Saturday, June 25, 2005


Only Nixon could have gone to China...

...without being Red-baited by Nixon.

In that spirit, Shorter "Every Apologist for George W. Bush and the idea that it doesn't matter how or why we got into Iraq now that we're there":
Only George W. Bush can save us...

...from George W. Bush's fuck-ups.

Friday, June 24, 2005


Waist-Deep in the Big Sandy...

Shorter David Brooks:
I've stuck my hand into a wasp's nest, but I daren't remove it lest the wasps think I'm weak.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Hint: It's the moderation, stupid!

(That's "stupid" as in "President George W. Bush," just in case you weren't sure.)
War Rooms (and Chests) Ready for a Supreme Court Vacancy

Like hostile nations on the edge of apocalypse, Washington's political right and left are on code red over a Supreme Court vacancy that does not yet exist.

Conservative groups held a briefing last week at the National Press Club and promised to spend more than $20 million promoting whomever President Bush nominates to replace Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, should the ailing chief justice retire at the end of the court's term in June, as many expect. The liberal group People for the American Way countered with the threat of its 45-computer war room on M Street and a coalition of 70 other groups to fight back.

Caught in the middle was the White House, which had its own war plan but would not say so publicly for fear of looking ghoulish. After all, the intentions of the 80-year-old chief justice, who has undergone radiation and chemotherapy treatments for thyroid cancer, remain mysterious.


The atmosphere surrounding Supreme Court nominations has changed sharply since the day that William O. Douglas, nominated to the court in 1939, became impatient waiting outside the closed door of the Senate Judiciary Committee room and sent in a message asking if the panel had questions for him. It did not, and he was speedily confirmed.

Although nomination fights are not unusual - the Senate rejected more than a quarter of all Supreme Court nominees in the 19th century - it was not until the spectacles of the failed nomination of Robert H. Bork in 1987 and the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings in 1991 that they became all-out, multimillion-dollar campaigns. Both sides agree on one thing: the court has increasingly become the battleground for the nation's most polarizing issues, like abortion, affirmative action and gay rights.


Liberal groups say they are particularly edgy this time around because Mr. Bush has said that he admires Justices Thomas and Antonin Scalia, two of the court's most ardent conservatives. They also say that the biggest fight will not be over a Rehnquist retirement, when the conservative chief justice is likely to be replaced with another conservative, but at the departure of one of the court's liberal members, like John Paul Stevens, or of one its swing voters, like Sandra Day O'Connor.
I got a hint for you, Spanky: Appoint a moderate! Consult with everyone first and then name someone everyone can support! Democrats will understand that a conservative President and a conservative Senate will nominate and confirm only a conservative Justice - but conservative does not have to mean radical reactionary right wing nut!

I realize this means Bush will have to defy James Dobson and Gary Bauer - for once in his rancid presidency - but it would also mean he could actually get his nominee confirmed quickly and without the fight everyone is gearing up for.

But that, of course, assumes that getting a nominee confirmed quickly is what Bush wants. And, of course, it isn't. The fight is what he and his rabid followers want. It energizes them and permits the group that controls the White House, Congress, and most of the media to whimper and feel sorry for itself and delude itself that they are the poor oppressed victims. In a narrow sense, it's shrewd of Bush to operate this way. In a long-term, truly patriotic sense, however, it is monumentally despicable of him. It further polarizes a polity that is already far too divided. He is the president of the entire country, not merely the tiny portion of the most vicious right-wing Republicans who support him as if he were a God-King and not merely another elected official. It is time for him to act as the president of the entire country and govern accordingly

Did Bill Clinton seek to drive the appointment process as far to the left as he could? No, he did not. He nominated highly qualified jurists who sailed through the Senate (Ginsburg was confirmed 96-3 only 6 weeks after being nominated; Breyer was confirmed 87-9, 12 weeks after being nominated). Right wingers may froth at the mouth as much as they like about Ginsburg and Breyer, but those vote figures speak for themselves.

George Bush can't even dream about getting such lopsided majorities for his favored court nominations - and the sad thing, the horrible thing is, he doesn't want such lopsided majorities. He wants controversy, he wants Democratic opposition that he and his fundraisers can distort to their red-meat-seeking red state dupes as "Democratic obstructionism." Shrewd but stupid.

And, what's worse, the press is even stupider because it trembles fearfully and truckles under in obeisance rather than use its eyes and its ears and its brains and label this schismatic president for what he is - a willing captive of the most extremist right wing that has ever existed in this country.

There are plenty of conservative jurists out there who the Senate would eagerly, gratefully confirm for a spot on the Supreme Court if George W. Bush would only do the right thing - for one of the few times in his life - and nominate one of them. Democrats would fall over themselves to vote for the modern equivalent of an Anthony Kennedy. But will Bush stiff his barking dog followers, will he rise above the constipated meanness of Limbaugh or the imperious self-idolatry of Dobson and name someone merely because the person is qualified and not because he is a potential spark for another endlessly nasty fight?

As Yoda says, Your breath, do not hold.

Friday, June 17, 2005


Bush looks in mirror, sees Iran

This is rich.
Bush Says Iran's Elections Ignore 'Basic Requirements'

WASHINGTON, June 16 - On the eve of the election in Iran, President Bush declared Thursday that the electoral process there had failed to meet "the basic requirements of democracy" and that the "oppressive record" of the country's rulers would undercut the legitimacy of the vote.

Mr. Bush has made democratization in the Middle East one of the central features of his foreign policy, even at the risk of further inflaming those in the Islamic world who view the United States as meddling in their borders. Administration officials said Mr. Bush was not trying to influence the outcome of the Iranian election as much as he was trying, in the words of one senior official, to "call it what it is."

For weeks, the administration has been debating how to deal with the election in Iran. But Mr. Bush's statement on Thursday, one official noted, made no reference to "regime change," and the president's aides appear to be preparing for the return of Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as president. Mr. Rafsanjani last was president in 1997.

Though eight candidates are on the ballot, Iran's appointed religious leaders have authority over the elected leaders. Mr. Bush denounced the current government and the method of selecting the next president.

"Today Iran is ruled by men who suppress liberty at home and spread terror across the world," Mr. Bush said in a statement. "Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy." He called Friday's election "sadly consistent with this oppressive record."

"Iran's rulers denied more than a thousand people who put themselves forward as candidates," he said, "including popular reformers and women who have done so much for the cause of freedom and democracy in Iran."
This is almost too easy, of course, and I'm not the first person to notice how much Bush is projecting onto Iran precisely what he has been doing himself.

Suppressing liberty and spreading terror. Unelected few, an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy.

Well, if the shoe fits...

Granted, he's kind of speaking in code, using "Iran" to mean himself.

I didn't realize George W. Bush could be so self-critical.

Friday Blog Blogging: Beyond belief

Okay, this one wouldn't even make the first cut for The Twilight Zone:
His church was bombed, and now he protests funerals of the war dead
Kansas preacher says he's coming to Idaho

BOISE, Idaho -- A Kansas preacher and gay rights foe whose congregation is protesting military funerals around the country said he's coming to Idaho tomorrow to picket the memorial for an Idaho National Guard soldier killed in Iraq.

A flier on the Web site of Pastor Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church claims God killed Cpl. Carrie French with an improvised explosive device in retaliation against the United States for a bombing at Phelps' church six years ago.

"We're coming," Phelps said yesterday.

Westboro Baptist either has protested or is planning protests of other public funerals of soldiers from Michigan, Alabama, Minnesota, Virginia and Colorado. A protest is planned for July 11 at Dover Air Force Base, the military base where war dead are transported before being sent on to their home states.

Phelps gained national notoriety in 1998 when he picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the gay college student beaten to death in Wyoming.

Since then, Phelps said his church has been the target of hateful words and actions, including a bomb attack six years ago.

Phelps' church has picketed the funerals of AIDS victims for more than a decade.

French, 19, was a Caldwell High School graduate and varsity cheerleader. She was killed June 5 in the northern city of Kirkuk. French served as an ammunition specialist with the 116th Brigade Combat Team's 145th Support Battalion.

Phelps said the fact that French led an all-American life gives him all the more reason to picket her final public tribute.

"An all-American girl from a society of all-American heretics," he said.

"Our attitude toward what's happening with the war is the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime," Phelps said.

Caldwell Police Chief Bob Sobba said he cannot bar Phelps from going to the public funeral, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Albertson College of Idaho in that city.

"While we respect Mr. Phelps' right to protest, we would hope that he would respect the family and friends of this young person by not disrupting the memorial," Sobba said.

Idaho Air National Guard Lt. Tony Vincelli, acting as spokesman for French's family, said there were no plans to change the funeral arrangements.

The Rev. Brian Fischer, pastor of Boise's Community Church of the Valley, and himself a past target of protest by the Westboro Baptist Church, decried Phelps' plan.

"What Phelps is doing is a reprehensible thing, to take a funeral and turn it into a photo op for his hate cause," Fischer said.

"We hope everyone will ignore Phelps' group."
WWJPIAMCOSA - Who Would Jesus Picket In A Monstrous Campaign Of Self-Aggrandizement?

I expect to see all the wingnut blowhards on TV and all the 101st Fighting Keyboarders denouncing this guy.

I also expect to see West Ham United win the Premier League next season.

(Thanks to Democratic Underground for the link.)

The past is not the past anymore - Nothing to see there (or then), move along, move along

Marx was right: all world-historical events do take place twice, the first as tragedy, the second as farce.

Take what lamentably passes for our media today. The press has fallen beyond shamelessness into self-parody. Standards have collapsed, all but vanished. Memory preceded this disappearance of self-respect and honesty.

Take what I heard on the Imus In The Morning radio program this morning. The I-Man was interviewing NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski about the Downing Street Memos. Miklaszewski said two things that I found both extraordinary (or, alas, maybe not so) and outrageous. First, he basically said that it did not matter why we went into Iraq – that that was in the past and what mattered now was the present, that we were there, so we had to stick it out.

Oh really? The past doesn’t matter? Then perhaps you might explain, Mr. Miklaszewski, why a decade ago the press was so self-righteously obsessed about Whitewater? I mean, that happened years before Clinton was elected and had absolutely nothing to do with his official duties. Nobody died (Vince Foster’s suicide was unrelated), and yet the press hounded the Clintons unmercifully.

I suppose they learned their lesson, though, and this means that from now on, no elected official will ever be bothered by anything he did in the past. I must have missed the memo that set out the statute of limitations.

Take note, people: this is how the press is going to start spinning the Downing Street Memos any second now. That it’s utterly irrelevant how we got into Iraq – yeah, the president lied, but that’s not important now. It’s like the Simpsons episode where Homer complains about something until Marge points out that it was his fault, after which he immediately sputters that it doesn’t matter how they got into this mess or who got them into it. What matters is they’re in it.

So Bush got us into this mess for reasons he lied about, but he doesn’t have to pay any political – or legal – price for doing so, and we should all forget about the past, come together as Americans, and clean up the mess that we are not supposed to question how it came about. We should trust Bush to continue leading us even though he – shush! – led us into this disaster in the first place. But that’s in the past, so all is forgiven. Again, I suppose I missed the memo eliminating the past. I must have wasted all those years I spent doing graduate work in history, since we’re not allowed to remember anything anymore.

The second obnoxious thing Miklaszewski said was Bush’s critics are playing politics and are getting hysterical. Huh? Learning that the president lied and being outraged about it – that only counts when you lie about getting a blow-job in the White House, I suppose, not when you lie about a war that has killed over 1700 Americans and countless Iraqis.

To say nothing about Bush’s build up to the war – talk about “hysteria”! Saddam was months away from getting his hands on nukes, the next 9-11 was going to be a mushroom cloud, the threat was imminent. But there I go again, fixating on some nebulous “past” – whatever that means.

The great thing about this disappearing act is, it automatically exempts the press from any self-examination about their own high crimes and journalistic misdemeanors. Having turned Whitewater into a disgraceful exhibition of irrelevant grandstanding, having made themselves White House and Pentagon shills during the run-up to and early months of the debacle in Iraq, they can declare it all a non-event, give themselves a mulligan, and start over fresh. Whee! That was fun!

Like Bush himself, who thinks that announcing a policy is exactly the same as implementing it; like my friend who thinks that once he apologizes for some misdeed, it never happened; the press, by declaring the Downing Street Memos irrelevant because what they purport to describe took place so many many years ago, can bask in its own innocent superiority.

It hasn’t happened yet, and maybe it won’t. Maybe the Downing Street Memos will turn out to be the smoking gun that finally nails Bush and his minions as war criminals. But if he skates, if the press gets bored and distracted the next time some white Southern woman apparently goes missing, this will be the attitude. It happened so long ago and we’re already there and the worst thing we could do we be to just up stakes and run. That we should never have been there at all and that our presence has actually made things worse – what are you, some kind of obsessive antiquarian? Move on, losers!

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Lying makes very strange bedfellows

The Democrats are now trying to make something out of the so-called "Downing Street Memos," which purport to show that President Bush was fixated on war with Iraq as far back as the summer of 2002, during which time he was supposedly publicly posturing that he was still hoping for a negotiated settlement. These "memos" are actually minutes of meetings between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and some of his Cabinet officers and intelligence officials.

Bush, of course, has denied that the memos show what they clearly appear to state; i.e., that Washington wanted war and was "fixing" the intelligence to make the requisite case, a case that most British officials thought was extremely thin at best.

Ordinarily, the thing for the Democrats to do would be to call upon Prime Minister Blair and ask him what the memos mean. Blair is the Labour leader, a friend of Bill Clinton, and would presumably be sympathetic to the Democrats' desire to finally get something - anything - on the heretofore untouchable Bush.


Blair is caught in a terrible bind, of his own making. Regardless of how thin the case for war may have been 3 years ago, Blair went along with it. In fact, he made the case better than Bush did! The main reason for his recent relatively narrow election victory was that the British public is pretty damn sure he lied to them about the justification for invading Iraq.

What this means is, Blair has no choice but to back Bush up and continue to lie to his people. He has to swallow hard and say that the memos don't mean what they clearly appear to. Otherwise, he's basically admitting that he lied and thousands died.

Therefore, the Democrats are shorn of their potentially most valuable ally - the man for whom the "memos" were written in the first place. At the time we need real cross-Atlantic solidarity the most, the man who should be most eager to help the Democrats has to continue to pretend that the war was justified and that no one - and most certainly not his friend and yours, and mine, George W. Bush - cooked the books to scare the American public into supporting a war that has turned out to be such a disaster. A war that Tony Blair must know has turned out to be a complete disaster, but which he can never publicly admit to be that disaster.

And so, he has to deny that the memos mean what anyone with half a working brain cell can clearly understand from a cursory examination - Bush wanted his war long before he was willing to say so out loud. For whatever reason, Blair went along with him then and cannot walk out on him now.

I'm sure it's eating him up. (At least, I hope it's eating him up.) I'm sure he'd like nothing more than to be able to hold a press conference in London and proclaim that the "memos" are 100% accurate and that George W. Bush lied in order to foment a war that America was never obligated to undertake. (Where do you think the war crimes tribunals would be held, if Blair were to speak out like that?) But he can't possibly indict Bush without jumping into the dock with him. For the sake of his future reputation, for the sake of world peace, for ths sake of his immortal soul, you wish Blair would stop lying and join forces with John Conyers. But you know he's not going to, at least not in time to help Conyers and the Democrats make any real traction with these "memos". I'm afraid that Bush will slither out of responsibility for one of his many screwups - again.

What an irony - the man who has absolutely no reason to be in favor of almost anything Bush has done turns out to be the man whose self-enforced silence will probably save the squinting little dummy.

Somewhere, Minerva weeps. Or laughs out loud. Or both.

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