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Blunder After Blunder

Welcome back to the blog and sorry that we weren’t up over the weekend, but Ben reports all the bugs have been worked out and we once again invite your posts.

Special segment coming up on Friday. Lani Silver is an oral historian from San Francisco who specializes in the Holocaust. She’ll be joining us from 3:30 to 5 to discuss some unsung heroes of World War II. I’ve interviewed Lani before and we’re looking forward to hosting her again on Friday.

Meanwhile, I offer for your consideration yesterday’s editorial from the Los Angeles Times. Here we are, on the 4th anniversary of Iraq, and I don’t think I could have made the case better myself:

“IT’S TOO EARLY TO SAY whether any laws were broken in the Bush administration’s dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys, a purge that was justified as an exercise of presidential power though both President Bush and his attorney general profess to be ignorant of the details of the firings. But even assuming that laws weren’t broken, the affair is a disaster for the administration, one that recalls Talleyrand’s observation: “This is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder.”

That is why this scandal (and the preceding week’s Walter Reed scandal) loom so large, even among some Republican lawmakers — they fit into a larger pattern of incompetence on the part of this administration. Any confidence the American people or Congress once had in the administration’s capabilities has long since been depleted.

It wasn’t always so. Early on, this administration was perceived — by ideological friends and foes alike — as a paragon of competence. Names like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and even Rice (who knew?) were supposed to signal steady, experienced leadership. How far we’ve come.

The botched, ill-planned occupation of Iraq will go down as the administration’s capital blunder. It stemmed from a cavalier arrogance, a belief that when you are on the right side of history, the details will take care of themselves. The sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina and the constitutional shortcuts in the war on terror also qualify.

In a parliamentary system, the lack of confidence this administration has inspired would result in a change of government. But in the American system, the Bush presidency lives on, like a battered pi–ata still hanging by the rope. New Cabinet members Henry M. Paulson Jr. at Treasury and Robert M. Gates at Defense have introduced some new credibility, but this is generally a discredited lot that must lead a divided nation.

It may develop that the dismissal of the U.S. attorneys was not only clumsy but corrupt. E-mails released by the administration raise the possibility that at least some of the targeted prosecutors were faulted not for underperformance but for not being “loyal Bushies” (to quote Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales’ recently cashiered aide, D. Kyle Sampson) in the sinister sense of bending justice to the Republican Party’s interests.

But consider this affair simply from a management standpoint. The dismissals had their genesis, it seems, in a harebrained proposal in the White House that the just-reelected Bush dismiss all 93 U.S. attorneys. This idea morphed into a selective purge of what Sampson called “underperforming” prosecutors. What is notable about this reconstruction is that a consequential decision — the replacement of federal prosecutors — was being bandied about in almost casual terms by political operatives and staffers like Sampson.

Michael Dukakis was ridiculed for insisting that the 1988 presidential election, in which he was trounced by George H.W. Bush, “isn’t about ideology, it’s about competence.” He was on to something. Whatever their politics, Americans prefer a government in which leaders and followers alike know what is going on and strive to minimize mistakes — if only for their own protection.”

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  1. Anonymous
    March 19, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    yawwwwn!

  2. Neil
    March 19, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    To quote Peter Fonda at the end of Easy Rider,
    “We blew it.”

  3. Chuck from Atascader
    March 19, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    Yawwwwn??? I wonder if that’s how the parents, spouses and children of the 3200 U.S. soldiers KIA so far feel today.

    The arguments of these neo-cons just get better every day!

  4. Marsha
    March 19, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    This is a sad day for my country. I’m proud of our soldiers, but I’m equally proud of everyone who marched in D.C. and here in SLO on Saturday.

    Bring the troops home!

  5. Anonymous
    March 19, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    Bill Clinton runs 93 U.S. Attorneys off at the beginning of his first term without objection. George Bush runs off 8 U.S. Attorneys in the second year of his second term, and the Dems make a scandal out of it. Classic example of predictable partisan hypocrisy – yawwwwn – remember the Clinton Travel Office firings? Hey, when are we going to find out about that $90,000 in the freezer of that Louisiana House of Representative member? Stupid me, the answer is obvious – nothing – he is a Dem.

  6. steve
    March 20, 2007 at 2:35 am

    neil

    the 60’s are over.turn the page

  7. Dave Congalton
    March 20, 2007 at 3:19 am

    Anonymous,

    You really need to do your homework and stop repeating these Sean Hannity talking points. As Santa Maria Bill explained tonight, there’s no comparison between Clinton in ’93 and Bush in ’07. Gonzalez will be gone by the end of the week due to BI-PARTISAN CALLS for his resignation. Republicans are equally upset at the actions of the A.G. who misled Congress and is incompetent on every level.

  8. Phillip in Morro Bay
    March 20, 2007 at 3:57 am

    So you can imagine Santa Maria Bill stirred the ol psyche. First let me tell you I lost my life long best friend defending Bush. Guy by the name of John Farrow, who just happens to be Mia’s half brother. A decorated marine from Vietnam John came back disillusioned and spent several years involved with Vietnam veterans against the war along with writing for the Santa Barbara version of New Times (its name escapes me). So see I too have paid a price for my beliefs.

    I guess the thing that makes me the most crazy is all the talk of this dictatorship we are living under. Dave your a bright guy do dictators allow frequent and relentless attacks on their leaders. and don’t give me “oh but they intimidate us and try and discredit us BS” Lets deal in reality (after all even Jay Bonestall can admit their other menaces in the world besides Americans, did you see his recent letter?)

    The simple fact is Dave dictatorships don’t allow a helluva lot of dissent. And if your radio show should tell you one thing dissent is alive and well in America. This reminds of the unwarranted paranoia surrounding Nixon. I use to hear that Nixon already had concentrations camps built just waiting the arrivals of the first hapless hippies. Bush has been called every name in the book and then some and when members of his administration dare challenge those who say such things, the lib’s throw up their hand in horror claiming they are being accused of everything but ape rapers.

    Dave I often say how much I remember of the sixties, which I do. I remember folks with same political bent as Santa Maria Bill unapolegetically defending and praising the likes of Castro, Che, and Mao. No Dave I didn’t say Bill did share these views ( I wouldn’t know) all I said was folks that seem to share the politics that come through on your radio show.

    Back in the late sixties when i use to bring up the question of what lack of freedom, you know what i was told. Americans didn’t have any power because the government didn’t feel they were a threat. The common view was we were powerless. So you see threre is nothing new under the sun.

  9. Marilyn
    March 20, 2007 at 4:59 am

    Hi Dave,

    We missed you at the memorial walk for the soldiers in SLO last Saturday. People were sobered and shocked as we witnessed one college kid after the next fall flat on their faces drunk at 11 o’clock in the morning. The private security guards and the cops could barely keep up with their continuous rounds and patrols. Sad, isn’t it? Some kids are over in the Middle East dying and getting maimed while many here choose to spend the 4th anniversary of the war “celebrating” a religious holiday with such shallowness. A few even managed the occasional “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS” in protest of the vigil (a mighty feat, in their condition), but I guess that is what the holidays are about any more. As one lady at the vigil aptly put it: “if you support the troops, why aren’t you over there fighting alongside them (instead of being drunk that is)? I fault the bar owners for opening their doors at 6 in the morning and encouraging the kids to get drunk in such a fashion. But I guess anything goes for the almighty dollar.

    I watched the hearings for 4 of the attorneys who received their marching papers from the Bush administration. C-Span aired them last week.

    They had no idea what was coming and they were surprised considering they were being told they were doing a great job. What came out from the hearings was the fact that the orders did come from the President’s office and that they were related to “dissatisfaction” with the types of cases those attorneys were prosecuting. Not in one case was there any misconduct or lack of effort. It was a purely political move aimed at removing anyone who did not agree with the president. How successfully the rights of those attorneys are restored will determine whether we truly live under a democracy or a dictatorship. Dictatorships exist in varying degrees. I would argue that we are on the road to one if we are not careful.

  10. Michael Deakin
    March 20, 2007 at 5:09 am

    Dave,

    I’ve been listening to your show for the last two years, or so, but this is my first visit to your blog. I heard Santa Maria Bill tonight and was compelled to check out the blog based on some of the calls I heard. I typically agree with Bill, though I think he is farther to the left than I am and much more strident.

    Reading over some of the posts I have to chuckle at the level of arguments the “Bushies” can muster these days. It’s like the man who called towards the end of the show and took a cheap shot at Bill, but wouldn’t offer a counter argument. You seem to have the same problem on this blog.

    I’m wondering if you keep old shows and if you have any tapes from four years ago? You might consider playing some during your show and let’s hear from all those who were originally in support of the war. I’d be curious about their arguments.

    My brother and I argue constantly about the war and it has become a sensitive subject in our family.

    I really don’t have anything to add to this debate, but I do believe the war is wrong and I do believe Mr. Bush will be judged poorly for his performance.

  11. golfingslo
    March 20, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    I would like to hear from the anti war , bring our troops home people, who they plan to vote for for President?

  12. Bob from San Luis
    March 20, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    golfingslo: I am anti-war, and I think our troops should be brought home now; as to whom I plan to vote for, it is way too early. As a registered Democrat, I am not sure who I plan to vote for in the primary, once again, because it is too soon to decide. Of course your question could be a serious question, but I think you are either trying to point out how a couple of the candidates are not ready to remove the troops soon, or, you are trying to deflect the conversation away from the topic Dave posted on, “Blunder on Blunder”.

    Phillip in Morro Bay: President Bush himself was recorded as saying: “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.” —Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2000. Of course that does not make him a dictator and technically he wasn’t the President yet, but the alarms are sounding because of how certain laws are being changed, the powers of the Executive Branch have been ever expanding, and the “media”, for the most part, has been uncritical of the overt power grabs and subtle overstepping of boundaries by the administration that some media outlets could be construed as helping the administration lead our country down the path to a dictatorship. “Unitary Executive” is one of the names given to the expanding powers of the office of the President and with the last session of Congress not holding the administration accountable for anything, I assert that our country was definitely heading towards a dictatorship. Many, including Santa Maria Bill have called President Bush a dictator; I don’t quite agree with that assessment, I believe that if President Bush could get away with implementing dictatorial policies and mechanisms, I honestly believe he would do so. Please remember that the Bush family legacy has supported dictatorships in the past. (Google Prescott Bush) The saving grace for our country not continuing towards a dictatorship? The shift in Congress of a Democratic Party majority, where we are finally starting to see some oversight of the executive branch. The single most often used tool by this administration in implementing their agenda has been the use of so-called “loyalty pledges” where political appointees get posted to a job that they may or may not be qualified for, but in any case, the political viewpoints of the appointees is exactly the same of the administration. I never thought I would quote John Ashcroft, former Attorney General, but he supposedly said that when you work in the Department of Justice, you have to leave your politics at the door so you can do your job without political prejudice. That is exactly what Alberto Gonzales has not done; hence we get the situation like that of Carol Lam, the US attorney in the Duke Cunningham case, who, after reporting that she was going to subpoena the third in command at the CIA, Dusty Foggo, was fired the very next day! Some of the other fired attorneys were let go not because they were investigating Republican corruption, but because they could not find Democratic corruption to investigate. Yes, Rep William Jefferson from Louisiana does need to be investigated; there absolutely is a possibility that he is guilty and so should be investigated, but come on, how many more Republicans are going to be indicted?

  13. golfingslo
    March 21, 2007 at 3:51 am

    Bob from SLO… My question is serious, since I have yet to hear any candidate declare that they would bring the troops home now as you want. Would you vote for a candidate that did not advocate bringing the troops home now?

  14. Bob from San Luis
    March 21, 2007 at 4:44 am

    golfingslo: Okay, you are serious with your question; would I vote for a candidate that does not advocate bringing the troops home now- actually, I don’t believe any of the leading candidates has stated that they are in favor of bringing the troops home now. You want me to give you a name; I won’t do that. Most of my beliefs are very left leaning, but not all of them. The Democratic Party is not as progressive as a whole as I would like it to be, but I am a realist. By exposing the Party as a whole to progressive ideals and values, people like myself help to keep the party from becoming “Republican Lite”. The more people who voice their opinion that the troops do not belong in Iraq, the sooner the party leadership gets the message. Please remember that the 2006 elections were as much about the Iraq war as it was about Republican corruption. The majority of US voters want us to either to finish up quickly or give the Iraqis a date that our troops will leave by so they can take seriously the fact that they will have to provide their own military protection soon.

  15. Dave Congalton
    March 21, 2007 at 5:44 am

    The difficulties were evident in a series of interviews conducted by The Times and in a new nationwide poll by a British market research firm.

    Only one-third of Iraqis surveyed in the Opinion Research Business poll said they believed the Bush administration’s troop “surge” plan, which will bring an additional 28,700 troops to Iraq by June, was intended to bring security back to the nation.

    Of the 5,019 Iraqis surveyed, 22% said the new troops were part of a ploy to position the U.S. to attack other countries in the region. Five percent
    thought the Americans intended to take control of Iraq. More than half the respondents – 53% – said they expected the security situation to improve
    either a great deal or somewhat after U.S. troops left. Just under half said life was better than under Hussein.

  16. Marilyn
    March 21, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    I will not be voting democrat unless a miracle takes place and a candidate decides to run based on principle and not being “close to the center.”

    I attended one of the last democratic meetings in SLO last month and I left with disgust. I have been a democrat since 1995. But in all honesty I cannot endorse or vote for any human being who supports the slaughter of innocent people in the Middle East (and anywhere else), especially for political gain.

    I am removing my name from the democrat list and will vote as “decline to state.” I will vote for my son’s girlfriend’s dog if I have to, but will not vote for any of those criminals and murderers, including the thief in the highest office in the country, who supported and cheered the slaughter of women and children in the Middle East and continue to do so while talking out of both sides of their mouth. Many democrats “care deeply” about the troops but they do not have the guts to stand up to a system and individuals they helped create to get the troops home now. There is not even talk about an exist plan and post exit plan yet, so how do any of those who support the war figure we are going to accomplish anything positive through our continued occupation.

    But the issue is not the welfare of Iraq: it is the strategic control of the region (the original goal of the invasion of both countries, the attempted destruction of Lebanon, the weakening of the Palestinian government, and the open hostile gestures towards Iran and Syria).

    The political system needs to be overthrown through mass political participation on the part of citizens (that is another miracle in itself, getting people involved politically and actually caring about what is going on in the world aside from slogans and sound bites). True democracy and justice cannot exist with two parties, which represent less than half the voters, dictating who will be president and how things will get done through corporate lobbying.

    If there is a decent socialist candidate, I am voting for him/her (regardless of their winning chances). However, from researching the socialist party nationally and locally, they too have no spine in the land of the consuming free.

    Why do we have to vote along party lines, anyway?

  17. george in avila
    March 21, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Dave, here’s a simple question based on a simple assuption for you and your readers . . .

    Assume the radical Muslim threat against anything American is real, and that they (the Taliban, al Qaeda, Iran) will continue to cause us pain where and when they can.

    Question: Would you prefer to fight them and occupy their time and resources in A.) the Middle East with our Military? Or B.) In the streets of U.S. cities with our local police forces?

    A or B? No discussion. A or B?

  18. Brett
    March 22, 2007 at 12:09 am

    “Question: Would you prefer to fight them and occupy their time and resources in A.) the Middle East with our Military? Or B.) In the streets of U.S. cities with our local police forces?”

    This is not a war against a country. That is where your argument fails and fails miserably.

    “Fighting” terrorism will only be successful through intelligence gathering and using a country’s own military/police force to go after terrorist cells.

    The United States will need to use diplomatic avenues to get countries where terrorist groups operate to eliminate those threats.

  19. george in avila
    March 22, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Bret, no one used the word war. The question is a simple one, based on a simple assuption. A or B, which would you prefer?

  20. Brett
    March 22, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    “Bret (sic), no one used the word war. The question is a simple one, based on a simple assuption. A or B, which would you prefer?”

    Your assumption is false.

    Uhhh, why wouldn’t terrorist organizations just fight us both here an abroad. I mean what’s stopping them now.

    It’s almost as though your argument is that we should create a conflict in the Middle East and lure all the terrorist into a fight on their soil.

    Do you really think that terrorist organizations that would like to attack in the United States are somehow going to be distracted away from their ultimate goal (if that is their ultimate goal) of attacking in U.S.?

    So far our war in Iraq has only created more terrorists and has taken away resources from Afghanistan and a resurgance in Taliban activities.

    Your policy is working well I’d say.

    Your’s and others simplistic view of the world is quite facsinating.

  21. Gregory
    March 24, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    Yes, fascinating if it wasn’t also so DEADLY. –G

  22. george in avila
    March 27, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    Bret and Dave, sorry for the delay, but I was away for the weekend.

    A couple of quick commnets . . .

    Are the terrorists distracted? . . . I think they are. We haven’t had an attack within the US since 9/11. They aren’t capable of multi-tasking.

    The simple view is the purest view when not obscured by political blinders. And fascination can be found in truth, and it’s the truth that I think scares you.

    A or B? It’s a simple question.

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