Third Party & Independents Archives

Nomination of Robert Gates

Once again I find myself feeling slightly “warm and fuzzy” about a political hopeful even though I’m not sure why I feel that way, or if I should. I just went along with the warm, trusting feelings when Dick Cheney ran as Vice President in 2000 - but I try to learn from my mistakes… Confirmation hearings to affirm Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense will begin on December 5. That makes this the perfect time to evaluate the past and try to figure out what it can tell us about him and about ourselves.

First, I'm trying to put my finger on why I have a tendency to like Robert Gates. He has a genial, friendly appearance and a variety of experiences. In fact, I want to read his book about the Cold War because he seems like someone that would have an interesting perspective.

At the same time, I am very critical of the idea that we need to resurrect our Cold War policies and I firmly believe that the current Bush administration is trying to do exactly that. As I analyze my perceptions of Robert Gates, I'm noticing a media strategy to distance him from these policies, even though he has always been a part of them. A more subtle thing I've been noticing is the comments indicating that Cheney argued against this appointment or that some construe this appointment as a move to stop Cheney's influence. These side comments are never actually confirmed, or sourced, and I think their only purpose is to reassure those of us that do not want a new Cold War and/or New World Order. In fact, I don't believe that this Cheney opposition is real. If Robert Gates is so contrary to the to the thought patterns of the administration, why was he offered the opportunity to be Intelligence Czar in 2005?

How Dick Cheney feels about Robert Gates shouldn't really matter, but the coverage of the nomination does seem like a free media campaign - the constant repetition of the word "pragmatist", pushes for bipartisanship, hailing this as a real change or a "departure"... It's easy to overlook the statements warning us that policy changes can ultimately only come from Bush - it's such a contrast with the overall tone of optimism.

While the nice things they say about him may be the truth, not just a PR campaign, I think we need to take a hard look and be sure. It's possible that he's not the big "departure" they want us to think he is.

Throughout the Cold War, our country was frequently intervening in other countries to try to stop communism and promote our interests. The Central American "diversion" known as the "Iran-Contra Affair" involved secretly selling arms to Iran and diverting the funds to rebels in Central America to overthrow a leftist government.

When the scandal was unfolding, I found all of the lying and hypocrisy very interesting, but I noticed many people around me had an attitude of "So What?". Hezbollah was holding some hostages in Lebanon and we wanted Iran to help us release them. Also, the public still hated Iran because of the hostage crisis, but they didn't necessarily support Iraq even though we were helping them. I remember people that were happy that we were funding both sides of the conflict. "Bomb 'em all!" It didn't take long for anti-Iraq stickers to join the anti-Iran stickers on pickup trucks all over America.

The Central American intervention itself also didn't cause a great sense of outrage. The American public often has an insulated view of the world. When these activities do come to our attention, there seems to be a sense of "Again? Well, ok, we're probably doing the right thing."

I think our current war in Iraq is another intervention. I think our reasons include needing an enemy to build up our defense spending, wanting more influence in that oil rich and troubled region, wanting another friendly government to allow us to have bases... I know, "pick your conspiracy theory", but I think Rumsfeld was right when he said the Iraq war "is not well-known. It was not well-understood. It is complex for people to comprehend.'' That can be said about a lot of our foreign activities. How can we comprehend the Iraq War if the motivations that led us there have been kept from us?

The Iran-Contra Affair was also a precursor to our fights about the "unitary executive" and the lack of checks and balances. Back then, Congress had specifically cut funding to the Contras. The Reagan administration was asserting its right to continue funding if they could get the money from other sources. Back then, that meant selling arms to Iran and working with known drug-runners in exchange for their help with funding. Now, we more easily evade these directives by attaching signing statements to the law in question.

Dec. 23, 2004: Forbids US troops in Colombia from participating in any combat against rebels, except in cases of self-defense. Caps the number of US troops allowed in Colombia at 800.
Bush's signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can place restrictions on the use of US armed forces, so the executive branch will construe the law ''as advisory in nature."

I guess that's progress.

These issues do not necessarily say anything about Robert Gates himself, but I'm wary. He was not indicted in the Iran-Contra Affair, but reading the details makes me think of the Valerie Plame investigation.

Independent Counsel found insufficient evidence to warrant charging Robert Gates with a crime for his role in the Iran/contra affair. Like those of many other Iran/contra figures, the statements of Gates often seemed scripted and less than candid. Nevertheless, given the complex nature of the activities and Gates's apparent lack of direct participation, a jury could find the evidence left a reasonable doubt that Gates either obstructed official inquiries or that his two demonstrably incorrect statements were deliberate lies.

I'm also not sure what to make of the charges that he manipulated intelligence on the Soviets and promoted a policy to invade Libya with Egypt to "remake North Africa". As he was an analyst then, it's possible that these were just scenarios or brainstorming taken out of context. It's also possible that he'll contribute seamlessly to the line of neo-conservative thinking that got us into this mess.

Part of me wants to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I want to believe the media coverage of his balanced, thoughtful contributions. At the same time it's important that our new Congress not continue the old "rubber stamp" tradition during his confirmation hearing. We need to know what kind of Secretary of Defense we are getting.

Christine

Posted by Christine at November 26, 2006 2:16 AM
Comments
Comment #196482

Chrisine,

You said,

Rumsfeld was right when he said the Iraq war “is not well-known. It was not well-understood. It is complex for people to comprehend.” That can be said about a lot of our foreign activities. How can we comprehend the Iraq War if the motivations that led us there have been kept from us?

I think he was also right when he said:

“As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”—- But then I’m not really sure what the hell he said.

The point being: don’t be fooled by gibberish.

The problem isn’t Rumsfeld or Gates. Reagan WAS responsible for Iran Contra, even if he was senile by then. It WAS his policy. This mess is Bush policy.

If you voted for Bush in 04, then you are part of the problem. I could understand you being duped in 2000. Having lived in Texas, I was well aware of the con-job that was the Bush campaign from the start.

But then, I supported Perot once. Everyone makes mistakes. Who gets appointed is out of our hands. It is interesting that Ortega won office again.
Be honest. Raise your voice when you see stupidity and lies. Vote your heart and your head in 08.

Posted by: gergle at November 26, 2006 11:37 AM
Comment #196486

gergle
I think he was right when he said that too. The current situation makes it pretty obvious there were things we didn’t know we didn’t know…

Of course I didn’t vote for Bush in 2004. Ruler Bush was nothing like the Candidate Bush that fooled me. For one thing, Candidate Bush wanted a humble foreign policy. There are many other reasons I can list, but I’ll stop there.

I don’t let him off the hook, but I think people working for him do have influence.
Do you think Robert Gates represents a change?
I want to think he does, but I’m skeptical

Christine

Posted by: Christine at November 26, 2006 12:23 PM
Comment #196506

Christine,

“Do you think Robert Gates represents a change?
I want to think he does, but I’m skeptical”

Gates is the same old same old.

One doesn’t need to be privy to classified intel to see that Rumsfeld’s tenure was marked by grievous errors in the deployment and strategies used by the DoD in the execution of the “war on terror”.

This is cronyism at it’s worst.
Mr. Bush has every right to nominate Gates, and Congress has the right to throw him out on his ear, and if they don’t it would appear to be the same bull they’ve been shoveling for the last 6 years.

How about Mr. Bush nominate someone with more than two years experience in the military. Someone that wasn’t just appointed to be an officer in the Air Force because being recruited by the CIA didn’t make him eligible for a deferment during Vietnam.

Posted by: Rocky at November 26, 2006 5:34 PM
Comment #196512

Christine,
I have to echo the comment by Rocky. Bush has the right to make whatever choice he wants. Congress has the right to deny that choice. Unlike Rocky, I would be a little more inclined to accede choices made by a president.

In any event, Gates does not seem to bring anything new to the table, other than the fact he is not Rumsfeld. Most of the other people responsible for the debacle in Iraq are still in place: Bush, Cheney, Rice, and others.

Most likely, Gates will go along with a strategy of running out the clock. Faced with conceding defeat, or pushing the disaster onto a new administration, can there be any doubt what they will do?

This Bush administration is a conservative one whose beliefs are fundamentally wrong. Gates will fit right in.

Events may yet overtake the administration, Gates or no. That tends to happen when beliefs are at odds with reality, even with the full force of the US military backing the mistakes. The Iraqi government is teetering on the edge, and if Moqtada al Sadr withdraws, the government may fall. In the past, Rice has defined this occurrence as evidence of “catastrophic failure.” Now, it seems that catastrophe is only a matter of time, and very possibily sooner rather than later.

Most civil wars end in a military victory for one side or the other. Regardless of what Gates says or wants, Iraq will probably end up a Shia fundamentalist dictatorship; the only questions will be about the amount of influence which Iran exerts on the new dictatorship, the depth of anarchy into which Iraq will fall in the meantime, and the volume of the rising river of blood.

Posted by: phx8 at November 26, 2006 7:27 PM
Comment #196517

phx8,

“This Bush administration is a conservative one whose beliefs are fundamentally wrong. Gates will fit right in.”

While I can’t disagree with your logic, I could care less what is good for the administration.
I am more interested in what would be better for the country.
This administration has dragged this country to the ground. It has been a gross embarrassment in the face of what may or may not be a real threat to the way of life, and real security of the world.
The nomination of someone that would be more than yet another “yes man” in this house of fools, could put a face that isn’t wearing clown make-up to the world, and maybe, just maybe, America’s leadership could be seen as more than the idiots they have been portraying lately.

Posted by: Rocky at November 26, 2006 7:56 PM
Comment #196524

Rocky, Phx8, Since when is this administration conservative?

They may wear that coat of arms, but they have been neither conservative in foreign policy or fiscal policy.

Posted by: gergle at November 26, 2006 9:29 PM
Comment #196525

gergle,

Doesn’t matter what they are.
America, under their leadership, has been going down a one way street the wrong way.

Posted by: Rocky at November 26, 2006 9:38 PM
Comment #196545

This is a very good article. I have to put in my usual zero point four seven percent (0.47%) which is the amount of Saddam’s arsenal contributed by the U.S. If you read the linked article carefully, you see the author is searching hard for something to hang his U.S. involvement on. He finds little. We are left with a lot of ominous sounding nothing.

During the Iraq-Iran war, the best outcome for the U.S. was to have no winner. Even today that looks like the best of bad outcomes possible. We tilted toward Iraq and allowed our Arab allies to share intel. This allowed Saddam to anticipate Iranian attacks and helped prevent an Iranian victory.

You mention that the public at the time did not like either side. This was the same with the U.S. government. Sometimes you just do not get the options you want.

Re Gates, he will be confirmed and everybody knows it. Bush will be president for two more years and then he will not be.

Now that Dems control the Congress, there will be a lot less crazy talk. The Dems in Congress already had access to the same sorts of intelligence President Bush used. Their profession of ignorance was never very credible, but at least they could lean on the weak argument that they did not control committees and were blocked by the majority. Now that they control both houses of Congress ALL pretense of not being in the loop will ring hollow.

If the Dems do not like the Bush policy, they can refuse to fund it. If they do not like his nominees they can refuse to confirm them. They can have access to all the briefings they want. They have the power of subpoena. It is always easier to demand something be done than to unveil your own plan.

The plus side to the Dem victories was that they now have got the responsibility they asked for. No more playing the victim. When you are out of power, you can complain with impunity. Having the power and responsibility to do something makes people a lot more circumspect.

As a manager, if I have someone complain a lot I give him the opportunity to come up with a better plan. Sometimes I am surprised by the good ideas and we can implement them. More often they come up with something we considered but found did not work. Most often they don’t come up with much at all, but they stop bothering me. The healthy outcome of this management technique is that it encourages true criticism but shuts off the sniping. The President now has this option with the Dems. I believe they will have some good ideas, but mostly when they have to put up or shut up, we will get a little more golden silence.

The blog Dems, BTW, will be furious in a couple of months as the Dems in power moderate their rhetoric to conform to reality.

Dems will learn the old lesson that it is often better to aspire than to have.

Posted by: jack at November 27, 2006 1:27 AM
Comment #196555

Jack

The realities are that Bush operating policy at best can be percieved as deceptive and politically immoral. For the dems to aspire would be nothing more than lowering their party to the same sleazy failed Bush politics of the last six years.

I and I believe most of the rest of the taxpayers of this nation do truly hope that the dems will be able to walk our nation out of the muck our current congress is mired in. Our vote is demanding exactly that path be taken. I think your concensus that this congress will aspire to business as usual is wrong. The dems have a chance to bring integrity and credibility back into politics. If they are not seen as moving in that direction over the next two years they will have no chance of retaining control. And they know that.

In essence we are asking for a new credible management style. Government managers need to come to the realization that their employer is the american people. They are not above the people and the whinings and complaints of the american people are the demands of their employer. Not merely frivoulous wants to be mildly entertained with the intent of satisfying a passive employee by saying we took a look at your concern.

If there is no clear progress in any direction it will most likely be the result of republican obstuctionism and an indicator that the party did not learn anything from this past election.

To take current aspirations in a new direction can be good and productive. But to aspire to the same old policies and deceptive practices would be non productive and lead us further into the muck.

Posted by: ILdem at November 27, 2006 10:06 AM
Comment #196558

ILdem

The Dems exaggerated the failings of the Republicans in Congress and of George Bush. That was very useful in the elections. They were in the enviable position of essentially being able to blame their opponents for the weather, but it will be much harder now that the onus is on them to actually do something.

If you expect big changes out of the Dem Congress, you will be disappointed. Things are not as bad as we were led to believe and so they cannot be fixed to the extent promised. When you strip away the fanfare, the Dems have a fairly modest agenda. Both Paul Siegel and I have written about it, so you can get both points of view.

All politicans work “for” the American people as their representatives. The Dems now have that role. My point is merely that it is easier to complain about someone else’s program than to unvail one of your own.

You may recall that Dems Controlled both Houses of Congress for most of the post war period. I remember, but I do not remember those times as shining examples of good management or honesty. Unfortunatley, there is a lot of noise in politics. The out party always pretends they will do better.


Posted by: Jack at November 27, 2006 10:29 AM
Comment #196618
Dems will learn the old lesson that it is often better to aspire than to have.

Oh please, Jack. Dems controlled Congress for half a century and did very well. It was you Republicans aspiring for 50 years, and when you finally got up to bat, you wiffed. I hope y’all will learn the lesson, because I’m a big believer in checks and balances and I’d hate to see the GOP become totally irrelevent.

Good article, Christine. I generally believe the President should get his picks unless they’re really bad. That’s why I was pretty mad at Republicans for obstructing Harriet Miers’ appointment. :)

Posted by: American Pundit at November 27, 2006 8:44 PM
Comment #196623

Jack

To be honest I do not believe that the failings of George Bush’s term have been exaggerated at all. This country has all but lost any respect it had within the realm of global politics. This presidents only means of respect is demanded thru military strength. Not thru his or his administrations diplomatic abilities. I can not think of one act of legislation under his congress that has been of great benefit for the american people. I am not saying this out of hatred or vindictiveness. Nor am I implying that the previous democrat reign was anything spectacular. Government in general for the last two decades has been ineffective and non productive for various reasons. The biggest being partisanship and the influence of corruption.

I am sorry if I mis-interpreted the intent of your statements. I felt that you were indeed presenting a negative twist on the party and condeming them before they have even had a chance to attempt change. I read and hear so many hate induced statements between specific party supporters that I think it has made me quick to the trigger. I am not an advocate of hate induced tactics.

It is truly my hope that this election has been interpreted by all parties of congress as a mandate to take out the filth and end corruption in politics. I do wholeheartedly believe that the american people have achieved a new political awareness. And because of that awareness the people will not so easily in the future fall into that void of political passivity. If the voters do fall back into old habits then yes it will be business as usual.

In a nutshell the out party pretending that they will do better, will no longer cut the mustard with the voters.

Posted by: ILdem at November 27, 2006 9:14 PM
Comment #196640

Christine, have you read Gates’ Wikipedia entry?
IMO, Rocky is obviously spot on here — this guy is the same old, same old, Bushco neoconservative crony. His highly probable involvement in the Iran/Contra affair makes me view him as seriously damaged goods, as well.

ILdem, good replies to Jack. I agree 100%.

Posted by: Adrienne at November 27, 2006 11:02 PM
Comment #196691

AP

I do not remember the Dems doing such a good job. We had lots of scandals and missed opportunities. We had some good too. I have not been happy with the spend like Democrats congress of the last few years. But if you take the 1994 to now period, it is good. As an American, I hope the Dems can do better. As realist, I do not expect they will.

1LDem

We disagree about the record. For example, I think the targeted tax cuts of 2003 were essential for our current economic growth. I suppose you disagree.

Government has been non-productive in many ways for more than two decades. I think they did the worst job in the 1970s.

But you may be asking too much of government. There are many things government just cannot do well. I tried to repair some plumbing yesterday. I just ended up breaking a pipe and now I will have to pay more for someone who can actually do the job. I should have known my limitations, and so should government.

Posted by: Jack at November 28, 2006 12:09 PM
Comment #196789

Thanks Adrienne - I did read it and it was a helpful article, especially because of their links to the independent counsel documentation. Those links had the kind of detail I’m weird enough to love :)

And my main feeling is that I don’t trust him either. When I was reading the IC summary about him, I think he probably did know. In any case, he should have known. I feel the same about Reagan. I think they deliberately looked the other way and tried not to know, or at least not to “remember”.

I guess I’m wondering if we can trust him anyway. Mistakes in the past can result in a new philosophy from the pain of the learned lesson, or the fear of the near miss - “Never Again”.

On the other hand, I don’t want this country to sit back and continue to perpetuate, and even amplify, the excesses of the past - “Never Again”…

I’m just evaluating my mainly negative thoughts and wondering if it’s fair to stick him in that time and not allow an evolution.
Than again, that’s probably media influence talking…

Christine

PS to Jack - you just need a good pipe wrench

Posted by: Christine at November 28, 2006 9:46 PM
Comment #196802

Jack

Somehow I knew that you would respond with the tax cuts issue. I do think the tax cuts had some effect. However I do believe that effect has been better for business than the family. It is too well known and painfully obvious that the tax cuts have served mostly to make the rich, richer. The pittance of money that the average middle class family recieves may have collectively spurred the economy but it has done very little to improve the monetary status of the individual middle class family. The numbers may look good on paper but they do not accurately reflect real world scenarios. Most of those people who lost jobs are now working longer hours for less money than before. Foreclosures and family debt are rising. Any money realized thru the tax cuts has easily been consumed by rising energy and health care costs. Unemployment is statistically down but statistics do not allow for those lost to the system because their benefits ran out.

I think if you were to talk to the average consumer they would not agree that they are better off than they were before the cuts. Then there is the issue of all the trillions of dollars in mounting debt as a result of those cuts. The cuts were a temporary fix which are quickly evolving into a more permanent problematic nightmare for future generations. I can not see a rosey picture anywhere in this painting.

I have to agree with you on the non-productive issue. I have tried to place a timeline as to when partisanship and obstructionism seemed to take over government. For some reason I am associating that with the mid eighties. As you can probably tell I think those two issues are the biggest obstructions to productive government.

I do realize that we will never have a perfectly run government. But I do not think it is asking too much for our legislators to put their petty differences aside and together as one legislature do the absolute best they can to fairly and honestly, via negotiation and compromise, represent the real needs of the citizens of this country. That is to say, not only the needs of those with enough wealth to buy their wants.


Posted by: ILdem at November 28, 2006 11:28 PM
Comment #196805

Jack

I have broken enough wrenchs, pipes, bolts, windows, you name it, over the years to learn my limitations. But I still do not let that stop me. Fixing things is just too damned much fun. Even if it doesn’t work out. :)

Posted by: ILdem at November 28, 2006 11:40 PM
Comment #196810

Christine,

I do not know much about Gates other than his involvemnent with the Iran Contra Affair. That in itself should be enough to turn many heads. My guess is he has been selected as another yes man to replace Rumsfield. It seems to me that our president does not care for employees with a mind of their own. Especially those who wish to express their own opinions. To expect anything different would certainly be out of line with past appointments.

Posted by: ILdem at November 28, 2006 11:54 PM
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