Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra

wikileakIn many ways the documents released by WikiLeaks last night merely underscored the bleak assessment of the Afghan war which General Stanley McChrystal issued last August.

At the time McChrystal warned the overall situation was “deteriorating”, complained of “under-resourcing” and called for not just more resources but a “fundamentally new approach” from NATO forces if failure were to be avoided.

McChrystal, who had access to a whole lot more information than WikiLeaks, said the Taliban were aided by “elements of some intelligence agencies” — meaning the Pakistanis — something US officials have been saying for years. He talked of a popular “crisis of confidence” with the government of Afghanistan and warned that the steady stream of civilian casualties had to be stemmed.

The administration is arguing these documents, which date until December 2009, are merely an account of the failures of former President George W. Bush’s policy, and in many ways they have a point.

There is nothing in here remotely as explosive as the Pentagon Papers, which documented systematic lying about the conduct of the Vietnam war. But the Kabul War Diary catalogues the failures and problems of the Afghan conflict in huge detail, often from the perspective of ordinary troops. The documents record a constant stream of engagements in which civilians were killed, and help substantiate the allegations against Pakistan.

Bush book promo promises candid, gripping look at president’s life

Candid… Gripping… Shattering… are words being used to promote former President George W. Bush’s memoir “Decision Points.”

The book is due out on November 9, exactly a week after the midterm elections. But if past is prelude when it comes to newsmaker books, the details are likely to leak out earlier, possibly right around election day… BOOKS-GEORGEBUSH/

Bush writes about the contested 2000 election, the hours after the September 11 attacks, the moments before launching the Iraq war, his decisions on the financial crisis and more, the Crown Publishing online promotion says. He also writes about his “flaws and mistakes” and serves up new details about quitting drinking and his relationship with his family.

Democrats in a dilemma on Bush tax cuts

Conventional political wisdom says that if you are going to cut taxes, do it before an election. But in a congressional election year when record deficits and a $13 trillion national debt are unnerving voters, that wisdom may not hold.

USA/At least that seems to be the case among Democrats who are facing serious voter concerns about deficits, the fragile economy and lack of job creation going into the November elections when Republicans hope to take control of Congress.

President George W. Bush’s tax cuts expire at the end of the year. Republicans want to extend all of the tax cuts. Democrats want to extend lower tax rates for middle income earners at least through 2011 and allow tax cuts for wealthier taxpayers to expire.

‘One of the most weird moments of my presidency’ — Bush

If you thought that shoe-throwing episode in Baghdad was odd, you’re not alone — President George W. Bush thought so too.
“It has got to be one of the most weird moments of my presidency,” he told CNN in an interview Tuesday. “Here I am getting ready to answer questions from a free press in a democratic Iraq and a guy stands up and throws a shoe.”
What was going through his mind? Not much it seems.
“I didn’t have much time to reflect on anything. I was ducking and dodging,” Bush said.
Throwing shoes at someone is considered a supreme insult in Iraq, a shoe being considered dirty. People whacked Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad with shoes after it was toppled during the U.S. invasion.
Bush says he doesn’t harbor any anger toward the Iraqi TV journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi for attacking him. Al-Zaidi has been cheered by some in the Arab world for his action, but he faces potential criminal charges in Baghdad.
“I’m not even sure what his status is,” Bush said. “They shouldn’t overreact.”
Bush told CNN the most important decision he made during his presidency was “sending troops into harm’s way,” and not once but twice — in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The reason it’s the most important is because it’s the most consequential,” he said
“It is a decision that no president should ever take lightly and every president should take a lot of time thinking about it because lives will be lost,” Bush added.
Asked if he ever revisited the decision, Bush said he sometimes thought about it but usually “with a concern about whether or not we would succeed.”
“In Iraq, I was deeply concerned about whether or not we would succeed,” he said, adding that was especially true in 2006. “A lot of people in Washington were saying, let’s get out now. And I obviously chose not to do that.  But, that was a very difficult period.”
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Reuters TV (Bush ducks a shoe during a news conference in Baghdad Dec. 14)

Republicans hand Bush a goodbye defeat on auto bailout

Republicans in Congress effectively said good riddance to President George W. Bush this week, handing their unpopular leader a last big defeat by rejecting a $14 billion auto industry bailout the White House negotiated with Democrats.
“No one cares what the White House thinks,” scoffed a senior Republican leadership aide.
With Democrat Barack Obama set to replace Bush as president on Jan. 20, the aide said: “There’s frustration among Republicans that Bush doesn’t have a feel for our positions, and relief that he’s leaving.”
With Bush at the head of the party the past eight years, the Republicans’ reputation for fiscal conservatism has been shredded by record federal deficits.
Republicans, seeking to restore that reputation, say market forces, not U.S. taxpayers, should decide the fate of the auto industry. They charge the bailout would be no more than a downpayment on failure.

 In addition, they argue automakers would be better off to reorganize under bankruptcy protection.

“I’m not surprised Republicans wouldn’t listen to Bush,” a Democratic aide said. “This really shows how weak the president is.”
“Republicans figured this was about their political skins and their political message,” the aide added. “But I don’t think they win anything out of this. They just put on a political show with people’s lives at stake.”
Bush further upset Republicans Friday when he yielded to mostly Democratic demands and signaled he was willing to provide aid to automakers through the $700 billion bailout he pushed through Congress to help Wall Street.
That rescue package generated plenty of voter backlash in the Nov. 4 election, particularly against Republicans.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who had a tougher time winning re-election than initially anticipated, seemed among those happy to see Bush go.
“Our members, in one way, are kind of relieved by the departure of an administration that became unpopular and made it very difficult for us to compete,” McConnell said shortly after the election.

McCain says Bush should not be impeached

DENVER – Republican presidential candidate John McCain may be distancing himself from George W. Bush, but the Arizona senator rtx68cn.jpgdoes not believe his would-be predecessor should be impeached.

Pressed about the issue by a young voter at a lively question and answer session in Colorado Monday, McCain, who voted “guilty” in Democratic President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, said he did not believe Bush should be removed from office.

“I do not believe that an effort to impeach the president of the United States is appropriate or necessary or called for,” McCain said.

Obama’s faith initiative stirs left, right and academia

obamajuly2.jpgDALLAS - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s promise on Tuesday of a more robust approach to faith-based social programs has been blasted from the left and the right — and raised some pointed questions from academia.

But it has also won support from the religious left and centrists, the groups it is aimed at as the Obama campaign seeks to woo wavering evangelicals.

Obama unveiled the plan in Ohio, pledging to beef up the faith-based community programs pioneered by President George W. Bush.

Media-battered Clinton calls for greater scrutiny

hillary1.jpgSIOUX FALLS, S.D. – As a Democratic presidential candidate, New York senator and former first lady, Hillary Clinton has had her share of media scrutiny. Still, she says the news media should become a more aggressive public watchdog.

“I really do. I really do,” Clinton told reporters when asked if she sincerely favors greater press scrutiny. 

“On the right things. On things that are important to the future of our country. On things that actually matter. I would love that,” said Clinton, long hounded by the press as one of the nation’s most popular yet polarizing figures.

Democrats mix criticism of McCain with praise

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – Republican Sen. John McCain’s personal narrative as a war hero in Vietnam has Democrats treading carefully when they criticize him. 

Instead of trading barbs with each other, Democratic White House hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton this week have trained their attention on McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. 

mccain21.jpgObama, an Illinois senator, and Clinton, a New York senator, have assailed McCain for his support for the Iraq war and his backing of President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.