Today, however, is September 1. Labor Day is September 3. Is the following day going to be the start of a new marketing push for war with Iran? George Packer thinks it might be. Of course, things things aren’t written in stone. When Sam Gardiner published “The End of the Summer of Diplomacy” (PDF) in the fall of 2006, I found his arguments very convincing. And yet, despite a bunch of talk, we’ve gone a whole twelve months without a war with Iran. Was Gardiner wrong, or were Gardiner and those of us who agree with him that launching such a war would be a terrible mistake merely politically effective?
On Friday, President Bush unveiled his “plan to help homeowners,” who are facing foreclosures in the housing slump. But McClatchy reports that most of what Bush announced simply duplicates what Congress is already doing:
The plan was announced days before Congress returns from its August recess with housing issues high on its agenda. The proposals, however, duplicate efforts already under way by Congress and other federal agencies, would help at most 21 percent of the homeowners facing foreclosures and would do little to help areas in which inflated real estate prices are a problem.
Bush called on Democrats to approve a modernization of the Federal Housing Administration, which passed the House of Representatives last year with bipartisan support but was quashed by Senate Republicans.
He promised to require greater disclosure from lenders, a move on which federal bank regulators already have provided guidance. He promised to get tough with unscrupulous mortgage brokers, but they’re largely regulated on the state level. And during a briefing Friday, a senior administration official acknowledged that the plan would do little to help states with high real estate prices, such as California.
With recent recalls of toys, jewelry, and other products made in China, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has come under intense public scrutiny lately. The New York Times notes that the agency “has hardly been a priority of the Bush administration“:
Under the Bush administration, which promised to ease what it viewed as costly rules that placed unnecessary burdens on businesses, industry-friendly officials have been installed at federal agencies that oversee the nation’s workplaces, food suppliers, environment and consumer goods. [...]
The commission’s shrinking budget is just $62 million this year, even though the agency regulates an industry that sells $1.4 trillion annually. The Food and Drug Administration, which has a $2 billion budget, spends nearly twice as much monitoring the safety of animal feed and drugs than the Consumer Product Safety Commission spends to ensure the safety of products as diverse as toy, tools and televisions used every day by millions of Americans.
Steve Clemons brings some RUMINT regarding the possibility of a 2012 David Petraeus presidential campaign. This is something that strikes me as plausible if and only if my pessimism proves unfounded, and a Democrat takes office in 2009 who does withdraw American troops from Iraq. That would lay the groundwork for Petraeus to play the Hindenburg role in a stab-in-the-back campaign in 2012 (see, I’m not comparing my political foes to Nazis just to, um, soft-on-Nazism nationalists) in case anything sufficiently bad happens in the world to make such ex post facto carping compelling.
It does seem to me that based on the experiences over the past 15 years or so with Colin Powell and Wesley Clark that something about the modern officer’s corps generates high-level personnel who don’t really have the right personalities to be effective in politics. Powell unsuitability for a major political role didn’t, of course, actually stop him from becoming Secretary of State, but it does seem like a cautionary example to me. On the other hand, even if Petraeus hasn’t been very successful at improving conditions on the ground in Iraq, it’s undeniable that he’s turned MNF Iraq into a formidable PR machine reminiscent of its 2003 condition despite having fallen into considerable disrepair over the years.
At any rate, I suppose that’s enough idle speculation for now, but it’s certainly something to chew on.
Robert Farley recounts an interesting-if-depressing American Political Science Association panel discussion on the future of Iraq policy. I think my perspective is closest to John Mearsheimer’s (and, no, this has nothing in particular to do with the Jews):
John Mearsheimer was very direct and deeply pessimistic. Ten years ago, I doubt I would have believed that Mearsheimer’s critique of US foreign policy would essentially mirror a standard leftist perspective. There are differences, of course, but on Iraq Mearsheimer is making an argument that would fit very comfortably into the netroots. Mearsheimer argued that Iraq has been and will continue to be a disaster, but that because of domestic politics and institutional dynamics we’ll still be there in five years and beyond. The stab-in-the-back narrative that’s being prepared by the Republican Party will succeed in scaring a Democratic president and Democratic congress from taking any decisive steps to end the war. At the same time, the senior theater leadership in the armed forces are committed to not losing, due to their perception of the institutional disaster that resulted from the Vietnam War.
This is what happens, it seems, when realists discover domestic politics as an influence on foreign policy. That said, the fault to a large extent lies with ourselves. We’re right now in the midst of a presidential primary campaign which is when, as we all know, politicians need to “pander” to the insidious liberal base. And thus far, activists and voters alike are signaling that they’re willing — eager, even — to be tricked by wannabe nominees rather than hold them accountable. If the Democratic primary electorate is happy to take statements about “ending the war” or “withdrawing combat troops” at face value even when they’re immediately followed by quiet reassurances that troops will stay in Iraq for counterterrorism (i.e., combat), training (i.e., combat), and force protection (i.e., combat) then it really is hard to see where pressure to end the war is supposed to come from.
Yesterday, outgoing White House adviser Karl Rove penned a piece in the National Review devoted to extolling President Bush’s greatness and predicting that “history will provide a more clear-eyed verdict on this president’s leadership than the anger of current critics would suggest.”
The White House liked it so much that it forwarded the piece to its press list, with the e-mail subject: “IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The Long View.” An excerpt from Rove’s piece:
President Bush will be viewed as a far-sighted leader who confronted the key test of the 21st century.
He will be judged as a man of moral clarity who put America on wartime footing in the dangerous struggle against radical Islamic terrorism. [...]
President Bush will be seen as a compassionate leader who used America’s power for good. [...]
I have come to understand true leadership leans into the wind. It tackles big challenges with uncertain outcomes rather than taking on simple, sure tasks. It does what is right, regardless of what the latest poll or focus group says. History demands much of America and its leaders and I am confident it will judge the 43rd president as a man more than worthy of the great office the American people twice entrusted to him.
If Rove’s track record is any indication, this latest prediction will also likely turn out to be incorrect. In 2006, roughly a week before the midterm election, Rove predicted “a Republican Senate and Republican House” by claiming sole access to “THE math.” In Nov. 2000, he claimed the “election will not be close” and predicted Bush will “win enough states to get about 50 more Electoral College votes than he needs to win.”
Rove joins Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who in July predicted that Bush’s “ratings among the historians will be greater than his ratings in the polls today,” and Rush Limbaugh, who said in May that historians will “place George Bush in the upper echelon of presidents who had a great vision for America.”
But historians are already debating Bush’s legacy. Rolling Stone recently wrote, “Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.”
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig resigned Saturday over a men’s room sex sting, bowing to pressure from fellow Republicans worried about a scandal dimming their election prospects.
“I apologize for what I have caused,” Craig said.
Craig’s resignation completed a stunning downfall that began Monday with the disclosure that he had pleaded guilty to a reduced charge following his arrest during a sex sting in a Minneapolis airport men’s room.
UPDATE: CNN’s Dana Bash reports that Craig continues to insist that he is innocent of the charges and will be “fighting it like hell.”
In an analysis of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s efforts to “reshape her legacy,” New York Times reporter Helene Cooper notes today that Rice “is trying hard to rewrite her legacy to include something more than Iraq.” As for Iraq, Rice’s “colleagues and friends say that she has accepted that Iraq is a stain that she probably cannot remove before she leaves office.”
“Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend,” by the Mr. T Experience. I’d totally forgotten about this one. Here’s an “unofficial” video: