The Nation

The Enormous Cost of War

The National Priorities Project (NPP), a research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand how their tax dollars are spent, continues to be an invaluable resource when it comes to translating the costs of the Iraq War.

$456 billion has now been appropriated for the war through September 30, and that's a difficult number to get a handle on. But as I've written previously (here and here), NPP spells out exactly what every state and district has paid towards this catastrophe and describes the spending priorities that could have been met with those same resources.

For example, $456 billion could have provided over 48 million children with health care coverage for the length of the War; built 3.5 million affordable housing units; 45,800 elementary schools; hired 8 million additional public school teachers for a year; paid for nearly 60 million kids to attend Head Start; or awarded 22 million 4-year scholarships at public universities. Instead, we find our nation speeding towards what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated as a final price tag – somewhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.

But the hope is that as Americans become more aware of the costs of this war in treasure (as well as lives), constituents will increasingly pressure their representatives to break with the President and end this tragic course. That's why other antiwar groups are beginning to make good use of NPP's data too.

This week, MoveOn.org released its own report on the cost of the Iraq war relying exclusively on NPP's cost of war information and trade-off data by state and congressional district. MoveOn will use this information as the basis for actions in 160 cities, educating constituents and pressuring Members of Congress to end the War.

Also throughout this week, USAction Education Fund is releasing reports outlining the damage done to 25 states by the "upside-down priorities of the Bush administration and previous, Republican-led Congresses," and what the current Congress is trying to do to repair that damage. The report uses NPP's data on the cost of the Iraq war, and its analysis of how Congress' proposed spending bills would impact each congressional district. The USAction Education Fund report will be used to urge members of Congress to override President Bush's threatened vetoes of modest spending increases in all domestic programs, from children's health care to the Food Stamp Program.

In a released statement, NPP executive director Greg Speeter said: "Our information is all about giving people what they need to hold their Congresspeople accountable for their actions. We're pleased to see our data making that possible in such coordinated and widespread efforts."

And coordinated, widespread efforts are exactly what we need to bring an end to this war.

Exxon vs. Reason

I've written before about efforts to force ExxonMobile to join the growing mainstream Big Oil acceptance of the need for renewable energy. Well, there have been some successes but ExxonMobil is still the only oil giant refusing to invest in renewable energy.

Oil companies like Shell and BP are investing billions of dollars in clean, alternative energy sources that will bring down consumer costs, create new jobs and help save the environment. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil dismisses renewable energy despite repeated Congressional studies showing that we can wean ourselves of our oil dependence by increasing the use of homegrown power from wind and solar, geothermal, and biomass sources.

Instead, ExxonMobil dumps its staggering profits ($10.26 billion in '06, just shy of 2005's record $10.36 billion.) into more long-term oil and gas projects, including some of the dirtiest forms of hard-to-get oil around.

Given ExxonMobil's short-sighted and selfish position on one of the most pressing issues of our time, including its continued funding of global warming denial groups, it's critical to spread the word of the corporation's misdeeds.

Yes, the company has at least rhetorically bowed to reason and acknowledged that global warming is a "serious issue." This public position was undercut however in May of 2007 when ExxonMobil president Rex Tillerson told shareholders that there are still too many "unknowns" to warrant meaningful and immediate action (or investment in renewable energy). So visit the Exxpose Exxon website to see how you can help call out and combat Exxon's dirty doings.

The Worst House Speaker in American History

Dennis Hastert, who served eight years as the most lamentable Speaker of the House in the chamber's history, began a slow exit from the Congress Friday. It was on that day that the former wrestling coach, who attained the speakership not on the basis of any political skills or policy expertise but because he was willing to front for the unpalatable Tom DeLay, announced his decision not to seek reelection from the Illinois district that has elected him since 1986.

Among the fifty men and one woman who have held the speakership since a German-born pastor named Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg filled the position for the First Congress, there have been more than a few disappointments. Aside from the indicted, the disgraced and the disreputable, there have been the indefensible -- like Howell Cobb, who used his pre-Civil War speakership to promote the extension of slavery. Cobb would eventually find his true calling as the speaker of the Provisional Confederate Congress and the acting president of the southern states that seceded from the U.S. in treasonous defense of human bondage.

Could the shambling, ineffectual and frequently inarticulate Hastert really have been a worse Speaker of the House than a crude proponent of slavery, or a crook like Jim Wright or a conniving partisan like Newt Gingrich? Absolutely.

Even the worst of his predecessors had respect for the House as a institution of Congress, the separate but equal legislative branch of the federal government. Hastert displayed no such understanding or commitment. He made the House during the three congresses in which his speakership coincided with the administration of George Bush and Dick Cheney -- ironically, a man as a House member in the Reagan era coveted the post of Speaker and co-authored a history of the position -- something less than it was ever meant to be.

The House that Hastert built was neither a check nor a balance on the excesses of the Bush presidency. Hastert's House allowed the president to go to war and then initiate the long-term occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan without declarations, it rubber-stamped the administration's anti-Constitutional assaults on civil liberties, it made no complaint when the president attached signing statements that effectively exempted him from hundreds of laws that had been passed by the chamber.

Hastert's House was a crude and unworkable place, where members who sought to uphold their oaths to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic" were held up to ridicule and forced to hold hearings on issues involving the most extreme abuses of presidential authority -- lying to the Congress and the American people about matters of war and peace -- in basement rooms.

As a man, Hastert was as cruel and uncaring about the fate of the American people he was uniquely empowered to serve as he was about the interns dispatched to the office of Florida Congressman Mark Foley. Hastert's objection to the use of federal funds to rebuild predominantly African-American sections of New Orleans where thousands of homes and lives had been wrecked by Hurricane Katrina -- "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed" -- was so brutal that he was forced to publicly amend his comments with a claim that "I'm not advocating that the city be abandoned or relocated." But the lack of an adequate response to the needs of New Orleans by Hastert and his colleagues would confirm that the Speaker's initial reaction was a truer expression of his sentiments than the apologia.

Ultimately, however, the greatest horror of Hastert's House was not confirmed by its specific failures to serve the American people who most needed a Congress to counter the malignant neglect of the Bush-Cheney administration. Rather, it was defined by the remaking of an essential legislative chamber as nothing more than an extension of the executive branch of the government. The damage to the Congress has been severe, as has been the damage to the Republic.

Since the opposition Democrats were handed control of both the House and Senate in the realigning election of 2006, some steps have been taken to restore a proper balance. There have been more debates. A few committees have begun to investigate the lawlessness of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other members of the administration. There is even talk, among the more principled members of the chamber, of censuring or impeaching the president or vice president. But the work is far from done. The House of current Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains too careful, too deferent and too dysfunctional in its dealings with a unitary executive branch. On most matters, President Bush and Vice President Cheney continue to get their way without much of a fight -- witness the decision of the Congress to allocate more money for the continuation of the Iraq occupation than the White House had requested. And the administration continues to treat the House and Senate with a disdain that is writ large across radical demands of executive privilege.

Even as Hastert prepares to exit Congress, the threat posed by his approach to the speakership continues. That threat is rooted in the prospect that he has created a model for House leadership -- or the lack thereof -- that will be reasserted at future moments when the legislative and executive branches are under the common control of a single party. Indeed, if a House led by Pelosi were to be as subservient to a White House occupied by Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama as was the House of Hastert to the administration of Bush and Cheney, the illusionary "leader" from Illinois will continue to define how the separation of powers operates long after he exits the Capitol.

There is a cautionary tale here for Pelosi. She should not let this remain the era of the weak Congress that it was under the fundamentally flawed leadership of Dennis Hastert. She should make it clear, to Bush an to his successor, that with Hastert gone, the speakership and the House will be restored to its proper place in the federal hierarchy.


John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

An Act of Economic Madness

News stories just out report that the Bush administration is planning to designate Iran's entire Revolutionary Guard Corps a "specially designated global terrorist" in order to tighten sanctions on that country. This follows a many-months-long drumbeat of U.S. claims against Iran -- for arming not just Shiite militias (and Sunni insurgents) with the most sophisticated roadside bombs to attack American troops, but the Taliban as well (an especially unlikely charge). It also follows a growing eagerness in Congress for passage of the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act; reports of rising administration frustration over the UN Security Council's unwillingness to pass a third round of sanctions against Iran; a flurry of insider leaks that the Cheney wing of the administration is again pushing for military action against the Iranians and that the Vice President himself has urged the launching of "airstrikes at suspected training camps in Iran run by the Quds force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps"; reports that neocon think-tanks and pundits are joining the attack-Iran fray; constant claims from the President's commanders and diplomats that the hand of Iran is behind any administration misstep in the Middle East. In this context, it's worth remembering that the President has long claimed he would not leave office with the Iranian nuclear situation unsettled.

A recent piece by energy expert Michael Klare, "Entering the Tough Oil Era," at Tomdispatch.com offers perhaps the crucial context within which to consider Cheney's urge to launch an air assault on Iran. If we are, as Klare writes, leaving the realms of "easy oil" extracted from the most accessible places in the least unstable and least troubled of countries, and entering a new era of "oil that's buried far offshore or deep underground; oil scattered in small, hard-to-find reservoirs; oil that must be obtained from unfriendly, politically dangerous, or hazardous places," if global oil supplies are already under intense pressure and oil prices ready to leap on any hint of possible oil disaster anywhere on the planet, then imagine what a major air assault on Iran before January 2009 might mean for the global economy.

Actually, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates helped us imagine just this at his confirmation hearings back in December 2006 when asked about the effects of such an attack: "It's always awkward to talk about hypotheticals in this case. But I think that while Iran cannot attack us directly militarily, I think that their capacity to potentially close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, their potential to unleash a significant wave of terror both in the -- well, in the Middle East and in Europe and even here in this country is very real."

Such an attack would, of course, be a straightforward act of global economic madness; but, given the cast of characters--a classic neocon quip of the pre-Iraq invasion period was ""Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran..."--that hardly takes the possibility off the hypothetical "table" where all "options" so obdurately remain. Think global meltdown after any administration air assault on Iran and you're likely to be in the economic ballpark. Then buckle your seatbelt. We're entering a hair-raising age.

Defending Dr. Tiller (Part 2)

Last week after reading a post by Cara at Feministing I wrote about Dr. Tiller's case in Kansas and asked Nation readers to support him and his cause. (Thanks to the many of you who have already come through!) Tiller is the late-term abortion provider currently being prosecuted by the state of Kansas under a bizarre state law that Cara, in a new post, rightly describes as "politically motivated to make abortions more difficult to obtain."

For those following the story, the Kansas City Star recently reported that Anthony Powell, the judge appointed to preside over the case, was once a staunch anti-abortion state lawmaker. More details of the specific charges against Tiller and how he is alleged to have violated the law, which requires that two legally and financially uninvolved physicians sign off on any late-term abortion procedure, have also emerged. Cara's new post has the info, so read it here.

After that, please consider sending donations and words of support by mail to the address below. Tiller has a long history of being harassed for his work and these allegations are just the latest chapter in anti-choicers' on-going efforts to keep him from his practice.

Women's Health Care Services
5107 East Kellogg
Wichita, Kansas 67218, USA

Tiller also has a PAC called ProKanDo, which accepts donations to seek out and promote to support pro-choice candidates who are willing to serve at the state level in Kansas. Donations to the PAC can not be used on behalf of his clinic or to pay for his legal fees. If these are your goals, please send checks to the above address.

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq

This summer, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq – a broad coalition of advocacy organizations and political action committees from across the political spectrum – has launched the Iraq Summer campaign to help end the war by making it politically toxic for Republicans to support it.

Tom Matzzie, Washington Director of MoveOn.org, is "on loan" to run Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. The national campaign has a staff of 100 people, a multimillion dollar budget, and a tall order as it embarks on this effort to unify opposition to the Iraq War in advance of the Petraeus report in September.

"The debate was set up in the spring as leading towards a September report," Matzzie says, "so that gave us an organizing opportunity and an organizing momentum going into the summer. The goal is to cut the remaining support for the president's Iraq policy out from underneath him. Give the Republicans a choice between helping to end the war or facing political extinction."

With over 80 paid organizers deployed across the country, the Iraq Summer campaign – which organizers say is modeled after the Freedom Summer – is focused on 40 targeted districts where Matzzie says "there is a lot of opposition to the war but very little grassroots leadership supporting an end to the war…. Often in these suburban and exurban Republican districts there's no institutional support for a campaign to end the war…. That's what a lot of Iraq Summer is about is building a permanent apparatus to oppose the war policy in these targeted areas. "

The organizers were trained at the Maritime Institute in Baltimore – a union training facility – and then assigned to 15 states across the country. Many organizers are veterans or their family members. Iowa State Director Sue Dinsdale is the mother of two Marines. Michigan State Director Tamarra Rosenleaf's husband has been deployed to Iraq. There are also Iraq veterans on staff in New York, Illinois, Virginia, and Kentucky, and three full-time staff in Washington, DC including the chief lobbyist, John Bruhns. Finally, dozens of veterans and their family members are in the field as paid staff and volunteers.

In addition to the 40 districts where the Iraq Summer campaign has sent staff (a fairly up to date list of targets can be found here – it's missing only Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative Jean Schmidt), Americans Against Escalation in Iraq reaches another 30 House targets through grants to local organizations such as the Connecticut Citizen Action Group. In all of these districts the organizers, veterans and military families, and activists are using field operations, coalition building, paid and earned media strategies, volunteer events and cutting edge online organizing to turn up the heat on Republican members of Congress who are blocking a safe end to the Iraq war.

"I think since the war began, for over 4 years, we've done a great job as a movement of going out there and saying, ‘We oppose the War,'" Matzzie says. "But we haven't always brought the responsibility back to the politicians who are allowing it to happen. So we're changing the rhetoric from ‘I oppose the War' to ‘I oppose, [for example], Senator Coleman because of his support on the War.' And that politicization of the war policy helps put the fear into politicians, which is essential…. Ultimately the war ends because the politicians choose their own survival over sticking with Bush. That can be achieved only in the hometowns of these politicians where they count their votes."

The impact the campaign is having is already evident in the hundreds of videos activists are shooting (such as footage of Representative Mark Kirk ignoring an Iraq Vet). Americans Against Escalation in Iraq gave organizers $125 reusable video cameras – called " The Flip" camera – that plug into a USB port on a computer. The training of the organizers and activists is clear as they confront war supporters in an aggressive but normally courteous manner, and stay on message.

In addition to on-the-ground organizing, Matzzie says Americans Against Escalation in Iraq are countering the White House spin through the use of PR professionals. "We have for the first time a national, daily counterpoint to the White House and the media," he says. "We have PR professionals across two public relations firms and on our own payroll who are working every day to provide a counterpoint to the Bush administration in the press."

Iraq Summer will culminate with Take a Stand Day on August 28th. There will be about 60 town meetings held in targeted districts (the representatives are invited to attend – so far, no takers). In those communities where Representatives already support an end to the war there will be vigils to echo the message that it's time for Congress to take a stand – over 2,000 such vigils are planned. Matzzie says that MoveOn, Working Assets and True Majority are among the groups that will get the word out about Take a Stand Day nationwide.

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq doesn't plan to close shop when Congress reconvenes. If its fundraising success continues, it plans to keep its staff through December, adjusting its targets as needed.

"Ultimately what we have to do is make sure that the Republicans know we're not going away," Matzzie says. "We're gonna be in their faces until the war is over. If they still vote wrong, we're gonna stay in their face… And the sooner the politicians know that the sooner the war will end…. [And] if the Democrats don't hold Bush's feet to the fire this fall there will be dozens of primary challenges next spring."

There are some in the antiwar movement who think the Iraq Summer strategy isn't doing enough to hold Democrats feet to the fire. CODEPINK, for example, has occupied the offices of Democratic legislators who voted for a timetable but failed to limit war funding to a fully funded troop redeployment only (as opposed to Bush's escalation). In a recent article in The Hill, one CODEPINK activist called MoveOn "very conservative."

Matzzie, however, suggests that there isn't a problem with these diverse tactics. He notes that the partner organizations of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq usually take on the Democrats, but this apparatus takes on "mostly Republicans."

"It's gonna take a wall of opposition from the entire political spectrum [to end this war]," Matzzie says. "We're facing down a determined and isolated president. We're facing down the Republican Party, the entire foreign policy establishment, the military-industrial complex, Arab governments throughout the Middle East who don't want us to leave mostly because they don't want to deal with the problem, a Sunni insurgency, the Shia militias that are conducting ethnic cleansing…. There is a mosaic of people who are working to end the war. We saw work that was not being done, and we went to fill that vacuum. And that's what we're doing. And this apparatus is there, and it's well exercised, and at necessary times it can turn against any target any where in the country, regardless of their party."

Matzzie believes that the most important thing right now is "Outside the Beltway pressure on the politicians."

"What's most important now is that people know that there's a big showdown on the war this fall," Matzzie says. "We need people in their home districts to be marching and going to their town hall meetings, and making phone calls, and talking to their neighbors…. We have a genuine shot at bringing some troops home this fall. It might not be that we're able to win complete redeployment before the next president is elected but if we can bring home 60,000 troops that's 60,000 families who can sleep with a little more comfort."

It will be up to the entire mosaic – the entire "wall of opposition" – to stay in the faces of every Republican and Democrat until every soldier comes home.

This post was co-authored by Greg Kaufmann, a freelance writer residing in his disenfranchised hometown of Washington, DC.

Karl Rove: The Machiavelli Who Failed

Karl Rove's never-particularly brilliant career as a manipulator of the political processes of the nation will end as it began: mired in scandal and failure.

As a brash 26-year-old former chairman of the College Republicans -- who had been the subject of a Watergate-era Washington Post expose headlined, "Republican Party Probes Official as Teacher of [Dirty] Tricks" -- Rove was the first aide hired to plot the campaign of George Herbert Walker Bush for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination. Father Bush lost that race, but not before Rove was fired from the campaign for leaking information to the press. Fifteen years later, when he finally found a placed on another national campaign, the elder Bush's supposedly simple quest for reelection as president in 1992, Rove was again fired for leaking to the press -- in this case, talking columnist Robert Novak into writing a negative piece about Bush campaign fund-raising chief Robert Mosbacher Jr., a Rove rival. Internal disputes prompted by Rove and others in the campaign were among the reasons cited for the ultimate defeat of that Bush by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.

Rove did not give up on the Bushes, however, and the first family of American political self-service did not give up on Rove.

Less than a year after the defeat of one president named Bush, Rove was planning a gubernatorial campaign that he presumed would eventually lead to the White House for another, more morally malleable Bush. The formal relationship between George Walker Bush and Rove would continue, despite far more serious legal and ethical scandals than any witnessed during the father's campaigns, until Monday, when the political czar of the Bush-Cheney interregnum declared, "I am grateful to have been a witness to history."

With that lame line, Rove announced his resignation at the end of the month.

This exit from presidential politics did not take the form of a firing. But for all the efforts of an effusively complimentary President Bush and a suddenly religious Rove -- who, despite his reputation as a nonbeliever, mentioned God repeatedly during a Rose Garden announcement that was swimming in the smarm of convenient concern for faith and family -- it was far more embarrassing than the lawless leaker's previous departures from the national stage.

Rove was intimately involved in the campaign to discredit former Ambassador Joe Wilson for revealing that the administration had manipulated and misused intelligence in order to make a case for attacking Iraq in 2003. Rove's old leak partner, Novak, confirmed that the Bush aide had discussed with him the fact that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a Central Intelligence Agency employee. The outing of Plame as a covert operative, as part of an administration scheme to undermine Wilson's credibility, became the subject of an extended federal inquiry that would eventually lead to the conviction of Rove's crony, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for perjury and obstruction of justice. Echoing what has become accepted wisdom in official Washington, one of the jurors who convicted Libby expressed her sense that the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney had been used as a scapegoat in an elaborate scheme to prevent the leak-prone Rove from finally being brought to justice.

But Rove avoidance of accountability in the Wilson-Plame affair does not mean that he leaves the Bush White House with a clean slate. Quite the opposite.

Rove is currently the subject of a subpoena that was issued July 26 by the Senate Judiciary Committee with the purpose of compelling him to appear personally before the committee and testify about his role in the dismissal of U.S. Attorneys who he deemed to be insufficiently political in their inquiries and prosecutions. That testimony comes in the context of a broader investigation of moves by Rove and other top members of the Bush administration to use the Department of Justice to illegally advance the political interests of the president and the Republican Party.

Unlike the Wilson-Plame controversy, the scandal involving the Justice Department goes to the specifics of Rove's brief in a White House where he was the unquestioned -- and, by all accounts, meticulously engaged -- political czar.

As Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, says, "Earlier this month, Karl Rove failed to comply with the Judiciary Committee's subpoena to testify about the mass firings of United States Attorneys. Despite evidence that he played a central role in these firings, just as he did in the Libby case involving the outing of an undercover CIA agent and improper political briefings at over 20 government agencies, Mr. Rove acted as if he was above the law. That is wrong. Now that he is leaving the White House while under subpoena, I continue to ask what Mr. Rove and others at the White House are so desperate to hide. Mr. Rove's apparent attempts to manipulate elections and push out prosecutors citing bogus claims of voter fraud shows corruption of federal law enforcement for partisan political purposes, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will continue its investigation into this serious issue."

Referencing the growing sense that the inquiry into wrongdoing in and around the Justice Department could yet be the undoing of the Bush-Cheney administration, Leahy added, "The list of senior White House and Justice Department officials who have resigned during the course of these congressional investigations continues to grow, and today, Mr. Rove added his name to that list. There is a cloud over this White House, and a gathering storm. A similar cloud envelopes Mr. Rove, even as he leaves the White House."

The truth is that Karl Rove came to this White House with a cloud over his head. Rove's appearances on the national political stage have for more than three decades been clouded by scandal. His tenure in this Bush administration was clouded by scandal. And the aftermath of that tenure will be clouded by scandal.

But the real cloud over Karl Rove is a more serious one. The man they called "Bush's brain" -- in a silly calculus developed by liberal Texans who desperately wanted to believe that it required Machiavellian manipulation to get the citizens of the Lone Star state to elect a shiftless trust-fund baby as their governor -- has proven to be every bit as inept as Bush.

There is no question that Rove came up with a good turn of phrase eight years ago -- "compassionate conservative" may have been a throwaway line, but it worked with a portion of mainstream American that in 2000 was looking for a responsible new direction. Spinning out evocative slogans is what political operatives do for a living, however, so Rove gets no more credit than the folks who gave us "a full dinner pale" or "a new deal" or "a new frontier" or "peace with honor." If Rove really was the genius some want to believe him to be, he would have done something with the phrase once he has taken an office in the White House. Instead, he never even bothered to define it -- let alone remake the Republican party in a manner that might have realized its potential to become a trusted, long-term party of government.

It is true, as well, that Rove played the 9-11 terrorist attacks for all they were was worth politically in 2002 and 2004. But an intern at the Republican National Committee office could have done that, especially after Democratic leaders such as Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle and John Kerry chose approaches that made Rove's job easier than it ever should have been.

The real test for Rove came in 2006, when he needed to maintain control of at least one house of Congress in order to preserve the smooth operations of a Bush White House that had survived in large part because of nonexistent congressional scrutiny. It should have been a breeze. Republicans has solid majorities in the House and Senate. The Senate Democrats who were up for reelection in 2006 were not a particularly potent lot. And Democratic strategists made most of their usual mistakes.

But Rove could not pull it off. He failed in the essential task of a 21st-century Machiavelli: that of securing the future.

The czar swore to the end of the campaign that he could keep the Congress reliably Republican, going so far as to berate National Public Radio's Robert Siegel for suggesting the voting might not go the way "Bush's brain" said it would. When Siegel mentioned polls that showed Democrats coming on strong, Rove growled, "I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math but you are entitled to your math and I'm entitled to the math."

Rove's math was wrong. Yet, he refused to admit it. "I understand some will see the election as a judgment on me, but the fact of the matter is that, look what has been set in motion -- a broader, deeper, strengthened Republican Party, and with an emphasis on grass-roots neighbor-to-neighbor politics, is going to continue," he would tell the Washington Post, while announcing after the election that: "The Republican philosophy is alive and well and likely to reemerge in the majority in 2008."

Today, Republicans look to be in seriously bad shape. Even GOP operatives fear the loss of the White House and more House and Senate seats in 2008. Democratic recruitment of House and Senate candidates is going far better than Republican recruitment, as is Democratic fund raising. George Bush's approval ratings are the worst for a sitting president since Richard Nixon on the eve of his resignation. Vice President Dick Cheney's numbers are dramatically worse. And impeachment resolutions are gaining cosponsors on a daily basis in Congress.

The latest issue of the conservative Economist magazine features a cover story that suggests Americans are lurching to the left politically. And the Republican presidential debates are so thick with talk of the need for "change" that you would think Bush and Cheney had governed as registered Democrats.

In the end, Rove has done his party no more favors than he has done his nation. And that is the part of his legacy that will be most damaging to the man who may have been able to manipulate a few elections but who will not succeed in manipulating history.

Scandals matter. But, in the political game, results matter more. If Republicans still controlled the House and Senate and were staking a strong claim on the White House in 2008, if Bush and Cheney had any support -- or credibility -- left, Rove would be leaving on a high note. But none of those "if's" are erring in Rove's favor.

Karl Rove leaves another Bush campaign -- and, make no mistake, the last eight years have been about campaigning, not governing -- as he has left them before: under the twin clouds of scandal and failure.


John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

Karl Rove Should Stay

Karl Rove should stay.

The White House confirmed on Monday morning that George W. Bush's master strategist will be leaving Bush's side at the end of August. "I just think it's time," Rove told The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot. His reason for bailing on Bush: "There's always something that can keep you here, as much as I'd like to be here, I've got to do this for the sake of my family." At a White House ceremony, Bush issued a brief farewell to Rove, saying little about the man who made Bush president and whom Bush reportedly nicknamed "Turd Blossom" (for Rove's ability to grow flowers in dung). Rove, visibly holding back tears, praised Bush for his "integrity, character and decency." He vowed to be a "fierce and committed advocate [for Bush] on the outside." Neither said anything explicitly about the Iraq war.

Certainly, a White House aide who has engaged in the sort of political and policy chicanery that Rove has perpetuated ought to lose the right to collect a paycheck from U.S. taxpayers. Take your pick: the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. attorney scandal, the Valerie Plame leak, inaction on global warming, injecting politics into federal agencies to a new degree, suppressing government science, the stem cell veto, tax cuts for the wealthy, politicizing the war on terror. But leaving is too good for Rove. He was Bush's partner in the Iraq war, yet he (like other Bush aides, including, most recently, Dan Bartlett) are abandoning ship before the fight is done. Rove has argued that the Iraq war is essential for the survival of the United States (that is, for all of our families). So how can he walk away with the war not won?

In June 2006, Rove gave a speech to New Hampshire Republicans and blasted Democrats for advocating "cutting and running" in Iraq. He said of the Democrats, "They may be with you for the first shots. But they're not going...to be with you for the tough battles." But isn't Rove now doing the same on a personal scale? He is departing the White House when the going in Iraq is as tough as it ever was.

In an earlier 2006 speech, Rove exclaimed, "America is at war....To retreat before victory has been won would be a reckless act." He was, of course, talking about a military retreat. But look at it this way: Rove helped Bush start a war, and now hundreds of thousands of American GIs (and millions of Iraqi civilians) have no choice but to live with the consequences of that decision. Why should Rove--and not they--be allowed to say, Sorry, now I have to bug out to spend more time with my family? How nice for the Roves that he can walk away from the war.

When Bush campaigned for president in 2000, he and Rove dubbed their campaign plane Accountability One. The point: we're the responsible ones. But a fundamental principle of accountability is that you clean up the messes you create. Rove is not doing that. He will cash in. Maybe with speeches. Perhaps with a book or some private sector spot. Instead, he ought to volunteer for service with one of the few functioning provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq. Or perhaps he could conduct seminars on basic electoral skills for tribal leaders in southeastern Afghanistan. (Lesson No. 2: How To Demonize Your Enemy.) If overseas travel would place too much of a burden on his family, he could help clean up a neighborhood in New Orleans.

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of Tom and Daisy, "They were careless people...they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." Rove is certainly more careful than Fitzgerald's characters--careful when it comes to politics and doing whatever is necessary to win. But with Bush, he recklessly steered this country into a debacle in Iraq that has caused the death of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and that has ruined the United States' reputation abroad. Bush, Rove, Dick Cheney and the rest did so with little understanding and with insufficient planning, and they sold the war to the public with bad information and blatant misrepresentations. (Rove was part of the White House Iraq Group that devised the prewar messaging.) Rove deserves not reward but punishment. A fitting sentence would be for Rove to stay to the bitter end so he can sweep up the turds he is now leaving behind.


JUST OUT IN PAPERBACK: HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The paperback edition of this New York Times bestseller contains a new afterword on George W. Bush's so-called surge in Iraq and the Scooter Libby trial. The Washington Post said of Hubris: "Indispensable....This [book] pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." The New York Times called it, "The most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations...fascinating reading." Tom Brokaw praised it as "a bold and provocative book." Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, "The selling of Bush's Iraq debacle is one of the most important--and appalling--stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it." For highlights from Hubris, click here.

Follow-Up Thoughts on the LGBT Debate

Just a short blog entry to follow up on what I wrote on Friday about the LOGO presidential debate.

I've heard from a few people that Barack Obama was asking smart insider questions about whether marriage is the right focus now for the LGBT movement, or whether it shouldn't be left for later--the way interracial marriage wasn't first on the black civil rights movement's agenda.

No. Obama was missing two things: the different significance of marriage to those two very different movements, and the community history on this issue.

First, he's wrong to compare same-sex marriage to interracial marriage. Obama said, if I recall correctly, that the civil rights movement left marriage for last, putting votes and employment first. But no lesbian or gay man is barred from voting; in fact, according to recent news reports, apparently self-identified lesbians and gay men vote in higher percentages than most people. (Hard to know if that's a statistic that holds up across all lesbians and gay men, since it's impossible to find a random sample of us; not everyone will identify themselves as gay on a survey.) And while some LGBT people are fired for being gay--yes, that's still legal in most states, and why we need passage of ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act--it's not the widespread or devastating problem it was for most African Americans in 1960. The ability to care for those we love is really central for lesbian & gay folks; for us it's a life or death question, very literally (for more on this see Evan Wolfson's book Why Marriage Matters or Freedom to Marry's website. Most black folks then had the ability to marry someone they loved; those who wanted to marry across racial lines were a minority. Interracial marriage was to the civil rights movement as foreign-American same-sex pairings for L/G folks; important and life-wrenching to those who fall in love with a non-citizen but not something that affects most of us, and therefore--although important--less strategically central. Obama had the importance of these issues to the LGBT movement inside out.

Second, and more important, is the community history on the issue. There was an enormous internal debate through the 90s about whether or not to go for marriage. The "leaders" and activists and academics mostly hated it and thought it was the wrong focus. The issue was catapulted to prominence by the grassroots, who initiated the first lawsuits against the leadership's active attempts to stop them. The community pressure was overwhelmingly in favor and forced the leadership into being pro-marriage. That's a simplification, but not too much so. (I have to admit to being proud that I was one of the early lesbians or feminists in favor; see my book What Is Marriage For?, my first marriage article for The Nation in 1993, and most of my writing during the 1990s.)

People want to get married. The word means an enormous amount emotionally. Separate but equal really does capture the distinction: it leaves a nasty taste to be told that your love for your wife isn't as real as your brother's love for his wife. Many people see this as very either/or: Am I not as good as you are? Cut my beloved, do I not bleed? As I've written elsewhere, attending the first legally recognized same-sex marriages here in Massachusetts was astonishingly powerful, far more powerful than many of us expected, since we'd been working for it for so long. Being declared openly equal is life-changing.

In questioning the focus on marriage, Obama revealed his lack of knowledge on the issue and his lack of well-informed LGBT advisors. This discussion is over, except among academics, where it is--excuse the pun--academic. Marriage is a major goal. It's not the only thing worth talking about, but it cannot be dismissed.