Sunday Thoughts

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Senator Carl Levin was criticizing Donald Rumsfeld on Fox News Sunday, saying he took no action; we know this is false. When Chris Wallace asked if Levin took action in January when it was first announced, Levin said there was no apparent need, because it sounded routine. OK, Wallace said, what about in March when charges were announced? Levin replied, well, there was no need for the Senate to act, because they were told action was being taken. But action was being taken, and continues to be taken; what has changed between then and now that makes it OK for the military in March, and not OK in May?

What happened is that Levin and the rest of the Senate were made to look foolish because they didn't know about it. That's all that changed. Yes, they didn't know the abuse was as severe as it turned out to be, but why didn't the Senate try to found out if the problem was systemic? Why didn't they even ask to see the reports, which surely must have existed by then, if charges were being filed?

I am not trying to shift the blame. Clearly, the Pentagon messed up by not informing Congress sooner. But Congress had opportunity to request information, and should have done so, and did not. And as such, some of their complaints are very hollow.

Who's Winning

On the weekly Chris Matthews show, they ask who "won the week," Bush or Kerry. Unanimously amongst the pundits -- 12-0 -- it was said to be Kerry. I am unconvinced: sure, Bush is down right now, but I think what has happened this week, as well as recent weeks, very well could stregthen him long-term.

For example, because of the abuse scandal -- which hasn't directly hurt the President so far -- more people seem to be supporting Bush's June 30th deadline, and I imagine fewer people will be protesting the handover of power when it happens, because of the abuse.

Maybe, maybe not. You could come up with many ways this could help or hurt Bush long-term. My point is simply that trying to read things on a weekly basis is ridiculous, this early in the campaign, unless someone does something that directly, significantly, harms or hurts a candidate. So if it's me, I say every week has been a draw for both candidates, thus far.

In a similar vein, many Republicans are saying the good news about Bush's poll numbers -- which are the lowest they've been in a long time, if not ever -- is that they are not as bad as they could or should be. It may be true, but it has the distinct ring of desperation about it when said by a partisan.

But Bush's low poll numbers really don't matter right now, and neither have Kerry's. In most elections, one says, "a lot can happen between now and the election." That misses the point, this year. A lot certainly will happen between now and the election. Most obvious is the turnover of power in Iraq, which is huge. Only slightly less obvious than this land war in Asia is that either the economy is going to do something big: either it will recover, or it will not, or it will be caught in between. No matter what happens with the economy, the ramifications on the election will be huge.


The question of whether Iraq will be sovereign after June 30 has been batted around quite a bit for months. I noted in my March 20 entry, "Iraq will regain sovereignty on June 30; that necessarily means they can ask the U.S. forces to leave." I was attempting to draw the distinction between an occupation, where our forces are there against the government's wishes, and what happens in many countries around the world, where our forces are there by mutual agreement.

In the past few days, both Paul Bremer (head of the civilian authority in Iraq) and Secretary of State Colin Powell have asserted that indeed, our troops would leave if asked, and Powell asserted that this is what sovereignty means. Now, Bremer and Powell don't make those decisions, but their voices carry a great deal of weight (especially when added to mine :-).

This talk prompts talk of whether or not the new provisional government in Iraq will represent the Iraqi people. Some claim if the US chooses who the government is, then it will lack validity. This is a canard: absolutely any government that is not selected by the people will lack validity, but pretty much everyone believes we must get an Iraqi government in control now, while elections are being prepared.

Whether the US has a hand in choosing the government won't matter in the end, because the real test is whether that government will be a good one for the 6 months or more it is in power, and whether elections do happen. This is a temporary government. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to work for a short period of time. And if the US didn't have a hand in the selection of the government, and it went poorly, then the US would be blamed even more.

No, as Powell said, you break it, you buy it. We're the ones who went in, and we are responsible for what happens, and we therefore should make the important decisions, until that time as Iraqis are able to do so: not because we want the control, but because we are the responsible party. It's the child who complains about not getting to make the decisions; it's the adult who is wary about having to.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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