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Month: August 2006 (page 1 of 3)

Rumsfeld’s Other Question

The crux of Tuesday’s demagogic address by Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld was:

[Before World War II] was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among Western democracies. When those who warned about a coming crisis, the rise of fascism and nazism, they were ridiculed or ignored.
Indeed, in the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated or that it was someone else’s problem. Some nations tried to negotiate a separate peace, even as the enemy made its deadly ambitions crystal clear…
… I recount that history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism.
Today — another enemy, a different kind of enemy — has made clear its intentions with attacks in places like New York and Washington, D.C., Bali, London, Madrid, Moscow and so many other places. But some seem not to have learned history’s lessons.
We need to consider the following questions, I would submit:

  • With the growing lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?
  • Can folks really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists?
  • Can we afford the luxury of pretending that the threats today are simply law enforcement problems, like robbing a bank or stealing a car; rather than threats of a fundamentally different nature requiring fundamentally different approaches?
  • And can we really afford to return to the destructive view that America, not the enemy, but America, is the source of the world’s troubles?
    These are central questions of our time, and we must face them and face them honestly.

  • It would seem that list of questions is missing something.
    Something like what Mr. Rumsfeld asked, in a private memo three years ago:

    Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

    OK! Now we have a complete list of “central” Rummy questions. So let’s answer them all.
    With the growing lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?
    Appeased? No. Isolated by strengthening moderates, promoting credible democracy (not phony democracy at the point of a gun), and eradicating poverty? Yes.
    (Hitler would have never risen to power if Germany’s democracy wasn’t weakened by the disastrous state of its economy. There’s a history lesson for ya.)
    Can folks really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists?
    Uh, no one ever did.
    Can we afford the luxury of pretending that the threats today are simply law enforcement problems, like robbing a bank or stealing a car; rather than threats of a fundamentally different nature requiring fundamentally different approaches?
    Forgive me, I’d answer but I’m laughing too hard. (Three sentences later, Rummy referenced “the plot that was discovered in London,” which of course was discovered by British law enforcement.)
    And can we really afford to return to the destructive view that America, not the enemy, but America, is the source of the world’s troubles?
    Well, before we answer that, let’s jump to the next question.
    Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?
    No, because the reckless, undemocratic, unilateralist policies of Rumsfeld and his boss do not “deter and dissuade” terrorists, but help radical clerics recruit.
    So, to answer the previous question:
    America, the nation, is not “the source” of the world’s troubles.
    The American people are not “the source” of the world’s troubles.
    But the policies of the Bush Administration, while not “the source” of the world’s troubles, certainly contribute to them.
    And they need to be reversed in order to solve the world’s problems.

    What We Know About PlameGate

    Today, the NY Times and W. Post further confirm the scoop by David Corn and Michael Isikoff, that Richard Armitage — Colin Powell’s #2 when they were both at the State Dept. — was Bob Novak’s other source for his outing of Valerie Plame Wilson.
    Armitage is no neocon (though he is now advising neocon John McCain), and was not part of the Cheney-Libby-Rove effort to discredit Joseph Wilson.
    Isikoff suggests Armitage was just being a cavalier gossip, who “apparently hadn’t thought through the possible implications of telling Novak about Plame’s identity.”
    Corn floated the possibility that he may have been trying to distance his fellow moderates at State from Wilson, so White House officials wouldn’t be further suspicious of their loyalty to the Administration.
    More importantly, both stress that there were two tracks of leaks.
    One involved Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove as part of an underhanded campaign against Joe Wilson. The other was Armitage on his own with little to no nefarious motive.
    The surfacing of the Armitage track does not magically wash away what we already knew about the Cheney-Libby-Rove track.
    We know that Cheney raised the notion that Wilson’s fact-finding mission to Niger was a “junket” arranged by Plame.
    We know that Libby — Cheney’s #2 — sought a memo from State to learn more about the origins of Wilson’s trip. (That memo fell into Armitage’s hands and was the source of his leak to Novak. It also, according to Corn, was “based on notes that were not accurate.”)
    We know that Libby leaked about Plame to NY Times’ Judy Miller and Time’s Matt Cooper.
    We know that Rove leaked to Cooper and Novak.
    We know that these leaks occurred (as Corn reminds us) “prior to the appearance of the Bob Novak column that contained the Armitage leak.”
    We know that Libby has been indicted for lying about his role in the leak.
    We know that even though Rove was not indicted, by discussing the identity of an undercover agent with reporters, he violated his security clearance agreement.
    And it has been 1147 days since that agreement was violated without the White House taking the necessary “corrective action.”
    (Armitage also should have lost his security clearance, but he’s no longer in the Administration and presumably, he doesn’t currently have clearance to lose.)
    What we don’t know is if the Special Counsel investigation will go beyond the Libby indictment.
    We know there will be no indictments of Rove and Armitage. (We don’t know why exactly there was no Rove indictment.)
    We know there have not been any indictments over the leaks themselves.
    (Which is not the same as saying the leaks were not crimes. Fitzgerald described his four criteria for an indictment: determining “whether a crime has been committed, who has committed the crime, whether you can prove the crime and whether the crime should be charged.” He may believe the leak was a crime, but be unsure of his ability to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, or have other political or practical reasons for not charging the crime. )
    We don’t know if that will always be the case. (TalkLeft suspects the investigation, which is still open, has an eye on Cheney.)
    But even if there are no more indictments, what is known is disturbing and damning.
    A anonymous campaign was waged by taxpayer-paid government officials to tar the reputation of a Administration critic exercising his First Amendment rights, destroying his wife’s career as a public servant in the process.
    It was true before the Armitage revelation. It’s true now.

    Editor’s Note

    LiberalOasis will not publish a daily column today, but will return on Wednesday.

    LiberalOasis on Air America Tonight

    I’ll be on The Majority Report around 8:30 PM ET tonight (a little earlier than usual). Click here to listen online or find a station near you.

    Sunday Talkshow Breakdown

    With the one-year anniversary of Katrina approaching, the White House knew it’s due for another chroncling of how it is failing the displaced victims.
    So it dispatched Don Powell, the Federal Coordinator of Gulf Coast Rebuilding to ABC’s This Week and Fox News Sunday to spin hard and shift blame.
    In particular, Powell knew he was going to get hit for the slow pace of aid: despite Congress having appropriated $110 billion, only $44 billion has actually been spent.
    So he peddled this dishonest talking point about the status of the relief funds:

    It’s not unlike your checking account. When your wages are deposited into your checking account, the money is there. The 110 billion dollars is there.
    And you draw down on that checking account as you receive bills.

    Of course, it’s not like a checking account at all.
    If it’s in your checking account, then you have direct access to it, and you can get to work on rebuilding your life.
    In reality, most people in need don’t have direct access to anything.
    The money is not in their checking accounts. It’s bottled up in bad bureaucracy. They can’t rebuild until the money is actually distributed.
    The Los Angeles Times has the gruesome details:

    Some federal agencies acted quickly … Flood insurance payments moved early and efficiently … But other agencies proved inflexible and overwhelmed, making little effort to clear bureaucratic obstructions and releasing available aid at a trickle.
    In July, Congress’ nonpartisan Government Accountability Office reported that disbursement of Small Business Administration recovery loans was marred by “significant delays.”
    A report last week from Democrats on the House Small Business Committee said that of $10 billion approved for such loans, just 20% had reached recipients…
    …The telltale effects of the unspent billions emerge in the bitter accounts of homeowners who have waited for months for trailers that have not arrived, merchants who agonize over government loans still pending, town officials frustrated by rebuilding efforts stalled by the vagaries of federal regulations…
    …At times, FEMA’s slowness to provide funds has paralyzed state agencies required under federal law to match 10% of the cost of repair work, said [Brookings Institution’s] Amy Liu…”FEMA provided the most cumbersome, reflexively slow response we’ve ever seen when it comes to disaster assistance,” said Liu…
    …When the Office of Management and Budget released its spending overview last week [it] showed that HUD had spent only $100 million of its overall $17.1 billion congressional allocation.
    The failure to start a full-scale housing reconstruction program until nearly a year after Katrina, critics contend, left thousands of storm and flood victims in the lurch.

    Also on This Week, Dem Senator Mary Landrieu lamented about the slow aid, saying that “the mechanisms that we have in Washington to receive that money and distribute it don’t work.”
    George Stephanopoulos jumped in and suggested that fraud was the problem, that $2B of FEMA money has been lost to fraud.
    Interestingly, Landrieu retorted “that’s the little fraud” done by individuals. She continued:

    I’m talking about the big fraud … the money that came down to contracts for everything — from debris removal to blue tarps to the trailers — basically 30 to 40 percent never reached anybody because it went to the contractors for profits.

    Stephanopoulos didn’t pick up on what she was talking about and moved on to another topic.
    But New Orleans law prof Bill Quigley, in the latest Louisiana Weekly, expounds on what the Senator was referring to — the “disaster profiteers”:

    Congress and the national media have so far been frustrated in their quest to get real answers to where the millions and billions went.
    How much was actually spent on FEMA trailers? How much did the big contractors take off the top and then subcontract out the work? Who were the subcontractors for the multi-million dollar debris removal and reconstruction contracts?
    As Corpwatch says in their recent report[:]
    “Many of the same ‘disaster profiteers’ and government agencies that mishandled the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq are responsible for the failure of ‘reconstruction’ of the Gulf Coast region. The Army Corps, Bechtel and Halliburton are using the very same ‘contract vehicles’ in the Gulf Coast as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are ‘indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity’ open-ended ‘contingency’ contracts that are being abused by the contractors on the Gulf Coast to squeeze out local companies. These are also ‘cost-plus’ contracts that allow them to collect a profit on everything they spend, which is an incentive to overspend.”…
    Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota has raised many protests and questions over inflated prices. “It is hard to overstate the incompetence involved in all of these contracts – we have repeatedly asked them for information and you get nothing.”…
    …There are many other examples of fraud, waste and patronage.
    How did a company that did not own a truck get a contract for debris removal worth hundreds of millions of dollars?…
    …How did a company that filed for bankruptcy the year before and was not licensed to build trailers get a $200 million contract for trailers?

    (By the way, if there’s one piece you need to read to fully understand what is happening in New Orleans, it’s Quigley’s: Trying to Make It Home: New Orleans One Year After Katrina.)
    The White House’s credibility is shot in general. It’s especially shot when it comes to Katrina.
    Sunday’s spinfest, once again juxtaposed with stark scenes of failure, will do nothing to salvage that deserved reputation.

    The Annotated New York Times

    The following is an annotated version of yesterday’s front-page NY Times story on Iran.
    Some in G.O.P. Say Iran Threat Is Played Down
    By MARK MAZZETTI
    [Not “Some Dems Caution Against Iran Threat Hype” or “Intel Officials Speak Out Against Right-Wing Pressure On Iran”]
    WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 — Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.
    [Who needs Judy Miller?]
    Some policy makers have accused intelligence agencies of playing down Iran’s role in Hezbollah’s recent attacks against Israel [Three weeks ago, we at the Times buried in back pages the intel community assessment that there was no evidence Iran was directly involved. To ensure balance, today we have reported the other side on the front page.] and overestimating the time it would take for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.
    The complaints, expressed privately in recent weeks, surfaced in a Congressional report about Iran released Wednesday. They echo the tensions that divided the administration and the Central Intelligence Agency during the prelude to the war in Iraq.
    [Officials were “divided” into two camps, “Totally Wrong” and “Totally Right.” The “tensions” were created when the “Totally Wrong” camp systemically intimidated the “Totally Right” camp.]
    The criticisms reflect the views of some [“Totally Wrong”] officials inside the White House and the Pentagon who advocated going to war with Iraq and now are pressing for confronting Iran directly over its nuclear program and ties to terrorism, say officials with knowledge of the debate.
    The dissonance is surfacing just as the intelligence agencies are overhauling their procedures to prevent a repeat of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate — the faulty assessment that in part set the United States on the path to war with Iraq.
    [Shame, shame intelligence agencies. Shame for your faultiness. Get intimidated better next time.]
    The new report, from the House Intelligence Committee, led by Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, portrayed Iran as a growing threat and criticized American spy agencies for cautious assessments about Iran’s weapons programs.
    “Intelligence community managers and analysts must provide their best analytical [baseless] judgments [assertions] about Iranian W.M.D. programs and not shy away from [our] provocative conclusions or bury disagreements in consensus assessments [like when we intimidated them to bury assessments that there wasn’t good evidence of Iraq WMD],” the report said…
    Some policy makers also said they were displeased that American spy agencies were playing down intelligence reports — including some from the Israeli government — of extensive contacts recently between Hezbollah and members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. [Like this report out of Israel saying, “no serving Israeli official, intelligence officer, or other military officer felt that the Hezbollah acted under the direction of Iran or Syria.”]
    “The people in the community are unwilling to make judgment calls and don’t know how to link anything together,” one senior United States official said. “We’re not in a court of law,” he said. “When they say there is ‘no evidence,’ you have to ask them what they mean, what is the meaning of the term ‘evidence’?”
    [Yes! More judgment calls! Less evidence! If only they operated that way for Iraq, there wouldn’t have been all that faultiness.]

    Officials from across the government — including from within the Bush administration, Congress and American intelligence agencies — spoke for this article on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a debate over classified intelligence information. Some officials said that given all that had happened over the last four years, it was only appropriate that the intelligence agencies took care to avoid going down the same path that led the United States to war with Iraq.
    [Now that we’ve given the neocons the front page, it’s time for some balance on the back page.]
    “Analysts were burned pretty badly during the run-up to the war in Iraq,” said Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. “I’m not surprised that some in the intelligence community are a bit gun-shy about appearing to be war mongering.”
    [Ow! Ow! Ow! Uh, sorry, that’s my head repeatedly hitting a wall.]
    Several intelligence officials said that American spy agencies had made assessments in recent weeks that despite established ties between Iran and Hezbollah and a well-documented history of Iran arming the organization, there was no credible evidence to suggest either that Iran ordered the Hezbollah raid that touched off the recent fighting or that Iran was directly controlling attacks against Israel.
    “There are no provable signs of Iranian direction on the ground,” said one intelligence official in Washington. “Nobody should think that Hezbollah is a remote-controlled entity.” American military assessments have broadly echoed this view, say people who maintain close ties to military intelligence officers.
    [C’mon intel analysts! Make some analytical judgments and provocative conclusions already!]

    Many senior Bush administration officials have long been dismissive of the work of the intelligence agencies.
    Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon set up an office led by Douglas J. Feith, the Defense Department’s third-ranking civilian official at the time, that sifted through raw intelligence to look for links between terrorist networks and governments like Iraq’s.
    In the months before the Iraq war, Vice President Dick Cheney made repeated trips to the C.I.A. and asked analysts pointed questions about their conclusions that Iraq had no direct ties to Al Qaeda. Both the Pentagon office and Mr. Cheney’s visits were roundly criticized, which is why officials said that policy makers were now being careful about circumventing the intelligence agencies to seek alternate analyses.
    [Instead, they are attacking and denigrating intelligence agencies in public, with the help of publications like the NY Times. Saves on staff time and on money for cab rides to Langley.]

    The House Intelligence Committee report released Wednesday was written primarily by Republican staff members on the committee, and privately [because why speak publicly and stand up to Republicans when you can keep your name out of the paper, relegate your comments to the back page, and save yourself a headache later] some Democrats criticized the report for using innuendo and unsubstantiated assertions to inflate the threat that Iran posed to the United States.

    Earlier this year, the intelligence agencies put new procedures in place to help avoid the type of analysis that was contained in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq and to prevent another “Curveball” — the code name of the Iraqi source who fed the United States faulty intelligence about Iraq’s biological weapons program.

    Thomas Fingar, the deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, said analysts now had much more information about the sources of raw intelligence coming from the field.
    “Analysts have to know more about the sources than was generally the case before the Iraq estimate,” Mr. Fingar said. Analysts also are required to include in their reports more information about the chain of logic that led them to their conclusions about sensitive topics like Iran, North Korea and global terrorism — “showing your work,” as Mr. Fingar put it.
    At the same time, Mr. Fingar dismissed the notion that intelligence analysts should try merely to connect random intelligence findings. “As a 40-year analyst, I’m offended by the notion of ‘connecting dots,'” he said. “If you had enough monkeys you could do that.”
    [In an unrelated development, Mr. Fingar’s wife, an undercover agent who had infiltrated Al Qaeda and was on the verge of capturing Osama bin Laden, had her cover blown by bloggers at National Review’s The Corner, who insist they were just repeating what everyone at the Starbucks was already talking about.]
    The consensus of the intelligence agencies is that Iran is still years away from building a nuclear weapon. Such an assessment angers some in Washington, who say that it ignores the prospect that Iran could be aided by current nuclear powers like North Korea.
    “When the intelligence community says Iran is 5 to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon, I ask: ‘If North Korea were to ship them a nuke tomorrow [or if a rag-tag band of Cuban freedom fighters needed snappy new uniforms, and we needed to sell Iran a nuke to pay for them], how close would they be then?'” said Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.
    “The intelligence community is dedicated to predicting the least dangerous world possible,” he said. [“Whereas I am dedicated to objectively informing you that IT’S WORLD WAR THREE RIGHT NOW SOUND THE ALARM LOCK AND LOAD TURN YOUR FOREIGN-LOOKING NEIGHBORS IN WRITE SOME HISTORICAL FICTION OUR SURVIVAL IS AT STAKE!”]
    Some veterans of the intelligence battles that preceded the Iraq war see the debate as familiar and are critical of efforts to create hard links based on murky intelligence.
    “It reflects a certain way of looking at the world — that all evil is traceable to the capitals of certain states,” said Paul R. Pillar, who until last October oversaw American intelligence assessments about the Middle East. “And that, in my view, is a very incorrect way of interpreting the security challenges we face.”
    [Sorry, Mrs. Pillar]

    The Majority Report To Move To 9 AM

    Two weeks ago, LiberalOasis urged readers to help save Air America Radio’s “The Majority Report.” Today, host Sam Seder announced that Air America is not only keeping the show, but moving it to the 9 AM-12 PM slot. And he credits all the emails of support that were received. Thanks to all who wrote in.
    And if you haven’t seen it already, check out yesterday’s Boston Globe profile of Sam.

    For Iraq: Summit or Civil War?

    Today’s W. Post piece on the rise of Shia militias ends on a note that buttresses the arguments of those that want US troops to stay in Iraq:

    Ultimately, [International Crisis Group analyst Joost] Hiltermann said, the Mahdi Army, as well as the Supreme Council and both groups’ Sunni rivals, need only bide their time, until growing opposition to the war among the American public brings U.S. troops home. ‘Then the real struggle begins,’ Hiltermann said.

    In other words, when we leave, all hell will break loose. (As if we’re not witnessing hell in Iraq right now.)
    But that assumes if we leave, we don’t do anything but leave.
    Yet there are ideas on the table regarding how we can begin a diplomatic process that would resolve sectarian disputes, and allow us to leave behind a stable situation.
    Ivo Daalder summed up the problem, and sketched out a plausible solution, on TPMCafe back in May:

    …before we conclude that there is no hope — and accept that Iraq’s future is a Hobbesian state of nature — it is worth trying one last time to reach a political settlement.
    Normal politics won’t do. Even if Iraq gets a unity government .. the most important issues dividing Iraqis would remain unresolved.
    These include such fundamental issues as how power is to be shared between the central government and the regional governments, who controls current and future oil revenues, how many security forces are allowed to exist and under whose control, how power is to be shared between the presidency, the government, and the national parliament, and what role religion will play in the judicial system.
    All of these issues remain unresolved, and until an agreement has been reached on every one of them that is acceptable to all the major parties, the roots of conflict remain.
    To find out whether such an agreement can be arrived at through the force of argument rather than the force of violence, we need an extraordinary political process — one that is both time-limited and conveys a clear signal that our involvement in Iraq will end without a viable and lasting compromise among all the parties.
    This should involve a political conference, held under international auspices, in which all the major Iraqi leaders would convene in an effort to strike a final political deal on the political make-up of the Iraqi state — including on the key issues mentioned above…
    …The effort should be overseen by an international mediator … It should be given a narrow time window — say, 14 days — to succeed. And it should be clear to all the parties that a failure to reach an agreement would mean the end of international involvement — including of American and other foreign troops — in Iraq.
    Equally important, it should be clear that in the event agreement is reached, the extent and nature of any international involvement would be decided by the parties themselves as part of any such agreement.

    Daalder was not the first, or last, the push the idea of a real international conference — as opposed to a “unity” government created under pressure from a foreign occupier — to address the root causes of sectarian strife.
    Both the Feingold-Kerry and the Levin-Reed Democratic plans call for such a summit.
    Earlier this month, war supporter Tom Friedman jumped on the bandwagon, properly noting that: “For such a conference to come about, though, the U.S. would probably need to declare its intention to leave.” Bye-bye permanent bases.
    That means having American neocons loosen their grip over the Iraqi government, so it won’t happen while Dubya is around.
    Further, as more attention falls on the increasing power of Mahdi Army leader Moqtada Al-Sadr, right-wingers will follow Sen. John McCain’s lead. On Sunday’s Meet The Press, McCain singled out Sadr as the main problem who needs to be taken out by force.
    That is silliness.
    Sadr has grassroots support and 32 followers in the Iraqi parliament. He is not the only unsavory character fostering violence in the country.
    To outright attack him now is to take sides in a civil war.
    It will not solve a root problem, it will create more.
    Those Democrats who have been supportive of an international summit as the key to a responsible withdrawal need to challenge McCain’s reckless logic.
    If Dem let McCain frame the argument, they will look like weaklings who just don’t have the stomach to take out a bad guy.
    If Dems are framing the argument, people will understand that McCain is proposing an irresponsible escalation of the civil war with the help of our troops, while a responsible withdrawal requires a negotiated agreement between the warring parties.

    Attack Iran Project Still On Track

    In June, when the Bushies supported a diplomatic overture to Iran, the plugged-in conservative pundits at Fox let us know that the White House Iran strategy hadn’t really changed.
    As noted here, Brit Hume said:

    [This is] not a particularly big deal. Not really a major policy shift. This is an adjustment in tactics, is really what it was.
    And there’s no real hope in the administration that the Iranians will take this offer and agree to verified suspension of their uranium enrichment.
    The whole purpose of this exercise was to force the pace of diplomatic events.
    There’s a belief in the administration that a moment of truth is coming with Iran when it finally does face the prospect of some U.N.-applied sanctions, and that’s when we’ll find out whether it’s possible short of military action to end their military program.

    Since then, the Bushies were able to pass a UN Security Council resolution telling Iran to stop enriching uranium, albeit only after Russia and China forced them to drop a clause that would have imposed immediate economic sanctions if Iran didn’t comply.
    (The Council would have to pass another resolution if sanctions are to happen.)
    Now that Iran has not agreed to suspend enrichment, but instead has proposed restarting negotiations, the fine folks at Fox are reminding us that this was the hoped for outcome all along.
    Here’s Charles Krauthammer, from yesterday’s “Special Report with Brit Hume”:

    All of this process is a dance. It was never a real offer to Iran. There’s nobody in the Administration who expected Iran would say yes.
    It was all about carrots for the allies. The allies wanted to go an extra mile. So we said OK, we’ll give you an extra three months…
    …if the end comes where we have to actually use force … this process is a way to at least ensure that our closest allies will not oppose us and denounce us. They will perhaps take a position of neutrality after we have shown them that we would look for every other avenue.

    The next step now is a sanctions resolution.
    And it’s an open question whether or not one can pass, and if it can pass, how extensive will the sanctions be.
    Today’s NY Times’ reports that to keep Russia and China on board, any sanctions package would have to be very limited in scope.
    So chances are, Iran will keep enriching whether sanctions pass or not.
    If they pass, the Bushies can say they tried ’em and they didn’t work before attacking.
    If they don’t pass, the Bushies can say the UN failed to enforce their own resolution before attacking.
    That doesn’t mean an attack is imminent, just that the Bushies are steadily progressing in establishing their pretext for an attack.
    Dems can’t control what the Bushies do. But they can stand up to the Bushies, reshape the discourse, and rally public opinion for real negotiations and a real solution for Middle East security and stability.
    Back in June, Sen. Joe Biden showed an inclination to do just that, saying about Iran, “I think we’ve kind of seen this movie before in Korea,” where Bush agreed to talks but not to making any serious proposals.
    But there hasn’t been any sort of sustained effort by Dems to challenge Bush’s sincerity about a negotiated solution.
    If Biden follows through on his earlier comments and steps up his criticism of the whole process, that would be helpful. Something to watch for.

    The Election Will Not Be Nationalized

    With the Republican White House and Republican Congress suffering abysmal poll numbers, Republican candidates will not “nationalize” the election by running on a coordinated message and agenda.
    Instead, some candidates will be putting distance between themselves and Dubya on issues like Iraq, immigration and spending.
    Typically, when the party in power is unpopular, weak and in disarray, the opposition party is eager to nationalize the election and secure a mandate for a different ldeological direction.
    Washington Democrats have seemed conflicted over whether that was the right strategy.
    But last month, they unveiled “A New Direction For America” which featured the “Six For ’06” Agenda, outlining what Dems would do if voters returned them to power.
    The Carpetbagger Report assessed it best:

    These are six solid points that hit all of the major concerns [but] the agenda has a vague laundry-list quality, and there’s no real theme or narrative that ties the points together.

    In turn, while there’s been no real quibbling over the substance, individual Dem candidates have not been impressed enough with the overall package to adopt it as the basis of their campaign strategy.
    Furthermore, there’s been no real follow-through by the Washington Dems to inform voters about their agenda. (Can you recall the six points?)
    At last month’s announcement, Harry Reid dismissed the political significance of Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract With America.”
    That was a sign that “Six For ’06” was not intended to be all that prominent.
    In other words, they’re not interested in nationalizing the election.
    Is that a bad thing?
    Not necessarily in the short-term.
    It doesn’t always take a “Contract” to take back Congress. Disgust with incumbents may well be enough to get the job done.
    But Democrats still have a long-term problem with voters losing a sense of what the party fundamentally stands for.
    Winning Congress doesn’t automatically solve that problem.
    If anything, it puts major pressure on the party to show that they know where they want to take country, and to act.
    So if Dems haven’t already hammered out consensus among themselves about what a “New Direction” really means, they’ll be stuck hashing it out in the spotlight.
    And if it becomes a squabble-fest, victory will be fleeting.
    The point is: a national party has to have national principles, and eventually, has to lay them on the line for the nation to consider if it wants to hold a long-lasting majority.
    You can do it now. You can do it later.
    But if you wait too long, voters will start to think that you don’t stand for anything.

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