Vacations are great, as those lazy Europeans know. I spent much of mine on our boat in the Canadian Gulf Islands. Eighty-five degree days. Cool nights lit by the bright trails of the Perseid meteor shower. Bobbing porpoises. Soaring eagles. No wave higher than a foot. No Iraq. No Bush. No Kerry. Sublime.
But, of course, all those things vacation makes remote are waiting when one returns. So we have some catching up to do. Today, the high points. Later, more detail.
The New Iraq: same as the old one?
The tenuous grip on power of the Iraqi government of Ayad Alawi, to which we have so tightly bound ourselves, is daily revealed by the renewed uprising by Moktada al-Sadr in Najaf, the unpopular U.S. assault on his positions there, and the political fallout in Baghdad and elsewhere.
John Burns of The New York Times sums it up in a piece today on how the conference on Iraqi elections in Baghdad disintegrated in the face of outrage about the fighting in Najaf (free site registration may be required).
In many ways, the scene seemed like a metaphor for America's problems in Iraq, with the rebel attacks that have spread to virtually every Sunni and Shiite town across this country of 25 million threatening to overwhelm plans for three rounds of national elections next year, ending with a fully elected government in January 2006.
Just as American troops in Najaf have failed so far to quell an uprising by a rebel Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, so on Sunday's showing here, American political plans for Iraq remain hostage to the violence that has made much of the country enemy territory for the Americans.
David Broder gives up on Bush
You know President Bush – or any other incumbent – is in deep trouble when David Broder, The Washington Post political columnist who's been on the beat for decades, throws in the towel on him, as he did in his column Sunday.
Five reporters subpoenaed by the federal prosecutor investigating the leak of the identity of CIA covert agent Valerie Plame. This investigation appears to be reaching its climactic stage: federal prosecutors do not routinely subpoena reporters because a) it generates bad press for them, and b) long-standing policies require them to exhaust other remedies before hauling newsies before grand juries. The prosecutor has kept a tight lid on what's happening in this case, and it remains unclear whether he'll seek indictments of the two "senior administration officials" cited by columnist Robert Novak in the piece in which he triggered this furor. But subpoenaing reporters indicates he does plan to turn over all the available rocks, which will give him political cover if he concludes no prosecutable crime occurred.
Yes, brains matter
This should be self-evident, but it hasn't been. Being a successful president demands brains. Bush isn't up to the task, and blogger Matthew Yglesias details the consequences.
Intelligence matters. The job of the president of the United States is not to love his wife; it’s to manage a wide range of complicated issues. That requires character, yes, but not the kind of character measured by private virtues like fidelity to spouse and frequency of quotations from Scripture. Yet it also requires intelligence. It requires intellectual curiosity, an ability to familiarize oneself with a broad range of views, the capacity -- yes -- to grasp nuances, to foresee the potential ramifications of one’s decisions, and, simply, to think things through. Four years ago, these were not considered necessary pieces of presidential equipment. Today, they have to be.
If brains don't matter, here's your write-in
Barbie is running for president on a platform that could have been written by any of a number of Seattle City Council members.