Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's Bush Choice: The Baker Report Has Thrown Him a Life Preserver

If some kind of bipartisan seriousness can be brought back to our foreign policy that is free of of what we now know is a disastrous neoconservative ideology, I'm for it, even if I don't agree with everything that is said. The signs from the White House, however, are not good. There's something unserious about a president who keeps talking about 'victory' or 'winning' without bothering to mention what he means. And it's unserious that the president ignores the failure of some of his early goals and acts as if he knows what he's doing. And it's unserious at this late stage that Bush is still unable to tell Americans the simple facts.

Like many right wing Republicans, Bush can sometimes be something of a blowhard—that can work for a while, at least politically, or on the campaign trail, but it hasn't worked since Hurricane Katrina and the growing fiasco in Iraq. No one wants Bush to fail for two more years. But the hour is late and no one is going to hold his hand. So it's his choice: he can nurse his ego for two more years and continue to flounder, or he can do what's right for the country and accept plenty of bipartisan help.

Ron Hutcheson of the McClatchy Washington Bureau has a story on the next phase in the ongoing crisis in the White House: what will Bush do?:
The question now is whether President Bush will listen.

The Iraq Study Group delivered an unmistakable message Wednesday: Change the course in Iraq.

Bush can be a stubborn man, proud of his reputation for decisiveness and commitment to what he sees as principle, but he's shifted gears before in response to political pressure, though never on an issue of such magnitude.


The bipartisan group's report leaves Bush more politically isolated than ever.

"Now the president has the ball in his court," said incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "And we're going to be watching very closely."

While the president reserved judgment on the report, it essentially repudiates his entire Middle East policy. It called for withdrawing nearly all American combat troops by early 2008, precisely the kind of timetable that he's denounced repeatedly. It presses for direct U.S. talks with Syria and Iran. And it endorses much more U.S. pressure on Israel to reach a peace with Palestinians.

Bush may still believe in his decisiveness but his decisiveness has led only to fiascos. What Bush calls decisiveness, some of us call reactiveness (curious how close that is to 'reactionary'). Reacting based on gut instincts without much thought and failing to recognize the dismal consequences of off-the-cuff ad hoc decisions is nothing to be proud of.

Now some Bush critics are arguing that the Baker report doesn't go far enough, but the reality is that the report goes farther than anything we have seen in Washington the last three years; the report can only go so far since, after all, it is a bipartisan effort. But the fundamental message of the report is quite simple and quite powerful: stop digging a hole, stop damaging American foreign policy.

Here's another excerpt from the McClatchy article:
"I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the (Iraqi) government wants us there," he said at a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "This business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all."

This kind of pointless posturing on the part of Bush has to end. Let's turn around what he says. There is nothing graceful about the current American occupation of Iraq. Sooner or later, we are leaving, probably before the 2008 election; the only question is whether we can clean up some of the mess before we go, nothing more. It will be impossible to leave the region entirely and we will have to position ourselves in some strategic manner. But for all practical purposes, we are leaving. Bush's schemes, whatever they were, are finished.

Bush says he will be talking to advisers within his own administration, but we have grown accustomed to his echo chamber. If his advisers merely echo what the president wants to hear, the fiasco in the Middle East will only grow. Bush should listen to the Iraq Study Group.

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Blogger Mike Bock said...

Thanks for the quote from Harry Reid. It seems to me very telling: "Now the president has the ball in his court. And we're going to be watching very closely."

Reid, it seems to me, is sending the wrong message. He seems to be saying this this is all about Bush's failure -- it's his ball, we're on the sidelines watching -- but, that's not true. It has always been about Congress -- not just the President The Republican Congress failed to fulfill its Constitutional duties of oversight and advice. Now it is up to the Democratic Congress to do better.

The looming disaster in Iraq and the Middle East is not just a Presidential disaster, it is a Congressional disaster and a Constitutional disaster. It is the Congressional Democrats who are on watch now and so Iraq now belongs to them. To imply, as Reid does, that it is all about sitting back and watching is to deny the reality of responsibility outlined in the Constitution.

Isn't there good reason to believe that via Bush's decisions the future peace and prosperity of our whole nation has been put in grave danger? The ISG says that in Iraq, "If current trends continue, the potential consequences are severe." The report outlines actions in 76 recommendations as a means to help avoid those consequences. This report is a bipartisan effort made by thoroughly respectable and thoughtfull persons. Why should it not be implemented as government policy -- as a total package?

The decision whether or not to implement the report is one requiring congressional input. Is our nation in grave danger? If Congress really believes that our nation is in grave danger, then, it seems to me that the Democratic Majority in congress is obligated to take extreme action, if necessary. Congress, for example, could pass a resolution that, because of the grave threat to this nation, the recommendations of this ISG report must be followed by the President and that failure to fully follow the recommendations in the report would be considered a treasonous and impeachable offense.

Congress is not without power. And over 60% of the US population, it appears, would approve of such Congressional action. The question is whether the Democrats in Congress will be bold enough to take leadership concerning this issue. There are probably any nuber of steps that Congress could take before pressing the issue to the point of impeachment.

The Democratic Congress must simply determine to take bold actions when the circumstances and facts demand bold actions. Isn't that called leadership? Democrats need to show that, given the chance to lead, they will lead. The country wants problem solvers and leaders -- not whiners and finger pointers.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Jenifer D. said...

When the one at the top rules his kingdom with an iron fist, it's inherent that everybody fall into step or risk being ostracized. It's all about compliance and too bad only a small handful of our elected officials has a spine to stand up for what's morally and ethically right; don't just blame the one at the top of the political food chain.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

Mike and Jennifer, thanks for your comments. I appreciate them.

Mike, there are going to be hearings by the Democrats and there's going to be accountability.

Of course, at the end of the day, the president has the veto and he may have the votes to sustain the veto.

I think you have a point about the Democrats needing to put out some kind of resolution on Iraq but for now the best they can hope for is a nonbinding resolution. The president can't veto such resolutions and of course he's not required to follow them either but the right resolution with plenty of publicity might be of help.

Still, for the next four to six weeks, until the Democrats take their seats and get their committees up to speed, the ball really is in Bush's court. He knows what the Democrats think and he knows what the nation thinks and he knows now what the bipartisan Iraq Study Group thinks; and yet there are already signs he's trying to peel off a few Democrats to go his way and unfortunately there's a small percentage of Democrats willing to listen. In the Senate, the Democrats technically don't have a majority and the majority they do have depends on Joe Lieberman.

In the end, everything may depend on getting enough Republicans to back the Democrats in terms of dealing with Bush if he continues on his current course. Some bridges need to be built to make that happen and the bipartisan report of the ISG is a step in building those bridges.

I respect the rational proposal you make about the ISG recommendations and the possibility of impeachment and if you believe in it, keep pushing it. Certainly Bush deserves to be impeached simply for lying his way into a war. But the majority of Republicans who are in Congress these days are not necessarily the rational politicians who recognized we had a problem with Nixon.

On the other hand,the minority of Republicans who knew better could have joined the Democrats at any time in the last five years to override any of Bush's nonsense. Most of those Republicans who knew better chose to stick with their party. But these are the ones Democrats may have to work on in the next few months and there's no guarantee they'll get far. We don't know yet if the Democrats can find ways to override any of Bush's vetoes. But even that small minority of Republicans know the writing is on the wall; things have to change. A handful are beginning to talk about working with Democrats but we'll need more to do more than have hearings.

Right now, there's something of a dance going on in Washington and it partly involves a phony media playing games about whether Democrats can pursue bipartisanship while the same media ignores the not so friendly gestures of the president. Right now, the larger question is whether anyone can get through to the president. That's the first issue that has to be settled in the next four to six weeks. So for now I agree with Reid; the ball should be in the president's court. If the president doesn't change course, it will only be weeks before the Democrats carefully start making their case for change and raising the ante step by step.

Mike, I look forward to seeing more of your posts on Alone on the Limb.

10:40 PM  

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