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"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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Monday, 12 July 2004

Topic: Election Notes

The NAACP and George Bush - Political Theater

Caveat -

This writer has been a dues-paying card-carrying member of the NAACP for almost two decades now. What follows may be colored by that (sorry about the pun).

The basic story broke over the weekend -

Bush Criticizes NAACP's Leadership
Relationship With Rights Group 'Basically Nonexistent,' President Says
Mike Allen, The Washington Post, Saturday, July 10, 2004; Page A05
YORK, Pa., July 9 -- President Bush said Friday that he has a "basically nonexistent" relationship with the NAACP's leadership and he refused for the consecutive fourth year to speak to the group's national convention.

Bush's assessment of his relationship with the nation's largest civil rights organization was a sharp reversal from his rhetoric during his last campaign. Then he spoke to the group's convention as part of an effort to show he was a different kind of Republican and said that "there is much we can do together to advance racial harmony and economic opportunity."

Bush will not be speaking before the 2004 convention, which will open Saturday in Philadelphia.
Bush, during a day-long bus tour through Pennsylvania, said in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer and two other state newspapers that he "admired some" NAACP leaders and said he would seek members' support "in other ways."

But he castigated the group's officers, who include President Kweisi Mfume and Chairman Julian Bond. "I would describe my relationship with the current leadership as basically nonexistent," Bush said, as reported by Knight Ridder Newspapers. "You've heard the rhetoric and the names they've called me."
They hurt his feelings?

No, they didn't show him the proper respect. They disagreed with him.

Some perspective -
Let's first be clear that the Bush campaign isn't simply not going to the NAACP convention, they're deliberately and publicly snubbing the NAACP, and this snub was planned well in advance. The White House and the Bush campaign would have known probably a year ago that the NAACP would be in Philadelphia this weekend, and they would have planned the Pennsylvania bus trip months ago. Not only did they decide not to go to the convention, they deliberately planned on being in Pennsylvania at almost the exact time of the convention to draw more attention to the fact that Bush would not appear before the NAACP.

The bigger issue here is that George Bush is effectively saying "screw you" to one of the most prominent and esteemed organizations in America, an organization that is the most important representative of African-Americans and which still leads the fight for civil rights in America. This isn't a failure to send a message to supporters of civil rights, this is a deliberate decision to send a message that, forty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there are still two sides to the debate on civil rights, and Bush is on the side of those opposed to "special" rights for people who aren't white, Christian, and heterosexual. By deliberately blowing off the NAACP four straight years, Bush has signaled that he doesn't view himself as President of all Americans. He's the President of just those Americans who look like him and agree with him.
It is, thus, a message to his base.

Also from the Post -
Earlier this week, the White House said the invitation had been declined because of scheduling commitments, and officials said that was the reason cited in the letter to the group. But when asked about the matter by reporters on Air Force One on Friday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan made it clear that a lot more was involved. "The current leadership of the NAACP has certainly made some rather hostile political comments about the president over the past few years," he said.

The NAACP said Bush is the first president since Warren G. Harding not to meet with the group while in office.

Bond has accused Republicans of "playing the race card in election after election." He said they have "appealed to that dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality," and "preach racial neutrality and they practice racial division."
Oh heck, Bond and Mfume are still grumpy about Ted Olson and that University of Michigan case. And Bush and Ashcroft speaking at Bob Jones University in South Carolina, where interracial dating is strictly forbidden. And Ashcroft saying his political hero is Robert E. Lee. They seem to take this stuff seriously.

But there is a larger question. Bush can win easily without the black vote, and without the gay vote- he doesn't need them.

Bush is, really, depending on voters who know what it is like to be insulted, to be disrespected, and see Bush as they guy who just won't put up with that. Bush is making himself into a kind of hero to the common man here - the person people wish they had the courage themselves to be, but cannot. Bush can smirk "Like I need YOU?" to the NAACP. And Cheney can tell the senior senator from Vermont, on the floor of the Senate, to go fuck himself. And people cheer, or that's the theory on how to win in November.

Is this approach to the election planned? Is it instinctual? That's hard to say, and frankly it doesn't matter much. It simply works.

Much has been said about how odd it is that Bush is seen as "the common man" while John Kerry is seen as a rich, removed, elite patrician sort. Bush's antecedents are a president (formerly the VP and head of the CIA and an ambassador) and a senator (Prescott Bush) and a long line of bankers and financiers (the Harriman and Walker families). And we're talking major money here. Kerry is the son of diplomat, schooled in Switzerland as a kid, who speaks a number of foreign languages fluently and who is married to one of the richest women in America, who herself is sophisticated and brilliant in her own way. Both went to Yale. Both were in the famous, and socially elite, Skull and Bones. Neither guy is exactly Joe Six-Pack.

So how does Bush pull it off?

Bush laughs at how he did so badly in school. He barely slid by. Folks can relate to that.

Bush doesn't hide that he was drinking heavily and not doing much of anything before he turned forty. And look at him now. Folks like that - he pulled himself up from all that.

And Bush does the visuals - he bought that Crawford ranch in Texas just before the 2000 election and hangs around down there in jeans and a work shirt, clearing brush. The press is kind enough to not mention how recent an addition that is to the Bush family holdings, and how unlike the rest of the Bush residences. Folks relate to working around the yard.

But most importantly, think of the present times. The world now seems, at least over the last almost three years, a far more dangerous place and complex place than we ever imagined. Any number of peoples hate us, or our policies, or both - and murderously so. And it is not getting any better. Much of the rest of the world distrusts us - questioning our motives, and our actions, and often, even our intelligence (in both the military and general sense). Our list of allies grows thin, as they say.

What to do with this complexity? Simplify it. Good and evil. With us or with the terrorists. Enough has been said on that. Is this way of thinking cynically planned to win the next election? Is it instinctual? That's hard to say, and frankly it doesn't matter much. It also simply works.

Kerry offers complexity of thought and consideration of various options. For "the common man" this is far too dangerous. And he resents it.

And the key to all this is playing on resentment. What's this NAACP snub about? Imagine you're a regular guy crossing the street in the city on your lunch hour, worried about your mortgage and your kids and the bills and your taxes and all that stuff. You see next to you a tall black man in a three thousand dollar tailored suit, with his fancy attach? case, talking on his cell phone to someone about a bank merger or such stuff. You seethe with resentment. Because of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and Affirmative Actions and the 1964 Civil Rights Act and all the rest of what the Democrats said was the right thing to do, there he is, and you cannot remember where you parked your ten-year-old tinny Civic. That's what the NAACP snub is about. Saying fuck you to the whole business.

What's happening in Bangkok, over in Thailand, this week? The international AIDS (SIDA) conference. And that too is another political stage for the same drama. The politics of resentment.

What has been staged for the American voter? First, we sent only on quarter of our usual array of doctors. Many papers will not be read or discussed. The folks excluded were, you see, going to present studies that were just plain wrong. What would those be? Papers suggesting anything about the use of condoms in preventing disease, and papers with any direct or indirect data or sponsorship from family planning groups that might have, at some time, offered abortion counseling. But we will participate vigorous on the panels discussing drug therapies for AIDS, to protect the patents on the drugs developed here, to make sure our pharmaceutical industry isn't undermined by cheaper versions of these drugs. Business is business. You see, folks are uncomfortable with all these people dying, and with many of them being those odd and awful gay folks. And all this costs so much! Our meager participation in the Bangkok conference? A message to the uncomfortable, resentful American voter - our guys, and Bush, are saying in-your-face, you losers! There are a whole lot of votes in that message.

Why vote for this guy? Because he doesn't shit for anybody - and lives our fantasy life. It's a Walter Mitty thing. Kerry has no clue how to counter that.

The leader now is the guy who doesn't have to explain anything. He just does what you wish you could do, if you had the balls and weren't such a damned coward. He knows you'll lap it up. You love it, secretly or not.

See September 14, 2003 Opinion: Leadership, Management Theory and Saying You're Sorry or That You Need Help for a bit on that.
When Bob Woodward was interviewed by Mike Wallace on Sixty Minutes regarding Woodward's research on the book he wrote about George W. Bush, Woodward made some interesting comments.

Woodward said Bush told him that when Bush chairs a meeting he often tries to be provocative. When Woodward asked him if he tells his staff that he is purposely being provocative, Bush answered: "Of course not. I am the commander, see? I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

... The issue is one of temperament. On one end of the scale you have the "I'm the boss and you're not" school of leadership. On the other end you have the "We're all in this together so let's figure out how to make this work" school of leadership. One assumes unquestioning obedience while the other assumes the leader draws on all the available resources and shapes some sort of plan everyone can pretty much agree to.

The next national election may be a matter choosing between two leadership/management approaches. "We're all in this together so tell me what you think and what your ideas are..." - not words that come naturally to the current leadership. And I wonder if those who will vote in the next national election think those are words any leader should speak.
I still wonder.

Posted by Alan at 22:06 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 12 July 2004 22:07 PDT home

Topic: Election Notes

Let us not be paranoid...

Clear Channel Communications, fair and square, purchased the rights to billboard space in Times Square in Manhattan. It is not public space. It is commercial space. They own it.

Note this -
Antiwar Group Says Its Ad Is Rejected
Raymond Hernandez and Andrea Elliott, The New York Times, July 12, 2004
A group of antiwar advocates is accusing Clear Channel Communications, one of the nation's largest media companies, with close ties to national Republicans, of preventing the group from displaying a Times Square billboard critical of the war in Iraq.

The billboard - an image of a red, white and blue bomb with the words "Democracy Is Best Taught by Example, Not by War" - was supposed to go up next month, the antiwar group said, and it was to be in place when Republicans from across the country gathered in New York City to nominate President Bush for a second term.

... Last night, the president and chief executive of Clear Channel, Paul Meyer, said the company had objected to the group's use of "the bomb imagery" in the proposed billboard. Mr. Meyer said Clear Channel had accepted a billboard that would replace the bomb with a dove.

... Told of Mr. Meyer's comments, [Project Billboard spokesman Howard] Wolfson said that earlier, Clear Channel had rejected the ad with the dove as well as the one with the bomb, demanding that the words be changed, too. "It's news to us, and not reflected in any prior communications between Clear Channel and Project Billboard," Mr. Wolfson said last night. "This contradicts Clear Channel's demand that the copy be changed."
So the dove won't do either? It's confusing.

But this is America. The marketplace decides. You buy what space you want, to show what you want. If the protestors want to put up a billboard embarrassing the President Bush, they should buy their own media company. There's no free lunch. It seems the left doesn't believe in capitalism.

Another example? The end of the weekend here in Los Angeles.

Adelphia Glitch Cuts Out Kerry Interview in Los Angeles
Los Angeles Times, July 12, 2004
A technical glitch at Adelphia Communications Corp.'s Santa Monica facility left 70,000 subscribers without service for about 2 1/2 hours, blacking out CBS' "60 Minutes" interview with Sen. John F. Kerry, a company spokeswoman said.

The lack of programming left some subscribers wondering if the socially conservative company had pulled access to a program featuring the Democratic presidential candidate. The Adelphia official said the glitch had nothing to do with politics.
Just an accident.

But if the folks who hate America so much they want Bush out of office want their guys to appear on national television, on CBS of all things, well perhaps they should buy their own cable company. There's no free lunch. It seems the left doesn't believe in capitalism.

You have no right to what you don't pay for. You have a problem with that? Get off your fat ass and get a job. Accept personal responsibility. There is no clearer definition of America than that, or so my conservative friends say.

My friends on the left? Some advice - the "public airwaves" will be increasingly closed to you, and the "public spaces" too. Guess what? They never were public. All "open forums" in the real world have owners. And they book the halls and divvy up the airtime. They purchased that right. They have control, and copyright, and a cut of the popcorn concession. Get over it.

You want a forum? Buy your own.

Are you poor lefties feeling paranoid? You saw this on CNN?
U.S. officials have discussed the idea of postponing Election Day in the event of a terrorist attack on or about that day, a Homeland Security Department spokesman said Sunday.

... The department wants to know about the possibility of granting emergency power to the newly created U.S. Election Assistance Commission, authority that [DoJ spokesman Brian] Roehrkasse said was requested by DeForest B. Soaries Jr., the commission's chairman.

Soaries, who was appointed by President Bush, is a former New Jersey secretary of state and senior pastor of the 7,000-member First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey.
Well, I just saw Soaries on television, an MSNBC interview.

He seems a pleasant fellow.

But you don't want a Baptist minister with emergency authority over your elections?

Well, according to Newsweek, Tom Ridge also wants John Ashcroft to look into the possibility of postponing the election in case of a terrorist attack.

Would Ashcroft find this a problem - like it might be, say, unconstitutional? Don't think so.

An interesting comment over at Hullabaloo -
But constitutionality aside, why would there be any need to do this? We lived under the threat of nuclear war for decades - real weapons of mass destruction pointed at all of our major cities - and nobody ever contemplated suspending elections and devised no plans to do so. We have held elections during every war, including the civil war, and didn't contemplate suspending them in case of an attack.

This is absurd. Unless the terrorists are somehow able to prevent large numbers of people from exercising their right to vote by bombing individual polling places there can be absolutely no reason to postpone this election.

Besides, if I recall correctly, the Bush administration made quite a case a few years back that there should be no changing of the rules, even when certain rules are contradictory, in election procedures. I remember that deadlines, particularly, were sacrosanct. Indeed, the dates surrounding election laws were seen as written in stone.

Somehow, I have to believe that if terrorists attack us around the election, Americans will crawl out of the rubble on their hands and knees to vote. But then, that's obviously what they're really afraid of, isn't it?
Well, yes. Such an attack might make some folks, a few, maybe many, think that Bush and his foolish war brought this down on us all. They might blame him. And get really angry. And not vote for him.

This now makes sense. There's a big attack in early November. This could be the final straw that turns the solidly Bush folks against him. Canceling the election then makes perfect sense.

But marshal law would be easier. And no one would have to die.

The idea is this - just after Labor Day the administration declares marshal law and just cancels the elections indefinitely, and heck, Bush can declare himself president for life, supported by the army. His wife, Laura, can even change her name to Eva if she wants. And al-Qaeda thus has no reason to attack. We can go on as usual. The stock market soars. Osama bin Laden gets all grumpy.

This could work.

Posted by Alan at 18:41 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Photos

On the road...

Palm trees and all - could be Florida, or could be somewhere out here in Southern California. But the Freeway Blogger found this.

Examine carefully.

Posted by Alan at 14:32 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 11 July 2004

Topic: Photos

New stuff...

Volume 2, Number 27 (Sunday, July 11, 2004) of Just Above Sunset is now on line. Entries here will resume tomorrow, or late this evening.

This week's issue of Just Above Sunset- brings you news of Michael Moore Week in Paris, from our correspondent there, with a few photographs. But there is a column this week on Ohio, if Paris isn't your kind of place. In the Kafka column there's a lot of insider press stuff and a friend tells tales trying to shoot an American television documentary in the old Soviet Union (not easy) - and it seems we're not much better these days than the old soviet guys. What else? More than you ever wanted to know about Djibouti, of course. Bob Patterson is back as "The World's Laziest Journalist" and as "The Book Wrangler." There is an automotive column for a change - on the virtuous Prius and where such things are leading us. Photos? Here and there in the articles. And in Photography, Hollywood's new museum and some strange news about palm trees. Enjoy.

Some of this you saw here, but each item has been expanded. Much is new.

The "teaser" photograph? Are you a singer? Is your voice giving out from running up and down and all around the Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute (Die Zauberfl?te) too many times? These folks will fix you up. Right in the middle of Hollywood.

Posted by Alan at 20:12 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 10 July 2004

Topic: For policy wonks...

Report Card: George Gets Another Gentleman's-C

The Senate Intelligence Committee report on prewar intelligence is out. It hit the streets Friday morning. If you want to read all 511 pages click here - it's in PDF format but it is free. It's not that bad. Whole chunks are blacked out - redacted, as the say. These parts seem to have something to do with African yellow-cake uranium sales - Niger to Iraq, or not. Given the current investigation of who at the White House leaked a CIA agent's name and blew her cover, to punish the fellow who said the whole thing was a hoax - well, best we not see those sections until the special prosecutor has done his job.

What to make of this big, thick pile of paper?

Well, its seems the reasons we said we had to got to war, against the advice of the UN and most of our traditional allies - not to mention most world opinion - were not supported by the facts of the matter. Of course since then we've said the original reason - that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was an immediate and grave threat to this country - wasn't the REAL reason. It was the ties to al-Qaeda - Iraq was in league with those guys to bring us down. Seems the facts don't support that either. We'll that wasn't the REAL reason. We went to war to liberate the Iraqi people. But they don't seem to like our version of liberation and things are a bit difficult on the ground there. They don't want this kind of liberation? Well, that wasn't the REAL reason we went war. It was set up a representative democracy there, with voting and a free press, and open, utterly deregulated markets - and the nations in the area would then get the idea and toss out their monarchies or theocracies or tribal confederations and jump on the Jeffersonian bandwagon. The Iraq example would transform the region. Well, that doesn't seem to be working out as planned - we're selling this idea and not many folks are buying it, even with our armed troops in their streets and with many, many local folks in prison being treated, to put it mildly, shabbily, and we won't tell them why they are in prison because we don't have to. Guess they just get this democracy thing. They think we're bullies and fools? Doesn't matter. That wasn't the REAL reason we went to war. It was humanitarian - Saddam was a bad man. Yes he was. Did horrible things to his own people. He did. Things are better with him gone. Probably. But that's a mixed bag too.

So this massive Senate Intelligence Committee report is not terribly significant as it is - let me count here - about five rationales behind the times.

Bush did say this -
The danger to our country is grave and it is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq.

President George W. Bush
Radio Address To The Nation
Ah, did the report this week say he was lying? Many say he was, and many say it is an honest mistake as the facts he had to work with were faulty.

And Bush was careful. Note in the clip from the radio address he didn't say Iraq could hit us in forty-five minutes. He said the British government said that. And there were al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq - in the Ansar al-Islam camp in northern Iraq outside the control of the Baghdad government. He did not say they were even talking to each other (they weren't). So he wasn't lying. Folks mistook geographical proximity for conspiracy. What fools.

But is this clip an example of Bush actually saying we have to go to war now to protect ourselves?

Well, it seems to be. But it has what you might call "wiggle-room." It seems folks just jump to conclusions. Funny thing.

But some of what he says we know now is just not true - but can Bush be held responsible the CIA getting it all wrong, and for each radio listener's stupidity? Hardly - or at least that what the Bush war supporters are saying now.

Still the Senate Intelligence Committee report does presents a real problem for war supporters.

Why? Try this summary from the New York Times -
The Central Intelligence Agency greatly overestimated the danger presented by deadly unconventional weapons in Iraq because of runaway assumptions that were never sufficiently challenged, the Senate Intelligence Committee said today.

In a long-awaited report that goes to the heart of President Bush's rationale for going to war against Iraq, the committee said that prewar assessments of Saddam Hussein's supposed arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and his desire to have nuclear weapons, were wildly off the mark.

....On one important point, the committee found the C.I.A.'s conclusions reasonable -- that there had been no significant ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda terrorists.
So. The first two reasons to do this deed - the reasons that everyone lapped up, before the others were trotted out, one after the other, as the REAL reason we did the deed - well, the first two went down in flames this week.

Here is the Washington Post summary of what the two co-chairs had to say -
Asked if he believed Congress would have authorized the use of force against Iraq had it known the weakness of the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, [Republican chairman Pat] Roberts said, "I do not know."...."I think it would have been argued differently," he said. "I think perhaps the battle plan would have been different."

Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va), the committee's vice chairman, said categorically that Congress would have rejected going to war in Iraq if not for the faulty intelligence.
Well, actually the Democrat from West Virginia said more.
"Tragically, the intelligence failures set forth in this report will affect our national security for generations to come. Our credibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the panel's top-ranking Democrat.
But otherwise it went pretty well in Iraq.

Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly comments on how this falls out. He says the committee report lays the blame for bad intelligence squarely on the CIA. Points for the war supporters - they love it. Bush is off the hook and they always thought the CIA was foolishly picky about things.

But Drum a also points out - "they've been saying the CIA is too cautious, not too aggressive. What's more, the report also says there was no WMD and no ties to al-Qaeda, which basically knocks the props out from under the entire case for war. The only rationales for war they're left with are either humanitarian grounds or else the neoconnish grounds that a free Iraq will promote a wave of democracy in the Middle East. But even Paul Wolfowitz doesn't pretend that the former was sufficient reason, and the American public has shown no inclination to accept the latter."

Ah, yep. A problem.

His summary - The CIA screwed up, Bush was duped, there were no WMD, no ties to al-Qaeda, and a good chance that Congress wouldn't have authorized the war if they had known all this at the time.

That'll do. No need to read the report.

Oh yeah, here's key part of the New York Times editorial on the report -
The report was heavily censored by the administration and is too narrowly focused on the bungling of just the Central Intelligence Agency. But what comes through is thoroughly damning. Put simply, the Bush administration's intelligence analysts cooked the books to give Congress and the public the impression that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was developing nuclear arms, that he was plotting to give such weapons to terrorists, and that he was an imminent threat.

These assertions formed the basis of Mr. Bush's justifications for war. But the report said that they were wrong and were not a true picture of the intelligence, and that the intelligence itself was not worth much.
Yeah, but that's the New York Times - eastern latte-drinking liberals, all of them.

Out here on the west coast (La-La Land or the Left Coast to some) our own Los Angeles Times this weekend gives us real detail of how this all got so screwed up.

See CIA Was Warned About Defector's Unreliability
Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times July 10, 2004, Page A1 (below the fold)
The only American who met a now-discredited Iraqi defector codenamed "Curveball" repeatedly warned the CIA before the war that the Baghdad engineer appeared to be an alcoholic and that his dramatic claims that Saddam Hussein had built a secret fleet of mobile germ weapons factories were not reliable.

In response, the deputy director of the CIA's Iraqi weapons of mass destruction task force -- part of the agency's counter-proliferation unit -- suggested in a Feb. 4, 2003, e-mail that such doubts were not welcome at the intelligence agency.

"As I said last night, let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn't say, and the powers that be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he's talking about," the CIA official wrote, according to information released Friday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to support the Senate Intelligence Committee's blistering, 511-page critique of America's prewar intelligence.

"However, in the interest of truth," the e-mail continued, "we owe somebody a sentence or two of warning, if you honestly have reservations."
And the long item goes into great detail. Yes, Curveball, the Iraqi exile who claimed that he had built biological warfare trucks for the Iraqi army later turned out to be the brother of one of Ahmed Chalabi's top aides.

And Colin Powell pounded the UN with the "facts" about this secret fleet of mobile germ weapons factories - with diagrams of just how these Winnebago's of Death were precisely configured, or so we knew. Geez. And we paid Chalabi and his group 340,000 dollars a month for many years for such information.

It seems we wanted this war bad.

What is the administration's defense for all this? Read our words exactly - what you thought, what you assumed, is YOUR problem, not ours? We never said....

That might work. You see it here and there in the conservative opinion pages.

Or this - Reasons one and two for why we went to war are so 2003 - and it's time to move on. Reasons three and four aren't working out. So let's move one. Reason five may still be a good reason. The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. We're safer with him gone. Don't worry. Be happy. Americans are a forward-looking optimistic people. Optimism!

And that's what the president has been saying this weekend on the stump in Pennsylvania. And folks cheer, but maybe that's just a reflex - or cognitive dissonance.

There's a lot of that going around.

The war should have been... something else.

Here's a war supporter, Michael Ignatieff, agonizing about it all -
...the administration's arrogance. Gen. George C. Marshall began planning the postwar occupation of Germany two years before D-Day. This administration was fumbling for a plan two months before the invasion. Who can read Bob Woodward's ''Plan of Attack'' and not find his jaw dropping at the fact that from the very beginning, in late 2001, none of the civilian leadership, not Rice, not Powell, not Tenet, not the president, asked where the plan for the occupation phase was? Who can't feel that U.S. captains, majors and lieutenants were betrayed by the Beltway wars between State and Defense? Who can't feel rage that victorious armies stood by and watched for a month while Iraq was looted bare?

Someone like me who supported the war on human rights grounds has nowhere to hide: we didn't suppose the administration was particularly nice, but we did assume it would be competent. There isn't much excuse for its incompetence, but equally, there isn't much excuse for our naivet? either....
So sad.

But what about the idea of Bush as victim? Does seeing things that way make things better?

See this from Jerry Bowles -
The Doofus Card

There is a new meme developing that must be crushed before it turns into a full-fledged mindstorm and that is the notion of Shrub as victim. Under this formulation, our president is a likeable doofus who has been misserved by those around him, especially Dick Cheney. Maureen Dowd used it in her column last Sunday: By playing on the insecurities of an inexperienced leader, Mr. Cheney has managed to change W. from a sunny, open, bipartisan, uniter-not-a-divider, non-nation-builder into a crabby, secretive, partisan, divider-not-a-uniter, inept imperialist.

Now, Mois?s Na?m has returned to the theme in a piece called Bush's Willing Enablers in the July/August of Foreign Policy: Today, few doubt that the Bush administration's postwar planning was disastrous. Insiders' books, congressional testimony, and recent investigative reporting indicate that the miscalculations resulted from a toxic combination of ideology, terrorism, and an incurious president who allowed Vice President Dick Cheney and his allies to implement their unrealistic policies.

There are a lot of sins we can afford to forgive in our presidents; being a dummy is not one of them.
Yep. And Mark Schmitt - Director of Policy and Research at the Open Society Institute, in New York piles on -
And I also have come to think that there may be some truth to the idea that Cheney is the driving intelligence behind the entire Bush presidency. The insistence on being interviewed together by the 9/11 commission is one huge hint; the many instances in which Cheney seems to speak for the administration but with a tone and argument totally unrelated to Bush's, is another. The fact that Bush sometimes gets his message into line with Cheney's, rather than the other way around, speaks volumes.

... I am beginning to think that behind all the bluster, George W. Bush is a frightened, confused individual, totally unable to understand the magnitude of the decisions he got talked into making, and dealing with it by becoming paralyzed, letting the individuals who represent power centers within his administration, such as Rove, Powell, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rice run off entirely on their own. Those who are able to manage the president's message, such as Cheney, are at a bureaucratic advantage. But politically, this White House is a sitting duck, and as a matter of psychology, I think the Final Days of this crowd will make for amazing reading.

The question is, when will be these final days? Late this year, or four more years down the road?

So the Senate Intelligence Committee report is out. But the polls won't change. Almost every mind is made up. Bush is our hero - or one really scary guy.



Things seem a bit more dicey in the UK at the moment.

Note this:
Spy Chiefs 'Retract Wmd Intelligence'
James Lyons, The Scotsman - Saturday 10 July 2004 - 10:13pm (UK)
Spy chiefs have retracted the intelligence behind Tony Blair's claim that Iraq posed a "current and serious" threat, it was reported tonight.

The Prime Minister's case for war was supposedly based on evidence that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons stockpiles and was trying to produce more.

But MI6 has since withdrawn the assessment underpinning that case, a senior intelligence source has told BBC1's Panorama.

The rare step amounts to an admission that it was fundamentally unreliable, according to The Observer which reveals details of the interview.
Oh my!

The full Observer report is online here if you want all the details. Basically, Tony's been hung out to dry, just now, this weekend, by MI6 - is own CIA.

If George Tenet, head our CIA, had had the balls to do THAT ... No. Here we know NO ONE crosses the Bush family, or the Rove-Cheney-Rumsfeld troika. (Somehow the term now seems appropriate, if you know your obscure political history.) Tenet resigned.

Then there is this -
The BBC claimed the PM had been "seriously reviewing his position" in the light of the electoral setbacks, the row over the European constitution and the continuing drama in Iraq, all of which had sapped his personal authority.

Blair has come under pressure from within party ranks in recent months, with some saying the time has come for him to step down. Some say he is no longer Labour's best electoral asset and is a liability because of the unpopularity of the Iraq war. Last month, Blair admitted the war had cost his party votes when it was trounced in local and European Parliament elections.

He will come under the spotlight again this week with the release of a report into British intelligence failings over Iraq's weaponry, and the staging of two closely watched by-elections.
Yep, you read that right. A national leader who, seeing he's lost his credibility, knows he's made some mistakes, or at least political misjudgments, knowing he is again going to be shown to be flat-out wrong about some major things... considers resigning! How odd.

What people like about Bush is he never admits he's wrong, whatever the facts. Steady-leadership. No flip-flopping. Bush still believes he has lost no credibility - in fact, he thinks he's gained credibility - and for us all. We do what we say - no matter how stupid, ill conceived or poorly planned. We do what we say. And Bush doesn't listen to pollsters. He leads. Competently, thoughtfully? Perhaps not. But he makes decisions, even if dim-witted ones, and he sticks to them. That's comforting. And bad news? You can take care of those who generate that bad news. Ask Joe Wilson. As his wife, Valerlie Plame. They'll get the idea.

George needs to ring up Tony and explain how to rule.

Posted by Alan at 21:33 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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