According to today’s New York Times, the Bush backtrack from his public “no negotiations until denuclearization” pronouncements on North Korea continues, as the administration is now willing to sequence rewards to the North in exchange for actions on their side. Yes, it is good that Foggy Bottom appears to be back in control of foreign policy at the expense of Rummy and the rest of the cabal. But it is at this point that even the petty Neanderthals in Pyongyang know that they have the petty Neanderthals in Washington where they want them: fourteen months out from an election where the president’s political strategist is demanding that everything be done to make the international problem spots go away. It doesn’t help the cabal’s case that Jimmy Carter blasted the Bushies today as well.
Even Rummy himself now wants to get as many Iraqis involved in their own security as possible. But that’ll happen when you are a defense secretary who is feeling like the rug is being pulled out from under you by a president who knows little, a NSA who is inept, and a Secretary of State who has just completed a coup with your own generals underneath you. It is even more damning that it is going on with your own subordinates openly cheering those who blast you. As I said days ago, we are a long way from the glory days of the glossy Vanity Fair photos aren’t we?
This is what happens when, as Howard Dean said last night, you have to go hat in hand back to people for help whom you just humiliated: they make you work for it. If you don’t think France and Germany are enjoying this right now, you are crazy.
Even though the conventional wisdom lately is that the economy is on the rebound and things will all get better now, someone should perhaps stop the parade for now. Even though the unemployment rate went down, it once again was because more and more people gave up hope and stopped looking for work. Plus, employers shed almost 100,000 more jobs last month. And a highly respected economic research outfit shows a leveling off in the economy. Bush’s answer was a six-point plan to lock in the tax cuts and deficits permanently, a plan immediately dismissed. Bush is in a high-risk strategy now: the more credit he claims for the allegedly improving economy, the more certain it is he will be politically dead if the rebound fizzles anytime between now and November 2004.
Apparently Joe Lieberman saved his most negative material for after the debate last night. During the debate, Kerry disagreed with Lieberman about sending more troops to Iraq; Lieberman is for it, Kerry against it. After the debate, Lieberman slammed Kerry for his justification for voting to support the war resolution by calling Kerry a “waffler.” It may be fun for Kerry to take the gloves off for a few days to smack down Holy Joe, and Dean wouldn’t mind it either.
This excellent story outlines Lieberman’s downplaying of expectations in New Hampshire and particularly Iowa, but also reveals how his centrism is a nonstarter in Iowa.
And Scott Lehigh of the Boston Globe gives an excellent summary of Kerry’s campaign restart tour, and the challenges facing him.