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The Washington Money Machine

    A premise to consider: That political rancor, while great fun, tends to obscure much of what's happening in Washington.

     Politics is a sport, played on contested turf, with charismatic figures who, regardless of whether they win or lose, raise a wonderful ruckus in the process. But the smoke and dust and all the arm-waving and hollering tend to distract us from the basic fact that Washington is a money laundering operation.

    That operation is political to a degree, but what is striking is how mechanistic it is, and it grinds onward without a hitch regardless of which party is in power. Republicans, Democrats, independents, Federalists, Whigs, Bull Moose Party people -- they all know how to throw the levers and flip the switches.

    The mechanics of the operation are well-documented, but tend to generate big headlines only when there's a full-blown scandal, as in the case of Jack Abramoff or Duke Cunningham. The people who operate this federal machine do more than throw money around and build Bridges to Nowhere. A little tweaking of a tax bill can save a company millions. Or perhaps a regulation is modified. The scale of the federal government is so great that no one can keep track of all the secret buttons.

    We do get glimpses of the process. This morning Jonathan Weisman writes about an amendment to a House budget bill, backed by Big Pharma, that restricts the ability of states to steer Medicaid patients to cheaper treatments for mental health problems. The governors wanted flexibility; Congress sided with the pharmaceutical industry. It's possible this amendment has merit -- one mental health advocacy group favored it. But Weisman writes:

   "To opponents, however, Buyer's measure underscores the excessive power that corporate interests wield on Capitol Hill. Critics say the measure also violates the purpose of the budget-cutting bill, which was drafted to give state governments the flexibility to cut program costs in ways that minimize the harm done to beneficiaries. 'This is obviously an attempt to prevent state Medicaid offices from getting cheaper, just-as-beneficial drugs to patients, and it's really going to stick it to the taxpayers,' said Steve Ellis, a vice president and Medicaid analyst at Taxpayers for Common Sense."

    The congressman who offered the amendment, Steve Buyer, Republican from Indiana, represents a suburban Indianapolis district that is home to many employees of nearby Eli Lilly & Co., the maker of Prozac. Writes Weisman: 

   "Lilly has been the biggest corporate contributor to Buyer's campaigns. Since 1989, the drug company has donated $46,500 to Buyer's congressional campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics."

    Keep in mind, this is all legal. Lobbying is not a crime; it's actually protected by the Constitution, right there in the First Amendment. But the huge amounts of money in play on the Hill and in the various government agencies creates a market for corruption. Sometimes it's blatant, as in the case of Rep. Cunningham, who resigned Monday "after tearfully confessing to evading taxes and conspiring to pocket $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode," to quote our story. The Abramoff case has many tentacles, and lawmakers are nervous. Jeff Birnbaum wrote yesterday, "the activities under scrutiny can also be viewed as logical extensions of actions that once were rare but over time have become commonplace: massive political fundraising, freewheeling private travel given to lawmakers by groups interested in legislation, and the bestowing of other gifts and benefits on government officials by lobbyists."

   The machine is overheating. Smoke is billowing out. Stand back, everyone, this thing could explode.

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 29, 2005; 9:25 PM ET
 
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Comments

Thanks Joel, BAM...

WHile there are limits to campaign donations, these companies can dump 100's of thousands into K Street. Who knows where all this money ends up, eh?

The arm bone is connect to the...

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | November 30, 2005 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Fearless Leader, this thing ain't gonna blow, it'll just ooze out golden magma every once in awhile, scalding a select few as sacrifices to the grand scheme.

Speaking of sacrifices, whatever happened to "the common good?" Everyone, even voters (and myself on too many occasions), focuses on "what can I get out of this?" Since when should we cheer when our partciular pol boasts, "I got my state more benefits that we paid in taxes?"

TANSTAAFL should become the national motto...

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 30, 2005 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Not to beat a dead 'boodle, but to quote Dolphin Michael in the previous one:

"I think that the next lady or gentleman who runs for president and promises not to have a Chatty Cathy Pres Secr. rather he/she promises to stand up and take questions and also go to congress and discuss policy with both parties, will win."

Good point. Great point, in fact. But unfortunately, it IS the one who PROMISES to do stuff who wins. But what we need is the one who WILL do what DMichael says.

We already have a president who thinks saying something makes it true. I think he honestly thinks he is speaking to the people when he goes to military bases and academies and aircraft carriers to preach to his choir.

Posted by: TBG | November 30, 2005 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Isn't Karl Rove on record as detesting Progressive professionalism in government and admiring Tammany Hall for its ability to deliver the goods to the impoverished Irish?

Posted by: Dave | November 30, 2005 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Hate to change the subject before the boodle even gets up a full head of steam (I know how distressing change-of-topic is to all of you), but this morning on TV I saw a promo that ticked me off. It was for a story Channel 4 (the local NBC outlet here in Warshington, for you out-of-towners and off-worlders), whose reporter, Doreen Genzler, is doing a piece about umbilical cord stem cell research (I'm fine with that). The promo/teaser said that umbilical cord stems cell research can
"save lives [still OK] rather than throw away the future." The reference is apparently a comparison to embryonic stem cell research.

Two things ticked me off royally. First, the reference to the other kind of stem cell research (embryonic) seems unnecessarily obscure and "coded." Second, I didn't like the code itself--that embryonic stem cell research uses embryos and therefore "throws away the future." Now, I realize some people hold exactly that view, and I suppose that's their prerogative. But I didn't think Channel 4 as a news institution ought to be making that judgment (if nothing else, it is blatant editorializing)--or if it does want to take an editorial stand against embryonic stem cell research, then it &%$*# well ought to be up-front about it, and also take the consequences.

Anybody else see this promo? Anybody else bugged about it?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 30, 2005 9:37 AM | Report abuse

A capitalist Democracy that's powered by money? Influence and power for sale to the highest bidders?

Say it ain't so.

I'll disagree with Birnbaum's assertion that those activites were 'once rare'. In our information age, money, property, and communications leave digital trails that are much easier to follow than in the old days when cash was under the table and went directly into wallets, communciations were not so time-sensitive that they couldn't be delivered in person (and there weren't machines to record them), and financial/banking and property ownership transactions were handled solely on paper. Paper is a lot easier to secure than a bunch of bits existing in who-knows-how-many places, having traversed who-knows-how-many-networks, to who-knows-how-many computers.

The really sophisticated folks are able to able to continue to transact capitalist government (governmental capitalism), as they ever have, relatively undetected, and leaving very little trace.

On the other hand, it is far better here in the US than in other countries.

Isn't it?

TANSTAAFL - hey Scottynuke, at least this time I wasn't the first to make a Heinlen/"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" reference in the 'boodle...

bc

Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 9:42 AM | Report abuse

The scandal is never what is illegal. The real scandal is what is perfectly legal. There are probably 532 members of Congress that stop just short of depositing checks in their personal bank accounts. If these people were bound by the same ethical restraints they put on salaried federal workers, K Street would have tumbleweeds blowing down the middle.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 30, 2005 9:54 AM | Report abuse

bc,

Well said--but, does that mean that DeLay's problem was that he wasn't sophisticated enough? maybe

I do get the impression that DeLay's defense will be of the "what's new, really" nature.

slyness, you are too kind... I guess we share a point of view. I think back to the way George Bush handled the Indian Sovereignty Question at the Unity Journalists of Color Convention ... I was watching as I am part indian, but the responses that Bush gave were a good hint that this shouldn't be his "day job."

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | November 30, 2005 10:00 AM | Report abuse

C-mudge, speaking from total ignorance here (surprise!). Haven't seen the spot on WRC. Is it possible that they are alluding to the limitation on stem cell research by the WH? That by using umbilical cells, researchers have found a way to exploit a potentially beneficial area of research and sidestep the ban? It all depends on what is meant by "the future." Is it the embryo? Is it scientific advancement? Seems to me it could be either.
Soon as I get the other four blind men in here, we'll be able to tell you just what this animal looks like.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 30, 2005 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Mine eyes have seen the coming of the entitlement.

This is the hot new buzz words you will hear out of Canada. Culture of entiltement is being used to describe the entrenched 'its all about me and you owe me' philosopy that exists in the party in power for the last 10 years here.

Its a good way to describe this behaviour isn't it?

Posted by: dr | November 30, 2005 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Bush is on TV giving his big Iraq speech. Anyone watching? Just fyi, the new strategic plan (my executive summary: "Prepare for endless war") includes a URL for a military site tracking the training of the Iraqi forces:
http://www.mnstci.iraq.centcom.mil/

Posted by: Achenbach | November 30, 2005 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon;

Haven't seen the WRC promo; then again, I see next to no local TV news because "real journalism" there all too often equates to the next big scare for ratings. But to your point, yes, clarity and the courage to boldly pick a side in a real TV editorial (man, I miss the 60-second pieces WCVB in Boston used to do) are always helpful and therefore rarely seen.

bc - Somebody's gotta be first, and when Heinlein's right, he's right, yanno? I'm just the humble messenger.

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 30, 2005 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Joel, What's the "new twist" in Bush's plan? Does he see an end for us?

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | November 30, 2005 10:20 AM | Report abuse

It's always about the Benjamins. And, just bringin' it around to Woodward, even though the following wasn't in the book but was famous in the movie, "Follow the money." (Or was it "Follow the money, dammit"?)

I liked that link, Joel. I'm glad to see that everything is going just like a batch o' press releases in the training of Iraqis to police their country.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 30, 2005 10:47 AM | Report abuse

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that Iraqi security forces are increasingly taking on larger responsibilities against the Iraqi insurgency and asked Americans for patience as he tries to counter critics demanding a U.S. troop withdrawal.

"Our goal is to train enough Iraqi forces so they can carry the fight and this will take time and patience. And it's worth the time and it's worth the effort," Bush said in a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Bush, who is facing waning public support for the 2-1/2 year war, said the U.S. goal is for Iraqis to take the lead in the fight against the insurgents and eventually take responsibility without "major foreign assistance."

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 30, 2005 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Joel -

Yep, watching the Bush speech. Good stuff. Fareed has a new piece on the U.S. strategy that is worth a look ... seems that Condi Rice has full control and is doing a good job with "Clear, Hold, Build" strategy. About time, some might say.

On the money machine topic, yes, it's all legal. Good point. What gets lost is that those 1st amendment rights have been curtailed to favor the racket. Incumbents and machine politics are smooth as ever, but the only challengers that aren't handcuffed are independently wealthy.

Isn't there any sense of irony that the 1st amendment now guarantees naked body painting and pan-handling and flag-buring, but does not permit criticism of incumbents in the days before an election? Thanks go to the progressives, but is it progress? Ooops, strike that, here come the thought police.

Posted by: Kane | November 30, 2005 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I scanned/browsed the plan document.

Mentions of Iraqi business sectors (including oil): 7

Mentions of Iraqui religious or business sects: 5

Mentions of WMDs: 2.
One usage as part of a long term goal of making Iraq a partner in the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs, once in saying that Saddam Hussein had a history of pursuing and using WMDs.

More later, I hope.

bc

Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 10:51 AM | Report abuse

SCCs: "Heinlein", "Iraqi".

Double Bah!

bc

Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 10:53 AM | Report abuse

dr
The Canadian culture of entitlement is somewhat different from ours, if I understand it correctly. In Canada, citizens expect to receive generous benefits in exchange for their high taxes. In the U.S., citizens (and their respective business entities) expect generous government contracts in exchange for their "contributions."

Posted by: CowTown | November 30, 2005 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Re. critiquing the WaPo.

On the current edition of WaPo Online (11:00 AM 11/30/05), I see a picture of POTUS, and a headline below it "TSA May Allow Sharp Objects", to be a curiously amusing juxtaposition.

But then, I'm easily amused.

bc

Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 11:03 AM | Report abuse

This Rio Grande pork-barrel story is as good as the Alaska "road to nowhere." Lajitas is probably less than 10 miles from Terlingua, the site of Texas' big annual chili cookoff. I have shortened/manipulated MacCormack's article a great deal (and it's easy enough to locate via Google).

I, along with so many Americans, are sickened by the you-scratch-my-back, then I'll-scratch-yours mentality of our nation's Capitol.

Resort owner's offer bypassed
Web Posted: 11/06/2005 12:00 AM CST
John MacCormack
Express-News Staff Writer

LAJITAS -- Steve Smith made his fortune in Excel Communications. And before he bought Lajitas in a public auction six years ago, it was a remote and run-down Western theme town perched on the Mexican border.

Smith's high-dollar Big Bend resort advertises itself as "The Ultimate Hideout" and last year Smith, owner of the Lajitas Resort, sought an adjusted two-lane road around his resort property.

The state had planned to resurface and widen the road through the resort, but Smith promised to pay the estimated $1 million extra to reroute it around the town. But the roadway is becoming the kind of tribute most elected officials could do without.

As commemorative roadways go, the so-called "Bonilla Bypass" will be a modest affair, stretching just over a mile around this town, but plan to reroute a road around Lajitas became controversial when U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, arranged for $1.2 million to pay for the project.

When the news broke recently that Rep. Bonilla had quietly arranged for $1.2 million in federal funding for what officially is known as the "Lajitas Relief Route," it stirred up a hornet's nest in southern Brewster County.

Few here had objected to the bypass as long as Smith was paying for it. But in a low-income region in which funding for public works is scarce, the news that taxpayers are picking up much of the tab went over like a bowl of bad chili.

"We're paying for a rich man's pet project, and almost everyone thinks it's outrageous. What gets people the most is to have such a lot of money spent on a frill when there are so many other things really needed here," said Pat Walker, owner of the Terlingua Springs Market.

"The other thing that is really annoying is them posing it as a safety issue. If they just came out and said, 'We have a congressman in our pocket,' I'd find that less insulting," she said.

But Smith's millions have made Lajitas a luxurious corporate getaway complete with its own jet runway, an emerald-green desert golf course and hotel rooms going for up to $750 a night.

Bonilla is no stranger to Lajitas. In the past two years, his American Dream Political Action Committee has spent more than $40,000 to hold functions there, according to public records. The resort recently welcomed him as a new member.

Bonilla's office has offered various explanations for the Lajitas Relief Route, which was tucked into a mammoth transportation bill Congress approved and President Bush signed that drew criticism for other pork projects, including a $223 million "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska.

That bridge and other projects in the massive bill are causing some Republicans to reconsider the expenditures, according to a report Saturday in the Washington Post. Congress might cut many projects and use the money to rebuild roads destroyed by hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

There is no word on whether the Lajitas roadwork will survive any changes.

"This project was begun in 2004. It was already funded and under construction when all this stuff came around. And the bill says the federal funding is for the Lajitas Relief Route," said Tom Mangrem, the TxDot area engineer based in Alpine.

Mark Crews, a TxDot planning manager in El Paso, said he believes Smith requested the federal funds.

"TxDot did not request the money. I'm absolutely certain. I would have known about it," Crews said.

State highway officials said the infusion of federal money to the road project will delay its completion, which now could be another year away.

It began in fall 2004 with Smith's offer to pay for the bypass.

"There is a private entity (a billionaire I believe) that is willing to pay for a realignment of a short section of FM 170," reads an August 2004 e-mail from Crews to another TxDot official.

"The private party is willing to fund all costs ... out of their pocket, including a swap of right-of-way," it continues.

The transportation department agreed to the proposal, and the rough cost to Smith was estimated at $1 million. But by the following spring, negotiations slowed amid rumors of a different source of money...

"I saw today where President Bush signed the Highway Bill into law, which includes $1.2 m(illion) for relocating the highway in Lajitas ... Please confirm that our financial requirements have been met with the signing of this bill into law," wrote Randy Williamson on Aug. 10 to the state agency.

But the federal money was causing some to have second thoughts.

"This things has a strong odor. .... We have told folks around here that the Lajitas Resort bypass would not cost the taxpayers anything. I believe there are some ethics and legal questions here," Mangrem wrote in August.

For many, the bypass will endure as a symbol of political pork.

"If Steve Smith wants to build a monument to himself down here, he should pay for it. Why should we?" asked Steve Hackworth, 54, who works the parts counter at Terlingua Auto Service in Study Butte.

"If it's built, I'm sure it will be sarcastically called the 'Bonilla Bypass,' and if you can find anyone down here who likes this thing, I haven't met them," he said.

Posted by: Loomis | November 30, 2005 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Ahhh scandals. Many pols take a certain action, be it to vote a certain way, write a letter or insert a piece into the congressional record, because they think it's the right thing to do - not because they expect something. In fact, a good deal of time is spent writing resolutions, giving speeches, and voting on amendments because it is the JOB. And sometimes, someone contributes $ to you because they agree and they want to see you continue to do what you do. As a result, no discussion of contributions - legal and otherwise - can be complete without a discussion of the enormous cost to run a campaign - even for a pol with very high approval numbers. In the House, it's practically a full time job.

Posted by: WDC | November 30, 2005 11:05 AM | Report abuse

COMPLETELY off topic and entirely frivolous, but that doesn't stop us does it:

I was thinking of the Sunday's Rough Draft and the ensuing discussion this morning because I had a *tree frog* in my bathroom. Yes, in the shower with me and I didn't notice until I put my glasses on; there is a pattern here. Frogs are much less creepy than cockroaches, but they are jumpy, prone to sudden, dramatic changes in location. And tree frogs especially, because they can jump from wall to wall. It was an exciting chase, the little guy eluded me and got out of the bathroom, down the hall and into the bedroom where he took refuge beneath a high-heeled shoe. He felt safe under there so I was able to get a bag over the shoe and the frog together and then remove the shoe and take the intruder to the back yard. I'm sure he's been spending the morning doing the frog equivalent of typing this up for his blog. Ribbit. Ribbit.

Posted by: Reader | November 30, 2005 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Given that website costs about $12 to register and $10/mo to run, isn't it about time we re-think the way campaigning is done? Exactly why do we need expensive TV commercials? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to watch TV without seeing the negative ads? If you want to see them, go to the candidate's site! It would be cheaper to give every family in the country a PC and broadband. There would be no need for the lobbyists to contribute to campaigns, and then can exercise their First Amendment rights all day long without tainting the process.

Posted by: asdg | November 30, 2005 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Reader;

Wouldn't we call the frog equivalent a ribblog?

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 30, 2005 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Yes influence is for sale. So where can I buy? What lobbyists out there will turn my $500 into a $5000 net gain for my causes (the environment, securing the social safety net, ACTUAL homeland security, etc.)? My checkbook is standing by.

Posted by: mizerock | November 30, 2005 11:43 AM | Report abuse

asdg: That's an excellent argument for public funding of campaigns. It's cheap and effective. Worked for Dean (sort of).

Posted by: CowTown | November 30, 2005 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Mizerock, I've got good news and I've got bad news. The good news is that as a member of the electorate you are in the position of lead character in a Broadway musical. The bad news is that the musical is "Oliver" and night after night you will be asking for "More, please" and night after night you will whacked on the head with a spoon and sold to the undertaker.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 30, 2005 11:52 AM | Report abuse

mizerock:

That is a good point, and brings up another really rotten thing about the system. The corporations pay off the politicians with money they get from their customers, and then the benefits accrue, not to the customers, but to the stockholders.

Where's Karl Marx when we need him?

Follow the money, indeed.

Posted by: Reader | November 30, 2005 11:54 AM | Report abuse

bc, or anyone else who has read the new strategic plan, what's really new here, other than more words saying we will Stay The Course? Someone please tell me there is light at the end of this particular tunnel.
Without being so bold as to call this Bush's Vietnam, it seems to me that the question is whether victory as Bush defines it is something that is, in fact, achievable within a reasonable period of time, with an acceptable level of casualties and cost. We all want victory. We all want a peaceful and democratic Iraq. But if it just isn't going to happen the way Bush wants it to happen, he has a moral obligation to go to some kind of plan B -- even at the risk of people saying that he's doing what Murtha suggests, or what his squishy-liberal opponents want. Reagan said, "Never again will we make the mistake of sending our troops to fight a war we're afraid to let them win." Rummy et al wanted a lean occupation force. It's true, as the strategic plan states, that transitions like this take many years, historically -- but has any country EVER tried to do what we're trying to do, with just 140,000-something troops and limited allied support? Someone smart out there should tell us how the Allies handled the occupation of Germany and Japan.

Posted by: Achenbach | November 30, 2005 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I object to comparing the occupation of Iraq to that of Germany and Japan. The latter two countries were soundly defeated - pacified - prior to the occupation. Any insurgents were scarce and quickly dealt with. Their partisans had no supporters in neighboring countries who could funnel arms and supplies to them.

I submit that the Iraq occupation is more like the American occupation of the Phillipines in the 19th Century, another debacle.

Posted by: CowTown | November 30, 2005 12:03 PM | Report abuse

And speaking of World War II, today's paper reported that Rumsfeld objects to the term "insurgent" for the opposition forces in Iraq and I'd like to go on record again to say that instead of thinking in terms of marketing spin, we should call them what they are: the resistance. They are putting up resistance to an occupying army and the puppet government that has been put in place by and is supported by that occupying force. They are the Iraqi Resistance.

Posted by: Reader | November 30, 2005 12:03 PM | Report abuse

CowTown, close but no cigar.

In Canada, the culture of entitlement refers to Liberal party supporters and their corporate entities receiving generous benefits in exchange for Canadian citizens paying high taxes.

I sure wish you'd have gotten that cigar though. That would have been really nice.

Posted by: dr | November 30, 2005 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm no LindaLoo, but ...

"Despite knowledge that the levees were in dire need of repair, the 150 million dollars appropriated to rebuild the levees in New Orleans, was moved to the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq", according to the emergency mgt. chief for Jefferson Parish (NO Times Picayune, June 8, 2004).

I have no faith in Mr. Bush's promise that "New Orleans will rise again." I do have faith in the people of this country though and through volunteers and monetary contributions, perhaps we the people can rebuild not just NO, but the surrounding parishes and communities.No, not "perhaps, we WILL do it.

Posted by: Nani | November 30, 2005 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Joel, I've read a lot of marketing material in my life.

This All New Strategic Plan looks like a White Paper that my local sales guy would refer me to if I have any detailed questions about anything. This is usually because my sales guy "doesn't get into the details".

1. Can't say that there's light at the end of this tunnel.
2. Can't say that the NSC's "map" tells me anything new about getting out of this tunnel.
3. Can't say that anyone even can say for sure where this tunnel goes (if anywhere at all).
4. Does this tunnel smell like brimstone to you, and does that dim light have a reddish cast to it?

bc
Note: I resisted making any reference to rodents and tunnels, and/or body cavites.

Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Joel, the only thing I see in it that strikes me as new is the outlining of a "Clear, hold, build" strategy." They aim to clear an area of bad guys, hold it and build infrastructure and such in there.

Otherwise, it's heavy on the usual themes. And it tosses around some mentions of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden here and there, so they'll get into some of the news coverage and those who are still in a fog thinking Saddam was in on 9-11 will have every reason to continue doing so.

But it's a plan, see? It's in writing. I presume some TV reporters will wave the thing at the camera. Critics will huff that it's nothing to write home about. But it's a plan. And Bush's supporters can take that to the bank, so to speak.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 30, 2005 12:14 PM | Report abuse

SCC " cavities".

Feh.

bc

Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 12:14 PM | Report abuse

The only thing that will "rise again" are the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Rebuild the city, but this time have it located another hundred miles further inland.

Posted by: mizerock | November 30, 2005 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't a true resistance's goal be to free all Iraqui citizens? From what I have read this 'resistance' targets and kills many more Iraquis than it does all others.

What I think it is is a terrorist action to get Saddam and his Baathists back in power. Remember all those disappearing armies? Do you seriously think loyal guardsmen simply went back home and laid down arms? I think its far more likely that these spoiled boys want their power back. I doubt if Iraqui citizens even enter their thoughts at all.

Posted by: dr | November 30, 2005 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Candor is something that politicians are not good at. Analyzing how to market something is what politicians are good at. Americans are good at buying things, and being sold things and not so good about seeing that they are being led. It would be nice to see the media start examining news "as if" they were capable of helping people to become aware consumers of what it is they are paying for.

Posted by: Handling the situation as if it were important to everyone. | November 30, 2005 12:37 PM | Report abuse

In the depths of the Vietnam quagmire, a Vermont senator whose name escapes me strode to the podium and offered this simple solution to a war that had no end: declare victory and leave. It would have played better than that helicopters on the rooftops finale. Policymakers don't like the end game. They're all about shock and awe, and then they get bored with the hard parts.

Posted by: jm | November 30, 2005 1:12 PM | Report abuse

going back to the original topic for a moment, the problem as I personally see it isn't that Buyer introduced the amendment or even necessarily that it passed. Eli Lilly is one of Buyer's constituents, and to a degree he has a responsibility to represent his constituents in Congress; in fact, that's what he's here for.

Instead, the larger issue as I see it is the way in which bill/amendments like this get passed; through logrolling rather than compromise.

Posted by: JonL | November 30, 2005 1:12 PM | Report abuse

dr,

I certainly didn't mean to imply that the Iraqi resistance is inherently noble or that I share their goals for Iraq. But when I look at it from the viewpoint of a citizen whose country has been invaded by an outside force, violently invaded, with massive loss of life and property, it's only logical that there would be a group of citizens who see it as their duty to fight against the invaders. And Iraqis have been deprived of the opportunity to learn about democracy, so it's not reasonable to expect that they will frame their resistance in terms of "liberty and justice for all."

Posted by: Reader | November 30, 2005 1:14 PM | Report abuse

One more comment re. NSC's Strategic Plan:

I've seen references to Eight Pillars in Taoist and Bhuddist philosophy, and I think even Indian and ancient Egyptian cultures...

I wonder what made them decide to use that reference?

bc

Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I've done some political and governmental work in the past, mostly on the writing end.

Most candidates want to give speeches or write campaign literature with some variation of "Throughout my career I've strongly supported...."

I sometimes tried to suggest that they not begin lying in their first sentence.

First-time candidates sometimes were chagrined and agreed to modifications. Incumbents generally insisted on retaining the words, and even worse, often convinced themselves that they HAD been a strong supporter of blah blah blah, despite the evidence.

Bush has that problem--conforming public statements with reality.

Posted by: kindathinker | November 30, 2005 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I thought it interesting that the Iraqi pols actually paid lip service to a right to resistance when they met with the Sunnis. What I don't understand is the formulation that if we set a timetable then they'd just "wait us out". Surely the idea is to minimize the violence, if they cut back on the IEDs in the meantime and it cuts the number of US and civilian casualties, why is that bad? Then if they start up again when we leave, they're clearly attacking fellow Iraqis, not the "occupation".

It also strikes me that there are parts of the US where our own army would eventually be attacked if they moved in for any length of time. Anyone remember the militias and Timothy McVeigh? (And of course they might get hit with tofu-burgers in Berkeley.)

Posted by: asdg | November 30, 2005 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I hope this Iraq War boodle keeps going, but fyi I did post a new kit, on a science story that was embargoed until 1 p.m. today.

Posted by: Achenbach | November 30, 2005 1:48 PM | Report abuse

If they were fighting for the single goal of getting the US out, I'd agree with you. If that was the goal, isn't it logical to assume they would be focusing the bulk of their attacks on US targets as did the French resistance in WWII? They don't. They focus on oridnary civilians who are going about daily life as often as not. For example, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4484304.stm .
Even taking into consideration the differences between western logic and arabic logic, it does not seem to be a way to get an invader out. Indeed it seems to be making it more vital that he stay.

Who is funding this 'tide of violence'? Who supplies them? Who gains if they create a political vaccuum?

My guess is it goes right back to follow the money. I just think the money would end where the confilct began.

Posted by: dr | November 30, 2005 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Just in case anyone would take that last line wrong, Saddam is the clear start of this conflict. The UN should be there holding him to account and not just the US and a few allies.

Posted by: dr | November 30, 2005 2:06 PM | Report abuse


My recall may not be accurate (did I dream this?) Didn't former president Reagan retaliate against Mohamar Khadafy's acts of terrorism abroad by sending an assassination team to bomb his home compound? Khadafy was supposed to be there, but wasn't; his young daughter was killed. The terrorism ceased, Khadafy disappeared and didn't resurface until recently.

Posted by: Nani | November 30, 2005 2:33 PM | Report abuse

The U.S. maintainted 200,000 to 250,000 troops in West Germany annually from 1950 until 1992, when it drew down by half. Roughly 70,000 troops are still stationed in Germany.

In Japan, it was more like 80,000; today just 45,000.

But Joel, you write "achievable within a reasonable period of time, with an acceptable level of casualties and cost." What is reasonable and acceptable? Indeifnite is reasonable to me, so long as Iraq continues to make progress in stabilizing democratically and growing economically. Oh yeah, and hangs Saddam. Acceptable casualties is much trickier to define. You know that the casualties in Iraq are tremendously low by comparison to other conflicts (50k in Vietnam) and even to highway deaths in the U.S. (about 3500 every month). If that is the price of freedom in the Middle East, and we can still find volunteers for the mission (we can), I hope we as a people have the patience to continue.

Then again, this is a land of 30-minute sitcoms where every situation should be resolved by the end of the episode. I fear we don't have patience as a cultural virtue anymore, at least not a majority of us.

Posted by: Kane | November 30, 2005 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it's an issue of patience, Kane, it's a matter of confidence. Many of us just don't think the current administration can do the job since they've muffed it so far. An ordered transition to a peaceful democratic Iraq may be possible - maybe the next president call do the job.

Posted by: CowTown | November 30, 2005 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Kane, excellent points. I certainly believed casualties would be higher right off the bat. Of course a lot of guys were saved and maimed instead where in the VietNam days a good percentage of the 15000 injured would have been dead.

I think the real problem is this war was sold as being short and painless. If you want to manage expectations then you have to prepare people, and they did the opposite.

I also think we should reconsider the draft. One thing that really disturbs me is the conflict between citizens and our own military. I've read (accidentally thru Google) military blogs where one former Marine told a dissenter that he'd tell his Marine sons "who the enemy was", and that was to an Army guy! A letter by a recently retired captain in the NYT said "woe to anyone" who didn't think this was a noble and just enterprise. A draft would narrow the political and world outlook gap between soldiers who are effectively taught to despise our "soft" life and regular citizens. I understand the need for toughness, but if the military thinks the majority of citizens are now the bad guys, it doesn't bode well for the republic.

Posted by: asdg | November 30, 2005 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Are you serious?

Posted by: ralph | November 30, 2005 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, yes. I don't look forward to being attacked in a bar by a vet because I didn't support the war. As a regular guy I have to avoid beating the crap out of people when I don't agree, and so have no experience in it. They've been trained in combat. They'e SUPPOSED to be dangerous, and I respect and admire that, but I'm obviously going to have to keep my mouth shut when I go out. I have several friends and a brother-in-law who were Marines, I've worked for the Navy, and I've known some truly great people who I'm glad to know are on the job; I'm not anti-military in any "lefty" sense. But I think something weird's going on here.

I'm not going to supply the links because they shouldn't have let anyone non-military in there, but it was scary. I already get attacked for being insufficiently Christian, and I've talked too many Viet Nam vets down off the rafters. If they're threatening fellow officers I'm going to be mincemeat.

Posted by: asdg | November 30, 2005 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Look, I'm a vet, asdg, and I have some mixed feelings here.

The firs tthing to realize is the military is filled with a diverse group of individuals. Some are bound to see that they have a perspective nobody outside can ever appreciate -- that's a pretty common sense of exclusiveness that is common in any setting (motherhood, religion, ivy league schools, etc). My sense is that the hostility towards civilians is rare.

On the other hand, how are vets supposed to feel when the Gore campaign actively had absentee military votes discarded in Florida? Friendly towards Democrats? Face it, Florida 2000 was an "Abu Ghraib" moment for the future relationship between liberals and the military. The votes of the men and women who defend our democracy were deemed inconvenient by candidate Gore, and he sent out an attack team of lawyers to challenge any ballot from APO and FPO addresses ... which worked! Agghhh! That's BEFORE the count, or the recount. Aggghhh! For a military vet (who grew up a Democrat), it was the ultimate life-changing moment.

As for the war beinng short and painless, I think that's only half true. Bush has never said it would be anything but a long, difficult effort. But has he asked for a major sacrfice by all? Good poinit.

Posted by: Kane | December 1, 2005 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Hello, since when is it necessary to pay your servants extra to maintain your borders so your affluent finances don't suffer? Why else would veterans benefits and medicare be cut? It's not like the people that you pay to do your dirty work are people too is it? Come on you like working for rich people that take advantage of you and sell you economic intervention as a war because your're too patriotic to see what is going on.

Posted by: Majore sacrifice? | December 1, 2005 3:25 PM | Report abuse

George Bush Sr. started it. He tacitly gave Saddam the okay to invade Kuwait. Since Iraq felt that the Kuwaiti's had taken oil from Iraq, Saddam did that, Bush ordered Desert Storm to open the door for future occupation....left Saddam in charge as a reason to return. His son completed that set-up after 9/11, resource secured. Please remember that somehow Saddam Hussein escaped from a city surrounded by drone reconnaisance, ground operatives that had infiltrated his troops, active troops, AWACS, spy satellites that can tell you what you ate for lunch today, knowing exactly what they needed to be looking for and where to look....with three tractor trailers loaded with cash....not possible. Do you know that Saddam is in Iraq? Because they told you? Have you ever been lied to by them? Are any of their children fighting in this war? Say: Mom, Apple Pie, Partriotism, gun control, gay marriage, and some people do whatever you tell them to without thinking or examining...Pavlovian response. Hamsters on wheels....this is called appeal to emotion, grounds for disqualifying a response in college level debate and your average US vs Them primitive doesn't even know when he/she is being directed/led.

Posted by: Saddam started it, started what? | December 1, 2005 7:58 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Money Machine rolls on...

http://www.10thcircle.com/10/wp-content/AskaRep_02.html

bc

Posted by: bc | December 2, 2005 11:24 AM | Report abuse

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