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March 1, 2006

March madness

Posted by Phil on March 1, 2006 1:59 PM

Wouldn't it be swell if we could just share things like hit TV shows and baseball and the 4th of July, like the old days, without wondering which side of the Ideology Gap we're all on?

Saddle up, cowpokes--it's a rootin', tootin', Texas-style NEWS ROUND-UP!

WaPo "White House Briefing," 3/1/06:

Terence Hunt of the Associated Press: "I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, there was a time when you talked about getting Osama bin Laden dead or alive. Why is he still on the loose five years later? And are you still confident that you'll get him?"

Bush: "I am confident he will be brought to justice. What's happening is, is that we got U.S. forces on the hunt for not only bin Laden, but anybody who plots and plans with bin Laden....

"We're making progress of dismantling al Qaeda. Slowly but surely, we're bringing the people to justice, and the world is better for it, as a result of our steady progress."

I like that prosaic touch Bush gives when he's talking about bin Laden and al Qaeda. "Anybody who plots and plans... there's an enemy who lurks...." You can practically see the turbans, cutlasses, and eye-liner.

Washington Post, 3/1/06:

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told Congress yesterday that the insurgency in Afghanistan is growing and will increase this spring, presenting a greater threat to the central government's expansion of authority "than at any point since late 2001."

"Despite significant progress on the political front, the Taliban-dominated insurgency remains a capable and resilient threat," Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples said in a statement presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee at its annual hearing on national security threats.

A "capable and resilient" insurgency. In the place that was supposed to be all wrapped up. More on capable and resilient insurgencies in a sec....

WaPo "White House Briefing," 3/1/06:

ABC News anchor Elizabeth Vargas got about an hour with Bush yesterday. [...] Vargas tried good and hard to get Bush to address the role of U.S. troops in Iraq as more and more of the violence in the country becomes sectarian, rather than terrorist.

Vargas: "What is the policy if, in fact, a civil war should break out or the sectarian violence continues? Are you willing to sacrifice American lives to get the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop killing each other?"

Bush: "I don't buy your premise that there's going to be a civil war. There's no question that the bomber of the mosque is trying to create sectarian violence, and there's no question there was reaction to it...."

It's funny how some of us have to buy each other's premises, and some of us don't.

Bush: "The presence of the U.S. troops is there to protect as many Iraqis as we possibly can from thugs and violence, but it's also to help the Iraqis protect themselves, and we're making progress in terms of standing up to these Iraqi troops so they can deal with, deal with these incidents of violence."

You can almost hear him say that last part, can't you? "IN-cidentss of VI-olenss..." He didn't say it here, but the implication has been that the insurgents--the "thugs"--were not Iraqis but foreign-derived al Qaeda provocateurs bent on making Iraq the "central front in the war on terror" that it wasn't before. Even though Bush said it was. But now it seems American intelligence has known for some time that this isn't so much the case. It'll be fun to go through the record and see how many times since he received this report Bush (or Cheney) has falsely gone back to the old claim.

Knight-Ridder, 2/28/06:

U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war, according to former senior intelligence officials who helped craft the reports.

Among the warnings, Knight Ridder has learned, was a major study, called a National Intelligence Estimate, completed in October 2003 that concluded that the insurgency was fueled by local conditions--not foreign terrorists--and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops.

So it's really worse than just bad guys from outside, and it's bad for the reasons a lot of people were saying it would be bad way before we ever went to war.

Turning to security where it really matters to most of us--the homeland--we've all been thinking about New Orleans a lot this week, it being Mardi Gras time.

WaPo "White House Briefing," 3/1/06:

Vargas: "When you look back on those days immediately following when Katrina struck, what moment do you think was the moment that you realized that the government was failing, especially the people of New Orleans?

Bush: "When I saw TV reporters interviewing people who were screaming for help. It looked--the scenes looked chaotic and desperate. And I realized that our government was--could have done a better job of comforting people. A lot went right, by the way. But the chaotic scenes were very troubling. It just--it was very unsettling for me to realize our fellow citizens were in near-panic wondering where the help was."

It did. It looked chaotic and desperate. It was very troubling. I've got a record of my own moments of realization that week. What moment was the moment Bush realized it was troubling?

In "How Bush Blew It," his Newsweek story last September, Evan Thomas wrote: "The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One."

So that would be Friday morning, Sept. 2, that Bush saw people screaming for help.

Katrina made landfall on Monday, Aug. 29.

Former FEMA head Michael Brown told NBC's Brian Williams that he told Bush on Tuesday that 90 percent of the population of New Orleans had been displaced. Bush finally cut short his Texas vacation on Wednesday, in time to give a listless speech at the White House. Thursday morning, he memorably told ABC's Diane Sawyer: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

Good times.

A friend of mine who generally supports Bush asked me why I thought Bush is so hated. I really haven't had the will to map it all out, because it's hard to cite evidence for opposing Bush without you or your sources being thought to have merely drunk the anti-Bush Kool-Aid. "Well, of course you/he/she/they'd say that: You all hate Bush." The idea of there being objective opposition to the Bush administration is only now becoming acceptable or even believable.

Chris Matthews still can't believe it:

"The number that really surprised me--29 percent on personal approval. People don't like the president--even more than they don't like his policies--which is a staggering blow because we all know that he's had two things going for him since he's been president: The war on terror, where he's had good numbers, and now they're negative; and likeability. They're both going down."

And on the controversy surrounding the Bush administration's plan to turn over port operations to an Arab company:

Matt Lauer: "It has political hot potato written all over it. Of course the real question is, how did President Bush--how did Karl Rove--how did they get blindsided by this? How did they miss it?"

Matthews: "This blindsidedness has become endemic. When we saw the Katrina horror, it was because the president wasn't even watching television. This is a technical problem. His staff is not keeping him alert 24/7. With the Harriet Miers nomination he was off base with that. Now he is off base with the ports issue....

"Why isn't Karl Rove telling the president, 'Mr. President, we've got a head's-up situation on this, we've got to get this on fast?' Nobody is waking up the president to these issues day to day. And it's becoming endemic. It's becoming a habitual problem of incompetence.

And that's without even mentioning that the vice president shot an old man in the face last month.

"I'm telling you, the people that really liked the president a few months ago, and really trusted him a few months ago on terrorism, must be wondering why his second term is so second rate?"

Nobody who's been paying attention for the last five years is wondering. And even though I've used the word "loathe" to describe how I feel about Bush since early in the 2000 campaign, I don't hate the guy. If I came across him in a men's room, I wouldn't trip him or flip him off or do that back-of-the-knees thing and make him pee on himself. Heck, if he still drank, I'd probably like him, too!

But he's been a really, really bad president. Really bad. And I've been angry about it for a long time. And a lot more people are finally getting angry about it, and hopefully they'll realize that not all of us who've been angry for awhile are anarcho-hippie mushheads who just hate Bush because hatin's so much fun, and that we care about freedom and security and democracy, too--probably even more than Bush does.

Wouldn't it be swell if we could just share things like hit TV shows and baseball and the 4th of July, like the old days, without wondering which side of the Ideology Gap we're all on? Because we're not really all that different, except in our feelings for this asshole (oops!) who's been president these last five years. We'll still have the mess he made, but at least maybe we could feel good about being Americans again, and maybe the rest of the world would like us better, too.

Ongoing thanks for tips, warnings, signs, portents, omens. At this point, it's hard to imagine the world without blogs. And The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq, by George Packer, is really a must-read for anyone looking to understand why and how we got here. Shocking, compelling, depressing, flabbergasting.

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