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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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Sunday, 12 November 2006
The Momentum of War
Topic: Couldn't be so...
The Momentum of War
Momentum -

1 - a property of a moving body that the body has by virtue of its mass and motion and that is equal to the product of the body's mass and velocity; broadly, a property of a moving body that determines the length of time required to bring it to rest when under the action of a constant force or moment
2 - strength or force gained by motion or through the development of events

The Democrats may have won the House and Senate in the midterm elections, but the new Congress doesn't convene until January, and anyway, in spite of the talk of things changing in the country, they don't have the momentum. The war in Iraq, by virtue of its mass and motion (accelerating and increasing violence as two of the three major factions there find ever more horrific ways to kill those on the "other side" in greater and greater numbers), has its own momentum. And what we started in early 2003, with an invasion, the removal of the government there, and an ongoing occupation tp get things working there in some sort of way, has its own momentum. There's a whole lot of mass and motion involved there too.

Newton's First Law of Motion states that bodies at rest tend to remain at rest, and that bodies in motion tend to remain in motion. Those bodies that are in motion move at a constant speed in a straight line. This is called inertia, or in the case of what happens to be in motion, momentum. You have to take that into account. Nothing much is going to change very quickly, if at all. Momentum must be countered with some sufficient force. The Democratic majority in the two houses may not be it.

And this is pathetically insufficent -
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats, who won majorities in the U.S. Congress in last week's elections, said on Sunday they will push for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to begin in four to six months.

"The first order of business is to change the direction of Iraq policy," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is expected to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress.

Levin, on ABC's "This Week," said he hoped some Republicans would emerge to join Democrats and press the administration of President George W. Bush to tell the Iraqi government that U.S. presence was "not open-ended."
That's not an opposite and equal force to counter the momentum, much less reverse it. It's wishing.

Sunday, November 12, the talk was of this -
After meeting with President Bush tomorrow, a panel of prestigious Americans will begin deliberations to chart a new course on Iraq, with the goal of stabilizing the country with a different U.S. strategy and possibly the withdrawal of troops.

Tuesday's dramatic election results, widely seen as a repudiation of the Bush Iraq policy, has thrust the 10-member, bipartisan Iraq Study Group into the kind of special role played by the Sept. 11 commission. This panel, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former Indiana congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D), might play a decisive role in reshaping the U.S. position in Iraq, according to lawmakers and administration officials.

Those familiar with the panel's work predict that the ultimate recommendations will not appear novel and that there are few, if any, good options left facing the country. Many of the ideas reportedly being considered - more aggressive regional diplomacy with Syria and Iran, greater emphasis on training Iraqi troops, or focusing on a new political deal between warring Shiites and Sunni - have either been tried or have limited chances of success, in the view of many experts on Iraq. Baker is also exploring whether a broader U.S. initiative in tackling the Arab-Israeli conflict is needed to help stabilize the region.
So they will meet with the president and then begin deliberations - which seems to involve sitting around and trying to think of something that will slow the war's self-sustaining momentum and, one day, reverse it.

Then there's this assessment - Why the Baker Commission on Iraq Doesn't Matter.

There are the unpleasant actual facts -
The situation in Iraq is "even worse than we thought,'' with key Iraqi leaders showing no willingness to compromise to avoid increasing violence, said Leon Panetta, a member of the high-powered advisory group that will recommend new options for the war.

… Private assessments by government officials are much more grim than what is said in public, Panetta said, "and we left some of those sessions shaking our heads over how bad it is in Iraq.''

U.S. forces can't control sectarian violence and powerful militias. One of the most disturbing findings, Panetta said, is that many Shiite religious leaders who are a big part of the government have no interest in deals or compromises with Sunnis and other groups, and are "playing for time because they say it's their show.''
So this assessment is that the "meeting between the overgrown child in White House and the would-be foster parents of the Iraq Study Group led by James Baker" doesn't matter much. Not only has it long been obvious that the Shiite leadership had no interest in compromise, they essentially couldn't compromise with their Sunni counterparts.

That goes like this -
Nor, as the U.S. government has been embarrassingly slow to learn, is there anything we can do to force the Shiites to make concessions. Even as Iraq spiraled into the abyss, this was demonstrated when Team Shiite shut Baathists out of the government formed this spring, just as it had excluded them from the previous one… "Too many Shiites have died at the hands of Baathists (both during Saddam Hussein's reign and since then) for them to take any chances."

The increasing sectarian atrocities this year have only made matters worse. So it's almost laughable to think that anything Baker and his team come up with will manage to change the basic power equation in Iraq - one in which all sides would rather fight than share power peacefully with their increasingly bitter enemies.

Events have shown that even the 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are little more than overwhelmed bystanders at this point... or, at best, speed bumps slowing down an otherwise full-speed descent into the hell of civil war. The underlying dynamic has been in place since before the American invasion, when both sides planned in advance their response to the toppling of Saddam Hussein - the Shiite religious leaders by plotting to use our promises of democracy to install a hard-line sectarian government, and Saddam himself by carpeting the countryside with weapons and explosives to ensure that the U.S (and the Shiites) would face the most well-armed insurgency in history.

The impotence of the American military during the nationwide rampage of looting after Saddam was deposed convinced every Iraqi faction that no one could secure their interests but themselves, and conversely that the path to power was wide open to whoever could acquire the most armed strength. Since then, our inability to impose our will has only become more obvious - the Shiite religious leaders seized the political initiative in November 2003 when Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani vetoed the U.S. scheme to concoct our own constitution for Iraq before holding elections, and a devastating guerrilla offensive in April 2004 forced us to essentially withdraw from Anbar province, more or less conceding that we could never defeat the Sunni insurgents militarily.

Those decisive moments have largely dictated the events of the past three years, not to mention the ultimate conflagration that will erupt when the U.S. is no longer able to sustain its presence in Iraq. So there's really no need or reason to work up much fear, hope, or anything else about what Baker and/or his group propose.

The Baker commission's only reason for existence is to provide a formal channel for telling the President that there's no pony in Iraq - that failure/defeat is not only an option, it's basically the only one left. The question is whether he'll listen even now.

Well, the president's personality-based inertia aside, the "facts on the ground" don't offer much hope.

What bold move will change everything? We're hardly about to convene a regional summit and chat with Iran and Syria about working out some sort of stability in the area - the president has made it clear we do not hold any sort of talks, even secret back-channel talks, with countries we consider evil, as that only legitimizes them or even rewards them. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said publicly, and repeatedly, there is absolutely and unequivocally no reason to talk with them - they know what they're supposed to do. And of course, after a publicly belittling like that, they certainly have no reason to talk. She shut that door, and locked it.

And we're hardly about to change positions on what most say is the core issue in the region and return to the position of previous administrations, deciding to play "honest broker" between Israel and the Palestinians. It's a little late for that, after the Israel-Hezbollah war that dismantled Jordon that we urged should continue, and our latest veto of a UN resolution condemning Israel for killing nine civilians in their ongoing attacks on Gaza. The Israeli government said it was a technical error that killed the nine kids. That's good enough for us. We decided early on in this administration that what former presidents of both parties thought was important - getting the parties together to cool things down - wasn't. The thought seemed to be that changing Iraq would change everything in the region, and thorny issues a few hundred miles west of Baghdad would be resolved as regimes changed and people woke up to how things could be - with Jeffersonian democracies springing up left and right. That actually was our position. And we're not about to back down from our matching Israel-can-do-no-wrong stance. We'd appear weak, and foolish, and there'd be a heavy price to pay with Israel and here at home. And of course it would solve nothing now - an "abandoned" Israel might just, on their own, take out most of Iran's nuclear sites, their command and control apparatus, and most roads and bridges, if we stepped back our support for them. All hell would break loose from Pakistan to Turkey - not to mention crazed anger in Muslim countries around the world, like Indonesia - but Israel has its own survival to consider. So nothing can be changed there. We made our decisions.

So any sort of change in all this is hard to imagine. In football (our version), momentum is a problem. You seem have "The Big Mo" and then you've lost it - and it's hard to get back. What can change things? Sometimes it's a lucky call from the refs, or the other team makes an unexpected bone-headed mistake. Suddenly you're back in the game and everything is falling your way again. But you can't depend on that, so you try a trick play - a quadruple reverse or some fancy Hail Mary thing no one expects. In gambling, it's a bit different. You've been on a roll and then, for some reason or no reason, it's all snake eyes, all the time, or in poker, you're just not getting the cards. You find yourself deep in a hole. You're just about to lose everything. And in that case there are only two alternatives - cut your losses and walk away (to the bar, as your drinks will now be on the house), or double-down. So you can stay in and make it all back - double your bets and assume the law of averages, or at least what statisticians call "the return to the mean," will save your butt. It could happen.

Robert Kagan and William Kristol think so. In the Sunday, November 12, Financial Times, they say Bush Must Call for Reinforcements in Iraq. Send ten or twenty or thirty thousand more guys in there - maybe more. Slap these people around and make them cut the crap. The problem is we've not taken this seriously enough. It's time to double-down. Heck, we might even find those WMD (no, they didn't go that far).

And it's not just those two thinking this way. In the first NBC "Meet the Press" after the midterm elections, Tim Russert and his bookers decided to continue their "no Democrats" policy and invited John McCain and Joe Lieberman to come in for a chat on "what it all means and where we are going." Lieberman, of course, did not run as a Democrat - he lost the primary - and told Russert now that he's won his senate seat back as an independent, he wouldn't rule out caucusing with the Republicans and voting with them on all issues, and at the same time he'd keep his Democratic committee chairmanships and meet with the Democrats if they were nice to him (he didn't mention kissing his ring), as he's moved beyond political parties. Russert asked what Lieberman was going to demand of senate Democrats for his cooperation - what he would force them to do to get his support. Lieberman hemmed and hawed for a bit and said he was not going to do anything like that, really. He's having a bit of trouble settling into the "I'm better than anyone else" role. It's a work in progress.

In any event, as NBC carefully booked no Democrat who won any seat in either house, they had the floor, or screen, or camera, or whatever. They both called for a massive increase in the number of troops we have in Iraq.

There's a video of McCain saying that here - "We're either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months." So it's double-down.

Russert noted that on December 8, 2005, McCain had said, "Overall, I think a year from now, we will have a fair amount of progress [in Iraq] if we stay the course." McCain was forced to admit he had "proven not to be correct." But things are different now? That seems to be the idea. Lieberman too had said not six months ago that things we're going great in Iraq and the evil media was reporting it all wrong, and undermining the president. Now he says pour in the additional troops. They agreed. So that's how things are. The transcript is here.

Summing it up is Duncan Black here -

Well, reading the tea leaves it's pretty clear what's going on. The Iraq Study Group which Democrats have decided is going to save them is going to recommend either sending in more troops (McCain/Lieberman position this morning) or beginning to bug out. Elite Consensus will tell us to double down one more time, send in another 30,000 troops or so, while condemning the Democrats as defeatists. There won't be enough Democrat support to use what little levers of power they have (not many) to force the administration's hand. So more American soldiers will have their lives disrupted and families torn apart, more of them will die, more Iraqis will die, so that soulless Joe "no one wants out of Iraq more than I do" Lieberman can prop up his feeling of self-importance.

God I hate these people.
But you cannot fight the momentum here. The president is hardly the sort of man to cut his losses and walk away to the bar for a stiff one, or three or four. He was an alcoholic through his early forties, and now he doesn't drink. And those other ideas - talk with Iran and Syria, and go all "neutral intermediary" on the Israel-Palestine issues? After six years of having none of that he's hardly likely now to eat crow and reverse his positions there. And although he cannot explain what winning in Iraq means - no one can, exactly - he sure as hell isn't about to preside over anything that looks like losing. Every business in which he was involved failed - he needs this. When you've never won anything and you're backed into a corner, there's only one option, double-down. They're not his chips anyway, not his kids off to join the hundred fifty thousand we have there now. Why not?

Duncan Black is reading the tea leaves right. Things in motion just have their momentum.

Operationally we're talking about this -
"Roughly, you need another 20,000 troops in Iraq, but that means expanding the Army and Marine Corps by as much as 100,000 people," the Arizona senator told reporters after a campaign event for Republicans in New Hampshire's North Country.
So where do we find those people? There aren't even enough unemployed former senators and representatives.

The day before Kagan and Kristol and McCain and Lieberman gave the president the only option he would consider this hit the wires -
The Pentagon is developing plans that for the first time would send entire National Guard combat brigades back to Iraq for a second tour, the Guard's top general said in the latest sign of how thinly stretched the military has become.

Smaller Guard units and individual troops have already returned to Iraq for longer periods, and some active duty units have served multiple tours. Brigades generally have about 3,500 troops.

The move - which could include brigades from North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas and Indiana - would be the Pentagon's first large-scale departure from its previous decision not to deploy reserves for more than a total of 24 months in Iraq.
There aren't more chips for this game. And if McCain is right - we're either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months - signing up another hundred thousand to get the twenty thousand chips necessary for this big hand of poker doesn't fit his timeline. They'd be ready in eighteen months. By then the game, he himself says, would be over.

Time to head for the bar. Big Mo won. George can have a ginger ale.

Posted by Alan at 22:32 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 13 November 2006 07:49 PST home

Saturday, 11 November 2006
Quotes Regarding Elections
Topic: Election Notes
Quotes Regarding Elections
Just for the fun of it -

RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections. The rabble is like the sacred Simurgh, of Arabian fable - omnipotent on condition that it do nothing. - Ambrose Bierce

"Our elections are free - it's in the results where eventually we pay." - Bill Stern

"Democracy is a form of government that substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few." - George Bernard Shaw

"An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry." - George Eliot

"Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates." - Gore Vidal

"Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." - H. L. Mencken

"In our brief national history we have shot four of our presidents, worried five of them to death, impeached one and hounded another out of office. And when all else fails, we hold an election and assassinate their character." - P. J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores

"Win or lose, we go shopping after the election." - Imelda Marcos

"You will expect me to discuss the late election. Well, as nearly as I can learn, we did not have enough votes on our side." - Herbert Hoover

"The unconscious democracy of America is a very fine thing. It is a true and deep and instinctive assumption of the equality of citizens, which even voting and elections have not destroyed." - G. K. Chesterton

"Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hard-working, honest Americans. It's the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them." - Lily Tomlin

"The Roman government gave them bread and circuses. Today we give them bread and elections." - Will Durant

"A politician should have three hats. One for throwing into the ring, one for talking through, and one for pulling rabbits out of if elected." - Carl Sandburg

"The best argument against democracy is a five minute talk with the average voter." - Winston Churchill

"Votes are like trees, if you are trying to build a forest. If you have more trees than you have forests, then at that point the pollsters will probably say you will win." - Dan Quayle

"Vote for the man who promises least. He'll be the least disappointing." - Bernard Baruch

"If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side." - Orson Scott Card

"The voters have spoken - the bastards!" - Morris

"Those that know how to win are much more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories." - Polybius

"The sun don't shine on the same dog's ass all the time." - Jim "Catfish" Hunter

"If you can keep your head about you when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation." - Jean Kerr

"When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less." - Paul Brown

"Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war, because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans." - Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North, Patton, 1970

Posted by Alan at 14:12 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
home

Friday, 10 November 2006
Gloating and Recriminations - Agenda-Driven Hysterical Harrumphing
Topic: Election Notes
Gloating and Recriminations - Agenda-Driven Hysterical Harrumphing
After the midterm elections, where, in the end, after a few days of counting the votes again at few locations, it does seem the nation chose to say, "Stop, let's rethink all this." A good number of those claiming there was nothing to rethink lost their seats in Congress. For the first time in twelve years the opposition party will have control of both houses - one third of the government, with the power to approve or deny funding for anything the government does, subpoena power to investigate anything the executive branch does, and the power to change laws enacted or to enact new laws the executive branch must follow, even if the executive branch has for the last few years has maintained that's "old thinking" and in the dangerous world in which we now live the president has the right, if not the duty, to ignore the law for whatever he decides is the greater good at the moment. And at the highest level of the judicial branch, the Supreme Court, all that will be straightened out? Well, that's the system - two hundred thirty years old and still working, to some extent.

Things certainly had been simpler for the preceding six years - with one party in control of two of the three branches, and appointing compliant judges to the third branch at will. All the whining that things needed rethinking was mocked, and the media pretty much joined in. Everyone seemed to enjoy the bully winners laughing at the hapless losers who wanted "to think about things" - much like the amusement in seeing a masterful football team roll over some comic and bumbling last place team, ruining up the score with that eleventh touchdown and doing the funky victory dance in the end zone again and again. There's a certain pleasure in watching masterful professionals at work, doing what the want at will. It's heady stuff.

Some people, on the other hand, equally enjoy seeing the hapless underdogs rise to the occasion and unexpectedly win - the '69 Mets winning it all, or Rutgers beating Louisville two days after these elections. It's that satisfying "fall of the mighty" thing. And most people like to think of themselves as the underdog who will one day win it all - even rich and successful folks. Everyone has some sort of chip on his or her shoulder, however subtly hidden.

So the underdogs won control of Congress and the mighty will get their comeuppance, or something.

But it wasn't all good. It came with baggage -
A new recording Friday attributed to the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq mocked President Bush as a coward whose conduct of the war was rejected at the polls, challenging him to keep U.S. troops in the country to face more bloodshed.

"We haven't had enough of your blood yet," taunted terror chieftain Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, identified as the speaker on the tape.

He gloated over Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation, claimed to have 12,000 fighters under his command who "have vowed to die for God's sake," and said his fighters will not rest until they blow up the White House and occupy Jerusalem.

Yeah, yeah - that was predictable. Comment on right was generally - "See, Bush was right, the Democrats and al Qaeda are the same thing, out to kill us all."

It was nonsense, but also predictable.

The Associated Press item in this case notes that was just what Abu Hamza al-Muhajir had in mind -

The audio message appeared to be an attempt to exact maximum propaganda benefit from the results of Tuesday's midterm elections, in which the Republicans lost control of both houses of Congress, in part because of the war.

Al-Muhajir praised the American people for handing victory to the Democrats, saying: "They voted for something reasonable in the last elections."

He also said Bush was "the most stupid president" in U.S. history.

"We call on the lame duck not to hurry his escape the way the defense secretary did," al-Muhajir said in reference to Rumsfeld's resignation as Pentagon chief on Wednesday. "Remain steadfast on the battlefield, you coward," said al-Muhajir, who took over leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June. "We will not rest from our jihad (holy war) until we are under the olive trees of Rumieh and we have blown up the filthiest house - which is called the White House," al-Muhajir said.
Blowing up the White House is not, of course, what the Democrats have in mind. They'd like one of their folks to move in there in January, 2009. Abu Hamza al-Muhajir is not thinking things through.

But the president and his national security team will meet Monday with members of that "blue-ribbon" commission trying to devise a new course for this unpopular (now a matter of record) war - and that would be the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State Baker and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton. No gloating will be involved. This is all about rethinking things.

But at the end of "election week" there were still those resisting any of that rethinking stuff. Over at Andrew Sullivan's Time Magazine site there was an extended discussion of what Rush Limbaugh had been saying (see the footnote to The Day After - Fallout). Limbaugh pretty much admitted he had lied and been saying that the Republicans were great, when he knew they were corrupt incompetents, but the threat that any Democrat would win any seat gave him no choice. Democrats in power would destroy the nation and happily let the Islamic fanatics rule the world - and you just could have that. Hugh Hewitt had been saying much the same on his radio show and at his website. The idea that the Democrats want al Qaeda to take over the world and end what we know as the United States after two hundred thirty years seems to be a given on that side, even if the voters, in the end, just weren't buying that view.

That view of those who want to rethink things does seem cartoon-like and childish, and Sullivan concludes with this -
There comes a point at which an adult conservative should be eager to see the Democrats come to the center, if only to avoid the hubris and corruption that always stems from one-party rule, whichever party it is. I think the explanation for the intellectual dishonesty was that an entire industry was built around demonizing the left; and that this demonization became all conservatives were about. There was so much money in it; and it was so easy to demonize liberals that that's all they ended up doing.

The Republicans had become so enthralled by what they were against that they had forgotten what they were supposed to be for. So they came off as negative, mean-spirited and cruel. Hence the solid American center moving back to the Dems. The result, however, is in many ways a good conservative one. Many more conservative Democrats are now in Congress than before. We have a chance to move in a realistic way in Iraq, now that the loonies have been removed from the Pentagon (Cambone has just been given his papers, I hear). And we may get a sensible compromise on immigration. Bush has a real opportunity to rescue his presidency. For the sake of the country, I hope he succeeds.
Yeah, but Limbaugh and his crowd rely to that, usually, by reminding everyone that Sullivan is a fag - a homosexual man engaged to his "partner." Are you going to listen to what he says? Don't you read you Bible?

The problem is that line of thinking (to use the term quite generously) seems to has lost its power. Consider this from Republican Chairman Steve Salem from Woodbury County, Iowa, of all places -
You've heard of IslamaFascists - I think we now have Christian fascists. What is the definition of a fascist? Not only do they want to beat you, but they want to destroy you in the process... if things keep going the way things are going locally and statewide, it is going to be more and more difficult for Republicans to recruit candidates. We have elements of the party who are moral absolutists, who take the approach that if you don't take my position every step of the way, not only will I not support you, but I will destroy you.
That's odd. The Republican Party in Iowa wants to run candidates who listen and think things through?

You'd think Iowa is suddenly New York City, where Paul Krugman says pretty much the same thing in that newspaper Rush and that crowd revile, the New York Times -
… we may be seeing the downfall of movement conservatism - the potent alliance of wealthy individuals, corporate interests and the religious right that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s. This alliance may once have had something to do with ideas, but it has become mainly a corrupt political machine, and America will be a better place if that machine breaks down.

Why do I want to see movement conservatism crushed? Partly because the movement is fundamentally undemocratic; its leaders don't accept the legitimacy of opposition. Democrats will only become acceptable, declared Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, once they "are comfortable in their minority status." He added, "Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate."

And the determination of the movement to hold on to power at any cost has poisoned our political culture. Just think about the campaign that just ended, with its coded racism, deceptive robo-calls, personal smears, homeless men bused in to hand out deceptive fliers, and more. Not to mention the constant implication that anyone who questions the Bush administration or its policies is very nearly a traitor.

When movement conservatism took it over, the Republican Party ceased to be the party of Dwight Eisenhower and became the party of Karl Rove. The good news is that Karl Rove and the political tendency he represents may both have just self-destructed.

Two years ago, people were talking about permanent right-wing dominance of American politics. But since then the American people have gotten a clearer sense of what rule by movement conservatives means. They've seen the movement take us into an unnecessary war, and botch every aspect of that war. They've seen a great American city left to drown; they've seen corruption reach deep into our political process; they've seen the hypocrisy of those who lecture us on morality.

And they just said no.
And they seem to have said no even in Iowa.

And even in the UK folks get it. There's Martin Kettle in The Guardian with this -
The Democrats did not just win among the usual groups such as the poor, women and black people. This time they won among the middle class too, among small-town voters, among every age group and - crucially and emphatically - among independents and moderates. Even where the Democrats lost they polled significantly, taking 45% in the south, 28% of white evangelical Christians, 20% of conservatives and 15% of people who voted for Bush in 2004. These strong showings among unlikely groups help explain why Democrats won congressional seats in so many "red" states this week and why the win that finally gave them control of the senate came from the near south.

No one can say if this is an epochal hit or one from which the Republicans will bounce back in 2008. But the implications of the 2006 crash are fascinating. This is not the creation of a new majority… but a lot of space has nevertheless opened up in which the Democrats could do even better in future. Clearly such optimism has to be highly contingent. Only a fool would overstate it. Karl Rove has not become incompetent overnight. But this week defies the argument in influential recent books that America is a conclusively conservative country.

It will take time for this to sink in among conservative Republicans. This election has been a major blow to their self-image and world-view. Like the Thatcherites, they got used to assuming that they were always right and would always be victorious. On Tuesday the voters told them they were wrong. It has taken many false starts for the Conservative party to get back in the game in Britain. Something similar could happen to the suddenly weakened Republicans. But there's nothing they like more than a fight.
He's right about that last part.

And he notes the implications of it all - it's a reminder to the rest of the world that the problem is not America but this American administration - "Foreigners have had the useful reminder that Americans are not nuts." In fact, Americans seem to have actually become multilateralist in foreign policy for the first time - fifty-eight percent agreeing that America's security "depends on building strong ties with other nations" compared with thirty-four who think it depends "on its own military strength." What's up with that, Rush?

And the quite conservative former diplomat Greg Djerejian, with Rumsfeld gone now too and that Gates dude taking his place, is actually feeling relief -
Regardless, what we saw [Tuesday] was American democracy at its finest. We saw the public mount a critically needed intervention, because without it a President well beyond his depth would have likely continued to cast his lot with discredited cocksure ideologues and/or Jacksonian nationalists like Rumsfeld.

In Gates, we have an anti-ideologue and a realist. In his role with the Baker-Hamilton commission (a welcome dose of bipartisan sanity in an increasingly moronic Washington, media and blogosphere), he will have had access and been influenced by distinguished peers grappling with what to do next in Iraq in a climate characterized by sober appraisal of the national interest, rather than the agenda-driven hysterical harrumphing afoot in all the usual quarters.
Now that's a nice turn of phase - agenda-driven hysterical harrumphing. Agenda-driven hysterical harrumphing has made Rush Limbaugh a very rich man.

Sullivan is gleeful -
What we are seeing is an almost Shakespearean drama in which the wayward son is forced back to the advisers of the father he once rejected. Two words: Poppy's back! His arch-nemesis, Rumsfeld, is gone. Two of Poppy's closest allies and friends are now trying to figure a path out of the hole Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld dug. So the Bush presidency is back! The other Bush presidency. The one that, in retrospect, seems sane and wise.
Yes, Andrew, but that's only by contrast. The father was goofy and dangerous in his own way - and stuck with completely at sea Dan Quayle until the very end, for goodness sakes. But just goofy would be a relief these days. (It is odd that William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and the main spokesman, "deep thinker" and cheerleader for the neoconservatives, was Dan Quayle's press secretary - but that sort of makes sense now.)

Things are getting back, though, to something like sensible. The problem is that in cutting Rumsfeld loose other problems just had to come up. He's not in office, and no longer a government official, and as Pinochet and Milosevic discovered, there a bit of exposure now -
A lawyer for the families of Saudis in the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay hailed the resignation of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and said he "reserved the right" to sue him over alleged abuses there.

Kateb al-Shammari said in a statement that Rumsfeld's departure after the Republicans' drubbing in mid-term congressional elections was a "positive step" for the detainees, since he was "primarily responsible" for the abuses there. Rumsfeld was also a main advocate of keeping Guantanamo "outside international and US law," and he sanctioned the use of torture under the euphemism of "interrogation techniques," Shammari charged.

"In my capacity as a lawyer in this affair and agent for most of the families of Saudi detainees in Guantanamo, I reserve the right to file a lawsuit against Rumsfeld and the other (officials) responsible for the abuses committed against the detainees, and for their continued detention without legal justification," the lawyer added.
Yep, we had ninety Saudis at Guantanamo, repatriated thirty-seven, and sent them the bodies of the two who, in an act of asymmetrical warfare against us, as we said, managed to commit suicide. And a lawyers' group representing Guantanamo prisoners said in Washington that Rumsfeld's resignation on Wednesday leaves him open to legal action over his alleged role in "authorizing torture" of people held in our worldwide war or terror - he's open game now. We have denied authorizing torture down there, but Rumsfeld has angrily defended the use of "robust interrogation techniques" to find out what we could find out. Now he's in trouble. It will all be in what you call what was done, as what was done was done.

And it gets worse, in Germany, with this -
Just days after his resignation, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called "20th hijacker" and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a "special interrogation plan," personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that one of the witnesses who will testify on their behalf is former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq. Karpinski - who the lawyers say will be in Germany next week to publicly address her accusations in the case - has issued a written statement to accompany the legal filing, which says, in part: "It was clear the knowledge and responsibility [for what happened at Abu Ghraib] goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld."
And others are named - Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, former assistant attorney general Jay Bybee, former deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo, General Counsel for the Department of Defense William James Haynes II; and David S. Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. And there are military - General Ricardo Sanchez, the former top Army official in Iraq, General Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of Guantanamo, senior Iraq commander, Major General Walter Wojdakowski, and Col. Thomas Pappas, the one-time head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib.

Guys - don't leave the government. Germany was chosen for all this because German law provides "universal jurisdiction" - allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world.

But being in the government doesn't seem to matter -
Indeed, a similar, but narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004, which also sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld. The case provoked an angry response from Pentagon, and Rumsfeld himself was reportedly upset. Rumsfeld's spokesman at the time, Lawrence DiRita, called the case "a big, big problem." U.S. officials made clear the case could adversely impact U.S.-Germany relations, and Rumsfeld indicated he would not attend a major security conference in Munich, where he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, unless Germany disposed of the case. The day before the conference, a German prosecutor announced he would not pursue the matter, saying there was no indication that U.S. authorities and courts would not deal with allegations in the complaint.
Right - US law could handle the problem. But now, things have changed. Rumsfeld's resignation means that he will lose the legal immunity "usually accorded" high government officials.

And they're also arguing that the previous German prosecutor's reasoning for rejecting the prior case - that we can deal with that stuff - had been proven wrong. We don't do jack about such stuff, obviously.

And this administration has long said we will not adhere to the International Criminal Court (ICC) - such things are just a way for envious people to make trouble for us, because we're so powerful - so Washington is laughing. It's all very odd.

It's as if the election results uncorked a lot of things. Back in 2005 Italy issued arrest warrants for thirteen CIA agents (see this) - they said we kidnapped people we had decided might be radical Muslims off the streets of Rome or Milan or wherever and had flown them on "Ghost Air" to secret prisons in countries that practice torture. The Italians didn't think much of that. But that story disappeared.

Now, two days after the elections here, there's this news item - one of those guys the Italians say we kidnapped and flew to Egypt for "enhanced interrogation was Abu Omar, also known as Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. There seems to be a handwritten account of it, from him, smuggled out of the Egyptian prison where her was being held. It made its way to Italian prosecutors. And it was leaked to the press -
In his letter, Nasr described how his health had badly deteriorated. He had lost hearing in one ear from repeated beatings, he said, and his formerly pitch-black hair had turned all white. He said he was kept in a cell with no toilet and no lights, where "roaches and rats walked across my body."

He also gave a graphic account of Egyptian interrogation practices, including how he would be strapped to an iron rack nicknamed "the Bride" and zapped with electric stun guns.

On other occasions, he wrote, he was tied to a wet mattress on the floor. While one interrogator sat on a wooden chair perched on the prisoner's shoulders, another interrogator would flip a switch, sending jolts of electricity into the mattress coils.
And there's this -
Court papers allege that the kidnapping was orchestrated by the CIA's station chief in Rome and involved at least two dozen CIA operatives, most of whom arrived in Italy months before to lay the groundwork. Italian judges have issued arrest warrants for the CIA officers and have pledged to try them in absentia if necessary.

The U.S. has refused to confirm or deny the allegations.
The Democrats win an election and all sorts of things happen.

It may be time for some major CYA, as Michael Wolff discusses in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. That issue is getting a lot of buzz as it has the item where all the neoconservative bigwigs explain what went wrong with Iraq (the change-the-world theory was fine but the Bush folks were idiots). Michael Wolff offers Survivor: The White House Edition, must about Woodward's latest book, but more about where things are heading -
Bush fires Cheney and names McCain as the replacement V.P. - although it is not yet entirely clear to me who tells Bush to fire Cheney, if not Cheney. The war in Iraq, except for the shooting, is so over. But between now and when, as the president has no doubt accurately described it, we "cut and run," when there's a final helicopter lifting from a Green Zone rooftop, there's a whole third act to play.

… Everybody's positioning himself for the end.

The plot structure of the war, and how it reaches its conclusion, is determined less, at this point, by events in Iraq (although the Times gamely reported a few weeks ago on the front page that the military was really, truly honing a new counter-insurgency strategy) than by the involvement of so many drama queens with their super-awareness of crisis and timing.

The basic facts, after all, are three years old: no WMD, no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, not enough troops, no planning, and, obviously, no idea about how to deal with an ever growing insurgency.

But patience is key. Richard Clarke, the terrorism expert of both the Clinton and first Bush administrations, went public more than two years ago with his harsh critique of the Bush terror war, and, to many, seemed like a bitchy Cassandra, which is not necessarily the perfect career face. Clarke seemed to think he could precipitate the dénouement, but the drama has its own rhythms. It's only in the third act that you get the big reversals and tough truths - we're finally ready.

Knowing when we're ready is the important skill set - the higher media talent.
And if that's not cynical enough, try this -
This information divide itself - between those who have read these [Woodward] books and those who haven't, or, anyway, those who have read about these books - becomes a crucial element of the third act. In some sense, it was the third act of Vietnam that defined these dual constituencies: part of the country, which followed the information trend, came to believe the war was unwinnable and suspect, while the other part, more remote from the information, continued to believe in the simpler, standard patriotic assumptions. This is the same divide that we now analyze ideologically as blue and red, but in so many aspects it might just be reduced to the smarts and the stupids, or the on-the-makes and the always-out-of-its.

It involves not only information (i.e., knowing that Saddam and Osama were not partners in the same law firm) but opportunity too - or opportunism. This is one reason the smarts have such a bad reputation among the stupids, because so many of them, including the Democrats in Congress, the news media, and Woodward himself, as well as the many people who once helped give the president his 80 or 90 percent approval rating, were stupids when that was advantageous. And because so many of them, like Woodward, and the editors of the New York Times, and the Clintons, did not make the break across the information divide until they were confident that they'd be in good company.

Indeed, the Woodward book gives a pretty clear picture of the time lag between when the smarties knew the war was a loser and when they decided to strategically alter and broadcast their own positions with regard to it. In some sense, the book goes back to Woodward's career theme: who knew what when. First there's the cover-up and then the unraveling.
And now we have the fall guys -
Rummy, for instance - "enigmatic, obstructionist, devious, never know what his game is" Rummy (as Woodward has Scowcroft describe him) - is, let's face it, dead. He's gone at any moment. Indeed, as Woodward points out, he's managed to hold on only because intransigent Cheney intransigently supports him.

Cheney. "Cheney was the worst," Woodward says, again using Scowcroft as his moral guide. Kissinger, the architect of the bloodiest and most catastrophic phase of the Vietnam War, emerged as well as he did (for sure, a war criminal to some, but to many, a man of renown) because most of the ill will got heaped on Nixon. Kissinger was the contrast gainer. Next to Nixon, he seemed … human.

So, yes, Cheney is the new Nixon.

… Cheney, in this respect, is such a gift. Born to be hated. He might even willingly - given his dystopian personality - take the fall. He resigns - his hundred heart attacks could be the gentle cover. But it's clear: the war's on him. It's his mistake. (Since we've regarded him as a virtual president anyway, we ought to accept his leave-taking as a virtual impeachment and removal.) McCain is nominated to replace Cheney as V.P. The Republicans go wild because they have a presidential contender in the White House (likewise, the Democrats might not be so unhappy to have McCain suddenly stuck with Iraq). The smarty-media pendulum swings (or at least hesitates) because McCain is McCain and because he might be the next president. A big conference of Arabs is convened. McCain heads a blue-ribbon delegation to Iraq (Powell comes back for this), which determines that the Iraqis are ready to handle their own security. We cut and run, declaring victory.

And Bush can go to China, or North Korea. With Kissinger.

The end in Iraq may not yet be near, but it is ordained.
Ah - gloating and recriminations. The midterm elections just sped up things a bit. Rethinking things? It's already been done.

Posted by Alan at 22:19 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006 22:22 PST home

Thursday, 9 November 2006
The Day After - Fallout
The Day After - Fallout
"The Day After" was one of those made for television movies - ABC first aired it on November 20, 1983 - a fictional nuclear war between the United States and NATO on one side and the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact on the other, as seen through the eyes of the residents of Lawrence, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, and a number family farms next to our nuclear-missile silos out there. That's where the bombs fall. The film was written by Edward Hume and directed by Nicholas Meyer, on spec from ABC Motion Picture Division president Brandon Stoddard - he'd seen "The China Syndrome" was impressed. It was time for a film exploring the effects of an actual war on the Middle America. You can find lots of useless detail about the thing here.

Now and then it pops up on television once again, but it's rather dated. All the international players have changed and it's a bit of an historical artifact - kind of like "Reefer Madness." And the sobering premise - nuclear war would actually be bad for you and missile silos in the next field over make you a prime target - seems typical Hollywood "seriousness." Like, you didn't know that? Jason Robards, as Doctor Russell Oakes, does his trademark long-faced-sadness thing and it plods along. Everyone dies, almost all from the radioactive fallout.

But it won an Emmy for special effects, and the usual praise for its "seriousness." Those were the days when the major networks got points for "serious" - it excused all the other fluff, maybe.

But not all fallout is serious. Political fallout is not entirely serious.

Two days after the midterm elections - Thursday, November 9 - there was fallout from the Republican meltdown ("China Syndrome") when the voters went nuclear ("The Day After") on the Bush folks and tossed a good number of them out. No one was getting any points for serious.

In the New York Daily News there was this -
Harlem's newly powerful Rep. Charles Rangel wants to stick it to his White House nemesis Vice President Cheney - by taking over his spacious House office.

At the same time, the veteran congressman offered a limp olive branch to the vice president yesterday, saying he regretted publicly calling him an SOB last week.

"I take back saying that publicly. I should have reserved that for him when we were together privately," said Rangel. "Believe me, he would have understood."

Rangel (D-Harlem), poised to become the next chairman of the important House Ways and Means Committee, spoke of the need for bipartisanship with the Republicans, even as he continued his feud with Cheney.

"Mr. Cheney enjoys an office on the second floor on the House of Representatives that historically has been designated as the Ways and Means chairman," Rangel mused. "And, I've talked with [future Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi … and I'm trying to find some way to be gentle as I restore the dignity of that office to the chair."

The White House declined to comment.

In the past, Rangel has branded the vice president a "draft dodger" and Cheney has predicted that Rangel would destroy the economy as head of the Ways and Means Committee.
Like the missiles raining down on Kansas, no one expected that one. The fallout is that the traditional losers just stopped acting like losers - they're all feisty and laughing at the guys who said they were the natural and perpetual winners. So much for the Republican century. Charlie wants his office, and he'll probably get it. Dick will just have to get over it, and go hunting again, and kill small animals.

And how should the president handle the "thumping" he and his party just got? Charles Rangel is not the only one being gleefully uppity.

The online editor of the neoconservative Cult-of-Bush National Review, Jonah Goldberg, at their open comment site "The Corner," has a suggestion -
I think James Baker and Dick Cheney should take Bush out to the woods around Camp David. After 24 hours in a sweat lodge, he should be given only a loin cloth, a hunting knife and a canteen of water. Bush should then set out to track and kill a black bear, after which he should eat its still beating heart so he can absorb its spirit. He should then fly back to Washington in Marine 1. His torso still scratched from the bear's claws, his face bloodied and steaming in the November chill, he should immediately give a press conference at which he throws the bearskin on the front row of the press corps, completely enveloping Helen Thomas, declaring, "I'm not going anywhere."

This will send important messages to Democrats and well as to our enemies overseas, who are no doubt high-fiving as we speak.
Let's assume Goldberg is being fanciful, and is just frustrated that those who wish to destroy America - Democrats and al Qaeda and more than half the voters in the nation, and gay folks and who knows who else - don't recognize that this world belong to the warriors, those proven in battle (like George Bush and not John Kerry - no wait, he can't mean that), those who crush their enemies and don't think a thing about it. The bear business was extra.

Or maybe it is a cult thing.

The plodding but earnest Arthur Silber states the obvious -
Even playfully imagining that Bush could actually do anything remotely like this is ridiculously laughable, as laughable as thinking that Baker and Cheney would demand such a rite of passage. All these men have known only pampered, highly insulated lives of immense privilege and comfort. And when Cheney does go hunting, it's not actually "hunting," in the sense of a "sport." No: "It's disgusting bloody-mindedness, a lazy, cowardly, vicious sort of abuse." [His reference is here.] These people are all more than happy to send other men (and women) to fight genuine battles, and to suffer grievous injury and even death. But face actual physical peril themselves? Please. Inflicting pain and torture on frat pledges or helpless animals is one thing; when it comes to doing it in real life... well, they'll instruct soldiers at Abu Ghraib to take care of it. The first makes the second possible, but the first represents the full extent of these men's "bravery."

But this is very illustrative of a subject that I will soon be discussing in detail, when I analyze the myths about masculinity, war and violence contained in a very popular and widely praised film like Saving Private Ryan. (If you want a sense of where I come out on these issues, the title of that upcoming series will give you an idea: "Don't Save Private Ryan.") … These myths are deeply embedded in our country, and in Western culture generally. The death and destruction that results from them is incalculable, and we see it again today.
Yeah, yeah - but Jonah was just kidding around, sort of. He was just pointing out that what people need to be reminded of - especially after this election - is that we need leaders who are instinctively and unthinkingly brutal and ruthless. That's what works in the world, as he sees it, and such a warrior is the only kind of leader anyone respects. Consider it fallout from the election. That particular bomb seems to have caused brain damage here and there.

Out here the Los Angeles Times carries his column once or twice a week, where he is a bit more restrained and refined. The same morning he made another observation, on why so many Republicans lost their seat in the House, and why the Senate was lost - "The GOP once had the reputation of being able to run the government like a business and wars like a finely tuned machine." And they have unfairly lost that reputation, or some such thing.

Alex at Martini Republic offers some reality -
The last war won by a GOP President was the Spanish American War, which was concluded by treaty in 1898.

Not the last century, but the century before that. The previous Republican administration which prevailed in a war was that of Abraham Lincoln - and however monumental that achievement, no one has ever accused the North of running the Civil War "like a finely tuned machine."

So what was this putative reputation based on, if not Jonah's utter ignorance?

As for "running the government like a business," Pantload must have Enron in mind.

The last Republican President to offer a budget to Congress that didn't operate at a deficit was Eisenhower. During the 26 combined years of the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush Presidencies, all five GOP Presidents have failed to offer and pass a balanced budget. Every Republican President since 1982 has run the government at a deficit exceeding $100 million every single year.

It must be that fallout - brain damage, you know.

So why did the perpetual winners lose this time?

The folks at The Onion uncover the problem -

WASHINGTON, DC - Republican officials are blaming tonight's GOP losses on Democrats, who they claim have engaged in a wide variety of "aggressive, premeditated, anti-Republican campaigns" over the past six-to-18 months. "We have evidence of a well-organized, well-funded series of operations designed specifically to undermine our message, depict our past performance in a negative light, and drive Republicans out of office," said Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who accused an organization called the Democratic National Committee of spearheading the nationwide effort. "There are reports of television spots, print ads, even volunteers going door-to-door encouraging citizens to vote against us." Acknowledging that the "damage has already been done," Mehlman is seeking a promise from Democrats to never again engage in similar practices.
Ah ha! A secret conspiracy, damn it all. Of course the item was satire and Mehlman never said that.

Dana Milbank at the Washington Post covers what the president actually said about what went wrong. Yes, he said the notion that his chief strategist, Karl Rove, had spent too much time reading books, and "I obviously was working harder on the campaign than he was." That was the joke at the day after press conference. It lightened the mood.

But here's the rundown of what was said in all seriousness -
He blamed corruption: "People want their congressmen to be honest and ethical, so in some races that was the primary factor."

He blamed Mark Foley, whose name remained on the Florida ballot: "People couldn't vote directly for the Republican candidate."

He blamed ballot rules. "You could have the greatest positions in the world … but to try to get to win on a write-in is really hard to do."

He blamed Democratic organization: "I'm sure Iraq had something to do with the voters' mind, but so did a very strong turnout mechanism."

He blamed bad luck: "If you look at race by race, it was close."

Implicitly, of course, he blamed Donald Rumsfeld, by firing him as defense secretary in favor of the "fresh perspective" of Robert Gates.

And, not least, he blamed the uncomprehending voters: "I thought when it was all said and done, the American people would understand the importance of taxes and the importance of security. But the people have spoken, and now it's time for us to move on."
It's an interesting list. He wasn't on it. It must be that fallout - brain damage, you know.

The war wasn't on the list either -
He began by saying "Iraq had a lot to do with the election." He amended that to "Iraq had something to do with it." And finally he cited cases where "I'm not sure Iraq had much to do with the outcome." While he said "many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure" with Iraq, he looked puzzled when a reporter suggested that voters wanted the troops withdrawn. He said he was "making a change" at the Pentagon to respond to the voters, but he also said he was going to sack Rumsfeld "win or lose."
Whatever. His guys lost. He admitted it was "a thumpin'." Then Ken Herman of Cox News did a Charlie Rangel - "That was 'thumpin',' without a 'g,' correct?" "I just want to make sure we have it right for the transcript."

Fallout is a bitch.

Maybe things would have been different if every state had what was on the ballot in Arizona - Proposition 200 -
Proposition 200 would establish a $1,000,000 prize to be awarded to a randomly selected person who voted in the primary or general election. Anyone who voted in the primary or general election would be automatically entered in the drawing for the prize money, and if a person voted in both the primary and the general election, that person's name would be entered twice in the drawing.
Would such a thing change results? We'll never know. They voters in Arizona rejected that one.

And the was the other fallout - Bill Maher on Larry King discussing how lot of the chiefs of staff, the people who really run the underpinnings of the Republican Party, are gay, and everyone knows it. Maher said everyone knows Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman is gay. King is taken aback. If you click here you can see a clip of that as originally broadcast, and a clip of CNN's later version with the "Ken" business removed. It was gone from the west coast feed. These guys posted the Youtube of Bill Maher saying Ken Mehlman was gay on CNN, and CNN demanded that it be pulled - and they've altered their own transcript. Late Thursday Ken Mehlman stepped down.

Fallout is a bitch.

So what to make of this election? What happened? The sensible center just got get up?

Glenn Greenwald offers this -
The notion that this is a victory for some sort of mealy-mouthed, Bush-lite, glorified centrism is absurd on its face. Democrats won by aggressively attacking the Bush movement, not by trying to be a slightly modified and duller version of it. The accommodationist tack is what they attempted in 2002 and 2004 when they were crushed. They won in this election by making their opposition clear and assertive.

… The basic mechanics of American democracy, imperfect and defective though they may be, still function. Chronic defeatists and conspiracy theorists - well-intentioned though they may be - need to re-evaluate their defeatism and conspiracy theories in light of this rather compelling evidence which undermines them (a refusal to re-evaluate one's beliefs in light of conflicting evidence is a defining attribute of the Bush movement that shouldn't be replicated).

Karl Rove isn't all-powerful; today, he is a rejected loser. Republicans don't possess the power to dictate the outcome of elections with secret Diebold software. They can't magically produce Osama bin Laden the day before the election. They don't have the power to snap their fingers and hypnotize zombified Americans by exploiting a New Jersey court ruling on civil unions, or a John Kerry comment, or moronic buzzphrases and slogans designed to hide the truth (Americans heard all about how Democrats would bring their "San Francisco values" and their love of THE TERRORISTS to Washington, and that moved nobody).

All of the hurdles and problems that are unquestionably present and serious - a dysfunctional and corrupt national media, apathy on the part of Americans, the potent use of propaganda by the Bush administration, voter suppression tactics, gerrymandering and fundraising games - can all be overcome. They just were.

Bush opponents haven't been losing because the deck is hopelessly stacked against them. They were losing because they hadn't figured out a way to convey to their fellow citizens just how radical and dangerous this political movement has become. Now they did, and as a result, Americans see this movement for what it is and have begun the process of smashing it.
That's a different sort of fallout. Even if the president were to now appear, his torso still scratched from the bear's claws, his face bloodied and steaming in the November chill, and immediately give a press conference at which he throws the bearskin on the front row of the press corps, completely enveloping Helen Thomas, declaring, "I'm not going anywhere," it wouldn't make a difference. That's the fallout.

Posted by Alan at 22:44 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006 22:46 PST home

Wednesday, 8 November 2006
Things Changed
Topic: Election Notes
Things Changed
Out here in Los Angeles, Election Day was the hottest November 7th on record - ninety-seven degrees downtown. The records go back to the 1870's or so - and this was off the charts. But it was hotter elsewhere. The war in Iraq and President Bush's stubbornness and air of militant entitlement, and the openly corrupt and stunningly ineffective congress, and the sense that the economy was only good for the rich folks, and so much else, seemed to have people rather angry. Exit polls couldn't quite capture it - for some it was the war, for some the Teri Schiavo business, for others it was the incompetence revealed with the nearly useless and inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina more than a year ago, for others all the money that went to Halliburton and the like there and in Iraq, for others the issue of the president claiming no laws applied to him, and underneath it all the inarticulate who couldn't afford health insurance, who knew they could lose their jobs tomorrow with the next round of "enhancing shareholder value" and who just felt something was wrong and it might be time for a change. The midterm elections changed things

By late Wednesday it was clear what had happened. The nation seems to have agreed it might be nice to have a House and Senate of new people, not the old crew making their friends and families rich and agreeing to whatever the president said, and when they eventually got around to working concerned with issues like changing the constitution to ban flag-burning as a form of protest and making sure gay people couldn't ever get married or even have the legal rights straight folks have. Three weeks before the election they spent a day or two working on banning the commercial production of horsemeat - a niche export industry but very worrisome. With legislator after legislator reading statements into the record documenting the love of horses things did reach the near edge of the absurd. (For the record, Just Above Sunset thinks horses are fine animals.)

Late Wednesday is when Associated Press and NBC called the final Senate race - Jim Webb over the incumbent Republican, George Allen, in Virginia. That assured Democrats of fifty-one seats when the Senate convenes in January. That was a net gain of six seats - a sweep. Earlier, State Senator Jon Tester - the outspoken organic farmer who long ago lost three fingers in a meat grinder accident (a "man of the people" in some strange way) - had won over the incumbent Republican Senator Conrad Burns Montana. Both races were close and the results late, but the possibility of a recount changing things was so remote only the concession speeches were in question - seeing who could be most gracious. Rick Santorum had set the bar high there.

The Democratic Senate total does include two independents - Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont - but they both say they will caucus and vote with the Democrats. Bernie Sanders certainly will, but Lieberman is an odd duck - a six term Democrat with a long history, from the Civil Rights days in the sixties, of voting with that side, but a recent history is whining and voting with the Republicans on all issues and scolding Democrats for any public or private disagreement with any policy or position of the president. He's the wild card, publicly saying the war in Iraq is going great and no one should disagree with this particular president on anything. And when he lost the Democratic primary and ran as an independent, financed to a large extent by the White House and saying it would be better than having him in the Senate rather than the man officially selected by the Party, he burned a few bridges. The Senate may actually be split in an odd way.

The House will not be split - by Wednesday the Democrats had gained almost thirty seats, and they only had needed fifteen for a majority. Ten more seats were too close to call, but control of the House was not in question. Things had changed.

And other things had changed. Conservative values were in question.

In Arizona voters rejected a measure to ban gay marriage and any sort of civil unions - in spite of John McCain arguing that this had to pass for the moral good of that state and the whole nation. So in the land of Barry Goldwater the people spoke in one voice - restricting the rights of gay folks was dumb, intrusive and mean-spirited. The late Barry Goldwater had actually held that same position, although the issue at that time was gays in the military and in public office. He didn't see the big problem. And neither did the voters there now - they'd had enough of being jerked around by the "values" crowd. (Oddly enough, somewhere around here, perhaps in a box in the back of the closet, I have a tape of my second ex-father-in-law, when he was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Heath Affairs in the Reagan administration, appearing on the McNeill-Lehar News House show arguing the opposite, and not very convincingly.)

In Missouri the voters also told the values crowd to take a hike - the initiative funding stem cell research passed handily, and the incumbent Republican senator who opposed it was tossed out as well. The argument that such research involved murdering actual children - or that it secretly legalized human cloning - didn't gain much traction. The "values" crowd seemed a bit loopy on the issue.

In another setback for values conservatives, South Dakota rejected a law that would have banned virtually all abortions. This had been passed overwhelmingly by the legislature earlier in the year and would have been the toughest abortion law in the country, allowing abortions only to save a pregnant woman's life. The idea was that the ban would be challenged in court, and that might provoke litigation that might eventually lead to a Supreme Court reversal of Roe v Wade. It lost by a 55-45 margin - folks saw it as too intrusive, with language that failed to guarantee the rights of victims of rape and incest. It was a bullshit ploy, and they'd have none of it.

"It was a thumping," Bush conceded in his press conference Wednesday at the White House. "It's clear the Democrat Party had a good night." (He will not use the term "Democratic" Party - it gives them too much respect - it's the "Democrat" Party.)

But with power on Capitol Hill tilting the other way now, the president faced the unpleasant reality of both houses in the opposition's hands for the final two years of his term. This will not be nice. He announced that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would step down as Democrats, and most everyone, have demanded.

That was a surprise. Two weeks earlier he had said Rumsfeld would stay on to the end of his term - two more years - as Rumsfeld had done an "excellent job." He was adamant, and vehement about that. Things change, and the big issue really was the war. Something is happening.

Internationally, you got things like this -
… from Paris to Pakistan, politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens said Wednesday they hoped the Democratic takeover of both Houses of Congress would force Bush to adopt a more conciliatory approach to global crises, and teach a president many see as a "cowboy" a lesson in humility.

In an extraordinary joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American election results as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has consistently railed against the Bush administration, called the election "a reprisal vote."

In Paris, American expatriates and French citizens alike packed the city's main American haunts to watch results overnight and early Wednesday, with some standing to cheer or boo as vote tabulations came in. One Frenchman, 53-year-old teacher Jean-Pierre Charpemtrat, said it was about time U.S. voters figured out what much of the rest of the world already knew. "Americans are realizing that you can't found the politics of a country on patriotic passion and reflexes," he said. "You can't fool everybody all the time - and I think that's what Bush and his administration are learning today."

… In Copenhagen, Denmark, Jens Langfeldt, 35, said he didn't know much about the midterm elections but was opposed to Bush, referring to the president as "that cowboy."

In Sri Lanka, some said they hoped the rebuke would force Bush to abandon a unilateral approach to global issues. "The Americans have made it clear that current American policy should change in dealing with the world, from a confrontational approach, to a more consensus-based and bridge-building approach," said Jehan Perera, a political analyst. The Democratic win means "there will be more control and restraint" over U.S. foreign policy.

Passions were even higher in Pakistan, where Bush is deeply unpopular despite billions in aid and support for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. One opposition lawmaker, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, said he welcomed the election result, but was hoping for more. Bush "deserves to be removed, put on trial and given a Saddam-like death sentence," he said.

… in China, some feared the resurgence of the Democrats would increase tension over human rights and trade and labor issues. China's surging economy has a massive trade surplus with the United States. "The Democratic Party ... will protect the interests of small and medium American enterprises and labor and that could produce an impact on China-U.S. trade relations," Zhang Guoqing of the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report on Sina.com, one of China's most popular Internet portals.

The prospect of a sudden change in American foreign policy could also be troubling to U.S. allies such as Britain, Japan and Australia, which have thrown their support behind the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Will there be a change in policy? Rumsfeld was cut loose while his old friend and best friend from their days together in the Nixon and Ford administrations, Vice President Cheney, was off on his first hunting trip since he shot another old friend in the face. One of Lloyd Bridges' lines in the movie "Airplane" was "I guess I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue." Cheney picked the wrong day to go hunting up by the Canadian border. Or he knew what was coming and decided it would be best to be out of town, shooting small animals.

The replacement is Bob Gates, and one way of looking at it is like this -
How twisted is this country? An Iran-Contra crook and ex-CIA chief is immediately greeted as a sane, grown-up yet "fresh" replacement for the delusional old Donald Rumsfeld.

Even more fun, Gates' nemesis Daniel Ortega was elected president of Nicaragua on Monday. You may remember Ortega as the Sandinista leader who fought off the Contras in a long bloody "civil war" in large part engineered by … Oliver North, William Casey and deputy CIA director Robert M. Gates, among others. North, a convicted felon and official fall guy for Iran-Contra, was in Nicaragua last week campaigning against Ortega.

History doesn't just repeat itself; it repeats itself with the same exact people.
A more conventional way of looking at it is this -
In turning to former CIA Director Robert M. Gates to take the reins at the Pentagon, President Bush has selected a low-key loyalist who is in many ways the opposite of outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Whereas Rumsfeld often seemed bent on running roughshod over the Pentagon brass, Gates is described by longtime associates as collegial and a consensus-builder.

If Rumsfeld had little regard for President George H.W. Bush and many of his pragmatic security advisers, including Brent Scowcroft, Gates was part of that inner circle. He remains close not only to Scowcroft but to other Rumsfeld rivals, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rumsfeld placed little trust in intelligence agencies and pushed the military to encroach on their turf. In a turning of the tables, a 27-year veteran of the CIA and the National Security Council is poised to take charge of the military.

Democrats praised Gates' nomination, hoping for a less combative Pentagon chief. But Gates has proved controversial in the past. He was forced to withdraw from his first nomination as CIA director before winning a split-vote confirmation four years later.
So one of Daddy's friends is coming in to clean things up, a man who is already part of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group - charged with developing an array of alternatives to the current Iraq policies. Gates recently traveled to Iraq as part of that team and met with Iraqi leaders and our military commanders. The intervention has begun. The president's father is reported to have a long-standing problem with Rumsfeld - he would have nothing to do with him, and the son appointing Rumsfeld to Defense, or letting Cheney tell him he should, had been an in-your-face thing in the family. Things change.

And the big change may be this -
Rumsfeld "is a guy who is kind of burdened with his own certitude at times," said John Gannon, a former high-ranking CIA official who worked with Rumsfeld and Gates. "That is not Bob Gates. He came out of an analytic culture where listening to the ideas of others and questioning your own assumptions is part of the tradecraft."
Listening and questioning your own assumptions? Things really are changing at the White House.

Rumsfeld was a leading advocate for invading Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11 - deposing Saddam Hussein was unfinished business the wimp father had screwed up. Gates was one of those who cautioned the first President Bush not to press toward Baghdad after we fixed the Kuwait thing in 1992. To be fair, of course, Cheney was saying the same thing at the time.

And for the record, Gates was first nominated to be CIA director by Reagan in 1987, but he withdrew due to congressional opposition - he was too closely tied to the Iran-Contra scandal, and that had been engineered by CIA Director Casey while Gates was his deputy. He was not charged with anything, but people wondered. Instead Gates joined the National Security Council staff at the White House, where he made connections with Brent Scowcroft and Condoleezza Rice. When he finally got to run the CIA four years later one of his first initiatives as director was to deal with the accusations that that intelligence had been politicized within the agency. He appointed a task force on "analytic objectivity" and implemented all of its recommendations. So we're talking a major change here - he'd not tolerate visits from Cheney to anyone to badger them for the "right" results. He may run Defense the same way - let's deal with what we know for sure, the actually facts. Yipes! New thinking!

As for Rumsfeld, there was one last shot -
In brief remarks, Rumsfeld described the Iraq conflict as a "little understood, unfamiliar war" that is "complex for people to comprehend."
Ah! He got it, no one else did, and they we're not as smart as he is, and people are just so stupid.

An assessment of that from Andrew Sullivan -
He then compared himself to Churchill. Yep: still clinical. The truth is: it was Rumsfeld who little understood and was unfamiliar with the actual conflict he was tasked with managing. It was not too "complex for people to comprehend." It was relatively easy to comprehend. If you invade a post-totalitarian country and disband its military, you better have enough troops to keep order. We didn't. Rumsfeld refused to send enough. When this was made clear to him and to everyone, he still refused. His arrogant belief in a military that didn't need any actual soldiers was completely at odds with the actual task in Iraq. But he preferred to sit back as tens of thousands of Iraqis were murdered and thousands of U.S. troops died rather than to check his own ego.

So let me put this as simply as I can: Rumsfeld has blood on his hands - American and Iraqi blood. He also directly ordered and personally monitored the torture of military detainees. He secured legal impunity for his own war crimes, but that doesn't mean the Congress shouldn't investigate more fully what he authorized. He remains one of the most incompetent defense secretaries in history (McNamara looks good in comparison). But he is also a war criminal: a torturer who broke the laws of this country. The catastrophe in Iraq will stain him for ever. His record of torture has indelibly stained the United States.
But other than that he did a fine job. It should be an interesting next two years.

As for the election itself, Sullivan had a few choice words -
The obvious result of last night's returns is the complete historical and geographical inversion of what was once the Republican Party. Nixon's cynical Southern strategy has now been played out to the nth degree - and, after a good period of opportunistic success, it has failed. All the states Lincoln fought against are now the bastions of his own party. And most of the rest of the country - especially the sane, common sense conservatives of the Midwest whence Lincoln himself hailed - have been forced into the Democratic camp. Formerly solid, freedom-loving Republican states, like California, are now overwhelmingly Democratic.

The GOP is now very much the party of Dixie; and the consequence of this election is that the Congressional leadership is even more Southern than it was before. The irony is that it was the moderate Republicans who were disproportionately punished electorally by the extremists in their midst. And so the party that lost because of its extremists now sees itself more dominated by the extremists. Nixon's cynical ploy - played beyond the extreme by Rove - has, in other words, come back to haunt and defeat his party in the end. Because it over-reached.

So now the battle for the soul of conservatism can begin in earnest. Either the Democrats will capture it; or the Republicans will recapture it.
The short version of that - the Republican Party is now the party of the Old South, racist, delusional, anti-science, xenophobic and evangelical. That's all they've got left. The real and principled conservatives have gone and hooked up with the progressives/liberals to deal with reality. (And that's where Barry Goldwater would be too.)

There is too a lot of comment out there on the Rove strategy floating around, and it hooks into that. Since before 2000 his "genius" was realizing you could win by removing the middle, the "swing voters" and moderates, as there really were no such people. You rile up your base against the godless liberals, and make them seem somewhere between evil and stupid, and by default you get just enough of the uninformed to augment your unwavering base, and you get 50.0001 percent of the vote and insist you have an overwhelming mandate that's so obvious that the media concedes that the nation has obviously changed course and become just like your base. And it worked for six years. Then it didn't. There actually seems to have been a middle after all.

Juan Cole, the University of Michigan Middle East scholar, puts it this way -
The fourth popular revolution of the twenty-first century (after the Ukraine, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan) swept America on Tuesday, as voters engaged in the moral equivalent of storming the Bastille. The United States of America has roundly repudiated the Bush Administration and Republican Party dominance of all three branches of the Federal government and its dominance of many state offices, as well. Corruption and war drove this slap in the face to the Old Regime crafted by Newt Gingrich and Traitor Rove.

… In my view the real significance of the Democratic victory is four-fold.

First, it demonstrates once again that the American public simply will not put up with a return to the age of colonialism and does not want to occupy Asian countries militarily. Do you think that Abu Ghraib and American torture-pornography, the daily grind of violence, the stupid mistakes, have passed them by so that they didn't notice? They might swallow all this reluctantly but they want light at the end of the tunnel. There is not any in Iraq… They want it over with. It isn't.

Second, Bush is not going to be able to put any more Scalia types on the Federal benches or the Supreme Court.

Third, a Bush administration war on Iran now seems highly unlikely. A major initiative of that sort would need funding, and I don't think Congress will grant it. The Democrats don't want an Iran with a nuclear weapon any more than the Republicans do. But they are more likely to recognize that there is no good evidence that Iran even has a nuclear weapons program, and have been chastened by Iraq enough to distrust purely military solutions to such crises.

Fourth, there will now finally be accountability. It is obvious to me that the Bush administration has been engaged in large-scale crimes and corruption, and has gotten away with it because the Republican heads of the relevant committees have refused to investigate these crimes. Democratic committee heads with subpoena power will finally be able to force the Pentagon and other institutions to fork over the smoking gun documents, and then will be in a position to prosecute.

… The Democratic victory has enormous implications for US domestic politics. There will likely be an increase in the minimum wage, e.g. And the creeping tyranny of the evangelical far right has been slowed; even a lot of evangelicals seem uncomfortable with where that was going, and a lot of them deserted the Republicans in this election.

What are its implications for Iraq policy? Those are fewer, just because the executive makes foreign policy. Congress can only intervene decisively by cutting off money for foreign military adventures, which the Democrats have already pledged not to do. Moreover, the Iraq morass is a hopeless case and even if the legislature had more to say about policy there, it is not as if there are any good options.

… What we can say is that the electoral outcome is a bellwether for the future of American involvement in Iraq. It will now gradually come to an end, barring a dramatic disaster, such as a guerrilla push to deprive our troops of fuel and then to surround and besiege them. More likely, the steady grind of bad news and further senseless death will force Bush's successor, whoever it, is, to get out of that country. One cannot imagine us staying in Afghanistan for the long haul, either. Bush's question in 2003 was, can we go back to the early 20th century and have a sort of Philippines-like colony with a major military investment? The answer is, "no." Iraqis are too politically and socially mobilized to be easily dominated in the way the old empires dominated isolated, illiterate peasants. The outcome of the Israel-Hezbollah war this summer further signaled that the peasants now have sharper staves that even penetrate state of the art tanks. The US can still easily win any wars it needs to win. It cannot any longer win long military occupations. The man who knew this most surely in the Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld, most egregiously gave in to the occupation route, and will end up the fall guy as the public mood turns increasingly ugly in both countries.
And that happened fast. And then the Democrats called for a summit on Iraq -
Eager to show "Democrats are ready to deliver", Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid called for a bipartisan summit "to find a new direction" on Iraq.

"The President must listen and work with Democrats to fix his failed (Iraq) policy," he said.
That might not be a bad idea, given this -
In the final days before Tuesday's midterm election, President Bush dispatched two top officials to Iraq in a bid to pressure al-Maliki to quickly disband Shiite militia groups and death squads that have killed thousands of Sunni Muslims.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte was rebuffed by al-Maliki, however, when he demanded the Iraqi leader disband militias and wipe out death squads this year.

A top aide to al-Maliki, who refused to allow use of his name because of the sensitive nature of the information, told The Associated Press the prime minister flatly refused and said the task could not be taken up until next year.

Al-Maliki's refusal to act against the militias has caused deepening anger among Sunni politicians who took enormous risks in joining the political process.

Sunni lawmaker Salim Abdullah said the Iraqi Accordance Front bloc had sent messages to other political groups warning that if there is no balance and the militias are not dissolved "we will withdraw from the government."

"We are under political pressure, and if these demands are not met we will abandon politics," Abdullah said. "And this will leave us with only one alternative, which is carrying arms, and then it will be civil war. And we are against the civil war."
Yep, what we've been doing is just not working. It's time for a change. We got one.

__

Curious post-election quotes from Rush Limbaugh -
The way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I'm going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, "Well, why have you been doing it?" Because the stakes are high! Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me they represent a far better future for my beliefs and therefore the country's than the Democrat [sic] Party does and liberalism.

… I'm a radio guy! I understand what this program has become in America and I understand the leadership position it has. I was doing what I thought best, but at this point, people who don't deserve to have their water carried, or have themselves explained as they would like to say things but somehow aren't able to? I'm not under that kind of pressure.

… There hasn't been in the ideology in the Republican Party, any conservatism for at least two to maybe four years. You could argue Bush was more of an ideologue in the presidential campaign of '04, but in looking at what happened yesterday, it wasn't conservatism that lost. Conservatism won when it ran as a Democrat. It won in a number of places. Republicanism lost.
It's a new world.

Posted by Alan at 22:46 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006 09:30 PST home

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