Two Welcome Bush Flip-Flops and a Corrected Treasury Secretary
Under the category of “There’s Hope Yet”, Mr. Bush flipflopped on two issues over the weekend, both of them welcome developments and both of them driven by reelection worries. First, after saying for months that North Korea must totally dismantle its nuclear weapons development program before the Bush Administration would ever have face-to-face talks with Pyongyang, Bush said yesterday that he’d be happy to give them something like a nonaggression statement for simply starting to disarm.
While the administration in the past has said North Korea must verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear programs before the administration responds, on Sunday aides set no specific prerequisites and hinted at some type of interim agreement.
"We have to see progress before we can take steps," the senior official said. "We're not saying that everything has to be done before we will do anything. In fact, we're saying just the opposite."
This type of flip-flop would have been lethal for a President Gore, with the Mighty Wurlitzer jumping all over it (you can almost hear the word “appeasement” coming from the mouths of the chattering classes now). But then a President Gore wouldn’t have let Pyongyang go nuclear in the first place while letting his foreign policy be held hostage by a right-wing cabal either. Either way, it’s about time for Mr. Bush, and I applaud any moves he takes to address this issue, even if Rove told him to do it.
Second, the Bush Administration has backtracked and will give up part of the control over international investment into Iraq. In advance of a donor’s conference, where international support was being sought desperately by the Bushies, the Administration will now allow an independent World Bank-coordinated effort to raise and distribute funds for development, using separate contracting processes to ensure open and multinational participation in Iraq’s reconstruction. Again, thanks to the 2004 election, there may be progress on this front as well.
And on another matter, how embarrassing is it when the White House has to come out and immediately correct its own Treasury Secretary to undo the damage he caused to the bond markets in saying that he expected and welcomed rising interest rates. Again, can you imagine this happening to Bob Rubin or Larry Summers? I think not.