President Bush went to a rally for Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist today, but Crist apparently had better things to do. His campign explained that he wasn't snubbing the prez, but that he already had the vote in the Panhandle wrapped up, and needed to campaign in other areas of the state. Riiiight. Crist isn't the first Republican to head for the hills (I know there are no hills in Flordia) when the president's come by on a campaign swing. April Rabkin collects a few more examples in our current issue, like Washington senatorial candidate Mike McGavick, who missed a Bush stop in Seattle because his son had just graduated from high schoola day earlier.
Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International just released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, and Iraq is almost at the bottom of the barrel, tied with Myanmar and Guinea. This is the first year TI has not figured Iraq's pre-war record of corruption into its findings. Not that the transition has helped: Last year, Iraq was ranked 137 out of 158; this year it's 160 out of 163. Goodbye, Oil for Food scam, hello Bagmen of Baghdad. Not that we care where our billions of dollars in reconstruction money are going, anyhow...
There are 138,000 American soldiers in Iraq, and no signs of a drawdown in sight. But don't tell that to the bunch of Army recruiters caught on tape by ABC lying to potential recruits about whether they might end up in the sandbox.
"Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?" one student asks a recruiter.
"No, we're bringing people back," he replies.
"We're not at war. War ended a long time ago," another recruiter says.
And if the recruits don't like Army life? One recruiter falsely claimed they could easily get "a 'Failure to Adapt' discharge.... It's an entry-level discharge so it won't affect anything on your record. It'll just be like it never happened."
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote skeptically about predictions that Saddam's imminent sentencing would give the GOP a last-minute election bump. Sure, the verdict gives Bush and Republican candidates something to crow about for a couple of days, but the announcement is so unsurprising as to be anti-climactic. Its timing is still subject to speculation. But perhaps the more important question is what the verdict means for Iraq. Does it, as Iraqi blogger Riverbend fears, mark the beginning of Bush's own personal disengagement with the war, another "Mission Accomplished" moment he can use to claim success and move on?
I'm more than a little worried. This is Bush's final card. The elections came and went and a group of extremists and thieves were put into power (no, noI meant in Baghdad, not Washington). The constitution which seems to have drowned in the river of Iraqi blood since its elections has been forgotten. It is only dug up when one of the Puppets wants to break apart the country. Reconstruction is an aspiration from another lifetime: I swear we no longer want buildings and bridges, security and an undivided Iraq are more than enough. Things must be deteriorating beyond imagination if Bush needs to use the 'Execute the Dictator' card.
Sentencing Saddam to hang may make for a nice line to add to stump speeches, but it won't change things on the ground. It won't end the insurgency or the civil war or turn the lights back on. It won't bring the troops home or chart a course for victory. Even if the timing was a Rovian plot, it just goes to further demonstrate how out of touch the administration is from the reality of Iraqand its own electorate. Which is why, come Wednesday, this hopefully will be remembered as the November surprise that wasn't.
With the Democrats poised to retake the House next week, it's only a matter of time before a freshly emboldened blue-state rep (besides John Conyers) dares to utter the i-word. Outside of D.C., there's been no such reticence to suggest that George W. Bush has committeed high crimes and misdemeanors. Which isn't to say that the idea of impeachment has any chance of going anywhere soon. Even if it does gain political traction, would forcing Bush into early retirement be worth the trouble? In our latest issue, Tim Dickinson wades into the slew of pro-impeachment books out there and considers these questions. I won't give away the ending, but he's not real excited by the (far-fetched) prospect of President Cheney or (gasp!) President Pelosi. Check it out.