The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar


Well, the PLAN sounded real good...

Byrd-Obey Approps Move Puzzles OMB, Lobbyists


Bush & McCain both out of it

Obviously, neither President Bush nor Senator McCain reside in what a Bush aide snidely referred to as the "reality-based community." Bush commented on the possiblity of opening up discsussions on Iraq with Syria and Iran:

"Countries that participate in talks must not fund terrorism, must help the young democracy survive, must help with the economics of the country," Bush said. "If people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is not committed to that concept, then they shouldn't bother to show up."

The demand of "help the young democracy survive" sounds to me like a real deal-killer. Syria & Iran may not consider it in their interests to maintan the government of Iraq precisely as it is. They might prefer that a genuinely popular leader like Muqtada al-Sadr take charge. Obviously, that course of action would not fit Bush's definition of "help the young democracy survive" as he doesn't like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela either, despite that fact that Chavez has been absolutely and unequivocally, properly and legitimately elected.

Syria & Iran might also have problems with "help with the economics of the country" as they might prefer that American oil companies give France & Russia back the oil fields that those two nations were rudely ejected from back in March 2003. As that would cost American oil companies future oil sales as well as make it impossible for the US to hoard all of Iraq's oil for itself, Bush would obviously define that as hurtful to Iraq's economy.

Also, Bush's whole odd notion of diplomacy presumes that opponents/enemies/people who are not friends have more to gain from talking to the US than the US gains from talking to them. That's not necessarily true and it appears especially untrue with regards to the Iraq situation. Sure, it would be nice for Syria & Iran to live next to neighbors that aren't at war and the Iraq War might spill over its borders to destablize those two countries, among others. But Syria & Iran aren't losing people at the rate of a little over two soldiers a day and many, many more wounded. American desire to continue with the war is also quite low, the number of Americans who want US troops to leave Iraq is now at 71%. Bush is hardly in a position where he can make demands as to the conditions that Syria & Iran must meet before he'll talk with them.

McCain? Well, he's now demanding that Republicans reject:

"...the major recommendations of the [ISG] group because they did not present a formula for victory."

Of course, it's not at all clear what a "formulas for victory" would look like. Obviously, McCain's major recommendation of adding more troops to the mix gives us a clue that his formula includes more violence, more killing and more bloodshed, but has the rather serious problem of not being at all realistic. Affluent people feel: "Military service isn't for our son. It isn't for our kind of people." With the war being as unpopular as it is, recruiting is down and the Republicans have shown absolutely zero desire to institute a draft. It's not at all clear where the soldiers would come from that McCain wants to throw into the battle.

Neither Bush nor McCain counts as a member of the reality-based community.


Evaluating the ISG Report

First of all, Glenn Greenwald in talking about the James Baker-led Iraq Study Group Report, makes the extremely good point that the decision to be made by America citizens concerning the Iraq War and the ISG Report is not, never was and never can be one that involves any degree of nuance. It's a strict, up-or-down, yes-or-no, get-out-or-stay-in choice. Anybody seeking to introduce any kind, form, shape or variety of nuance is simply aiding and abetting President Bush and his "We're going to stay in Iraq until Hell freezes over" strategy. As Greenwald puts it:

"In 2002, it was clear that the President was intent on invading and occupying Iraq, and all sorts of people endorsed that central idea but then -- like James Baker or Tom Friedman -- added their own caveats about how they thought it should be done. That didn't matter. Anything other than unambiguous, emphatic opposition to the invasion counted as support for the war. It fueled, rather than impeded, Bush's ability to invade at will."

And as Jonah Goldberg adds:

"The report undercuts the Murtha crowd by delegitimizing the quick bug-out (AKA redeployment) option and makes staying in Iraq at least until '08 the "conventional" or "mainstream" point of view.

"For Bush, isn't this the only part of the ISG report that matters? And when it comes to the actual situation in Iraq, the report basically confirms established policies of the White House and the Pentagon. So, in effect, doesn't the heralded bipartisan commission in effect give Bush the leeway to — ahem — stay the course?" [emphases in original quote]

As Bush himself puts it:

"We [Bush & British Prime Minister Tony Blair] agree that victory in Iraq is important; it's important for the Iraqi people, it's important for the security of the United States and Great Britain, and it's important for the civilized world. We agree that an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself as an ally on the war on terror is a noble goal. The Prime Minister and I seek a wide range of opinions about how to go forward in Iraq, and I appreciate your opinions and your advice."

Yeah sure, you can disagree with eternal, neverending war in Iraq, if of course you don't think "the civilized world" is important. I mean, if you think "the security of the United States and Great Britain" can be tossed to one side like a used-up hankie, then sure, go right ahead and advocate withdrawal. Part of the last sentence is pretty classic here: "The Prime Minister and I seek a wide range of opinions about how to go forward in Iraq" In other words, If your advice does NOT concern how to get Iraq to "sustain itself as an ally on the war on terror" then geddouddahere, you're wasting your breath. The advice Bush & Blair are looking for concerns "how to go forward." Period. If Iraq wants to be an Iran-lite, an Islamic theocracy and a slacker in the WOT (War on Terror), obviously that just won't do.

You see, the Iraq War does not involve, ordnary, mortal adversaries:

"The primary victims of the sectarian violence are the moderate majority of Iraqis -- Sunni and Shia alike -- who want a future of peace. The primary beneficiaries are Sunni and Shia extremists, inside and outside of Iraq, who want chaos in that country so they can take control and further their ambitions to dominate the region."

It's chaos and extremism vs the "moderate majority," It's a "future of peace" vs those "inside and outside of Iraq" who want to "take control." There's no possible, conceivable way that Bush and his buddies can ever seek any sort of accomodation or coexistence or tolerance for the other's existence. Bush is defining the enemy in absolutist, sharp-edged terms. No nuance here whatsoever. It's life or death, glorious victory or humiliating defeat.

Progressives and Democrats can either do as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are doing, i.e. pick and choose what they will and won't support, take the ISG Report on an a la carte basis or they can call BS on the whole thing and demand a pull-out.

Update: Hoo boy! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at THIS meeting!! Bush had a meeting with Democrats at which he rambled on about how he was the greatest, most bestest president evuh and how Harry Truman was also misunderstood and underestimated and how everybody realized later tha Truman was right and people should just siddown an' shuddup and let him do his thing.

[Senate Majority Whip-elect Richard] Durbin [D-Ill] said he challenged Bush's analogy, reminding him that Truman had the NATO alliance behind him and negotiated with his enemies at the United Nations. Durbin said that's what the Iraq Study Group is recommending that Bush do now — work more with allies and negotiate with adversaries on Iraq.

Bush, Durbin said, "reacted very strongly. He got very animated in his response" and emphasized that he is "the commander in chief."


Pelosi and historical "babes"

There's an excellent discussion of "framing" at firedoglake. Well worth reading and it's expecially heartening because it shows very clearly that Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi "gets it." Just like Kathleen Turner "got it" for the movie "Serial Mom," (Turner very clearly understood the joke that was at the center of the movie) the rhetoric Pelosi uses reminds me of an historical "babe" (Obviously, my definition of "babe" doesn't necessarily have much to do with a woman's looks) who really "got it", Elizabeth I of England. The dialogue she has with her sister "Bloody Mary" is priceless! She has to convince her suspicous sister that yes, she's a loyal and faithful and devoted subject. But she also has to convince Mary that no, she can't convert to Roman Catholicism or do anything else which might weigh on her conscience, i.e, that would compromise her popularity with the English people. Brilliant stuff!
I think we're in for some good times with Pelosi in charge


Job vs vacation

"Instaputz" whipped up a list of "Instapundit's" many, many erroneous statements and predictions. Reading the list, one has to wonder how Instapundit maintained a career as a law professor. I should think he would have been let go a long time ago. In any event, I followed one of the links, which led me to the following piece:

The Psychology of Bush Hatred
Sunday, November 28, 2004

I thought of that insight today when I glanced at Maureen Dowd's column and read this sentence, "Maybe it's because George Bush is relaxing at his ranch down there (again) while Osama is planning a big attack up here (again)."

That is the voice of a petulant child, angry that she has a tummy ache while Daddy is at work or Mommy is visiting a friend, or the voice of a grouchy wife angry that she has a migraine while her husband is out coaching the kids' baseball team. You're upset that you're in pain (we've all been there), so you get mad at someone whose presence wouldn't make the pain any better. No mature student of politics believes the president of the United States goofs off on vacation. It's not the kind of job you escape. George Bush may be completely insane to voluntarily. spend July in Texas--as opposed to Bill Clinton's favored coastal retreats--but Osama bin Laden is no more or less a threat than in Bush were in Washington. But if blaming Bush makes people feel better, safer, or at least able to focus their anger on someone they can hurt, they'll blame Bush. "

It was pretty obvious to progressives like myself at the time, but it's become even clearer since this post was published that Bush has a real problem with extended vacations. His first month-long summer vacation was in 2001. He received a PDB on August 6th that said "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." How do he respond? As far as anybody can tell, he didn't. He had a summer vacation to conduct, after all. Might have helped if the guy had taken a shorter vacation and y'know, had done his job.
The second vacation of note was in 2003. It's doubtful that anything the US could have done in the summer of 2003 would have resulted in victory in Iraq, but there was a window from the fall of Baghdad to about the time the fall season began that Iraq's insurgency could have been weakened and delayed with an energetic and well-funded reconstruction program. Bush wandered off to Crawford, Texas, about the time that the existence of a serious, long-term insurgency became impossible to deny. The US Army needed a full-time Commander-in-Chief who was dedicated to doing the job. The Army didn't get that in 2003.
The third time of note was in 2005, when Bush was hanging around during his final week of vacation. Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Bush consulted by closed-circuit television with Louisiana officials, then went back to his vacation. Bush went to Arizona to celebrate John McCain's birthday,. then to an Arizona resort to discuss Medicare drug benefits. That evening, Governor Blanco said "Mr. President, we need your help. We need everything you’ve got.” [Newsweek]. Thinkprogress: "2PM CDT — PRESIDENT BUSH PLAYS GUITAR WITH COUNTRY SINGER MARK WILLIS [AP] BUSH RETURNS TO CRAWFORD FOR FINAL NIGHT OF VACATION [AP]"
Again, Bush seems to have had a real problem doing his job.
To complain about Bush taking long vacations is hardly "Bush Hatred." It's entirely reasonable to expect the President to do his frickin' job, even if that job interferes with his precious vacation time!!


Silly, silly people

Rumsfeld received an award at the Union League tonight. Why? Who knows? The Union League apparently thought Rumsfeld was obviously doing a good job. So much for their good sense and discrimination.

UPDATE: The Philadephia Inquirer did a nice piece on the protest.

David Horowitz, who used to be a lefty radical back in the 1960s, but then "went bad" and turned conservative, sent out an appeal today:

"Simply put, Professor Beinin has set out to chill our free speech. He asserts that we've defamed him by putting his picture on our booklet, 'Campus Support for Terrorism.' That booklet's been out for more than a year."

The claim that this fellow would have for damages against Horowitz seems pretty self-evident, but I agree that waiting a year before launching the case seems a bit peculiar. My only claim to legal expertise is that my sister was a paralegal for a number of years and that we sometimes discussed a few legal cases here and there. My wild, off the top of my head guess is that because courts like to deal in solid, proven quantifiable facts, people probably wait until the damage to their reputations has been done, count up what the false accusation cost them and then, with a solid cost in hand, go to the courts for relief. According to my theory then, the plaintiff was confident after a year about just how much Horowitz's action cost him in terms of lost jobs, lost pay raises, people's refusal to hire him, etc. I say toss the book at Horowitz! He should pay enough to have to cancel his next vacation, perhaps enough to make him sell a yacht or two!

George Will, whose columns I remember reading back in the 1970s, is clearly experienced enough that this can't possibly be an error. Here's the original set of statements:

"At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

"Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

"Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t."

And now George Wills' version:

"When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, 'How's your boy?' Webb replied, 'I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq.' When the president again asked 'How's your boy?' Webb replied, 'That's between me and my boy.' "

Completely absent from Will's version is Bush's arrogant, snippy, response to Webb's desire to bring US soldiers back home. "I didn't ask you that" comes across to me as an absolutely imperial disdain "How dare you question ME, your glorious Dear Leader, you peasant?!?!" Was it appropriate for Webb to inject politics into what appeared to be a friendly, non-political question? Perhaps not, but both of them are politicians, this sort of thing comes with the territory.
My real question here is not so much about Will himself, but the supposed difference between bloggers and people who write for mainstream media newspapers and TV. The alleged difference is supposed to be that MSM people are supposed to have editors who are supposed to catch stuff like this. When a writer is being blatantly dishonest and unfair, editos are supposed to, well, edit. As leaving out that snippet changes Bush's comment from one of imperial disdain to one where people wonder "What's Webb getting so excitable about?" an editor REALLY should have caught that!
Jacob Weisberg's piece in Slate is a reasonably good look at the Iraqi situation until we get to this part:

"As in the final stages of the Vietnam War, we face the question: If we have lost, why are we still there? One answer is that George Bush is a stubborn man—even this week, he was insisting we won't withdraw 'until the mission is complete'—an apparent synonym for 'when hell freezes over.' A better answer is that we're staying to prevent genocide. Without a military force separating Sunnis and Shiites, the present savagery could go Cambodian, with remaining secular democrats as the first victims."

Okay, the situation in Iraq has ALREADY gone "Cambodian." Maybe it hasn't reached those numbers of casualties yet, but there's simply no question that slaughter and torture and brutality are the daily fare of Iraqis. Are US troops preventing genocide? For US troops, simply protecting themselves is a full-time job. The great majority of the violence in that country is the violence of Iraqi insurgents against American soldiers or Iraqis who collaborate with the American occupation. Sorry, but US troops are not in Iraq to keep the two main religious groups apart and they aren't doing any such thing in any event. As in Cambodia 1975, the US simply has no power to prevent a massacre from taking place after US troops leave or are driven out.

DailyKos has more. "What, does [Weisberg] think the people of these nations will happily see their men and women in uniform sent into the Iraq meat grinder to try and save Bush's incompetent ass?"

Yglesias has a marvelous comment concerning Charles Krauthammer's latest nutty notion.

Glenn Greenwald examines NY Times columnist Tom Friedman: "It is still the case in Establishment Washington that having been pro-war in the first place is a pre-requisite to being considered a "responsible, serious" foreign policy analyst. And having been anti-war from the start is the hallmark of someone unserious. The pro-war Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are serious national security Democrats but Russ Feingold, Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha are the kind of laughable losers whom Democrats need to repudiate."

Very, very intriguing piece in which Sara Robinson compares reporters to the "Kewl Kidz and Queen Bees" of junior high school. These people haven't really changed since they were 11 and they WON'T change until the Democratic grown-ups take charge.