Saturday, October 28


The U.S. Comptroller General, described as our accountant-in-chief, is on a nationwide "wake up America" tour to warn us that we face economic disaster. To bolster his arguments and repel any challenges that his message might be partisan, he's accompanied by economists and budget analysts that represent the full spectrum of political thought.

Their basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation. That's almost as much as the total net worth of every person in America - Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and those Google guys included.

A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that big would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today.

And every year that nothing is done about it, Walker says, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion.
The federal government actually produced a surplus for a few years during the 1990s, thanks to a booming economy and fiscal restraint imposed by laws that were passed early in the decade. And though the federal debt has grown in dollar terms since 2001, it hasn't grown dramatically relative to the size of the economy.

Medicare and Medicaid are the core problems, as healthcare costs have spiraled over the past few decades and are expected to continue doing so for at least the near future. Social Security is viewed as a much smaller problem given that it pays for itself and even provides surplus dollars that the government uses to pay other debts. It's not until the next century, these economists say, that it will become a problem.

(Well, a national health insurance program might go some way towards controlling spiraling healthcare costs. But find one Republican who will consider it.)

Debt, the experts say, is the central cause of our precarious position. "For one thing, even when rates are low a bigger deficit means a greater portion of each tax dollar goes to interest payments rather than useful programs. And because foreigners now hold so much of the federal government's debt, those interest payments increasingly go overseas rather than to U.S. investors."

"Washington tends to keep its fiscal house in better order when one party controls Congress and the other is in the White House, says Sawhill.

"It's kind of a paradoxical result. Your commonsense logic would tell you if one party is in control of everything they should be able to take action," Sawhill says.

But the last six years of Republican rule have produced tax cuts, record spending increases and a Medicare prescription drug plan that has been widely criticized as fiscally unsound. When President Clinton faced a Republican Congress during the 1990s, spending limits and other legislative tools helped produce a surplus.
"Realistically what we hope to accomplish through the fiscal wake-up tour is ensure that any serious candidate for the presidency in 2008 will be forced to deal with the issue," he says. "The best we're going to get in the next couple of years is to slow the bleeding."

While the Rethugs are ranting, "Democrats will raise taxes!" we should be countering with, "We'll do whatever it takes to get this nation back on solid financial ground."

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Terrific response by Jim Webb regarding Allen's attacks on his novels.

At a rally Saturday in Annandale, Va., Webb did address the topic. "I have written about what I have seen and that is the duty of a writer," Webb said. "Maybe George Allen doesn't understand that because I'm told George Allen doesn't read books."



Garrison Keillor on "enemy combatants" and the suspension of habeas corpus for anyone so deemed by the Supreme Dubya:

Three Republican senators made a show of opposing the bill and, after they'd collected all the praise they could get, they quickly folded. Why be a hero when you can be fairly sure that the Court will dispose of this piece of garbage.

If, however, the Court does not, then our country has taken a step toward totalitarianism. If the government can round up someone and never be required to explain why, then it's no longer the United States of America as you and I always understood it. Our enemies have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They have made us become like them.

I got some insight week before last into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for Homegrown Democrat, but they thought it better if I didn't mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, "I don't need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics - I'm a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service." And the audience applauded! Those were their sentiments exactly. We've got ours, and who cares?

The Methodists of Dallas can be fairly sure that none of them will be snatched off the streets, flown to Guantanamo, stripped naked, forced to stand for 48 hours in a freezing room with deafening noise, so why should they worry? It's only the Jews who are in danger, and the homosexuals and gypsies. The Christians are doing just fine. If you can't trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?

Hat tip to Left of Center.


Mikevotes spots another outrageous under-the-radar Bush policy: opposing an almost-unanimous UN measure aimed at helping "to stop guns finding their way to existing war zones despite existing arms embargos and export controls."

The measure passed 139-to-1, with the U.S. casting the sole dissenting vote. Russia and China abstained. Boy, are we in good company.

As Mike says, "I'm sure that the administration's goal is to leave open the US policies towards arming 'freedom fighters' against 'objectionable' governments, but this is insane.

"Haven't we learned from Afghanistan and elsewhere that US soldiers frequently end up on the point end of those transferred weapons?"


Dixie Chicks Shut up and Sing Trailer


(Photo by WaPo and AP)

Great moments with the press and Tony Snow.

Well, then Mr. Snow was asked, well, what could “a dunk in the water” mean?

Mr. Snow: How about a dunk in the water?

Q: So, wait a minute, so “dunk in the water” means what, we have a pool now at Guantanamo, and they go swimming?

MR. SNOW: Are you doing standup? (Laughter.)

And on Rummy's "back off" remarks at his own press conference on Oct. 26:

Q: And is Donald Rumsfeld not aware of this plan?

Mr. Snow: Donald Rumsfeld actually said that there’s no daylight between the two. Donald Rumsfeld is, in fact, aware of how it works. It’s one of these things where you want to make sure that when you’re discussing it, you also want to respect Prime Minister Maliki’s prerogatives as the head of a sovereign state. And he is sensitive about the use of terms like “benchmark” and “timetables,” so I think it’s safe to say that we have mutually agreed upon goals and we’re working together to achieve them.

Q: Will you stop using the word “benchmark”?

Mr. Snow: I think - I’d be delighted to. Even if it’s used in questions, I’ll change it back to goals, yes.

Good. We’re tired of being sent to the dictionary….

Great stuff.

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Thursday, October 26


Democrat Chris Bell CAN WIN the governorship of Texas if we get off our duffs and get out the vote. Go here to access calling lists. If we call people, they'll vote.

Here're the current poll numbers (conducted by Brian Eppstein, Kay Bailey Hutchison's pollster)

10/24 Eppstein/Bailey

Perry 32
Bell 27
Strayhorn 20
Friedman 9

I think we can peel off more anti-Perry votes from Carole Keeton Strayhorn than from Kinky. His 9% looks pretty firm. Strayhorn looked lame in the debate, and Bell has money now for advertising.

I'm hosting a GOTV event for MoveOn the weekend before the election and the day of. I don't want to wake up on November 8 and find they've stolen another election and I didn't do anything about it.

How about you?


Isn't that just jim-dandy? Bush is so eager to spread democracy around the world that he invades Iraq, bungles the job and as a result gives Syrians a reason to support their dictator instead. Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

Advocates of democracy are equated now with supporters of America, even "traitors," said Maan Abdul Salam, 36, a Damascus publisher who has coordinated conferences on women's rights and similar topics.

"Now, talking about democracy and freedom has become very difficult and sensitive," Salam said. "The people are not believing these thoughts anymore. When the U.S. came to Iraq, it came in the name of democracy and freedom. But all we see are bodies, bodies, bodies."

Ordinary people in Syria are hunkering down, and probably rightly so, said Omar Amiralay, a well-known Syrian filmmaker whose documentaries are quietly critical of Assad's one-family rule.

"If democracy brings such chaos in the region, and especially the destruction of society, as it did in Iraq and in Lebanon, it's absolutely normal, and I think it's absolutely a wise position from the people to be afraid to imagine how it would be in Syria," Amiralay said. "I think that people at the end said, 'Well, it is better to keep this government. We know them, and we don't want to go to this civil war, and to live this apocalyptic image of change, with civil war and sectarianism and blood.' "

Well, yeah. People want to live their lives in relative security, not watch the bodies of their loved ones, friends and neighbors piling up in the streets. They'll surrender a certain amount of "freedom" if they think it's necessary to protect their very lives. Haven't we witnessed the exact same tendency in the United States the past few years? How else have Bush-Cheney-Rove been able to expand their power and shrink the civil liberties of the average American?

An essay on YaleGlobal OnLine points out that the "fatal flaw in US policy has been its neglect of civil order as a foundation of sovereignty and democracy, first in Afghanistan and Iraq and then in Lebanon, where the US, along with Europe and the United Nations, was lulled while watching the televised Cedar Revolution into letting Hezbollah’s arms buildup sabotage Lebanon’s sovereignty and Israel’s security. Finally, the Iraq intervention was predicated on the fallacy that instability would foster progressive political change, but regional instability has thus far emboldened anti-democratic forces that now vie for supremacy."

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I almost missed this sensible Uggabugga post. Don't you miss it.

Video the Vote 2006


This is unconscionable. And why, may I ask, isn't the media covering it? Oh yes, they're busy covering the pResident's latest speech, or press conference, or Harold Ford's social life.

The Department of Defense announced in September a new voting system by Internet for American military and civilian voters abroad. The system, which will be used in the midterm elections, has never been used before, not even in a primary, and was not tested publicly or subjected to peer review.

The primary security risks are as follows:

"1. Tool One exposes soldiers to risks of identity theft. Sending personally identifiable information via unencrypted email is considered poor practice. No bank would ask their customers to send SSNs over unencrypted email, yet Tool One does exactly that. This problem is exacerbated by potential phishing attacks.

2. Returning voted ballots by email or fax creates an opportunity for hackers, foreign governments, or other parties to tamper with those ballots while they are in transit. FVAP's system does not include any meaningful protection against the risk of ballot modification.

3. Ballots returned by email or fax may be handled by the DoD in some cases. Those overseas voters using the system sign a waiver of their right to a secret ballot. However, it is one thing for a voter's ballot to be sent directly to their local election official; it is another for a soldier's ballot to be sent to and handled by the DoD - who is, after all, the soldier's employer."

If the Rethugs can't win an election any other way, there's always their standard fallback -- steal it.

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Wednesday, October 25


Interesting exchange between Hugh Hewitt and Christopher Hitchens on Hugh's radio talk show this afternoon. When I tuned in on my commute home, Hitchens was (in his exquisite and authoritative, though slightly tipsy English accent) being indignant about comparisons between the Iraq war and the Vietnam conflict: to wit, "I resent" the comparisons, said Hitch. ("I resent?" Does Hitch have some ownership and/or vested interest in the Iraq war?)

But then it got cute. Hewitt was obviously sure he could enlist Hitch as a fellow traveler in the "Fear Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats winning the House" campaign.

Wouldn't Denny Haster be preferable to Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House? Hugh asked. Hitch sidestepped. Is she qualified to be two heartbeats from the presidency? Hugh asked. Hitch said, what's qualified? Hugh asked Hitch if he was scared of a Speaker Pelosi. Hitch replied that he had called for Denny Hastert's resignation. Hugh asked Hitch if he'd prefer Nancy to Denny. Hitch said he'd demand a revote. Hugh tried to pin him down. Hitch said he wasn't sure she was qualified to be a representative of the "great state of California."

So Hugh switched tactics. Isn't Hitch scared of a Democratic Congress? Hitch rambled linguistically, he hasn't yet counted out the Republicans' retaining the House. Finally Hugh tried to pin him down, saying something like, "Wouldn't you fear a Democratic House?" at which time the closing music of the segment segued in. Hitch replied in the vein of "Sounds like your music is punctuating your point."


I'm so angry right now I could spit nails. I'm having real problems with guilt at advocating the abandonment of Iraq to chaos and civil war when we effectively destroyed their government and civil institutions, which while repressive, still provided their people with civil order and basic services.

The Bush administration put us in this situation. This isn't the first time we've (in the persons of Bush 41 and Bush 43) betrayed the Iraqi people.

But the U.S. electorate put these guys in office. To the world, they ARE the United States.

But there's no way to "victory" in Iraq that any rational person can see that won't impoverish the U.S. treasury, break our military for decades ahead, and result in thousands more U.S. deaths while creating an environment conducive to increased terrorist attacks, and revolutionary fire in the hearts of millions of followers of Islam throughout the world.

The memory just popped into my mind as I wrote those words of the Sachem in the film Last of the Mohicans as he recalled the threat against his people:

SACHEM: The white man comes like a day that has passed. And night enters our future with him ... Our council talks since I was a boy: what is the Huron to do? But Magua would lead Huron down paths that make us not Hurons.

The terrorist threat has led us to act in a manner not consistent with our American tradition or ideals. We have adopted the enemy's tactics -- torture, rendition -- and have ourselves, voluntarily!, given him his victory. What reason did Bin Laden give for the attacks on 9/11? Our bases in Saudi Arabia and the sanctions against Iraq. Well, the Iraqi invasion accomplished both his objectives: we're out of Saudi Arabia and the sanctions have been lifted. Wow, did we foil him!

Our Magua (Bush) has led us down dark paths that make us not Americans. But the question still reverberates:

What are we to do now?


If you thought the Enron scandal ended with the death of Ken Lay and the sentencing of Jeff Skilling, think again.

A friend of mine who lost a great deal of money because of the Enron debacle once told me that she wouldn't feel any closure by seeing Lay and Skilling bite the dust. She said she wanted her money back, and failing that, she wanted everyone culpable to suffer.

She'll never get either, but I'd sure like to see this Robert Scheer column plastered all over Texas newspapers before the midterm elections. Texas voters should think, and think hard, about which political party enabled Lay and Skilling before they cast their ballots.

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I'm sickened by the disingenuous (I deliberately use the word because I've heard countless conservatives use the term to describe Michael J. Fox over the past couple of days) attempt by wingnuts to characterize their stance against federal funding of embryonic stem cell research as repugnant because it offends their values -- specifically, their support of the "culture of life." If they feel so strongly that the use of embryos (that would be destroyed in any case) for research into lifesaving or restorative therapies, why aren't they originating legislation to oppose the destruction of superfluous embryos in fertility clinics, and to outlaw ALL embryonic stem cell research, privately funded or not?

The hypocrisy of the right knows no bounds. This is electoral posturing, nothing less. Listening to Mike Gallagher, Rush Limbaugh, et al trumpet their belief that "life begins at conception" as the basis for their opposition leads one to reflect upon their position on abortion. They're flatly ag'in' it, in any form. Mike said on his radio show this morning, "there's PLENTY of stem cell research going on that is privately funded" and that relieves us of the necessity to use our taxpayer dollars for something that violates the sensibilities of many Americans. See the disconnect?

Michael J. Fox is an American icon, as were Christopher Reeve and Ronald Reagan, all of whose families are passionately supporting embryonic stem cell research not so much for their own loved ones, since any discoveries will likely prove far too late to benefit them (as is obvious in the cases of Reeve and Reagan), but because they want to see the hope of others in like situation nurtured and rewarded. To characterize Fox as "acting" or "off his meds" or "selfish" or "exploiting" his condition is beyond the pale of any decent person.

Is their next move to call Nancy Reagan "selfish"?

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Christopher Dickey comments on Kevin Tillman's expression of rage at the Iraq war, its perpetrators, and his brother Pat's death:

Kevin Tillman’s poem is reminiscent of one that Kipling wrote at the height of his powers, and of his anger.

After a gruesome military disaster in 1917, Kipling wanted to know why the men who sent the soldiers to their deaths day after day, week after week, month after month in a futile exercise of arrogance and stupidity still managed to escape punishment:

They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?

Kipling wrote such poems because he wanted action. He wanted punishment, vengeance, or at the very least some public holding to account. “Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?” he demanded. “When the storm has ended” would the politicians and bureaucrats have “sidled back to power” by the “favor and contrivance of their kind?”

Kevin Tillman is asking the same question, with the same well-sharpened edge of indignation. He is making this statement now in hopes that voters will listen. No, he does not offer solutions. No he does not have all the answers. But he does have one: the people who got us into this war should pay for it with their careers, their fortunes and what little pretense they can have to honor.

And, oh yes, there is one more thing you should know about the poem that Kipling wrote in 1917. The World War I debacle he described was in a place that gave his work its title, "Mesopotamia": the word the British used for the country before they called it Iraq. The officials responsible for the disaster there were never sanctioned. We'll see if that part of history repeats itself as well.

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Monday, October 23


A close friend at work (she's VP of Communications of one of our subsidiaries) today confided that she's having difficulties helping her lovely, brilliant 13-year-old daughter adjust to teenage-hood. M----, it seems, is passionately, vocally liberal in a Texas middle school filled with clones of their Republican parents. M is having trouble socially, and her mother has tried to counsel her that while she ought not to sacrifice her own unique beliefs, she doesn't have to lecture everyone else or make them feel defensive. She figures she'll have a better chance at developing positive social relationships that way.

Case in point: M is apparently passionate about gay rights, which her mother fully supports. But Mom has counseled, "It's enough to say that it's not right when someone makes a disparaging remark or a joke about gays." "But Mom!" cries M. "It's the same thing as when there were separate water fountains for blacks and whites. What if people just said, 'That's not right,' and that's all they did? Doesn't somebody have to explain why it's wrong, and fight for change?"

Lordy, lordy. It brings back so many memories. My own mother had to deal with a similar 13-year-old (me). My particular fights were for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. (This was in the Deep South, and in a military family, yet my parents supported me.) And my activism went on right up until I had children of my own. Then, it seems, our priorities change, and our protective instincts for our own children suddenly seem to have to be balanced with our religious and political beliefs. I went through a similar situation with each of my own five kids. M's mom, my friend, wants to see her daughter accepted and comfortable with her peers, while at the same time she wants to see her develop into her own person, assert her own beliefs. It's not because it's "easier." It's because she's also experienced the 13-year-old angst when M cries hysterically because nobody likes her. As parents, we're constantly confronted with these balancing acts.

The reason I brought this up is that a question has been troubling me all day since my dear friend confided in me, expecting my experience with five strong-willed children would render some great wisdom that would help her with her current dilemma with M. The question that's been bothering me is: Why should our children be the ones willing to risk alienation (which for them at that age is the worst thing imaginable) to seek justice, when we oldsters try to seek a balance that will render a gradually-reached justice without troubling us too much?

It reminds me of a decade ago when my very-conservative middle daughter (how did she get that way? we've never really understood, although we have some ideas) was splashed, at 12 years old, across several network news programs protesting abortion in Dallas. She was a beautiful, mature, extremely articulate and persuasive child, and her best friend just happened to be the daughter of a nationally prominent anti-abortion figure. We were subsequently contacted by several media and PR outlets who wanted to finance a national media tour featuring her, which we of course refused. Fellow members of our Southern Baptist church applauded her and were mystified by our refusal to allow her to be exploited. "If you feel so strongly about abortion, why aren't YOU on the protest lines?" I responded. The Sage and I refused to take her out of school and make her a media darling, but we were excoriated for our stance.

Don't get me wrong. My position on abortion has evolved to embrace individual rights of privacy, but at the time my daughter was courted by the media I was firmly anti-abortion. Our decision was based solely on our assessment of what was in our daughter's best interests, and our belief that children who are in their formative years should not be exploited for political ends -- if there is injustice, adults should be fighting it, not sublimating by using children to front for their causes.

We never tried to restrict our daughter's political activities, other than to forbid her to break the law. Nevertheless, I picked her up several times when she was barely a teenager from Juvie Hall, where she was taken after a demonstration at an abortion clinic.

I'm rambling, and I'm not sure there's a point to this post. I just feel for another parent who is confronted with a child with a cause, a mom who's proud of her child but yet wants to see all her children safe and protected while adults provide a leadership that reassures them.

One of my strong-willed children (well, he's 25) just walked in and read my post over my shoulder. At the same time we were listening to CNN. My son is a strong liberal Democrat. He's cynical about our winning the midterms and retaking either house of Congress because he believes Republican money, and failing that, electronic voter fraud, will swing things towards the Rethugs.

Sigh. Parenting never ends. And the eternal question is,

"What do we tell the children?"


I don't get it. Why would the politically savvy Republicans distribute an election advertisement that features the threats to the U.S. by all the terrorists Bush hasn't captured?

Wouldn't you think that the result would be an outcry of, "Why did you divert our efforts from capturing and bringing to justice the perpetrators of 9/11 to invade and occupy a nation that posed no threat to us?" rather than, "Gee, I better vote Republican so Bush can continue to ignore the real threats to the U.S."

You know, the whole point of terrorism is to frighten the dickens out of the "enemy." The Bush administration and its Rethuglican cohorts over the past five years have been doing a real good job of terrorizing the U.S. electorate themselves.

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I think the discussion I just heard about Nancy Pelosi as a Republican boogeyman (woman?) on Hardball was ridiculous. It reminds me of Sean Hannity's rants the past few weeks, trying to raise a spectre of fear that the "woman with San Francisco values" as Speaker of the House "and two beats from the presidency" is a danger almost greater than that of "the terrorists."

Chris repeatedly asked his guests if Nancy appeared "scary" last night on Sixty Minutes. Neither would answer the question. They couldn't, because she didn't. She was, clearly, a lovely, accomplished, disciplined, straight-talking woman, a devoted wife of a successful, supportive, VERY attractive husband of 40-some years (that's an accomplishment itself!), mother and grandmother. Her husband very capably characterized her as a mother who, after her children were along in school, offered herself to public service, first in her local community and then to national politics. They seemed a picture-perfect family, which goes a long way with the "family values" crowd.

Nothing in the Sixty Minutes profile could be interpreted as "scary" except by very, very partisan people who were working off a preconceived perception rather than the reality of the woman and politician. For crying out loud, she even emphatically took impeachment off the table. Yet I heard her excoriated on no less than three right-wing conservative radio talk shows today.

On second thought, I DID think of something that might scare them. She was profiled as a Minority Leader who has brought discipline to House Democrats.

That should scare the bejeezus out of wingnuts.

Go, Nancy.



Went to a luncheon today for Dr. Wangari Maathai of Kenya, a member of parliament and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Dr. Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which introduced the idea of empowering ordinary women to plant trees to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life.

She was funny, engaging and inspiring. She spoke of her childhood in Kenya and how she credits her brother and her mother for the opportunity for her education. Her two brothers were going to school, but she wasn't -- in her culture daughters were their mother's right hands and expected to wait upon the men of the family. Her older brother asked her mother one day, "Why isn't Wangari going to school like us?" Her mother replied, "I can't think of any good reason why she shouldn't," and so off Wangari went. She went on to receive degrees from three U.S. universities before returning to her homeland to advocate a society that respects "democracy, decency, the rule of law, human rights and the rights of women."

"What's the connection, you might ask, between Peace and Trees?" she asked. She pointed out that where resources are scarce, and where there is no equity, conflict arises. She recommended that everyone see An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's film about the threat of global warming. In Kenya, she said, they're already seeing visible evidence in the melting of the snow on Mount Kenya. She noted the diminishing of the great forests of the world, and remarked how important it is for humankind to respect and protect the other species of nature, saying, "There is no species that could not survive if humankind ceased to exist; but we could not survive without those other species." She used the story of creation from Genesis to illustrate her point and noted that all the other species were created before man, for man. "If God had created us on Tuesday, we'd have been dead by Wednesday," she said.

Sunday, October 22


National Journal paints the bleakest possible picture of our options in Iraq. Various war games and analyses cited in the article have concluded that our options are few, our resources dwindling, our military severely compromised, and both Iraqis and Americans have decided we've "had enough."

The existential dangers for so many of those involved point to another sobering truth: Iraq may have started as a war of choice for the Bush administration, but it has become a war of great and unintended consequences. Immense risks lurk down every strategic road. Given the fractured state of the American body politic, it is almost certainly too late to rally the country behind an all-out war effort -- think tax increases; a war Cabinet; a full mobilization of the National Guard and the Reserves; a civilian reconstruction corps; a larger Army and Marine Corps; longer combat tours for troops; mandatory combat-zone deployments for U.S. diplomats and aid officials; a return to national service; and possibly even a limited draft.

Yet absent a plan that puts the nation on either an all-out wartime footing or the firm path to retreat, the United States is largely condemned to some tweaked-around-the-edges variation of the administration's current approach on Iraq of "muddle through and hand over." And America, the experts agree, is already losing that war.
According to several attendees, the experts' presentations to the dean of the Republican foreign-policy establishment were unremittingly negative on the outlook for the Bush administration's effort to plant the flag of democracy in Iraq.

"There must have been 25 experts in that room from every part of the political spectrum, and I was absolutely struck by how the overwhelming consensus was that things are very bad and getting worse in Iraq," said one participant, a description that was confirmed by others.

Though the Iraq Study Group chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker has pledged to look forward only and not back to the mistakes made in the runup to the war and during the war itself, someone has to. We've got to face, and inform the voting public, the fact that our national security has been compromised by a foreign policy that can't be supported by our institutions. We need smarter analysis, planning and decision-making, which we won't get with this administration or that of any other like-minded Republican.

"The big problem is that the United States today is a military colossus and a diplomatic midget, and that has made for a very unbalanced national security policy," said Joseph Collins, a professor at the National Defense University who was deputy assistant secretary of Defense for stability operations. "The State Department and U.S. AID are only shadows of what they need to be if we're going to conduct this kind of nation building, but Congress just refuses to fund those activities. That leaves a lot of overstressed soldiers in Iraq doing tasks they're not trained for."

Kenneth Pollock, who was one of those most loudly beating the drum for the invasion of Iraq, says he's losing sleep now over the situation in Iraq. He briefed the administration in February "on the need to secure the Iraqi capital and to win the support of its citizens with rapidly reconstituted government services." Their attitude took him aback:

"They insisted that I was exaggerating the problem of the militias and that the new Iraqi government would just make the insurgency go away. Frankly, I was stunned by their attitude," Pollack said. "So we have passed another seven months of missed opportunities, during which Iraq's problems have all gotten worse. My real fear is that we've already passed the make-or-break point and just don't realize it. Historians in five or 10 years may look back and say 2006 was the year we lost Iraq. That's my nightmare."

Pollock's warnings just didn't fit with their "faith-based" assessment.

In her interview tonight on Sixty Minutes, Nancy Pelosi flatly took impeachment off the table if she becomes Speaker, and to be honest I pretty much agree with her -- we don't have time for it. But something more than a change in Congressional majority has to happen to force the hand of the president, to stop or reverse the course of our foreign policy. Even if Dems take both the House and the Senate, our margins are likely to be small, and the president will still have control of the military and foreign policy.

What that something is, I just don't know.



So faced with dismal midterm election prospects for his party, Bush says he's willing to consider a "change in tactics" in Iraq. Not because he's been told for three years that the situation was deteriorating into chaos, of course, and certainly not because it's the right thing to do. But because the man who insists he never listens to polls is listening to polls.

Of course that's not how the White House is framing it. Bush says he's never been wedded to "stay the course" as a strategy, that his administration has shifted tactics throughout the war in reaction to developments on the ground, and this is nothing new.

And the true believers will probably just swallow it, despite Bush and Cheney's (and other Rethuglicans' too) incessant attacks on Democrats as the party of "cut and run" simply because we've demanded a change in strategy. When THEY propose such a change, they're just "shifting tactics."

They're "shifting tactics," all right -- campaign tactics. The war isn't working for them, so they're moderating their language. That's all it is.

But the way this sudden change of heart has come about, after months in which Mr. Bush has brushed off all criticism of his policies as either misguided, politically motivated or downright disloyal to America, is maddening. For far too long, the White House has looked upon the war as a tactical puzzle for campaign strategists. The early notion of combining Iraq and the war on terror as an argument for re-electing Republicans robbed the nation of any serious chance for a bipartisan discussion of these life-and-death issues. More recently, the administration seems to have been working under the assumption that its only obligations were to hang on, talk tough and pass the problem on to the next president.
The way the Bush team is stage-managing the president’s supposed change of heart about “staying the course” is unfair to the Americans who have taken him at his word that real progress is being made in Iraq — a dwindling but still significant number of people, some of whom have sons and daughters serving in the conflict. It is a disservice to the troops, who were never sent to Iraq in sufficient numbers to protect themselves or the Iraqi people. And it is a disservice to all Americans, who have waited so long for Mr. Bush to act that all that is left are a series of unpleasant choices.

And it is happening in the midst of a particularly ugly, and especially vacuous, election season. There is probably no worse time to begin a serious discussion about Iraq policy than two weeks before a close, bitter election. But now that the discussion has begun, it must continue, as honestly and openly as possible. It is time for the American people to confront all the things that the president never had the guts to tell them about for three and a half years.

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Pretty fair profile of Nancy Pelosi just now on Sixty Minutes. She came off as tough and disciplined but also very warm. Lesley Stahl quoted a number of Pelosi's past statements about Bush and the Republicans ("Ooh! That stings even now to read it," Lesley said at one point) and asked how she could, in light of those remarks, claim that if she was Speaker she'd restore civility to the House. Nancy said when she made those quoted remarks she was "being gentle." Then Lesley aired some of the milder Republican attacks on Pelosi. Nancy said she's got a thick skin, that it's not personal -- "we're professionals," that it's the job of politicians to point out the distinctions between the parties. Lesley responded, you called the president incompetent -- that's not personal? Pelosi replied that he IS incompetent, and that no, it's not personal.

The Beltway guys and gals are always talking as if "civility" means talking nice.

Here's how she'll restore civility. She'll allow Republicans to propose amendments to legislation, a practice Republicans have DENIED to Democrats.

Pelosi also took impeachment off the table if she becomes Speaker. "We don't have time for it," she stated. "It's enough for us to make them [Bush-Cheney] lame ducks."