Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Kicking the Can Down the Road and Other News

There's not much to say about Bush's dishonest press conference today with the strange Dick Cheney half lurking in the shrubbery looking on (I'm writing this straight but I suppose there's a pun in there somewhere). The media is slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, coming around to holding Bush more accountable but it's hard work keeping up with the president's less than straightfoward presentation with all its multiple levels of lies, half-truths and hypocrisy; and then there's all that help from his media flacks who can't even keep their multiple stories straight. It's not too difficult to understand what's happening, though. Suffice to say, Bush is a failure—it's all we really need to know from now on. After the November election, Bush had a chance to redeem himself, at least partly, by getting his act together at long last, but he's determined to do more damage than admit his many failures.

When it comes to Iraq no one should doubt that Bush is simply kicking the can down the road for the next president to handle. It's shameful behavior and suggests Bush and his inner circle have learned nothing from Vietnam. Here's an article from Raw Story on an earlier version of kicking the can down the road that didn't quite work:
On Vietnam, Dallek writes that Kissinger and Nixon privately concluded that the war was unwinnable. "In Saigon the tendency is to fight the war to victory," Dallek quotes Nixon in a 1969 phone call to Kissinger. "But you and I know it won't happen -- it is impossible." Yet Kissinger and Nixon sought to label Democrats criticizing the progress of the war as being from "the party of surrender," writes Dallek.

Authoritarians and their followers in the Republican Party still peddle their myths about Vietnam along with their rot that the war was winnable, and yet they conveniently forget the first can kicker was actually Lyndon Johnson who passed Vietnam on to Nixon who had a 'plan' to win the war and who, nevertheless, managed to prolong the war a long and deadly six years. Maha of Mahablog reminds us that press conferences in Johnson's day were much rougher than anything George W. Bush has yet to experience:
I sometimes wish videos of President Lyndon Johnson’s press conferences were available on the web (if they are, let me know). As I remember it, at some point after the Vietnam War began the Washington press corps began to hound LBJ mercilessly. The press became openly antagonistic to Johnson, and I won’t say he didn’t deserve it. When reporters began to treat Richard Nixon the same way they’d treated LBJ, Nixon sent out Spiro Agnew to stir up faux outrage against the nattering nabobs of negativism and whine about liberal media bias; thus a myth was born. The fact is, as I remember it the press was a shade gentler to Nixon than it had been to LBJ. And by the time Reagan came along they’d become sufficiently defensive about “”liberal media bias” that reporters generally treated Reagan with kid gloves compared to the way they’d treated presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. And in comparison to the press corps in Johnson’s day, today’s White House reporters are a neutered and toothless lot, indeed.

War is not a political football. Our soldiers should not be used to prolong a failed foreign policy. There are times when war may be necessary. Afghanistan appears to have been the case in 2001. Bush's war in Iraq, however, was not necessary and was pushed for reasons not in the interests of most Americans for what now can only be described as a shameful political agenda. That's the bottom line. We have some obligation to stabilize Iraq and it's in our interests to withdraw as carefully as we can even if we have to leave troops nearby. But it's time to leave.

It doesn't help when someone like Senator McCain becomes too incompetent to understand Iraq or so flawed in his reasoning and desperation to become the next president that he begins to utter nonsense that doesn't help the debate on Iraq. Steve Clemons of The Washington Note reminds us there are still people in Iraq who know what's going on and they're not very patient with McCain's nonsense; Clemons' post covers a talk by Anne Garrels:
... She is, of course, National Public Radio's veteran roving foreign correspondent most often in Baghdad as of late -- though she seems to have covered nearly all of the world's rough and tough spots over the last couple of decades.


...Anne Garrels opened her talk last Thursday night blasting Baghdad visitor and erstwhile presidential candidate Senator John McCain.

Now old news, but then fresh off the wire, John McCain had said that things had improved so much in Baghdad that Iraq Multinational Force Commander General David Petraeus was driving around the city in an unarmord Humvee. Garrels -- who when you read her book strains for balance in her research and reporting -- really lambasted McCain for his duplicitous comments. She said it "was way too early to judge the results from a change in tactics in Baghdad."

She said that McCain's commentary seemed ludicrous to nearly anyone with real world Baghdad experience. Anne Garrels does NOT live in the green zone. She lives in the red zone, beyond the barriers of protection that most Americans have -- and every day is one where one has to be very careful and win the day and survival by his or her wits.

When Garrels covered the invasion of Iraq while staying at the Palestine Hotel, she was there with just 15 other American journalists -- including correspondents for The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. ...


She told the audience that in Iraq the "resentment and disbelief in the incompetence of America was profound."

She offered much of what any avid Iraq-watcher knows. The White House predicted a cost of this war at $50 billion and didn't really envision an occupation. The costs are now well beyond ten times that amount. The Department of Defense had no serious post-invasion strategy.

But one of the numbers she threw out which shocked me is that today it can cost between $3,500 and $5,000 for a one way taxi ride from the Baghdad Airport to downtown Baghdad. She has arranged some alternative, permanent service that brings the costs down some for NPR.

And McCain says average people like you and me can easily walk around downtown Baghdad...if we can afford it and can find a hundred soldiers to act as our tour guides.

A friend of mine has been complaining lately that I've been getting repetitious and no doubt he's right. Of course, he's one of those people who pays attention. I'm sure other readers may think the same thing. But when I turn on the evening news at night, it's still apparent that many journalists are still not up to speed on the leadership crisis that our country is experiencing. In times of crisis, some things bear repeating.

Very few journalists have been as observant, though, as Paul Krugman of The New York Times; here's a column from the other day as it appears in Truthout:
...voters realize that society has changed. They may not pore over income distribution tables, but they do know that today's rich are building themselves mansions bigger than those of the robber barons. They may not read labor statistics, but they know that wages aren't going anywhere: according to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of workers believe that it's harder to earn a decent living today than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

You know that perceptions of rising inequality have become a political issue when even President Bush admits, as he did in January, that "some of our citizens worry about the fact that our dynamic economy is leaving working people behind."

But today's Republicans can't respond in any meaningful way to rising inequality, because their activists won't let them. You could see the dilemma just this past Friday and Saturday, when almost all the G.O.P. presidential hopefuls traveled to Palm Beach to make obeisance to the Club for Growth, a supply-side pressure group dedicated to tax cuts and privatization.

The Republican Party's adherence to an outdated ideology leaves it with big problems. It can't offer domestic policies that respond to the public's real needs. So how can it win elections?

The answer, for a while, was a combination of distraction and disenfranchisement.

That's the sad truth of George W. Bush and the current Republican Party: at the national level, they can't win on the issues—they can only win by playing games. That's why the US Attorney scandal, only the latest of a series of scandals, is such a big deal: firing honest Republicans who believe in law enforcement and putting in party hacks and cronies that will do the bidding of Republican kingmakers is a big no-no if one still believes in the US Constitution and democracy.

It's going to be a big fight for the next few years, but it's time for the American people to take their country back.

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

". . . press conferences in Johnson's day were much rougher than anything George W. Bush has yet to experience"

So very true. And as the Watergate scandal deepened, Nixon's press conferences got downright nasty at times.

I recall one held at a White House portico quite well. None other than Britt Hume, then with NBC as I recall, asked a particularly tough and potentially embarrassing question. Nixon bristled, then angrily lit into Hume, chewing him out, impugning his motives and professionalism. Then he made a remark about the press generally. Cameras were rolling and the whole ugly scene made it on to all three major networks' evening newscasts.

Nixon came off as an angry, harried, overly combative jerk nearing the point of complete instability.

9:13 PM  

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