Democrats & Liberals Archives

What Changes?

Bush is set to do again what he’s done many times: make a speech on some subject, trying to sell Americans on something. This time, it will be the Iraq War, as it has been on multiple occasions.

And again, unless something very unlikely happens, people will largely ignore it. He wants to believe that his salesmanship works on people, but he’s not very good at telling when he’s already worn out his welcome, and much worse at perceiving the patience of his dissenters wearing thin.

Bush's stubborn insistence on his agenda has endeared him to some, but on the whole it is a weakness, because he's so rigid about it. He can't afford to back down, which means his options are limited from the start, as is his ability to react to events as they are. Instead, he must react to what the orthodoxy and the conservation of party ideology presents as reality. The difference, as any soldier sent to find WMDs or terrorists in the first months of the war can tell you, is profound.

In dealing with the world, we have illusions backed up with reality, and illusions that derive from other illusions. Nowhere are we free from illusions. The thing about our illusions, is that the closer to reality we get, the more we can approximate towards some more precise, less deceptive illusion. This is what makes science so powerful: you are given the means and encouragement to trade up for better illusions.

In terms of religion, the same condition applies, and the great religions acknowledge this. Buddhism has even built an entire branch around the way our explanations of the way the world works fails. If we have trouble perceiving the material world around us, how good are we really at perceiving what lies beyond it? Humility in the face of that is strongly encouraged.

But humility is not the name of the game with the Bush administration. This is an administration that doesn't apologize, doesn't explain, and says it doesn't care what those damn liberals think. This is a president who prides himself on knowing what's right, and aggressively pushes his agenda, even when the numbers are low on it. Moreover, it's a party culture that's enshrined competitiveness, enshrined the refusal to deal with the other side.

There's a lot of political momentum behind Bush's stubbornness, some of it as old as Watergate. Unfortunately, the GOP's lesson from that divisive scandal seems to have been "don't get caught", as the winking tolerance of Karl Rove's winning strategies demonstrates. They've made winning the point, but they've forgotten a very important bit of wisdom- sometimes, we deserve to lose. America should not have to tolerate continued incompetence and corruption from anybody, Democrat or Republican. We need a government, big or small, that works and does its job. All the politics that the parties have immersed themselves in has distracted our legislators and officials from that point. This government does not exist for its own sake. It exists because we need law and order, lines and means of communication, military protection from the aggression of other nations, and the means to regulate trade between our states, and between us and other countries. And we need all these things and more because they help to ensure our safety, prosperity, and stability as a nation. They mediate our disputes, and work out the rules by which we conduct ourselves, day by day.

In short, it has a real effect on our lives, and the corruption and incompetence of people in our government can have a negative effect on us all. This is especially true when we go to war.

There is a reality against which we must measure the quality of our efforts. We can't always be looking to the future for the success of our plans. We've got to be aware and conscientious about what we do right here and now, or else we will lose the opportunity to get things done right the first time. Unfortunately, on many issues in this presidency, we've lost the chance to do things the easy way. People still push for change , though, because we recognize one important fact: things can get worse from here. The choice we see is between doing things the hard way, and doing things the even harder way.

What can Bush do? Honestly, many of us don't have the expertise to know or guess. But Bush has plenty of people who can answer that question, and who can possibly come up with a better solution to our problem in Iraq. What Americans want from this president is viable change in direction. It doesn't have to be liberal or conservative, it just has to at least carry the promise of improvement, and a change of momentum from the downhill slide things currently are in.

Do I think that's likely? No, and I don't think I'm being unfair. Every press conference he's put out there has served one purpose: to tell us poor old dumb Americans why we have to continue doing things his way, why we have to stay the course. Unfortunately, he fails to get the one important point: people have no faith that our current strategy will take us in that direction. Unless he changes his policy in some signficant, effective fashion, he will not regain the faith of the American people.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at October 6, 2005 9:30 AM
Comments
Comment #84005

“You cannot stay the course if you do not set a course.”

Bush needs to step up with an actual strategy to WIN and eventually EXIT Iraq. Anything short of that is just another PR operation.

Posted by: Andrew L. at October 6, 2005 11:18 AM
Comment #84020

Nice piece.
From an interesting article I read yesterday:
U.S. general in Iraq: Growing disconnect with Washington

Here’s a few quotes from it:

BAGHDAD — “I don’t know if I have the moral authority to send troops into combat anymore,” a senior American general recently told United Press International. He knows what his power means — that on his word hundreds or thousands of young men would step into danger.

“I’m no longer sure I can look (a soldier or a Marine) in the eye and say: ‘This is something worth dying for.’”

He doesn’t mean Iraq. There are plenty of bad people here to fight, and plenty of innocents worth protecting.

His moral crisis was that he had been to Washington, D.C.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 6, 2005 12:22 PM
Comment #84030

Stephen:

Steadfastness is a virtue while rigidity is not. Bush appeals to those who see him as the former. I like the idea of a rigid concept (ie, reducing or eliminating terror, morality etc), but I don’t particularly like rigid strategies for accomplishing them. As an example, a general can rigidly adhere to the idea of protecting his troops, but can alter his strategies for doing so as dictated by his opponent.

Its important for Bush to differentiate between the concept (removing Saddam, bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq) and the strategy or tactics required to do so. I hope he does a better job of being willing to alter the strategies without changing the direction of the concept.

I think Bush finds himself in a box partially due to his own doing and partially due to others. He certainly is rigid in the direction he takes. While people can feel his particular direction is wrong, they really cannnot say they don’t know the direction. (That was a big reason Kerry didn’t get elected…not enough felt they knew his direction, while enough felt comfortable with the direction they knew Bush was headed).

On the other hand, Bush takes heat for nearly every thing he does. If he states a position and then changes it, he is branded as a “flip-flopper”. When he appoints a person like Miers, instead of a more conservative possibility like Brown, he takes heat for cronyism. His opponents brand him as weak if he allows for change, even when the change is what has been called for.

We certainly need a structure in which Bush is encouraged to be less rigid, and one where he isn’t beaten up if he considers a change. This kind of structure would be better for all Americans.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at October 6, 2005 12:55 PM
Comment #84038

joe b o d,

which of W’s problems weren’t triggered by him in the first place. flippy flopper? cronyism? rigidity?

I think the frustration of the Bush administration is that the tactics and phrases that they have used to deride their opponents are now being turned against them, a contingency they did not plan for.

Bush said over and over again, ad nauseum, Kerry didn’t have a plan to get us out of Iraq. He made it the area of focus on Kerry. Now people are tired of hearing “stay the course”. They’re saying - “that was your plan???”

Bush’s straight jacket of not changing his mind is his own fault - you cannot win an election by branding your opponent a “flip flopper” and then be shocked when you are criticized for changing your mind.

What was politically expedient and served to re-elect Bush appears to have been short-sighted and has left Bush in a mine field of his own making.

Crying about reality as it exists now is just weak - the Republicans under Rove, Cheney and Bush have become the

“We can dish it out but we can’t take it” party.

Posted by: CPAdams at October 6, 2005 1:45 PM
Comment #84043

Joebagodonuts:

I thought “flip-flopper” was a Republican term, LOL

Posted by: womanmarine at October 6, 2005 2:03 PM
Comment #84047

womanmarine:

Flip-flop WAS a republican term, but the Democrats were so bereft of ideas that they co-opted it for themselves ;)

CPAdams:

You can choose to look at it as all one-sided, but the facts remain the facts. Some on the anti-war left have blamed Bush for brutally seeking out “insurgents”, while at the same time attacking him for pulling back in some instances.

Take Tora Bora as an example. Two options existed: A) Send in US troops (resulting perhaps in better control but also higher US casualties) or B)utilize local forces (less control and less US casualties. My premise, which I know you’ll by rote disagree with, is that had Bush chosen Option A, the anti-war left would have focused on the higher casualties. Since he chose Option B, they focused on the loss of control over the operation.

Either way, they have a negative position to stake out. But that’s how the world is: there are very few win-win options, especially in war and politics. Every option has a negative aspect to it. From what I have seen, some on the left simply utilize that reality in order to maintain a negative focus for political expediency.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at October 6, 2005 2:12 PM
Comment #84052

A lot of the back and forth about this though is the right coming back and saying “What’s your plan?!” Here’s the thing I see it though. What’s the republican plan? The left and a lot of independents are saying “Get us out.” And all we get is “what’s your plan?”

I don’t understand. Wasn’t the president stumping all over the country talking about smoking guns and mushroom clouds? And now when we’ve seen neither and we want to pull out we have to get a plan to do so (knowing full well that any plan from anyone outside of the white house, repub or dem will be shot down mercilessly in the name of “sticking to it-ness”).

I don’t know, but when I take someone hikng, when they want to go home I don’t put my hands on my hips and say “Well, what your plan for getting us home?” I took them hiking, it’s my responsibility to get them home. Likewise Bush lead us to war, it’s his responsiblity to provide the plan. And all we get is “stick to it.”

I think it all comes down to lack of goals. Did we go in to get rid of Saddam. Well, ok, we did that. Did we go in to get WMDs, well we did that too there weren’t any. Liberate the Iraqi people from a mad man? Check. Institute a new government? It’s on it’s way. What else? Yes it’s turned into a cespool of insurgency, like so many predicted it would. But I don’t see any plans to deal with it other than “stick-to-it”. No milestones, no metrics, no plan. How long are we going to fight this war without end?

Posted by: chantico at October 6, 2005 3:02 PM
Comment #84069

joe BOD,

“I think Bush finds himself in a box partially due to his own doing and partially due to others.”

“…Bush takes heat for nearly every thing he does. If he states a position and then changes it, he is branded as a ‘flip-flopper’.”

“We certainly need a structure in which Bush is encouraged to be less rigid, and one where he isn’t beaten up if he considers a change.”

These were your statements that I was responding to.

My point remains that Bush made this mess. or Rove or Cheney - whoever. The political debate has risen(fallen?) to a destructive level and the GOP has done its best to turn up the rhetoric as high as possible. We have as much division in this country as the decades leading up to the civil war.

You want to tell me that Democrats created this hostile red/blue mess? Because if you do, I can cite more articles than any of us would like to read about Conservatives fanning the fire for political gain, about fundraising on the bravado of turning this country to the right, quotes from Frist and DeLay and Rove that are nothing but inflammatory.

Bush took power promising the far right that he would stick it to the left. I know this because every time he backs off a little bit, the far right starts complaining about him breaking his promise.

Bush has this country in a real mess and NOW Republicans are saying that we need to work together.

This administration has been more interested in the spoils of politics than in working together.

And here’s the saddest part - given the opportunity to be effective, the Bush administration would push the fight again and would do nothing to unite this country.

I don’t trust this administration - I have five years of evidence to support my mistrust.

I don’t believe in working with this adminstration.

I believe in weakening and then removing this administration.

And in 2008, assuming we get someone who is interested in being everyone’s president, then let’s get to work.

Until then, this will and must remain the battle that it is.

Posted by: CPAdams at October 6, 2005 4:28 PM
Comment #84075

and one last point joe BOD, I want someone from either party who wants to be a uniter - I think a pro-choice Republican or a pro-life Democrat would be perfect.

Here’s a crazy and sad question - I know as a country we’d elect a real uniter - what are the odds of one getting the nomination??

Posted by: CPAdams at October 6, 2005 4:33 PM
Comment #84102

Stephen Dougherty’s comments advocating backing down and governing by public opinion polls is why the Dems have lost both houses of congess and the White House. Backing down is exactly what ones enemy hopes for.

Posted by: X lib at October 6, 2005 5:58 PM
Comment #84123

X lib,

“Stephen Dougherty’s comments advocating backing down and governing by public opinion polls is why the Dems have lost both houses of congess and the White House. Backing down is exactly what ones enemy hopes for.”

And though you may not mean it that way, the reason we fail is that both the Rep’s and the Dem’s see the other party as “the enemy”.

JBOD,

“Take Tora Bora as an example. Two options existed: A) Send in US troops (resulting perhaps in better control but also higher US casualties) or B)utilize local forces (less control and less US casualties. My premise, which I know you’ll by rote disagree with, is that had Bush chosen Option A, the anti-war left would have focused on the higher casualties. Since he chose Option B, they focused on the loss of control over the operation.”

As you know my feelings about Iraq, let me add this;

Several times on this blog, I have seen the phrase “if the President had been more aggressive in the war the liberals would have howled”. His not being aggressive enough is exactly the reason we are in this mess in the first place.

Had the entire war in Iraq been prosecuted aggressively, we would have already been out of there.
The right has been harping that this is a war and we should be supporting the President. I submit that if the Iraq had actually been fought like a war the Mr. Bush wouldn’t be in the fix he is in.

Posted by: Rocky at October 6, 2005 8:22 PM
Comment #84128

Joebagodonuts…sounds as if you support staying the course when it comes to Iraq.

“On the other hand, Bush takes heat for nearly every thing he does. If he states a position and then changes it, he is branded as a “flip-flopper”. When he appoints a person like Miers, instead of a more conservative possibility like Brown, he takes heat for cronyism. His opponents brand him as weak if he allows for change, even when the change is what has been called for.”

But Bush is a flip flopper, a fabricator (of the facts when it comes to Iraq), has practiced cronyism in many of his appointments…these are true statements so why shouldn’t he face the heat. I recall the republican right branded Kerry mercilessly with this moniker during the campaign and Kerry hadn’t even caused one American to lose his life through misguided policies. And what are some important examples of Bush’s leadership in calling (allowing) for real change…his feeble words on conservation as opposed to his record on energy policy?

History will be unkind to this president unless he steps up to admitting mistakes. This would be a sign of his real leadership in my eyes.

Posted by: Bill at October 6, 2005 8:28 PM
Comment #84145

x-lib:
If you believe I think that way, you have little experience of my true thinking on the matter. The polls are only telling us that Bush is losing support, I’m theorizing why: Because Bush is not offering the viable alternative to the current policy that people badly want.

Joe-
I think Americans would have not blamed Bush for high casualties going after Bin Laden in Tora Bora if that meant ending his reign of terror once and for all. This is what the Right misunderstands about what makes the deaths in Iraq so tragic.

It’s not that they die, but that their deaths, their worthy sacrifice is not bringing the peace that we were brought to hope for. Their loss to us would be considerably less bitter of one had the president employed them in a productive foreign policy, rather than a futile one.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 6, 2005 9:46 PM
Comment #84155

Steven and Rocky:

All I can say is that it is easy for you to take that opinion now. Too bad that opinion wasn’t out there earlier. Of course, you’ll say it always was out there, and I’ll say it wasn’t. Revisionist history isnt pretty.

Bill:

I’ve not said that we should “stay the course” if that means not altering our strategies. I believe we should be working harder to get Iraqi soldiers to carry the load, and for the Iraqi govt and army to take over fully. I want us out of there, but only at such a time as Iraq can govern itself. If the terrorists are allowed to grab power through the use of terror, then all has failed.

Your comments are indicative of the polarization we face in this country. Its them vs us, or us vs them. As I said originally, Bush needs to be more willing to make necessary changes, and his opponents need to be more willing to accept changes without trying to portray them as corrections due to mistakes.

CPAdams:

If you read my post thoroughly, you’ll see that i placed responsibility on BOTH sides. Both parties play the same games, both use the same negative strategies, and both try to manipulate and position information. Anyone who sees only one side being guilty of this simply isnt looking hard enough, or is just too damned partisan to understand.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at October 6, 2005 11:38 PM
Comment #84160

Joe-
I’ve taken that opinion all along, actually, but whatever.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 7, 2005 12:02 AM
Comment #84165

Joe,

I have posted in discussions started with David, Jack, Stephen, you , and any number of other posters on this subject. I am a strategy gamer and have been since the early ‘70’s.
As I said before, my posts about this subject on this blog have been consistent. I have constantly asked that we quit screwing around in Iraq and do the job we were there to do. I have also stated that more forces meant less casualties. Simple strategy dictates that you go in with 2-3 times more forces than you need, and you secure the country as you go along.

You’ll win every time.

Posted by: Rocky at October 7, 2005 12:12 AM
Comment #84184

I find it ironic that joe is preaching about revisionist history. Liberals are not the ones who had Colin Powell embarrass himself infront of 5 BILLION people.

Posted by: Aldous at October 7, 2005 2:39 AM
Comment #84204

Aldous:

You apparently are mistaken in your definition of revisionist history. The key element is the revision itself.

Colin Powell was just plain wrong, and the intelligence he cited was plain wrong. Was it intentional on his part or was he hoodwinked? Thats for Powell to clarify. He’s been a great man, as evidenced by the support he gets from both sides of the aisle.

Revisionist—-nope. He hasnt tried to change what he said. He hasn’t remade his evidence. He has agreed that he was wrong in his assessments and in his speech. That’s actually refreshing.

Too bad more people cannot do that.

As for your specious comments, they really dont fit the conversation. It was just an opportunity for you to add your one-trick pony thoughts to the discussion.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at October 7, 2005 8:26 AM
Comment #84211
All I can say is that it is easy for you to take that opinion now. Too bad that opinion wasn’t out there earlier. Of course, you’ll say it always was out there, and I’ll say it wasn’t. Revisionist history isnt pretty.

That’s just ridiculous. The left was all over president Bush for dismissing Gen. Shinseki’s estimate of the number of troops needed. We howled when Bush dismissed Lawrence Lindsey’s accurate estimate of the cost in dollars. Before the war, the left was adamant that security would be the root of success in Iraq — Fareed Zakaria’s pre-war book, “The Future of Freedom” is an excellent example.

Rocky is absolutely right.

BTW, Rocky. I’ve been a strategy gamer since the 70s too. Know any good online or PBEM games? Email me: americanpundit@yahoo.com

Posted by: American Pundit at October 7, 2005 9:30 AM
Comment #84214

Joe…I am trying to be on your side. But we can’t be apologists for badly planned, destructive policies. Powell, as you say, admitted his mistake and that people of all flavors can and do respect. But he was still wrong. You can call it polarization if you want. I am just trying to sort through the facts and Bush comes up short (in Iraq and in a lot of areas)…sure we want Iraq to reject insurgency and maybe they will or maybe they won’t in the near term. But unless we take drastic measures (as Rocky states) what are the choices we Americans are left with in regards the current situation; escalating unpredicable violence, increasing civil strife, loss of life, etc. Why can’t we face the facts…our policy of nation building has failed in Iraq. Even if we can muster the political will from somewhere to stay the course…business as usual when it comes to existing policy will push this country into a state of real polarization on the home front.

Posted by: Bill at October 7, 2005 10:04 AM
Comment #84220

joe BOD,

I’ve read and re-read your post - quite thoroughly. My legal training has left me a fairly decent reader.

To paraphrase your post, Bush has made some mistakes but the opposition criticizes him mercilessly. If he were encouraged to be more flexible (in context, it appears you mean encouraged by the opposition), he might make better choices/be more successful.

It sounds like you are blaming both Bush and the Democrats for Bush’s bad decisions.

You lose all credibility when you blame Democrats for Bush’s bad decisions. It does make you sound like an apologist and defender.

The direction of the Republican party has taken a hard turn to the conservative side and has left many people unhappy in the process.

You seem to be saying that if only these unhappy people were a little more understanding, Bush would be better. I’m not sure how to respond to a statement so ludicrous.

Bush is having his agenda frustrated BECAUSE he has alienated so many people.

Katrina was exacerbated specifically because Bush was effective in weakening FEMA and installing a political appointee with no experience.

Iraq is our quagmire because he refused to wait and because he didn’t have a nation building plan, and then again because he refused to allow the EU to participate in the rebuilding and for almost countless other decisions that he made HIS WAY.

EVERY BAD DECISION BY BUSH HAS BEEN HIS DECISION ALONE.

Also, Bush doesn’t make mistakes, certainly not any that he admits.

Posted by: CPAdams at October 7, 2005 10:46 AM
Comment #84221

joe BOD,

When Jimmy Carter was in the final year or so of his presidency, defending him and his decisions made you a loyal Democrat and it also showed a stubborn unwillingness to see the country as it was - going in the wrong direction, waiting for a change.

We are at that point now - defending Bush and denying the negative impact of his policies only guarantees less of a voice in the next round of leadership.

Posted by: CPAdams at October 7, 2005 10:52 AM
Comment #84261

Colin Powell admitted that he knew there were serious problem with the case for war, talking about ripping out whole pages worth of reports because they were uncorroborated. Scooter Libby, Stephen Hadley, and Douglas Feith were busy before then putting those pages in, at the order of the president.

But really, think about this for a moment: should the push for war precede the case for war? I know that on occasion, one may not have the opportunity to consolidate all the different alarming details into one cohesive report, but that’s different from having to go out there and fish through unconfirmed information in order to justify a war your’e already in the process of starting.

Moreover, the Downing Street Memos make something perfectly clear: Bush did not go into the UN with any intention of letting the UN decide what to do with Iraq. He did it purely to get people off his back and to attempt to provide a legal reason for the war.

I don’t doubt that Bush thought taking us into this war was the right thing to do. I just doubt he was honest, conscientious, or at all respectful to dissenting opinions about the way he got us into this, and as a result he’s made it very difficult for a lot of people to regard him as anything but the second coming of LBJ.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 7, 2005 3:02 PM
Comment #84309

joebagodonuts,

“On the other hand, Bush takes heat for nearly every thing he does. If he states a position and then changes it, he is branded as a “flip-flopper”. When he appoints a person like Miers, instead of a more conservative possibility like Brown, he takes heat for cronyism. His opponents brand him as weak if he allows for change, even when the change is what has been called for.”

1) The republicans created the flip-flopper nonsense to make Kerry look bad so Bush gets no sympathy for being called one.
2) It’s the right wing religious fanatics who are criticizing his appointment for Supreme Court. It’s not his opponents fault he promised them a right wing radical and did not produce.
3) What changes in his screwed up policies has he made to be labled weak?
Bush is incompetent. It’s that simple.
4) He takes heat for his moves because they have been some of the biggest blunders in recent history.
So you’ll get no poor George from me.

Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at October 7, 2005 5:14 PM
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