Glimmers of Hope


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Poking their heads aboveground in the second week of the newly mandated Bush government, liberals are finding the countryside to be not as bleak as they had originally thought. Against the news announcing George W. Bush’s mandate, last week’s headlines already were portraying not mandate but chaos in the nation’s capital.

Colin Powell, left to twist in the wind of Bush’s WMD double-talk, is going, trying to save what’s left of his image as a fair and decent general—not a messenger boy for the Bush White House. So too is Spencer Abraham, secretary of energy and the man who oversees our energy policy, which has resulted in the highest prices for oil and gas in years. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, much criticized for her almost lackadaisical handling of the mad-cow scare, and Education Secretary Rod Paige, of No Child Left Behind fame, are out. John Ashcroft is gone.

With Chief Justice William Rehnquist dying of cancer, there is nobody in charge of the Supreme Court.

The CIA, widely viewed as a Bush enemy during the war, is in turmoil, with new director Porter Goss forcing out top officials. Two big guns in the agency’s Clandestine Service, Stephen R. Kappes and Michael Sulick, resigned Monday following infighting with Goss.

In Iraq, there’s of course even more turmoil. The U.S. military appears to have the upper hand in Falluja, but whether the city can be even temporarily controlled is unclear. Fighting now has shifted to Mosul and other cities. All this is part of the U.S. pacification program to stabilize the country sufficiently to hold elections. But as The Boston Globe reports, Iraqis are wildly misinformed and underinformed about the elections. Nearly three-quarters think they are electing a president, when in fact they are first electing a national assembly. Also, in those regions where most of the intense violence is taking place (which are the largest cities), voter education is patchy and many city residents have fled (this is a part of U.S. military strategy—making a big show before the troops arrive so that residents can leave their cities).

Back home, add to the turmoil in D.C. the already tenuous connections between different brands of conservatives, and Bush’s mandate could turn out to be artificial. The conservatives are not, as usually depicted in the leftish press, a monolith. Republican libertarians, whose major interest is pursuing free-market initiatives, are often at odds with the Christian right, who are all for using the power of the state to enforce social policy. Not to mention Bush’s Keynesian pump-priming of the military and homeland-security industries. The libertarians have an anarchist tinge. They like less government, not more, want to keep sharp watch on the debt, and don’t want foreign adventuring, They often don’t care about borders, welcoming cheap labor from Latin America and the Caribbean, and are hands-off when it comes to social issues, being more than tolerant when it comes to changing sex mores and population control. Some old Reaganites are already up in arms against the neoconservatives for wrecking foreign-policy objectives by fashioning a new kind of gunboat diplomacy.

Additional reporting: Nicole Duarte, Laurie Anne Agnese, and David Botti