Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Reagan's Ghost

Sarah Palin should have paid more attention to her Bible studies. I am thinking about the part where the Israelites had the chutzpah to carry the Ark of the Covenant into battle. God punished them for trying to invoke the vessel of his sacred text as if it were some kind of "weapon of mass destruction" by subjecting them to a punishing defeat in which the Ark itself was lost (at least until Indiana Jones came along). While the analogy is not a very strict one, I pointed out in my analysis of Palin's Convention speech that she tried to present herself as the "vessel" of a sacred text of Ronald Reagan: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" As I wrote, this was just not the time for the Republicans to invite anyone to look back on the last eight years of Presidential Administration:

Would any Republican run seriously today on the proposition that things are better now than they were in November of 2000? How would those who are still victims of 9/11 answer? What about those who suffered consequences of the more inept decisions arising from our adventurism in the name of the Global War on Terror? What about those who will not even vote, those in countries on every continent who used to view the United States as a governmental model?

According to Associated Press Writers Brett J. Blackledge and Eileen Sullivan, there are now two reports that are trying to confront at least some of these issues, one from the bipartisan Partnership for a Secure America and the other by the staffs of Democrats on the House Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs committees. Here is their summary of the bipartisan report:

The independent report focuses narrowly on weapons of mass destruction.

The report and supporting studies describe the failure of international cooperation to prevent terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, which they call a major problem. Many countries continue to ignore a United Nations mandate to prevent the spread of weapons; the ability of many countries to monitor potential bioterrorism is "essentially nonexistent," and dangerous chemical weapons stockpiles remain in some countries, including Russia and Libya, the report said.

Russia has been a significant player in U.S. efforts to secure nuclear weapons and to eliminate inventories of chemical weapons in the former Soviet region. That cooperation could be jeopardized as the two countries face off over the Russian invasion of Georgia and concerns about a U.S. missile defense base in Poland, [9/11 Commission leader Lee] Hamilton said.

Bush on Monday Bush on [sic] canceled a civilian nuclear cooperation deal with Russia.

"The things we do to penalize Russia will make it more difficult for us to deal with Russia on other matters," Hamilton said.

The Democrats' report covers more ground but also deals with specifics:

Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, had harsher criticism of the Bush administration's efforts. Their report, written by the staffs of the House Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs committees, found little or no progress across the board on national security initiatives.

"The Bush administration has not delivered on a myriad of critical homeland and national security mandates," the Democrats' report states. That report was being released Tuesday.

"The administration has just failed to act in so many ways," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. "Let's say that we've been fortunate that we have not been attacked" since 2001, said Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee.

House Democrats also blasted Bush policy in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia as damaging to national security. U.S. efforts to combat terrorists in Pakistan have suffered because of "unyielding support for a military dictator"; Iraq has drained resources from the fight in Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia continues to serve "as a major source of terrorist activity," the Democrats' report states.

Blackledge and Sullivan also covered the White House reaction to this material. If their coverage is representative, then the language of that reaction is depressingly vague, almost as if we are still living in that world of faith-based reasoning that stakes everything on the confrontation of evil by good. While the Bible may tell our would-be leaders all they need to know about how to prevail in such a confrontation, a more dispassionate sense of reality requires a less simplistic view of the world, which, as I suggested yesterday, would be better informed by the proper study of history than by the invocation of sacred texts!

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