Nukes and More Nukes

I haven’t quite wrapped my head about whatever nuclear deal Bush just struck with India. Dan Froomkin’s column has me worried —

In addition to all the predictable reactions (pro and con) to the landmark nuclear agreement reached in India yesterday, a powerful and unexpected new concern has emerged based on a last-minute concession by President Bush.

It appears that, to close the deal during his visit, Bush directed his negotiators to give in to India’s demands that it be allowed to produce unlimited quantities of fissile material and amass as many nuclear weapons as it wants.

The agreement, which requires congressional approval, would be an important step toward Bush’s long-held goal of closer relations with India. It would reflect India’s status as a global power. And, not least of all, it would more firmly establish India as a military ally and bulwark against China.

Critics have long denounced such an agreement, saying it would reward India for its rogue nuclear-weapons program and could encourage other nations to do likewise.

But now the criticisms may focus on this question: By enabling India to build an unlimited stockpile of nuclear weapons, would this agreement set off a new Asian arms race?

And here’s another question: Were Bush and his aides so eager for some good headlines — for a change — that they gave away the store?

Somehow I don’t think this will be well received here once it gets some publicity. I ‘spect this is not going down well in Pakistan, either.

Asleep at the Wheel

This is the sort of quote that makes me want to roll about on the floor and howl:

… even some Bush supporters remain anxious about the economy, the federal deficit, the war in Iraq and the extent of the administration’s warrantless wiretapping.

“The White House has been taking it on the chin lately, and the reverberations are being felt throughout the GOP,” Republican blogger Bobby Eberle wrote this week. “From the Harriet Miers nomination to the Dubai Ports and more, the folks in charge of message strategy appear to be asleep at the wheel.”

The folks in charge of message strategy? That’s the only problem the White House has, substandard bleeping message strategy?

The quote comes from a story by Steven Thomma and James Kuhnhenn of Knight Ridder about increasing GOP anger about President Bush’s “missteps.

A series of political missteps has raised questions about the Bush administration’s candor, competence and credibility and left the White House off-balance, off-message and unable to command either the nation’s policy agenda or its politics the way the president did during his first term.

This week, newly released video of Bush listening passively to warnings about the dire threat posed by Hurricane Katrina and a report that intelligence analysts warned for more than two years that the insurgency in Iraq could swell into a civil war provided fresh fodder for charges that the president ignores unwelcome alarms.

His attacks on those who questioned his administration’s approval of a seaports deal with the United Arab Emirates and his ill-fated nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court have angered some conservatives and Republican members of Congress.

I really don’t want to pick on Knight Ridder — it has a better record of honest reporting than most other U.S. news outlets — but we’re not really talking about “political missteps.” We’re talking about — finally — facing the inevitable consequences of five years of flaming incompetence.

Paul Krugman writes in today’s New York Times (and True Blue Liberal):

Some commentators speak of the series of disasters now afflicting the Bush administration — there seems to be a new one every week — as if it were just a string of bad luck. But it isn’t.

If good luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, bad luck is what happens when lack of preparation meets a challenge. And our leaders, who think they can govern through a mix of wishful thinking and intimidation, are never, ever prepared.

Krugman looks at three Bush disasters — Iraq, Katrina, the Medicare prescription drug program — and asks what they all have in common. “In each case experts warned about the impending disaster” Krugman says. And in each case, “experts who warned of trouble ahead were told to shut up.”

Eugene Robinson writes in today’s Washington Post:

At least now I know why the White House is so obsessively secretive about its decision-making process. The leaked videotapes and transcripts of pre-Katrina briefings that were obtained this week by the Associated Press leave in tatters the defining myth of the Bush administration — an undeserved aura of cool, unflinching competence and steely resolve. Instead, the tapes show bureaucratic inertia and a president for whom delegation seems to mean detachment. …

… A chief executive who isolates himself from bad news is one thing. A chief executive who hears bad news, in detail, and then plays it back as “heck of a job” is something else.

Robinson adds:

Oh, and health authorities agree that it’s just a matter of time before the avian flu pandemic reaches U.S. shores. The administration says the government is prepared to provide all necessary help to local officials.

Be very afraid.

Also in today’s WaPo A new study warns that Antarctic ice sheets are melting rapidly. Meanwhile, scientists warning about global warming are told to shut up.

At Slate, John Dickerson agrees with Robsinson that the pre-Katrina video shatters Bush myth.

Based on what I’d been told by White House aides over the years, I expected to see the president asking piercing questions that punctured the fog of the moment and inspired bold action. Bush’s question-asking talents are a central tenet of the president’s hagiography. He may not be much for details, say aides, but he can zero in on a weak spot in a briefing and ask out-of-the-box questions.

Yet in the video, Bush doesn’t ask a single question. All he says is ” “I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared,” And he had no idea what he was talking about.

The Bush Administration is a witch’s brew of incompetence, arrogance, avarice, self-deception, and unchecked power. Time and time again, we see the same pattern … the Bushies ignore warnings and expert advice and refuse to acknowledge the consequences.

And this pattern dates from before Bush’s first inauguration, when the outgoing Clinton administration warned Condi Rice and other Bush “security” staff to beware of Osama bin Laden. In April 2001, the State Department issued its annual terrorism report and downplayed the thread posed by Osama bin Laden. At CNN, Judy Woodruff reported,

The State Department officially released its annual terrorism report just a little more than an hour ago, but unlike last year, there’s no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. A senior State Department official tells CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden and “personalizing terrorism.”

Molly Ivins writes,

The administration’s competence problem is already at the yadda, yadda, yadda stage. They were supposed to protect us from terrorist attacks, they said Iraq would be a cakewalk, that we only needed 50,000 troops. They failed to plan for the occupation or Hurricane Katrina or the prescription drug plan. Yadda.

Yet Republican blogger Bobby Eberle sees Bush’s problems as a failure of message strategy.

The President’s ever-shrinking base of die-hard supporters (can we call ’em “bitter enders” yet?) are retreating into a cocoon of finely parsed talking points and absurdist technicalities. Some random examples:

  • One of the AP reporters who “broke” the new pre-Katrina video briefing story used to be a producer for CBS 60 Minutes II. A Rathergate connection!
  • The briefers didn’t say the levees would be breached. They just said they might be “overtopped”! So Bush didn’t lie when he said no one anticipated the levees would be “breached”!!
  • A full three hours after the levees were breached, Louisiana Gov. Blanco (a Democrat!) told the White House “I think we have not breached the levee at this time.” Therefore, it’s not President Bush’s fault he was unaware of the scope of the death of destruction for at least five bleeping more days!!!!
  • Cue music — “You’re travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead–your next stop, the Twilight Zone!”

    The Bush Bitter Enders have arrived.