Just Above Sunset
December 18, 2005 - Giving In When You're Looking Good

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Thursday, December 15, 2005 - a full moon rising over the Hollywood Hills and strange things in the news.

For example, mid-day out here, as the moon was still well below the horizon, word came for Washington that the Bush administration "reversed course" and accepted Senator John McCain's call for a law banning cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror. The bare bones Associated Press wire story is here - under "the deal," CIA interrogators would be given the same legal rights as currently guaranteed members of the military who are accused of breaking interrogation guidelines - they can defend themselves by arguing doing really nasty and degrading things to people was reasonable for them to do because they believed they were obeying a legal order.

The odd thing is this was no "deal" at all.


McCain was going to attach his "we do not torture" amendment to every bill he could, and got a veto-proof vote in the senate on that (90-9), and the day before the house had voted to do the same - 308 to 122, with 107 of the Republicans voting against the president. Yipes. The White House had been saying the president would veto any bill to which such an amendment was attached, even if the bill was to pay for the war, or even for more tax cuts for those earning over a million a year or whatever. The vice president had been to the hill to urge that the CIA be exempted from this - but now no exemption for the spooks.


Lots of the press called this a compromise. No.

But the word "capitulation" seems too strong. It's more like, well, getting the matter out of the way. When you've lost the game - there was no way this wasn't going happen, as any veto would be overridden - what's the point of fighting on and looking stupid? In chess you tip over your own king. You concede and move on, rather than watching your pieces leave the board, one at a time, until you're trapped in checkmate. Heck, that's just depressing. In poker you fold a losing hand so you don't throw away good money - unless you're sure you can bluff it out. But when you hold nothing?

And anyway, this made political sense. As you recall, the White House strongly opposed an independent commission investigating the events of September 11, 2001 - they wanted a congressional investigation, which makes a lot of sense when your supporters control congress. But that just wasn't going to fly so the White House "reversed course" and called for an independent investigation and a did a whole lot of talking that up, and most folks now think that independent commission was the administration's idea. Same thing here - on television you could see the senator and the president sitting together, announcing this agreement that we do not torture and will not, and the president saying this was great as all parties worked toward a "shared goal" and got there. Yes, of course that makes no sense given what had happened in the last month or two, but the American public is used to such disconnects, so when the president said this agreement will "make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad" you get the idea the new spin will be this wasn't McCain's idea at all. McCain just help the president reach the president's goal.

That's how things work. Those who support the president will grudgingly concede McCain may have helped him straighten things out and do a good thing, but he was going to do the right thing anyway. Those who do not will claim McCain, a prisoner of war himself, slapped the president around and made him to the right thing. Take your choice.

The key person who worked to defeat the McCain amendment, the vice president, was no doubt fuming about all this, alone at his official Naval Observatory residence, grumbling. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld too was with Cheney on this. They've worked hand in hand since the Ford administration, so maybe he's dropped by and they're sipping scotch, watching the full moon rise, and wondering what's wrong with America.

A friend in Canada, on the night of the full moon, is wondering about the president –


Admitting mistakes were made, now this.

The body-snatchers must have dropped off their pods about a week ago, and this imposter has obviously just climbed out of his pod and assumed the place of the president!


And from our Wall Street attorney friend in lower Manhattan - "You mean kind of like the movie "Dave?"

From upstate New York –


In "Dave" I recall the good guy got out alive! The difference between Hollywood and DC, eh?

Or is the difference actually that in Hollywood we get to glimpse good guys - occasionally.


Maybe so.  But our upstate friend also asked this


So does this begin to look like McCain might somehow become the West Wing type presidential candidate in '08 that the world has been awaiting? He'll never have the neo-con far right, but they've HAD their moment in the sun! Is there a patch quilt way he might somehow emerge - or even be willing to even?

Just wondering aloud –


Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, jumped in to add, "And maybe more to the point, could you vote for him? Could I? Could anyone here?"

Not me. Being right on one issue is not enough. To which Rick replied - "Ditto - although I guess it would depend on who the Democrats put up. I can't see them choosing anyone more conservative than McCain."
Dick in Rochester disagrees - "He is 'right' on a hell of a lot more than one issue. Unfortunately we pretty nearly never get to vote for the best, only the least bad."

From Hollywood –


I disagree on McCain. Later in a post I'll run down where he seems to stand on issue after issue, and where, each time, I think he's full of crap. He's a good man, and a decent one. He listens and he thinks. He just holds positions with which I disagree. Ah well, at least he's honest and honorable. That may be enough? Maybe so. That in itself would be refreshing.

But the matter is moot. Even if he spoke at Bob Jones University - and he did - the hard right is vehemently opposed to him, and the current neoconservatives see him as dangerous. And if he did somehow get the nomination, those Republicans who hate him would cancel out those in the middle who like him. He's dead in the water with his own party.


From upstate - "That only reinforces the point - we never get to vote for honest people - regardless of persuasion!"

Maybe so.  We vote for pod people?

As an aside, on political matters, this full moon day was the day for the president to fold his hand on the torture business, as the voting in Iraq went rather well. As in this - "In a day remarkable for the absence of large-scale violence, millions of Iraqi voters, many of them dressed in their best and traveling with other family members, streamed to the polls today to cast ballots ..."

It worked. The president had a major success. One balances the other. Now let's see if they can form a government over there, and rewrite the constitution from the loose draft, and get along. As Fred Kaplan says here - " Watching these long-oppressed people exercising their franchise as citizens, hearing them express their hopes for a better, freer life - who could fail to be moved or to wish them well?" But then he covers what comes next, and it's not pretty. There's work to do - lots of it. An election is democratic, but not a democracy - not a working government.

What else happened on the night of the full moon?

There was lots of coverage of what the president said in his exclusive interview with Brit Hume on Fox News. And the most interesting tidbit was this - "President Bush said yesterday he is confident that former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is innocent of money-laundering charges, as he offered strong support for several top Republicans who have been battered by investigations ..."

He said DeLay was innocent. Were I Delay's defense attorney I'd argue to the jury that you couldn't possibly find my client guilty when the president of the whole damned United States says he isn't. Were I the prosecuting attorney I'd argue the president should be charged with jury tampering. How do you try a case when the man who runs the whole country has publicly said the accused in innocent? How can you even seat a jury?

The whole Fox News interview is here and it contains lots of goodies, like "The Brownie Kiss of Death" that everyone is talking about.

"The Brownie Kiss of Death" - if you don't remember - has to do with Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, and the Hurricane Katrina business. There's are lot of clips of the president saying, "You've doing a heck of a job, Brownie." A few days later Brown resigned in disgrace. You can buy t-shirts with "You've doing a heck of a job, Brownie" on the front. They're brown, of course. It's a running joke.

On Fox the president says this of Donald Rumsfeld - "He's done a heck of a job. He's conducted two wars, and at the same time is out to transfer my military from a military that was constructed for the post-Cold War to one that is going to be constructed to fight terrorism."

He's done a heck of a job? No, Rumsfeld is not on the way out. No one told the president about the running joke. It seems there's lots his people don't tell him.

For a full discussion of the Fox News interview see this from Tim Grieve. It's pretty amazing.

But Tim Grieve is best here


Who, exactly, is allowed to be critical of the Bush administration these days?

We know it's not the Democrats. As Joe Lieberman said the other day, Democrats who distrust George W. Bush need to "acknowledge he'll be commander in chief for three more years" because "we undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril."

We know it's not senators who believe that the Bush administration manipulated prewar intelligence. As Dick Cheney explained last month, it's "irresponsible" for them to speak out about their "dishonest and reprehensible" views.

We know it's not the United Nations. As John Bolton said the other day in remarks intended for the U.N.'s high commissioner on human rights, "It is inappropriate and illegitimate for an international civil servant to second-guess the conduct that we're engaged in in the war on terror with nothing more as evidence than what she reads in the newspapers."

We know it's not peace activists or other antiwar groups. As NBC News reported this week, the Pentagon is monitoring even the smallest gatherings as "threats" and "suspicious incidents."

And now we know it's not our neighbors to the north, either. ... the U.S. ambassador to Canada told Canadians this week that they should tone down their anti-Bush rhetoric - or else. "It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and constantly criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner," David Wilkins said at the Canada Club in Ottawa. "But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on our relationship."

Wilkins may not know much about Canada - before he got the ambassadorship, he'd visited the country only once, on a trip to Niagara Falls. But he certainly knows a thing or two about the value of long-term relationships. An old Bush family friend, Wilkins raised more than $200,000 for the president's 2004 reelection campaign. Which means, apparently, that he's pretty much free to say whatever he wants.


Of course he links to all the news stories supporting what he says.

It's all madness. It must be the full moon (here rising over the Hollywood Hills, Thursday, December 15, 2005, 6:15 pm - 18h15 - PST) -

Full Moon, Hollywood Hills, 15 December 2005


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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This issue updated and published on...

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