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Saturday, February 24, 2007

If We Only Had A Pony
by digby

Last night's Shields and Brooks was a rather hallucinogenic experience as David Books told us how great things would be going in Iraq if only it wasn't Iraq.First off, Shields explained why the Brits have been so "successful" in Basra:

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Well, it's symbolically, I think, important, Jim. I mean, the reality behind the move is that, as Tony

Cordesman from Strategic and International Studies said, Basra was lost a year ago,and Brits have had to withdraw to the airport.
It's now just a Shia stronghold. There is no tension. There's no civil war there, because there's no Sunnis. And it's a little bit like saying that there wasn't any racial tension in Fargo or Moorehead, North Dakota, during the civil rights struggle. There weren't any racial minorities.

For some unknown reason, this led Brooks to explain that Basra was an example of how well things would be going if Iraq were more like Fargo:

JIM LEHRER: David, the idea that withdrawing -- a lot of the attention on this has been drawn to the fact, hey, wait a minute, the Brits are withdrawing troops, and we're sending more in. How do you see this?

DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times: Well, I would point to the same distinction Mark made, that Basra is not Baghdad. Basra is a Shia community, mostly Shia. It doesn't have the sectarian violence.

And, to me, what Basra is, it's a window on -- suppose there wasn't the sectarian violence in Baghdad or in Iraq. Well, where would we be? We would have our expectations not met. We would not have sort of democracy that we hoped for when going in.

Nonetheless, we would not have the sort of civil war we see in Baghdad, and we would be withdrawing, too. But Baghdad has this sectarian violence; Basra doesn't.

What a fascinating little parlor game. Why such useless specualtion is considered worthy of discussion on a new program, however,is a mystery.

But here is where I'd really like to get some of that good stuff that Brooks is smoking:

DAVID BROOKS: ... I mean, I think the Brits once had 40,000 troops. Then they went down to 7,100. And this is a drawback to 5,400, so it's not as if Tony Blair is running away.

I mean, Tony Blair has been steadfast in believing in the mission and keeping troops there, despite incredible political pressure. So, you know, I don't think he's totally answering to the pressure. I think it's a response to the reality.

So, Blair has withdrawn troops from 40,000 to about 5,000 but that means he's been steadfast in keeping troops there. Hookay.

Then Brooks went into fine whine:

JIM LEHRER: Speaking of domestic realities in the United States of America, David, what do you make of the Senate plans? They've been talking about probably going to start next week to try to reauthorize or change the legislation that originally authorized the military action against Iraq.

DAVID BROOKS: This is like "Back to the Future." They're going to go in a DeLorean back to 2002 and un-vote the vote they made.

I love this. Apparently we have a new rule in politics which says that once you've passed a bill, you are not ever allowed to revisit it, no matter what happens, even if the circumstances change significantly. I knew these people believed in the constitutional theory of "original intent" but I didn't know they had decided to apply it to current legislation. Good to know.

Moreover, Bush is stubbornly refusing to listen to the American people and that makes him a hero. Indeed, the mark of a truly great American president is his willingness to do defy the citizens of his nation:

DAVID BROOKS: You know, the big difference to me is, you know, George Bush -- you can say what you like about his operation of the war, but he took a look at what should happen in Iraq, and it was the surge. He knew it was going to be unpopular, but he was going to be for it, even though it was unpopular.

Is there any Democrat willing to stand up and be for something unpopular or even take a position? I really don't know what the Democratic positions are.

There are individual positions, but when it comes to resolutions, there's this Murtha business, which is sort of funny, reallocate the relocation of the troops, the intervals which they go in and out. Then there's the Levin-Biden plan, which is to go back to 2002 and somehow reauthorize that bill.

Why don't they take a position and say, "I'm for this. This is what we think should happen in Iraq. We think the war is lost. We think we should get out"?

Or, "We don't think the war is lost. We should do this"?

But it's all poll-driven, and that's my problem with the Democratic plans that are all evolving. They're all poll-driven. It's the party right now with the soul of a campaign manager.

But didn't we just see the results of one very special kind of poll recently?

MARK SHIELDS: I don't agree. We do have elections in this country, other than polls. We had an election last fall in which the Republicans, largely on the issue of Iraq, and largely on the issue of the stewardship of the president and vice president of that war, and the conditions and circumstances under which we got into that war, and the way it had been maintained, lost control of the Congress.

That was the reason. The Republicans say that; Democrats say that. So that's not a poll. That's not a focus group. That's the American people having expressed it, their feelings for it.

The president is apparently indifferent, immune. He has a four-year term, so he's indifferent to the plight of members of his own party, as their position becomes increasingly unpopular.

The Bush administration has always been indifferent to the will of the people. He won the presidency in 2000 on a hummer with the help of his brother's political machine and his father's supreme court judges. But he governed from the get as if he'd won all 50 states in a landslide. They see elections as a way to gain political power,(excuse me -- "political capital") and that's it. They have no interest in what the people voted for or what issues they cared about and they got away with it for six years until the people finally saw through their Rovian flim flam and judged them for their actual performance.At this point they are madly scrambling to preserve his legacy and set up his successor for the fall. The party is on its own.

Shields then took a gratuitous swipe at Move-on but I guess that's necessary to preserve his status in the punditocrisy since he was otherwise quite aggressive toward the befuddled Brooks:

DAVID BROOKS: The difference is, Bush takes a look at Baghdad. He says, "We've got to pacify Baghdad to give the Maliki government the space to do what it needs to do," so he says we're going to send in 20,000 more troops. That is a clearly understandable policy, whether you think it will work or not.

The Democrats do not have a clearly understandable policy. They've got this subterfuge about changing the schedules, which as Murtha said is just an excuse to starve the surge. Then they've got this, "Go back to 2002."

If they want to get out, and if they think it's lost, do what Governor Vilsack said, "We think we should get out. Here's our timetable. We think we should get out.'

Instead, you've got Hillary Clinton at first saying, "We're going to cap," and then changing her position a week later, and saying a 90-day withdrawal.

You've got slow withdrawal with Obama. You've got subterfuge. You've got nothing. You've just a series of dodges.

MARK SHIELDS: You don't have a party speak with a single voice, David, when you're out of power.

DAVID BROOKS: They've had resolutions coming up in the House. Put forward a resolution.

MARK SHIELDS: They put forward a resolution. It carried in the House last week. They'd like to put up a resolution in the Senate, as well.

But, I mean, the only policy the Republicans have is the president's policy. And it's increasingly winning less and less support, both in the country and in his own Republican caucus.

This is exactly correct. All this nonsense about how the Democrats have "too many plans" should be an indictment of the GOP who continue to blindly follow their ineffectual leader in spite of the fact that they know he is on the wrong track and has been repudiated by the citizenry. These people should think twice about looking down their noses at politicians who follow the will of the people and be a little bit more concerned about what their constituents will
think of their misguided loyalty to a failed president.

Brooks is very depressed these days and struggling to find some purchase on a partisan argument. But he's saddled with Junior and Cheney's magnificent failure and is beginning to sounds as incoherent as they do.

I recall that Democrats sounded very similar during the Johnson years, although there was a lot more boldness within the Democratic party that in the GOP today. But many Democrats id scramble to justify their president's policy and ended up suffering for it. Richard Nixon was certainly captive of Vietnam also but there has never been any question that it was Lyndon Johnson's war from the moment he escalated it.

Iraq is going to be even worse for the Republicans. This is Bush's war from the "moment of conception" and the longer the Republicans support him the more ownership they all take of it as well. As has been true so often during this administration, if Bush had taken yes for an answer and adopted the Iraq Study group recommendations, he could have probably succeeded in forcing some of the Democrats to take some of that ownership. (You can't underestimate the siren call of the "centrist" solution to the DC establishment). Bush and Cheney's inflated pride got in the way and now the Party can't or won't shake off his rotting albatross of a war. And they're choking on it.


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