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The Reporters: US mid-terms

Justin Webb

Bush: No room to hide


Only last week, Vice-President Dick Cheney said he and Mr Bush were not up for election - it would be full speed ahead in Iraq, irrespective of the result of the mid-term polls.

That full-speed-ahead policy has hit a wall.

bush203bafp.jpgPresident Bush, faced with the prospect of a bitter fight with the newly powerful Democrats - a fight he would probably lose - has opted for appeasement. He has thrown raw meat to the Democrats, in the shape of his defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

He was asked whether this amounted to a new direction. He couldn't quite bring himself to say yes, but he did say that the man he had asked to replace Mr Rumsfeld, former CIA director Robert Gates, would provide new leadership and a fresh perspective.

Mr Bush knows and has accepted that his Iraq policy has been repudiated. There is no room for pretence and no room to hide.

If the Democrats can come up with a better plan, he is ready - desperate even - to hear about it.

Justin Webb is the BBC's chief North America radio correspondent.

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  • 1.
  • At 08:14 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • Craig wrote:

What a superb summary.

And what a pity the stain on our history will remain.

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  • 2.
  • At 08:46 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • matt wrote:

President Bush has survived on a slim majority his entire political reign. In both elections which he won, it was his majority by only 3-5%. That 3-5% have been the swing vote; those are Americans who now believe they were duped by propoganda and mis-information. Even when the 9/11 attacks brought patriotism to a fever pitch, a massive percentage of citizens distrusted and outright protested the decisions of the Bush administration. Now that the truth of his administration's ineptitude cannot be hidden underneath the cloak of 9/11 driven anger, the American people have spoken. It is regretful that such a group of people were able to mislead just enough voters to gain power. Let our experience not give other countries cause for smug superiority, but rather a lesson on how vital it is to not let media control voter perception!

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Very neat summary of Bush's position. I am reminded of a similar time when Clinton was faced with a Republican legislature. Hopes on the right were very high but ultimately unfulfilled.

Will the Democrats be able to press their advantage? If they can, Hilary C may well be the next President of the US.

Also, I wonder what Mr Blair will make of this? What's the message about how voters see the Iraq fiasco?

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  • 4.
  • At 09:04 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • Reeve Limosol wrote:

Yes, Bush has changed direction.

Only last week he said loudly publicly that Rumsfeld would stay until the end of the Bush admin.

I know a week in politics is a long time, but...

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  • 5.
  • At 09:05 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • James wrote:

Justin,
You've really hit the nail on the head with this one. Perfect. I wonder if anyone even predicted his departure would be soon?

I think after the way the Military newspapers laid into Rumsfeld earlier in the week, any remaining credibility that he might have had seemed to get washed away.

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  • 6.
  • At 09:09 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • greg wrote:

Bush takes cue from Schwarzenegger history. Pres Bush offers up his recognition that he was wrong... says he will work together with the new senate and house and he looks forward to speaking with new speaker Pelosi. Change is on the horizon!... Well...From Gov Schwarzenegger in 2005 it was believable. From Pres Bush... well... He's no Arnold Schwarzenegger... don't hold your breath for change from the Bush desk.

Though... fortunately, house and senate republicans can help mould the new face of America's gov't in the now democrat led arenas even in spite of the Pres.

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My nasty feeling is that the Dems, who are stuck with a classic Scylla-Charybdis style choice, will be damned no matter which way they break.

A total withdrawal is infeasible. Iraq will simply collapse into chaos.

That leaves us with complete commitment as an occupying force — which will require a lot more troops than we've currently got deployed. It might require more than we even have.

This means we're stuck with either a draft … or going to the UN and begging for some relief from nations we were once pleased to spurn.

Neither option is going to go over well with many Americans, but I suspect it's the latter that will be tried first.

The other nasty thing the Dems will have to do … is raise taxes. A lot. In order to pay for George's war.

The fun thing they get to do? Impeachment, of course.

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  • 8.
  • At 09:19 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • Anonymous wrote:

In the years to come, historians will turn to this first decade in the 21st century and the events will stand testimony to the reason why the people of the world were polarised and what led to the downfall of the great hegemon - the US. I can bet that history will contain many references to Bush and many will find him to be guilty. Time will tell. The results of the elections is the first symbollic evidence that the people of that great nation may not be collectively held responsible.

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  • 9.
  • At 09:33 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • Nicole wrote:

I am one happy American today and when the Dems take the majority in the Senate I will be even happier. This president has been an embarrassment! He has served for 6 years with no regard for the people he is supposed to represent. It is disgusting! Besides W, the other thing that makes me crazy are American's that vote for the "R" or the "D" beside a candidates name without finding out what they stand for. One woman, from one of the southern states, stated that she does not agree with the president policies on Iraq, Home Land Security or Social Security but he is a good Christian and a moral man so he is a good president. Good Christian? Moral man? Hello, he is a war monger what part of that is moral or Christian?
I will be honest that I don't expect the Democrats to be able to make world altering differences in the next two years but at least the president does not have carte blanche to do whatever he sees fit.

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  • 10.
  • At 09:35 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • robert wrote:

Bush's wisecrack in his press conference about Nancy Pelosi having some help available from Bush if she wants to redecorate her office was very inept - in truth exceptionally dim - because it was sexist, rude and, in the circumstances, truly ungentlemanly.

The man's going to have a pretty rough ride - one that Tony Blair breezes his way through week on week.

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  • 11.
  • At 09:40 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • Parminder wrote:

When history of the 21st cetury world will be written, the events of the past few years will stand testimony to the polarised and devided world and perhaps the downfall of a great hegemon. In that context, I can bet there will be many references to Rumsfeld and Bush ( and Cheney). And perhaps there will be conciliation that atleast the 2006 US Congress election results showed that the American people were not guilty. Well done Americans!! Nicely timed (should have been done in 2004 Presidential elections.)

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  • 12.
  • At 09:52 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • Ian Kavanagh wrote:

It's doubtful whether this election will do anything but to create a powerless government. The word compromise has not been heard in Washington for a while, and it seems after this election and all the events, we might be seeing a crack in Bush's deathlock. I wouldn't count on him making many more cessestions if he doesn't have to.

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An extraordinary day where the architect of America's dismal military adventure in Iraq, the Secretary of Defence, has finally had to bow out of office. Rumsfeld's departure will most certainly usher in a more cautious and deliberate policy on Iraq with generals and top army commanders being consulted and not side-lined giving their full input. Rumsfeld often ran rough shod over the military chiefs and there was growing resentment at his uncompromising leadership style. There is absolutely no love for Donald Rumsfeld especially when one thinks of Iraq, Guantanamo and other war theatres where America has been active.The dismal mid-term election results for the Republicans was the final nail in the coffin for Donald Rumsfeld

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  • 14.
  • At 10:24 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • Ann R. wrote:

The current administration has employed one surreptitious illegal and unconstitutional tactic after another. Any move they make is just an attempt to sweep something else under the rug or twist debate to their own benefit. So now Rummy and W are no longer sleeping cheek to cheek? Right. And in Iraq they're throwing flowers, not bombs at the boys. Snake oil salesmen par excellence.

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  • 15.
  • At 10:27 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • David Farb wrote:

So what is the Democrat's plan for Iraq? Other than run away.

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Regardless, the results should mean that the era of Right/Left is coming to an end. I hope that it will eventually lead to the implosion of the Republicans/Democrats.

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  • 17.
  • At 12:31 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • AJ wrote:

The plan for Iraq may apper to be run away... The more detailed plan is to run away as quickly and as quietly as is possible.

This may not appear much of a plan, but lets face it, it's more of a plan than we have had so far.

Unfortunately, there is no international etiquet for pulling out of a country that you have invaded and made a complete hash of. It's not like leaving a dinner party after throwing up over the hosts' dog. Sending apologies and flowers the following day just does not cut it on the global stage.

Pulling out of Iraq will leave a vacuum to be filled by the insurgants and so the country will become the terrorist hot-spot that it had never been before.

Luckily for the UK the US and Iraq, the oil may just prove to be the answer. In the next ten to twenty years oil will be at a premium and China will be very happy to provide workers, expertise and a market. This alone may act to stabilise the region.

Ironically, the war will have provided the terrorists with; a base, the inspiration to fight and also the money: sort of a Bin Ladin incubator state.

It has always been said that the Americans don't understand irony: this has been a hard way to learn.

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With respect to Justin Webb, his vision of President Bush is thorugh rose colored glasses. I wonder where Mr. Webb has been spending his time? Certainly not observing our president. Bush's press conference was anything but acceptance of repudiation. Bush continued to state that the USA troops are going to remain in Iraq until they achieve "victory." This is the same message he has given since day one. Bush joked about getting a "thumping" but was entirely unrepentent about Iraq, denied that the American people want to bring the troops home regardless of so-called "victory," and said fresh eyes would be brought in but no new goals were to be set other than victory.

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  • 19.
  • At 02:10 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • George wrote:

Rumsfeld, to use a sports metaphor, took one for the team. He should have been gone years ago, but to George Bush, loyalty is everything. And Rumsfeld was loyal to a fault. His arrogance was merely a reflection of Bush's arrogance. Bush is still in denial about Iraq.

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  • 20.
  • At 02:46 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Charles Davey wrote:

Does Bush think his sacrifice of Rumsfeld will protect him from impeachment?
- His bully boys operate in hidden prisons or eavesdrop on the people of America. If he condemns Saddam Hussein what about his own torturers? Kidnappings? Illegal flights? Guantanamo?
- His pork barrel politics, frenzy-feeding of the rich? Billions that were taken from the public purse at his request and were stolen or wasted - And Skilling was an honorable man.
- The victims of Katrina that he looked down on from his flyover and watched suffer - and quite possibly die. His attempt at absolutism and his arrogation of power?

The terrible legacy of Bush's reign is his destruction of values while pretending to embrace them. embracing the UN whil loosing his pit bull dog John to worry the institution to death.

For any of these crimes against humanity, he deserves to be brought to justice.

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  • 21.
  • At 07:02 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Joseph Nyirenda wrote:

The summary is on bull! But could someone please interview Rummy. I am sure the man has a few words for the people of Iraq....Now I agree with what my history teacher said about democracy: the right of many people to elect one chap who they can blame when things go wrong!

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  • 22.
  • At 07:09 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • GUY FOX wrote:

BUSH WILL CHANGE DIRECTIONS IN IRAQ-NAM? SOUNDS A LITTLE LIKE THE SPECIOUS CHARGE THEY USED AGAINST JOHN KERRY IN 2004. "HE'S FLIP FLOPPING!"

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  • 23.
  • At 01:16 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Derek wrote:

"So what is the Democrat's plan for Iraq? Other than run away."

As opposed to what other plan? There will never be victory in Iraq. Anyone with half a brain cell knows that now, and knew it back in early 2003.

The trouble is, the dems will not run away because if they do, they will be seen as weak.. and if there is another terrorist attack between their change of direction and November 2008, then they can kiss goodbye to any hopes of staying in power.

The Dems are in a no win situation. Damned if they stay, damned if they pull out.


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  • 24.
  • At 02:16 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • John wrote:

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
. . . Hermann Göring founder of the Nazi Gestapo

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  • 25.
  • At 05:31 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Robert wrote:

And to follow up on the excellent quote of Göring by John:

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

---Theodore Roosevelt

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  • 26.
  • At 06:06 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Derek wrote:

John, I have been quoting that piece for 3 years.. everytime I hear the administrations new method or speech on how scared we should all be.. and of course the famous 'Your either with us or against us' comment.

All we get from the white house is fear.. be afriad.. very afriad.

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  • 27.
  • At 06:29 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Parminder wrote:

My response #23 is that the next two years are crucial for the Dems. during this time they have to ensure that Bush and his administration puts a plan in place to pull out. Because, as you rightly say, it will be a political suicide for a Democrat Prez to inherit the Iraq issue. He will then be damned either way.

You wait and watch. Prez Bush will do/ will be made to do a 'flip'. That will have to be the only other alternate. Pull out!!

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  • 28.
  • At 07:33 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Joanna wrote:

Actually, knowing Bush's methods in the past, isn't it more likely that this is a challenge? The Democrats haven't demonstrated any better ideas; now Bush says, OK, I'm giving you what you wanted--do you have any new direction to give? Bush has always had a liking for risks.

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  • 29.
  • At 08:27 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Parminder wrote:

I dont think that the present US Prez has a gracious bone in him. If he does, then it will bode well for the whole world since then people will move ahead and be able to devote more time and channelise energies to alleviating some other pressing issues of the 21st century in a more collaborative way.

At present, the future looks bleak with the world polarised between the 'East and the West', 'haves and have nots', 'them and us', 'muslims and non-muslims'... the list goes on. Without a meaningful dialogue amongst the intellects as to how to deal with real issues facing mankind such as disease, hunger, poverty, illetracy etc. - real issues which 'terrorises' many humans, hopes on improving our human stock (inclusively and not exclusively) in the 21st century, is Utopian.

So, lets focus on dealing with these rather than 'war on terror' - which is fast becoming a 'war on faith'. And, this cannot be done unless the US regime changes 'course' and adopts a more inclusive attitude to the people of the world. I hope better sense prevails and the American people can get way from the notion that evil forces lurk in the Middle East and their purpose is to harm American existence - politically, socially or economically. Grow up guys!! Pursuade your leaders to take a more pragmatic view.

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  • 30.
  • At 08:42 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Parminder wrote:

Joanne, Dems have to give Bush the bait to pull out. After all this is the most sensible thing to do albeit with some body blows to the American 'pride and ego'. The only possibility of that not happening is that Bush and his lie telling machinery drum up some false pretext which could prevent Dems giving him no other alternate. My view is that the Dems dare not go to 2008 Presidential elections with Iraq still unresolved.

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  • 31.
  • At 09:40 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • David Farb wrote:

If we pull out now, we condemn the Iraqi people to years of civil war. Possibly spilling over into Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran and further. The problem with wars is they have completely unpredictable consequences. There are no rules. Thousands, maybe millions die, and for what?

The end if we left is not predictable, except that many more people will die than if we stay.

No, as much as I dislike it, the only course open to us (the US) is to stay until we have a stable, democratic Iraq. It will cost fewer lives to stay than to leave.

And every life counts, whether it is the life of a US soldier or an Iraqi child, they all count, and they all count the same.

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  • 32.
  • At 01:26 AM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Bill Roman wrote:

My question is why did it take so long? Two years ago we had a chance to get rid of the Bush administration. I was really shocked that he won a second term. I was beginning to think the elections were rigged. Now I am jumping for joy. No longer ashamed to be an American.

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  • 33.
  • At 12:53 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Edward wrote:

Here is what will happen.. the Bush Admin knows they are screwed in Iraq. So they will 'let' the Dems put a plan forward and run with it. In 2008, a terrorist plan will be discovered and either allowed to happen, or will be stopped in the nick of time. The Republicans will then say 'look what happens when you turn power over to the Democrats'!

Far fetched? One only have to research the tactics of the Republican party and Karl Rowe to know that it is possible.

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  • 34.
  • At 01:32 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Henry Edward Hardy wrote:

"I predict that the Democrats will get the blame for this [Foley scandal] in the end and not quite know how to avoid it." --Justin Webb, Oct. 6, 2006

Mr. Webb, please have the courtesy and intellectual honesty to admit how wrong you were in writing those words and how utterly foolish, partisan and ill-informed they look in the aftermath of the Democratic landslide.

HENRY EDWARD HARDY
Ann Arbor, MI

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  • 35.
  • At 10:09 AM on 13 Nov 2006,
  • T.Ghosh wrote:

"'To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.'

---Theodore Roosevelt"

If I remember correctly, isn't that precisely what the great and the good Dan Rather did in his valedictory interview?

Cave(tame media) canem!

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wow! Bush really got it this time. He should have removed donald duck rumsfield previously if he werre to avoid the situation where he finds himself today. See what CIA found out on OSama and a prominent seantor at
www.prayukth.co.nr

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