In a shrewd bit of political manouvering, Bush will ask for another $25 billion to cover the reconstruction effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. The spin from the White House is that they really didn't want to have to do this before the November election but that getting a "down payment" for fiscal year 2005 would make things run smoother.
That's a lie if I ever heard one. The White House knows that by forcing additional funding for Iraq during the election they will force Kerry into one of several tight spots. Here are the options:
- Kerry votes Yes for the $25 billion, no questions asked. As a result Nader gains with a more legitimate anti-war message. It also helps Nader's argument that Bush and Kerry are no different. Furthermore it shows Kerry to be a legitimate flip-flopper considering he voted against the $87 billion a year before.
- Kerry supports the additional funding but ties himself up in the details of the bill in the process of trying to get the kind of spelled out funding that he really wants. As a result Kerry looks even more confusing and technical - something that will not help his, thusfar, confusing message.
- Kerry votes No because he feels the funding is misguided and unnecessary and that instead of American taxpayer paying, the Bush administration should push for greater financial support from allies. While this would keep Kerry consistent from his No vote on the $87 billion, it wouldn't help his image in terms of being serious about the war. I know, I know, this is a crock, but in terms of the public perception, its not going to be a winner.
So what should Kerry do? Perhaps the best option would be for Kerry to propose his own, larger funding bill that would fund homeland security as well and would make funding dependent on matching funding from allies, which would force the Bush administration to actively seek international support.
The drawbacks of this though are two fold: Kerry's plan wouldn't pass in an election year and with Democrats in the minority in Congress. Kerry's plan would fail while Bush's would succeed. Not the best situation. Secondly, he can't ignore Bush's bill altogether. It will come up and he will have to vote on it one way or the other.
He will have to make a stand - but that stand could expose him to charges of hypocrisy (if he votes for it) or to charges of weakness (if he votes against it). It is a bad situation all the way around for Kerry, and a brilliant move by the White House.
Finally the White House has made a smart move. But in typical Republican behavior, that smart move is one that gains by playing on the short attention span of the public. Bush is hoping - probably correctly - that the public won't listen to Kerry's important nuance on the issue. He has thrown Kerry for a loop. It will be interesting to see how Kerry gets through this one.
Speaking with reporters during a White House visit by the Canadian Prime Minister, Bush struck a new low and in doing so revealed his own prejudices about democracy in Arab countries. Said the president:
"There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern."
Assumption: All Americans are white. We are all one color.
Fact: America is a melting pot for the world. Some prefer the analogy of a mixed salad instead. Nevertheless America is a nation of immigrants and while our population is more than 65% white, our nation is also about 13% Hispanic and 12% African-American. There is also an Asian population of more than 4% and a plethora of smaller ethnic groups that make up what it means to be American. As Josh Marshall wrote,
"I'm white. The president is white. But 'our' skin color is not white."
The point is correct that people shouldn't doubt that democracy can flourish just because of the nature of Arab society. But those critics don't make those points because they doubt the Arab race, but because they doubt other factors in Arab culture. There is a distinction.
Personally I don't buy any of it. There is no reason why Iraq can not turn into a democratic state. Every person in the world is capable of understanding, participating in and flourishing under democratic systems of government.
What Bush did though, was wrong. Critics aren't racist, they simply have misguided objections. However, in the course of lambasting his opponents Bush showed his upside-down view of his own country. It's great that he has so much faith in the people of Iraq, but perhaps he should develop a little bit of an understanding of his own country first.