Monday, October 30, 2006

Worse ahead in Iraq?

For several months I've worried that we could be in a much more danger in Iraq than has been acknowledged in the media. Actually, longer--when Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army fought pitched battles with US forces in Najaf in the April 2004 . I was, I believe, Juan Cole who observed at the time that American supply lines were dangerously exposed. More recently, retired CIA operative Patrick Lang has maintained that supply lines remains exposed. I am no military expert, and while I was trying to figure out under what circumstances this potential disaster could be realized, Juan Cole's Informed Comment pointed to William Lind's warning about the most likely scenario: Iranian reaction to an American attack.

I'm hoping that Dick Cheney's "full speed ahead" in Iraq comment was sheer pre-election bluster. I take Rumsfield's resignation as a semi-coup by the professional military to try to impress some reality upon a delusional civilian leadership. The signs, however, don't look good. The in-coming Secretary of Defense has a reputation of tailoring intelligence to support the Reagan administration's preconceived notion. If he's been put in charge to carry out Dick Chaney's irrational fantasies and make sure the trains run on James Baker time, nothing really has changed. Augustus Ceasar lost a legion in Germany, and we could lose an army in Iraq. Who will the Republicans blame?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Empty Suits

I know it's the sex that is giving the Mark Foley scandal sizzle. But it's the substance that is giving it staying power.

I've been seeing this picture all over the internet: I took this version from John McQuaid's Huffington Post blog. He looks at it and sees symbols (well, of course I do, too). But the message this picture, and the whole mess that this sex scandal has become, sends the American people is that the folks in charge are clueless.

The first serious criticism of the Bush administration came in an article by Run Suskind in Esquire "quoting John DiIulio, former Bush director of the White House Office Of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, saying that politics, not policy run the Bush White House, that speeches come first and policy is hastily and sketchily constructed later, that Bush is kept on the short leash of far right preconceptions of the world that often don't jibe with reality, and that fear of Karl Rove prevents staffers from providing him with news from the real world that might contradict his extreme, conservative vision.

In DiIulio's words, 'there is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: complete lack of a policy apparatus.'"

The one thing to add is that this is not just the modus operandi of President Bush; it is the modus operandi of the entire Republican Party at this point. Nor is this a new thing. If you paid attention to the Clinton Impeachment trial, the astonishing thing was the way the Republicans served up their conspiracy theories as if they were factual, and then were left high and dry when it turns out Vernon Jordan wasn't in Little Rock cutting a deal with a judge but on a plane over the Atlantic on his way to Europe. And what made it truly astonishing was: the Republicans apparently never even considered the need to check their facts.

Thus all the weird and delicious dust the wingnutteria is serving up right now: blame the gay activists, blame the Democrats, blame the pages, blame the press, just please, in the age of accountability, don't blame us.

What this huge imbroglio shows is that while the Republicans think an awful lot (and frightfully well) about getting elected, they simply are completely lacking in any thing that would resemble a political philosophy, much less a governing philosophy and totally without the ability to engage in critical thinking.

What this huge imbroglio shows is that there are no more adults left in the Republican Party. What coherence the party had was built around Tom Delay and his ability to enforce discipline. He made the Republican party a disciplined parliamentary party that came into its own when it could mark in lockstep with its executive leader. I'm sure the political history professors will be having a field day studying what he did for as long as we have political history professors. Maybe the past six years have resembled the gilded age of the 1870s, but was that Republican party really so disciplined or just corrupt? Could a single figure in that era enforce his will the way Delay could--across not just the party apparatus in Congress, but across the web of lobbying shops and think tanks.

What this huge imbroglio most clearly shows is that with Delay gone, there's no one to enforce discipline. The only role the current house leadership has ever had was to keep the money flowing and keep the apparatus greased to do Delay's bidding. Now, its every man for himself.

The sad thing is that no policy (other than putting oneself up to the highest bidder) is worse than bad policy. Just as with the parliamentary party falling off a cliff, the fiscal pressures are also going to drive the country over a cliff. Bad things will happen in a hurry. They believe their policies only produce good things, so they will continue their policy to prove reality wrong. Exhibit A: Iraq.

It is a big and fabulously prosperous country, with many strengths which I hope means I am wrong. But I believe that six years of Republican rule has fundamentally weakened the country, that far worse disasters than a middle-aged man exchanging ribald talk with a teenager lurk in our near future, and that if these folks remain in charge, we are finished as a world power. I look at Baghdad and keep thinking: if these people have their way, that's what they'll make of Washington.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hoisted on their own petard

The Foley thing goes from bad to worse. Apparently the GOP Cardinals had a pretty good sense 5 years ago about the guy's predilections. The MSM's coverage has a lot of helpful graphics showing the 5 congressmen who were informed about the "creepy" e-mail. I can understand why the kid's parents didn't want to make a big fuss about this--they were Republicans who had seen how the party machine could turn John Kerry's Viet Nam service into a liability. Imagine what those powerful people could have done to their son. These are scary people. Read Autumn of the Patriarch if you want to understand what world we're dealing with here. I had an employee who had been abused by one of Cardinal Law's priests. His parents had gone to the church's authorities and had been told, get out of our face. And we still haven't heard about actual sex as opposed to the internet variety.

Update, 10/2/06

The Washington Post this a.m. confirms that the pages were not reporting Foley's advances because of fear of retribution:

"That's part of your concern about coming forward," Loraditch [who runs the U.S. House Page Alumni Association's Internet message board] said. "You take down a Congress member, and you can't end up trying to do something later."

Two additional thoughts: If it is true that incoming pages were warned to watch out for Foley five years ago, Foley must have done something before that that raised concerns. What did he do? When we know what the Republicans knew about Foley in 1999 and 2000, then we'll have a better sense of how bad this is for the Republicans. And I continue to believe that where there's smoke, there's fire: Foley's clearly trolling for young flesh in these IMs. Are we to believe that in 12 years in Washington, he didn't succeed once?