Monday, October 24, 2005



Bush Having To Rely On Own Judgement

"He's like the lion in winter," observed a political friend of Bush. "He's frustrated. He remains quite confident in the decisions he has made. But this is a guy who wanted to do big things in a second term. Given his nature, there's no way he'd be happy about the way things have gone."

Bush usually reserves his celebrated temper for senior aides because he knows they can take it. Lately, however, some junior staffers have also faced the boss' wrath.

"This is not some manager at McDonald's chewing out the help," said a source with close ties to the White House when told about these outbursts. "This is the President of the United States, and it's not a pleasant sight."

The specter of losing Rove, his only truly irreplaceable assistant, lies at the heart of Bush's distress. But a string of political reversals, including growing opposition to the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina's aftermath and Harriet Miers' bungled Supreme Court nomination, have also exacted a personal toll.

Presidential advisers and friends say Bush is a mass of contradictions: cheerful and serene, peevish and melancholy, occasionally lapsing into what he once derided as the "blame game." They describe him as beset but unbowed, convinced that history will vindicate the major decisions of his presidency even if they damage him and his party in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

At the same time, these sources say Bush, who has a long history of keeping staffers in their place, has lashed out at aides as his political woes have mounted.

"The President is just unhappy in general and casting blame all about," said one Bush insider. "Andy [Card, the chief of staff] gets his share. Karl gets his share. Even Cheney gets his share. And the press gets a big share."

The vice president remains Bush's most trusted political confidant. Even so, the Daily News has learned Bush has told associates Cheney was overly involved in intelligence issues in the runup to the Iraq war that have been seized on by Bush critics.

Bush is so dismayed that "the only person escaping blame is the President himself," said a sympathetic official, who delicately termed such self-exoneration "illogical."

A second senior Bush loyalist disagreed, saying Bush knows "some of these things are self-inflicted," like the Miers nomination, where Bush jettisoned contrary advice from his advisers and appointed his longtime personal lawyer.

"He must know that the way he did that, relying on his own judgment and instinct, was not good," another key adviser said.


The Rift In the Right

...the deeper meaning here is ideological: George W. Bush’s father was committed to a realist understanding of foreign policy. This served him well in Iraq, and not so well in Bosnia. George W. Bush, on the other hand, has become a leading proponent of democratic transformationalism; he believes it is America’s job to help non-democratic countries become democratic. The realists don’t believe that the internal organization of another country is any of our business; George W. Bush, evidently, does.


Are the conservatives turning against the neoconservatives?

They’ve been doing so for some time. Just read George Will. Their complaint is that neoconservatives aren’t conservative; they’re liberals with guns.


Selling America getting harder these days

The Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum is blunter: 'In plain English, her job is to fight anti-Americanism, promote American culture and above all to do intellectual battle with the ideology of radical Islam, a set of beliefs so powerful that they can persuade middle-class, second-generation British Muslims to blow themselves up on buses and trains.'

So she's working for us as well, is she? That's a trifle worrying because she demonstrates a worrying capacity to act the loose cannonball. Just three weeks ago in Saudi Arabia, on what was hyped as a 'listening trip', she effectively preached to a hall of veiled, local women that if they didn't like being banned from driving cars they should do something about it and secure themselves the freedoms women in the US take for granted.

This went down well with one audience - that immediately in front of her - and embarrassingly badly with the other, more distant and senior diplomatic one, who recognised that arrogant tendency to showcase their ignorance that everybody loathes about Americans abroad.

To anyone from this side of the Atlantic, with the possible exception of Tony Blair, the notion that we are represented diplomatically and publicly in the Middle East by an Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy who's a Texan God-botherer and has presumably been responsible for Bush's many displays of crassness and illiteracy, is not good news. She managed to raise eyebrows and blood pressure readings with a remark comparing Osama Bin Laden's terrorists to the US pro-abortion lobby in their 'lack of respect for human life'.

Exactly how big Hughes's weapon of mass deception is, nobody really knows, but the US Department of Defence alone employs 7,000 'professional communicators', and it's recorded that the State Department spent $685 million on public diplomacy in 2004, with critics complaining that it hasn't been increased enough since 11 September and that little of it has targeted the Muslim world.

One thing we do know is that Hughes has at her disposal the most sophisticated intelligence-gathering capability ever assembled. With thousands employed in 'Information Operations' on the US government's behalf, using every conceivable ruse from satellite surveillance to leaflet dropping to finding out how much whisky President Putin gets through of a night, knowing what's really going on everywhere should be simple.


Vanity Fair on Cheney

But I don't think Cheney believes that. When you start to lose, you keep losing. This is, to me, another Cheney virtue: the lack of a salesman's knee-jerk optimism. He's the mordant vice president balancing the jejune president.

The management issue is how you best spend the dwindling capital that you have. And as you begin to feel your market share eroding, how you leverage the brand identity and goodwill that remain.

I bet this was how the hurricane escaped their attention. Instead of realizing that a natural disaster—one that gives you days' warning—can be, with a little logistical skill and stage-managing, manna for a president, these guys were concentrating all their attention on Iraq. (Bush: You think we have a problem with this storm? Cheney: Halliburton can cover any damage to the refinery facilities. If the Mississippi naval bases get hit, KBR can be on the ground overnight. I'm concerned about the Sunnis … )

That's the cost of war: you can't really think about much else. And a war, which needs all your time and attention, becomes ever more problematic when most of your people have begun to think about their futures. And, in fact, have begun to think that maybe being so closely involved with this war might not be a plus. This is entropy. This is the center not holding.

But Cheney, I'm convinced, remains the center. And at the center is Iraq.

And while all the people around him are losing their heads, and worried about floods and approval ratings and their next job, I think that we can have some confidence that the vice president, however seemingly absent, is hunkered down, stubbornly, righteously, with a singularity of vision, waging war.

Keep up the good work » » »
Keep up the good work » »
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