The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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saturday, september 25, 2004

Air Maha, Early Bird Special
If you're in the Pleasanton, California, listening area and up early tomorrow morning, I'm being interviewed (on tape, thank you) on KKIQ-FM, at 6 a.m.
If you can't handle that, I should have the interview in the Air Maha archive (right hand column) later this week.
Speaking of radio -- long-time friend of The Mahablog, x, has a new blog called Ritual Reality. Look for the Radio Sub Rosa links on the left -- there are some outrageous audio files. Enjoy.
Speaking of new blogs -- a Mahareader named Harshcritic (possibly a pseudonym) has one here.
Speaking of whatever -- I haven't gotten around to blogging about my close encounter with Joe Scarborough in a Borders book store on the upper west side last week, but you can read about it on Letter from Gotham.
7:14 pm | link

Bush's New and Bigger Lies
Bush's descent into absolute mendacity continued today, according to Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press.
Campaigning by bus through hotly contested Wisconsin on Friday, Bush sought to counter recently sharpened criticism by Kerry about his Iraq policies:

-He stated flatly that Kerry had said earlier in the week "he would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today." The line drew gasps of surprise from Bush's audience in a Racine, Wisconsin, park. "I just strongly disagree," the president said.

But Kerry never said that. In a speech at New York University on Monday, he called Saddam "a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell." He added, "The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."

Of course, that doesn't top the one about Kerry dissing our allies.

The Massachusetts senator frequently touts his plan to involve other countries in Iraq and in the war on terrorism, saying that Mr. Bush chose to go it alone. The president challenged that assertion Friday, as he discussed his relationship with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"We've got great alliances," Mr. Bush said.

He pledged to continue working with other foreign leaders and suggested that Mr. Kerry had gotten off to a rocky start with many.

Bush's alliances -- let's see, there's Tony Blair, and, um, that guy in Australia. Anybody else? I don't think so. Even Vicente Fox of Mexcio is pissed at Bush, last I heard. 

Bush can't even get along with Canadians, for pity's sake. That takes talent. 

When Bush announced the invasion of Iraq, Jeffrey Simpson of the Toronto Globe and Mail wrote,

The publics of the whole world, save for Israel, oppose the Bush administration. Anti-Americanism is rampant, a stunning turnabout from 18 months ago when the world mourned with the U.S. after 9/11. Traditional friends and allies such as Canada, France, Germany, and new ones such as Russia, have deserted the U.S. on Iraq. ...

Transatlantic relations, a cornerstone of the foreign policy of the U.S., Canada and Western European countries for more than half a century, have never been more strained. They are strained to the point where Washington wonders if Germany can ever be counted on again, and France becomes a country non grata in the U.S., subject to vicious, even racist, jokes from irate political leaders and conservative "journalists," today's equivalent of the jingoistic Hearst "yellow" press a century ago.

The U.S. and Britain blamed the threat of a French veto for not pursuing their resolution at the United Nations authorizing military action. This was humbug designed to camouflage the diplomatic disaster these countries suffered at the UN, where a clear majority of the Security Council members opposed them. Not pursuing the doomed Anglo-American resolution also let off the hook non-permanent council members -- Mexico, Chile and Pakistan -- since they were not going to support the U.S. but would have felt uncomfortable saying so publicly.

Since then, our foreign relations have gotten worse. The Spanish dumped a pro-Bush prime minister for lying to them about terrorism. Costa Rica asked to be removed from the "coalition." This week Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, allegedly one of our "good friends" in the Middle East, snubbed Bush by refusing to send Pakistani troops into Iraq.  And yesterday he told Tom Brokaw that the war in Iraq had made America's position in the Middle East worse.

But in Bushworld, supporting Kerry is tantamount to supporting terrorism.

In an editorial today, the New York Times called Bush's campaign tactics "un-American."

This is despicable politics. It's not just polarizing - it also undermines the efforts of the Justice Department and the Central Intelligence Agency to combat terrorists in America. Every time a member of the Bush administration suggests that Islamic extremists want to stage an attack before the election to sway the results in November, it causes patriotic Americans who do not intend to vote for the president to wonder whether the entire antiterrorism effort has been kidnapped and turned into part of the Bush re-election campaign. The people running the government clearly regard keeping Mr. Bush in office as more important than maintaining a united front on the most important threat to the nation.

Mr. Bush has not disassociated himself from any of this, and in his own campaign speeches he makes an argument that is equally divisive and undemocratic. The president has claimed, over and over, that criticism of the way his administration has conducted the war in Iraq and news stories that suggest the war is not going well endanger American troops and give aid and comfort to the enemy. This week, in his Rose Garden press conference with the interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Mr. Bush was asked about Mr. Kerry's increasingly pointed remarks on Iraq. "You can embolden an enemy by sending mixed messages," he said, going on to suggest that Mr. Kerry's criticisms dispirit the Iraqi people and American soldiers.

Bush, the Times says, is putting his own campaign ahead of the public good. Sure wish you'd noticed that a lot sooner, Times.

2:39 pm | link

Hearts and Minds
Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder. [Nancy Youssef, Knight Ridder, 9/23]
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, how can Knight Ridder get away with saying these treasonous things? We are supposed to be told about all the schools being built and all the electricity hooked up. And we're supposed to be told that Iraqis love America and hate the insurgents.
Yesterday the U.S. launched more airstrikes against Fallujah and began a major assault on Ramadi. Insurgent violence continues in Baghdad. As I skipped around major newspaper sites on the web this morning, however, I noticed little coverage of war news. Newspaper editors are getting real patriotic these days, it seems. It used to be that major assaults and airstrikes would be front-page, above-the-fold stories.
Apparently CBS has had its nose rubbed in patriotism -- it has announced it will sit on negative news stories about Bush until after the election.
But the treasonous Los Angeles Times reports that Bush's "war on terror" is failing, spectacularly and catastrophically.
 Authorities have made little progress worldwide in defeating Islamic extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda despite thwarting attacks and arresting high-profile figures, according to interviews with intelligence and law enforcement officials and outside experts.

On the contrary, officials warn that the Bush administration's upbeat assessment of its successes is overly optimistic and masks its strategic failure to understand and combat Al Qaeda's evolution. ...

"Any assessment that the global terror movement has been rolled back or that even one component, Al Qaeda, is on the run is optimistic and most certainly incorrect," said M.J. Gohel, head of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London think tank. "Bin Laden's doctrines are now playing themselves out all over the world. Destroying Al Qaeda will not resolve the problem."

I bring this up because a reader of The American Street, where I frequently cross-post, explained to me that

It’s simple, really.

60 Minutes and the Kerry campaign engaged in a criminal attempt to subvert democracy by using false documents in a coordinated smear campaign against the President.

President Bush is presently engaged in protecting democracy against an enemy that is willing to use terrorism and mass murder to destroy our society.

The moral choice is clear.

This reader is correct -- it's very simple. Even I can see how simple it is. And as an eyewitness to the destruction of the World Trade Center, I can surely believe there's an enemy that is willing to use terrorism and mass murder to destroy our society.
But my problem is this -- that enemy, the ones who murdered all those people on 9/11, were not Iraqis. And that enemy was not collaborating with Saddam Hussein. And according to antiterrorism experts around the world, Bush's war is not only ineffectual in stopping al Qaeda, it is helping al Qaeda gain followers (see LA Times article linked above). And because the administration reallly wanted to attack Iraq instead of go after al Qaeda, the military strike against our enemy in Afghanistan was slow and weak and failed.
So even though it's simple enough to say that "President Bush is presently engaged in protecting democracy against an enemy that is willing to use terrorism and mass murder to destroy our society," I lack the patriotic ferver to believe that is true.
I'm weak, I admit it. I cannot believe that 2 + 2 = 5 or that war is peace or that some people are more equal than others or love Big Brother Bush for the sake of being patriotic. I've tried, but I get tired after awhile and have to stop.
It's a lot of work to believe so many lies at once, yet some people do it so effortlessly.
Speaking of treason -- Pete Hamill speculates in today's New York Times why there were better photographs of Vietnam than there are of Iraq. Since Vietnam, the Pentagon has imposed tight control of film and photographs of war zones, of course, but there are other reasons.

A more important reason might be the ferocious nature of Iraq itself - a ferocity that, I think, has something to do with the war's religious context. Visions of God were not a factor in Vietnam. Marx and Lenin, maybe. Nationalism, of course. But not God. Eddie Adams and all the others lived each day with the possibility of sudden death. Some were captured, held as prisoners, and later released. But they did not fear being kidnapped, held hostage, and then beheaded as "infidels." In the savage urban warfare of Iraq, the desire to stay alive creates understandable restraint. You cannot shout the Iraqi equivalent of "Bao chi!" [reporter] at the insurgents and hope for the best. Some of them believe they are fighting in a holy contest between Islam and Christianity.

Some people on this side of the world seem to believe this, also. I wish the holy warriors would declare a time out so the rest of us can get out of the way. 

Related link: Publius and patriotism.

6:41 am | link

friday, september 24, 2004

In some circles, Dan Rather is public enemy #1. CBS affiliates around the country are receiving thousands of emails and faxes from wingnuts outraged citizens insisting that Rather be canned because of allegedly forged documents.
You'll notice these same people haven't mounted an email campaign against the Bush Administration for using forged documents* to gain public support for the invasion of Iraq.
Let's compare the results, Bush v. Rather, from the use of documents of questionable provenance:
U.S. soldiers killed:
Bush: 1,043+
Rather: 0
Other military deaths:
Bush: 135+
Rather: 0
Military wounded:
Bush: 7,290+
Rather: 0
Civilian dead:
Bush: 12,000+
Rather: 0
Cost to U.S. taxyapers:
Rather: 0
Yeah, I wonder how Dan Rather can sleep at night.

*Many on the Right deny that the Rocco Martino forgeries had anything to do with the invasion of Iraq. They point to the fact that in the 2003 State of the Union address, the famous 16 words were "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
The wingnuts may or may not tell you that the British government had learned what it learned from forged documents. In effect, the wingnuts are saying that because Bush got the story from the Brits, Bush isn't responsible if the story was a fib.
Long before the State of the Union there was skepticism among the American intelligence community about the Niger story. The White House received memos from several intelligence sources warning that the story was probably not true. There's an excellent overview of the Niger yellowcake episode and who knew what, when, at by George Paine.
Either the White House was reckless with it's fact-checking, or Bush and his speechwriters chose to use a dubious story in the 2003 SOTU, carefully choosing words to reduce Bush's personal liability for the falsehood. See, it's Britain's fault.
Yet the Niger story was presented to the American people as a primary cause for war. Therefore, responsibility for checking out the Niger story ultimately rested with President Bush.
And he failed. End of story.
5:33 pm | link

Beyond Belief
This morning I quoted this from a Dana Milbank story in today's Washington Post:

President Bush and leading Republicans are increasingly charging that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and others in his party are giving comfort to terrorists and undermining the war in Iraq -- a line of attack that tests the conventional bounds of political rhetoric.

...It was the latest instance in which prominent Republicans have said that Democrats are helping the enemy or that al Qaeda, Iraqi insurgents and other enemies of the United States are backing Kerry and the Democrats. Such accusations are not new to American politics, but the GOP's line of attack this year has been pervasive and high-level.

Now read this one from Instapundit:

Charles Krauthammer joins the list of those wondering why Kerry is dissing our allies:

The terrorists' objective is to intimidate all countries allied with America. Make them bleed and tell them this is the price they pay for being a U.S. ally. The implication is obvious: Abandon America and buy your safety.

That is what the terrorists are saying. Why is the Kerry campaign saying the same thing?

Why, indeed.

Notice that Glenn doesn't quote Kerry directly. So what did Kerry say that was so terrible? According to Krauthammer, it was this:

"John Kerry's campaign has warned Australians that the Howard Government's support for the US in Iraq has made them a bigger target for international terrorists." So reports the Weekend Australian (Sept. 18).

Jeez, why would Kerry say such a thing? Like, maybe, because it's true? Just a guess.

(You've probably noticed that in Glennieworld, any news story that puts George Bush in a bad light or John Kerry in a good light is an example of "bias." Whether the story is true or not is never a consideration.)

But we still don't have a direct quote, so who knows what Kerry actually said? Chuckie and Glenn are placing an awful lot of faith in Australian news media, methinks. But Glenn continues: 

UPDATE: It just gets worse:

Democrats moved quickly to fuel skepticism, denouncing Allawi's message in unusually pointed terms.

While Kerry was relatively restrained in disputing Allawi's upbeat portrayal, some of his aides suggested that the Iraqi leader was simply doing the bidding of the Bush administration, which helped arrange his appointment in June.

The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips," said Joe Lockhart, a senior Kerry adviser.

This is behavior that is absolutely unacceptable coming from a Presidential campaign in wartime, and it's not an isolated incident but part of a pattern of such behavior. Joe Lockhart should apologize for these remarks, and Kerry should fire him. Otherwise you're going to hear a lot of people questioning Kerry's patriotism. And they'll be right to.

So, in Glennieworld, pointing to a painfully obvious truth is unpatriotic.

Glenn is a bit vague about which part of "Allawi's message" the Dems disagreed with. Maybe it was the blatant lie about how things are just swell in Iraq. Telling the truth about Iraq is unpatriotic. Questioning the competence of Fearless Leader is unpatriotic.

Next we'll be told that thinking is unpatriotic. All true Americans must check their brains at the door.

Glenn links to a New York Post editorial:

IMAGINE if, in the presidential election of 1944, the candidate opposing FDR had in sisted that we were losing the Second World War and that, if elected, he would begin to withdraw American troops from Europe and the Pacific.

We would have called it treason. And we would have been right.

Let's change that around to this:

IMAGINE if, in the presidential election of 1972, the candidate opposing Richard Nixon had insisted that we were losing in Vietnam and that, if elected, he would begin to withdraw American troops from southeast Asia.

That candidate would have been George McGovern, and he would have been right, and withdrawal at that point would have saved thousands of American lives. And if an antiwar candidate had been elected in 1968, tens of thousands of American lives would have been saved. The Vietnam memorial wall in Washington, DC, would have been a lot smaller.

Glenn continues:

ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg Djerejian calls Lockhart's comment "disgraceful," and observes:

Remember, Kerry may need to work with this so-called "puppet" in the future. Regardless, this is astonishingly irresponsible campaign rhetoric from a key member of the challenger's campaign team. To malign the serving PM of Iraq as appearing a "puppet" plays right into the handbook of insurgents operating in Iraq. I'm truly shocked Kerry would ostensibly authorize such an inflammatory statement (ie., not in the Casablanca 'shocked, shocked' kinda way).

This is from Paul Krugman's column today: "In an analysis titled 'Inexcusable Failure,; Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies details how the U.S. 'failed to treat the Iraqis as partners in the counterinsurgency effort.' U.S. officials, he declares, are 'guilty of a gross military, administrative and moral failure.'"

Once again, I urge you to read James Fallows's articles in the Atlantic Monthly, "Bush's Lost Year" and "Blind Into Baghdad." These painstaking, point-by-point accounts of how the Bushies went into Iraq show how the Bush Regime has needlessly antagonized most of our allies with its hubris and arrogance while treating Iraqis as nothing but props. Iraqis, to the Bushies, are the  "White Man's Burden."

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Glenn says that John Kerry isn't trying to get along with others: 

I think that statements like this are more evidence that the Kerry campaign -- or at least the Clinton folks running it -- expects to lose. Hence, they don't have to worry about who they'll be working with, but they want to fire up the anti-Bush base. That doesn't make it any less disgraceful to be going around uttering comments that might as well be designed to undermine America's alliances, of course. This sort of stuff is appalling.

There are no words that can categorize Glenn's statement. Chutzpah is as close as I can get. Kerry's statements undermine America's alliances? We've endured four years of Bush's "kiss my ass" attitude to the rest of the world, and suddenly Glenn is concerned because Kerry's statements undermine America's alliances?


10:52 am | link

Perilous Times
Two of the all-time great columnists have side-by-side op eds on George Bush and Iraq in today's New York Times.
And they both say that Bush is utterly, pathologically, clueless.

As the situation in Iraq moves from bad to worse, the president, based on his public comments, seems to be edging further and further from reality. ...


The president said he is personally optimistic and he delivered an upbeat assessment of conditions in Iraq to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. Iraq, he said, is well on its way to being "secure, democratic, federal and free."

If you spend more than a little time immersed in the world according to Karl Rove, you'll find that words lose even the remotest connection to reality. They become nothing more than tools designed to achieve political ends. So it's not easy to decipher what the president believes about Iraq.

This is scary. With Americans, Iraqis and others dying horribly in the long dark night of this American-led war, the world needs more from the president of the United States than the fool's gold of his empty utterances.

Perhaps someone can dislodge the president from Karl's clutches, shake him and tell him that his war is a tremendous tragedy with implications far beyond the election in November.

At the moment there is no evidence the president understands anything about the war. He led the nation into it with false pretenses. He never mobilized sufficient numbers of troops. He seemed to believe the war was over in May 2003. And he seems not to know how to proceed now.

Paul Krugman:

Mr. Bush claims that Mr. Kerry's plan to secure and rebuild Iraq is "exactly what we're currently doing." No, it isn't. It's only what Mr. Bush is currently saying. And we have 18 months of his administration's deeds to contrast with his words.

The actual record is one of officials who have refused to admit that their fantasies about how the war would go were wrong, and who have continued to push us ever deeper into the quagmire because of their insistence that everything is going according to plan. ...

In an analysis titled "Inexcusable Failure," Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies details how the U.S. "failed to treat the Iraqis as partners in the counterinsurgency effort." U.S. officials, he declares, are "guilty of a gross military, administrative and moral failure."

That failure continues. All the evidence suggests that Bush officials still think that one more military push - after the U.S. election, of course - will end the insurgency. They're still not taking the task of fighting a sustained guerrilla war seriously. ...

At the root of this folly is a continuing refusal to face uncomfortable facts. Confronted with a bleak C.I.A. assessment of the Iraq situation - one that matches the judgment of just about every independent expert - Mr. Bush's response is that "they were just guessing." "In many ways," Mr. Cordesman writes, "the administration's senior spokesmen still seem to live in a fantasyland."

According to the collective wisdom of the punditocracy, Kerry wouldn't do anything differently in Iraq from what Bush is doing. Therefore, Americans might as well stay the course and stick with Bush.

The reality is that because of Bush's massive incompetence, there are very nearly no options left. Kerry can't promise much because Bush has so thoroughly screwed up there's not much that can be done. And the situation, as bad as it is, continues to deteriorate rapidly. It may be that by January 2005 the only option left will be to admit failure and withdraw.

This is a reason to stick with Bush?

There is a magnificent article in this month's Atlantic Monthly that lays out the whole sorry mess that Bush has made of the '"war on terror." James Fallows writes in "Bush's Lost Year" that the Regime's fixation on Iraq undermined the action in Afghanistan against al Qaeda (remember them?) from the beginning. And in spending our military and diplomatic capital on Saddam Hussein, the Bushies have left us vulnerable to the threats from Iran and North Korea, not to mention al Qaeda.

We are not safer because of the war in Iraq. In fact, we are less safe because of the war in Iraq.

This article, combined with Fallows' superb "Blind Into Baghdad" from the February issue, reveals a dissociation from reality not seen in a head of state since Caligula.

And the "pundits" can't see this?

Dana Milbank writes in today's Washington Post that

President Bush and leading Republicans are increasingly charging that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and others in his party are giving comfort to terrorists and undermining the war in Iraq -- a line of attack that tests the conventional bounds of political rhetoric.

...It was the latest instance in which prominent Republicans have said that Democrats are helping the enemy or that al Qaeda, Iraqi insurgents and other enemies of the United States are backing Kerry and the Democrats. Such accusations are not new to American politics, but the GOP's line of attack this year has been pervasive and high-level.

The Bushies are trashing our heritage and undermining our security and our principles. They must be stopped.

I realize the nation is full of citizens who've been fooled into believing Bush is a great leader who is making us safer. I hope in time they see the truth. But, surely, there are many people in politcs and the media who know what the Bushies are doing, yet continue to enable the outrage that is the Bush Regime. And this, I do not forgive.

7:32 am | link

thursday, september 23, 2004

Tara O'Brien Likes the New Sofa 10:40 pm | link

Patriotic Duty
Brad Stone in Newsweek online wants to know what sort of sickie seeks out and watches beheading videos on the Web.
... videos of subsequent decapitations of Americans in the Middle East, while widely described in reports, have been banished to the dark corner of the Net.

The shock sites, occupying that dark corner, wrap themselves in the mantle of free speech to defend their propagation of the videos. ...

It’s worth noting that there’s more than legal and political activism at work here: the shock sites also profit from posting these videos. They sell ad space to other lurid entertainers on the Net, and, perversely, the beheadings seem to enlarge their audiences. Klinker of Ogrish, for instance, claims that visits to his site jumped to 750,000 a day last week from a 150,000 average—though he claims all revenues are reinvested in the site.

Of course, I immediately thought of that other online freak show, the Right Blogosphere. We learned last May from Wizbang that people who don't watch beheading videos, and bloggers who don't link to beheading videos, hate America.

I am relieved that Wizbang points to links to the most recent video, because I'd hate for all those patriots to miss the current attraction.

I notice several commenters refer to a "Blogger Trophy Wall" on the site, which I infer featured Dan Rather's severed head. There were requests that it be removed. Apparently it was, because I didn't see it.

9:10 am | link

Brilliant Blumenthal
Sidney Blumenthal's latest op ed for The Guardian, "The Hollow World of George Bush," corroborates what I wrote last night about Bush living in la-la land. "George Bush's vision of the liberation of Iraq has melted before harsh facts," Blumenthal writes. "But reality cannot be allowed to obscure the image. The liberation is 'succeeding', he insists, and only pessimists cannot see it."
Bush's campaign depends on the containment of any contrary perception of reality. He must evade, deny and suppress it. His true opponent is not his Democratic foe - called unpatriotic and the candidate of al-Qaida by the vice-president - but events. Bush's latest vision is his shield against them.  
I've been thinking the same thing. While I'm glad the Kerry campaign finally is throwing punches on the Iraq issue, I think what's really going to make or break either campaign are events in Iraq. 
The American electorate has been fooled before, but most of them don't stay fooled forever. This is especially true about domestic policies. Politicians really can't get away with claiming ABC when the voters look around and plainly see XYZ.
But Iraq is happening far, far away, and the Bush Administration has effectively made it difficult for people to see how badly the war is going. We're not watching the fiasco in our living rooms, as we did Vietnam.
The question at hand is, how much worse does it have to get in Iraq before cognitive dissonance breaks down and enough people realize Bush is lying to them? And will we reach this tipping point before the election?

7:10 am | link

wednesday, september 22, 2004

Up from the Memory Hole
From tomorrow's Associated Press Highlights in History:

One year ago: Speaking at the United Nations, President Bush rejected calls from France and Germany to hasten the transfer of power in Iraq, insisting the shift to self-government could be "neither hurried nor delayed." A federal appeals court unanimously put California's recall election back on the calendar for Oct. 11.

After the end of of the "military phase" in May 2003, Georgie and his crew drifted along for months without a plan for Iraq, beside finding Saddam and those pesky WMDs. Oh, and they had plenty of time to issue contracts and funnel money to major campaign contributors. But the work of putting Iraqis in charge of their own country was strictly back-burner stuff.

This time one year ago, other world leaders were nudging the Bushies to start making some progress. Bunnypants didn't see any need to rush. But less than two months later, mid-November, Georgie was ready to hand off "power" like a hot potato. Who says our boy-king can't flipflop with the best of 'em?

I don't know exactly what prompted Bush to set the June 30 deadline for handover of "power." But all along I had an impression that Bush had done little else but agree to a date. It was up to little people somewhere to make it happen, somehow.

Last April during the famous no-mistakes press conference Bush provided his in-depth plan for the transfer of power:

QUESTION: Mr. President, who will we be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?

BUSH: We'll find that out soon.

He was expecting the Good Sovereignty Fairy.

Speaking of Fairy Tales --

Josh Marshall wrote yesterday,

Asked about the National Intelligence Estimate he received two months ago, which painted a bleak outlook for Iraq, the president said the CIA was "just guessing ... The Iraqi citizens are defying the pessimistic predictions."

In one ear and out the other.

We hear that he micromanages his "re"-election campaign, but he can't be bothered about little details, like war and security and stuff.

This Washington Post article by Mark Leibovich is really scary --

George W. Bush struts in to teen-idol shrieks. They are piercing and unprompted by any warm-up speaker -- only by the presence of the president himself.

Bush events are not ambivalent. Ambivalence is a Kerry thing, Bushies say. They mock Kerry's hedged explanations, evolving positions, staff shake-ups. You won't find any of that here. There is no ambivalence about anything -- about Kerry being unfit to be president or Bush being worthy or that his reelection is inevitable. "If John Kerry were here today and experienced this, John Kerry would vote for Bush," says Warren Klecan, of Lebanon, N.H.

Such is the thick aura of certainty at a Bush event. It's just a question of being here, amid the signs, shrieks and swagger. The president walks into the gymnasium with shoulders hunched and elbows out, like he's waiting for his Right Guard to dry. He is confident, his staff is confident and his events are confident affairs.

Exactly what are they cheering about? Does Warren Klecan of Lebanon, N.H., really think that if everybody could just experience all that undiluted rah-rah we'd all learn to love Big Brother Bush?  

This is revealing:

Bush's crowds are utterly self-assured that their love of Bush is the majority view, so there's no use taking Kerry seriously.

So all the pollsters talking about a close race are just guessing.

8:44 pm | link

UN Speech Review Roundup

This morning's speech wasn't as dreadful as the one he gave last year, but it suffered from the same basic inadequacy: He catalogs some of the world's problems, then suggests nothing—not the vaguest plan of action—for how to deal with any of them. ...

It was a puzzling speech from start to finish. Near its beginning, when Bush said, "We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace," was there a delegate in the chamber who didn't wonder at the irony? It was Bush himself, after all, who was quick to choose war in Iraq—insiders' chronicles agree that he decided on that path in early 2002, over a year before the U.N. debates—while the vast majority of the body's members, free and unfree, were striving for a resolution short of conflict.

Editorial, Los Angeles Times:

Bush, still eager to gain more than a token U.N. presence in Iran, gave deserved praise to U.N. personnel who will help conduct elections and perhaps help rebuild Iraq. The U.N. mission was forced from the country when a bomb destroyed its Baghdad headquarters last year, killing the organization's special envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and dozens of others. Praise, however, won't make up for the worsening security situation for all foreigners in Iraq. Besides security problems, Bush's continued refusal to accept that international cooperation means more than doing what Washington orders has made others reluctant to step in.

Without a change in strategy and tactics by the administration, Iraq will be an unavoidable Topic A at the president's annual U.N. speech again next year, with little likelihood of a more stable and secure nation, or world. Bush offered a finely crafted speech and admirably hopeful phrases. Unfortunately, kind words can't erase past slurs — or current ones out on the campaign trail — against the U.N. and "Old Europe," and hope is not enough to change the disaster on the ground.

Editorial, New York Newsday:

In defending his decision to invade Iraq, without the approval of the United Nations Security Council, Bush was rebutting Monday's speech, harshly critical of his war conduct, by his Democratic opponent, John Kerry of Massachusetts. As he did right after Kerry's address, Bush reiterated that the world was better off without Saddam Hussein in power and that Iraq was on its way to becoming a democracy. He minimized the trouble the U.S. military is having in establishing security in Iraq and ignored reports from his own government that there is a significant chance of Iraq devolving into civil war and chaos.

"The advance of freedom always carries a cost," Bush said to the UN yesterday.

Fair enough. But the criticism of Bush doesn't hinge on whether Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator or whether it is good that he is gone. The answer to both is obviously yes.

The question that Kerry raised and Bush can't really answer is whether the Persian Gulf region and the fight against terrorism have been enhanced or hurt by Bush's decision to go to war when he did and in the manner he chose. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence these days that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has made the region less stable and set back the fight against terrorism. And that is because, as Kerry has charged, the Bush administration was not at all prepared for the post-war rebuilding of Iraq or, for that matter, to even bring security to Iraq.

Editorial, New York Times

Mr. Bush delivered an inexplicably defiant campaign speech in which he glossed over the current dire situation in Iraq for an audience acutely aware of the true state of affairs, and scolded them for refusing to endorse the American invasion in the first place.

Even when he talked about issues of common agreement, like the global fight against AIDS and easing the crushing third-world debt, Mr. Bush seemed more interested in praising his own policies than in assuming the leadership of an international effort. The speech would have drawn cheers at an adoring Republican National Convention, but it seemed to fall flat in a room full of stony-faced world leaders.

William Saletan, Slate:

Bush wants you to think that he's the America-first guy, and Kerry is the utopian internationalist. But take a closer look. Yesterday, Kerry asked, "Is [Bush] really saying to America that if we know there was no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al-Qaida, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer: resoundingly, no, because a commander in chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe."

Notice the references: to America. Should the United States invade. Keep America safe.

Last night, Bush shot back, "It's hard to imagine a candidate running for president prefers the stability of a dictatorship to the hope and security of democracy. If I might, I'd like to read a quote [Kerry] said last December: 'Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe we are not safer with his capture don't have the judgment to be president. … ' I couldn't have put it better."

See the difference? Iraq and the world are better off with Saddam gone. Bush is mistaken: It isn't hard to imagine that a candidate for president would prefer stability abroad to democracy. We're talking about the presidency of the United States, not the world. What's hard to imagine is that the candidate who prefers stability is the so-called liberal and the candidate who prefers democracy and "hope" is the so-called conservative.

Editorial, Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

In a familiar effort to justify the U.S.-led war against Iraq, the president tried to have it both ways on the role of the United Nations. "The Security Council promised serious consequences for his (Saddam Hussein's) defiance. And the commitments we make must have meaning," he said. "When we say serious consequences, for the sake of peace there must be serious consequences."

At issue, of course, is not the legitimacy of the Security Council's promise of serious consequences for Iraq's non-compliance but the United States' usurpation of the decision to impose those consequences.

Fred Stockman, The Boston Globe:

There was no burst of applause during Bush's speech to the General Assembly yesterday, even when he talked about the world's common struggles against poverty and disease. And the applause at the end was subdued.

Before Bush spoke, Secretary General Kofi Annan gave a stern address warning that even the world's most powerful countries must follow the rule of law, which many interpreted to be a rebuke of Bush's actions in Iraq.

And just after Bush's motorcade sped away from UN headquarters, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain said at a press conference that he withdrew troops from Iraq because peace demands ''more heroism than war."

President Joseph Deiss of Switzerland took the podium at the General Assembly to declare that the US-led project in Iraq is ''doomed to failure."

Matthew Yglesias, TAP:

George W. Bush had little to offer beyond boilerplate rhetoric and familiar distortions of the nature of the Iraqi threat and Kerry's voting record. On Tuesday, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, he came up with something more compelling: a defense of his policies as part of a grand strategy of promoting freedom and democracy around the world.

He praised the Declaration of Independence and the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, saying that "these rights are advancing across the world" despite opposition from "terrorists and their allies," who believe that "dictators should control every mind and tongue in the Middle East and beyond." Bush's policies, according to Bush, are designed to combat this and maintain the march of liberty. It's a nice idea -- the right idea, even, for securing America's safety and prosperity for the long term.

The only problem is that it isn't happening. ...

...The point, however, is not -- or at least not only -- that Bush is a hypocrite. Advancing the cause of democracy somewhere would be preferable to doing it nowhere. The problem is that Bush isn't doing it anywhere. Whether through intellectual confusion or simple malice, the president has adopted a set of policies that are rolling freedom back across a wide swath of the earth, leaving misery in their wake and playing directly into the hands of al-Qaeda.

8:47 am | link

Screwed in Texas
Thanks to former Governor Bush's tort "reforms," Texans are left with little consumer protection:
The impact has been felt by home buyers such as Mary and Keith Cohn, whose elegant new residence in this well-off Houston suburb came with a leaky roof that led to rotting and moldy wallboard throughout the structure. After their daughters became ill, the Cohns moved out. The repairs ultimately cost more than $300,000.

To their astonishment and dismay, they learned that when the builder refused to repair most of the damage, they could not sue him for redress. Instead, they could pursue private arbitration, a process they considered stacked against them.

"This is the largest purchase of your life," said Mary Cohn, "but you have zero consumer protection."

Bush promises to put "tort reform" at the top of his to-do list if he gets another term, claiming that frivolous lawsuits raise costs. He says there are other ways for consumers to be protected, but he hasn't appeared to have figured out what they are. Seems to me there could be ways to discourage genuinely frivolous litigation without stripping consumers of protections. 

Naturally, the same industries that won protection from being sued in Texas are big Bush campaign supporters. Not corrupt at all; no sirree.


6:34 am | link

tuesday, september 21, 2004

What Fun
This is only a rumor, but let's dish (thanks to Bruce K for the tip) --

The hot rumor in New York political circles has Roger Stone, the longtime GOP activist, as the source for Dan Rather's dubious Texas Air National Guard "memos."

The irony would be delicious, since Rather became famous confronting President Nixon, in whose service a very young Stone became associated with political "dirty tricks."

Reached at his Florida home, Stone had no comment.

So what's Stone been up to these days? This quote would seem to distance him from the controversy --

"It's pathetic that we are fighting over John Kerry's war record in Vietnam and George W. Bush's service in the National Guard given that there are a bunch of Islamic maniacs who want to wipe us off the face of the earth. I'll be on a beach in Barcelona." -- Longtime Republican operative Roger Stone on why he missed his first Republican National Convention since 1968.

But this is Roger Stone we're talking about. Was he creating an alibi?

From the DNC web site:

Bush Campaign Gets a Case of Camera Shyness

Backs Away From Defending Bush Guard Service, Debating the Facts

Washington, DC— Facing questions about President Bush’s Guard Service and its own possible involvement with the disputed National Guard documents, the Republican National Committee has postponed a call scheduled to discuss the issue this afternoon.

And, in the last several hours, the Bush campaign has also cancelled scheduled appearances by Dan Bartlett on cable networks this evening. These cancellations came as the Bush operatives refused to appear live alongside Kerry campaign official Joe Lockhart.

“It’s clear that even the Bush campaign is having a problem defending the President’s National Guard service,” said Democratic National Committee Spokesman Howard Wolfson. “The Bush campaign has decided to once again duck the tough questions and avoid real debate. Given the President’s National Guard service, I don’t blame them for being camera shy.”

DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe himself held a conference call earlier today where he focused on tough questions on the President’s lack of service, his three different explanations for missing his physical and whether he deserved his honorable discharge.

McAuliffe also highlighted a New York Post article that suggested that GOP operative Roger Stone might be involved with the CBS documents. [emphasis added]

Even if they haven't indulged in dirty tricks, why would the Bushies cancel television appearances to exploit a story that's working for them unless they're afraid it's going to come back and bite them?

Stay tuned ...

7:20 pm | link

Read This 2:59 pm | link

Messier and Messier
Bush spokesman Scott McClellan hinted yesterday that the Kerry campaign was behind the Killian memo fiasco.
So this raises a lot of questions. There were media reports about Mr. Burkett speaking with senior -- or having senior-level contacts with the Kerry campaign. That raises questions. What were those contacts and what was discussed with Bill Burkett? Who was the original source of these documents and who was responsible for forging these documents?

So it raises a number of serious questions. And I understand CBS called them serious and disturbing questions, and that they were launching an independent investigation.

I'm genuinely sick of this story, but I see that USA Today is reporting that CBS agreed to put Bill Burkett, source of those National Guard memos, in touch with Kerry aide Joe Lockhart as a condition of Burkett's cooperation with CBS.

Now, what does this tell us? It tells us that the Democrats weren't giving Burkett the time of day, and he needed help to get in touch with them.

If the story is accurate, isn't it a strong indication that the the Kerry campaign wasn't involved in the dissemination of the documents, no matter what the Republicans might insinuate?

Makes sense to me. See also this transcript of a CNN interview with Joe Lockhart via Atrios.

I am astonished that CBS News would have considered Bill Burkett an "unimpeachalbe source." Bloggers like Kevin Drum, although interested in what Burkett had to say, have treated him with caution in the past.

Burkett has admitted he lied to CBS about the where he got the memos. Now he is saying he got the memos from a woman named Lucy Ramirez that he met at a cattle show and who now cannot be located. Although the story is odd enough to be true, nobody is going to believe it unless Ms. Ramirez shows up in the flesh to corroborate it, and I'm not holding my breath. We may be at an impasse here.

CBS is going to put together an independent panel to investigate its reporting, which is good, but it may not tell us anything about the source of the memos.

I caught a little bit of Hardball last night, and found this snip of dialog with Tom Shales of the Washington Post interesting --

MATTHEWS:  Tom, why did Dan Rather pay such a big chance with such low stakes?  Had he gotten the story, had he scooped everybody with this document, it wouldn‘t have been a—this isn‘t a trophy, this.  Is it worth the risk he took? 

SHALES:  Yes, I think so. 

And I still don‘t think he was reckless.  I don‘t think we should rule out the booby trap theory that Dorothy seemed to be floating. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Who set the trap?

SHALES:  The one that Republicans typed up these


MATTHEWS:  No, her theory is the Democrats


MATTHEWS:  Your theory is the Republicans did it. 

SHALES:  My theory, they could very well have put the little “th” with the wrong thing knowing exactly which mistakes would be found, slip to some guy who is a little unhinged anyway, and there to CBS. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SHALES:  Because it is like such a gift to the Republican Party and to George W. Bush.  I mean, it is like Christmas


MATTHEWS:  But here, again, there‘s a risk factor.  If they were caught putting this little—setting up this sting operation that Dan fell -- that first Burkett and then Dan fell victim to, that would have been a much more colossal story.   


SHALES:  Well, but somebody has got to break it.  Somebody has got to prove it.    

MATTHEWS:  I mean, Nixon was trying to prove that Howard Hughes was paying off Larry O‘Brien.  Nobody cares what he was trying to prove.  They just care he broke in to do it, or his people did. 

SHALES:  Nixon didn‘t get caught until after he was reelected.  Maybe Bush won‘t get caught until after he is reelected either. 

Related Note. This blogger is pissed off at me because of what I said on Countdown last night:

Barbara O'Brien, author of "Blogging America" was just on Keith Olbermann. She's plugging her book, but she's also down on the blogosphere. She didn't shoot down Keith's idea that the furor in the blogosphere "originated" by Buckhead on Freerepublic was some sort of pipeline from the White house...or...something. I don't know, it wasn't really clear, they admitted it was some "alternative conspiracy theory" relating to the White House setting up CBS. Unbelievable. But the line of information that Ms. O'Brien gave was Buckhead to Drudge to "Major News Media."

I'm not sure what she means by my being down on the blogosphere. Here's the part of the dialog I think she's referring to:

OLBERMANN:  Political backdoor plays used to be limited to, you leak a news story to cooperative journalists.

Do we know if there have been incidences yet—is it sophisticated enough yet—that either party would be using blogs surreptitiously to get the political dirty laundry out there in a much faster way?

O‘BRIEN:  Well, it could be done.  I don‘t know that it‘s happened.

This incident we‘re discussing right now certainly looks suspicious, that there was some sort of coordination going on.  But who knows?

There are so many conspiracy theories flying around right now, I don‘t want to add to them.  We have enough to go on.*  But, certainly, it could happen.

And one of the things I argue for in my book is that blogging and the bloggers are becoming more influential very rapidly.  The bloggers are turning into opinion leaders and do have some clout, and probably more so than most people give them credit for being.

So, I think that it seems to be that the parties, the political factions, are looking at them and saying, OK.  This is one way we can get our message out, is through the bloggers.

OLBERMANN:  Now, that reverse conspiracy theory on the Killian memos story is that CBS—I mean, we know this—gave Dan Bartlett of the White House the documents at 7:45 in the morning on Wednesday, the 8th of September.

And the first blog posts about type face problems and content problems and whatnot were about 12 hours later, or more, courtesy of this gentlemen, Buckhead.

Is there anything to suggest that that feed, that that line is actually something more than the imagination?  Or conversely, is there anything that says, in the blogosphere, hey, we have to make sure that there can‘t be lines like that, because we could be just as manipulated as we perceive old media to be?

O‘BRIEN:  Oh, absolutely.

I don‘t know any more than you do about the situation with Buckhead.

But I think it‘s interesting.  One of the things that I find fascinating is the fact that this story went from an anonymous poster on Free Republic, which is a radical site, to Drudge by mid-afternoon the next day to major media the following evening.

In about 24 hours, it went from one anonymous poster to major media and was cemented as conventional wisdom.

And people are making noises at Dan Rather—rightfully so, it seems--that he was careless.  But what about everyone else? No one knew who this Buckhead was. 

No, I didn't "shoot down" anybody's theory regarding the origin of the memos; I said I didn't know. At this point I have no idea what went on inside CBS, who originated the memos, if any political party is involved, if anybody instructed Buckhead what to post, etc. I don't know. And I think that anyone not directly involved with the memos who thinks he does know is kidding himself.

It's possible -- and it is possible -- that bloggers and others on the Web have been played by the pros for nefarious purposes. I suspect political operators have been feeding junk to Drudge for a long time, in fact, but I don't know about anyone else. Even if it hasn't happened yet, it's going to happen eventually. It's naive to think otherwise.

*I meant to say "We don't have enough to go on" but it didn't get out of my mouth right.

11:02 am | link

Real News
I missed Senator Kerry's speech yesterday. Here is a transcript.
This speech is what should have been discussed on the pundit shows yesterday.
 Jerome Armstrong at MyDD points to Kerry's claim that Bush has offered 23 different rationales for the war and wonders who has counted them. MyDD readers offer links to lists of the ever-shifting Purpose behind the invasion of Iraq and note that there are even more than 23.
In Retroworld, a person who can change his view when new facts come to light is a "flip flopper." A person who cannot change his mind even when facts prove him wrong is "resolute."
Juan Cole exposes the moral and intellectual bankruptcy behind Bush's spinnning and excuses here. But then he says,
I have a sinking feeling that the American public may like Bush's cynical misuse of Wilsonian idealism precisely because it covers the embarrassment of their having gone to war, killed perhaps 25,000 people, and made a perfect mess of the Persian Gulf region, all out of a kind of paranoia fed by dirty tricks and bad intelligence. And, maybe they have to vote for Bush to cover the embarrassment of having elected him in the first place.

How deep a hole are they going to dig themselves in order to get out of the bright sunlight of so much embarrassment?
I guess we'll find out in November.
Click here to read a discussion of the speech at Washington Monthly, plus check out Josh Marshall's comments here.

7:26 am | link

Eyes of the Beholders
This morning I notice I'm getting a lot of hits from, a site dedicated to spinning the Killian memo controversy to Bush's advantage. From the site:
Good thing you forgot to mention to your viewers that the one person you invited on your show to talk about the infiltration of blogs by the parties is a Bush-hating leftie. Yeah, way to be transparent Keith.
Of course, if the one person MSNBC invited on the show had been a shill for the Bushies, that would have been fine. No bias at all.
In defense of MSNBC, they asked me to be on the program because I wrote this book about political blogs. The book is not about my political opinion but about blogs, and I did my best to be objective. (I even painted the Rottweiler in a positive light.) The producers who talked to me about being on the program had not, I don't believe, ever seen The Mahablog (they asked me if I had a blog), nor did they ask me about my political opinons or who I planned to vote for.
But in Retroland, only people who swear loyalty oaths to George W. Bush have legitimate opinions. Everyone else is biased.
Also: As usual, Paul Krugman nails it.

6:51 am | link

monday, september 20, 2004

Media Star
What a strange experience. I didn't actuallly meet Keith Olbermann, because I was in a little studio in Midtown Manhattan and the main MSNBC studio is in New Jersey. And I didn't get to say any of what I had hoped to say. Olbermann was going on about how blogs are possibly being used by political parties to put out rumors and spin, and I couldn't think of much to say except "yeah, could be." But I was able to sit in the chair and get words out of my mouth. Also I got picked up by a limo (whoo-hoo!) and got a little gift bag with a coffee cup and coffee and some chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.
They're repeating the show at midnight, eastern time, so you can still catch my television debute! I'm on early and very briefly.
Tomorrow -- back to earth. I've got a plumber coming to fix my shower.

9:27 pm | link

Maha on MSNBC
Barring a change of programming (for which I am praying fervently), I'm going to be talking about blogs on Countdown with Keith Olberman tonight. Wish me luck.

3:08 pm | link

Last Week's This Week
As a public service I'm providing a transcript for those who missed the interview of Senators Richard Lugar and Joe Biden on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopolis."  It's definitely worth reading.
Note especially one of Senator Lugar's points -- that of the $18 billion appropriated for Iraq reconstruction a year ago, only $1 billion has been spent.

12:33 pm | link

Back to the Future in Iraq
These days the word most frequently used to describe Iraq is "deteriorating."
News from Iraq for the past several days has been grim. The insurgency is gaining strength. "Coalition" troops are losing control even of Baghdad. And the number of U.S. dead continues to grow -- as I write, we've reached 1,032. And next month the Brits will be cutting troop strength by about a third.
As he campaigned last week, President Bush claimed that everything in Iraq is hunky-dory, even as he asked Congress to re-direct more than $3 billion from reconstruction projects to security. Also, Bush will be groveling at the United Nations tomorrow, asking for more help.
Early this year the Bushies' big talking point was the "transfer of sovereignty." The Regime went on for months about how they were going to transfer soverignty to an Iraqi government at the end of June, and this was going to change everything for the better. Never mind that the "Iraqi government" was a creation of the Bush Administration, not elected by the Iraqi people. And never mind that not a dadblamed thing changed for the Iraqi people as a result of the transfer. The "transfer," which amounted to a meaningless ceremony, was vital to the administration as a rhetorical crutch. It enabled the Bushies to speak about Iraq in terms that seemed to indicate progress.
The new crutch for Bush's Iraq policy is the promise of January elections. Never mind there's an overwhelming international consensus that there's too much turmoil in Iraq to even be thinking of elections. The White House wants January elections, so, dammit, there will be elections even if Fallujah has to be reduced to smoke and rubble to make it happen.
Last week, news stories promised a push to retake rebel-held areas at the end of this year. Our Commander-in-Chief cannot be caught increasing U.S. troop strength in Iraq before November, of course, so in preparation a new Iraqi army is being organized and trained. This effort is going slowly, and badly, however. If Bush wins, expect big American troop movements to Iraq  to be announced the day after the November elections.
But once the elections are over, the Reptile says, the Bushies plan to cut and run:

Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go. ...

Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush's decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal.

As Rice, Wolfowitz, and Hadley were instrumental in getting us into the whole sorry mess, I say we give them helmets and rifles and send them to Iraq to provide cover for the withdrawal.

8:23 am | link

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Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
September 9, 2004, WHAD Milwaukee, 90.7 FM

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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

Terror Alert Level






"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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