Eve of destruction, tax deduction ...


I've got a new "Think Again" column, "The Viral Center," here.

I read the LA Times/Bloomberg poll this morning, and here's what I learned:

  • Three-fifths of Americans oppose Bush's escalation of his failed war. Barely one-third support it.
  • One-fourth of Republicans said they did not believe the war was worth fighting, and a roughly equal number opposed the troop increase.
  • Bush's overall job approval rating is 39 percent, with 59 percent disapproving.
  • On Iraq, 33 percent approve of Bush's handling of the war, with 65 percent disapproving.
  • A narrow majority -- 51 percent -- wants Congress to try to block Bush from sending more troops to Iraq.
  • Exactly half said Congress should take steps to begin removing troops.
  • When asked how the U.S. should proceed, 30 percent said it should maintain troops in Iraq "for as long as it takes to win the war."
  • By contrast, nearly two-thirds want troop withdrawals to begin within the next year, with 46 percent saying the process should start over that period and 19 percent saying all troops should be sent home immediately.
  • Similarly, 60 percent agreed the U.S. should withdraw "most ... troops from Iraq by early 2008 while keeping military training forces there to assist and train Iraq troops." Opposing that idea were 31 percent.
  • Asked to choose between that approach and Bush's new plan, 53 percent said they preferred the Iraq Study Group's recommendations -- nearly double the 28 percent that favored the president's proposal.

End the poll.

Now here's the thing: I don't like to put too much stock in polls. People are ignorant of many salient facts, confused about others, and apt to change their minds. Polls are no way to run policy, except if examined over time and with a consistent set of questions. Thing is, if you examine these polls over time and with a consistent set of questions, they say something pretty powerfully. Most of the country does not trust George W. Bush's competence or his honesty. They don't like him. They don't like his war. They think he's an awful president. They believe all these things, moreover, despite the fact that much of the punditocracy has been conducting a one-way love affair with George that no amount of reality can tear asunder.* This poll was written up by Ron Brownstein, who, since the retirement of Tom Edsall, is (or ought to be) the consensus choice for single most perspicacious MSM political reporter. These, in other words, are the facts of how people feel about Bush. Will virtually every MSM reporter continue to ignore its fundamental insights? Will cable news treat Bush as manly and powerful and the Democrats as wimpish and defensive? You betcha. Will these same idiots -- and I include the Smart Boyz at the The Note here -- who do the above continue to pretend that the media are biased against Bush? To ask the question is to answer it. Why will this continue to happen? Well, it's complicated, but the fact of it happening is kinda hard to resist.

Anyway ...

Quote of the Day, from the above:

"If [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice has to go Iran or Syria and talk, and there are 1,000 or 2,000 lives of American soldiers saved, that is cheaper than letting those soldiers die," said Democrat Daljit Bajwa, a real estate broker from La Habra.

*The caveat above leaves open the possibility that the lovestruck punditocracy may, at times, appear to be dumping Bush in favor of Macho "Maverick" McCain, whom they love the way I still love, well, none of your business ... In light of that, it would be awfully useful if they could also remember this, which, alas, I could not find in the LAT coverage: "A plurality of self-defined moderates and independents, a key McCain constituency, said his advocacy of a troop escalation even larger than the one Bush has announced makes them less likely to support him if he runs for the White House."

And still on the poll, there's this:

Disapproval of the administration's plan for Iraq is intense, with 60 percent of Americans objecting to a troop increase, including 51 percent who feel "strongly'' about that opposition. Only 9 percent said they disapprove "somewhat.''

And this:

Half of Americans said they believe Bush deliberately misled Congress and the American people about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and the country's ties to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Forty-four percent disagree.

Deal with it.

Reading Around:

Retire already, David Broder.

"Surging" like the Knicks (or perhaps George W. Bush) ... into last place:

Since early December, his broadcast -- which this season has drawn an average viewership of 2.6 million -- once again fell behind that of "Face the Nation" (2.8 million) and "Meet the Press" (4 million), according to Nielsen Media Research."

Perry Anderson on Vladimir Putin.

The great John Le Carre.

"Just who the hell is Jake Tapper?" Here.

You go, girl.

Great moments in Sullydom, thanks to Atrios:

DESTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT: But, as befitting a man whose administration slept while al Qaeda's threat grew, Gore seems more concerned with what Germany and France think than with any threat to this country or elsewhere from Saddam's potential nukes and poison gas. He says we now live in a "reign of fear." Because of the continuing threat of terrorism? Because of Saddam's nukes? Nope. Because of the Bush administration, a statement of moral equivalence that I'm genuinely shocked to hear from his lips. (He also slipped in a sly analogy to the Soviet Union's "pre-emptive" invasion of Afghanistan. So Gore thinks Bush is the equivalent of the Soviet Union?) He says we have "squandered" the good will generated by the attacks of September 11. Really? A liberated Afghanistan, where women can now learn to read, where a fledgling free society is taking shape? No major successful terrorist attack on the homeland since the anthrax attacks of last fall? Growing support among Arab nations and at the U.N. for enforcing U.N. resolutions that Gore's own administration let languish? Signs that Arafat may soon be sidelined on the West Bank? Squandered? The only thing that's been truly squandered is what's left of Gore's integrity. At least Lieberman has been consistent. I must say, as a former Gore-supporter who was appalled by his campaign lurch to the left, that there are few judgment calls I'm prouder of than having picked Bush over Gore two years ago. Now I'm beginning to think we dodged a major catastrophe in world events.


It's time for my semi-annual Maude Maggart lust-festival. Maggart may be the most talented singer virtually nobody I know has ever heard of on earth. In addition to being classically beautiful, singing wonderfully, and having a hipper-than-thou retro sensibility -- to say nothing of what used to be called "smoldering sensuality" and a not-bad-at-all sense of humor -- she wins my heart every time with her attention to the historical context of the material she sings and her insistence that we take seriously artist's intentions as well as the intersection of those intentions with the creations they've let loose on the world. What's more, as much as any singer of "the American Popular Songbook," she teaches me about songs I didn't know and singers and composers of whom I've not previously heard. Her new show, which opened Tuesday night at the Oak Room in the Algonguin is called "Good Girl/Bad Girl," a theme she both explores and resists over and over, again, teaching us much about all kinds of girls and how we think about them. True, you gotta be either rich or celebrating something important, but that's the way it is, I'm afraid. Read all about Maude here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Christian Haesemeyer
Hometown: Champaign, IL

More (TV) power to you -- 30 Rock is, right now, the funniest show on television. Who can resist Baldwin and Tina Fey? Of course, (MS)NBC has a bad record of not listening to you, so maybe you should lay low ...

Name: Don Hynes
Hometown: Portland

Besides Michael Ledeen's involvement in the criminality of Iran-Contra, the BCCI banking scandal and many other nefarious activities, Ledeen was present for and perhaps the arranger of the original set-up meeting in Italy concerning the forged Niger yellowcake documents with agents of SCIRI and NSA present. For my two bits worth, I believe the administration higher-ups who were "fooled" by the documents were the ones who ordered the forgeries, but that's not provable, yet. Ledeen's been knee deep in this crowd, including Elliot Abrams, John Negroponte, George Bush Sr., et al, for many years, and he's made a career of putting lipstick on a pig. You were lucky all he put in your pasta was water.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

In the "lesson learned too late department," Bush admits in his 60 Minutes interview that he's reading Alistair Horne's A Savage War of Peace, which analyzes the French experience with Islamic guerrilla war in Algeria. Hold the freedom fries! Does this mean that the French aren't just a nation of effete, pusillanimous snobs, but that they might have opposed Bush's Iraq policy because they have insight based on their own experience? Maybe if we'd actually discussed the issue with them instead of vilifying them as did Cheney, Rumsfeld, DeLay, Ney, and on the airwaves O'Reilly, we'd have realized more about what this foolish policy would entail before reliving their mistakes.

Come to think of it, wasn't France in Vietnam for something like a century before we decided to try our hand? Given our sense of superiority after WWII, it's not surprising that the U.S. might have thought that they could accomplish what the French couldn't in Southeast Asia. But after Vietnam, we were supposed to have learned something. By ignoring the French lessons a second time, we're in deep merde. And all of those cheap laughs about the cowardly French are now ringing hollow. It reminds me of the Czeslaw Milosz essay on the "American Ignorance of War." Bordered by two large oceans, we've been insulated from the horrors of war that people in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have known firsthand. Instead of appreciating the comfort of our good fortune, we've allowed ignorance to fester into arrogance.

Name: Tim Francis-Wright
Hometown: Medford, MA

Regarding the Sin of Good Judgment, one would think that the 33 scholars who came out against the war in September 2002 on the op-ed page of the New York Times would get some attention for being so right. (Destabilized Middle East? Check. Chaos in Iraq? Check. Attention drawn away from al-Qaeda? Check again.)

Fortunately for the "liberal" hawks, two of the scholars (Mearsheimer and Walt) wrote about the "Israel Lobby" and can be ignored, even though they were spot on about how debate on Israel in the US is far more constrained than debate on Israel within Israel.

Name: John
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Dr A.: In regards to the Playboy centerfold, the Air Force said:

"This staff sergeant's alleged action does not meet the high standards we expect of our airmen, nor does it comply with the Air Force's core values of integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do."

So my question is, considering many of our soldiers no doubt enjoy Playboy magazine from time to time for more than JUST the articles, couldn't her act of disrobing in its pages be considered "service before self" in a most patriotic way? Seems like a good thing for the troop's morale, no?

PS: Stephen King has also used Rock N' Roll song lyrics very creatively at the beginning of his chapters for years.

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