Saturday, February 17, 2007
Propaganda Effort of the Day
It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case. —David Broder writing in "Bush regains his footing"
To answer David Broder's remark, I would be very astonished indeed if Bush made a political comeback! But what does not astonish me is that David Broder, one of our so-called "moderate" or "centrist" columnists, is touting that tarnished frontman for the Neocon cabal—the Cowboy himself.
Who pays this man, we wonder. The short answer is the Washington Post, his column syndicator, his speaker's bureau, and the TV producers who hire him as a "talking head." But the real answer is the Right. To put together such a lucrative package, you need a certain kind of "balance" that is acceptable to the Powers That Be. It's the "balance" that gives you that oh-so-desirable "moderate" or "centrist" label.
It's the David Broders of the press who carry the water for the Right among the educated classes. It's all very well to have Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh preaching to the Dittoheads, but a different sort is needed to bamboozle that portion of the population who actually attempt to think.
When everybody thinks Bush is down for the count,1 Broder writes a column saying "Hey, wait a minute! I think I saw a muscle twitch." Careerwise it's a no-brainer. If it turns out as everyone supposes, that this duck's so lame that it's positively cruel to leave him flapping about the Oval Office, nobody will say later on "Ah, nyah-nyah-nyah, David Broder wrote a column where he got it completely wrong." In fact, nobody will be thinking about David Broder at all.
On the other hand, if by some fluke of fate or by some monstrous atrocity Bush should make "a political comeback" (meaning that he either shoots up in the polls or executes a coup d'état), David Broder will be touting himself from here to Capetown as the man to go to when you really want insight into American politics. Up will go his TV engagements and his speaking fees! And his friendly words will surely not be forgotten by Those Who Count.
Broder's tone feeds his image as the Great Reassurer, the man who insists that the republic endures and that the flag yet waves. He carefully avoids judgments: no point in mentioning that, polls aside, Bush has been the proximate cause of the deaths of over a half million Iraqis and more than 3,000 American soldiers. Broder would sniff that he is, after all, a news analyst and not a partisan.
... just as Clinton did in the winter of 1995, Bush now shows signs of renewed energy and is regaining the initiative on several fronts.2
Like President Bill Clinton after the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994, Bush has gone through a period of wrenching adjustment to his reduced status. But just as Clinton did in the winter of 1995, Bush now shows signs of renewed energy and is regaining the initiative on several fronts.
Aside from the vast difference in intelligence between the two men, Bill Clinton potentially had six more years to look forward to; George Bush has two (we hope). If Bush is showing more energy, it's safe to assume he's been able to get his hands on some crystal meth.
More important, he is demonstrating political smarts that even his critics have to acknowledge.
As always, Bush is following a script given to him by his handlers. If Broder knows of any critics who think that Bush is politically smart (or smart in any other way), he should name names.
His reaction to the planned House vote opposing the increase he ordered in U.S. troops deployed to Iraq illustrates the point.
When Bush faced reporters on Wednesday morning, he knew that virtually all those in the Democratic majority would be joined by a significant minority of Republicans in voting today to decry the "surge" strategy.
He did three things to diminish the impact of that impending defeat.
Broder then describes how Bush repeated his talking points to the media as though Bush actually had a hand in preparing the rebuttal.
In other respects, too, Bush has been impressive in recent days.
It's always impressive when Bush can repeat three talking points! Let's see what else Broder finds "impressive."
He has been far more accessible -- and responsive -- to the media and public, holding any number of one-on-one interviews, both on and off the record, leading up to Wednesday's televised news conference.
Since Bush's handlers kept him away from the media and the public as much as possible for six straight years, it's strange that Broder is now impressed just because Bush has been allowed out. Other commentators have also noted Bush's sudden availability but saw in it a sign of utter lame-duck desperation.
And he has been more candid in his responses than in the past.
To paraphrase: "And he's been lying less!"
While forcefully making his points, he has depersonalized the differences with his critics and opponents. He has not only vouched for the good intentions of congressional Democrats, he has visited them on their home ground, given them opportunities to question him face to face, and repeatedly outlined areas -- aside from Iraq -- where he says they could work together on legislation: immigration, energy, education, health care, the budget.
With the public eager for some bipartisan progress on all these fronts, Bush is signaling that he, at least, is ready to try.
If only those mean ol' Democrats would let poor ol' George be bipartisan! There is nothing new in Bush's behavior here. He has always played the role of "good cop" in contrast to Cheney (and Rumsfeld before he fired him).
At his news conference, he also stepped away from personal confrontation with the rulers in Iran, making it clear that he does not necessarily hold its political leadership responsible for shipping arms to the insurgent Shiites fighting in Iraq. He insisted the U.S. military would do whatever is necessary to halt the shipments and protect the troops, but he said repeatedly that these defensive measures are not a prelude to aggressive action against Iran.
By the time Bush went to his news conference the allegations presented in Baghdad against Iran had been very well analyzed, and even General Pace had refused to support them. So there was no way Bush's handlers were going to put him in the position of responding to reporters who for once were actually skeptical of the propaganda. Bush could not have handled the questions, and everybody knew it. What he did instead was backpedal and cave.
In his conclusion Broder becomes a subtle advocate for Bush's surge—
All this is to the good. But Bush, unlike Clinton, is in the middle of a bloody civil war, which can be ended only by the Iraqis themselves. All he claims to be able to do is to provide some breathing space for them by attempting to reduce the violence. As he said, "What really matters is what happens on the ground. I can talk all day long, but what really matters to the American people is to see progress."
And whether the American people will see it, no one knows.
Broder apparently does not share the view of the House of Representatives that a surge in troop levels is unwarranted and the outcome known. No. Broder's position is that the outcome is not known, least of all to him. So he leaves us with a final but unwritten sentence: "Why don't we just give the President's surge a chance and see how it
The propaganda pieces that David Broder (and Howard Kurtz and Michael Abramowitz) are paid to write are subtle. Broder in particular maintains the appearance of being a "moderate voice."
Currently there are organizations that analyze and expose every lie of Bill O'Reilly, of Fox News, of the "right-wing spin machine" and of Rush Limbaugh. But the subtler distortions produced by "mainstream" commentators such as David Broder go pretty much unnoticed. They need to be aired.
David Broder's delirium (11/28/04)
Eason Jordan on his mind... (3/7/05)
How a dictatorship works (10/4/05)
The State of the Farm (2/3/06)
Preemptive leaking (4/11/06)
Warning: Neocon fury and a reporter to watch (7/20/06)
Torture and kangaroo courts near approval by Congress (9/12/06)
Getting it wrong is usually right (1/17/07)
Neocons fear the pain of premature withdrawal (1/29/07)
1Well, not quite everybody. The resurrection of George W. Bush is clearly a campaign at the Washington Post. Howie Kurtz put out the first piece of drivel on February 5 in "The Press, Turning Up Its Nose at Lame Duck" [back]
Six months after his party lost both houses of Congress, Bill Clinton was reduced to declaring at a news conference that he was still relevant.
The next day, the Oklahoma City federal building was bombed. Clinton regained his footing and cruised to reelection the following year, his relevance never again in doubt -- even after his impeachment.
3Again, Howard Kurtz has anticipated Broder—
From Iraq, where the media fell down on the WMD debate, to Bush's 2000 campaign persona as a compassionate conservative, many journalists now believe they were led astray. That has given an extra edge to their stories and columns on Bush being out of touch and has fueled an effort to vindicate their darker picture of the war. In short, the mainstream media no longer give this president the benefit of the doubt.
Bush didn't lie; the media "fell down." As for his Presidential campaign, they were merely "led astray." All of this has predisposed them to present a "darker picture of the war" and—quite unfairly, of course—"no longer give this president the benefit of the doubt."
This is as fine a piece of propaganda as you may hope to find. [back]
Thursday, February 15, 2007
All dressed up and nowhere to go
The AP reports—
A male lawyer who appeared in court dressed in women's clothes as a protest against what he said was New Zealand's overly masculine judiciary was suspended Wednesday after being found to be in contempt of court.We could use a decent Attorney General! Is he willing to relocate?
The protest began after a coroner's inquest largely blamed a farming couple for the collapse of a bridge on their property built by the army.
Moodie obtained documents apportioning much of the blame for the collapse to faulty wood used by New Zealand Defense Force engineers, and posted the report on the Internet despite a judge's order it not be distributed.
Moodie announced after the ruling he would quit the law altogether, and end his cross-dressing protest because he no longer needed to appear "in a 19th-century Alice in Wonderland environment that allows pomp, self-importance and deference to the court to eclipse the truth."
Tset yuor rideang
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Headline of the Day
Child porn donated to charity —story from NBC2 News
This was in the Ft. Myers area in southwest Florida, the same locale where Rep. McDade recently displayed his wares.
I believe there may be something in the water. At about the same period that Rep. McDade was active near the beach, another gentleman was exposing himself in a bank.
Another Republican lets it all hang out
Former Republican Representative from Pennsylvania Joseph McDade has been charged with flashing at least two women. Or as the indictment says,
On or about January 18, 2007 in Lee County, Florida, did unlawfully expose or exhibit his sexual organs in a public place or on the private premises of another, or so near thereto as to be seen from such private premises, in a vulgar or indecent manner, or did go naked in public...
Such a shame! Congressman McDade retired in 1998 after successfully beating charges of accepting defense industry bribes similar to the charges that put Rep. "Duke" Cunningham in the slammer.
McDade is living proof that if you're venal enough there's no end to the honors that Republicans will heap upon you.
The Joseph M. McDade Recreational Trail in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is halfway complete but is running up against environmental concerns. Quibbles aside, it could provide an ideal venue for recreational flashing.
Then there's the Congressman Joseph N. McDade Expressway, which may have to be renamed the Road to Perdition.
Milan Rai's "IED Lies"
Latest revelations in the "Iranian threat" (2/12/07)
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Good Idea of the Day
Key lawmakers want to replace a White House privacy and civil liberties board created by Congress in 2004 with one that is more independent of the president. —Ellen Nakashima writing in "Congress Seeks 'Bite' For Privacy Watchdog"
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has protected neither privacy nor civil liberties. Both the Senate and the House are now trying to give it more power, and the board is resisting, which should tell you something.
The House provision would remove the board from the Executive Office of the President but keep it within the executive branch and give it subpoena power, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission.
This is good so far as it goes, but the agency really should be removed from the executive branch. If the Congress can establish an in-house agency to oversee how the Palestinians are spending U.S. contributions—on a daily basis—it can damn well establish an agency to keep tabs on executive-branch incursions into Americans' civil liberties and privacy.
The board visited the National Security Agency (NSA), which spies on us all, twice. On the basis of those visits Vice Chairman Alan Charles Raul offered this reassurance—
The surveillance under the program is very highly regimented and justified both internally within the agency and now externally to the FISA court.
Memo to Vice Chairman Raul: So far as I've been able to determine, the KGB, the Stasi, the Gestapo and—oh, the FBI's COINTELPRO—were all "highly regimented" and "internally justified." And the recent agreement by the White House to subject NSA snooping to review by the FISA court did not come about as a result of any action taken by your agency.
U.S. Congress to run Palestinian Authority (6/13/05)
Inflammatory Writing of the Day
The Catholic church is not about to let something like compassion for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force women to bear more tithing Catholics. —Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon blog as quoted by Howard Kurtz in "A Blogger for Edwards Resigns After Complaints"
Light a candle today in thanks that there are still blogs like Simply Appalling where only sweetness and light can be found.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Historic Reversal of the Day
The US stance on the military capabilities of Iraqis today is the exact opposite of its position ... four years ago. Then President Bush and Tony Blair claimed that Iraqis were technically advanced enough to produce long-range missiles and to be close to producing a nuclear device. Washington is now saying that Iraqis are too backward to produce an effective roadside bomb and must seek Iranian help.
Latest revelations in the "Iranian threat"
On Saturday in Baghdad three anonymous U.S. officials presented their long-delayed show-and-tell on Iranian involvement in arming Iraqi insurgents. Reuters has identified them as a "defense official," an "explosives expert" and a "defense analyst." No one has explained the need for such anonymity. My guess is that no one wants to have a fake weapons claim pinned to his chest, as happened to former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Not only was the presentation anonymous, it came after repeated postponements. We were told to believe that this was from a zeal for caution. On February 2 National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley gave this humorous explanation of why the Administration's plan to implicate Iran as a "key driver of the violence in Iraq" had been postponed—
Q .... You've said there is evidence tying Iran to attacks in Iraq. You've said that you'd make that evidence public. That supposed to be made public on the 31st [of January].
MR. HADLEY: The reason we put the intelligence briefing on hold was really two reasons. One, we thought we'd better get the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] out so people could see the full context,1 which you now can. And secondly, quite frankly, we want to make sure that if we put out intelligence, the intelligence community and MNFI can stand behind it, because we are sensitive to try and put out the facts as accurately as we can.
Q And now it's been pushed back. Can we conclude anything from that other than people looked at the intelligence that was set to offered and said, this is not good enough?
MR. HADLEY: No, I wouldn't --
Q Does that mean there was a willingness to overstate it?
MR. HADLEY: The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated. And we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts. And that's not a criticism of anybody. It was, in some sense, an attempt to do and address some of the issues in the NIE in a briefing on intelligence of Iranian activity in Iraq. And we thought, hey, why are we doing this?
Well, hey! Why indeed?
The presentation of the evidence
LA Times reporters Tina Susman and Borzou Daragahi described the presentation this way—
U.S. defense and intelligence officials, seeking to lend credibility to allegations that Iran is providing weapons to Shiite militants in Iraq, displayed munitions and fragments of weapons yesterday that they said constituted solid evidence that Tehran was contributing to Iraq's violence.
They also alleged that a group under the command of Iran's supreme leader was behind the smuggling of the weaponry across the Iran-Iraq border.
The reporters even gave their own assessments of the claims—
The officers presented fairly strong evidence that the weapons and components were manufactured in Iran2; the claims that Iranian officials had orchestrated their smuggling into Iraq and that the weapons were primarily intended for use against U.S. and Iraqi forces appeared weaker.
But they did not note, as Reuters did, that
The senior defence analyst said there was no "smoking gun" linking Tehran and Iraqi militants.
British author and activist Milan Rai has prepared an analysis of the presentation and of the reaction in the British media. I won't attempt to repeat the content, but since it's in PDF format I'll try to have an HTML version available soon.
[2/14/07 — Milan Rai now has his paper on line here.]
The regional context
In addition to Rai's analysis of U.S. claims about Iran, Americans should keep in mind the regional context. Guy Dinmore of the Financial Times put it clearly—
While the US is focusing public attention on Iran with accusations of its destabilising role in Iraq, analysts in Washington warn that all Iraq's neighbours are becoming more deeply involved in covert activities that fuel the sectarian conflict.
Funds and weapons originating in Saudi Arabia are still reaching Sunni groups and al-Qaeda, sometimes routed through Syria. Meanwhile, Turkey is becoming more active in north Iraq as it prepares to help the Turkmen minority in a looming confrontation over the future of the Kurdish-claimed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
The Bush administration, however, wants the spotlight focused on Iran and not on its allies in the region. The Sunni-dominated Gulf Arab states are being pushed by Washington to form a broad anti-Iranian alliance with the US, even ... at the risk of provoking a wider Sunni-Shia conflict in the Islamic world.
Dinmore then quotes from a "senior U.S. official" who said that the Sunni insurgency is being funded "by private Saudi and other Gulf Arab 'individuals.'"
He follows with a mention of a Brookings Institution report that seems to want to blame Iran for all the other Middle Eastern actors in Iraq—
Foreign intervention at the covert level is proceeding apace in Iraq....
The Sunni powers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and Turkey are all frightened by Iran's growing influence and presence inside Iraq and are scrambling to catch up.
So if America's "allies" in the Middle East are arming al-Qaeda in Iraq, it's okay with the Bush administration so long as they're doing it out of fear of "Iran's growing influence."
But Dinmore saves the best till last—
Sue Kelly, a Republican member of Congress from 1995 until last month and chair of the House financial services oversight and investigations subcommittee, has been active in fighting the "silent war" of terrorist funding. She says she encountered internal obstacles in tackling Washington's Gulf Arab allies.
Bureaucratic struggles, combined with inattention and government inertia, have dragged back progress in blocking terrorist funding, she says. The US has a "complicated co-dependency with Saudi Arabia", she told the Hudson Institute think-tank. She said her investigations into broader terrorism funding took her to Riyadh, where she discovered that the kingdom's "financial intelligence unit", which the State Department claimed existed, was merely an "empty floor in a building".
Progress was made later, she added. She intended to follow up a year ago but said the State Department blocked a visit to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates because "someone" did not want to disrupt the "co-operative alliance".
Then one last gasp from the Neocons to contradict what everybody else knows—
Danielle Pletka, a senior analyst with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, supports Saudi Arabia's assertions that the government does not fund Sunni insurgents. However, she calls claims that they cannot exert control over individual Saudi funding of terrorists "ridiculous".
And the point is ...
I've left the analysis of the most recent anti-Iranian allegations to Milan Rai, cited earlier. But his critique made me realize that many reports in the media use the term "Iranian" without specifying actual involvement of the Iranian government. By reporting for the Administration in this manner the public is given the impression that the Iranian government is responsible for arming the militias, whether there is proof or not.
If fact it seems to have worked on Democratic Senator Chris Dodd. Though this BBC report is ostensibly about the Democrats' scepticism of the Bush administration's accusations against Iran, Dodd is quoted as saying—
I'm looking at this report with a degree of scepticism.
I don't doubt that Iran has been involved to some degree, and clearly that's a problem and needs to be addressed.
It's interesting that though the proof of Iranian government involvement in arming Iraqi militias has yet to be produced, Sen. Dodd doesn't doubt that Iran is involved to some degree. Hmhh.
Some of the reports even hint of a nefarious American strategy that goes beyond Iran. As I quoted Dinmore earlier—
The Sunni-dominated Gulf Arab states are being pushed by Washington to form a broad anti-Iranian alliance with the US, even ... at the risk of provoking a wider Sunni-Shia conflict in the Islamic world.
Think about that one for a moment. Is the Bush Administration now promoting some insane realpolitik in which the Islamic world becomes further divided and turned upon itself?
At the end of January a suicide bomber showed up for a Shia religious festival in Pakistan, and the press reported—
There is concern that the Sunni-Shia violence raging in Iraq is feeding Pakistan’s own sectarian conflict, which analysts say could erode the stability of a country already struggling to contain Taliban and al-Qaida militants.
In some parallel universe it's possible to believe that internecine strife among Muslims could spare the Christian West and Israel a great deal of grief. And when it comes to sewing discord, nobody does it as well as the Bush administration.
1Despite the denial, it does look as if someone in the intelligence establishment advised the Administration that just maybe they should wait until the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was released to avoid serious contradiction and embarrassment. [back]