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I remember watching Jimmy Carter make a speech on TV back in early 1980, when he was trying to deal with a wrecked economy, a national "malaise" that was only partially a figment of his imagination, and the Iran hostage crisis, and all I remember telling my college roommates was this:
The guy looks like a goddamn ghost.
Carter had aged at least 20 years since his upbeat 1977 inauguration. His face was creased and haggard. His eyes were empty hollows. He appeared to be having trouble focusing on what he was saying. It was pretty clear that Carter was burned toast.
I never got that feeling about Bill Clinton. Through the health care mess, the Newt Gingrich era, Monica Lewinsky, and impeachment, he always seemed to have a grip.
But like Jimmy Carter 27 years ago, George W. Bush is falling apart.
W. was never terribly bright to begin with, but he always had that confident swagger, that tone in his voice that suggested he believed in what he was saying. On the night of Jan. 10 it was all gone.
Even on TV, with all the makeup and careful background and lighting, the president was a wreck. He looked like hell. If the guy weren't a sober, reformed alcoholic, I'd have sworn he'd been shit-faced for the past three days. He's just falling apart. If he weren't such an evil prick, I'd actually feel sorry for him.
The military escalation in Iraq is such a brainless notion that I can't figure out how Karl Rove and co. ever let it get out of the Oval Office. This is a no-win deal: even the mainstream news media, including the papers and commentators who supported the invasion and stuck with the war for years, are now pointing out that Iraq has no functioning government, that the place is run by sectarian militias and is in a state of civil war. Twenty thousand new American soldiers won't help a bit they'll just be another group of targets for extremists and opportunists. Too many of them will soon be filling body bags, and too many more will be in military hospitals trying to rebuild their lives with missing limbs, near-fatal injuries, and the kind of scarred psyches that can only come from realizing you might very well be John Kerry's famous last man to die for a mistake.
As we note in an editorial, this is probably the greatest political gift an incumbent Republican president has given the Democratic Party since Richard Nixon had his pals engage in a third-rate burglary in the Watergate office complex. The worst president in modern history is finally on the defensive, way on the defensive, and unless Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid truly bungle things, there's no way he's going to recover.
I'm still for impeachment (and the case looks better every day). But right now what I'm for the most is some congressional pluck. The Constitution is pretty clear on the fact that the legislative branch handles the purse strings and has the right to declare war. There's an easy way to get the troops out of Iraq: stop writing the checks.
The war isn't even in the Bush budget. He keeps coming back and asking for more off-line money for it. Pelosi can simply say no not another damn dime. I wish I thought she had the courage and principles to do it. *