his anger is real. He does know the highly paid consultants will tell the Democrats to run on the economy and such, so they can entirely avoid the topics of values and being strong on terror, as they'll never win anything on those issues. And they'll buy it. He's frustrated. But that really is how things work.

You take the high road and don't deal with New Foley Instant Messages; Had Internet Sex While Awaiting House Vote - "Former Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) interrupted a vote on the floor of the House in 2003 to engage in Internet sex with a high school student who had served as a congressional page."

And you ignore the press conference - NEW ADMISSIONS FROM FOLEY: HE GOT BOINKED BY AN UNNAMED PRIEST WHEN HE WAS 13 OR 14; HE'S GAY (NO!) BUT HE'S PROBABLY LYING ABOUT BEING AN ALCOHOLIC. Yeah, it's all self-righteous whining about how it all not really his fault at all. He's a victim too, damn it. Aren't we all?

So you let it all slide, and lose.

Nope, we don't want no Democratic congress. Dennis Hastert said so on the Rush Limbaugh show -
There were two pieces of paper out there, one that we knew about and we acted on; one that happened in 2003 we didn't know about, but somebody had it, and, you know, they're trying - and they drop it the last day of the session, you know, before we adjourn on an election year. Now, we took care of Mr. Foley. We found out about it, asked him to resign. He did resign. He's gone. We asked for an investigation. We've done that. We're trying to build better protections for these page programs.

But, you know, this is a political issue in itself, too, and what we've tried to do as the Republican Party is make a better economy, protect this country against terrorism - and we've worked at it ever since 9/11, worked with the president on it - and there are some people that try to tear us down. We are the insulation to protect this country, and if they get to me it looks like they could affect our election as well.
Any fool knows you don't mess with the insulation. Garrison Keillor is no doubt yelling at the walls and terrifying the cat.

But getting angry is a problem. As the law professor and Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks points out -
Are you a Bush hater, so blinded by "primal" loathing for the president that you automatically dismiss everything he says or does?

It's one of the far right's favorite weapons: If anyone criticizes the administration, brand them a Bush hater. The implication is that no sane or fair-minded person could be appalled by this administration's policies. Any criticism of Bush must be caused by what columnist Charles Krauthammer described as "contempt and disdain giving way to a hatred that is near pathological."
But she says the right has got it quite wrong -
I don't love George Bush, it's true. No matter how many times I urge myself to hate the sin but love the sinner, I just can't get there. But I don't hate Bush, either. I hope that he'll never personally experience any of the "alternative methods" of interrogation he's so willing to use on U.S. detainees; I hope he'll never lose a child to war; I hope he'll never experience the soul-sapping poverty to which his administration has abandoned so many Americans.

No, I don't hate George Bush.

But I sure hate what he's done to my country.

I hate the fact that Bush and the radicals in his administration play politics with patriotism, casting critics of misguided legislation on military commissions and wiretapping as "soft" on terrorism and telling us, as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld recently did, that "moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere."

… I hate the fact that after promising to unite us, this president has done his best to divide us. In Bush's America, there are real Americans and then there are the blue states … and the Democrats.

… I hate the fact that to Bush, having "values" seems to mean absolutist opposition to gay marriage and abortion and indifference to many forms of suffering. In Bush's America, preventing gay marriage is apparently more important than preventing cruel or degrading treatment of detainees, or helping the millions of Americans who struggle to make it from paycheck to paycheck.

… I hate the fact that Bush's reckless foreign policies have led many of our closest allies to regard this nation with contempt and fear. Increasingly, people around the world see the U.S. as a threat to global stability, not as a source of stability.

… I hate the fact that to Bush, the phrase "the buck stops here" is apparently as quaint as the Geneva Convention. He has yet to come clean about the degree to which he overstated the charge that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or on the lack of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. In Bush's America, being president means never having to say you're sorry.
But other than that, things are fine. The item appeared on 29 September, before the Mark Foley business.

Then she said -
The United States is in trouble. The spread of militant Islamic extremism and WMD will pose dangers for decades to come, and global warming, disease and poverty are all serious threats. If we're going to respond to those threats, we need to pull together - and we need to stop letting the far right get away with dismissing all criticism of the Bush administration as irrational "hatred."
That gets harder every day. But then, as Garrison Keillor points out, at least Brooks will live a long life.

Had enough?

Posted by Alan at 22:24 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006 22:29 PDT home

Monday, 2 October 2006
Documenting Day Two of the Great Train Wreck
Topic: Couldn't be so...
Documenting Day Two of the Great Train Wreck
What They Are Saying was the train wreck as seen on its first day, the first day of October. The Republican Party and the whole of what the administration has been claiming about most everything for the last six years appeared to be coming off the rails, as they say.

The second day - Monday, October 2 - was more than variations on a theme. It moved beyond the pedophile business in the House, and who let it happen, got really odd with the Secretary of State caught flat-footed (in spite of her love of high-heel boots) saying things she really shouldn't have said, and confirming that in the months before the attacks of September 11, 2001, she was pretty much blowing off official warnings from the top intelligence people that something was going to happen - something not in the definitive commission report on the matter and not in the Disney it-was-all-Clinton's-fault movie - and got just bizarre with the majority leader of the Senate, Bill Frist, announcing he's seen Afghanistan and the Taliban just couldn't be defeated so maybe it was time to get realistic and just get them into the government over there and make the best of it, enraging all the "stay the course" folks on the right.

People can only handle so much news at one time. Three major stories undercutting those in power all at once just didn't seem fair. But then they all get blended together in people's minds - referring to the bulk of the adult population who are not political junkies or policy wonks. There may be a growing sense of "just throw out the bums." What Karl Rove calls the base - the third of the voters who will vote for anyone or anything George Bush wants - will hold firm, of course. The other two-thirds, slapped upside the head with one startling news story after another, may find the slaps really, really irritating. Enough is enough. And whatever wag said the Democrats should run on one simple campaign slogan - Had Enough? - is smiling. That works, or now it works.

Much of this may have to do with the new Bob Woodward book, State of Denial. This is about our "passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war." Of course it was one-tenth news and nine-tenths confirmation of what more and more people already knew, or suspected. It simply laid it all out in a compelling "insider" narrative, with scenes and amazing quotes no one but Woodward, with his access, could uncover. It does take some skill to distill the diffuse and disparate nuggets of events and public statements, and what he learned on his own, into something that makes sense of it all. No, wait. You cannot distill "nuggets" - bad metaphor. But he did a fairly good job of considering what had been said, what had happened, what he found out on his own, and working out what was actually going on. So choose your own metaphor for that and send it along.

Some of what Woodward lays out, not related to the three-part train wreck, could be considered secondary contributing factors to the sudden disintegration of the whole enterprise - the Bush presidency and one party rule of the nation for the last six years. That would be the sophomoric stuff, as Timothy Noah explains in Bush's Fart-Joke Legacy -
Bob Woodward reports in his new book, State of Denial, that President Bush loves to swap fart jokes with Karl Rove. Before a morning senior staff meeting in 2005, Woodward reports, Bush schemed to have Rove sit in a chair that triggered some sort of high-tech whoopee cushion activated by remote control. The prank was postponed in deference to news of the al Qaeda bombings in London. When the gag was carried out two weeks later, the room erupted in riotous laughter while Rove hunted down the culprit.

Perhaps you are puzzled that the president of the United States would embrace so eagerly a genre of humor that the typical male Homo sapiens stops finding irresistible around the age of 12. But Woodward is not the first to report on Bush's fondness for fart jokes, and Bush is not the first member of his family to display this particular affliction.
Yep, the fart jokes were discussed in these pages here six weeks ago, but not the family history of such humor, nor the long history of such humor.

Noah notes this is not a Texas thing, but a patrician WASP thing -
A robust tradition of fart jokes exists within Anglo-Saxon culture, going back at least as far as Chaucer, and the fart joke holds a venerated place in English politics. Legend has it that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, once farted in the presence of Queen Elizabeth I, whereupon he went into exile for seven years. On his return, the queen reputedly greeted, "My lord, we had quite forgot the fart." The story is no likelier true than the oft-repeated claim that de Vere wrote Shakespeare's plays, but its persistence testifies to a certain fascination. In the early 17th century, a fart during debate in the House of Commons inspired a satirical poem called "The Parliament Fart." It enjoyed wide and enthusiastic circulation for the next half-century. James Joyce's Ulysses, which many consider the United Kingdom's greatest contribution to world literature in the 20th century, has been described - by one of its admirers - as "a giant fart joke" dressed up with "references to English literature and all kinds of obscure learning." (The word itself appears four times, according to Amazon's search engine.)

Turning to the Bush clan, we learn in Kitty Kelley's book The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty that New Yorker writer Brendan Gill was once a guest of George H.W. and Barbara Bush at their summer house in Kennebunkport, Maine. Stumbling through the place late at night in search of something to read, the only volume he could find was The Fart Book. (It was therefore likely in vain that Chairman Mao, attempting to shock Bush père when he was U.S. liaison to China, used a Chinese vulgarism that translated to "dog fart," according to Tom Wicker's George Herbert Walker Bush: A Penguin Life.)

The most flatuphilic Bush family member appears to be Jonathan J. Bush, brother to the 41st president and uncle to the 43rd. In 2003, Lloyd Grove of the New York Daily News reported that Jonathan J., a money manger in Connecticut, stockpiled remote-control fart machines (possibly the same model used against Karl Rove) and gave them away as a gag to friends and relatives.

… Describing his father, Sen. Prescott Bush of Connecticut, to the Washington Post in 1986, Jonathan J. Bush said: "I never heard him fart." What at the time seemed an aptly humorous way to describe the probity of the Bush family's political patriarch may now require reconsideration as an earnest expression of filial regret.
And on and on it goes. Noah provides links to all the source material, of course.

So there is a long tradition involved in all this, a family history, and everyone likes a good joke - but these are profoundly unserious people. Yes, the two words go together. And they all called Bill Clinton a crass, opportunistic hick, even if over-educated, extraordinarily well-informed and clever. He was trash, really.

But what do these people take seriously?

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, the "Kos" of the widely-read Daily Kos, suggests it's Power Above Security -
We wonder how Republicans can keep throwing our nation's men and women in uniform - so many under the age of twenty - into the Iraq meat grinder without feeling something, anything at all. There's a disconnect that I had chalked up to simple elitism. Their kids weren't going to be dragged off that hellhole in the dessert anytime soon, so why should they care? Wars are for the unprivileged and voiceless to fight.

But the Foley scandal, and the inability of House Republicans to protect the teens in their own ranks, is positively mind-boggling. This isn't mere elitism at work. It is even worse than that.

What are the common threads here? Iraq has clearly become a political tool for the GOP, used to beat up Democrats as "weak" on "national security". Never mind the people who die on behalf of Rove's political talking points. And when a sexual predator endangers a safe Republican seat while threatening to cost the party a couple millions of dollars, what does the Republican leadership do? They cover it up. Power is everything. The lives of our soldiers and the well-being and safety of teenage House pages are all worth sacrificing in exchange for continued Republican dominance. What else will they sell out?

Everything.

There is nothing they won't sell out in the pursuit of power.

Nothing.
So Zúniga ties the war and the pedophile business in the House together. They may be profoundly unserious about governing and all that, but they are deadly serious about power. Those two words go together even better.

Tim Grieve offers a narrative of the House business here -
House Republicans responded to news that Mark Foley had a creepy interest in a sixteen-year-old page by talking among themselves and then asking Foley whether everything was copasetic. Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander contacts Republican House Speaker Hastert's office. Hastert's office tells Alexander's office to tell House Clerk Jeff Trandahl. Trandahl tells Republican Rep. John Shimkus, the chairman of the House Page Board. Shimkus doesn't tell Rep. Dale Kildee , the only Democrat on the House Page Board. So far as we can tell, he also fails to tell the House sergeant at arms, the law enforcement officer who sits on the House Page Board.

So what did Shimkus do? He says he took "immediate action" to investigate what he'd been told about Foley. And what was that "immediate action"? Shimkus and Trandahl ask Foley about the e-mail exchange. Foley says it's nothing. Shimkus and Trandahl tell him to leave the kid alone and to be mindful of his contacts with pages in the future.

End of story, case closed - except that somewhere along the way, Republican Congressional Campaign Committee chief Tom Reynolds tell Republican House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert about the email exchange. They don't do anything, either, and Hastert tells CNN this afternoon that, while he doesn't dispute that Reynolds told him about Foley, he honestly doesn't remember having had a conversation about it.

It reminds us of the time that Saddam Hussein insisted that he didn't have WMD, and the Republicans in Washington said, "Well, all right then," and got back to the business of fighting terrorism. Or the time that Bill Clinton said that he didn't have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky, and all those House GOPers took him at his word and dropped the matter right there.

Uh-huh.

… Maybe Shimkus and Trandahl and Reynolds and Hastert wouldn't have learned anything more if they'd performed something resembling an actual investigation after they received word of Foley's emails. But within a day after ABC News put them out on the Web, former pages began coming out of the woodwork with much more serious stories about Foley. Isn't it at least possible that Shimkus and Trandahl and Reynolds and Hastert would have heard about those stories sooner if they'd done even a little bit of probing? Didn't they have a moral obligation to try?
Maybe, but that depends on what's serious and what's not. The seat was safe and you don't mess with that.

But as the AP reports in analysis, now it's serious -
"I don't think this is so much about Foley as it is about the handling of this," Rick Davis, a Republican strategist, said Monday as the drama rocked the House GOP five weeks before midterm elections, much to Democrats' delight.

"The question becomes who's getting thrown overboard besides Foley to get this to go away," said Tony Fabrizio, another GOP consultant.

The six-term Florida congressman resigned abruptly on Friday after reports surfaced that he sent salacious electronic messages to teenage boys who had worked as House pages. The tawdry turn of events set off finger-pointing among House Republicans and overshadowed what the GOP had hoped would be a triumphant final work week highlighting the party's national security credentials before the campaign's homestretch.

Now, the Republican Party - already facing an unfriendly political environment and the fallout from a new book critical of President Bush's handling of the Iraq war - finds itself knocked even further off message and working to contain the political damage.
So Hastert goes on national television and denounces the sexually explicit instant messages Foley is accused of sending in 2003 to more than a few teenagers as "vile and repulsive" - but he and the House leaders didn't know about them until the instant messages surfaced in media reports the Friday before. Who would have thought the emails were the tip of the iceberg? Of course his staff and some Republicans in leadership, like Tom Reynolds, the chairman of the House campaign effort, for months had been aware of an "inappropriate" 2005 email exchange between Foley and a Louisiana teenager who once worked as a page. Reynolds said he told Hastert. Hastert says he doesn't recall the conversation but he doesn't dispute Reynolds' tale - it could be so. Majority Leader John Boehner too had known since spring that Foley had contacted the same kid, but a spokesman for Boehner said Boehner didn't know details of the contact. This might remind you of Condoleezza Rice testifying to the 9/11 Commission - "Who could have known terrorists would hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings?" It's the same sort of thing. There had been reports.

So now it's serious, as John Dickerson notes here -
The Mark Foley scandal has already accomplished two difficult feats: It has made a deeply unpopular Congress look even worse, and it has replaced Iraq and terrorism as Political Topic A. It's hardly the message-shift GOP leaders were looking for.

In the end, the political story may be that the ickiness of the disgraced congressman's Instant Messages swamps House Republicans. Who cares if GOP House leaders only saw hints of Foley's proclivities? Voters aren't sifting through the fine details. It's all too sickening. The judgment could be swift: Foley was a Republican, and the Republican leadership knew something, so out with the lot of them. If Democratic anger over this doesn't do in congressional Republicans, then disappointment and disillusionment at the whole sordid business will keep Republican voters home on Election Day.

Democrats would be happy with either outcome.

… It's clear that GOP leaders would like the political story to be about Mark Foley's unique sickness. The former congressman has done his best to help. First, he was really sick. Second, he resigned immediately and checked himself into rehab, citing both psychological and alcohol problems. He's literally taken himself out of the picture while at the same time enforcing the narrative that he was depraved but not part of a larger GOP problem.

That hasn't rescued the GOP leadership.

… Based on these e-mails, one of which asked for a young page's picture, GOP leaders met with Foley and told him to cut it out.

The question is whether Republican leaders were grossly negligent or clumsily stupid (great choice!). The former is a political disaster. The latter, less so. Clearly, they should have done more. Simply asking for a picture is beyond the pale. GOP leaders might not have done the right thing because they wanted to protect a safe GOP seat. But my reporting suggests for the moment that instead of being craven, they were just incompetent wimps. They knew Foley was gay and in the closet, and they just didn't want to get into whether he was following through on his flirting. When he explained that his e-mails were just a part of mentoring, they were probably relieved. Foley had given them an excuse they wanted to believe.

The ultimate judgment of this affair may be that it's just more dumb behavior by Republican leaders, and that may be enough to help Democrats with the midterm election, especially if this incident is seen as the final insult.
And that seems to be the way it's heading - what was minor is now "serious."

It was this serious -
Straining to hold the party together five weeks from Election Day amid unfolding revelations about the case, Mr. Hastert and his leadership team held a conference call with House Republicans on Monday night and heard blunt advice and criticism from participants who pressed for further action to reassure voters.

"This is a political problem, and we need to step up and do something dramatic," Representative Ray LaHood of Illinois said afterward, adding that he had proposed abolishing the Congressional page program.

… Federal agents on Monday began contacting men who were in the Congressional page program in recent years, said government officials briefed on the matter, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the inquiry.

… At the White House, Tony Snow, President Bush's press secretary, initially characterized the scandal as "naughty e-mails," drawing a blistering response from Democrats who said his words suggested that Republicans did not understand the gravity of the situation.

… Mr. Hastert defended the Republicans' handling of a parent's complaint last year about communication from Mr. Foley to the parent's teenage son. But he acknowledged that the e-mail inquiring about the boy's well being and requesting a photo was potentially troubling.

"I think that raised a red flag, raised a red flag with the kid, raised a red flag with the parents," said Mr. Hastert, who repeated that he could not recall learning of the messages before news of them broke last week. But the speaker said he and others had been "duped" by Mr. Foley, who when questioned about the e-mail said it was an innocent effort to make sure that the young man, who was from Louisiana, had made it through Hurricane Katrina.

Representative John Shimkus, Republican of Illinois, and the House clerk, Jeff Trandahl, instructed Mr. Foley to break off any contact with the former page. At the time, Republicans did not purse the matter further, considering the case closed. "Would have, could have, should have," Mr. Hastert said, responding to questions about whether Republicans should have done more.

… Across the country, in competitive and noncompetitive races, Democrats seized on an issue that they said was resonating with voters. In an effort coordinated in Washington by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party's candidates urged their Republican opponents to call for the resignation of Mr. Hastert and other leaders.

In Indiana, Baron Hill, a Democratic candidate for a House seat, asked the incumbent, Representative Mike Sodrel, a first-term Republican, to reject any financial contributions from the national party. In North Carolina, where Representative Robin Hayes, a Republican, is engaged in a tough campaign fight, the state Democratic Party issued a statement asking, "Who does Robin Hayes stand up for - Mark Foley and the Republican House leadership or under-age children?"
Oh my. It really is a train wreck.

Note here you'll find the video of über-Democrat Paul Begala and über-Republican Bay Buchanan on CNN's Situation Room, Monday, October 2, agreeing. Begala - "If somebody said that to my kid they will deal with a law firm Smith and Wesson. It's going to my 12-gauge." Pat Buchanan's sister will not defend Hastert and the rest - she rakes them over the coals. They seem to be reacting as parents, not party functionaries. How odd.

It really was hard to see how Hastert can possibly remain as Speaker when people like far right Michael Reagan are demanding his resignation. Even Michelle "We were right to lock up our Japs and we should look up our Muslims too!" Malkin was ripping the Republicans, including Tony Snow, who are "inclined to pooh-pooh Foley's behavior and carry on about Barney Frank instead." She posts an email from a reader in Oklahoma who agrees with her and who said that he forbade his daughter to accept an offer to be a page because he "wouldn't expose her to those people." The reader also says - "If this crap continues we the people are going to have to take matters in our own hands." And there's more such stuff from the right here, here and here. They will vote Democratic, as the Republicans have abandoned all of the "principles" that got them so excited in the first place. Amazing.

Then there's the case of Matt Drudge, claiming this was all a set-up - oversexed nasty kids trying to trap a good man (see this) - but that seems to be an outlier. No one was impressed with that thinking.

All this almost made people forget the Woodward book and that curious July 10, 2001 meeting where George Tenet and his counterterrorism chief Cofer Black call for an emegency face-to-face with then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. They are "hair on fire" upset. They think al Qaeda is going to attack soon. She blows them off.

See Peter Rundlet, a Counsel to the 9/11 Commission, here saying the 9/11 Commission was never told about this meeting. And he concludes - "At a minimum, the withholding of information about this meeting is an outrage. Very possibly, someone committed a crime. And worst of all, they failed to stop the plot." But Rice didn't think it was important, or so Woodward says.

Monday, October 2, she says it may have never happened -
Rice said she cannot recall then-CIA chief George Tenet warning her of an impending al-Qaida attack in the United States, as a new book claims he did two months before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. "What I am quite certain of is that I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States, and the idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible," Rice said.
Then there's this a few hours later -
A review of White House records has determined that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, did brief Condoleezza Rice and other top officials on July 10, 2001, about the looming threat from Al Qaeda, a State Department spokesman said Monday.

The account by Sean McCormack came hours after Ms. Rice, the secretary of state, told reporters aboard her airplane that she did not recall the specific meeting on July 10, 2001, noting that she had met repeatedly with Mr. Tenet that summer about terrorist threats. Ms. Rice, the national security adviser at the time, said it was "incomprehensible" she ignored dire terrorist threats two months before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. McCormack also said records show that the Sept. 11 commission was informed about the meeting, a fact that former intelligence officials and members of the commission confirmed on Monday.

When details of the meeting emerged last week in a new book by Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, Bush administration officials questioned Mr. Woodward's reporting.

Now, after several days, both current and former Bush administration officials have confirmed parts of Mr. Woodward's account.

Officials now agree that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism deputy, J. Cofer Black, were so alarmed about an impending Al Qaeda attack that they demanded an emergency meeting at the White House with Ms. Rice and her National Security Council staff.
Or as Duncan Black puts it -
So, Rice briefed that an attack was coming. A month later the president is briefed that an attack was coming. He tells the briefer that he's covered his ass. A month later an attack happens. And Rice magically forgets all this stuff.
Cute. These are not serious people.

Well, they ARE serious about fighting terrorism, except for this - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Calls for Efforts to Bring Taliban into Afghan Government - which says something about the famed Republican toughness on national security

It's quite simple -
QALAT, Afghanistan U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan guerrilla war can never be won militarily and called for efforts to bring the Taliban and their supporters into the Afghan government.

The Tennessee Republican said he had learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated by military means.

"You need to bring them into a more transparent type of government," Frist said during a brief visit to a U.S. and Romanian military base in the southern Taliban stronghold of Qalat. "And if that's accomplished we'll be successful."
And he's not alone -
Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican from Florida accompanying Frist, said negotiating with the Taliban was not "out of the question" but that fighters who refused to join the political process would have to be defeated.

"A political solution is how it's all going to be solved," he said.
Cheney must have called Frist on the satellite phone, as Frist then backs off a little.

Too late - the train wreck continues, with Michelle Malkin and her folks with items like this -
If we're going to do this, just pull everyone out. Don't lend an imprimatur of legitimacy to it by shepherding these medieval savages into a U.S.-backed government. Pull out, admit defeat, and let the Taliban take back the country through force. Then we can really and truly be back to September 10, 2001. Minus a skyscraper or two.
And at the far right Ace of Spades, this -
Goodbye GOP.

Perhaps we should make peace with Zawahiri as well? Let's negotiate, and see what terms we can get as good dhimmis.

The hell with the lot of them.

… I don't need the goddamned Republican Party in power to sign "peace" deals with terrorists. I can get that easily enough from the Democratic Party. I've supported these vacuous, cowardly, inept, corrupt idiots for one reason - to fight terrorists.

If they want to sign peace deals with them, that's their decision. I and others can make another decision. The country may move in this direction, but we hardly have to endorse the decision by voting in favor of Quislings.

At least the Democrats talk tough about sending more troops to Afghanistan and killing Taliban fighters and capturing bin Laden.

If that really is no longer a GOP priority, then I am no longer a member of the GOP.

You stupid jagoffs [sic]. You've done just about everything possible to lose this election; it's only the base - ever hopeful and ever self-deluding - that's kept you from your goal.

Was governing too much a chore for you? Was it too distracting, taking you away from fundraisers and fucking Congressional pages?

The Democrats have complained for years the GOP wasn't serious enough about defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban, that it was too focused on Iraq. Congratulations - you just took a talking point and made it an established fact.

Well, enjoy your minority status. The rest of us will try to rebuild to the extent we can a party that actually sees ending the Taliban and Al Qaeda as somewhat more critical than ending internet poker.

More... I had hoped that the GOP's fear of losing power had shook them out of their moronic, corrupt stupor. I thought July and August were enough to send them a message.

I guess not. They don't learn easy.

It will, in fact, take an electoral drubbing to make them understand.

So let the enlightening begin.
It almost as if those in power cannot help themselves. Everything turns out wrong.

But Bill Montgomery thinks something is up -
First the Pakistanis cut a truce deal with Al Qaeda and its tribal allies in the frontier territories, and now Frist and his sidekick Mel Martinez fly to Kabul and float this trial balloon.

Something big is up. Who knows? Maybe Dr. K doing his Nixon-goes-to-China thing.

But it's awfully hard to believe the Rovians are actually going to try to sell a negotiated settlement with the Taliban and/or Al Qaeda to the American public - not even after the election and certainly not as some sort of October surprise/political miracle weapon.

What would come next? A state visit from Bin Laden?

More likely, this is part of some half-hearted, fumbling effort to peel away the Taliban "moderates" and "bring them into the process," like the attempt to bring the Sunni into the big tent in Iraq - a ploy which, we now know, almost worked too well.

Either way, I think we can take a guess at the larger motive: To shore up (or at least simmer down) the Afghanistan front in advance of the attack on Iran.

… And now the Brits - "British troops battling the Taliban are to withdraw from one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan after agreeing a secret deal with the local people. It has now been agreed the troops will quietly pull out of Musa Qala in return for the Taliban doing the same."

My, this seems to be quite the day for cutting and running.
Okay, but the president WILL sign that bill outlawing internet gambling. It probably won't stop the train wreck.

What next?

Posted by Alan at 23:20 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006 11:23 PDT home

Sunday, 1 October 2006
What They Are Saying
Topic: Couldn't be so...
What They Are Saying
It seems a shame not to open the week with what looks like a train wreck, even if it's just a political one. But this item will be brief as the flu, or the bad cold, or whatever it is, is worsening. So let's just see what the buzz opening the week is.

First up is Digby - it seems there's no rhyme or reason to how one chooses a pseudonym - over a Hullabaloo (on the other hand the site name makes some sense) with this list -
  • A new book by the official court scribe describes an administration so inept, unorganized and incoherent that if most people were aware of the details, the president's fear campaign would blow back hard against him. If the terrorists really are coming to kill us in our beds any day now, then we are in deep shit with these guys in charge.
  • We have more news this week-end that Karl Rove and the white house were actively and personally involved in all the Jack Abramoff congressional corruption scandals which feature ripping off taxpayers of many millions of dollars.
  • It turns out that Bush fired Colin Powell.
  • The intelligence community agree that the invasion of Iraq super-charged the extremist jihadist movement and is fuelling terrorism far more quickly and broadly than we would have had to deal with otherwise.
  • We have officially sanctioned torture and the repeal of habeas corpus - at the least competent president in history's discretion.
That's some list of Republican scandals, enough to bring them down, maybe. And Digby notes that "if we lived in a nation that wasn't completely dysfunctional," the unlisted scandal - the Republican congressman from Florida resigning after the mildly salacious emails and then the rather sick instant messages to a sixteen-year-old male page were revealed - wouldn't be at the top of the list of scandals that have been revealed in the last week in September. But that's the top scandal.

As Digby phrases it - "Lord Almighty, it looks like we got us a gen-you-wine Republican sex scandal. And it's a doozy, isn't it? Maybe people will notice that something is seriously rotten under GOP rule now."

Or maybe not, as this is the assessment we're offered -
… it looks like Mark Foley's raunchy emails are going to be the scandal that may just bring it home for November. They made their puritanical, moralizing bed, now their going to have to roll around in the muck and the mire they made it with. Let's let 'er rip.

First of all, Mark Foley is clearly one exceptionally screwed up dude. A semi-closeted gay Republican whose signature issue is online sex predators and missing kids sending sexually explicit IM's to congressional pages is one of the most blatant act of self-immolation I've ever seen.

But that's not the real scandal, is it? While I'm sure the religious right will make the same charges about "gayness" they always do when their institutional leaders turn out to be hypocrites and chickenhawks (in all senses of the word), Foley's unsavory habit of hitting on teenagers who worked at the capital and the GOP leadership's truly disgusting propensity to cover it up at all costs is the issue.
Of course, Sunday, October 1, George Will mentioned "Elmer Gantry" on the ABC political show This Week, and the idea here is that the book "perfectly describes "the modern Republican moralists who've been kicking us in the teeth with their alleged family values for the past couple of decades." And that has to do with this famous line from the book - "He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason."

Digby -
The politicians of the modern Republican Party are a bunch of Elmer Gantry's who sold a lot of Americans a bill of goods for a long, long time. I don't know if their supporters are ready to hear it, but I have to believe that if the leadership of the GOP congress allowing one of their own to sexually prey on sixteen-year-old male pages doesn't wake them up, nothing will. I am not sanguine.

No, there's no reason to be sanguine. Somehow this will be all Bill Clinton's fault. Watch for that.

Actually, that is underway - Brit Hume on Fox News -

It is very serious misbehavior on the part of Congressman Foley, whether it stems from arrogance or just weakness of the human flesh is another question. It's probably worth noting that there's a difference between the two parties on these issues. Inappropriate behavior towards subordinates didn't cost Gerry Studds his Democratic seat in Massachusetts, nor Barney Frank his. Nor did inappropriate behavior toward a subordinate even cost Bill Clinton his standing within the Democratic Party, even though indirectly he was impeached for it. Mark Foley found out about this, was found out to have done this, and he's out of office and in total disgrace in his party.
Republicans will take care of this because they are the "values" people - but Democrats still like Bill Clinton, because they have no values. And that proves… something, but it's a bit unclear.

But they aren't exactly taking care of this. They're doing the finger-point at each other. When the whole thing blew up and the man resigned, Majority Leader John Boehner - the man who replaced the indicted Tom DeLay - said he had told the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, about the problem last year and Hastert, who long ago was a high school boys' wrestling coach, had said he'd take care of it. Hastert did the no-you-didn't and Boehner did the yes-I-did. They talked and Friday night, September 29, Boehner called the Washington Post and told them to change their coverage - maybe he hadn't told Hastert. He didn't really remember. Right - and there's a handy timeline here of all they events, and the many players. It's not pretty. Hume should study it.

Next up - Greg Saunders at the site This Modern World, run by the political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow (great pseudonym) with The Scandal That Dare Not Speak Its Name -
By now, you probably know about Rep Mark Foley stepping down after being revealed to be a sexual predator. Foley wasn't just caught sending creepy emails to underage boy(s), but some sexually explicit IMs. [ABC News has them in full here] You've also probably heard last night's revelation that some members of the House leadership were aware of the emails (at least) for almost a year and did nothing about it. But unless you've been glued to your computer all day, you may have missed all of the twists and turns the scandal has taken today. It's every man for himself as the GOP leadership is pointing fingers at each other.
And so it is, and Josh Marshall (real name) over at Talking Points Memo, who have been covering all the twists and turnd in great detail, sums it up with this -
I've been at this blog racket for almost six years. And usually you've got to really pore over the details to find the inconsistencies and contradictions. So I'm not sure I've ever seen this big a train wreck where leaders at the highest eschelons of power repeatedly fib, contradict each other and change their stories so quickly. It's mendacity as performance art; you can see the story unravel in real time.

… These fibs and turnabouts amount to a whole far larger than the sum of its parts. Even the most cynical politicians carefully vet their stories to assure that they cannot easily be contradicted by other credible personages. When you see Majority Leaders and Speakers and Committee chairs calling each other liars in public you know that the underlying story is very bad, that the system of coordination and hierarchy has broken down and that each player believes he's in a fight for his life.
Saunders -
As well they should be. Their careers are probably over at a minimum. There may be legal liability as well. And depending on how deep the cover-up goes, this could very well bring down the entire GOP with them. People who vote on "moral values" probably aren't going to like the fact that their party leaders have been covering up for a guy who asked an underage boy to "get a ruler and measure it for me." This is a milder form of the same sickness that brought down Cardinal Bernard Law and it'll bring down any Republican who sat on this information as well. As it should.
But it won't, even if now the FBI is involved. And Hastert called for that, but then there's this - the FBI is supposed to investigate ABC's sources and see if they can find any Democratic Party or liberal interest group involvement in the IM leaks.

It's just too bizarre. And the other items on the original list are for more important in the great scheme of things (assuming there is one). But it could be a tipping point. Seeming small events do sometimes cause large events to occur - Sarajevo, 1914.

On the right, John Miller at The Corner, the blog of the arch-conservative National Review, with this -
The news that House Republican leaders may have known about disgraced former congressman Mark Foley's behavior as early as several months ago is dynamite.

... If House Republican leaders really did avert their gaze from a problem they knew about, however, Foley could become the new Jack Abramoff. Except that whereas the details of Abramoff's were always a bit complicated for the public to follow closely, the accusations now leveled at Foley are much simpler and more appalling. Foley is on the verge of becoming the poster child of a party that is concerned about little more than preserving its power.
One the left (or mildly left), Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly, with this -
I think he's right. Even my eyes glaze over a bit when I try to remember everything that was going on with Jack Abramoff or even Duke Cunningham. But Foley? That's easy. He was preying on teenage pages, and the Republican leadership looked the other way and allowed it to continue for nearly a year. It doesn't get much easier than that.

This scandal may not expose systemic corruption the way the Abramoff scandal did, but it has plenty of legs. It involves sex, it involves cover-ups, it involves powerful players turning on each other to protect their own skins, and it involves lots of documentary evidence. Unlike the Abramoff scandal, this one is going to get covered in People magazine and the National Inquirer. It may finally be the GOP's Waterloo.
We shall see. When you don't have real political discourse on policy issues - oppose what's in place and you're somewhere between intellectually and morally confused (Rumsfeld) or a traitor (Ann Coulter) - posturing about illicit sex will do. People love to talk about that. It's a "real" issue for a change. Is that cynical? Wake up.

As for the other matters, Bob Woodward sat down with Mike Wallace on the Sunday, October 1, broadcast of CBS's 60 Minutes to discuss his new book, State of Denial. The transcript and streaming video are here - the Bush administration is so convinced that what they're doing in Iraq is right that they refuse to acknowledge the reality on the ground, and they refuse to level with the American people. Yawn.

As the New York Times summarizes here -
In Bob Woodward's highly anticipated new book, "State of Denial," President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war. It's a portrait that stands in stark contrast to the laudatory one Mr. Woodward drew in "Bush at War," his 2002 book, which depicted the president - in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed - as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the "vision thing" his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state.
But where's the sex?

On the other hand, the book is bad news for the White House - particularly because it reveals a July 10, 2001 meeting where George Tenet and his counterterrorism chief Cofer Black call for a meeting with then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. They think al Qaeda is going to attack soon. She blows them off. See Peter Rundlet, a Counsel to the 9/11 Commission, here, saying the Commission was never told about this meeting. And he concludes - "At a minimum, the withholding of information about this meeting is an outrage. Very possibly, someone committed a crime. And worst of all, they failed to stop the plot." They didn't think it was important.

It's getting interesting. And Bush fired Colin Powell, he didn't resign willingly? What's that about?

That's the new book about him, written with him, part of which was released here. He's not happy, he knows he was used and abused, and the details in this one are as devastating as anything in the Woodward book. More will follow on that as its publication date nears.

There's only one countermove to all this coming down - a war with Iran a week before the election. That's to only thing that will divert the public's attention.

But consider what Matthew Yglesias says here -
I would have thought this was simply obvious, but a few people at dinner thought it might be useful to make the point plainly. The Bush administration is considering airstrikes against Iran. Some people think the decision has already been made to do it. Most people think this isn't totally clear, but some folks inside the government want strikes and may win the fight. The options being seriously considered all involve, basically, launching a surprise attack. This means, among other things, a war without any serious basis in domestic or international law. No UN resolution, no congressional resolution, just an order from the President to the relevant military assets. There'll be vague gestures in the direction of this or that - the crew that's argued the 9/11 Resolution repealed FISA and the 4th Amendment will argue that it authorized just about anything - but basically they'll just be making shit up which isn't at the end of the day, a novel situation for them to be in.

The War Powers Act states that "The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." Meaning, in other words, that simply launching an attack on Iran would be illegal. Dick Cheney has, however, argued for decades that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional, so this isn't going to stop them. You'll be able to file an after-the-fact lawsuit, if you like, but that's not going to have much practical impact.
But at least you won't have sex on your mind.

Posted by Alan at 23:14 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006 08:50 PDT home

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