When it comes to Iraq, Bush has become a dictator. Plus, the mayor’s State of the City Address.
When it comes to Iraq, Bush has become a dictator. The nation is going to have to come to terms with this fact.
It’s a scary thought: the president of the United States doesn’t know what he’s doing. What other conclusion can the nation draw?
The US has been at war in Iraq longer than it was involved in World War II. You remember that one, the one against Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and imperial Japan. The one your father or your grandfather or maybe even your great-grandfather called the “Big One”: the one that engulfed all of Europe, much of Asia, and a good chunk of Africa. That one.
Well, it looks like President George W. Bush is going to keep this one going for a long, long time. By the time you read this, Bush probably will have called for an increase of 20,000 troops in Iraq. Even before he spoke, the Associated Press reported that elements of the 82nd Airborne Division stationed in Kuwait were preparing for deployment in Iraq.
It’s hard to know what to think. Should we be outraged? Or incredulous? Bush may be ignorant, but he is not stupid. It’s hard not to conclude that his arrogance knows no bounds. Or that he’s crazy. Talk that he might face impeachment by the newly Democratic House of Representatives — a fitting dream, but an unlikely reality — should be replaced by calls that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation. But even if Bush were found to be certifiable, the thought of his being replaced by that even more dangerous political psychopath, the aptly named Dick Cheney, is even more frightening.
There is no elegant way to put it: we’re screwed. Given the intricacies of the federal budget, Bush already has the money to get more troops into Iraq. It’s likely the first step in stopping him would be to place a limit on the number of troops that could be deployed. But some key congressmen think no meaningful fiscal hobblers can be put on Bush’s escalation of troop levels until next year. And even if Congress were to summon the gumption, the courage, to do the right thing, the commonsensible thing, and deny funding for additional troops, as Senator Edward M. Kennedy wisely urges, there is absolutely no reason to believe — let alone hope — that Bush would accept the duly constituted authority of Congress. It seems more certain that the nation will eventually face a constitutional showdown.
Bush lied to get us into Iraq. He’s lied to keep us there. He’s ignored the swing in public opinion against the war. He’s been indifferent — if not contemptuous — of international opinion. He’s unmindful of his father’s apparent reservations about the war. He’s scornful of the Iraq Study Group’s bipartisan recommendation that we cut our losses and get out. (Although if he scorned his father’s advice, why should we expect him to take the advice of his dad’s secretary of state, James Baker, co-chair of the group?)
President Bush is as dangerous as he is ignorant. And while we can still hope that the Democratic House and increasingly skeptical Senate might yet stand up to him, the odds are long that Congress will do that. Senator Kennedy may be a consummate Washington inside player, but he is far to the left of most in either congressional chamber. Kennedy may be assuming a historic and courageous burden by arguing that funds for more troops be cut, but it is by no means certain that others will overnight acquire the backbone necessary to stand up and stare down Bush. In the weeks and months to come, keep an eye on Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia. If he joins Kennedy and others, Congress’s spine may stiffen.
When it comes to Iraq, Bush has become a dictator. Before the nation can extricate itself from this war, it is going to have to come to terms with this fact. Heaven help us if we don’t.
How is Boston doing?
Three things stand out in the wake of Boston mayor Thomas Menino’s recent State of the City Address:
1) Menino’s most ambitious proposal, his “Smart From the Start” 10-year strategic plan to prevent — rather than just close — the achievement gap Boston’s poorest and youngest residents face is laudable, ambitious, and sorely needed. By using neighborhood community centers to “offer child-care providers and parents free early-learning opportunities” along with “adult education and English-as-a-second-language classes that incorporate a curriculum on child development and school readiness,” Menino hopes to break the vicious circle of hopelessness that potentially imprisons so many. Paying for such a program will be a challenge, but if we don’t strive for greatness, how can we even hope to achieve goodness? And, in a departure from the past, he is likely to find support for this kind of program from our new governor.
2) The mayor is still in denial about the plague of murder, gunplay, and fear that grips Boston’s poorest neighborhoods. He trotted out all the old bromides and platitudes about solving the problem. But he offered nothing bold, nothing new, nothing convincing. Good intentions, sad to say, are just not enough. Still, the additional police officers that he’ll hire are a practical and welcome move.
3) While the symbolism of giving his speech at Dorchester’s Strand Theater was powerful and worthy of applause, the fact that much of the audience was bussed in from available parking spaces by the Bayside Expo Center speaks volumes about Boston’s reality gap. Menino wants — we all want — similar things for Boston: better neighborhoods, safer neighborhoods, more livable neighborhoods with vital neighborhood centers. Uphams Corner is not yet there. And the gap between that reality and the realization of dreams for that neighborhood should not be lost on any of us.