“The Last Regular Republican”

Sidney Blumenthal’s latest column deserves a close reading. It shines a light on another part of our recent political history, when the Republican Party was taken over by the Goldwater-Reagan “pseudo conservative” faction. Further, it shows us how the Bush II Regime tied the Reaganite conservatives back to the Nixonian imperial presidency, giving us the worst of several possible worlds in one toxic White House.

When the late Gerald Ford became President, he chose Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president. And this mightily pissed off the Reagan faction, including Reagan himself. Reagan actually snubbed the President on a visit to Washington.

Reagan’s motive, however, was ultimately personal pique – he was “disappointed that he had been passed over himself,” according to his biographer Lou Cannon. Reagan thought of himself as the rightful heir apparent and Ford as nothing but a “caretaker”.

Ford had a dismally low regard for Reagan, dismissing the threat of his potential challenge. “I hadn’t taken those warnings seriously because I didn’t take Reagan seriously.” Ford considered Reagan “simplistic,” dogmatic and lazy. Reagan, for his part, argued that Nixon’s 1972 mandate was not a Republican victory but an ideological one for junking the old Republicanism and that Ford was betraying it. “The tragedy of Watergate,” Reagan said, was that it “obscured the meaning of that ’72 election.”

Reagan’s assessment of the 1972 election makes absolutely no sense to me. About the only thing Nixon had in common with Reagan was red- and race-baiting. Nixon was an internationalist who favored détente with the Soviet Union and who visited the other Evil Empire, China. And Nixon had no ideological problem with applying some “big government” solutions to domestic problems. Nixon’s administration established the Environmental Protection Agency, for pity’s sake. I think Reagan was hallucinating.

Reagan accused Ford of fatally weakening national security. He opposed Ford’s pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union through Strategic Arms Limitation Talks that led to treaties reducing the production of nuclear weapons and Ford’s signing of the Helsinki Accords in August 1975, which held the Soviet Union for the first time to standards of human rights. Reagan’s critique appeared against the backdrop of the collapse of South Vietnam and the scene on April 30, 1975, of helicopters evacuating US personnel from the roof of the US Embassy.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

In April 1975, the Senate Operations Committee under the chairmanship of Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, released 14 reports on the abuse of intelligence. It chronicled “excessive executive power”, “excessive secrecy”, “avoidance of the rule of law”, “rogue” operations and even spying on domestic politics. “Whatever the theory,” the report concluded, “the fact was that intelligence activities were essentially exempted from the normal system of checks and balances. Such executive power, not founded in law or checked by Congress or the courts, contained the seeds of abuse and its growth was to be expected.”

Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld – moved from White House chief of staff to secretary of defense as his deputy, Dick Cheney, was promoted to the chief of staff job – created a Team B of hawks within the Pentagon who attacked the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate for supposedly underestimating the Soviet Union’s military strength. Rumsfeld began making speeches assailing detente, claiming that the Soviets were flagrantly violating treaties negotiated by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, another hate object of the right who was long associated with Vice President Rockefeller.

The CIA officially responded by calling the Team B report “complete fiction.” And CIA Director George HW Bush said that Team B set “in motion a process that lends itself to manipulation for purposes other than estimative accuracy.” Nonetheless, Rumsfeld’s inflation of the Red menace, based on faulty data, turned up the flame under Ford. Rumsfeld had his own motive: He wanted to be named vice president, a nomination that in the end went to Sen. Bob Dole, considered acceptable to Reagan.

To appease the Right, Ford pressured Rockefeller not to run as vice president in 1976, an act Ford himself called “cowardly.” Bob Dole would would be Ford’s running mate. Now, get this:

Rockefeller advised Ford: “I’m now going to say it frankly … Rumsfeld wants to be President of the United States. He has given George Bush [another potential vice-presidential choice] the deep six by putting him in the CIA, he has gotten me out … He was third on your list and now he has gotten rid of two of us … You are not going to be able to put him on the [ticket] because he is defense secretary, but he is not going to want anybody who can possibly be elected with you on that ticket … I have to say I have a serious question about his loyalty to you.”

Just think … President Rummy.

Rummy lost his government job when Jimmy Carter was elected. He played some small roles in the Reagan Administration, such as special envoy to the Middle East (1983–1984, during which time the famous Rummy-Saddam handshake took place), but for most of the Reagan years and after Rummy retreated to private industry until Junior brought him back to Washington in 2001. Blumenthal continues,

Cheney and Rumsfeld, since their days in the Nixon White House, had observed the imperial presidency besieged. Under Ford, they saw it reach its low ebb, and they were determined to restore the presidency as they imagined it should be – unchecked by an intrusive Congress, shielded from the press, and unobstructed by staff professionals in the intelligence community who did not clearly understand the present dangers that required just such an executive.

After the 2000 election, Vice President-elect Cheney held a dinner at his house where he held forth that the new administration would finish off Saddam Hussein, a job that the elder Bush had left undone, opening him to charges of softness. Rumsfeld, appointed by the new president as secretary of defense at the suggestion of Cheney, named one of the key members of the Ford-era Team B, Paul Wolfowitz, as deputy secretary. At the first meeting of the National Security Council with Bush, Wolfowitz raised the question of invading Iraq.

And there you have it. Through the Bush II White House, the drown-government-in-the-bathtub Right was tied together with the Nixonian “Executive Power Ãœber Alles” Right. This gives us secretive, oppressive, antidemocratic government that can’t govern. Nice.

Blumenthal writes that “Ford was the last regular Republican to serve as president.” If you’re much younger than I am you may not remember what a “regular Republican” is.


MSNBC says Rummy is stepping down!!!

Update: The princeling will be speaking in a few minutes. I predict the Administration is throwing Rummy under the bus in an attempt to blame him for the problems in Iraq so that Shrubby can stay the course.

Update update: Robert Gates will be offered the SecDef job.

How Low Can They Go? How Dumb Can They Get?

By now you’ve probably heard that the military Times papers — Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, and Marine Corps Times — is calling for Rumsfeld to go. Taylor Marsh has the text of the editorial. As Taylor says, this is unprecedented.

For opposing views of the military Times papers, compare Billmon some rightie bloggers. Start with Billmon:

Long ago, I worked for the company that owns the military Times publications, although my own paper was aimed at the civilian side of the government (we called our small corner of the newsroom “the demilitarized zone.”) Maybe things have changed in 20 years but I can assure you that back then the Times papers were even more mindlessly pro-military than the Pentagon itself (which is kind of like being more Catholic than the pope, but with superior firepower). If they’re taking aim at the SecDef — and timing their battery fire for maximum political effect — it’s reasonable to believe that the generals have reached a point that in many countries would be followed in short order by a military coup.

Billmon points out that the military Times papers were taken over by Gannett awhile back, which makes them part of the evil “MSM.” And, sure enough, you can click here to read a rightie blog post titled “Liberal Army Times calls (again) for Rumsfeld’s head.” The blogger writes,

CNN fails to report that the editorial position of the Army Times has been and still is VERY liberal. I know that as I did a stint them as a journalist way back. Note most of their most editorized stories have come during less than stellar times for the military.

As proof of this runamuck liberalism, the blogger linked to a CNN story:

In May 2004, when the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal broke, an Army Times editorial said, “This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential, even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.”

Human decency, abiding by the Geneva Conventions, and accountability are “liberal.” OK, I accept that.

The Flopping Ace:

For those of us who actually served in our Military I can tell you what these papers really are…to the troops.

The National Enquirer of our military. Their editorials are always dripping with disdain for the military and have a huge liberal bias. They are owned by the Gannett publishing company who also publish the USA Today.

They are NOT representative of our military. For the MSM to allege otherwise is being dishonest.

Dr. Steven Taylor of PoliBlog — conservative but not crazy — writes,

Much will no doubt be made about the timing, but it is worth noting that the response is [to] the President–he is the one who brought the whole thing up in the first place.

I have passing acquaintance with the Army Times as a friend of mine is a subscriber and I have seen some (granted, limited) coverage of Iraq from the paper. It was certainly more positive than that in the MSM. Indeed, given that the four publications are aimed a military audience, it is rather difficult to make “liberal media bias” claims in this context. Members of the military or regular readers of the papers in question are welcome to correct me if they feel the need.

I sent enquiries to my military contacts, and I will let you know if any of them offer an opinion as to the political proclivities of the Army Times. Personally, I have a hard time believing that newspapers catering to military families are going to be The New Daily Worker.

As Dr. Taylor says, the editorial writers claim the timing of the editorial is not about the elections, but is a reaction to what the President said about keeping Rumsfeld. The Blue Crab, a rightie blogger (why isn’t he the Red Crab?), will have none of this.

The editorial protests that “This is not about the midterm elections.” Uh, sure. That’s why it was released to the major media outlets on Friday. …

… Of course it is about the midterms, and of course they are doing their level best to help drag the Democrats across the finish line. This is all part of that media crescendo.

“Media crescendo” refers to another post in which the Crab complained that the New York Times had the unpatriotic and liberal-bias nerve to quote people criticizing the President.

You’re shocked, I know. Truly, objectivity requires heaping only praise and glory and flowers and stuff on the President, at all times. Unless the President is a Democrat.

I see that much of the Right Blogosphere is still rampaging over the Kerry joke flub. Like that wasn’t ginned up just to distract voters from issues. It’s OK to try to swing the election by stirring up a phony crisis about someone who isn’t even running, but discussing a real issue critical to the nation is outside the pale.

Joan Vennochi writes in the Boston Globe:

The president earns dismal marks for job performance, according to recent polls. His unpopular Iraq war policy stands to turn voters against Republican candidates across the country.

Yet even with the presidential juice at low octane, some Democrats swiftly echoed the White House talking points after John Kerry bungled a bad joke. Kerry, a decorated combat veteran, insulted the US military, they insisted; he must apologize.

All it took to bring them to their knees was the usual: a blast of hot air from the White House, fanned by Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and cable TV, and then giftwrapped by the mainstream media.

And like trained seals, rightie bloggers honk away on cue.

At the Los Angeles Times, Meghan Daum picks up on the Dick Armey quote I discussed here.

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey explained the process during the Kerry flap even as he conceded that what Kerry said was just a slip-up. “It’s pretty standard-fare political discourse,” he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Tuesday. “You misconstrue what somebody said. You isolate a statement, you lend your interpretation to it, and then you feign moral outrage.”

Armey added that “the Democrats have been doing it for years,” and, of course, he’s right. Sloganism-as-national idiom isn’t a partisan tick. Here’s Kanye West’s post-Katrina mantra, although he didn’t so much reinterpret a statement as an entire agenda: “George Bush hates black people.” It mushroomed into a rallying cry for black America. Catchy, yes. True? Come on.

Except that Kanye West wasn’t speaking on behalf of the Democratic Party. As far as I know he was speaking on behalf of Kanye West. And if his remark had “legs” it was because (a) it was amusing to see someone go off-script; and (b) lots of people were already thinking it. As far as I know, nobody in the Democratic Party got their fax machines going and sent their minions forth to push the story onto news media as hard as they could push. So, Ms. Daum — you had a good column going, and then you got stupid. Try harder next time.

Truly, Stupid is in the saddle and riding mankind. Mahablog commenter k has seen campaign ads that smear candidates by associating them with the Democratic Party.

One thing I have noticed- I am in a ‘red’ state with a Dem Governor who will win easily- The R opposing him is running ads attacking him by showing him at the 2004 Dem Convention saying “John Kerry” and amplifying it: the implication being that Kerry is his hero and that it is a crime to attend one’s convention and endorse one’s party candidate. Another commercial attacks a local Dem for ‘ taking money connected to Hillary Clinton and John Dean. Well they are Dems and Dean is the Chairman of the party so yea, we get the slur but it is the attack on being a member of another party and gasp taking party money that is being attacked here. Another ad attacks a Dem for state senate, an Iraq vet, a lawyer, for defending drug dealers and criminals. Yea it is what lawyers do. What I’m seeing is the attack on belonging to another party, participating in the legal system.

They’re running on smears and air. It’s all they’ve got.

See also Glenn Greenwald on Faux Nooz’s weekend program schedule.

I want to go back to Billmon — I think he has a point here —

Now I despise Donald Rumsfeld as much as any commie pinko, but this kneejerk habit the generals have gotten into of blaming Rummy for all their problems in Iraq is getting pretty old. The Army’s own failures — most particularly, in deciding that because it doesn’t like to fight guerrilla wars, it wouldn’t prepare to fight one — are well documented in Tom Ricks’ Fiasco and elsewhere. The ossified bureaucracy obsessed with budgets, rank and military ceremony (in roughly that order), which led defense gadfly Chuck Spinney to label the Pentagon “the Versailles on the Potomac,” had grown deeply dysfunctional long before Donald Rumsfeld came back to town. If anything, he at least tried to reform it — even if most of his ideas went in diametrically the wrong direction for the “fourth generation” war the military now finds itself fighting. …

… trying to make Rummy the sole scapegoat for America’s failure in Iraq is as big a lie as Shrub’s insistence that the SecDef has done, and is still doing, a great job. It looks to me like the Times papers are simply pandering to their special constituency (something that was also their editorial bread and butter when I was there.)

The Dems may applaud now, but if I were them, I’d be extremely wary of the precedent. As a group, the joint chiefs are developing a taste for bureaucratic blood — they’re trying to destroy Rumsfeld just as they destroyed Les Aspin and emasculated Wesley Clark. Only now they’re doing it openly (or at least semi-openly) and in the middle of an election campaign.

That’s usually not a good sign for a republican government — and I’m not talking about the political party.

So, while at least Rumsfeld is a real issue and not a phony issue — keep what Billmon says in mind.

Update: Don’t miss Media Matters by Jamison Foser.

Serious About Rummy

Via True Blue Liberal — the Army Times conducted one of those online, not-scientifically-valid polls asking readers this question:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has come under fire in recent weeks from a variety of retired generals, who say he should resign for his performance in managing the war in Iraq. Do you think the U.S. war effort is grounds for Secretary Rumsfeld to resign?

That’s a carefully worded question; note it doesn’t say that Rummy’s performance was bad or hint that the war effort is not going well. Anyway, the results as of this writing (4,339 total votes) are yes, 63.47 %; no, 32.96 %; and no opinion, 3.57 %.

These results don’t prove anything. I have no doubt a scientifically conducted poll would have different results. Still, it suggests some Army Times readers, not known to be loony leftie peaceniks, are really pissed off at Rummy.

Some mid-level officers interviewed last week by New York Times reporters Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt sounded pissed at both Rummy and the generals who didn’t speak out about him until after they retired.

The discussions often flare with anger, particularly among many midlevel officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and face the prospect of additional tours of duty.

“This is about the moral bankruptcy of general officers who lived through the Vietnam era yet refused to advise our civilian leadership properly,” said one Army major in the Special Forces who has served two combat tours. “I can only hope that my generation does better someday.”

An Army major who is an intelligence specialist said: “The history I will take away from this is that the current crop of generals failed to stand up and say, ‘We cannot do this mission.’ They confused the cultural can-do attitude with their responsibilities as leaders to delay the start of the war until we had an adequate force. I think the backlash against the general officers will be seen in the resignation of officers” who might otherwise have stayed in uniform for more years.

In defense of the generals, some of them said they did try to explain reality to the Pentagon, but the exercise proved as fruitful as explaining verb conjugation to a tree stump.

Mo Dowd (via True Blue Liberal) writes of Rummy’s and Condi’s little visit to Baghdad this week:

The former “Matinee Idol,” as W. liked to call him, is now a figure of absurdity, clinging to his job only because some retired generals turned him into a new front on the war on terror. On his rare, brief visit to Baghdad, he was afraid to go outside Fortress Green Zone, even though he yammers on conservative talk shows about how progress is being made, and how the press never reports good news out of Iraq.

If the news is so good, why wasn’t Rummy gallivanting at the local mall, walking around rather than hiding out in the U.S. base known as Camp Victory? (What are they going to call it, one reporter joked, Camp Defeat?)

Very often when us loony leftie peaceniks criticize the war, the righties spin it as a slam on our troops. It’s as if they absolutely cannot fathom that fault may lie with leadership and planning rather than execution. And, of course, the ultimate responsibility for the debacle in Iraq lies with the bleepheads who made the decision to invade for no good bleeping reason.

But let’s brush that aside for the moment.

According to a Virginia businessman named Joseph Robert, Jr., who has been in Iraq, the troops are still dedicated to the mission; it’s everyone else who has screwed the pooch. Robert writes in today’s Washington Post:

First, U.S. forces in Iraq remain focused on their mission. Talking with soldiers and Marines over dinner in their mess halls, it’s easy to see why reenlistment rates among U.S. troops in Iraq are the highest in the military. These men and women understand their mission and believe they are making a difference. Like my son, Joe III, after he returned from a tough mission in Fallujah, the Marines I met said they would be happy to return to Iraq because they believe what they’re doing is important.


… dangerous failures in Iraq’s economic reconstruction are undermining progress on the security and political fronts. …

… This strategic failure is a direct result of something else I observed: Only one element of the U.S. government — the military — seems to be treating Iraq as “the vital national interest” that President Bush declares it to be. Across Iraq, military personnel are heroically managing local reconstruction and development projects for which they lack the proper training or tools. Meanwhile, back in the Green Zone, hundreds of civilian positions — from the departments of State, Justice, Commerce and Agriculture — go unfilled.

U.S. commanders expressed frustration that dozens of Justice Department billets sit empty despite Iraq’s urgent need for help in developing a functioning judicial system. American troops like my son describe risking their lives to arrest suspected insurgents, testifying in Iraqi courts and then watching in frustration as the offenders are tossed back on the streets. In government, as in business, refusing to devote the resources and personnel to a strategic priority is a recipe for disaster.

This reminds me of something George Packer said on The Daily Show awhile back (link to video on this page). Parker spoke of many individuals in Iraq, both Iraqi and American,

Packer: … really pouring their hearts into this project, and meanwhile back in Washington decisions being made on the fly, or not being made at all, being made against all expert advice as if it almost didn’t matter. …

… there was a whole tide of young Republican operatives coming over to staff the occupation, people who had never lived abroad, certainly had no experience in the Middle East, there were maybe three Arabic speakers in the whole coalition provisional authority in the first few few months …

Stewart: You say the more you know about Iraq the more you’d be punished, it seems.

Packer: Yes. It’s a law of the occupation that the more you know the less influence you have, and as you go higher and higher in the Administration, knowledge decreases until at the very top …

… they were unbelievably reckless, and I think it’s going to take time for historians to explain how they could have rolled the dice in such a risky way and not taken it more seriously. Over and over again that’s the thing that I come back to. They didn’t take it very seriously.

As I wrote here, the Bushies seem congenitally incapable of taking anything seriously. Unless it’s a political threat, of course.

Philip Gold writes in today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer that “Too few are carrying the burden of war.” He discusses a book written by Dr. Ron Glasser titled Wounded: Vietnam to Iraq. Dr. Glasser had been an Army doctor stationed in Japan during the Vietnam war.

When the Iraq war started to sour, Glasser, now a prominent Minneapolis pediatric nephrologist, noticed that new kinds of wounded were coming back. Thanks to improved body armor and lack of enemy artillery and mortars, there were fewer traditional gunshot and fragmentation wounds. But because of the wide use of improvised explosive devices such as suicide bombs, there were far more serious wounds to limbs and closed head injuries. Gone was the “Million Dollar Wound” that got you honorably home but still reasonably intact. Now the military was doing amputations at a rate unknown since the Civil War and dealing with head injuries that could only be described as “polytrauma.” …

… “Wounded” tells it to the American people like it is and warns that these new wounded are going to require expensive lifetime care from a Department of Veterans Affairs that will be struggling with Vietnam vets for the next three decades.

Toward the end, “Wounded” shifts from medicine to note who’s not coming home shattered in body and spirit: America’s more privileged sons and daughters.

Glasser also wrote about the sounded of Iraq in a July 2005 Harper’s Magazine article. Glasser writes that the Bushies aren’t taking the Iraq wounded seriously, either.

“Based on what we should be doing, the VA is simply underfunded,” former Georgia senator Max Cleland, a triple amputee from the war in Vietnam and head of the Veterans Administration under President Carter, told me. “The budgetary constraints put into place by this administration’s tax cuts have proved a disaster for the whole system. The VA can’t handle what they have to do now; how are they going to handle the flood of physical and emotional casualties, many of whom will be the responsibility of the VA for the rest of their lives?”

Ultimately, if the Bush Administration continues its refusal to accept the realities of this conflict, the most enduring images of the Iraq war will be the sight of legless and addled beggars on our street corners holding cardboard signs that read: IRAQ VET. HUNGRY AND HOMELESS. PLEASE HELP.

See also “Coming Home from War on the Cheap” by Judith Coburn.

In other news, Drew Brown reports for Knight Ridder that the cost of the war is skyrocketing. Ewen MacAskill reports for the Guardian that the “US admits Iraq could become haven for terror.”

And the righties complain the press isn’t reporting the good news in Iraq. Such a shame.

But about Rummy? You know we’re living in strange times when something written by William S. Lind, Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation, shows up in the hyper-leftie online mag Counterpunch.

Rumsfeld’s defenders argue that some of his critics are dinosaurs who resent “Transformation” because it disrupts business as usual, they have a point. As anyone who has dealt with the higher ranks of the U.S. military knows, they put the La Brea tar pits in the shade as a dinosaur graveyard. …

But here too the story is not so simple. While Rumsfeldian “Transformation” represents change, it represents change in the wrong direction. Instead of attempting to move from the Second Generation to the Third (much less the Fourth), Transformation retains the Second Generation’s conception of war as putting firepower on targets while trying to replace people with technology. Its summa is the Death Star, where men and women in spiffy uniforms sit in air-conditioned comfort zapping enemies like bugs. It is a vision of future war that appeals to technocrats and lines industry pockets, but has no connection to reality. The combination of this vision of war with an equally unrealistic vision of strategic objectives has given us the defeat in Iraq. Again, Rumsfeld lies at the heart of both.

Lind believes that Rummy’s is the only head that should roll. But seems to me that if the President were serious about the war in Iraq, Rummy’s head would have rolled a long time ago.

Liz Sidoti reports for the Associated Press that many Senate Republicans would like Rummy to be gone, but are resigned to the fact the the President wants him to stay.

And why does the President want Rummy to stay? Because the President can’t admit he made a mistake, that’s why. It’s all about Dear Leader and his glorious ego.

As of this morning, 2398 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq.

Update: Flaming idiot rightie Mark Noonan of Blogs for Bush linked to the Joseph Robert, Jr., article I link to and quote above, and wrote, “Warning: No Liberal Should Read This! It is positive news about Iraq, and we wouldn’t want to spoil the nice, little anti-Bush fantasy land the liberals live in…”

How stupid are these people?