Shunning Victory in Iraq

Observing the back and forth exchange of rhetoric from both the Obama and McCain campaigns in recent days about their respective Iraq war policies, I couldn’t help recalling a familiar strategic refrain that was first articulated by George Bush back in 2005. Speaking at the White House on the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq to a transitional Iraqi government, he said this:

“The principal task of our military is to find and defeat the terrorists. And that is why we are on the offense. And as we pursue the terrorists, our military is helping to train Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their people and fight the enemy on their own. Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.”

For years now, this catch-phrase has been faithfully reiterated by the Bush administration as the cornerstone of its Iraq policy. And guess what? By all accounts, the Iraqis are standing up. Here, for example, is a report from the Sunday Times earlier this month:

American and Iraqi leaders believe that while it would be premature to write off Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni group has lost control of its last urban base in Mosul and its remnants have been largely driven into the countryside to the south. Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, who has also led a crackdown on the Shi’ite Mahdi Army in Basra and Baghdad in recent months, claimed yesterday that his government had “defeated” terrorism.

It’s become apparent both from Prime Minister Maliki’s recent statements as well as through numerous other assertions from senior Iraqi officials that they’re quite comfortable with the idea of a timeline for the withdrawal of American combat forces by sometime in 2010 and a move towards a much more limited set of missions and presence, but Bush and McCain’s response seems to be: “you’re not ready yet.” In fact, today when asked about Maliki’s call for a timetable, McCain condescendingly dismissed Maliki’s concerns saying “I know what they want.”

After waiting for Iraqis to assert themselves for five years, you would think that Bush should be seizing this moment. In many ways this is one of the key elements for “success” — an Iraqi government eager to step up and take control of its own country. It’s extremely difficult therefore to understand why McCain wouldn’t welcome this statement. Perhaps having had no sense of what victory is in Iraq or how to define one, now that it’s staring them in the face, Bush and McCain simply don’t believe it. They’ve fought for so long to keep American troops there, that they now see any withdrawal as defeat – even if it isn’t and even if it comes at the request of the Iraqi Government.

The Media’s Not Fair!

You may have heard of something called “The Fairness Doctrine” which is a favourite talking point of right-wing radio. Simply put, this was a U.S. FCC regulation requiring broadcast licensees to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner deemed by the FCC to be “honest, equitable, and balanced.” Although it didn’t require equal time for opposing views, it did mandate that “contrasting viewpoints” be presented.

While never ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, it did state in a 1969 decision that the doctrine “inescapably dampens the vigor and limits the variety of public debate.” With this in mind, various provisions of the Fairness Doctrine were essentially dropped from practice over the years, a process that was accelerated during the Reagan administration, which strongly opposed regulation of all kinds. The doctrine was dealt its most significant blow in 1984 when the SCOTUS decided that the “scarcity rationale” underlying its inception didn’t apply to expanding communications technologies.

In 1987, the FCC abolished the doctrine altogether by a 4-0 vote stating that, “the intrusion by government into the content of programming occasioned by the enforcement of it restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters … [and] actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public and the degradation of the editorial prerogative of broadcast journalists.” The FCC further suggested that, due to the many media voices in the marketplace, the doctrine be deemed unconstitutional.

Congress attempted to pre-empt the FCC decision by codifying the doctrine, but this legislation was vetoed by President Reagan. Another attempt to revive the doctrine in 1991 was blocked by a threatened veto from President George H.W. Bush. Final repeal of all provisions of the doctrine was accomplished in 2000. Although a handful of legislators have expressed some interest in reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine since that time, none have introduced any bills to do so.

Even though the Fairness Doctrine is now clearly a thing of the past, it lives on! Well, at least in the febrile minds of right-wing pundits and talk radio blowhards who endlessly brandish the potential threat of its resumption under a Democratic administration. There’s really very little foundation for this hysteria given its not seriously considered part of the liberal Democratic agenda, but that seems beside the point. As an ever-present bogeyman that threatens to regulate, mandate or stifle certain types of speech on the airwaves, it’s an invaluable tool for whipping up the deeply ingrained paranoia of the dittoheads.

The reason I mention all this is simply to point out the monumental hypocrisy of the shrieking wingnuts who were so furiously outraged that the New York Times didn’t simply give carte blanche “equal time” to Sen. McCain’s campaign to present his Iraq war policy on the grounds that it wasn’t fair. Some right-wing pundits that I watched on TV last night even intimated that the NYT had a public obligation to air McCain’s views, presumably in the interest of being “fair and balanced” (you know, like Fox News). What specious nonsense.

Amazingly, these same people otherwise ardently believe that broadcasters have the right to complete journalistic freedom and rail against the notion of regulations forcing them to be “equitable” and “balanced” in their discourse. So why then shouldn’t the same laissez-faire spirit apply to a newspaper such as the New York Times when it comes to determining what appears on its editorial pages? If the paper is as hopelessly “liberal” as is claimed by some, well fine then, so be it. Go read the Washington Times or some other dreadful paper instead if you don’t like it.

Moreover, it’s important to note that the NYT didn’t even reject McCain’s submission, let alone “muzzle” him as some would have it, but just said they couldn’t accept the piece as written. In an e-mail to the McCain campaign, Opinion Page Editor David Shipley said he would be “pleased, though, to look at another draft.” He then went on to set out the kind of piece he had in mind:

“Let me suggest an approach. The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans. It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama’s piece.”

As Steve Bennen correctly observed, “That’s not a rejection; it’s an invitation.”

Have the people that are so vocal about this alleged affront to all that’s decent and fair, actually read McCain’s piece? If they did, perhaps they failed to note that it’s awful. Here’s Bennen’s take on it:

It has 12 paragraphs — 11 of which attack Obama directly. Obama’s piece focused on Obama’s vision for a sensible U.S. policy towards Iraq. McCain’s submission was a hit-job, focused exclusively on attacking Obama. While Obama’s op-ed mentioned McCain three times, McCain’s op-ed mentioned Obama 10 times by name, and 17 times through pronouns.

The sticking point seems to be over the Times’ request that McCain not only talk about “victory” in Iraq, but actually take a moment to explain what that means. The campaign doesn’t want to do that — and by every indication, it can’t do that. Even being asked to define “success” is, apparently, considered a personal affront.

Obama’s op-ed talked about his Iraq policy. And McCain’s op-ed talked about Obama’s Iraq policy. That may pass for “balance” on Fox News, but some outlets are looking for a little more.
The Times wanted to run a thoughtful, substantive piece from McCain on the war. In fact, by all indications, the Times still wants to run a thoughtful, substantive piece from McCain on the war.

That the McCain campaign can’t bring itself to write one, and is whining about even being asked, speaks volumes about John McCain’s clarity and judgment.

Ah, but that’s the wingers for you. They’re all about “fairness” as long as they get their way on their terms. If not, then like spoiled, willful brats who can’t deal with their selfish desires being frustrated, it’s time to launch into a hellacious emotional tantrum, keening and wailing about how they’re being repressed by the big bad “liberal” media. Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! How utterly pathetic.

The Bush Economy

While President Bush was assuring Americans that the “fundamentals” of the economy are in good shape, the US labor department reported that consumer prices rose 1.1 percent in June, the highest one month rise in 26 years, and the 12 month inflation rate at 5.0% the highest since may 1991.

Foreclosure filings surged 53 percent in June with 252,363 homes receiving at least one foreclosure-related notice and more than 71,000 properties were repossessed by lenders nationwide in June. Additionally, it’s now reported that more than 75 million or 42% of all working age Americans either had no health insurance during 2007 or were under-insured, up from 35% in 2003 and almost 16 percent of Americans or 47 million people have no health insurance at all. The jobless rate stayed at 5.5% percent in June after soaring in May to the highest rate in 20 years, and is expected to reach 6% next year.

It’s not all bad news, of course. For example, Rush Limbaugh just recently signed a $400 million deal that will see him comfortably employed until 2016.

Links With Your Java

• More Conservative Party funny business on election campaign spending. The lawyer for Elections Canada alleges that the Tories illegally “shifted thousands of dollars in advertising expenses from two of its top Quebec candidates” to other candidates that had more “spending room” in their 2006 budgets. Let the pretzel twisting and tortured excuse-making begin!

• “Muzzles”? Makes it sound like there was something explosive or interesting in McCain’s whiny little rant. Come on National Newswatch… You folks can do better than this.

• Better than flowers and chocolates… Unless Maliki reverses himself, McCain is left jousting “with two prominent politicians over when and how to pull troops out of Iraq: Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki,” according to US Today.

• Whether Obama is “one of us” may be the question people will soon be asking according to Ben Smith of The Politico, who warns that, “His popularity in Europe, unmatched among American politicians, could hurt him politically, however, if rapturous foreign crowds are seen as emblematic of his purported foreignness.”

• Meanwhile, on “John McCain’s Fiscally Responsible Staycation” Bob “Douchebag of Liberty” Novak reports, citing sources close to the McCain camp, that the Arizona senior citizen may pick his running mate this week while Obama is overseas. Adding to the speculation, McCain will huddle with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal during a trip to The Big Easy later this week.

• So far, the Tories’ dodgy election financing and subsequent legal hissy fit over Elections Canada’s investigation has cost taxpayers over half a million. Yeah, but, but… AdScam!