Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fire Me?? Fire You!

Now I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that firing a U. S. Attorney to prevent the indictment of political cronies is at the very least impeding justice, if not downright destroying it. I’m not sure exactly what statute this violates, but if the executive branch can wantonly screw with the judicial system like this, then we’re all in trouble and if the law doesn’t exist that covers this malfeasance, someone should start writing it tomorrow.
We understand that the Bush regime has no respect for the Constitution and even less for the rights it protects, but for God’s sake, when is enough enough? The enemies of freedom aren’t just in Pakistan and Iraq, they are on Pennsylvania Avenue and have to be stopped. I don’t think this scandal will actually reach Bush – I am confident he just signed off on the firings ordered by Rove, Meier, and Gonzalez, and has the deniability set up already – “they told me these people weren’t doing a good job and I believed them.” But they’d better do something to someone in the executive branch, because while they have the right to replace U. S. Attorneys, that right needs to stop when it interferes with justice itself. And contrary to what Fox News, continuing to show less balance than Al-Jazeera, says, this is not the same as replacing all the prosecutors when you get elected. Bush had that option and exercised it, but this is a whole different thing, because they were doing their job too well and the Bushistas knew it. Firing Federal prosecutors for prosecuting seems beyond the pale, don’t you think?
Yet as of this moment, Alberto Gonzalez, the latest in a line of W enablers, still has his job. Fredo, as W likes to call him, must be doin’ a heck of a job. Still, Bush knows Fredo did it, and if I were Fredo, I’d stay out of small boats.
Then Bush came on TV to tell us of the “unprecedented” access to documents he was giving Congress. The speech was made from the White House Library, a room W probably needed written directions to find. And as Bush stood there in front of the books, talking about the sanctity of the Executive Branch and how Congress should be grateful for the amazing amount of information he was letting them see, I couldn’t help but flash back to Richard Nixon making almost the same exact speech, sitting next to a pile of bound selections from taped White House conversations. Of course Bush lacks Nixon’s sense of propriety and accountability, so he hasn’t fired anyone over this. Bush also lacks Nixon’s respect for the Constitution – and that may be the most astonishing sentence I have ever typed. The overwheming ignorance of this man is matched only by his unrelenting insolence. When he talks about how Presidential aides can’t testify under oath before Congress because it would hurt their ability to give advice to the President, he is so full of shit that it’s coming out of his ears (not just it’s usual exit point, his mouth.) Throughout our history Presidential aides have testified before Congress. During WWII, FDR’s closest aides testified -- I know that war wasn’t as important as the “war on terror”, and that it represented “pre 9/11 thinking” but it seemed important at the time.
Bush, Cheney, et al, think they are above the law. Hell, like all other fascist leaders, they think they are the law. It is up to Congress to show them they aren’t.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What The Democrats Should Do

It is time for the Congressional Democrats to do what the American people sent them to Washington to do, namely, end the war in Iraq. This is easier said than done, since it requires some level of agreement among those with various positions, as the staggering attempts to pass the simplest of measures shows. Yet they must do something, or else be condemned, and rightly so, for a lack of courage,
There are four factors which need to be taken into account when constructing an exit strategy for Iraq:

1. Humanitarian
2. Geopolitical
3. Economic
4. Domestic Political

Some of you may think the last two are unseemly, that #3 sounds a lot like “blood for oil” and #4 is flat out tawdry. But a result which causes the price of oil to zoom to $100 a barrel would cause untold damage to the world’s economy and make no mistake, the pain would not be shared equally, the poor and elderly would take the biggest hit. As for #4, I just think the future of this country and the world would be ill served if the result of Congressional action was a complete Republican takeover of the government. Now if you don’t think that would cause a great deal of distress to this country and the world, you can come to a different conclusion. I believe the Speaker of the House needs to take that into account and should.
The House Democrats have come up with a plan which will get us out no later than the end of August, 2008. In fact, within the Democratic Caucus, the battle is over whether to end it sooner, as in the end of December, 2007. They have a plan to set benchmarks for the Iraqis, begin redeployment, and ultimately achieve the complete withdrawal of troops and are attaching it to the financing for the war. There are a couple of problems here – first, it has little chance of getting through the Senate, and if it does, Bush will veto it and dare the Democrats to cut off funding. In addition, the nature of the bill means the Democrats will be taking control of the war from the President and the military. Frankly, Republicans should welcome this and make sure it passes – its a no-lose situation for them, since if it goes well, Iraq is off the table for the election and if it doesn’t, the Democrats will be blamed for the disaster.
The Senate also has a bill, but it’s a phased withdrawal and has all the weaknesses and none of the strengths of the intended House bill, as one would expect from the august body of wafflers.

Let’s look at the potential results taking into account the four elements I laid out at the beginning.
1 – Humanitarian – This is a potential humanitarian nightmare. It’s terrible now, but it could be much worse. Let me quote from the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq:

Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq.
If coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly during the term of this estimate (12-18 months), we judge that this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq, intensify Sunni resistance to the Iraqi government, and have adverse consequences for national reconciliation.
If such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the Iraqi Security Forces would be unlikely to survive as a nonsectarian national institution; neighboring countries — invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally — might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; Al-Qaeda in Iraq. would attempt to use parts of the country — particularly Al Anbar Province — to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and political disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy, could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion.”

It is not unreasonable for Americans to care more about the lives and health of our soldiers than of Iraqis and it’s indisputable that the sooner we get out the fewer our casualties will be. But are we really willing to concede the nightmare? This is Darfur and Sarajevo rolled into one, only bigger and with TV coverage. We can ignore the NIE timeline and warnings, but is that the wisest choice? We must give this the best chance possible for a positive, or at least less negative, outcome.

2 – Geopolitical – An abrupt withdrawal will serve to do nothing to help our influence in the region. It is true that the war itself has damaged it critically, yet we still have some influence. On the other hand, a date certain for withdrawal achieves the key element of focus for the players in the region. The knowledge of when we are leaving gives the Saudis, Iranians, Syrians, Turks, and their assorted clients inside Iraq a ticking clock, which, when it strikes midnight, would get bloody and not with our blood but with theirs. The good thing about hanging is that it concentrates the mind wonderfully. There must be enough time for them to deal with the potential outcomes. Once we have made the commitment to leave, we can aid negotiations simply because we will not be directly involved there in the future. Staying in without a date certain accomplishes none of these things, just lets everything drag on.

3- Economic – If the collapse scenario comes to pass, the entrance into the ethnic/religious war of Saudi Arabia and Iran could result in a massive increase in the price of oil, both due to supply disruption and the need to finance a war. If we choose to stay indefinitely, we fend that off, but at the cost of our own blood. If we leave too fast, the disruption in the world economy could be swift and extremely painful. We ignore this at great peril. We must build up our strategic oil reserve and have plans in place to ameliorate the worst effects of a run-up in prices. Time is our ally in those goals.

4- Domestic Political – These seem like cold calculations in the face of death and disfigurement, yet the Democrats would be remiss if they ignored them. As I said earlier, a quick withdrawal will be a no-lose situation for the Republicans, as the war will only be an issue if the result is a disaster. It is utterly foolish for the Democrats to risk that result – which, we must admit, is still the most likely one. Make no mistake, if Congress forces the President, by whatever means, to withdraw our troops next Spring or Summer, it ceases to be his war and becomes theirs. The Iraq War, misguided and mishandled, could end up referred to as yet another war the Congressional Democrats lost. I know, it’s sort of silly, but Conservatives have done their best to sell the Vietnam War in those terms and incredibly, it seems to be working.

The Resolution That Should Be

Be it resolved that all United States troops shall be removed from Iraq no later than December 1st, 2008. To that end, the House shall not pass any appropriations which could be used for military action in Iraq subsequent to 12/01/08. In the event U. S. troops remain in Iraq beyond that date, the House shall pass no further defense appropriations of any kind.
Until that time, the President is authorized, as Commander-In-Chief, to conduct the war in Iraq using whatever strategy and military tactics he sees fit, subject to international law and the Geneva Conventions. This resolution does not give the President the authorization for any military actions outside the recognized borders of Iraq.

There it is, simple and definitive. What are the advantages of this resolution? There are two keys here – responsibility and the timeline. Congress was not designed to run wars. The attempt to micromanage a war through compromise and political machinations is foolish. Let the President do his job. Even if he does it badly, it is his Constitutional responsibility and, as I have pointed out, a far superior political choice. By moving the date to 12/1/08, the Democrats would accomplish three goals. One, of course, is the very act of setting a date certain, which I believe is needed to force a political solution in the region. Second, the Democrats should not ignore the message of the NIE. The difference between us and Bush is that we do not ignore expert advice. If the NIE says a complete withdrawal within 12-18 months is fraught with peril, then it behooves us to move the end date outside that timeline. We can emphasize that we will not have an open-ended commitment, even should a new NIE change the timeline, we must have an end, Third, and this is pure politics, by moving it beyond the 2008 elections, it reinforces the need for a Democratic Congress to enforce the resolution and end the war.
There’s one more thing – this resolution needs 218 votes in the House and nothing else. The Senate doesn’t need to agree and Bush doesn’t have to sign it. Money bills come from the House and if they say they won’t pass one, that’s it. The time is over for passing bills which will never take effect, this will do the job.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Numbers and Notes -- Slip Sliding Away

The monthly Gallup Poll is out and there’s bad news aplenty for some of the trailers. It’s hard to say who received the biggest hit, but John McCain has to be very uncomfortable at the moment. He trails Giuliani 44-20 and his percentage has been steadily eroding for three months. Given the historical tendencies of the GOP, Giuliani’s clear front-runner status has to make McCain very nervous. Romney can take heart in the RNC polling by the LA Times, which found him the favorite among insiders, although with only 20%. Even there, McCain is not well situated, getting support from only 10% of the politicos.
Over in the weekly Rasmussen Poll, Giuliani’s lead has been about 15 since mid-February, with McCain consistently under 20%.


The latest Quinnipiac Poll has PA solidly for Rudy, with him leading Clinton 51-40. This is exactly the kind of polling data that can cause Republicans to line up behind him. It’s one thing for Democrats to get excited about their chances in Western states like CO, NV, and AZ, it’s quite another for Republicans to be favored in PA and NJ.


Mitt Romney has plans to launch an early media blitz to introduce himself to America. This seems like a good idea in that most Americans have never heard of him. On the plus side, it means his relatively low poll numbers can jump up if he can make a positive impression. On the other hand, he’s third in NH polling with 17%, and since he was Governor of Massachusetts, those people do know who he is.


On the Democratic side, Hillary is still leading, with sizeable leads in NY and CA polling. Obama still has plenty of time to make a move, since many people still don’t know who he is. As I pointed out earlier, in head to head matchups, Hillary is over 50%, which means votes have to be taken away from her.


The Clinton campaign has decided to organize women behind her under the banner Women For Hillary. Since 54% of the voters in 2004 were women, there are worse ideas. The danger, of course, is that this could turn off men. I know what you’re thinking – how can Hillary turn off men more than she already does? But I think it’s possible and that in a close race, men could be suspicious of Hillary’s agenda and shift to a male candidate.


I haven’t mentioned John Edwards yet, even though the title of this edition of N&N refers to him as well as McCain. The latest Gallup Poll is quite unpleasant for him, as he dropped from 13% to 9%, while Al Gore, on the strength of his Oscar appearance, went from 14 to 18%. Having half as much support as someone who is not running is never a good thing. He still does well in head to head matchups with Republicans, the problem is in his own party. The high point of his week was being called a faggot by Ann Coulter, the High Priestess of Hate. Edwards is actually trying to use the evil anorexic’s attack to raise money – actually featuring her on the front page of his web site. When you’re depending on the nastiness of strangers, your campaign ain’t all it needs to be.