‘A Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Moment’

Use the initials if you don’t understand, but that was what Gen. Jim Jones, President Obama’s national security adviser, told commanders in Afghanistan would be the president’s reaction if they asked for more troops on top of the 17,000 extra combat troops and 4,000 extra trainers that Obama ordered deployed already this year. That’s by way of Bob Woodward’s latest Washington Post piece, which explains that administration thinking on Afghanistan — seconded by several senior officers quoted in the piece — centers around on getting resources into the fight that aren’t U.S. troops. Any decision by an administration to cap troop levels in any war is going to be the target of controvery, but it’s important to remember that in January, Defense Secretary Gates told a Senate panel that he opposed any troop increase that’s over the levels that the Obama administration has (mostly) provided.

To the chagrin of Michael Cohen, here’s how Woodward recounts a briefing from a well-respected Marine general named Lawrence Nicholson about why the mission isn’t primarily supported by U.S. troops:

At the briefing for Jones, Nicholson pointed to the mission statement, which said, "killing the enemy is secondary." His campaign plan states, "Protect the populace by, with and through the ANSF," the Afghanistan National Security Forces, which makes the absence of the additional Afghans particularly galling to Nicholson.

Whether that Afghan-troop/cop shortfall can be overcome isn’t the only worry. The so-called ‘civilian surge’ into Afghanistan isn’t happening. Proposals earlier this year for hundreds of new U.S. civilian officials to deploy to Afghanistan have given way to "triage" attempts at getting smaller amounts of key civilian personnel into advisory capacities to bolster Afghan governance.

Minor point. One of the difficulties in reading a Woodward story is that he tends to construct his pieces around the juiciest information rather than the most coherent narrative or the clearest explanation of some of the stakes. As a result, we get Brig. Gen. Nicholson "seem[ing] to blanch" at the prospect of not getting any more troops and emphasizing that what he really needs is Afghan troops. And we get Jones talking about how Obama doesn’t want to overmilitarize the Afghanistan mission without explaining what properly-militarizing a war actually requires. Nowhere is this more acute then in an anecdote about how Jones tries to personally save the job of the Helmand governor, whom U.S. and U.K. troops respect, while telling Afghan reporters, "We want to make sure Afghans control their own destiny."

Now, it could be that Jones is being arch or it could be that Woodward is being wry. Or it could also be that Afghanistan policy is disconnected and self-deceiving. It’s difficult to tell from the piece.

Crossposted to The Streak.

Signs Of The End Times: David Brooks Making Sense

Man, I really hate to find myself nodding along to a David Brooks column.  Sure, he’s a conservative columnist looking to score points off of a Democratic president and Congress, but that doesn’t make him wrong.  At least not today:

….[L]eaders in Congress and in the administration seem open to nearly any idea so long as it will lead to passing legislation. On health care, the administration would like a strong public plan, but it is evidently open to a weak one. It is on record against taxing health benefits, but it is clearly willing to tax them. It will do what it takes to pass a bill.


[W]e have to distinguish between two types of pragmatism. There is legislative pragmatism — writing bills that can pass. Then there is policy pragmatism — creating programs that work. These two pragmatisms are in tension, and in their current frame of mind, Democrats often put the former before the latter.

Brooks has nailed it with uncharacteristic accuracy.  Obama and the Democrats don’t define victory as achieving concrete objectives or positive change; they define it as merely passing legislation, no matter how half-assed and crappy it might be.

What is particularly distressing is that the minute Republicans or conservative Democrats object to one of Obama’s policy initiatives, Obama and the Democratic leadership immediately start caving and compromising instead of arm-twisting.  On issues as important as global warming and healthcare, Obama, Rahm, Pelosi, and Reid should deploy a full-court press on the Blue Dogs and moderate Republicans.  Instead they reserve their hardball tactics for progressives who don’t want to vote for bills written by Blue Dogs and lobbyists.

If the Democrats just flat out can’t pass a good bill, then so be it.  Use the Republicans’ obstructionism against them in the next election, and hang the worst of the Blue Dogs out to dry.  That’s better than taking ownership of a bad bill that doesn’t work and everyone hates.


My boilerplate response to Democratic campaign donation requests

Tonight the second quarter of 2009 draws to a close, and it's a significant point in the 2010 campaign cycle. This is the point at which a lot of folks who are considering maybe possibly getting into a race take a hard look at their fundraising, and either throw their hat in the ring, or throw in the towel.

 This is also the point at which challenger candidates examine the funds that incumbent candidates have on hand — and decide whether the incumbent's war chest is so formidable that s/he can outspend the challenger and own the election, or whether that incumbent looks vulnerable to a challenge.

Since I donated more than I should have in the 2008 election cycle, this means I'm getting fundraising emails and requests from all over the friggin' place, because people are scrambling to make those second quarter numbers look as flush as they possibly can.

 Below the fold, you'll read my response to every request.


Dr. Brooks and the Health Care Bride of Congress

David Brooks wants us all to be afraid – again – of improving our public health and our privates lives. He laments the creation of legislative monsters – "bills that can pass" – rather than viable forms of life – "programs that can work". But he lays the blame on Congress rather than the Just Say No Republicans and a handful of Democrats they’ve targeted to get them to go along with "No".

As a matter of faith, Mr. Brooks wants us to tough it out with private insurers because only capitalism produces results capitalists find productive, not government programs. It doesn’t seem relevant to him that Medicare and Social Security work astoundingly well, while private health insurance is a shambles for the insured. That condition would lead capitalists and socialists alike to find a different purveyor of insurance. Accepting that that different, new insurer could be the government, for Mr. Brooks, is like asking the pope to let priests marry.

Consequently, in his first paragraph, Brooks trots out a fifteen year-old Democratic defeat, Clinton Care, in which he waxes about the Democrats’ scars and their purported lessons:

Even as you watch the leading Democrats today in their moment (more…)

Sanford: David, or Solomon?


OK, so we’ve gone from Sanford having misbehaved with one woman to misbehaving with "a handful of women other than his mistress" . . . and, of course, other than his wife.

I think Governor Sanford was reaching for the wrong biblical parallel last week. It is beginning to look as if David, the Fallen-But-Still-Royal-Sinner, is not the character he’s emulating, but David’s son Solomon.

David, so the story goes, slept with the already-married Bathsheba, and when she turned up pregnant, he arranged for her husband Uriah to be killed in battle. David kept his crown, he kept his new wife, but his son by Bathsheba died.

But David’s later son Solomon . . .

As I noted earlier, Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Now that‘s a handful.

Three observations about ENDA

Observation 1:

DOMA will not be repealed before ENDA gets passed.

Of the four main pieces of LGBT legislation that the Administration said it wants to pass – hate crimes, ENDA, DOMA, DADT – repealing DOMA will be the hardest. It has the least public support. Unlike hate crimes and ENDA, a similar bill to repeal a state-level DOMA has never been passed. There’s a large part of the country that’s really OK with most of our rights except for the word marriage, which is how a fight against DOMA will be characterized.

Oh, and you know that super-secret meeting Pelosi, Frank, Baldwin, and Polis had to talk strategy about LGBT legislation in the House last week? They met to discuss moving DADT-repeal, health benefits for federal workers, Baldwin’s health care reform bill, and ENDA forward. DOMA wasn’t even on their list of things to talk about.

It’s understandable from a career politician’s point of view – if we prove that we’re not committed enough to get a bill like ENDA passed, do not expect Representatives and Senators to go out on a limb to repeal DOMA. The only reason they’d want to help us out now is to look progressive and make a constituency that has nowhere else to go happy. That’s not much. So if a bill that says that we should be treated as equals in the workplace can’t pass, they’re not going to jeopardize their political careers for a bill that says our relationships are equal to those of heterosexuals’.

Congressmembers want committed, energetic, and smart allies. Obama has committed to signing ENDA if it reaches his desk. This is our chance to prove our meddle.

Observation 2: (more…)

New “Pecora Commission” to be Named This Week? Who Would You Appoint?


Last week, Reuters speculated on potential nominees for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a sort of successor to the famed Pecora Commission. The planted list of CW-approved possibilities was underwhelming:

A short list of names has emerged for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that includes former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson; former Democratic head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission Brooksley Born; and Alex Pollock, a fellow at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Fred Thompson? Seriously?!?! That is the best we could possibly do? Praise the free market and pass the prune juice, what a country.

As Bill Scher points out:

Most Americans do not know that the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission is on the verge of naming its members. Nor do they know what difference the right people could make, not just in nailing the culprits behind the market meltdown, but ensuring that we enact reforms that actually reform the flaws in our flimsy regulations.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be naming the commission members soon, most likely this week. Now is the time to let them know the type of person you want to have subpoena power on your behalf.

Time to get the word out to folks on the Hill: we are watching what you do. And we expect you to do this carefully, thoughtfully and intelligently, putting the interests of all Americans and not just your biggest donors front and center.

Keep this in mind, Beltway gang: when even Justice Antonin Scalia sees a need for more stringent regulation? Wall Street has a big problem that isn’t going to be fixed by trying to sweep things under the rug.

To that end, if you were doing the appointments, who would you want on a new Pecora Commission? And why? Bob Kuttner takes a stab at a wish list here. I’d like to see yours. Let’s put together a "dream team" list for this committee.

I’ll see what I can do to get it into the hands of people who need to see it. (more…)

O’ Sally Kern, You Bring Tears to Mine Eyes…

From laughing at you.  Be warned, do not be consuming beverages while you read this because you might just short circuit your monitor after the eruption that will inevitably take place.  Ok, here goes…

Dave Weigel at the Washington Independent catches a bizarre resolution introduced by Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern (R) in Oklahoma, whose state legislature he describes as a "petri dish for wingnuttery."

The proposed "Oklahoma Citizen's Proclamation for Morality" would blame the economic crisis on moral collapse.

The resolution specifically cites President Obama's policies as well as his celebration of LGBT Pride month and his decision to end the National Prayer Day service at the White Houseas key causes of the current recession.

WHEREAS, we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis; and

WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion,
pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and
many other forms of debauchery; and

WHEREAS, alarmed that the Government of the United States of America is forsaking
the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built; and

WHEREAS, grieved that the Office of the president of these United States has refused
to uphold the long held tradition of past presidents in giving recognition to our National Day of
Prayer; and

WHEREAS, deeply disturbed that the Office of the president of these United States
disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior;

Full story here…enjoy an analysis below the fold for us ig’nert peoples. (more…)

Happy National Sovereignty Day, Iraq. Sorry About The Mess

“They clearly don’t want us there anymore, so why stay?” That’s what someone told Air America intern Leah Wawro today in New York’s City’s Union Square Park when she asked about the US troop withdrawal from Iraqi cities. As I recall, however, they never wanted us there.

There’s no need to go back to the early 90s. Let’s rewind to August 2002. Remember when then White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, speaking about the possibility of a war in Iraq, told a New York Times reporter, "From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August."

I’ll never forget that statement, because I owned a publishing house at the time and I was possessed by the strong desire to use it to fight what seemed inevitable: another massive invasion of Iraq.

Within weeks and with a lot of help from Chelsea Green publisher Margo Baldwin, Derrick Jensen, and my trusty sidekick Trevor Bundy, we put together a book. William Rivers Pitt conducted an interview with former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter, Jensen turned it into his own peculiar brand of Q&A magic. Six weeks later the book was in stores.

War On Iraq was almost instantly a New York (more…)