Monday, December 11, 2006

how Mao, brown cow

Well, it’s settled. The Decider has decided that rather than take the vanilla-flavored advice of daddy’s CYA commission (oh, I’m sorry, I meant to say the ISG, Iraq Study Group), which was dispensed last week in a report titled The Way Forward—A New Approach, he instead is going to unveil his own initiative titled The New Way Forward.

Prez George’s “New Coke” of a rebranding strategy is, of course, indicative of a dearth of imagination rivaled only by its surplus of cynicism. And, I am not the only one who has noticed with raised eyebrows and a hardy chuckle that these phrases are shockingly reminiscent of Mao’s Great Leap Forward, a program that was as unmitigated a disaster in its time and place as Bush’s Iraq policy is today.


This tone deafness should not have surprised me—again. This is, of course, the brain trust that gave us countless permutations of “Homeland”—as in “homeland security, department of”—a word that instantly reminded me of apartheid South African Pass Laws and Bantustans, and Nazi Germany’s Heimatland.


And this deafness should serve as a reminder to anyone who thinks that President Bush plans to listen to any advice when it comes to what’s in, under, or below the name of his New Way. Like New York Democratic Representative Gary Ackerman, for instance, who had this to say after a meeting with the President (as quoted in Newsweek):
For more than an hour the lawmakers, Democrat and Republican, "ripped into" the administration's Iraq policy, Ackerman recalls. "It was like a group intervention. It was ... certainly the most pointed discussion I've ever had with any president." When they were finished, Bush thanked them for coming. "I take your comments very seriously," he said. Ackerman was puzzled, but impressed. "He really seemed to be listening," he says.


It is also hard to imagine that Ackerman met with the same President Bush that Democratic Senators Harry Reid (NV) and Dick Durbin (IL) met with two days later.

"I just didn't feel there today, the president in his words or his demeanor, that he is going to do anything right away to change things drastically," Senate Majority Leader-elect Harry Reid, D-Nev., said following the Oval Office meeting. "He is tepid in what he talks about doing. Someone has to get the message to this man that there have to be significant changes."

Instead, Bush began his talk by comparing himself to President Harry S Truman, who launched the Truman Doctrine to fight communism, got bogged down in the Korean War and left office unpopular.

Bush said that "in years to come they realized he was right and then his doctrine became the standard for America," recalled Senate Majority Whip-elect Richard Durbin, D-Ill. "He's trying to position himself in history and to justify those who continue to stand by him, saying sometimes if you're right you're unpopular, and be prepared for criticism."

Durbin said he challenged Bush's analogy, reminding him that Truman had the NATO alliance behind him and negotiated with his enemies at the United Nations. Durbin said that's what the Iraq Study Group is recommending that Bush do now - work more with allies and negotiate with adversaries on Iraq.

Bush, Durbin said, "reacted very strongly. He got very animated in his response" and emphasized that he is "the commander in chief."


So, whether he calls it The Way Forward or The NEW Way Forward, whether he mixes the vanilla ice cream with the New Coke or just stays the high fructose corn sweetened course, what should be clear to everybody at the counter is that with Mideast strategy still in the hands of the same soda jerk who made this chocolate mess, it will be no more scooter rides forward for any of us.

(How’s that for torturing—I mean, aggressively interrogating—a metaphor?)

And, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that while the Decider is taking all of this time to decide, people keep dying. As Frank Rich noted in Sunday’s New York Times (behind the greed wall, but excerpted here):

It is yet another, even more reckless flight from reality to suppose that the world will stand still while we dally. The Iraq Study Group’s insistence on dragging out its deliberations until after Election Day for the sake of domestic politics mocked and undermined the urgency of its own mission. Meanwhile the violence metastasized. Eleven more of our soldiers were killed on the day the group finally put on its show. The antagonists in Iraq are not about to take a recess while we celebrate Christmas. The mass exodus of Iraqis, some 100,000 per month, was labeled “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world one” by Refugees International last week and might soon rival Darfur’s.


To have faith that anything productive or proactive will emerge from this White House with anything resembling the urgency it deserves would be a great leap indeed.


(And, one more thing. A note to Newsweek: The adjectival equivalent of “Republican” is “Democratic.” To use the phraseology “the lawmakers, Democrat and Republican” is a phrase that, in today’s context, signals an allegiance with rabid right-wingers. . . and you wouldn’t want to do that, would you?)


(Cross-posted over at Daily Kos.)


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