Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hey, daddy-o / I don't wanna go down to the basement /there's somethin' down there

Some years back, at the turn of the nineties, living in a house on the cliff in Auckland’s Parnell, we had no terrestrial television. In those days that meant no TV One, Two, or Three. Why, I don’t really remember, but think it was something to do with no clear signal from any relay station. It had been that way for some years and I very vaguely recall my flatmate, Tom Sampson, crawling around the rooftop, three stories above Awatea Road, trying to find a signal so he wouldn’t have to go elsewhere for his rugby.

Instead, we were early adopters of the Sky Channels. There were three at the start as I recall: sports (which we only watched for the bizarre ESPN exercise shows beamed out of Vegas); movies; and news, which was essentially CNN, the American version which is quite different to the international variety now broadcast in NZ, with a smattering of BBC news tossed in. Really, we only watched the news channel, and, in those Turner owned days it was rather more questioning and less compliant than it is now.

I used to watch Crossfire often, and got to know the various personalities, none of which impressed. On the left there were usually Mark Shields and Michael Kinsey. Kinsey was shrill and unconvincing, whilst Shields held his own rather better, but both were a little wet. On the right Pat Buchanan veered between obvious lunacy and the sort of slow self assured rationality that so scares me on the fringes of the right.

That said, in 2007, he seems to be one of the very few right wing commentators in the US with any grasp of reality.

His partner was something else. Bob Novak was a cold, pointedly nasty creature who had an uncanny ability to completely ignore any argument he didn’t absolutely agree with, regardless of the evidence or logic presented, and bulldoze everybody. And he had a complexion that suggested he had just crawled out of a grave. Which must have given him a psychological advantage over the others.

The other clear advantage Novak so obviously had, was that he was most obviously a Republican insider of some standing. He knew people, they knew him, and he had a grasp on what exactly was happening, or the way it was going to happen in the Capitol GOP.

Move forward 17 years or so, past the Plame scandal, and Novak is still so obviously a Republican insider with ears in the sorts of places most other “insiders” can only dream of. I don't like him anymore but when he writes about Congress or the Senate you should read.

So when Novak writes a piece like this one in the Washington Post, which is astounding on any level, you need to sit up and take notice. Anyway you look at it, it's quite incredible.


The I-word (incompetence) is also used by Republicans in describing the Bush administration generally. Several of them I talked to cited a trifecta of incompetence: the Walter Reed hospital scandal, the FBI's misuse of the USA Patriot Act and the U.S. attorneys firing fiasco. "We always have claimed that we were the party of better management," one House leader told me. "How can we claim that anymore?


With nearly two years remaining in his presidency, George W. Bush is alone. In half a century, I have not seen a president so isolated from his own party in Congress -- not Jimmy Carter, not even Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment.

And when you couple that with the refusal of the senate to shoot down the timetable attached to the funding bill, thus forcing a veto from Bush, and pushing the public dismay at the war back firmly into the Presidents’ lap, you know the gap between the two branches of power in the Republican Party is both massive and growing. And the desire, leading into 2008 for the Republicans to distance themselves from the disaster that is Bush / Cheney. It's a wholesale desertion of the elected members of the Republican Party away from the Commander in Chief, who still has close to two years left in office. And it won't, as the refusal to back Gonzales shows, get any better.

And as it becomes increasingly obvious that the surge as such seems to be having little effect on the ongoing violence that rush will turn into a stampede I'd imagine

But, then you have this fantasy stuff from John McCain on CNN, with the quite forthright and rapid dismissal from the guy on the ground. CNN would never have broadcast a response like this a year or two back. They would've slipped and slid around and have taken no clear contrary opinion unless it offend somebody important, or buck the script.

Osama must look at Washington DC and smile. It worked…

An update:

Sidney Blumenthal plays an intriguing game of follow the emails at Salon

The rise and fall of the Bush presidency has had four phases: the befuddled period of steady political decline during the president's first nine months; the high tide of hubris from Sept. 11, 2001, through the 2004 election; the self-destructive overreaching to consolidate a one-party state from 2005 to 2006, culminating in the repudiation of the Republican Congress; and, now, the terminal stage, the great unraveling, as the Democratic Congress works to uncover the abuses of the previous six years.

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