Sunday, March 22, 2009


There's a Sheryl Gay Stolberg article in today's New York Times about the way "distractions" can take over the national political dialogue. (She's referring, of course, to those AIG bonuses.) Stolberg looks back through the recent past -- and recalls it not quite the way I do (emphasis mine):

... the [distractions] that pose the greatest political danger are those that seem to erupt spontaneously, crossing political boundaries by putting a president at odds with his own party.

That was the case in 2006, when the Bush administration was caught flat-footed by news of its own Dubai ports deal. Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat, picked up on it, accusing Mr. Bush of outsourcing port security. But the issue really took off when Republicans, fed up with the administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq, turned on the president.

"It matched the meta-narrative that this administration can't handle Iraq and the Middle East," said Eric Ueland, who was chief of staff to one Republican critic, the former Senate majority leader Bill Frist.

The Dubai Ports World story broke in February 2006. Anyone remember the Republicans in Congress being "fed up" with Bush's Iraq policy? Wasn't this a year before they dug in their heels against the new Democratic congressional majority to defend the surge and fight off any and all attempts to withdraw troops from Iraq?

And then-Senate Majority Leader Frist may have been a critic on the Dubai Ports World deal, but he certainly knew how to sling the GOP talking points regarding Iraq and Katrina on Meet the Press just a few weeks before the DPW story broke:

SEN. FRIST: ... The political process [in Iraq] is going well, tremendous success in the last year with three elections. A year ago, who would have thought we would have had three elections there with turnout greater than in this country? ... The fact that we know that it's going to take a long period of time, but the good news there is that we have 100 Iraqi battalions today that we didn't have a year ago, and we have 200,000 Iraqi security forces trained that two years ago were not trained. So I see continued progress. It's going to be a long road, a determined road, but we are making progress.

... SEN. FRIST: Oh, I think it was a war of necessity. And it we -- if we look at the Middle East today, if we look at the importance of that to our global security, which reflects on homeland security, it was absolutely, to me, an absolute necessity that we remove this tyrant who had killed hundreds of thousands of his own people, who had attacked sovereign nations, who killed on the outside inside, and had the enemy of the United States. So it's clear to me that the war was conducted for the right reasons, and that we will be successful there.

...SEN. FRIST: Tim, the president of the United States has committed to respond to this [Katrina] tragedy in a spirit of renewal and rebuilding and regrowth of this region.... What I can say is that we have responded aggressively to the tune of $80 billion, 8-0, billion to this largest natural disaster this country has ever seen. That's what we've done to date. We passed an additional $15 billion just about four weeks ago, going directly to issues of homeownership, how people can rebuild in Mississippi and in Louisiana. And this year, we will have another supplemental, that's a spending bill, that will be coming through probably in the next six to eight weeks, which will have another huge investment in investing in this renewal of that area....

Oh, and, er, um, yeah, Frist said, maybe there should have been a few more troops in Iraq at the outset, and, er, um, yeah, a Katrina bill Bush wouldn't like was approved by a House committee, but ... freedom! Compassionate conservatism! Yay, Bush! said the top Republican in Congress.

I guess Stolberg doesn't remember any of that.

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