Perhaps it's just me, but I'm guessing that folks in the WH are trying to keep copies of the latest Newsweek out of the West Wing as much as possible. Yeeeeowch.
But here's the question of the day: James Baker, man who has run presidential campaigns for two Republican candidates, and who has come in as the GOP fixer of choice in any number of problems, including the 2000 election aftermath…how is it that the media can say with a straight face that the man has no agenda but bi-partisanship?
Wake up. He's about saving Junior's behind and salvaging what he can of the GOP while he's at it. This commission, for Baker and his surrogates anyway, is about saving face for the Republican party, and about GHWB not having to hang his head in shame that his son is an utter failure at his job. Again. Whatever loyalties James Baker has, they are not to W — let's just acknowledge that up front and be done with it — and they certainly aren't to some kum-bay-ya bipartisanship cooperation-fest.
For Baker, this is about saving GOP bacon. Period.
Whatever the "fix" may be, it is not going to come soon enough to salvage anything for George W. Bush. The mess that is Iraq will be hung around his neck by historians for all time. To wit: the corpses are piling up at the morgues in Baghdad in such numbers, that anonymous burial has become commonplace. To resolve that problem, people in Iraq have begun having their names and phone numbers tattooed on their thighs to make corpse identification more speedy.
Ali Abbas decided that his upper right thigh was the best place for a tattoo because no one gets tortured there.
He'd seen hundred of bodies in the city morgue and dozens of hospitals during his 18-day search for his missing uncle. He'd seen drill marks in swollen, often unrecognizable heads, slash marks across necks, bullet holes in backs, abdomens and swollen hands. He'd seen bodies that had been thrown into the river, so swollen they'd barely looked human. But by and large, the thighs had been intact.
So that's where he decided to have his name, address and phone number tattooed, in case the day comes when someone is searching for his body.
Tattoos are considered a sin in Islam, which holds that believers shouldn't deface their bodies. And tattoo shops are difficult to find in Baghdad. They're often in the basements of more reputable shops.
But at least some tattoo shops are seeing more and more Iraqis who, like Abbas, are willing to risk offending Islam to ease their families' grief in the event of their deaths. The owner of one tattoo shop in central Baghdad admitted that he'd done such tattoos, but said he didn't want to talk about it for fear that he'd be killed.
That some Muslims are getting tattoos is an intimate reflection of national chaos, and an outward symbol of the inner turmoil the chaos has created.
Some days, you read the news and you wonder if it can possibly get more appalling. After reading this, I can honestly say, "Yes, it truly can."
And what are Republicans worried about? That the President failed in doing adequate PR work prior to the election. Not that his policies are a failure. Not that the Iraq mess was a horrible mistake, and a poorly-planned one at that, from the get-go. Not that George Bush is an incompetent and bumbling President. Nope. They are worried that better PR machinations in firing Rumsfeld might have allowed them to maintain their hold on power to continue the false rose-colored-glasses charade under which we have been living the last few years. Oh yes, by all means, more rubber stamping of failure.
But, honestly, how painful is it to know that everyone in America who pays attention to politics knows that Daddy has to come in…again…and try to rescue Junior's rear-end from yet another failure?
In Houston the phones started ringing, and Bush 41 staffers were pulled away from their pizza. Reporters were calling and e-mailing: would 41 talk about 43's shake-up? The answer was no, though two perfunctory statements were issued (one for the College Station Eagle and one, as the former president put it, "for everybody else"). Still, the reality spoke for itself. Dad's team was back—a remarkable course correction in the political life of the son and, quite possibly, in the life of the nation.
The American people, as politicians like to say, spoke last week—and spoke in no uncertain terms. The 2006 vote does not suggest an eagerness for a sharp left turn. It seems, rather, to be a plea for a shift from the hard right of the neoconservatives to the center represented by the old man in Houston. The re-emergence of Iraq Study Group voices such as Baker, Gates and Alan Simpson—all longtime friends of Bush Senior—is not unlike the entrance of Fortinbras at the conclusion of "Hamlet." These are 41's men, and the removal of Rumsfeld—an ancient rival of Bush Senior's from the Ford days—is a move toward the broad middle. The apparent triumph of pragmatism over ideology on Iraq was welcome news, at least to the public. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, 67 percent favor Bush Senior's internationalist approach to foreign policy over his son's more unilateral course.
And there is more, much more. Including this from Evan Thomas:
Baker is known for lowering expectations shortly before he delivers the goods. But he has reason to want to downplay his role and the prospects for success. Over the next month or so, the Iraq Study Group must find a middle way, a plan of action that can be characterized neither as "cut and run" nor "stay the course." Judging by the election returns and the exit polls, it's what the people want—along with an end to rancorous partisan squabbling and ideological posturing. But getting a plan—and carrying it out—will be difficult to achieve.
For one thing, Baker still has to convince George W. Bush. At his post-election press conference, the president looked like a base runner trapped in a rundown, unable to go forward or scurry back. The president is probably stuck—he will have to embrace some kind of compromise approach on Iraq. He didn't look too happy about it. As he japed and mugged and fidgeted, he seemed worried by something more than Iraq or the election returns; his whole character appeared to be wrestling with some more personal, inner demon. Last week Bush's aides were resisting the story line that Bush was caught in a cosmic episode of "Father Knows Best." The president himself was said to be indifferent to the press chatter. "I don't care," he told his advisers when they asked him, the morning after the elections, how he wanted to deal publicly with the suggestion that he was picking one of his father's advisers. "He doesn't think the neocons ran him over a cliff and now he has to go to Dad," said a senior Bush aide, preferring to remain anonymous while discussing Oval Office conversations. "It's not the way he sees this. He wants the best and brightest."
Junior can't admit making a mistake — publicly or even to himself — so Poppy's pals have to end-run his ego and make him think the idea for any new advisors is all his.
I swear, this is worse than badly acted Shakespeare, isn't it? In this version, Prince Hal never gets off the sauce, Falstaff appoints himself Veep and gives himself a full set of keys to the palace, and Exeter has to set spies and sycophants in every corner to gently nudge the nation in a better direction to try and prevent the entire dynasty from collapsing in on itself from the excesses of the reign.
I don't know about you guys, but I'm waiting for Mom to step in and start cracking heads. And I do not mean Babs, either. The entire Bush Administration and the rubber stamp Republican party need a time out, for the good of all of us.
For more on why the Baker Commission doesn't even matter in the grand scheme of things, read Swopa. (H/T to John Casper.)