Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Choices Bush Must Face

The failures of the Bush Administration simply grow day by day and nowhere is it more obvious than in Iraq. These are failures that have little to do with bad luck or forces completely beyond a president's control. These are failures that result from incompetence, arrogance and ideological willfulness (and that willfulness is directly tied to Bush's apparent belief that he can lie his way into war without consequence and lie his way out of his mess without consequence).

All along there have been things Bush could have done to salvage his mess in Iraq. Even before the war, there were signs of trouble. But once his decision to go to war was made and once the blunders started becoming obvious by May of 2003, Bush had numerous opportunities to save his position in Iraq. The most obvious thing he should have done early on was fire Rumsfeld; clearly, after Abu Ghraib became public nearly a year later, Rumsfeld should have been history. That Rumsfeld survives is like a flashing red light stuck on the outside of the White House that keeps reminding the world that Bush doesn't know what he's doing, or has strange ideas about what he's doing, or both; whatever it is, the Bush presidency is broken and his foreign policy is adrift. Most Americans know it. And a growing number of Republicans know it.

Laura Rozen of War and Piece posts a passage from the Nelson Report (paid subscription only, I believe, so she can't give us a link) and here's a key paragraph:
Specifically, note who has been run out for TV recently defending and explaining Iraq...Bush, not Rumsfeld. The President has been forced to put himself irrevocably on the line, both in public, and with the press, because Rumsfeld has lost all credibility...that’s what our Republican friends say is the “inside word”.
If Rumsfeld has no credibililty, Bush isn't far behind. The Nelson Report goes on to suggest there might be changes soon though nobody seems to be holding their breath. If, however, Bush decides to replace Rumsfeld, he faces two choices: to make a cosmetic change or to make a change that will begin to restore his own credibility and the credibililty of the US government.

Already, the Bush Administration has demonstrated that when it makes changes, the choices are cosmetic and the new person is likely to be more of a loyalist to Bush than the last person. A president should be able to hire the people he wants, but if Bush hires people whose primary asset is loyalty rather than ideas, competence and a healthy respect for our democracy and our future (rather than winning the political battles of the moment), his presidency will continue to drift and Iraq could easily become a bigger problem rather than being transitioned towards a reasonable though ugly winding down phase which is about the most we can hope for at this point.

Bush has to do some hard work to restore the credibility of his presidency but it's not hard to predict that if he starts making major personnel changes, he is likely to gamble that implementing cosmetic changes will be enough; such a gamble, of course, will be a tragedy. The United States is larger than anything that Bush can do. Our nation has already been damaged by his presidency but our nation is strong and we will come back, but the longer Bush's right wing ideology continues and the longer the Republican Party supports that ideology, the more damage Bush and perhaps his successors will do. The reality is that if Bush ran a major corporation the way he runs our country, that corporation would already be in bankruptcy. Already, there can be no doubt that Bushism is an experiment that failed.

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