Archive for the 'george_w_bush' Category

Eesh. A Reminder of Why Bush Was Such a Horrible President.

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Smarmy, self-serving bluster in place of honest self-reflection:

It certainly helps resurrect Obama’s stature in my eyes to compare him to Bush.

I am now going to try to stop thinking about that putz.

Drum on Bernstein and Isikoff on the Bushies on Torture

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Kevin Drum, in  Lying About Torture, Part 2:

A few days ago, Jonathan Bernstein pointed out that former Bush/Rumsfeld speechwriter Marc Thiessen was continuing to claim that the torture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed in 2003 helped foil a terrorist plot to crash an airplane into a Los Angeles skyscraper. This was obviously a lie. Why? Because the cell leaders of the LA plot were arrested a year before KSM was captured.

Apparently this kind of crude, low-rent deception isn’t limited to Thiessen. It turns out that the same sort of clumsy lying was also part of the CIA’s classified “Effectiveness Memo,” which the Bush administration relied on to bolster its legal case for torturing terrorist suspects.

Sigh. If there’s a better summary than “crude, low-rent deception” to describe the Bush administration’s whole approach to the justification of state-sponsored torture, I’d like to hear it.

Good on the Final Solution for the Guantanamo 47

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Besides being a cool musician, Matthew Good is also a cool blogger, one deeply concerned by a lot of the same things that deeply concern me. Here he is doing his best to follow the logical thread of the Obama administration’s arguments on Guantanamo detainees. In particular, he’s looking at the subset of detainees who are deemed “too dangerous to release,” but who cannot be charged, presumably because the only evidence the government has against them was obtained by torture: The 47.

Of course, detainees are not viewed as ‘prisoners of war’ by the US, rendering the application of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions moot. So given that US law doesn’t apply, and international law doesn’t apply, one has to ask the question – would simply eliminating them be breaking the law?

Given the vast ambiguities used to justify their detention, the answer to that question is rather straightforward – the law isn’t applicable. If they can be detained indefinitely without legal recourse, then they can be killed without legal recourse. They aren’t prisoners of war, according to the United States they have no legal rights, so the law doesn’t apply. That said, if they are as dangerous as the Justice Department claims them to be, eliminating them wouldn’t be in breach of anything being that nothing applies. In the end, the only thing standing in the way of that option is negative publicity.

When you get right down to it, the issue really is that simple. I think this might actually be a worthwhile avenue for the opponents of state-sponsored torture to take: Tell Obama to put up or shut up. If the rule of law means anything, then charge these guys or let them go. And if the rule of law doesn’t mean anything, then just kill them already, quickly and cleanly, rather than a little at a time by locking them away with no legal recourse for the rest of their lives.

Bush Derangement Syndrome

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Here’s Mary Matalin on CNN recently, courtesy of Think Progress:

“I was there [in the Bush White House]. We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation’s history. And President Bush dealt with it. And within a year of his presidency at this comparable time, unemployment was at 5 percent. And we were creating jobs.”

Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly is a bit one-sided for my taste much of the time, but he pretty much nails Matalin in his write-up: Matalin’s Alternate Universe.

Deep down, I’m pretty sure Matalin knows exactly what she’s doing, though it might take a round or two of waterboarding before she’d admit it. In the case of Dana Perino, though, I believe there’s considerably more confusion between fantasy and reality in that head of hers. Here she is talking to Sean Hannity back in November, in the wake of the Fort Hood attack:

A transcript, again courtesy of Think Progress:

PERINO: And we had a terrorist attack on our country. And we should call it what it is. Because we need to face up to it so that we can prevent it from happening again.

HANNITY: I agree with you. And why won’t they say what you just so simply said?

PERINO: They want to do all of their investigations. I don’t know. All of the thinking that goes into it. But we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term. I hope they’re not looking at this politically. I do think we ought it to the American people to call it what it is.

I know Perino is a bit of a dim bulb, and I’m sure she would have made a pro forma correction if anyone called her on her misstatement (not that Sean Hannity would be especially likely to do that). But her willingness to spout contrafactual gibberish like that is indicative of a deeper perceptual problem the she, and other Bush supporters, have.

In the minds of Bush loyalists, as abetted by high-profile historical revisionists and moral relativists like Matalin and Perino, it’s the Obama administration that is obsessed with deflecting blame for the president’s failures by pointing to inherited problems. Meanwhile, they spin as hard as they can (and then some) to push the myth that Bush… was not to blame for his failures, and inherited all his problems from Clinton.

Here’s Benen again:

The Matalin pitch, in a nutshell, is, “Sure, Obama inherited the Great Recession, two wars, a job market in freefall, a huge deficit, and crushing debt, a health care system in shambles, a climate crisis, an ineffective energy policy, an equally ineffective immigration policy, a housing crisis, the collapse of the U.S. auto industry, a mess at Gitmo, and a severely tarnished global reputation. But what Bush got from Clinton wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.”

Except it was. After cleaning up H.W. Bush’s mess, Clinton bequeathed a prosperous, peaceful country, held in high regard around the world, with a shrinking debt, and surpluses far into the future. There was a burgeoning terrorist threat emerging, but Clinton’s team provided Bush with the necessary tools and warnings necessary to keep the nation safe. Bush failed miserably, despite having been given an incredible opportunity to succeed.

I know Benen is a partisan, but I think that assessment is accurate. While Bush was in office, the magnitude of his failures made it hard for supporters to reconcile their support for him with his actual performance. That’s why, with the exception of the rally-round-the-flag spikes after 9/11 and in the early days of the Iraq war, the trend of Bush’s support was always down, and why Bush ended his presidency with support numbers in the high 20s, as this graph from Pollkatz shows:


As the years pass it gets easier for Bush supporters to rearrange their memories to reduce cognitive dissonance. As long as they are content to live in a world of make-believe, that’s a perfectly viable approach. But those of us who don’t have the same incentive don’t have to pretend along with them.

Kamiya: The Case for Investigations

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

I can’t find any particular part of this essay by Gary Kamiya to excerpt — the whole thing is too awesome to lend itself to summarizing: America’s necessary dark night of the soul.

I think Kamiya’s argument is a compelling response to Obama’s “we need to look forward” position. Yes, we have many other crucial matters we need to deal with. Yes, Obama does not have limitless political capital. Yes, there are many powerful people on both sides of the aisle who are implicated in the bad things that happened over the last eight years, and who can be expected to be about as cooperative in the investigation as the Sunni insurgents were in the reconstruction of Iraq.

This investigation will not happen because Obama wants it; he doesn’t want it. It is not in his interest. Neither is it in the interest of the current Democratic leadership in Congress, nor that of congressional Republicans. It will not come from the people represented by the blue line in this recent Pew Research graph, nor from those represented by the red line.

It will come from those of us represented by the avocado green line:


It will not be easy. It will not be pretty. But only once we’ve dragged this sordid, festering truth out into the sunlight will we be able to see it for what it really is, and move on.

Drum on Kiriakou’s Claims about Torture’s Effectiveness

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Lately I’ve been noticing a couple of people (shcb in the comments here, and my boss’s boss at work, who is the nicest guy in the world, but who suffers from an incurable delusion that Fox News really is fair and balanced) going around saying that the Bush administration’s use of torture produced lots of actionable intelligence and saved lots of American lives.

How do they know that? I mean, other than by the Bush administration itself claiming it to be so? Apparently they know it in part because of a December 2007 ABC interview with former CIA officer John Kiriakou. Kiriakou got a lot of play in the right-wing media, and his claims about how fast Abu Zubaydah broke under waterboarding and how he immediately began providing information that “disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks” are an article of faith among the defenders of torture’s efficacy.

Kiriakou’s information always seemed suspicious, in that it was weakly sourced (Kiriakou apparently wasn’t present at the events he described, and didn’t offer any documentation or corroboration), while other CIA sources (like those Ron Suskind used for his book The One Percent Doctrine) offered contradictory accounts.

Now, with the release of the torture memos, we have a way to test some of Kiriakou’s claims. And guess what? They don’t hold up.

Kevin Drum has details: Torturing Abu Zubaydah.

Kiriakou’s testimony was immensely influential at the time, but it’s pretty clear now that he was wrong: unless the CIA continued waterboarding him just for sport, Zubaydah didn’t break after a single session. Or ten sessions. Or fifty. And if Kiriakou was wrong about that, what are the odds that he was also wrong about the “dozens of attacks”? Or about the fact that waterboarding was responsible for any actionable information at all?

Ron Suskind, on the other hand, hasn’t been contradicted at all. As near as I can tell, his reporting has stood up almost perfectly in the face of subsequent evidence. If you want to know what really happened to Zubaydah, his book remains the gold standard for now.

That’s the key phrase: “If you want to know what really happened.” As near as I can tell, the reason why shcb and my boss’s boss continue to get their information from demonstrated liars is that they don’t want to know what really happened. They already know what happened. All they want now is confirmation, and some authoritative-sounding evidence they can use to undercut their opponents. If that’s all you’re looking for, the right-wing media is a perfectly adequate source.

Maddow Interviews Wilkerson on Cheney’s Claims That Torture Was Effective

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

There are a number of important questions about the Bush administration’s use of torture: Was it, in fact, torture? (Clearly yes. Anyone who maintains otherwise gets flagged by me as someone whose views can be safely ignored in the future.) Was it moral? Was it legal? Was it effective? Note that these last three questions are orthogonal. It’s possible to imagine something being any combination of moral, legal, and effective.

The effectiveness question seems to be the one the Bush supporters want to focus on at the moment. I don’t blame them; I think it’s probably the one question out of the three where the pro-torture position has any chance at all.

So let’s talk about the effectiveness of torture. Here’s Rachel Maddow interviewing Lawrence Wilkerson on the question of Dick Cheney’s recent claims that his use of torture produced actionable intelligence and, on balance, saved lives:

McClatchy: Torture Used to Find Iraq – al Qaeda Link

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

McClatchy’s Jonathan S. Landay reminds us of what it was like when we had real journalists. From Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link:

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly – Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 – according to a newly released Justice Department document.

I’m all for looking forward, and not spending political capital on partisan fighting. But looking forward, I don’t want to live in a country that lets torturers who committed Spanish Inquisition-style barbarity in pursuit of political cover for their lame policy choices get off scott-free.

Johnston on the Obama Press Operation

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

This piece by David Cay Johnston was interesting to me: Who’s undercutting Obama? I’m not in a position to pass judgement on Obama’s press operation with regard to whether people answer the phone, get snippy when asked to spell their names, or assume they can unilaterally declare their comments off the record. But I do feel qualified to judge the changes to

I know J.A.Y.S.O.N. thinks it’s a much better-designed website than it was under Bush, and since he knows a lot more about design than I do I’ll take that as a given. I’m more of a content guy. The thing that gets me excited in a website is content. Ridiculous amounts of content. Stacks of content. Reams of content. Browseable. Linkable.

For all Bush’s failings (at least a couple of which I seem to recall mentioning before), the White House website under Bush was a vast improvement over his predecessor’s. And from the perspective of content, Obama’s version of the site, at least so far, looks like a big step backward.

It’s not just that many thousands of pages went fwap! and disappeared overnight. That’s a serious issue (in light of the intent behind the Presidential Records Act, I’d think it might even be a legal issue, or at least ought to be, if and when the law catches up). But I can understand that requiring a new president to maintain the web content of his predecessor might be problematic, and would become moreso over time. But maybe the former site could have been transitioned to a permanent home at the Library of Congress, with the old URLs being redirected? Massive amounts of linkrot isn’t the sort of change I believe in.

(Update: Well, duh. It’s at the Bush Library: Welcome to the White House.)

Setting that aside, and judging the new site on its own merits, it just isn’t very good from a content standpoint. Yes, it has a some nice images and an actual “blog” that dares to speak its name, and the link farm at the bottom of every page has been helpful as I poke around. And yes, I know that Obama has been putting out videos on YouTube. But the press materials at are seriously lacking, which I assume is related to the press office problems that David Cay Johnston is griping about.

It looks like we’re getting briefing transcripts, which is nice. But the old site had transcripts and full audio files and full video streams of all news conferences and press briefings. I really liked that stuff. And lest you think I’m being all rich-media snobby, allow me to repeat: I’m a content guy from way back. I think putting out a ridiculous profusion of primary source material in every conceivable format and getting the fuck out of the way is, or should be, a web content creator’s first responsibility. And as much as it pains me to say it, at this point Team Obama’s geeks are getting their web-content asses handed to them by Team Bush. They’re thinking small, in an area where their small-minded predecessor thought big (or at least was oblivious enough that some geeky underling was able to think big on his behalf).

What’s up with that?

What’s Been Going on at Guantanamo

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I really can’t feel anything but a sick sense of shame at what Bush and Cheney (and Rumsfeld and Gonzalez and Addington and Yoo, among other enablers) did at places like Guantanamo and Bagram. As more details come out I expect that feeling to strengthen. The latest update from hilzoy (There are no files, part 2) was the latest thing to bring that home to me.

Weisberg on Loyalty

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

A decent article from Slate’s Jacob Weisberg: Loyalty is the most overrated virtue in politics.

America Won’t Bail

Monday, September 29th, 2008

With the failure today of the bailout bill that party leaders cobbled together, not only has the stock market further collapsed, but the utter political strangeness of the situation has reached a pinnacle. This whole mess has a can’t-look-away quality to it. Pelosi blames Bush for the mess, Republicans blame Pelosi for poisoning the caucus, presidential candidates blame each other for the bill’s failure, and as never before in my memory the talk has very clearly nothing to do with reality.

Let’s examine motivations:

  • Bush is a lame duck and wants to secure his legacy by not screwing this up.
  • Either Obama or McCain will be President-elect in a month or so, and making the wrong decision on an issue this large could be deadly.
  • Party leaders want to take credit for their party.
  • Rank-and-file congressmen are shortly up for election and desperately want to not piss off their constituency.

And then the results:

  • Bush puts forth an enormous proposal with no accountability or oversight, but is astoundingly willing to add the oversight back in to the bill when challenged.
  • Obama and McCain both support the bill, but say almost nothing about it except that it should be passed quickly.
  • Party leaders on both sides support the bill, seem infurated with rank-and-file congressmen when they fail to pass it, blame each other.
  • Rank-and-file congressmen (R moreso than D, Bush be damned) hate the bill, due to significant outrage from their constituency, and kill it.

When you look at the pretty clear (and strong) motivations, the resulting actions make sense. But played as a right vs. left battle, it’s mass hysteria and confusion.

So what’s the outcome of all this? The American people seem to have come together, without regard to party, to kill this bill through pressure on our elected representatives, despite the wishes of the powerful of both parties. As a result, we’ve given ourselves one of the largest stock crashes in history and we’ve caused a large number of powerful people to soil themselves. I don’t know if I should be afraid or proud.

Where’s Bush?

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Something occurred to me this morning about the ongoing financial crisis. Where’s Bush?

In the face of a cataclysmic implosion of the banking and financial services industry, a disaster that has taxpayers on the hook for tens (hundreds?) of billions of dollars because we’re hoping (hoping) that we can thereby stave off something far worse, a crisis where the loss of public confidence is not just a troubling symptom but is in fact the primary engine driving the crisis forward, some happy talk from Fearless Leader would seem like just the thing to calm troubled markets and citizens. So why are we Fearless Leader-less? Why has Bush been invisible?

Partly, I assume, this is because a conscious decision has been made to keep Bush under wraps until after the election. Just as at the Republican Convention, the people trying to get McCain elected would just as soon Bush disappeared completely for the next six weeks. The more Bush is on TV, the more it will remind low-information voters how much they hate the guy, and they’re much more likely to take that hatred out on McCain than on Obama.

There’s something else, too. In a way, this reminds me of the aftermaths of 9/11 and Katrina. As in those cases, we’ve got Bush in a figurative Air Force One, jetting randomly through the nation’s airspace, keeping him safe from threats to his person, yes, but more importantly, safe from live cameras and microphones. Without wanting to minimize the tragedy of those earlier events by comparing them to a crisis where (so far) actual human deaths have been few, we now have yet another situation in which Bush put a bunch of boobs and nitwits in charge, and then Something Unspeakably Horrible happened. Partly the Something Horrible was due to circumstances beyond Bush’s control, but partly, too, to the fact that Bush put a bunch of boobs and nitwits in charge.

So now he’s faced with a situation that is pretty much unspinnable in real time. There’s no way to make a credible case that this is not a catastrophe. Some way is going to have to be found to deflect Bush’s blame to someone else, and creating such an impression in a sufficient mass of minds is not easy. It will take teams of crack image-manipulators, devious, unscrupulous liars with heads like eggplants and souls like black ice. It will take time to see how things are going to fall out, what new information might come to light, how the public will react to it. It will take careful research to identify potential fall guys, do opposition research on them, script the public statements, and get all the stories lined up.

Meanwhile, we the people are left in a familiar situation: wondering where the Leader of the Free World is hiding out.

More Fallows: Palin on the Bush Doctrine

Friday, September 12th, 2008

This is not just “gotcha”. Palin’s clear lack of familiarity with what “the Bush Doctrine” means tells us something about who she is, as James Fallows explains in the Palin interview.

But first, let’s go to the tape:

Here’s Fallows:

Each of us has areas we care about, and areas we don’t. If we are interested in a topic, we follow its development over the years. And because we have followed its development, we’re able to talk and think about it in a “rounded” way. We can say: Most people think X, but I really think Y. Or: most people used to think P, but now they think Q. Or: the point most people miss is Z. Or: the question I’d really like to hear answered is A.

Here’s the most obvious example in daily life: Sports Talk radio.

Mention a name or theme — Brett Favre, the Patriots under Belichick, Lance Armstrong’s comeback, Venus and Serena — and anyone who cares about sports can have a very sophisticated discussion about the ins and outs and myth and realities and arguments and rebuttals.

People who don’t like sports can’t do that. It’s not so much that they can’t identify the names — they’ve heard of Armstrong — but they’ve never bothered to follow the flow of debate. I like sports — and politics and tech and other topics — so I like joining these debates. On a wide range of other topics — fashion, antique furniture, (gasp) the world of restaurants and fine dining, or (gasp^2) opera — I have not been interested enough to learn anything I can add to the discussion. So I embarrass myself if I have to express a view.

What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues. Many people in our great land might have difficulty defining the “Bush Doctrine” exactly. But not to recognize the name, as obviously was the case for Palin, indicates not a failure of last-minute cramming but a lack of attention to any foreign-policy discussion whatsoever in the last seven years.

As someone who has been noticing the disturbing similarities between Sarah Palin and George W. Bush, I also liked this part of Fallows’ piece:

A further point. The truly toxic combination of traits GW Bush brought to decision making was:

1) Ignorance
2) Lack of curiosity
3) “Decisiveness”

That is, he was not broadly informed to begin with (point 1). He did not seek out new information (#2); but he nonetheless prided himself on making broad, bold decisions quickly, and then sticking to them to show resoluteness.

We don’t know about #2 for Palin yet — she could be a sponge-like absorber of information. But we know about #1 and we can guess, from her demeanor about #3. Most of all we know something about the person who put her in this untenable role.

The point about Palin’s similarity to Bush is underscored by another part of her Gibson interview, a part that Fallows had not seen yet when he wrote the above:

Charles Gibson, the interviewer, asked her if she didn’t hesitate and question whether she was experienced enough.

“I didn’t hesitate, no,” she said.

He asked if that didn’t take some hubris.

“I answered him yes,” Ms. Palin said, “because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can’t blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we’re on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can’t blink. So I didn’t blink then even when asked to run as his running mate.”

She didn’t hesitate. She didn’t blink. Like George Bush before her, she doesn’t let concerns about her own preparedness or suitability for the task at hand get in the way of confidently and forcibly injecting herself into the center of things. But as we’ve seen with George Bush, that sort of self-confidence is not, in and of itself, a predictor of success.

Leadership, as I’ve said before, is not just having the courage of your convictions, a willingness to take a tough stand and stick with it in the face of nay-sayers. To qualify as a visionary leader, you have to do those things, and then be proven right by subsequent events. If that doesn’t happen, if subsequent events make it clear that actually no, it was those people who voiced concerns about your plan, over whom you ran roughshod in your zeal to provide “leadership”, who were right, then you aren’t a visionary leader. You’re just a stubborn doofus who will confidently lead anyone foolish enough to follow over the edge of a cliff.

I find myself thinking about political conservatives’ grumbling about the dangers of school programs that try to teach all children that they have value, to foster a self-esteem that is disconnected from actual objective accomplishments. I wonder what role such programs might have played in the early psychological development of people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Does such teaching create an environment in which an insecure person can seize on aggressive self-promotion, the nurturing of an out-of-control, outwardly projected self-confidence, as a tool to rise above those with greater abilities but less hubris?

I think it’s probably not the schools’ fault. I think it’s more likely that it’s the parents that are to blame. Again, I’ve written previously about my belief that Bush’s personality defects were probably the result of a really awful upbringing at the hands of an over-achieving, inaccessible father and a vicious, unloving mother. I don’t know anything about Sarah Palin’s upbringing, but if it turns out that she faced similar challenges as a young child, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Here’s a batch of snarky video clips. Consider this my tribute to the restraint the Obama campaign has been showing in not sinking to McCain’s level:

“The president has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants.”

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

That quote from Cheney staff director David Addington, as reported in a new book detailing administration terrorism policies. The WaPo also says:

The classified CIA report described by Mayer was prepared in the summer of 2002 by a senior CIA analyst who was invited to the prison camp in Cuba to help Defense Department officials grapple with a major problem: They were gleaning very little useful information from the roughly 600 detainees in custody at the time. After a study involving dozens of detainees, the analyst came up with an answer: A large fraction of them “had no connection with terrorism whatsoever,” Mayer writes, citing officials familiar with the report. Many were essentially bystanders who had been swept up in dragnets or turned over to the U.S. military by bounty hunters.

And that’s one of the conservative estimates.

Guantanamo is a carefully crafted loophole in the constitutional limits on presidential power, and a carefully crafted exercise in managing public perception. It is a national dungeon, where the President’s determination of guilt is the only rule. The law upholds it because it must, the congress accepts it because it’s too politically easy to ignore it, and the public accepts it because it seems just far enough away to be less important than the numbers on the gas station marquee.

Greenwald on Mayer on Torture

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

So, is Glenn Greenwald a shrill, Leftist hysteric?


Leveling Charges

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

ethan-p asked me to post the plain text (or pdf in this case) of Dennis Kucinich’s impeachment charges against George Bush. He adds, “he would have had me if he’d stopped after IV”, although I think I might be less generous.

The Other Insider Tell-all

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

I’m sure you’ve all heard plenty about our man Scottie’s book, so I won’t bother linking to, say, any excellent op-eds about the hindsight contained therein, both revealing of the administration and unintentionally condemning of the writer who enabled so much of what he now decries (cough).

But you might want to check out this op-ed on Lt. General Sanchez’s new book, which gives a similarly revealing look at the business end of the administration’s decision making: military strategy in Iraq. What I find interesting here is both the commanders-in-the-field eye view of the politically-driven decision making McClellan describes, but also how the “mission accomplished” event was a reality for those within the administration — they truly believed that the war was over and force could be drawn down early on, until reality quickly interfered. This to me is the most damning of explanations of how we ended up where we are in Iraq: the administration was too insular and self-deluded to realize that a brief war was not possible, and once that became clear their reaction was not to reevaluate their strategy, it was to solve the problem politically. The notion that “conditions on the ground” would drive decisions was just a convenient rhetorical trick to dismiss criticism.

GOP Goes to the Fear Well Again

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or, when your elevation of an incompetent tool who de-emphasizes counterterrorism and surrounds himself with people whose main qualification is that their sense of personal loyalty is absolute, even if their intellectual gifts and track record of past accomplishments leave something to be desired, leads to an unprecedented security failure and the death of thousands of Americans on US soil; when a botched decision to go to war, sold dishonestly and then revealed to have been so sold, is followed by an equally botched occupation that leaves (again) thousands of Americans (along with the odd million or so innocent foreigners) dead, while draining the national coffers to the tune of half a trillion (with a “T”) dollars and counting; when pretty much everything your guy has accomplished in the last eight years demonstrates that your particular approach to governance has been (at least in practice) an unmitigated disaster for the nation generally and for its citizens’ physical security in particular; how then do you respond when it looks like things are turning against you politically?

Why, by putting out a commercial that is a direct ripoff of the trailer for the upcoming season of 24, attempting to stoke even higher the public fear that has been engendered precisely because of your guy’s failures, and use it as an argument that really, these times are so scary that it is only the Republicans who can possibly save us:

To which I can only say, bring it on. If at this point in time the United States can, in fact, be swayed by that particular message delivered in that particular manner by those particular people, then we deserve four more years of Bush-style leadership.

But it does raise an interesting question, which Matthew Yglesias muses about in The Party of Terror:

In essence, the Republicans are placing a heavy political bet on the idea of a terrorist attack happening some time while their “danger” clock is running. If Americans die, they’ll be in a position to clean up. Conversely, if we still have some semblance of legal protections against government surveillance months from now and that clock’s still ticking even though al-Qaeda hasn’t slaughtered any innocents here in the U.S., they’re going to look mighty silly.

A conspiracy theorist would move easily from this fact (which I think is pretty much indisputable) to the (much harder to demonstrate) belief that the Republican Party would actually work to bring about such an attack here in the US. Maybe I’m naive in my faith in humanity, but I believe that even our current crop of Republican leaders are not such awful people that they’d stoop to that. Unfortunately, it’s not necessary to assume that degree of evil on their part; simple incompetence, dishonesty, and a fucked-up decision-making process are demonstrably sufficient to bring it about. So yeah, I’m afraid. Just not in the particular way that that commercial wants me to be.

Condi Gets Her Nasty Face On

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

It makes me happy that Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) is willing to speak the truth on things like impeachment, the Harriet Miers / Joshua Bolten contempt citation, and, in this choice chunk of public hearing, Condoleeza Rice’s role in pushing lies in the run-up to war: