President Bush’s approval rating in Wisconsin, according to a new poll conducted by a conservative polling firm. The rating is “a new low” for the President, whose previous low in polls by the firm was 24 percent.
A House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing revealed that FEMA “has suppressed warnings from its own Gulf coast field workers since the middle of 2006 about suspected health problems that may be linked to elevated levels of formaldehyde gas released in FEMA-provided trailers.” The Gavel has more from the hearing HERE.
A few interesting things I’ve read today; consider these things I’m thinking about, not necessarily things I agree with:
- Michael Hirsch on failing to beat al-Qaeda.
- Mark Schmitt on John Edwards and poverty.
- Mark Helprin on Israel and the Palestinians
- Iraq fails more benchmarks.
According to a new Congressional Research Service report, the war in Iraq has cost $450 billion to date. Further, if Congress approves the Bush administration’s latest supplemental funding request, the total cost of the war will exceed $550 billion by October 1 of this year — fully ten times greater than the Bush administration naively predicted in February 2003.
The report also details the costs of the war in Afghanistan — $127 billion — and other Department of Defense War on Terror expenditures — $28 billion. The CRS also notes approximately $5 billion dollars that cannot be “allocated.” In total, the “Global War on Terror” has cost $610 billion.
Other notable findings of the report:
Costs Rose Sharply In 2007: “[W]ar appropriations rose steeply in FY2007. DOD received $165.8 billion for war costs in FY2007 — about 40% more than the previous year. … VA medical costs for [Iraq/Afghanistan] veterans will be about $1 billion, according to CRS estimates” in 2007.
$12 Billion Per Month: “For the first half of FY2007, CRS estimates that [Defense Department's] average monthly obligations for contracts and pay are running about $12 billion per month, well above the estimated $8.7 billion in FY2006.”
Rising Cost of Troop Deployments: “Since FY2003, the estimated average cost per deployed troop has risen from about $320,000 to $390,000 per deployed troop” and of the “1.5 million individuals who have deployed for Iraq of OEF, about 30% have had more than one deployment.”
Redeployment Could Cut Costs In Half: “[T]he Congressional Budget Office estimated that war costs for the next 10 years might total about $472 billion if troop levels fell to 30,000 by 2010, or $919 billion if troop levels fell to 75,000 by about 2013. Under such assumptions and adjusting for the FY2007 Supplemental, total funding for Iraq, Afghanistan and the GWOT could reach from about $1 trillion to $1.45 trillion by 2017.”
The CRS report also highlights the administration’s continuing reliance on “emergency supplemental funding requests” to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, noting that “much of the funding would not seem to meet the traditional definition of emergency — as an urgent and ‘unforeseen, unpredictable, and unanticipated’ need.”
You can read the entire report HERE.
At the White House this morning, CNN correspondent Ed Henry “noticed a small group of Secret Service officers gathered around a man with a black backpack.” As he moved closer to the scene, Henry realized who was causing all the commotion, Dave Chappelle:
Since Chappelle made international headlines in 2005 by essentially disappearing for awhile under strange circumstances — and walking away from a $50 million deal to continue his show on Comedy Central — I asked what he’s doing next.
“I want your job,” he said, explaining that it’s fun to watch reporters go back-and-forth with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.
“Or maybe I’ll take Tony Snow’s job,” Chappelle smiled. “I think that’s a cool job.”
Neither Tony nor I get $50 million. But we both have great jobs — plus you never know who you’ll run into next around here.
Back in June, Michael Hirsch wrote some articles from Iran persuasively arguing for diplomatic engagement. He also argued that the extent of domestic repression in Iran has been dramatically overstated. George Packer convincingly responds that Hirsch is substantially understating the degree of repression:
Why did a journalist as experienced as Michael Hirsh not notice? Because, justifiably arguing for dialogue and against fantasies of easy regime change, he wants to be able to say that things are not as bad as you think in Iran. The truth is, things are worse than you think for any Iranian who tries to exercise minimal political rights. Just as the neoconservatives concocted a simple case on Iraq and, now, Iran—claiming that the locals would welcome regime change from outside—people like Hirsh want to make a simple case, too. It’s a great temptation to say that, because X is true, Y, which seems to point in a different direction from X, must be false. We all want total vindication. But in politics there is no total vindication, on Iran or anything else. The regime there is brutal, and we should talk to it.
This seems mostly right, but it’s worth examining the idea of “worse than you think” in this regard. It sort of depends on who “you” are. For example, Iran is often characterized in the American press as a “totalitarian” regime, by both conservative and liberal hawks. Leading Democratic Party political operatives like Ken Baer will call you an apologist for the Iranian regime if you dispute this “totalitarian” concept. Thus “you” may well think that Iran is, in fact, a totalitarian society.
Which it isn’t. The Iranian regime, though harsh on political dissidents, isn’t Stalin’s Russia or China during the Cultural Revolution. Crucially, it’s not more repressive in any clear way than lots of countries — China, Saudi Arabia, etc. — we have perfectly normal diplomatic relations with. One of the reasons Hirsch probably overstated the case somewhat is that so many people — powerful people — seem invested in overstating things on the other side.
Photo by Flickr user Farshad Ebrahimi used under a Creative Commons license
In a closed-door meeting today, the House Intelligence Committee questioned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about the “reasons behind Gonzales’ controversial 2004 visit to the hospital bedside of John Ashcroft, reportedly to pressure the ailing attorney general to endorse Bush’s surveillance program.” According to chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TV), “Gonzales did not express any regret.”
Ron Brownstein notes that historically an unpopular incumbent president does drag his party down even if he’s not on the ballot:
Unpopular departing presidents, though, have consistently undercut their party in the next election. Democrats lost the White House in 1952 and 1968 after Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson saw their approval ratings plummet below 50%. Likewise, in the era before polling, the opposition party won the White House when deeply embattled presidents left office after the elections of 1920 (Woodrow Wilson), 1896 (Grover Cleveland), 1860 (James Buchanan) and 1852 (Millard Fillmore). The White House also changed partisan control when weakened presidents stepped down in 1844 and 1884. Only in 1856 and 1876 did this pattern bend, when the parties of troubled presidents Franklin Pierce and Ulysses S. Grant held the White House upon their departure.
It should be pointed out that 1856 is a not very encouraging precedent for the Republicans. In essence, the opposition Whig Party had collapsed (garnering only 21.5 percent of the vote) but the Republican Party hadn’t yet consolidated its position (garnering only 33 percent of the vote), throwing the election to the Democrats by default. I’m fairly confident that the Democratic Party isn’t in the midst of a Whig-style collapse.
Steve Francis signs on with Houston. This has suddenly become a very deep team, though it would have been a more likable one without this signing. I feel like he should have gone to Cleveland.