Thursday, February 26, 2009

It all depends on what your definition of "Residual Force" is...

 So, it's finally going to happen.

As I am typing this, on (Thursday evening, February 26, 2009) President Barack Obama is preparing to give an address at Camp Lejune, North Carolina where he will announce the end of the Iraq War.

Praise be Jesus!

Now, the plan has had a few changes. Instead of the 16 month withdrawal plan he campaigned on, he is now talking a 19 month withdrawal plan.

As much as I want the War over with (and over with yesterday), I can live with 90 extra days. I'm not certain some soldiers can, but if this is what he's gotta do...

Even Republicans are on board with this plan, including gasp, shock and horror, one John Sidney McCain.

And that's where the world goes all topsy-turvy. Because, while Republicans are signaling "thumbs up" for the plan, Democrats are signaling a definite thumbs-down.

"I'm happy to listen to the secretary of defense and the president, but when they talk about 50,000, that's a little higher number than I had anticipated," Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the pullout "has to be done responsibly, we all agree. But 50,000 is more than I would have thought, and we await the justification."

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) echoed his worries, saying: "I do think we have to look carefully at the numbers that are there and do it as quickly as we can." Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) issued a statement saying he is "concerned" about the level of troops that would remain in Iraq.

Nancy Pelosi's was on with Rachel Maddow, and said it flat out, she's not cool with the idea of leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq.

So, what are we talking here? Nancy and the Senators all seem to be objecting to the size of the force. They also seem a little put-off by the notion of a residual force in the first place.

You're kidding me, right?

I have to ask a question. Back in 2008, when the candidate was speaking, was anybody freakin' listening?!?

From a July 14, 2008 Op-Editorial, written by one...Barack Obama (which is basically his standard stump speech on Iraq in newspaper form):

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected. We would move them from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.

So, what did everyone miss?

I guess I get annoyed with the idea of a candidate actually saying something, and his fellow politicians (along with a heapin' helpin' of voters) all getting together and saying "Yeah, he said that, but he's really not going to do that, is he??"

Well, yeah. Apparently so.

Originally posted at Fort McHenry.

Coming Out With a Boiiiing-Boom-Tschak!


Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was slated to have a grand coming out party Tuesday evening as the GOP's new, young gun delivering the response to the President's address before Congress. Instead, Jindall came across as an over-coached, over-rehearsed stiff spewing the same old tired rhetoric that the Elephants have been trumpeting now for what seems like eternity.

Jindal's speech garnered near instant criticism, including from those in conservative circles who have promoted the 36-year-old governor as the GOP's most likely advocate to bring the party back from the brink of irrelevance. Many conservatives admitted Jindal appeared at best off-balance and at worst buffoonish in his national debut.

From CNN Online:
"Some conservative needs to start a campaign to fire whoever wrote this cheesy response and coached him to talk like this," wrote conservative columnist Amanda Carpenter on the popular social networking Web site Twitter. "I can't watch."

"He should never be allowed near a teleprompter again!" declared the National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez on Wednesday, while noting the governor had a much stronger performance on NBC's "The Today Show" the morning after his speech.

And on PBS' "The Newshour," conservative columnist David Brooks described the speech and the ideology it represented as "insane," "nihilist," and "a disaster for the Republican Party."

Generally an opposition party's response rarely wins wide praise. The location itself is a gigantic setback. While the President stands before a chamber full of opinionated, if at times grumbling old hags, hacks, and various partisan stalwarts who go about their usual jack-in-the-box applauding routine, the opposition response comes out of an ultra-quiet, usually depressing, and somber solitary room. The rebuttal is delivered straight into (what I suspect is) a locked camera, and if we're lucky we get the occasional slow push-in or pull-out on the zoom lens. That is, if the camera operator is awake.

But Jindal may be a victim of overhype and unrealistic expectations. The governor's impressive resume and compelling background have been touted to make him a natural fit to compete against the oratorically-skilled Obama. And let's face it, the prez is a hell of a tough act to follow, no matter what a cunning linguist one may be.

However, Jindal can take solace in the fact that in politics, one often gets to move on to Act 2. Some of the most prominent politicians still making waves today floundered on their first attempt in the national spotlight. Among them, former President Bill Clinton, whose speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention was immediately deemed a disaster, with many political chatterboxes predicting the end of his political career.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Le Fabuleux Gouverneur-Morons!

Fuck Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and fuck Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina and fuck Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. How's that for a cerebral, eloquent opening line to a column? Fortunately, top brass at S.E.I. is keeping me on a fairly long leash; in fact even encouraging profanity when profanity is warranted.

And profanity is warranted in this mind-boggling case of idiocy. For those still hanging in with us and following the circus that has again commenced in Washington, the aforementioned trio of bozos---all rising stars in the Republican Party---have sternly threatened to turn away federal (stimulus) aid rather than use the money to expand access to unemployment insurance programs in ways that many other states have already agreed upon.

These awful decisions are little more than political posturing reinforcing the terrifying conclusion that the Republican Party is more interested in ideological warfare than in working on policies that get the country back on track.

The GOP's attacks on the unemployment insurance portion of the stimulus package are disturbing. From The New York Times:

"States that accept the stimulus money aimed at the unemployed are required to abide by new federal rules that extend unemployment protections to low-income workers and others who were often shorted or shut out of compensation. This law did not just materialize out of nowhere. It codified positive changes that have already taken place in at least half the states.

To qualify for the first one-third of federal aid, the states need to fix arcane eligibility requirements that exclude far too many low-income workers. To qualify for the rest of the aid, states have to choose from a menu of options that include extending benefits to part-time workers or those who leave their jobs for urgent family reasons, like domestic violence or gravely ill children.

Data from the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit group, show that 19 states qualify for some of the federal financing and that a dozen others would become eligible by making one or two policy changes. Unemployed workers are worst off in the Deep South, where relatively few people are eligible to receive payments. Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas stand out."

The governors have complained that the federal unemployment aid would lead directly to new state taxes. This is not complete horseshit, but very close to it. Fact is no one really knows what the economic situation will be several years from now when the federal aid has been used up. But dumping billions of dollars into shrinking state unemployment funds puts money into the hands of people who will spend it quickly on food and shelter. The immediate injection of capital could help the states through the recession and into a time when unemployment trust funds can be replenished. In other words, the stimulus could make a tax increase less likely.

Governors like the young, ambitious, and up-and-coming Mr. Jindal should be worrying about how to end this recession while helping his constituents put food on the table and keep their houses, not about finding ways to resuscitate tired old election-year arguments about big spending versus small government.