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Pundit Pap
for Sunday, March 19, 2006
Crappy Anniversary, Iraq!
by the Pundit Pap Crew

Shystee | Xan | Leah | Lambert | Gene Gaudette

March 19, 2006 /correntewire.com | apj.us/ ... that's right, politics junkies -- today is the third anniversary of the beginning of the Kennebunkport Cowboy's glorious Iraq-yuh-pation! Naturally, the Sunday blathergaggles celebrated the makin' of good progress and mission accomplished... er... um... hold it... it's beginning to sound like the corporate press isn't precisely in synchronization with the Official Karl Rove Talking Points ® this particular Sunday.

And, naturally, there was nothing said about four major stories that broke after the official close of media business on Friday afternoon:

And now, onto the Sunday silliness...

-- Gene Gaudette

FOX News Sunday
Chris Wallace, Gen. George Casey, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)

In honor of Al Franken -- whom, more and more as I listen to him on Air America, I adore:

So, what did we learn from Chris Wallace's hour of Sunday gasbaggery today?

We learned for the umpteenth time that Chris Wallace is a consummate a-hole, who demeans the name of journalism every time he opens his mouth.

We learned that poor General George Casey, even dressed in battle fatigues, even being beamed across the world by satellite from the very battlefield itself, cannot make anyone, except maybe Brit Hume, believe anything the General has to say about the situation "on the ground" in Iraq, not with a Commander-in-Chief like George W. Bush, and a Secretary of Defense like Donald Rumsfeld giving the ultimate orders.

We learned that Brit Hume is totally cut off from reality in a make-believe world of his own creation, that though William Kristol is clearly smarter than Hume, Kristol's purchase on reality has its limits, that Mara Liasson is a dullard who has no business being on NPR, and that Juan Williams has his moments, but just wants too badly to be welcomed at the cool kids lunch table. Okay, we learn that pretty much every Sunday, but that's not my fault, dammit.


Details on the other side of the break.

Here are a few of the things I heard worth thinking about:

From General Casey - nothing. Sorry, I literally couldn't hear what he was saying after he referenced the President's speech this last Monday. Wallace tried to be aggressive in his questioning, but since Chris has no idea what journalism is actually about, his questions never rose about the gotcha level; for instance, I thought it was interesting that he never asked the General about any of the revelations in the Trainor/Gordon book, many of which bear directly on what is happening in Iraq right this minute. But that would have been real journalism, of course, so totally inappropriate to Fox News.

Okay, now let's get to the fun stuff.

At the end of the General's portion of the program, Wallace's tease for the upcoming interview was something like, "next, we'll talk with Senator Dick Durbin about what the Democratic plan for Iraq is." As if it was the responsibility of congressional Democrats to have such a plan, and as if there was any chance in or out of hell that this administration was about to listen to anything Democrats have to say about Iraq, except to excerpt a phrase here or there to prove that Dems are traitors and cowards. But such realities are never acknowledged by members of the SCLM ().

I thought Senator Durbin did okay on Iraq, better than usual for most Democrats. He barreled ahead on a critique of the absurdity of what General Casey had been trying to sell, that we are on our way to winning in Iraq, that significant numbers of Iraqi troops are ready to take over for our guys, and on and on, with Chris Wallace constantly trying to interrupt to complain that criticizing Bush policies isn't a plan.

It would have been nice if Durbin had thought to make the argument that Democrats have continually put forward specific plans that have been ignored and/or attacked by the Bush administration, and why not tick off Kerry's Iraq plan, articulated in his presidential campaign - to reassure all Iraqis that we do not intend to stay, for instance, by stopping all work on permanent bases there, going again to NATO and the UN to get help on the ground from other nations, including those with Muslim soldiers, opening up negotiations with the Sunnis…well that was then, this is now.

Wallace trotted out Brzezinski's recent editorial taking the Democrats to task for not articulating a specific alternative to Bush's Iraq policy. What was best about Durbin's response, he refused to become defensive and stayed on the attack, managing to make some strong points - that we've been hearing this optimism about Iraq literally for years now, that the starting point for any new plan has to be a recognition that what this administration has been doing for the last three years isn't working, and that, in addition, the mistakes have been so fundamental there are no good options left to us.

In a second segment with Durbin, Wallace went right to Russ Feingold's attempt to introduce a resolution of Censure of the President in the matter of the NSA warrantless wiretaps.

Crooks & Liars already has the video of a significant portion of Durbin's reply up and I urge you to go and take a look (); it's a long excerpt and I'm glad of that, so watch the whole thing, I'll wait for you.

What Durbin did this Sunday, the rest of the Democrats should have been prepared to do all of last week. Shame on them for not realizing it, since it seemed so effortless and so real when Durbin went right to the bedrock value Democrats are defending, which is nothing less than our constitution.

In a way, Wallace, set it up for Durbin, by being such a predictable shit, which is to say, Wallace expected a predictable answer, one that conformed with what has been the SCLM's narrative all week about the Democrats, that they were literally running from Feingold in terror; when Durbin expressed no terror, and instead, repeated the mantra that makes sense of Feingold's censure move - i.e., there is a law in place that governs wiretaps, no one was adequately briefed on the NSA program's disavowal of that law, this is a matter of constitutional governance, which means that the Senate Intelligence Committee has failed to do it's constitutional duty, which has led to Democratic frustration, the driving force behind Feingold's desire for Censure - Wallace was just plain flummoxed.

Best of all, Durbin found a way, without looking wishy-washy to neither rule out nor to rule in "impeachment." That was Wallace's next big gambit - Republicans say that there is a secret plan, if the Democrats retake congress, to impeach the president. Then a clip was played of Feingold saying, that "yes, the NSA scandal is one that could rise to the level of an impeachable offence."

Despite constant shocked prods from Wallace in the nature of, "are you saying Senator, that you would consider the impeachment of a Commander-in-Chief in time of war," Durbin wouldn't take the bait, refusing either to rule out impeachment, or to endorse it, instead, returning again and again to the need to find out what the damn program is all about, and to insist on accountability from the President, which is the job of the congress, presently going undone by the Republican majority. Best of all, Durbin managed to turn Wallace's haranguing back on Wallace, by tolerantly pointing out to him, that his was the typical media response of wanting to provoke an extreme statement from Durbin. I think any independents who might have been watching would have loved that media put-down.

The roundtable, consisting of Hume, Kristol, Liasson and Williams took up the other half of the program, first on the Democrats and the NSA, then on to Iraq.

On the NSA, Brit Hume appeared to be insane, insisting this whole subject will be a huge lose-lose for the Democrats, but constantly needing to dredge up total lies in support of his position. ThinkProgress is already on the case, so I'll let you check out what they have to say yourself.

The theme of surprise about Durbin's response reared its charming head, as each of the four pundits echoed Wallace. There was a whole lot of misinformation that got tossed around, that Durbin seemed to be breaking with Pelosi and Reid, for instance, no thought given to the possibility that the Democrats had finally hammered out a coherent new position on Feingold, no, God forbid, not that, that would ruin everything for everybody, not to mention undermining that prime SCLM narrative of hapless, terrified Democrats, trying to duck the brickbats of all those happy Republicans who saw Feingold's move as a huge gift to them. Liasson, in particular took it at face value that if Republicans saw the issue is one helpful to them that such must be the case; does she ever question anything Republicans tell her?

ATTENTION EVERYONE - it is going to be a Republican talking point that the Democrats want to impeach Bush and will if they are returned to congress, even if they only get the House. Words like "wacky" were bandied about when discussing the Democratic base, and a Rasmussen poll showing that Feingold's numbers went up among Democrats after his Censure announcement was offered as proof. Liasson mentioned something about Paul Weyrich saying this week that if Democrats go after Bush too hard, Republicans will rally around him.

Bill Kristol's response was the most interesting, and hold on for this one: he didn't see the issue as a loser for Democrats, in fact, he thought they were winning on the NSA, because here they were talking again about the whole subject that should have been over by now. Kristol's irritation with Bush et al was clearly showing, although when he mentioned that there would be editorial backing the Democrats' concerns, you could see how rightwing propaganda works on those who spin it - the fact is that from the beginning of the NSA story, the SCLM has been determined to believe that Americans don't care about civil liberties, and Hume continued to insist that the NSA program was overwhelmingly popular with regular Americans. Juan Williams spent a few moments trying to stand up for the legitimacy of concerns about the NSA, and even mentioned the contrast with Clinton and what he was impeached for, but was verbally battered into submission by Hume. Luckily, I don't think anyone on the Republican side will listen to the smartest thing Kristol had to say, when he underlined, or tried to, the idiocy of thinking that the Republicans could run in 2006 on a platform that you should vote for us so that we can protect the President from the Democrats.

On Iraq: well, Brit Hume's utter inability to grasp reality became even clearer. Wallace played a piece from the President's speech on Monday, proclaiming that we either defeat the enemy in Iraq, by which he seemed to mean Al Qaeda, or if we leave, they will be strengthened as a result, or something to that effect. Hume's version - we are at war in Iraq with Al Qaeda, it may not have seemed like that in the beginning but that is what it has become, we have to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, and we are defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq, and we will defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Mara Liasson, who appeared sane, but not much in touch with reality, either, opined that Bush's single problem is Iraq, that alone is what is pulling his numbers down; she felt that the problems there were more than Al Qaeda, it's the constant Iraqi on Iraqi violence that is discouraging Americans, but if that clears up, well, no more problem.

Kristol , once again, was the most interesting; he agreed we are at war in Iraq, but didn't feel you could say we are winning, and felt that we wouldn't be winning as long as Rumsfeld is left in place; Kristol in particular mentioned Rumsfeld's Sunday op ed in the WaPo, in which he compares Iraq with postwar Germany; Kristol's problem with that seemed to be that he doesn't think we should be talking about an occupation, but an actual war, and Rumsfeld doesn't get that. There was insufficient time for Kristol to elaborate, but I'd bet that we were hearing a Kristol-John McCain take on the war - that what we need are more forces on the ground in Iraq to defeat the insurgency. Good luck on that one, guys.

Juan Williams echoed Liasson in her thought that what the President needed to improve America's attitude to what is happening in Iraq is some more purple fingers, by which I guess they meant yet more elections.

And these are the guys who talk about the Democrats not having a plan. Sheesh!

-- Leah ()

Meet the Press
Gen. Casey, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA12)

Tim Russert, AKA Pumpkinhead AKA Timmeh AKA Li'l' Russ, was extra feisty today.

He threw a couple Bush quotes cleverly rephrased as questions at Gen. George Casey who got nailed, and then did his best to defend his Commander In Chief's lies with the Jedi Mind Trick "these are not the droids you're looking for" defense.

Murtha is always a blast to watch in action. He shot back without hesitation whenever Pumpkinhead recited standard GOP talking points that send other Democrats into fits of hemming, hawing and Tourette's-like outbursts of "subject needs more investigation".

Casey segment quotes from my notes, not transcript. Murtha segment quotes are from the transcript which appeared about 3 hours after the show.

Talking points are in bold.

Segment 1: General George Casey

Casey: [Last week's] Operation Swarmer was designed to keep pressure on Al Qaeda, and the Iraqis that support them. Weapon caches were found, people were detained.

Pumpkinhead mentions an upcoming Time article: "How Operation Swarmer Fizzled".

Casey: We picked up one or two of the high value folks we were looking for.

These are not the Major Combat Operations you're looking for

Watch for the setup…

Pumpkinhead: Will there be any more major combat operations in Iraq?
Casey: Um, yeah. After their sound defeat in Fallujah, they've learned what happens when they mass against us.

Pumpkinhead plays the clip of Chimpy's "mission accomplished" speech on the aircraft carrier: "major combat operations in Iraq have ended".

Nailed! [/Colbert]. Casey beats a quick retreat, contradicting what he said seconds earlier.

Casey: Swarmer was not a major combat operation. It was conducted in an almost deserted area. It might have looked worse than it was. ... Let's put Iraq in perspective and let's not pay so much attention to what happened in the last 3 weeks, think about the great things that have happened in the last 3 years: Saddam is on trial, the political process is moving along. With each election, the level of participation increased, the level of violence decreased.

That is a flat out lie, isn't it?

This is not the Substantial Troop Reduction you're looking for

Casey: It has happened, we've downramped X formations so we have 7 to 10,000 less. The process has started.
Pumpkinhead: So when you say substantial reductions, you're talking 10,000, 15,000 troops?
Casey: I use the world "fairly substantial." I don't think we're done and I didn't put a time frame on it.

This is not the Civil War you're looking for ()

Pumpkinhead: Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said yesterday that Iraq is in a civil war.
Casey: I don't think he is correct. Civil war is not happening, is not imminent or something that will happen. But the situation is "fragile".
Pumpkinhead: US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad wrote an article in the LA Times saying the 2003 invasion of Iraq opened a Pandora's box. If the US pulls out sectarian violence could turn into civil war.
Casey: We're working on it.

This is not the Timetable you're looking for

Pumpkinhead: President Chimpy has said he plans to turn over most of Iraq to Iraqi troops by the end of 2006. But President Chimpy previously said that setting a timetable would send the wrong message to the enemy.
Casey: It's not a timetable. It's a benchmark, a very achievable benchmark but I don't see it as a timetable.

This is not the fantasyland war planning you're looking for

Pumpkinhead quotes Casey's statements from November 2005: "What the Iraqis need is time. They need a few more years to work through their differences. Our presence here gives them that time. .."

Casey: It depends how you define major American presence, it's going to be a gradual decrease.
Pumpkinhead: In April 2003 General Tommy Franks said to set a plan to withdraw all troops by the end of the year. Did you ever think we would still be here with 130,000 troops, all the dead?
Casey: Uh, kinda. I thought we would be there for a couple of years.

These are not the "Last Throes" you're looking for

Pumpkinhead: Do you believe the insurgency is in it's last throes?
Casey: We're seeing some shifts in the insurgency. We're seeing more of a willingness to sit down and talk about things.

These are not the Negotiations with Terrorists you're looking for. (This was funny. Transcript is now up.)

Russert: You're having negotiations with the insurgents? Casey: No, I said we are, we are seeing people coming forward and being more willing to talk. I'm, I'm not negotiating with any insurgents. Russert: You're having conversations with the insurgents? Casey: I'm, I'm not having any conversations with insurgents, Tim. Russert: Then who are they talking to? Casey: They're talking to political folks, people who, who talk to us, and passing messages.

The American People don't realize that this isn't the bloody, pointless, never-ending disaster they're looking for

This is not the eroding support for the War among the American Public, the Iraqi Public and the US Military you're looking for

Pumpkinhead cited a Wall Street Journal poll conducted March 10-13, 2006. Support for the war is in the tank. Support for bringing troops home is growing.

Casey: …I'll tell you, just those, those numbers, I believe, come from perceptions of what they see on the ground here. And that's— it's a difficult nut to crack. Last week, I went out and drove around Baghdad for three hours, just to get my own sense of what's, what the people of Baghdad were feeling. There's a lot of bustle here, Tim, in Baghdad. There's a lot of economic activity, storefronts crowded, goods stacked up on the street. And, and the traffic cops are wearing white shirts and neckties, not armored vests.

Well, that's changed my perception. Iraqi traffic cops have snappy new uniforms. Mission accomplished.

The General completely ignored the polls.

Russert: Can you continue to conduct a war without the support of the American people? Casey: Well, that's—obviously, Tim, that's a, that's a political judgment there.

Final analysis: Casey got pummeled. How has it become the job of a General engaged in a war abroad to be a PR flack defending Bush's propaganda points?

Segment 2: Rep. John Murtha is in the house. Hoo-rah!

This might look like I just copy and pasted the whole transcript. Well, almost, but I think it's useful because Murtha swats down every single GOP talking point from the last three years (and there's lots of them) like a champion.

How is it that this previously unknown Representative from "Deer Hunter" country can outperform every single high-profile Democrat (with their fancy consultants and media trainers) I've ever seen on a talk show?

I've got a theory: telling the truth is easy. Murtha bases his points on facts and their unavoidable logical implications. Lying, on the other hand, is hard work. Pansycrat Dems' talking points are carefully crafted to triangulate between their personal interests, those of their corporate campaign contributors, and a mortal fear of Brit "The Cryptkeeper" Hume.

Iraqi forces will control 75% of Iraqi territory by the end of 2006: Murtha anticipates [pre-pa-ration, hello?] this Right-Wing talking point before Pumpkinhead even brings it up and proceeds to beat it down!

Murtha: … And what, what they're trying to do is paint it as if there's progress in order to be able to get out.… Now, for instance, they said not long we're going to have 75 percent of the country controlled by Iraqis. Well, I, I flew for an hour and 15 minutes over desert, wasn't a soul—and that's, that's the territory I guess they're talking about…

Huge areas of Iraq are uninhabited desert. Turning more uninhabited areas over to Iraqi Forces isn't "progress".

There is no insurgency, it's the work of the terrorists

Murtha: … Twenty-five thousand insurgents are fighting with each other inside the country for supremacy. That's the definition of a civil war. There's less than a thousand al-Qaeda.

Iraq = Nazi Germany

Pumpkinhead refers to Donald "Kung-Fu Hands" Rumsfeld's article in today's WaPo.

Russert: Secretary Rumsfeld in his article says this: "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis." Murtha: …And when he says turning it over to al-Qaeda—and that's what he means, he, he's inferring it'll be turned over to al- Qaeda—I don't believe that for a minute. The Iraqis will get rid of al-Qaeda the minute that we get out of there. And 60 percent of the people in Iraq believe the sooner we get out, the more stable Iraq will be, and that's what all of us want.

Elections solve everything

For instance, I'll give you an example: In, in 1967, I came back from Vietnam. There was an election in Vietnam right after that, and the president of the United States said, "This is it, we legitimized the government. From now on, the, the Vietnamese can take it with their own government." We lost 38,000 people after that.

Democrats won't admit they made a mistake in voting for the Invasion of Iraq

Russert: So your vote for the war was a mistake? Murtha: It was a mistake. It was a bad mistake. And, and most of us believed that—and the first war with—the ‘91 war, I led the fight to go to war. … Now, this, this president, we thought, "OK, we continue an inspection process, we give him a club." And, and I, I believed we had a threat to our national security. When I found out we didn't have a threat to our national security, we violated one of the principles I've always adhered to: You've got to have a national threat to our security before you go to war; then you've got to have overwhelming force, which we didn't have; and then second, you've got to—third, you've got to have an exit strategy. We violated all those principles.

The World is a better place with Saddam out of power

Russert: Would the world be safer with Saddam still there? Murtha: The world would be safer if we kept him under control as we were keeping him under control all during the Clinton administration. And, and to use that as an excuse to go to war, we got, we got dictators in North Korea, we got dictators in, in a lot of different countries in, in parts of Africa. We can't police the world, and we can't nation build anymore. We cannot afford to do that. We discredit ourselves and we destroy our credibility and our resources trying to do that.

Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror

Murtha: … You know who wants us in Iraq, Tim? Iran wants us in Iraq, China wants us in Iraq, al-Qaeda wants us in Iraq. Why? Because of our human resources that are being, being hurt so badly, and our financial resources. We will have spent $450 billion dollars in the war in Iraq and, and Afghanistan by the end of this year. And, and Afghanistan's starting to slip because of the poppy-growing and because of the drug-growing. So we have diverted ourselves away from terrorism by, by getting involved in a civil war.

Why didn't Democrats speak up earlier if they knew Iraq was a bad idea/situation?

Russert: When did you first write the president about your misgivings? Murtha: Well, it was two and a half years ago I wrote to him, and I said, "Mr. President, you only have a few months to get things straightened out. We need more troops over there and, and you need to train the Iraqis sooner. You, you need to energize," meaning you need to start the process of getting people working, "and, and you need to internationalize. You need to go to, to the other countries and get them to support us." Seven months later, I got a reply back from the assistant secretary of defense. Now that's frustrating that, that I would get an answer back that long.

Democrats don't have a plan for Iraq

Murtha: Here, here's what you should do, Mr. President. First of all, you should fire all the people who are responsible for that, which gives you international credibility. Russert: Including his secretary of defense? Murtha: Well, he, he should—well, let's say he should offer his resignation, because he certainly… Russert: And it's sure to be accepted? Murtha: I would accept it, that's exactly right. Russert: What about the vice president? … Murtha: Yeah. Well, certainly the vice president has been the primary force in running, running this war, and many of the mischaracterizations have come about. You and I talked before the show about some of the things he said on your show, right before the war started. None of them turned out to be true. This is why the American public is so upset. OK, I say fire some people, that's the first thing. … But then, then, then we go to, to how do we get our troops out of there? You redeploy to the periphery so that we, if we have to, we can go back in. … Mr. President, let's go back to fighting the war on terrorism. [from later on in the program: ] Now, I don't know how many they'll withdraw, but here's the problem with the plan they have vs. my plan. My plan is redeploy as quickly as possible to protect our troops. Their plan is you draw out the withdrawal, which means you've got less troops on the ground that are more vulnerable to attack, because the IEDs and the convoys are the ones where—are being attacked. So I'm, I'm convinced that, that my, my plan is the only plan that, that will work and protect the American troops.

The Military enthusiastically supports the mission

Let, let's reduce our presence in Iraq, let's start to rebuild the Army, because the Army's broken as far as I'm concerned. And the military commanders know this. I talk to the military commanders all the time. I know what's going on in the military. And, and most of the military in Iraq, 70 percent of our troops say we want out of there, and 42 percent say they don't know what their mission is for heaven's sake. Russert: Does the Pentagon support what you're saying? Murtha: Well, the Pentagon doesn't support it publicly, obviously, because of what happened to General Shinseki. Russert: Have they told you privately? Murtha: Oh, absolutely. I mean, so many of them have said, "Keep saying the truth, keep telling the truth." All kinds of military commanders have said that too—they know. They don't even have to tell me.

There was a sliver of a connection between Saddam and Al-Qaeda. (I can't believe Pumpkinhead trotted out this dead horse.)

Russert: The administration will say yes, maybe there's no direct link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, but there were contacts between the Iraqis and al-Qaeda. Murtha: Oh, well, come on. I mean, that, that's just an excuse to try to justify the war. They've changed their position six times on, on this war, why we went to war, and the public's not buying it any longer. The public doesn't want rhetoric.

We can't bring the troops home because Iraq would turn into a bloodbath

Russert: If we got out quickly and left behind a blood bath, what would we do? Just watch the slaughter? Murtha: Look, what, what happens if we stay there? Let, let me tell you, a year from now, just like I said when I got—when I came back from Vietnam. A month later—now imagine this—a month later they have an election and, and we lose 38,000 people seven years later. … When they say on, on the television or send us a letter telling us how well things are going, I said to the staff, go look at the economics statistics, tell me what the unemployment level, tell me the water production, tell me the oil production, tell me the electricity production, tell me the unemployment figures, and then we'll know whether we're making progress. Tell me the incidents.

Iraqi forces are getting close to completely taking over security

I mean, they—their measurement of the brigades is back and forth. They'll say the brigades one month is 90 people, now there's less than one brigade that can operate independently. Let's take Operation Swarmer. Now, they said a lot of Iraqis, more than half of them were Iraqis. American helicopters, American planning, American logistics, American artillery, American medical evacuation—everything was American. I mean, they don't—the American people see it. They see these American helicopters. Do you think they fool the Americans when they say that? And one of the commanders said 75 percent of the country is going to be under control of the Iraqis and 75 percent of it is desert? I mean, give me a break. That's part of the problem.

Opposition to the war is purely partisan

This should not be political. When I go by the graveyard over there at Arlington, it doesn't say Democrat or Republican, it says American. When I look at the graveyards, the veterans graveyards all over the world, it doesn't say Democrat or Republican, it says American.

People who oppose the war are pessimists and this hurts the war effort

Russert: David Ignatius of The Washington Post has written a few columns from Iraq and here's his latest. " …For a change, pessimism isn't necessarily the right bet for Iraq." What if we got out quickly, prematurely, and in fact, you were wrong. Murtha: Tim, I haven't been wrong yet. I, I put—take that back, when I voted for this war I was wrong. After that, I recognized I had to make a change in direction. I had, I had to make some, some strategic and tactical decisions which were entirely contrary to the way I normally operate. Normally, behind the scenes, you can get these kind of things straightened out. But when you have an, an administration that's so isolated, insulated from the public, insulated from reality—this is not a rhetorical war, you have to make progress, and none of the things that I measure are progress.

The Media doesn't report all the good things that are happening in Iraq

Russert: Some in the administration say the media is distorting the good news that's coming out of Iraq.

Murtha: Well, they said the same thing about Vietnam. They said the same thing over and over and over about Vietnam. They said, "We're winning the war in Vietnam." That—you could go back and get quotes from Vietnam, and you'd see the same kind of, of, of reports, "The media's the one that's distorting; everything's going fine in Vietnam." Well, everything's not going fine in Iraq. They have to realize that. When the whole world is against you, when our, our international reputation has been diminished so substantially, when all the countries in the, in the region say, "We'd be better off without us being in Iraq," when the people themselves in Iraq say it, and American people say it, I mean who is right?

Americans perceive Democrats as weak compared to Republicans on Security issues

Russert: Why are the Democrats at a lower trust level than Republicans on the war? Murtha: Well, let me tell you this, Tim. He'll find out in November where the trust level is. He'll find out if he doesn't change course, if he doesn't change direction, the Republicans in Congress will get a rude awakening and they know it. They see the unhappiness of the American people.

Iraqi insurgents are Saddam loyalist "Dead Enders"

Murtha: … You heard it already, you've heard them say, "OK, here's the goal for withdrawal." A benchmark, they call it. Just like they called the insurgency "dead end kids," [LO freakin' L] then they call it sectarian violence—it's a civil war.

The US can and will attack Iran

Russert: If the president decided that military action in Iran was necessary, should he come to Congress first?

Murtha: He—there's no way he's going to take military action in Iran. Iran is, is three times as big geographically, there's 58 million people vs. 26 million people in, in Iraq, and, and there's no way. A fanatical government—I mean, the, the president of the United States does not have a military option. He can say he has a military option; he does not have a military option. Russert: But he should come to Congress if he is… Murtha: Oh, absolutely. As a matter of fact, we, we have allowed our, our influence, our, our separation from, from the president to be—in the last couple of presidents when it goes to war. The, the Congress is the only one that can authorize to go to war. He has to come to Congress before he does anything, let alone go to war.

Jack Murtha was brilliant for the whole show, but he let me down in the final exchange: he thinks the Feingold Censure resolution needs more investigation in committee. Nobody's perfect, but there is no doubt Rep. Murtha can kick some Sunday Gasbag ass.


ABC This Week
George Stephanopoulos, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Chris Hitchens sober, and the Roundtable of Doom!

This Week with George Steph kicked off with the ice-dancing team of Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Jack Reed (D-RI). Although the conversation was notable for several "I agree with what my friend Chuck/Jack just said…" their presentation in the Bipartisan Sabbath Olympiad was not of the same caliber as the team of John Edwards and Newt Gingrich of recent memory. Judges awarded Chuck'n'Jack a 6.3 on artistic presentation, although they recovered somewhat with a 8.7 on technical merit.

Q: Was the War worth it? Hagel: History will decide blah blah blah, but mistakes were made. We must help Iraq to reach a political settlement but it is part of a larger Middle East equation. And Iran! Our options and influence are limited.

[I figured, him having that "R" branded on his forehead, that he was going to launch into the obligatory "Gotta bomb Iran! Gotta take out Iran!" I was wrong. Hagel is now pitching Iran as the solution to Iraq, not the problem. This could get very interesting.]

Same question to Reed: Dodged the "was it worth it" but launched into We Gotta Redeploy. Quickly. Insist on it. Noted the "As they stand up we will stand down", noted that "Bush is better with slogans, not strategies", and said that Standup thing needs to move along a damn sight faster than it is at present.

Question: The proposal is on the table, from Biden and others, to give the Iraqi political process around six more weeks, maximum, then "reassess" (apparently a euphemism for "say sayonara." Answers: Reed, yes, absolutely. Stop the half-steps. Stop being timid. Send in the Secretary of State for a regional ministrial level meeting. Hagel: Yes on the six-week thing. Then threaten withdrawal. Not precipitously. Calibrate. There are regional security issues that affect the whole Middle East. Talking to Iran is good.

Question: Should we in fact be slowing down the Iraqi military buildup since what we seem to be doing is training militias more than a national military?

Answers: Reed: If there's no political solution "our presence is not helping. We disable, not enable."
Hagel: Stop the talk of "not leaving until victory." Looked at one way we have victory already: Saddam is gone, constitution is signed, elections have been held. "Victory" talk enables delay.
Reed: The military can't do the work of politics.

[This allowed a slick segue for George S. to ask about the bizarre column by Rummy in today's Washington Post. Particularly noted was the line wherein Rummy claimed that "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis." This drew, shall we say, a certain skepticism from all three gentlemen.]

Hagel: Rummy's job "is to give credibility to the current policy." [Insert eye-rolling mixed with pity here] Fact say we must think of worst-case scenarios. Draw in regional powers. To say we "can't leave"? Look at the cost, in lives, in money, in our standing in the world. Is the Middle East more stable after all we've done? No.
Reed: I agree with Chuck. Our strategy has failed. Iran has more influence. We must talk to Iran.

George s. plays a tape of former Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi, saying Iraq Civil War has already broken out, that if 50-60 dead a day don't constitute civil war, what does?
Hagel: Agrees, Civil War has been going on for 6 months to a year. US troops are in the middle. We never had force sufficient to do the job and our options are limited. We need a Civil War strategy.
Reed: We have to prevent our troops being caught in a trap. We have too few troops to fight and too few civilian experts who should have been there all along to help rebuild the political structure and stabilize security. In postwar Germany we sent more [he gave numbers, get ‘em off the transcript if yer interested] civilian experts than military ones.

The end.

This was followed by a bizarre little roundtable with three authors plugging books. One of them was Christopher Hitchens, who sounded less hung over but WAY more delusional than even is his usual wont. His first statement was basically to blame the current Iraq War on —are you ready?—Jimmy Carter. After that I was laughing too hard to take notes. The woman apparently at least spent a year, part of ‘04 into ‘05, in Iraq, so her tome might be worth partaking. The other author was some guy I didn't recognize and didn't catch his name. Thought I was going to get it at one point and then Hitch launched into his main thesis that the whole insurgency is Zawah'ri and bin Laden, which set me into another fit of laughter and made me fall off the bed, which made my notes more illegible than usual.

Feel-good segment was some Olympic ice skater who tried to talk about using his moment of fame to talk about Darfur. So they talked about his moment of fame. Um, Darfur is bad. Somebody should do something. That was about it.

Main Round table segment was the Ol' Troika, Sam and Cokie and George Will. This was remarkable mainly for the almost continual Bush-bashing from all three parties. Sam notes "The president has lost the public on Iraq, that Republican candidates this fall are going to pay the price unless they can run away fast enough, and maybe even then.

GeoWill sez GeoBush needs to "accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive" in his speeches, give up on the "Neocon agenda" and define victory down. Points out it took five years and the Tet Offensive to get public opinion on Vietnam to fall below 50 percent [restating the "Iraq is Vietnam on steroids" thesis].

Cokie agrees. Notes that Chuck Hagel is noting that Nebraska is hurting as small towns are missing their cops and mechanics and the like, who are in Iraq. The notion that there would even be such an event as the "third anniversary of the Iraq war" was not in anybody's plans. Rumsfeld was a "media darling" in the early days, now is not seen on TV [more snickering at his WaPo piece linked above].

Sam: Bush is incapable of admitting error, can't do what needs to be done, will keep on going the tough-it-out route.

Cokie [who is sometimes a valuable weathervane, having no particular convictions herself]: Republicans can't win their districts if they have real, credible opposition this fall. The Dubai ports, even back as far as the Social Security "fiasco" shows R's attempting to separate from Bush but it's not working.

Roll tape from the Memphis confab of R's last week. Frist, Allen, Brownback, Graham, all intoning We Must Pay Down This Debt.

George Will [R-Embittered] notes that they are all "oratorical conservatives but practical liberals" [Cokie throws in that their speeches amount to "stop me before I spend again."]

Line item veto noted as not merely unconstitutional but guaranteed to remove ALL remaining fiscal restraint by Congress as they can pass anything [to impress their districts] and rely on the Executive and his LIV to strike it out afterwards, except that he won't. George added a bit later that Bush "cuts taxes like Reagan but spends like Lyndon."

A few obligatory bashes at Russ Feingold for being unrealistic, even Pelosi said "investigate first, censure later", much laughing ha ha. Except that then Cokie noted how popular censure was in the last Newsweek poll, and Sam said that "by fall this [censure] may look a whole lot better" and GeoWill had to move very quickly indeed to pour scorn on these heretical notions by claiming that Feingold was only acting to "please the blogosphere, his constituency."

So George Will thinks that all you have to do to tarnish a notion into oblivion is to link it to "the blogosphere." And that we are Russ Feingold's natural constituency. As to that last part I say we go all Capt. Picard on his ass and Make It So.

-- Xan

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