Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumsfeld Sacked as Defense Secretary; World Sees Vote as Rejection of Bush Policy

November 8, 2006

Rumsfeld Resigns as Defense Secretary After Big Election Gains for Democrats

New York Times

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the hard-driving and super-confident Pentagon boss who came to symbolize President Bush’s controversial Iraq policy, is resigning, President Bush announced today.

Mr. Bush, appearing at the White House the day after the Republican Party suffered sweeping defeats in Tuesday’s midterm Congressional elections, said he and Mr. Rumsfeld had “a series of thoughtful conversations” and agreed that “the time is right for new leadership at the Pentagon.”

The president said he would nominate Robert Gates, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and now president of Texas A & M University, to replace Mr. Rumsfeld. Mr. Gates served under the first President George Bush and is closer to him than he is to the current president.

The president said that as the leader of the Republican Party, he bore the responsibility for its losses on Tuesday. The Democrats picked up 27 seats and took control of the House, and so far it has gained five seats in the Senate.

Mr. Bush also emphasized today that he took full responsibility for the Iraq war, and he acknowledged that Americans are frustrated by the “lack of progress” in that country. But while praising Mr. Rumsfeld as “a superb leader in a time of change,” Mr. Bush said both he and the departing secretary recognized the “value of a fresh perspective.”

Only days ago, Mr. Bush had voiced confidence in Mr. Rumsfeld, as he had consistently done since the start of his presidency, in declaring that Mr. Rumsfeld was “here to stay.”

But Tuesday’s elections produced a furious reaction from the American public over a military campaign that has cost the lives of nearly 3,000 members of the armed forces and that many people of all political stripes have described as poorly managed.

Democrats responded instantly to the announcement. “If it were up to me, he would have been gone a long time ago,” Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin said.

“Yesterday’s election was a cry for change, and for the first time it looks like the president is listening,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, vowing to work with the new defense secretary on “an Iraq policy that is both strong and smart.”

Whether the president asked Mr. Rumsfeld to go, or whether Mr. Rumsfeld took the cue from the elections, was not immediately clear. But people who know the secretary have said he might step aside on his own if he concluded that he had become a liability, and there was no indication from Mr. Bush that he had tried to talk Mr. Rumsfeld out of leaving.

Democrats have accused Mr. Rumsfeld of ignoring the warnings of some generals that imposing a peace in Iraq would be harder and bloodier than just winning the war to topple Saddam Hussein. Several retired generals have said Mr. Rumsfeld should go.

As the months have dragged on since Mr. Hussein was overthrown, and Iraq has been plagued with sectarian violence, the Democrats have intensified their complaints. They have blamed Mr. Rumsfeld and his top aides not just for the loss of American lives but, in the Democrats’ view, lowering America’s stature in Europe and elsewhere around the world.

Given Mr. Rumsfeld’s sometimes frayed relationship with uniformed military leaders, Mr. Gates’s first job — assuming he is confirmed by the Senate — may be to re-establish a sense of trust and partnership between civilian leaders and career officers. And in addition to looking for a way ahead in Iraq, he will have to deal with the threats posed by Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Bush said Mr. Gates was an ideal choice to apply a new perspective to Iraq, since he has been an adviser to several presidents. Perhaps more important, Mr. Gates is a member of the bipartisan commission that has been studying the Iraq campaign with the possibility of charting a new direction.

That panel, formally the Iraq Study Group, is headed by James A. Baker III, who was secretary of state and a top adviser to the first President Bush, and Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana and co-chairman of the 9/11 commission.

Before the White House announcement, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, now the Democratic minority leader and perhaps the majority leader in the new Senate, said Mr. Bush should convene a bipartisan Iraq summit meeting with Congressional leaders.

“Yesterday’s message was clear: Americans want change,” Mr. Reid said.

While there may be adjustments in Iraq, Mr. Bush said America’s enemies should not mistake change for retreat. As for bringing American troops home, Mr. Bush said, “I want them to come home with victory.” By victory, he said again that he means a country that “governs itself, sustains itself and defends itself.”

The president praised Mr. Rumsfeld as a “patriot” who has served his country with “honor and distinction.”

Mr. Rumsfeld is in his mid-70’s, and by all accounts he has the drive and energy of many men decades younger. He served as defense secretary under President Gerald R. Ford in the mid-1970’s, and he made it clear when he joined the Bush administration in 2001 that he wanted to bring the vast Pentagon bureaucracy under control — a goal that has eluded many previous secretaries.

But he was damaged by predictions about the Iraq campaign that came to be seen as over-optimistic as the months dragged on and the deaths mounted. He was even accused occasionally of being unfeeling about deaths in wartime, even though he said often that he mourned every life lost.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.

November 8, 2006

World Sees Democrats' Win as Rejection of Bush

Filed at 1:20 p.m. ET

TOKYO (AP) -- Democratic gains in Congress were seen around the world Wednesday as a rejection of the U.S. war in Iraq that led some observers to expect a reassessment of the American course there.

The shift in power also was seen as a signal in some capitals that the United States would put a greater emphasis on trade policy and human rights.

Many watching the election said the results were a significant blow to President Bush's presidency.

''Although his term will not end within the next year, I think Bush is already turning into a lame duck,'' Yuzo Yamamoto, 60, the manager of a Tokyo business consulting firm, said as Democrats won control of the House and challenged Republican dominance in the Senate in midterm elections Tuesday.

Outside observers saw the bloodshed in Iraq as the major driving force behind the Democrats' success.

''Voters have punished the Republicans. They are not happy with the way the leadership has handled the Iraq war,'' said Chandra Muzaffar, president of the Malaysia-based think-tank International Movement for a Just World.

Bush's foreign critics cheered in Vietnam, and in Muslim-dominated countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

''The Republicans lost in the election because the American voters are now fed up and bored with the war,'' said Vitaya Wisetrat, a prominent, anti-American Muslim cleric in Thailand. ''The American people now realize that Bush is the big liar.''

Echoing the sentiment of many in Muslim countries, Indonesian lawmaker Ahmad Sumargono hoped that the results would prompt a reassessment of American policies in Iraq and elsewhere.

''I am optimistic that American people have now realized the mistakes made by Bush in foreign policy. We hope this leads to significant changes, especially toward the Middle East,'' he said.

Abdul Hamid Mubarez, an Afghan analyst and former deputy Afghan information and culture minister, said he hoped that Democratic victories would lead to more reconstruction money for his war-torn nation.

The prospect of a sudden change in American foreign policy could be troubling to U.S. allies in Asia -- such as Japan and Australia -- that have thrown their vocal support behind the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Some, however, doubted that there would be a major shift in Iraq, said Michael McKinley, a political science professor at the Australian National University.

''There would have been some concern in policy making circles here if the Democrats had said, 'We are definitely going to withdraw by Christmas,''' McKinley said. ''But they're not able to say that,'' he said.

''They will have concluded that it is unlikely to have radical significance in the area of U.S. foreign and strategic policy,'' he added.

U.S. policy on North Korea, which angered the world by testing a nuclear device on Oct. 9, is also high on the agenda in the region. Despite the test, Pyongyang has pledged to return to stalled six-nation talks on its weapons program.

While some in South Korea have speculated that a Democratic victory could erode Bush's hardline approach toward Pyongyang, others were skeptical.

Kim Tae-woo, a North Korea expert at the Seoul-based Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said Bush was unlikely to make radical changes in his policy in his final two years in office, particularly since the North was not a major campaign issue.

''Why should he change his policy line?'' Kim asked, referring to Bush. ''The Bush administration will feel no need for changes in the six-party talks.''

Many around the world hoping for other changes in American policy said they hoped the election would be a catalyst.

In China, however, the resurgence of the Democrats raised fears of renewed U.S. concern over human rights and trade and labor issues. China's surging economy has a massive trade surplus with the United States.

''The Democratic Party ... will protect the interests of small and medium American enterprises and labor and that could produce an impact on China-U.S. trade relations,'' Zhang Guoqing of the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report on, one of China's most popular Internet portals.

In Japan, the government said the results would not change Tokyo's warm ties with Washington.

But the shift in favor of the Democrats was expected to complicate Japan's diplomatic approach to the U.S. For years, the Japanese have been able to successfully woo Bush's White House, knowing that the Republican Congress would largely follow its lead.

Now that calculus would have to change, said Tsuneo Watanabe, senior fellow at Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute in Tokyo.

''Now it's time for the Japanese, the embassy in Washington, to spend more time on Congress,'' he said.


Pan-African News Wire said...

November 8, 2006

Blogs Take Lead in Reporting Polling Problems, With Supporting Evidence on YouTube

New York Times

Blogs of all political stripes spent most of yesterday detailing reports of voting machine malfunctions and ballot shortages, effectively becoming an online national clearinghouse of the polling problems that still face the election system.

And in a new twist this year, many bloggers buttressed their accounts of electoral shenanigans with links to videos posted on the video Web site YouTube., the conservative journal, heralded a “massive meltdown in Pennsylvania” early in the day, citing “widespread reports of an electoral nightmare shaping up in Pennsylvania with certain types of electronic voting machines.”

Erick Erickson, RedState’s chief blogger, also included a report of poll watcher intimidation in Philadelphia, along with a link to a video on YouTube that appeared to show a certified poll observer (armed with a video camera) being blocked from a polling

Brad Friedman, perhaps the most dogged critic of electronic voting machine technology in the blogosphere, said he saw his site traffic spike at left-leaning, as reports of machine malfunctions began pouring in from around the country.

“Folks understand by now that I’ll get these stories out so that they’ll get confirmed,” Mr. Friedman said.

That the blog now has a firm place in the choreography of national events — and in elections perhaps more so than in any other cultural exercise — is a boon to the democratic process, said Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of Internet governance at Oxford University and a co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard.

“In a lot of ways they’re helping to set the agenda for the mainstream media in fast-moving events like this,” Mr. Zittrain said. “They just need to be able to produce enough that’s credible quickly to give a lead.”

Alluding to some of the voter intimidation reports that unfolded on Election Day, he added, “There’s also a real difference between hearing about a call that tells someone they’re not allowed to vote and actually hearing the call as if you are receiving it.”

Some bloggers placed what were said to be digital recordings of such calls online for the world to hear.

Elsewhere online, voting machine problems also filled many posts on Talking Points Memo, a liberal site that seemed to take the initiative in tracking complaints, malfunctions and alleged malfeasance by Republicans.

Among the litany of issues cited at Talking Points: computer problems that caused long lines in Denver; polling stations that stayed open later in Indiana after voting problems and delays; votes for Claire C. McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race that somehow registered for her opponent, Jim Talent; complaints that crashed an Ohio county phone system.

It was impossible to gauge the veracity of every report cited. Some blogs linked to reports in local or national news media. Others copied e-mail messages or cited phone calls with local polling officials, while still others merely created open threads for readers to contribute their personal accounts of voting problems.

Not every site thought chaos was at hand, however. Ed Morrissey of the conservative Captain’s Quarters blog said traffic to his site yesterday was about two or three times normal. But Mr. Morrissey added that though he had heard some talk of voting woes, he thought on the whole they were “pretty minor” and would not have any effect on the overall outcome.

One of the biggest controversies of the last national election cycle — the discrepancy between the exit polls that showed John Kerry with a lead and the final results — continued to animate discussions on many liberal blogs.

With the 2004 discrepancy in mind, major news organizations were embargoed yesterday from releasing poll data for most of the day, and had generally agreed to refrain from releasing detailed numbers until most polls had closed.

The big question mark, however, was whether the numbers would leak in the blogs, and by 6 p.m. that had already begun to happen. Chris Bowers of, a liberal blog, posted “unconfirmed Senate numbers” at 5:47 p.m. — though he added a caveat.

“Double super caution: these numbers are both unconfirmed, and they are exit polls,” Mr. Bowers wrote. “I am going to keep looking into this.”

Even so, many of the biggest names in political blogging — including John Aravosis of Americblog, John Amato of Crooks and Liars, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit and Mr. Morrissey of Captain’s Quarters — had been corralled by a member of the mainstream news media, CNN, at Tryst, a trendy Washington coffeehouse, last night.

Constantine Stavropoulos, the owner of the cafe, said he had closed its doors for the “blog party,” which the network periodically broadcast and streamed online. He said he expected the bloggers — an attractive bunch, he said — to linger long after the votes were in.

“Bloggers look a lot better than I thought they would,” Mr. Stavropoulos said.

Michael McElroy contributed reporting.

Pan-African News Wire said...

Blame for Iraq Extends Far Beyond the GOP

By Matt Taibbi,
Posted on November 5, 2006

Anyone out there see the Letterman-O'Reilly dustup that went down recently? On the surface it looked like a seminal moment in modern television history, a Godzilla v. Megalon monster epic in which Godzilla was finally toppled just outside the Tokyo city gates. Keeled over, its rubber eyes flitting dumbly against the cardboard landscape, we finally saw the great lizard's vulnerable side. It was almost possible to feel sorry for Bill O'Reilly, who had trotted out on set with the peace-offering of a plastic sword and shield, expecting to make nice with his fellow overpaid TV icon -- but who instead ended up skewered and turned over the video-spit by the end of the segment, with an apple in his mouth and Sumner Redstone's massive billionaire foot wedged firmly in his ass.

For the rest of his days, few people will forget the image of O'Reilly sitting glumly and taking it while some smug ex-weatherman called him a "bonehead" to raucous studio applause. Which is too bad, because Bill O'Reilly wasn't even the dumbest person on the set that day. For that honor my vote goes to Letterman. Here's Letterman's explanation of his initial position on the Iraq war:

Here is my position in the beginning. I think I sort of felt the way everybody did. We felt like we wanted to do something, because something terrible had been done to us. We did not understand exactly why, all we knew was that something terrible, something heinous, something obscene had been done to us. So, while it didn't exactly make as much sense to go in to Iraq as it did perhaps to go into Afghanistan, I like everybody else felt like, yes, we need to do something. We need to do something. And as the weeks turned into months, turned into years, and as one death became a dozen deaths became a hundred deaths became a thousand deaths, then we began to realize, you know what, maybe we're causing more trouble over there than the whole effort has been worth.

That's a hell of a speech -- back to it in a moment. For now, consider the context in which it was delivered. We are in the last week before midterm elections in George Bush's second term, five years after 9/11, three and a half since the beginning of the Iraq war. By now we can say without much hesitation that the media establishment has turned not only on George Bush, but on the public attack-dogs of his right flank who dominated the national political media for so long. There's no more free lunch for the likes of O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, the latter of whom also took an unusually savage fragging in the national media last week for his attack on Michael J. Fox. That incident basically moved Al Franken into the national mainstream, with even a normally gentle humorist like Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Muke Luckovitch (from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) calling Rush a "big fat idiot" last week.

What's happening is that these talk-radio pit-vipers who for a decade or so had us all wondering "How the fuck do these guys get away with this stuff?" are now no longer getting away with it -- there's now a mechanism in place in the national media that is poised to savage these guys for the same kinds of tactics that for the last ten years ago were mostly left to the likes of FAIR and Eric Alterman to bitch about.

And it goes beyond beating on O'Reilly and Rush. All across the media landscape, once-reviled liberal or Democratic figures are being rehabilitated and celebrated by the same national media that, at best, habitually described Democrats as soft on defense or as unelectable political losers throughout most of the Bush years. This process actually began some time ago, around the time the Iraq war really started to go sour; I remember in particular one week in May when Good Morning America had a fuzzy-warm bit on Al Gore's
"comeback" and a laudatory piece on the Dixie Chicks on successive days. Could that have happened in 2003? I doubt it. And it's continuing today; Chris Matthews last week called Nancy Pelosi "stylish" and compared her to Joe DiMaggio, of all people, while David Gregory went on the campaign trail with Michael J. Fox for the Today show. Can you imagine NBC news throwing a tow-line to a liberal Hollywood actor before the 2000 presidential elections? 2004? No way. But this year, it's possible.

Last week we also saw Wolf Blitzer, before the war one of the chief cheerleaders for the invasion, finding himself arrayed in an antiwar pose in another Japanese monster-movie debate situation with Lynne Cheney, with whom he had a fierce exchange over the broadcast of unpleasant footage from Iraq. And of course there was Bob Woodward, who a few years ago published one of the all-time Electrolux suck jobs for the administration with Bush at War, reading the writing on the wall and doing a complete about-face in his new book State of Denial, which came out to much fanfare and an uncompromising 60 Minutes segment last month.

Look, there's nothing mysterious about any of this. It's pretty obvious what's going on. We saw this same kind of cultural shift in 1968, after the Tet offensive (an analogy so obvious that even Tom Friedman saw it recently), when the American political establishment soured on the Vietnam War. Despite the conservative propaganda that for decades has insisted that it was the media that lost the war for us in Vietnam, in fact the media didn't turn on the Vietnam war effort until the war was already lost. And the reason the media soured on that war had nothing to do with it being wrong; it had to do with the post-Tet realization that the war was expensive, unwinnable, and politically costly. America is reaching the same conclusion now about Iraq, and so, like Dave Letterman, a whole host of people who just a few years ago thought we "had to do something" are now backing off and repositioning themselves in an antiwar stance.

What's dangerous about what's going on right now is that an electoral defeat of the Republicans next week, and perhaps a similar defeat in a presidential race two years from now, might fool some people into thinking that the responsibility for the Iraq war can be sunk forever with George Bush and the Republican politicians who went down with his ship. But in fact the real responsibility for the Iraq war lay not with Bush but with the Lettermans, the Wolf Blitzers, the CNNs, the New York Timeses of the world -- the malleable middle of the American political establishment who three years ago made a conscious moral choice to support a military action that even a three year-old could have seen made no fucking sense at all.

It doesn't take much courage to book the Dixie Chicks when George Bush is sitting at 39% in the polls and carrying 3000 American bodies on his back every time he goes outside. It doesn't take much courage for MSNBC's Countdown to do a segment ripping the "Swiftboating of Al Gore" in May of 2006, or much gumption from Newsweek's Eleanor Clift to say that many people in the media "regret" the way Gore was attacked and ridiculed in 2000. We needed those people to act in the moment, not years later, when it's politically expedient. We needed TV news to reject "swift-boating" during the actual Swift Boat controversy, not two years later; we needed ABC and NBC to stand up to Clear Channel when that whole idiotic Dixie Chicks thing was happening, not years later; we needed the networks and the major dailies to actually cover the half-million-strong protests in Washington and New York before the war, instead of burying them in inside pages or describing the numbers as "thousands" or "at least 30,000," as many news outlets did at the time; and we needed David Letterman to have his war epiphany back when taking on Bill O'Reilly might actually have cost him real market share.

Take a look again at Letterman's comment last week:

So, while it didn't exactly make as much sense to go in to Iraq as it did perhaps to go into Afghanistan, I like everybody else felt like, yes, we need to do something.

Well, that's putting it pretty fucking mildly, wouldn't you say? It's not that Iraq didn't make "as much sense" as Afghanistan -- it didn't make any sense, and anyone with half a brain could have seen that. And Letterman's subsequent reasoning -- that seeing one death turn into dozens and then hundreds and thousands made him reconsider the whole thing -- all that tells you is that this is a person who makes life-and-death decisions without considering the consequences. If the Iraq war was not ever going to be worth 3,000 American lives (and countless more Iraqi lives), then why the hell did we go in in the first place? If you make a decision to fight, you had better not be scared of blood. And if you're suddenly changing your mind about things after you lose a few teenage lives, you're a hundred times more guilty than the guys like Bush who are actually sticking to their guns about this war.

Because Bush and the rest of that crew sent young men to die for something they believed in, fucked-up as their reasoning might be and have been. But these shitheads in the political middle who are flip-flopping right now sentenced teenagers to death for the cause of expediency and careerism. There are young men coming home now without arms and legs because the Wolf Blitzers of the world were too afraid to lose their jobs or piss off advertisers bucking the war hysteria of the times. Remember, CNN and the rest of the networks did great business in the run-up to the war. They had artists cooking up fancy new "America's New War" graphics and they were selling lawn fertilizer and soda and male-enhancement drugs by the metric ton right up to the time when the Saddam statue came down. But the war isn't selling anymore; the war is a bummer. And so these guys are changing their minds.

Are you throwing up yet? Surely that behavior is more shameful than anything coming out of the White House.

This assault on the Republicans that's taking place in the national media right now is partially a reflection of national attitudes, but mostly a matter of internal housecleaning. The members of the Bush administration have proven to be incompetent managers of the American system, and so they are being removed. It's that simple. They screwed up a war that all of these people wanted, turned public opinion against the dumbed-down militarist politics that until recently was good business for everybody. And so they have to go. Mistake any of this for ideology or principle at your peril.

Matt Taibbi is a writer for Rolling Stone.

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