Thursday, May 27, 2004
Just to prove that he is the Gift that keeps on Giving, he produced four themes to his foreign and defense policies:
_ New alliances with foreign countries;
_ An updated military to meet terrorist threats;
_ The use of diplomacy, intelligence, economic power and "the appeal of our values and ideas" to keep the country safe;
_ Freedom from dependence on oil from the Middle East.
Now understand that behind all the Bush bashing and the charges of incompetence, there is no there there to this approach. Indeed, in each case, Bush has been pursuing the policies that Kerry advocates.
-the Administration has forged alliances of convenience with interested parties during the War on Terror and its subsidiary campaign in Iraq.
-the U.S. military has been forged into the finest fighting instrument the world has ever seen.
-number three is not even worth commenting on, as all Administrations of both parties use each of the tools stated above to achieve foreign policy goals.
-number four is a pipe dream, but both parties have been peddling that intellectual hashish since 1973, at least.
John Forbes will flesh this out over the next couple of weeks. He won't be yelling at his audiences like Al Gore did yesterday. He's trying to become "presidential". However, one will find that there will be less daylight between him and Bush in foreign policy than we might have supposed. Which is fine by me, because the old Kerry's record cannot sustain the new Kerry's aspirations. And the hard lefties who hate Bush may begin to sit out.
All this comes against a backdrop that Kerry did not anticipate. Bush has had an awful two months. The problem for the President has been that the bad guys shot most of their wad in April and May. He is taking a drubbing in the polls, but should be behind by ten points by now. That he is not brings into stark relief the profound weaknesses of Kerry as a candidate.
Part of Kerry's problem is that he assumes that misfortune will proceed all the way to November. That's a fool's bet. These things come in cycles. I will bet you that Bush probably will be back in the lead in a month. The reason? The bad news from Iraq has petered out, and the voters are tired of being pummelled by the news media's agitprop campaign against the President. When Fortune's Wheel turns to Bush, as it should begin to over the next couple of months, Bush's poll numbers will climb again. How do I know this? Kerry can't hold on to a lead, that's how I know this.
Kerry's misfortune is that the terrorist offensive occurred now. Part of that was the fact that the handover is scheduled to occur on June 30th, so Zarqawi and his Ba'athist allies, along with Fat Muqtada, had to make their move before that date. Of course, the bad guys got their asses handed to them, and are probably out of the major offensive business for the next year. Today, Fat Man had to slink out of Najaf using a ceasefire as window-dressing for his humiliation.
Had this happened in October, Bush might have a real problem. But it didn't, so Bush won't.
Counterintuitive hunch: Iraq will be less important to the voters in November than it is now. Elections are won on the price of hogs in St. Louis. The economy is fast becoming Bush's hole card. If that's the case, turn out the lights on the Kerry bandwagon.
Remember, when ALL the beautiful people in the Chattering Classes say that someone, in this case Bush, is toast, it's time to start buying white bread.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
From last night.
Andrew Sullivan appears to believe that Bush got his ideas accross in the President's speech at Carlisle Barracks. He gives Bush a B+ (or, "Not Bad") for the President's patient explanation of the plan to turn over sovereignty and Iraq's place in the larger war on terror. Money graph:
My own sense of what was new was the clear and emphatic declaration that the transfer of sovereignty June 30 will be real. That's critical - and critical to deliver. I also liked the way the president unapologetically linked what we are doing in Iraq with the broader war on terror. Critics like to believe that Saddam was somehow utterly unconnected to broader terror, had no potential to enable it, and was too secular to cooperate with al Qaeda. They're wrong on all counts. In the wake of 9/11, a Saddam-Zarqawi alliance would have been a terrible threat. Now we have a Baathist-Zarqawi insurgency. And we have had a year to defeat it. Threading the needle of sovereignty, transfer of power, battling terrorism and coordinating elections is still a massive undertaking. But I was reassured by the president's speech. It's a beginning. He now has to make a version of it again and again and again. He is up against a press corps determined to make this transition fail, in order to defeat a Bush presidency. He will need true grit to withstand it.
Sullivan has been taking the President to task in recent weeks, and rightly so. Bush has not been as forthright over our plans and operations in Iraq. The muddle over Fallujah only served to give an impression of indecision to conservatives, and warmed the hearts of his political enemies in the Democratic Party and its outriders in the liberal Mainstream Media. Bush explained Fallujah, among other things, and told the assembled officers and the nation why he chose to follow the Marine script to solve the problem. In so doing, he placed that conflict and others in Iraq on the larger canvas of a turnover of responsibility and authority to Iraqis.
As Sullivan points out, Bush must make these same speeches over and over again. Only then will he be able to bypass a partisan media intent on undermining the war effort to destroy him.
Never have I held the media in such contempt and slight regard.
David Brooks, for his part, gave a halting endorsement to the Bush speech. Brooks is an advocate of lowering our sights and muddling through. I don't think that he really has his heart in the ideological effort to offer a democratic alternative to Islamic Fascism, but I digress. To wit:
If it all works out, then Iraqis will feel they control their lives. They will stop playing both sides of the fence. They will take responsibility for their future. They will try to expel the foreign jihadists. They will regard Americans as necessary guests, and Americans will behave like guests.
Right now that happy outcome feels a long way away. But at least Bush has now squarely faced the consequences of his creed. There was always something antidemocratic about nation-building — the idea that a country could go into a foreign place, then hand it back to the locals.
Bush is betting his presidency on the Iraqis and their ability to govern themselves better than we governed them. At least he is now behaving consistently with the elemental conviction of this nation. If we have faith in anything, it should be in this democratic dream, which has so far, in our history, vindicated our hopes.
Brooks and other conservatives of the George Will set have grown nervous over the past months. The "panic" that has set in among Washington Republicans has been real, but it comes against the backdrop of increasing success on the ground over the past two weeks. Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army has been crushed, with Sadr himself confined to the holy shrine at Najaf. He has lost any support within the Shi'a collegium, and has witnessed a turn against him on the part of the general Shi'a community. Brooks recovers a bit in this column, but I sense a lack of spine that I don't sense in Sullivan's piece.
There is a sense here that the Democratic Party and the liberal media have overplayed their hand against Bush. They have done so, deliberately of course, to try to give John Kerry a solid lead. It has not worked. Bush should be ten points down in the face of this bad news. He is not. He is in a tie with Kerry right now. That should worry liberals, given all the confident happy talk coming from the Kerry campaign.
As the situation on the ground improves, as I believe it must (there are cycles to all things), Bush will begin a counteroffensive that will be both massive in scope and ideologically conservative in nature. Kerry has already lost the economic argument, as Bush will make clear during the summer. Now Bush will show that Kerry's positions on the War are neither new, nor an alternative to his own. He will make the subtext of the campaign as the following: victory with Bush or defeat with Kerry.
The American people will always choose victory if it is presented to them properly.
George W. Bush has always been a creature of superb timing. I think that he has picked his moment, and that moment is now.
Aw geez, Greg! Get The Belgravia Dispatch up again. "File Not Found" City!
That's what happens when you don't feed the Blogspot Hamster.
Monday, May 24, 2004
Nothing really new here tonight. What is going on is a restatement of Administration policy. He is reemphasizing the steps needed to achieve Iraqi sovereignty.
An audience of battalion commanders and up. They like this guy. He has given them the authority to run the war as they see fit. I think the older heads appreciate that he is not Lyndon Johnson picking strike packages over the North.
Fallujah; we wanted Iraqi forces to take the town, instead of massive reprisal. Methinks that Bush has chosen to let sleeping dogs lie for now, betting that the local Iraqi jackals will want to run the foreign jackals out of town. I think that's a smart bet.
Karbala, Najaf, Kufa: Fat Boy Sadr is getting his ass handed to him. The troubles appear to be almost over down there. We're helping Iraqi forces to prepare for their role as a national army. We're accelerating training towards a level of 260,000. Five battalions in the field, with eight battalions on the way by July.
After June 30th: CENTCOM to operate under American command as part of U.N. authorized multinational force. Buttkicking as usual, but with U.N. sanction.
Hearts and minds, meals on wheels. Uncle Sugar builds coin-operated laundromats, etc.
Private economy: Iraqi economy booming. Oil production up. Jim Baker made former creditors an offer they couldn't refuse:
It seems that just about everyone has agreed to forgive Iraq's debt.
Abu Ghraib is being torn down. Whoop dee fucking doo! Being replaced by Maximum John Prison: Sing Sing East.
The Poles will be helped out down south. No mention of the craven Spanish who hightailed out of Iraq faster than a two-bit John from a whorehouse raid.
Iraq to elect permanent government in 2005. I would rather bring the election forward. A representative government is the best defense against terror. Election is coming. But when?
U.S. Army and Marines need to hunt the terrorist sheep humpers down and kill them. Keep them on the run. Make them have more "work accidents" like Hamas appears to be having.
Closing: Americans have gone through much. "This is the world as we find it. We must keep our focus. We must do our duty." Churchillian line.
Terrorists hope we will retreat from the world. We, on the other hand, believe that freedom will change the Middle East and change the world. When all middle eastern peoples are free to think as they will, the hatreds that feed terror will die away.
One vision: tyrrany and murder. The other of life and hope. Good on' ya, George.
"We shall hold this hard won ground for the realm of liberty."
Well done, GW. Not especially inspiring, but it wasn't meant to be. Great detail.
Now, on to quick analysis. I think that he's showing the qualitative difference between how he understands Iraq's place in the war and how Kerry understands it. Bush has a holistic vision of the conflict as a struggle of ideologies. Kerry is stuck on Bin Laden. I'm betting that the Americans will see the difference. I'm hoping that those Girl Scouts in the Senate Republican Conference start butching up and begin supporting the President once more as they should. Lugar, in particular, should have held his fire until the President spoke.
Barnes on FOX complaining about not enough attention to security issues. Brought up short by Krauthammer speaking about new Iraqi battalions and the necessity for this to become an Iraqi struggle.
Anyway, that's all for now. More tomorrow.