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The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Well. It appears that the President, who decries the idea that he follows the polls, is dreaming about low poll numbers. How else do you explain the fact that he has given two very defensive speeches in five days?

The first speech was given on Veteran's Day in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. Bush said:

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

(Speech Transcript)

Just to be clear, the bipartisan investigation he references was as to whether or not intelligence analysts and agencies were pressured to deliver a certain type of intelligence. That is vastly different than an investigation into the use of that intelligence by the White House.

Remarkably, the speech went on to reference Bush's "opponent", John Kerry, without specifically mentioning him by name:

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.

So pot, I, the kettle, accuse you of being black. The argument seems to be "Well the intelligence was wrong, but YOU thought it was right just like I did. I shouldn't be blamed." Give me a break.

As John King said on CNN, (paraphrased) you're not in a good position when you're still debating your opponent nearly a year after the election was concluded. I'll say also that not very much honoring was going on from that podium on Veteran's Day. It was a crass attempt to boost sagging support for the war in Iraq and one that was delivered in the most inappropriate context. I'm not alone in thinking it was inapprpriate. This editorial from OregonLive.com sums it up:

As a disabled Vietnam War veteran, I took exception to President Bush's Tobyhanna, Pa., Veterans Day speech ("Bush defends war, faults critics," Nov. 12).

Veterans Day is a day for recognizing those who have served and those who are serving the United States of America. It is not a day for a stump speech that further divides our country, or a day about salvaging political capital.

During the day, I reflected on my father, who served as a Marine in Nicaragua before World War II; my half-brother, who served in the Korean War, and another brother, who served in Italy during the Vietnam era.

We were among the lucky ones -- we returned home and started families and careers. Many of the sailors and soldiers I served with when I was in the Navy did not return. I weep for those who gave their lives in their service to our country.

President Bush needs to be reminded that he did not stand side by side with his fellow soldiers when he had the opportunity more than three decades ago [while serving in the Texas Air National Guard].

He remains a no-show as he sends our troops to a war we cannot win, with him "standing behind" our troops in more ways than one.

Now from his speech in Alaska on Sunday at a stopover en route to Asia:

But we've got a bigger task than that. One of the most dangerous things that can happen to the future of our nation is that these kind of terrorist organizations hook up with nations that develop weapons of mass destruction. One of the worst things that could possibly happen to freedom-loving people, whether it be the United States or our friends or allies, is to allow nations that have got a dark history and an ugly past to develop weapons of mass destruction like nuclear weapons or chemical weapons, or biological weapons which could, for example, be delivered by long-range missile, to become a part of the terrorist network. And there are such nations in the world.

(Speech Transcript)

Oh really? "One of the most important"? Why, then, did the 9/11 Commission only yesterday issue a report characterizing the US' efforts to thwart nuclear weapons proliferation as "minimal" at best and "insufficient" at worst? From the Commission:

"The most striking thing to us is that the size of the problem still totally dwarfs the policy response ."
Thomas Kean - Chairman of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project

Well I feel safer. There were other interesting snippets in this article from the BBC:

"Preventing terrorists from gaining access to weapons of national security must be elevated above all other problems of national security," the group said.


The government "should work with its allies to develop mutually acceptable standards for terrorist detention", it said.

Lee Hamilton - who was co-chairman of the disbanded commission - added that "detainee abuse in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and elsewhere undermines America's reputation as a moral leader".

Gee - ya think? Note to self: Torture isn't a good way to a) receive reliable information; or b) win hearts and minds among allies OR enemies.

The lead story on MSNBC and CNN's 7pm and 8pm news broadcasts last night. was the new "all-time low" approval ratings for the President - 37%. And although the Democratic version a proposal in the Senate today was defeated, Republicans are distancing themselves from this unpopular President and his unpopular war. From CNN Online:

On the question of a timetable for troop withdrawal, senators rejected the Democrats' measure by 58-40. Democratic leaders had advanced the timetable measure in the wake of declining public support for a conflict that has claimed more than 2,000 U.S. lives and cost more than $200 billion.

Republicans countered with their own non-binding alternative. It urged that 2006 "should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty," with Iraqi forces taking the lead in providing security to create the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces.

On a 79-19 vote, the Senate approved that GOP-sponsored proposal, which did not call for the president to put forth a withdrawal timetable unlike the Democratic proposal.

"They want an exit strategy, a cut-and-run exit strategy. What we are for is a successful strategy," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said: "We want to change the course. We can't stay the course."

Tuesday's fast-paced developments underscored the political significance of the war as the U.S. death toll climbs, public support plummets, the insurgency continues and the price tag soars with no end in sight.

The Senate added the GOP Iraq policy to the Defense spending bill for fiscal year 2006, which was approved Tuesday afternoon 98-0.

While it falls short of accountability of the type I would like to see, the Republican statement on a "period of transition" is by far better than the cheerleading we have seen in the past. Republican Senators are leaving themselves substantial room for further distancing in the run-up to the 2006 mid-term elections.

Any bets on when the President hits the 20's? Sooner would be better than later - it may save some lives.

posted by RenaRF at 12:40 PM 4 comments links to this post


Blogger Meteor Blades said...

Even when Bush is at his best, he gives a lousy, easy-to-pick-apart speech. Now, when he's defensive, it's practically a joy to listen to his verbal stumblebummery.

2:40 PM  
Blogger RenaRF said...

Meteor Blades!! Thanks for stopping by - it's always very flattering.

4:48 PM  
Blogger The Private intellectual. said...

I always find it fascinating when Bush - or any one else, for that matter - refers to the [strangely non-existent] weapons of mass destruction [purportedly] held by Iraq.

Wasn't it the USA which lost several [hundreds] nuclear devices within their own country in the late Seventies, early Eighties?

Isn't it the USA which exports more weaponry to other countries than any other country in the world and, not only that, also to some of those countries with a dark history?

I sometimes get the impression that various governments in the USA are presently creating a dark history for future generations to read; always assuming that a black marker pen isn't used by the CIA to wipe out the details when a legally constituted commission begins publishing their findings ...


6:12 AM  
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8:14 PM  

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