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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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Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Topic: Selling the War

The Speech: Things Going Badly Calls for More of the Same

Monday in the daily web log readers made predictions about the Bush speech Tuesday night – see What's Up: Who Will Say What? for that. The speech was important for many reasons, among which was a poll by the Washington Post and ABC News which showed that fifty-two percent of us believe the Bush administration intentionally misled the nation into this war, a nine per cent increase since March.

So we had the speech, summarized here by Julian Borger in The Guardian (UK) - a view from the outside.
George Bush last night rallied Americans to the cause of the Iraq war, urging them not to forget the lessons of September 11" and arguing the fight was vital to future US security.

Addressing the nation from Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina, President Bush confronted head on America's growing pessimism and uncertainty over the war.

Again and again in his primetime speech, the president attempted to bind the Iraq counter-insurgency to the broader "war on terror" started the September 11 attacks, trying to rebuild a connection in the public mind that has given way to scepticism [sic] about the justification for the invasion.

… The president set out a two track strategy for victory. The military track would be focused on accelerating the work training Iraqi troops.

The president spoke of three specific steps. Iraqi units were being "partnered" with coalition troops in combined operations. Second, coalition "transition teams" of coalition officers and non-commissioned officers would "live, work, and fight together with their Iraqi comrades". And third, the Iraqi defence [sic] and interior ministries would be given support specifically for counter-terrorist operations.

The political track involved supporting Iraqi politicians in formulating a constitution, involving more Sunni Arabs in the process, paving the way for referendum and elections. …
Yes, that was about it.

From this side of the pond? Our commanders say we don't need any more troops, a timeline for withdrawal is bad, and democracy is on the march. And no outright promise that we won't leave any permanent bases in Iraq. That was about it.

Even if all polling now shows a majority of us now agree that there was no solid link between 9/11 and Iraq, and most of us no longer think the war Iraq is worth the cost, in lives or even in money, we were told we were wrong - "Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country."

Shall we trust him on that?

The morning of the speech a suicide bomber assassinated Dhari al-Fayadh - the "dean" of the parliament in Iraq. He was eighty-seven and they got his sons too. This is the day that is the anniversary of us handing them their sovereignty. We lost two military near Baghdad, and CH-47 Chinook troop transport helicopter went down in Afghanistan and the neo-Taliban says they shot it down - sixteen to twenty more.

"We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September 11 2001. They will fail. The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins."

That's a pretty inclusive "they" - the usual "whoever is doing bad things" are they same guys who flew the planes into the building way back when. All the same folks. One supposes most people really do buy into the generalization. They all hate us. They're just terrorists. A simple way of summing it all up. No need to understand more.

The full text of the speech is here. Here's a by the numbers analysis: References to September 11th: 5 - References to WMD: 0 - References to freedom: 21 - References to exit strategy: 0 - References to Saddam Hussein: 2 - References to Osama Bin Laden: 2 - References to a mistake: 1 - References to mission: 11 - References to mission accomplished: 0

You get the idea.

From the left, Ed Kilgore here:
1.) At a time when a graceful, and even minimal, admission of past errors, from WMD to the invasion plan to every aspect of the DOD "reconstruction" non-plan, would have disarmed some critics, the best Bush could offer was: "Our progress has sometimes been uneven."

2) At a time when a significant majority of Americans no longer believe the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with a rational response to 9/11, Bush repeated the claim that it was all about 9/11 several times, and at least twice suggested the war kept "terrorists" from attacking America.

3) And at a time when the country, and even Republican Members of Congress, are begging the administration for some change of course in the plan for Iraq, Bush offered as his "news" warmed-over military transition initiatives that essentially build on the failed efforts of the recent past.

I heard one NPR analyst suggest that the major object of Bush's speech was to reinforce Republican support for his Iraq policies (which has dropped from more than 90 percent to about 70 percent in recent months). I don't know if the speech accomplished that objective, but it's hard to imagine it had a positive impact on much of anybody else.
Well, perhaps it did, but Digby over at Hullabaloo says this -
This makes Nixon sound like Cicero. The only news here is that he forgot to say "and then I had a choice to make: take the word of a madman, forget the lessons of September the 11th, or do what's necessary to defend this country. Given that choice, I will defend America every time," and "we will form a coalition of the willing and we WILL disarm Saddam Hussein." We've heard all the rest before. Ad nauseum.

I notice the props are having a hard time keeping their eyes open, though. Poor guys.
Yes, as our friend the Wall Street attorney notes - and he listened to it all while driving from Manhattan to central New Jersey - there was no spontaneous applause. Perhaps that was planned.

Did Nixon make a better speech with this?
My fellow Americans, I am sure you can recognize from what I have said that we really only have two choices open to us if we want to end this war.

- I can order an immediate, precipitate withdrawal of all Americans from Vietnam without regard to the effects of that action.

- Or we can persist in our search for a just peace through a negotiated settlement if possible, or through continued implementation of our plan for Vietnamization if necessary - a plan in which we will withdraw all of our forces from Vietnam on a schedule in accordance with our program, as the South Vietnamese become strong enough to defend their own freedom. I have chosen this second course. It is not the easy way. It is the right way.

It is a plan which will end the war and serve the cause of peace - not just in Vietnam but in the Pacific and in the world.

In speaking of the consequences of a precipitate withdrawal, I mentioned that our allies would lose confidence in America.

... I recognize that some of my fellow citizens disagree with the plan for peace I have chosen. Honest and patriotic Americans have reached different conclusions as to how peace should be achieved.

... I share your concern for peace. I want peace as much as you do. There are powerful personal reasons I want to end this war. This week I will have to sign 83 letters to mothers, fathers, wives, and loved ones of men who have given their lives for America in Vietnam. It is very little satisfaction to me that this is only one-third as many letters as I signed the first week in office. There is nothing I want more than to see the day come when I do not have to write any of those letters.

- I want to end the war to save the lives of those brave young men in Vietnam.

- But I want to end it in a way which will increase the chance that their younger brothers and their sons will not have to fight in some future Vietnam someplace in the world.

- And I want to end the war for another reason. I want to end it so that the energy and dedication of you, our young people, now too often directed into bitter hatred against those responsible for the war, can be turned to the great challenges of peace, a better life for all Americans, a better life for all people on this earth.

I have chosen a plan for peace. I believe it will succeed.

... Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism.

And so tonight - to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans - I ask for your support.
Same old same old, no?

Ah well. And Digby also notes that Tuesday morning the Republican National Committee sent out an email headlined "Democrats Still Wrong on Iraq." His comment? "Yeah. Find any of those WMD yet, flyboy?"

The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, issued the expected -
Tonight's address offered the President an excellent opportunity to level with the American people about the current situation in Iraq, put forth a path for success, and provide the means to assess our progress. Unfortunately he fell short on all counts.

There is a growing feeling among the American people that the President's Iraq policy is adrift, disconnected from the reality on the ground and in need of major mid-course corrections. "Staying the course," as the President advocates, is neither sustainable nor likely to lead to the success we all seek.

The President's numerous references to September 11th did not provide a way forward in Iraq, they only served to remind the American people that our most dangerous enemy, namely Osama bin Laden, is still on the loose and Al Qaeda remains capable of doing this nation great harm nearly four years after it attacked America.

Democrats stand united and committed to seeing that we achieve success in Iraq and provide our troops, their families, and our veterans everything they need and deserve for their sacrifices for our nation. The stakes are too high, and failure in Iraq cannot be an option. Success is only possible if the President significantly alters his current course. That requires the President to work with Congress and finally begin to speak openly and honestly with our troops and the American people about the difficult road ahead.

Our troops and their families deserve no less.
Perhaps so. But nothing much happened with this speech.

Robert Perry on what Bush might have said -
My fellow Americans, let me explain to you what really went wrong with the Iraq policy and why so many young Americans have died in what looks like a futile war without end.

First, you must know that I have long obsessed about getting rid of Saddam Hussein, taking care of some unfinished business from my dad"s presidency. There"s also a lot of oil there and my neoconservative advisers wanted to project American power into the Middle East.

So when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, I saw my chance. Vice President Dick Cheney and I began merging references to al-Qaeda and Iraq. That way, the casual listener would start associating Iraq with Sept. 11 subliminally, even if there was no real evidence to support that connection.

We also decided to exaggerate the shaky intelligence we had about Iraq's WMD because we knew that would scare the American people into supporting a war against a country that wasn"t threatening us.

Next, I got rid of officials, like Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Gen. Eric Shinseki, who had doubts about the Iraq War plans. To keep British Prime Minister Tony Blair on board, we agreed to go to the United Nations, but only because we hoped that Saddam would reject a demand for U.N. inspections and give us a better pretext for war.

"When Saddam crossed us up by letting the inspectors in, we started a war hysteria inside the United States. When the French wanted more time for the inspections to work, we turned "France" into a dirty word, even renaming French toast and French fries into "freedom toast" and "freedom fries."

Before it sank into the American people that the U.N. inspectors weren't finding any WMD, I forced the inspectors to leave. Later, after the war was over, when your memories were getting a little fuzzy, I pretended that Hussein had never let the inspectors in and had shown "defiance," leaving me no choice but to invade as a "last resort."

In the first days of the Iraq War, when we realized "shock and awe" didn't have quite the effect we hoped, I had the U.S. military bomb civilian targets, such as a residential restaurant which we obliterated because of some sketchy information that Saddam might be eating there. We did this even though we knew that civilians would be killed. We were right about the civilians getting killed, but Saddam turned out not to be there.

All these acts that I"ve described to you tonight might well be considered war crimes, but I really don't care much about international law. Remember when I reacted to one question about international law by joking, "International law? I better call my lawyer." That's just the way I feel about treaties and other things that try to tie me down.

Some of my critics might say that I've been a dissembler, which means someone who doesn't tell the truth. But that's just politics.

Well, so now that I've leveled with you about how we got into this mess, I'm sure you feel you can trust me to continue protecting the American people and leading our great nation to victory in Iraq.

As I actually did say in my radio address on June 18, "I'll continue to act to keep our people safe from harm and our future bright. Together we will do what Americans have always done: build a better and more peaceful world for our children and grandchildren."
Well, this alternative speech was unlikely.

So on we go. And nothing will change.

Karl Rove teed it up last week with his comments in response to problem with public perceptions. Oppose Bush and you are a traitor undermining our troops. Question how we managing all this, and, for example, whether using torture is wise, or even effective? Same thing. You hate America.

UCLA professor Mark Kleiman has some advice for us, the madmen (and women) who would ask questions, and even would like answers -
Karl Rove is no fool.

The belief that we should respect our own laws, international treaties, and fundamental human rights, even when dealing with those accused of terrorism, is very much a minority view, and every time liberals speak out against torture they cost themselves votes.

Winning in politics is important, of course, and rarely more so than now, when the ruling party's contempt for the law, for fair play, and for the national interest create a profound threat to the Constitutional order.

But Vince Lombardi was wrong: there are more important things than winning, and maintaining human decency and national self-respect is one of them. I'm sorry to be on the losing side, but I'm not sorry to be on the side that doesn't want to win at the price of going along with torture, rather than the side that not only orders torture but uses its willingness to do so to gain political advantage.

Query for those opponents of torture who still support the GOP: Which side do you want to be on?
There are more important things than winning? Cold comfort. A war that even our closest ally knew from the start was both illegal and badly thought out - that comes with torture as a de facto policy?

That's what we have. And we're told to stay the course with this "trust us, it's important that we change nothing at all" speech.

Unacceptable - but what can you do?

Posted by Alan at 19:58 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 28 June 2005 20:11 PDT home

Monday, 27 June 2005

Topic: Dissent

What’s Up: Who Will Say What?

Last week Karl Rove - the president's chief political advisor, life-long friend, and right-hand man - said this in a speech in New York - "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." What else he said and the fallout from it all was discussed on June 26th in Just Above Sunset in Spin City, with a note that this seems to be part of a larger public relations offensive in Effective Response to Disappointing Numbers.

Something is up.

Rove's comments created a firestorm of anger from a whole lot of New Yorkers, and from the slightly less than half of the country who voted for the other guy in the last round. It seems they didn't like being called cowards and wimps - and traitors on the side of the nation's enemies.

Was this a mistake, or carefully planned as a way to suggest disagreement and questions are tantamount to treason? Or what?

Tuesday night the president will address the nation on how things are going with our war, and we will see if he piggybacks on Rove's comments, or tries for moderation or unity, or announces something no one expects.

Our columnist Bob Patterson, who writes for us as the World's Laziest Journalist and The Book Wrangler, has some thoughts -
Karl Rove is to politics as a Grand Master is to chess. This cannot be an error or lapse of judgment. He has done this stunt for a reason.


Booby traps work best when you rush into them.

The Democrats are rushing into reminding the world about how they stood shoulder to shoulder with Bush after 9/11.

What would happen if on Tuesday night Bush calls for a renewal of the draft and asks the Democrats to support his call for a renewal of the draft?

Rove isn't dumb. This is a deliberate provocation. He's up to something.

I say it will be a call for renewal of the draft Tuesday night.

I could be wrong, but that's my call.

Rove "has done the stunt for a reason." Is it a booby trap?
It seems to me that if you want to imagine a set-up, imagine this:

Given: The war is going badly and things are generally spinning out of control, and Rove, no fool, sees the political problem with that. As we nearly two thousand of our guys (and gals) dead and more ten thousand maimed or brain-damaged vegetables, or both, this just looks bad. How to make sure that all the dead and crippled don't much impact unquestioning support for Bush and his successors? Given the net and everything else, you cannot really shut down the news. It got too diffused - no one has enough fingers for that dike. So?

Step One: Keep hammering on the idea your side is manly and warlike and really, really, really wants this thing to work - and the other side just doesn't. They're just women. Yes, the facts don't support the idea, but keep saying it again and again until folks are numbed to the idea and, hearing it for the ten-thousandth time, shrug and say "whatever."

Step Two: Pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan late this year or by the middle of 2006, completely, and let those sad places disintegrate, and let the ensuing mess - oil disruptions and regional wars, and the economy destroyed - play itself out.

Step Three: Sadly say you didn't want to do that and, yes, things are a bigger mess than ever before, but what can you do when the women on the other side seduced the nation with all this talk of diplomacy and cooperation and understanding?

Step Four: Suggest the only solution, now that things are so much worse, is eschewing this "female view" - diplomacy and cooperation and understanding - and let the realists, the real men, do things right.

Result? Win all future election in landslides.

A return to a "drafted" Army isn't on the table. That would just piss off people. My scenario works better.

But I bet on nothing. What do I know? As Dennis Miller would say, "I could be wrong."

Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, points out some problems -
Yes, but why do they need to win in a landslide when they can still claim having "capital" to spend from winning in a squeaker, which is really a much easier way to win?

I mean, appealing to the broad spectrum of the American electorate can only be achieved in a way that would turn off the religious base, and also runs the risk of losing to someone else who does a better job of it, whereas appealing to the evangelicals - something the other side couldn't do anyway - means having a highly motivated bunch of volunteers working for you, and who are also just enough in number to put you over the top!

And even if they're not? You can always try Plan B: Cheat! After all, it's a lot easier to win a squeaker by cheating than a landslide.

But there's one more possible motive to keep in mind, and that is that, even as Bush cannot run again, Rove's career is not necessarily over after this presidential term ends. Is he working on 2006? Is he setting himself up for another candidate in 2008?

I don't know, but I assume time will answer those questions.
Yes, I failed to consider how important martyrdom is to the conservative side - and landslides are not what you want. It's hard to be "the oppressed but righteous and feisty minority" when everyone and their gay brother votes for you. Heck, I even wrote about it once - July 18, 2004 - The Importance of Martyrdom to the Conservative Movement - so what was I thinking? Heck, that item was even cited over at "Conservative Think."

As for cheating? They would do that? Really?

Most likely Tuesday night's Bush speech will be more of the "your government doesn't make mistakes" line, with the usual who-do-you-trust and stay-the-course embellishments. No more. I wonder if Social Security reform will come up in the talk. Maybe. Oil just hit sixty dollars a barrel and is rising steadily. Mention of that? Probably not.

Preparing for ennui seems appropriate. Scotch seems appropriate.

The gay conservative essayist Andrew Sullivan hopes for a big announcement - a resignation -
One way to help rebuild confidence would be to dismiss the architect of the war: Rumsfeld himself. He's proven himself useless in gauging the necessary troop levels, he has presided over the worst PR debacle for the military since My Lai, his recruitment targets aren't being met and he blames the military for decisions that were and are his to make. I love the man personally. But he's got to go. It's very hard to have confidence on our strategy with him still in charge of it.
That seems unlikely.

Of course, Bush could come out of the closet and reveal his affair with Rove - there's a reason he calls Rove "turd blossom" of course. Maybe Bush will reveal he's really an alien from the planet Clorox II. Maybe….

We shall see.

Posted by Alan at 18:56 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 27 June 2005 19:08 PDT home

Topic: Breaking News

Now We Know

In the May 15 issue of Just Above Sunset you will find this - a discussion of the Discovery Channel and AOL teaming up for seven hours of primetime telecasts to let America choose "the person who has most embodied the American dream, having the biggest impact on the way we think, work and live." That would be, of course, The Greatest American of All Time.

That May item has a great deal of background on how the BBC started this idea - a country should poll the public, in an unscientific and popular way (who feels like voting can vote, and often) – and for giggles let's see who comes out on top. The Brits came up with this order of relative greatness: Winston Churchill - 456,498 votes (28.1%), Isambard Kingdom Brunel - 398,526 votes (24.6%), followed by Diana, Princess of Wales - 225,584 votes (13.9%).

The French? The May item links to columns from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis and "Our Man in Paris." There? Charles De Gaulle was first, of course, followed by Louis Pasteur, then Abbé Pierre, then Marie Curie, then the dead comedian Coluche, followed by Victor Hugo. Molière, the playwright, was ninth.

And last November those odd folks up north in Canada chose Tommy Douglas, the former Saskatchewan premier, the man credited with being the founding father of Canada's health-care system, as The Greatest Canadian of All Time. Go figure. The CBC results are here if you're curious.

The voting down here, south of the igloos and Tim Horton doughnut shops, closed Sunday night. Full results will come later in the week.

For now?

America Names Ronald Reagan Their Greatest American
Press Release from the Discovery Channel
Sunday June 26, 10:59 pm ET
NEW YORK, June 26 PRNewswire - America has chosen Ronald Reagan as its greatest American. Throughout Discovery Channel's GREATEST AMERICAN campaign, more than three million votes were cast via, text and toll-free numbers to name the person who America thinks most influenced the way we think, work and live.

When voting closed at 9:10 (ET) during the series' live finale, Ronald Reagan was named the winner with Abraham Lincoln running a close second.
Close was Lincoln behind by 0.05% it seems.

Christopher Hitchens had this to say on the occasion of Reagan's funeral -
Reagan announced that apartheid South Africa had "stood beside us in every war we've ever fought," when the South African leadership had been on the other side in the most recent world war. Reagan allowed Alexander Haig to greenlight the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, fired him when that went too far and led to mayhem in Beirut, then ran away from Lebanon altogether when the Marine barracks were bombed, and then unbelievably accused Tip O'Neill and the Democrats of "scuttling." Reagan sold heavy weapons to the Iranian mullahs and lied about it, saying that all the weapons he hadn't sold them (and hadn't traded for hostages in any case) would, all the same, have fit on a small truck. Reagan then diverted the profits of this criminal trade to an illegal war in Nicaragua and lied unceasingly about that, too.

Reagan then modestly let his underlings maintain that he was too dense to understand the connection between the two impeachable crimes. He then switched without any apparent strain to a policy of backing Saddam Hussein against Iran. …
And that's not to mention his record in California - and his comment that trees cause far more air pollution than cars and factories and such.

But he was an optimist, unlike the gloomy Lincoln. This might be the time to discuss the "values-based" mandate that swept Bush into a second term.

No. What's the point?

Posted by Alan at 17:31 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 26 June 2005

Topic: Announcements


Just after midnight, Pacific Time, the new edition of Just Above Sunset, the weekly parent site to this daily web log, was posted. This is Volume 3, Number 26 - for the week of June 26, 2005 – and because it is in magazine format there is much there that you will not find here.

There, in the pages of commentary on current events you will see it has been quite a week. Extending what was first posted here, you will find fairly comprehensive reviews of domestic political news - "Just who are you calling a traitor and a wimp?" - and a bit on the Porn Star and the President in "Five Curiosities" – and a guest column from the News Guy. Last week things really got hot.

Birthdays last week? Sartre and Turing. And a famous French writer visits the neighborhood, but is Michel Houellebecq really a celebrity? Much on big doings in Paris this week with the Fête de la Musique and a curious parade five days later – and the Left Bank Lens (Don Smith) sends us great photos.

Local photography? A fantastic day on Rodeo Drive with odd old cars, and an additional page of minor curiosities. Quotes? Very cynical this week. Bob Patterson reports on the local literary scene, and ponders journalism, and provides an on-the-scene account of that Beverly Hills extravaganza. And a few things are cleared up regarding Cincinnati.

Here are direct links to specific pages:

Current Events _____________

Spin City: Temporarily Moved from DC to Manhattan [the Rove business]
Polling Notes: Effective Response to Disappointing Numbers [what motives him]
Guest Column: Rick Brown on News That Doesn't Fit the Narrative [on the Eminent Domain ruling]
Five Curiosities: Much is happening, and keeping on top of things is hard… [new photos]
Follow-Up: Last week's topics bleed into this week, so to speak… [mopping up after Dick Durbin]

Features _____________

Hollywood Notes: The Other Celebrities [Houellebecq versus Tom Cruise versus Oprah Winfrey]
Assessment: The man who thought he was being chased by a lobster through the nightmare streets full of loud music... [Jean-Paul Sartre]
Dead Guys: Another Birthday Last Week [Alan Turing]

On the scene… _____________

Our Man in Paris (1): Europe Votes for Swing [on the streets in Paris at the Fête de la Musique, with photos]
Our Man in Paris (2): Marche des Fiertés Lesbiennes, Gaies, Bi et Trans! aka Gay Pride [the parade there, with photo]
Rich Cars: Dogged Coverage of This Year's Rodeo Drive Concours d'Elegance [Bob Patterson's account, with new photos]

Bob Patterson _____________

WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - Cold Pizza and Warm Beer for Breakfast [with two photos]
Book Wrangler: Doughnuts and links bond the Southern California literary scene…

Guest Photography _____________

Left Bank Lens: 2005 Fête de la Musique (and Jean-Paul Sartre) [from our professional photographer in Paris]

Local Photography _____________

Rich and Famous: The Eighth Annual Rodeo Drive Annual Concours
Curiosities: Sunrise to Sunset Out Here [note the purple octopus]

The Usual _____________

Quotes: Cynics Corner
Corrections: Regarding Cincinnati [maybe it didn't happen at all]

And here is sunset, over Sunset -

Posted by Alan at 18:02 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 26 June 2005 18:07 PDT home

Saturday, 25 June 2005

Topic: Dissent

Polling Notes: Effective Response to Disappointing Numbers

As background to the now widely-covered comment made last week by Karl Rove - "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." - and noting the Sept 14, 2001 congressional resolution authorizing force against those that attack the US passed the House 420-1 and the Senate 98-0 with not any mention of indictments, therapy, or calls for understanding - there seems to be a bit of a disconnect.

One might assume Rove, defended by the White House and his party, knows the truth about those who are unhappy with Bush and the way things are going. These folks who have questions may have voted that way, but they didn't really MEAN it when they voted that way, in spite of how they voted then and what they say now. He, as a taxpayer-paid public servant and official of the administration, knows them better than they know themselves?

Perhaps so. Or perhaps he's just being a provocateur to rally support in difficult times. Calling those who have questions weak, cowards and, as is clear in some of his remarks, no better than traitors, is not so remarkable. Such a position may seem a bit defensive, but it does get "your side" to ramp up and be more effectively righteous and angry. But these are, after all, just words, from an official of the administration, characterizing folks with questions as cowards and possibly traitors. Standard political stuff.

If you don't want to be labeled as such, don't raise questions. Simple. Get with the program.

As for what Rove said and why he said it now, the problem is something that needs to be attended to, as the natives are restless, as shown in new polling data.

Minor Item: We all know that the Republicans while in power run the economy well because they are businessmen who know business, or so the conventional wisdom goes. But the American Research Group (ARG) poll released June 23 shows sixty-percent of registered voters say they disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy. If you total up those who say the national economy is "bad," "very bad" or "terrible"? That comes out to sixty-three percent.

But the economy is a minor matter, and, as my conservative friends argue, there's not much any president, Democrat or Republican, can do to influence it, except to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy so they will invest and the general economy will grow. And that this hasn't worked this time is further proof that supply disruptions, from severe weather or war or whatever, are outside the control of any president - thus Clinton was just lucky in the nineties. Yes, some of us agree no one can do much about the weather, or earthquakes or tidal waves and such, but the war thing may be different in some way. Still, no one outside the community of tin-foil hat conspiracy weirdos claims this administration was responsible for the September 11 attacks, at least in any direct way. So give Bush a Mulligan here.

But as for how Bush is doing generally, these data might explain Rove needing to remind people to shape up -
Among Republicans (36% of adults registered to vote in the survey), 84% approve of the way Bush is handling his job and 12% disapprove. Among Democrats (38% of adults registered to vote in the survey), 18% approve and 77% disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job. Among Independents (26% of adults registered to vote in the survey), 17% approve and 75% disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job as president.
It seems the independents have gone over to the dark side, or what Rove calls the side of the cowards and traitors. Not good. So, to explain, they need to be reminded that if they don't want to be called cowards and traitors, they had better change their minds.

The really starting late week poll comes from Rasmussen Reports with this:
49% Say Bush Responsible for Provoking Iraq War
44% Say Hussein

June 23, 2005 - Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans say that President Bush is more responsible for starting the War with Iraq than Saddam Hussein. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 44% take the opposite view and believe Hussein shoulders most of the responsibility.

In late 2002, months before the fighting began, most Americans thought that Hussein was the one provoking the War. Just one-in-four thought the President was doing the provoking at that time. …
That is a change, and quite odd. As James Wolcott comments -
What amazes me is that more Americans now blame Bush for provoking the war with Iraq than blame Saddam Hussein. That's not an argument I've heard anyone make on cable talk or on the op-ed pages. Somehow Americans drew that conclusion all on their own! The tide of popular opinion turning against the war is washing away walls we didn't even know were there.
Something is up. Rove's speech in New York was designed to deal with it. The message of the speech? Change your mind or Rove will call you names.

Over at Whiskey Bar, Billmon (William Montgomery) has more complex analysis than that.
I actually think Rove's rant should be seen as a somewhat encouraging sign. Rove and his idiot chorus aren't roaring at the top of their lungs to try to drown out the liberals - that would be absurd overkill, given how effectively the corporate media has ridiculed and/or demonized the likes of Howard Dean and Dick Durbin. No, Rove's hate rally is aimed squarely at suppressing the growing doubts of the great silent majority - and even, to a certain extent, those of the conservative true believers, some of whom are showing ominous signs of war weariness.

... nearly 60% of the American people are now willing to say, flat out, that they oppose the war in Iraq. That's a remarkable statement. I'm not sure 60% ever opposed the war in Vietnam, even after it had been lost. You don't turn those kind of numbers around with PR spin - the casualty lists now speak louder than the microphone, even one as powerful as the White House's.

Add to that the prospect of still higher gas prices, unfilled (and probably unfillable) economic expectations and the black ring of scandal widening around the DeLay-Abramoff-Reed-Norquist axis of weevils, and it's clear that recycled Reaganite optimism - the 'morning in America' brand of propaganda - isn't going to cut it.

So Rove is falling back on his classic strategy of rallying the base. What's more, he's mainlining it a much rawer and more savage version of the conservative message than the White House usually permits itself. While the customary surrogates - Fox News, Rush, the blogger hyena pack - have snarled and snapped, the results apparently have been found wanting. Now Bush's 'brain' is stepping into the ring himself.

But, like fellow psychopath Mike Tyson, Rove isn't just telegraphing his punches, he's also displaying the depths of his fear. The rhetorical ear chewing and head butting is a clear sign the champ doesn't have the juice any more, and knows it. Rove is trying to get by on sheer intimidation. He's pushing as many primordial conservative buttons as he can - leaning on them, in fact - in hopes he can once again make the dreaded liberals the story, not the march of folly currently sinking into the Iraqi quicksand.
As, those dreaded liberals who have ruined everything! It may indeed be time to excoriate them once more, because, as Hunter over at the Daily Kos explains -
The stories coming out in the next month are going to be very, very bad for Bush and for everyone involved in selling the Iraq War. Bush's numbers have absolutely tanked, the Downing Street documents are getting more and more attention, Bush and Cheney are increasingly seen as so out-of-touch with ground reports from Iraq as to border on slightly delusional, and Senate Democrats are beginning to increasingly demand specific documents relating to the ("fixed?") claims made by the Bush Administration in the runup to the Iraq War.

Therefore, anyone who doesn't support Bush's failed and increasingly unpopular policies is a traitor. That's the line they're going with.
Yeah, so? That's the way the game is played. It's just name-calling.

And it won't make the effort to change Social Security - from a safety-net insurance program of fixed benefits for set contributions into a can-you-beat-the-market investment contest - any more popular. Rove can say the dreaded liberals hate our troops, but after the senate Republicans voted against budget increases for veterans three times this year, the dreaded liberals can point to Associated Press stories like this -
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Department of Veterans Affairs told Congress that its health care costs grew faster than expected and left a $1 billion hole in its budget this year, lawmakers said Thursday.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer, the Republican from Indiana, said the department can meet this year's health care costs by drawing on spare funds and money from other operations, including building construction.

But next year's health care budget falls well over $1 billion short, said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.

"I was on the phone this morning with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson letting him know that I am not pleased that this has happened," said Craig, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

"This shortfall results from either deliberate misdirection or gross incompetence by this administration and the Department of Veteran Affairs," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.
As you see, both sides can call names. Call me a coward and a traitor and I'll call you a liar and incompetent. Of course neither gets the veterans programs funded.

So the polls have gone in the weeds for the administration. Name-calling was predictable. And it is relatively harmless.

But is that all we get?

Posted by Alan at 14:07 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 25 June 2005 14:18 PDT home

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