Copyright © 2006 Frank Lynch.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
If anyone is up on the Republican scuttlebutt, it would be interesting to know if the same right wingers who complained about so-called Democratic intolerance of Dems who favored chipping away at abortion rights will also complain about Republican intolerance regarding Mitt Romney.
Odds are against their success. There's already been so much written about what's inside the report of the Iraq Survey Group, and I've read much of the report and the commentary, I'm a little surprised that I've seen so little about what's not in the report and how it impacts (or has impacted) the chances of it being paid attention to.
For example, the group apparently made a conscious decision to be completely forward thinking, and not discuss how we got into Iraq. There's a political upside there, in that by divorcing the current situation (like in Kafka's Metamorphosis, you simply wake up to discover you're a cockroach) it puts greater focus on the forward-thinking goal: if you haven't noticed, while many people are voicing disagreement with this or that, there hasn't been an opportunity to disagree with the panel's position on how and why we got where we are. At the same time, by not pointing fingers on this issue, it doesn't raise any hackles unnecessarily, and makes it easier for the Decider In Chief to save face.
But at the same time there are of course disadvantages to this approach. By not discussing "why we're in Iraq" (I haven't seen it yet...) it doesn't allow anyone to weigh the costs vs. the value of the mission. And by remaining silent on that point (assuming they do), they allow the neo-cons an out: the neo-cons can complain that the group just doesn't get it.
Secondly, as I mentioned in my previous post, its "bipartisan" composition meant that it would be anchored in diversity. Yes, political upside, claims of partisanship won't sink its recommendations. Downside, it insured that thinking wouldn't be bold, it would be grounded in current thinking, and that the desire for consensus would hamper its originality.
Another aspect has to do with the timing of the report's release. Yes, the Democrats took back Congress, and if they hadn't you know for sure that cries of "why didn't this come out before the election?" would be deafening. Well, in my view they should still be deafening. Had the report come out before the election, maybe we wouldn't have Joe Lieberman to have to flatter. Maybe there would be more solid majorities which would allow the Democrats a little more breathing room. And maybe even the President would be in a situation, facing midterms, to really genuinely take it seriously rather than pay it mere lip service.
In sum, without even having gotten into the recommendations
yet, there was and is a lot working against this report's
success. Maybe we can find a way to keep Bush's feet to the fire
on this somehow — I'm not convinced we'll be able to bring
Iran and Syria to a table — but it seems clear that we have
to get Bush to do something significant. And since we don't have
the boots to increase our forces...
Think Fast: Henry Clay! Did anything come to your mind after "The Great Compromiser"? Like, do you remember what he compromised so famously? I sure can't. I wonder, because "compromise" is the word I'm thinking as I get into the report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Survey Group. It's fraught with words like "consensus" and "bipartisan" — and you also have to blink at the mere word "better," suggesting that there's a difference of opinion about what's "best," and that no one feels that what we've got in this report is best.
A call for bipartisanship is certainly not a call for the
best, it's merely a call for acceptability. It's also not a call
for leadership, nor is it a call for what's best for our country.
Bush certainly didn't take the meager hand which was offered, rejecting outright today the biggest
recommendations. Of course, you'd have had to have been a
starry-eyed Dixie Chicks hater to have expected otherwise from
what Bush said yesterday, when he characterized it as "an opportunity to come together and
to work together on this important issue" (kumbaya!) a moment
after forecasting he would disagree with its elements ("we
probably won't agree with every proposal") it was nonetheless
reassuring that he would take it "seriously," but then stinky
diapers are taken seriously, too, all the way to the trash.
Who else? It's not so very surprising that Robert Gates won unanimous panel approval to succeed Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Yeah, there's much to question, but if you're interested in playing a bipartisan card, and you've already seen John Bolton withdraw himself from contention for Ambassador to the U.N., how do you choose you battles? You have to be practical: no matter what you think of Gates, the position is central enough to Bush's heart that it's not like he's going to choose somebody completely different. And since it's only for two more years at most - - and we're going to be in Iraq anyway - - I guess it's a case of the devil you know versus the one in Bush's sleeve.
You have to ask yourself: would these people have acted like this in their hometowns? Is this behavior more or less prevalent as a result of the situation in Iraq?
"This, is, myyyyyy country..." Oh, so stirring. By now you've probably read the accounts of some of the treatment Jose Padilla received, a U.S. citizen in the hands of the U.S. government, and supposedly presumed innocent. If you haven't, click, I'll be here when you come back.
Thinking of writing any checks as the year ends? Well, a check
to the ACLU isn't tax deductible, but consider it just the same. Think about all the
information which came out about Guantanamo which wouldn't
have come out otherwise. I know, I know, you want to think
about the poor, and I'm not saying you should ignore the poor, by
no means; but look at it this way, without the ACLU, the poor
people on your streets would be some other country's poor
people, not living in a country governed by our
More data, please... Republicans flock to Rush Limbaugh's Web site, while Democrats flock to BET. Well, that's not quite the conclusion: it's more like, Limbaugh's site has the highest proportion of Republicans among its visitors, while BET has the highest proportion of Democrats among its. THAT is an accurate paraphrase. But still, I'd love to know more about the methodology: were survey participants checking off their Web sites from a pre-configured list? And were there traffic cut-offs which excluded lists? Formats? (i.e., blogs were excluded?) Think about it: BET has a higher proportion of Democrats among its visitors than Atrios does? If so, the GOP must feel real good about its success in reaching out to African- Americans...
No doubt, their backing of terrorist organizations is a major pain, and the prospect of their advancing to nuclear weapons is also scary. But that's the problem with rank data: you single out one nation as "the major" and you're implicitly ignoring all the rest. And if you don't have a comprehensive foreign policy, one that looks at the long haul and a portfolio of issues, you're just putting out one fire after another, instead of thinking about recruiting firemen for the next ten years.
This is largely how we got where we are with respect to Iran
and North Korea: by myopically focusing ourselves on Iraq (and
losing sight of OBL and Afghanistan), we got mired in the Iraqi
conflagration. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Hopefully the
new Congress will have a sufficiently long memory such that it
won't write you a blank check.
The party line, and the new time line. So here's the time line, as Bush described it, surrounding Donald Rumsfeld's exit:
I'm sure we all had a hiccup over the idea that Bush held back news of Rumsfeld leaving because he didn't want it to have an impact on the election: as if Bush wouldn't have done everything he could have to win it. The press was pretty compliant over Bush's admission that he lied about the change at the Pentagon, and seemed to be willing to let it slide: as if, with a change in the government, to dig deeper might have been ruled "piling on," or as the refs put it, "unnecessary roughness."
Well apparently the New York Times has been digging deeper; either that or they were fortuitously given a classified document which leads me to conclude that Bush is intolerant of disagreement within his closest circle. The Times has a classified memo from Rumsfeld to Bush, the day before the elections, questioning the U.S. policies in Iraq:
Stick that event into the timeline above, and the events change: Bush genuinely expected Rumsfeld to stay; received Rumsfeld's the memo the day before the election; wanted to fire him immediately, but couldn't figure out how to not make it seem like an "October Surprise" (in quotes because it was November by then, of course); fired Rumsfeld over the disagreement just as soon as he could; and didn't want to seem ignorant or rash at the day-after press conference. That's my read of the events, at least. Your mileage may vary.
Sure, interviews with Gates as a potential successor were already underway, but this really looks like a catalyst to me.
UPDATE: Over at the Left Coaster (always a good read),
Steve Soto suggests
the possibility that Rumsfeld knew his goose was cooked and
wrote a memo for the history books. If so, I'd say it was as
pointless as the thrashing which a chameleon's tail does when
separated from the body.