• Keystone Diplomats

    This is fairly funny. Mark Leon Goldberg got to talking with the Panamanian Ambassador to the UN, otherwise known as the poor sap who got charged with leading discussions to create a new UN Human Rights council. How are the talks going ? Comically badly: The talks were so dead in the water on Friday, rumor had it, that he couldn't even get the parties to agree to meet. During negotiations the prior night, Iran and Syria were being intransigent on one point and the deputy French ambassador, out of frustration, accused them of behaving like the right wing of the Republican party. Apparently, that's among the worst slurs that can be hurled in these parts. But John Bolton was in the room and obviously wasn't amused at being confused for a Syrian, so he stood up and left. Sounds like a vaudeville act, doesn't it?
  • Privatizing FEMA

    Of all the attempts by conservatives to regain some post-Katrina balance, the most pernicious has to be the growing effort to use FEMA's failure to delegitimize the government's role in disaster-relief. Man, that's chutzpah. The car broke because Bush slashed its tires and now his allies are trying to convince us that the real problem lies with the whole "car" concept. You should all use planes. Planes fueled by tax cuts and personal responsibility. It's a larger-scale, and significantly more cynical, deployment of the classic starve-the-beast strategy. If government has no tax revenues, it'll do a bad job. If it does a bad job, people won't like it. If people don't like government, they'll vote Republican. Replace "no tax revenues" with "incompetent leaders appointed through political patronage" and you've got this slimy little bastard. Follow the ooze and you'll find the argument in its natural habitat -- Tony Snow's head. Snow, of course, has built a career dressing viciously...
  • Sideshow George

    Shakes here... In The Calmer in Chief , Ezra pulls a quote from this article that illustrates how truly feckless Bush’s leadership was specifically during the Katrina crisis. As I read the article, I was struck by the repetition of a particular idea—that of Bush as showman, and seemingly little more. (Emphasis mine.) Longtime Bush watchers say they are not shocked that he missed his moment—one of his most trusted confidants calls him "a better third- and fourth-quarter player," who focuses and delivers when he sees the stakes. What surprised them was that he still appeared to be stutter-stepping in the second week of the crisis, struggling to make up for past lapses instead of taking control with a grand gesture … Bush has always said the presidency is about doing big things, and a friend who chatted with him one evening in July said he seemed to be craving a fresh mission…" He was looking for the next really important thing to do ," the friend said… "Where's the Cathedral speech?" a...
  • Brooks Rediscovers Egregiousness

    By Ezra The David Brooks corollary : Because Delta is soon to file for bankruptcy protection, it stands to reason that no airline could possibly be more efficient or profitable and thus all private air carriers should be nationalized. Opponents of this plan must explain how the performance of Delta, a company with multiple highly-detailed plans for long-term profitability, could possibly leave anyone confident in the sustained success of a vigorous and deregulated private sector. Conservatives who think this disaster will set off improvement in the airline industry need to explain how a comprehensive free-market failure is going to restore America's faith in the private sector.
  • The Calmer In Chief

    By Ezra I don't even know what to say about this one: Bush does not appear to tap sources deep inside his government for information, the way his father or Bill Clinton did, preferring to get reports through channels. A highly screened information chain is fine when everything is going well, but in a crisis it can hinder. Louisiana officials say it took hours for Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to reach Bush (although when she did, he talked to her soothingly, according to White House officials). So White House officials thought it important to note that when the hysterical, emotional woman finally reached her emotionally distant president, he had the presence of mind to speak in "soothing" tones to her. Whew. I'm so glad that though FEMA fumbled and the National Guard was indisposed and Michael Chertoff was asleep on the job, Bush was in full control of his vocal modulation, and able to effectively deploy it against Mrs. Blanco's overwrought screeching.
  • Slashing America's Tires

    By Ezra Matt's post on asymmetric warfare in Iraq should really be read, maybe not so much by all of you, but by any strong supporters of the war who happen along this site. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but the knowledge that the insurgency fights differently has not quite connected to the idea that we're not fighting well, that our tactics need to change, that this is a fight we can't militarily win. Asymmetric warfare, for those who don't know, is a military term for conflicts in which the antagonists have hugely mismatched combat capabilities. Therefore, the whole game of it, particularly for the weaker belligerent, is to not have their weaknesses match up with our strengths. That would be symmetrical warfare and they'd be crushed. That's what the insurgency isn't doing and it's why, when we try and fight them, as with the invasion of Baghdad, the overrun of Fallujah, or the assault on Tal Afar, they "melt away", refusing to fight and instead regrouping to hit later. Think of...
  • A Whole Deck of Race Cards

    So long as we're talking about race and Katrina, Leonce Gaiter sent me a piece he wrote on the subject that's well worth a read. Take a look .
  • How It Is

    By Ezra Nobody's going to like me for saying this, but Michael Froomkin is 200% correct here : The Bush administration has an admirable record of appointing African-Americans to top posts. And despite the occasional strange incident, I don't think it is a racist administration. Rather, it's thoroughly classist. Kleptocratic even. For as far as I can tell, what George Bush -- and his team -- don't care about is poor people. All poor people. No sympathy (in the sense of a sympathetic or shared understanding) at all. The one thing to remember, though, is that Bush is happy to exploit racism in favor of kleptocratic ends. He didn't, for instance, run for president to screw over black people, but he did win the South Carolina primary by embracing Bob Jones U., home of the nation's most racially regressive dating policies. Intentions-wise, it's not quite the same, but it ends up looking awfully similar. Nevertheless, when you evaluate Bush, it's helpful not to mix up his opportunism with...
  • When Life Gives You Lemons, Throw Them at Republicans

    Neil the Ethical Werewolf Shakes and Ezra are talking about impeachment, and there are a couple things I'd like liberals thinking in this vein to keep in mind. The first is that Bush has only 3 1/2 years left as an elected official. Certainly, there are benefits to damaging him personally, especially insofar as this makes it hard for him to enact the right-wing agenda over the next 40+ months. But the causes we care about will reap much more benefit from long-term damage to voter perceptions of the Republican party than from damage to Bush's personal reputation. Those two things are definitely linked, but right now the biggest focus shouldn't be on going after Bush himself, it should be about eroding positive stereotypes of Republicans and deepening negative ones. For example, the point needs to be made that Republicans aren't interested in fiscal responsibility or cutting spending -- really, they just want to borrow lots of money and hand it over to big corporations. That's a fiscal...
  • Impeachment?

    By Ezra I would say, in response to Shakes and for those attracted to the impeachment idea, that even if we did get there, we'd be left with President Cheney, which is potentially less palatable than Bush. (As an aside, I always thought the Cheney selection was very good as a survival strategy. Anyone who'd possibly be interested in assassinating George would be horrified at the thought of installing Dick. Cheney, then, is life insurance for Bush. But I digress.) But ignoring that for a moment, I still think it a bad idea, and we need only look at the Clinton template to see why. One thing to remember about the Republican attempt to impeach Clinton is that, annoying as it was, it failed utterly. The impeachment overreach destroyed Newt Gingrich's career and handed the Republicans the worst elections results for an opposition party since Johnson crushed Goldwater in 1964. Think about that -- getting so close to destroying the President ended with Republicans getting the worst whupping...