Bush Administration Failures in Afghanistan

It’s not only in Iraq that reports show that Bush policies are failing. AP quotes Thomas Schweich, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics as reporting that the US strategy to fight Afghanistan’s drug trade has been a failure. Problems in Afghanistan go further than the drug trade as the Taliban is increasing activity. If only Bush had finished the job there, as opposed to use 9/11 to justify his long-held goal of overthrowing Saddam.

Pentagon Report Verifies Poor Progress in Iraq

Facing reality is important in evaluating Iraq as well as global warming (previous story). The latest government report shows what observers have known for a while. They are having trouble hiding the problems caused by going into Iraq without a plan to win after Saddam was over thrown.

The New York Times reports that the Pentagon Releases Grim Report on Iraq:

Iraqi casualties soared by more than 50 percent during the roughly three-month period ending in early August, the product of spiraling sectarian clashes and a Sunni-based insurgency that remains “potent and viable,” the Pentagon noted today in an comprehensive assessment of security in Iraq.

In a grim 63-page report, the Pentagon chronicled bad news on a variety of fronts. One telling indicator was the number of weekly attacks, which reached an all-time high in July.

The Washington Post similarly reports that the Pentagon Cites Spike in Violence in Iraq:

The Pentagon report, though consistent with what news media have reported for months, is significant because it represents an official acknowledgment of trends that are widely believed to be driving the country toward full-scale civil war.

“It’s a pretty sober report this time,” said Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. “The last quarter . . . it’s been rough, and the levels of violence are up, and the sectarian quality of the violence is particularly acute and disturbing,” he said at a news briefing.

“This is reality catching up with Rumsfeld and the Pentagon,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution.

AP also reports on the gloomy report. Falsely tying Iraq into the “war on terrorism” may backfire against Republicans this fall if this is the type of news voters hear. It is turning into a lose-lose situation for Republicans. Those who realize that tying Iraq to terrorism to justify their war was misleading are less likely to support Republicans due to this deception, while those who do believe Iraq is part of a “war on terrorism” now see Republicans as failures.

Scientific Leader Blames Bush for Inaction on Global Warming

The BBC has interviewed John Holdren, presideint of the American Association for the Advancemnt of Science, on global warming. Holden reports that the climate is already changing, and places the blame for inaction on George Bush:

In his first broadcast interview as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, John Holdren told the BBC that the climate was changing much faster than predicted.

“We are not talking anymore about what climate models say might happen in the future.

“We are experiencing dangerous human disruption of the global climate and we’re going to experience more,” Professor Holdren said.

He emphasised the seriousness of the melting Greenland ice cap, saying that without drastic action the world would experience more heatwaves, wild fires and floods.

He added that if the current pace of change continued, a catastrophic sea level rise of 4m (13ft) this century was within the realm of possibility; much higher than previous forecasts.

To put this in perspective, Professor Holdren pointed out that the melting of the Greenland ice cap, alone, could increase world-wide sea levels by 7m (23ft), swamping many cities.

He blamed President Bush not only for refusing to cut emissions, but also for failing to live up to his rhetoric on harnessing technology to tackle climate change.

“We are not starting to address climate change with the technology we have in hand, and we are not accelerating our investment in energy technology research and development,” Professor Holdren observed.

He said research undertaken by Harvard University revealed that US government spending on energy research had not increased since 2001. In order to make any progress, funding for climate technology needed to multiply by three or four times, Professor Holdren warned.

Maureen Dowd on the Librarian’s Husband

I’ve often found it ironic that former librarian Laura Bush is married to someone who, until recently, was known for reading little more that My Pet Goat. Maureen Dowd writes on the Laura’s influence and her husband’s reading habits:

’Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. W., the most simple, unreflective and Manichaean of men, communing with Will, the most subtle, reflective and myriad-minded of men.

Under Laura the Librarian’s tutelage, the president is discovering the little black dress of 60’s education, as one scholar referred to the president’s summer reading list of “The Stranger,” “Hamlet” and “Macbeth.”

Mr. Bush’s bristly distaste for the intellectual elite has been so much a part of his persona, from Yale on, that it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around a heavy W., steeped in French existentialism and Elizabethan tragedy.

On the 2000 campaign trail, W. told me that he did not identify with any literary hero, that baseball was his favorite “cultural experience,” and that he liked “John La Care, Le Carrier, or however you pronounce his name.”

He was a gym rat, not a bookworm. He told Brit Hume in 2003 that he rarely read newspaper articles, preferring to get his information through aides, and he told Brian Lamb in 2005 that he would fall asleep after 20 or 30 pages of bedside reading.

But the first lady must have grown alarmed at seeing her husband mocked as a buff bubblehead wrapped in a bubble. She began giving interviews saying her man did too read newspapers, and she slipped W. some Camus and other serious fare.

Jackie Kennedy once complained that the Kennedys could turn anything into a competition — even oil painting. Just so, W. tried to keep his new gravitas homework interesting by engaging in a book competition with Karl Rove. Bush aides told Ken Walsh of U.S. News & World Report that the president wants it known that he is a man of letters.

W.’s claim of having read 53 to 60 books already this year has been met with some partisan skepticism — The American Prospect calls it “demonstrably ridiculous” — despite a Wall Street Journal article pronouncing speed-reading back in fashion among busy executives.

But I’m tickled that W. is reading Shakespeare, even if it’s just to please his wife or win a bet with his strategist. The president has been so tone-deaf in dealing with the world, and even with his own father, that he can only benefit from a dip in the Bard’s ocean of insight about the vicissitudes of human nature and war. Not to mention the benefits of being exposed to the beauty and precision of the language.

John Tierney on Republicans Abandoning Principles

The Republican Party has campaigned as the party of small government and freedom while promoting big government and authoritarianism in power. John Tierney notes that Republicans have abandoned their principles and wonder if the party can be saved:

Republicans in Washington did not abandon their principles lightly. When they embraced “compassionate conservatism,” when they started spending like Democrats, most of them didn’t claim to suddenly love big government.

No, they were just being practical. The party’s strategists explained that the small-government mantra didn’t cut it with voters anymore. Forget eliminating the Department of Education — double its budget and expand its power. Stop complaining about middle-class entitlements — create a new one for prescription drugs. Instead of obsessing about government waste, bring home the bacon.

But as long as we’re being practical, what do Republicans have to show for their largess? Passing the drug benefit and the No Child Left Behind Act gave them a slight boost in the polls on those issues, but not for long. When voters this year were asked in a New York Times/CBS News Poll which party they trusted to handle education and prescription drugs, the Republicans scored even worse than they did before those bills had been passed.

Meanwhile, they’ve developed a new problem: holding the party together. As Ryan Sager argues in his new book, “The Elephant in the Room,” the G.O.P. is sacrificing its future by breaking up the coalition that brought it to power.

A half-century ago, during the Republicans’ days in the wilderness, a National Review columnist named Frank Meyer championed a strategy that came to be known as fusionism. He appealed to traditionalist conservatives to work with libertarians. It wasn’t an easy sell. The traditionalists wanted to rescue America from decadence, while the libertarians just wanted be left alone to pursue their own happiness — which often sounded to the traditionalists like decadence.

Traditionalists may have worked with libertarians for political gain, but have generally ignored the influence of libertarians in power. By giving up principles, Republicans have given a little to many groups, but overall are pleasing much fewer people. There is considerable potential for Democrats to increase support among those who support liberal social issues along with fiscal conservativism. Tierney suggests that politicians look west:

The practical panderer should look West — not to the Coast, which is reliably blue, but to the purple states in the interior. Sager notes that a swing of just 70,000 votes in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico would have cost Bush the last election, and that he lost ground in the Southwest between 2000 and 2004.

The interior West is growing quickly, thanks to refugees from California seeking affordable housing. These Westerners have been voting Republican in presidential elections, but have also gone for Democratic governors. They tend to be economic conservatives and cultural liberals. They’ve legalized medical marijuana in Nevada, Colorado and Montana. They’re more tolerant of homosexuality than Southerners are, and less likely to be religious.

They’re suspicious of moralists and of any command from Washington, whether it’s a gun-control law or an educational mandate. In Colorado and Utah, they’ve exempted themselves from No Child Left Behind.

They’re small-government conservatives who would have felt at home in the old fusionist G.O.P. But now they’re up for grabs, just like the party’s principles.

Number of Republicans Falls To 32 Month Low

Ramussen found that the number of people identifying themselves as Republicans has fallen to a 32 month low. The number of Republican has fallen from 37.2% in October 2004 to 31.9%. 37.3% identify themselves as Democrats with 30.8% unaffiliated, represented the highest percentage for independents since Rasmussen started releasing such data in January 2004.

With polls showing that independents are heavily supporting Democrats this year, this poll is consistent with predictions for major Democratic victories this fall. This also verifies what I’ve noted several times when conservative blogs have doubted the validity of polls showing heavy support for a Democratic controlled Congress. Conservative bloggers claim that the polls over-sample Democrats, while I’ve argued that this was to be expected as people who tell pollsters that they want Democrats to control Congress are also more likely to identify themselves as Democrats, regardless of previous party affiliation.

The USA Today/Gallup Poll shows Democrats are leading in several Senate races, but will need to win in some where Republicans are now leading to take control.