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A Higher Power: James Baker puts Bush's Iraq policy into rehab

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Barrett808 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 12:56 PM
Original message
A Higher Power: James Baker puts Bush's Iraq policy into rehab
A Higher Power
James Baker puts Bush's Iraq policy into rehab.
By Robert Dreyfuss
September 2006

Amid the highly charged political infighting in Washington over what to do in Iraq, you might be excused for not noticing that a bipartisan commission quietly started work last spring with a mandate to help the Bush administration rethink its policy toward the war. Of course, anything labeled "bipartisan commission" seems almost guaranteed to be ignored by a highly partisan White House that is notoriously hostile to outside advice and famously devoted to "staying the course." But what makes this particular commission hard to dismiss is that it is led by perhaps the one man who might be able to break through the tight phalanx of senior officials who advise the president and filter his information. That person is the former secretary of state, Republican insider, and consigliere of the Bush family, James A. Baker III.

Since March, Baker, backed by a team of experienced national-security hands, has been busily at work trying to devise a fresh set of policies to help the president chart a new course in--or, perhaps, to get the hell out of--Iraq. But as with all things involving James Baker, there's a deeper political agenda at work as well. "Baker is primarily motivated by his desire to avoid a war at home--that things will fall apart not on the battlefield but at home. So he wants a ceasefire in American politics," a member of one of the commission's working groups told me. Specifically, he said, if the Democrats win back one or both houses of Congress in November, they would unleash a series of investigative hearings on Iraq, the war on terrorism, and civil liberties that could fatally weaken the administration and remove the last props of political support for the war, setting the stage for a potential Republican electoral disaster in 2008. "I guess there are people in the party, on the Hill and in the White House, who see a political train wreck coming, and they've called in Baker to try to reroute the train."

The fact that Baker is involved has sent the Washington rumor mill buzzing with the theory that the commission is really a Trojan Horse for the views of Baker's friend and former boss, George H.W. Bush. It has been widely speculated that the former president never agreed with his son's decision to invade Iraq, and the son appears to have repaid that perceived dissent by largely refusing to reach out to his father for advice on national security, despite the elder Bush's knowledge and experience. In any case, for reasons that may be Oedipal or that may have to do with neoconservatives' disdain for realists associated with Bush 41, or both, Bush 43 has so far kept the 41 circle at arm's length--including Baker; his confrere Brent Scowcroft; and even, during his ill-fated tenure as secretary of state, Colin Powell. But with the situation in Iraq sliding towards irretrievable chaos, a moment of receptivity may have arrived.

It's hard to know what the commission is really up to because its inner workings are nearly as secretive as those of the White House. Baker has imposed an ironclad gag order on all of its participants. The 60 people involved in the effort have been instructed, in the strongest of terms, not to comment to reporters on the task force's work. Every one of the participants I spoke to flatly refused to comment for the record, and several did not want to talk even off the record. Some were palpably nervous. "We're not allowed to talk about it," said one person involved. "We get about every month a warning: 'Do not discuss in any context the substance of what is happening in this group.' You know how bad it is? Initially they wanted us to end all of our contacts with the media, make no statements, write no op-eds--in other words, become monks. Then they realized, how can you take the entire community of Iraq experts in the United States and have them all stop talking?"


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seemslikeadream Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 01:00 PM
Response to Original message
1. potential Republican electoral disaster in 2008.

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CoffeeCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 01:31 PM
Response to Reply #1
8. You just have to wonder...
Edited on Sun Aug-20-06 01:32 PM by TwoSparkles
...what Baker's commission has planned. It's evident that Junior will NOT listen
to Baker and his father. In recent months---since this commission was formed in March--
Junior has only dug his heels in deeper.

Furthermore, it is rumored that Junior's "I'm the decider" comment was an angry knee-jerk comment,
said after he rejected his father's stern advice.

There's no way in hell that Baker or this group will permeate Junior's thick skull. These
are the last people from whom Junior will take advice. He's defensive about his daddy and
he becomes petulant when anything associated with his father arrives on the scene.

Baker and Co. understand this. So you have to wonder what they're planning. Sixty national-
security, legal and foreign-policy experts aren't sitting around plotting ways to make their
ideas more palatable to Junior. They've got some bigger-picture situation going on.

Furthermore--although this Commission's activities are secret, it's existence is not. Junior
understands very well that some heavy-handed powerbrokers are bent on changing his mind.

If you ask me, the very-public existence of this group is a glaring signal to Junior that he's really
not "the decider." My guess is that he's been repeatedly told that he was the electable piece
of meat--who represents the Republicans who put him in office. George Schultz, his father,
Baker and the rest of the Commission comprise a power move--designed to let Junior know that
he WILL acquiesce in order to save the party.

If this is true, this should be good. :popcorn:

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patricia92243 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 01:06 PM
Response to Original message
2. I wonder if Bush is too far gone to listen to even him? He IS usually the
one - for years - that has pulled the Bush family out of the fire - when needed.

But, in this case, I really am afraid Bush is too far down the path of madness - or whatever name you want to call it - that he STILL will not take Baker's advise. On the other hand, Baker may know how to present it to Bush to make Bush feel like he (Bush) is still the decider.

If Baker cannot make Bush see sense, I think there really will be an effort to let Bush go home and clear brush and Cheney will step in and take over. He would listen to Baker, I think.
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Tellurian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 01:20 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Bush crossed the Rubicon by going into Iraq. The UK crossed the
Rubicon yesterday, with their denouncing of Bush's failure in Iraq!

All the KING's horses and all the King's men,
Cannot put Gumpy Bumpy together again!

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cyclezealot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 01:23 PM
Response to Reply #2
7. How can bush change. He walked into a trap.
Like VietNam. There is no way out until Evacuation helicopters are taking away the US embassy staff. But, maybe there is no need for damage control. Hope I am wrong but anything but a Democratic landslide will leave a narrow margin at best for Democrats and even a Democratic Congress will find difficulty in revealing BUsh's truth.
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Tellurian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 01:55 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. Simple...He was given enough rope and he hung himself..
Very Nixonian..actually, anglicizing Nixon as a 2 bit thief
rather than responsible for killing and torturing thousands in the name of Freedom.
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rodeodance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 01:17 PM
Response to Original message
3. he is there for damage control.
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Alacrat Donating Member (306 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 01:33 PM
Response to Reply #3
9. I will probably get flamed for this but
I like James Baker, and thought he did a brilliant job during the first Gulf War. He didn't come across as a bully, I believe he meant what he said, and could back it up. I don't recall hearing "you are with us or against us" coming from him. Maybe he can get jr to open his eyes, not to save the repugs, but hopefully to save the lives of our troops, and Iraq's civilians.
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MissWaverly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 04:42 PM
Response to Reply #9
15. Jim Baker???
Edited on Sun Aug-20-06 04:44 PM by MissWaverly
Page 137: The Best Legal Whorehouse in Texas
"I fixed the election in Florida for George Bush," as Bush's lawyer Baker told an audience
of Russian oil oligarchs, bragging about his post election legal work in 2000.

of from the back page of the book: July 5, 1990, James Baker, III, Secretary of State to
George Bush, Sr., sends Saddam a diplomatic message that the United States would wink
at his invasion of Kuwait:"We have no opinion on...your border disagreement with Kuwait.
...The issue is not associated with America."

Do you mean that Jim Baker?

Quotes taken from Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast, Dutton Books, 2006
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rodeodance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 01:21 PM
Response to Original message
5. the Iraq Study Group--was created in March by Congress

Baker's commission--officially called the Iraq Study Group--was created in March by Congress at the instigation of Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican. After his third trip to Iraq last year, Wolf started contacting members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, urging the creation of a high-powered, private task force to take a fresh look at the mess in Iraq. "If you had a very serious illness...and you weren't completely comfortable that everything was going the way you hoped, you'd certainly want to get a second opinion," Wolf told me. At least 30 members of Congress supported the idea, including Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.). According to participants in the task force, a key silent partner with Wolf in putting it together was his Virginia Republican colleague, Sen. John Warner, the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services committee.

Wolf's motivation in creating the Iraq Study Group seems to be genuine concern that the war isn't going well and that public support for it is evaporating. During his visit to Iraq, where he spent hours with U.S. military officers in the field, Wolf says that his eyes were opened. "Some of the things that were told to me, I had never seen before: the destabilization of the region," Wolf told me. "Some of the scenarios that were given to me the overthrow of the Saudi government, the Jordanian government and the Egyptian government.... So I just felt, let's take another look. And no one should be afraid of doing it."

But some people were afraid, above all in the administration. "Reaction was mixed," Wolf told me. "Initially, there was not a lot of support for the idea." Backed by congressional heavyweights, including Warner, Wolf met privately with Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, and others in the administration. His message? "If you're so confident it's going well, why are you so afraid for someone else to take a look at it?" Wolf, as the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department, had clear leverage with Rice. Not surprisingly, according to an aide to Wolf, the vice president was the most resistant to the idea. But, reluctantly or not, perhaps unwilling to challenge an idea with strong support from House and Senate Republicans, Bush and Cheney signed off on the idea. "Gradually," Wolf told me, "they came to see the merit of it." In June, President Bush himself met briefly with the task force. "Iraq is a complex situation," Bush told them. "And the fact that you are all willing to lend your expertise to help chart the way forward means a lot."

The president may have had another political motive for giving his blessing to the endeavor. If--and it's a very big if--Baker can forge a consensus plan on what to do about Iraq among the bigwigs on his commission, many of them leading foreign-policy figures in the Democratic Party, then the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee--whoever he (or she) is--will have a hard time dismissing the plan. And if the GOP nominee also embraces the plan, then the Iraq war would largely be off the table as a defining issue of the 2008 race--a potentially huge advantage for Republicans.

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Tellurian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 02:13 PM
Response to Reply #5
11. 2 or 3 yrs ago, it may have been possible..This is way bigger than Baker
and his commission. They've been commiserating for 6 mos and the best plan they came up with
is the Israeli/Hizbollah conflict. They thought, yes, we'll supply Israel with all the fire
and air power they need then hopefully our redemption will be fear the Israeli arm of the US
government will leave Iran and Syria trembling in their caftans.

I'm sure they sold this project to the UK as a viable exit strategy to the Iraq War. And why, Blair
is getting tossed out on his ear and yesterday's embarrassing rebuke of the Bush White House.

This hell fire is more than Baker can handle. The only way to change things is a new administration.
And I doubt anyone, even die-hards will trust Republicans again for a very long time.

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MissWaverly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 02:57 PM
Response to Reply #5
13. Pardon me for skepticism/But what have they done
Bush is still going through the world like a steam roller, people are dying in Iraq every day
more than a hundred die, excuse me but what is the congress really doing?
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madrchsod Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 01:23 PM
Response to Original message
6. baker can`t do it
he will soon realize that it is hopeless and resign do to family commitments
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 02:42 PM
Response to Original message
12. Jim Baker's one of The smartest folks to ever hit Washington...
but a hundred times zero is still zero.
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Tellurian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 03:15 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. Not even Jim Baker can unring a bell..
It's too little, too late. To recoup.

The scary thought is desperation in the Bush WH (Rove)
may have planted the seeds of self-destruction.

The if "we can't have it nobody can" mentality.
I wouldn't rule anything out with these cuckoos.

I'm hoping the cool headed Secret Service will prevail,
if they sniff a destructive game plan.
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-20-06 07:47 PM
Response to Original message
16. Put Bush's Iraq Policy in Trash, and Bush in Rehab
the GOP ought to start cutting its losses....
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yellowcanine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-22-06 08:19 AM
Response to Original message
17. James Baker is going to find out that this ain't Florida 2000 and there is
no Katherine Harris or SCOTUS to cheat so that he can "win."
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Tellurian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-23-06 07:02 AM
Response to Reply #17
18. Entirely different story when cheating/stealing is not an available option
Unbelieveable, when the brains behind the brains, come up empty!
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