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March 5, 2006 - Ups And Downs, But Mostly Down













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Thursday, March 2nd, the president got his diplomatic coup - Bush Ushers India Into Nuclear Club (AP). Yep, we give them advanced technology and they pretend they'll play by the rules of the nonproliferation treaty they never signed. As mentioned elsewhere, Fred Kaplan here discusses what this is all about, and how hard it will be to close this one. Congress has to approve, and transfer of our key technology to other countries these days is a hot issue. The Dubai Ports World deal has out people a bit on edge. And then too, the "club" - the key nations who have signed the nonproliferation treaty - may not be too happy about the United States cutting deals on the side without consulting them. and will oppose this without some discussion.

But like the business with Dubai Ports World, this is a done deal. The administration acted there unilaterally and ignored domestic law regarding review of such matters, and showed congress, even the members of the president's own party, they were political eunuchs - powerless and pathetic. They can look into it if they have time on their hands, but he's not budging. It's approved. He just told the major world powers the same thing regarding their silly nonproliferation treaty - he decides who's in and who's out of the club, and on what terms with what agreements. Yep, it's hard to get used to the Texan in the room.

But that's the way it is. There's no way to stop anything he chooses to do. The Attorney General and his crew of constitutional thinkers say their interpretation of "unitary executive power" makes his decisions plenary - that's what the constitution really says. Courts have no authority to stop anything he does (although their opinions are always pleasant to read in the john), and congress can pass any law they like, but when the president signs them he appends his "signing statements" say that, sure, he'll follow them, but he has the "unitary executive power" not to when he chooses.

Well, there is not a thing that can be done about this in this country, as his party controls the congress and his judges sit on the bench at all levels. And too, the club members can do nothing about this deal with India. What are the going to do, hold the breath until they turn blue, or issue "statements" or a reprimand? So what?

It's a Texas thing. We elected him because he's a cowboy who slaps around wimps and does what he wants. The electorate seems to have felt that's what we need in this awful world full off swarthy people with odd religions who want to kill us all.

And he plays to the frightened crowd. Two days before he visits Pakistan on this trip, one of our diplomats there is blown to smithereens when a car bomb tosses his armored Caddy into the next block, and blows out ten floors of windows at the hotel next door.

Our John Wayne? Bush To Proceed To Pakistan, Shrugs Off Deadly Bomb Blasts, just like the strong silent hero in the John Ford westerns. It's classic.

Of course, those who don't live inside the old movies have different views, like this

 

I know a few people working in the Foreign Service, but I've lost track of postings for a couple of them in the last year. No names have yet been released, but I'm certain that family and friends of those posted in Pakistan are on pins and needles at the moment awaiting news. Thoughts and prayers for all of you - family, friends and coworkers - as you wait for the phone to ring.

Working for the United States in a posting as dangerous as Pakistan is a very tough job. Most of our personnel in difficult postings cannot bring their families with them, but they do a tough job - trying to sell this Administration's abysmal foreign policy pronouncements to an increasingly skeptical world, while still maintaining some semblance of long-term strategic diplomacy with the nation in question, all the while worrying about safety concerns and potential terrorist threats and kidnappings and other assorted threats - because the nation's interest requires it.

Ever since Valerie Plame Wilson was outed by her own government in an act of political vengeance and intel exposure, recruiting for these tough posts has been difficult indeed. Who wants to trust an Administration who outs its own personnel? The embassies are staffed not just with diplomatic personnel, but also security experts, analysts and others - and recruiting has suffered over the last few years under the Bush Administration, I am told by several sources in the diplomatic community despite an initial upsurge in applicants after 9/11. The brave men and women who work tirelessly for this nation in positions this dangerous are heroes, plain and simple - that we have lost at least one today is a tragedy.

 

The president shrugs. As his mirror Rumsfeld said, when Baghdad was being looted just after we tore down the Saddam statue and Chalabi's shills we flew in cheered, and there was murder and mayhem in the streets there, "Stuff Happens." It's still happening.

John Wayne types shrug and do what they must. No point in getting all upset and acting like a bunch of women. (Many a fifth-rate western has that very line in the dialog somewhere.)

Ah, maybe those "signing statements" - saying real men don't follow the law when they're being all manly - are just Texas bluster. It's a male-ego thing, just posturing.

Maybe not.

US Cites Exception in Torture Ban
McCain Law May Not Apply to Cuba Prison
Josh White and Carol D. Leonnig - Washington Post - Friday, March 3, 2006 - Page A04

 

Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."

Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to U.S. courts for all Guantanamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions...

 

The commander-in-chief is in charge of the military. Look at the signing statement. The objections of McCain and the lower-level FBI folks and all the veterans of every war since WWII, and all the rest of the women folk, as they used to say in the old westerns, don't mean squat. There's this manly "unitary executive power" that is inherent in the position of the commander-in-chief.

We torture people, and say so, and, unlike every other country in the world, we allow what is screamed out in the torture sessions to be admitted as evidence (read the article).

What are you going to do about it, weep? Boo, hoo. Women. You want to be safe, or what?

So how is this going down? Are people grinning and getting all excited - men getting hard and women creaming their panties - when they read such news, or watch it on Fox?

In other items here there was mention of the week's CBS poll - the thirty-four percent approval rating for the president and the twenty-nine percent "favorability" rating, a sort of character thing.

We've moved on from westerns? There were hundreds of web item and more than a few appearances by supporters of the president on the talk shows, and of course Rush Limbaugh on talk radio, all saying CBS's methodology was "clearly flawed."

Maybe so.

But then, Thursday, March 2nd Fox News released their poll

 

- 39 percent of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing, only the second time Bush has fallen below 40 percent in Fox polling

- 81 percent believe Iraq is likely to end up in a civil war

- 69 percent oppose allowing Dubai Ports World to manage our ports

 

And then CNN - USA Today - Gallup had their results the same day –

 

- 38 percent approve of the job Bush is doing, a rating "mired near its record low" of 37 percent (Katrina time)

- 47 percent approve how he is handling terrorism, "down 7 points since early February and a record low"

- 64 percent disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq, a record high

- 52 percent do not find Bush "honest and trustworthy," tying November's worst-ever mark.

 

There's a lot of women folk out there.

Or something else is up.

Over at FireDogLake (here) there's a link to this, the subscription-only insider Stratfor Report - current conservative thinking. But you cannot get there. Of course, as usual on the web, we get an excerpt of what conservatives think of these numbers. Something there is that doesn't like a wall and all that. The conservatives are worried.

And just to tweak the conservative insiders, here's the full excerpt (with added emphases) –

 

The point here is not to argue the merits of the Dubai ports deal, but rather to place the business deal in the context of the U.S. grand strategy. That strategy is, again, to split the Islamic world into its component parts, induce divisions by manipulating differences, and to create coalitions based on particular needs. This is, currently, about the only strategy the United States has going for it - and if it can't use commercial relations as an inducement in the Muslim world, that is quite a weapon to lose.

The problem has become political, and stunningly so. One of the most recent opinion polls, by CBS, has placed Bush's approval rating at 34 percent - a fairly shocking decline, and clearly attributable to the port issue. As we have noted in the past, each party has a core constituency of about 35-37 percent. When support falls significantly below this level, a president loses his ability to govern.

The Republican coalition consists of three parts: social conservatives, economic conservatives and business interests, and national security conservatives. The port deal has apparently hit the national security conservatives in Bush's coalition hard. They were already shaky over the administration's personnel policies in the military and the question of whether he had a clear strategy in Iraq, even as they supported the invasion.

Another part of the national security faction consists of those who believe that the Muslim world as a whole is, in the end, united against the United States, and that it poses a clear and present danger. Bush used to own this faction, but the debate over the ports has generated serious doubts among this faction about Bush's general policy. In their eyes, he appears inconsistent and potentially hypocritical. Economic conservatives might love the ports deal, and so might conservatives of the "realpolitik" variety, but those who buy into the view that there is a general danger of terrorism emanating from all Muslim countries are appalled - and it is showing in the polls.

If Bush sinks much lower, he will breaks into territory from which it would be impossible for a presidency to recover. He is approaching this territory with three years left in his presidency. It is the second time that he has probed this region: The first was immediately after Hurricane Katrina. He is now down deeper in the polls, and it is cutting into his core constituency.

In effect, Bush's strategy and his domestic politics have intersected with potential fratricidal force. The fact is that the U.S. strategy of dividing the Muslim world and playing one part off against the other is a defensible and sophisticated strategy - even if does not, in the end, turn out to be successful (and who can tell about that?) This is not the strategy the United States started with; the strategy emerged out of the failures in Iraq in 2003. But whatever its origins, it is the strategy that is being used, and it is not a foolish strategy.

The problem is that the political coalition has eroded to the point that Bush needs all of his factions, and this policy - particularly because of the visceral nature of the ports issue - is cutting into the heart of his coalition. The general problem is this: The administration has provided no framework for understanding the connection between a destroyed mosque dome in As-Samarra, an attack against a crucial oil facility in Saudi Arabia, and the UAE buyout of a British ports-management firm. Rather than being discussed in the light of a single, integrated strategy, these appear to be random, disparate and uncoordinated events. The reality of the administration's strategy and the reality of its politics are colliding. Bush will backtrack on the ports issue, and the UAE will probably drop the matter. But what is not clear is whether the damage done to the strategy and the politics can be undone. The numbers are just getting very low.

 

Well, that happens when you don't explain things, and John Wayne types don't explain. Live with it.

Of course Jane at FireDogLake has her own explanation of the numbers, the AP release of the videotapes showing the administration really was warned about New Orleans going under even if they said they had no idea such a thing would happen, but much more –

 

Why are the Bush Administration poll numbers tanking? Well, in my opinion, it's all the lying. The American public can forgive mistakes, so long as they are not done with some malignant intent. Apparently they can also overlook some incompetence, so long as they believe the President is working hard at his job.

But when the public begins to think they have been lied to - repeatedly - that love goes sour. Very sour. And lately, for the Bush Administration, it's been all about the lying.

... Yesterday, Jack Cafferty was reading viewer e-mails on the subject on CNN's Situation Room. Someone wrote into the show with a quote that is particularly apt: "Only the Bush Administration could take a disaster of Biblical proportions, and make it worse."

If you are going to lie about not knowing how bad a disaster will be - then you should be certain that no video of you being told it will be a disaster exists. In this case, there have been so many preceding lies, the hope this Administration can hold onto at this point is that the American public will just chalk it up to the way things work in Washington.

Except, at the moment, the Republican party controls Congress and the White House. And when you add in all the Abramoff investigations and guilty pleas thus far and the entire GOP K Street operation, the Duck Cunningham bribery pleas and continuing investigations, the Tom DeLay indictment and investigations and all the rest of the mess, you get a very ugly picture of what the current party leadership of the Republican party has been doing. And it sure as hell doesn't look like the public's business from here, now does it?

It's all about the lying. No accountability, no taking responsibility, none. This President comes off as an irresponsible frat boy who is more than willing to blame anyone else to get his own ass out of trouble. That may work when you are 19 (although it wouldn't have worked with my parents, I can tell you that), but one would think that the President of the United States would hold himself to a higher ethical standard on this. Especially given a situation where people lost their lives...

 

Well, maybe the AP videotapes will be the last of the problems. This cannot go on and on.

But it goes on. Thursday, March 2nd, Murray Wass, in the National Review, with this - the White House had multiple reports from multiple intelligence agencies that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to the US unless we attacked him first. And before anything was said to the public, or leaked to Judy Miller at the New York Times for Rice and Cheney to chat about on television, there were the same sort of reports about those damned aluminum tubes - they had nothing to do with building nuclear weapons.

So the "honest mistake" - See, we went with the best intelligence we had, but unfortunately, it was wrong... - gets a tad more ambiguous. Like AP with the videotapes of the pre-hurricane briefings, here Wass, doing that reporter thing, digs up the actual documents, just to get things straight.

So, did the administration lie to us and to the UN and, privately, to leaders of nations around the world (and plant a false story in the Times with the willing and eager Judy Miller)? Or did the administration prefer to think all these documents shoved in front of them just had to be wrong because they'd heard different from Chalabi and the exiles, and, after all, they'd paid good money for that? Did they just assume the CIA and DIA and State and AEC were full of enemies trying to stop the noble cause? Or were they just not doing their jobs - they didn't feel like reading all this detailed and dense verbiage as it was boring or something? None of the explanations is very comforting. Your choice.

Well, we have what we have in Iraq.

Even the big-time conservatives are fed up - as mentioned, William F. Buckley here, and then, late in the week, George Will here

 

After Iraqis voted in December for sectarian politics, an observer said Iraq had conducted not an election but a census. Now America's heroic ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, one of two indispensable men in Iraq, has warned the Iraqi political class that unless the defense and interior ministries are nonsectarian, meaning not run as instruments of the Shiites, the U.S. will have to reconsider its support for Iraq's military and police. But that threat is not credible: U.S. strategy in Iraq by now involves little more than making the Iraqi military and police competent.

... Almost three years after the invasion, it is still not certain whether, or in what sense, Iraq is a nation. And after two elections and a referendum on the constitution, Iraq barely has a government. A defining attribute of a government is that it has a monopoly on the legitimate exercise of violence. That attribute is incompatible with the existence of private militias of the sort that maraud in Iraq.

Today, with all three components of the "axis of evil'' - Iraq, Iran, North Korea - more dangerous than they were when that phrase was coined in 2002, the country would welcome, and Iraq's political class needs to hear, as a glimpse into the abyss, presidential words as realistic as those Britain heard on June 4, 1940.

 

What Britain heard from Winston Churchill that day as every small boat in England had finally heroically managed to get the troops out Dunkirk and back to England? "We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.''

Buckley says we've lost, and now Will says if we get the troops home one day and leave what we've created there, a moderately well-policed theocratic mess, that's not victory. And then, over at the National Review, John Derbyshire piles on - "Well, I'm with Bill Buckley and George Will. This pig's ear is never going to be made into a silk purse, not by any methods or expenditures the American people are willing to countenance. The only questions worth asking about Iraq at this point are: How does GWB get out of this with the least damage to US interests, and to his party's future prospects? I wish I had some answers."

We all wish we had some answers.

But then, we did reach that deal with India. It may not fly. It may offend everyone. But doesn't that count for something? Surely it balances out some things here.































 
 
 
 
Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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