Another reason I’ve been stepping away from the politics posts – the estimable Charlie Pierce has this beat covered. Here he eviscerates the Politico-Industrial complex’s continued infatuation with gasbag Newt Gingrich. “Not to stick up for Karl Rove but, Jesus H. Christ on a special episode of Blossom, there is no serious comparison to be made.” Naturally, CNN — home of Serious People™ like David Gergen — has recently picked him up as a political correspondent.
Still, the Republicans’ recent intemperate rhetoric aside, one could argue we’re seeing the slow-motion devolution of a movement that began over a half-century ago, with Goldwater in 1964. Since then, Nixon notwithstanding, the Republicans have moved continually to the right, engaging in putsch after putsch to retain the purity of their conservatism (to say nothing of the precious bodily fluids.) Even the much-beloved Ronald Reagan, pretty far right for his day, would be considered a pinko by the standards of the contemporary Tea Partier, as would, in many corners, the Muslim-coddling Dubya.
And so, here we are at the end of the rainbow. The snake is eating itself. Not for nothing is Newt Gingrich, once the Robespierre of this particular Revolution, now frantically swimming right to save his own head — He doesn’t want to end up like Rove. (Speaking of which, Presidents Collins and Snowe, take note: There is no room for you at this table anymore.)
As for the evening’s big winner, well, obviously I think O’Donnell is frighteningly wrong on just about everything, from creationism to onanism, and she’d be an absolute disaster in the Senate. (Good thing she seems unelectable.) Still, however much we disagree, I have to confess a soft spot for anyone who takes their Tolkien seriously.
I don’t mean to be too harsh — There’s nothing terribly wrong with this edutainment-y attempt to explain de-Baathification, highly dubious detainee procedures, and most notably the faked WMD casus belli to disinterested laypersons by way of action-thriller. And, in a way, I sorta admire the gutsiness of the the attempt. But, if you were already well aware of these grim developments, and I assume most GitM readers are, then it’s hard to escape the sensation that one is mainly just being talked down to for two hours. Wait, there were no WMD in Iraq? You’re kidding me, right? And, while I’m a great fan of Greengrass’ previous output — I said over and over again in this space that I wish he had stuck with Watchmen, and on the Top 100 films of last decade list, Bloody Sunday was #84, his two Bournes were at #49, and the exemplary United 93 was at #6 — The Green Zone feels quite a bit more leaden than usual.
As with the political edutainment project Greengrass aspired to here, I like the idea of fusing his highly visceral action work (the Bournes) with his fly-on-the-wall discursions into recent history (Sunday, ’93)…on paper. But The Green Zone gets lost somewhere in the interstice, and lacks the gripping power of either of these previous Greengrass grooves. Instead, Zone ends up mostly being two grainy hours of watching Matt Damon run around at night, as he tries to uncover an insidious government plot that our nation has been fully aware of for years…and has chosen to greet with a yawn.
More on that depressing problem in a bit, but, first, to bring y’all up to speed: Loosely based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a non-fiction examination of Dubyaite imbecility and excess in post-war Baghdad, Green Zone begins with a brief sequence set amid the original Shock-and-Awe period of the war, followed by, a few weeks later, a tense raid on a possible WMD storehouse by American soldiers. Led by Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon), this crack MW2-ish assault ends up finding, well, bupkis, just like the time before and the time before that.
To Chief Miller, the problem here is obvious — the intel must be rotten. But, when he brings this up at the next briefing for high-level military muckety-mucks, he is basically told to shut up and do his job. Nonetheless, events soon conspire to introduce Miller to the “Jack of Clubs” in the Dubya deck, a Baathist general (Yigal Naor) with a still-clearly extant power base in Baghdad. And, when our hero digs deeper to figure out how this Jack might know “Magellan,” the top-secret source of all this lousy intel, he soon finds himself trapped — along with a very Judith Miller-y reporter (Amy Ryan) — in a power play between a slimy executive branch bureaucrat (Greg Kinnear, stuck no more) and a grizzled CIA hand (Brendan Gleeson), one that might just end up getting Miller fragged by the creepy Special Forces guy (Jason Isaacs, with great accent) who keeps popping up…
Along the way, there’s a digression into a detainee facility with all the makings of an Abu Ghraib waiting to happen, the tearful homecoming of the administration’s hand-picked Iraqi stooge (re: Ahmed Chalabi), some rather pained attempts to make the decision to de-Baathify an action beat…In other words, Green Zone is basically an attempt to dramatize the Iraq war for people who, for whatever reason, weren’t paying much attention the first time ’round. And, to be fair, it’s done with solid acting all around (including several folks recognizable from United 93), quality production values, and a reasonable degree of versimilitude throughout. (Note also the brief Paul Rieckhoff cameo, which should nip any IAVA whining about dramatic license right in the bud.)
But, for all its edutainmenty truths to tell, Green Zone still ends up feeling rather fake and film-ish to me, perhaps in part because — unlike Greengrass’ other recent histories — it seems to subscribe to a very movie-like All the President’s Men view of things, where, once word of misdeed gets out, justice will be done tho’ the heavens fall. Not to get all Debbie Downer up in here, but that’s not really the way the world works anymore, is it? One of the saddest and scariest moments in the recent and very worthwhile Daniel Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Man in America is when Ellsberg explains how he thought everything would change once the Pentagon Papers got out…and then he finds that, in the face of clear and irrefutable evidence of government wrongdoing, most people just shrugged.
This is the uncomfortable horror that Green Zone almost seems willfully designed not to recognize. The whole premise of the movie seems to be that, if We the People knew what really went down in Iraq (or could just be taught via action-movie), we would be totally livid about the corruption involved. But, is the problem really that the American people don’t know what happened in the build-up to Iraq? Or is it that we know pretty well what happened and don’t much seem to care?
Just as with our indefensible dabbling in torture and indefinite detention in recent years, we have known about the lies and incompetence that fueled the Iraq fiasco for awhile now. And, alas, nothing ever happened. Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and the whole awful, lying lot are still deemed Serious People with Serious Opinions by the nation’s domesticated media watchdogs, who, by the way, have also been studiously ignoring the Blair hearings overseas. Our current president, elected with the largest mandate for change in a generation, has deemed all of this just the sins of the past and refused to “look backward” (or worse, made himself complicit in these Dubya-era crimes.) And life continues, much as it has this past age, with no sense of reckoning whatsoever for the Big Lies that were told.
One of the main reasons Bloody Sunday and United 93 work so well is that they offer complex, nuanced portraits of complicated times. But, as Green Zone moves along, it just ended up feeling more and more like a cartoon to me, and one predicated mainly on wishful thinking. Like I said, I guess I admire what Paul Greengrass & co. were trying do here, but Green Zone as an action film feels flat and mostly uninvolving. And Green Zone as a political enterprise — Iraq War: The Movie!, basically — often seems at best condescending and at worst dangerously naive.
Remember the persecuted prosecutors? The Senate Judiciary does, voting 12-7 to hold Karl Rove and Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress. “Two Republicans, Arlen Specter and Charles Grassley, joined the committee Democrats in the contempt vote. Today’s action means contempt citations are now pending in both the House and Senate.“
“‘We will take the evidence where it leads us. We will not leave any stone unturned.’” Well, Sheryl Crow’s the least of his worries now. Based on the fact that several different current investigations seem to point his way, the White House’s Office of Special Counsel opens an inquiry into Karl Rove, to ascertain if (and how often) he’s violated the Hatch Act. “‘This is a big deal,’ Paul C. Light, a New York University expert on the executive branch, said of [Special Counsel] Bloch’s plan. ‘It is a significant moment for the administration and Karl Rove. It speaks to the growing sense that there is a nexus at the White House that explains what’s going on in these disparate investigations.’” And, in related news, John Edwards calls for Rove’s firing, based on his refusal to testify about the persecuted prosecutors.
“‘You can’t erase e-mails, not today,’ Leahy said in an angry speech on the Senate floor. “They’ve gone through too many servers. Those e-mails are there — they just don’t want to produce them. It’s like the infamous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes.‘” Breaking last Friday: Just as the persecuted prosecutors case boils to a head, four years of Karl Rove’s e-mail go conveniently missing from the RNC archives. And, also developing on the prosecutorial front, another subpoenaed Justice official, Michael Battle, has contradicted Gonzales’ earlier professions of ignorance on the subject, setting up the Attorney General for a raucous time during his hearings tomorrow: “Gonzales…has been preparing for a pivotal appearance on Tuesday before the committee, including mock testimony sessions lasting up to five hours a day, officials said. Better get that story straight, Al.
“‘I’ve always been trained that loyalty is a two-way street,’ Iglesias answered. ‘I started thinking: Why am I protecting these people who not only did me wrong but did wrong to the system for appointing U.S. attorneys?’” The House and Senate Judiciary Committees listen to testimony from eight former U.S. attorneys concerning what appears to be an epidemic of illegal GOP arm-twisting. “The [Justice] department has also acknowledged that Cummins, the Little Rock prosecutor, was asked to resign solely to provide a job for a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove.“
“He’s weary. His wife and only child, who is approaching college, miss him. He has monstrous legal bills. His unique bond with the President is under stress. His most important work is done. Karl Rove’s colleagues don’t know exactly when it will happen, but they are already laying out the reasons they will give for the departure of the man President George W. Bush dubbed the architect.” TIME Magazine suggests anew that Karl Rove is on his way out, and he won’t be leaving alone. According to the article by Mike Allen, “[s]everal well-wired Administration officials predict that within a year, the President will have a new chief of staff and press secretary, probably a new Treasury Secretary and maybe a new Defense Secretary.”
“‘The one that people are most worried about is Abramoff because it seems to have such long tentacles…This seems to be something that could spread almost anywhere…and that has a lot of people worried.‘” As Rove testifies for a fourth time before Patrick Fitzgerald’s inquiry into Plamegate and Boss DeLay’s phone records are subpoenaed by Texas DA Ronnie Earle, the WP surveys the political fallout from the many GOP corruption scandals currently in play.
“There is no reason for Rove to make this appearance unless he and his counsel believe he is at serious risk of indictment. None.” On the day after former White House procurement chief David Safavian is indicted on five counts of lying and obstruction of justice, Karl Rove decides to testify for a fourth time before the grand jury delving into the felonious unmasking of Valerie Plame (presumably to stave off his indictment, or that of someone above him.) So…Rove, Safavian, Libby, Abramoff, Frist, DeLay…how many investigations and indictments can the GOP leadership rack up? Is the whole rotten edifice of GOP corporate cronyism threatening to topple? One can only hope.
“As the CIA leak investigation heads toward its expected conclusion this month, it has become increasingly clear that two of the most powerful men in the Bush administration were more involved in the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame than the White House originally indicated.” Bringing the somewhat bizarre recent revelation of Judith Miller’s source to bear on the story, the Washington Post surveys the roles of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby in Plamegate. “[Lawyers with inside info] surmise that [Special Prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials..”
Federalist Society or no, John Roberts now seems almost assured of winning confirmation as the Supreme Court’s newest justice (barring an eleventh hour revelation of impropriety, of course.) So, the Dems plan for the next best thing, which is to use the Roberts hearings as political theater with which to expose general right-wing looniness. Hmmm. Might work, I suppose. Hopefully, the Dems will keep their eye on the ball and make sure any gamesmanship on Roberts doesn’t suck the press away from the still-growing White House felony investigation, which now seems to include possible perjury and obstruction of justice charges for Rove, Libby, et al. Update: Wilson’s revenge? Salon suggests the operative law in the Rove case may be the Espionage Act of 1917, which isn’t what you’d call one of progressivism’s better moments.
“When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove reportedly responded: ‘He’s a Democrat.’” From a few days ago, the LA Times looks into Karl Rove and Scooter Libby’s aggressive campaign to discredit Joseph Wilson (as seen on Tim Noah’s latest Rove Death Watch.)
Ok, the whistleblower defense wasn’t really cutting it for Karl…so, what’s next? Well, the new GOP talking point seems to be “Novak outed Plame first.” So, if true, does this get Rove off the hook? Not hardly. As both Salon‘s Tim Grieve and Slate‘s Tim Noah explain more eloquently, confirming Plame’s identity to Novak is still a big-time offense (as is passing it on to TIME‘s Matt Cooper.) But, this does mean that Novak had a second source among Dubya’s “senior administration” officials. Ari Fleischer, perhaps?
As Dubya goes mum about Karl Rove’s future, Slate‘s Tim Noah effectively dismantles the GOP’s Hail Mary “whistleblower” defense (floated, naturally, on the WSJ op-ed page), Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal argues Rove’s fate will be decided by the special prosecutor, and Salon‘s Robert Bryce lays out the case for what we all suspect: Dubya won’t give up Rove anytime soon.
“The emerging GOP strategy — devised by Mehlman and other Rove loyalists outside of the White House — is to try to undermine those Democrats calling for Rove’s ouster, play down Rove’s role and wait for President Bush’s forthcoming Supreme Court selection to drown out the controversy, according to several high-level Republicans.” In other words, the GOP is playing it by the book.
“Inside the Bush administration, lying to reporters doesn’t even come close to being a firing offense…But Rove blew the cover of an undercover CIA official. If Dubya doesn’t fire the man he nicknamed ‘Turd Blossom’ for this offense, he’s an even bigger hack than I think.” Slate‘s Tim Noah explains why Karl Rove really has to go, now that his central role in Plamegate has come to light. Update: The White House clams up.
“There’s not much these days that the two parties in Washington can rally around, as evidenced by the increasingly shrill tone here. You might think that one thing on which everyone in both parties could agree would be a resolution apologizing for the Senate’s failure, over many decades, to make it a federal crime for racists to hunt black people like animals and hang them from trees.” Terry Neal wonders why eleven GOP Senators refused to sign the recent anti-lynching resolution. (Cliopatria‘s Robert KC Johnson posted a list of the eleven Senator’s responses from Roll Call a few days ago.)
As I’ve said earlier, I can see how a mea culpa that’s coming anywhere from thirty to 130 years late may not be the most useful legislation ever passed by the Senate. But, when it comes time to mark your name down against an abomination like lynching, why not take the opportunity? To paraphrase Karl Rove, moderation and restraint is not what I feel when I see African-Americans strung up and mutilated by mobs of white folk. But, for one reason or another, a sizable number of the GOP think different. Therapy and understanding for the attackers, perhaps?
“Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers…I don’t know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt when I watched the twin towers crumble to the ground.” No, Karl, you felt confusion and stark abject terror…or is there some other reason why our Fearless Leader spent that fateful day (post-Pet Goat, of course) AWOL in the skies over Louisiana and Nebraska, leaving Mayor Giuliani to rally the nation?
At any rate, I’m sensing a pattern here…Soon after a GOP rep invokes 9/11 to flog a flag-burning amendment, White House strategist Karl Rove wallows in 9/11 and liberal-bashing before a GOP crowd here in NYC. Phew, talk about a Hail Mary. That dated soft-on-terror swill isn’t going to get lame duck Dubya’s domestic agenda off the ground, Karl. So you’d best start scroungin’ through that bottomless bag of dirty tricks for a different silver bullet. This outrageous claptrap is sad, pathetic, and demeaning…even coming from a right rotten bastard like Rove. Update: The Dems respond, and the White House digs in.
Dubya consigliere and strategy guru Karl Rove is promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff, making official his imprimatur on White House policy decisions. Hmm. It seems doubtful this particular reshuffling will enthuse Dems on the administration’s second term agenda.
So, that’s that, then…the Idiot Wind blows anew. The American electorate has spoken and — despite all the shadiness and incompetence of the past four years — has given Dubya and his cronies the imprimatur to go hog-wild. 51-48%…this is pretty much a mandate, folks. (Big of those Red Staters to ensure that we will be woefully unprepared for the next terrorist attack on a Blue State.) Y’know, H.L. Mencken‘s whole Tyranny of the Booboisie schtick has always grated on my lefty sensibilities, but at this point I have to admit he may have been on to something.
Ugh. I’m too young to remember 1984 very well, but I’m curious as to how last night and this morning compared for America’s Left. (I’ve since been reminded by several people I trust that 1968 and 1972 were much more grievous blows.) Thing is, 2004 started out with such promise over here. But, right around the time I ended up on crutches in May, events personal and political took a nasty turn, and the past few months have been some of the most dismal I can remember. Now, it seems, I may just look back on this time as relatively calm and worry-free.
But, ok, enough wallowing…let’s start taking it frame-by-frame. Given the war, the economy, and Dubya’s obvious incompetence, how on Earth did we lose this election? Well, give credit where credit is due…all this exit-talk of “moral values” proves that Karl Rove pulled off his gambit: He got the extra 4 million evangelical votes he was targeting, partly, it seems, by judiciously invoking rampant anti-gay hysteria. Yet, for some reason or another — a lousy ground game, perhaps? — the Dems inexplicably didn’t counter with extra votes of our own.
Where do we go from here? The Dems are facing an ugly Rule of Four…We lost four seats in the Senate, at least four seats in the House, and likely four seats in the Supreme Court. Whatsmore, we now appear officially dead in the water in the South and Midwest. And, with Kerry and Daschle gone, our standard-bearers now appear to be Hillary Clinton (about whom the country has already made up its mind), John Edwards (whom I still admire, but he couldn’t carry his home state), and Barack Obama (who’s probably too inexperienced to make much headway in 2008.)
Obviously, it’s now well past time for the serious party overhaul we should’ve began last cycle, when Al Gore had an election stolen from him that he should have won hands down. Daschle & Gephardt are already in the dustbin of history, and Terry McAuliffe should probably follow them there. I for one don’t think Howard Dean was or is the answer, but he’s one of the only people injecting new blood and enthusiasm into the party right now, so he should have a seat at the table. Right now, I think Edwardsian populism is our strongest ideological card, but as I said, it didn’t seem to make much headway last night.
Silver lining? Yeah, right. Well, as this Washington Monthly forum noted in September, second terms are notoriously scandal-prone (Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica), partly out of press boredom, and Dubya’s ilk seem particularly scandal-worthy…perhaps we’ll finally hear a little more about Halliburton. I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of horrifying policy decisions emanating from this administration that’ll keep lefty blogs like this one in business. And, on a purely selfish note, my likely dissertation topic on the fortunes of progressivism in the twenties is now seeming much more sexy in the wake of last night’s 1928-like cultural divide. Of course, none of these are really any consolation at all.
At any rate, I generally believe that America tends to get the president it deserves. So, God help us, we’ve brought this upon ourselves. And now, for we 48%, the hard work begins…we have to lick our wounds, get our act together, and figure out how we can best combat the rightward drift that’s afflicting our nation. Alas, I fear Dubya will do much of the heavy lifting for us, by running the nation further into the ground over the next four years. Still, we gotta keep on keeping on, y’all. I do not believe this darkness will endure.
Speaking of Dubya and “shared values,” I neglected to post this earlier, so the links are kinda stale now. (Compounding my bad form, I also forgot where I saw them originally.) Nevertheless, much to the chagrin of many pastors and theologians, the Dubya campaign is leaning heavily on churchgoers to join an ecclesiastical voting army this November. “Even Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics and religious liberty commission and a prominent Bush supporter, recoiled at the idea of churches becoming directly involved in a political campaign. ‘I am appalled,’ Land said in a statement. ‘I suspect that this will rub a lot of pastors’ fur the wrong way…It’s one thing for a church member motivated by exhortations to exercise his Christian citizenship to go out and decide to work on the Bush campaign or the Kerry campaign. It’s another, and totally inappropriate for a political campaign, to ask workers who may be church members to provide church member information through…directories.” Will Karl’s Crusade against Kerry-Edwards falter before it’s even begun?
Democratic House candidate Stephanie Herseth wins in GOP-leaning South Dakota, and the Dems’ prospects in the South brighten. How much do you want to bet Karl Rove is pushing hard right now for a refocus on catching Osama before November?
From The Economist to the NY Times, Salon examines the growing calls for Rumsfeld to resign as a result of Abu Ghraib. When even Karl Rove is forced to admit the damage done by these horrifying pics, you know it’ll be rough for Rummy in the weeks ahead, even with Dubya’s vote of confidence. Well, I’m all for getting rid of Rumsfeld, but I don’t think he should be the only fall guy for this Iraq fiasco…the decision may have began with Cheney, Wolfowitz, & co., but it ended with Dubya. For Abu Ghraib as with so much else, they all gotta go.
So, in an attempt to appease the stark raving Right, Dubya now wants a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Good God, what a colossally stupid idea. Since when did it become “conservative” to encode goofy prejudices into our founding document? And can someone please explain to me what jurisdiction the federal government has over the ecclesiastical institution of marriage anyway? Ridicky-goddamn-diculous. Surely Bush and Rove can find some other way to get out their base besides threatening to tinker with the United States Constitution.
As it turns out, I was able to make it to the John Edwards event on campus this morning, and, all in all, I’d give him a B+. He both read and rushed through the first half of his remarks, which involved some new formulation of his trade policy (more on that in a second), and I found his opening lines particularly ham-handed and speechwriterly. “I know y’all have been waiting for a Son of the South to come to NYC…A-Rod,” he said (and I’m paraphrasing.) “Well, I’m not A-Rod, but Wisconsin proved one thing: I can close!” Um, ok, but A-Rod is a shortstop and all, not a closer.
Anyway, nitpicking aside, Edwards improved measurably once he put the paper down and got into the rhythm of his “Two Americas” stump speech, which he’d clearly delivered many times. There were moments, however, when he definitely could have embellished his standard schtick, given the crowd. Edwards talked about how he was a lonely, legal David often going up and winning cases against a Goliath-sized team of corporate lawyers, a biographical stat which probably plays great in the Heartland. It went flat here, though, perhaps because the many law students in the auditorium seemed confused by his remarks: But we want to be those well-paid corporate shills!
Still, Edwards came off extremely polished and personable, and he definitely got the crowd on his side, even when he was blindsided by a sneak “Campaign on AIDS!” protest on the dais behind him. Several members of the VIP crowd unveiled red-ribbon shirts and began chanting right in the middle of his biographical portion (In fact, I could’ve sworn it was right after he gave the “son of a millworker” line, which was a clever signal to choose, if nothing else.) Edwards gave them a moment, asked the crowd to applaud the “activism of these young people,” calmly told a heckler he’d address their point after finishing his bio, and then said a few positive words about fighting AIDS at home and abroad (A critical world issue to be sure, but not a particularly controversial one in this day and age…c’mon, y’all, this isn’t 1988. And why try to derail a candidate who is politically sympathetic to your cause, particularly when Karl Rove is across town?) At any rate, no harm no foul for Team Edwards: He navigated this potentially rocky shoal extremely successfully, although I presume some advance guy or gal was given the serious what-for soon thereafter.
As for the trade stuff, I liked where he was going at first, but he eventually seem to fall back on the fair trade side of the usual dichotomy. As I see it, the problem isn’t free trade itself per se as much as the loss of American jobs, as well as the ugly spectacle of corporations firing tons of US workers only to turn right around and offer up a fat dividend. Edwards obliquely mentioned this formulation, then fell back on tax breaks for “good” corporations and the trouble with NAFTA. My feeling is, if you want to stop this kind of behavior, there needs to be more stick and less carrot. Hit business where it hurts: Tax the heck out of (or even, God forbid, disallow) corporate dividends that occur in the same fiscal year as the downsizing of X number of American jobs. Simply put, if you can’t afford to pay your workers anymore, you damn well shouldn’t be paying dividends to stockholders. Edwards came close to saying thus, but then fell back into the old free trade/fair trade rut, which to my mind is a bit like shouting into the wind. If you want to change corporate behavior, focus on corporate behavior…don’t blame the increasingly irreversible trend of globalization.
At any rate, all in all Edwards came off quite well, although not as inspiring or Clintonesque as I would’ve originally liked. He’s definitely got a great future in the party and in American politics, and he’d no doubt make a solid contender in this election season against the likes of Dubya (or Dick Cheney.)
Unfortunately, I missed Dubya’s flailing about on Russert Sunday morning, so I can’t really venture an opinion about how that went. (The rightniks seem dour about it.) But Salon has put up an interesting presidential popularity chart, which shows that Dubya’s approval rating has only spiked thrice: 9/11, the Iraq War, and Saddam’s capture. Makes you wonder if Karl Rove is on the phone with Pakistan this very moment.
So how do you like them apples? John Kerry comes up big in Iowa (38%), John Edwards places a very viable second (32%)…and the once seemingly-insurmountable Howard Dean falls to a distant third (18%). (For his part, a broken-hearted Gephardt came in fourth (11%) and will drop out tomorrow…so much for Big Union.)
An interesting evening, all in all, and one that’s in effect limited the Democratic race from eight to four:
First off, I think Howard Dean added insult to injury tonight with his cringeworthy (non-)concession speech — that hoarse, high-pitched yelp at the end of his angry roll of states is going to be played-for-laughs by the punditocracy hundreds of times this week (In fact, it took all of two hours for Drudge to post it as his headline…it’s since been removed.) It was a display that could seriously hurt him among undecideds who’ve never really seen the guy before. That being said, the prognosis for the doctor isn’t necessarily terrible, if he can weather the initial post-Iowa dip. For one, the rise of Kerry and Edwards is going to seriously complicate the anti-Dean question: Both Kerry and Clark will now be vying for veterans, as Clark and Edwards fight over who’s the electable southerner. And Dean’s still got the money and the movement, which isn’t going to just wither away because of a bad night in Des Moines. That being said, Dean’s in for a race now, and if that’s the case, I for one am pleased that the candidates pushing him are as of tonight more likely to be John Edwards and John Kerry than they are Wesley Clark, Joe Lieberman, or the now-defunct Dick Gephardt.
John Edwards is a candidate I’ve been looking to see more from this whole cycle, and, if a long primary haul is our party’s fate, I’m very glad he’ll get a chance to strut his stuff on the main stage. He’s got real populist cred and a trial lawyer’s argumentative savvy, and, well, the Southern accent doesn’t hurt. He definitely looked the best tonight in terms of tone and message. And I think that, not unlike our current president, he’s often “misunderestimated.” Go Edwards.
I’ve been relatively agnostic about John Kerry for awhile (in part because he stumped so blatantly for Gore over Bradley last primary cycle), but I’ve liked him more recently since he lost Chris Lehane and started loosening up. Despite the fears of Dukakis-redux, I think Kerry could make a very strong candidate in the general, given his (perhaps too-overtouted of late) military record and debating skills. If he carries this bounce to a Democratic victory, I won’t be overly disappointed.
As for Wesley Clark…well, let’s just say the bloom is off the rose in these parts. Running a Lehane-style campaign isn’t helping him, but the real problem is, well, he’s not a Democrat. He voted for Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Reagan, and Bush, he’s been a member of the party for less than a year, and he’s on tape praising the Dubya administration at a GOP fundraiser. I really don’t think the Democratic Party should be getting behind a fellow who’s said “I’m very glad we’ve got the great team in office, men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Paul O’Neill — people I know very well — our President George W. Bush. We need them there, because we’ve got some tough challenges ahead in Europe.” Because, y’know, that particular soundbite would singlehandedly throw the election to Dubya, and we need to make Karl Rove spend at least some of his massive war chest on formulating his own advertisements.
So Clark, Dean, Edwards, and Kerry…the board is set, the pieces are moving.
Ashcroft gets the inside word on the FBI’s Plamegate investigation. Well, on one hand he is the Attorney General. But, c’mon now – the smart thing to do would be to recuse himself from this case, particularly given his close ties to Rove. As I’ve said before in other contexts, if we were talking about Janet Reno here, Dan Burton would already have fired up the investigation train.
With the inquiry into felonious behavior in the White House expected to broaden to include the State and Defense Departments in short order, Attorney General Ashcroft ponders how to investigate his buddy Karl Rove (Here’s a hint, John – Just treat him like you would a foreign national or medicinal marijuana advocate.) Meanwhile, the White House unleashes its “slime and defend” defense strategy, which involves slandering Joseph Wilson as a (gasp) Democrat while circling the GOP wagons around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “‘So far so good,’ the [Republican] aide said. ‘There’s nervousness on the part of the party leadership, but no defections in the sense of calling for an independent counsel.’” So who will be the first Republican statesperson to stand up and demand the Bushies be held accountable? John McCain, perhaps? Or how about one of the House Impeachment managers — they were so enamored with executive propriety only five years ago.
A CIA inquiry delves into the Bush administration to ascertain which [Karl Rove]Dubya flunky[/Karl Rove] was motivated by petty revenge and political calculation to compromise the identity of an agent. Just like the Bushies to play political games with both our collective and individual security…Hopefully the Agency will get to the bottom of this White House felony more thoroughly than they did WMDgate.
Despite the 2.6 million jobs lost during his tenure, Dubya declares his tax cut was the “absolute right course of action” for restoring the economy. I guess we’ll see…expect the Bushies to latch on to every moderately decent economic indicator in the next eighteen months as being directly related to the Dubya tax debacle. By the way, do you get the sense Karl told Dubya to use the phrase “tough decision”?
“I can tell you this categorically, we’ve got the weakest president and weakest government in the history of my 50 years of public service. I say weak president in that the poor boy campaigns all the time and pays no attention to what’s going on in the Congress. Karl Rove tells him to do this or do that or whatever it is, but he’s out campaigning.” On his way out the door, South Carolina’s Fritz Hollings speaks his mind on Dubya. Hear hear.
“The Rove-Bush goal is to return government to its size before the New Deal, leaving the individual more exposed to corporate power than at any other time since the 1920s.” Jack Beatty of The Atlantic Monthly examines Rove’s long-term strategy for the Dubya tax cut, and how it’s cleverly designed to help the GOP in 2004 and 2008. Grim stuff. In a related story, Michael Kinsley offers his take on the dividend debacle: “The recently enacted tax bill is such a shocking and brazen gift for the wealthy that it is hard to describe in anything short of…cartoon-Marxist terms.”
Karl Rove, alleged architect of the Iraq war (and recently exposed as an Eric Foner fan in Nicholas Lemann’s New Yorker piece this week) steps out from behind the curtain to revel in the adulation of New Hampshire. If he only had a heart.
To the vast credit of our armed forces, the Iraq war now seems to be going as well as it possibly can. (As I’ve said several times before, I fear the Iraqi peace will be somewhat tougher.) But the Bushies aren’t in the clear yet. For, despite all the work Karl Rove’s doing to paint Dubya as Eisenhower for the reelection campaign, it’s still the economy, stupid. And despite our military successes outside Baghdad, the deficit is soaring, the GOP is repudiating their own budget, and the economy is now clearly poised for the Dubya-dip. Like father, like son?