Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bush press conference: This enemy’s not going away after my presidency

Bush admits the election’s cumulative effect was a “thumpin’” for his side. Thump thump thump thump heh.

He said he’d offered to give Nancy Pelosi the name of some Republican interior decorators. I’m not even sure how to unpack the homophobia from that one, and I’m not gonna try.

Like all losers, he insisted that the lesson of the election was that the American people want politicians to set aside partisan differences.

He also accused the electorate of ignorance saying more in sorrow than in anger (I’m using my own scribbled notes, there isn’t a transcript available yet) (update: transcript) that he had “thought the people would understand the importance of taxes and the importance of security.” Once again, we have disappointed him.

On the other hand he dismissed his own campaign comments that if the Republicans lose the terrorists win as mere politics (“What’s changed today is the election’s over”), which everyone should forget now.

The relationship between politics and foreign policy was a major theme of the press conference. Bush told several conflicting versions of the decision to fire Rumsfeld, so it’s hard for me to know which one I should express indignation about. Before he spoke, I was planning to write that the decision to replace Rummy mere hours after the polls closed suggested that it was based entirely on politics and did not reflect any new thinking or change of strategy, that he was in fact doing what he said he would never do (although he does it every day), subordinate Iraq policy to American domestic politics.

In the presser, he did admit that the electorate voted to “register displeasure with the lack of progress being made” in Iraq. Although he didn’t take any personal responsibility for that lack of progress, the admission by itself was kind of stunning. Later, he said that “Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.” I hope he kept the receipt.

On Rumsfeld, he admitted having lied last week about keeping him in office until 2009, that he had already made the decision to get “fresh eyes,” but didn’t want to “inject the matter into the election.” This version of the story involves a theory of politics that the way to depoliticize important issues is to lie about how you intend to handle them. I’m pretty sure that was in the Federalist Papers somewhere. He also said that it would be a bad signal to the troops that he was “constantly adjusting tactics and decisions based on politics” (he temporarily forgot that constantly changing is now a good thing).

Still later, he said that he didn’t lie last week, that he hadn’t made a final decision and hadn’t even talked to Robert Gates yet. It’s so ingrained to his way of governing that Bush didn’t consider that you could announce a resignation before a replacement has been decided upon. It’s not like a smooth transition would be disrupted: Rummy will be a lame duck for weeks of hearings and voting on Gates, a few extra days would make no difference. The decision to announce both Rummy’s ouster and Gates’ nomination at the same time was another sign of Bush’s commitment to opacity – an important choice made entirely in secret, without public input, without Congressional consultation, and presented as a fait accompli. The choice fits in with that, Gates having been up to his eyeballs in Iran-Contra and especially the coverup of Iran-Contra.

He said something how great it was that Eisenhower continued Truman’s wars, both Cold and Korea, because “This enemy’s not going away after my presidency.” Just as long as you do, George, just as long as you do.

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