Constant's pations

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Iraq & Miers: Comparing RNC Approaches to Decision Makers

The RNC has shown a double standard on how it approaches decisions. When it was an issue of war, the checks and balances broke down. Now, with an issue of personal privilege, the RNC shows it does not trust Congress to make the right decision.

The RNC has helped create a flawed system of checks and balances. It remains to be seen whether the RNC membership is subjected to JTTF harassment for awakening from the post 9-11 delusion.

* * *

One thing I've noticed with the Miers nomination is how quickly the Republicans dared to raise voices of dissent.

This comes in stark contrast to how the RNC approached the Iraq issue: Apparent blind obedience, even to 2005 when it became self-evident with Katrina that reality sometimes doesn't match facts.

Several questions surfaced:

  • What would possibly explain the contrast between how Republicans approached Miers -vs- how they've approached Iraq;

  • Why is it suddenly "OK" for the RNC to speak out on general issues that they remained silent on in re Iraq?

  • Why are people in the RNC suddenly willing to pick apart the President's arguments for Miers, unlike Iraq?

  • Why are conservative commentators suddenly willing to call their own members part of the "cooks"; while, in contrast, when discussing Iraq, the label was often reserved for liberals, progressives, or those who were "not of the RNC"?

  • What is the catalyst for people suddenly waking up and no longer blindly deferring to the President's judgment?

    * * *

    At first blush, the contrast appears to be problematic: Iraq and Miers are two separate issues, one is a single person on a domestic legal issue; while Iraq is a far larger overseas military issue.

    But there are some general themes, which compared, do illustrate the curious contrast in the RNC approach to the two issues:

    List A: Similarities

  • Lack of clear decision criteria

  • Overstating the case without regard to consequences

    * * *

    There are general themes emerging, which help illustrate how things have changed between 2003-5 time frame in re Iraq; and what's more grounded in re Miers in 2005.

    List B: Differences

  • Political promises

  • Evidence

    * * *

    Conversely, there are some common arguments used in both the Iraq and Miers debates that show a deference to the President.

    List C: Arguments which appear less strong

  • Deference to the President

  • Reframing the Presidential decision-making issue in terms of "the right to choose" rather than a "prudent choice"

  • Faith that things will work out

  • Arguing that negative information or arguments are not relevant.

    List C is essentially the list of things that people are saying that would defer trust back to the President.

    The point is that List C appears to have less support in 2005. However, the same approach to Iraq was used in 2002-3 timeframe.

    However, given the self-evident RNC in-house debate in re Miers in 2005, the question is: Why aren't these arguments in List C wholly destroyed?

    * * *

    The issue becomes: Why despite the changes "permitting" a public discussion of contrary opinions to the President, has the debate not wholly shifted and cast aside these arguments?

    It's one thing to notice a change in how the RNC debates; its quite another to understand why, if there is some awakening, which of the arguments in both cases are not getting cast aside, and indicate there is still room for some liberation.

    * * *

    Let's take a broad view of the two issues: Iraq vs Miers. What's changed since 2002-3 timeframe when the Iraq-arguments were first raised is self-evidently: The Iraq legacy and Katrina.

    I suspect that one core factor undermining the support within the RNC is the real evidence that has emerged in Iraq and Katrina. No longer was Iraq about a nebulous concept of "freedom," but has turned into a specific and measurable legacy of:

  • Number of American dead

  • Number of Iraqi dead

  • Number of hours of electricity available

  • Dollars spent

  • Perception of stability

    Indeed, there are many other factors.

    The point is that going forward from 2002-3 time frame, Iraq wasn't discussed in terms of costs of acting; the discussion was about more vague concepts:

  • Freedom [but what about at home?]

  • Outing Saddam, regime change [arguably unlawful]

  • Hunting for WMD [as contrasted with the Downing Street Memo]

    * * *

    In my view, the "bottom line" to what's changed between 2002-3 time frame in re Iraq and 2005 in re Miers is one simple thing: Access to information.

    This is what the framers intended in securing the 1st Amendment Right to freedom of the Press.

    Post-Iraq-invasion-quagmire, we now arguably know several things:

  • WMD-arguments were excuses to invade

  • The Iraqi invasion is unlawful

  • The Downing Street Memo shows us the facts were fixed

  • We were not welcomed with tiny flags as liberators, but are now seen as more of an annoying occupiers with insufficient resources to do the job

    * * *

    Unlike a prospective view of Iraq based soley on claims of WMD, in 2005 we can only look backward at the actual record of Miers.

    * * *

    What is curious is how outspoken the RNC membership is about the Miers decision. It appears as though there are two phenomena emerging, which contrast with how the Iraqi debate was handled:

  • 1. Conservatives appear to not trust the oversight of their own party; and

  • 2. The RNC appears to be waking up to the reality that the Senate May do something without regard to prudence.

    Gone are they days when the RNC could rely on the non-RNC personnel speaking out, and simply saying, "We are in charge, you have no choice."

    There is a real fear within the RNC that despite an apparent "bad decision in choosing Miers," that the Senate may very well go along with this decision.

    Notice the contrast with Iraq: The RNC was fairly giddy that they've gotten their way; now that the President has made a decision, no longer does the RNC trust the Senate to screen the nominee and "do the right thing," [whatever that "right thing" is . . . is a separate issue.]

    * * *

    What is curious is that people other than the President have made more compelling cases about the merits of Miers. This is a change from Iraq, when the President led the debate at the State of the Union Address.

    However, his arguments along with his supporters have gradually fallen apart; over time, even the "new reasons for doing what we did in Iraq" [to be determined] have shifted to new extractions and constructs.

    * * *

    We can also look at the contrast between Miers and Iraq along another axis. This relates to Presidential Promises.

    Before being elected Bush Promised to restrain spending, not engage in Nation Building. Even when these promises were being broken with Iraq, the RNC went along.

    However, this time with Miers, the RNC appears to be upset that the President has "broken" his promise to nominate a "new Justice in the mold of Scalia," suddenly this "broken promise," unlike Iraq, is something for the RNC to get upset about.

    The question becomes:

  • Why is a broken promise in the wake of 9-11 acceptable; but one related to judicial appointments unacceptable?

  • Can some catalysts be fabricated that will choral public acceptance/endorsement and thereby justify imprudence?

    * * *

    People within the RNC appear freer to speak out.

  • Are they thinking independently?

  • Are they relying on open information in the wake of Iraq and Katrina?

  • Do they trust the President less?

  • Have they seen, with their own eyes in re Iraq and Katrina, what can happen if they blindly defer to the President?

    What has changed is self evidently, the new decision relates not to war, but to a single action.

  • What would send a green light in 2005 that vocal opposition to the President is permissible?

  • Is the RNC hoping to rely on "freedom of expression" that they've allowed to be undermined with the Patriot Act?

    Time will tell whether the JTTF and NYC clamp down on the RNC dissidents with as much vigor as they did on the eve of war in Iraq.

    What is clear is that the RNC rank and file are not united. It remains to be seen whether the RNC membership feel their only option is to take to the streets.

    We shall see whether the RNC leadership is serious about imposing on the RNC rank and file the discipline on its own members. It is possible that the clamp down could e in the form of discipline related to contain another issue.

    The right to speak out is only protected when the people in charge are willing to protect that right. That right has been destroyed; it remains to be seen whether the RNC begins to rethink the Patriot Act, or view the present "reign of terror" approach to political dissent as something that is a sign of a Patriot or a terrorist.

    The RNC will further disintegrate should its own membership suffer under the wrath of the JTTF should they speak out vocally or take to the streets. One could argue the "taking to the streets" has already started with Cindy Sheehan, who has been joined by RNC defectors.

    * * *

    In both the Iraq and Miers decision there has been a lack of clear criteria.

  • Iraq relied on rather amorphous goals of "freedom" and "find WMD," which are difficult to operationalize, especially when the plans get ignored.

  • Miers appointment has been explained as something that "just makes sense" or "is the right thing," without looking to specific factors that make Miers more or less credible as a nominee than others.

    Bluntly, the President's criteria to choose a replacement for the Supreme Court have been ignored: Miers isn't in the Scalia mold.

    Also, in re Iraq, the troop readiness levels [criteria a prudent leader usually considers before launching combat operations] was thrown out the window. It was known before combat operations started that troops numbers were low; and that readiness and equipment depth levels were thin.

    In both the Iraq and Miers cases, the President acts and makes decisions despite prior assurances and agreed-to-agendas. With Iraq, he had promised not to nation-build; with Miers he promised a Scalia-clone.

    * * *

    Let's consider another perspective of the Iraq-Miers contrast: Evidence.

    The upset RNC members claim Miers "has no record." Strange, with Iraq, the "lack of evidence" or "no real record" didn't stop VP Cheney from making 17 visits to the CIA.

    If we were to apply the "lesson of Iraq" [that lacked evidence] to Miers, we should expect to see the Presidential advisors making repetitive visits to the American Bar Association to "massage the evidence" and "ensure the detractors arrive at the "correct decision."

    Small problem: The ABA doesn't have vote.

    Which, when you look at Iraq, neither did the CIA. So why did the WH put so much pressure on the CIA, claim "there was no pressure," and then get the Senate to authorize force?

    The answer is that the President knew how to swing the vote for Iraq: Get the "secret information" to agree with his goals, and that massaged information would sway the critical votes.

    This doesn't work with Miers. It's all in the open; despite "no record," there's "nothing that can be hidden, just as the reality of Katrina could not be censored as it was in Iraq.

    Which brings us back to the founders, democracy, the benefits of oversight, and the value of a free flow of information. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, especially when the sunlight shines on the RNC leadership.

    The question becomes is how far the RNC rank and file will take this; and will they "connect the dots" that they claimed they would forever "do better" in the wake of 9-11.

    Perhaps the "never again"-crowd wants a few more times to figure it out.

    Fiction does not grow in the searchlight of information and oversight.

    * * *

    Despite the crumbling support within the RNC in re Miers, let's consider those factors and arguments still aligned with the President.

    With Miers, there's a chorus within the RNC that are saying the President has the prerogative, that he best knows Miers.

    OK, why is the "personal experience" of the President in the case of Miers, more credible than the "personal experience" of those like Scott Ritter who said there was no WMD?

    * * *

    Another way of looking at this is to compare the change that is going on. In Iraq, the chorus said the President's decision to go to war should be supported. However, with Miers, it is not looked at as a single decision, but a choice, which the Senate has a role.

    Hold on, a minute. When going to war, the President doesn't have "the decision." He's theoretically without a vote.

    It is the Congress, not the President, that has the power to declare war.

    So getting back to Miers, what's changed: Why has the RNC that blindly deferred to the President using a non-existent rule about "declaring war", why has the RNC suddenly woken up to the Congressional role in the decision?

    Why is the Constitutional requirement that the Congress [in the case of Miers, the Senate] given more deference than the Congressional role in declaring war?

    The answer is that the Congress, when it is manipulated, can be encouraged to "authorize" something. If the President gets into trouble, he can blame the Congress; but it wasn't Congress who declared war; conversely, it was the President who violated the law by filing false information with Congress.

    The President crossed the line in Iraq; why isn't he also crossing the line with Miers?

    If Miers, according to the RNC, is clearly "not acceptable," why isn't this "same logic about unacceptability" not applied to Iraq, and funding shut off?

    * * *

    The RNC chorus makes a distinction between the "right to choose" [whether to go to war] and the "prudence of a choice" [in taking action, or appointing someone].

    With Iraq, the RNC wants to defer the decision to the President to "do the right thing," but with Miers they no longer defer to the President.

    Why is the decision to go to war, with arguably more tangible financial costs, given blind deference and cursory review; while the similar Congressional oversight role of a Supreme Court justice is given deference on another decision?

    One would think that if the RNC were consistent, it would review the war in Iraq with the same scrutiny it is giving to Miers:

  • What criteria are we using;

  • How was the decision justified;

  • What are the alternatives; and

  • Is the President making or breaking promises?

    * * *

    What's curious when contrasting the Miers and Iraq decisions is that the criteria for war are clear, while the criteria for choosing a Justice are vague.

    The clear criteria for war is: The law states that the Congress shall declare war. That criteria was at best ignored; at worst manipulated unlawfully.

    When the criteria is clear, the RNC chose to go along with what was unlawful.

    The vague criteria for appointments is: Up to the Committee.

    When the criteria is vague, the RNC suddenly chooses to speak out.

    * * *

    Why does the RNC feel it is the "prudent thing" to speak out when the criteria are constitutionally vague?

    Why does the RNC "go along" with "imprudent decisions" when the criteria are specific?

    It's up to the RNC to be able to explain not only to their own party, but to the nation and international body: Why the inconsistency in speaking out about decision criteria.

    * * *

    The "right to choose" is different than "a prudent choice."

    prudence is a function of debate, discussion, free exchange of ideas, and comparing evidence.

    With Iraq, all that went out the window. The debate was based on the banging of drums, not evidence.

    * * *

    When we lack oversight, the RNC defers to man not prudence.

    When there is clear oversight, the RNC wants to be prudent.

    The RNC shows that prudence is the fruit of oversight and the free exchange of ideas, not blind obedience to a tyrant.

    * * *

    There's also another way to contrast the Miers and Iraq situation. "We trust the President's judgment" worked with Iraq in 2002-3; in 2005, this deference is neither as persuasive, nor is it given as much weight.

    But, curiously, despite the legacy of Katrina and Iraq, people still defer t the President's judgment.

    It is curious what the catalyst has been to no longer blindly defer to the President over issues which the President alone can make.

    By way of contrast: The president, theoretically under the US Constitution, does not have the discretion to launch wars on his own. Congress must be involved.

    However, with an appointment, he cannot exercise discretion.

    With time, the nation will come to understand what has been the catalyst to understand why the RNC no longer blindly defers to the President on issues of appointments; but it did, at one time, blindly defer to the President on issues of waging war, manipulating Congress.

    In both cases, Congress had a role. What's changed is the RNC is no longer willing to defer to the Presidents judgment.

    With time, we'll also understand why, despite the changes and legacy of Iraq and Katrina, the RNC hasn't woken up in a chorus and said, "We can no longer defer to the President's judgment." Rather, at this point, there are those who still defer to his judgment despite his legacy of imprudence before both Iraq and Katrina.

    Indeed, the President's legacy in the wake of Iraq and Katrina appears to be affecting the RNC willingness to go along with is Miers decision. Despite the Miers decision, we still have the same core issues in both Iraq and Miers:

  • Criteria used

  • Trust

  • Deference

  • Level of evidence

  • Timing of the decision

  • Perceived Congressional role

  • Ability to affect key information used by decisionmakers

  • Whether unlawful acts can be couched as options, then exercised

  • Illusions of going through the lawful channels

    Whether this is conscious, or merely a false-causation remains something warranting further study.

    What we do not see, as we did with Iraq, are the bargains: "If you vote yes, we promise . . . "

    Although this may be going on with Miers, the Senate knows that the real performance on that promise is outside the President's control: He has no way of knowing which cases will appear before the court; nor how Miers or the other 8 justice may vote.

    * * *

    One issue to explore will be:
    Have the [a] "results in Iraq which have proven to be at odds with the President's promises" [no nation building, control spending] directly contributed to [b] the RNC raising questions about the "need to defer to the President" in re Miers?

    * * *

    With Miers we're hearing more of the "it will work out."

    However, unlike the Iraq-debate, this argument doesn't appear to calm the RNC.

    "Trust me" worked in Iraq; what's changed with the RNC in re Miers?

    * * *

    It's interesting to see what gets shifted an put aside.

    With Miers, the RNC pattern has been to deal with "incorrect questions" and "unpleasant issues" by saying, "Oh we don't have to deal with that."

    The RNC never had the courtesy to offer this type of Response. With Iraq, the easy argument was to accuse anyone raising questions as, "Unpatriotic." Never mind the Cheney threats over WMD.

    * * *

    One curious issue being raised that highlights how things have changed since 2002 is the issue of religion. Today with Miers we hear the issue of theology: should America be a theocracy or a democracy?"

    Some in the RNC believe Miers isn't being clear. This is curious in that the reason for going into Iraq, was to supposedly advance the cause of freedom.

    Today in 2005, it is curious the US President would fight and commit more troops to advance the cause of freedom and democracy in Iraq [whether he's actually doing that is a separate issue]; all the while his own RNC fears Miers could impose a theocracy in the US.

    Perhaps the free Iraqis might, if the weather cooperates, remind America about the benefits of living in a democracy, free of religious intrusions.

    Somehow, I believe the RNC isn't going to like a lecture form the Iraqis on "how to run a government." Then again, some in the RNC appear to be willing to listen, so long as they aren't carted off to jail by the JTTF, empowered under the Patriot Act.

    * * *

    The RNC is reluctant to accept there is a contrast between how they treat Iraq and Miers.

    In both Iraq and Miers, the President has overstated his case without regard to consequences. Miers has been characterized as having a "lifetime of achievement; having dealt with constitutional issues."

    However, Miers way of "dealing" with Constitutional issues is to give a green light to war crimes. If Miers truly put the Constitution first, then she has to explain why she did not resign when faced with the unlawful action in Iraq.

    White House counsel's lawful loyalty is to the Constitution and people. When the President's records are subpoenaed, there is no executive privilege with White House counsel documents.

    The only privilege comes with personal attorneys.

    Miers isn't a personal attorney; she's the people's attorney.

    The RNC appears to have clouded the issue over whether Miers is accountable to the Constitution or to the man.

    * * *

    The RNC may be swayed with more sweeping themes of 'we can all agree on'. Let's hope the RNC dissidents awaken from the post 9-11 reign of terror and agree to put the Constitution first.

    Then we can think about applying the lessons learned from Miers onto the Downing Street Memo and the decision to invade Iraq.

    Blind deference to a President, however manipulated, should come under Congressional scrutiny.

    It's time to ensure the "big sea change" that's occurring within the RNC over Miers is available when we are asked to go to war. Something broke and the RNC is in the way of ensuring the solution is implemented.

    The RNC needs to explain to its own membership, the nation, and the world why the way it approaches the Miers issue was not used with decisions related to war. The same system remains in place, but the entire world has been given two different approaches.

    This is the RNC's burden of proof and legitimacy problem. The RNC members appear to have changed their approach, but the RNC leadership still doesn't understand.