This winter’s “curiously warm weather across the Northeast and much of the Midwest has played havoc with more than seasonal businesses. In Washington, D.C., springlike temperatures have faked out flora, causing dogwoods and daffodils to bloom.” New York City is expecting 70 degree weather tomorrow (an all-time high), and a college professor drowned last Sunday “after falling through thin ice on usually frozen Rangeley Lake.”
“The White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement last spring in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal declaring that records identifying visitors to the White House are not open to the public.” The agreement came one day after Judicial Watch “asked a federal judge to impose sanctions on the Secret Service in a dispute over White House visitor logs for Abramoff.”
See a breakdown by state, year, or minimum wage amount in a new interactive map by American Progress here.
… ABC News asks folks who were members of the Senate in October 2002 if they would be inclined to revise their vote based on what we now all know about the intelligence. I was interested to see Senators Clinton and Biden (among others) now in the doves-in-retrospect camp. One would think this question should be a no-brainer, but recall that as recently as 2004 such Democratic Party presidential and vice presidential nominees as John Kerry and John Edwards were still maintaining they’d voted the wrong way. Shortly after the campaign ended, both of them defected to the dove camp, but to the best of my knowledge Clinton was still sticking the hawk line.
Meanwhile, a whole bunch of GOP Senators either refused to answer or else dodged the question in silly ways. Folks should keep at it; this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask. I also note that House members shouldn’t be immune.
At a time when the United States is engaged in protracted ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the worst moves the Bush administration could make is to appoint someone with no background in land warfare to oversee these operations. In another baffling move, President Bush has decided to do just that, by replacing retiring Army General John Abizaid, the current head of Central Command, with Navy Admiral William J. Fallon.
Since its inception, Central Command, which oversees the Middle East and South Central Asia, has been led only by a Army or Marine Corps General. The Navy has been largely on the sidelines while the Army and the Marine Corps have borne the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; both are starting to crack under the strain. Admiral Fallon is a fine officer and by all accounts has done a good job as head of the Pacific Command, the Navy’s traditional area of responsibility. But with little background in the Middle East or land warfare, his appointment appears to be based more on diffusing opposition to the military escalation in Iraq than on what is best for the soldiers and Marines on the ground and the country.
Set to make the disastrous decision to escalate our presence in Iraq, the President is in need of a military commander to support his decision. While General Abizaid publicly opposed the surge in troop levels in Iraq, it would be surprising if Admiral Fallon is not more agreeable.
(Jeff Huber has more.)
“I have reached the tentative conclusion that a significant portion of this administration, maybe even including the vice president, believes Iraq is lost,” [ Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe] Biden said. “They have no answer to deal with how badly they have screwed it up. I am not being facetious now. Therefore, the best thing to do is keep it from totally collapsing on your watch and hand it off to the next guy — literally not figuratively.” Kevin Drum’s alternative theory is that they figure if worst comes to worst, Iraq goes through some ethnic cleansing and the United States just backs whoever emerges controlling Baghdad in exchange for a willingness to host some permanent military bases.
Noting Jim Miklaszewski’s report report that “one administration official admitted to us today that this surge option is more of a political decision than a military one because the American people have run out of patience and President Bush is running out of time to achieve some kind of success in Iraq,” Spencer Ackerman wondered “How many lives is a five-point bump in the polls worth, anyway?” Many, many lives, if you’re George W. Bush. As Kahneman and Renshom observe:
Imagine, for example, the choice between:
Option A: A sure loss of $890
Option B: A 90 percent chance to lose $1,000 and a 10 percent chance to lose nothing.
In this situation, a large majority of decision makers will prefer the gamble in Option B, even though the other choice is statistically superior. People prefer to avoid a certain loss in favor of a potential loss, even if they risk losing significantly more. When things are going badly in a conflict, the aversion to cutting one’s losses, often compounded by wishful thinking, is likely to dominate the calculus of the losing side. This brew of psychological factors tends to cause conflicts to endure long beyond the point where a reasonable observer would see the outcome as a near certainty. Many other factors pull in the same direction, notably the fact that for the leaders who have led their nation to the brink of defeat, the consequences of giving up will usually not be worse if the conflict is prolonged, even if they are worse for the citizens they lead.
This, I think, gets at the real truth. It doesn’t matter to Bush and his top aides whether or not Iraq is, for all intents and purposes, hopeless. They don’t pay any downside costs of escalating, so they’re willing to make American military personnel and American taxpayers bear any burden and pay any price for even the vaguest hope that this will in some way increase the odds of something they could plausibly label “success” happening.
One thing I’ve heard over the years is that George W. Bush and his top aides liked the idea of Dick Cheney being Vice President in part because Cheney lacks presidential ambitions. That way, everyone on the team would be working toward one goal: The greater glory of George Bush.
Realistically, I think this is going to prove to be a serious mistake. It’s unprecedented in the modern era for a term-limited president not to have a designated successor. Such a successor lends coherence and continuity to the administration as a whole, understood as a complicated organism involving hundreds (if not thousands) of people at all kinds of levels. Without a successor, that organism is going to start fracturing, as people realize that the ticket to future jobs is no longer to continue toiling away for Bush, but rather to join a GOP presidential campaign. But those campaigns are going to be busy attacking each other and needing to differentiate themselves from each other — nobody’s going to be cooperating with the White House. Mike Allen’s Time story on the disbanding of the Bush/Cheney ’04 rapid response teams gets at some of this emerging dynamic.
Casey, a critic of President Bush’s plan to increase troops in Iraq, will be stepping down as the chief general in Iraq.
Last night, Bill O’Reilly opened a discussion about new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) by pointing out that “a lot of conservatives are already hammering Ms. Pelosi.” O’Reilly said, “I don’t think that’s fair. … I don’t think it’s fair just to go in with a hammer on Nancy Pelosi. Let’s see what she’s got, what they’ll do.”
Moments later, during the same segment, O’Reilly attacked Pelosi as “the most liberal woman in the world.” Watch both comments back-to-back:
O’Reilly has previously (and falsely) bragged about coining the term “San Francisco Values,” which he apparently first used “during the October 2 broadcast of Westwood One’s The Radio Factor, when he called Pelosi a ‘far-left secular-progressive bomb thrower‘ and warned that ‘[i]f you vote for the Democrats and if they get a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate,’ then ‘you bring to America San Francisco values.’”
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A State Department official leaked word this week that President Bush is considering sending “no more than 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops” to Iraq. “Instead of a surge, it is a bump,” the official said.
This claim was bolstered last night by CBS’s David Martin, who reported that military commanders have told Bush they are prepared to execute a troop escalation of just 9,000 soldiers and Marines into Iraq, “with another 10,000 on alert in Kuwait and the U.S.”
The Washington Post reports today that “deep divisions remain between the White House on one side and the Joint Chiefs and congressional leaders on the other about whether a surge of up to 20,000 troops will turn around the deteriorating situation.” The Post also provides more context about an administration official’s recent claim that the escalation is “more of a political decision than a military one.“:
The U.S. military is increasingly resigned to the probability that Bush will deploy a relatively small number of additional troops — between one and five brigades — in part because he has few other dramatic options available to signal U.S. determination in Iraq, officials said. But the Joint Chiefs have not given up making the case that the potential dangers outweigh the benefits for several reasons, officials said.
Escalation backers have already begun distancing themselves from this plan. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said yesterday that not sending enough troops would be “worse than doing nothing.”
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