Let’s Place Blame Where It’s Due

While social and news media are, justifiably, focused on the terrorist attacks in Paris, let us not forget the incompetence that allowed 9/11 to happen. And then let us not forget how the Bush Administration’s spectacularly wrong-headed response helped create what happened in Paris yesterday.

That said, the new information on 9/11 isn’t entirely new. New details of how badly the Bushies botched national security in 2001 keep trickling out, but it’s been trickling out for a while. See this post I wrote in light of then-new information in 2012.

The Neocon Legacy

David Atkins, The Brutal Neoconservative Legacy in Iraq, pretty much says the same stuff I wrote here. Very basically, Atkins points out that the neocons have continued to justify the invasion of Iraq by claiming that getting rid of Saddam Hussein would be good for America in the long run.

But over a decade after the invasion and with Iraq seemingly entering a disastrous sectarian civil war, it seems abundantly clear that whatever the long-term effects of the invasion may be, the near to mid-term result has been to empower Shi’ite theocrats in Iran, and to radicalize Sunni factions in Iraq. As of this writing, Sunni extremist groups expressly intent on establishing a global caliphate are threatening to overrun Baghdad. The corrupt Shi’ite government of Nouri Al-Maliki is counting on and receiving support from the Ayatollahs in Iran.

Neither of these developments have even a silver lining behind them.

It wasn’t just the invasion, but the gross mismanagement of the occupation/nation building phase that came after pretty much guaranteed that the invasion of Iraq will always be counted as one of the greatest foreign policy bleep-ups of all time. I’d say it’s got Napoleon’s invasion of Russia beat by a mile.

Michael Kelly Is Still Dead

Michael Kelly, a prominent cheerleader for Bush’s War, died just over ten years ago. He was in Iraq to cover his glorious little war when his Humvee overturned and plunged into water. Kelly drowned.

Kelly was the worst kind of smugly infuriating propagandist, leading the pre-Iraq War assault on reality and reason. A lot of my early blogging amounting to griping about Kelly. And then he was gone. And I haven’t even thought of him for years.

See Tom Socca, A Stupid Death in a Stupid War: Remembering Michael Kelly

The premise of Kelly’s argument for invasion was that escalating the war, carrying it to Baghdad on the ground, would settle the problems “easily and quickly.” Like his fellow poets, Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens, he presented his romantic vision as clear-eyed advice. Evil must be opposed. Good would triumph. Anyone who disagreed was benighted, mistaken, immoral. …

… Perhaps, like Sullivan, he would have changed his position on Iraq, had he lived to see our military might losing control, the easy liberation collapsing into hell, Saddam’s torture prisons reopening with American torturers. What might he have written, if he’d had the chance to engage with the terrible truths of this past decade? What might a hundred thousand other people have done, if they’d lived too?

And we’ve never properly mourned, have we?

Party Tonight!

The virtual debate party begins here tonight at 8:30 eastern time, for the pre-debate warmup. BYOB. I’m taking suggestions for drinking games.

There are a number of articles out now that claim debates make no difference to elections, but Nate Silver’s analysis says that they often help the challenger. However, it could be argued that the post-debate spin was what made the difference, not the debate itself. For example, the numbers show that the Clinton-Dole debates in 1996 helped Dole just a little, and there’s no way. Dole was awful. I was embarrassed for him.

On the other hand, Nate’s numbers say that if the election were held today, Mitt’s chance of winning would be 2.7 percent. heh.

I’m not too worried about the spin. Why? Because righties are so out to lunch they couldn’t spin a dreidel on a turntable on a carousel. Right now they think they have a BOMBSHELL video of President Obama in 2007 telling an audience of black ministers that the federal government did not do enough to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Seriously. That’s their idea of a controversy. I guess we’re supposed to remember that Brownie did a heck of a job.

Righties say Obama’s remarks were racist because he ties the not-rebuilding of New Orleans to racial discrimination. Um, yeah, that was pretty obvious. Although I suppose it could be argued that it wasn’t so much racist as an attempt to finesse Katrina for political gain by making a Democratic governor look bad. And that the federal dollars eventually offered to New Orleans mostly went into the pockets of contractors with ties to the Republican Party and were not spent on, you know, rebuilding. And that was just good old-fashioned corruption. But it’s still not likely the Bushies would have played games like that if the neighborhoods that were destroyed were mostly white. I think anyone but a white racist can see that.

See also “Breaking: Obama Is Black” and “Right-wing Racial Panic.”

Today (and Yesterday) in Politics

Noot suspended his campaign today, officially, and it turns out he’s about $4 million in debt to campaign employees and vendors, who fear they will never be paid.

Newt is throwing his support to Mittens. Naturally, the Obama campaign was ready with a video:

I like the part about Bain Capital leaving companies with enormous debt. Et tu, Noot?

The big news today is that the Republicans for the most part have scaled back their yapping on how the evil Obama was making national security a political issue. Like no one has ever done that before.

Well, I said for the most part. The New York Post was downright snippy about it. They sure had a different tone back in 2003, when President Bush made a secret trip to Baghdad. Yeah, that was the “preznit gif me turkee” trip.

Even better, check out the Post’s coveraage of the capture of Saddam Hussein. Here’s a headline: “Dramatic Call: How Bush Got the First Word.” Bush got credit just for being woken up for a message. And there’s nothing political about “Tyrant’s Capture Throws Democrats Into Disarray.

Jon Stewart Gets the Last Word:

Romney = Bush III

Let’s see, where was I … oh, yes, politics. I wrote last week — “I’m saying Romney is George W. Bush without the Texas accent, people. You elect him, you’ll get tax cuts for the rich up the wazoo, huge cuts in benefit programs, and a return to foreign policy by the Marlboro Man.”

Well, now we have a confession, at least on the domestic side of the agenda. Pat Garofalo writes for Media Matters

During an interview last week on The Fernando Espuelas Show, Alexandra Franceschi, Specialty Media Press Secretary of the Republican National Committee, said that the Republican party’s economic platform in 2012 is going to be the same as it was during the Bush years, “just updated”:

ESPUELAS: What do you mean by economic security? Regardless of who the ultimate nominee is, what’s the general idea that the RNC, or the Republican party in general, has in terms of this message?

FRANCESCHI: Well, it’s a message of being able to attain the American dream. It’s less government spending, which a Tarrance Group poll, came out last week actually, shows that the majority of Hispanics believe that less government spending is the way out of this deficit crisis. It’s lowering taxes so small businesses can grow and they can employ more people, because we understand that the private sector is the engine of the economy. It’s not the government. […]

ESPUELAS: Now, how different is that concept from what were the policies of the Bush administration? And the reason I ask that is because there’s some analysis now that is being published talking about the Bush years being the slowest period of job creation since those statistics were created. Is this a different program or is this that program just updated?

FRANCESCHI: I think it’s that program, just updated.

Of course, the RNC has its fingers crossed voters won’t remember that Bush’s policies are what screwed the economy. Paul Krugman writes,

Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? If you’ve been following his campaign from the beginning, that’s a question you have probably asked many times.

But the question was raised with particular force last week, when Mr. Romney tried to make a closed drywall factory in Ohio a symbol of the Obama administration’s economic failure. It was a symbol, all right — but not in the way he intended.

First of all, many reporters quickly noted a point that Mr. Romney somehow failed to mention: George W. Bush, not Barack Obama, was president when the factory in question was closed. Does the Romney campaign expect Americans to blame President Obama for his predecessor’s policy failure?

Yes, it does.

Of course, I suspect a lot of voters need reminding by this point.

National Guard-Gate Revisited

A Texas Monthly article by Joe Hagan revisits the controversy over the gaps in George W. Bush’s National Guard service and the damage done to Dan Rather by the 60 Minutes story about it.

(Note: It’s a long story, and if you want to read it you’d better print it out now, because I understand that it will go behind a firewall in a couple of days. )

It’s still mostly a story about missing documentation. It does establish that the head of the Texas Air National Guard, Brigadier General James Rose, did make spaces in the Guard for both G.W. Bush and the son of Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen. It also establishes that Bush was allowed to drop out of flying in 1972. Ten other pilots were allowed to drop out that same year, but the rest of them were much older and had had more than two decades of experience. Bush had been flying for two years.

As the story says, this wasn’t exactly illegal. It just shows that the Texas National Guard was a “loosely regulated fiefdom,” and Gen. Rose could dispense favors as he wished.

There is still no evidence that Bush reported for duty in Alabama when he said he did. The existing records say he blew off two drills for certain. The article also says that for part of the time he was being paid for his duty in Alabama he actually was in Houston. More than that is kind of a blank. By all appearances he was allowed to skip out of the rest of his Guard duty. He says otherwise, but any documentation that might have cleared that up is mysteriously missing from his military record. Which is pretty much what we all knew back in 2004 when the 60 Minutes segment ran.

Of particular interest to me was this:

But the man officially credited with inspiring a fusillade of blog attacks was Harry MacDougald, known on message boards as Buckhead, a GOP lawyer in Atlanta who missed the segment but downloaded the Killian documents from the CBS website later that night. He specifically claimed that the memos used proportional spacing and superscripts that didn’t exist on typewriters of the early seventies. …

… In any case, MacDougald’s arguments about the documents turned out to be inaccurate. He acknowledged as much in an interview with me in 2008. And in a speech given that same year, Mike Missal, a lawyer for the firm that CBS hired to investigate its own report, said, “It’s ironic that the blogs were actually wrong. . . . We actually did find typewriters that did have the superscript, did have proportional spacing. And on the fonts, given that these are copies, it’s really hard to say, but there were some typewriters that looked like they could have some similar fonts there. So the initial concerns didn’t seem as though they would hold up.”

… which is what I said at the time, and was mercilessly skewered for it. But, dammit, I had typed and typed and typed on those typewriters in the early 1970s, and there was nothing on those memos that couldn’t have come out of one of the better 1970s-era electric typewriters — proportional type, precise centering, superscripts, etc.

If course, since the memos Dan Rather and his staff had were photocopies, there is no way to prove they were authentic, which was why it was stupid on Rather’s part to use them as proof of anything. There was plenty of “story” without them, but with them the bogus type font issue ate up all the oxygen and became the story.

The Right basically was allowed to establish that the memos were phony mostly by screaming and stamping their feet real, real loud, and without the originals they couldn’t be proved wrong.

Hagan also says that at the time of the 60 Minutes broadcast the Associated Press had been pressing the Pentagon for some other documents that they believed would reveal the truth about the “lost year.” The AP actually asked CBS to wait on their story so as not to spook their sources. But CBS didn’t wait, and once the story became radioactive the AP dropped its investigation also.

By now any original documents that might show us something have been destroyed or rotted in a landfill somewhere, so unless Dubya himself confesses we’ll never know the whole story. Damn shame.