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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
"They Hate Freedom"
Josh Marshall sums up every statement Bush has ever made in the past two years in one paragraph:
"Why are things spinning out of control in Iraq? Why are we losing the struggle for hearts and minds in the country? Because we stand for freedom. And the terrorists hate freedom. And they're attacking us because we're bringing freedom to Iraq. And terrorists hate freedom. Therefore they hate us. And since they hate us so much of course they fight us."
Man, it would be great if everything were that crisp, wouldn't it? Good versus evil. No room for grey. Absolute and definitive regardless of the facts. Resolve, resolve, resolve.
Unfortunately for us, things aren't that way. The world is almost never black and white. This is something the Bush administration has never bothered to understand. Marshall has an explaination:
"Falling back on such meaningless statements is precisely what people do when they find themselves unable to reconcile their expectations with what their eyes are showing them."
This administration has repeatedly refused to take a look at what is right before its eyes. There is detail and substance, nuance and complexity. All of it though, has been ignored. Again, Marshall:
"[W]e'd better start digging into the particulars of what's really happening over there or we'll become the primary victims of our whirl of empty, bamboozling phrases. And the infantile belief that everyone who doesn't follow our dictation 'hates freedom' will end up leaving a lot of people really hating us."
Just posting this probably puts me in the catagory of being a "freedom hater" in the eyes of some Bushies. Uh oh.
This Lee Iacocca quote might be a perfect one for Bush:
"If you have an idea but can't articulate it, you don't really have an idea."
This is so true. Watching Bush at his press conference last night was just painful. It is a typical politician move to not answer the question and then circle back to a few talking points, but Bush has taken this to a whole new level.
As Oliver Willis once commented, Bush is that frat guy in college who crams a minute before the test and when a question comes up that he doesn't know, he just writes the one fact that he does remember regardless if it is related to the question.
A press conference might be the worst format for Bush because it amounts to a pop quiz. Let's forget the fact that most all the questions were known ahead of time, it is frightening that he was utterly unprepared for a fresh question:
Q: In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say? And what lessons have you learned from it?
A: Hmmm. I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. I'm sure historians will look back and say, Gosh, he could have done it better this way or that way. You know, I just — I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet.
Stunning. The first requirement of a president should be that he can admit his mistakes. Even if they aren't his mistakes, the buck still stops with the president. Take responsibility. That used to be a virtue, now suddenly it has become a sign of weakness.
Here's what he could have said, and I promise you his numbers would have gone up the next day:
"My biggest mistake? I would have to say that we shouldn't have relied so heavily on faulty intelligence reports that indicated that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It is clear now that those reports, the ones believed by the entire international community, were not as accurate as they could have been. That being the case, I believe that Iraq is now on the path to prosperity and the Iraqi people enjoy the sweet taste of liberty. If anything I think my biggest mistake was emphasizing the uncertainty of our intelligence about questionable weapons of mass destruction over the certain delivery of liberty and freedom from tyranny that the war was able to provide for the oppressed Iraqi people. That, I would have to say, was my biggest regret."
See how I did that? Not that hard. Turn a potentially disasterous answer into one that shows off your strengths. But Bush can't even do that. It hurts to watch this president.
Now that Kerry has outlined his plan for Iraq, what will the conservative talking heads complain about? Today, in the Washington Post, our next president tells us how to really rebuild Iraq:
"To be successful in Iraq, and in any war for that matter, our use of force must be tied to a political objective more complete than the ouster of a regime. To date, that has not happened in Iraq. It is time it did.
"In the past week the situation in Iraq has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. While we may have differed on how we went to war, Americans of all political persuasions are united in our determination to succeed. The extremists attacking our forces should know they will not succeed in dividing America, or in sapping American resolve, or in forcing the premature withdrawal of U.S. troops. Our country is committed to help the Iraqis build a stable, peaceful and pluralistic society. No matter who is elected president in November, we will persevere in that mission.
"But to maximize our chances for success, and to minimize the risk of failure, we must make full use of the assets we have. If our military commanders request more troops, we should deploy them. Progress is not possible in Iraq if people lack the security to go about the business of daily life. Yet the military alone cannot win the peace in Iraq. We need a political strategy that will work.
"WASHINGTON, April 12 — President Bush said Monday that "now may be a time to revamp and reform our intelligence services," opening the way for consideration of changes at the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and other agencies.
"The Bush administration has not acted on a number of far-reaching proposals to reorganize the government's intelligence organizations, including recommendations made last year by a Congressional inquiry into the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and other independent intelligence panels."
Now? Why have we waited for three years? I know Bush hasn't forgotten about September 11 since he mentions it in every Iraq speech, so why are we just getting around to fixing the obviously flawed intelligence agencies three years after the fact? That doesn't make me feel like we have been made safer since September 11.
It is obvious that someone failed to see such attacks coming. If our intelligence community was focused in the right areas we no doubt could have foiled the deadly plot. Three years later Bush thinks "now may be a time to revamp and reform" the system. Wow. That should have happened on September 12.
The system was in trouble before the attacks and clearly must have been unorganized for several years in order to miss a plot such as quadruple hijackings, but the Bush Administration is simply lying if it says terrorism was a high priority before the attacks.
"WASHINGTON - The FBI failed miserably over several years to reorganize and respond to a steadily growing threat of terrorism, and Attorney General John Ashcroft rejected an agency appeal for more funding on the day before al-Qaida struck, the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks said Tuesday.
"Ashcroft has testified previously that the Justice Department had "no higher priority" than protecting Americans from terrorism at home and abroad.
"Yet the commission staff statement quotes a former FBI counterterrorism chief, Dale Watson, as saying he "almost fell out of his chair" when he saw a May 10 budget memo from Ashcroft listing seven priorities, including illegal drugs and gun violence, but not terrorism.
"Additionally, on Sept. 10, Ashcroft rejected an appeal from Pickard for additional funding, the commission said."
There is no explaining this away. The intelligence community was mismanaged and disorganized, but the Bush administration shouldn't try to insist that the only reason it couldn't stop the attacks was because it had only been in office for eight months. There were opportunities to boost counterterrorism and they were rejected. That isn't what the administration wants you to hear, but the facts don't lie.