The first full week off March opened with the hearings - Walter Reed Commanders Admit Fault - "Flayed by lawmakers' criticism, Army leaders said Monday they accept responsibility for substandard conditions at the service's flagship Walter Reed Army Medical Center but also said they hadn't known about most of the problems."
It would be wise to remember that we are talking about two different things here -
Reader RN writes in to say:
"Walter Reed is an Army hospital, not a VA facility. As an active duty soldier, the care I received at Evans Army Community Hospital (the Army hospital in Colorado Springs) was best described as mediocre; the care I've received at the VA Medical Center in Denver (especially after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis) is outstanding."
The press corps has done a very, very poor job explaining this, but Walter Reed and the other hospitals being criticized are military hospitals, not veteran's hospitals (VA). They are run by the military, not the Veteran's Administration, which is why the Secretary of the Army, rather than the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs, was cut loose.
That matters? Perhaps it does.
Jack Cafferty, returning to CNN after a bit of a vacation, doesn't think so -
Another Hurricane Katrina - that's how the "New York Times'" Paul Krugman describes the scandal surrounding the Walter Reed Medical Center and he is absolutely right.
Another glaring example of the Bush administration's lack of ability to deal with the consequences of its actions. Four years after invading Iraq, we're finding out that many of our returning wounded soldiers are being treated like garbage. And the government is quick to sing the chorus of, well, we didn't know.
The former commander of Walter Reed Medical Center, this Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley - he's now the surgeon general of the United States - he lived across the street from Building 18 at Walter Reed - across the street.
Why hasn't he resigned or why hasn't he been fired?
The politicians, well, they want commissions. That's the answer to everything. New York Senator Charles Schumer, he wants an independent commission. President Bush wants a bipartisan commission. In four years, no one bothered to see if our veterans were getting the treatment they're entitled to.
Walter Reed Army Medical Center is in Washington, D.C. We're not talking some medical tent at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. It is a national disgrace, just exactly like Katrina was.
Congress appropriates more than $200 million like - for things like Ted Stevens' Bridge To Nowhere in Alaska, but our wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are ignored. It might be worth remembering when the next election rolls around.
What do you think?
You can watch the video of that. He is disgusted. Many are.
Here in Hollywood, as a bit of disclosure, my second father-in-law was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs - the Surgeons General of the services reported to him, and he reported to the Secretary of Defense at the time, Frank Carlucci, the guy who now runs the Carlyle Group, with the elder Bush and the rest. Before that he ran the nation's mental heath and drug abuse programs for C. Everett Koop, the Surgeon General at the time. In the mid and late eighties I got the inside view of all this stuff - and chatted with many of the players (Koop was a giggle). I have no idea how that old Reagan crew would have handled this sort of scandal - but my impression of them is that this would have never happened back then. Koop in particular was an honorable man - he said the hard truth and did the right thing. He even ticked off Reagan by saying there was no medical evidence at all that abortions harmed women in any medical or psychological way.
Things have changed. The elder Bush was no well-meaning by deeply befuddled Ronald Reagan, and the son is working hard not to be at all like his sometimes hapless father.
As Editor and Publisher notes, no one now is exactly stepping up -
Now, after two more weeks of headlines and firings, has anything changed? Would the commander in chief say the buck stopped with him? Not quite.
Asked by a reporter about this, Snow replied vaguely, "Well, in a sense, the President - and also everybody within the chain of command - are taking responsibility. It's time to shine a bright light on the entire system and find out where the failings may be, and address them."
Snow was then pressed, "But the President hasn't said in any way, shape, or form, this is my responsibility, this is on me?"
He replied: "Okay, well, I'll take the rhetorical flourish under advisement."
Another reporter asked, "Has the President been hearing from anyone particularly, reaching out, making phone calls, and just asking their thoughts or their personal experiences - "
Snow: "What the President is really trying to do right now is to assemble people who can devote their full time and attention to an exhaustive look, as I said, to shine light on the system and to take a comprehensive look at what's going on. I'm not aware - as you know, April, he had a very busy weekend, and he was on the road Thursday and Friday, as well. I'm not aware of any reach out calls to ask people about personal experiences. But on the other hand, what he has been doing is making sure that people take a good look to find out what the situation is - no excuses, get the facts, get it fixed."
He also denied that the unfolding revelations suggested an extensive level of "incompetence."
So the buck really doesn't stop with the president, as much as he says he's just like Harry Truman, who first framed responsibility with that phrase. This president will find out just who is really responsible, and let us know. Then we'll have someone to blame, and it certainly won't be him. He's as flummoxed as the rest of us, you see.
At today's Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, who oversaw Walter Reed until 2004 and remains Army surgeon general, admitted that the condition in Building 18 was "clearly unacceptable," but again denied responsibility for it. He blamed the neglect on "a failure of leadership at the junior level in that building."
It's so hard to get good help these days, isn't it? What is a real leader to do?
At least his boss sees the problems coming -
"Without relief, spending for healthcare will … divert critical funds needed for war fighters, their readiness, and for critical equipment," Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant defense secretary for health affairs, recently told Congress. "Healthcare costs will continue to consume a growing slice of the department's budget."
It's all a matter of funding, or maybe now incompetence with the funding available, or as Digby at Hullabaloo points out, this and Katrina, and the war itself, point to something even more basic -
The problem is not that the Bush's are unusually bad at governance, although they are. It's that the Republicans seem to have created a con game in which they take power, steal the country blind, allow their craziest ideologues to wildly experiment with theories that only radical fringers think have a remote possibility of success and basically run amuck until they are forced to stop. Then they harass the Democrats as they clean up the mess, setting themselves up for a resurgence by making it very clear that unless they are given another chance to mess things up they will make the political system even more ugly than it already is.
It's the political equivalent of a toddler throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. You get to the point where you give them the candy bar just to shut them up, which is a big part of why Junior Codpiece came close enough to steal the election in 2000 and why the media and political establishment jumped on their bandwagon when they did it. Everyone knew that if the Republicans were not allowed to take power in 2000 there would be hell to pay.
Perhaps this is so. There is a pattern here.
But that wasn't the only thing in the news cycle that day. Ann Coulter was still the issue of the day.
The week before, she had called presidential candidate John Edwards a "faggot" during her appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference. You can watch the YouTube video -
I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word "faggot," so I - so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards.
That wasn't nice, and Monday, March 5, she explained herself - on Fox News of course (she was a no show on CNN, although scheduled there). The link is to the video, where she dances around, downplaying it as just another example of her conservative "humor." Then she does the victim thing - she says what is happening to her is like "the old Soviet Union" - because people are trying to silence her. She says she's the real victim here. Sean Hannity then responds to that damsel in distress move and defends her, and somehow deflects blame onto the Democrats. Watching the clip can be a bit disorienting.
Why can't the press, and everyone else, just ignore her?
Jack Shafer explains why in his "Press Box" column, Our Ann Coulter Problem. It's tricky -
It's true that the Democratic Party leaders displayed outrage. The Edwards campaign e-mailed the Coulter news to its supporters, calling her remarks a "shameless display of bigotry." Howard Dean, Democratic National Party chairman, called her statement "hate-filled" and demanded that the Republican candidates for president repudiate it.
The three Republican front-runners did exactly as Dean instructed with such speed that they must maintain 24/7 "Ann Coulter Damage Control Departments." A spokesman for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the comments "wildly inappropriate." Rudy Giuliani harmonized, saying the comments "were completely inappropriate." Mitt Romney's spokesman slammed Coulter's quip as "an offensive remark." Top conservative bloggers expressed similar indignation, which the Human Events website collected: "Ann Coulter doesn't speak for us," harrumphed Red State. Captain's Quarters' Ed Morrissey wrote that "such offensive language - and the cavalier attitude that lies behind it - is intolerable to us." Newsbusters' Warner Todd Huston dubbed Coulter "the H.L. Mencken of our times ... minus the intellect."
That last one is cute.
Now that United Press International is owned by Reverend Moon and his Washington Times, UPI offered a different view on all this - no one understood the whole thing was a subtle Hollywood inside joke - "Coulter was probably riffing off actor Isaiah Washington's recent - and calculated - entry into rehab after he called one of his Grey's Anatomy co-stars a "faggot."
Everyone knows the woman. Shafer points to the Washington Monthly catalog of her comments, from five full years ago -
"[Clinton] masturbates in the sinks." - Rivera Live, Aug. 2, 1999
"God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'" - Hannity & Colmes, June 20, 2001
The "backbone of the Democratic Party" is a "typical fat, implacable welfare recipient" - syndicated column, Oct. 29, 1999
To a disabled Vietnam vet: "People like you caused us to lose that war." - MSNBC, Oct. 11, 1997
"Women like Pamela Harriman and Patricia Duff are basically Anna Nicole Smith from the waist down. Let's just call it for what it is. They're whores." - Salon.com, Nov. 16, 2000
"I think there should be a literacy test and a poll tax for people to vote." - Hannity & Colmes, Aug. 17, 1999
"My libertarian friends are probably getting a little upset now but I think that's because they never appreciate the benefits of local fascism." - MSNBC, Feb. 8, 1997
She's not exactly charming.
So why not call here out? Fear -
The press and the pols are also afraid that silence in the face of new Coulterisms will be interpreted as sanction, so they huff and puff at her scuzzy comments, as they did this week, to prove their own enlightenment. All that does is advertise Coulter's ideas to still-greater audiences, which translates into additional book sales and TV appearances, which drive still more book sales. She couldn't be happier.
Not everybody can pull off this trick.
… Effrontery is what she does for a living, and she's comfortable with it. So, I suppose it's only a matter of time before she calls Barack Obama a Black Panther masquerading as Uncle Tom, describes Hillary Clinton as a dyke Hitler, or reaches for something even more irreverent. As long as respectable forums like TV talk shows, New York publishers, and CPAC continue to give her a platform, the press won't be able to leave her alone.
That's the world we live in.
And over at Townhall, the hyper conservative commentary aggregator funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh billionaire who paid for all the efforts over many years to "get" Bill Clinton, the emails are instructive, and readers don't think much of the writers there being unhappy with the woman -
Ann Coulter hit the nail on the head. John Edwards is a pussified asshole and faggot. That's right, I wrote it and will say it in public. I don't mean it in the classic sense either. Edwards is an effeminate, back-stabbing, hide-behind-the-law, ambulance chaser who couldn't handle himself in a one-on-one fist fight. So, get your perfume out and go join him. Evidently, you aren't man enough to tell the truth either. You're just another neo-con hack who isn't worth his weight in dogshit! Stop blogging because you're just making it worse.
As Andrew Sullivan notes, this was inevitable - "Perfume. Effeminate. Fist-fight. Everything Hannity has trained them to say. You can ride the tiger for only so long, can't you?"
Things are coming to a head here.
Between the Walter Reed hearings and this Ann Coulter business, one might miss the other news (from the Guardian and Observer in the UK, which explains the spelling) -
A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.
The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.
'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'
The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.
Well, we have our priorities, concern with "faggots" and no so much with our war-wounded.
Just ask the vice president -
In an exclusive interview today, ABC's Jonathan Karl asked Vice President Dick Cheney about the topic of global warming, a subject Mr. Cheney has rarely addressed in the past. The vice president agreed that the earth is warming but, like President Bush, maintained there is debate over whether humans or natural cycles are the cause - a position that puts the administration at odds with the vast majority of climate scientists.
The ABC here is Australian Broadcasting, by the way. Now who will Cheney purge from the Pentagon?
From Nicole Bell - "I've said before that I fear the repercussions of not acting on global warming far more than any trumped up 'Islamofascist' threat that the White House has used to justify all sorts of un-American things, like suspending habeas corpus and extraordinary rendition."
What news should one follow? Just what is the state of play?
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Last updated Saturday, March 10, 2007, 10:30 pm Pacific Time
All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 - Alan M. Pavlik