Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 8, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE LATEST TO GO....Why did SecDef Robert Gates decide not to nominate Gen. Peter Pace for a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs? It wasn't performance, Gates said:

Rather, Mr. Gates said, he had concluded after extensive discussion with key Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, that General Pace's renomination hearings "would have been on the past rather than the future."

In the last few months we've already seen the departure of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Hadley, Casey, Abizaid, and Zalmay Khalilzad either from the government or from positions responsible for Iraq, and Pace is now the latest to go. The message is pretty clear: the Bush administration can't withstand any scrutiny of any part of its handling of the war on either the military or civilian side. There's not a single person whose performance is considered defensible. Remarkable.

UPDATE: Cernig takes a look at the record of Pace's replacement, Adm. Mike Mullen, and offers some thoughts:

It seems plain to me that Mullen is being brought forward, in part, to clean house for Gates and consolidate his position at Defense by sweeping out all the old Rumsfeld hangovers....Does anyone else get the impression that the real feud in the Bush administration in coming days won't be the much publicized Cheney-Rice spat but instead a Cheney-Gates one?

Kevin Drum 2:17 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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Inkblot for Chairman!

Posted by: Glenn on June 8, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Is this a trend we could eventually see reaching the Oval Office?

Posted by: steve duncan on June 8, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Worse is the fact that his replacement is so insistant that this is a 'Generational War', it's a bit middle finger to anyone who thought there was any chance of drawing ourselves out of this impossible mess.

Posted by: Kryptik on June 8, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Considering how balled up Iraq is, I'm happy to see change in leadership. The old team didn't get the job done.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 8, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

I can't take Gates' comments at face value; they sound to me like another variation on "wants to spend more time with the family." Do they really care about a second-page Saturday morning headline on the result of Pace's reconfirmation hearing? Look how indifferent they are to the embarassment caused by Gonzo.

I think the problem instead is that Bush and the rest are so completely indifferent to policy. They compensate for this by having enormous faith in wonder-working leaders, savior figures. The turnover is simply the result of their thinking, 'well, this guy didn't have the Midas touch, maybe some other guy will'. Bush still does everything by 'looking into people's souls'. In short, he's a pious madman.

Posted by: lampwick on June 8, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

The old team didn't get the job done.

Now he tells us.

Posted by: gregor on June 8, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Not to mention that the War Czar has said things aren't getting any better under The Surge (tm) and that the Iraqis still are not "doing their part." Meanwhile, the soveriegn Iraq government is fixing to ask us to leave and please don't let the door hit us in the ass on the way out.

Posted by: Cal Gal on June 8, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Bush likes turnover because it gives him a reason to be optimistic. Petraeus is in charge, so now we'll start winning. Gates is in charge, so now we'll start winning. Lute is in charge, so now we'll start winning. Pace's replacement is in charge, so now we'll start winning. As The Who said: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Posted by: reino on June 8, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

No, gregor, the key point in "ex-liberal"'s comment is this: I'm happy to see change in leadership.

Now "ex-liberal" will probably argue that our occupation of Iraq needs to be extended past the September milestone, despite the fact that it's obviously hasn't succeeded, because the new JCoS chair needs more time.

"ex-liberal" is as predictable as he/she/it is dishonest.

Posted by: Gregory on June 8, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK
The old team didn't get the job done.ex-lax at 2:30 PM
The way you talk about Bush and Cheney. Tsk! For shame. Posted by: Mike on June 8, 2007 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Now that Pace is leaving the milary, he and Rumsfeld can consumate their love... (Not that there is anythign wrong with that)

Posted by: Robert on June 8, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

> Does anyone else get the impression that
> the real feud in the Bush administration in
> coming days won't be the much publicized
> Cheney-Rice spat but instead a Cheney-Gates one?

Or the Bush v. Cheney split. As dumb as he is, W has to be starting to see that his interests are diverging from Cheney's as the end of his term approaches.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 8, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

You really should see the Fox News "straight news" report of this. Simply hilarious. It was along the lines of "Gates really didn't want to do this, but those big meanies in Congress are just being so darn mean. Pace's confirmation would have been a big circus! They would have asked him question! Oh those Demmycrats are mean."

And etc.

And, yes, I know it's Fox.

Posted by: J on June 8, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Or the Bush v. Cheney split. As dumb as he is, W has to be starting to see that his interests are diverging from Cheney's as the end of his term approaches.

I've been wondering about that. When POTUS grants VPOTUS heretofore-unheard-of extraordinary extra-constitutional powers to set-up his own shop to work in parallel (not tandom, but parallel) with the WH, how exactly does POTUS reverse that without serious blowback?

Posted by: Disputo on June 8, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

> I've been wondering about that. When POTUS grants
> VPOTUS heretofore-unheard-of extraordinary
> extra-constitutional powers to set-up his own shop
> to work in parallel (not tandom, but parallel)
> with the WH, how exactly does POTUS reverse that
> without serious blowback?

Well, that's a problem. Of course W was never much known for foresighted planning...

However, I think Cheney is losing a lot of his acolytes at this point, and his absolute power may be waning. Maybe.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 8, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

What if Bush went to Cheney tomorrow and told him that he was removing the policy and executive powers that Bush granted him? Can anyone see Cheney saying anything but, "Go fuck yourself, George"? What can Bush do in response? He can't fire Cheney. He's certainly not going to go ask Congress to impeach Cheney. I suppose that Bush can order everyone in the Exec branch to ignore Cheney, but that isn't going to prevent Cheney from continuing to throw his weight around.

Bush has totally fucked himself.

Posted by: Disputo on June 8, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

I've been wondering about that. When POTUS grants
> VPOTUS heretofore-unheard-of extraordinary
> extra-constitutional powers to set-up his own shop
> to work in parallel (not tandom, but parallel)
> with the WH, how exactly does POTUS reverse that
> without serious blowback?

This really isn't that hard. Just say, "You're on PR duties", start assigning Cheney a stump shedule, take away all his office's portfolios, and tell him not to darken the door of the Oval Office unless invited. This is all in Bush's hands. He can't have unilaterally granted Cheney any more power than he can take away unilaterally.

As much as people hate Bush, he would win a PR battle against Cheney any day. He would survive Cheney going public with the spat.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on June 8, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

"have seen the departure of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Hadley, Casey, Abizaid, and Khalilzad"

Quite a list - Now, Kevin, perhaps you could print the far more important Three Thousand Five Hundred personnel, who have also suffered a "departure". And that is only on our side. Quite a printout of Iraqis and coalition personnel as well.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on June 8, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky Observer: "However, I think Cheney is losing a lot of his acolytes at this point, and his absolute power may be waning. Maybe."

His isolation at this point is downright Nixonian.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on June 8, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

As much as people hate Bush, he would win a PR battle against Cheney any day. He would survive Cheney going public with the spat.

I agree that Bush would win a PR battle against Cheney with the people who hate Bush. Bush's base, however, is another matter. What they dislike about Bush is ameliorated by the presence of Cheney.

In any case, even if Bush were to win such a PR battle against Cheney, it would be a pyhrric win -- a public battle between Bush and Cheney means approval in the single digits for Bush.

Posted by: Disputo on June 8, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

"sweeping out all of those Rumsfeld hangovers"

If only Shrub had not cut the budget at Walter Reed for B-12 shots.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on June 8, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

That's fair, but it might be the one asterix next to his presidency that makes him not "THE Worst" President ever, but only one of the 2 or 3 worst presidents ever.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on June 8, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Oh please let Cheney try to take on Gates. Please. Watching that battle would be the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on. I would pay with a precious coin to see Cheney strangled with his own entrails, and that is what would happen. I despise Bob Gates - but I respect the pure talent he possesses. These idiots underestimated him and it will be their undoing. Remember first and foremost, he is George H.W.'s man, not aWol's.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 8, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

The old team didn't get the job done.

We'll have to wait for Jan 09 to bring in the "A" team.

Posted by: ckelly on June 8, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

We'll have to wait for Jan 09 to bring in the "A" team.

At this point I'd settle for a "Z" team.

Posted by: Disputo on June 8, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK
This really isn't that hard. Just say, "You're on PR duties", start assigning Cheney a stump shedule, take away all his office's portfolios, and tell him not to darken the door of the Oval Office unless invited.

But, see, the President has no authority to assign the VP a stump schedule, and even if the VP goes along, the President has no power to keep the VP in line if he doesn't like the fact that he has been assigned PR duties and starts stumping for different policies than the President wants him to.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 8, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

So has the Sec. of Def. always nominated the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs? I found as clipping showing President Clinton nominating Shalikashvili.

Why didn't Bush make this announcement?

Posted by: DavidLA on June 8, 2007 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Why didn't Bush make this announcement?

Plausible deniability?

Posted by: Disputo on June 8, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

True enough cmdicely, but there's also nothing stopping Bush from publically rebuking the VP each and every time he runs off script, to the point of calling him a funny old man with good stories, but someone who has no value to contribute to the national discussion. In fact, he can even quietly offer up Cheney for impeachment to the Congress, once he starts getting called on the danger of having a VP at odds with POTUS. I'm sure there's enough evidence in the WH's files to convict on any number of charges.

IMHO, Cheney enjoys being able to make decisions too much to have a nuclear showdown with the WH over the VP's powers in this administration. I don't think Bush's fear of public opinion would keep him hostage to Cheney's demands, as Bush doesn't appear to get too concerned about public opinion at any time. The only thing he seems to worry about is Republican opinion, not public opinion. Now that, as Disputo points out, might be something that Bush would pause to consider, but "R" opinion wouldn't be an overly wise thing to give too much weight to, given that Republicans are now about 25% of the electorate.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on June 8, 2007 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

I should add that these are things that Bush could do, were he displeased with Cheney. In fact, I think he likes Cheney being the face of the adminstrations most unpopular decisions. Imagine how much heat would be on Bush if he was considered the sole perpetrator, and not having that anger channeled at another public figure as well.

I also feel that Bush is quite comfortable with what Cheney wants to do, and doesn't need his rubber arm twisted.

How many times on this blog have I heard that we can't impeach Bush because Cheney would become POTUS?

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on June 8, 2007 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK
True enough cmdicely, but there's also nothing stopping Bush from publically rebuking the VP each and every time he runs off script, to the point of calling him a funny old man with good stories, but someone who has no value to contribute to the national discussion.

Sure, no one is arguing that Bush lacks the capacity to publicly go to war with the VP. That would, however, fail the "without serious blowback" criterion.


In fact, he can even quietly offer up Cheney for impeachment to the Congress, once he starts getting called on the danger of having a VP at odds with POTUS. I'm sure there's enough evidence in the WH's files to convict on any number of charges.

I'm sure there is enough evidence in the VP's files to convict Bush on any number of charges, too—including most of the ones Bush might offer up Cheney on. Who do you think the Congressional majority would rather nail to the wall? And if those two start offering up on evidence on each other to the Congress, what stops the Democrats from taking it public and building the support to remove both of them? Bush can't pardon himself against impeachment, after all.

IMHO, Cheney enjoys being able to make decisions too much to have a nuclear showdown with the WH over the VP's powers in this administration.

If Bush seeks to take away Cheney's ability to make decisions, of course, that becomes irrelevant.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 8, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Has the strain of being the Worst U.S. President In History finally collapsed the health of George W. Bush?

One of the perks of being The Worst is that noone kisses his rear end anymore -- not Republicans up for re-election, not Putin, not the Chinese, certainly not the Democrats, not even Dick Cheney and other staffers who previously wanted him at ease so they could run rings around him, -- no one (Duncan Hunter and Tony Blair excepted). He's lost and it's bound to affect his health.

So, without further confirmation, don't believe the "stomach bug" spin. It could be much, much more serious.

(NOTE: I've been saying for some months now that something is wrong, so take that into account when evaluating the above.)

Posted by: bugout on June 8, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

"If Bush seeks to take away Cheney's ability to make decisions, of course, that becomes irrelevant."

OK, but Bush could begin to marginalize Cheney, removing some of his decision-making authority, and he'd still be the most powerful VPOTUS of all time. I refuse to believe that either the American people, or the wretch they chose to represent them, are forced to abide Dick Cheney's constant pushing of the US into a militaristic foreign policy corner. If Dick wants to flip out on the WH at the slightest diminsihment of his authority, then he is the loser of that end-game, more than anyone else, even though he can take down people with him.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on June 8, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Dismayed: VPOTUS is only holding good cards if he's willing to be a PR "suicide bomber" within the administration.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on June 8, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Powerline had the same spin as Fox: Bush didn't want to put Pace through questioning by those nasty Democrats. Which makes no sense, because if they think the Democrats will be tough on Pace, do they think they'll be easy on somebody new?

Posted by: wally on June 8, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Powerline had the same spin as Fox

Heck, NPR had the same spin as Fox. That's because they are all reporting GOP talking points.

Posted by: Disputo on June 8, 2007 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

I just realized the obvious -- all Bush has to do is declare Cheney an "enemy combatant" and have him shipped off to isolation in Gitmo.

With the possible exception of Lynn, no one would object to that. And the GOP base would be quite happy with the new VPOTUS -- Arthur Branch.

Posted by: Disputo on June 8, 2007 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Pace just didn't have enough experience to organise the kind of future military effort that's required, i.e the command and control of oilfields. There's going be a whole new kind of strategy needed now that we know without doubt that Gates plans to steal the oil from right under the locals' noses.

www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2099173,00.html

Posted by: billy on June 8, 2007 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

well,

when gates was brought in

he was quoted as telling someone

that he was brought in the clean out the e-ring (of the pentagon).

maybe there's some truth to that story.

Posted by: orionATL on June 8, 2007 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

"A leader," said Napoleon, is a dealer in hope."
Nothing this administration does captures that hope as far as I am concerned.
All of them share the blame for Iraq. They went to war regardless of the consequences.
That tragedy continues.
They give the illusion of change while the horror continues.

Posted by: consider wisely always on June 8, 2007 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

If Pace could't stand up to the Democrats, how could he stand up to Al-Qaeda?
[/ailes]

Posted by: pbg on June 8, 2007 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe this is simple window dressing-putting in the "shock and awe" Navy guys who "succeeded" and removing the army/marine guys who "failed". Didn't the last switch in CENTCOM involve a change to an Admiral?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on June 9, 2007 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

I respect the Marine Corps. I mean, I really, really respect the everyday, ordinary Marine. But General Pace is a embarrasment to the uniform and the 'general officer corps' of which he is a member.

The General is a lap dog who only thought of himself and did not stand up for the troops.

Posted by: Chief on June 9, 2007 at 6:53 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe this is simple window dressing-putting in the "shock and awe" Navy guys

Shock and awe was an Air Force thing.

Posted by: the Other Doc on June 9, 2007 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Implicit in Gates' rationale for removing Pace,

... General Pace's renomination hearings "would have been on the past rather than the future."

is the fact that the Bush administration is afraid to answer to the American people, or rather their elected representatives, questions about their war. Your elected government, placed into power by the people, will not explain to the citizenry what went wrong in Iraq, what went right in Iraq, what their plan is for Iraq, and how they intend to meet their goals in Iraq, what the exit strategy is in Iraq, what is the purpose of war, or what is the expectation of the post war period. This is really quite shameful.

In a democracy and in the Constitution, power rests with the people, but this government is afraid of the people.

Here's a list of their reasons they offered before hand for the war. Which is the real reason, General Pace? A few months ago, Kenneth Pollack, who was gung ho for the war, offered this take on the failure: A Retrospective Analysis of the Reconstruction. Why do you think it went wrong, General Pace, and what can be done to fix it?

The Bush administration fears to go before congress and explain themselves. Rather than do so, they will break the tradition of two terms for the chairman of the joint chiefs. Rather than do so, they will hide behind silly claims using their friends in the media to whine about how difficult it is to answer critics and how unfair it is to ask them to justify themselves.

The Bush administration is a government of moral and political cowardice.

Posted by: Mike on June 9, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

afraid to answer to the American people...what their plan is for Iraq, and how they intend to meet their goals in Iraq, what the exit strategy is in Iraq, what is the purpose of war, or what is the expectation of the post war period.
Posted by: Mike

This after you quoted "would have been on the past rather than the future."

Look at your writing, the questions you listed are about the future. Ask away!

I would think you'd be glad to be rid of Pace, he of the Rumsfeld era. Are you saying you'd like to keep him around just to take your pot shots at the Bush Presidency, even if he deserves to be replaced?

Posted by: theOther doc on June 9, 2007 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

The last I read about Rumsfeld, he still had a desk in the Pentagon (after he left office) and has access to classified documents. Is he still there? Is anybody monitoring what he does there?

Posted by: varney on June 9, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

The message is pretty clear: the Bush administration can't withstand any scrutiny of any part of its handling of the war on either the military or civilian side.

After the 2006 election defeat, Bush was advised to get a new team and new policies. He has done that. The Congress can subpoena anybody they want to if they want to investigate past performance, but there is no good reason for the administration to invite a cross-examination of nominees responsible for past performance if the goal is to move forward. This practice is not different from past wars. Congress can still interrogate Gen Casey as it did Gen McArthur.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on June 9, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

oops, I meant General Pace. Congress can, of course, interrogate Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Hadley, Casey, Abizaid, and Zalmay Khalilzad if it wants to. I don't know why they haven't subpoenaed Rumsfeld as part of their investigation into the prison atrocities. They seemed motivated enough before.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on June 9, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

The message is pretty clear: the Bush administration can't withstand any scrutiny of any part of its handling of the war on either the military or civilian side.

I have a question. Does it look to you like the Congress has any more eagerness to scrutinize than the administration has to be scrutinized?

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on June 9, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

disputo wrote:

"What if Bush went to Cheney tomorrow and told him that he was removing the policy and executive powers that Bush granted him?"
________________________

disputo, can you lay out which explicit policy and executive powers that have been granted to the Vice President?

Posted by: trashhauler on June 10, 2007 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

DavidLA wrote:

"So has the Sec. of Def. always nominated the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs? I found as clipping showing President Clinton nominating Shalikashvili."
_____________________

The SECDEF makes recommendations to the President, but the actual nonimation to Congress is signed by the President. Who makes the announcement doesn't matter.

Posted by: trashhauler on June 10, 2007 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK
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