Associated Press & Molly Ivins & Rolling Stone.com – 2006-11-09 08:58:45
World Sees Vote as Start of New Foreign Policy
The Associated Press
MADRID, Spain (November 8, 2006) — The seismic shift that midterm elections brought to Washington’s political landscape was welcomed by many Wednesday in a world sharply opposed to the war in Iraq and outraged over the harsh methods the Bush administration has employed in fighting terrorism.
From Paris to Pakistan, politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens said they hoped the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives would force President Bush to adopt a more conciliatory approach to global crises, and teach a president many see as a “cowboy” a lesson in humility.
But some also expressed fears that a split in power and a lame-duck president might stall global trade talks and weaken much-needed American influence.
On Iraq, some feared that Democrats will force a too-rapid retreat, leaving that country and the region in chaos. Others said they doubted the turnover in congressional power would have a dramatic impact on Iraq policy any time soon, largely because the Democrats have yet to define the specifics of the course they want to take.
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said American policy would not dramatically change, despite the Democratic election success.
“The president is the architect of U.S. foreign policy,” the ambassador said in a videotape distributed by the U.S. Embassy. “He is the commander in chief of our armed forces. He understands what is at stake in Iraq.”
‘Beginning of the End’
Regardless of the effect on world events, global giddiness that Bush was finally handed a political black-eye was almost palpable.
In an extraordinary joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American election results as “the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world” and gloated that they left the Bush administration “seriously weakened.”
In London’s Guardian newspaper, commentator Martin Kettle wrote: “The cheering can be heard not just in America itself but around the planet.”
In Paris, expatriates and French citizens alike packed the city’s main American haunts to watch results, with some standing to cheer or boo as vote tabulations came in.
One Frenchman, teacher Jean-Pierre Charpemtrat, 53, said it was about time U.S. voters figured out what much of the rest of the world already knew.
“Americans are realizing that you can’t found the politics of a country on patriotic passion and reflexes,” he said. “You can’t fool everybody all the time — and I think that’s what Bush and his administration are learning today.”
Democrats swept to power in the House on Tuesday and were threatening to take control of the Senate amid exit polls that showed widespread American discontent over Iraq, nationwide disgust at corruption in politics, and low approval ratings for Bush.
Bush is deeply unpopular in many countries around the globe, with particularly intense opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the U.S. terror detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and allegations of Washington sanctioned interrogation methods that some equate with torture.
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez said the Democrats won the election thanks to a “reprisal vote.”
‘Bush Is no Longer Acceptable’
People across the Mideast also reacted swiftly, saying it appeared the U.S. president had paid the price for what many view as failed policy in Iraq.
Most governments across the region had no official comment, but some opponents of the United States reacted harshly. “President Bush is no longer acceptable worldwide,” said Suleiman Hadad, a lawmaker in Syria, whose autocratic government has been shunned by the U.S.
Iranian state television blamed U.S. strategy in the Middle East for the change. “Experts believe that Bush’s wrong strategy in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as financial corruption in the United States, was the main reason for the failure of Republicans in the midterm election.”
Even some Iraqis voiced hope for change.
“We hope American foreign policy will change and that living conditions in Iraq will improve,” said 48-year-old engineer Suheil Jabar, a Shiite Muslim in Baghdad.
In Copenhagen, Denmark, 35-year-old Jens Langfeldt said he did not know much about the midterm elections but was opposed to Bush’s values. He referred to the president as “that cowboy.”
In Sri Lanka, some said they hoped the rebuke would force Bush to abandon a unilateral approach to global issues. The Democratic win means “there will be more control and restraint” over U.S. foreign policy. said Jehan Perera, a political analyst.
Passions were even higher in Pakistan, where Bush is deeply unpopular despite billions in aid and support for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
One opposition lawmaker, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, said he welcomed the election result but hoped for more. Bush “deserves to be removed, put on trial and given a Saddam-like death sentence,” he said.
But while the result clearly produced more jubilation than jitters, there were deep concerns. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told broadcaster TV2 he hoped that the president and the new Congress would find “common ground on questions about Iraq and Afghanistan. The world needs a vigorous USA,” Fogh Rasmussen said.
Worries in China
Some also worried that Democrats, who have a reputation for being more protective of U.S. jobs going overseas, will make it harder to achieve a global free trade accord.
The accord, said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, “is very important for the future of trans-Atlantic relations.” And in China, some feared the resurgence of the Democrats would increase tension over human rights and trade and labor issues. China’s surging economy has a massive trade surplus with the United States.
“The Democratic Party … will protect the interests of small and medium American enterprises and labor and that could produce an impact on China-US trade relations,” Zhang Guoqing of the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report on Sina.com, a popular Chinese Internet portal.
The prospect of a sudden change in American foreign policy could be troubling to U.S. allies such as Britain, Japan and Australia, which have thrown their support behind the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Democrats campaigned on a platform that demanded a change of direction in Iraq, and the war has lost the support of the majority of American voters. “The problem for Arabs now is, an American withdrawal (from Iraq) could be a security disaster for the entire region,” said Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi analyst for the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.
© 2006 The Associated Press
Campaign ’06: Goodbye and Good Riddance
Molly Ivins / AlterNet
(November 7, 2006) — Right to the end, this insane conversation between reality and Not Reailty. The president of the United States STILL says we are reducing terrorism by fighting in Iraq; STILL says we are creating democracy; STILL says we’re preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and making Israel more secure; and, shoddiest of all, STILL not allowing that our fallen have died in vain.
The vice president, meanwhile, has announced that, all things considered in Iraq, “if you look at the general, overall situation, (the Iraqi government is) doing remarkably well.” And now he’s gone off to hunt in South Dakota, thus demonstrating a perfectly balanced sense of reality. South Dakota is so sparsely populated, it’s really hard to hit another hunter.
Meanwhile, in case you hadn’t noticed, Iraq is in a state of full collapse. And Afghanistan is not far from it. Baghdad is worse off for water, sewer, electricity and infrastructure than it was before the war. The R’s have taken care of the whole problem with the brilliance we have come to expect from them — they have decided to abolish the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (which has previously exposed bribery, contracts to cronies, shoddy work, lost billions of dollars, the failure to track hundreds of thousands of weapons shipped there and more). You must admit this is big, bold and brainy. This is Karl Rove problem-solving at its best.
This campaign has been like getting stuck in Alice’s Wonderland for three months. “There is no use trying, ” Alice said, “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” replied the White Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Every time you turn around, you run into the Jabberwocky or the Frumious Bandersnatch — Richard Perle in penitence — or some other equally fantastic sight. The great Skywriter in the Sky has positively run amok with irony and has been splashing it all over the campaign like Jackson Pollock. Fortunately, it is not my duty to lend dignity to the proceedings. I do make it a rule to skip talk of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — but when Mark Foley turns out to the chairman of House Committee on Missing and Exploited Children, you know you just have to sit down like a tired dog and scratch for a while.
While this perfectly insane dialogue has been taking place, Congress stands before us so hopelessly corrupt that the stench has washed all over the country. Perhaps my least favorite excuse for cheating is, “Everybody does it.” NO, everybody DOESN’T do it. Nor does the system make you do it, or alcohol or drugs or Jack Abramoff. I do not want to hear one more excuse — apologize and go.
On the other hand, I am really going to miss the stories this Congress provided. Remember Terri Schiavo? I mean, you wake up one morning and there it is, kind of like finding Fidel Castro in the refrigerator. And you listen to these people who do hold high elective office having this debate — as though they know, as though they have any idea, as though they have any right. And then there are some of the troops, like Randy “Duke” Cunningham, semi-owner of the houseboat “The Duke-Stir.” Some days you couldn’t wait to get up to find out who’d been indicted. I miss watching Katherine Harris from Florida wear less and less blue eye-shadow as she went through her Senate race.
Well, it’s been rank — racist, sleazy, lying and full of insinuating scare tactics. Thank God it’s over.
Molly Ivins writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.
Blame for Iraq Extends Far Beyond the GOP
Matt Taibbi / RollingStone.com
(November 5, 2006) — Anyone out there see the Letterman-O’Reilly dustup that went down recently? On the surface it looked like a seminal moment in modern television history, a Godzilla v. Megalon monster epic in which Godzilla was finally toppled just outside the Tokyo city gates. Keeled over, its rubber eyes flitting dumbly against the cardboard landscape, we finally saw the great lizard’s vulnerable side.
It was almost possible to feel sorry for Bill O’Reilly, who had trotted out on set with the peace-offering of a plastic sword and shield, expecting to make nice with his fellow overpaid TV icon — but who instead ended up skewered and turned over the video-spit by the end of the segment, with an apple in his mouth and Sumner Redstone’s massive billionaire foot wedged firmly in his ass.
For the rest of his days, few people will forget the image of O’Reilly sitting glumly and taking it while some smug ex-weatherman called him a “bonehead” to raucous studio applause. Which is too bad, because Bill O’Reilly wasn’t even the dumbest person on the set that day. For that honor my vote goes to Letterman. Here’s Letterman’s explanation of his initial position on the Iraq war:
Here is my position in the beginning. I think I sort of felt the way everybody did. We felt like we wanted to do something, because something terrible had been done to us. We did not understand exactly why, all we knew was that something terrible, something heinous, something obscene had been done to us.
So, while it didn’t exactly make as much sense to go in to Iraq as it did perhaps to go into Afghanistan, I like everybody else felt like, yes, we need to do something. We need to do something. And as the weeks turned into months, turned into years, and as one death became a dozen deaths became a hundred deaths became a thousand deaths, then we began to realize, you know what, maybe we’re causing more trouble over there than the whole effort has been worth.
That’s a hell of a speech — back to it in a moment. For now, consider the context in which it was delivered. We are in the last week before midterm elections in George Bush’s second term, five years after 9/11, three and a half since the beginning of the Iraq war. By now we can say without much hesitation that the media establishment has turned not only on George Bush, but on the public attack-dogs of his right flank who dominated the national political media for so long.
There’s no more free lunch for the likes of O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, the latter of whom also took an unusually savage fragging in the national media last week for his attack on Michael J. Fox. That incident basically moved Al Franken into the national mainstream, with even a normally gentle humorist like Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Muke Luckovitch (from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) calling Rush a “big fat idiot” last week.
What’s happening is that these talk-radio pit-vipers who for a decade or so had us all wondering “How the fuck do these guys get away with this stuff?” are now no longer getting away with it — there’s now a mechanism in place in the national media that is poised to savage these guys for the same kinds of tactics that for the last ten years ago were mostly left to the likes of FAIR and Eric Alterman to bitch about.
And it goes beyond beating on O’Reilly and Rush. All across the media landscape, once-reviled liberal or Democratic figures are being rehabilitated and celebrated by the same national media that, at best, habitually described Democrats as soft on defense or as unelectable political losers throughout most of the Bush years.
This process actually began some time ago, around the time the Iraq war really started to go sour; I remember in particular one week in May when Good Morning America had a fuzzy-warm bit on Al Gore’s “comeback” and a laudatory piece on the Dixie Chicks on successive days. Could that have happened in 2003? I doubt it.
And it’s continuing today; Chris Matthews last week called Nancy Pelosi “stylish” and compared her to Joe DiMaggio, of all people, while David Gregory went on the campaign trail with Michael J. Fox for the Today show. Can you imagine NBC news throwing a tow-line to a liberal Hollywood actor before the 2000 presidential elections? 2004? No way. But this year, it’s possible.
Last week we also saw Wolf Blitzer, before the war one of the chief cheerleaders for the invasion, finding himself arrayed in an antiwar pose in another Japanese monster-movie debate situation with Lynne Cheney, with whom he had a fierce exchange over the broadcast of unpleasant footage from Iraq. And of course there was Bob Woodward, who a few years ago published one of the all-time Electrolux suck jobs for the administration with Bush at War, reading the writing on the wall and doing a complete about-face in his new book State of Denial, which came out to much fanfare and an uncompromising 60 Minutes segment last month.
Look, there’s nothing mysterious about any of this. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on. We saw this same kind of cultural shift in 1968, after the Tet offensive (an analogy so obvious that even Tom Friedman saw it recently), when the American political establishment soured on the Vietnam War. Despite the conservative propaganda that for decades has insisted that it was the media that lost the war for us in Vietnam, in fact the media didn’t turn on the Vietnam war effort until the war was already lost.
And the reason the media soured on that war had nothing to do with it being wrong; it had to do with the post-Tet realization that the war was expensive, unwinnable, and politically costly. America is reaching the same conclusion now about Iraq, and so, like Dave Letterman, a whole host of people who just a few years ago thought we “had to do something” are now backing off and repositioning themselves in an antiwar stance.
What’s dangerous about what’s going on right now is that an electoral defeat of the Republicans next week, and perhaps a similar defeat in a presidential race two years from now, might fool some people into thinking that the responsibility for the Iraq war can be sunk forever with George Bush and the Republican politicians who went down with his ship. But in fact the real responsibility for the Iraq war lay not with Bush but with the Lettermans, the Wolf Blitzers, the CNNs, the New York Timeses of the world — the malleable middle of the American political establishment who three years ago made a conscious moral choice to support a military action that even a three year-old could have seen made no fucking sense at all.
It doesn’t take much courage to book the Dixie Chicks when George Bush is sitting at 39% in the polls and carrying 3000 American bodies on his back every time he goes outside. It doesn’t take much courage for MSNBC’s Countdown to do a segment ripping the “Swiftboating of Al Gore” in May of 2006, or much gumption from Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift to say that many people in the media “regret” the way Gore was attacked and ridiculed in 2000. We needed those people to act in the moment, not years later, when it’s politically expedient.
We needed TV news to reject “swift-boating” during the actual Swift Boat controversy, not two years later; we needed ABC and NBC to stand up to Clear Channel when that whole idiotic Dixie Chicks thing was happening, not years later; we needed the networks and the major dailies to actually cover the half-million-strong protests in Washington and New York before the war, instead of burying them in inside pages or describing the numbers as “thousands” or “at least 30,000,” as many news outlets did at the time; and we needed David Letterman to have his war epiphany back when taking on Bill O’Reilly might actually have cost him real market share.
Take a look again at Letterman’s comment last week:
So, while it didn’t exactly make as much sense to go in to Iraq as it did perhaps to go into Afghanistan, I like everybody else felt like, yes, we need to do something.
Well, that’s putting it pretty fucking mildly, wouldn’t you say? It’s not that Iraq didn’t make “as much sense” as Afghanistan — it didn’t make any sense, and anyone with half a brain could have seen that. And Letterman’s subsequent reasoning — that seeing one death turn into dozens and then hundreds and thousands made him reconsider the whole thing — all that tells you is that this is a person who makes life-and-death decisions without considering the consequences.
If the Iraq war was not ever going to be worth 3,000 American lives (and countless more Iraqi lives), then why the hell did we go in in the first place? If you make a decision to fight, you had better not be scared of blood. And if you’re suddenly changing your mind about things after you lose a few teenage lives, you’re a hundred times more guilty than the guys like Bush who are actually sticking to their guns about this war.
Because Bush and the rest of that crew sent young men to die for something they believed in, fucked-up as their reasoning might be and have been. But these shitheads in the political middle who are flip-flopping right now sentenced teenagers to death for the cause of expediency and careerism. There are young men coming home now without arms and legs because the Wolf Blitzers of the world were too afraid to lose their jobs or piss off advertisers bucking the war hysteria of the times.
Remember, CNN and the rest of the networks did great business in the run-up to the war. They had artists cooking up fancy new “America’s New War” graphics and they were selling lawn fertilizer and soda and male-enhancement drugs by the metric ton right up to the time when the Saddam statue came down. But the war isn’t selling anymore; the war is a bummer. And so these guys are changing their minds.
Are you throwing up yet? Surely that behavior is more shameful than anything coming out of the White House.
This assault on the Republicans that’s taking place in the national media right now is partially a reflection of national attitudes, but mostly a matter of internal housecleaning. The members of the Bush administration have proven to be incompetent managers of the American system, and so they are being removed. It’s that simple. They screwed up a war that all of these people wanted, turned public opinion against the dumbed-down militarist politics that until recently was good business for everybody. And so they have to go. Mistake any of this for ideology or principle at your peril.
Matt Taibbi is a writer for Rolling Stone.
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