The fat lady, having yesterday grasped the armrests of her chair, has begun tensing her arm muscles as she begins to pull forward.
Eleven days is an eternity in politics, but John Kerry finishes strong.
Q. What's the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War?
A. George W. Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.
One is predisposed to dismiss that as a cheap shot . . . but think about it. Despite the clear advice of people like his father (a former CIA chief and President who had done some thinking on this himself – and who had painted a prescient picture of what a US-occupied Iraq would be like), Bush 43 really did invade the country without a plan.
With a massive effort and a really good plan, who knows? Enough of the population might have been won over fast enough to make it work, although his father clearly had concluded otherwise.*
But we will never know, because – incredibly – we rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.
* In case you missed it, this is the oft-quoted passage from President Bush’s 1998 memoir, A World Transformed:
Trying to eliminate Saddam...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq.... There was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.
How could we have taken such a fateful step without better judgment and analysis? Without thinking through the consequences? Without having had contingency plans for scenarios other than “being greeted with flowers”?
The explanation may lie in Al Gore’s latest speech, of which, herewith, a few paragraphs:
There are many people in both parties who have the uneasy feeling that there is something deeply troubling about President Bush’s relationship to reason, his disdain for facts, an incuriosity about new information that might produce a deeper understanding of the problems and policies that he wrestles with on behalf of the country. One group maligns the President as not being intelligent, or at least, not being smart enough to have a normal curiosity about separating fact from myth. A second group is convinced that his religious conversion experience was so profound that he relies on religious faith in place of logical analysis. But I disagree with both of those groups. I think he is plenty smart. And while I have no doubt that his religious belief is genuine, and that it is an important motivation for many things that he does in life, as it is for me and for many of you, most of the President’s frequent departures from fact-based analysis have much more to do with right-wing political and economic ideology than with the Bible. But it is crucially important to be precise in describing what it is he believes in so strongly and insulates from any logical challenge or even debate. It is ideology – and not his religious faith – that is the source of his inflexibility. Most of the problems he has caused for this country stem not from his belief in God, but from his belief in the infallibility of the right-wing Republican ideology that exalts the interests of the wealthy and of large corporations over the interests of the American people. Love of power for its own sake is the original sin of this presidency…
His seeming immunity to doubt is often interpreted by people who see and hear him on television as evidence of the strength of his conviction – when in fact it is this very inflexibility, based on a willful refusal to even consider alternative opinions or conflicting evidence, that poses the most serious danger to the country. And by the same token, the simplicity of his pronouncements, which are often misinterpreted as evidence that he has penetrated to the core of a complex issue, are in fact exactly the opposite -- they mark his refusal to even consider complexity. That is a particularly difficult problem in a world where the challenges we face are often quite complex and require rigorous analysis.
The essential cruelty of Bush’s game is that he takes an astonishingly selfish and greedy collection of economic and political proposals then cloaks it with a phony moral authority, thus misleading many Americans who have a deep and genuine desire to do good in the world. And in the process he convinces them to lend unquestioning support for proposals that actually hurt their families and their communities. Bush has stolen the symbolism and body language of religion and used it to disguise the most radical effort in American history to take what rightfully belongs to the citizenry of America and give as much as possible to the already wealthy and privileged, who look at his agenda and say, as Dick Cheney said to Paul O’Neill, “this is our due.”
F This speech is well worth reading in its entirety. Try to find the time!
But – without meaning to swamp you – I wanted to offer one more slab for your weekend, this statement by former Michigan Governor Bill Milliken in Monday’s Traverse City Record Eagle:
I have always been proud to be a Republican. My Republican Party is a broad-based party, that seeks to bring a wide spectrum of people under its umbrella and that seeks to protect and provide opportunity for the most vulnerable among us.
Sadly, that is not the Republican Party that I see at the national level today.
My Republican Party has always been a party that stood for fiscal responsibility. Today, under George W. Bush, we have the largest deficit in the history of our country - a deficit that jeopardizes economic growth that is so desperately needed in a nation that has lost 2.6 million jobs since he took office.
To make matters even worse, this president inherited a surplus, but squandered it with huge tax cuts structured primarily to benefit the wealthy and powerful.
My Republican Party is the party of Michigan Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg who helped forge a bipartisan foreign policy that served this nation well and produced strong alliances across the globe. This president has, in a highly partisan, unilateral way rushed us into a tragic and unnecessary war that has cost the lives of more than 1,000 of our young men and women. In this arrogant rush to war, he has alienated this nation from much of the world.
What's worse, the basic premises upon which we were taken to war proved to be false. Now, we find ourselves in the midst of an occupation that was largely unplanned and has become a disaster from which we cannot easily extricate ourselves.
My Republican Party is the party of Theodore Roosevelt, who fought to preserve our natural resources and environment. This president has pursued policies that will cause irreparable damage to our environmental laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the public lands we share with future generations.
My Republican Party is the party of Lincoln, who freed an enslaved people. This president fought in the courts to strike down policies designed to provide opportunity and access to our own University of Michigan for minority students.
My Republican Party is the party of Eisenhower, who warned us to beware of the dangers of a military-industrial complex. This president has pursued policies skewed to favor large corporations in the defense and oil industry and has gone so far as to let those industries help write government policies.
My Republican Party is a party that respects and works with the men and women of the law enforcement community who put their lives on the line for us every day. This president ignored the pleas of law enforcement agencies across America and failed to lift a finger to renew the assault weapons ban that they strongly supported as an essential safeguard for public safety.
My Republican Party is a party that values the pursuit of knowledge. But this president stands in the way of meaningful embryonic stem-cell research that holds so much promise for those who suffer from diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries and other conditions.
My Republican Party is the party of Gerald R. Ford, Michigan's only president, who reached across partisan lines to become a unifying force during a time of great turmoil in our nation's history. This president has pursued policies pandering to the extreme right wing across a wide variety of issues and has exacerbated the polarization and the strident, uncivil tone of much of what passes for political discourse in this country today.
Women's rights, civil liberties, the separation of church and state, the funding of family planning efforts world-wide - all have suffered grievously under this president and his administration.
The truth is that President George W. Bush does not speak for me or for many other moderate Republicans on a very broad cross section of issues.
Sen. John Kerry, on the other hand, has put forth a coherent, responsible platform of progressive initiatives that I believe would serve this country well. He wants to balance the budget, step up environmental protection efforts, rebuild our international relationships, support stem-cell research, protect choice and pursue a number of other progressive initiatives that moderates from both parties can support.
As a result, despite my long record of active involvement in the Republican Party, and my intention still to stay in the Republican Party, when I cast my ballot November 2, I will be voting for John Kerry for President.
Mike Peattie: “I’m afraid the link you posted to the Time article Wednesday is very old – October 2002, not 2004 – and Dr. Hager is now on the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs.”
F Oops. My error! (But at least he’s not the head of it, as originally envisioned. I guess all the protests had some impact.)
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