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Between the Lines

November 28, 2003

I’m glad he went

President Bush’s visit to Baghdad was a good thing. Yes, for campaign purposes it may be just an update of his President Top Gun landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln off San Diego this spring, with the now notorious “Mission Accomplished” banner strategically placed in the background. But his visit to the war zone could cut either way by election day, and in any case all presidents, not just this one, do whatever they can to smooth their way to re-election.

Presidential visits can have other meanings though, and I was encouraged to see Bush at least make a gesture to the 130,000 U.S. troops now stationed in Iraq. Their situation remains perilous; another GI was killed not long after Bush’s cameo appearance before about 600 troops at Baghdad International Airport, bringing U.S. deaths to 430.

Bush’s remarks to the troops were brief and struck an appropriate tone for the holiday. The full text is here. But he couldn’t resist the administration’s absurd cliché that we’re fighting terrorists in Iraq “so that we don't have to face them in our own country.” This line is becoming too much even for the Weekly Standard, the birthing room of many of this administration’s worst policies.

Foreign reaction to Bush’s visit was varied, but often predictably cynical.

I’m still glad he went.

Posted by tbrown at 12:41 PM


Lovely. They’re thugs and thieves

Earlier this month, a memo by the Democratic staff of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee was leaked and caused a bit of a stir because it suggested the Dems adopt a stragegy of highlighting differences between what administration officials said about the justifications for the Iraq war and what intelligence showed and, eventually, push for an independent probe of how the administration used intelligence.

This set off a lot of Republican caterwauling about the perfidiousness of the minority party – never mind that the memo in question had not been approved by the senior Democrat on the committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and had not been distributed to anyone. The Democrats, meanwhile, wondered how the memo got out.

Well, now we know. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has suspended a staffer of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, because the staffer apparently hacked into the committee computer system and stole the memo in question as well as other Democratic documents.

“There’s no excuse that can justify these actions,” Hatch said. Still, he didn’t seem too upset. The miscreant is now on a taxpayer-financed vacation (administrative leave with pay) and another committee aide who knew about the thefts was not disciplined.

That’s about par for this gang, who are imposing their will on the minority in ways that have been seen rarely, if ever.

Posted by tbrown at 12:38 PM


The Medicare farce

The new Medicare bill, which will benefit everyone except seniors, is a bad, bad piece of legislation. The way it was passed was even worse. The roll-call vote was held open for an unprecedented three hours, from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., so the Republicans, who were in serious danger of losing, could twist enough arms to get this turkey passed. Included were some 4 a.m. phone calls from President Bush to reluctant members of his flock.

“Democracy is a fragile web of laws, rules and norms,” says Norman Ornstein of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. “The norms are just as important to the legitimacy of the system as the rules. Blatant violations of them on a regular basis corrode the system. The ugliness of this one will linger.”

Columnist Robert Novak, an old-line conservative, provides some specifics on the depths plumbed by this ultimately successful GOP push.

U.S. Rep. Nick Smith, a Michigan Republican who is retiring and hopes his son (one of five candidates for the seat) might succeed him, opposed the Medicare “reform.” Here’s what happened to him:

“On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat.”

If it’s possible to get any lower than this, we can rely on these moral midgets to find the way.

Posted by tbrown at 12:35 PM




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