Political Animal

Postwar Iraq

POSTWAR IRAQ….According the Washington Post, Ahmed Chalabi and his crew aren’t going to get the chance to run Iraq the way they were hoping:

The decision not to hand over power to the former opposition leaders through a hastily formed transitional government, which U.S. officials here said was made by the White House, means the United States will occupy Iraq much longer than initially planned, acting as the ultimate authority for governing the country until a new constitution is authored, national elections held and a new government installed. One senior U.S. official here predicted that process could last two years or more.

“The idea that some in Washington had — that we would come in here, set up the ministries, turn it all over to the seven and get out of Dodge in a few months — was unrealistic,” the official said.

“We gave them a chance,” the official said. “We bankrolled some of them. But they just couldn’t get their act together. It was amateur hour.”

“Some in Washington,” by the way, means “Donald Rumsfeld and his gang at the Pentagon.”

I have to say that in some ways the White House is exceeding my earlier meager expectations. Having first gotten rid of Jay Garner and now following it up by sidelining the Rumsfeld/Chalabi axis, Bush is showing a welcome ability to react to the predictable failure of the neocons’ naive plans for a tidal wave of democracy in the Middle East. Good for him.

The next test is to see just how serious he is about postwar Iraq, something that will be determined by (a) his willingness to keep substantial troop strengh in Iraq through the end of the year and beyond, and (b) his willingness to change his tone and work to increase the level of support from the rest of the world. Both of these things carry considerable risks, but there’s really no other option if he’s serious about reforming Iraq. We’ll be watching.

Bush and Politics

BUSH AND POLITICS….Neal Gabler has an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today that describes the Bush administration pretty well:

In his administration, politics seem less a means to policy than policy is a means to politics. Its goal is not to further the conservative revolution as advertised. The presidency’s real goal is to disable the Democratic opposition, once and for all.

This has become a presidential mission partly by default. Bush came to the presidency with no commanding ideology, no grand crusade. He was in league with conservatives, but he was no fire-breather. For him, conservatism seemed a convenience ? the only path to the Republican nomination. One is hard-pressed to think of a single position Bush took during the 2000 campaign, save for his tax cuts, much less a full program.

I don’t expect Gabler’s argument to mean anything to Bush supporters, of course, but I’ve felt this way about Bush almost from the beginning. He’s a furious political animal who is uninterested in compromise and whose main goal is to defeat his enemies, not advance a cause. Ideology is actually secondary, and is useful mainly as a way to batter his political opposites.

Although this has been evident in a number of battles, nowhere was it more striking than in the runup to the Iraq war. From the very beginning, it was clear that Bush wasn’t trying to build bipartisan support, the normal course for a president embarking on a foreign war, but was using it as a partisan club and a campaign issue, a way of dividing the Democrats and making them look weak on national security. It’s true that it’s been a while since politics truly stopped at the water’s edge, but Bush has well and truly put that particular political maxim to bed once and for all.

The 2004 election is going to be one of the nastiest on record, I think. I hope the Democratic nominee is up to it.


NIGHTMARES….Jeez, now my blog is giving people nightmares? I guess I wouldn’t mind so much if it were giving nightmares to the right people, but I have a feeling those people don’t read my blog. Do you, George?

(And don’t anyone tell Justene, but I paid Sekimori Design to port my blog from Blogspot to Movable Type. That’s why it looked so easy.)

UPDATE: The move is now complete and Calblog has a new address:


Adjust your bookmarks.

New York Times Roundup

NEW YORK TIMES ROUNDUP….Jim Henley has this to say about the New York Times:

Righties like Alan [Sullivan] are convinced that the media is reflexively liberal, lefties like Avedon Carol are as certain it serves its right wing masters. Me, I think the media just sucks, and has a statist, not necessarily liberal, tilt built into its very structure.

Of course it does, Jim. I’ve come to realize that the Times isn’t really a newspaper at all, it’s the perfect political Rorschach test: just ask someone to read a copy, note down what they mumble irritably about, and then take the mirror image. That’s their political leaning.

Of course, there’s little doubt that Times reporters really do trend pretty liberal socially, but I wonder if conservatives realize how lucky they are that this is so? (Aside from giving them a good punching bag, of course.) I figure that the mostly Southern, mostly rural, mostly Christian mega-conservatives ? the rightmost 15% or so of the country ? that are covered so poorly by the Times are actually a pretty scary bunch to most Americans. So while it’s true that Times reporting of this group might indeed be rare and condescending, that’s actually better than being frequent and enthusiastic. If they got the coverage they deserved, Republicans probably wouldn’t win another election for the next 50 years.

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds, offering the Times some otherwise interesting advice, says, laughably:

Where are the Ken Laynes, the Mark Steyns, etc. at the Times? The Times has been an intellectual and political monoculture for a long time, and that makes it hard for it to engage in the kind of critical evaluation of its own coverage that’s necessary if it wants to be a real national paper, rather than a northeastern city paper with national aspirations.

Are its critics really so blinded that they are under the impression that the Times is just some provincial broadsheet desperately trying to get some recognition in the world? How about a little perspective here?

As for me, I hope the Times doesn’t cave in to its right wing critics. Over at RealClear Politics, for example, John McIntyre says that the problem is that the Times has “drifted from the center-left to the hard-left,” using a definition of “hard-left” that seemingly includes anyone who thought we should give UN inspectors more time in Iraq. There are damn few combative liberal voices left in the mainstream American press, and I hope the Times holds onto what’s left of the ones it has. If they cave in, who’s left?