Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Day That Was
To release the new photos, or not to release the new photos? Members of Congress who've seen them say no, and for what seems like a reasonably decent reason--because the outrage they are likely to cause would further endanger the lives of Americans in Iraq. But in a world with millions of websites, you know the latest photos are going to come out sometime. And so the lives of Americans in Iraq are going to be further endangered one way or another. Perhaps it's better if we all see what we've done.

I said one day last week that the first round of photos didn't trouble me much more than the line of coffins in the photos Russ Kick got released a week or two before. Having looked at some more of the prisoner photos, I can say that's not true anymore. The one with the naked prisoner threatened by huge snapping dogs is particularly disturbing. The one described today ("a nearly naked man 'handcuffed to a wall, beating his head against the wall, recoiling back and forward, probably trying to knock himself unconscious and avoid having to live through the experience,'" as Reuters quoted a California representative) sounds equally horrific. If that's representative of the videos included in this batch, well, Finding Nemo it ain't.

It doesn't sound like the bad-apple excuse is going to hold water much longer. The more we learn, the more it becomes clear this isn't a matter of a few poorly trained MPs running amok (or avenging Jessica Lynch, as one of them claims). And once it implodes, you have to wonder how much longer the wingnuts can go on excusing the abuse and defending the perpetrators. (Well, forever, if we're talking about Fox News, but I digress.)

If Bush can't be persuaded to make a few heads roll on his own (sorry, that's probably a bad metaphor given events of the last day or so), maybe the latest polling numbers will convince him of the true intensity of the shitrain currently falling on him. With six months to go before the election, Gallup and Zogby both put Bush's approval ratings down around those of Daddy Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford at a similar point. All of them lost. What this seems to mean is that people who have been peacefully dozing and believing things are going to be OK are starting to wake up and smell the carnage.

For once, John Kerry seems to be taking advantage. He's been too quiet about the Abu Ghraib scandal, preferring to stick to safe issues like jobs and education that are, under the circumstances, beside the point. (It reminds me of the way Al Gore kept Bush competitive in 2000, by talking about everything except the one guaranteed winner in his arsenal--in Gore's case, the successes of the Clinton/Gore administration.) Kerry stirred today--not what the situation warrants, but more than he's done lately--with some mild criticism of Bush and Donald Rumsfeld on Don Imus's radio show. Kerry also tossed out some possibilities for Secretary of Defense in his cabinet, including John McCain, Carl Levin, John Warner (another Republican), and Clinton-era secretary William Perry.

Naming possible cabinet officials is a wise gambit for Kerry. It can only help him if people get a sense that his team would be better than the crowd running the current cluster-fuck. But he ought to quit tossing McCain's name around. McCain quickly said "No thanks" when he heard about Kerry's comments this morning--which he's done before.

That means no dream ticket of Kerry/McCain. There's a plausible argument for Kerry to pick a Republican running mate, as a powerful statement of the extremism and isolation of Bush--but if not McCain, who? For what it's worth, I think the leading candidate for VP at the moment is Wesley Clark. Clark gave the weekly Democratic address last week--plus, he's a general who's actually won a war. As soon as Kerry figures out that it's about the war, stupid, he ought to see that Clark's positives far outweigh his negatives. If he ever figures it out.

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