JUST ONE THING

(Much, much more soon). No president who has presided over Abu Ghraib should ever say he wants to put anyone on a leash. That’s all. Stay tuned.

THE WAR

Maybe I need to be clearer. The reason I believe things are dire in Iraq is pretty simple. The evidence is accumulating that the insurgency – fostered by Baathist thugs, al Qaeda murderers, and other Jihadists – is gaining traction. That would be a manageable problem if the population despised them and saw a way through to a better society. But the disorder and mayhem continues to delegitimize the Iraqi government and, by inference, the coalition occupation. And the inability or unwillingness of the U.S. to seal the borders or effectively counter the terror contributes to the general view that the insurgents are going to win, and therefore the notion that the U.S.-led liberation may make matters even worse than they were before. And this is a vicious cycle. In other words, one reason the insurgency is spreading is because it has tacit support or merely passive acceptance among the general population. And once the general population turns against an occupying power, then things get really … Algerian. The key moment was probably when George W. Bush blinked in Fallujah. That was when the general population inferred that we were not prepared to win. It’s amazing, really. This president has a reputation for toughness and resolution. Yet at arguably the most critical moment in this war, he gave in. He was for taking Fallujah before he was against it. I cannot believe the situation is beyond rescue. But this president’s policies have made it much much more difficult than it might have been. Elections are now more vital than ever – because they are the sole means of gaining the advantage in the legitimacy stakes. With those must come a relentless guerrilla war against the enemy, a massive increase in troop levels (whether Iraqi or America), and a huge effort for reconstruction. But we have thrown away a year’s worth of opportunity. By incompetence and lack of will. Fallujah was a kind of Dunkirk. And Bush is no Churchill.

NPR’S BALANCE: Compare these interviews with Bush campaign honcho Ken Mehlman and with Mary Beth Cahill. They just can’t help themselves.

EDWARDS PICKS IT UP: My Cheney quote from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer yesterday was in fact used by John Edwards – on the Imus show. The point was not about the decision to depose Saddam – the merits of which obviously changed after 9/11. The point was an awareness of how difficult it would be to occupy Iraq, put it back together again and keep it from falling apart. The latter Cheney and Bush relentlessly downplayed. Here’s Edwards: “When [Cheney] was asked why they didn’t finish the job in Iraq . . . he talked about the enormous danger and risk of getting bogged down, of having to govern the country. Of the casualties that would be incurred. To use some of the same language these people have used against John, he was against getting bogged down in Iraq before he was for it.” Sharp one. Of course, it means little with respect to whether Bush or Kerry are better suited to take over the job from now on. Tonight I’ll be watching the debate at Dartmouth College, following a talk in the same auditorium on the election. If you’re near Dartmouth, join us: Filene Auditorium, Dartmouth, 7.30 pm.

THE GREEN ZONE

Another report details growing anarchy in the protected “Green Zone” in Baghdad. And this WSJ reporter cites chaos and terror throughout the country:

Iraqis like to call this mess ‘the situation.’xa0When asked ‘how are things?’ they reply: ‘the situation is very bad.’ What they mean by ‘situation’ is this: the Iraqi government doesn’txa0control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people,xa0the country’s roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundredsxa0of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers,xa0there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation,xa0 basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdadxa0alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health — which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers — has now stopped disclosing them.

Is this reporter biased? Perhaps. Is it that bad? I sincerely hope not. But are they making all this up? I seriously doubt it.

LIVING WITHOUT DEMOCRACY

You can debate the merits of the D.C. handgun bill. What you cannot debate is the obscene way in which the residents of D.C. have absolutely no say in how their city is governed; and the way in which the Republican party uses the District’s “citizens” as pawns in their national electoral politics. Here’s a rich quote from the Washington Post account:

Bill sponsor Rep. Mark Edward Souder (R-Ind.) called the vote a bipartisan victory for District residents’ constitutional right to bear arms.

Excuse me, but why should I give a rat’s ass what some Indiana congressman thinks? Thank God this won’t pass the Senate. But it’s a disgusting assault on the basic principles of democracy.

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GALLUP: Ruy Teixera, who has long touted a new Democratic majority, asks some pointed questions about Gallup’s polling. Meanwhile, he cites two new polls showing the race dead even. Who knew?

MUSLIMS AGAINST WAHABBISM

Yes, there are some. And they are beginning to speak out more.

THIN-SKINNED CATHOLICS: The Boston Globe’s James Carroll goes off the deep end again.

YOUNG MEN AND BUSH: Zogby sees a growing problem. My own view is that a draft is not unthinkable in the next few years – and that many young men see this as a natural progression from our current travails. This is the sleeper issue – under the radar but beginning to take off. It shouldn’t be exploited by unscrupulous Democrats, but it can certainly be brought up in the debates. Edwards should raise it with Cheney. Will we need one? Why won’t we?

A RISING STAR: David Catania, a friend of mine who nevertheless regularly scolds me for any number of failings, has now left the GOP. He’s a great young pol, got elected in a majority black city as a white Republican, shook up the District of Columbia city government, cares deeply about personal freedom and urban policy, and should be the future of the Republican party. He has now quit to become an independent. He cannot stand the blatant, ugly gay-baiting at the heart of today’s GOP. And why on earth should he?

NORQUIST IN CONTEXT

I linked to a Slate piece last week that had Grover Norquist telling El Mundo that much of a generation – the FDR generation – was “anti-American.” That would better have been described as “un-American.” It’s all about the Spanish translation. Matthew Continetti, a rising star at the Weekly Standard, provides the context.

SAINT CLINTON: Blasphemous, but amusing.

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