Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bush's speech today

I wish I could've heard stirring words today, a detailed plan of what we hope to achieve and when we will get out. Instead I heard more of the same old.

The right is trying so hard to discredit this claim, but it is quite apparent now President Bush has become like Lyndon Baines Johnson, over his head with Iraq, unsure what to do, propping up an unsteady government and nation with more and more soldiers' lives while the situation doesn't improve. My friend Wally was wounded there earlier this year. Over the holidays last year, he barely wanted to talk about it. The only thing he said was that he wished there was more coverage of the positive things they were doing.

The problem we have is that our positive things have been overshadowed by the awful negative things (Abu Ghraib, shooting up a vehicle with kids inside, high gas prices, hundreds dying at a time from bombs). It's hard to be positive in those situations if you're the average Iraqi.

LBJ and his cabinet continued on in the face of mounting signs that things were going bad. They didn't change tactics, and they didn't try to bring in people who were Asian experts, as opposed to Communist experts. This isn't a fight of terrorism. This is an ethnic battle. The Sunnis are fighting us because they believe that we are going to let the Shiites massacre them. We haven't done nearly enough to bring them into the fold and give them something concrete to show that they will be alright. They were in power for a long time, and did a lot of things that they know Shiites will want to avenge. We saw that earlier this week, when the Shiites briefly made it so the Sunnis would have no way of defeating the constitution they by and large wrote. Under our pressure, they reversed course. How long is this situation going to last? Unless someone like Sistani himself goes on national television and calls for reconciliation and teamwork, Iraq will become a failed state, regardless of how long we stay. We were in Vietnam for 13 years, and if we'd left after two years, the situation might have ended up better than what we finished with, an ignomious defeat, a national scar, and the image of us running away.

We don't want that in Iraq. We want a compromise forged by all sides, and we have to do that from a diplomatic standpoint. We cannot do it with our military, which is fighting a battle in which domestic political projections have trumped reality. Mideast experts, Islamic experts, and Iraqi experts have not been listened to. Ahmed Chalabi and friends were the people Bush consulted, and they failed us. We need to right the ship with a dramatic, detailed course change, or the ship is going to sink, and God help us and the world when it does.

It's about time

Thank God. The Senate passed 90 to 9 the anti-torture bill brought up by John McCain last night. The bill seeks to either revert back to the U.S. Army field manual for interrogations or lead to strict instructions on what interrogators can and cannot do. The President, quixotically, argued it would limit his abilities in the war on terror.

Um, excuse me? Are you saying we have to be like them? That we have to torture and kill to get intelligence? That we have to be like everything we've ever fought against? Mr. President, just what in the hell is wrong with you?

We can get intelligence with many different methods. Torture, as the Russians, Germans and North Vietnamese learned, doesn't work. It's unreliable. People will say anything to stop the torture. They will admit to the most heinous crimes, or tell the torturers that they know where Zarqawi or bin Laden is hiding. And this is leading us on a wild-goose chase, because we haven't found a true top al-Qaeda figure in years.

Arguing that an anti-torture provision, a law to guarantee that our forces do not use torture to elicit information, will hinder our ability to fight a war, means that the war is not worth fighting. If America cannot fight with honor, if America cannot fight with humanity, then we should not fight. This bill is necessary to insure that policy cannot be pawned off on lowly infantry and guards. There is a good deal of evidence that this is policy, not soldiers off on a lark. If the President vetoes the bill, he will have exposed a dark side of his soul we should all fear, and then Congress should immediately override the veto. The Senate would, and I hope the House shows the same courage in standing up against this horrific practice.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Is Bush crazy to nominate Miers?

It's hard to judge what is going to happen with Harriet Miers, but I find interesting the various (and loud) reactions from the conservatives.
Every conservative has basically said Bush wimped out, evoking memories of his father's difficulties. There is considerable worry that Miers is another David Souter, which would be fine with me. Souter may have some liberal tendencies, but he is a thoughtful, hardworking justice who doesn't try to stretch the law from what I've read.
I think conservatives may be overreacting. I don't think they'd go this crazy as part of a conspiracy (as some on the left are claiming) to get her through, and she turns out to be crazier than Janice Rogers Brown. (By the way, have you noticed they all say they want a "constitutionalist" justice instead of a "conservative" one? Is conservative polling badly right now?) I think they are pissed because she appears to be a moderate, and they think they've lost a generational chance to change the court (as if some of the other justices aren't pretty old themselves!).
Let's examine a couple of key issues here. The first theory I have is that Bush sees that things are not favorable for Republicans right now. Katrina, gas prices, Social Security, Iraq, more abuse allegations, DeLay's indictments, etc. would make it hard to shove someone through who is a hardcore conservative. Many people might see it as court-packing of a sort (i.e. trying to change things before you lose power) and use that as a pretext to vote out some senators. Therefore, consult Harry Reid (which is kind of smart, considering Reid is a pro-lifer) and get someone who they can both agree on. There's no indication whether she is pro-life, pro-choice, or rides the fence, but if Reid is on board, she'll win confirmation unless the Republicans revolt.
Option number two is that Bush doesn't care about the party and just wants his way. While possible, it's unlikely that he would do that, because the Senate Republicans have to confirm, and his approval ratings are in the toilet, and he can't afford to piss them off too badly.
Also, some Republican senators are facing tough reelection battles, and Libby Dole is struggling to get anyone to challenge the entrenched Democrats facing reelection this year. Republicans could lose six seats, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Montana and Missouri. If they lose six seats, it will be 51-49 Democrats, making Bush's last two years difficult and killing off any more changes. If these senators are responsible for shooting down the schoolteacher (which is Miers' image, and yes, I'd say she has more substance than that, but she looks like one) and they could get grilled for beating up on her. Furthermore, her confirmation would likely demoralize many Republicans, perhaps setting up a much tighter House as well.
In no way does this mean D.C. will mean Democrat City on January 2, 2007. But Republicans are suffering badly right now, are in position to lose at least one house of Congress, and that house is voting on someone who could be another Souter or another Thomas. The rough thing for them is either way, they lose in some way. They have to decide which loss is worse.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Being a FOB will get you a JOB

Just ask Harriet Miers....because she's the next nominee for the United States Supreme Court. The President just finds it impossible to nominate someone that isn't A: a friend, B: a former employee of his father, or C: a major campaign person of his.

I haven't had a chance yet to review her history, but I find it interesting that the President didn't choose an appellate court justice. John Roberts spent a hiccup on the appellate courts, and Ms. Miers has never been a judge. Typically, those picked for the Supreme Court have a judicial background of some sort. Granted, William Rehnquist didn't have that background, but he spent fourteen years before becoming Chief Justice. Mr. Roberts has not.

Likewise, Ms. Miers is being nominated without a shred of judicial experience, and it's to the most important court in the nation. John Roberts skated deftly past questions from senators, and was confirmed by a large majority, and I don't have too big a problem with it. I wish he'd explained his positions more forthrightly, but he has good background experience with the Supreme Court's workings, so he is qualified enough for me.

Harriet Miers, though, needs to be thoroughly questioned, and needs to answer those questions, because her only reason for being nominated, it seems, is that she's a woman taking a woman's spot, and that she's a Friend of Bush. I fear her nomination will compromise the independence she is supposed to have as a Supreme Court justice. Any White House case that comes up to the high court is going to require her recusal, meaning there is a good chance of a deadlock. Not good. Not good at all.