Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Goddamm Bush goes his own way - and drags world along (fuck knows what we did to deserve him)

1. To the Editor of the NY Times:

In his State of the Union address, President Bush warned that “America must not fail in Iraq.”

Let’s see if I have this right: Against the advice of many of its passengers, a man drives a car recklessly into a ditch. It gets stuck. At first he denies that it’s stuck at all. Then when it’s impossible to avoid the truth, he guns the gas, spins the wheels and sinks the car deeper in the mud, all the while yelling hysterically about how terrible it will be for everyone if they can’t get out.

Well ... thank you for enlightening us, Mr. President.

President Bush patronizes the entire nation when he tells us that failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the nation. We are acutely aware of the consequences of his bellicosity, thank you.

William Horwitz
Irvington, NY

2. Long on Rhetoric, Short on Sorrow -- by Bob Herbert/NY Times

President Bush showed what he does well at the beginning of the State of the Union ceremony when he graciously acknowledged and introduced Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House of Representatives. He seemed both generous and sincere, and it was the right touch for a genuinely historic moment.

At the end of his speech he introduced four Americans of whom the nation can be proud, including Wesley Autrey, a New Yorker who made like a Hollywood stunt man to save the life of a stricken passenger who had fallen onto the tracks in front of an oncoming subway train.

The rest of the evening was a study in governmental dysfunction. The audience kept mindlessly applauding — up and down, like marionettes — when in fact there was nothing to applaud. The state of the union is wretched, which is why the president’s approval ratings are the worst since Nixon and Carter.

If Mr. Bush is bothered by his fall from political grace, it wasn’t showing on Tuesday night. He seemed as relaxed as ever, smiling, signing autographs, glad-handing.

I wanted to hear him talk about the suffering of the soldiers he has put in harm’s way, and the plight of the residents of New Orleans. I wanted to hear him express a little in the way of sorrow for the many thousands who have died unnecessarily on his watch. I wanted to see him slip the surly bonds of narcissism and at least acknowledge the human wreckage that is the sum and substance of his sustained folly.

But this is a president who runs when empathy calls. While others are monitoring the casualty lists, he’s off to the gym. At least Lyndon Johnson had the decency to agonize over the losses he unleashed in Vietnam.

The State of the Union speech was boilerplate at a time when much of the country, with good reason, is boiling mad. The United States, the most powerful nation in the history of the world, seems paralyzed. It can’t extricate itself from the war in Iraq, can’t rebuild the lost city of New Orleans, can’t provide health care for all of its citizens, can’t come up with a sane energy policy in the era of global warming, can’t even develop a thriving public school system.

If it’s true, as President Bush told his audience, that “much is asked of us,” it’s equally true that very little has been delivered.

The Democrats, delighted by the wounded Bush presidency, believe this is their time. Like an ostentation of peacocks, an extraordinary crowd of excited candidates is gathering in hopes of succeeding Mr. Bush.

But such a timid crowd!

Ask a potential Democratic president what he or she would do about the war, and you’ll get a doctoral dissertation about the importance of diplomacy, the possibility of a phased withdrawal (but not too quick), the need for Iraqis to help themselves and figure out a way to divvy up the oil, and so on and so forth.

A straight answer? Surely you jest. The Democrats remind me of the boxer in the Bonnie Raitt lyric who was “afraid to throw a punch that might land.”

There’s a hole in the American system where the leadership used to be. The country that led the miraculous rebuilding effort in the aftermath of World War II can’t even build an adequate system of levees on its own Gulf Coast.

The most effective answer to this leadership vacuum would be a new era of political activism by ordinary citizens. The biggest, most far-reaching changes of the past century — the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement — were not primarily the result of elective politics, but rather the hard work of committed citizen-activists fed up with the status quo.

It’s time for thoughtful citizens to turn off their TVs and step into the public arena. Protest. Attend meetings. Circulate petitions. Run for office. I suspect the public right now is way ahead of the politicians when it comes to ideas about creating a more peaceful, more equitable, more intelligent society.

The candidates for the most part are listening to their handlers and gurus and fat-cat contributors, which is the antithesis of democracy. It’s not easy for ordinary men and women to be heard above that self-serving din, but it can be done.

Voters should listen to Dwight Eisenhower, who said in 1954:

“Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.”

3. Bush's four crises
What his past forecasts about Iraq is that he will fight it to the end
By William McKenzie/Dallas Morning News

There have been four crises in George W. Bush's life, the kind that we all run into at some point and that determine the course of our lives. However we come to them, we either own up to them, or we back off and fail to appreciate what it means to struggle in life.We may not overcome all tests, but we at least have to wrestle them as Jacob did his angel.

From what I can tell, Mr. Bush's first such moment was his sister's death when he was 7. They had been running buddies in Midland before the Bush family grew to five kids. Bush biographers note that he coped with the leukemia that took her life and the mourning that followed by developing the joking, friendly side he still uses to put others at ease.

The Washington Post reported last fall about how a woman who had lost her husband in Afghanistan met with Mr. Bush in Maine. She was prepared to dislike him but found him surprisingly comforting, despite her anger at him and the war.

His easy manner evidently grew out of early loss, when he tried to comfort his family, particularly his mother, with whom he was so close.

The second pivotal event was his struggle with alcohol and the challenge it put before him. At age 40, Mr. Bush was energetic about his oil career but also a good-time guy with a lot of swagger. And mostly he was going nowhere, except toward jeopardizing his marriage and his father's 1988 presidential bid.

Facing those consequences, he stopped drinking cold turkey, although the process built over time. Eventually, he felt the tap of God's hand on his shoulder and responded to find greater purpose. The transformation didn't make him presidential timber, but he became a person who could entertain the idea of being president.

The third event was Sept. 11, 2001. You may recall that his presidency had been drifting that summer, and some, including me, wondered whether he had become too disengaged, maybe even depressed.

Then came the attacks on New York and Washington and what even his critics describe as a rallying of the world against terrorism. Those next months probably will go down as his best as president.

Today, Mr. Bush remains enmeshed in his fourth crisis, which, like his alcoholism, is self-generated. And that is this Iraq mess.

No one knows what it will look like in 10 or 20 years. But it is of Mr. Bush's doing and the faulty advice he got from Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and other eager warriors who let their president down.

At this point, the war's political, military and financial costs outweigh the benefits of deposing Saddam Hussein, whom we could have contained. But now that we're there, pulling out would be horrendous.

Al-Qaeda could use U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as it used Afghanistan after the Soviets left. Shiites in Baghdad and Tehran would control valuable oil fields. And the Saudis, among others, could insert themselves into the ensuing civil war to protect Iraqi Sunnis.

From Mr. Bush's perspective, the worst part is that he has lost credibility with most Americans on the issue. How does he regain that?

Results are the only way.

We know he has outlined a new strategy, which shows promise if the fledgling Iraq government supplies enough troops. The tactic of dividing Baghdad into nine zones and putting more soldiers in each could help a combined U.S.-Iraqi force "hold" neighborhoods that we secure.

What's odd is that Mr. Bush is not following the Baker-Hamilton group advice and mounting a big-deal diplomatic effort with Iran and Syria. Why not exploit apparent high-level dissension within Iran over its nuclear program with a bargain of some sort on Iraq?

Diplomacy is not a virtue of itself, but it can help us promote our own interests, and it would be one more tool Mr. Bush could use to wrestle this beast to the ground.

His first two crises were internal battles. Iraq and 9/11 are external ones. His sister's death probably was the most painful. But Iraq is the most complex, because so many moving parts are out of his control.

What we know from his past handling of crises is that he won't back away from this challenge until the last moment of his presidency.

(William McKenzie is a Dallas Morning News editorial columnist. His e-mail address is wmckenzie

4. He Is the Nightmare -- by Dominique Dhombres/Le Monde

George Bush perseveres. At this point, it's no longer willfulness, but rabid frenzy. Because of the time difference, the State of the Union speech the American president delivered in Washington was broadcast live in Europe in the middle of the night - more precisely on Wednesday, January 24th, starting at 3 a.m. You could see the scene on CNN. It began with the pomp intended by the founding fathers of American democracy. Everyone gets together in the capital for this ritual exercise during the course of which, the president, head of the executive branch, has the right - it's the only time in the course of the year - to enter the legislative Holy of Holies. All his cabinet is also there to congratulate him. People hug; they pat one another's backs.

The CNN camera rested for a moment on the faces of senators Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. The president's wife, Laura Bush, wore a dress that shone blazing red. And then the liturgy began, immutable.

The person at issue presented himself to Congress, introduced by the traditional phrase deafeningly broadcast by the sergeant-at-arms: "The president of the United States!" But this time the shriek was addressed to "Madam Speaker." For, in fact, the first time in the history of the United States, a woman presides over the House of Representatives: Nancy Pelosi. She is a Democrat, smiling and determined. George Bush paid her assiduous tribute, insisting on the unprecedented character of the occasion and wishing for the best possible cooperation with the lady. She played her role marvelously, standing to applaud the president every time she agreed with him, but remaining stubbornly seated as soon as he addressed, in the second half of his speech, the subject that makes people angry: Iraq.

I can understand her. It was quite simply scary. The president, somewhat spontaneously, picked up the tone and the voice of the televangelists who crack down on American television screens at night. Or, if you prefer, he furiously resembled Philippulus the Prophet, who announced the end of the world to Tintin in "L'Etoile mystérieuse" ["The Mysterious Star": Tintin is a famous French comic book character]. He became apocalyptic. Should I quote? If the American Army withdrew from Iraq, the government in place "would be overrun" immediately. What a confession! What followed could make your hair stand on end. "We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran and Sunni extremists aided by al-Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country - and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. For America, this is a nightmare scenario."

He is the nightmare.


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