November 30th, 2005

In Which Donald Rumsfeld Goes to Hell

by Philip Baruth

Let us consider the responsibility-averse phenomenon that is Donald Henry Rumsfeld. This is the man who took credit for the Iraq invasion plan, and bragged that it was already being studied in the War College — then disowned it when it became clear that the invasion plan played directly into the hands of the insurgents.

rumsfeldThis is the man who several weeks ago told George Stephanopoulos that no one consulted him when it was time to go to war — although if they had asked, he’d have supported it. Beautiful.

Well, Donald Rumsfeld has been doing some thinking about this whole insurgency thing, apparently, and he shared some thoughts with reporters yesterday. From the AP:

“‘This is a group of people who don’t merit the word `insurgency,’ I think,’ Rumsfeld said Tuesday at a
Pentagon news conference. He said the thought had come to him suddenly over the Thanksgiving weekend.

“‘It was an epiphany . . . . I think that you can have a legitimate insurgency in a country that has popular support and has a cohesiveness and has a legitimate gripe,’ he said. ‘These people don’t have a legitimate gripe.’ Still, he acknowledged that his point may not be supported by the standard definition of `insurgent.’ He promised to look it up.”

So there he is, Secretary Rumsfeld, at the sumptuous Thanksgiving table, reaching for the crystal salt shaker because the damn maid has never learned to make a decent gravy — in spite of the fact that he only two years ago gave her a copy of his mother’s own gravy recipe, which has been in the Rumsfeld family for God only knows how long — and it dawns on him: these insurgents in Iraq aren’t insurgents at all, because they don’t have a legitimate gripe.

Is there any man in twenty-first-century America more spectacularly unprepared to deal with the impoverished suicide bomber than Donald Henry Rumsfeld?

Is there any man who has shown less flexibility on elements of the war that are clearly flawed — troop strength, armor outfitting, etc.? Is there any man — with the possible exceptions of the President and Vice-President — more clearly responsible for a losing war effort in Iraq? Any man more visibly to blame for the systematic diffusion of torture techniques throughout the military?

Let’s face it: this was an old man who attacked Afghanistan with the world’s blessing, and routed the miniscule Taliban army on the cheap, and he loved the feeling — it was the fountain of youth. And he went after Iraq with that same hunger, and now he’s paying the real price: the fountain of death. This war is aging him, every day, with each new revelation about lies in the run-up, and each new indication that America will be humbled in the end-game.

There was something amped-up and vampiric about Rumsfeld in the days when his Special Ops boys were riding horses in the mountains of Afghanistan. He stood up at that podium with the Brill-Creamed hair and his hands held out in these operatic gestures, and he was loving this rush of life, this feeling of what can only be called superpower.

But now something more powerful still has fastened itself to his neck, and he knows in his bones that he’ll go to his grave ten years sooner because of the Iraq war. And that history will cringe at his name.

And he thinks it’s unfair.

And that’s why he broods at the Thanksgiving table, and refashions the terms of the conflict endlessly in his own mind. That, my friends, is why his chestnut stuffing tastes like white phosphorous ashes, and why it always will.

November 30th, 2005

Boulder Mad as Heck

by Philip Baruth

You’ll remember that Boulder, Colorado is currently under Brownie-threat, a problem I discussed a few days ago. And so those good people in the Denver area are under incredible stresses. michael brown

But not even the prospect of living with Michael Brown 24/7 can account for the deep level of disgust I’m getting in my mail from out Colorado way.

No, this is Bush, my friends, and how Bush is now covering himself on Iraq.

Responding to Bush’s sound bite of the day — “If [the commanders on the ground in Iraq] tell me the Iraqis are ready to take more and more responsibility and that we’ll be able to bring some Americans home, I will do that . . . . It’s their recommendation” — my man RB writes [I’ve been forced to edit the graphic language]:

It’s Blame Tenet all over again — only this time, they’re setting up the military as the fall guy. What a stunning (and ovoid Rove-ish slick) evasion of responsibility by the Commander in Chief. It’s one thing to delegate, it’s another to sit with your thumb up your *ss, waiting for somebody to say, “Sir, it’s all under control! Bring the boys home!”

He’s basically setting up “our generals on the ground” with the blame if (when) “staying the course” turns into the bloody mistake it inevitably will be. Just as they blame Tenet and CIA “prewar intelligence failures” for starting this war … they’ll blame the generals on the ground for our failures on the ground. “Our generals gave us faulty war analysis, so we couldn’t make correct policy.”

And I’ll bet you good money that smart military men are thinking that very thing right now: “Cheney and Rumsfeld and those White House ***holes are handing us the *hitbag.” And being good soldiers (like Powell), they have no choice but to say “Yes sir!” and grab hold of the thing, and they will be left holding it.

What can I add to this analysis?

A freaking exclamation point.

November 30th, 2005

Porter Goss on The Beauty of Torture

by Philip Baruth

CIA Director Porter Goss, clarifying the torture issue yesterday with Charlie Gibson on ABC News:

“GIBSON: How do you define it?

GOSS: Well, I define torture probably the way most people would — in the eye of the beholder.”

So it’s a lot like beauty, then, in that sense.

November 29th, 2005

Luxury Rove-liner Nears Iceberg

by Philip Baruth

Bracing new developments in the Karl Rove investigation. It seems that Susan B. Ralston, Rove’s personal assistant, has given up the goods.

When the Special Prosecutor asked Ralston why there was no log record of Rove’s call with Matt Cooper, Ralston apparently lied through her teeth first time around.

From Raw Story:

rove“The attorneys say that Rove’s former personal assistant, Susan B. Ralston — who was also a special assistant to President Bush — testified in August about why Cooper’s call to Rove was not logged. Ralston said it occurred because Cooper had phoned in through the White House switchboard and was then transferred to Rove’s office as opposed to calling Rove’s office directly. As Rove’s assistant, Ralston screened Rove’s calls.”

Unfortunately for Ralston, and for ovoid political tick Karl Rove, Fitzgerald ain’t no idiot.

“But those close to the probe tell RAW STORY that Fitzgerald obtained documentary evidence showing that other unrelated calls transferred to Rove’s office by the switchboard were logged. He then called Ralston back to testify.

“Earlier this month, attorneys say Fitzgerald received additional testimony from Ralston — who said that Rove instructed her not to log a phone call Rove had with Cooper about Plame in July 2003.”

So now they’re talking about Rove copping a plea. So look for the end of an era within the month, folks. We won’t have old Karl Rove to kick around anymore — which is just as well, because a man can only take so much pleasure before he ceases to be a man, and becomes a beast instead.

And I’ve been enjoying all of this more than I can express.

November 28th, 2005

Crikey! Blair Numbers Tank Too

by Philip Baruth

No one loved Tony Blair more than VDB when he and Bill Clinton were putting the “New” in both “New Democrat” and “New Labor.” No one was more impressed when Blair said what needed to be said post-9/11, and did so with an eloquence and grace and strength that made George Bush seem hopelessly incapable of greatness.

As a result no one felt more betrayed when Blair sewed himself to bushBush’s chaps for the duration of the Iraq war. And no one has since longed more intensely for Blair’s repudiation by British voters.

Call it a VDB vendetta.

And of course, like Bush, Blair has seen Iraq slowly pull his entire legacy into the toilet — or, pardon me, the loo. New numbers from Britain’s Daily Telegraph:

Do you approve or disapprove of the government’s record to date?

Nov. 2005: 30%
Oct. 2005: 33%
Sept. 2005: 34%

Nov. 2005: 55%
Oct. 2005: 53%
Sept. 2005: 52%

Do you believe the “wheels are starting to fall off” Blair’s government?



Not sure

How much do you think I love that second question: “Do you believe the ‘wheels are starting to fall off’ Blair’s government?” Not just the result, which is staggering, but the question itself.

And even more than that, I love those 13% who “aren’t sure” if the “wheels are coming off.” You know that’s a comforting thought for those currently bunkered at #10 Downing.

Note for British readers: In America, when very bad Bush or Bush-Iraq-War-Ally numbers come in, it’s customary to cue up the theme song from a popular children’s cartoon here, SpongeBob SquarePants.

So please bear with us — I know, hopelessly American.

Who-o-o lives in a pineapple under the sea?
SpongeBob SquarePants!
Absorbant and yellow and porous is he!
SpongeBob SquarePants!

Remember, Tony — Live by the Bush, die by the Bush. And don’t expect us to lighten up on you until you repudiate Bush and your whole doomed alliance with him. Your government is now being measured in months, not years — but VDB can carry on this fight until the last dog dies.

Think about it.

November 28th, 2005

Breaking Supreme Court News

by Philip Baruth

AP has breaking news: part of the marble facade on the Supreme Court building in D.C. has collapsed, no one injured apparently.

Send in the strict constructionists, pronto.

November 25th, 2005

Zuckerman Odds Lengthen

by Philip Baruth

Politics VT served up an interesting Thanksgiving entree yesterday: an op-ed by putative candidate for Congress, Burlington Representative David Zuckerman. Why interesting? Well, if you remember my post of last week on this potential candidacy, I recounted a conversation with Zuckerman and my subsequent feeling that when all was said and done, it was a no-go.

Now, the title of the Thanksgiving op-ed seems clear: “Zuckerman Gives Case for US House Bid.” But when you read the piece, there’s an odd disconnect: Zuckerman makes almost no case for himself, but rather an extended argument that current Democratic candidate Peter Welch should be pressured (by the media and by potential voters) to adopt Instant Run-off Voting in the coming months of the Legislature.

In other words, as argued in the earlier post, Zuckerman is not running for Congress. He’s running as a means of influencing the Democratic majority through Welch’s candidacy, through the leverage he can generate as a potential third entrant into the race. He’s running to be the Progressive standard-bearer post-Pollina. And the moment he bows out of the US House race, those more realistic parallel efforts come to a halt.

So expect an increased media presence through January — with a flattering cover story in the Burlington Free Press long about the first week of the new year — and then a quick exit around Groundhog Day. So says VDB.

Reframed odds on Zuckerman actually mounting a challenge for the long-haul: now 7 to 1, which looks like easy money at this point.

Late Update: 11/27, 11:15 a.m.

One other point to consider. It’s one thing to be Anthony Pollina, and to have Democrats in Vermont grouse that you helped to seat Brian Dubie. But imagine that you’re Zuckerman and you jump into this race without Bernie’s endorsement, and you campaign against Bernie’s own choice for the seat, and that seat goes Republican.

Then you’re not talking about the ruffled feathers of a few Vermont Democrats. You’re talking about being the goat in a race that will matter a great deal to Democrats and Progressives nationwide. You’re talking about the great disapproving eye of the Center-Left half of the nation swiveling this way and singling you out as the Problem, rather than the Solution.

Read Zuckerman’s op-ed again with this in mind. Of course, he’d like IRV implemented ASAP; it’s the only thing that can open the box in which Welch has so effectively placed him. But there’s no reason to believe that this box will open anytime soon. And the odds on a Zuckerman run will get longer as the days grow shorter.

November 25th, 2005

Alition of the Still-In?

by Philip Baruth

The Coalition of the Willing — always a misnomer, always a fig-leaf — is now dissolving at a torrid pace. Italy, Norway, South Korea, Britain, and several other countries have all begun to telegraph their exits in no uncertain terms. rumsfeldAnd like any patchwork, pulling out one piece inevitably loosens others. The Guardian in late September: “Britain has already privately informed Japan - which also has troops in Iraq - of its plans to begin withdrawing from southern Iraq in May, a move that officials in Tokyo say would make it impossible for their own 550 soldiers to remain.”

Now, putting aside those 120 Mongolian soldiers Bush recently flew several thousand miles to be photographed thanking, can anyone — even hard-core mainstream media types — persist in calling the soldiers there “Coalition forces”? Isn’t it pretty much just an “Alition” at this point?

An Alition of the Still-In?

And is one member of an “Alition” technically an “Alito”?

Next to go: When US officials were asked this past week about the homegrown Iraqi call for a pull-out timetable, they were quick to cite UN authority for the country’s occupation. So expect UN attempts to rescind that authority to multiply in the next few months, particularly in the General Assembly. At what point do we just come right out and say it: Coalition be damned, UN be damned, authority and international law and Iraqi sovereignty and partners be damned — we broke this baby, and she’s all ours.

November 25th, 2005

Vermont Makes GOP Scandal List!

by Philip Baruth

If you’re anything like me, your head is spinning just trying to keep up with the latest in GOP corruption and legal jeopardy. Fortunately, an enterprising inside-the-Beltway blogger has put together a must-read, state-by-state scorecard with all your favorites: Randy Cunningham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Abramoff, Bob Ney.

And for us kids in Vermont, who sometimes feel left out of the fun — Governor Jim Douglas made the list for opposing universal health care with one hand, while receiving large “insurance industry” donations with the other!

So much for that whole Country Mouse/City Mouse fallacy. We can be just as dodgy as any Ohio wardheelers.

Get your scorecards here.

November 25th, 2005

Boulder Goes Code Red

by Philip Baruth

We stand today in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Boulder/Denver area, who are looking down the barrel of a disaster perhaps more devastating even than Hurricanes Katrina or Floyd.

Brownie himself is blowing into town any day now, maybe for good. He’ll be the guy running the new “disaster preparedness” firm.

“DENVER, Colorado (AP) — Former FEMA Director Michael Brown, heavily criticized for his agency’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina, is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm to help clients avoid the sort of errors that cost him his job.

“‘If I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses — because that goes straight to the bottom line — then I hope I can help the country in some way,’ Brown told the Rocky Mountain News for its Thursday editions.

“Brown said companies already have expressed interested in his consulting business, Michael D. Brown LLC. He plans to run it from the Boulder area, where he lived before joining the Bush administration in 2001.”

Classic Rovian Up-is-Downism. Running against a war hero? He’s really a coward and a traitor. You’ve somehow acquired a pesky reputation as the man who allowed a major American city to become a Third-World nation for a couple of weeks, while you got your wardrobe and dog-sitting issues straightened out? You’re really a much sought-after and highly paid disaster consultant.

Next week: Brown announces that he will be heading up Boulder’s Naropa Institute, originally founded by Tibetans in the ancient Buddhist traditions of mindfulness and awareness. “If my own intense mindfulness and awareness can help other Americans be similarly intensely mindful and aware, then I hope I can help the country’s spiritual development in some small way,” Brown will tell the Rocky Mountain News.

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