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November 08, 2006

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Would guess the argument would have been that Bush was caving to his critics - showing weakness, acknowledging that Iraq was a cluster of some sort, making decisions based on the political calendar...

rilkefan: but it was obvious way in advance that Iraq would be an issue. Bush could have done this some months ago, thereby avoiding the 'right before the elections' problem. I suspect he didn't because he has this thing about not doing things that he interprets as caving. It will be interesting to see how he handles the next two years.

They could have played this (at least somewhat rightly) as "See, look, we're not staying the course, we're doing whatever it takes to make things right" -- and I bet it would have worked in the GOP's favor in the midterm elections. Count me as another who's confused as to why they chose the timing they did.

Bush has never -- ever -- allowed the interests of the GOP to seriously interfere with his own desires/designs, whatever the heck those might be.

Case in point: he picked Cheney as VP in 2000. Probably explainable for electoral reasons in that year, but risky: Cheney was too old and in dodgy health, so unreliable for Presidential material eight years down the road. In 2004 -- far worse for the GOP -- there's no change at VP. Usually parties use the VP spot (at least in modern times) to groom the party's successor. Cheney wasn't going to be Presidential material in 2004, and everybody could see it. So by keeping him on the ticket, Bush made the 2008 situation that much worse for the GOP.

Why? Who knows. Stubbornness; quiet quid pro quo for McCain; Faustian bargain; all possible. But the net result is a real problem for the GOP in 2008, and a problem W didn't have to create.

The logic seems pretty clear to me:

If Bush had fired Rumsfeld at any point before the election, the confirmation hearings for Rummy's replacement would have been all about the war: hows and whys, questions about who made what decisions and what information they based those decisions on, probing questions about the corrupt cronyism, and on all sorts of other issues that Bush-Cheney would prefer never see the light of day.

The hearings, even while the GOP was in charge, would have been damaging to Bush no matter what, because the country has long since soured on the war and would have supported using the hearings as a kind of referendum on it.

That's also the logic behind the timing in finally firing Rumsfeld. Bush wants Gates' confirmation hearings to happen during the lame duck session, when the GOP is still in control. (That's if my assumption that the hearings will in fact happen before the next Congress is sworn in and seated.)

As bad as the hearings would have been, and possibly will still be, when the GOP is running them, they'd be more damaging to the Bush Admin by an order of magnitude after January, when the Democrats are.

It's all about avoiding accountability. That's Bush and Cheney's highest priority.

Hi guys... I don't post much but I just wanted to offer 2 thoughts on the last few days :

1 Hell yeah.
2 Don't mess this up, Democrats.

Thanks, I must get back to work...

Seen at theforvm.org:


(harley) According to Matthews, Cheney barracked for Rummy, but Bush would not listen. Then Cheney tried to put a neo-con firebreather in his place. Bush wouldn't listen. He brought in a foreign policy realist from his Dad's admin. instead.

Hmm. And I thought Bush was the lame duck.


(Ken White) I've always believed Cheney as VP was the price the big money donors extracted for supporting W. He's now at a point where he doesn't have to listen any more.

Not to mention that said big donors have sent a "Do damage control before '08 turns into an even bigger disaster" message. That means bringing in the pros, the time span and ages mean Daddy's guys as much as anything.

The dead Tacitus/blogfather link should probably be replaced with a Spawn o' Tacitus link to theforvum.org

I like CaseyL's explanation. I've been wondering also if the resignation was timed to take the wind out of the Democrat sails. Instead of the story of the day being "victory for the Democrats," it's "look how Bush is doing the right thing."

Yes, O ObWings Powers That Be: please do deign to link to the humble blog over at The Forvm; it is verey muich like Tacitus - except, of course, without Tacitus.

We thank thee.

Regarding Gates, I agree with the sentiment I've seen expressed elsewhere that corrupt but competent is better than corrupt and incompetent. I think he'll be more reality-based than Rummy.

Seems to me that he's a technocrat, not a corruption instigator, but more of a "yes boss, I'll keep my eyes and mouth shut" spook.

I'm looking forward to resignations from Cheney's office to see if Poppy is cleaning house. I actually think a factor in Bush's turn against Cheney (if true) were all those neocon scum denouncing W in Vanity Fair. Bush would likely blame Cheney: "these are your friends, you brought them into the government". They were disloyal.

Would guess the argument would have been that Bush was caving to his critics - showing weakness, acknowledging that Iraq was a cluster of some sort, making decisions based on the political calendar...

I think it's simpler. Blood in the water would have been bad pre-election. Maybe in July they could have gotten away with it, but once we hit August...

Bush: What's your plan?
Dems: Well, what's yours, even you admit the first one sucked

I'm glad he's gone, but it seems a little, well, petulant to boot him now. Especially since there is no way that this will be spun as anything but Bush reacting to a body blow.

I recall the day that Dick Cheney was announced as the republican candidate for v.p.; there was an almost audible sigh of relief. The republicans knew how uninformed, uninterested, and inexperienced Bush was, especially where it concerned foreign affairs.

Republicans are all over the idea of marketability rather than substance, because they knew Bush's "shadow" government ran things anyway. Image over substance has been their battle cry since George H.W. Bush chose Dan Quayle for v.p. The fact that they felt no fear about this superficial move to attract the female vote proved that they decided the president and v.p. were of no consequence.

Corporations and the intelligence agencies run our government. Who else would justify torture, renditions, the suspension of habeus corpus, spying on Americans without a warrant, and the murder of foreign civilians for profit and power? Who else would order a no-bid contract with Halliburton for a massive detention center for "special programs"?

Dick Armey, in a recent interview, said that the government is run like a large corporation. Therefore, government requires corporate personality types in leadership positions within government. The problem with this type of reasoning is that corporations are dictatorships not democratically elected officials who serve the middle class and mitigate the suffering of the poor.

Corporations no longer believe that there is adequate proof that mitigating suffering is essential to the efficiency and profitability of society. They also believe that power vested in the people is an unacceptable error in judgment.

Of course, they are blind to the fact that it has been under their authority that incredible blunders in foreign policy have shaped the current deadly conflicts that our nation and the world must cope with.

The politicians serve only as a buffer between the people and fascism to maintain the illusion of a democratic republic to prevent rebellion while they secure their power through a largely brainwashed all volunteer military.

An autumn of war, reflects failure on the king.
Don is disappeared.

Oh yes, Gates is a great American. He only helped a reckless right wing administration violate government policy not to negotiate with terrorists; in order to illegally fund right wing murderers in Ecuador.

His involvement inspired by lunacy and loyalty to a crackpot ideology, ignored the fact that Congress determined the U.S. should not fund them. The Contras were as bad or worse than the people they were attacking and killing.

That's certainly my idea of a great American. A person who would betray the people of the United States and disregard a decision made by Congress to break the law for a few wing nuts in republican leadership positions. Yeah, great, a great choice.

I wonder whom he'll help disregard Congress with, and enthusiastically screw the people out of their power. Just, great. There is no reason not to give him a pass, as far as I can see. Oh, no, he'll do just fine.

Don't bother to fight it. His type is inevitable. Point out someone worse that we should be accepting of, indifferent to, or apathetic about.

I just love people who treat strangers like dirt, and think the American people are stupid. God, that gives me such a feeling of patriotism, that I'm beside myself.

oops... El Salvador not Ecaudor

I'm going to be very, very interested in seeing just how committed Democrats are to weeding corruption out of government. Which is why I'm keeping a very close eye on who's going to chair the House Intelligence Committee. Picking Alcee Hastings for this position would send the opposite of the intended message, methinks.

Also interesting will be how involved Jack Murtha will be. Not that Murtha's actually been convicted of anything, mind you, but I've seen a great deal more direct evidence of corruption in Congressman Murtha than I have about Gates. Which could easily be remedied, if anyone has a link to anything more than Gates' name mentioned in the same paragraph as Iran/Contra. Certainly what Independend Counsel discovered in the matter points to corruption either in Gates or in a goodly chunk of the CIA at the time, or both, and I'd lean away from giving him the nod for SecDef until such time as he's answered how North's activities could have occurred without Gates having known about them, and how his not being clued into that sort freewheeling activity might be cause for concern as regards a future position at the top of a rather larger government organization.

Not being optimistic about productive explorations of fact in the Iran/Contra matter, I'm going to say that Gates should not be confirmed.

I’m a little conflicted on this one. You have to understand how resistant the military is to change. He was given the task of reshaping the military, and the military did not want any reshaping. If you wrote up the job requirements for a person who could tackle that job, you might come up with, well, Donald Rumsfeld.

When I say the military did not want any reshaping, I’m talking about the entrenched top brass. From all appearances, he was very well thought of by the troops.

Still, after a brilliant invasion plan, he blew the post invasion. I acknowledge there was no plan, and way too much optimism. I have always thought there were far too few troops post invasion. In the end, I would agree that he needed to go right after the 04 election, and this is two years too late.

I too question the timing. Obviously it was in the works already. Bush did not wake up yesterday, absorb the election results, and have a new SecDef picked out by lunch. So his support a couple of weeks ago is very weird. I’ve always thought that one of Bush’s biggest faults was his blind loyalty to people.

I will miss him smacking around reporters at his press conferences though.

Well, in a sense, I agree with you. Not about the military needing reshaping/top brass resisting - I have no opinion about that.

Rumsfeld is a scapegoat. The US's defeat in Iraq is ultimately the responsibility of George W. Bush. Of course a responsible Defense Secretary should have said, "Wait a minute, how many troops did that 1999 projection say we'd need? And what plans do we have for the occupation? How much is this going to cost? Since the US doesn't have the troops we're going to need, how are we going to get them? Do we really need to do this, since we can't afford it, we haven't got the troops, and we can't persuade most of our natural allies or any of Iraq's neighbors that we need to?"

And a responsible Defense Secretary would then have been gone like Eric Shinseki. Bush can't fire Cheney. He's not about to fire himself. Who can go who bears a reasonable amount of responsibility for the Iraq horror? Rumsfeld.

I think Gates was deliberately chosen to be "worse than Rumsfeld." This way, anything that goes wrong under Gates' watch can be spun as "well, Rummy would have done better, but you guys made me get rid of him!"

Ah, Bizarro World, living up to its name.

OCSteve--
I have to say I agree with you to some degree. Transforming the military would be something laudable (and if it undercut some of the wastage caused by the relationships between Pentagon and contractors, all to the better). Rumsfeld seems to have actually read his van Creveld and so forth. In that sense it's really a pity his Iraq policies have been so utterly disastrous.

Interesting that Rumsfeld and Shinseki fell out over precisely this thing: transforming the military. Shinseki didn't see things Rumsfeld's way, and so he was out.

At least, that's the way I see it.

Sorry, but I have no sympathy for Rumsfeld. There is no saving grace in his desire to transform the military. Any fool can see the need for change; the key, as always, is in the execution.

And Rumsfeld simply wasn't up to the task.

"Nonetheless, barring some unforeseen development, I hope the Democrats don't pick a fight over this nomination. There are many, many worse people Bush could have chosen."

Hilzoy,that's endorsing someone on the grounds that he's not the absolute worst possible choice. This is what has me depressed a day after some (extremely mild) euphoria--the recognition that this sort of "moderation" is what allows people like Gates to rise from the crypt like some zombie and do it all over again. I'm in favor of reaching out to Republicans and not going wild with left-wing proposals on all sorts of issues, but do we have to start rolling over and playing dead right away?

Rummy is a bit too old to worry about in this regard, but if he were younger or had the right genes I don't doubt some future Republican scumbag might nominate him for a high-ranking position 20 years from now and moderates would endorse him on the grounds that there might be someone worse somewhere that could have been picked.

Doesn't the country deserve someone a little better than Gates heading the Pentagon when we are in the midst of a disastrous war? Why should Bush get a pass on this?

I don’t know enough about Gates yet to have an opinion on his capability for the job. The Iran/Contra link seems like a pretty clear problem. Just because he wasn’t indicted doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved.

I wonder if Bush is trying to provoke a fight right out of the gate. Provoke it with this nomination so the Republicans can shout “Obstructionist Democrats” to set the stage for the next 2 years.

OCSteve: The Iran/Contra link seems like a pretty clear problem. Just because he wasn’t indicted doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved.

(Damn you, Steve, you keep making these sensible, reasonable, nonpartisan comments.)

Looked at neutrally, it's a problem for confirmation whether or not he was involved, because he wasn't cleared. And while the whole Iran/Contra issue got more-or-less resolved with pardons from the first Bush, an American who was politically active then pointed out to me that there were questions in many people's minds as to how involved Reagan's Vice-President was...

...now there's a conspiracy theory and a half. Bush nominates Gate hoping the confirmation hearings will embarrass his dad.

Not to speak ill of the retired or anything but I think it's worth mentioning that the success of the invasion itself had very little to do with Rummy's skills and quite a lot to do with the "overwhelming force" and "painstaking planning" aspects of the Powell doctrine. Militarily, Iraq was a fish in a barrel. A dangerous and potentially problematic fish sure, but also one we'd been surveilling and wargaming heavily, nonstop, for over a decade, and had already defeated once. A fish with comparatively little modern equipment, no allies, and no air force worth mentioning. William "Revolution in Business Affairs" Cohen (Clinton Sec Def) would probably have taken Baghdad about as quickly as Rummy did.

...now there's a conspiracy theory and a half. Bush nominates Gate hoping the confirmation hearings will embarrass his dad.

I doubt Gates was W's pick. This is just Bush Family Psychodrama™ playing out exactly as it has in the past, with Poppy's friends (Baker, Gates, Scowcroft, Hamilton) arriving to discreetly bail out junior's mess. All families have these little storylines -- it's just that some families are more dysfunctional than others, and Royal Families get to play them out on a much larger scale than the rest of us.

Phase 1: Junior, as part of his grooming to inherit the mantle of his father, is installed in a position of responsibility, with some nominally competent minders to keep an eye on him.

Phase 2: Junior chafes at actual work, so the minders wind up pursuing their own agendas (generally raiding the company coffers) while junior plays at decider.

Phase 3: Eventually the company goes totally off the rails because the minders are not minding, and the debt has accumulated to the point where the creditors are reluctant to make any more loans.

Phase 4: The consigilere arrives with some grownups and a mandate to extract the scion with as little embarassment as possible.

Phase 5: The consigliere and assistants arrange a controlled collapse into bankruptcy, leaving creditors and investors holding the bag.

We're seeing the beginning of Phase 4 right now.

Nice analysis, radish, but you're missing the essential nature of the cycle (as elucidated by Bill Kristol [on the Daily Show of all places] among others):

Phase 5: The consigliere and assistants arrange a controlled collapse into bankruptcy, leaving Democrats holding the bag.

This has been at least a back-up plan for a while now: raid the coffers until the Democrats are forced to raise taxes to restore some semblance of fiscal sanity, then use the tax hikes to demonize the Democrats in subsequent elections until the Republicans are elected once again, to begin the pillaging anew. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

CaseyL: I think that if the hearings got rough the Republicans could have argued, persuasively, that the Democrats were holding up the nomination in a time of war. So I think they could have come out ahead if they did it 30 or 60 days ago.

In hindsight, it was a mistake not to do it, but they could not have guessed that they were going to be routed this badly.

I say: no way Jon Tester wins that close Montana race if Burns has a little more substance to argue with.

I'm tempted to lay the blame at the PNAC members' feet and Dick Cheney. Cheney kept running to the C.I.A. to convince them that "peak oil production" passed, and strategic regional power was essential to America's energy requirements.

Some blame needs to go to major publishers like Bill Kristol, The New York Times, the WaPo, TV broadcasters such as Rupert Murdock, and Sinclair, as well as radio broadcasters such as Clear Channel, for maintaining the war drum beat.

Independently or not, they added to the confusion by providing every damn detail one could think of about the war, and promoting the pack of lies intended to galvanize the public against, not terrorists, but Arabs in general.

The real intelligence failure was how foreign countries and big business manipulated or brought into agreement members of our government to promote a war of opportunity for profit that they hoped would benefit them; rather than responding to the necessity of war, (self-defense.)

Ledeen spoke to an audience at the American Enterprise Institute, to make the assertion that about every decade America needs to grab some crappy little country and throw it up against the wall, to show the world that the U.S. was not soft. Now, there is a purpose a patriot can support???

Iran/Contra

There was an insider scheduled to testify against Gates, but the court suppressed her testimony and the case was dropped. A Google search under Gates has her name, and particulars if anyone is interested.

Re: Bush's intellect. There's also the fact that the man was a practicing alcoholic until he was forty. Who knows how many brain cells he burned out in that time, and how screwed up his mental processes still are, since he just switched over to being an exercise junkie as his new crutch.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Egypt-al-Qaida.html>NYT: ''Remain steadfast in the battlefield, you coward,'' [Abu Hamza al-Muhajir] said, addressing Bush.

Well someone is still 'stay the course.'

He urged Bush not to withdraw U.S. forces so al-Qaida could have more opportunities to fight U.S. soldiers. ''We haven't had enough of your blood yet,'' he told the U.S.

I think if AQ were actually fighting us, it'd all be over fairly quickly.

Or it could just be that their aim sucks.

CaseyL:

If Bush had fired Rumsfeld at any point before the election, the confirmation hearings for Rummy's replacement would have been all about the war...

Great point, and this seems so obviously correct. Firing him before the election is a tacit admission of failure, which could not be avoided because of the confirmation process (if he could have been replaced without a confirmation hearing, I am sure that he would have been fired pre-election). Plus the confirmation process would have put greater pre-election heat on the question of what is Bush's new plan? Since he does not have one even with Gates, there is no way this could have been done pre-election.

In an abstract sense, it is true that Republicans would have been benefited by a better pre-war discussion that showed some intent to deal with the problems seriously instead of the cartoon version they actually delivered. Firing Rumsfeld would be step one in that discussion (Charles has made that point repeatedly -- its officially a bipartisan position!), but what next? Those Republicans who wish that Rumsfeld had been fired pre-election assume that the Bush administration would have been capable of having a rational non-cartoon version of debate about the war plan following Rumsfeld's departure.

Frankly, I don't think they are capable of it, as we will discover over the following months. Already, Republican voices are cutting and running from a responsible discussion about what to do next, and claiming that its the responsibility of the Democrats now in control of Congress.

Is Gates the best guy available given his Iran/Contra past? Others have noted others problems with his suitability (the most troubling one being claims of his history of skewing intelligence for political effect).

The more interesting question is who would take this job? Stepping into a complete mess to work under a boss with a proven history of not getting it, while having to deal with a hostile Democratic Congress. No wonder they ended up with a retread of minor distinction -- I would love to see the short list of other candidates for the job, and to learn whether or not others turned down the position. (Do you think they offered it to Powell, and if they could get him to take it, would that have been a major shot in the arm pre-election?)

Keeping your head in the sand and never admitting a problem has worked for Bush/Rove so far. No reason not to continue. Frankly, most of us didn't expect the Dem tsunami that was Tuesday.

Um, people, the Baker Commission strategy is going to be cut-n-run without saying it. Really, at this point, everybody is a cut and runner of some sort or the other. Considering how nebulous the policy discussion is ("victory" vs "cut and run" versus "stay the course": we don't have the foggiest idea what in particular politicians are talking about), what does it matter what the Gates/Bush plan would be in confirmation. Nothing nothing impugns a Repulican's right to smear a Democrat on the issue of national security. It is a birthright.

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