Has the administration been quietly overthrown?

The Agonist – always a great place for thoughtful analysis – has an interesting piece suggesting that Dubya and The Dick may have lost control over their own machine. If so, it’s good news.

A number of political observers have taken note of a momentous event in the U.S. government – a counter-coup that overthrew the Dick Cheney/neocon cabal that has been running U.S. foreign policy (if not the entire U.S. government). Juan Cole has cited Admiral William Fallon, head of Centcom, and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as two key players who stymied efforts earlier this year by Dick Cheney to accelerate the military build-up off the coast of Iran. Andrew Sullivan in a blog entry called The System is Working credits Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for restoring some sanity to the Defense Department, though he also notes that without the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections Bush would never have been forced to jettison Rumsfeld.

Read the rest here.

51 replies »

  1. Sounds about right to me.

    Bush was always a sock puppet for Cheney and the PNAC cabal–Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, and all of those guys who have made careers out of being spectacularly, completely wrong, and being utterly bullheaded about their refusal to admit it.

    They’ve made enemies for life all over the government, from the CIA all the way to Condi herself, the last one standing of Bush/Cheney’s original inner circle. While we can’t undo the damage these people have done, we can at least enjoy the schadenfreude of watching them limp miserably through their last months and years in power.

    Still, we can’t underestimate the amount of damage Bush and Cheney can do before January 20, 2009. A wounded and cornered animal is the most dangerous, after all.

  2. Martin said;
    “we can at least enjoy the schadenfreude of watching them limp miserably through their last months and years in power.”

    Hoping a president does badly, simply because of your intense hatred for him, is unfathomable. Common sense would dictate that, regardless of politics, you want your president to do the best job possible, and pray that he does.


  3. Common sense?

    That logic amounts to the same thing as saying that (drunken) Capt Joseph Hazelwood should be allowed to continue piloting ships after the Exxon Valdez disaster.

  4. Well, a ship captain can easily be fired, a president…not so. We’re stuck with a president.

    This feeling on the left that wants Bush to fail is just as wrong as the extreme right wing whack jobs who wanted Clinton to fail. I have friends on the left that actually want us to lose this war just to embarrass Bush…..incredible, unbelievable…

    As for common sense and logic, that’s not one of my weaker areas, despite what some here might think.

  5. Jeff,
    I agree wanting Bush to fail during the remainder of his tenure borders on the absurd and self destructive, on the other hand, where in the last seven years has he done much of anything that would lead us to believe him capable of doing anything else?

  6. Jeff,

    What’s unfathomable is starting a war based on a lie (not even false intel, a flat-out lie) that has killed thousands of Americans, untold numbers of Iraqis, wrecked a country, and cost us billions of dollars.

    Equally unfathomable is the idea that the same guy would try the same trick again and continue to do so, even in the face of clear evidence that his plan is based on utter bullshit.

    Common sense would dictate that if a guy lies to you and fucks up on the job you gave him, you fire him. Which we did–we elected him to office as a public servant, to safeguard the country and protect the values we hold dear. In this regard, he has failed–no, worse than failed. He has actively tarnished and slagged those values.

    In a perfect world, Bush would be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, but since this isn’t a perfect world, I’ll be more than content to watch him stumble and fall like the dry drunk he is until he is gone from office, and hopefully banished from the annals of history.

  7. Martin: I think his place in the annals of history is pretty well set unless he spends the last year of his administration curing AIDS and eliminating world poverty once and for all. And he’s guilty of everything you say, and then some. But the self-interested guy in me does hope that he doesn’t do any more damage than he already has.

    In the end, I don’t think it matters what I hope for. Bush is what he is and sees unlikely to change – in addition to being maybe our least intelligent president, he’s maybe also the most pig-headed – so it seems likely that it’s going to work out just how you say.

    I just hope we all survive it….

  8. Martin,
    Unfortunately his mark in history is insured, although it is not a good one. The effects of this presidency will live on in infamy long after Bush has been banished from the white house. The only thing we can legitimately hope for is that he is unable to inflict any more damage on the world and our country in particular during the next year. If this means wishing him success as apposed to wishing him to continue to F##K things up than I we ardently wish him success.

  9. Well, there’s a difference between failure and causing harm. The Annapolis conference is a good example of the former–it was with noble intent (which I give Bush credit for), but did anything really get accomplished?

    Bush’s stance on Iran and the NIE is an example of the latter–he’s actively ignoring the hard facts that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are anything but a threat to us, and sabre-rattling to please the neocons and the defense industry. That is actively harmful to us–we can’t afford another war, in any sense of the word.

    Then again, Bush has such a legacy of failure and damage behind him already that it’s hard to tell when he’s doing one or the other.

  10. Failure and harm aren’t necessarily the same thing – good point. I hope that one day we have a president who we can evaluate in terms other than “well, he didn’t really hurt anything today…”

  11. Well Jeff, it seems like you’re in the camp of Nixon-lovers. He wasn’t such a bad guy if you dismiss the fact that he undermined the Constitution.

    You may be logical. You may not be, I don’t know.

    At the very least, you’ve missed the whole point of Nixon and Reagan & Bush and Bush & Cheney setting themselves above the law as untouchable.

    Since you missed that point, I’m not sure there’s much else to say. 😉

  12. And btw, we can fire the president. It’s called impeachment. And it works when there’s an opposition party.

  13. Rho:

    I don’t think this is fair. Was Clinton a model of uprightness, probably not. But “lawless” is a pretty nasty word to throw at a guy whose main transgression was seeking to evade an overtly partisan dirty-tricks hit job. Do I have him in my pantheon of Most Honestest Mens Ever, no. But comparing him to the likes of Dubya and Nixon requires you to aggressively overlook the facts of the case.

  14. Sam,
    I disagree. My main problem with Clinton is he is a LIAR from day1. Actually it was day 3 where he lost any chance of my respecting him. He rode the “Better health care for all” ticket into the white house but his first act as president, which he accomplished on day 3, was to eliminate dental care for retired military and for military dependents as well as to cut the VA’s budget by 20%. So what he really meant was better health care for everyone EXCEPT for our veterans and their families. As a veteran myself I take this not only as an insult but as an outright lie. Then through out his tenure he Lied and Lied again. He also was the worst enemy a veteran has seen in the oval office since pre-Vietnam.

  15. Because they’ve left so much wreckage in their wake, it’s hard to enjoy the sight of Bush and Cheney foundering. But I’d still like to see them Super-Maxed one day.

    Also, it’s not as if saner voices carried the day. Just hawks who were only marginally less wild-eyed, like Fallon and Gates.

    We didn’t just dodge a bullet with Bush and Cheney, but with a possible WWIII averted, in part by the Iran NIE, the whole planet dodged a meteor headed straight at us.

  16. You didn’t call him a liar. You called him lawless. Did he fuck up on political promises – sure. That makes him no diff than any other politician, though it hurts more when it’s your ox getting gored.

    As bad as that was, it doesn’t merit the charge you leveled at him.

  17. OK
    I’ll agree with that point but as for Lawless he LIED under oath and that is against the law, so he is both a liar and a criminal.

  18. And here’s the response I was waiting for. He lied under oath.

    Technically true – yes. But where was the – to use a popular conservative dodge – underlying crime? He lied under oath (like an idiot, yes) about a fake action set in motion by GOP partisans for the express purpose of embarrassing him. Up until he was dumb enough to lie HE HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG.

    It was a dog and pony show. Top to bottom.

    If you’re comfortable living in a society where the only thing that matters is the hyper-technical letter of the law, get on record with that right now. If, on the other hand, you can see a difference between this kind of stupid fuck-up in a kangaroo proceeding and something more grave, like lying us into war or ordering break-ins at your opponent’s political HQ, then I feel better about your judgment.

  19. Rho,

    I’m working on my soapbox (in fact the second truckload of wood just arrived), so hold that thought. I’ll be back. Sometime today.

  20. I don’t argue it was a major hatchet Job but he still set himself above the law by Flagrantly breaking it while president then dodging all responsibility. Agrees he isn’t nearly as criminal as Bush/Chaney but he is still a criminal.

  21. Oh, for God’s sake.

    I am so sick and tired of Clinton being trotted out every time the discussion of Bush’s crimes comes up. This is a false equivalency in every sense of the word.

    Clinton lied to cover his ass about an affair he was having with an intern.

    Bush lied to lead us into a five-years-and-counting war with a country that was absolutely no threat to us, leading to over 4,000 American soldiers dead, tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, uncountable numbers of people maimed and injured, the utter eradication of our moral and political standing in foreign policy, and upwards of one trillion dollars wasted that helped propel us from record budget surpluses into astronomical deficits.

    One of these things is not like the other.

  22. Rho:

    Just so we’re straight. If your enemies are clever enough to set you up, then it’s okay for intelligent people to brand you a criminal?

    I want to make sure I understand your position.

  23. Sam,
    He put himself in a bad situation with his own actions. Yes, his “enemies” as well as the media took it and turned it into something a hell of a lot more than it warranted being but he didn’t need to lie under oath. If he had told the truth he would have taken some lumps in the polls, although probably fewer than he did by lying, but he wouldn’t have been breaking the law. He lied by his own choice, you didn’t do it nor did I, He did. If you want another instance in which I believe he needed to be prosecuted for, and I’ll grant it’s my opinion I’m expressing here, it’s the whitewater debacle. Both him and Hillary should have been charged with obstruction of justice if for nothing else than having all those files that may or may not have proven their guilt destroyed.

  24. Rho:

    1: As I said before, I just want to know what kind of society you want to live in. If you’re comfortable with the propriety of what was done to Clinton, that’s fine. Just make sure you’re okay with it when people who hate what you stand for come for you. I assume you’ll want the rest of us not to defend you, but to instead pile on so long as you’re technically guilty of something that nobody had any right to be poking at anyway.

    2: You can have all the opinion you like about Whitewater, which may stand as the most egregious partisan abuse of taxpayer money and political power in our recent history. You can likewise have the opinion that Dr. Who and the Tooth Fairy are not only real, they’re shacked up in your attic. But an obscene amount of resources was thrown at Whitewater, and in the end the persecution was forced to duck its head and walk away.

    Frankly, I’m more than happy to have you backing your opinion with Whitewater. That lends me even more credibility than I had already.

  25. What’s ironic here is that there’re plenty of things to genuinely dislike or oppose Clinton for–the hollowing out of our government thanks to privatization began on his watch, as did our outsourced economy due to NAFTA. But it’s much easier to remember crappy impeachment proceedings and trumped-up fake scandals, I suppose.

    In any event, the man hasn’t been in office for eight years now, and believe you me, compared to what we’ve got now, I’d push for a Constitutional amendment to give him a third term if he wanted it.

  26. Score another victory for the neocons. Once again, a discussion of contemporary politics is successfully mired in the ‘blowjob heard round the world’, and cannot return to relevance.
    Of course, in their view, it’s “unfair” to discuss such things as insider trading, revolving door corruption, rampant extreme cronyism (as in, even between the Bush and Bin Laden families), Stalinist anti-dissident tactics, or the other threats we face from this administration, without derailing the whole matter over Monica Lewinsky, and the “lie under oath”.
    Ever notice that Bush administration officials never agree to go under oath? (like, in front of oversight committees, the 9/11 commission, congress, etc)
    Well, the only reason to refuse to take an oath is so you won’t face charges if you’re lying.
    These people have been lying about mostly everything from day 0. Their entire strategy is that the truth is a weapon and we are the enemy.

  27. OK everyone,
    If you read what I said I agree Bush/Chaney are criminally incompetent and need prosecution on more than one issue. What started this whole debacle of a comment stream is when I said that not only Bush, and Nixon were criminal but so was Clinton. I had no intention to derail the conversation I Just stated he was not the innocent everyone tries to paint him. I’ll say this right up front I wouldn’t want either of them as a President ever again and I Voted against both of their re-election attempts.

  28. Rho:

    The conversation was about the corruption of the current administration. Then you injected an irrelevant point about Clinton into the chat. In doing you so you equated a guy who was framed for jaywalking with a pack of serial killers, and that dragged the signal:noise ratio down considerably.

    Nobody here is confusing Bubba with Mother Teresa, but in what way was that the point of anything?

  29. Tough crowd here Rho. Ever been to one of the S&R Virgin Sacrifices? Quite riveting.

    My fifth truckload of planks and beams for the soapbox has just arrived.


  30. Dom Pierre:

    That was an interesting but convoluted extrapolation putting me in the Nixon camp. I’m more of a Goldwater fan.

    I wasn’t a fan of Nixon’s leadership. I could make an excellent case that he was a liberal. Nixon was a paranoid, even though the entire media was out to get him from day 1. I did respect his poker skills. However, it’s easy to criticize presidents and it’s easy to second guess presidents. What one must remember is that all presidents have to make the first decisions, and the tough decisions. I respect all presidents for that and am glad I don’t have to make those hard decisions. Only one with an exaggerated, sense of hubris and delusions of grandeur could think they would do a better job than a below average president.

  31. Dom,
    As Sam says I’ve known him and others for over then years and expect nor intend to give undeserved mercy. I look forward with eagerness and trepidation to your soap box although with that much wood might you not make a bonfire instead? 🙂

  32. “Since you missed that point, I’m not sure there’s much else to say. ;)”

    I rest my case.

    Ps: That was a very Nixon-esque reply Jeff.

  33. I respect all presidents for that and am glad I don’t have to make those hard decisions.

    I started off respecting Bush precisely because he became the President and that position deserves respect. Then I had that respect profoundly betrayed by a raw and rank inability to do the job. He now longer deserves my respect, or anyone’s.

    Only one with an exaggerated, sense of hubris and delusions of grandeur could think they would do a better job than a below average president.

    Well, then put me in that category, because there is no doubt that I, Sam, you, Denny, Jim, or most of our commenters here at S&R could do a phenomenally better job than our WAY below average current president. And the reason why is because most of us at least know what we’re good at, and we’re smart enough to surround ourselves with people who know more about their subject areas than we do and who aren’t boot-licking sycophants prone to group-think.

  34. Brian makes a good point here. It OUGHT to be true that our presidents are in that role for a good reason and that they are better qualified that we are to make the tough calls. Once upon a time that may have been true. But it’s not anymore. Money and media and a dumber-by-the-minute public that can’t be bothered to THINK about issues have ushered us to a point where a monkey in a nice suit can be elected if he’s got the right money boys behind him.

    Does anyone here really believe – REALLY believe – that our current crop of candidates on both sides represent America’s brightest and best? If we had a comprehensive, objective way of ranking qualifications for office, where would these people really rate? Do you see anybody you think is among the top 10 most qualified citizens in America? Top 100? Top 1000?

  35. Rho,

    I have an embarrassing confession to make. I looked closely at the soapbox plans last night as it was snowing and the security light came on, and found I was working from the “how to build a storage house” prints instead of the “soapbox” prints.

    Bingo the Philosopher Dog, who was carrying small barrel of brandy around his neck all day, was pretty non-plussed, so it looks like i’m buying a bag of treats for him today.

    So, here’s the soapbox reply:

    Eh, that’s not too good, I’ll come up with something else later today.

  36. Rho,

    Outside of the perjury trap set for Clinton over the years and tens of millions of dollars of investigations, he pretty much stayed within the constitutional framework. That’s not not to say he made bad decisions like the welfare reform act and the 1996 telecom act as well as the ones mentioned above. Certainly the mess that was Russia during Yeltsin was his and Rubin’s fault when they sent over all the financial advisors to set up a US-style market “give-away” system for Russian state resources which created the Russian millionaires and billionaires today; which if you believe the articles is why Putin and his reforms are so popular today.

    The contrast today is that Clinton was an unfaithful husband but a competent president; Bush on the other hand is a faithful husband (he’s bisexual if you believe what’s written) but incompetent at everything else it would seem. Btw, if it’s true Hillary has good taste in lovers.

    I contend that Bush has been an orgasmic dream for the the small group that put him and Cheney in the White House. And I don’t think oil was the only reason to invade Iraq. Remember, the original plan was to privatise all the private sectors in Iraq like Finance, Infrastructure, Oil, etc, etc etc.

    Iraq’s a disaster from the perspective of loss of life and a prodigious waste of dollars — and that it is harmful to the national interests of the United States, but from the perspective of the Cheney and Bush backers, the war has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.


    Because Iraq has become a huge “profit center” for American corporations due to the privatization of the war. Halliburton and Blackwater are the most visible examples of rampant profiteering, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.

    In short, the Iraq War (and maybe the impending Iran attack) are market expansion initiatives for the corporate backers of the Republican Party — and the most basic economic outlook at the highest levels of the GOP: America is the sole superpower and deserves to assert — at its will — its market dominance for the benefit of its corporations.

    Once again, that’s not to say that terrorists don’t exist; it’s to simply recognize that they are being used as an excuse to seize new markets — and to put the hard-earned tax dollars of middle income Americans into the profit column of large “no-bid” contracts for corporations who are the financial backbone of the GOP.

    This is not a radical theory; it’s actually the reality in Iraq. (* from Greg Palast)

    In addition, the $3Trillion plus in tax breaks to top 5%, no-bid contracts for defense contractors, everything aimed at providing an endless money trough for corporations.

    My contention has also been that both he and Cheney will leave public office careers as off-shore billionaires as a result of skimming a percentage from all the contracts awarded since 2001.

    So in that respect, Bush has been an unqualified success. In the eyes of the country and the world, he’s been an utter failure.

  37. Sam,

    Why would someone (beside you) even want the job of president….being the president has to be the most terrible job on the planet. I would rather be the cabin boy an a Greek freighter that hasn’t had shore leave for 6 months.


  38. Jeff:

    That isn’t the issue. Sure, it’s a job that has its downsides, I’m sure. The issue is that we OUGHT to have the people who are our brightest lights doing the leading. Instead, we seem to have some of the dimmest.

  39. The best and brightest are smart enough to not take a job that is a losing proposition no matter which way you look at it. Every comment you make is pisses off a million people. Your private life becomes an open book, your privacy is shot for the rest of your life….there’s just so many negatives to the job. Even the weakest presidents are capable of making so much more money in the private sector. Truman used to lament when he was president his frustration of issuing a presidential order and having it ignored. That wouldn’t happen very often in the private sector.

    We ought to have the best and brightest, but it ain’t going to happen, and that’s the stark reality. I wish that someone capable could step up to the plate, but the beltway meat grinder would make short work of them.


  40. I’ve always liked the idea that anyone who actually wants to be President is automatically disqualified because they’ll abuse the position.

    What we need in a President, IMO, is someone who doesn’t want the job but who is capable and knows that he/she HAS to take the job because “no-one else can or will.” Given the very meatgrinder you mention, it wouldn’t be hard to separate the people who are lying about not wanting the job and those who really don’t. 🙂

    When I was a kid, I wanted to be President. Then I got all cynical and said to Hell with that, then I got even more cynical and concluded that the country needed pragmatists like me as its politicians instead of the crop of losers we’ve got now. I’d even be President if I had to, although there’s enough of me who wants it to probably disqualify even me. Of course, I have a huge advantage – I have enough major issues with evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity, and have been vocal about those issues on my personal blog, that I could never be elected.

    So I blog instead and hope that, over time, what I say will influence the people who actually are electable.

  41. Dom,
    I agree Bush and Chaney have been an unmitigated disaster, I haven’t said they weren’t. I PERSONALLY disagree tough with your assessment that Clinton was a competent president and along those lines I believe his wife would be even worse.

  42. Well ok Rho, maybe we’ll have to arm-wrestle over that. 😉

    Hillary’s a more polished version Bush 43 except with a vagina; she’d still be bad (but not as bad as Bush 43).

    And personally, outside of Kucinich (and Bloomberg if he runs), I haven’t found anyone worth voting for in 08 (this election is about scraping the bottom of the barrel it seems).

  43. With the second Great Depression approaching, the powers that be might have to give the job to someone to someone that that doesn’t necessarily want it only because the current process ties the nominee with too many corporate and special interest IOUs to do what’s needed.

    I suppose these are perennial & generational problems since they were making movies about them a long time ago, like Henry Fonda in “The Best Man”.

  44. Dom:

    It’s not the cream of the crop, no. However, there do seem to be clear choices. Edwards is showing a lot of guts going after the poverty issue and explicitly facing up to our class divide (although I think he’s framing it in a way that’s doomed). And while he has not a bat’s chance in hell, Dodd sure is right about a lot of things.

    If the GOP has a worthy candidate, they must have him locked in a trunk somewhere.

  45. It’s amusing. The candidates run but they don’t run smartly. Clearly a populist message would work today if framed correctly (ie Lakoff).

    Back in the summer, Newsweek had an article about how the old gen Republican families like the Eisenhowers, the TR Roosevelts, and the Goldwaters were leaving the GOP. Oh well, even Sears ain’t what it used to be.

    I’ll run. I think my Bolshevik Party and platform weel appeal. 😉

  46. Btw, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair had a pretty good three-part series on Hillary in mid-November over on Counterpunch.