Drooling on the Pillow

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mr. Bush, Meet Mr. Lincoln 

During the Civil War, President Lincoln had to deal with The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War which nosed its way into every aspect of the Union war effort. In that case, the Committee was a creature of the radical Republicans, that is to say, the left, which is to say, the pro-war party.

There were good reasons for the Republicans to insist on close accounting. The nature of a civil war is that espionage is difficult to detect, loyalties are sometimes hidden and contraband is relatively easy to move. Also, a number of Union generals were Copperheads or worse and, thus, not interested in pursuing the war aggressively. On paper, who could object?

In total, though, the Committee represented a burden on Lincoln and, most historians would, I think, agree, that it was counterproductive to the war effort. Battles were second-guessed within days and once a competent officer got in the Committee's sights he rose no further.

How much more difficult to succeed when the Committee is composed of political and ideological enemies. The Committee now sitting judgement on the President and the war is composed of disaffected patriots, a hostile press, a disintegrating opposition party and declared enemies of democracy.

I don't know whether the Senate Democrats' remarkable move yesterday will work to their advantage politically or not. I do know that the second phase of the Senate investigation is proceeding, but not giving the Democrats the headlines they want. The headlines they expected when Karl Rove was frogmarched out of the West Wing. The massive outrage they expected for the 2000! Dead 2000! Festival. The implosion of the Republican coalition from the Meiers nomination. They seem to be flabbergasted that there isn't a nation of villagers with pitchforks and torches outside the White House gates.

I think most people understand the nature of the war and what is at stake. The erosion of support for the war and the President is mostly due to questions about the competency of it's prosecution. Some of those questions, obviously, are justified. Others are worth looking into. It's difficult to believe, however, that key Senate Democrats are all about fixing the problems. As Harry Reid morphs into Cindy Sheehan he seems to be very close to asserting as fact that the President got us into this war by lying for the economic benefit of his associates. If that were true I would volunteer for the firing squad.

It's not true. It's not even close to being true. There was no intelligence available to the President that was not available to the Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. WMDs were not the sole rationale presented by the administration, nor, to my mind, the major one. It was the sexiest one, though. Both Clintons believed they were there. Biden, Albright, Kennedy, Kerry, the British, the Israelis, the Russians, the Egyptians, the French, for crissakes, believed there were ongoing WMD programs in Iraq.

This is an enormously difficult project underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, fraught with countless challenges and great danger. So much has been accomplished already. If the Committee permits, much more is possible.
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