Archive for May 3rd, 2007

Separated At Birth?

Liberal Bob Herbert:

[Veterans advocate Paul Rieckhoff] has very little tolerance for the negligence and incompetence the government has shown in equipping the troops and fighting the war in Iraq, and he is frustrated by the short shrift that he feels the troops get from the media and the vast majority of Americans.

There’s a gigantic and extremely disturbing disconnect, he says, between the experiences of the men and women in uniform and the perspective of people here at home. “We have a very diverse membership in I.A.V.A.,” he said. “We’ve got Republicans and Democrats and everything in between. But one of the key things we all have in common is this frustration with the detachment that we see all around us, this idea that we’re at war and everybody else is watching ‘American Idol.’ ”


“It’s tough to have such a serious sense of commitment,” Mr. Rieckhoff said, “and then come home and see so many people focused on such frivolous things. So I think that frustration is serious and growing. And I’ll tell you the truth: I blame the president for that. One of the biggest criticisms of the president, and I hear this across the board, is that he hasn’t asked the American people to do anything.”


“Asking somebody to die for their country might not be the biggest thing you can ask,” he said. “Asking my guys to kill, on my orders — as an officer, that’s difficult. I’m telling that kid to squeeze that round off and take a man’s life. And then he’s got that baggage for the rest of his life. That’s what you have to live with.”

I signaled for the check and we left the restaurant. It was a beautiful, sunlit afternoon. New Yorkers were smiling and enjoying the spring weather. There was no sign of a war anywhere.

Conservative Ben Stein:

Here’s how it goes: The nightly news grimly reports that the terrorists in Iraq or Afghanistan have detonated a bomb that has killed seven American soldiers. A few seconds later, the announcer says that the Dow closed at yet another record high, and we see men and women cheering at the rostrum of the New York Stock Exchange.

This combination of stories tells us exactly what’s wrong here in the U.S. of A. The nation is not fighting the war on terrorism. The nation is partying hearty and living it up — at least the high end of the nation, money wise.

The word “sacrifice” never even comes up. The grunts and jarhead Marines who don’t get a hot meal for days on end, and who sleep in their vehicles, and never get a night without being mortared or sniped at — they’re fighting the war. The women whose husbands come home in a box (or not at all), the kids who will never see mom or dad again, the parents who invested a lifetime in bringing up their kids right — they’re fighting the war.Our enemy is united against us. If we keep acting as if we can win this war just by sending over the other guy’s son or daughter, while we pay attention to our tax cuts and the stock market, we’re on a long, disastrous downhill slide.

Instead of all of that cheering on Wall Street for the already rich getting richer, let’s see some solidarity with the guys whose blood and lives defend our economic interests around the world, safeguard the oil supply, maintain Pax Americana… to at least some extent.

The military builds the wall Wall Street and the whole economy play games behind. Let’s start thinking about a draft where the children of the investment bankers might even have to go fight. This might concentrate our thinking about the war considerably and might make us a bit more cautious next time.

Right now, the frantic making of money here at home while the other guy’s kid gets his head blown off in Ramadi is not a pretty picture, or a winning picture.

Or, alternatively, we could just bring them all home.

I have mixed feelings about a draft. It’s probably the only way we would even have a chance of stabilizing Iraq, but it would be political suicide, it would take months or years before the draftees would be ready to start rotating in, and it’s a helluva price to pay for something that would probably have considerably less than a 1% chance of working.

I simply do not like the draft as a modern-day press gang, forcing people to fight in a war they don’t believe in. However, I also think that if we authorized a fair (i.e., scrupulously free of loopholes that would favor the children of the rich and powerful) draft to be used in times of war (and not just officially declared war, since we apparently don’t do that any more), it would be extremely valuable as a deterrent.

Unfortunately, the rich and powerful (who make up pretty much our entire government) would never allow a draft that their own kids couldn’t get out of, and the draft would just offer them a great big pool of Other People’s Kids to go to war with.

On the other hand, while their kids might survive the war, their jobs would not.

(h/t reader Bill for the Ben Stein piece)

2 comments May 3rd, 2007 at 06:02pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Democrats,Iraq,Media,Republicans,War

This Can Only Be Good For Republicans.

NYT chooses the Knight-Ridder editor who oversaw some of the only skeptical, independent-minded reporting about the Bush administration’s case for war to be their new Public Editor:

In the prelude to the Iraq war and the early days of the war, Knight-Ridder stood apart from most of the mainstream news media in raising doubts at times about the Bush administration’s claims, later discredited, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda. Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said that record contributed to his selection of Mr. Hoyt.

“There was a lot of work Knight-Ridder did that was prescient, that wasn’t easy to do,” Mr. Keller said. “It’s always hard to go against conventional wisdom. I think it probably brings him a measure of credibility that helps in getting started on a job like that — that he’s been associated with a brave and aggressive reporting exercise like that.”

Mr. Hoyt said that in 2002 and 2003 he had fielded a great deal of criticism “from angry readers who believed that we weren’t being patriotic, from government officials who said that what we were doing was wrong.”


[O]ver the last year, he has spoken publicly about his concerns about the future of the newspaper industry, arguing that weakening finances, a toxic partisan atmosphere and coziness with government officials threaten to undermine journalistic courage and integrity. He also spoke before a Congressional committee, arguing for a stronger Freedom of Information Act.

I think I am going to enjoy Mr. Hoyt’s tenure very much.

It’s just a shame that he’s taking Byron Calame’s job instead of Bill Keller’s.

May 3rd, 2007 at 03:46pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media


Wait… what?

What books did Romney claim as his favorites? The Bible is his favorite book. His favorite novel is Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard, the science-fiction writer and Scientology founder. The first we would have expected, but the second is so wacky, it breathes new life into the tired old reporter’s trope: There must be something we can learn about Romney by examining this answer.


The whole tumbling horror of the Battlefield Earth experience is so profound it nearly comes out the other side and achieves a kind of perfection of awfulness. Is Romney being ironic, then, like those people who buy clown art? Unlikely. There’s not a big irony bloc in the GOP and Battlefield Earth is a thousand-page book. No one can sustain irony for that long. (At 13,000 words per dollar it is a great value, though, which might appeal to notoriously frugal New Hampshire voters.) Romney was quick to point out that he disagreed with Scientology, so he wasn’t going for that vote, or the smaller, untapped, creepy-Hubbard-ascot-fetish vote. Is Romney trying to act like he’s a regular guy? Only 8 percent of the words in the book are considered “complex,” so he can’t be labeled an elitist, but no one trying to look like a common Joe would pick this book. You simply need a deep level of weird to like Battlefield Earth. The speed with which some of his aides tried to distance the governor from his remarks suggests they think he now looks a little too weird.

But I think they should stop covering up for the governor. Let him embrace his choice. There is no obvious stratagem behind it, which means Romney, the most meticulously arrayed and perhaps the most careful of the candidates may be giving us a peek at a robust inner goofball…. Nothing could be more regular than the irony-free love of schlock found in overwrought thrillers written by self-aggrandizing madmen.

Having seen the so-bad-it’s-brilliant movie version, I am 100% on board with the hilarity of a major Republican presidential candidate saying that Battlefield Earth is his favorite novel, but I think Slate is overlooking a much bigger story here: The Mormon candidate named The Bible as his favorite book, not the Book Of Mormon. And, of course, Battlefield Earth was written by the creator of Scientology.

So Mitt Romney named not one, but two, favorite books closely associated with religions not his own. Does this strike anyone else as odd, and potentially problematic?

6 comments May 3rd, 2007 at 11:55am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Religion,Republicans,Weirdness

A Modest Proposal

Reagan’s second-term DAG has some thoughts on the DoJ:

There is no doubt that the confidence of the American public in the ability of the department to administer justice evenhandedly has been badly shaken, and the morale at the department has been significantly eroded. Why? Because the overall perception, right or wrong, is that the department is highly political and that when Mr. Gonzales left his job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to become attorney general at 10th and Constitution, he did not appreciate that he had truly changed jobs.

Whatever happens to Mr. Gonzales, the taint will remain. That’s why the only real solution is to depoliticize the Justice Department, to do away with the appearance of anyone playing politics there.


The solution is to have the attorney general appointed to a fixed term – say, 15 years – that wouldn’t be coterminous with the tenure of the president who appoints him. As with the director of the F.B.I. (a 10-year term) and the chairman of the Federal Reserve (a four-year, renewable term), the appointment would be made by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. Congress’s oversight would ensure that no political hack or crony of the president could be handed the job.

Likewise, the 93 United States attorneys should not be political apparatchiks, but talented lawyers selected half from Republican ranks and half from Democratic, following the system used for regulatory bodies like the Federal Communications Commission. These men and women should also be subject to Senate confirmation.

Changes in the occupant of the White House should not affect the way justice is administered. If the Gonzales mess ends up giving us an apolitical Department of Justice, the American people will be well served.

Burns is absolutely correct that the DoJ and AG should be apolitical and not subservient to the White House, but I’m more than a little skeptical about his strategy.

First of all, Senate confirmation guarantees absolutely nothing – Bush has rammed countless cronies through the compliant Republican Senate he enjoyed up until recently. My recommendation would be that a 60- or 67-vote supermajority be required to confirm appointees for any position whose term extends beyond the president’s. If they are supposed to be nonpartisan and apolitical, then they should require broad bipartisan support, or else they simply represent an irresistible opportunity for a president to impose his partisan will beyond his allotted term of office.

My other concern is 50-50 party split of the US Attorneys, which he compares to bipartisan panels like the FCC (another agency that’s done such a great job of protecting the public interest from the Republicans’ interest). The problem is that the US Attorneys are not a committee or board or panel or any other kind of voting body; they have near-absolute prosecutorial power within their individual territories, which allows an unscrupulous USA to influence elections. If the President or Congress has discretion over where the Democratic and Republican attorneys are, what’s to stop the party in power from stacking swing states and big states with their own loyalists, where they can have the most impact? This is probably not an insurmountable concern, but it would have to be addressed – simple numerical balance is not enough.

Burns is definitely on the right track, I just don’t think he goes far enough to protect the system from the inevitable attempts to game it.

May 3rd, 2007 at 11:22am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Republicans

When You’ve Lost The Sportswriters…

Mike Lupica hammers the Bushies (and the go-along-to-get-along Democrats) once again:

Here he was, coming out of the sky like the real flyboy he always wanted to be, more convinced than ever that the only way to be a great American President was to be a war President, even if the war on terror wasn’t enough and he had to start one of his very own.


Hillary Clinton nearly lost her voice in California the other day, calling Bush’s remarks on May 1, 2003, “one of the most shameful episodes in American history.” But she voted for the war and so did John Edwards and so did Sen. Christopher Dodd and so did Sen. Joe Biden. They are all experts on Iraq now, in what has become the best and most vocal and most prominent Monday morning quarterbacking in all of American political history.

They know everything now, the way Rudy Giuliani knows everything about terrorism because he was mayor when it happened to New York. It is why he tells everybody that only he, a Republican, America’s Mayor, can keep us safe from future attacks. As if he knows things that nobody else knows because he was mayor of New York the day we got hit. The only problem with this, now that Giuliani has built both his fortune and his current place in the polls on his response to the attacks of Sept.11, is that his response that day does not measure up to its legend. His command center to fight terrorism was at 7 World Trade Center and his firefighters were using the same radios to communicate with each other that hadn’t worked when the World Trade Center had first been hit in 1993.

But that really is the game these days, the amazing amount of political genius we get after the fact. We sure get it from George Tenet, the former head of the CIA who gets very brave about Iraq and the reasons for getting into it now that he has a book to sell, who wants to be a patriot after he’s left the room.

Tenet was on the inside and did nothing when it counted. Neither did Colin Powell, who came out of the Bronx to become a military hero and later secretary of state. Only when we needed Powell most to be a hero he went in front of the United Nations in February of 2003 and gave us a slide show about nothing. But people believed him, the way Democrats running for President now say they believed the intelligence they got from Bush, who they now decide has stepped over the clown line.


When it counted he did what he did in front of the UN and it was shameful. He could have stood up and did not. All the Democrats, with the exception of Barack Obama, who was in the bleachers at the time, tell us now, with great force, what they could have done and should have done about Iraq.

You know who did stand up when it counted? Sen. Edward Kennedy. He was already 40 years in the Senate and was supposed to be too old and too liberal and was supposed to be some kind of has-been, even as a Kennedy, whose dayof being a powerful voice was past. But he stood up and told the truth about Bush’s war even when nobody wanted to listen.

Kennedy had already been one of 23 senators to vote against the resolution authorizing the President to use military force against Iraq. And did not quit after that, even when the runup to war had become a locomotive. A month before Powell went to the UN, Kennedy gave a speech at the National Press Club and talked about the “wrong war at the wrong time.” He talked about how “the threat from Iraq is not imminent.” He spoke of a war that would feed a “rising tide of anti-Americanism overseas.”

Kennedy was one who wasn’t afraid to be called a bad American, or unpatriotic, the way Clinton and Edwards and the rest of them were. He stood up against this war when it wasn’t popular. They all stand up now. They’re all brave now.

Better late than never, but Lupica is right: It’s really not all that impressive or courageous to come out against the war when 60-70% of the country is against it. The truly brave are those who saw that Bush’s rationale was flimsy, and that the war would turn out terribly. Those are the people who should have the most credibility and respect today.

2 comments May 3rd, 2007 at 07:23am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Democrats,Iraq,Politics,Republicans,War

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