President Bush’s job approval rating, according to Gallup/USA Today – a level “hovering near the lowest” point of his presidency. 62 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s job performance.
William Stuntz in The Weekly Standard offers us a classic Green Lantern Theory account of Iraq, urging us to merely try harder in Iraq and demonstrate our implacable resolve to win. D at Lawyers, Guns, and Money takes some of this apart, but perhaps we can dig deeper.
The American people, as politicians like to say, spoke last week – and spoke in no uncertain terms. The 2006 vote does not suggest an eagerness for a sharp left turn. It seems, rather, to be a plea for a shift from the hard right of the neoconservatives to the center represented by the old man in Houston [President George H. W. Bush].
The “centrist” ideas “represented” by former President Bush are actually progressive ideas put forward over a year ago. Media reports indicate that the James Baker-led Iraq Study Group will call for (1) a phased drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq and (2) a diplomatic initiative to engage Iraq’s regional neighbors to help calm ethnic tensions. The Center for American Progress advanced these very steps over a year ago in its Strategic Redeployment plan.
It’s also worth noting that former President Bush publicly backed his son’s Iraq policy prior to the war. Two months before the invasion, Bush 41 said “someone needs to step forward to hold Saddam to account. And the United States, led by our president, is prepared to do just that.” True, some former Bush advisers have opposed the war since the beginning. Yet others, like Colin Powell, were among the most prominent public advocates.
In a series of events predicted by virtually nobody allowed access to high-profile media positions, but virtually everyone who knows anything about Lebanon, the upshot of Israel’s military campaign against Hezbollah has been to strengthen Hezbollah’s political position and throw Lebanon’s relatively Israel-friendly into crisis, possibly setting the stage for a return to power of pro-Syrian elements or else for a re-meltdown of the Lebanese state. One wrinkle here that seems to go perennial unmentioned is that had the Cedar Revolution actually brought democracy to Lebanon (as opposed to the takeover of government by an anti-Syrian political coalution) victory for Hezbollah and its allies would be all but assured. The Taif Accords, among other things, implemented an odd electoral system that structurally overrepresents Christians and underrepresents Shiites. That’s not necessary a bad thing, under the circumstances, but a more normal and more democratic system would significantly enhance Hezbollah’s political power.
This seems like as good a time as any to mention George W. Bush’s recent decision to bestow a National Humanities Award on Lebanese emigré Fouad Ajami. As Martin Peretz points out, Ajami has probably been the single largest influence on American understanding of the Arab world; his books have been very influential and his writings have appeared widely in major publications. The non-Peretzian notion I would interject into this stream of praise is that America’s understanding of the Arab world, as evidenced by years of recent policy fiascos, is . . . extremely bad. Ajami has, in essence, become prominent by being a seemingly credible voice willing to tell American elites what they want to hear, offering an interpretation of Arab affairs that’s significantly more palatable than the analysis provided by the scholarly mainstream.
That some view represents that scholarly consensus is, of course, no guarantee that it’s correct — dissidents are sometimes right. Nevertheless, we’ve been using Ajami and Ajami-ism as our guide to the region for quite some time now and it keeps working out very, very badly.
Fake anthrax mailed to progressives by California Freeper?. Nothing to see here, Atrios uses dirty words sometimes.
about the Iraq war, former Rumsfeld friend and Defense Policy Board member Ken Adelman tells The New Yorker.
About a year ago, I seem to recall that the CW had sort of settled on the idea that Yao Ming was “overrated.” Not that he was actually overrated as such, but he was super-famous and people felt his game didn’t live up to that hype or to his high draft status. In fact, at the time he was already a very good player. But since then he has, without a lot of attention, become, well, totally awesome. In the 25 games he played after the All-Star break last season he averaged 25.7 points (on 53.7 field goal shooting), 11.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. So far this year, he’s averaging 27.3 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1.9 assists on 59 percent field goal shooting with a 88 percent free throw shooting. And unlike a lot of guys who’ve been great out-of-the-gate this year, based on his performance in the second half of last season there’s very good reason to think he can sustain it season-long.
Thanks to the way he dominated Shaq (who, to be fair, has been a shadow of his former self for some time now) last night, I don’t think this is going to be going unnoticed much longer.
Mark Schmitt notes a few instances of districts featuring vulnerable Republicans where the “wrong” Democratic candidate prevailed in the primaries against an establishment-backed moderate, only to have the establishment write the seat off (at least temporarily), and then the Democrats won the seat anyway. “Is there a lesson here? It’s not a big sample size, but it suggests that in a district where a Republican was vulnerable to defeat, a plain-spoken progressive could do it at least as easily as a focus-grouped moderate. Perhaps even better.”
Maybe that’s the lesson. I’m inclined, however, to see a different lesson. Consider once again Carol Shea-Porter. Mark observes that she “won a four-way primary, defeating a veteran state legislator who had the support of the DCCC, got a campaign visit from Tom Daschle, and out-raised Shea-Porter 10 to 1.” My guess would be that the real lesson here is that a candidate who manages to win a four-way primary against, among others, a veteran state legislator who had the support of the DCCC, got a campaign visit from Tom Daschle, and out-raised Shea-Porter 10 to 1 probably just had strengths as a candidate that weren’t obviously there on paper. As everyone knows, actual issues and policy views have only a limited impact on voting behavior — there are a lot of intangible factors in play, and primaries put those intangibles to the test.
One of the oddities of 2004 was that because Dean and Gephardt focused so much of their fire on (successfully!) bringing each other down, and then John Edwards waged a “nice guy” campaign aimed at securing the Vice Presidency, Kerry emerged victorious without really being tested. It’s better, I think, to have real races insofar as their are real disagreements between the candidates. In a way, this is especially true for more moderate candidates who’ll have a better chance at getting credit for their moderation if, like Bill Clinton, they actually succeed in facing-down alternatives and securing a mandate for re-positioning the party.
During the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) likened the war against terrorist networks to fighting crime, suggesting that both could never be fully defeated but their impact on our lives could be drastically reduced:
“We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance,” Kerry said. “As a former law-enforcement person, I know we’re never going to end prostitution. We’re never going to end illegal gambling. But we’re going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn’t on the rise. It isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight, but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.”
Kerry was mercilessly attacked for his suggestion that we attempt to reduce terrorism to level where it is a “nuisance.” President Bush said:
[T]hat very attitude is what blinded America to the war being waged against us. And by not seeing the war, our government had no comprehensive strategy to fight it.
Vice President Cheney added:
There never can be a time when terrorism is just a nuisance. Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level. Our goal is to defeat terror, and with George Bush as President, that’s exactly what we will do.
In an interview with MSNBC, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Peter Pace, explained that the Bush administration is currently pursuing the same strategy that Kerry advocated in 2004. Watch it:
Transcript: Read more
Iraq war architect Douglas Feith (aka: “the dumbest [expletive] guy on the planet“) pens an op-ed defending Donald Rumsfeld: “Rumsfeld is a bundle of paradoxes, like a fascinating character in a work of epic literature. And as my high school teachers drummed into my head, the best literature reveals that humans are complex.”