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Will Denialists Heed State Of Denial?

Saturday, September 30, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

Ah, if only . . .

The New York Times review of Bob Woodward's State of Denial is out. Here's the lead paragraph:

In Bob Woodward’s highly anticipated new book, “State of Denial,” President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war. It’s a portrait that stands in stark contrast to the laudatory one Mr. Woodward drew in “Bush at War,” his 2002 book, which depicted the president — in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed — as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the “vision thing” his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state.

That's a sort of double-barrel indictment: of Mr. Bush for being . . . Mr. Bush. And of Bob Woodward for either having been wrong four years ago or wrong now. I know where I come down on that question.

The above description precisely captures what I've believed about Mr. Bush since he was elected: that he's shallow, not very bright, cocky and fundamentally weak. Shallow, stupid and arrogant we probably could have survived: it's always been Mr. Bush's insecure weakness (above described as passivity) that scared me.

Mr. Rumsfeld, too, is exactly the guy I always thought he was:

Mr. Woodward draws an equally scathing portrait of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who comes off as a bully and control freak who is reluctant to assume responsibility for his department’s failures, and who has surrounded himself with yes men and created a system that bleached out “strong, forceful military advice.” Mr. Rumsfeld remains wedded to his plan to conduct the war in Iraq with a lighter, faster force (reflecting his idée fixe of “transforming” the military), even as the situation there continues to deteriorate.

Mr. Bush's own Chief of Staff wanted Rumsfeld tossed out a window. But Mr. Bush couldn't do it, could not get rid of Rumsfeld. It would have meant admitting error. And weak men cannot admit error.

Mr. Woodward reports that after the 2004 election Andrew H. Card Jr., then White House chief of staff, pressed for Mr. Rumsfeld’s ouster (he recommended former Secretary of State James A. Baker III as a replacement), and that Laura Bush shared his concern, worrying that Mr. Rumsfeld was hurting her husband’s reputation. Vice President Dick Cheney, however, persuaded Mr. Bush to stay the course with Mr. Cheney’s old friend Mr. Rumsfeld, arguing that any change might be perceived as an expression of doubt and hesitation on the war.

This may be the most telling revelation in the book. James Baker is the Bush family fixer. You remember the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction? The character called "the Wolf?" That's Baker in the Bush universe: the cool, unflappable professional who handles things, makes bodies disappear.

But James Baker is George H.W. Bush's man, not Junior's. He's Daddy Bush's guy. And let's remember something: the current president Bush has deliberately stiff-armed his father from the start and overtly (and I would say rather callously) replaced his own father with Ronald Reagan as his presidential role model.

Given that history, can you imagine how distraught Card had to be, and Laura along with him, to suggest bringing in James Baker? It's about an inch away from begging Bush pere to come in and get a grip on his screw-up son.

Mr. Woodward describes the administration’s management of the war as being improvisatory and ad hoc, like a pickup basketball game, and argues that it continually tried to give the public a rosy picture of the war in Iraq (while accusing the press of accentuating the negative), even as its own intelligence was pointing to a rising number of attacks against American forces and an upward spiral of violence. A secret February 2005 report by Philip D. Zelikow, a State Department counselor, found that “Iraq remains a failed state shadowed by constant violence and undergoing revolutionary political change” and concluded that the American effort there suffered because it lacked a comprehensive, unified policy.

In other words, Mr. Bush has been doing exactly what his critics said he was doing: lying about the propsects of success in Iraq and putting out a rosy scenario that found its eager, uncritical echo chamber in talk radio and the right-wing blogosphere.

There is now very little doubt that in terms of judging this president his critics had a much clearer vision than did Mr. Bush's supporters. The President's dwindling band of admirers wants desperately to believe that this president will be another Reagan, that his image will improve with time, that he (and they) will somehow be vindicated.

But if history is repeating itself it's not repeating those particular chapters. Mr. Bush is not on the verge of becoming Ronald Reagan, underestimated by his foes and justly adored by his acolytes. Rather Mr. Bush is repeating the chapters numbered 1968 to 1974. It's Mr. Nixon, a man who was most clearly seen by his harshest critics, who Mr. Bush most resembles.

(Thanks to The Moderate Voice)

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Calling Bullshit On The Media Bashers.

Friday, September 29, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

Typical Bush-hating liberal.

There's a steady yap, yap, yap about liberal bias in the media. Some of it comes from a writer I genuinely like and admire, Callimachus from Done With Mirrors. And a lot of it comes from idiots.

The fact that the number one news network is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GOP matters not at all. The fact that the largest-circulation newspaper in the country, the Wall Street Journal, (assuming you don't count USAToday, and really . . .) is owned by Dow Jones and reflects a consistently conservative line, matters not at all. And talk radio, dominated by the Right? That doesn't count either.

No, it's all a vast Left-wing conspiracy to poison the minds of the American people with anti-American propoganda. And the leaders of this terror-coddling cabal? The New York Times and the Associated Press.

Before we start, let's consider a map. Why a map? Well, the headquarters of the New York Times is on West 43rd Street, New York City. Why does that matter? Using my handy Google Earth measuring tool I make it 3.4 miles from Ground Zero. The theory is, apparently, that the writers and editors at the New York Times who work about ten minutes away from Ground Zero are determined to help the terrorists who blew a hole in their city. The AP is ten blocks closer. These are the people who breathed the dust and smoke from 9-11 and yet, we are supposed to believe, it is they who most desire the triumph of Al Qaeda.

Here is Callimachus grinding the anti-MSM axe today:
(italics indicates the news story quotes)

What's left out can be as telling as what's included. In a story such as this, for instance, which leads off with Bush's comments at as news conference.

"President Bush asserted Friday that critics who claim the Iraq war has made America less safe embrace "the enemy's propaganda."

It then goes on through many details and permutations of the war, the world scene, the political scene. It allows time for Bush's critics to respond:

With just over five weeks left before congressional elections, Democrats were quick to react. "President Bush's election-year attacks are the product of a desperate White House with no credibility left with the American people," said Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

"It was yet another example of how he is in denial over what is happening in the war on terror," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Now, what was entirely missing from this story -- astonishing, since it was another headline on the same day -- was the newly released barrage of "enemy propaganda" by Ayman al-Zawahri of al-Qaida. And sure enough, it sounds exactly like Bush's domestic critics:

"Can't you be honest at least once in your life, and admit that you are a deceitful liar who intentionally deceived your nation when you drove them to war in Iraq? ... Bush, you deceitful charlatan, 3 1/2 years have passed since your capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, so how have you found us during this time? Losing and surrendering? Or are we launching attacks with God's help and becoming martyrs?

... What you have perpetrated against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other Muslim captives in your prisons and the prisons of your slaves in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and elsewhere is not hidden from anyone, and we are a people who do not sleep under oppression and who do not abandon our revenge until our chests have been healed of those who have committed aggression against us."

Yep. He touched all the bases in Michael Moore Field. Does that guy watch CNN or what?

But you get not a whiff of that in the Bush story. All you'd get is Bush's remark and the political response from Democrats. Nobody even had the guts to ask, "well, is their rhetoric essentially the same as the enemy's propaganda?" The leading Democrats certainly aren't going to bring that up on their own. The similarity is rather embarrassing to them, I'd think.
This is not, I hasten to add, Cal's usual level of thoughtfulness. And I'm not looking to flame him. Really.

But the logic of the above piece suggests that if John says "blah, blah, blah" and Frank says "blah, blah, blah," there is necessarily a connection between John and Frank. Or, to put it in political terms, if a Jew hates Nazis and Communists hate Nazis it follows that Jews are Communists.

Of course Cal's a bit more subtle, but only a bit. He only suggests that since the Zawahiri letter appears simultaneously with the above report of Mr. Bush's speech, the media should have drawn a big arrow from one to the other. "See? Mr. Bush is right. There is a distinct similarity between what Zawahiri says and what Democrats say."

Sorry. Bullshit. Transparent bullshit. And it's bullshit I'm tired of hearing.

If the media wanted to shithammer Mr. Bush they'd be running a crawl under his every televised appearance that read PROVEN LIAR. And they'd be right. That would be an entirely accurate sobriquet. They would be right if every account of a Bush speech on the topic of Iraq included a caveat to the effect that just about every one of the Bush administration's statements on Iraq have been proven false. They could do that and that would be the truth.

Each time the media lets Mr. Bush speak and does not superimpose the words "Demonstrated Incompetent" in the lower third they are doing the president's bidding. Each time they cover a speech without reminding us that he has been caught lying six ways from Sunday, they are acting as unwitting tools of the White House.

You want honest, impartial media? Fine. Every time Ted Kennedy gives a speech run a sidebar on Chapaquidick and each time the president shows up run a sidebar on Mr. Bush's many dishonest conflations of Osama and Saddam and do it all under a banner that reads "Mission Accomplished."

The fact that at this point the press corps does not hoot in derision at this discredited, failed president's press conferences is tacit collaboration with Mr. Bush's White House.

Liberal media my ass. You want the truth? You want the media to report the truth? Mr. Bush is a fucking disaster. And any time the news media leaves out that salient fact they are witholding the truth and working to further the president's propaganda.

It is absurd to demand that the media should run Mr. Bush's purely political, blatantly McCarthyite accusations against Democrats, buttress those accusations with a helpful arrow pointing to a letter from Mr. Zawahiri and pretend that somehow the objective here is fair and balanced reporting.

If that's what MSM critics want, I have an alternate suggestion: there's a story of an Iraqi kid kidnapped by Shiite militia and drilled with 45 power drill holes. Tell you what: next time Mr. Bush tells us how well things are going in Iraq what with their wonderful democratic government, how about we run the morgue photo of that Iraqi alongside? You want context? You want full disclosure? You want fairness? That would be fair.

(NOTE: I've corrected three instances above where I wrote "Zarqawi" and should have written "Zawahiri." I have a mental block about the two names. For the record one, Zarqawi, is dead.)

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Another Recantation.

by Michael Reynolds

Tie me to the whipping post.

John Cole at Balloon Juice now joins the ranks of former supporters of the Iraq war.

The starting point, the Bible verse for the sermon, is this story:

$75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country’s security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed “the rain forest.”

After saying that with identical data he'd still make the identical decision, John writes:

On the other hand, if I knew then what I know now- that much of the information I was basing my decision to support the war was flawed, that this administration was wholly unprepared and wholly unserious about succeeding, there is no chance in hell I would have supported the war. I trusted people I shouldn’t have, supported people who don’t and didn’t deserve my support, and as such, we are in the mess we are in.

Such is life. This story highlights what is so frustrating about having to live with this decision- the construction of a viable Iraqi police force, not based on sectarian rivalries and long-festering hatreds and with a motivation that goes beyond settling Hussein-era scores is one of the most important things that needs to be done in the reconstruction. I know that, you know that, and the administration knows it. You would think we would approach the situation with a degree of seriousness and with a fully committed desire to succeed. You would think, at the very least, the Police Acadamy would have a solid PHYSICAL foundation.

But, like everything else with this administration, we blew it. We did things piecemeal, didn’t provide the oversight, and things are deemed to be going ok just so long as they are not damaging the domestic political considerations and just so long as they don’t interfere with the mantra to ‘stay the course.’ Throw in a few chants about the media being biased, and we will get through this ‘rough patch.’ Really- everything is going peachy in Iraq- we just aren’t hearing enough media stories about our valorous troops.

Here's something I particularly admire, it's a response by John to a comment in which the comment writer takes the administration to task for smearing opponents of the war:

I share no small amount of the blame on this, as well. Really, I wish I could come up with an excuse for deleting my archives.

That's a nice grace note, and it inspires me to be equally gracious. When Rightwing Nutjob had a similar awakening I was pretty harsh. And I feel a little bad about that now. (Not a lot. A little.) The point of life, I've always thought, is to go to bed each night knowing a little more than you knew when you climbed out of bed that morning. John Cole is a guy who cares more about the truth than about proving himself right. Good for him.

I had to write my own mea culpa about a year and a half ago when I realized that despite the fact I believed this administration was fundamentally incapable of managing the situation, I nevertheless supported sending other men's sons off to kill and die. I made a 51/49 call, which is probably fine in most situations, but not when people's lives are on the line.

There will be a lot more people writing mea culpas before this is done. Some will go on drinking the Kool-Aid, more concerned with maintaining some ludicrous myth of their own infallability, but reality has away of playing hell with ideology. The Denialist camp is shrinking. They're on their way to becoming the political equivalent of flat-earthers.

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Boot-On-Neck Democratization.

Thursday, September 28, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

"I vote for death to America."

The Iraqi people want us dead.

About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, a poll finds.

Six in ten. So an IED goes off in a Baghdad neighborhood and ten Iraqis look out of their windows to see what's going on. They see American soldiers or marines lying dead or dismembered on the ground. And six of those ten say, "Good, serves 'em right."

I supported this war. And I supported it specifically on the theory that we were going to turn Iraq into a Democracy.

I've also stated -- and I get bitched at for it -- that it never occurred to me that we were going to let Iraqis handle the transition to Democracy. I assumed we were doing Japan 1945. I assumed we were going to type up a constitution, hand it to whoever we hadn't killed during the initial attack and say, "Here, do this. If you don't, we'll shoot you." Boot-on-neck democratization.

Instead we've done the righteous libertarian-Republican thing. We knocked off the Iraqi despot and expected democracy to break out like a rash. And now, if it was up to the Iraqi people, "Dead Americans" would win in a landslide.

Here's the thing that should have been clear from the start: if the Iraqis were going to spontaneously auto-democratize, they'd have done it before, and without US Marines.

Left to their own devices they might well have evolved their way to democracy in, oh, a century or two. But if we were going to insist on the express elevator to freedom it was going to have to be done the old-fashioned way. We were going to have to shove it down their unwilling throats. And that meant establishing iron control with an overwhelming troop presence, writing their constitution, reworking their social institutions, taking over their schools and sitting on them for twenty years or until they could manufacture decent home electronics, whichever came first.

I know, it sounds all harsh and draconian. So, let me ask you this: twenty years from now will the Iraqi people be where the Japanese were twenty years after the surrender on the Missouri? Sometimes harsh medicine is the only cure.

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Is There Medication For This?

by Michael Reynolds


Fight! Fight! Fight!

In this corner it's Michelle Malkin who I like to think of as the female Ann Coulter.

And in the other corner -- the corner with the guys who scratch their eyeballs, think they're Bonaparte and are in frequent communication with anal-probing Venusians -- Dean Esmay.

Just a snippet because I don't want to spoil your fun. Here's Dean reacting to one of his regular commentors:

Brian: You lying traitor. I have provided specifics time and time again, and all you have offered in response are vague handwaving generalizations and out-of-context, cherry-picked quotations of the Koran.

Indeed, intellectual coward that you are, you have not answered my specifics, such as why you do not acknowledge Muslims like Hamid Karzai and Nouri al-Maliki as our allies. You do not do that, because you can't: you're such an intellectual lightweight that you say nothing about them—you God-damned Benedict Arnold turncoat traitor.

Oh, but you have some cherry-picked, out-of-context quotes from the Koran, which you use to spit on our Muslim allies, you God-Damned traitor son of a bitch.

I hope you know I only keep you around to help emphasize my point: there are people on the Right who are fucking traitors, which is what you are.

Until you acknowledge and embrace our Muslim allies, that is all you will ever be: a fucking traitor [spit].
I didn't go through and put in all the crazy-person bolding Dean includes, so definitely read it all. You don't want to miss any of the subtle nuances of this profound thinker.

I told you people he's nuts. No one listens. Now you see for yourselves.

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BREAKING: Feline Dogs.

by Michael Reynolds

MSNBC is live on a police shooting in Lakeland, Florida. Rita Cosby is anchoring.

I have a message for Rita. Rita? If you say "canine dogs" in referring to the police dogs at the scene one more time I will drive to RDU airport, fly to New Jersey, grab a cab or a limo to MSNBC headquarters, go in and personally spank yor chubby butt.

Canine dogs. At least six times so far by my count. Canine dogs.

Rita, unless there's relish, mustard and onions involved, there's no other type of dog.

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The Pansy Picketts.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

One more try, boys.

The question I asked on September 6 was Did We Just Lose A War?

Now right-wing pundit Tony Blankley essentially agrees with that headline and leads me to a question for which I have, unfortunately, a ready answer.

With little reporting, and almost without media or governmental comment, the United States has suffered a substantial defeat in the war against radical Islam. Three weeks ago, Pakistan signed the terms of the Waziristan Accord with the northern region of its country called North Waziristan. It was, effectively, the terms of surrender by Pakistan to the Taliban and al Qaeda, which dominate North Waziristan. Pakistan has negotiated a separate peace -- the eternal danger to any wartime alliance.

With the exception of a superb article in the Weekly Standard by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and the redoubtable Bill Roggio and a few blogs, such as Flopping Aces, The Fourth Rail and The Belmont Club (apologies to some other blogs I surely have missed) there has been little comment. This column is based largely on the reporting from those sources.

The event itself was reported by the major newspapers, but the abject nature of the surrender passed with almost no comment. But surrender it was
Yeah, puzzling isn't it, Tony?

Well, no, not really puzzling at all. We have two parties in this country, just two, and they set the terms of the debate. The GOP has no interest in publicizing the fact that the war in Afghanistan is effectively lost.

And the Democrats? Well, the Democrats are idiots.

The Republicans are hardly going to trumpet the fact that our entire strategy in Afghanistan was just flushed down the toilet by our good buddy, President-til-he's-assassinated Pervez Musharraf. It's really hard to overstate just how screwed we are in Afghanistan. The Waziristan accord means that the Taliban has a safe haven. A safe haven that we dare not openly attack for fear of toppling the aforementioned President-cause-he-says-he-is Musharraf.

Why is this fatal? Because it means the Taliban can choose when to fight and when to withdraw to safety. It means they can risk only what they can afford to lose. It means we're fighting a defensive war. If they hold the initiative all they have to do is bleed us and wait us out, and since they own and we just rent in the neighborhood, guess who's going to leave first?

Our only move in Afghanistan now is to hope we catch a break -- maybe the Taliban lighten up, maybe they start enjoying all that opium money so much they want to start livin' the good life (pimp my camel,) or maybe Musharraf is replaced by someone with the capacity to get traction in the tribal areas. Hoping we catch a break is not a winning strategy.

So, given the situation, why are Democrats so quiet? Because they are so utterly out of touch with all things military (except for casualty numbers) that they simply don't know what any of this means. Only if conservatives like Mr. Blankley sit them down and explain it to them using flash cards, simple diagrams and a catchy jingle, are the Democrats going to figure it out.

Even then, even if Democrats manage to get their tiny little peacenik-ponytailed heads around the military situation, they will still be unable to capitalize on it. Why? Because they are pathologically incapable of insisting that we needed more force at the start of this war, and more determination, and more American boots on Afghani ground, and still need what Mr. Blankley calls for:

We must come to terms with reality -- and soon. We are going to have to substantially increase the size of our army and Marines to face the growing threats to our national security.

From the start the effective strategy for attacking Mr. Bush's handling of Afghanistan, Iraq and the entire Global War on Terror, has been to attack from the right. Forget lies or truth, right or wrong, I'm talking pure politics, pure power dynamics.

The Bush administration's line is thinnest on the right. In the simple military terms that the Democrats never manage to grasp: Mr. Bush's right flank is exposed, it's hanging, it's unanchored, there's no artillery, there's no reserve, oh my God a troop of determined Girl Scouts could turn Mr. Bush's right flank and roll his army up.

So naturally the Democrats attack his left flank. They attack where he's strongest. They choose the most difficult ground, concentrate their forces where Mr. Bush's artillery has a clear, point-blank field of fire, and they run up the fucking hill like a bunch of pansy Picketts, waving their No Blood For Oil signs and throwing Granola bars.

I've been yelling about this for what, three years now between this blog and my former blog?

How do Democrats not get that you hit the weak spot? How do they not get that? How fucking stupid do you have to be not to get that if you attack where the opponent is weak you can turn his flank and roll him up like a Wal-Mart rug?

Mr. Bush's policy in Afghanistan is a rusty 1967 Dodge Dart, losing parts and dragging its muffler and still, improbably, running down his political opponents.

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Nightmare Of Immobility.

by Michael Reynolds

We're going to need a new edition.

One of the Godfathers of blogging, Andrew Sullivan, after reading the infamous National Intelligence Estimate.
One reason we've lost ground - both strategically, ideologically and politically - is because of the bungled war in Iraq, which has produced the worst of all worlds: an ineffective occupation that doesn't bring democracy, has turned the image of the U.S. into Abu Ghraib, and has inspired many more decentralized and dangerous Jihadists across the globe. As a supporter of the war in Iraq, it's clear that over three years later, it has spawned more terrorism, and is now causing more innocent deaths on a daily basis than Saddam's vile regime. Whether this was inevitable or a function of the way it was conducted will be debated for decades. But this much we know: it was conducted dreadfully anyway, on the cheap, and without even minimal strategic intelligence and care. At this point in time, there's no way to spin this except as a fiasco that has obviously made us less safe right now and in the immediate future. The only arguments the Bush administration has left is that in 2050, historians may regard it as a turning point, and that leaving now would be even worse. The first argument is pathetic; the second argument is true but only underscores their unforgivable recklessness.

What's clear to me is that we therefore have a gamble ahead of us: do we withdraw from Iraq in some way - either completely or to Kurdish areas - or do we seriously try and get the occupation right? At this point, I'd say the argument is very finely balanced. Obviously, the first step must be to get rid of the people so far responsible for the Iraq disaster. Until Rumsfeld is dismissed, we have no hope for any improvement. General Casey needs to be fired as well, along with several other military leaders who have presided over this mess. For the first time in this administration, we need some accountability. Then we have a decision to make. Do we have the troops necessary to make this work? Or do we not? If we need a draft, do we have the guts to say so and debate it?

My own view is that we should either drastically up the ante in Iraq - by adding tens of thousands of new troops in a serious, concerted attempt to provide order for the first time; or we should withdraw.

Mr. Bush has his feet (and head) in concrete on Rumsfeld. And the American people will not now ratify a decision to throw tens of thousands of fresh troops into Iraq without a major and dramatic change in leadership. It won't be enough to swap Rumsfeld for some other Bush loyalist. Mr. Bush has no credibility with 60% of the American people. So a call for a major rebooting of the Iraq war will have to come from someone else.

I've suggested before that Mr. Bush should remove Mr. Rumsfeld, take Mr. Cheney out of the National Security loop, and hire someone like Senator McCain as Secretary of Defense, someone with real standing, real heft, real bi-partisan credibility, to take over management of the war.

Would Mr. Bush even consider taking that dramatic a step? No. It would require Mr. Bush to admit that he has been completely wrong about Iraq. Wrong to go in, wrong to listen to Mr. Cheney, wrong to let Mr. Rumsfeld run the war. Mr. Bush won't do it. He'd rather lose the war. He would rather allow Iraq to sink into outright civil war and possibly draw the rest of the middle-east in as well, rather than admit that he has been a failure as president and needs adult supervision.

So, Sully's right. But it no longer matters. We're having one of those March of Folly moments. We're trapped in one of those dreams where you can see some terrible event unfolding but you can't cry out and you can't run and your arms are heavy as lead.

(Thanks to the indispensable Moderate Voice.)

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Free Media Exposure? Nah.

by Michael Reynolds

I just got an opportunity to play temporary radio pundit and blew it off. Out of the blue a radio station from Baltimore called me up and asked me to go on-air in my capacity as a political media consultant to discuss the effectiveness of attack ads.

I explained that my media consulting was more a pain in the ass than a business to me and that I was not the guy they wanted to talk to.

Another opportunity blown. Not my first, probably not my last. My friend (yes, singular) and my wife both think I sell myself short, don't take myself seriously enough in the political realm. But here's the thing: I don't believe in bullshit, and all bullshit begins with bullshitting people about yourself.

Insofar as I bring anything to the political table it's an instinct for recognizing bullshit. I'm a good critic, a good counterpuncher. In the zoology of the political world I'm a mosquito: terrific instinct for blood, excellent capacity for finding the unprotected spot, not easily scared off by swatting hands. But at the point where I start taking myself seriously, start trying to adopt that lordly, scornful Krauthammer-manque tone so many bloggers attempt, or else turn myself into some media-worthy barking partisan, I'll be so deep in my own bullshit I won't be able to smell anyone else's.

The media needs partisans, that's how they program. Rabid rightie vs. shrill leftie, arf, arf, arf. Mark out your turf and defend it. Politics as brand identity: always promote the brand. That's how the blogosphere works, too, which is why I'm a lousy blogger. I'm politically unreliable. I have no turf. I have no loyalties. I just float around, smell blood and leave behind an irritating rash.

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Computer Crack.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

This is absurdly addictive: Line Rider.

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Are We The New French?

by Michael Reynolds

Back when the French were the Americans.

A couple months after we invaded Iraq I was in a cafe in Paris talking politics. Guy I was talking to was a very pro-American French lawyer. He considered the US his second home. He got off a funny, self-deprecating line about the irrelevance of French reaction. "What difference does it make? We are a small, arrogant, intellectual country, what difference does it make if we support you?"

But the thing that struck me at the time was that he said, in a shrill, worried tone, "It's going to be a disaster."

My response was basically, "Look, can I defend the way we're handling the occupation? I don't think anyone can defend it. But we just got there. Give us time. Then we'll see."

And he answered, "Yes, we'll see, and it's going to be a disaster."

Score one for the French. The French were right about Iraq. They were right about Vietnam before that. (And why shouldn't they be, they set the table for that fiasco.) But we Americans don't give any points to people for being right. The fact that the French and most other Europeans were dead right about Iraq, and we were dead wrong, does not compute.

They said, "disaster," we said, "cakewalk." Then, inexplicably, we acted as though we believed our own propaganda. We treated Iraq like a cakewalk and we got a disaster. The French were right. We were wrong. Didn't have to come out that way, maybe, but it did.

If we'd listened to the French, Saddam would presumably still be in power, the French government and the UN would still be playing footsie with him, the sanctions regime would undoubtedly be badly frayed by now, might in fact have collapsed entirely. Saddam would still be murdering and torturing and perhaps -- but only perhaps -- be looking for yellowcake and centrifuges. There's no way to know, of course. Alternate history is shaky even as a literary genre, and it isn't much use in the real world.

Beneath my French friend's worried pessimism lay deep skepticism about the use of military force. The French are skeptical for some good reasons, and some bad reasons. I'm not defending their every conclusion.

Beneath my worried optimism was confidence in American power. At that point it was only still dawning on me that we had fools in charge. I cling to the fact -- yes, it's fact -- that Donald Rumsfeld and his bosses were incompetent because I don't want to go all the way to French on this. I want to believe we can still, under some circumstances, do useful work with bombs.

But it occurs to me that we might in the future want to listen a little more carefully to the French. We have in this country a parodic view of the French as military failures. This is derived almost entirely from the well-known collapse of French forces before the Nazis. But that attitude -- always simplistic given Bonaparte and the tenacious French performance in World War I -- is a relic of a bygone era. We have our own military failures now. In Korea we fought to a draw. In Vietnam we lost. In Gulf War I we started well and booted the follow-through. In Afghanistan we are losing. In Iraq we are losing.

It's not 1945 anymore, and we're more French than we like to admit.

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Monday, September 25, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

I know I'm supposed to be writing about politics, there's a lot going on. I don't feel like it. I sent a package off to an agent today for a kid series. K. and I both think it's the most commmercial thing we've produced since the series we don't mention here lest former readers Google said series and witness the horrifying spectacle of me dropping the f-bomb.

I swore I'd never go back to kid books. 150 books really ought to be enough. But then I had this idea, and I think it's hot, but nothing is hot till a publisher says it is. Here's how it goes: confidence is high during the writing, declines rapidly as we approach the point of sending the submission, bottoms out when no one calls for a few days.

I think I'm right. I won't know if I am until the marketplace speaks.

Tonight I'm sitting around thinking about alternate careers. (Mine is cooking.) So here's my message to wanna-be writers: 150 books, TV series spin-off, awards, line of toys, money, respect, and you know what? I still don't know for sure if I have it. Lovely career.
I still don't know for sure that I don't suck.

Fortunately there's Ambien.

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