In The Times, Again

Two really good columns in the NY Times today.

Nicholas Kristof – not exactly at the front lines of the ‘Democracy in Iraq’ movement – speaks out with honest ambiguity about what the invasion has brought. With a photo that isn’t for the squeamish, he confronts his own opposition to the war.

Since I’ve been accusing the Bush administration of cooking the intelligence on Iraq, I should confess my intentions. Countless Iraqis warned me that they would turn to guerrilla warfare if U.S. troops overstay their welcome, so I thought I’d find an Iraqi who had had his tongue or ear amputated by Saddam’s thugs and still raged about the U.S. That would powerfully convey what a snake pit we’re in.

So I began asking for people with missing tongues or ears. I got a tip about a man in Basra who had had his tongue amputated for criticizing Saddam. He had moved away, but I found a friend of his, Abdel Karim Hassan.

“A thousand thanks to Bush!” he told me. “A thousand thanks to Bush’s mother for giving birth to him!”

Hmmm. I hadn’t expected a tribute to the Mother of all Bushes.

Then I heard about Mathem Abid Ali and tracked him down in the southern city of Nasiriya. I’ve posted a photo of him on nytimes.com.kristofresponds (parental guidance is suggested). Mr. Abid Ali deserted the Iraqi Army, was caught, taken to a hospital and given general anesthesia … and woke up with no right ear.

“Children looked at me, and turned away in horror,” Mr. Abid Ali said bitterly.

So I asked Mr. Abid Ali what he thought of the Americans.

He thought for a moment and said: “I’d like to make a statue in gold of President Bush.”

So, facts got in the way of my plans for this column. But sometimes that’s a good thing. I do think it’s important for doves like myself to encounter Saddam’s victims like Mr. Abid Ali and their joy at being freed. Iraq today is a mess, but it’s a complex, deeply nuanced mess, etched in shades of gray.

No matter what side you are on, you have to confront the complexity of this situation and be willing to look at the facts. That’s not an excuse for passivity, though…

Krugman has a slightly hysterical column about the plumbing behind modern party politics, and the unassailable fact that one side seems to have more experience with plumbers than the other.

…describing the weekly meetings in which Senator Rick Santorum vets the hiring decisions of major lobbyists. These meetings are the culmination of Grover Norquist’s “K Street Project,” which places Republican activists in high-level corporate and industry lobbyist jobs … and excludes Democrats. According to yesterday’s Washington Post, a Republican National Committee official recently boasted that “33 of 36 top-level Washington positions he is monitoring went to Republicans.”

Of course, interest groups want to curry favor with the party that controls Congress and the White House; but as The Washington Post explains, Mr. Santorum’s colleagues have also used “intimidation and private threats” to bully lobbyists who try to maintain good relations with both parties. “If you want to play in our revolution,” Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, once declared, “you have to live by our rules.”

Lobbying jobs are a major source of patronage … a reward for the loyal. More important, however, many lobbyists now owe their primary loyalty to the party, rather than to the industries they represent. So corporate cash, once split more or less evenly between the parties, increasingly flows in only one direction.

And corporations themselves are also increasingly part of the party machine. They are rewarded with policies that increase their profits: deregulation, privatization of government services, elimination of environmental rules. In return, like G.M. and Verizon, they use their influence to support the ruling party’s agenda.

Now I tend to think it’s a little more complex and deeply nuanced than that – I think the democrats can’t use this issue as effectively as they should because they have their pants just as far down around their ankles as the GOP does.

But if you want to know how we’re governed – and why government increasingly lurches from crisis to crisis, read this column and the LA Times’ great twopart series on the amazing correlation between lobbying success and hiring the children and wives of powerful legislators.

8 thoughts on “In The Times, Again”

  1. The rich and well connected have always controlled government. To think it could be otherwise is an illusion.

    What this great republic gives us is the chance of ordinary citizen input on issues the citizens can mobilize on.

    Democracy is a safety valve; it is not the engine.

  2. To his credit, Christophe shows a capacity for self-reflection and openmindedness that I frankly didn’t think he was capable of. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend…

  3. As for Krugman, as long as he stays on pace, we’re likely to have one-party rule quicker than he thinks.

  4. I believe it was Andrew Jackson (D-TN) who made a Democratic Party slogan out of “To the victors go the spoils”. Krugman’s schock at Republican hard ball is simply disingenuous.

  5. “So, facts got in the way of my plans for this column. But sometimes that’s a good thing.”

    Did he really expect to find a different answer?
    Didn’t he ever hear the saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”?

  6. Krisof’s been there. And, like Thomas Friedman, he notes that piss poor planning has led us to the edge of disaster in Iraq.

    We can’t even get the U.S. message out, weren’t even doing TV broadcasting until a week or so ago, and even now only a few hours per day of rehashed entertainment programming.

    I assumed that we would have a public information and broadcasting apparatus that would follow the troops up to Baghdad, broadcasting on all channels. Instead, flailing f-ups and delays in this and almost every sector of nation-building.

    As others have pointed out, however, this crowd running the USA now is hostile to the idea of government. They are not the New Dealers who stepped into rebuilding Germany and Japan in 1945. Their solution to every problem is cutting capital gains and inheritance taxes.

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