Lonely at the top

Here are two propositions I can’t entertain simultaneously:

(1) Bush is managing a competent assault on global terrorism, including for example the invasion of Iraq, the rebuilding of Iraq, the liberation, stabilization, and salvation of Afghanistan, the CIA/Guantanamo/extraordinary rendition program, and the really cheap military enterprise doing the heavy lifting. This assault is succeeding, he knows what he’s doing, he’s on top of the situation, we are getting safer, and we get tax cuts for dessert.

(2) Bush has tolerated the pervasive collapse or subversion of the national intelligence apparatus he commands to the point that all sixteen of his agencies are saying what he knows to be false. Oh yes, and loyal ally Pervez Musharraf has left the building.

If you can’t believe what you would read if you looked in a newspaper, and your own organization lies and leaks, and your pals diss you on CNN, it sure must be a comfort to have fixed and unchanging beliefs.

The Colbert Report at the WHCA Dinner

My favorite bits, for those who don’t want to read the whole thing, or, better yet, watch it.

As noted below, DKos has a full transcript of Stephen Colbert’s address to the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, as well as a link to the full video But since bloggers’ instructions to “read (or watch) the whole thing” are only occasionally followed, here are my personal favorite bits.

For those who don’t know Colbert’s shtick, he has taken on the persona of a Fox News-style Bush sycophant. Saturday night he was superb:

Madame First Lady, Mr. President, my name is Stephen Colbert and tonight it’s my privilege to celebrate this president. We’re not so different, he and I. We get it. We’re not brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We’re not members of the factinista. We go straight from the gut, right sir? That’s where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. I know some of you are going to say I did look it up, and that’s not true. That’s cause you looked it up in a book.

Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works. Every night on my show, the Colbert Report, I speak straight from the gut, OK? I give people the truth, unfiltered by rational argument. I call it the “No Fact Zone.” Fox News, I hold a copyright on that term.


I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.


Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don’t pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in “reality.” And reality has a well-known liberal bias.


So don’t pay attention to the approval ratings that say 68% of Americans disapprove of the job this man is doing. I ask you this, does that not also logically mean that 68% approve of the job he’s not doing? Think about it. I haven’t.


I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound — with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.


I just like the guy. He’s a good joe. Obviously loves his wife, calls her his better half. And polls show America agrees. She’s a true lady and a wonderful woman. But I just have one beef, ma’am.

I’m sorry, but this reading initiative. I’m sorry, I’ve never been a fan of books. I don’t trust them. They’re all fact, no heart. I mean, they’re elitist, telling us what is or isn’t true, or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was built in 1914? If I want to say it was built in 1941, that’s my right as an American! I’m with the president, let history decide what did or did not happen.

The greatest thing about this man is he’s steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man’s beliefs never will. As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president’s side, and the vice president’s side.

But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they’re super-depressing. And if that’s your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over the last five years you people were so good — over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works: the president makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know – fiction!

Because really, what incentive do these people have to answer your questions, after all? I mean, nothing satisfies you. Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write, “Oh, they’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!

“Think about it. I haven’t.” Lewis Carroll or James Thurber would have been proud to have written those sentences.

Still hawkish after all these months

Tom Spencer notes that the ranks of the pro-war liberal bloggers have begun to thin alarmingly. Matthew Yglesias and I may be the only ones left.

It does appear that the Bush crew has managed to make this war as expensive as possible in terms of the other things we need to get done in the world. Their inability to count votes at the UN has eliminated the best chance for the best outcome: a threat to invade, with universal backing, convincing enough to bluff Saddam Hussein out of power, either through voluntary exile or a palace coup. The business of providing what turned out to be fake intelligence to the UN about an Iraqi attempt to buy fissile material from Niger is about as bad as it gets, suggesting a degree either of incompetence or of arrogance that makes the Franco-German position comprehensible.

I expect the Bushies to run the war competently — which is not to rule out the prospect that it will be a lot bloodier, for Iraq and for us, than the happy horses–t being handed out by Rumsfeld’s flacks suggests — but I also expect them to bungle the peace, and to continue to use every step of the process for maximum partisan advantage.

So if Bush were to announce tomorrow that Iraq was going on the back burner until we’d finished dealing with North Korea (in either sense of the phrase “dealing with”) I’d be cheerful. [I won’t crow, guys: that’s a promise.]

All of that said, it looks to me as if we have a choice between fighting Iraq before the Iraqis have fully deployed nuclear and biological weapons, or after. And that still looks to me like an easy choice.

UPDATE So why, I am asked, do I not support a tougher inspections regime, assuming that Iraq would now agree to one? Answer: Because Iraq agreed to disarmament and a tough inspections regime in 1991, and then found a convenient time to run the inspectors out of town on a rail, with France and Russia strongly opposed to actually doing anything about it. If SH is playing a different tune now, it’s because he’s looking down about 250,000 gun barrels. How long are we supposed to keep that army poised to strike? And how long would Iraqi cooperation last once that army stood down?