Saturday, September 15, 2007

Power Lines

How many times have we heard conservatives say that “government should be run like a business”? I never agreed with the premise, since government usually ends up with tasks that aren’t designed for profitability, but let’s assume that you’re a conservative and you like the idea.

In that case, what was this little hootenany about this last week?

In what private sector job do you get to do your own performance review, as General Petraeus just did? Petraeus came to Washington, told us about how terrific all the progress is, Bush says, “Okay, good,” and now we’re all supposed to bow our heads in agreement?

Besides, the general is required to give a good report. Every time a general comes back with negative news to report, Bush yanks him.

Certainly, it’s tempting for a President to simply validate what the military is saying. Here are people devoting their lives to the defense of our country, experts in the field. Even if you make a mistake in backing them, you can always say, as Bush does, “They’re the military. Naturally, I listened to what they said, not to some politicians in Washington.”

Just two minor problems with that idea. One, in this country it is the specific job of the politicians to tell the military what to do. Our Constitution is nothing more than an 18th century placemat, without the fact that our elected civilian officials have power over the military.

Second, at key moments in American history, we were saved by Presidents who refused to follow their generals’ advice. President Lincoln sacked General McClellan in the Civil war, President Truman countermanded General MacArthur in the Korean War, and if President Kennedy had listened to his generals during the Cuban Missile Crisis, much of North America would be a nuclear wasteland right now.

It’s fine and dandy to have a President who has the support of our military. It’s far more important to have someone in the job who’s willing to tell them “no.”

Friday, September 14, 2007

“At this moment, experts believe I am giving a terrific speech.”

If you heard the president’s message Thursday night, perhaps you felt the same craving I did—a hunger for facts. We live in an information based society everywhere but the White House. The president went on television and praised himself and his policies with no solid facts in support, saying things like,

“…our success in meeting these objectives (basically, security) now allows us to begin bringing some of our troops home.”

The proof of that success?

“Today, a city where al-Qaeda once planted its flag is beginning to return to normal. Anbar citizens who once feared beheading for talking to an American or Iraqi soldier now come forward to tell us where the terrorists are hiding.”

So, security, that’s good, right? Later on, far after he’s done praising himself, when he’s moved on to another topic, Bush happens to mention:

“Earlier today, one of the brave tribal sheikhs who helped lead the revolt against al-Qaeda was murdered.”

Okay, so if you oppose Al Qaeda in Iraq, even if you’re successful, apparently they can still find you and kill you. So, it’s a mixed bag.

But wait, we have expert testimony:

“This week, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified before Congress about how that strategy is progressing … they concluded that conditions in Iraq are improving, that we are seizing the initiative from the enemy and that the troop surge is working.”

Or, to rephrase, “two people who work for me think we’re doing a great job.”

Then there’s this gem,

“Throughout Iraq, too many citizens are being killed by terrorists and death squads.”

Y’know how many “too many” is? One. One is too many citizens killed by terrorists and death squads. But I’m gonna guess you have an actual number, vastly larger than one, which you won’t share. Not just because it would be embarrassing, but because it would be a fact.

The speech was filled with what people think about how they feel, and what we should feel about what they’ve done, but no facts.

Come on, Mr. President, mention a fact…ANY fact… “there are four quarts in a gallon,” “on March July, October, May, the ides fall on the fifteenth day,” “my Vice President feeds on human flesh.” ANYTHING that isn’t some posed oil painting of how you wish things were, but is a picture of what is. Just once. For variety’s sake.


It must bring real comfort to those brave men and women serving in Iraq, to know that while they’re fighting a war, serving their country, risking death, their Republican representatives and senators are ever vigilant, doing everything humanly possible to expose the gays in their party and treat them like dirt.