Monday, September 13, 2004
Russert asks direct questions, but he doesn't follow-up very hard. Still, he did go after Albright when she coughed up a Kerry campaign talking point that simply did not square with what Colin Powell had just said. Here's Albright:
The insurgency is rising. And as Secretary Powell just made clear, it doesn't sound as though these elections are going to take place in January.
Here's what Powell had said just minutes before, and what Albright should have heard on the monitors:
SEC'Y POWELL: Nobody is planning to postpone the elections. Prime Minister Allawi has been quite clear about this. Of course, we have to bring that insurgency under control, but keep in mind most of the country would be in a satisfactory position for elections if they were held next month. So we have time to deal with the challenges that we face.
Now, we at TigerHawk try to tweak down the snarkiness coefficient when fisking Madeline Albright out of deference and respect to the TigerHawk Mother, who back in the day was a classmate of Albright at Wellesley College. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't call Albright out when she baldly misrepresents what has just been said on the very same show. Even Russert asked her if she meant what she had said.
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary Powell said he expected the elections to take place in January?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that he wasn't dead sure about it....
To her credit, Albright then walked us back from the proposed election date in January, and made it quite clear that we did not have much time to get control of the Sunni cities that are not under control if they are going to participate in the election. She might have added, but didn't, that we will have even less time if we wait until after the United States presidential election to get started.
But wait, there's more. Russert then asked Albright about this week's Dick Cheney kerfuffle, which turns on some remarks he made at a campaign appearence on Tuesday:
VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: Because we made the wrong choice and the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that'll be devastating from the standpoint of the United States and then we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind-set, if you will, that, in fact, these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we're not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.
This got the press corps and the Kerry campaign all worked up -- John Edwards called it "un-American", and there has been a tremendous amount of parsing of that statement all week long. In any case, here's how Albright responded when Russert brought up the Cheney remark:
MS. ALBRIGHT: Vice President Cheney said that. And I think that that is a terrible way to go about a national security issue, and I have personally--I'm speaking personally now--I have never seen a national security issue as politicized as this one has been since Joe McCarthy, and we cannot go on like this with scare tactics.
Russert then asked the obvious question: "You're comparing Dick Cheney to Joe McCarthy?"
MS. ALBRIGHT: No, I'm not. I'm saying that this kind of activity, this politicalization of this issue is outrageous. He is vice president of the United States, and it is irresponsible to make those kinds of statements.
We trust she will make that point to V.P. wanna-be Edwards, who didn't seem to have any trouble leveling McCarthy's famous "un-American" slur back at Cheney.
The most interesting stuff, though, came at the end of the show, when Hersh and Woodward came on to flog their books and reveal what they have learned about the prison scandals and the state of Iraq today (in the case of Hersh) and how Bush decided to invade (in the case of Woodward). While Hersh in particular deplored Bush Administration policy and practice in Iraq, neither could explain how John Kerry would handle the situation there differently. Here's the exchange between Russert and Woodward (emphasis added):
MR. RUSSERT: Bob Woodward, when you talked to the president during the course of writing "Plan of Attack," you asked him about his presidency and how Iraq might affect it. And here is the exchange: "`And if this decision'"--going to war with Iraq--"`costs you the election?'" Woodward asked. "`The presidency - that's just the way it is,' Bush said. `Fully prepared to live with it.'"
He knew then the stakes would be high politically?
MR. WOODWARD: Certainly, and they should be. One of the common themes you find in talking to people in the White House and in the government here at all levels is, if you want to understand Bush, look at this decision. It defines him, and he knows that. What interests me, from the point of view of our business, the news media, is we have not found a way--we know how Bush operated. I mean, to his credit, he was willing to sit for three and a half hours and answer questions about how and why he made these decisions. We have not found a way to go to the political opponent, Senator Kerry, and say, "How would you deal with these things?" Not with sound bites, but in a long, detailed excavation of how John Kerry would be commander in chief. That's the missing piece in this political campaign.
Hersh didn't let Bush off the hook, but was even harsher on Kerry:
MR. RUSSERT: And, Sy Hersh, let me ask you about that. In the polling, it shows a margin of about 20 points. People believe that George Bush is better equipped to handle Iraq than John Kerry. What has happened to the Kerry campaign that Iraq is not an issue that is breaking in his favor, when you have 1,000 Americans dead, 7,000 wounded and injured, no weapons of mass destruction? What happened?
MR. HERSH: Look, it's one man's opinion. He doesn't have a solution. This is--by the way, I would also say, this White House doesn't have an exit policy. None of us do. But what he's saying right now just doesn't meet the credibility test. He's going to go to foreign leaders and say, "Excuse us, would you mind changing the color of the corpses over there?" You know, are the French and Germans, because there's a new president, going to send their boys to die there? There's no way out right now of this war. We're looking at five more years, 10 more years of the war--of a guerrilla war that we probably will not win, like we didn't win in Vietnam.
Woodward, interestingly, did not seem as pessimistic:
MR. WOODWARD: But, you know, maybe, maybe not. Maybe things will get better. I mean, Bush essentially says, when you get into this question, how is history going to judge the Iraq War? And he makes the point, "Well, we don't know. We'll all be dead." And I think that's true. And things can go up, things can go down. The question is, and I want to go--because after 9/11, we're dealing so much with the emotions of that devastating attack. And so much action by the government and Bush flowed from that. And the emotions have to be set aside, difficult as that is, and the playing field needs to be leveled. And I go back to that thing, who would John Kerry--Who is he? Who might he be as commander in chief?
There are, then, two conflicting threads on the situation in Iraq. A pessimist might well say that the current administration -- even if justified in the removal of Saddam -- has botched the post-war. I wrote a few days ago that, at the moment, Iraq does not seem to be heading in the right direction. But a reader emailed me with a response that takes a longer view:
We just utterly outmaneuvered Iran's effort to control the outcome in Iraq. Sadr is their guy, and Al Sistani made a deal with the US to defeat Sadr and Iran. They didn't [even] have to flatten the mosque...
In two weeks, US forces can obliterate Al Fallujah as a threat. It will be ugly and merciless, but it can happen. Iran is out, for the moment, and by sending our jets to overfly Iran, they got the picture -- hence making nice noises again with Europe and the IAEA. And we're starting to dump ordnance on Fallujah just now anyway.
What nobody can say in the context of a campaign is what will they do about Iran. The reason Cheney and Rumsfeld haven't hung it up yet, and neither has Powell, by the way, is because they have unfinished business. Iraq is on its way, on the ugly and unkempt path of making some sort of representative government. Internal security sucks, and so does their economy -- but so did Japan and Germany's for like a decade after WWII. AND THEY DIDN'T HAVE OIL. They actually had to rebuild everything from the toothpicks they had left.
Patience. We are winning the key battles, and it's only just begun.
I think that elections will go on as scheduled, but not because Iraq is safe and ready. The Bush administration is willing to give up results for political gain as seen by the 'handover' of 'sovereignty'. This is smoke and mirrors work done so Bush can claim progress.
A successful Iraq is essential to stability in the Middle East. Bush's rush to declare victory - Remember Mission Accomplished? - does not serve the best interests of the Iraqi people IMHO.
So, yeah, there'll be elections all right. Come hell or high water. Just like Afghanistan will have elections despite rampant instability and intimidation everywhere except for Kabul. The elections won't mean much, but at least GWB will get to say that they've had them some electin'.
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