Tuesday, July 31, 2007


The photo you're looking for is here.

I originally linked it in this post, and ever since it's been my most Googled post, for reasons that utterly baffle me.

Why on earth do so many of you want this picture?

If you'd explain in comments, I'd really appreciate it.

Oh, this was supposed to be a good one: Right-wing radio apparatchik Hugh Hewitt scored an interview with John Burns, who reports from Iraq for The New York Times, knowing that Burns thinks there's been a real improvement in Baghdad and worries that a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq soon could lead to serious bloodshed. Hewitt posted a transcript under the title "New York Times Pulitzer Prize Winner John Burns on Iraq, Iran and How the Surge Is Working."

Right-wing bloggers declared that this was yet another propaganda coup for the pro-surge forces.

Hot Air said Burns would likely replace Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack as "nutroots public enemy number one."

Blackfive said Burns had rebuked "the would be losers" by saying that "things have definitely changed for the better and the prospects for peace are higher than they have ever been."

Prairie Pundit included Burns among "all the members of the mainstream media who are now coming to the conclusion that the surge is working" and added, "It is interesting to see how events have swallowed the Democrat message of defeat and retreat."

Alas for the right-wingers, none of this is borne out by Burns's actual words.

If you actually read the transcript, you see that, once you get a few exchanges in, just about every anti-withdrawal statement Burns makes is balanced by a statement that favors withdrawal.

Violence? Burns says things are better.

I think there's no doubt that those extra 30,000 American troops are making a difference. They're definitely making a difference in Baghdad.

Political situation? Burns says things are worse.

I think it's probably fair to say that the Iraqi political leaders, Sunni, Shiia, Kurd in the main, are somewhat further apart now than they were six months ago.... Indeed, the gulf between the Shiite and Sunni leaders in the government is probably wider than it has ever been. There's a great deal of recrimination. There's hardly a day when the Sunnis do not, as they did again today, threaten to withdraw from the government altogether. There's virtually no progress on the key benchmarks....

Effect of withdrawal talk in Washington? Political paralysis in Iraq.

...the more that the Democrats in the Congress lead the push for an early withdrawal, the more Iraqi political leaders, particularly the Shiite political leaders, but the Sunnis as well, and the Kurds, are inclined to think that this is going to be settled, eventually, in an outright civil war, in consequence of which they are very, very unlikely or reluctant, at present, to make major concessions.

Effect of staying the course? Possibly the same kind of political paralysis.

Now I think the last thing that you need is an Iraqi leadership which is already inclined to passivity on the matters, the questions that seem to matter most in terms of a national reconciliation here, the last thing they need is to be told, in effect, the deadline has been moved back three years.

Would drawing down troops lead to all-out civil war? Quite possibly.

... I think the result of that would, in effect, be a rapid, a rapid progress towards an all-out civil war. And the people who are urging that kind of a drawdown, I think, have to take that into account.

Would staying the course prevent all-out civil war? Quite possibly it wouldn't.

That's not to say, I have to say, that that should be enough to inhibit those politicians who make that argument, because they could very well ask if that's true, can those who argue for a continued high level of American military involvement here assure us that we wouldn't come to the same point three or four years, and perhaps four or five thousand American soldiers killed later? In other words, we might only be putting off the evil day. It seems to me that's where this discussion really has to focus. Can those who argue for staying here, can they offer any reasonable hope that three, two, three, four years out, the risk of a decline into cataclysmic civil war would be any less? If the answer is no they can't, then it seems to me that strengthens the argument of those who say well, we might as well withdraw fairly quickly now.

Are we kicking the ass of Al Qaeda in Iraq? Yes.

I think they've had some success, and they've probably taken off the streets several dozen senior al Qaeda in Iraq linked terrorists. And that has to be significant.

Does it matter? Maybe not.

The problem is, as General Rick Lynch of the 3rd Infantry Division, who is presently in charge of the surge operations on the southern approaches to Baghdad has said, al Qaeda in Iraq is a hydra. It is a many headed monster which seems to be able to regenerate its heads when they're cut off. And that's been the case for a very long time, as General Lynch knows. He was the command spokesman in his previous assignment here. And many was the time wherein I attended briefings by General Lynch in that role, where he produced charts indicating how many first, second and third tier al Qaeda operatives had been killed or captured. And that was three years ago. So you know, it seems that no matter how many are killed or captured, this thing managed to regenerate.

Do the troops resent talk of withdrawal? Somewhat.

They certainly do not like the idea of, to put it in the pejorative, cutting and running. They think that they can still make a crucial difference, they think it's worth persisting here, they would just like a little bit more time.

Are they with the program? Er, not so much.

And I can tell you one thing, they're not fighting for any grand mission. The days of that are gone.... when you ask them what you’re fighting for, they'll tell you they’re fighting for the man to the left of them, the man to the right of them, they're fighting to get home safely. They're fighting for the unit, they're fighting to protect and save themselves.


So this interview wasn't a home run for the White House like the O'Hanlon/Pollack op-ed, though it is cherry-pickable. It certainly shows how much effort the surge fans are putting into the White House propaganda campaign. (And maybe all that matters is that it can be promoted as unambiguously pro-surge, even if it isn't.)

I have to wonder how we managed to get these two items back to back -- coincidence? Or did the White House coordinate the timing of O'Hanlon and Pollack's trip (for which the government would have had to supply visas) and Hewitt's interview (which he would surely have been more than happy to conduct whenever Rove's or Cheney's office wanted him to)?

I really don't know how these things work. But I half-suspect it's all on a chart on a laptop we bought with our tax dollars.

USA Today reports that two congressional Democrats, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Jerry McNerney of California, just got back from Iraq and saw some okay things:

...Ellison said that local leaders in Ramadi told him of how they partnered with U.S. and Iraqi military officials to virtually rid al-Qaeda from the city. Although the lawmakers had to travel in flak vests and helmets, "we did see people walking around the streets of Ramadi, going back and forth to the market."

There have been fewer anti-U.S. sermons as the violence has been reduced, Ellison said, and religious leaders meet regularly with U.S. military officials....

National Review Online's Jim Geraghty asks:

How Far Are Ellison and McNerney's Positions From O'Hanlon and Pollack?

Glad you asked:

Tour Solidifies McNerney's Stance on Iraq

A visit to Iraq last weekend confirmed Rep. Jerry McNerney's belief that the United States should set a timetable to bring its troops home.

"After visiting Iraq, I still strongly support implementing a reasonable timetable to begin withdrawing troops," said McNerney, a Democrat who represents the Tracy area. "I believe that is the only way to give the Iraqis the incentive they need to step up and take control of their country." ...

And as for all the good stuff they saw?

McNerney said he was well aware Ramadi doesn't necessarily representative of the rest of the country.

"I really don't have an opinion on the rest of Iraq," he said in a conference call from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany on Monday morning. "I'm sure (the military) cherry-picked the best place for us."

Ellison, meanwhile, will be holding a town hall forum next week in Minneapolis on "Peace & The Iraq War":

Please join Congressman Ellison to discuss current proposals for possible troop withdrawals from Iraq....

This is a great opportunity to voice your opinion about the war, get legislative updates that affect peace, learn about legislative action to stop the war, and to further the dialogue about peace.

But apart from that, their opinions and the opinions of O'Hanlon and Pollack are indistinguishable!

I was just telling you that, according to ABC's Jake Tapper, the pro-surge op-ed by Kenneth Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon won't change minds in Congress. But it looks as if the op-ed isn't an isolated event. It's apparently the first hint of a new hawk party line -- instead of trying to remain credible by acknowledging the real and persistent problems in Iraq, it appears that hawks are all about to shoot the works and say we're winning. Including David Petraeus.

That's the point of this Washington Post story by Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza:

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Monday that a strongly positive report on progress on Iraq by Army Gen. David Petraeus likely would split Democrats in the House and impede his party's efforts to press for a timetable to end the war.

...Clyburn noted that Petraeus carries significant weight among the 47 members of the Blue Dog caucus in the House, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats. Without their support, he said, Democratic leaders would find it virtually impossible to pass legislation setting a timetable for withdrawal.

...Many Democrats have anticipated that, at best, Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker would present a mixed analysis of the success of the current troop surge strategy, given continued violence in Baghdad. But of late there have been signs that the commander of U.S. forces might be preparing something more generally positive. Clyburn said that would be "a real big problem for us." ...

Various right-wing idiots have misinterpreted what Clyburn's saying here. He's not saying that actual success in Iraq would be "a real big problem" for Democrats. He's saying that a deeply politicized piece of GOP propaganda from Petraeus disguised as an honest report would be a problem, because Petraeus is so well regarded. (If you think Petraeus deserves his straight-shooter reputation, Frank Rich's most recent column sets you straight.) And, post-O'Hanlon/Pollack, it really seems possible that we'll get a glowing report from the general, not just a mixed but pluckily optimistic one.

The aggressiveness of Bush's real war, the one against his political enemies, continues to surprise. You half-wonder if he and the underlings who have masterminded this and other propaganda offensives would have made good soldiers, even generals, if they hadn't all been too cowardly to apply this level of aggression to situations involving actual bloodshed.


UPDATE: I'm not sure the full interview (video here) supports my interpretation of Clyburn's words. It does appear that Clyburn thinks Petraeus is going to tell the whole truth -- in which case, I think he's being naive.

And for those coming here from The Weekly Standard: Brian Faughnan chides me for "ignoring ... plain words in favor of something that fits the paradigm" -- but that's exactly what he's doing with regard to Democratic congressmen Jim McNerney and Keith Ellison, who still want to get us the hell out of Iraq.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Or, er, maybe not. Here's Jake Tapper on ABC (video link):

Both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill said, when asked what impact this op-ed would have, "Zero." They said, "Do you think members of Congress are going to go back to their constituents who are asking 'When are you going to bring our boys home?' and say, "Well, hold on a second. Read this New York Times op-ed'? They said that's not realistic.

Good point.

More from Tapper's blog:

I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but regardless of the merits of the op-ed, I don't think it will be the "tipping point" that supporters of the surge strategy hope it will be.

One Republican Senator's office told me the surge is a failure, op-ed or no op-ed, based on the Bush administration's own July 15 progress report.

Said another GOP Senator's office: "the time for the surge was four years ago." That Senator had not read the op-ed by Monday afternoon.

Many Republicans say the issue is that US troops are policing a civil war -- not whether or not General David Petraeus is a good commander. The debate no longer seems to be about the surge, but the mission.

And Democrats? Well, many just want the troops out, regardless of what "military-led dog-and-pony show" O'Hanlon and Pollack were taken on, in the words of one Democratic congressional aide.

I think Tapper's overlooking the fact that certain Americans will already have had this op-ed pre-digested for them by Limbaugh and his ilk; they're going to feel their worldview has been definitively validated. But if Congress is unimpressed, that's good.

A story from the religious-right news site OneNewsNow:

UMC ripped for partnership with Muslim Aid

The United Methodist Church is being blasted for partnering with a Muslim group that is blatant about its mission.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief, or UMCOR, recently announced a partnership with Muslim Aid, a British-based relief organization. The Muslim group is "very clear about its Islamic mission -- and on its website there are numerous references to the Koran and the false god, Allah," says Mark Tooley with the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD)....

I just want to point out that the IRD, whose spokesman says that Islam has a "false god," is an organization with many prominent board members, including Fred Barnes of Fox News and The Weekly Standard.

Hey, Fred, would you defend that statement on national TV? And if not, why not?

More from the story:

...Tooley points out that while Muslim Aid is vocal in its beliefs, UMCOR has virtually no mention of God, Jesus Christ, or the Bible on its website. "No wonder there is such easy agreement between them," he comments.

An IRD press release says:

UMCOR's web site seems to contain no references to God, Jesus Christ or the Bible.

In fact, a search of the UMCOR Web site finds 109 references to God, 36 to Jesus and 9 to the Bible.

Muslim Aid is a British organization whose trustees include Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, who has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth. Its Global Ambassador for Children is Jermaine Jackson, formerly of the Jackson Five. We're not talking the Taliban here.

The Republicans blew it in 2006, and most people don't think 2008 looks very good for them, but I'm beginning to be concerned about their aggressive 2007 campaign.

Obviously 2007 isn't an election year at the national level. But it's clear that, whatever else the selling of the surge may be, it's yet another political campaign at the White House, one the Bushies seem to be treating as a do-over of 2006 and a table-setter for 2008. Although his name rarely comes up in connection with the surge, I think this is Karl Rove's last campaign, and he's determined not to go out a loser.

Ratcheting up the war, repeatedly invoking 9/11, spotting terrorists on the horizon, and saying that Democrats are extremists who want us all dead are old tricks, but they're uniting the base yet again. (Immigration battle? What immigration battle?) And that recent New York Times poll that showed increased support for the invasion suggested that maybe a few non-Republicans are drifting rightward, too. (The Times/CBS polling unit was so surprised by that result that the question was asked again of a new set of respondents. The numbers were the same.)

And today, of course, the surge has inspired Kenneth Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution to proudly embrace liberal hawkery again in a stay-the-course New York Times op-ed titled "A War We Just Might Win." These guys have never truly given up on the war, but Pollack, in particular, has at times been sheepish about his pre-war mistakes. But now they clearly feel they can be full-throated about their support for the war once more. They look at the White House's stubbornness in clinging to the surge and see a way to get their own dignity back; the White House looks at them and sees a way to divide the opposition party into "responsible" Democrats and weirdo-freak war opponents. It's win-win. Expect the Pollack/O'Hanlon piece to be cited by every war supporter who talks into a microphone for the foreseeable future; expect pundits everywhere to start asking whether all those damn war opponents running for president on the Democratic side are just a bunch of dirty hippies.

All Rove et al. want to do is keep it close until the general-election campaign begins. I hope I'm wrong, but they may be succeeding at that.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I fear Republicans have a much better chance of retaining the White House after the '08 election than most people think -- especially if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. But on Friday, David Brooks made clear that he thinks Hillary's chances are looking good.

I dunno. I don't think I'm persuaded.

The biggest story of this presidential campaign is the success of Hillary Clinton. Six months ago many people thought she was too brittle and calculating and that voters would never really bond with her. But now she seems to offer the perfect combination of experience and change.

But so far it's only Democratic voters who are bonding with her. Her negatives aren't going down.

...Her success has put incredible pressure on Barack Obama. He continues to attract huge crowds and huge money, but he also continues to make rookie mistakes, like saying he'd talk with Hugo Chavez. He's forced to campaign on the defensive now, knowing that each misstep reinforces the "He's too young" story line.

This is unrelated to my main point, but I've been thinking that the GOP and the press have a ready set of talking points with which to attack Hillary (evil ambitious dynasty-craving socialist with no principles) and one for Edwards (pathetic pretty boy) -- but haven't had anything for Obama. Alas, Hillary's now given talking points to them. Obama's significantly easier for the GOP to beat than he was before she went medieval on him. Thanks, Hill!

... The one thing Republicans had going for them was the head-to-heads. Bush, the war and the party could all be unpopular, but individual G.O.P. candidates beat Clinton because her negatives were so high. But she is changing that. People who've said they would never vote for her will take a second look once they see her campaign.

Brooks offers no evidence for this. I'd really love to see some.

That means in 2008, Hillary won't save the G.O.P. An orthodox Republican will not beat an orthodox Democrat. If Republicans want to have any chance next year, they have to go for broke.

What does he mean by this? See below (though it isn't really clear below either).

You can see hints of the bad environment at Republican campaign events.... A questioner at a McCain event in Keene charged, "We've had 16 years of draft dodgers in the White House!"

Oh, there's always someone like that, someone who didn't absorb the GOP talking points and is therefore angry at boomer noncombatants regardless of party. Real knee-jerk Republicans know what they're supposed to think: that Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush acted honorably during the Vietnam War, but Bill Clinton didn't, and neither did John Kerry (or John McCain). And besides, how does anger at two combat-avoider presidents help the wife of one of those presidents get elected?

...So as I travel around watching the Republican candidates, I'm looking for signs that they're willing to try something unorthodox. Eighty percent of the time, what I see is the Dole campaign: Republican candidates uttering their normal principles -- small government, military strength, strong families -- and heading inexorably toward defeat.

What I see is four GOP front-runners most Americans would rather have a beer with than Hillary Clinton. Two of them won elections in very blue places, and the other two are on TV a lot. Therefore all of them have some degree of appeal to swing voters, and in the general-election campaign we'll be told that when they talk like right-wingers, they don't really mean it. Hey, it worked for the Republicans in '00 and '04.

But there are flashes. There are times when they break out of the conventional trench warfare and touch the anger and longing that define this historical moment.

Brooks offers two examples. Here's example #2:

The other flash I saw was at a Romney event at the Lincoln Financial Group in Concord. Romney had slipped away from the policy chunks of his stump speech and was talking about his success in business and in running the Olympics. He was talking about how you assemble a team of people with complementary skills. How you use data and analysis to replace opinion. How you set benchmarks and how often you should perform self-evaluation.

It wasn't impassioned or angry (he doesn't do anger). But it was Romney losing himself in something he really cares about, and it opened up a vista of how government might operate.

Wow, David. That's your idea of a potential campaign game-changer? The use of data?

Brooks really is a wonk. Something like this inspires him, so he doesn't understand that it's never going to inspire other people.

And that's why you can't trust either side of his analysis. If he thinks this kind of thing could get non-Republicans to warm up to the GOP, you can't trust his judgment when he says Hillary will get non-Democrats to warm up to her.

Voters aren't going to vote based on how the candidates present themselves as leaders. Voters are going to vote based on what the press puts in the foreground and what it puts in the background. If we're told endlessly what a bold new dynamic person Rudy or Fred or Mitt is, we'll buy it. That's essentially "Hey, this guy has president vibes, and we in the press think he's cool." It invariably works. That's what I've been assuming we will be told about the GOP nominee.

But maybe I've been wrong. Maybe this very column is a harbinger of the press coverage we'll get -- maybe reporters and pundits have decided they're going to tell us Republicans all have a Dole-like haplessness and Hillary really is showing a wisdom born of age and experience.

I think it all depends on what the polls look like next February when we know who the nominees are. If Bush is dragging down the Republican, maybe we really will be told the Republican is pathetic; his mistakes will be emphasized and the Democrat's will be overlooked. But I think the race will be close and, as a result, we'll be told the Republican looks really inspiring and fresh -- and that will be the thumb on the scale that gets the Republican elected.

But maybe the press will surprise me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Thanks, everyone. I'll have new stuff starting tomorrow morning.
Not Political Enough

There is a headline and story in my Washington Post this morning that says

Bush Aide Blocked Report: Global Health Draft in 2006 Rejected for Not Being Political

A surgeon general's report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration's policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.


I was going to say something snarky here about how Bush promised to change the culture of Washington, but that would probably just be redundant.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

You would think a column called Rich Man, Boor Man, subtitled "We live in an age of great wealth--and lousy manners", would be about bad behavior by--y'know--rich people. That's what you would think, anyway.

Unless it was written by Peggy Noonan.

Here are examples she gives of the rudeness she's complaining about:
  1. She walks into a shop, and a saleswoman says "Hi! Let me help you find what you're looking for!"

  2. In another shop, a saleswoman says "How are you today? How can I help you?" ("Those dread words", Noonan says.)

  3. Outside, an activist with a clipboard asks: "Do you have two seconds for the environment?"

  4. In a restaurant, 40 seconds after she and a friend sit down, a waiter asks them what they'd like to drink.

  5. The same waiter subsequently asks her if she's ready to order. (Frankly, I live in dread of prompt service in restaurants.)

  6. A guy in line at a store talks on his cell phone.
Now, I'm with her on the last one, but as for the others, really: that's what she has to complain about? People in the service sector doing their jobs?

I think manners really have deteriorated, and I'm not above ranting about it, but this stuff--I mean, what the fuck?

She never notices that the very rich don't give a shit about the other 99.9% of the world? Or that across the economic spectrum, in ways minor and major, people have largely abandoned any notion of the public good? Or that in doing so, people are responding to a quarter century of indoctrination by Peggy's ideological compatriots, beginning with her former boss? That this is a world she helped to create?

Of course she doesn't. She's Peggy Noonan.

[Cross-posted at If I Ran the Zoo]
Big Brother Is Watching You...

...but he's probably looking at the wrong thing. In the post below, I mentioned Bushco's opposition to cargo screening. Now John Aravosis at Americablog points out this story:
The United States and the European Union have agreed to expand a security program that shares personal data about millions of U.S.-bound airline passengers a year, potentially including information about a person's race, ethnicity, religion and health.

Under the agreement, airlines flying from Europe to the United States are required to provide data related to these matters to U.S. authorities if it exists in their reservation systems. The deal allows Washington to retain and use it only "where the life of a data subject or of others could be imperiled or seriously impaired," such as in a counterterrorism investigation.

Uh huh. And I wonder who will have oversight to make sure Washington follows the rules. Oh, wait, that's right. Bushco doesn't permit oversight.
According to the deal, the information that can be used in such exceptional circumstances includes "racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership" and data about an individual's health, traveling partners and sexual orientation.

Airlines do not usually gather such data, but officials say it could wind up in passenger files as a result of requests for special services such as wheelchairs, or through routine questioning by airline personnel and travel agents about contacts, lodging, next of kin and traveling companions. Even a request for a king-size bed at a hotel could be noted in the database.

Cheezits! Okay, don't be asking for a wheelchair to get your 90-year-old mother to the gate. She might have a bomb stowed away in that leg brace. And for God's sake don't request a king-size bed! The authorities might twig that you're part of the Gay Terrorist Brigade. Don't let on that you're a Quaker, either. The FBI is probably surveilling the terror cell -- I mean Friends Meeting -- that you plan to visit during your trip. And don't show your union card; Wal-Mart might have you busted as a potential organizer. As for that anti-war t-shirt? Well, here in the US it would get you kicked out of a Bush rally. At the airport, it might earn you a trip to Gitmo.

Really, since when is (assumed) sexual orientation an indicator of terror risk? How about disapproval of the Bush administration? Hell, if that's the criterion, 65% of the American public would be flagged as potential threats. But Michael Chertoff is quick to point at that we could have prevented 9/11 had we only had this information. Yeah, sure.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff praised the pact as an "essential screening tool for detecting potentially dangerous transatlantic travelers." If available at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Chertoff said, such information would have, "within a matter of moments, helped to identify many of the 19 hijackers by linking their methods of payment, phone numbers and seat assignments."

John: "Uh huh. Had we only known which way Mohammad Atta swung in bed, maybe then George Bush wouldn't have gone on vacation for an entire month after having read a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." And in any case, notice how nothing Chertoff is saying has anything to do with your sexual orientation, philosophical beliefs, union status or anything else that is ACTUALLY on the list of info they're requesting."
Congress Passes Security Bill

The bill, approved 371-40 in the House and 85-8 in the Senate, includes many of the provisions recommended by the 9/11 Commission, and it should reverse some of the incredibly stupid allocation of resources we've seen over the past few years. I guess that means it'll be open season on petting zoos and flea markets.

The bill elevates the importance of risk factors in determining which states and cities get federal security funds - that would mean more money for such cities as New York and Washington - and also puts money into a new program to assure that security officials at every level can communicate with each other.

It would require screening of all cargo on passenger planes within three years and sets a five-year goal of scanning all container ships for nuclear devices before they leave foreign ports.

Incredibly, the White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill because it contained language that would allow collective bargaining for airport screeners. That was a deal-breaker. Democrats also compromised on Republicans' insistence that people who report suspected terrorist activity be protected from lawsuits. So screeners can't band together to demand decent working conditions, but Aunt Suzie from Birmingham who thinks all Ay-rabs are terrorists can ruin lives with impunity. I have a feeling this particular provision is related to Sen. Joe Lieberman's (R in the real world - CT) sponsorship.

"He had dark skin -- and a beard! And he was sittin' right next to me on the flight from Atlanta. And, and, you know I don't like to fly anyway, and I just had a bad feelin' about it, so I called that cute stewardess over and told her I thought he had a bomb. Well, you never seen nobody turn a plane around so fast. We was back on the ground in nothin' flat, and the poh-leece come and marched him right off that plane.

"Then what happened?"

"Well, they kept him locked up fer a while, then they had to let him go. It turns out he was born right here in Alabama, and he ain't even Ay-rab. He works up at the Methodist church. But you cain't be too careful these days."

"Did you apologize?"

"No, I did not. I was just doin' my duty as a citizen. Maybe he oughta shave off that beard and stay in outta the sun. It ain't my fault he looks like an Ay-rab."

"I bet he's gonna sue you, Aunt Suzie."

"He cain't. The President made sure of that."

Yeah, that scenario may sound ridiculous, but I have an archeologist friend here in Birmingham who's detained, questioned, and searched just about every time he travels overseas because he has black hair, a beard, and a dark tan in the summer. Never mind his Irish name and heritage; he fits the "profile".

Anyway, back to the bill. While Bush has ensured that any idiot who sees a terrorist around every corner will be protected, he still objects to cargo screening -- and to the public knowing how much in total is being spent on intelligence. Because, you know, any transparency in government means the terrorists win.

The most controversial provision in the legislation requires the radiation scanning of cargo containers in more than 600 ports from which ships leave for the U.S. The White House, and other critics, say that the technology isn't there, that the requirement could disrupt trade and that current procedures including manifest inspections at foreign ports and radiation monitoring in U.S. ports are working well.

Supporters argue that the unthinkable devastation from the detonation of a nuclear device in an American port makes it imperative to scan cargo before it reaches U.S. shores. As a compromise, it was agreed that the Homeland Security secretary can extend the five-year deadline for 100 percent scanning in two-year increments if necessary.

The White House was also unhappy with a provision that requires total amounts requested and appropriated for the intelligence community to be made public.

I wonder how long Bush will delay before signing the bill -- and what kind of signing statements he might attach. Tony Snow has been so busy disparaging Congress lately that it would be hard to let this kind of achievement go unchallenged, even if it's supported by the vast majority of Republicans as well as Democrats.


The July 25 edition of Hannity and Colmes marks the first and only moment Right Wing water-carrier Sean Hannity has ever expressed a concern about the wall between Church and State. Not surprisingly, Hannity's concerns centered not around a Christian religious institution, but a secular Arab language and culture school in Brooklyn. Hannity compared the school to a "madrassa," an Arabic word that literally means "school" but in the Fox News context has come to mean "a Muslim school that trains terrorists". Hannity was actually suggesting that The Khalil Gibran International Academy was a school for training terrorists, based on no more evidence than the cultural focus of the school's mission.

On the July 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity previewed a discussion of plans to operate an Arabic language and culture school in Brooklyn, New York, by saying that "if you live in New York City, guess what? Your tax dollars could be going to fund a madrassa," and that "the city that fell victim to the biggest terrorist attack in world history challenges the separation of church and state and using tax dollars to fund an all-Muslim school." During a later preview an on-air graphic read: "funding fatwa." In fact, the school's "advisory council" is made up of several Christian ministers, Jewish rabbis, and Muslim imams, according to a comment posted by Daniel Meeter, a member of the advisory council, on The New York Sun's website in response to an April 24 Sun article attacking the school. Co-host Alan Colmes also noted that the person after whom the school is named, author and artist Khalil Gibran, was a Maronite Christian, an eastern rite Lebanese sect in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

According to the New York City schools website: "The Khalil Gibran International Academy's mission is to prepare students of diverse backgrounds for success in an increasingly global and interdependent society. Our focus is on holistic student development and rigorous academics."

What makes Hannity's criticism all the more maddening is that he himself attended Catholic schools throughout his youth, including Sacred Heart Seminary and the now defunct St. Pius X Prepatory Seminary, which included two years of junior college schooling along with high school. The simple fact is that Hannity doesn't believe that Arabs or Muslims are entitled to the same religious freedoms white people or Christians are, and if he needs to, he will use his media venue to infringe upon the religious freedom of others.

Nevermind that our government suffers from a lack of Arabic language specialists, and that a recent Pew poll showed that knowledge of Islam and contact with Muslims drastically affects people's perception of Islam and its adherents. Hannity's concern is not safety or security, but "purity". His dedication to preserving what he sees as America's cultural heritage, a heritage defined by whiteness, Christianity, heterosexuality, and a narrow understanding of masculinity trumps any obligation he feels he might have to tell his viewers the truth, or to base his opinions on any empirical evidence. And in this way, Hannity is not so different from his admirers.

Cheney Gets New Battery for Pacemaker

Insert joke here. I guess W got to be the real President for a few hours today.
Fox "News", "Pastor" John Hagee, and War with Iran

As the list of Republicans dodging the CNN/YouTube debate grows, I suspect we'll hear a good deal about how the Democratic candidates don't want to do a Fox "News" sponsored debate.

Leaving aside the aggressive bias of such Fox "News" anchors as Brit Hume, Bill O'Reilly, John Gibson, Neil Cavuto, the Fox and Friends crew, former Iran-Contra scandaler Oliver North, former Republican Congressman John Kasich, the Beltway Boys, Sean Hannity (who has his own show, Hannity's America, by the way), and notorious Bushies like Carl Cameron faithfully scribing the dictations of administration officials direct to the Fox "News" anchors...let's leave all that aside.

Instead, let's just consider this Fox "News" story on John Hagee, the Rapture-believing pastor of a Texas Evangelical mega-church, and head pooba of a war-mongering and Iran-hysteria group called Christians United for Israel, which is in town for a Mid-East policy "summit". From the Fox "news" piece we find out that Hagee is a "quiet man of gentle disposition" who is nonetheless concerned about Iran's Holocaust-denying leader, Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction related program activities, and the Persian nation's clear intentions and capability of destroying Israel, with its million-manned army standing poised at the border ready to invade the Holy Land. It's all just like Hitler, the Nazis, and 1938, after all.

But who is John Hagee and what is Christian United for Israel? Would you be surprised to learn that Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman hearts the guy and embraces CUFI's policy aims?

The Fox "News" article plays down Hagee's eschatological beliefs and any linkage between them and his call for pre-emptive war on Iran (as if the other, current, and soon to be six year pre-emptive war was going so swimmingly).

But surely it is way past time for our media and political elites to start asking some very reasonable, even Serious, questions about people like Hagee and the real-world policy influence his fantasy-world beliefs and followers have in Washington?

Maybe this is why the Republican Party is opting out of the YouTube encounter. Who knows, some wacko from the base, like Independent Joe Lieberman, who wants to wage endless carnage in the Middle East would get through with an embarassing question or two.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gotta go -- another houseguest weekend. Guest bloggers will be along shortly.

In today's New York Post, Podhoretz theorizes that people might be voting for Democrats because they actually agree with Democrats and disagree with what Republicans. Gee, you think?

...likely voters say they trust Republicans more than Democrats on only four issues out of 13 -- taxes, terrorism, moral values and illegal immigration. In each of these cases, the Republican edge isn't very substantial. And on nine other issues -- ranging from health care to Iraq - Democrats outdistance Republicans by huge margins.

Everybody has a quick answer for this state of affairs: Iraq, or more precisely, the failure to secure a victory there....

But what if what we're seeing is something larger --something more interesting and more threatening to conservative ideas of governance and GOP ideas of holding onto power?

What if, in fact, we're seeing a restoration of a secular national trend
toward liberalism -- a preference among voters and the American populace more generally toward liberal solutions to national problems and to the Democratic Party as the repository for those solutions?

This would be the trend that was in evidence on Election Night 2000. If you add up the votes of the two left-liberal presidential candidates that year -- Al Gore and Ralph Nader -- you come up with 54 million. That's 3 million more than George W. Bush and Pat Buchanan combined....

Wow. I think this really is unprecedented. Pundits have told us for years that Ross Perot deprived Poppy Bush and Bob Dole of their rightful victories and that Al Gore didn't lose on a technicality, he flat-out lost. I can't remember the last time I encountered an opinion piece in a big daily newspaper that said voters actually wanted a liberal to win any national election, even when the numbers showed precisely that.

Could Podhoretz's column be the start of a trend? Could more pundits possibly now come to the realization that Americans actually like Democratic ideas, and even, God help us, Democratic candidates?

...Nahhhhh. Never happen.

Mitt Romney, April 25:

By the way, why is it that the Democrats wouldn't even go on Fox but we Republicans are happy to sit there and have Chris Matthews of the Carter administration, former chief of staff to Tip O'Neill? We're happy to sit there and have him dish questions to us, but they won't even go on Fox. It shows that we have a lot more courage of our convictions and our positions.

Rudy Giuliani, May 16:

If the Republicans candidates are willing to debate on MSNBC and CNN, the Democrats should be willing to debate on Fox. I don't think they’d want us to look like the bolder group of candidates.

Courageous, bold Mitt and Rudy now:

Over the last few hours, I'd been hearing buzz that GOP candidates were going wobbly on the CNN/YouTube debate. I was dismissive.... I didn't think the GOP candidates would make the political mistake of passing up it up.

I was apparently wrong. Rudy Giuliani is unlikely to participate, according to an official source.

And Mitt Romney wouldn't commit, dissing the "snowman question."


I think I understand why the GOP YouTube debate is in trouble, and why these two guys in particular are bailing out.

Modern Republicanism is about projecting Maximum-Leader-on-a-balcony authority; it's about getting the masses to believe that only certain behaviors are acceptable, and getting them angry at anyone who refuses to act in a traditionalist way. The questioners in the Democratic YouTube debate were sometimes a bit insolent and not always properly groomed. A true modern Republican leader can't tolerate being sassed at by a person like that; it would be like the Generalissimo of a banana republic allowing a peasant to mock his epaulets and riding crop.

Giuliani and Romney, in particular, are trying to project an aura of contempt for the scum who disagree with them. They can't risk losing that sadist-headmaster aura by deigning to give a hearing to degenerates and weirdos.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


According to this interview with Cheney hagiographer Stephen Hayes, Cheney drinks decaf lattes.

White wine, too.

Hell, I'm a big old liberal from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I don't even drink lattes. (White wine, yeah, sometimes.)


Oh, and here's a surprise for TBogg: The interview is from National Review Online, and the interviewer is Kathryn Jean "K-Lo" Lopez -- and even though she's made clear that she's awfully fond of Mitt Romney, she asks Hayes,

Can we start a Cheney-Gingrich 2008 late-entering ticket rumor right now?

K-Lo, that would be the answer to my prayers. Even Mike Gravel could beat that ticket.

Josh Marshall, who's been against impeaching Bush, now thinks it may be worth a try. Tom Hilton is still opposed.

Josh fears the pitfalls, but sees the excesses in the administration's executive-privilege claims and asks if it isn't "our duty to our country" to take a stand before the Bush view of the executive can "congeal into precedent."

Tom responds:

Neither Bush nor Cheney (much less both) can be removed from office without the votes of 17 Republicans. I don't think it's possible, but I'm prepared to be persuaded; so far, nobody seems to be trying. I haven't seen anyone offer a plausible scenario in which we get those 17 votes. Without a detailed roadmap for getting there, a step-by-step strategy that doesn't involve ellipses or miracles, impeachment isn't a plan; it's a wish fulfillment fantasy.

Hope is not a plan.

That's pretty much how I've been feeling about various moves by Congress -- the perjury investigation of Gonzales, the contempt-of-Congress referrals for Miers and Bolten -- but impeachment of the top guys seems different to me. The other moves almost certainly seem to the public like pointless deck-chair rearrangement on the Titanic, whereas going after Bush and Cheney would be an attempt to right the damn ship. Just trying might win the Democrats goodwill (in a country in which, months ago, 58% of respondents in one poll said they just wished the Bush presidency were over) -- and merely bringing the idea of removing these guys from office within the pale might, even in failure, reinforce the notion that the GOP is the dangerous rogue force in America's political life, an idea that needs to catch on.

However, it won't succeed, of course. And whereas Republicans were only lightly chastised by the mandarins of the press for impeaching Bill Clinton over blowjobs, Democrats will be damned (again) as dangerous wackos for an utterly appropriate response to rampant lawlessness and multiple violations of the Constitution. Plus, too many Democrats will immediately don the "Kick Me!" sign by swearing they'll never, ever sign on to this.

So, on balance, Tom's right.


Tom brings up the votes Democrats could never get from the GOP for impeachment. I wonder why Democrats have given up so easily on getting GOP votes for, say, an Iraq timetable. Yeah, Republicans seem as if they may never budge. But couldn't the Democrats at least try appealing to the public?

I keep thinking that the public's disgust at the Democrats in Congress stems in large measure from the fact that most Americans simply don't understand why the Democrats can't stop the war -- they have the majority, right? I think most Americans simply don't understand filibusters and cloture votes and veto-override supermajorities. People who do understand these things -- politicians and journalists and politics mavens -- don't understand that the public doesn't understand them.

What's needed is a national civics lesson.

I want Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to explain to the public why it just isn't enough to have a majority; I want them to explain the procedures by which minority parties can thwart the will of the majority (and the public) -- but I also want them to point out that that can change if the public makes its will known. Reid and Pelosi should encourage frustrated Americans to write to their Republican representatives and senators, telling them that the war has to stop, and telling them their votes on the war will be noticed at the next election.

In an ideal world, this message would go out on national TV; in reality, the video would have to be released to the press and posted on YouTube. Reid and Pelosi and other Democrats should take the civics lesson on the road; letter-writing campaigns should be organized in the districts of GOP members of Congress. The public should be informed of ways to determine whether you have a GOP representative or senator (I assume a hell a lot of Americans don't even know).

And if it fails? Well, so has everything else. What do the Democrats have to lose?

Cover line of the current issue of Esquire, accompanying a picture of John Edwards:

Can a white man still be elected president?

If so, John Edwards will have to battle image, cancer, and the forces of history.

Yeah, "the forces of history" -- because, you know, we really might get President Hillary or President Barack, and then it's gonna be all over for male Caucasians as far as presidential politics goes. We'll never have another white-guy president again.

And dnA tirelessly digs into our past history in search of non-white-male presidents and discovers -- stop me if you already knew this -- that there haven't been any.

Look, I know the cover line is meant to be clever and cheeky, but the anxiety -- the fear of the loss of privilege -- absolutely shows through. When are my fellow white males going to get over their whiny sense of persecution?


(Then again, you know who I fear is going to be the next president, and maybe Esquire has a point.)
A top U.S. military commander in Iraq says militant mortar and rocket attacks on Baghdad's fortified Green Zone have been more accurate over the past three months because of training in Iran.

Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno said Thursday there has been "significant improvement" in the capability of militias and their firings have been more accurate.

He said the military thinks "this is directly related to training conducted inside Iran." ...

--Voice of America

Yes, because only in Iran can a personal possibly develop the ability to fire mortars and rockets more accurately. Anywhere else on earth, it's impossible! There's no instructional material on the Internet! There are no purloined manuals available! No one on the planet truly knows how to aim these weapons accurately -- except Iranians!

The reason? There are magic beans that grow only in Iran that give superhuman mortar- and rocket-aiming ability to those who eat them. Evil Iranians mash up the beans and make them into hummus. Whoever partakes of the evil Iranian hummus will have rocket- and mortar-aiming invincibility!

Yeah, let's nuke 'em -- the fiends.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


There's a baldfaced lie in the New York Post about the latest New York Times poll on Iraq:

... there's been a ... startling drop in those who say the war is going badly, from 45 percent to 35 percent. The number of those who say the war effort is going well is up by about a quarter, from 23 percent to 29 percent.

Back in May, in other words, twice as many Americans thought the war was going badly as thought it was going well. Now the numbers are only a few points apart.

Absolutely wrong. In the Times poll (PDF), 35 percent say the war is going "very badly" -- but an additional 31 percent say it's going "somewhat badly."

Here are the numbers for the May poll and the current poll:

May: very well 2%, somewhat well 21%, somewhat badly 29%, very badly 47%
Now: very well 3%, somewhat well 29%, somewhat badly 31%, very badly 35%

So 66% think the war is going badly now, while 32% think it's going well.

That's more than 2 to 1 against. The numbers are not "only a few points apart."

The right desperately wants to change the current perception that the public hates the war -- and clearly the right isn't going to let the facts gets in the way.


(The Post, by the way, compounds the error by mixing up the results of the previous Times poll, conducted earlier this month, and the poll conducted in May. A charitable person would say that all this is simple human error. But a big newspaper is supposed to verify facts. And the "facts" the Post published were clearly too good to verify.)

I've been seeing thread after thread after thread after thread at Free Republic promoting a parody video at YouTube in which a General Patton imitator talks about how vitally necessary the war in Iraq and all the other components of the Bush foreign policy are, and how certain our victory in Iraq is if Harry Reid doesn't screw it up -- and now I see that the ever-objective, strictly nonpartisan Fox News Channel has decided the video is newsworthy, so newsworthy that it deserves to be mentioned on FoxNews.com's front page:

'Old Blood and Guts' Reappears in a New YouTube Role

Maybe the White House should roll out "Old Blood and Guts" the next time it tries to explain why the U.S. is fighting in Iraq.

A video posted on YouTube features the well-known scene from the movie "Patton," with George C. Scott standing in front of an enormous American flag.

This time, however, the famous World War II general isn't urging his troops to defeat the Nazis on the eve of the Allied invasion of France -- this version features the voice of comedian Mike Kaminski delivering a Patton-like explanation of why the U.S. is fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, against Al Qaeda, and the danger posed by an Iran possessing nuclear weapons....

The parody video is awful, of course -- though I must say that, in among its denunciations of liberalism and rants about flabby video game players, it contains my favorite bit of advice ever from a right-winger about how to hasten the end of the war, a sort of "Just Say No" for people stuck in a living hell:

Now, I say to the Iraqi citizens that if you know of people planning insurgency, stop them! If you see or hear about someone planting a roadside bomb, stop them! Shoot those bastards in the guts! Report their activities! That is the only way to build a truly great nation! The people must get involved and take it back, just as Americans did against the British in the 1700s!

Er, dude? In Iraq, we're the British. And Iraqis are shooting insurgents in the guts; it's called "sectarian violence."

It's impossible to watch the George C. Scott Patton speech, of course, without thinking of real soldiers shedding real blood ("Now, some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you'll chicken out under fire. Don't worry about it.... When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend's face, you'll know what to do"). By contrast, it's impossible to watch this parody without knowing for certain that it was made by a Cheeto-eater who's never spent a day in the military (and he was born in 1966, so he's still not too old to enlist) -- though he did work on the military-themed video games "Medal of Honor" and "Annihilation."

So, is Fox plugging the parody

(a) because it's responding to the power of viral video in a Web 2.0 era?
(b) because it's carrying water for the Bush administration, as usual (all this being a coordinated propaganda effort by Karl Rove)?


(c) because it's hoping the parody will inspire consumers to buy a few of Fox's Patton DVDs?

You decide.

How can we possibly take you seriously as a potential Leader of the Free World when you can't even hire a campaign-logo designer who knows which way the apostrophe is supposed to go?

For future reference, this is correct:

Sorry, but as a believer in traditional values, you should understand that some of us are believers in traditional typographic values.

Before telling us what a hard-nosed bargainer Bush is when talking to the Iraqi prime minister (wow, Bush got the Iraqis to cut their summer vacation from two months to a month!), Jim Rutenberg and Alissa Rubin of The New York Times hint that Bush can't get anything done in talks with the prime minister because he keeps getting distracted by his own theories about God:

Once every two weeks, sometimes more often, President Bush gathers with the vice president and the national security adviser in the newly refurbished White House Situation Room and peers, electronically, into the eyes of the man to whom his legacy is so inextricably linked: Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq.

...Sometimes, said an official who has sat in on the meetings, they talk about their faith in God.

"They talk about the challenges they face being leaders," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations. "They, of course, also share a faith in God."

The official declined to elaborate on the extent of their religious discussions, but said, "It is an issue that comes up between two men who are believers in difficult times, who are being challenged."...

What the hell do they talk about when they talk about God? Or, more precisely, what does Bush talk about? (You just know that, when the topic turns to the Almighty, Bush is doing most of the talking.)

I assume the conversation focuses on Bush's cockamamie theory that God has structured human nature and the universe to favor governments of a kind Bush likes -- a theory contradicted by, well, pretty much all of human history.

Here's Bush in Nashville last Thursday, responding to a reporter's question:

I'm a big believer in the universality of liberty. I believe deep in everybody's soul -- I'll take it a step further -- I believe in an Almighty, and I believe a gift from that Almighty to each man, woman and child is the desire to be free. And I believe that exists in everybody's soul is the desire to be free.... I believe, if given a chance, people will take a -- will choose liberty.

That's how Bush sees the world: Unless really mean bad guys intercede, "each man, woman and child" will simply choose to live in a liberal democracy, or something close to one. Bush's worldview makes no provision for ethnic anger, religious conflict, class conflict, or the fact that all sorts of "men, women and children" are themselves tyrants or willing subjects of tyrants.

Bush's problem, therefore, isn't that he's deeply religious. It's that his particular view of how God functions in the world is that of an uninformed simpleton.

But this is probably what he yammers on about in these videoconferences with Maliki, and Maliki probably just suppresses a sigh and says, "Yes, George, you're right. God is great."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Yes, it's true: The right has moved the goalposts for the last time, at least in this administration. This is from the we'll-out-wingnut-the Wall-Street-Journal editorial page of Investor's Business Daily:

Victory In '09

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been briefed on a detailed plan to establish "sustainable security" throughout Iraq by the summer of 2009, the New York Times reported this week. U.S. forces commander Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker reportedly developed the strategy, which aims first at securing Baghdad by the middle of next year, then achieving nationwide stability by mid-2009.

... our forces and our strategists in Iraq now know what works, with just one possible missing ingredient in their recipe for victory: time. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding U.S. forces south of Baghdad, recently made it clear it will take him a year to establish security there....

The mid-September "deadline" has been rendered irrelevant. Senators and congressmen now have a duty to rally the country toward a victory over terrorism in '09.

I've edited out the details, but you know what they are -- Anbar is groovy now! Many Sunnis now hate al-Qaeda! So it's all over but the shouting!

Bush's triumph really is in sight: victory over the people who wanted him to be a girly man and withdraw before 1/20/09. And now everyone on the right will be on board, because this will now be the #1 talking point.

So let's raise a cheer to the brave generals and diplomats and other infighters who skillfully moved the goalposts until Bush didn't need them moved anymore....

Wake me when they finally impeach him. Or anyone, for that matter. Until then, my patience for watching people shake their fists ineffectually is limited.

New York Sun:

...The former mayor ... said nuclear power would increase America's energy independence. "We don't have to buy it from anybody else.... We have it right here in the United States," he said.

While there are uranium mines in America, imported uranium accounts for 84% of the market here, according to the Energy Department.

That's one.

The former mayor also bashed the Democrats for being "defeatist," particularly when it comes to the emerging economic power of countries such as China.

"Isn't this what we always wanted, that China would come out of poverty and have some hope of coming out of political oppression?" Mr. Giuliani said. America simply needs to ask, "What to sell them? … It's not that hard. It's not brain surgery," he said.

Western companies have struggled to make a profit in the Chinese market. Some have quit the market after seeing their brand names and proprietary technology stolen with near impunity.

That's two.

San Francisco Chronicle:

Specifically mentioning Clinton of New York, Edwards of North Carolina and Obama of Illinois, Giuliani charged that they "want to raise your taxes 20 to 30 percent, and it could be more'' -- a claim that is not supported by public campaign statements from any of the Democratic top candidates.

That's three.

"... New York kind of had a socialist government,'' Giuliani said. "We had four cable channels, gosh, I don't know what we didn't own ... the only other places you hear of governments owning things like that were in socialist countries.''

Er, England? Canada? Australia? Should I move on to the non-English-speaking non-socialist countries that own TV networks?

That's four fact-challenged statements from Rudy.

And that's just from one day's news.

Gee, maybe he really is the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

This is a change from a month ago, when Giuliani lost both matchups.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

(And maybe this means Karl Rove's IraqalQaedaIraqalQaeda drumbeat is having its intended effect.)

Yes, the races are close, but as I've said a thousand times, according to the conventional wisdom we should be looking at a Democratic blowout.
The YouTube Democratic debate didn't do much for me, but it did whet my appetite for the GOP YouTube debate that'll happen on September 17 -- if only because many of the questioners last night struck me as precisely the sort of disgruntled outsiders Rudy Giuliani used to have arrested when he was mayor of New York, when he wasn't denouncing them as mentally disturbed. And recall this line from last Sunday's New York Times article about Giuliani and race:

Black leaders, Mr. Giuliani said in 1994, had to "learn how to discipline themselves in the way in which they speak" if they expected to chat with him.

Yeah, it'll be big fun to see how he reacts to an anti-global-warming snowman voiced in falsetto, or a smart-ass waving an assault rifle, or whatever their equivalents will be a couple of months from now.

The right is losing a war and losing elections, but right-wingers never lose the ability to get the mainstream press to parrot their worldview.

As you know, Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard just wrote a suck-up biography of Dick Cheney. In Newsweek, Evan Thomas just wrote about it -- and, Thomas, despite a few pathetic squeaks of skepticism, presents Cheney almost exactly the way the right wants him portrayed:

Cheney, writes Hayes, woke up on the morning of September 12, 2001, asking: when is the next attack? A lot of Americans woke up that day asking the same question, but while many have been lulled back into semicomplacency, Cheney has never stopped worrying and wondering and -- it must be said -- trying to do something about it.

Dick Cheney -- he suffers so! To keep us safe! It must be said!

Hayes recounts a scene told to him by David Bohrer, the vice president's official photographer, about Cheney at a Secret Service test-driving track in Beltsville, Md. The Secret Service was teaching Cheney how to drive to evade terrorists by executing a "J-turn." Cheney, who had not driven a car in about two years, jammed the Chevy Camaro into reverse, hit the accelerator until he was going about 40 miles an hour, then slammed on the brakes in order to spin the car a full 180 degrees. Bohrer had mounted a camera on the windshield to record Cheney's face. The veep was expressionless throughout. "It was as if he was taking a Sunday drive," Bohrer told Hayes.

Oooh, what a man -- er, I mean, my goodness, isn't that striking!

[Hayes] did ... get Cheney to admit error, almost unheard of by the Bush administration. In hindsight, Cheney tells Hayes, the mechanism for postwar governance in Iraq was a failure. The administration would have been better off letting the Iraqis govern themselves from the outset. "I think the Coalition Provisional Authority was a mistake, wasted valuable time," Cheney said.

Er, considering that the neocons always thought we should simply hand the whole country over to Ahmad Chalabi, Cheney's probably saying he was right all along, not wrong.

Most Americans have not quite grasped how imminent and overwhelming the danger seemed to be, at least to those reading the incoming intelligence. Under pressure to produce something -- anything -- about terrorist planning, the CIA and FBI flooded the White House with raw intelligence, much of it dubious or just wrong....

The bad intelligence was forced on the White House! Nobody sought it out or anything!

In a revealing interview, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (at the time Bush's national-security adviser), told Hayes, "[Cheney] read every intelligence report. I mean every intelligence report no matter how minor. And I was feeling kind of driven crazy by not knowing how to -- at that time we didn't really have a good system for sorting what was reliable and what wasn't. I mean, we were just getting raw reporting of everything that was coming in, you know. So I remember thinking that he had an extraordinary memory ... for all of these things."

Even reading, he has the strength of ten men! And he read day and night just to keep u safe!

But it is clear that Cheney sees through a glass darkly. He goes fly-fishing as much as he can and says as little as possible. If he spoke out, he might say that he worries so that the rest of us may sleep. It is also possible, however, that by striking out at imagined demons, he is creating real ones.

That's the end of the piece, and yes, Thomas rouses himself at the end and acknowledges that Cheney's vice presidency has perhaps been a tad problematic -- but not after portraying Cheney as Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name gene-spliced with John Wayne, with a screenplay by Kurosawa. ("It must be said" in the first excerpt above is another ineffectual note of skepticism on Thomas's part.)

This is why the GOP, even when it's down, is never out: Republicans simply never stop pushing the notion, through multiple media channels, that -- dammit! -- they're right and they've been right all along, even if they're now misunderstood. They keep pushing GOP myths (particularly the bits portraying Republican leaders as men on white horses) even when non-Republicans have stopped believing in them; the faithful, at least, continue to be inspired.

And enablers like Evan Thomas are all too willing to help them keep the church open.

(Via TBogg.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Well, I seem to have been wrong in the last post -- I was citing results of a New York Times poll, and I said support for the Bush Iraq policy was probably inching up because right-wingers were no longer angry at Bush about immigration ... but the Times blog post where the results were first reported has been updated with a chart that breaks down results by party, and it appears that numbers are inching up among Democrats and independents as well.

But the Times screwed up as well. The original title of the Times post was "Poll: American Support for War Inches Up." The current title is "Poll: U.S. Support for Iraq Invasion Inches Up." That's because support for the war isn't up - it's just that more people (though still far from a majority, or even a plurality) think the invasion was justified.

Saying "Iraq al-Qaeda Iraq al-Qaeda Iraq al-Qaeda" all the time is apparently working, somewhat.

But the numbers are a bit of a muddle (see the PDF of the results): More people think the invasion was worthwhile, a few more people think the Iraq War is part of the war on terrorism, and fewer people think we're creating terrorists by fighting in Iraq -- but the number of people who think we should decrease our troop levels has gone up since the last poll, as has the number who think we should pull all the troops out. Support for a timetable is up, support for a blockage of all war funding is unchanged, and support for unrestricted war funding is down.

Message: The public still wants to get the hell out.

And the dumbass blogger who wrote "THIS JUST IN...Americans Support The War!!" really needs to work on that reading comprehension.
Why is this happening? I think it's not (or at least not only) for the reason right-wingers will give you. I'll explain below.

Poll: American Support for War Inches Up

American support for the war in Iraq has risen somewhat as the White House has continued to ask the public to reserve judgment about the war until General David Petraeus files his report in the fall.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted over the weekend, 42 percent of Americans said taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do, while 51 percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq.

Support had been at all time low in May, when only 35 percent of Americans said the United States’ involvement in Iraq was the right thing and 61 percent said the United States should have stayed out....

You know why I think support for the war was lower in May? Because we were in the thick of the fight over immigration, and Bush cultists felt disillusioned with their saintly hero -- in fact, the Times asked respondents about immigration and Iraq in one big May poll (PDF). I suspect right-wingers felt freer to be cranky about the war, because they were feuding with Bush at the time.

Now all that's over, and I suspect righties are reverting to knee-jerk approval of the president again. We'll have to wait until the Times posts the complete results, but that's my guess. (I think approval for Bush may inch up as well -- and as I've said before, any improvement in his standings will also be because the immigration fight is over.)


UPDATE: Or perhaps not -- see my update.

Can anyone explain why Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, in the New York Post, are recycling a three-week-old story about large cash payments to Fred Thompson's son from Fred's political action committee?

It's possible that Morris is just slow on the uptake -- but it seems more likely that Rupert Murdoch wanted someone to put a hit on Fred. Why would that be?

I know Murdoch has cozied up to Hillary Clinton -- but has he really put all his chips on Hill? Is he really planning to attack every Republican challenger to her, on the assumption that her election is inevitable?

I've been assuming he's still hedging his bets -- he'll go easy on her if he thinks she's the all-but-certain victor in November, just the way he cozied up to Tony Blair when Labour's rise seemed likely in Great Britain, but his Plan B is to bash her if she falters, because Hillary-bashing will sell a lot of newspapers and draw a lot of eyeballs to Fox News. But is he being more meddlesome than that on her behalf? Is this the beginning of a campaign to put the hurt on Fred, on the assumption that Fred is likely to be a very strong challenger?

Or is he trying to help another Republican? (Rudy?)

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but it sure strikes me as odd that one of the top Hillary-haters would say bad things about a guy many people tink could pose a strong challenge to her. And three weeks late, at that.

Over at Talking Points Memo, Steve Benen says, correctly, that Weekly Standard writer and Cheney biographer Stephen Hayes "has no idea what he's talking about" when he makes the preposterous assertion that, prior to the release of the recent National Intelligence Estimate,

administration critics had begun to make the argument that really this al-Qaeda threat is overblown

Of course this isn't what Iraq War critics have been saying.

But is it just Hayes who's making this assertion? Let's go the transcript of yesterday's Meet the Press, the source of the Hayes quote. The emphasis below is mine:

MR. RUSSERT: Steve Hayes, in your new book, "Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President," you write this. "Some people think if we" walk -- "just walk away from Iraq everything will be fine, that it's the optional war, that you don't have to be here, that it's possible to retreat behind our oceans and be safe and secure; withdrawal from Iraq doesn't damage our interest in this wider conflict. And that may be in part because they don't believe there’s a wider conflict. I know different. It's so clear to me. I have trouble understanding why" it's "unclear to everybody else." That same certitude that David Brook uses to describe the president, you're using to describe the vice president.

MR. STEPHEN HAYES: Yeah, it's very interesting. I think one of the things we saw this week, and this, this speaks directly to what the vice president told me, is with this -- the release of this NIE we saw a shift in thinking. I think for a long time administration critics had begun to make the argument that really this al-Qaeda threat is overblown, that they misled us into the war in Iraq, they're misleading us about the seriousness of the threat from al-Qaeda. And I think what the NIE does, even though in some ways it's, it's very critical of the administration, is it strengthens the basic case that the administration has been making that al-Qaeda remains a serious threat.

So this isn't just what Hayes thinks. This is what Cheney thinks. Cheney thinks we think al-Qaeda isn't a threat. Cheney appears to be the one making this assertion.

Remember the story of these two guys: Hayes wrote article after article in which he insisted there was a profound link between the Saddam Hussein regime and al-Qaeda. Then he made that notion the subject of a thoroughly implausible book -- implausible, that is, except (presumably) to Dick Cheney, who subsequently agreed to cooperate when Hayes began writing a biography of him.

Clearly these two guys have bonded over their shared belief that -- damn the facts -- Saddam and Osama had a significant connection. Hayes and Cheney clearly share a belief that anyone who opposes a war in Iraq must not give a damn about al-Qaeda because, to them, Iraq and al-Qaeda are, and always have been, the same thing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I lived through Giuliani's unsuccessful 1989 campaign for mayor as well as his eight years in office after his victory in '93, but Michael Powell, in his long New York Times article today, recalls a Giuliani I don't remember -- one who, in the 1980s and early in his unsuccessful 1989 campaign for mayor, actually reached out to African-Americans ... at least during the period when he thought the Democratic candidate for mayor would be the racially polarizing Ed Koch rather than the man who'd go on to be New York's first black mayor, David Dinkins. Early in that campaign, when Koch seemed likely to win renomination, Rudy wanted to pour oil on troubled waters:

The Giuliani of this period ... attacked Mr. Koch for calling Mr. Dinkins "a Jesse Jackson Democrat." These, he said, were racial "code words."

But when Dinkins won the Democratic primary, all that changed:

When Mr. Dinkins called Mr. Giuliani, who served in the Justice Department, a "Reagan Republican," he fired back. His campaign ran an ad in a Jewish newspaper with a photo of Mr. Dinkins and Mr. Jackson, a year after Mr. Jackson made a comment widely seen as anti-Semitic. Mr. Giuliani began calling Mr. Dinkins "a Jesse Jackson Democrat."

Al Sharpton says Giuliani was quite willing to meet with him in the 1980s -- and "I was a lot more radical then," Sharpton adds. But after the 1989 Democratic primary, once he no longer needed to contrast himself with Koch, Giuliani became more and more hostile to blacks, and he froze out even the most moderate black leaders for eight years.


What you may hear is "Oh, Giuliani just did this to win white votes, knowing he'd never win black votes. It just shows that his so-called racism was on the surface." But if you lived through that era, you know he relished the war with the African-American community; the poisonous atmosphere really energized him. Don't listen to anyone who makes this argument.

Think about Giuliani and blacks the way you think about Bush and Democrats -- sure, Bush made deals with the opposition party back in Texas, but once he discovered partisan zealotry, it became like a drug for him. It tapped a deep well of scary, primitive anger and stubbornness in his personality. A few idiot pundits still think the old bipartisan Bush will someday come back to us, but that'll never happen -- partisan rage just keeps pounding away at the pleasure centers in his brain.

The same is true for Giuliani and racism -- and Giuliani seems to derive even more pleasure from anger than Bush does.

What's scary here is that Giuliani and Bush may have each reverted to angry intransigence initially as a mere political tactic -- and It became the central element of their governing style because they both found out they really enjoyed it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


The business section of today's New York Times has an article about the personal libraries of CEOs and other masters of the universe. The message is: Surprise! These guys read poetry and stuff! They don't read business books!

But even though we're told that our economic betters are Really Deep Thinkers, we also discover a bit of the puffed-up arrogance we'd expect from these guys:

Few Nike colleagues ... ever saw the personal library of the founder, Phil Knight, a room behind his formal office. To enter, one had to remove one's shoes and bow: the ceilings were low, the space intimate, the degree of reverence demanded for these volumes on Asian history, art and poetry greater than any the self-effacing Mr. Knight, who is no longer chief executive, demanded for himself.

The Knight collection remains in the Nike headquarters. "Of course the library still exists," Mr. Knight said in an interview. "I'm always learning."

Got that? This collection of books on Asia is in an American corporate office, but you have to take your shoes off to enter it. Er, isn't that a bit like being asked not to cough while you're in the classical-music section of a CD store?

Oh, and does it strike you as creepy that Knight amassed a large collection of books on Asia while exploiting Asian workers in sweatshops?

Which brings me to another curious detail from the article:

Students of power should take note that C.E.O.'s are starting to collect books on climate change and global warming, not Al Gore's tomes but books from the 15th century about the weather, Egyptian droughts, even replicas of Sumerian tablets recording extraordinary changes in climate, according to John Windle, the owner of John Windle Antiquarian Booksellers in San Francisco.

It's as if they're thinking to themselves: Yeah, I have five houses, and I take a gas-guzzling private jet when I go from one to the other, or zip over to Davos, but global warming isn't my fault! There's always been global warming!

Oh, and there's this, also from John Windle:

"...I have a customer who collects diaries of people of no importance at all. The entries say, 'It was 63 degrees and raining this morning.'..."

What do you think that collector is thinking? I'll venture a guess: It's OK that my workers lead tedious lives of quiet desperation -- all kinds of people have led such lives, throughout history!

One CEO, by the way, took two years to read an E.L. Doctorow novel. Two years?