Today's Blogs

The Escalator

Bloggers respond to Bush’s “surge” speech and take a deep breath after Nancy Pelosi’s smoking ban.

The Escalator: In a televised address Wednesday night, President Bush announced that he was committing 21,500 additional troops to Iraq. “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me,” he said. Democrats, meanwhile, said they would oppose Bush’s escalation with a nonbinding resolution in the Senate and by attaching numerous conditions to funds in the House. Bloggers split mostly along partisan lines.

Daily Kos’ liberal Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, who calls the address “the most important speech Bush has made in years,” rails against the new plan’s every aspect: “It’s military insanity, foisted upon a reluctant Joint Chiefs of Staff and military brass. It’s political insanity, as we’ll see soon enough from those endangered Republican incumbents. And it’s moral insanity, as yet more of our men and women in uniform sent to that hell in the desert in order to attempt to salvage George Bush’s pride and bolster John McCain’s primary chances.”

Live-blogging what he calls the “train wreck” of a speech at AMERICAblog, liberal John Aravosis in D.C. criticizes it for being “too micro-managed”: “We need a clear message, a clear strategy, clear evidence that this time will be the last time Bush comes and tells us his latest greatest idea for winning the war.” Conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters, who live-blogged as well, doesn’t think much will change. But at the very least, “[h]is assumption of responsibility for the failure to quell the violence in Baghdad is the one element that had been missing until now, and it may help take the edge off of some of the criticism.” Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal finds “nothing even remotely new here at all. Almost to the letter, it’s the same stuff we’ve been trying for the past three years, except with about 10% more troops than before.”

Conservative Andrew Sullivan, who is often critical of the Bush administration, argues that the entire premise of the speech—that there is a “national democratic government in Baghdad, defending itself against Jihadist attacks”—is dubious: “The government of which Bush speaks, to put it bluntly, does not exist. The reality … is that the Maliki government is a front for Shiite factions and dependent for its future on Shiite death squads. U.S. support for the government is not, therefore, a defense of democracy in a unified country, whatever our intentions. It is putting the lives of American soldiers in defense of the Shiite side in an increasingly brutal civil war.”

Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice predicts Americans may come down with a case of “Bush fatigue”: “Look for Bush to be under fire from right and left in the days to come. From the left (and center) for ignoring the vast array of institutional and public opinion forces opposed to his course. From the right: from those who feel the surge is really not enough to make a difference—because the kind of HUGE surge that could make a difference would be impossible politically.”

After Bush’s speech, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., delivered the Democratic response, saying, “The escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election.” According to “immoderate moderate” M. Takhallus of Sideways Mencken, Durbin “sounded much more convincing than the president. The Democrats now have their clear contrast with the president and I’d be willing to bet 70% of those watching will prefer Durbin’s message which, boiled down is, ‘Hey, we’ve done enough for those people, they’re on their own.’ ”

Lapham’s Quarterly and the Institute for the Future of the Book have posted an annotated version of the speech, including commentary by, among others, Howard Zinn: “The only thing I could think of as Bush spoke was the Vietnam era song by Pete Seeger referring to Johnson’s insistence on escalating the war: ‘We’re waist deep in the big muddy, and the big fool says to keep on.’ “

Read more about Bush’s “surge” speech.

Butt out: House SpeakerNancy Pelosi declared a smoking ban in the Speaker’s Lobby, a room outside the House floor traditionally reserved for politicians, reporters, and staffers jonesing for nicotine. Congress members can still smoke in their offices.

Bethany Sanders at health blog That’s Fit raises an enthusiastic “Amen”: “I guess since smoking is already banned in many federal buildings, and in all public areas in the District of Columbia, smoking in the Capitol shouldn’t even be an issue.”

Conservative Robert VerBruggen at Robert’s Rationale accuses the “tobacco-, freedom- and tradition-hating Nancy Pelosi” of being dishonest about her motives. Plus, he adds, “secondhand smoke is primarily a danger to those who live or work around it constantly, not reporters who once in awhile might talk to lawmakers on cigarette breaks.” Liberal John at Gordon’s Notes agrees that “vengeance” is somehow involved: “Many Republicans smoke. Few Democrats smoke. Nancy Pelosi demonstrates both good governance and mastery of the twisted knife … ”

Read more about Pelosi’s smoking ban.