Monday, January 28, 2008

The State of the Onion 

I worked late and caught the State of the Onion address on Tivo delay, but if you missed it you can get the transcript and some live-blogging links here. John Hawkins of Right Wing News live-blogged here. I am too tired to offer much pith, except to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the long overdue decision to ignore earmarks that are not particularly set forth in enacted legislation. It is not original to observe that the Republicans would be in much better shape today if the President had imposed the same constraint on Congress when his own party controlled it.

Onions, like ogres1 and any well-constructed foreign policy, are built in layers. Stratfor peeled off a few and looked beyond the shallow tedium of the speech to the strategic core of the Bush administration's late-game foreign policy:

Many see Bush as constrained by his lame duck status, his unpopularity and a Democratic majority in Congress. Stratfor disagrees. We see these factors as empowering the White House.

Bush is not running for reelection, so he need not cater to the polls. He has no clear successor to support, so he need not spare the lash for fear of harming an ally. A Democratic Congress combined with a general election in November means that all of his initiatives are dead on arrival on the House and Senate floor, so he need not even spare a glance in the direction of domestic policy.

All the pieces are in place for a no-holds-barred executive with very few institutional restrictions on his ability to act. Foreign affairs require neither popular support nor Congressional approval.

The president’s primary goal in 2008 is simple: reaching an arrangement with Iran. Ideally, this would be a mutually agreed upon deal that splits influence in Iraq, but we have already moved past the point where that is critical. Al Qaeda, the reason for being involved in the region in the first place, is essentially dead. The various Sunni Arab powers that made al Qaeda possible have lined up behind Washington. Iran and the United States may still wish to quibble over details, but the strategic picture is clearing: a U.S.-led coalition is going to shape the Middle East, and it is up to Iran whether it wants to play the role of that coalition’s spear or its target. And the Bush administration has the full power of the United States — and one long year — to drive that point home.

Is Bush empowered by his unpopularity? Maybe that explains why he looked so happy! In any case, spew your reactions to Stratfor's substantive theory in the comments.

Separately, I note that the Democrats entrusted their response to Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who has raised at least one impishly creative child and who proves that middle-aged women can let their hair go grey and still look great.
1. Pop culture reference.


By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Tue Jan 29, 08:38:00 AM:

For a guy who basically has implicitly opposed virtually everything the Bush Administration has done ion the Middle East, Stratfor's George Friedman is remarkably sanguine about Bush here, doncha think?

1) "Al Qaeda is basically dead." Wow. Think about it. They flytrap worked, this means. We sucked them into the heart of Arabia - they articulated Iraq as the center of the war remember -- and they are dead. Powerful acknowledgement.

2) Regarding Iran - let's see what the Administration does in its remaining 10 months.

I think since Israel beat up on Hez and bombed Syria, and the US got control of Iraq, Iran has -- to Friedman's point - had to reconsider whether it truly wants to pick a fight with an aligned US, Sunni Arab and Israeli coalition.

Furthermore, even Europe has climed aboard, having wasted 3 years of effort on negotiations. Iran is pretty isolated. When your best friend is a lunatic socialist in Venezuela, you don't have many friends.

Should be an interesting 10 months.  

By Blogger Patrick, at Tue Jan 29, 11:00:00 AM:

The President is fortunate in his political enemies.

Contemplating Reid and Pelosi, how could he not smile.

They came into power saying they were going to rein him in. Instead, they've caved on everything he's asked for. Reid, in particular, looks utterly incompetent and foolish.  

By Anonymous Jimmy, at Tue Jan 29, 11:12:00 AM:

"I love it when a plan comes together" seems to be the thrust of the event. His goals for SS reform and immigration reform seem lofty in light of an election year but he has absolute capacity to beat congress over the head with a veto on budget items.

The politically active press of the day has completely missed it but history will smile on this president.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Tue Jan 29, 11:19:00 AM:

I really cannot foresee under any circumstances the US and Iran having "official" diplomatic relations within the next 5 years or so because of the frothing moonbats within Iran that have made their entire careers out of "Death to the Great Satan". However what I do see happening right now is a series of low profile contacts with major players in Iran who can see that actually talking to the US is profitable. From such small bricks do mighty buildings spring.  

By Anonymous Dan, at Tue Jan 29, 12:39:00 PM:

What will happen.

A very large raid.
1. Air attack to remove and hold Irans military in place for the raid. Air attacks on any military movements during raid.
2. Troops droped in to secure WMD production and storage sites.
3. Troops verify sites, Get info on possible other sites and completely distroy WMD sites.
4. Troops droped on other sites and do their thing.
5. Troops get the hell out covered by Air attacks.
6. Prepair to attack any movement of Iran military into Iraq or afganistan. Also any Iran navymoves.

Long version of what Isreal did to Nuc plant in 1980's.  

By Blogger Quadraginta, at Tue Jan 29, 12:49:00 PM:

I think Stratfor and you and Glenn are overlooking something perhaps too close to your nose. Don't you feel happy and satisfied when you've just about finished a job -- and you know it was a job well done?

Being President of these here fractious semi-pussified argumentative narcissist but undeniably great United States has got to be the toughest job in the world. Doing it for eight years straight, without a single repetition of the disaster that colored the opening weeks, with a major foreign policy success that perhaps forever lays the Vietnam Syndrome in its grave, presiding over an economy which has grown mightily without a single full month of true misery, avoiding even a single major scandal, personal or public, while running an Administration with maybe 10,000 top-level employees -- and doing it all with a courteous smile on your face even though envious dishonest bitches try to trip you up every 2 seconds -- that is A Job Well Done.

I'd smile, too, knowing that it was just about over, that my mom and dad could be right proud of me, and that I could retire in a few months to my ranch and worry about nothing more than keeping the brush clear and the dishes washed in the morning.

I don't think the President has any intentions with respect to Iran. I think he feels he's served his country to the full measure, and that's a problem for his successor. Heck, he may even smile thinking of the beautiful steaming pile Hillary will make of it all, and how he'll enjoy watching the DNC and New York Times trying desparately to spin shit into gold two years hence.  

By Anonymous Charlie, at Tue Jan 29, 01:16:00 PM:

I'm with Quadraginta. Best president of my lifetime, and the most amazing part, as Q says, how he dealt with so much gratuitous and partisan crap with a smile.

If the SOTU was low-key, it's because Bush can look back on profound goals well handled.  

By Blogger JM Hanes, at Tue Jan 29, 02:08:00 PM:

As I recall, Stratfor has been opining in some detail on Iran for quite awhile. Unfortunately, I don't remember their prognostications on the diplomatic front panning out very often. Unless I'm confusing them with some other organization, their assessments of what's going on under the radar rarely seem consistent with events as they unfold.  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Tue Jan 29, 02:38:00 PM:

As for the pop culture reference, TH, "better out than in I always say."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jan 29, 04:21:00 PM:

Maybe that explains why he looked so happy!

Are you kidding? The reason he looked happy should be obvious to anyone who's been paying attention for the last seven years- the guy doesn't like public speaking, and he isn't particularly good at it. I'd bet my next paycheck the thought that put the smile on his face was "that's the last time I'll have to do that".  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jan 29, 06:15:00 PM:

Kinda O/T...but why does the governor of Kansas have square pupils?  

By Blogger paul a'barge, at Fri Feb 01, 12:21:00 PM:

That does not look great to me.  

By Anonymous Al Fin, at Fri Feb 01, 03:35:00 PM:

He does need to worry about how much his successor can handle. His father left the Somalian famine relief mission to Bill Clinton, and Clinton f*qu*d it up royal.

The problems Bush II will leave to his successor will be a lot more complex than Somalia.

Obama--bless his charismatic little heart--just won't be able to handle anything of significance in his first year. He's an empty suit and he'll have very bad advisors.

Hillary--may do as well as Bill did in Somalia or Waco. Or worse.

McCain--will be contemplating what he did wrong, why he lost. No problems for him.  

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