Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Politics of Katrina

A co-worker asked me today, "where has Bush been on the New Orleans situation?" This guy is a smart, fairly non-political guy, just a normal guy without an agenda who wants to know where the president is in this time of crisis.

If Bush has learned one thing from his presidency it's that how leaders act in times of crisis really resonates with people and can make or break one's popularity and relevance. Something else he must know is that his numbers have been going in a downward direction, especially on the old "in touch/out of touch" spectrum. So what does he do? Goes golfing on Monday, makes a speech about Iraq for almost an hour on Tuesday in which he mentions the devastation in New Orleans for a mere 1 minute 20 seconds (and asks us merely to pray) and decides to cut his vacation short by 2 days on Wednesday while he surveys the destruction from 5,000 feet.

So whether he really is on top of this and whether he really does care, another lesson he must have taken away over the last few years is that perception equals reality. Now, not only has the left wing media predictably ranted against Bush's lack of action, but even Jack Cafferty on CNN suggested curtly that perhaps returning to work would be a good idea (don't worry, George, Wolf came to your defense!) And now my common man co-worker is wondering where he is...why hasn't he made a statement to the nation. You're losing this war too, George.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Bush, Cowboy President

One way in which the Cindy Sheehan story may actually benefit the president is in the constant reference to his perennial August get-away as a "ranch," specifically as the "Crawford Ranch." Of course it's become common parlance to refer to it as such. If you Google "Crawford Ranch" you get more than 1 million results. Every time the media writes a story about Cindy Sheehan camping outside the "Crawford Ranch" it's actually reinforcing a pretty positive frame for the president, the Bush as rancher frame, one that, as puts it, gives Bush,
...who was born in New Haven, Conn., and schooled at Yale and Harvard, a chance to remind the nation that he's a Cowboy President.

The LA Times elaborates.
Bush had successfully adopted the populist cowboy persona... described as the "ultimate American male archetype of our time" and a reassuring symbol to a society that likes to divide history's figures into good uys and bad guys."

As much as people may complain that Bush is in Crawford, a lot of Americans like seeing him in blue jeans with a big belt buckle, walking down a dirt road or clearing brush," Brinkley said. "It's become a stage set for him."

For Bush, who was born in New Haven, Conn., and schooled at Yale and Harvard, the ranch has helped provide a political antidote to the Northeastern blue-blood heritage that dogged his father, George H.W. Bush, as president.

The Times also does a little digging into whether it is technically a ranch or not, but it hardly matters how many cattle are on the premises if any. The Bushes bought the "Prairie Chapel Ranch" in 1999, which in my eyes, allows it "ranch" status ad infinitum. I would just remind those on the left who enjoy complaining about how out of touch Bush is by drawing attention to the fact that he's vacationing while our kids are dying in Iraq and won't even leave his compund to speak to a grieving mother, every time you mention his "ranch," you're reinforcing the every day "in touch" quality that so many people like about him. As George Lakoff would remnd us, you can't negate a frame -- no matter the context, the second you invoke the term "ranch" in association with Bush, you immediately activate the idea that Bush is a good ole boy with the common touch.

The Angry Left

Classic that our resident Republican poster "anonymous" resorts to a personal attack in the comments, even as he questions my portrayal of the angry right.

But he is correct to state that the left is angry as well. Who wouldn't be with the current political climate. It's crazy how pissed people are on leftwing radio. But the idea that "angry" would be my primary political characteristic is pretty absurd.

Now having said that, there are huge differences between the anger on the right and that on the left. First of all, it is strange to us that you all would still be so angry now that you have everything you've ever apparently wanted: control of the presidency, control of both houses of Congress and 7 of 9 SCOTUS justices appointed by Republican presidents. Perhaps the problem is that the tradition of the United States is one of liberal progress not of conservative regress, and because of that you're constantly having to prove yourselves and be on the defensive even though, hell, you guys win elections, can't argue with that.

So for all these years, as you've constantly been thwarted from really enacting a conservative agenda, you've built up resentment, years and years of resentment against some imagined class of people you call "liberals." You've even succeeded in making "liberal" a dirty word. So your anger extends to an entire set of people and goes back 30+ years to the point where I bear the brunt of anger my Uncle has against Jane Fonda. It's just irrational.

At least our anger is actually motivated by real events and facts. The anger against George Bush is very real and anyone with a clear head can see why the left would hate him so much even if you disagree that the things that Bush has done are problematic. But what it comes down to is that we're used to getting our way and now we're not. Let's face it, over the years, whether or not a president has been a Democrat, the values that we hold dear have never really been challenged or in danger...until now. Bush's administration has waged an all out assault on privacy and equality, among other progressive ideals. We're used to those ideals winning the day, we never imagined anyone would actually be able to undermine them, and Bush has begun to try. That's why we're angry. It's actually based in fear more than anything else.

But look at how we express it: sure we use heightened rhetoric, we make movies like Fahrenheit 9/11, we march and hold vigils, we erect crosses outside the president's ranch to symbolize the fallen soldiers. But how does the right express it? In addition to the rhetoric and the mad rantings of such crazed individuals as Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly who constantly confuse freedom of expression with treason, they destroy cds, they spit in Jane Fonda's face and run over those crosses outside Bush's ranch. If I were looking at the political culture in this country right now from the outside in, a culture by the way that is characterized by lots of anger, just by virtue of whose company I would prefer to keep, I would choose the lefties every time.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bush Approval Plummets

The right of course will downplay any bad poll numbers on Bush, saying what do polls matter, he won re-election. But if Bush's approval was up, you can be sure the numbers would be perfectly relevant (and by the same token, I most likely wouldn't be posting them, myself!) But the fact is something notable has happened in the newest American Research Group poll: after hovering just above 40% for most of the summer, Bush has plummeted to an approval rating of just 36% (38% among registered voters.)

I should say that, as Guru cautions, this poll should be taken with a grain of salt since it is significantly below any other recent poll's rating and ARG does tend to skew Democrat. It will be interesting to see if its findings are repeated in other polls in the coming weeks.

Some articles I read about Bush's approval ratings appear surprised by his dropping popularity considering his legislative victories this summer, what with CAFTA, the Highway bill and the Energy bill all signed. But the idea that legislative victories would actually translate to approval among the average voter is sadly naive it seems to me. Similarly, the pundit class may declare an economic recovery well under way but for those living the economy every day it sure doesn't feel like it. Especially with the gas prices what they are and when you add the growing unease about the war, it's a toxic mix. In other words, everything we here at Wild Democracy Ride have been saying for a year has finally reached the heartland.

So how bad is 36%? Let's put it this way: it's lower than Nixon's rating in the midst of Watergate.

The Angry Right

Kos says it best:
[The Angry Left is] everywhere! So angry! Snarl! Grrr!

Though what I really want to know is why conservatives are so angry. Always snarling and snapping about evil liberals. Heck, they control everything. If something's wrong, it's their fault. Not the powerless Democrats snipping at their heels.

If Democrats had the trifecta I'd be in heaven. It'd be bliss. Everyday would be a party. Confetti, good beer, and party hats, all around.

But not them. They're still angry.

Of course, now that I think about it, if Democrats had the trifecta and they fucked shit up as bad as these jokers have, then I suppose I'd be angry. It must be hard seeing the real world make a mockery of everything you stand for.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Real Time With Bill Maher Returns

Real Time is back on HBO tonight at 11pm Eastern. He was supposed to have Cindy Sheehan on live from Texas, but since Cindy has gone back to California to tend to her ill mother, it looks like they had to postpone her. Here's what to expect on tonight's episode:

Roundtable guests Chris Rock, Asa Hutchinson and Kellyanne Conway. Plus, via satellite, Paul Hackett and Phyllis Schlafly. This week's Hot Topic: Since 9/11, many in this country - including Bill - have been accused of treason. What constitutes a treasonous act these days?

The Liberal Media Myth

Newsweek's latest issue contains this story titled "I'm So Sorry" about the emotional toll military deaths take on George W. Bush.

Personally, I'm glad he's tormented. He should be. But such is not the slant of the article. On the contrary, it appears designed to directly counter the opinion expressed by Cindy Sheehan that when she met with Bush shortly after her son died last year, Bush seemed to have no conscience about the war and no real feelings of empathy for her as a fallen soldier's mother. This piece seems to serve a rehabilitative function for Bush, to the extent that the Cindy Sheehan story has hurt his image.

A telling excerpt:

President Bush was wearing "a huge smile," but his eyes were red and he looked drained by the time he got to the last widow, Crystal Owen, a third-grade schoolteacher who had lost her husband in Iraq. "Tell me about Mike," he said immediately. "I don't want my husband's death to be in vain," she told him. The president apologized repeatedly for her husband's death. When Owen began to cry, Bush grabbed her hands. "Don't worry, don't worry," he said, though his choking voice suggested that he had worries of his own. The president and the widow hugged. "It felt like he could have been my dad," Owen recalled to NEWSWEEK. "It was like we were old friends. It almost makes me sad. In a way, I wish he weren't the president, just so I could talk to him all the time."
I will say that noting that Bush did meet with Cindy Sheehan once already is an important part of the story that should not be omitted, as is the statistic that he's in fact met with about 900 family members of 270 or so soldiers who have died in Afghanistan or Iraq. And to be fair the article does take some shots at the president. For example, the article suggests that perhaps some of his emotionalism is simply his "agonizing over the war he chose to start" and lists a string of complaints he hears from military families:

He has been asked about missing medals on the returned uniform of a loved one, about financial assistance for a child going to college and about how soldiers really died when the Pentagon claimed the details were classified.
But what's truly amazing about this article is that it was recommended to me by a Republican friend who constantly insists that the media is liberal but offered this article without any sense of irony. There are a few serious problems with the liberal media myth. One is that it conveniently ignores certain facts such as that more newspapers endorsed Bush in 2000 than endorsed Gore. It also ignores the current media climate in which media moguls, no matter how liberal, are pro-Republican because it means less media ownership regulation, which means more profits for them. But the real fallacy of the liberal media myth is that for Republicans it is merely a Stuart Smalley-like daily affirmation: if the media is opposed to a Republican, it's because they're partisan and liberal; if the media is sympathetic toward a Republican, then what they say must be true because they're so damn liberal. So, according to this theory, the Republican is always on the right of the issue. It's like a lullaby that rocks Republicans into a false sense of self-righteousness when the reality is that the media is full of pro-Bush pieces like this Newsweek article.

But for my Republican friend, it doesn't disprove his liberal media claim, it is simply proof that Bush is a really emotional sympathetic guy because if it weren't true the liberal media wouldn't be writing it. My Republican friend demands intellectual honesty yet refuses to exercise it himself.

Don't believe me that this is a pro-Bush propagandistic puff piece? Here, read the end of the article below. Cue the strings and get ready to swoon:

Before Bush left the meeting, he paused in the middle of the room and said to the families, "I will never feel the same level of pain and loss you do. I didn't lose anyone close to me, a member of my family or someone that I love. But I want you to know that I didn't go into this lightly. This was a decision that I struggle with every day."

As he spoke, Ascione could see the grief rising through the president's body. His shoulder slumped and his face turned ashen. He began to cry and his voice choked. He paused, tried to regain his composure and looked around the room. "I am sorry, I'm so sorry," he said.

Iraq/Vietnam, Vietnam/Iraq

Is Iraq becoming the next Vietnam? Has it already? Making the comparison has become a bit of a cliche, but sadly, as the war goes on, the parallel becomes more and more apt. Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman, speaking on The Don Imus Show of a conversation he had with Jack Valenti who was a special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, draws the comparisons:

Jack told me yesterday, 'You know I smell Vietnam all over again. It's happening at a faster time table. Vietnam went over a decade. This is happening two, two and a half years.' He said 'Here are the similarities, we don't always know who the enemy is. We don't know where they are all the time. We don't know who we're shooting at half the time. We don't know what the battlefield is. We don't have many allies. We don't really have an exit strategy. And public opinion is crumbling under our feet, or in this case the President's feet. And that's just like what happened to Lyndon Johnson.' Lyndon Johnson used to yell and scream about the intrusion of television, how television has changed the ability to fight a war. Well that was 40 years ago. Now every morning, everyday, all day, even though this is much more heavily censored than Vietnam was, you know, the American people are seeing that Iraq is a complete mess and there seems to be more terrorists than were there when Saddam was in charge and that is why Bush's poll numbers for handling the war and overall job approval are as low as Johnson's were in the 60's."
What were those poll numbers? The New York Times's Frank Rich gives us a history lesson:

A president can't stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him. The approval rate for Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend's Newsweek poll - a match for the 32 percent that approved L.B.J.'s handling of Vietnam in early March 1968. (The two presidents' overall approval ratings have also converged: 41 percent for Johnson then, 42 percent for Bush now.) On March 31, 1968, as L.B.J.'s ratings plummeted further, he announced he wouldn't seek re-election, commencing our long extrication from that quagmire.
So what lessons can be learned from the forty-year old wound that just won't heal? Paul Begala had a brilliant post on the subject in the Talking Points Memo Cafe yesterday:

[O]ne important lesson of Vietnam is, the first casualty of an unwise and unjust war are the American troops called on to fight it. Their service should be honored.

Second, what we political consultants call the "optics" matter. The popular memory of the anti-war movement calls to mind (even for those of us too young to clearly recall it) the indelible image of young Americans burning the American flag. Cops were called "pigs." Cherished American icons were trashed.

It seems to me the new anti-war movement has learned these lessons well. And it is the pro-war right that is repeating the mistakes of the past.

For me, one of the most incendiary moments of the entire Bush war in Iraq occurred when a right-wing thug ran his pickup truck over hundreds of crosses bearing the names of heroic Americans killed in Iraq. He also took out scores of American flags in the process...

Such is the hatred of the far right at the dawn of the 21st Century. And my how the optical worm has turned. Today it is the left invoking faith, flag and family, while the right destroys crosses. Today it is the left that honors the war dead, raises up a Gold Star Mother and publicly prays for our troops, while the right viciously attacks a woman who gave her country everything. Today it is the left that patiently and peacefully respects the Office of the Presidency, while the right diminishes the office by claiming it's more important for the President to go bike-riding with a sports hero than comfort the mother of a war hero.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Left Wing Wackos

Check out these amazing pictures of the extremist anti-American Left gathered throughout the country yesterday standing vigil in support of Cindy Sheehan.

Moving The Bar

I didn't want to let this article go by without comment. Once again, the administration is moving the bar for what constitutes success in Iraq. It became clear months ago that they would make sure that no matter what the military result in Iraq, victory would be declared, military, political and otherwise. They've always played fast and loose with language, why should the term "victory" be exempt from the Rovian blender.
The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

Absorbing the factors of the situation, huh? That's good. Only took you 2 1/2 years and 1800 dead. Nice job. Of course when the war's detractors said anything resembling this they were labeled anti-American and partisan naysayers. Now that "administration officials" are admitting it's the case, will war apologists conce...apol...admi...nevermind, forget I asked.

What To Do About Roberts?

It's conventional wisdom by now that John Roberts will be confirmed as the next Associate Justice of The Supreme Court. By nominating a somewhat reasonable candidate (at least on paper), Bush has in a way called the Democrats' bluff: you can't reasonably obstruct him but the activist wing of the party won't allow you to just confirm him without some fight. Which is exactly how it's playing out.

You know all those e-mails from MoveOn and People For The American Way that go on and on about Roberts's conservative views? Not even they think a defeat of Roberts is a real option, but what they do hope to accomplish was suggested last night on Hannity and Colmes by Newsweek's Eleanor Clift: they want to reduce the number of votes Roberts gets because if he is confirmed with a huge majority of Democratic votes and does become liberals' worst nightmare (anti-privacy, anti-environment, pro-corporation, etc.) the Democrats will have less credibility opposing a conservative justice in the future because the bar for what's acceptable to Democrats will have been moved so far to the right.

So the liberal activist groups have been demanding a fight and this week Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) obliged by making statements declaring Roberts well outside the mainstream. And as a result, articles such as Roberts Battle Adds to Democrats' Divide appear in the Washington Post.

The public tug of war among Democrats this week over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. underscores the conflicting pressures facing Democratic leaders as they try to satisfy a growing cadre of activists anxious to battle President Bush while avoiding the appearance of being captives of their most vocal constituencies.

The debate over what to do about Roberts is the latest in a series of disagreements over the past three years pitting the party's Washington-based leaders against traditional liberal advocacy groups or the newer world of grass-roots activists stitched together through e-mail and Web logs.

Ah yes, there goes the old liberal media again back to one of its favorite story lines about the fractured Democratic Party. But the problem is it's not untrue. While I heartily support the activism of and People For The American Way, I think Democrats would do well to take a page out of the Republican play book. When George W. Bush was essentially annointed the nominee for the 2000 election, the far right wing of the party shut the hell up for the greater good and have since been more than generously rewarded for their cooperation. It might be too much to expect the Democrats to coalesce around a certain candidate in 2008 but the benefits of the appearance of a unified party over the next 3 years could seriously outweigh the potential costs of fighting for every issue our activist wing is passionate about.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Shades of Gray

A big philisophical difference between Republicans and Democrats was crystallized by the following (in)famous quotes by last year's presidential nominees (forgive the paraphrasing):
"You're either with us or you're against us."
- George W. Bush

"I voted against the $80 billion before I voted for it."
- John F. Kerry

Bush has been much maligned for his tendency to reduce things to their most simple terms -- things are either black or they're white, nothing in between. Similarly, Kerry was ridiculed for his mush-mouthed parsing of issues, unable to describe his view in a sentence, always needing a paragraph. But this difference is hardly limited to these two men; it represents a stark differentiation between the two parties (and arguably is responsible for Republican victories and Democratic losses in recent years.)

So I should not have been surprised when an old right wing friend confronted me in the comments about an apparent inconsistency on my part:
Todd posts all sorts of stuff about Cindy Sheehan, but such doesn't constitute an endorsement of her views or actions?

This was in reaction to my saying that I never accused the president of being unfeeling about the deaths of servicemembers and that in my mind I allow for the possibility that he really does mourn and he really does hurt despite the view of Cindy Sheehan and other parents of fallen soldiers to the contrary. To my friend, my embracing of Cindy Sheehan constitutes the endorsement of all of her views. How's that for a ridiculous over-simplification, typical of the "you're either with us or against us" worldview of the right.

The fact is that Cindy Sheehan's story moves me to write about it because it is bigger than just one woman. As I've written before, I'm no anti-war activist and I wasn't even fully against the war in Iraq at the outset. I didn't buy that Iraq was a threat to our national security but I did feel that removing Saddam was a noble goal if it could be done as efficiently and painlessly as we were led to believe it would be. I wondered where the humanitarian left was when it came to removing this man -- they were so outspoken against the sanctions for ruining lives of innocent Iraqis but were silent when it came to overthrowing the man who had contributed so much to their misery.

My conflicted feelings were probably typical of many on the mainstream left -- uncertain, unresolute, struggling with the shades of gray. But then I saw the very uncertainty I felt criticized by the right: anyone who questioned the war was made out to be unpatriotic and anti-American. And the administration very effectively managed to manipulate the media to glorify the war, relegating any anti-war views to the margins.

A lot has happened since then, of course. The administration's horrible mis-management of the war has led to many media mea culpas and has made this optimistic and nationalistic country of ours much more open to the anti-war point of view, a view that calls into question the decisions of the president and the actions of our military, two things that in this country are sacrosanct. It is this sea change that Cindy Sheehan's story represents and makes her a sort of hero. Her rise is a direct slap in the face to all those on the right who maligned those that spoke out against the war and for that I celebrate her.

Yes, it may be hard to believe, Republicans, but I support Cindy Sheehan and will write about her until the cows come home yet I don't agree that we should pull out of Iraq right now as she does. I respect her opinion, I even envy her resoluteness on the issue, but I am still struggling with the shades of gray.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Washington Post Backs Out Of 9/11 Event

Holy crap. Remember this creepy event?

Well The Washington Post has decided to pull its support for the event in the form of free advertising because:
"As it appears that this event could become politicized, The Post has decided to honor the Washington area victims of 9/11 by making a contribution directly to the Pentagon Memorial Fund," said Eric Grant, a Post spokesman. "It is The Post's practice to avoid activities that might lead readers to question the objectivity of The Post's news coverage.".

Good for them. This is clearly a political event and, not only that, it is one that would serve to reinforce the disproven myth of a connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

"The Post has a code of conduct that says employees should avoid a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest," said Rick Ehrmann, a Local representative for the Washington-Baltimore newspaper Guild. "In this case The Post was sponsoring the Pentagon's Freedom Walk, which ties the attack on Sept. 11 to the Iraq war, and of course, The Post's reporters have proven ... that there is no connection between the two, that that link is false."
I mean, come on, Clint Black, the headliner for the DOD event, is known for his pro-war anthem "Iraq & Roll," essentially a neo-con fight song:





I wouldn't exactly have expected the Pentagon to book Joan Baez but whether you agree with the war or not, there is no denying the blatant politicization of 9/11 that this event represents.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Cable's New Progressive Voice

Air America's Rachel Maddow provides cable news with a fresh progressive voice and makes MSNBC's new The Situation With Tucker Carlson watchable. She consistently argues the left's point of view with charisma, humor and sounds like I'm being paid to pitch her, but I'm completely serious.

And to be honest, Tucker's not nearly as annoying as he was on Crossfire; this show seems to be making the case for civil political debate, the anti-Crossfire. Not to mention the fact that Tucker, unlike the rest of the conservative cable cabal, is actually comfortable enough with himself to allow the show to be about something other than him. But unlike his ex-counterparts on the left James Carville & Paul Begala, Rachel Maddow actually speaks like a progressive, like she's proudly, shamelessly liberal. For example, on the prospect of 2008 presidential nominee John McCain:
That’s ridiculous! The Republicans basically built George W. Bush out of straw . . . They created him out of nothing so that he would owe them everything. They’re not gonna pick somebody like McCain, who has basically no friends in the Republican Party, doesn’t owe anybody anything, and is likely to make his own decisions.
But The Situation is not at all atypical in the sense that when Rachel is on, it's "to provide balance"; in other words, it's the conservative host, a conservative panelist and her. As Rachel puts it:
This idea [of] balance has shifted the idea of objectivity so far to the right that if you look at balance as a seesaw, it puts the fulcrum in a really weird place.
The Situation With Tucker Carlson is on MSNBC weeknights at 11pm Eastern.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

And More From Crawford...

Cindy Sheehan's Peaceful Occupation of Crawford, Texas is on its 9th day and her support and profile in the media continue to grow. From her daily update from Saturday, Aug. 13:
It was a busy morning of interviews and problem solving. I had interviews with some network shows and a photo shoot for the Vanity Fair article. Almost all of the reporters ask me if I have accomplished anything at Camp Casey and I think we really have. We have brought the war onto the front pages of the newspapers and the top stories of the mainstream media. It is really incredible that we are doing so well in the media because I keep telling all of the reporters that I am doing their jobs. I am asking the tough questions of the President that they don't ask.

Very true. Even now, the media doesn't really know what to do with her. She's being embraced as a public interest story on one hand and being covered as a political story on the other but sometimes the merging of the two makes journalists uncomfortable. On no fewer than four news programs in the past 2 days, I've heard Cindy Sheehan referred to as "that woman" or "this woman" before they talk about her more in depth, as though she's something foreign, unknowable and even worse, dismissable. But she will not be dismissed. More from Cindy:
We had a rally downtown in Crawford. Then the people caravanned up to Camp Casey. I was told to come down to the point of the triangle to greet them. While I was walking down to the point, I had a great view of Prairie Chapel Road. There was car, after car, after car!!! I started sobbing and I felt like collapsing. The cars kept on coming. It took almost a full hour for them to all get to Camp Casey, it was a miraculous sight to see. It was identical to Field of Dreams.People came from all over the country to be here. We are building a movement and they are coming...Today was George Bush's accountability moment, and he lost. Two young ladies from San Diego drove all night to get to the rally and they had to leave tonight to get back home. One of them said: "Wow, we can drive all the way from San Diego just to meet you and he can't even come down to the end of his driveway to meet with you."

So what exactly is Cindy Sheehan accomplishing in Crawford? It's clear that the president doesn't intend to meet with her. And after all, even as her story is embraced by the mainstream media, her personal beliefs and goals, specifically that we pull out of Iraq now, are still well to the left of center.

Jeffrey Feldman, a blogger who focuses on framing, or how words and images frame an issue in a certain way in our minds, has some pretty interesting thoughts on the big picture ramifications of Sheehan's protest. First of all he asserts that her success at capturing all the attention she's gotten has to do with how she is framed by the media: as a grieving mother. Google "grieving mother" and you get story after story about Cindy Sheehan's protest in Crawford. It is the fact that she is a grieving mother that is launching her onto the covers of People Magazine and Vanity Fair, and hitting home with people emotionally. As Feldman says:
In broad terms, the success of the 'grieving mom' phrase indicates that Americans are now thinking about the War in Iraq through the frame of the family, rather than thinking about Iraq through the frame of 'terrorism' or 'ideology.'

Those who follow political framing know that a common theory is that progressives and conservatives hold two differing worldviews that inform how they vote, each of which frames the world in terms of a family: progressives want their president to be a nurturant parent and conservatives want their president to be a strict father. In Bush's re-election campaign last year, Rove exploited people's post-9/11 desire for a strict father in order to win. Whereas before, war was a positive aspect of the strict father frame, here, Sheehan, the grieving mother, is accusing the father of sending our children off to die. Thanks to Sheehan, the world as family model is now biting Bush in the ass. But Feldman takes it even a step further:
The implications of this shift from 'terrorism' to family' in the country's thinking about Iraq are profound. Not only does this shift forewarn a political tidal wave soon to break on the President's foreign policy, but also of a much deeper, tectonic shift in the strategy beneath all the recent gains in the Republican party.

The great success of Cindy Sheehan's protest, therefore, is no less than the moral authority for the Democratic Party to speak for the American family.

In other words, Sheehan may be undermining not only the Republicans' political stranglehold on the "national defense" issue, but also the "family values" issue that Republicans have exploited so successfully for gains in recent years. Whether pie in the sky optimism or a real actionable game plan for Democrats, at the very least, Feldman's theory is saying there is vulnerability there on the Republican side that Democrats would do well to jump on. Let's hope they do so and fast.

Friday, August 12, 2005

New Cindy Sheehan Ad

Incredibly moving.

It's being aired on Crawford, Texas cable with a $15,000 ad buy. Something tells me it's gonna get more play than that before it's done.

The Right's Misguided Campaign Against A Grieving Mother

How do conservatives smear Cindy Sheehan without directly attacking the mother of a fallen soldier? By claiming guilt by association. Now Sheehan is in bed with "anti-American, anti-military, terrorist sympathizers" as Michelle Malkin , Japanese internment apologist, has characterized Michael Moore, and other organizations that are against this war.

How Malkin or any conservative can claim to suppport the military while impugning Sheehan's integrity and sincerity is a mystery to me. She's always been against this war and she's never hidden that and, in fact, she has been speaking out for months and months without support from anybody but the like-minded progressive blogosphere.

But a few events converged that inspired Cindy Sheehan to take her activism to the next level: The first 5 days of August saw 30 or so US military deaths in Iraq; George Bush went on vacation but took time to assure the American people that we are there fighting for a "noble cause"; and the Veterans For Peace convention was in Dallas in early August. And so the lightbulb went off in Cindy's head to camp outside of Bush's ranch in Crawford until Bush spoke to her to explain exactly what the noble cause is that her son died for. Is the media circus that has resulted probably the best result Sheehan could have hoped for? Yes. Is it what any sane person would have expected of the media? No. The media has never shown any interest in the anti-war movement, let alone the "get out of Iraq now" perspective that Sheehan endorses. But now a majority of Americans believe that the war in Iraq has made us less safe. The mainstream of America (and the media with it) has moved toward Cindy Sheehan on this issue, she has stayed right where she always has been.

Yet she is being called a media whore by Michelle Malkin and a tool of the radical left by Bill O'Reilly. Now I do give Bill O'Reilly credit for inviting her on his show and, in her absence, inviting another mother of a slain soldier who is against the war and contemptuous of Bush. But the constant drumbeat of anti-Sheehan rhetoric being spewed on the right is merely a desperate ploy to marginalize her and the whole movement, which wouldn't be nearly as strong as it is, and hence require such effort to squash, if the war had been prosecuted in anything resembling a competent manner.

The fact that such a hawkish and nationalistic nation has turned so against the war is a tribute to just how horribly Bush and his neocon pals have fucked it up, yet for some reason, the right forgives and forgets, doesn't think Bush holds any culpability whatsoever and labels anyone who seeks to hold him accountable as anti-American. I'm no anti-war activist, but the administration lost my support for this particular war effort, a bit of which was still hanging on by a thread hoping things would improve, about a year ago and they've done nothing to win it back since. The fact is that all the war skeptics, all the doves, all the "radical left" have been correct in their pessimistic prognostications, and the war apologists, the hawks and the neocons have been wrong. And all Bush has to say is "stay the course?" Everyone knows that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. The war plan is literally insane. It's about time the right acknowledges this and deals with the reality of the situation. So far all they can do is smear and attack their opponents, since, unfortunately for us and the many who have died in Iraq, day after day, the facts and the news fuel the opposing viewpoint. The best way to marginalize an opposing viewpoint is to be right and unfortunately for them, the right is so so wrong.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Iraq OpEd Round-up

These always reliable editorialists are in particularly good form this week.

Maureen Dowd is back, baby:
Cindy Sheehan, a 48-year-old Californian with a knack for P.R., says she will camp out in the dusty heat near the ranch until she gets to tell Mr. Bush face to face that he must pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Her son, Casey, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed in a Sadr City ambush last year.

The president met with her family two months after Casey's death. Capturing W.'s awkwardness in traversing the line between somber and joking, and his love of generic labels, Ms. Sheehan said that W. had referred to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting, and given her the sense that he did not know who her son was.

The Bush team tried to discredit "Mom" by pointing reporters to an old article in which she sounded kinder to W. If only her husband were an undercover C.I.A. operative, the Bushies could out him. But even if they send out a squad of Swift Boat Moms for Truth, there will be a countering Falluja Moms for Truth.

It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation and two-hour daily workouts. He may be in great shape, but Iraq sure isn't.

And the indefatiguable Bob Herbert continues his series about Iraq today:

George W. Bush has no strategy, no real plan, for winning the war in Iraq. So we're stuck in a murderous quagmire without even the suggestion of an end in sight.

The administration has never been straight with the public about the war, and there's no reason to believe it will start being honest now. There is a desperate need for a serious national conversation about alternatives to the Bush approach in Iraq, which is tantamount to a permanent American military presence in that country.

The president, ensconced in a long vacation, exemplifies the vacuum of leadership on this crucial issue, which demands nothing less than the sustained attention of the wisest men and women the U.S. has to offer. They could be politicians, academics, civic or religious leaders, corporate executives - whoever. The longer they remain on the sidelines, the longer the carnage in Iraq will continue.
Mark Shields on

As of this writing, 1,827 Americans have been killed in Iraq -- 1,686 of those deaths have occurred since President George W. Bush landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner proclaiming, "Mission Accomplished."

Military service in wartime is not a "job." Recruitment in peacetime mostly emphasizes the benefits of valuable training, college tuition, self-improvement, pay and adventure. Combat and casualties are not part of the pitch.

Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of enlistees come from the lower-middle-class and blue-collar families. The affluent stand above and apart from military service, especially from the enlisted ranks -- the privates and the sergeants, from whose ranks have come more than 90 percent of the casualties and fatalities. This class exemption from service and from sacrifice produces an ethical failure that a democratic and moral people cannot tolerate.

Cindy Sheehan GMA Transcript

CHARLES GIBSON: Do you really expect the president to see you?
CINDY SHEEHAN: No, I really don't. But, you know, even if he doesn't, we've accomplished so much in the few, few short days that we've been here. And the outpouring of love and support from America and the world has just been so amazing and, and gratifying to us who are staying out here in Crawford.
GIBSON: You did have a meeting with the president just after Casey had died, and he came to console ...
GIBSON: ... the family. Why didn't you make the points to him then?
SHEEHAN: Well, mostly because my son had only been dead for about nine weeks and I was in a deep state of shock and a -deep state of grief, and I didn't really know, the Dalfour weapons of mass destruction report hadn't come out, the - Senate intelligence report, the 9/11 Commission report, the Downing Street memos, and those all just proved to me that this war was based on lies and it never should have happened. (in reporters terms, that's called the "nut graf".And so I went from a deep state of shock to a deep state of anger.
GIBSON: I want to play for you a brief soundbite from a man named Jim Boskovitch who was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos this past Sunday and whose son just did die as well in Iraq. I want you to listen to what he had to say.
JIM BOSKOVITCH, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: I firmly believe, and I would echo my son's feelings on this, that it is very, very important for our country to remain steadfast and complete the mission that they set out to accomplish.
GIBSON: There are a lot of parents who feel that way, who've lost children over there. What, what do you say to them? Does what you're doing in any way disrespect their loss?
SHEEHAN: No. I don't believe so. I believe that the only way we can honor our children's memory is -by bringing the rest of them home alive. But I'd like to say to these people is, number one, I wish they could tell me what the mission is 'cause the mission changes all the time and the mission is very ill-defined. And, number two, I would never, ever question how a parent has to grieve their loss because his son came home the same way my son came home, and I honor the way he feels, and I, and I also honor that this is America and there's - differing viewpoints and we all have the right to express our viewpoints. And I reach out to every single family who, who has lost loved ones in this war because we're all going through the same pain. And I just want to say that our children are being honored, and, and a lot of them died saving their buddies and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to save their buddies.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Cindy Sheehan, Patriot

On April 4, 2004, Casey Sheehan was killed in action in Sadr City, Baghdad. Since that devastating day, Casey's mother, Cindy Sheehan, has channeled her grief into activism -- she's spoken out against the war, against the president and about the Downing Street Memo. Until recently she's remained a somewhat fringe figure, appearing often on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now and posting to progressive blogs. But that has all changed. This morning she was interviewed for Good Morning America and soon she will be appearing on the cover of People Magazine -- she is becoming the face of the grieving families of the war dead and is thrusting the anti-war movement into the mainstream.

It is a movement that the hawkish media has largely helped the conservatives to marginalize. Bill O'Reilly cut the mic of a 9/11 victim's son who started to spout anti-war rhetoric on his show; even the seemingly benign Bob Costas, filling in for Larry King, copped an antagonistic tone with the famously anti-war Vanessa Redgrave; and The New York Times front-paged Judith Miller's articles promoting the fiction that Iraq did indeed have WMDs leading up to the war (helping to legitimize whatever reason the adminstration's wheel of rationales landed on that week) leaving any coverage of anti-war marches or the like MIA.

But recently, as the fatality rate in Iraq has risen and the popularity of the war has plummetted, anti-war sentimenthas become less taboo, less traitorous despite what conservatives would have one believe. So Cindy Sheehan seems to be at the exact right place at the exact right time: outside of Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, a place dubbed Camp Casey, where she is waiting for the president to explain to her exactly what noble cause her son died for. She has vowed to stay throughout the month of August or until Bush speaks to her. Something tells me she should get comfortable, she'll be there a while.

Learn more about Cindy's "peaceful occupation" HERE and HERE. And read her blog entry for today HERE.

More on this ongoing story tomorrow.

9/11 Baby! Partay!

What the hell are they thinking?

The Pentagon would hold a massive march and country music concert to mark the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an announcement tucked into an Iraq war briefing today.

"This year the Department of Defence will initiate an America Supports Your Freedom Walk," Rumsfeld said, adding that the march would remind people of "the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation".
The march will start at the Pentagon, where nearly 200 people died on September 11, 2001, and end at the National Mall with a show by country star Clint Black.
First of all, a full on celebration to commemorate 9/11? How you say...tasteless, inappropriate, desperate?

And think about it, it's a "march" on 9/11 to celebrate "freedom," presumably that of the Iraqis. So, in other words, not only does it continue to conflate 9/11 and Iraq as if they are actually related other than in a neocon's wet dream, but it also provides a physical manifestation of Bush's ultimate Iraq war mantra: "freedom is on the march." It's pure Rovian brilliance...cringe-inducing and embarrasing...but brilliant.

But if that's too subtle for some, Salon enlightens us as to the significance of Clint Black's headlining the concert:
Black is the man behind "I Raq and Roll," a country ditty that conflates Saddam Hussein with "the devil" who attacked the United States on 9/11: "We can't ignore the devil, he'll keep coming back for more ... If they won't show us their weapons, we might have to show them ours. It might be a smart bomb -- they find stupid people, too. And if you stand with the likes of Saddam, one just might find you."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Put a Progressive Back In The Big Brother House

I have a problem: I love me my reality shows. Between Rock Star: INXS and Big Brother, I'm good for several nights of TV -- a perfect summer diversion since most of what airs elsewhere are repeats (although HBO, Showtime, FX and the World Series of Poker on ESPN are doing their part to keep me occupied.)

But you'll be happy to discover that my "obsession" with these much reviled reality shows is not without its redeeming moments. I've been particularly interested in how politics seeps into these shows and what I've found is that through casting choices, Viacom has been head and shoulders above the rest in bringing the Iraq War into millions of homes in a different way -- through the magic of reality TV.

First there was Iraq War POW Ron Young on The Amazing Race on CBS. Last season, he was cast with his then girlfriend to be one of the two-person teams racing around the world in a quest to win $1 million. What immediately struck one about Ron was how he constantly talked about Iraq but it was clear that that's simply what the editors focused on -- he was cast for a reason and they were going to milk it for all it was worth. While his presence and the spin of his character was certainly pro-military service, there didn't seem to be a distinct political agenda other than to derive drama from the situation. And they got it when his girlfriend, late in the race, accused him of being a quitter, saying he quits everything and when he asked her how he quit the military, she responded "by becoming a POW." That was a classic moment.

Then MTV's Real World cast an Iraq War veteran to be among the cast of its most recent edition: Real World Austin. Rachel too was clearly a proud veteran -- she was a medic and apparently saw some horrifying sights taking care of wounded soldiers in Iraq. She, however, has had a more overtly political perspective. In one episode she rails against Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 for being hostile toward the war (except that it's a freakin love letter to the troops, but whatever!) and in another episode she and fellow cast member Nehemiah get into it about the war: he calls it propaganda and she calls him the most ignorant person she's ever met. Not the height of intellectual discourse but hey, they're like 22. But what MTV is doing is showing the debate to its young viewers and more importantly, showing that it's OK to debate, to have disagreements, especially when the two people in question end the episode hugging it out as Rachel and Nehemiah do.

Finally, CBS is airing Big Brother three nights a week this summer and the most interesting and coolest houseguest on the show is a 24 year-old Iraqi-American Muslim named Kaysar. Well, he was until yesterday anyway...he got voted out last night.

Kaysar, being of Middle Eastern descent and an overt Muslim, was the outcast from day 1 and survived elimination the first week. After his secret partner got evicted the next week, he knew he had to upset the balance of power in the house if he was going to survive. He had the opportunity to do just that when he won Head of Household for the following week. This meant that he could nominate two people for eviction and through an ingenious sequence of maneuvers, he managed to rally a majority to his cause and oust Eric, the charismatic leader of the opposing group freakily dubbed "the friendship". Unfortunately, that also meant that he was a target and his enemies rallied to vote him out last night.

One of the things that makes Big Brother unique of course is that it happens in essentially real time -- they are in that house as we speak and in fact the Thursday eviction episodes air live. There is also an interactive element to the show -- you can watch them live on the web and there's always an "America's Choice" feature where America votes online to reward a particular houseguest. This week, America gets to vote one of the evicted houseguests back into the house.

I want you to help me vote Kaysar back in.

Why am I asking for your assistance here on a political website? Because this kid is smart, the kid is cool and from what I can tell, he is a progressive. Clearly, CBS cast him in part for the novelty of having an Iraqi-American in the house and hopefully to provide the valuable service of portraying a Muslim-American in a positive light, something mainstream America rarely has occasion to see. But in one episode a few weeks back, the Iraq War ceased to be merely subtext and came to the fore of the conversation and this time, it wasn't just debate for debate's sake. Kaysar argued forcefully against the war, talked about family members of his in Iraq who have been killed and how the country has been ravaged and full on won the argument. And when the small minded James parroted the talking point about wanting to fight them over there rather than over here, Kaysar slammed him "I thought you were an intellectual, James, but you're really disappointing me!" James listened to Kaysar and really seemed to get Kaysar's point and think twice about his own support of the least that's how it was edited. Yes, that's right, CBS, Sumner "I vote for what's good for Viacom" Redstone's network, not only aired this debate, but they edited the sequence to promote the anti-war stance. Kaysar is the man and needs to get back in the house so he can continue to be a mouthpiece against the war and for other progressive values that may come up over the course of the series. We have the power to put him back in the house, back on the air 3 nights a week, so help a guy out. Vote for Kaysar HERE.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Novak Flips Out On CNN


It's a bit anti-climactic since it happened during an inconsequential conversation about Katherine Harris's Florida Senate run, but Novak stormed off the set of CNN's Inside Politics today in response to some baiting by a snarky James Carville muttering "this is bullshit" and pulling free his microphone.

Novak has been under pressure lately, to be sure, what with his role in the Plame/Rove affair, but hey, he finally broke his silence to defend himself, so you'd think he'd be less on edge. (For those that missed his rousing defense, Novak announced that he was merely told "Joseph Wilson's wife" worked at the CIA and he looked her name up in a Who's Who reference book prior to outing her in his column.)

Anyway, this tantrum of his proves what's been clear for a long time, that he's a whiny little rightwing baby and his subsequent suspension from CNN is long overdue (although they don't seem to have a problem promoting the tantrum on the front page of their website!)

From a CNN spokesman:
Bob Novak's behavior on CNN today was inexcusable and unacceptable. Mr. Novak has apologized to CNN, and CNN apologizes to its viewers for his language and actions. We've asked Mr. Novak to take some time off.

President Jumps Into The Intelligent Design Debate

On Tuesday, President Bush jumped into the debate over whether evolution should be taught exclusively in schools. It should be moted off the bat that his entire presidency has been marked by a distinct hostility toward science and he actually did utter the words "the jury is still out on evolution." Not to mention that it's always hard to pin down what Bush really thinks about an issue like this because he tries to be vague enough to placate religious conservatives while not scaring off moderates.

His comments on Tuesday were no exception.

Recalling his days as Texas governor, Mr. Bush said in the interview, according to a transcript, "I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught." Asked again by a reporter whether he believed that both sides in the debate between evolution and intelligent design should be taught in the schools, Mr. Bush replied that he did, "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Mr. Bush was pressed as to whether he accepted the view that intelligent design was an alternative to evolution, but he did not directly answer. "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," he said, adding that "you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."
The way he puts it is quite deft. How can you really argue with "people should be exposed to all ideas." It sounds downright liberal. But the upshot is clear: he would support the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools next to evolution.

The Washington Post editorial page redeems itself today with a blistering critique of this view.
Of course the president is right that, in the context of a philosophical debate, it would be appropriate to discuss both sides of an issue before arriving at a conclusion. In the context of a religious discussion, it would also be very interesting to ponder whether the human race exists on Earth for a purpose or merely by accident. But the proponents of intelligent design are not content with participating in a philosophical or religious debate. They want their theory to be accepted as science and to be taught in ninth-grade biology classes, alongside the theory of evolution. For that, there is no basis whatsoever: The nature of the "evidence" for the theory of evolution is so overwhelming, and so powerful, that it informs all of modern biology. To pretend that the existence of evolution is somehow still an open question, or that it is one of several equally valid theories, is to misunderstand the intellectual and scientific history of the past century.

To give Mr. Bush the benefit of the doubt, he may have been catering to his Texas constituents, a group of whom, in the city of Odessa, were recently found to have turned an allegedly secular public high school Bible studies course into a hodgepodge of myth and religious teaching. But politics are no excuse for indulging quackery, not from a president -- especially not from a president -- who claims, at least some of the time, that he cares about education.

Blame The Left Sweepstakes

I expect to hear blame the left finger pointing for society's ills from right wing nuts such as Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA.) Take for example what he said on a recent media appearance:
I don't believe that people should be free to do what pleases them the most. That's the difference between the right and the left. The liberal agenda is "I should be able to do whatever I want to do as long as no one gets hurt"...That is not the kind of freedom our founders envisioned...It is harming America. Look at the rampant rate of divorce brought to us by the left.
Not only is this a gross generalization that is just silly in its sweeping blame, but it ignores inconvenient facts that show that the highest divorce rate in the nation happens to occur in the Bible Belt...yes, that bastion of liberalism.

But I do not expect such anti-left rhetoric to come from the New York Times editorial page. Yes David Brooks is a conservative but I always thought he veered leftward of his nuttier brethren and didn't engage in the unproductive blame the left hate mongering that is so prominent on the right. But alas, his editorial today would seem to blame the left for terrorism.

It starts out reasonably enough, redefining our common conception of the terrorists that we are engaged in war against. For example, he cites interesting statistics:
...about 75 percent of anti-Western terrorists come from middle-class or upper-middle-class homes. An amazing 65 percent have gone to college, and three-quarters have professional or semiprofessional jobs, particularly in engineering and science.

This is counter to the cliche that
terrorists emerge from cultures that are isolated from the Enlightenment ideas of the West. They feel disoriented by the pluralism of the modern age and humiliated by the relative backwardness of the Arab world. They are trapped in stagnant, dysfunctional regimes, amid mass unemployment, with little hope of leading productive lives.
This phenomenon was portrayed interestingly on last night's episode of "Over There," in which the insurgent leaders are shown as educated, multilingual radicals dressed in "white shirts and chinos." In fact, the upper middle class look of the driver and passenger of a suspicious car that approaches a US manned checkpoint is what leads one soldier of Middle Eastern descent to conclude that they are in fact insurgents. He likens the jihadists to being a hippie in 1969 and hearing about Woodstock -- this is the event of their lifetimes they wouldn't miss for the world.

But Brooks takes the conversation in a strange direction.
In his new book "Globalized Islam," the French scholar Olivier Roy points out that today's jihadists have a lot in common with the left-wing extremists of the 1930's and 1960's. Ideologically, Islamic neofundamentalism occupies the same militant space that was once occupied by Marxism. It draws the same sorts of recruits (educated second-generation immigrants, for example), uses some of the same symbols and vilifies some of the same enemies (imperialism and capitalism).

A conservative will only stoop to siding with a Frenchman if it means blaming the left for something, eh? Now I'm certainly not saying that as a liberal I side with or relate to Marxism, although some on the right would say they are one in the same, but certainly the anti-globalist movement is on the left extreme of the US political spectrum and the likening of them to modern terrorists is just another attempt to portray the left as anti-American and aligned with the enemy. But the comparison is disingenuous at best. As DailyKos's Armando correctly points out:
Liberals believe in women's rights, civil rights generally, voting rights and, as the Extreme Right loudly states, secularism. The terrorists abhor civil rights, voting rights, women's rights and secularism.
Alas the views of our enemy are more consistent with those of the far right in this country -- the extreme faction that is pursuing a rollback in our freedoms and the destruction of the separation of church and state.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Oldies But Goodies

These are some classic right-wing quotes about the way Clinton waged war in Bosnia:

"You can support the troops but not the president."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
--Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
--Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."
--Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today." -- Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is."
--Governor George W Bush (R-TX)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

"Liberal" Media Strikes Again

While the conservative cable news hate spewers Hannity and Scarborough are pre-occupied with becoming the next von Susteren and Abrams by covering the Natalee Holloway disappearance ad infinitum (yes, people would rather hear you interview the girl's poor mother for the fiftieth time than distort facts to parrot Republican talking points) I'll take this opportunity to counter one of their favorite talking points: that the liberal media has nothing positive to report about Iraq and only wants us to fail over there.

Here's an excerpt from today's Washington Post editorial:
...the announcement yesterday that they intend to finish the draft document in time for the parliament to approve it by Aug. 15 -- a decision that partly reflects U.S. opposition to a postponement -- is extremely good news. As the Iraqi elections in January proved, positive steps taken toward a permanent, legitimate government boost the morale of those Iraqis who want to live in a peaceful society, even when those steps aren't taken under the best possible conditions. More important, there is evidence that the constitution-writing process is itself driving some of the violence.

The subtext of this paragraph, as Kos's Armando rightly points out, is that the Washington Post's editorial board, supposedly a pillar of the America hating left, still buys into the rosy projections of the Bush admministration after having been proven time and again that they do not deserve the benefit of any doubt. Every time another milestone is reached, we are meant to believe that the violence is going to end this time, really; democracy is on the march, people. No, the Bushies just want to be able to get out with some face as soon as possible so as not to lose in '08 because of Iraq backlash and the only way to do that with any credibility is if the Iraqi government is established and kicks our ass out. They know we won't have won, but have already begun to lower the bar of success -- after the havoc we have wrought in their land, after the death our presence there has caused to civilians and military alike, we will leave because the Iraqi government tells us to and claim that the fact that the Iraqi government has the self-determination to do so in itself is victory.

No, to call the Washington Post liberal is an insult to liberals.

This Guy Represents Us To The World?!

Yesterday President Bush appointed John Bolton to be US Ambassador to the UN using a recess appointment, which avoids his having to get Bolton approved by the Senate. Pesky checks and balances, again too inconvenient for Bush. There's a reason Bolton left the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a Republican majority committee, WITHOUT a recommendation. People of both parties dislike this guy. Now it comes out that he's a liar to boot. The State Department admitted that John Bolton did not tell the truth when he swore that he had not been questioned by the Inspector General about the false claim made by President Bush that Iraq tried to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger. Bolton's appointment is just the latest egregious reward given to the architects of the failed Iraq War -- George Tenet and Paul Bremer were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Condoleezza Rice was promoted to Secretary of State. Yes, this administration is failing upward. You want to see the man who will be the face of the US to the international community, watch this Video. This is the company our president keeps.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Hurrah! The Global War on Terror Has Ended...!

...And has been replaced with the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, or G-SAVE for short. Get it? SAVE? It's goooood. "War?", who said anything about war? A war can be lost; a war needs pesky things like stated goals, defined enemies and exit strategies, but a struggle...a struggle is much more flexible.

I first heard about this syntactical shift on The Daily Show, and as with so many things they report, I wasn't sure at first if it was real. I mean, with this administration, the line between reality and surreality is often blurred. But sure enough, there next to John Stewart's head was video of several administration officials using the term "struggle against violent extremism" in their speeches. And indeed, The New York Times reported on it last week:
The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, senior administration and military officials said Monday.

In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution."

Really? I wonder why that would be. Remember this beauty?
Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.
So said Karl Rove in his memorable words to the Conservative Party of New York on June 22. Of course the impression we get is that war is the answer to terrorism because it's what the administration has force fed us for 4 years -- it's this administration's M.O. and is the only thing that got Bush re-elected. But as so many predicted, the strategy has been a failed one, so no wonder they want to make a change. But leave it to this administration to change the name but not the actual strategy.

To close, we go to always reliable Paul Krugman who states it plainly in his column today:

The "global war on terrorism" has been downgraded to the "global struggle against violent extremism" (pronounced gee-save), which is just embarrassing. Baghdad is a nightmare, Basra is a militia-run theocracy, and officials are talking about withdrawing troops from Iraq next year (just in time for the U.S. midterm elections).