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Monday, November 06, 2006

Paul Krugman: Limiting the Damage

Paul Krugman hopes that, should Democrats regain power, they will be able to limit the amount of additional damage the president can do in his final two years in office:

Limiting the Damage, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times (Free Nov. 6-12): President Bush isn’t on the ballot tomorrow. But this election is, nonetheless, all about him. The question is whether voters will pry his fingers loose from at least some of the levers of power, thereby limiting the damage he can inflict in his two remaining years in office. ...

At this point, nobody should have any illusions about Mr. Bush’s character. To put it bluntly, he’s an insecure bully who believes that owning up to a mistake, any mistake, would undermine his manhood — and who therefore lives in a dream world in which all of his policies are succeeding and all his officials are doing a heckuva job. Just last week he declared himself “pleased with the progress we’re making” in Iraq.

In other words, he’s the sort of man who should never have been put in a position of authority, let alone been given the kind of unquestioned power, free from normal checks and balances, that he was granted after 9/11..., as well as a prolonged free ride from much of the news media.

The results have been predictably disastrous. The nightmare in Iraq is only part of the story. In time, the degradation of the federal government by rampant cronyism — almost every part of the executive branch I know anything about, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been FEMAfied — may come to be seen as an equally serious blow to America’s future.

And it should be a matter of intense national shame that Mr. Bush has quietly abandoned his fine promises to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

The public, which rallied around Mr. Bush after 9/11 ..., seems to have figured most of this out. ... This is in spite of a vicious campaign in which Mr. Bush has gone further than any previous president — even Richard Nixon — in attacking the patriotism of anyone who criticizes him or his policies.

That said, it’s still possible that the Republicans will hold on to both houses of Congress. The feeding frenzy over John Kerry’s botched joke showed that many people in the news media are still willing to be played like a fiddle. And if you think the timing of the Saddam verdict was coincidental, I’ve got a terrorist plot against the Brooklyn Bridge to sell you. Moreover, the potential for vote suppression and/or outright electoral fraud remains substantial. ...

What if the Democrats do win? That doesn’t guarantee a change in policy.

The Constitution says that Congress and the White House are co-equal branches of government, but Mr. Bush and his people aren’t big on constitutional niceties. ... Mr. Bush has been in the habit of declaring that he has the right to disobey the law he has just signed, whether it’s a law prohibiting torture or a law requiring that he hire qualified people to run FEMA.

Just imagine, then, what he’ll do if faced with demands for information from, say, Congressional Democrats investigating war profiteering... Actually, we don’t have to imagine: a White House strategist has already told Time magazine that the administration plans a “cataclysmic fight to the death” if Democrats in Congress try to exercise their right to issue subpoenas — which is one heck of a metaphor, given Mr. Bush’s history of getting American service members trapped in cataclysmic fights where the deaths are anything but metaphors.

But here’s the thing: no matter how hard the Bush administration may try to ignore the constitutional division of power, Mr. Bush’s ability to make deadly mistakes has rested in part on G.O.P. control of Congress. That’s why many Americans, myself included, will breathe a lot easier if one-party rule ends tomorrow.

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Previous (11/3) column: Paul Krugman: As Bechtel Goes
Next (11/10) column: Paul Krugman: The Great Revulsion

Update: From The Army Times:

Time for Rumsfeld to go, Editorial, Army Times

So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth.

That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War.

But until recently, the “hard bruising” truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington.

One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “mission accomplished,” the insurgency is “in its last throes,” and “back off,” we know what we’re doing, are a few choice examples.

Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines... Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war’s planning, execution and dimming prospects for success...

The strategy in Iraq has been to train an Iraqi army and police force that could gradually take over for U.S. troops in providing for the security of their new government and their nation.

But despite the best efforts of American trainers, the problem of molding a viciously sectarian population into anything resembling a force for national unity has become a losing proposition.

For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don’t show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.

Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.

And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.

Now, the president says he’ll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

This is a mistake. It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation’s current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads. ...

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.

    Posted by on Monday, November 6, 2006 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (9)

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