The new formulation offered by a "general on the ground" in Iraq yesterday, that Iraqi troops and police would be ready to assume responsibility for the country in 12-18 months, is not taken seriously even in the front page news account in the NYTimes today:
"In trying to build support for the American strategy in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said Tuesday that the Iraqi military could be expected to take over the primary responsibility for securing the country within 12 to 18 months.
But that laudable goal seems far removed from the violence-plagued streets of Iraq’s capital, where American forces have taken the lead in trying to protect the city and American soldiers substantially outnumber Iraqi ones.
Given the rise in sectarian killings, a Sunni-based insurgency that appears to be as potent as ever and an Iraqi security establishment that continues to have difficulties deploying sufficient numbers of motivated and proficient forces in Baghdad, General Casey’s target seems to be an increasingly heroic assumption."
Friends, since the President declared "Mission Accomplished," our time in Iraq has been longer than our entire engagement in WWII. Under pressure to show that we have a plan to change the course, the President's team rolls out this laughable 12-18 months timetable, even though our Ambassador acknowledged in the press conference yesterday that they were still working on the plan itself and that it would not be ready by the end of the year.
And once again the assumption to all this is that our problem there can be solved through force, and not diplomacy and politics. This comical press conference - which had to cease at one point as the electricity went out - confirms that the Administration has lost its way in Iraq, and has no real idea what to do now.
As the nation tries to understand what went wrong in Iraq, a great deal of attention must be given to the lack of a plan for the occupation. Our troops have performed with great effectiveness. It was the lack of any kind of plan for building civil society and helping secure the peace - as the Marshall Plan so effectively did in Post-War Europe - that has been our undoing. But the scale of the mess of the occupation is only just coming to light, and yet another tragic story, again in the Times today, details how little the Iraqis have gotten from our "reconstruction," and documents the utterly irresponsible contracting bonanza that Iraq has become:
"Overhead costs have consumed more than half the budget of some reconstruction projects in Iraq, according to a government estimate released yesterday, leaving far less money than expected to provide the oil, water and electricity needed to improve the lives of Iraqis.
The report provided the first official estimate that, in some cases, more money was being spent on housing and feeding employees, completing paperwork and providing security than on actual construction.
Those overhead costs have ranged from under 20 percent to as much as 55 percent of the budgets, according to the report, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. On similar projects in the United States, those costs generally run to a few percent.
The highest proportion of overhead was incurred in oil-facility contracts won by KBR Inc., the Halliburton subsidiary formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root, which has frequently been challenged by critics in Congress and elsewhere.
The actual costs for many projects could be even higher than the estimates, the report said, because the United States has not properly tracked how much such expenses have taken from the $18.4 billion of taxpayer-financed reconstruction approved by Congress two years ago.
The report said the prime reason was not the need to provide security, though those costs have clearly risen in the perilous environment, and are a burden that both contractors and American officials routinely blame for such increases.
Instead, the inspector general pointed to a simple bureaucratic flaw: the United States ordered the contractors and their equipment to Iraq and then let them sit idle for months at a time."
For those looking to learn more about immigration reform I strongly recommend an essay by Tamar Jacoby in the new issue of Foreign Affairs. You can also find lots of good information at the site of the National Immigration Forum, and at our blog here and on our site. Look for a new project we are involved to launch Thursday, www.immigration2006.org, which will also have good information.
And watch C-Span tomorrow am at 8am eastern to watch me debate this important topic.
Normally i wouldn't do anything to give him publicity. But he is 10 points down, and this is so indescribably weird i just can't stop myself. He has already come close to running the most odious ad this cycle, in which he exploits his children for electoral gain. But this is just a whole new level of strangeness. I sent the clip to a friend. His response: "Surely not. Surely this is some kind of brilliant joke? No, it simply can't be real." But, yes, it is:
A big USA Today story lays out more data that show that the young Millennial Generation is unusually civic-minded and socially conscious. They also are embracing issues that tend to be considered progressive:
A graphic shows the top 10 causes on their minds: education, poverty, environment, health, drug and alcohol prevention, human rights, equal rights, disaster relief, AIDS, and hunger.
No sign of bans on gay marriage.
The newspaper piece is also part of a big effort at PBS to build a better understanding of what they call Generation Next, which is what we call the Millennial Generation. The Online NewsHour has put up a bunch of material that fills in context for understanding this group, including a timeline for their lifetimes, which includes the march of technology. It’s a nice reminder of how much tech and media change has come within their lifetimes.
The New Politics Institute has been promoting a deeper understanding of this important constituency for the past year. You can see a fun 5 minute viral video we created that gives the top-line analysis of why these young people are so politically important.
Today’s Financial Times writes that “President George W. Bush sought on Monday to change the subject from the deteriorating situation in Iraq by focusing on the strength of the US economy.” The President spoke to the media and gave a prediction about the November elections: “We're not going to lose anybody, and the reason why is the economy's strong.”
So President Bush and the Republicans want a debate on the economy. We say - Bring it on.
In the Bush era, our government has spent more than it takes in and has borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars from foreign governments to fund its basic operations. The latest round of global trade talks have collapsed, the trade deficit has soared and the dollar has declined.
Meanwhile ordinary Americans have struggled to make ends meet, as jobs have been created at a far slower rate than in recent history, wages have stagnated, and median family incomes have fallen. The number of Americans without health insurance and those in poverty have risen, and the costs of college, health care and interest have climbed.
Bush's plan for economic success has not delivered on its promises. And the American people know it. Today’s Washington Post poll shows that 74% of Americans say their families are either treading water or falling behind under President Bush, even though the majority of respondents think the economy is in good shape.
Contrast this disappointing record with the record of progressives in the 1990s, a period that saw the longest sustained economic boom in American history. And unlike today, the economic expansion of the 1990s lifted all boats. Led by President Clinton, the budget deficit was turned into surplus, job growth was strong, the minimum wage was increased, taxes were cut for millions of American families, and wages grew in step with productivity.
And while the real median household income of American families declined by $1,669 in the first Bush term, the broad prosperity achieved in the Clinton years led to a median household incomes increase of $7,858. During the 1990s progressives delivered broadly shared economic prosperity, and we can do it again.
NDN recently released three reports that lay out a strong argument for new, progressive economic leadership.
Our major report on “The Bush Economic Record” presents a comprehensive comparison of the economy under President Bush and President Clinton.
Women's Voices. Women Vote., who's goal is to improve unmarried women's participation in the electorate, has released a new series of public service announcements featuring some of American's best known actresses encouraging women to vote. With unmarried women being one of the fastest growing demographics in the electorate, this ad is relevant, sexy and powerful!
NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center sends regular updates to Spanish language media outlets about the issues and campaigns that impact their communities. The releases are reprinted in their entirety on our blog for our Spanish speaking readers, and you can read the latest below.
Declaración del Centro de Estrategia Hispana sobre un nuevo anuncio de televisión de parte del republicano Tom Kean quien esta compitiendo para senador en el estado de Nueva Jersey
Nuevamente vemos como los republicanos continúan atacando y difamando la imagen de la comunidad Latina en este país. Ahora deciden justificar que los Latinos rompen la ley al exigir beneficios sobre el seguro social para sus retiros. Esto es un atropello para los miles de inmigrantes Hispanos en los Estados Unidos ya que estos contribuyen diariamente a nuestra economía y pagan fielmente sus contribuciones. (Para ver anuncio haga un click aquí www.tomkean.com).Los republicanos en vez de crear propagandas de manera groseras y falsas deberían comprometerse con la comunidad Latina y resolver el problema de inmigración de una manera justa, integra y verdadera como lo han tratado de hacer los demócratas.
Following up on James' excellent post from earlier this morning, here's a video ridiculing the President's line on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that "it’s never been stay the course." What is amazing to me about this about-face isn't that the administration is abandoning the phrase, before James Baker and company advocate abandoning the policy, but that they expect Americans to pretend they haven't been spouting this for the last few years. Maybe that is the Bush legacy: complete duplicity in Presidential communication and leave it to Tony Snow to try and parse the mess.