Out of Patience

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 22, 2007 8:04 AM

President Bush says he's frustrated with Nouri al-Maliki.

Guess what, so am I.

I'm frustrated with the utter paralysis of the Iraqi government while our troops fight and die.

I'm frustrated with the complete and utter failure to compromise while Sunnis and Shiites keep killing each other, and sometimes Americans.

I'm frustrated by a government that takes the month of August off while our forces risk their lives to keep the country from falling apart.

It's frustrating, all right.

Carl Levin and John Warner come back from Iraq and say that Maliki must go, and the president says he's frustrated by the leader he has bet his Iraq strategy on. But the question, as always, is, what is he prepared to do about it? That was the linchpin of the whole benchmarks debate: If the Baghdad government fails to deliver, is there any penalty?

Not that there are any easy options at this point. What if the problem is not Maliki but the ethnic and political pressures that prevent him from moving forward one inch? Remember, it took five months of maneuvering to put this government together. If Maliki resigned today, how long would it take to put together a new coalition? And is there reason to believe a new coalition would achieve better results?

"Hours after President Bush acknowledged 'a certain level of frustration with the leadership' in Iraq," says the New York Times, "the White House said today that Mr. Bush would declare the struggle there as vital as earlier American campaigns in Asia and would once again call for perseverance . . .

"The excerpts were made available after Mr. Bush, for at least the third time this summer, declined to offer an endorsement of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the man he once called 'the right guy for Iraq.' . . .

"Mr. Bush's comments earlier today acknowledging frustration with the Iraqi leadership came on the same day that Mr. Crocker called political progress "extremely disappointing" and one day after Senators Carl Levin and John Warner suggested parliament replace Mr. Maliki.

Mr. Bush seemed to beat back against that suggestion, saying in Montebello, Quebec, that it should be 'up to the Iraqis to make that decision, not American politicians.' Yet the answer also represented a new, if subtle, level of pessimism from Mr. Bush about Mr. Maliki with its implicit suggestion that Mr. Maliki could be ousted by the Iraqis themselves."

Apparently the feeling is mutual:

"Iraq's prime minister lashed out Wednesday at American criticism, saying no one has a right to put timetables on his elected government." Maliki called the criticism "discourteous."

Discourteous to ask for some signs of progress? How many minutes would his regime last if American troops pulled out?

Once again, Langley gets a negative review:

"The CIA never developed an overall strategy for confronting Al Qaeda and let precious expertise and resources go unused in the years leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, according to an internal investigation that the agency fought to keep secret for the last two years," the L.A. Times reports. "The newly declassified report adds disturbing details to an already extensive public record of Sept. 11-related failures, and makes the case that former CIA Director George J. Tenet and other top officials deserved to face further scrutiny within the agency to determine whether they should be reprimanded for their roles in an array of breakdowns.

"Among the findings are that the CIA diverted funding from counter-terrorism activities -- and failed to spend all the money that was left -- even as Tenet and other agency officials were pleading for resources and expressing growing alarm about the terrorist threat."

Heck of a job, George.

Drudge gives this Chicago Sun-Times piece on Obama's wife by Jennifer Hunter a big ride:

"Michelle said she travels with her husband in part 'to model what it means to have family values,' adding 'if you can't run your own house, you can't run the White House.' She didn't elaborate, but it could be interpreted as a swipe at the Clintons.

"No longer is Michelle Obama's rhetoric filled with funny asides about her husband's penchant to drop his socks around the house or his disastrous attempts at housekeeping -- she got criticized for that, unfortunately.

"But as the campaign has moved along, her speeches have become stronger, funnier and more personable. She speaks with more emotion than her husband; you feel she is the power propelling him, that she has the psychological mettle, the tough skin, the searing ambition."

I don't know if it was a slam at Hillary. After all, she's not the one who fooled around.

Rich Lowry is really down on John Edwards:

"The infamous $400 haircut -- actually, some of his hairstyling sessions ran as much as $1,200 all told -- wasn't a freak embarrassment for a candidate so self-righteously devoted to the poor. It was part of a pattern so pervasive that it has become the defining aspect of Edwards's candidacy.

"When he lambasted hedge funds for incorporating offshore to avoid or delay paying U.S. taxes, what could be more natural than that he made nearly $500,000 for part-time work at the Fortress Investment Group, with hedge funds incorporated in the Cayman Islands for tax purposes? When he hit other candidates for taking donations from Rupert Murdoch's media holdings, wasn't it inevitable that it would turn out he had taken $800,000 from Murdoch's HarperCollins for a coffee-table book?

"Or when he attacked subprime lenders for foreclosing on victims of Hurricane Katrina, he would have $16 million -- half of his net worth -- invested in Fortress while it was foreclosing on a couple dozen homes in New Orleans? Most of us uphold ideals that we can't meet, but liberal populism shouldn't be such an impossible standard . . .

"In 2004, John Edwards was Mr. Congeniality, for no other reason than that seemed the market niche for him in the race. Today, he is the angry populist, for no other reason than that seems the market niche for him in the race."

Or maybe he's just saying what the consultants told him he couldn't say last time.

He's normally a big Republican-booster, but Fred Barnes says the GOP is "trading away long-term gain for the immediate joy of pleasing voters who may (or may not) decide the winner of the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. That issue is immigration.

"By dwelling, often emotionally, on the problem of illegal immigration as a paramount issue and as if nothing is being done to deal with it, Republicans are alienating Hispanic Americans, the fastest growing voting bloc in the country. What's worse is many Republicans are oblivious to this or insist that losing Hispanic voters doesn't really matter because they'll never be reliable Republican voters anyway. These Republicans buy the notion that a sizable majority of Hispanics are and always will be Democrats.

"This defeatism is wrongheaded. Hispanics are not lost to Republicans, as President Bush showed by winning more than 40 percent of their votes in 2004 and half their votes in 1998 when he ran for re-election as governor of Texas. The fact is Hispanics are conservative on cultural issues, entrepreneurial on economics, and intensely patriotic. They are a winnable constituency for Republicans.

"But not if Republicans continue to concentrate on bashing illegal immigrants, as the party's presidential candidates have. Just this week, Mitt Romney spent day after day zinging Rudy Guiliani for opposing deportation of illegal immigrants when he was mayor of New York. Guiliani fired back that Romney, while Massachusetts governor, had tolerated so-called sanctuary cities that protected illegals."

News that the Dems have tentatively scheduled Petraeus to testify on Sept. 11 brings this slap from National Review's Jim Geraghty:

"I was initially not offended by the thought of it occuring that day, but scheduling it for that date sounds like a sure-fire formula for accusations that the White House is 'politicizing 9/11.' Even if it turns out Democratic congressional leaders scheduled it for that day, little facts like that barely amount to speedbumps on the sprint to Outrageland. Congressional Democrats accused Bush of politicizing the anniversary last year for daring to discuss Iraq in his speech that evening.

"The progress report on Iraq is due Sept. 15. The thirteen and fourteenth are Rosh Hashana. That still leaves the 10th and 12th, which would be better dates, if you ask me.

"In fact, if indeed the Democratic leadership of Congress scheduled Petraeus to testify that day, I cannot help but suspect that they indeed are trying to politicize the anniversary. The all-too-easy soundbites write themselves -- 'Today, six years after 9/11, we learn that we're failing in Iraq and the Bush administration has made us no safer and blah blah blah.' "

Of course, Republicans use the date to try to morph everything into a global war on terror.

McCain held a conference call with righty bloggers, and Ryan Sager has the goods:

"The main news: He's going to be launching a 'No Surrender Tour,' pegging the hopes of his near-dead campaign on his support for the Iraq war.

"I don't get this strategy for a simple reason: While the base certainly still supports the war, it's not as if Mr. McCain's opponents don't. He's not going to out-hawk Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson; he can run even with them on hawkishness, but that's not going to revive a corpse of a campaign."

But hasn't McCain been far more specific and passionate on the war? Has Rudy or Fred visited Iraq at all?

Speaking of Thompson, Lane Hudson of News for the Left is the man who's filed an FEC complaint against him:

"It is my contention that he has violated the 'testing the waters' exemption of election law. He has been presenting himself as a candidate for President, he has been raising large sums of money beyond what would be required to explore a possible candidacy, and he has signed a long term lease on a headquarters for his campaign. He has even spent advertising dollars, which are specifically prohibited by the law. Up to this point, no one has taken the time to take action against this abuse."

Dan Riehl responds that "if the Left thinks attacking a candidate is going to hurt said candidate with the Republican base during the primaries, I'd bet they are, as usual, very wrong."

The Albany scandals take another weird turn, with GOP operative Roger Stone accused of leaving this threatening message for Gov. Eliot's Spitzer's 83-year-old father:

"Bernie, your phony loans are about to catch up with you. You will be forced to tell the truth and the fact that your son's a pathological liar will be known to all." There's more that prompt the NYT to relax its usual rules on expletives.

The Washington pundits all said David Vitter was in deep trouble. Guess again:

"So Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) gets into a boatload of trouble after he acknowledged last month that his number was on the alleged 'D.C. Madam's' phone list, and his poll numbers tank, right?

"Not exactly. Or at least it doesn't look that way in one survey released last week.

"Sixty-six percent of voters either strongly or somewhat approved of Vitter's job performance."

Well, by Louisiana standards, I guess it beats having 90,000 bucks in your freezer.

I'm getting pretty tired of anti-blogger critiques from folks who don't seem to know much about the subject. The latest is Elon University professor Michael Skube in the LAT:

"Bloggers now are everywhere among us, and no one asks if we don't need more full-throated advocacy on the Internet. The blogosphere is the loudest corner of the Internet, noisy with disputation, manifesto-like postings and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined . . .

"Many of the most active bloggers -- Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, Joshua Micah Marshall and the contributors to the Huffington Post -- are insistent partisans in political debate. Some reject the label 'journalist,' associating it with what they contemptuously call MSM (mainstream media); just as many, if not more, consider themselves a new kind of 'citizen journalist' dedicated to broader democratization . . .

"In our time, the Washington Post's reporting, in late 2005, of the CIA's secret overseas prisons and its painstaking reports this year on problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- both of which won Pulitzer Prizes -- were not exercises in armchair commentary. The disgrace at Walter Reed, true enough, was first mentioned in a blog, but the full scope of that story could not have been undertaken by a blogger or, for that matter, an Op-Ed columnist, whose interest is in expressing an opinion quickly and pungently. Such a story demanded time, thorough fact-checking and verification and, most of all, perseverance. It's not something one does as a hobby. The more important the story, the more incidental our opinions become."

For rebuttal, we turn to Mr. Josh Marshall:

"There's certainly no end of blog pontificating fueled by puffed-up self-assertion rather than facts. But Skube's piece reads with a vagueness that suggests he has less than a passing familiarity with the topic at issue. And I will confess to you that what really caught my attention was that in a column bewailing how blogs don't do any real reporting one of the four bloggers he mentioned was me.

"Now, whether we do any quality reporting at TPM is a matter of opinion. And everyone is entitled to theirs. So against my better judgment, I sent Skube an email telling him that I found it hard to believe he was very familiar with TPM if he was including us as examples in a column about the dearth of original reporting in the blogosphere.

"Now, I get criticized plenty. And that's fair since I do plenty of criticizing. And I wouldn't raise any of this here if it weren't for what came up in Skube's response.

"Not long after I wrote I got a reply: 'I didn't put your name into the piece and haven't spent any time on your site. So to that extent I'm happy to give you benefit of the doubt ...'

"This seemed more than a little odd since, as I said, he certainly does use me as an example -- along with Sullivan, Matt Yglesias and Kos. So I followed up noting my surprise that he didn't seem to remember what he'd written in his own opinion column on the very day it appeared and that in any case it cut against his credibility somewhat that he wrote about sites he admits he'd never read.

"To which I got this response: 'I said I did not refer to you in the original. Your name was inserted late by an editor who perhaps thought I needed to cite more examples...'

"And this is from someone who teaches journalism?"

Pretty embarrassing. And NYU's Jay Rosen dispenses with academic politeness:

"Retire, man. I'm serious. You're an embarrassment to my profession, to the university where you teach, and to the craft of reporting you claim to defend. It is time for you to quit, as you've clearly called it quits on learning-- and reporting. Ring this guy up and ask him to go bass fishing or something. You're not doing anyone any good-- you're just insulting your own bio. And when you're done lecturing us on 'the patient fact-finding of reporters,' tell the godforsaken LA Times they're going to have to run a correction. The Post hasn't won a Pulitzer for its reporting on Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Jeez."

That's because the series isn't eligible until next year--an easily checkable fact.

All that is pattycake compared to James Lewis at American Thinker, who's really mad at the press:

"The Big Media are a mob. That should be Politics 101. They are a tiny, unchecked power elite, locked into life-long careers in the remnant of a crumbling monopoly over America's national conversation. Like other unaccountable elites, they are monumentally fickle, self-indulgent, snobbish, vain, vulgar, entitled, incestuous, arrogant, ignorant, unprincipled, hysterical, and demagogic. They sound like a unified chorus for the same reasons that street mobs run as a group -- because by and large, they don't dare to stand alone. Media snobs are always looking over their shoulders to see if they are still singing from the same hymnal as The New York Times. The US media have been one-sidedly Leftist, while piously proclaiming their devotion to impartiality. Thus, they are also institutionally mendacious. Telling the truth is hardly their job. They're just not qualified."

And these adjectives apply equally to the Boston Globe and "NBC Nightly News," to the Chicago Tribune and CNN, to Time and "Nightline" and Charlie Rose and "60 Minutes" and "All Things Considered"? Shouldn't some distinctions be made among the mendacious hordes?

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