Tuesday, November 16, 2004
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Shrewd assessment or wishful thinking from William Kristol?
Via Dan Froomkin, there's an article by Guy Dinmore in the Financial Times suggesting that Donald Rumsfeld is on his way out as well. Well, it's not the FT saying this so much as William Kristol:
Kristol has much better inside dope than I, but I've seen little evidence that Rumsfeld wants to leave -- or that Bush wants him to go. Then there's this quote from Mike Allen's Washington Post story:
Link via Andrew Sullivan.posted by Dan on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM
Somebody has slipped nitrous into Kristol's ventilation system, I think. Bush will keep Rumsfeld until the US populace replaces the Republican majority in Congress with Democrats, and until they can overcome their fear that won't happen. I see 4 more years of Rumsfeldian incompetence in Defense. Not only that, Bush will become harsher and more divisive over the next 4 years as he pushes the darkest parts of the Religious Right's agenda upon the American public. If we can escape irreperable damage to our consitutional process over the next 4 years, we will be exceedingly lucky.posted by: flaime on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
It's kind of sweet how quick the neocons turn on Rumsfeld. Yes, if not for Rumsfeld the Iraqis would have greeted us with flowers. If not for Rumsfeld, it would have been Chalabi who rode into Bagdad a la Hamid Karzai. It is really pathetic that the frigin architects of the Iraq fiasco have no qualms about turning on Rumsfeld, who gave most of them their jobs. It is pretty pathetic that the neocons, who have been working on their attack Iraq plans for over 8 yrs didn't themselves plan for the possible after effects. They sure didn't vocalize any nation building plans in the lead up to the war. Wolfowitz sat in front of Congress and mouthed off about Iraqi oil paying for the invasion, minimal resistance, blah blah blah. What a bunch of cowards to turn around and blame Rumsfeld for their own lack of detailed knowledge about power structures, lack of WMDs, lack of meaningful terrorism support, religious issues, economic conditions. Seriously, the neocons had extremely well-funded think tanks, and many very intelligent members. It's just plain mind boggling how they could have gotten it so wrong when they spent most of the 90s plotting and planning, sending letters to the Clinton admin.posted by: altec on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
Wasn't it the neocons who were the most adamently opposed to anyone reading the State Dept's write up regarding postwar issues? They are still, if you can believe it, smarting over the fall of Chalabi. As noted above, it is more than alittle disconcerting that so many seemingly intelligent people could put so much stock in a sleazy conman with a clearly documented 20+ yr history of turning on those who supported him for his own personal gain.posted by: karol on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
I think that William Kristol's credential as a conservative are suspect. He is a lot squishier on many topics than is consistent with being a conservative. The first inkling I had about him was when, during the 1996 presidential campaign, he said that Elizabeth Arnold, of NPR, was very balanced in her coverage. In fact, she displayed the usual NPR bias in her reporting. I was shocked at his characterization of her, as I had always believed his press reports about being conservative.posted by: Jim Bender on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
I have zero inside information as to Donald Rumsfeld's future. I do know that never at any time has there been a complaint from the White House that something Rumsfeld has said or done did some damage to the President's reelection campaign. That's pretty much true of the rest of his Defense Department team also.
So the most obvious and likely source of Presidential discontent with his subordinates is not present with Rumsfeld. I don't think Josh Marshall has it quite right; Bush isn't pressing for control, for doing substance differently at State or CIA or other agencies. He's looking instead to avoid political irritations and message indiscipline. The campaign doesn't end after the election is over.
Now, Rumsfeld is past 70, and I wouldn't expect him to stay for four years more. But from his point of view there is much work -- and very well-defined work at that -- left to be done with military transformation. Could someone else do that work as well as Rumsfeld can? I doubt Bush believes that, or that Cheney believes that. And of course Rumsfeld does not believe that, which is why he has a reason to leave later rather than sooner. Bill Kristol, not for the first time, is predicting things he would like to see happen; I think Rumsfeld will leave when he feels like it.posted by: Zathras on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
Zathras, isn't seeking more control and seeking to avoid political setbacks pretty much the same thing?posted by: praktike on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
No, praktike, it is not. Control is what Presidents often seek when they want an agency to pursue one policy and the agency is intent on pursuing another. A famous example is the Reagan White House's seizure of the budget process in 1981 from the hands of the Cabinet departments.
This White House is mostly vexed about statements in the media critical of policies already agreed to and being implemented. CIA could be faulted for many things over the last four years (or longer), but what appears to be inspiring the upheaval there are leaks critical of decisions long since made -- chief among which, obviously, is the decision to invade Iraq.
It not really that fine a distinction. Policies matter, most of the time; stories in the media don't, again most of the time. Obviously any President will react neuralgically to damaging stories that appear during his campaign for reelection, and it may be asking a bit much to expect all Presidents to let unflattering stories just roll off them as Reagan was able to do. But, now that the election is over and the negative stories that were fueled by leaks from some administration officials have been shown not to have been as damaging as they appeared during the campaign, the Bush administration is free to ignore the temptation to settle scores and focus on the things that are really wrong with each respective agency.
As I suggested upthread I expect this White House may opt to enforce message discipline instead. That means getting rid of people who will not "play ball." It is nearly always a bad idea. The sources of most leaks are not people who have made their case within the administration and lost; they are people who have been locked out of the decision making process. There are a lot of people like this in the Bush administration, something I ascribe to deficient leadership. President Bush has admirers who blame the troops, not the generals, as you have seen here. Let's say they and I have a difference of opinion.
In modern American politics the people who make it to the top do not see election campaigns as a means to an end; they are instead the Main Event, and they are never really over. I know I harp on that a lot, to a degree that must be tiresome to some people. I just don't think you can evaluate the actions of elected leaders who came out of the campaign environment, have always enjoyed it, and still understand it much more thoroughly than they do any aspect of government without accounting for their being unlikely, even unwilling, to put the imperatives of the campaign season behind them once the votes have been counted.posted by: Zathras on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
the neocons wanted Iraq to be successful. If anyone other than themselves was responsible for the problems, they have every right to be angry. As far as i can tell the decision to go into Iraq with too few troops, once State and CIA had vetoed arming lots of exiles, was Rumsfelds, in the name of the Revolution in Military Affairs, made at the cost of risking failure in Iraq. For those for whome the project of transforming the Middle East was more important than transforming the Pentagon, this is a worthwhile reason to want his resignation. Whether this is shared I dont know. I assume Kristol has sources.posted by: liberalhawk on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
It's kind of cute, really, how Bush's supporters feebly tell themselves (and us) that Bush will jump completely out of his skin in his 2d term.
They have elected the president they deserve, but haven't come to terms with that yet. What we're seeing, and will continue to see, is a George W. Bush who believes, quite literally, that God has smiled upon him and his works, and that the 2d term should be like the 1st only moreso. His nominations suggest "more of the same." No backseat driving from State this term, that's for sure.posted by: Anderson on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
When do you suppose the left is going to understand that far from being the second incarnation of Hitler that they've always supposed... it is Bush that is at the political center and they who have gone to the extreme?
State and CIA did not veto arming lots of exiles. The problem was that there were very few exiles (outside of Iran) who were willing to take up arms and few had any particular power base in Iraq. I find it amusing the contortions that some people will go through to blame CIA and the State. Yeah, if it weren't for them, we would have had a 100K army of exiles ready and waiting to take over.
The fact also is that its the neocons, prime among them being Wolfie and Cheney (who had swallowed the Neocon Kool-aid by this time) who claimed we would be greeted with flowers, who told us that troops would not be needed. Was Rummy responsible ? Probably, but not fully.
The fact is that the neocons had been clamoring for war with Iraq since the Bush administration came to power. They showed no grasp of the middle east and advanced bogus rationale after bogus rationale.posted by: erg on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
Only if the political center includes running up massive deficits, spending $200 B and 1200 lives in a dubious warposted by: erg on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
I agree with altec and others who criticize the neocons turning on Rummy. Bill Kristol is too clever (and too smug) by half. You get the distinct impression that the neocon elite will have an explanation, and someone to blame, for everything that goes wrong. There'll be no end to their rationalizations, and they're smart enough to create arguments more realistic people won't be able to disprove.posted by: Andrew Steele on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
Bithead, what definition of "conservative" are you using?
More authority to the states?
Those are "conservative" tenets.
Governing in secrecy isn't conservative.
Basing science and health policy on the Old Testament isn't conservative.
Exhausting the military isn't conservative.
Running a yearly half-trillion dollar deficit, and letting foreign powers hold half the debt, isn't conservative.
Using Constitutional Amendments to elevate federal policy over the will of individual states isn't conservative.
Now, I'll grant you that small-mindedness and plutocracy are also cherished conservative principles; and I'll grant you that these are characteristic of Bush's policies.
So, if you were to tell me that small-mindedness and plutocracy comprise the entire conservative creed nowadays, then I'll have to agree that the country has indeed become more conservative.
I just thought there was supposed to be more to conservative philosophy than that.posted by: Palladin on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
Conservatism in philosophy has a number of diverse elements. Conservatism in modern popular politics has only two components -- a conservative is someone who appears as a strong leader, and is someone who stands up to liberals.
By this standard George Bush is absolutely a conservative. So was Richard Nixon. Ronald Reagan was, of course, but the people who care most about a President being conservative complained constantly during the 1980s that he wasn't conservative enough -- he wasn't tough enough on liberals. Gerald Ford's political position was too weak for him to be a real conservative. The elder Bush after a promising start forgot that you have to posture against liberals all the time, not just in the year before an election. John McCain? Forget his voting record; he talks to liberal reporters.
Obviously -- and in this respect conservatives are very like liberals who boldly denounce imaginary plans to "cut Medicare" in campaign after campaign -- this definition of conservatism leaves a lot of room for "Madonna politics." To gain a reputation as a real conservative all you need to do is to strike a pose. If the pose is convincing enough you can get away with a lot, like price controls, trading arms for hostages or running half-trillion dollar deficits. Genuine conservatives who want to prevent this kind of thing have got to learn to be less impressed with the idea of a champion battling the liberals and more impressed with politicians who stick with good ideas even when they are not easy or popular.posted by: Zathras on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
actually here and there our troops WERE greeted wiht flowers, and with food and drink, etc. And thumbs up signs, etc. Throughout the Shia areas, and the Kurdish areas. Those of us who have followed soldiers blogs, etc are aware of this.
And calling Kristol "clever" still doesnt reveal who made the decision to go with the number of troops that went in. It certainly wasnt Kristol. It was probably Rummy. Did Wolfie object? Certainly not in public. In private. I dont know. Kristol may.
IIRC there was a policy decision made to hold down the number of exiles trained.posted by: liberalhawk on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
"There'll be no end to their rationalizations, and they're smart enough to create arguments more realistic people won't be able to disprove"
Its all that Talmud study, right? Cant trust people who are THAT smart, but also devious, right?posted by: liberalhawk on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
No one disputes that there were flowers for a week or 2, probably longer in the Kurdish areas. But the general predictions of Wolfie, Cheney etc. about how we'd be received were disastrously, catatrosphically wrong.
Outside of well-armed groups in Iran like the Badr Corps, there were not a large contigent of exiles who could be trained in any case. Nor was there enough time for any real training. These were not the Northern Alliance, which had been fighting the Taliban for years.
BEsides ,Chalabi has already demonstated his unreliability.posted by: erg on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
Only if the political center includes running up massive deficits, spending $200 B and 1200 lives in a dubious war
Running up deficits = successfully avoiding massive recession after 9/11 and dot-com bubble burting simultaneously = political center
Spending $200B and 1200 lives in a dubious war = Calling the bluff of a corrupt UN determined to thwart the US and profit illicitly from a dictator and then successfully deposing that dictator in record time and with minimal losses = political center.posted by: skipkent on 11.16.04 at 12:49 PM [permalink]
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