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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Sisyphus Shrugged: "Joe Klein and his discontents"

Shocked, shocked!

Thanks to Sisyphus Shrugged for this great crosspost!

. . . and the Claude Rains Memorial Gambling Awareness Award goes to...

Joe Klein, who is outraged
to discover that Our Fearless Leader is not behaving rationally
The first three months of the new Democratic Congress
have been neither terrible nor transcendent. A Pew poll had it about
right: a substantial majority of the public remains happy the
Democrats won in 2006, but neither Nancy Pelosi nor Harry Reid has
dominated the public consciousness as Newt Gingrich did when the
Republicans came to power in 1995. There is a reason for that. A much
bigger story is unfolding: the epic collapse of the Bush

The three big Bush stories of 2007--the decision to "surge" in Iraq,
the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army
Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry
political reasons--precisely illuminate the three qualities that make
this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance
(the surge), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S.

Iraq comes first, as always. From the start, it has been obvious that
personal motives have skewed the President's judgment about the war.
Saddam tried to kill his dad; his dad didn't try hard enough to kill
Saddam. There was payback to be had. But never was Bush's adolescent
petulance more obvious than in his decision to ignore the
Baker-Hamilton report and move in the exact opposite direction:
adding troops and employing counterinsurgency tactics inappropriate
to the situation on the ground. "There was no way he was going to
accept [its findings] once the press began to portray the report as
Daddy's friends coming to the rescue," a member of the Baker-Hamilton
commission told me. As with Bush's invasion of Iraq, the decision to
surge was made unilaterally, without adequate respect for history or
military doctrine. Iraq was invaded with insufficient troops and
planning; the surge was attempted with too few troops (especially
non-Kurdish, Arabic-speaking Iraqis), a purposely misleading time
line ("progress" by September) and, most important, the absence of a
reliable Iraqi government.

General David Petraeus has repeatedly said, "A military solution to
Iraq is not possible." Translation: This thing fails unless there is
a political deal among the Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds. There is no
such deal on the horizon, largely because of the President's aversion
to talking to people he doesn't like. And while some Baghdad
neighborhoods may be more peaceful--temporarily--as a result of the
increased U.S. military presence, the story two years from now is
likely to resemble the recent headlines from Tall 'Afar: dueling
Sunni and Shi'ite massacres have destroyed order in a city famously
pacified by counterinsurgency tactics in 2005.

In the interest of balance, I should allow Joe Klein to respond here
The latest to make a fool of himself is Paul Krugman of
the New York Times, who argues that those who favor the increase in
troops are either cynical or delusional. Mostly the latter.
Delusional neocons like Bill Kristol and Fred Kagan, to be precise.
But what about retired General Jack Keane--whom Krugman doesn't
mention--and the significant number of military intellectuals who
have favored a labor-intensive counterinsurgency strategy in Baghdad
for the past three years? They are serious people. They may be wrong
about Iraq now, reflexively trying to complete a mission that has
been lost, but they are not delusional. The counterinsurgency
doctrine they published in 2006 is exactly what the U.S. military
should be doing in places like Afghanistan. And they, not Kagan and
Kristol, are the motivating force behind Bush's new

Mr. Klein goes on
On April 3, the President again accused Democrats of
being "more interested in fighting political battles in Washington
than providing our troops what they need." Such demagoguery is
particularly outrageous given the Administration's inability to
provide our troops "what they need" at the nation's premier hospital
for veterans. The mold and decrepitude at Walter Reed are likely to
be only the beginning of the tragedy, the latest example of
incompetence in this Administration. "This is yet another aspect of
war planning that wasn't done properly," says Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq
and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The entire VA hospital system
is unprepared for the casualties of Iraq, especially the psychiatric
casualties. A lot of vets are saying, 'This is our Katrina moment.'
And they're right: this Administration governs badly because it
doesn't care very much about governing."

I believe Mr. Klein has an answer for that
And then there is the pessimism problem. Populists of
both strains tend to believe that the system is rigged by dark and
powerful forces that prevent the little guy from getting ahead, which
means they tend to be angry. They also tend to be dividers rather
than uniters. Even the nice-guy populism attempted by former Senator
John Edwards in the last presidential campaign had a divisive edge.
His theme was "two Americas." Pessimism, anger and unsubtle
divisiveness tend to be total nonstarters in American politics.
"Being optimistic is a patriotic value," says Diane Feldman. "If you
are down on the United States, you are not patriotic."

Most damningly, Mr. Klein shares this
Compared with Iraq and Walter Reed, the firing of the
U.S. Attorneys is a relatively minor matter. It is true that U.S.
Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, but they are
political appointees of a special sort. They are partisans,
obviously, but must appear to be above politics--not working to
influence elections, for example--if public faith in the impartiality
of the justice system is to be maintained. Once again Karl Rove's
operation has corrupted a policy area--like national security--that
should be off-limits to political operators.

When Bush came to office--installed by the Supreme Court after
receiving fewer votes than Al Gore--I speculated that the new
President would have to govern in a bipartisan manner to be
successful. He chose the opposite path, and his hyper-partisanship
has proved to be a travesty of governance and a comprehensive
failure. I've tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but
the three defining sins of the Bush Administration--arrogance,
incompetence, cynicism--are congenital: they're part of his
personality. They're not likely to change. And it is increasingly
difficult to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a
leader so clearly unfit to lead.

Pwned. Mr. Klein knows better
Klein: I think that that's part of the answer, that
certainly Bush and Cheney have run a big business oriented
presidency, to their detriment. But also, you know, I spent time with
George Bush when he was governor of Texas and he spent an awful lot
of time talking about [and with poor people] and there were a lot of
times that I saw him in 2000 him go into country-club Republican
audiences and get tough questions about all these wetbacks and he
would go right up into the face of those audiences, which was kind of
like Newt Gingrich going into the face of the Evangelical Christians
on Intelligent Design. I think that he truly believes that the people
who are coming across the border, as I believe, are just coming over
for the best of all possible reasons: to support their families, to
work hard. [....]Every last motive that George W. Bush has isn't a
malign one. You know, there are sometimes that the guy acts for what
he considers to be the very best and the most moral of reasons. A lot
of times I'll disagree with him, like going to war in Iraq, but, you
know, I take him at face value in those things.

I think, though, I should give the last word to Mr. Klein
And so the President finds himself in an exceedingly odd
position for a post-Reagan Republican. He is acting like a Democrat,
standing for abstract principles and high-minded long-term projects
in the face of a public demanding easy answers and immediate results.
His Middle East-democracy campaign is Wilsonian.

Mr. Klein?
Bush's indifference to reality in Iraq is not an isolated
case. It is the modus operandi of his Administration.

Here, Mr. Klein earns his second icon.

dear. Wouldn't want your tail to get wet.

- posted by Sisyphus Shrugged