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Bucking Bush need not be a losing game

U.S. House votes “no.” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bucked President Bush’s demand for fast track approval of his proposed Columbia free trade agreement, and won the first round: “House gives leaders power to stop fast-track clock” from The Crypt at Politico.com. To quote:

In a clear rebuke of President Bush, the House approved a change to chamber rules on Thursday that would allow Democratic leaders to suspend consideration of a controversial trade deal with Colombia.

A divided House voted, 224-195, to suspend a requirement that would force lawmakers to vote on the free-trade deal with Colombia within 60 legislative days from the time Bush sent it to Capitol Hill.

Petraeus and Crocker take off rose-colored glasses — General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker did not make the grandiose claims of success in Iraq that President Bush would have wanted Congress to hear. Their testimony was circumscribed, and at a few times, refreshingly honest. “In Iraq and in Washington, reality bites,” Commentary by Joseph S. Galloway | McClatchy Newspapers, April 10, 2008. To quote:

The closer we get to the end of the Bush administration, the more honest the assessments of where we are in Iraq and where we’re going have become, at least from some key players.

Consider these comments by Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, at this week’s hearings on Capitol Hill: * There is progress, but it’s “fragile”. * There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. * The end is not in sight.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, the ranking American civilian in Baghdad, added in his own testimony that everything about Iraq is hard, but he said that hard doesn’t mean impossible.

A hearty dose of caution and reality was about Petraeus’s and Crocker’s only option, though, arriving as they did in Washington after two weeks of internecine warfare among Shiite Muslims in southern oil port of Basra and Baghdad and a staggering public display of the shortcomings of Iraq’s security forces and police.

Iraqi PM disagrees — Prime Minister Nouri al-Malkei told President Bush that U.S. troops should withdraw from Iraq, following the Petraeus-Crocker testimony, bucking the prevailing wisdom. Bush reiterated that the U.S. remains at the invitation of Iraq. It cannot be both ways, or can it? Crazier things have happened. The headline reads, “Maliki Disagrees With Petraeus’s ‘Pause,’ Says ‘U.S. Troops Should Be Pulled Out’” on April 10,2008; it is from Think Progress. To quote:

But there is one important decision-maker that Petraeus and Bush don’t seem to be listening to: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The AP reports that Maliki told Bush yesterday that he “disagrees” with Petraeus’s recommendation “citing the growing capabilities of Iraq’s own security forces”:

The prime minister told Bush during a 20-minute telephone conversation on Wednesday that Iraqi security forces are capable of carrying out their duties and U.S. troops should be pulled out as the situation permits, according to a senior government adviser who sat in on the phone conversation. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the confidential details.

Leading Democratic candidate does not see war as only alternative — Senator Barack OBama rightly claims that, as President, he would talk to our enemies, bucking Bush’s demonizing style. Obama is in sync with a significant number of people around the world. For example, an author in the United Kingdom wrote that there is another way to prevail over terrorism. “The fight that demands something other than a war,” was written by Philip Stephens, April 10 2008. To quote from the Financial Times:

The remark spoke to an assumption in George W. Bush’s administration and beyond that the myriad conflicts in the Muslim world can all be folded into a single convenient wrapper. This is to accept Osama bin Laden’s narrative of an existential struggle between Islam and the west. Nothing could be more calculated to give succour to the irreconcilables; and nothing makes it harder to undercut support for violence.

The most obvious expression of the mistake is the US insistence that it is fighting a war on terror, attached as this phrase is to Mr Bush’s accompanying admonition that everyone must choose whether they are “for us or against us”.

. . . To make such points is not to argue that the Islamist fundamentalism espoused by al-Qaeda and its associates is anything less than a serious threat. There are plenty of dangerous Islamists for whom the only response will be military force. Nor should western policy be held prisoner to its impact on Muslim opinion. Driving al-Qaeda from Afghanistan was the right thing to do.

Yet a mindset that lumps together Hizbollah with al-Qaeda, Hamas with Iraq’s Shia militia or Kurdish separatists with the Taliban under the rubric of a single struggle is one that does al-Qaeda’s bidding. It excludes recognition of genuine grievances, ignores the impact of western policy and rules out any prospect of some extremists being won over to politics.

The change of administration in Washington will give the US and its friends a chance to reflect and recalibrate. The starting point is to stop talking about a war.

Public disapproves — Pollsters, evidently are reaching many people who are willing to disapprove of our current president’s job performance. Roughly only one in three respondents think Bush is doing an adequate job of leading our nation. “President Bush Job Approval — Bush Job Approval at 36% for Full Month of March,” April 05, 2008 from Rasmussen Reports. To quote:

For the full month of March, 36% of American adults approved of the way that George W. Bush performed his role as President of the United States. That’s down a point since February and down two points since January. The 36% Approval rating is just a point higher than the lowest rating ever earned by the President. Last June, when his Approval rating fell to 35%, is the only month where the President’s ratings were lower than last month.

Bucking Bush can sometimes work — Co-equal branches of government, courageous members of the military, foreign leaders, Democrats and the American people can buck Bush on many issues, if they will merely do so. It will not mean that they are unpatriotic or do not love the United States, as he will charge. Just the opposite is true. They and we must buck Bush because the well-being of our country demands it. It will be among the highest forms of patriotism.

View my current slide show about the Bush years — “Millennium” — at the bottom of this column.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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