Friday, August 31, 2007


A lot of people are discussing this Washington Post story about the bios of members of Congress that were distributed to the troops when the members were in Iraq -- but I'm not sure I agree with how the story's being interpreted.

The sheets of paper seemed to be everywhere the lawmakers went in the Green Zone, distributed to Iraqi officials, U.S. officials and uniformed military of no particular rank. So when Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) asked a soldier last weekend just what he was holding, the congressman was taken aback to find out.

In the soldier's hand was a thumbnail biography, distributed before each of the congressmen's meetings in Baghdad, which let meeting participants such as that soldier know where each of the lawmakers stands on the war. "Moran on Iraq policy," read one section, going on to cite some the congressman's most incendiary statements, such as, "This has been the worst foreign policy fiasco in American history."

The bio of Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.) ... was no less pointed....

"This is beyond parsing. This is being slimed in the Green Zone," Tauscher said of her bio....

I'm sure the quotes and other information were, as the story goes on to say, "selected to divide the visitors into those who are with the war effort and those who are against" -- but I suspect this was done not to slime the opponents, but to put them in two different categories requiring different variants on the charm offensive.

Basically, the administration wanted the pro-war people to come out saying, "Hell yes we should stay the course!" and the antis to come out saying, "Well, it's not as bad as I thought." I think the Bushies thought the two outcomes required different kinds of stroking.

In other words, this is a shameless, unconscionable politicization of the military -- but in a nice way, not a nasty way.

I say this because nothing in the article says that any of the troops or handlers were rude to the anti-war members of Congress. I don't think turning anyone against those members was the point. I think psychologically manipulating those members so that they'd return to the U.S. and say what the Bush administration wanted them to say was the point.

And regarding the inaccuracy in Tauscher's bio (see the Post article), I'd say there are two possible explanations: (1) The White House wanted to be sure she got the specific treatment reserved for antis, or (2) the Bushies screwed up (because, well, they're Bushies).

Shorter Kimberley Strassel on the Wall Street Journal editorial page:

You know what women really want? A flat tax and privatization of Social Security!

Yeah, she really says that, as a hot tip for how Republican presidential candidates can impress female voters.

I pray that the GOP nominee takes her advice seriously and concludes that what voters (female or male) are really hankering for is blinkered libertarian wonkery.

Peggy Noonan today, almost getting it, but not quite:

...From the pro-war forces, the surge supporters and those who supported the Iraq invasion from the beginning, what is needed is a new modesty of approach, a willingness to admit it hasn't quite gone according to plan. A moral humility....

What we often see instead, lately, is the last refuge of the adolescent: defiance. An attitude of
Oh yeah? We're Lincoln, you're McClellan. We care about the troops and you don't. We care about the good Iraqis who cast their lot with us. You'd just as soon they hang from the skids of the last helicopter off the embassy roof. They have been called thuggish. Is this wholly unfair?

The antiwar forces, the surge opponents, the "I was against it from the beginning" people are, some of them, indulging in grim, and mindless, triumphalism.... Their great interest is that Bushism be laid low and the president humiliated. They make lists of those who supported Iraq and who must be read out of polite society. Might these attitudes be called thuggish also?

Er, no, Peggy.

President Bush laid himself low -- by killing 3,700+ Americans for no goddamn reason and with no way out, while also flipping off Michael Schiavo and everyone in New Orleans. And the people on our "lists of those ... who must be read out of polite society" are the likes of Pollack/O'Hanlon and Joe Lieberman -- people who get far more respect in the Beltway than we do -- so if we're thuggin' on them, we're doing a piss-poor job of it.

No one is dying because of the war opponents' stance, and the opponents' opposition has had exactly zero effect on America's Iraq policy. The supporters, on the other hand, are literally responsible for tens of thousands of needless deaths and the displacement of millions; furthermore, the supporters have forced the country to remain at war in Iraq despite the fact that this is supposed to be a democracy and most of this country's citizens want to get the hell out.

Therefore, the thugs are on one side only. Obviously.


Oh, and I edited out this bit from Noonan about the thuggish lefties:

They show a smirk of pleasure at bad news that has been brought by the other team. Some have a terrible quaking fear that something good might happen in Iraq, that the situation might be redeemed.

No -- we emphasize the bad-news stories for the same reason that the friend of a battered wife emphasizes the beatings: they're the salient point in this situation. If we "have a terrible quaking fear" with regard to the good news, it's that the good news will continue to be overvalued by those who decide what what we do in Iraq (the White House, the supine Congress, the media), just as a battered wife's friend will fear that the batterer's apologies and hearts and flowers will keep her in the relationship -- and just lead to more beatings.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Oh yeah, we have this thing practically wrapped up, don't we?

A military cargo plane carrying three senators and a House member was forced to take evasive maneuvers and dispatch flares to avoid ground fire after taking off from Baghdad on Thursday night.

The lawmakers said their plane, a C-130, was under fire from three rocket-propelled grenades over the course of several minutes as they left for Amman, Jordan.

"It was a scary moment," said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who said he had just taken off his body armor when he saw a bright flash outside the window. "Our pilots were terrific. ... They banked in one direction and then banked the other direction, and they set off the flares."

Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., as well as Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Ala., were also on the plane....

"We were jostled around pretty good," said Cramer, who estimated the plane had ascended to about 6,000 feet. "There were a few minutes there where I wondered: 'Have we been hit? Are we OK?'" ...

Ah, but:

Shelby, an original advocate of the invasion, said he would defer final judgment until Petraeus testifies on Capitol Hill. But on Thursday, after a meeting with Petraeus, he seemed inclined to let the current strategy continue.

"They have made a lot of progress with the surge. It's not definitive, but it's on the right track," Shelby said.

White House translation: Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah on the right track! blah blah blah blah blah....

Pat Boone writes a regular column for WorldNetDaily, but this week he turns over the writing to the anonymous wingnut author of an e-mail that's making the rounds. The e-mail in the voice of the president of the United States; Boone calls it "President Bush's Resignation Speech."

What's remarkable about this fictionalized Bush is that -- as imagined by someone who's clearly an admirer -- he's a big a jerk as he is in real life. He can't imagine that there could possibly be a grain of truth in anything a critic says. Not only is he right about everything, he doesn't in any way respect your right to disagree.

Here's some of the "resignation letter":

Normally, I start these things out by saying, "My fellow Americans."

Not doing it this time. If the polls are any indication, I don't know who more than half of you are anymore.

...The reason I'm quitting is simple: I'm fed up with you people.

I'm fed up because you have no understanding of what's really going on in the world -- or of what's going on in this once-great nation of ours.

... Polls show that the majority of you think the economy is in the tank. And that's despite record numbers of homeowners, including record numbers of
minority homeowners. And while we're mentioning minorities, I'll point out that minority business ownership is at an all-time high. Our unemployment rate is as low as it ever was during the Clinton administration. I've mentioned all those things before, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in.

...We face real threats in the world....

You should be grateful they haven't gotten any more of us here in the United States since Sept. 11. But you're not....

You're incapable of seeing things through the long lens of history, the way our enemies do. You think that wars should last a few months, a few years, tops.

Making matters worse, you actively support those who help the enemy. Every time you buy the New York Times, every time you send a donation to a cut-and-run Democrat's political campaign, well, dang it, you might just as well FedEx a grenade launcher to a jihadist. It amounts to the same thing.

...I could say more about your expectations that the government will always be there to bail you out, even if you're too stupid to leave a city that's below sea level and has a hurricane approaching....

So I quit....

God bless what's left of America. Some of you know what I mean. The rest of you, kiss off.

Well, there you go: Americans are too stupid to know whether their financial situation is good or bad. Jihadists have a more mature attitude toward war than Americans. Democrats and The New York Times are exact moral equivalents of terrorists. And anyone who suffered as a result of Katrina deserved it.

This is the president Pat Boone and other right-wingers want. They want a divider, not a uniter.

In fact, those of us who have the audacity not to be right-wing aren't even part of America. As soon as we disagree with right-wingers, we cease to be Americans.

This (From The Times of London) sounds plausible, doesn't it? It's not:

Analysis: the first jolt to the Clinton campaign

The revelation that one of Hillary Clinton's major donors is wanted for fraud is the first time her hitherto relentlessly disciplined campaign has been thrown on the defensive.

... anything remotely smelling of scandal -- this episode included -- revives in people's minds the sleaze that beset her husband's presidency.

...Any financial problems will also be used by her enemies to remind voters of a huge fundraising scandal that beset Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1996, when it emerged that Asian businessmen with links to China were funnelling money to Democrats to try and influence elections.

...After months of Republican scandals, both sexual and financial ... the Hsu episode at least gives Republicans something to crow about....

No it doesn't. Voters are so cynical about campaign finance that all politicians are presumed to be sleazy -- and thus, paradoxically, all of them get a free pass on all but the most egregious revelations. Savvy Republicans know that; they know better than to expect much out of this. Wingnuts will obsess over this. The rest of the public won't care.

In fact, no one much cared at the time about the "huge fundraising scandal that beset Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1996," as a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed in March 1997:

Fund-Raising Flap

Only one in five Americans believes that Clinton's fund-raising activities were illegal, and two-thirds do not feel that the fund-raising controversy is so serious that it makes them doubt Clinton's ability to run the country. By contrast, only bare majorities felt that way about Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair.

...And only 44 percent say Clinton is honest and trustworthy, although 55 percent say he is honest and trustworthy enough to be president. Neither of those figures has changed since 1996, further evidence that the fund-raising controversy has not affected public views of Clinton.

That pretty much sums it up: Lots of people don't think you have to be honest and trustworthy per se to be "honest and trustworthy enough to be president." In this area, we simply don't expect much of our politicians.

(Clinton's overall approval rating at the time of that poll was an impressive 59%, by the way; so was Gore's.)

The Greatest General of All Time, the man who's singlehandedly going to rid the world of Pure Evil if he's not thwarted by those dastardly Democrats, may have a bit of explaining to do:

U.S. Weapons, Given to Iraqis, Move to Turkey

Weapons that were originally given to Iraqi security forces by the American military have been recovered over the past year by the authorities in Turkey after being used in violent crimes in that country, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

...Pentagon officials said they did not yet have evidence that Iraqi security forces or Kurdish officials were selling or giving the weapons to Kurdish separatists, as Turkish officials have contended.

...American officials said that it appeared that the weapons found in Turkey were given to Iraqi units in 2004 and 2005 when, in the rush to build police and army units, controls on distribution of firearms had been much weaker. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was then in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces and who is now the top American commander in Iraq, has said that the imperative to provide weapons to Iraqi security forces was more important at the time than maintaining impeccable records....


Although the mere fact that I'm pointing this out proves, I'm sure, that I'm "anti-victory."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


A bit of news about HarperCollins, Rupert Murdoch's book publishing company, from Publishers Lunch (subscription only):

Pantheon [a division of Random House] seemed to hit a stroke of good timing in late March when they released the translation of Nicolas Sarkozy's 2006 French bestseller TESTIMONY: France in the Twenty-First Century just as he emerged as the leading candidate in the multi-stage French presidential election, which only got better when Sarkozy won in early May. But they registered sales as tracked through Bookscan of approximately 1,600 copies, and now in record time a revised version of the same book will be relaunched on October 1 from a different publisher.

Sarkozy joins the stable of political figures at HarperCollins....

Harper editor Terry Karten ... says that their announced first printing is 30,000 copies....

So what's going on here? A division of Random House published Sarkozy's book and it bombed (not surprisingly, given the fact that most Americans don't pay the slightest attention to the politics of other countries) -- but Murdoch's HarperCollins is going to publish the book again, a mere five months after it bombed, and the plan is to print nearly twenty times as many copies as it just sold? Hunh? From a publishing point of view, does that make any sense? (The new edition will be somewhat revised and in paperback, but that's not enough to justify the much larger print run.) And then, according to the story, HarperCollins is going to publish another Sarkozy book (which also won't sell)?

No, that makes no sense as a pure publishingt decision -- but this is Rupert Murdoch's publishing house we're talking about. HarperCollins, of course, canceled a book by Hong Kong's last English governor that was critical of China's government, and also published a book by Mao's daughter, at a time when Murdoch wanted to expand his Chinese broadcast ventures. Murdoch's newspapers backed Tony Blair in 1997, "ensuring that the new government would allow him to keep intact his British holdings." And Murdoch has, of course, cozied up to Hillary Clinton, probably on the assumption that it'll be her government he'll have to deal with in the U.S. starting in '09.

So what does Murdoch want in France from Sarkozy? I'm not sure -- but I bet he'll get it.

From Reuters:

CEOs Earn More in A Day than Most Workers in A Year

Top executives at major U.S. businesses last year made as much money in one day of work on the job as the average worker made over the entire year, according to ... the 14th annual CEO compensation survey released jointly by the Institute for Policy Studies based in Washington and United for a Fair Economy....

[ wingnut ] That's all? It should be more more in an hour than most workers earn in a year! Damn Democrats and their socialism! [ / wingnut ]

(Via DU.)
Apologies for fluffy blogging today. More substance soon, I promise.

Several GOP members of Congress are urging Larry Craig to resign -- Senator John McCain, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, and this guy:

...[Senator] Norm Coleman of Minnesota [urged] Craig to step down....

Coleman said in a written statement, "Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator."

So, er, whatever happened to that charge Garrison Keillor leveled at Coleman in Salon a couple of years ago, just after Coleman won the Senate seat?

Norm got a free ride from the press. St. Paul is a small town and anybody who hangs around the St. Paul Grill knows about Norm's habits. Everyone knows that his family situation is, shall we say, very interesting, but nobody bothered to ask about it, least of all the religious people in the Republican Party. They made their peace with hypocrisy long ago.

Just curious. Haven't heard anything about it since '02.

The guy who was hitting on Tucker Carlson in a Georgetown public toilet, until Carlson and a friend slammed his head into the stall? It was Jonah Goldberg! He was just kidding! Ow, Carlson, that hurt! Can't you take a freakin' joke?

(Via Atrios and TBogg.)

The Larry Craig Moment may not have been the best possible time to try to persuade right-wingers to buy this:

It's been more than two years since Jeff Gannon (birth name: James Dale Guckert) resigned from Talon News, a conservative Web site for which Gannon served as White House correspondent. At the time, some theorized that Gannon was liberally granted press access in order to ask softball questions of White House officials. Others were taken aback by nude pictures of Gannon that appeared on male escort service Web pages. A few questioned his lack of journalism education and experience.

Well, Gannon’s back, and he has his claws out....

Gannon will release his book, “The Great Media War: A Battlefield Report,” on Sept. 4. The book chronicles his experiences at the White House and what he believes is the media’s liberal bias....

Or perhaps never would have a good time for Gannon to publish -- many of his fellow right-wingers think Mark Foley and Ted Haggard lost them the '06 elections (which is why they're desperate for Larry Craig to crawl in a hole and die). They don't want to have anything to do with a guy like Gannon not because he's a journalistic phony but because he's a Republican who's been nekkid with guys!

Thus, Gannon had to self-publish, although, embarrassingly, he presents it as a choice:

Gannon says that because his book is not a saucy expose, most major publishing houses were less interested in his manuscript. As a result, he's elected to self-publish "Great Media War" to "maintain total control of the product."

Oh, please -- no one would have published your tedious screed about liberal media bias, Jeff? Not Regnery? Or Crown Forum? Or Threshold? Or Sentinel? Or Encounter Books? Or World Ahead? Those guys publish tedious screeds about liberal media bias all the time -- why not yours? Jonah Goldberg got a deal with Doubleday to publish a 496-page snore about "liberal fascism" and you had to go DIY with iUniverse, where you share the list with the likes of Elves, Wights, and Trolls: Studies Towards the Practice of Germanic Heathenry: Vol. I by Kveldulf Gundarsson?

As I type this, Gannon's book is #299,942 at Amazon.

(Via the Carpetbagger Report.)

In The Washington Post, I just spotted a name I hadn't seen before on President Bush's reported attorney general short list:

Among those who are said to be under serious consideration [is] ... Michael B. Mukasey, former chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York....

Also on the list is

former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson

And early rumors pointed to Michael Chertoff.


Mukasey is an old friend of Rudy Giuliani's who swore Rudy in as mayor in his own East Side apartment, and then swore him in again in 1998, and whose son joined Bracewell & Giuliani as a partner in 2005.

Olson is the head of Giuliani's "Justice Advisory Committee."

And Chertoff was once hired by Giuliani when Rudy was a U.S. attorney, and was touted by Rudy as an AG choice after the Gonzales resignation.

Is it just a coincidence that so many of these guys have Rudy connections? If you didn't know better, you'd think the Bushies were trying to help President Rudy get a head start on filling out his Cabinet. At the very least it's more evidence that if the White House passes from Bush to Giuliani, you might not even notice the difference.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This won't happen:

Lieberman as next Attorney General?

That's what Marjorie Cohn is saying on The Thom Hartmann Show. ... Per Cohn:

It would stop the Senate investigations dead in their tracks....

Stop. Please just stop right there. Stop thinking that the investigations are going to draw any blood whatsoever, ever. And remember, the heat may have gotten to be too much for Gonzales, but Bush doesn't give a crap.

It would guarantee a Senate confirmation.

It would change the balance of power in the Senate, in favor of the Republicans....

Well, yes -- but it would also mean Lieberman has to stop playing his infantile game of "I have power! You'd better be nice to me!" with Democrats, which is now his reason for living. And the Republicans would no longer get to pretend that he's the lone sane Democrat, acting completely independently of the GOP because he remembers when Democrats fought Pure Evil and his party-mates don't.

Don't forget, he was rumored to be a replacement for Rumsfeld. He wasn't. There was talk about him replacing Cheney. That didn't happen.

Balance of power in the Senate? The Republicans already have the balance of power in the Senate, at least on the war. I think the status quo is perfect as far as the White House is concerned -- Republican voters blame Democrats for using their power to try to thwart Bush, while Democratic voters blame Democrats for failing to thwart Bush. Why would Bush want to mess with success?

It's so much easier for Bush to find someone who is seen as honorable by the Washington establishment but actually isn't -- someone who will be defended by the press if he's the object of a serious challenge by Democrats. MSNBC lists three perfect candidates:

Per a source close to the White House, ex-Deputy Attorney General George J. Terwilliger III is "looking very good" to replace Alberto Gonzales. Former Solicitor General Ted Olson and former appellate judge Laurence Silberman are "also in the running."

As Avedon Carol says:

Terwilliger helped make the whole BCCI scandal go away for some important people (like GHW Bush).

Ted Olsen, a mastermind of the Arkansas Project to throw even the most absurd mud at the Clintons until they could make something appear to stick, was also one of the men who actually went to the Supreme Court to argue that it would be unfair to allow the ballots to be counted in Florida because then George Bush might not get to be president....

Laurence Silberman is one of the most dangerous men in America, and his decisions have cost us dearly. Find a right-wing conspiracy, and you'll usually find Silberman in it somewhere.

But they are all regarded as honorable men, and a decision not to rubber-stamp any of them would tell the Establishment that the dirty hippies and bloggers have seized control of the Democratic Party.

Tom Hilton says:

...there's one question that should be dispositive in any confirmation hearing: will you enforce the subpoenas on Miers and Rove? Anyone who fails to give an unequivocally positive answer shouldn't make it out of the Judiciary committee.

Oh, if wishes were horses....


UPDATE: Er, you know who would both infuriate all right-thinking people and get confirmed easily? Little Ricky from Pennsylvania, who sure likes the War on Terror in maximalist form and, as far as I know, doesn't really have a job. He's one of Richard Viguerie's picks, along with Ed Meese and virtually every Bush judicial nominee who failed to get confirmed.

What the hell is wrong with these people?

Disparaging remarks about blacks, Cubans and Jews are found on amateur online videos co-produced by an off-duty Columbus [Ohio] police officer.

The videos were created and distributed on the Internet by Officer Susan L. Purtee, 60, and her sister, Barbara Gordon-Bell, 52, who call themselves "The Patriot Dames" and the "Subie Sisters."

...When asked about doing the videos, Gordon-Bell said, "We've had a lot of fun with it. I don't see that we've ever harmed anybody."

...In a video called "Jews" that is on the sisters' Web site and that has made its way to YouTube, they say that after the 1960s, Jews monopolized the entertainment industry.

..."As long as you're a Jew, you have that thinking that everybody's beneath you," Purtee says on the tape.

At one point, Gordon-Bell holds up a sign in the video that says, "Jews Are the Problem." She also says, "Mel Gibson was right."

... In one titled "Eubonics," the sisters say that many blacks won't speak proper English, and Purtee says that blacks use "mangled English, dirty and filthy." ...

And, yes, that's "Eubonics." No, wait -- it's "Ebonics." For people who like to mock the language skills of others, they don't do a lot of spell-checking.

Ah, but they're just misunderstood:

Good evening, and welcome to this special video by the Subie Sisters called "The Jews Part III." Many people in our videos have commented that they believe when we use the word "the Jews" that we're talking about all the Jews. So in an effort to clarify that, I've done this video, and it's going to name who those Jewish-influenced people are in our government and our media that are controlling this country. So, sit back and read and watch, and I hope this really helps set a lot of things straight. I'm calling this segment "The Money Changers." ...

Yeah, it's all like that. (Even the state of black America -- though it's illustrated by endless shots of Buckwheat and Rastus from old Cream of Wheat ads -- is blamed, in part on "the Jew merchant.")

I don't know how much longer they'll be up, but you can watch the videos here. The sisters' Web site is here. (I'll note without comment that their choice for president is Giuliani -- or "Giuliana"; they don't seem to be able to settle on a spelling.)

Oh, and I wonder if they know that Patriot Dames is (as Mr. Google informs us) the title of a couple of porn movies.


UPDATE: Purtee's been reassigned.

The city police department reassigned a patrol officer to a desk job Tuesday after she posted on YouTube a series of homemade videos disparaging blacks, Jews, Cubans and illegal immigrants....


UPDATE, 12/6/07: I thought the videos were gone from YouTube and the sisters' site, but they're here and here, and there seem to be a lot more of them.

New York Times today, on the resignations of Gonzales and Rove:

Departures Offer Chance for a Fresh Start as Term Ebbs

Reuters, January 4, 2007:

Bush plans changes in key advisers for Iraq fresh start

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 9, 2006:

New U.S. Defense Secretary Seen As 'Fresh Start'

Press briefing by Scott McClellan, April 17, 2006:

This is a time for a little bit of a fresh start with a new Chief of Staff in place.

Time, January 30, 2006:

For George W. Bush, the [State of the Union address] provides a welcome opportunity to make a fresh start with the American people after his worst year in office.

New York Times News Service, December 31, 2005:

2006: New year offers fresh start

New York Times, October 30, 2005:

President Bush ... will try to give his second term a fresh start by naming a new nominee to the Supreme Court and intensifying his drive to cut government spending, White House officials and other Republicans said.

Sydney Morning Herald, February 22, 2005:

US President George W Bush pushed today for a fresh start to US-Europe relations after rifts over Iraq....

AP, January 25, 2005:

Bush seeks fresh start with black leaders

Washington Post, November 29, 2004:

Administration officials had previously signaled they would move gradually to replace the economic team, but the White House is now indicating it may move more quickly to convey a fresh start.

AP , November 17, 2004:

Besides Powell and Ashcroft, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann Venemen and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham resigned as Bush sought a fresh start for a second term.

Columbus Dispatch, November 12, 2004:

A FRESH START; Less-controversial attorney general should help Bush in second term

Andrew Sullivan, November 2, 2004:

And George W. Bush is our president. He deserves a fresh start....

Financial Times, December 16, 2003:

The capture of Saddam Hussein is the first unequivocally good news from Iraq since the toppling of his statue in Baghdad just over eight months ago....

After months of mistakes and confusion about the coalition's role in Iraq and of damaging disagreement at the United Nations, Mr Bush can make a fresh start.

AP, December 6, 2002:

Bush tosses out economic team leaders in search for political fresh start


Has any political leader ever made more people over more years hold out more hope that somehow, in some way, he would change his ways and start figuring out how not to screw up everything he touches?

One of Bush's slogans in 2000 was "A Fresh Start for America." He never stops making us want precisely that.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Phil Nugent is back. Go read.

Well, wasn't it nice of the cops who arrested GOP senator Larry Craig on June 11 on charges of lewd conduct in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport to release him after 45 minutes so he could get back to D.C. and join in the vote to block the Alberto Gonzales no-confidence resolution.

Enjoy your shared disgrace, guys.

Ted Nugent endorsed Fred Thompson a couple of months ago. Now Ted Nugent has added to his long list of repulsive remarks with a new (but utterly in character) outburst:

"I was in Chicago last week, I said, 'Hey Obama, you might want to suck on one of these, you punk!' Obama, he's a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun! Let's hear it for them. I was in New York and I said, 'Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.' And since I'm in California, how about Barbara Boxer? She might want to suck on my machine gun! Hey, Dianne Feinstein, ride one of these, you worthless whore!"

He called Hillary Clinton a "toxic cunt" in 1994, so this is nothing new for him.

So, will Fred Thompson ever distance himself from Ted? Will anyone even ask him?

And given Nugent's long history of bigoted and misogynistic statements, not to mention his past boasting about underage sex, why do I see the following items in him biography?

Appointed Ambassador for Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Pass It On! Outdoor Mentors Program

Appointed to the Michigan Year of the Family Council by Governor John Engler....

Honored on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1994....

Active on National Steering Committee for Bush and Sportsmen for Bush in 2004...

Spokesman for National Field Archers Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), law enforcement program....

Huron District Student Youth Counselor....

Led aggressive campaign on lecture circuit promoting individualism through outdoor sports and conservation to the youth of America

Created highly successful teleconferencing program to school systems nationwide...

Oh, and did I mention the Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids?

By the way, I wonder if kids at the Kamp this year got to hear previews of Ted's new album:

I bet they'd find the songs "Girl Scout Cookies" and "Bridge Over Troubled Daughters" especially edifying.

So, is this going to be on Fox News every possible prime-time moment for several weeks this fall?

Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign isn't only a boon for conservative fundraisers and critics. Those who have a bone to pick with Bubba or his wife are also planning to use the campaign to air their grievances again. First up: Kathleen Willey, who alleges that President Clinton pawed her in the Oval Office, then bullied her so that she wouldn't tell. Clinton denies her story. Willey adds to her allegations in Target: In the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Why write it now? "I was so misrepresented and maligned and I know it was a while back, but I think this is a real important time with elections coming up to tell this story."

Maybe. Or maybe not -- maybe Rupert will back off, on the assumption that he'll need to stay on the future President Hillary's good side. (Or he'll back off until she starts looking vulnerable in a general-election matchup, and then his media properties will pounce.)

Or will he back off because he assumes even his fan base is no longer interested? Wingnuts never seem to tire of this stuff, and the item quoted above did appear on the Web site of U.S. News, even though the book won't be out until November 10. On the other hand, the best publisher Willey could get was not one of the big guns, but rather a small company called World Ahead.

World Ahead was able to get a fair amount of below-the-radar attention for a book called Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!, so I suspect there'll be some interest from wingnuts on radio and the Internet even if Rupe takes a pass.

On the other hand, bestsellerdom did not result back in '05 when World Ahead published Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine by Candice E. Jackson and promoted it by sending Willey and Juanita Broaddrick on a tour of the Clinton presidential library. The stunt did, however, get some attention:

But they [were] not the first ones to seize on the idea.... Paula Jones, whose sexual-harassment lawsuit plagued Clinton's White House tenure, said .... she'd tour the library donning a T-shirt bearing the logo of the highest bidder.

"Those jerks stole my idea," her publicist, David Hans Schmidt, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


(Via Taegan Goddard.)

Did someone at NPR actually suggest that Bush might pick Arlen Specter to replace Gonzales?

A guy whose replacement in the Senate would, I assume, be chosen by a Democratic governor, in a state where a Democrat could easily win the seat outright in '08?

A guy who's despised as a RINO (Republican in name only) by Bush's base?

Good Lord, the people in the Beltway will never stop looking for signs that the nice, bipartisan Bush they were sure would take office in January 2001 will someday, someday show up, will they?


However, I'm not sure he'll pick somebody controversial, as Steve Benen and Matthew Yglesias seem to think. He doesn't nevessarily want to fight -- he wants to win. He may decide he'd win by picking a fight -- or he may decide that he'd win by picking a respected, easily confirmed figure who won't get in his way. Think Robert Gates.

So I think Orrin Hatch is a possibility, or John Cornyn, or even some old Poppy Bush hand -- as long as it's someone who won't make any trouble whatsoever for him or show the slightest bit of gumption.


I don't know about Chertoff, though I notice that CNN has downgraded its headline from "Chertoff likely to get nod" to "Chertoff may get nod."

And there's one other bit of news the Bushies saved up for Monday morning, hoping champagne corks would be popped by right-wingers.

How'd that work out?

Oops. If "Sounds good but let's see how this plays out" is the best you can get from Lucianne Goldberg, then I guess maybe you've said "No, really, this is the light at the end of the tunnel!" a few too many times.

One thing that surprises me about the announcement of Alberto Gonzales's resignation is that it didn't take place on a Friday at 7:15 P.M. And it looks as if it could have -- Gonzales, knowing how his boss likes to do things, "submitted his [resignation] to President Bush by telephone on Friday," according to The New York Times. Monday is when these guys announce and/or leak news they want to shout from the rafters -- so this may mean the Bushies believe that the upcoming battle is going to be good for them, a way to portray Democrats as people who'd rather harass the poor, beleaguered White House than get things done. (If that's what they think, I'm not sure I agree, but it does mean they may go into the confirmation battle with relish.)

Or it could mean that they didn't think they could control the resignation story on the Sunday talk shows, because even right-wingers think Gonzales is a disaster.

As for why this is happening, I imagine Gonzales is tired of being a punching bag, tired of his boss saying, "Stick around! I want to fight these people! So go out there and get beat up for me!"

And by the way, so much for the theory advanced by some lefties that Gonzo can't resign because the Bushies can't risk having a new attorney general who would go after them for all their crimes. The next AG will be a lot less amusing in congressional hearings, but nothing significant is going to change.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Interesting point from today's New York Times:

On a Sunday morning in early August, just hours after Congress had recessed for the summer, Representative Jan Schakowsky and five of her colleagues boarded a military jet at Andrews Air Force Base. Three flights and a Black Hawk helicopter ride later, they were lunching on asparagus soup and lobster tortellini at the home of Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker in Baghdad....

The featured guest was Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American military commander in Iraq....

...roughly 50 lawmakers have tromped through Iraq this summer....

Inside the Pentagon, some were concerned about how the top generals in Baghdad could fight the war and accommodate so many lawmakers....

Er, yeah -- accommodate them and accommodate the news media. A couple of weeks ago I linked thirteen interviews General David Petraeus had given to major media outlets just since the beginning of June; to those let's add this New York Post interview with Ralph Peters (a follow-up to this Peters interview from last month) and this one with the Army's SRTV.

Petraeus is doing all this press and he's doing multiple meet-and-greets with members of Congress? Er, isn't he the top general in the critical fight against the greatest threat to civilzation since Hitler and the Red menace? That's a part-time job?

I say that -- and then I remember who the real enemy of Petraeus's commander in chief is. Then it becomes obvious that, yes, Petraeus is fighting full-time -- in the War on Bush's Political Enemies.

Today's New York Times Book Review contains a sneering dismissal by David Brooks of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, in which Drew Westen argues that Democrats lose elections because they're not as good as Republicans at playing on emotions.

Brooks finds this especially contemptible:

Westen ... wishes ... Al Gore had hit George Bush harder for being a drunk. He wishes Gore had interrupted a presidential debate and barked at Bush, "If someone is going to restore dignity to the Oval Office, it isn't a man who drank his way through three decades of his life and got investigated by his father's own Securities and Exchange Commission for swindling people out of their retirement savings."

At another point, he imagines Gore exploding: "Why don't you tell us how many times you got behind the wheel of a car with a few drinks under your belt, endangering your neighbors' kids? Where I come from, we call that a drunk." If Democrats would go for people's primitive passions in this way, Westen argues, they'd win elections.

You know what? I agree with Brooks -- Gore shouldn't have said anything like that. If Gore had said those things, he would have been castigated for nastiness and rudeness, not to mention failure to show compassion for recovering substance abusers.

No, what he should have done was send out a phalanx of low-level supporters and media surrogates to say these things for him. They could have been plenty nasty, while he would have remained above the fray, high-mindedly refusing to set foot in the gutter himself, but not lifting a finger to intercede as the gutter fighting escalated. And some of the nastiest surrogates, when not attacking Bush, would have praised Gore for precisely that above-the-fray position, saying that he simply doesn't engage in partisan name-calling, even as they engage in it for him (cf., for example, Rush Limbaugh's conversation with Karl Rove a couple of weeks ago).

So, yes, David Brooks is right -- Gore should never, ever have called Bush a drunk. That kind of nastiness is what the help is for, as George W. Bush has made clear for years.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Josh Marshall wrote this about Bush yesterday. It's provocative, but I don't agree with it:

His entire legacy as president is bound up in Iraq. Which is another way of saying that his legacy is pretty clearly an irrecoverable shambles. That is why, as the folly of the enterprise becomes more clear, he must continually puff it up into more and more melodramatic and world-historical dimensions. A century long ideological struggle and the like. For the president a one in a thousand shot at some better outcome is well worth it, no matter what the cost. Because at least that's a one in a thousand shot at not ending his presidency with the crushing verdict history now has in store. It's also worth just letting things keep on going as they are forever because, like Micawber, something better might turn up. Going double or nothing by expanding the war into Iran might be worth it too for the same reason. For him, how can it get worse?

That's not what he's thinking at all, though it vaguely resembles what he's thinking.

When I look at Bush, I see absolutely no worry, absolutely no self-doubt -- it just isn't there. A year ago, under pressure from a newly elected Democratic Congress and the Iraq Study Group, he told us he's "sleeping a lot better than people would assume" -- no surprise given the fact that, just as the war was starting, observers were "struck by his tranquillity" and the fact that he was "surprisingly serene." You think he thinks "his legacy is pretty clearly an irrecoverable shambles"? I don't -- I think he still sleeps like a log. After all, he's 100% certain history will vindicate him.

However, even he can see that things aren't hunky-dory in Iraq. So he has to look for a way to reconcile those two facts -- and yes, he does think it's a fact that he's doing absolutely the right thing and eventually everyone will know that.

And that's where "puff[ing] it up into more and more melodramatic and world-historical dimensions" comes in. It's the only way he can reconcile the two irreconcilable facts. He's thinking, I'm dealing with this absolutely the right way, but it's so horrible and so huge that of course it still looks grim.

Remember, he was the drunk and screwup brother, and now he's president and you're not (and Jeb's not). He believes in reversals of fortune, and he believes they come to him because he deserves them.

So, no, Josh, he's not doubling down because he's desperate. He's right. The world just doesn't know it yet.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Oh, crap -- we're never going to hear the end of this:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday raised the prospect of a terror attack before next year's election, warning that it could boost the GOP's efforts to hold on to the White House.

..."It's a horrible prospect to ask yourself, 'What if? What if?' But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world," Clinton told supporters in Concord....

Scott Lemieux, though he's angry at Hillary for saying it, thinks this is true to some extent, but he seems to believe (note his link) it would all be the media's fault:

Clinton is correct in the sense that the idea that everything is good for Republicans will get a more respectful hearing than it deserves.

Matthew Yglesias, also expressing his disgust, shows us why Democrats lose elections:

I think the Democrat best positioned to deal with GOP political mobilization in a post-attack environment is going to be the one who isn't reflexively inclined to see failed Republican policies resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Americans as a political advantage for the Republicans.

The other is that I think there's a pretty clear sense in which the further one is from Bush's Iraq policy, the easier it is politically to say that the failures of Bush's national security policy should be blamed on Bush's failed policies. Obama has a straight shot ("this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I said") and Edwards (and Matt Yglesias) has a straightish one ("this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I think in retrospect") ...

No. No. No. You don't get it.

If we're attacked again, the response will be pure reptile brain -- no thought involved. We have a Daddy in the White House and we'll cleave to Daddy, hoping Daddy will make it allgone. The media will abet the process, but the process will start in the most primitive part of most Americans' psyches, the part the GOP has been relentlessly massaging at least since Reagan.

Matt, you think we could talk our way through this? You think reason would be an effective weapon? Oh, please. America won't react to a terrorist attack by reading candidates' positions -- it'll react like this. Do me a favor, Matt, and please don't ever become a political consultant, and if you do, please don't work for anybody I want to vote for.

Which is not to say that Hillary should have said this. She shouldn't have -- not because she's wrong, but because she should have known it would go through the right-wing truth mutation machine and come out utterly distorted. And so it has: Already her statement is being distorted as (my paraphrase) Hillary Clinton thinks another terrorist attack would be bad not because it would kill Americans, but because it would help the GOP. For more distortions, read any Murdoch paper or right-wing blog in the next several days, or just watch any political talk show this coming Sunday.

So, yeah, Hillary committed a gaffe, but she also told the truth.

A little nugget I almost overlooked in yesterday's New York Times story on Bush's VFW speech:

...Todd Struwe, 44, who served on the Korean Peninsula, said Mr. Bush's address was "the best one we've heard so far from all of the candidates."

Mr. Struwe speaks a truth here. Bush is a candidate, in a contest of his own devising. Election Day is Petraeus Day, though there have been, and will be, other Election Days.

It's essentially a campaign because, as Bush sees it, the only possible result is that one side wins absolutely and everyone else wins nothing. Compromise? Consultation? Working together to hammer out differences? Forget it. The only alternatives are victory and defeat. And I don't mean on the battlefield -- I mean in the contest to decide what happens on the battlefield.

The Iraq Study Group learned this when, to many people's surprise, it proposed a middle course and was marginalized. John Warner is breaking from Bush and he'll learn it too, to his surprise (and to the surprise of those who think his words will carry some weight). Also learning it now are all those Democrats who are coming back from Iraq and responding to questions about progress by saying "Yes, but..." -- gosh, what do you know, the administration and its flacks are editing out the "but" part.

This is governance as total war -- and yeah, that's just what we need in a post-9/11 world, isn't it?

Thursday, August 23, 2007


In today's Politico, Elizabeth Wilner tries to imagine how George W. Bush's 2008 convention speech will go. She almost loses me in her opening sentences:

ST. PAUL, Minn., Labor Day 2008 –- Twenty-five hundred delegates to the Republican National Convention pause in their exchange of hellos on this opening night and break into warm if not wild applause.

Up to the podium steps George W. Bush....

"Not wild applause"? Nonsense. Even a year from now, the party regulars will still be Bush end-timers. Like middle-aged moms and dads at a state fair cheering on a pot-bellied rocker two decades past his sell-by date, they'll just swoon, still seeing him the way he looked to them when he was in his prime.

Besides, the GOP and the press will have spent the last seven months beating up on the Democratic nominee over some years-old bit of trivia that will become so well known it will regularly lead every late-night talk-show host's opening monologue, so the Republican nominee's chances are going to look surprisingly good -- no negative coattails from Bush. (And the press will have concluded that the GOP nominee is just such a hunk.) The preceding few months' Iran war drumbeat won't hurt either -- the public just never realized that Ahmedinewhatsis guy was so scary. And what about that terror alert a week earlier, the one that shut down fifteen blocks of midtown Manhattan mere hours before the Democratic nominee's acceptance speech in Denver? Scary stuff, hunh?

Oh, and the wedding. In her article, Wilner imagines it taking place in June '08, but she sees it as "no match for overall Bush fatigue." Well, probably not -- but Laura's announcement of Jenna's pregnancy a few hours before W. speaks will send a ripple of excitement through the hall. That and nephew George P.'s arrival at the hall in his Naval Reserve uniform will set the stage for an ecstatically received speech.

It'll all be about how we have to kill a lot of terrorists because we love our families. Jenna and Mr. Jenna will introduce Laura, who'll introduce George W.; A teary-eyed Poppy will come out at the end (though his son will mostly ignore him).

Wilner imagines the content of the speech:

What good news Bush has to deliver to the party faithful this evening is tempered. While Europe continues to be terrorized, there hasn't been another attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

The markets are chugging along, though not at their 2007 highs. Investors are hedging their bets against a Democratic White House. The just-concluded Beijing Olympics represented a brief respite from an otherwise worsening U.S. relationship with China, which both presidential nominees now blame for America's economic woes....

But Republicans don't want good news from Bush. They want bad news -- they want to hear that America is under siege, then they want to hear that it's all OK because God wants them to triumph, and the triumph will be happen as long as no Democrat is ever elected to any office ever again.

Bush can certainly manage that.

Oh, it'll go just fine, unfortunately.

Yeah, he did OK in the Ames straw poll, but no, he's not going to be on the ticket -- period. Check out this exchange between National Review Online's Kathryn Jean Lopez and the Club for Growth's Pat Toomey:

LOPEZ: You’ve hit Mike Huckabee hard. Is there a point to that? One assumes he won’t be the nominee?

TOOMEY: There is no question that Mike Huckabee is a charismatic politician, but Governor Huckabee is attempting to use his charisma to hoodwink American voters and the media with respect to his economic record. While there is little chance of Governor Huckabee catapulting into the coveted first tier, he is being discussed as a viable vice-presidential pick, especially if the eventual nominee needs a social conservative to shore up the conservative base. The Club for Growth’s original observations about Huckabee’s tax-and-spend record have been born out in recent weeks as Huckabee embraced a new brand of lefty populism and class warfare rhetoric that one often hears from Democrats. It is important for the Club for Growth to continue to push to clarify the true nature Mike Huckabee’s economic record and policies.

"Embrac[ing] a new brand of lefty populism and class warfare rhetoric" -- it's not exactly like being "eager to raise a socialist flag atop the White House" (which is what Toomey says about all the leading Democrats), but it's pretty harsh.

Oh, and watch this Club for Growth ad.

In theory, Rudy, Mitt, or Fred might consider blowing off the zealots -- but the Gospel According to Rove says that Bush lost the popular vote in '00 because the base wasn't sufficiently motivated and won in '04 because it was. As it is, these guys are all pretending to be more right-wing than they've ever been in the past -- why would they squander all that with a VP choice?

So forget it -- Huckabee's toast.

Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal editorial page has looked at the recent blaze at the Deutsche Bank building near Ground Zero, which killed two firefighters, and he's found the villain: those damn bureaucrats.

...Now that two men have died trying to put out a crummy fire, maybe the time has arrived to squarely face just what the appalling six-year presence of the Deutsche Bank building represents.

... the inability to get this building down stands as a broader rebuke to a country that has become so comfortable with indulging its countless legal, personal, political and administrative obsessions that it cannot protect its own people by doing the obvious.

... Our public officials and the attendant factions and community groups are so far gone into their never-never lands of crossing "t's" and dotting "i's" that they barely know how to bring an issue to resolution.

...Lest a fiber of asbestos float from the building and spread cancer panic across lower Manhattan's streets, the one-floor-at-a-time demolition required an "abatement and removal" plan whose mind-boggling technical and physical details would fill half the first section of this newspaper ("All interior non-structural building materials will be removed under negative pressure...").

Yeah, why so cautious? After all, the much more rapid cleanup at the World Trade Center site was no big deal healthwise, right? Oh, er, I'm sorry -- yes, it was.

Henninger continues:

... we compulsively drive the system now to develop the most exquisite, complex procedures, which allow us to think ourselves both perfectly safe and ethically perfect.

Procedural perfectionism has been raised to religious status.

Yeah, that's what we had at the Deutsche Bank building -- "procedural perfectionism."

Or perhaps not:

Workers at the toxic former Deutsche Bank tower drank, smoked and ignored basic safety rules on the job -- and the company doing the $177 million demolition project never reined them in, a whistleblower told the Daily News....

He said the 29th floor was casually known as "Teddy's Tavern" because of the vodka and other booze regularly consumed in that floor's decontamination unit, where men cleaned up and ate meals....

The whistleblower also said work crews smoked heavily and ran live power lines along floors where asbestos removal was being done -- a dangerous lapse....

He said the company fired an asbestos supervisor around last Christmas because he was routinely drunk, but then rehired him in the spring to run the 17th floor, which is where the FDNY believes the fire ignited....

Yeah, maybe it wasn't exactly perfectionism:

The New York Fire Department failed to visually inspect standpipes in the former Deutsche Bank building every 15 days as required by city rules for buildings being demolished, and had not done any inspections at the building since November 2006, according to records released yesterday by City Hall.

The standpipe system's readiness to perform in a fire was last checked in November 1996, when the building was a functioning office building....

Investigators have zeroed in on the building's standpipe as they investigate last Saturday's fire.... The standpipe was not operational before the fire broke out, according to an administration news release....

One fire investigator said that the law enforcement officials were struck by how damaged the standpipe was. The investigator also said it appeared that workers had been staying in the basement overnight, in violation of an order to keep people out.

The records released by City Hall ... show that the department was aware of reports that the sprinkler system was not working....

Oh, but I'm just being a liberal nitpicker. We don't have too little caution about these things -- we have too much caution! We should've all just bought some beers and torn the damn building down ourselves! Make a party of it! Maybe Daniel Henninger could've grilled some burgers.

Just a thought: Would it be accurate to say that Bush's use of a Vietnam analogy with regard to Iraq is actually his way of Swift-boating the entire country?

Isn't he basically saying that we turned against the Vietnam War and then atrocities followed, and we're turning against the Iraq War and risking further atrocities, and therefore we're unfit for command -- i.e., unfit to choose a commander in chief in '08 if we continue on this course, as demonstrated by our treasonous betrayal of America in the 1960s and 1970s?

Because, I guess, right-wingers aren't angry enough, and are so desperate for new things to be angry about that they'll settle for tiny little scraps of anger-inducing material, WorldNetDaily gives its readers this:

New York Times equates 'Allah' with 'God'

Newspaper substitutes name of deity in airport bomber's motive

The New York Times has equated the word "Allah" with "God" in a story it published today concerning the motive of an Islamic terrorist in the United Kingdom.

The Times made reference to a story originally published Monday in the Guardian newspaper, which stated: "Airport bomber's email to relative said he wanted to die for Allah."

The case involves Kafeel Ahmed, who crashed a Jeep Cherokee into the main terminal at Glasgow's international airport in June.

But in the New York Times' version of the story, the word "Allah" appears nowhere, instead being changed to "God."

The precise wording from the Times article read:

The person close to the investigation said that Kafeel Ahmed had sent an e-mail message to his brother two hours before crashing the Jeep, but that it was not opened until 90 minutes after the attack. On Monday, The Guardian newspaper reported that Kafeel Ahmed had sent a text message to "a relative" with "a link to an e-mail and a password to access it," saying he was acting according to God's will.



Allah ... is the standard Arabic word for "God".... Arabic-speakers of all faiths, including Christians and Jews, use the word "Allah" to mean "God"....


Allah is the primary Arabic word for God. It means 'The God.' ...

And what about the 10 to 12 million Arab Christians today? They have been calling God 'Allah' in their Bibles, hymns, poems, writings, and worship for over nineteen centuries.....

(The latter is from the evangelical Christian site Christian Answers Network, citing a book published by an evangelical Christian organization called the Navigators.)

Oh, and the Guardian story actually uses "Allah" and "God" interchangeably:

According to a source, Ahmed says his actions were carried out in the name of Allah. Ahmed writes that his relative would be shocked to read what he is about to tell him about his involvement in terrorism, praises God, and says he wants martyrdom.

Is there nothing so trivial that right-wingers won't get worked up about it?


And yes, I know there was that Dutch bishop who wanted Christians to call God "Allah." That's just dumb,and it has nothing to do with this story -- it's an attempt to get people to change aspects of their worship that they have no good reason to change, and it's a silly misreading of what's causing our current tensions. This is about whether this guy meant "God" when he wrote "Allah." He did.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I don't care about the accuracy (or lack thereof) of Bush's Iraq-Vietnam analogy as much as I care about the fact that the sonofabitch actually has us talking about it seriously -- we're actually working to rebut the assertion that the lesson of Vietnam is one we, the war opponents, have ignored at our peril. That's the exact opposite of where the discussion should be after Bush, with Vietnam as an obvious looming example, screwed up royally. But Bush flipped the script and found a way to use Vietnam as a rhetorical weapon against us.

That was some kind of jujitsu -- which makes me think that playing this card might have been one of Karl Rove's last big ideas before he heads off to private life. I get the feeling that Rove and Bush were saving it up, Rove having concluded that the war was win-win because a victory would put Bush on Rushmore and even the worst quagmire would present the opportunity to use precisely this liberalism-equals-killing-fields argument.

I don't know if it'll work, but my hunch is that Rove thought today was a very good day.

What happened to five-year-old Youssif is horrible (he was doused with gasoline and set on fire by masked men in Baghdad) ... but, er, it happened in January. Why is it news today -- the day the Bush save-the-war campaign went into a much higher gear?

Is the administration going to spoon-feed the press a lot of atrocity stories between now and, oh, say, September 11, when General Petraeus delivers the administration's Iraq report? And if so, is the press just going to put them through exactly as they're received?


UPDATE: More on this from TBogg.

You know from various news stories (and from my previous post) that a pro-Bush group called Freedom's Watch, with Ari Fleischer as one of its board members, is embarking on a $15 million media campaign to promote the Iraq War.

Well, the first four ads are up, and you can watch them here or here.

And, well, what do you know -- three of the four ads tie 9/11 to the Iraq War.

Here's the text of the first one, delivered by John Kriesel, who lost both legs in Iraq last year:

Congress was right to vote to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. I reenlisted after 9/11 because I don't want my sons to see what I saw. I want them to be free and safe. I know what I lost. I also know that if we pull out now, everything I've given and sacrificed will mean nothing. They attacked us, and they will again. They won't stop in Iraq. We're winning on the ground and making real progress. It's no time to quit. It's no time for politics.

Emphasis mine. Needless to say, a photo of a plane going into the Twin Towers appears on the screen when the emphasized words are spoken.

It's clear that the Democrats are knuckling under in the face of the GOP propaganda effort, and that they almost certainly won't stop the war during Bush's term in office. But could they talk about how outrageous it is that the administration and its allies continue to link the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War this way?


UPDATE: Of course, the fish stinks from the head. Here's Bush speaking to the VFW today:

I stand before you as a wartime President. I wish I didn't have to say that, but an enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, declared war on the United States of America. And war is what we're engaged in.

Wow, that is a seamless rhetorical transition from 9/11/01 to Iraq right now, isn't it? His writers are damn good at this crap.

The Democrats didn't see this coming? How could they possibly not have seen it coming?

Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq's diverse political factions.

And now the Democrats, along with wavering Republicans, will face an advertising blitz from Bush supporters determined to remain on offense. A new pressure group, Freedom's Watch, will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign today designed to shore up support for Bush's policies before the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, lays out a White House assessment of the war's progress....

The burst of effort has been striking, if only because Democrats left for their August recess confident that Republicans would be on the defensive by now. Instead, the GOP has gone on the attack....

Look, it's simple: Just because the Bush administration can't do anything right when it comes to governing doesn't mean that it can't do anything right at all. This is a political campaign, and it's being run as efficiently and brutally as a typical (i.e., non-2006) Republican political campaign, with all the stagecraft, message discipline, and character assassination you'd expect if a Republican were actually running for something.

And, well, the Democrats are doing what they usually do in a political campaign: They're getting caught flat-flooted, they're surprised when they're under aggressive attack, and they're whining that it's all unfair and was all unforeseeable.

It's been glaringly obvious for months: The War on Democrats is Bush's #1 priority -- and, even though he's lost quite a few battles, it's a war he still can win. He wins by getting to play toy soldiers until 1/20/09 -- and now it's obvious that if that's the definition of victory, he will win, because the Democrats didn't even understand this summer that they were in a war.


Oh, and this (also from the story linked above) makes me crazy:

... in an interview yesterday, [California Democratic congressman Jerry] McNerney ... said Democrats should move beyond their confrontational approach, away from tough-minded, partisan withdrawal resolutions, to be more conciliatory with Republicans who might also be looking for a way out of the war.

"We should sit down with Republicans, see what would be acceptable to them to end the war and present it to the president, start negotiating from the beginning," he said...

Hey, Jerry, you know what would be acceptable to Republicans? That you and all the other Democrats roll over and die, that's what would be acceptable.

Schmuck -- there is no possible compromise with these people. They won't break with the president and the president will never, ever, ever give an inch. You still don't understand that?

Democrats' only hope would have been to appeal to the public to put pressure on GOP lawmakers -- enough pressure to create filibuster- and veto-proof majorities. It was a tall order, but nothing else would have worked. The White House has been in a fight to the death, and the Democrats never grasped that.

Fred Thompson on his blog yesterday, criticizing Rudy Giuliani and the city of New York for gun-control efforts:

Ironically, all of this comes at a time of historically low violent crime rates and historically high gun ownership rates nationally.

Washington Post, June 2007:

The number of violent crimes in the United States rose for a second straight year in 2006....

Creating your own reality? I guess it's just something Republicans can't stop themselves from doing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Fred Barnes has a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled "Can the GOP Make a Comeback?" After imagining various things that simply aren't going to happen -- a turnaround in Iraq, a serious GOP effort to crack down on corrupt party members, a serious White House embrace of fiscal discipline, an end to Republican demagoguery on immigration -- Barnes gives us this:

As Karl Rove has noted, Republicans need a big idea. The best available is the one Mr. Bush abandoned: ownership. Allowing private investment of payroll taxes for Social Security would only be a start. An Ownership Society would allow individual Americans, rather than government, to control how and where their health care, public education, 401(k) and IRA funds are spent.

Oh, please. Please please please please please please please.

Please, Republicans -- embrace the "ownership society" idea again. No, don't just embrace it -- brandish it, fly it from the tallest mast, spell it (as Barnes does) with capital letters. Please come to the conclusion that this is your way out of the wilderness.

Most Americans have absolutely no desire for an "ownership society." We have enough paperwork to plow through with our taxes and mortgages and 401(k)'s -- we don't want to shop for a Social Security plan. Those of us who have company-paid health care (which is confusing enough) don't want to be thrown on the open market (with an inadequate tax credit) and asked to buy a policy. And even people who like the idea of school vouchers don't want to think of primary and secondary education as consumer products.

No, wait, Republicans -- forget I said all that. The actual reason I don't want Republicans to push an "ownership society" is that I know it will be really, really appealing to the public -- and I fear that that will doom my party! Yeah, that's it! So, gosh, I really hope they never catch on!

(Think they'll fall for that?)


By the way, if I seem surprisingly pessimistic about the GOP's near-term chances, this isn't an unexpected burst of optimism -- I still think a Republican will win the White House in '08, though I also think the country's trending Democratic, at least for now. Divvided government is, of course, what we've had most years since 1952 -- we pick Democrats to run one or both houses of Congress and we pick GOP Daddy to go to the White House.

Remember this Atrios post from July?

"Just Last Month Since The Surge Began"

CNN, repeating [General Raymond] Odierno's words.

But that's not possible, because Robert Kagan told me it was already working in early March. And he's very serious because he gets to write op-eds for the Washington Post and go on NPR on a regular basis.

Well, now there's an attempt on the right to move the start of the surge again.

This is from Ben Johnson today at David Horowitz's Front Page Magazine:

Happy Surge Day!

Did you know the surge in Iraq just reached full strength? If not, you’re not alone....

In June, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver acknowledged, "Everyone is here on the ground now, but obviously the troops that have just got here are going to take some time to integrate into their battle space and get to know their counterparts." He estimated that process would take 30-60 days, meaning the surge would not be at full strength until…now.

So, Happy Surge Day!

From this day forward, we can begin judging the success or failure of the surge....

Yup, the surge isn't even a full day old!

Gee, I guess nobody told the author of this U.S. military press release, which used the phrase "since the surge began" -- past tense -- in July. Or John McCain, who also used the phrase "since the surge began" in March.

Are more of our pals on the right going to start arguing that the surge hasn't even really begun yet? Wouldn't surprise me. Yeah, I know they're also arguing that it's working (as is Mr. Johnson), so arguing that it hasn't started would seem to be a contradiction. But why would that stop them?

A story in today's Washington Post notes that the state of Virginia was one of the top sources of guns used in crimes in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas, in addition to D.C., Maryland, and Virginia itself.

One of the experts the Post called on for a comment about this was this guy:

...Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group, said he was surprised that Virginia's guns were turning up in significant numbers in other states -- 530 in New York, 301 in North Carolina, 140 in New Jersey, 110 in Pennsylvania, and so on.

"We have stricter laws than a lot of these states where the guns are showing up," Van Cleave said....

So, how do you get your name in the paper this way? By being a thoughtful, serious, sober-minded individual? Well, as the Post made clear in a profile of him back in '04, Mr. Van Cleave doesn't exactly fit that description:

Van Cleave ... always carries a gun because you never know when you'll need it....

Something of a night owl, Van Cleave likes to take walks around the lake in his subdivision around midnight. When he does, he "double carries" in case an assailant knocks one weapon out of his hand. It's not about fear, he said. "Who would do that if they were afraid? The word is preparedness."

... he [has] learned that an assailant with a knife can cover 21 feet in 1.5 seconds, that a bullet can travel 1,500 feet per second....

"I know the odds are slim that I'll ever have to use this. But you've got one life," he said. "If it got into a life-or-death situation, the person without a gun would take themselves out of the gene pool. And I would carry on."

Van Cleave has never shot a gun outside the shooting range. He's never had to draw one. He's never been the victim of a crime "except when someone stole my radio." Since 1984, he's worked out of his home in a quiet, planned community with neighborhoods named Willow Glen and Duck Cove, writing software. He rarely goes out, he said, "except to the grocery store."...

So, basically, to get your name in the paper, it helps to be Dwight Schrute.

No, that can't be it. Maybe it's that you have to have a well thought-out approach to foreign policy:

...Van Cleave shares the view of gun groups that it establishes the right to defend yourself, to defend the country against outside attack and "to take back your country should it ever become a totalitarian state."

"We're not envisioning America being taken over anytime soon," he said. "But with al Qaeda, you never know. The citizens will probably need to secure their own homes and restore order until the government got back on its feet."

Yup -- al-Qaeda will invade America, defeat the U.S. military, and turn into an Islamofascist theocracy ... but a few guys in gated communities with guns will soon have everything straightened out "until the government got back on its feet."

I'm joking, of course. Van Cleave gets his name in the paper, as the story notes, because his organization has many friends in Virginia government and has successfully lobbied for a long series of pro-gun changes to Virginia law:

...Although the league is visible and tenacious, its true power comes from the General Assembly, considered one of the most gun-friendly legislative bodies in the nation. Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat who openly courted the National Rifle Association to win election, signed 15 pro-gun bills into law in the last session alone.

In two separate and largely unnoticed actions in recent years, lawmakers in Richmond overturned the right of cities and counties to make their own gun control ordinances. In 1987, lawmakers prohibited localities from making new gun control laws. This year, they wiped out any gun regulations that existed prior to 1987. Gone was Alexandria's handgun ban. Gone was the 60-year-old Fairfax County law requiring a three-day waiting period for gun purchases....

Er, Phil, didn't you say in the first story that Virginia has "stricter gun laws" than other states?

Oh, and his group also did this:

...The Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun-rights group, organized the "Bloomberg Gun Giveaway" in large part to thumb its nose at New York's mayor. Bloomberg drew gun owners' ire by launching a series of out-of-state stings against gun shops suspected of allowing illegal straw purchases of firearms....

Yeah, that silly Mike Bloomberg -- he thinks the lax climate in Virginia guns is leading to the use of Virginia guns in too many crimes.

Hey, so what if he's right?

Yes, the economic geniuses of the Bush administration made the pie higher. No, you didn't get any:

Americans earned a smaller average income in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year that they had to make ends meet with less money than at the peak of the last economic expansion, new government data shows.

... the average income in 2005 was $55,238, still nearly 1 percent less than the $55,714 in 2000, after adjusting for inflation, analysis of new tax statistics show.

...Total income listed on tax returns grew every year after World War II, with a single one-year exception, until 2001, making the five-year period of lower average incomes and four years of lower total incomes a new experience for the majority of Americans born since 1945....

The Bushies, of course, have been telling us for years that the economy is great and we're stupid if we don't notice it. Well, now that it's clear why we don't notice it -- we still don't have any more money than we used to have -- they say, "Oh, yeah, we knew that":

The White House said the fact that average incomes were smaller five years after the Internet bubble burst "should not surprise anyone."

...Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, attributed the drop in average incomes to "the significant wrenching hits that our economy took in 2001 and 2002, so no one should be surprised that what a bubble economy created in the late 1990s and 2000, where economic data were skewed, would take some time to recover."

There's just one tiny problem with this explanation: The rich somehow seem to have escaped the negative effects Tony Fratto is describing here:

The growth in total incomes was concentrated among those making more than $1 million....

These individuals, who constitute less than a quarter of 1 percent of all taxpayers, reaped almost 47 percent of the total income gains in 2005, compared with 2000.

People with incomes of more than a million dollars also received 62 percent of the savings from the reduced tax rates on long-term capital gains and dividends that President Bush signed into law in 2003, according to a separate analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, a group that points out policies that it says favor the rich.

The group's calculations showed that 28 percent of the investment tax cut savings went to just 11,433 of the 134 million taxpayers, those who made $10 million or more, saving them almost $1.9 million each. Over all, this small number of wealthy Americans saved $21.7 billion in taxes on their investment income as a result of the tax-cut law.

Informed of this, Mr. Fratto harrumphs:

Mr. Fratto said the fact that nearly all of the growth in incomes was among those in the upper reaches of the income ladder and that the majority of investment tax breaks went to those making more than $1 million "is not a very interesting story."

Oh, gosh, I'm sorry. I'll try not to bore you next time by asking why your pals get all the pie.


UPDATE: I see Michael Van Der Galien is calling me "dumb" (or "dishonest") for writing this post. His point is that if real (non-inflation-adjusted) income fell only in 2001, then the Times is ignoring the fact that it went up in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 -- a Bush boom! Well, the point of the Times article is that real income went up in every other year since World War II -- even the bad ones. (Remember the '70s? The early '80s? The Poppy Bush recession?)

Now, follow along with me here: If real income went up in every year other than 2001, that means it went up in every five-year period (source: simple grade-school arithmetic). But in this five-year period, it didn't. That means not only was the drop unprecedented, but the gains since then have been too weak to make up for the unprecedented drop.

Van Der Galien doesn't think that's news?

And no, I don't accept that 9/11 Changed Everything -- not economically. The energy shocks of the '70s had a much greater sustained impact. And we've certainly fought wars before. And yet, through it all, real incomes rose every year. Why not in '01? And why not in the '01-'05 period?