Wednesday, December 06, 2006

If We Can't Trust Bush to Listen, Will Gates Matter?

James Jay Carafano is right. Politics should end at the water's edge. The problem is that George W. Bush has plunged our people into the deep well of an unnecessary war and we stand today, over three years later, groping for the sides of that dark well - drowning in failure. At nearly every phase of the disastrous war, it seemed that Karl Rove was behind the scenes calculating Bush's next move to make it appear politically attractive.

Politics has had far too much to do with the war in Iraq. Last month, American voters screamed loudly at the polls that they not only found this war politically unattractive, but that they wanted a change in course immediately.

Yesterday at his confirmation hearing, our leaders were hoping to find something in (and hear something from) Robert Gates that would convince them that President Bush, who has stubbornly stuck to a clearly failed course, would actually take Mr. Gates' counsel and apply it toward the change that the people wish to see.

I heard Mr. Gates say that he is sure today that many in the Bush administration now regret some of the past decisions that have been made and that, in hindsight, they wouldn't have made the same decisions today. While I was glad to hear something that sounded so honest, I realized that Mr. Gates wasn't speaking for himself, and his statement was meaningless because it didn't come straight from the horse's mouth.

Who regrets what? If individual Bush administration officials, including President Bush, won't come out and say it themselves, why should we believe it? It's dark times like these, when glaring mistakes have clearly been made, that the American people listen closely for any indication that their leaders have learned something important from the mistakes that they'll willingly admit to having made.

It wasn't partisan for Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia to have asked Mr. Gates who he felt was responsible for 9/11 and who posed a greater threat in the war on terror - Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden? With a firmness in his tone, Mr. Gates replied that it was Osama Bin Laden. It wasn't partisan when Senator Byrd felt that he had to ask about what's wrong with Bush's current tactics on the war on terror to have allowed Osama Bin Laden to escape justice for over five years.

It wasn't partisan for Senator Byrd to have asked for clarification when Mr. Gatres said that an American attack on Iran would be his absolute last resort and that diplomacy should be first. Mr. Gates said that he believed, once war is unleashed, it becomes 'unpredictable' and that military consequences could be quite traumatic.

It was not partisan for Senator Byrd to have wanted to be reassured that Mr. Gates would counsel President Bush against an attack on Iran and to have gotten clarification that Mr. Gates doesn't believe that President Bush would have the right to attack Iran under the 2002 Iraq War Resolution.

Although Mr. Gates said that he thought it would be 'awkward' to speak of hypotheticals, he said that the likely negative consequences of an attack on Iran would be:

1. Iran's capacity to close off the Persion Gulf to oil exports
2.The possibility of an unleashing of a significant wave of terror in Europe, the Middle East, and even here.
3. Although Iran is not being helpful to the U.S. on the Iraq War, they could be doing more to hurt our effort in Iraq.
4. A likeliness of Iran spreading WMD (chemical and biological weapons) to terrorist groups is real.
5. Iran would likely encourage Hezbollah to further destabilize
6. Greater U.S. casualties in Iraq if we attacked Iran.

It was not partisan to have learned that our nation's options, when we consider reining in Iran, are "quite limited."

It wasn't partisan for Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts to have asked Mr. Gates why he should believe that President Bush would accept Mr. Gates' advice if he were to be confirmed.

America is concerned because our President doesn't seem to be taking the advice of the people he has taken on as trusted advisors. More and more, I hear people asking, "What's up with President Bush? Is he sane?"

It's a no-brainer that none of this was partisan. Our leaders' tough questions on Iraq and Bush's foreign policy have never been partisan. We're all in this together. The problem has been that our President has made this war and his foreign policy fiercely political and partisan - all throughout the course, from the lead-up to the war until the present time. President Bush has admitted that he wouldn't even fire the worst Secretary of Defense in recent history before the November elections - all because of politics, knowing fully well that our nation had long been in dire need of a new Defense leader.

If we can't trust our President, we can confirm new administration officials ad infinitum with the possibility that we will still see no appreciable change in the Bush foreign policy. James Jay Carfagno's optimism about unguarded bipartisan moments was based on a confirmation hearing where leaders were searching for signs that the character of Mr. Gates might be the kind of character with the force  that could sway an oddly stubborn and unpopular President toward the change we know that we all need to see.

I wish Robert Gates a lot of luck. He's going to need it, and I hope he can talk a lick of sense into this President's thick and stubborn skull.  

The transcript of the confirmation hearings is here.

Update: Today's headline at Raw Story leads you to a story by Brian Beutler with information in keeping with my thoughts on this matter. -
Sources say Gates confirmation unlikely to lead to major policy changes