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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The McCain Mutiny

As I've written before, it seems as though the best hope for getting rid of Bush comes from Republican senators. The Repugs in the House are consistently and totally partisan, and the rules in the House give them almost total control over the committees and the votes. So even though the most progressive politicians in America are in the House--Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, John Conyers and some others--their voice is rarely heard, and it rarely has an impact. Both because there are fewer of them, and because of Senate rules like the filibuster, individual senators have much more power than their House counterparts. Unfortunately, there are very few senators who are remotely progressive: Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold maybe, and Robert Byrd and Bob Graham and one or two others on certain topics like war. Most of the prominent Democrats are total wimps who voted for the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, and pay continuous lip-service to the "war on terror" BS, giving Bush a pass on what should be seen as his greatest among many negatives. Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Diane Feinstein and most of the other Democratic senators, including John Kerry, fall into this category (Joe Lieberman is a Republican).

But several Republican senators have been quite outspoken in their criticism of the Bushies: Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, Richard Shelby. Even South Carolina's Lindsey Graham has been quite outspoken in his criticism of the Abu Ghraib atrocities. But the most eloquent, and best known, of these critics is John McCain. Here's an extended selection from NBC News' Meet the Press on Sunday:
Tim Russert: What serious errors were made?

Sen. John McCain, R-AZ: I think several. One was the lack of sufficient troops there which allowed the looting to take place, which established kind of a lawless environment. I think any law enforcement person would tell you that the environment is a very important aspect of it. The fact that we island-hopped and left certain areas of towns and cities around Baghdad as well as in the Sunni Triangle alone. I think it's because we probably didn't make sufficient plans to turn over the government as quickly as possible and a level of expectation that probably was unrealistic, which led to a certain amount of disappointment, but a lot of it had to do with lack of sufficient troop strength at the time that "combat phase" was over.
McCain: But let me just say that the Iraqi people don't want Americans there as occupiers. But if the Iraqi people saw us there as a way to provide security and to bolster the government and help them make this transition, I think these numbers would be very different. I just don't see our friends in Paris now agreeing to significant NATO involvement. I'm sorry to tell you, because of many of the errors in the past, the bulk of the responsibility is going to lie with America. But should President Bush seek help wherever he can? Absolutely. But it's still going to be America's mission.
Russert: Senator McCain, do you think the Bush administration understands the sense of urgency necessary to deal with Iraq at this moment?

McCain: I think they're beginning to. I think the increase in troops, which actually has taken place and more may be needed, is an indication of that. I believe this commitment to hold firm to the June 30 date. As was mentioned earlier, mistakes happen in war. That's why we try to avoid them. Mistakes have been made. I think we all acknowledge that. The important thing is, we are in a crucial time. This is the point where we can still achieve success in Iraq if we get a legitimate election and a legitimate government in power. And now's the time that, yes, we need presidential leadership and we need congressional leadership, and we have to understand that if we lose this conflict, the consequences are enormous. And the benefits of success are also enormous.
McCain: ...and other countries criticizing us, we will punish those responsible. In many countries that are criticizing us today, it is common practice. But that doesn't matter. We distinguish ourselves by our treatment of our enemies. And there are conventions for the treatment of prisoners of war. And my view in Iraq, they were violated and we cannot let this happen again. And you got to get everything out as quickly as possible. Take remedial action and move forward and take the measures that we were talking about earlier in the program.

Russert: So you are not outraged by the outrage?

McCain: No. I'm saddened. I'm saddened by what it hurts the reputation of our brave young men and women who are serving with such honor and sacrifice. But I'm also saddened by the image of America in the world. There are prisons all over the world that are looking for our adherence to human rights, the people are, and that we will bring about their freedom. This diminishes our ability to achieve that goal.
We need to take this as far up as it goes and we need to do it quickly and I am convinced that the sooner we do that, the sooner the United States of America can begin to reassert its rightful place in the world as a leading advocate for democracy and human rights. And we are signatories to certain protocols as well as adherence to the Geneva Convention which should apply in Iraq.

Russert: This is a presidential election year. I don't have to tell either of you gentlemen. Newsweek, this is the latest poll. President Bush's job approval? Approve, 42 percent; disapprove, 52 percent. President Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq? Approve, 35 percent; disapprove, 57 percent. Senator McCain, what do those numbers tell you for Republican President George Bush?

McCain: It means that we've got to get this issue--bring closure to this issue as quickly as possible, assign whatever responsibility there is and move on, because the thing that bothers me more than the presidential implications is that Americans, when they saw these pictures, turned away from him, as I turned away when I saw them, and we cannot lose this and we cannot lose the American support, public support for this conflict. And that's, I think, the more serious consequences than even to the fortunes of President Bush.

Fine so far, Senator. Even though I disagree strongly with your support for the war, it sounds as though your priorities are in decent order. But when Russert asks him about the rumors about being Kerry's running mate, McCain strongly denies interest. And here is his explanation:
McCain: I am a loyal Republican. I am supporting President Bush's re-election. I am campaigning for it. And I'd like to mention one other thing. The bullet played in all these stories is John McCain is angry at President Bush about 2000. Look, that was four years ago. My constituents don't want me to look back in anger. They want me to represent them. I work with President Bush on a lot of issues and I want him re-elected and I'm not looking back in anger at anything.
Shorter John McCain: Bush is doing a stinky job in Iraq and in other areas, he's a nasty campaigner who used dirty tricks to defeat me in 2000, but in the end being a Republican is more important than being an American or Earthling.