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En Passant

President Bush, in regard to the June 30th deadline for the transfer of Iraqi sovereignty, says the date remains firm. When asked if the escalating violence might necessitate a push-back, he says:

We will pass sovereignty on June 30th. We will stay the course in Iraq. We're not going to be intimidated by thugs or assassins. We're not going to cut and run from the people who long from freedom.
Yes, nothing says "we're not going to cut and run" like a steadfast commitment to cut and run, on a date determined solely by the advent of election season. I'll say one thing for Bush: it's not everyone who could gussy up "we're getting the hell out of Dodge!" with macho bluster.

Speaking of the Bush administration, the LA Times says that Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission later this week will largely determine whether or not she gets to keep her job. If she gets the boot she probably won't be alone: both Powell and Rumsfeld are rumored to be on their way out too. Not to mention the bevy of other administration officials who have quit or "resigned" (Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neil, Eric Schaeffer, etc.) during Bush's tenure. No wonder the unemployment rate is so high.

Apparently Rice needs to go because people associate her with the administration's failure to prevent 9/11, just as Rumsfeld needs to go because people associate him with the post-invasion Iraq debacle and Powell needs to go because people associate him with intelligence and moderation. It's like watching a snake shed it's skin as these guys try to slither into a second term.

Honestly, it seems like scapegoatery and damage control are the only activities the executive branch engages in these days, aside from campaign stops and fund-raising. And it's unnerving to think how much in federal funds has been spent to redirect blame and inoculate Bush from culpability. They ought to just put a checkbox on the 2004 Tax form that says "Would you like $3 to go toward presidential ass-coverage?"

Oh well, the whole spectacle is kind of entertaining in a novice-chess-player sacrifices-pawn-after-pawn- in-the-hopes-of-drawing-a-stalemate kind of way. Hell, they should just stick a camera in the White House and turn the whole thing into a reality show, a cross between "The Apprentice" and "The West Wing." Every week some new scandal could erupt (this element of the plan is evidentially already in place) and then the administration could spend the hour casting about for a fall guy to get hauled into the oval office and receive his walking papers. ("Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman, it turns out that we lied about the cost of our Medicare proposal. You're fired.")

I'd totally watch that. And just imagine the rating for the January 20, 2005 series finale, when Kerry comes in to do the final two dismissals.

Posted on April 06, 2004 to Politics





Comments

I think Powell has stated (or it was a widespread rumor) that he will not take a second term if Bush was re-elected. This rumor came up last year and was supposedly a decision that was influenced by his wife...

But I doubt his wife convinced him that he should remain to put up with this bullshit. He's been the voice of reason at times (supposedly convinced Rummy and Bush that attacking Iraq would not fly as a response to 9-11).

Posted by: John F on April 6, 2004 1:45 PM

Voice of reason or not, it seems to me that Powell pretty much sold his soul on the speech to the UN that ostensibly presented a "watertight" case for invading Iraq. However, I thought there were a couple of different sources for Powell leaving after one term. There was also a report (I think Kevin Drum had it up at WashingtonMonthly.com) that said that Rice had indicated this would be a one off deal for her as well. Hopefully the rest of the Administration will follow suit.

Posted by: Enrique on April 6, 2004 2:05 PM

Just wanted to say, great post. And that I really like this blog. It's been one of my favorites for months.

Posted by: angus on April 6, 2004 4:52 PM

I can even see Shrub doing the "viper hand", although it does nothing to endear him to me. Queen's knight to C3!

Posted by: unmute on April 6, 2004 7:16 PM

"You're firebrulated. You're...you've been suspenderized...you uh...we're letting you go." [::doing all the wrong hand movements::]

Posted by: hemlock_martini on April 6, 2004 8:22 PM

I was playing Apples To Apples (Jr. edition 9+) tonight with my sister and 8 year old nephew tonight, when he got the green card "INTELLIGENT."

Now, this game is all about what HE will answer, and one of my cards was THE PRESIDENT, so even though it hurt deeply and seemed like a slimy copout that goes against all of my beliefs, I figured an 8 year old would think THE PRESIDENT was INTELLIGENT! Right?

My sister knew him better and played BACON.

I said "how could you choose BACON, don't you think THE PRESIDENT is INTELLIGENT."

His answer? "No, he's DUMB. He's really, really DUMB!"

Way to go, sis!!!

Posted by: mr. grooism on April 6, 2004 9:34 PM

i can't help but notice
that when the turn over date was a year from now,
everyone was furious we were waiting so long.
so,
the administration bowed to that pressure,
and chose a date this year.
and,
now that its obvious
the locals won't be ready by that date
to actually secure and run their country
(which we knew already, hence the date in a year)
its somehow a shirking of duty
and an election campaign tactic
that we're not going to wait longer than june.

convenient.

Posted by: .hack/jhimm on April 7, 2004 5:39 AM

Uhm, excuse me, but how exactly does "we will hand over sovereignty on time" translate to "we will cut and run?"

Sorry, buddy, but that's a non-sequitur. No one said we're leaving the nation. No one said they'll be defenseless. All the President said is that we will not be intimidated into allowing these people--a clear minority from one small portion of the nation--put off giving Iraqis their self-rule.

You ought to be praising the President, not condemning him.

Hell, come to think of it, let's just get right to it: If he said he WOULD delay turning sovereignty over to the Iraqis themselves, wouldn't many Bush critics--perhaps you yourself, perhaps not--be loudly decrying this as proof that Bush's stated plans to turn Iraq into a democracy were a "sham all along?"

Let's get real. American troops continued to defend Japan after sovereignty was turned over to the Japanese. American troops continued to defend the South Koreans even though they have their own sovereignty.

We will likely continue helping the new Iraqi government defend itself from the Islamo-fascists for some time after a legitimately-elected government takes over in Iraq. Although they Iraqis will take care of more and more of it themselves--and by the way, did you notice that Iraqis are more and more involved in this particular operation, and all the other operations, against the islamo-fascists?

Jesus. Can you guys at least try to see it from the other perespective before blasting at the White House? Yeesh.

Posted by: Dean Esmay on April 7, 2004 5:53 AM

hack/jhimm - Your poetry is long-winded and derivative of cummings. Please see me after class. C-

Posted by: jdodd on April 7, 2004 5:55 AM

The turnover of authority to Iraqis does not mean that the US will be leaving Iraq. Don't know why people continue to make that assumption. Dean E has it exactly right.

Posted by: BillB on April 7, 2004 6:03 AM

Dude, you guys know what Matt's political leanings are (well, at least if you're a regular visitor), so why do you come here and read about them, only to berate his posts? You're more than entitled to your opinion, but let's show a little respect, shall we?

Posted by: Erin on April 7, 2004 8:25 AM

Dean E, BillB ... Whether the troops will remain or not is irrelevant. The BIGGER bone of contention is that the blog's perspective on Bush overall is 100 per cent accurate! Hemlock_martini summarized the President's intellectual capacity in his comment above.

Posted by: Cath on April 7, 2004 8:43 AM

Nicely put.

Posted by: beerzie boy on April 7, 2004 9:12 AM

I'm no fan of a single politician alive today, and I *am* a fan of defectiveyeti and have been a long time reader, but I've got to say that I think Dean E. was right. It's a really silly thing to believe that turning over sovereignty to Iraq means anything apart from just that: it'll be a sovereign country. We're not running away, or even leaving in any way, and honestly, anyone who thinks we are must be quite confused about the whole issue.

Yes, yes, you hate Bush, he's an idiot, ruined everything in four years, etc., but you're hurting your own image when you opt for a Bush-bashing over a sensible, non-partisan assessment of the situation.

Posted by: john on April 7, 2004 1:04 PM

Actually I don't hate Bush (although he certainly gives me fits, at times), nor do I think he's an idiot (although I don't question his legendary "incuriosity"). And, Dean, I do "try to see it from the other perspective before blasting at the White House" -- I was against the Iraq war at first, but was convinced that deposing Saddam was worth the effort after reading The Threatening Storm, a book I sought out specifically to try and understand the rational behind such a move. I didn't particularly think the attack needed to be done in 2003 -- and I certainly disapproved of the unilateral approach that was taken (even granting that France and Russia were unlike to ever a major disruption to their oil-for-food revenues) -- but I came to appreciate that the effort could be taken with noble goals in the mind.

In this case, the three major objectives were to depose Saddam, destroy the WMDs, and establish a democratic government in the Middle east that would serve as an example to others. The first has been done (and, yes, I give the President credit for that) and the second has proven to be irrelevant (although I am not one of those people who now says that they knew all along that the WMDs were illusory). But I'm afraid we're on the verge of simply abandoning the third -- the one that, in my mind, was the most forceful of the three. And if the nation decends into chaos and new dictators move in to fill the power vacuum, then our success in removing Saddam becomes largely negated.

You say we're not going to "cut and run" because we'll still be leaving troops behind. I say it isn't a question of whether we leave some troops behind, but whether we leave enough to get the job done. My understanding is that they estimate 100,000 troops to remain by the end of the year, as opposed to the some 140K (?) that are on the ground now. Given that the Iraqis seem unready to assume sovereignty and that the possibility of and impending civil war seems very real, I think the June 30th deadline is a bad idea and genuinely threatens one of the major objectives of the operation.

Now, call me cynical, but I suspect one consideration in the selection of June 30th as the deadline (when was the deadline selected, anyone know?) was the glorious vision of troops coming home to "Welcome Back" parades in the months just prior to the presidential election. It's been increasing clear for some time now that the timeline needs to be revised to conform with reality, but Bush seems to be taking the same approach to this that he has taken with so many other elements of the war: "I want things to be working according to our plan, and I am therefore going to steadfastly pretend they are." This, in my opinion, is his biggest fault: not that he's evil, not that he'd dumb, but simply that everything, to him, eventually becomes a "faith-based initiative".

(And if you think I save my "election year shenanigans" scorn just for Republicans, you should have heard me howl in 2000 when Gore suddenly decided we need to open up the emergency petroleum reserves to keep gas prices low. )

Fortunately, as Mickey Kaus has recently notes (see the April 5th entry), it appears that Bush has begun hedging a bit about the "firmness" of the date. I hope he ultimately relents in his instistence on this arbitrary date and pus the emphasis on having the transition go "well" rather "on time".

Posted by: Matthew on April 7, 2004 2:02 PM

uh.


"...long from freedom"?

Posted by: bicaboc on April 7, 2004 2:08 PM

Okay, you're cynical...

Love the Blog, BTW, but it has become a bit preachy, of late.

As has already been pointed out, any extension of the deadline opens Bush up to another cynical view, that the administration isn't serious about turning control back over to the Iraqis.

BTW, return of Iraqi control was being discussed mid-to-late last year, with the UN Security Council unanimously approving the US/UK resolution on Iraq's reconstruction on October 16. The June 30 deadline was announced on January 11, amid criticisms that that date was not soon enough. The Bush administration countered, by stating that free and safe elections would be impossible under a tighter timetable.

Call me cynical, but the Dems likely hoped to have the turnover occur right before the primaries, so whatever difficulties might arise could be blamed on Bush.

As for WMD's...let's be honest. Give me a big flatbed truck full of anything, give me a week to hide it somewhere in Texas (rough size comparison), and see how long it takes you to find it.

Iraq's had years. Years of denying UN weapons inspectors, and violating UN resolutions. If they didn't have WMD's, they made every effort to make everyone think they did.

Posted by: Tom on April 8, 2004 11:04 AM

>"Would you like $3 to go toward presidential ass-coverage?"

Now THAT'S the kind of honesty in taxation that my ancestors fought and died for.

>Give me a big flatbed truck full of anything,
>give me a week to hide it somewhere in Texas
>(rough size comparison), and see how long it
>takes you to find it.

If it were full of something unusual, such as cows in flower-print dresses, Hummer H2s or, say, NUCLEAR WEAPONS, I bet I could find it within a year. People notice stuff. And what people don't notice, satellite photography reveals.


Posted by: Anonymous on April 8, 2004 1:04 PM

You say that removing 40K troops from 140K by the end of the year is going to leave too few troops? What about Iraqi people that join the Iraqi police and military during that time? Don't they count? Also, do you seriously think that those 40K won't be back right away if there is trouble? It seems fairly resonable to me.

Posted by: Uru on April 8, 2004 4:05 PM

I say we sic Ken Starr on that little WMD snafu. If there's a contaminated needle to be found in that big, sandy haystack, he's the man for the job.

Posted by: Tazja Lovecraft on April 9, 2004 9:26 AM

So who are we going to hand over sovereignty to, anyway?

It's not like there's a functioning government in Iraq.

Heck, Hamid Karzai is only still in power in Afghanistan because the US protects him. And he's only effectively the mayor of Kabul, given how much territory the titular Afghan government actually controls.

Posted by: Vidiot on April 9, 2004 9:33 PM

Here's a little tidbit o' something: last week I was interviewing a man who'd written a history of Iran in the 20th century, and we took a few minutes to talk about the possibility of successful democratic government in Iraq. He pointed out that Iran had had a functioning democracy as recently as 1953 (until Britain and America booted out the prime minister and restored the Shah to power), and therefore had a social and cultural base to build on, but Iraq had never seen real democracy, not once in its long history. Even with the examples of the modern democratic apparatus throughout the world, it's not going to be as easy as a handover of sovereignty and a subsequent flowering of individual freedoms. Democracy takes a while; In Britain, the first real document limiting the arbitrary power of rulers was signed in 1215, but the vote wasn't extended to all citizens of age until 1928. That's over 700 years to get from A (haughty kings stealing from barons) to B (women getting the vote). If Britain is at all representative for the western world, then the truth is that democracy of the sort we envision in Iraq is new even to us.

Anyway, there's absolutely no way the States and their international Superfriends are going to leave after June 30th. Whether the new government is a shining ideal of freedom and generosity or a morass of opportunistic powermongers, there will still be a lot of angry people with guns running around. I doubt that's going to change any time soon.

Posted by: palinode on April 13, 2004 11:39 AM

I think Bush should not be president and I do not trust Cheney and Rumsfeld. I don't know about Kerry, but I think i will vote against bush. These people give me a really bad feeling

Posted by: online bingo mom on April 30, 2004 3:24 PM