Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bush Now Faces An All Too Real Republican Revolt

From the UK Guardian's Comment Is Free (excerpts) :

Sidney Blumenthal
When the hopelessly prodigal son mounts the podium to deliver his sixth State of the Union address, seated behind him will be the parents he never had: the good mother, caring yet demanding responsibility, and the bad father, granting license for misadventure. As he evades and rebuffs the speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, President Bush clings to the vice-president, Dick Cheney, as his permissive authority figure.

...Bush has decided that public opinion is no longer a factor that concerns him. Every other president coping with the hazards of war, from Lincoln to Nixon, strained to manage public support. At a similar stage in the Nixon presidency, Nixon was drunk, speaking to the portraits on the White House walls, and forcing Henry Kissinger to pray with him on his knees.

With the public hardening and broadening its opposition to his policy, Bush has simply cut himself off from its opinion. He has abandoned caring what the country thinks, except in his imagined end of the story, where he is the victor. For now, he will escalate as he pleases, blessed by Cheney.

"Have you read about Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam? Do you draw any lessons from that?" a reporter from USA Today asked the president in an interview published on Monday. In response Bush telescoped the entire tragic history of the Vietnam war and Johnson's agonies into slogans, slurring Johnson's patriotism in order to create a contrast with his own.

"Yes, win," he replied. "Win, when you're in a battle for the security ... if it has to do with the security of your country, you win."

In another interview a week earlier, on January 14, on CBS's 60 Minutes, Bush repelled any suggestion of responsibility for error in his Iraq policy. He located the lack of public support in the United States in the insufficient thanks offered by the Iraqis. "Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?" asked correspondent Scott Pelley.

"That we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?" replied the president.

"Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion."

"Not at all," said Bush. "I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq."

Two days later, Gianni Magazzeni, the chief of the UN assistance mission for Iraq, declared that 34,452 Iraqi civilians had been killed and 36,685 wounded in 2006.

As Bush's popularity continued to plummet, Cheney appeared on January 14 on Fox News to wave away the polls.

"I've seen embattled administrations, and this isn't one of them."

On the podium, as Bush confronts his first Democratic Congress, the state of the parties could not be more sharply divergent. In a little more than the two weeks since the new Congress was sworn in, Pelosi has commandingly dispelled nearly every stereotype about the Democrats that was propagated in the campaigns against them while they were out of power.

The Republican party, disoriented by defeat, its leadership unable to whip its troops into line without the incentives of entrenched power, and crushed by Bush's unpopularity, has turned into a scene from bedlam.

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who is rumoured to be thinking of retiring, called Bush's policy "Alice in Wonderland".

Another Republican facing re-election, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, said, "I just don't believe this makes sense," adding that he would "stand against" Bush's Iraq policy.

On Monday, Senator John Warner of Virginia, the ranking Republican on the armed forces committee, introduced a resolution opposing Bush's "surge" (co-sponsored by Coleman and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine).

"I personally, speaking for myself, have great concern about the American GI being thrust into that situation, the origins of which sometimes go back over a thousand years," Warner said.

When Republicans in Congress see Bush, they are staring into the abyss.

Oblivious to realities in Iraq, Bush is also increasingly oblivious to political realities at home.

Herbert Hoover, acclaimed as the most talented and skilful man of his time, was incapable of rising above his narrow perspectives in the face of the Depression, and his stubborn limitations marked his party for two generations.

Bush views his State of the Union speech as another occasion for declaring what he will do regardless of what anyone thinks (with Cheney's approval).

His intention is not to report on the state of the union. It is to express his state of indifference to the union.

The Whole Piece Is Worth A Read, For The Nixon Juxtapositions Alone