Well there they go again. Between the garbled attempts by the administration to make failed policies look like brilliant strategies and the embrace in which a desperate electorate holds presidential candidates about whom little is known, the political landscape threatens to become as confusing and tortured as ever.
Frances Townsend, the president’s Homeland Security Advisor, told the White House press corps on Tuesday that the war on terrorism was going well even as Al Qaeda is reported to have gained strength and standing not only along the Pakistan corridor but throughout the Middle East and most particularly in Iraq where its presence was virtually unknown prior to our “preemptive” war. But there was no acknowledgement of the fact that Saudis make up the largest percentage of Qaeda operatives in Iraq just as the president chose not to mention that most of the terrorists who attacked us on 911 were Saudis. Both she and the president conflate the disruptive elements in Iraq with Osama bin Laden’s legion of converts. Although they often speak in a manner that seems to differentiate among the various factions in Iraq, they end by concluding that the violence in Iraq today is caused by virtually “the same” group of radicals responsible for flying those planes into The Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001.
Ms. Townsend said repeatedly “there is no doubt” to underscore her points, but claiming that Bush policies have made us safer while warning at the same time that Al Qaeda is more dangerous than ever is a leap into a paradoxical thicket. Thus Townsend, Bush and Republican pols teeter uncertainly between the fear-mongering that worked so well for them in the past and attempts to assure an anxious nation that al Qaeda is “on the run”, the homeland secure. But as Josh Marshall puts it “The White House was repeatedly warned in advance that attacking Iraq would strengthen al Qaeda. We did and it did. That’s where we are now. The White House has no excuse and no answer.”(7/18/07 Talkingpointsmemo.com)
The Wall Street Journal editorializes that, instead of always criticizing the president, Democratic candidates should come up with solutions for Iraq. But shouldn’t the question be, ‘Mr. President, what’s next?’ After all he is still in office, and the war is his responsibility, one he keeps insisting was the right course of action. He will be advised, he says, by the military leadership although that hasn’t always been his inclination. Military brass from Shinseki to Taguba, whose opinions diverged from those of the administration, were simply disregarded or run out of town.
But basically, the reason this White House is so dysfunctional is that it is served by inexperienced, incompetent zealots who owe their positions to ideological and/or financial support for the president’s agenda. Failure of the “comprehensive immigration reform bill”, for example, left the administration in a dither – – so much so that Director of Homeland Security Chertoff, suggested the other day that efforts to secure our borders and protect the country had suffered a serious setback as a result. Could there be any more ridiculous excuse for failing to provide adequate stewardship of the nation’s security? And when lower-echelon workers are called to account by Congress they seem to suffer profound memory loss or claim loyalty to a president who makes dubious claims about executive privilege. Apparently we have entered an historical moment when government employees swear loyalty to a sovereign leader rather than the Constitution and the American people.
As the political season wears on there are signs that superficial arguments may once again pass for intelligent thought – – there’s even a group that supports a presidential run by Condoleezza Rice for reasons that pass human understanding. And Ron Paul sounds awfully good to a lot of people who don’t get much beyond his small-government, low-tax, and avoid-foreign-entanglements rhetoric. Ask them where he stands on Social Security and other social issues and you’re likely to get a blank stare. A flip-flopping Mitt Romney, a resolute, if mean-spirited Giuliani and a taciturn Fred Thompson are supposed to foster broad appeal, or stand for straight talk in the case of John McCain, who wears baseball-style caps that make him look like someone’s goofy old uncle or a 4th Daryl from Bob Newhart’s B & B sitcom.
And once again Ralph Nader shows up to diatribe against both major parties as being too much alike to warrant consideration. Apparently, he believes only he can set things right in our poor beleaguered country, although another Nader candidacy might encourage some to waste their vote and bring us more of what we’ve got now. Both political parties may be in thrall to corporate interests to some extent, but they aren’t twin halves of an evil consortium.
The state of our justice system, a pre-emptive war, tax cuts that increase the wealth of the already wealthy, an astonishing level of incompetence and our diminished status in the world ought to be sufficient proof that party affiliations still matter. Never again should White House loyalists be allowed to empower a flawed leader or support the concept of a “unitary executive” because their party so instructs them. Six years of narrow partisan pursuits, uninformed decision making and secret agendas have left the country far less safe than before and abused the trust average Americans had in their government.

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