SUNDAY PAPERS: David Broder and Frank Rich wrote particularly important columns in their respective papers Sunday, each making a case for 1) metrics measuring US success in Iraq, and 2) a better way of communicating about the war there.

Broder writes that an overlooked provision in the Defense Appropriations bill calls for a Pentagon report detailing a "comprehensive set of performance indicators and measures of stability and security" by 11 July. He also makes the point that President Bush is the nation's first MBA president, who calls for regular reports on his various departments. This experience in data and measurement should hearten those of us who are worried about the ability for America to succeed in Iraq, but it's angering nonetheless that we've drifted by for the last two years without such hard-and-fast measurement of what is going on. As Broder writes, "[Bush] generally operates on the principle that if you can't measure something, you're flying blind." Why have we waited so long for congressional oversight? Why hasn't the White House kept better numbers and communicated them honestly and effectively?

Broder also quotes Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) who spoke eloquently on the subject: "Specifically, the administration should develop with Congress clear benchmarks or goals in key areas: security, governance and politics, reconstruction and burden-sharing. We in Congress should aggressively assert our oversight responsibility by insisting that the administration report on progress toward those goals every month in public testimony."

The flip side of Bush's two-fold problem with Iraq is his communication of American success there. Frank Rich notes that Bush's speech, which was the lowest rated among TV viewers during his presidency, played on fear imagery and 9/11 specters far too much, and accordingly it failed to achieve its objective to increase support for the war and the president's foreign policy. Rich writes, "By the fifth time [he mentioned 9/11], it was hard not to think of that legendary National Lampoon cover: 'If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog.'" Rich is right, even if it pains a Republican to say it.

Rich makes a generally lame comparison between Bush and TomKat's new movie, "War of the Worlds," which I have absolutely no desire to see (especially after Cruise's bizarre tirades and obvious publicity stunts -- I mean, Tom Cruise is so obviously gay it's painful; I just want to yell, "The jig is up Tom! Come out already! You've already ruined your career, so no one will care!"). I digress. Outside of that stupid, John S. Nelson-esque comparison (he even uses the word 'tropes', in his column -- I kid you not), which Rich usually makes for no apparent reason other than the fact that the Times gives him an ungodly amount of space to fill up each Sunday, the column goes on to say that Americans are becoming less emotionally involved in the war than they had been a year ago. How true that is! One reason is the fear rhetoric failing to work, another reason is that Iraqis have mastered Xenophobic "us-them" dichotomies far better than Americans have (despite conservatives mastering the technique in the 20th Century) as John Tierney noted in Saturday's Times, and the lack of a clear story with a consistent messages.

Rich writes we need a Plan C, "Mr. Bush could have addressed that question honestly on Tuesday night. Instead of once more cooking the books - exaggerating the number of coalition partners, the number of battle-ready Iraqi troops, the amount of non-American dollars in the Iraq kitty - he could have laid out the long haul in hard facts, explaining the future costs in manpower, money and time, and what sacrifices he proposes for meeting them. He could have been, as he is fond of calling himself, a leader. It was a blown opportunity, and it's hard to see that there will be another chance. Iraq may not be Vietnam, but The Wall Street Journal reports that the current war's unpopularity now matches the Gallup findings during the Vietnam tipping point, the summer of 1968. As the prospect of midterm elections pumps more and more genuine fear into the hearts of Republicans up for re-election, it's the Bush presidency, not the insurgency, that will be in its last throes." That's pretty scary stuff, and as I have said before, if the Democrats were really on top of things, Republicans would have much, much more to worry about because they would have a strong opposition that would capitalize on the uncertainty and listlessness of the current Republican course of action. I'm beginning to regret my support of Bob Dole over zealot-like support of Pat Buchanan in 1996.

Speaking of scary stuff, a Zogby poll released on Thursday said that 42 percent of voters would support impeaching President Bush if it was shown that he had lied about his reasons for the Iraq war, according to the Washington Post. The numbers are way higher than they were for Clinton's impeachment, and even higher among Republicans than among Democrats when Clinton was threatened with impeachment. Step Two would be finding out a hard-and-fast way of showing that Bush actually purposely mislead the public when it came to justifications for the war in Iraq. In that effort, Bush far surpasses Clinton in his ability to be scampish with words. (Check out Jon Stewart's recent, and very funny, satire on the difference, by clicking on the "War of the Words" box HERE.) The Post notes that there are several websites geared toward impeaching Bush: http://impeachcentral.com, http://impeachbush.org, http://thefourreasons.org, and http://afterdowningstreet.org. Alas, until President Bush lies about receiving oral pleasure in the Oval Office, I don't think we're going to get this Republican Congress to assert firm oversight in our international misadventures or the truthfulness of our president's statements about war, which have caused the deaths of 1,928 coalition troops as of June 28, 2005. Now call me crazy or crass, but I think that's a bigger blow job.

One last note of pessimism, a well-written article in Sunday's Times discusses the standard of living among America's middle class. Louis Uchitelle writes about how the standard of living by most indicators has stalled over the past four years after five years of major growth. We're now facing a reversion to pre-1995 levels of life-expentancy, income, job security, education, etc. Americans now fall behind the French, Germans, and Japanese in life-expentancy at birth. In the 1950s, we had figures that suprassed those of the same countries. A question for any politician to ask would be, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" The problem is that most Americans would say, "Yes." It's just that we've come to redefine success, match expectations with those of our president -- low, and we've also not faced the worst of it. Much like Bush's foreign policy, his domestic policy is facing a breaking point as well.


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