Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Thursday, April 5th, 2007.


Bush “Unfit to Lead”

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Bush Administration

This is Joel Klein writing this, note —

The three big Bush stories of 2007–the decision to “surge” in Iraq, the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry political reasons–precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance (the surge), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S. Attorneys)….

… When Bush came to office–installed by the Supreme Court after receiving fewer votes than Al Gore–I speculated that the new President would have to govern in a bipartisan manner to be successful. He chose the opposite path, and his hyper-partisanship has proved to be a travesty of governance and a comprehensive failure. I’ve tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but the three defining sins of the Bush Administration–arrogance, incompetence, cynicism–are congenital: they’re part of his personality. They’re not likely to change. And it is increasingly difficult to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead.

This is a miracle. Klein is almost as thick as David Brooks, yet a light has dawned.

Like Kevin Drum, I am awed by Klein’s overuse of dashes. Other quibbles from Kevin —

Yeah, we hear you. Except for a few things. It’s not really arrogance, is it? More like barroom obstinance. And not quite cynicism, either. Closer to partisanship and paranoia gone psychopathic. And I’d change “not likely” to something a little stronger. Let’s say, “Pigs will orbit Mars before this changes.” And finally, that “difficult to imagine” part isn’t quite right either. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to imagine.

Read all of Klein’s piece, anyway.

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Counterbalancing Bush

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Bush Administration, Congress, Middle East

[Update: Make some noise — tell CNN to get the facts right about the Pelosi trip.]

An editorial in today’s Boston Globe:

EVEN AS a matter of political self-interest, President Bush made himself look bad by carping about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit yesterday in Damascus with Syria’s president, Bashar Assad.

Bush’s complaint that Pelosi and the bipartisan congressional delegation were sending “mixed signals” made it appear that Bush either resents or refuses to accept the Constitution’s unambiguous granting of extensive powers in foreign policy to the legislative branch. Pelosi and her colleagues were doing what innumerable delegations of senators and representatives have done in the past: traveling abroad to consult with foreign leaders, gather information, and enhance their ability to fulfill their obligations to advise, consent, and appropriate funds. Republican congressmen met with Assad last week. If the American system of checks and balances is to function properly, the co-equal legislative branch must exercise its powers to check and balance the actions of the executive branch.

Predictably, the Washington Post editorial on the Pelosi trip calls it “foolish shuttle diplomacy.” It’s a foolish editorial, which you may read if you like. I’m skipping right to the commentary. Nico at Think Progress:

The Washington Post editorial page today published a vicious editorial attacking Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), calling her “ludicrous” and describing her bipartisan trip to Syria as an “attempt to establish a shadow presidency.”

The editorial rests on two claims, both of which are baseless.

1) Pelosi passed an incorrect message from Israel to Syria. Pelosi said yesterday that she gave Syrian officials the message that Israel is “ready to engage in peace talks.” The Post falsely claims, “The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message,” misinterpreting a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office that simply reiterated its position that talks with Syria will not take place until Syria has taken steps to end its support for extremist elements. There is no evidence that Pelosi failed to communicate this message. In fact, Pelosi’s delegation specifically pressed the Syrian president “over Syria’s support for militant groups and insist[ed] that his government block militants seeking to cross into Iraq and join insurgents there.”

2) Pelosi is attempting to “establish a shadow presidency.” This claim is directly contradicted by the Post’s own reporting this morning, which states, “Foreign policy experts generally agree that Pelosi’s dealings with Middle East leaders have not strayed far, if at all, from those typical for a congressional trip.” Pelosi herself has “described the trip as little different than the visit paid to Syria the same week led by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA),” and she went to great lengths to express her unity of purpose with President Bush on terrorism issues. The Post’s own reporting today also cites several instances of members of Congress meeting with foreign leaders during the past 30 years. As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, in contrast with Pelosi’s trip, previous congressional actions abroad attempted to directly undermine President Clinton.

See also Frank James at The Swamp.

Publius at Obsidian Wings:

The Washington Post editorial board should apologize for its over-the-top, and borderline sexist, attack on Pelosi for visiting Syria. It’s fine if they have substantive disagreements, but the mocking language they used (“ludicrous,” “foolish,” “Ms. Pelosi grandly declared”) is unprofessional. You don’t see them using this type of Drudge-like mockery even in their strongest attacks on the administration, but it’s ok for Pelosi I suppose.

CNN’s sloppy and inaccurate reporting of the trip hasn’t helped.

Kagro X at Kos:

Meanwhile, the parade of Republicans through Damascus continues unabated, with the arrival of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), close on the heels of another delegation led by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). As we know, Bush, like Boehner, has criticized these delegations as undermining his own “diplomacy.” So what does Darrell have to say?

    Commenting on Bush’s criticism, California Republican Darrell Issa said the president had failed to promote the necessary dialogue to resolve disagreements between the U.S. and Syria.

    “That’s an important message to realize: We have tensions, but we have two functioning embassies.”

And Frank?

    “I don’t care what the administration says on this. You gotta do what you think is in the best interest of your country,” said Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia, who was part of the delegation.

    “I don’t care what the administration says on this.”

What’s that about going to Syria to embarrass the president, Mr. Boehner?

I don’t think the attacks on Pelosi are so much about Syria as they are about Iraq, or more accurately the supplement bill fight. The hawks are doing everything they can to knock her down, to make her the enemy. They’re desperate.

Update: Joe Conason writes, “The problem is not what Pelosi did or said, but how she exposed the exhaustion of neoconservative policy.” It’s a good article.

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The Inevitable Candidate

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Bush Administration, elections

Last night I endured considerable babbling from the television pundits about Barack Obama’s first quarter fundraising results. Consensus among the bobbleheads is that all those little people who gave nickles and dimes to Sen. Obama instead of Sen. Clinton must be (a) angry with her because of the war, or (b) still suffering Clinton fatigue. Or both.

I think both are a factor, but I think there’s another factor the bobbleheads are missing.

For the past few bleeping years the pundits have been telling us that Sen. Hillary Clinton will be the 2008 presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. No doubt about it. She’s got all this money, all these connections, a killer political organization — nay, a machine — behind her. Whether the Democratic Party base wanted her to be the candidate was never questioned. She was who we were going to get, like it or not.

After a while, Sen. Clinton started to sound like the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Frankly, this attitude has been pissing me off.

What’s worse, the Inevitable Candidate talk seemed symptomatic of what’s been wrong with the national Democratic Party for years — their insulation. For a lot of reasons — not all of them the fault of the politicians — the Dems haven’t had anything like a national progressive coalition behind them for about thirty years now. That means leadership positions in the party are entirely filled by people who are accustomed to running (and, occasionally, winning) election campaigns without thinking much about what a progressive base might want. Worse, many Dems have treated us progressives and liberals like disreputable relations; they don’t mind if we donate money and turn out to vote for them, but they’d rather not be seen with us in public.

So, instead of being active participants in the political process, we’re supposed to be the passive consumers of whatever product the party chooses to market. Bleep that, I say.

I’ve asked myself if I would feel the same way about an Inevitable Candidate if the I.C. were someone whose stand on the Iraq War and other issues were closer to my own opinions than Sen. Clinton’s are. Yes, I believe I would. I might support an I.C., but only if the candidate were someone capable of winning my support anyway. In other words, I’d support the I.C. in spite of his being the I.C., not because of it.

There a couple of things I suspect but can’t prove. One, I suspect much of the aura of Inevitable Candidate was wrapped about Sen. Clinton by the Right, because she’s the candidate they most want to run against in 2008. Two, I think Barack Obama is benefiting from some backlash against the I.C. I think a lot of the people who donated nickles and dimes to Barack Obama did so because he’s the only candidate other than Hillary Clinton the pundits take seriously these days.

There’s no one Dem officially running that I support 100 percent for the presidential nomination. It’s a strong field, but no one really stands out for me yet. But it’s 19 months until the election. In theory, we ought to have a lot of time yet to make up our minds. It used to be that presidential nominees were chosen by the party conventions three or four months before the elections. Now, we’re going to have a nominee chosen many months before most people are paying attention to presidential politics. And if the prime criterion for winning the nomination is collecting more donations than the other guys — how does that give us a good president, exactly?

Along these lines — there’s a good editorial called “Running for Dollars” in today’s New York Times.

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