Thursday, September 01, 2005

Where's George, Day Four
Yesterday afternoon, the Rude Pundit proposed that Hurricane Katrina offers the possibility of an exit strategy from Iraq--bring home the troops to help with recovery. It could be termed a homeland security measure, he says, and the private contractors currently suckling at the public teat in Iraq could simply move their operations to Louisiana with little damage to their bottom lines. This morning, Trey Ellis at the Huffington Post hones down the idea: bring home Southern units of the Guard. He tells Bush,
The righteous white Southerner is all that is left of your base and if you do not bring their boys home on the double I promise you they will join our side, oppose this reckless war, and oppose you.
That last bit is not really Ellis' promise to make, but he's onto something. Few people on either side of the political divide (apart from the most hysterical Republican kool-aid drinkers) would oppose such a gesture. Even a tiny and mostly symbolic move of troops back home would have an immediate upward effect on Bush's approval ratings, which are in 1973 Nixon territory at the moment. What possible difference it could make to the quagmire--excuse me, inexorable march of democracy--in Iraq by removing a few hundred or a couple of thousand troops from out of the bullseye, I can't imagine. It's a good idea with practically no downside, political or otherwise.

And that means the safest bet in gambling is that Bush won't actually do it. The administration's responses to the unfolding disaster so far have been largely perfunctory--as if this were just another "regular" hurricane--and as a result, they've seemed out of touch and out of tune all week. Such a lengthy period of flailing is kind of weird. Usually, when they're caught with their johnsons in their hands on one issue or another, the Bush gang finds a way to spin that inactivity and/or outright fucking-up into examples of shrewd and principled leadership. And when that doesn't work, they change the subject entirely, as when the Roberts nomination turned Karl Rove's role in the Valerie Plame case into old news. The right-wing media is trying to help them out in this, by making the real crisis not the flooding and loss of life but the looting--which is serious, but by no means the greatest problem New Orleans faces. Nevertheless, the story continues to be, in large part, about Bush's tardy response--and about ways the disaster might have been lessened if funding for FEMA and the Corps of Engineers hadn't been cut, or if Louisiana's requests for funds to fight erosion along its coastline hadn't similarly fallen victim to the Repug Congress' drunken thirst for budget-cutting.

So anyway: In the wake of all this bad political news, it's a bit odd that we haven't seen the kind of game-changing countermove that the administration is so good at making. Now that I've said that, they'll probably bomb Iran this afternoon.

Recommended Reading: Aaron Kinney at Salon examines the black-looters, white-shoppers controversy I blogged about yesterday. And with the price of a gallon of regular unleaded at $2.99.9 in Madison this morning and likely to be $3.25 by tonight, it may be worth reading this reprint from Harper's of an article published last year about the future of cheap gasoline. Short version: Say so long to paying less than two bucks a gallon, and hello to paying much, much more.

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